Retired BU coach Jack Parker likes UMass Lowell's chances
MANCHESTER - Jack Parker will be in town Friday for the opening round of the NCAA Northeast Regional hockey tournament at the Verizon Wireless Arena. The trip from Boston to Manchester is certainly a familiar one for him, but it won't be like any he has taken before.
This will be the first time Parker walks into the building as a fan.
Parker recently stepped down after 40 years as coach at Boston University. His Terriers won this regional in 2009 and went on to win the NCAA title that year, Parker's third and final national championship.
Parker is uniquely qualified to handicap the four-team regional since his team played three of the four participants: the University of New Hampshire, the University of Denver and UMass Lowell. The Terriers lost seven of eight games against those teams, dropping their only meeting with Denver, all four against Lowell (including a 1-0 loss in the championship game of the Hockey East tournament) and two of three to UNH.
"We had trouble with all of them, that's for sure," Parker said. "They were all impressive teams to me."
Asked to pick a favorite, Parker didn't hesitate.
"Lowell," Parker said. "They're the best in all phases of the game. And they've been very consistent for a long period."
The Pioneers of Denver had an up-and-down season and were certainly down before they faced the Terriers at home on December 29. Denver's 6-0 win that night snapped an eight-game winless streak and was the first of four straight wins that steadied their season.
"We got them started," Parker said. "I was very impressed with their size and their thoroughness."
Still, Parker gives second-seeded UNH the edge over No. 3 Denver in Friday's early game at the Verizon (6 p.m., ESPNU).
"(The Wildcats) have huge advantage playing that rink," Parker said.
He thinks top-seeded Lowell got a bad break drawing No. 4 Wisconsin in Friday's second semifinal.
"It's a really bad draw for Lowell," Parker said. "If Lowell is the hottest team in the nation, Wisconsin might be the second hottest."
Parker will watch the games Friday not looking to see what he can incorporate for his team next year, but only to root for the two teams representing Hockey East -- and, in particular, his old friend Dick Umile, the UNH coach.
"He's a great coach and a great friend, and he's been a great coach for a long time," Parker said. "I hope Dick wins a national championship."
Parker is keenly aware of the scrutiny Umile has faced due to not having won an NCAA title during his 23 years coaching the Wildcats. Umile joined Parker earlier this year as one of just eight Division I coaches to win 500 games at one school. But, unlike Parker, Umile is still searching for that elusive national championship.
"If you're only measured by that, that's a tough measurement," Parker said. "I'll be there rooting for Dickie."