NCHC Weekend Predictions, March 8-9

Posted: March 8th, 2019 / by Avash Kalra

The final weekend of the 2018-19 regular season in the NCHC kicks off in about 90 minutes. Check out this article summarizing what’s at stake for each team.

St. Cloud State vs. Minnesota-Duluth

The marquee matchup of the weekend — a potential Frozen Four preview — features two of the top three teams in the Pairwise. It’s hard to imagine either team coming away with a sweep — I’ll take St. Cloud as the winners on Friday, UMD on Saturday. St. Cloud has already locked up the No. 1 seed in the NCHC playoffs, starting next weekend. With a weekend split, UMD would clinch the second seed. 

Denver vs./at. Colorado College

Denver has an outside chance of moving up to the No. 2 seed this weekend, but will likely finish in third place — and therefore will likely host CC in the NCHC quarterfinals next weekend. So this weekend could serve as a playoff preview, too. Both games between the Pioneers and Tigers this season have been close, and I’d expect the same this weekend as well. I’ll take Denver with a regulation win at home on Friday, and a tie between the two teams on Saturday (with CC getting the extra point at home). In that scenario, Denver remains in third and CC remains in sixth.

Western Michigan vs. Miami

The real intrigue heading into the final weekend is which team — Western Michigan or North Dakota — will earn the final home ice spot in the NCHC quarterfinals next weekend. Despite the Broncos’ blunders of late, I’m still taking Western Michigan — but that’s mostly because Miami seems unlikely to help out North Dakota. Western Michigan wins on Friday night to clinch the fourth seed, then Miami wins Saturday to move up into seventh place…

North Dakota vs. Nebraska-Omaha

North Dakota hasn’t been able to pull off a weekend sweep the last six weekends, but this may be the weekend they get it done. It won’t be enough though, if Western can win a game this weekend. Omaha finishes as the the 8th seed.

If everything above happens, the NCHC QF matchups will be:

St. Cloud State vs. Nebraska-Omaha

Minnesota-Duluth vs. Miami

Denver vs. Colorado College

Western Michigan vs. North Dakota

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, March 4

Posted: March 4th, 2019 / by Jashvina Shah

The quarterfinals are set. I’ll have more on that later in an official preview, but Minnesota will host Michigan, Penn State will host Wisconsin and Notre Dame will host Michigan. The Buckeyes have the bye.

Ohio State is the only team on the inside of the tournament at seventh. Notre Dame and Penn State sit on the bubble at 15th and 16th, respectively. Minnesota is 21st.

Cale Morris will be the key

The Fighting Irish weren’t doing so well in the beginning of the year and, despite a Frozen Four appearance, have struggled this season. But Cale Morris has looked more and more like the goaltender of last year. Morris was key in the Friday game against Penn State last weekend, and his performance was key in helping the Fighting Irish hold onto home ice.

And it’s going to be the catalyst for the Fighting Irish as the playoffs progress. Right now Notre Dame is on the bubble, and this week will have heavy PairWise implications. While Notre Dame, which lost a few key players in the offseason, has become pretty solid. But goaltending is always what wins championships.

How good is Minnesota, really?

Quietly the Gophers picked up home ice and a third-place finish in the league, which is an improvement from their start to the season. The Gophers, though, are still 21st in the PairWise and likely to miss the NCAA tournament again (unless they earn the automatic bid) although in much less dramatic fashion and in a much more certain way. 

Even though the Gophers will probably be a long shot instead of a near miss this season, I don’t think it means Minnesota is wose than it was before. There’s always a period of adjustment with a new coach, and the Gophers still have a top scorer in Rem Pitlick. 

Of the top three teams, the Gophers have the shakiest goaltending, which doesn’t bode well for their NCAA tournament hopes. But Mat Robson is still a good goaltender, and he’d just need to get really hot at the right time. And the new Big Ten tournament format might be beneficial to teams without lights-out goaltending.  

