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April 12, 2013

UMass Lowell's 'Little Big Fan'

Haverhill's Becker, 11, has followed his team to every rink in Hockey East

HAVERHILL — There are larger UMass Lowell hockey fans. There is no bigger fan than little 4-foot-7 Jake Becker.

“My dad went there, and I just love hockey,” said Jake, a fifth-grader at Haverhill’s Silver Hill Horace Mann Charter School. “I like them more than I like the Bruins.”

Yes, now and always. Even after last night’s NCAA semifinal 3-2 loss to Yale, which he watched from home.

Introduced to hockey and UMass Lowell at the age of 3 by his dad, Jon, Jake was an instant diehard.

At 8, Jake took on a personal quest, to follow the River Hawks to games at all 10 Hockey East arenas.

For his recent 11th birthday, the gift list was short and sweet.

Jake wanted an official River Hawks “Royal” road jersey. No video games. No hockey equipment.

Just a jersey, one that he hasn’t taken off during the run from the Hockey East playoff opener right through the “Frozen Four.”

“It’s been incredible, and I never want to take it off,” said Jake.

The River Hawks and the Beckers have been a perfect match, ever since Jon graduated from the school in 1992.

The Methuen High history teacher, his wife, Sue, and sons Jake and Bill have been regulars at the Tsongas Center for years.

“We’ve probably gone to 15 or 16 games this year, mostly just Jake and I,” said Jon.

“Lowell is my school. Tsongas is easy to get to. The tickets are cheap. There’s no fighting in the games, and finally we’re contenders after a long, long stretch.”

Becker sounds like a promotional campaign for Hockey East and the River Hawks. He also knows he’s releasing one of his best-kept secrets.

“It’s nice to be able to get tickets so easily, but it’s also been really nice to see the Tsongas get filled,” said Jon Becker.

“Winning Hockey East and now all this. Having the small Cinderella school instead of BC/BU there year after year has been unbelievable.

“The loss is tough to handle, but the run has been fantastic. And there is one bright spot, it saved me a drive to Pittsburgh.”

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