Three Things I Think: ECAC Week 2

Posted: October 20th, 2014 / by Josh Seguin

Colgate and Union have steamrolled out of the gate. The two are a combined 6-1 on the young season and have done nothing but impress. The two were expected to be good, picked first and second in preseason, so the success is hardly a surprise.  Clarkson hit a rock over the weekend scoring just one goal in two games, while getting swept in a home and home by Vermont. St. Lawrence continues to surprise a bit, as the Saints were a goal away from sweeping the weekend against highly touted Ferris State. Instead, they picked up a win and a loss. Quinnipiac did little to impress me last weekend and I will discuss its struggles on Friday below.

The conference as a whole is looking good in terms of the inter-conference records, as the conference is 13-9-2 on the young season. It also has a winning record against Hockey East, which is always nice to see. With most of that action coming on the road against quality competition thus far it is so far so good in comparison to the other conferences.

The ECAC preview package was released late last week. Make sure to check out the team by team preview, the Watch List and my article on Union’s, Charlie Vasaturo. Without further ado here are the things I see as noteworthy for the week: Read the rest of this entry »

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Three Things I Think: Hockey East, Oct. 20

Posted: October 20th, 2014 / by Joe Meloni

Last season, following a 1-1 draw against Providence at Fenway Park, Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy remarked that Hockey East’s goaltending was the difference between very good teams and the rest of the league. It’s a comment he’s made a number of times over the years, but it always starts the same.

“You’ve heard it before. The name of this game should be changed to ‘goalie,’” he said. “You can go back and look. My senior year, Scott LaGrand led Hockey East with .900 save percentage. No one was over .900. Now, if you don’t have .920, we’re going ‘next?’ You need your goaltenders to be .920-.925 to have a chance to win games at this level.”

It’s no secret that very good goaltending is critical for teams to win hockey games. Last season, Hockey East continued the trend of making it nearly impossible for players to score goals. Nationally, the average save percentage for a team was .908. In Hockey East, that number rose to .916.

Teams don’t win in this league without consistently strong goaltending. It isn’t just enough to have good goaltending, of course. Teams need to score goals. They need to possess the puck. They need kill penalties. The list goes on, but the young man between the pipes is frequently the difference between winning and losing.

In the season’s first two weeks, goaltending statistics are especially polarized. It’s really not even worth looking at them just yet with no one playing more than four games thus far and some still with just one or two under their belts. But a couple clubs have put together some good starts and their goaltending has led the way. The usual names — Boston College’s Thatcher Demko and Providence’s Jon Gillies — will be among the leaders at the end. But BC and Providence expect to compete. Clubs looking to surprise this season will need their goalies to match their more well-known counterparts.

A year ago, it was Northeastern’s Clay Witt dominating the league to compete Northeastern in contention well into February. It’s difficult to tell who will be that guy this season, but one name has emerged in the season’s first couple weeks. Read the rest of this entry »

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Oct. 20

Posted: October 20th, 2014 / by Jashvina Shah

Well, things aren’t going well for Big Ten hockey. The conference went a combined 2-7-1 last weekend, with Michigan and Michigan State picking up the only wins. Both Wisconsin and Ohio State were swept, while Penn State lost and tied at the Brice Alaska Goal Rush.

Michigan started the weekend with a 5-1 loss to UNH at home. After starting Zach Nagelvoort on Friday, the Wolverines opted for Steve Racine on Saturday. Behind goals from Michael Downing and Cutler Martin, Michigan salvaged the weekend with a 2-1 win on Saturday. Even with the win, losing 5-1 at home for Michigan is a scary thought.

The Spartans split their series with Massachusetts, earning a 5-3 win and then falling 4-3. It’s early, but that puts Michigan State ahead of their 2.19 goals per game average from last season. It’s early, but the Spartans offense has really gotten a boost from a healthy Matt Berry, who recorded three points (2g, 1a) in each game over the weekend.

(After the jump: Ohio State’s possession problems, Penn State’s surprise start, Ohio State’s goalkeeping) Read the rest of this entry »

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Big Ten: A Look Into Corsi, Week One

Posted: October 17th, 2014 / by Jashvina Shah

Since advanced stats like Corsi are becoming more and more important, I wanted to try calculating them for Big Ten hockey. This is my first attempt, and it’s what will become a weekly calculation and breakdown of Corsi stats within the conference.

Corsi essentially measures puck possession, accounting for all shots taken by both teams. I won’t go into a more in-depth explanation of how Corsi came about, but if you’re interested in that and more advanced stats, check out Scott McLaughlin’s piece on WEEI.