Give credit to Wisconsin

Heading into last weekend I assumed there was little chance Wisconsin would get home ice because they needed to sweep Michigan, and I doubted they would sweep Michigan – epecially without K’Andre Miller.

But the Badgers pulled through. After winning 5-4 in overtimeon Friday, Wisconsin won 4-3 again in overtime. They didn’t earn home ice, but that’s an impressive feat  – especially without one of your top players. 

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Atlantic Hockey Notebook: March 4

Posted: March 4th, 2019 / by Melissa Burgess

The Atlantic Hockey regular season is now in the books, with teams finishing up regular season play this past weekend. Here are the final standings heading into playoffs:

  1. AIC
  2. Bentley
  3. Air Force
  4. Sacred Heart
  5. RIT
  6. Niagara
  7. Mercyhurst
  8. Robert Morris
  9. Holy Cross
  10. Army
  11. Canisius

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ECAC Notebook 2/28

Posted: February 28th, 2019 / by Josh Seguin

Heading into the last weekend of the Regular, I am not sure even true ECAC fans could have pictured just how close things are at the top. But here we are, as Cornell leads Quinnipiac and Harvard by a lone point, while Clarkson is just two points back of the Big Red. Cornell controls its own destiny, at the top, but with a tough game at Clarkson on Saturday, a lot could go wrong for the team from Ithaca. In a sense, because the Golden Knights own the tiebreaker, the Big Red could go from winning the Cleary Cup, to the four seed in just one game. Luckily for the Red, they have SLU on Saturday, which should assure them at least a bye.

Quinnipiac travels to Brown and Yale, while Harvard is in the capital region for a pair of games. Quinnipiac would hold singular tiebreakers on Cornell and Harvard, while Clarkson owns the singular tiebreaker on each of the other three in the top-4. Cornell would hold the singular tiebreaker on Harvard. Three-way tiebreakers would be a bit more complicated, but are a legitimate possibility. How cool would it be to see a four-way tie at the top, though. In that scenario, the cup is shared, but the seeding is ever important. Yale still can get a bye and are two points back of Clarkson, but the Knights would hold the tiebreaker, with its superior record against the other teams in the top-4.

This weekend is important for all of the above in regards to the pairwise, as well, as all but Quinnipiac are bubbilicious. Clarkson is 12th, Cornell is 13th and Harvard is 14th. Yale probably will need to win the ECAC tournament to get into the dance, as it is 24th in the pairwise.

Without further ado, here are my thoughts of the week:

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Big Ten Home Ice Scenarios

Posted: February 28th, 2019 / by Jashvina Shah

The Buckeyes clinched their first Big Ten championship. The rest of the teams are still fighting for home ice, with just four points separating teams two through five.

The Buckeyes clinched their first Big Ten championship, earning a first-round bye for the Big Ten playoffs. Minnesota also clinched home ice. There are two more home ice spots remaining, with Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State and Wisconsin all still alive. The Badgers will play the Wolverines and the Nittany Lions will play the Fighting Irish.

This is where it gets complicated. With three points available in each game, there are six possible cumulative point totals each team could finish the weekend with, there are many different scenarios to determine who would receive home ice. The easiest thing for me to do, then, is to direct this on a point basis instead of a game basis.

Here are the points each team can finish the weekend with (the team’s current point total is in parenthesis):

Michigan (34): 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40
Notre Dame (34): 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40
Penn State (32): 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38
Wisconsin (28): 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34

But now we have to take into account tiebreakers. The tiebreakers are as follows:

  1. B1G wins
  2. Best regular-season winning percentage against the other tied teams
  3. Team with fewest Big Ten losses

For the purpose of this exercise and limited time, I only took into account the first tiebreaker. It’s also important to note that for the purpose of this tiebreaker, B1G wins refer to regulation or 5-on-5 OT wins and not the 3-on-3 OT/SO wins.

So, it’s pretty complicated (and I’m on a major time crunch). BUT I’m going to see how far I can get. I didn’t even include thelast few tie-breaking scenariosbecause I’m really hoping it doesn’t get there.

