Former Bruin Andrew Raycroft Finds Home In The Hockey East
Just a little over a decade ago, Andrew Raycroft was one of the most recognizable sports figures in Boston. A starting goaltender for the Bruins, Raycroft backstopped the B’s to the second-best record in the Eastern Conference during the 2003-04 season, earning the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie in the process.
This past April, Raycroft retired from professional hockey following a career that included stints in Toronto, Colorado, Vancouver and Dallas before two seasons in Europe. In August, the 34-year-old returned to the region where he spent the first six years of his professional career (between the NHL Bruins and Providence Bruins), signing on with the UConn Huskies as a volunteer assistant coach, on a part-time basis. The former netminder’s chief responsibility is working with goalies for the UConn squad, who are playing their first season in the Hockey East.
“[Raycroft] has been great,” said UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh. “He brings experience from the NHL, and experiences from winning a Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year and also as being a backup.”
Raycroft’s work with the UConn goaltenders have shown between the pipes, particularly with sophomore netminder Rob Nichols. In 11 games, the 22-year-old has been airtight in net, posting a 2.02 goals-against-average and .936 save percentage. Only BU’s Matt O’Connor (.949 save pct.) has stopped pucks at a higher rate within the Hockey East in 2014-15. The Huskies goaltending corps has allowed just 25 goals in 11 games this season, their 2.27 goals allowed rate ranking fourth in the conference behind Vermont (1.70), BU (1.75) and Merrimack (1.91).
Nichols’ presence in the UConn crease was on display November 8, when the Huskies visited Agganis Arena for a Saturday night matchup with the Terriers, a 4-4 tie. The sophomore turned aside 30 of the 34 BU shot attempts the landed on net, including two in the overtime period to preserve the tie. This was coming off a 35-save performance in a 1-0 Huskies win over Boston College, who were ranked No. 3 in the country at the time.
“[Raycroft] focuses on alot the details, we look at every goal that goes in, [he picks up on] things a normal coach wouldn’t see,” Nichols said following the tie at Agganis. “He’s is very wise on the game, he’s been around it alot, and he knows what it takes to get to the next level,”
Cavanaugh said Raycroft brings a ‘keen insight’ to the Huskies dressing room of what steps a player must take to have an NHL career, a quality invaluable in the Hockey East, a conference that has sent hundreds of players to the hockey’s top professional league in its 30 years of existence. UConn is now up against programs like BC, BU, UNH, Maine and Vermont, programs long-known for producing NHL stars. A name like Raycroft can only help when luring players to Storrs.
Adding Raycroft to a mix that already includes Cavanaugh — who spent 18 seasons as an assistant coach for a BC program that won multiple national titles and produced NHLers like Chuck Kobasew, Brian Gionta, Brooks Orpik and Chris Kreider, just to name a few — in addition to a first-class athletic program at a first-class institution makes UConn a serious program. If you haven’t started taking them serious as a voice in the Hockey East yet, start now.
BU Hoops notches first win
A hard-fought 71-65 loss Sunday to a Northeastern squad that entered the season with NCAA Tournament aspirations resulted in the Boston University men’s basketball team losing its season opener for the sixth time in seven seasons.
But the Terriers didn’t wait long to put a crooked number under the win column, taking down Norfolk State, 71-63, Wednesday night in their second game of the 2014-15 schedule. BU (1-1) avoided their third 0-2 start in four seasons under Joe Jones.
The Terriers, who saw four players reach double-figures in points, were lead by John Papale’s 17 points and Nathan Dieudonne’s double-double (11 points, 10 rebounds).
Next up for BU is No. 1-ranked Kentucky, led by John Calipari. On an ESPN poll that asked if the Wildcats could beat the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, 51 percent of the 289,468 pollers said Kentucky could take down the Association’s lone winless team, who played neck-and-neck with the Celtics before losing, 101-90, on Wednesday night. Therefore, an upset means the Terriers are likely able to hold their own with the Celtics. So alot to prove for BU Friday night.