Colorado College right wing James Brannigan knows why seventh-year coach Scott Owens rarely lands players from New England. “The kids from the East Coast love the East Coast, and they want to stay there,” Brannigan said.
“They don’t want to go out West.” Brannigan was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y. He’s the only U.S.-born player on CC’s 26-man roster who lives east of Michigan. Owens admits his staff probably won’t make more than a handful of trips to New England after the No. 3 Tigers (11-2-1) play Massachusetts (3-7-0) at 5 p.m. today and Boston University (3-4-2) at 5 p.m. Saturday. New England is brimming with prospects, such as Cushing (Mass.) Academy senior goaltender Richard Bachman, who has been recruited by CC. Bachman was selected by the Tri-City Storm in the second round (18th) of this year’s U.S. Hockey League entry draft. But Owens views New England as one of his “secondary areas.” Most of CC’s players are from the USHL and high schools in Minnesota, the upper Midwest and Western Canada. “Sometimes we’ll try (to recruit New England players) but lose out to Boston College or Boston Univer- sity,” Owens said. “A lot of the time it isn’t worth the expense and the effort. Rather than take a second- or thirdrate kid, we can get a firstrate kid from the Midwest or the West.” Since Owens replaced Don Lucia after the 1998-99 season, CC has had one player from New England — wing Reid Goolsby — who signed last week with the Wichita Thunder of the Central Hockey League. Goolsby, an Ipswich, Mass., native, came to CC from the Boston Bulldogs of the Independent Junior Hockey League. He also played for St. John’s (Mass.) Prep School. Lucia didn’t have any New Englanders in his six seasons at the helm. His predecessors, Jeff Sauer, Mike Bertsch and Brad Buetow, had six New England players in 22 seasons. According to incomplete records in CC’s media guide, the Tigers have had 29 players from New England in 67 seasons — 18 from Massachusetts, 10 from Connecticut and one from Vermont. CC assistant Norm Bazin, the team’s recruiting coordinator, spent four years at Massachusetts-Lowell before he joined Owens at CC. He maintains there’s no point in utilizing his Northeast ties. “We could get into some dogfights for eastern players, however, it’s kind of counterproductive,” Bazin said. “You’ve got to pick and choose where you want to fight your battles. For us having such a track record of landing kids from the USHL and Western Canada, we’re very comfortable staying there.” Said CC assistant Joe Bonnett: “We have a tough enough time getting a kid out of Minnesota, let alone a kid out of the Boston area.” Last weekend, Bazin watched the U.S. National Team Development Program’s under-17 and under-18 teams play in New England. He said he might attend a couple of high school holiday tournaments in New England after CC plays UMass and Boston. Owens and Bonnett plan to scout USHL prospects this weekend. Twenty schools in New England have Division I hockey programs, including national powers Maine, Boston College and New Hampshire. UMass has 17 players from New England on its 28-man roster, and 13 of Boston University’s 27 players are from New England. Owens said other schools’ well-established pipelines make it difficult for CC to make much of a splash in New England. “We have tabs on it, and we know what’s going on,” Owens said. “But it’s not one of our primary areas. There are enough players in the Midwest and Canada.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0256 or firstname.lastname@example.org TODAY Colorado College (11-2-1) at UMass (3-7-0), 5 p.m., 1240 AM