The way I calculated this (I mean problem-solved, because eh, math) is that I took each team’s possible final points total after Saturday’s games and walked back to determine if and how they would clinch with that total. (Minus UW, because that was the easiest to figure out). If you see a mistake here, PLEASE let me know!

Wisconsin (vs. Michigan):

The Badgers don’t control their own fate. Even if Wisconsin wins both games, Penn State currently has three more Big Ten wins and would win that tiebreaker. So, the Badgers need to finish with more points than Penn State. If Wisconsin won both games, they’d have the same number of points as Michigan but would win the first tiebreaker. So they’d only need more points than Penn State, which means Penn State can’t earn more than one point. That’ll be tough.

Michigan (vs. Wisconsin)

40: IN
39: IN
38: IN
37: IN
36: IN if Notre Dame earns three points or more
35: IN if ND takes two points OR PSU sweeps
34: This would happen if UW sweeps UM. Both teams would have the same number of Big Ten wins (tiebreaker No. 1) and it would move to  tiebreaker No. 2. I’m waiting on clarification on that.

Notre Dame:

40: IN
39: IN
38: IN
37: IN
36: IN if UW takes 4/5 points from UM. PSU would be seeded higher than ND thanks to tiebreaker No. 1
35: IN if UW takes 5 out of 6 points from UM
34: IN if UW sweeps UM

Penn State

38: IN
37: IN
36: This one is really complicated. If this happened, PSU and ND would be tied in total points, which the series point breakdown as 4/2  in favor of PSU. Now it depends on how those points were earned. If PSU won a game in regulation/5-on-5 and lost a game in 3-on-3/SO, they’d win the first tiebreaker. But if they won two games in 3-on-3/SO, the wins would be even and we’d move to tiebreaker No. 2. But, if UW takes at least five of six points from Michigan, both teams would earn home ice.
35: IN if UW takes 5 of 6 points from UM
34: IN if UW sweeps
33: OUT
32: OUT

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Atlantic Hockey Notebook: February 26

Posted: February 26th, 2019 / by Melissa Burgess

Well, here we are: the final week of regular-season action in Atlantic Hockey. With a few games still on tap, playoff pictures are starting to shape up as  teams look to finish the season on a high note.

Here are the Atlantic Hockey standings:

Here are the current Atlantic Hockey standings:

  1. AIC
  2. Bentley
  3. Air Force
  4. RIT
  5. Sacred Heart
  6. Mercyhurst
  7. Niagara
  8. Holy Cross
  9. Army
  10. Robert Morris
  11. Canisius

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ECAC Notebook: 2/21

Posted: February 21st, 2019 / by Josh Seguin

With the ECAC race as close as it can be, the couple of weeks will be very interesting to see play out. Cornell only took a point out of a weekend against Yale and Brown, after a disappointing tie to Brown and a heavy loss to Yale. The Big Red’s lead at the top of the league is just one point, as Quinnipiac sits on 24 points. Beyond those two, the league continued to be tight down to seventh as the top-seven teams are separated by just seven points. Ultimately, all those teams have a mathematical shot at the regular season title but I would keep the favorite as Cornell, with Quinnipiac right on their heels. Yale is two points back and has been getting hotter, of late, while Clarkson and Harvard are three points back. 

The final bye will probably be one of the things to watch, as Clarkson and Harvard are currently tied on 22 points, while Brown and Dartmouth are three points back. I could see Dartmouth getting in that mix, but Brown’s schedule is pretty tough down the stretch. Brown plays Harvard on Friday, while the Big Green have a crucial game against Yale. The home ice berths seem pretty comfortable for the team’s 6-8, as RPI is four points behind Union and five behind the pair in sixth. Union, of course, is an enigma and we await to see which is the real one that will show up in the tournament.

