By Chaz Scoggins
CAMBRIDGE -- One might be tempted to think there isn't much difference between first place and second place in Hockey East.
But the reality, especially when it's a team that has never finished first, is that the chasm can be almost as wide as, say, between second place and eighth when that team is competing with perennial powerhouses like Boston College, Boston University, New Hampshire and Maine.
UMass Lowell second-year coach Norm Bazin was the Hockey East Coach of the Year last season when he guided a team that finished dead last the previous winter to a second-place finish. Bazin believes it was harder for the River Hawks to go from second to first than 10th to second.
"In a lot of ways this year's award is a lot more rewarding," Bazin said after being named Coach of the Year for the second straight season Thursday night, something only one other coach in league history has done, "because this year everybody saw us coming, unlike last year when nobody knew who we were until it was really too late."
BU's Jack Parker, in 2005 and 2006, is the only other coach in league history to win top coach honors in successive seasons.
Bazin led the River Hawks to a 16-9-2 record and their first Hockey East title in a race in which five teams finished just two points apart in the final standings.
"They could have given this award to three or four coaches," Bazin said. "I humbly accept this award on behalf of my coaching staff and my club.
"We started the season 2-6-1 in Hockey East, not the start we were looking for," Bazin continued. "Without the leadership of Riley Wetmore, our two-time captain, we wouldn't have gone very far. We have a character group, and we were able to plug away and have a strong second half."
Wetmore was among four UMass Lowell players named to the All-Hockey East Team.
The senior Wetmore was joined on the second team by junior forward Joseph Pendenza and freshman goaltender Connor Hellebuyck. UML junior defenseman Chad Ruhwedel was picked for the first team.
BC placed three players on the first and second teams and Merrimack placed two. No other school had more than one.
BC sophomore Johnny Gaudreau, the league's scoring champ, was named Player of the Year.