UMass Lowell to honor 'Chiefs' at  scene of greatest triumphs

01/05/2007
By From the Lowell Sun

By CHAZ SCOGGINS, Sun Staff

Dean Jenkins could tell his two sons stories about how he played center for five games for the Los Angeles Kings in 1983, or stories about his four seasons in the American Hockey League, including the winter of 1982-83 when he scored 29 goals and 72 points in 80 games for the New Haven Nighthawks.

But those aren't the stories he prefers to tell his sons.

"I very seldom think about my years playing pro hockey," says Jenkins. "But I find myself thinking about my college days all the time, about how lucky we were to have Billy Riley as our coach and have each other on those teams."

"Those teams" were the University of Lowell's that won three NCAA Division II hockey championships in a four-year stretch from 1979-82. Tomorrow afternoon at the Chelmsford Forum, between the second and third periods of a Hockey East clash with the University of Maine, those three championship teams will be formally inducted into the UMass Lowell Athletic Hall of Fame.

Jenkins, a former Billerica High star who now resides in Westford, played on two of those championship teams and captained the 1981 champs. Arguably the best captain in Lowell's college hockey history, Jenkins still ranks as the school's all-time fifth-leading scorer with 73 goals and 191 points in 117 games for the Chiefs.

Jenkins thinks it's long overdue for those teams to be inducted but at the same time is glad they're being honored now instead of earlier.

"For one thing, the older we get, the better we used to be," he laughs. "But now our kids are all old enough to understand what we accomplished back then. My oldest son, Riley, who's 15, thinks it's pretty neat.

"My kids know all the stories about those teams because those are the teams I talk most about. I know a lot of the guys I played with, whether they went on to play pro hockey like I did or went to work, feel exactly the same way. And it's always nice when we can get together again."

Among the returning champs are six of the school's top eight all-time leading scorers: Mike Carr (134-145-279), Tom Jacobs (97-103-200), Kevin Charbonneau (74-119-193), Jenkins, Ken Kaiser (65-107-172), and defenseman Paul Lohnes (58-109-167). Carr and Lohnes both won Hobey Baker Awards as Division II's top players their senior years.

Started by Riley

ULowell began its championship run in 1978 under Riley, who built his teams with players who had been judged too small, too slow, or too ordinary to be recruited by Division I schools. Riley's players all had three things in common: They all had chips on their shoulders from being snubbed by Division I, they all had huge hearts, and they all had something to prove.

"We took the slights from the college recruiters personally," Jenkins says.

Led by sophomore Craig MacTavish -- who went on to win five Stanley Cups and currently coaches the Edmonton Oilers -- senior Jacobs, sophomore Jenkins, and senior goalie Brian Doyle, the Chiefs rolled up a 27-6 record and beat Mankato State 6-4 for the national title.

MacTavish had 36 goals and a school-record 88 points, Jacobs netted a school-record 42 goals and scored 80 points, and Jenkins added 53 points for the Chiefs.

With MacTavish turning pro after the season and Jacobs and Doyle graduating, the Chiefs went through a quick rebuilding phase in 1979-80 but still won 23 games and went to the NCAA Tournament again, finishing third.

ULowell went 27-5 in 1980-81 and beat Plattsburgh State 5-4 for the national championship. Carr, a sophomore, led the team with 25 goals and 57 points, and Jenkins, now a senior, added 23 goals and 55 points.

The Chiefs rolled up a 31-4 record and repeated as NCAA champions in 1981-82, thrashing Plattsburgh State 6-1 in the title game. Kaiser led the team in scoring with 32 goals and 80 points, Carr poured in 36 goals and accumulated 77 points, and defenseman Lohnes fired in 27 goals and scored 64 points.

During those four years the Chiefs rolled up a 108-22-0 record. They went for a third straight NCAA crown the following winter, taking a 28-1 record into the tournament before being upset by the Rochester Institute of Technology -- with Blaise MacDonald playing defense for the Engineers -- in the semifinals. The following year ULowell's program moved into Division I and joined Hockey East.

"Blaise grew up in Billerica going to all our games and dreaming of playing for us someday," Jenkins remembers. (Billy Riley thought MacDonald was too small to play for the rough-and-tumble Chiefs.) "I know how much our history means to him, and I would like to see his teams someday have as much success and as much fun as we did."

Jenkins loves the idea that the River Hawks will be going back to the Forum, the scene of so many memorable ULowell triumphs, this weekend for the first time in 10 years. The River Hawks will wear replica vintage ULowell sweaters that will be later be auctioned off on-line.

"I only wish we were playing Merrimack," Jenkins says, "because so much of what we did was intertwined with their teams. It was such a great rivalry."

Yeah, but the organizers wouldn't want to have Saturday's festivities spoiled by a bench-clearing brawl like in the good old days.