Quinnipiac is still pretty close to a lock for the NCAA tournament, as it sits pretty in the top-six of the pairwise. Positions third to sixth are pretty close in RPI rating, so a big weekend for the Bobcats could help it move up. Really, however, just one win counts for anything, the Clarkson game is huge. Cornell, Clarkson and Harvard are bubble-minded as the three are 10th, 13th and 15th, respectively. Positions 9-16 are relatively close in RPI ratings, so any stumbles could move those teams out of the picture.

Here are my thoughts for the week:

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten Feb. 19

Posted: February 20th, 2019 / by Jashvina Shah

Less than a month remains in the season and the Big Ten is still in flux. Just eight points separate teams two through seven, which equates to roughly three conference games. The Buckeyes are in first by eight points, but the pair of weekend losses to the Gophers dropped Ohio State to seventh in the PairWise.

The Buckeyes right now are the only Big Ten team currently inside the top 16. Notre Dame and Penn State are outside the bubble at 17 and 18, respectively.

Michigan State is a lot better than people think

After splitting a series with Penn State, the Spartans are sixth in the conference and have been hopping up and down the standings the second half of the season. Backed by their top line of Taro Hirose, Patrick Khoderenko and Mitchell Lewandowski, the Spartans have contended this season. The goaltending has improved slightly as well, with freshman Drew DeRidder posting a team-high .910 save percentage. He’s been splitting starts with John Lethemon.

A few weeks ago I spoke with Khoderenko and he said this year the team believes they should be winning games. Danton Cole has only been at the helm for a few seasons, but the fact he’s coaching a team mostly comprised of Tom Anastos’ recruits and he’s getting them to win is a good sign for the Spartans.

It can be argued the Big Ten isn’t as strong this year as it was last year, which is true. But Michigan State’s play has improved regardless.

‘Tis the season of World Junior injuries

Penn State’s Evan Barrett was injured in Saturday’s game against Michigan State. Wisconsin is still without K’Andre Miller, who may miss the rest of the season. Those players were injured after returning from the tournament, but both Penn State and Michigan already lost players at the tournament in Aarne Talvitie and Josh Norris. And Will Lockwood was hurt at last year’s World Juniors.

What’s worse is that all these teams are fighting for home advantage in a very close Big Ten.

Ohio State’s Goaltending

Nappier leads the Big Ten in goaltending with a .939 save percentage. That’s 10 points above last year’s leader, Cale Morris. But, Nappier has started 10 less games than Morris and has played in seven less games because he’s been splitting starts with Sean Romeo. Romeo, a large part of Ohio State’s success last year, has a .908 save percentage.

Nappier is also the only goaltender in the top three who hasn’t held majority of his team’s starts this year. He shares that honor with Michigan State’s Drew DeRidder, who ranks fourth as a 00 freshman and has a .910 save percentage but has played in just 16 games. 

While Nappier’s numbers have been better all season, the team has fared about equally with Nappier and Romeo. Nappier has played in three of Ohio State’s losses while Romeo has played in two. That isn’t an indication of which goaltender is better, but rather perhaps an indication of why Steve Rohlik has kept the rotation despite Nappier’s higher save percentage. 

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Atlantic Hockey Notebook: February 17

Posted: February 17th, 2019 / by Melissa Burgess

Here are the current Atlantic Hockey standings:

  1. AIC
  2. Bentley
  3. Air Force
  4. RIT
  5. Sacred Heart
  6. Mercyhurst
  7. Niagara
  8. Army
  9. Robert Morris
  10. Holy Cross
  11. Canisius

The Niagara Purple Eagles finally ended the Bentley Falcons’ impressive unbeaten streak this weekend. After Bentley pulled off a 3-1 win on Thursday, the Purple Eagles rallied for a 4-3 victory on Friday night. Ben Sokay had the game-winning goal – his second tally of the night – while Noah Delmas and Justin Kendall also scored for Niagara. That ended Bentley’s eight-game winning streak and 12-game unbeaten streak, with their last loss coming on December 30.

Overall, there were a lot of split series this weekend in Atlantic Hockey. The RIT Tigers beat Sacred Heart 2-0 in a matinee match on Friday on goals by Shawn Cameron and Jordan Peacock, but the Pioneers charged back for a 4-3 overtime win Saturday. Austin Magera had the game-winning goal with 39 seconds left in overtime.

Colin Bilek and Joseph Duszak scored for their respective teams as Army and Mercyhurst finished in a 1-1 tie on Friday evening at West Point. The Black Knights won the second half of the series with a 4-3 win on Saturday, powered by goals from Daniel Haider, Taylor Maruya, Zach Evancho and Dalton MacAfee.

Robert Morris and Holy Cross also split their weekend. The Colonials scored five goals, including three straight in the third period, en route to a 5-3 win. Eric Israel had a pair of goals, while Michael Louria, Alex Tonge and Jacob Coleman also scored for Robert Morris. But Tommy Nixon would post a 32-save shutout the next night in a 2-0 Holy Cross win. Michael Laffin and Anthony Vincent had the goals on Saturday for the Crusaders.

Elsewhere, Canisius and Air Force also split their series. The Falcons scored on all situations – even-strength, shorthanded and on the power play – in Friday’s 3-0 win, with goals from Walker Sommer, Kyle Haak and Alex Mehnert. The tables were turned on Saturday, as Canisius came off with a 3-0 win powered by a pair from Dylan McLaughlin. Felix Chamberland also scored, as the Griffs had a pair of power-play goals in the win.

Finally, in the last non-conference action of the season, conference-leading AIC fell twice to Arizona State by scores of 4-1 and 5-4. Joel Kocur had the lone goal in Friday’s loss, when Arizona State scored twice on the power play. Kyle Stephan, Ryan Polin, and Tobias Fladeby (2) scored on Saturday, but the Yellow Jackets fell in overtime when PJ Marrocco had the game-winner.

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Atlantic Hockey Notebook: February 14

Posted: February 14th, 2019 / by Melissa Burgess

Here are the current Atlantic Hockey standings:

  1. AIC
  2. Bentley (+1)
  3. Air Force (-1)
  4. RIT (+1)
  5. Mercyhurst (-1)
  6. Sacred Heart (+1)
  7. Niagara (-1)
  8. Army
  9. Robert Morris
  10. Holy Cross
  11. Canisius

We’re heading into the home stretch of the Atlantic Hockey seasosn, and things are really starting to fall into place for how teams are going to finish the regular season. If everything holds, it looks like AIC and Bentley will be the top two teams in the conference, while Canisius and Holy Cross will be near the bottom.

This past weekend, Bentley helped themselves to a pair of wins over the Griffs, by scores of 3-2 and 6-4. As I’m writing this, the Falcons are facing off against the Purple Eagles and putting their seven-game winning streak (and 11-game unbeaten streak) on the line. Just how long can they keep this up?

Sacred Heart also jumped up one spot in the standings after a pair of wins over Niagara this past weekend. The Pioneers, like the Falcons, are also having a lot of success recently, with five straight wins.

Elsewhere, AIC beat Army twice, by scores of 3-0 and 5-2. The Yellow Jackets *also* have a five-game winning streak going, and they’re really proving themselves week after week, finding ways to win and maintaining that top spot in the conference. If they can keep it up, they’ll be in great shape heading into the postseason.

Finally, RIT and Holy Cross split their weekend series, with RIT winning 4-3 Friday before the Crusaders came back for a 3-2 win on Saturday.

Aside from tonight’s Bentley/Niagara matchup, this coming weekend will be a busy one. Those same two teams will finish off their series on Friday, but we’ll also see meetings between RIT and Sacred Heart; Mercyhurst and Army; Robert Morris and Holy Cross; Canisius and Air Force; and AIC and Arizona State. Just about three weeks until the end of the regular season, and there’s still some chance for change in the standings – so every game is critical.

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