To calculate the Corsi stats for each team, I looked through the available play-by-play archives of five games from last weekend: Minnesota’s matches at the Icebreaker tournament, Ohio State’s contests against Providence and Penn State’s 7-1 win over UConn. I manually counted each shot and denoted when it was taken, so I could break up Corsi by period and by situation.

I ended up with several categories for each period and the game overall: 5-on-5 play, penalty kill, even strength and total Corsi. I chose to express the stats as percentages.

I’m a big fan of stats, but I know they’re only telling when you put them in context. So I wanted to compare these stats to what I saw in the games, but I only watched Minnesota last week. As far as the Gophers are concerned, their total Corsi of 62.79 percent against RPI last Sunday supports how much Minnesota dominated the Engineers. The Gophers also recorded a 5-on-5 first-period Corsi of 70.98 percent. Read the rest of this entry »

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Oct. 17

Posted: October 17th, 2014 / by Jashvina Shah

All of the Big Ten teams are in action this week except for Minnesota, which has a bye after the Icbreaker Tournament.

Michigan State will take the ice for its first game of the season, while Penn State heads to Alaska for the Brice Goal Rush. Ohio State has a home-and-home with Miami and Michigan hosts New Hampshire. Wisconsin and Northern Michigan will play two in Green Bay, Wisc.

It’s early, so there isn’t much to say about these matchups or what these teams look like, but hopefully this week will give us some more insight. Read the rest of this entry »

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Three Things I Think: ECAC Week 1

Posted: October 15th, 2014 / by Josh Seguin

The college hockey season has commenced and we ECAC fans again have the privilege of fielding one of the deepest conferences in the country . One should expect the complete ECAC preview package to be released in the coming days. Fair warning, if you don’t like the opinions,  RPI coach Seth Appert said it right in his preseason conference call. Appert said, “generally speaking the coaches and media are wrong. That is pretty consistent and I don’t put a lot of stock in it.” He of course points out that preseason polls never pan out. There are always surprises and I am sure this year will prove to be another year where we aren’t even close, although we all strive to be as close as possible. Unlike teams, we get new chances every year to prove we are “experts.”

Colgate went out to St. Cloud, took a quick 2-0 lead in game 1 and were able to hold for the win against a solid Husky team. Colgate, though, is expected to win. Getting a big win on the road was exactly the start it needed and wanted. It dropped game 2 but winning one of two against SCSU is quite the start, also it could turn out to be a huge pairwise boost at the end of the season because of the way road games are weighted. Unlike Colgate, Rensselaer had no pressure to begin the season and it showed at the Icebreaker. RPI faced the host, Notre Dame, on opening night and came out with an impressive 3-2 victory in enemy territory. I will have more on the Engineers below, because I was quite impressed with what I saw. Both Rensselaer and Colgate have impressive, tough non-conference schedules, so be on the lookout when those big name teams come to your town. Without further ado, lets get to my thoughts of the week. Read the rest of this entry »

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Three Things I Think: Hockey East, Oct. 14

Posted: October 14th, 2014 / by Joe Meloni

It’s just one game — in some cases two — but it’s hardly enough to make any sweeping conclusions about a team’s fate.

The college hockey season has barely begun. Seven of the 12 teams in Hockey East have played just one time this season, and those single samples haven’t offered much in the way of knowledge on these teams. Boston University won’t score eight goals every night. Massachusetts won’t allow eight goals every night — though, it probably won’t score more than one all that often. Boston College’s talented roster won’t struggle to generate offense all year. And Merrimack, well, Merrimack won’t have the benefit of playing mid-table Atlantic Hockey clubs every night.

There are some trends, though, that appear to have continued from last year. Northeastern still never has the puck. Massachusetts-Lowell is still relentless in transition and remarkably disciplined in its system. And Vermont’s Brody Hoffman remains an underappreciated stalwart behind a team that just lacks something compared to the league’s true contenders.

We’ll learn a lot in the coming weeks. A number of marquee non-conference matchups come this weekend with only Connecticut and Merrimack playing a Hockey East game. Little that happens in October is especially indicative of what’s to come, but it’s part of the picture. There are just some things that probably won’t change much from last season, and even a win or a loss doesn’t really suggest a step forward or back in college hockey. The way teams arrive at those wins and losses is all the more important in the season’s earliest portions. Read the rest of this entry »

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Oct. 12

Posted: October 13th, 2014 / by Jashvina Shah

The college hockey season officially kicked off this weekend, and all the Big Ten teams were in action save Michigan and Michigan State.

And it’s definitely a new season.

Wisconsin is 0-2-0 after dropping two games in the Kendall Hockey Classic and scoring three goals in total. Penn State is 1-0-1 after the weekend, when the Nittany Lions tied UConn and then won 7-1. Penn State hit a series of program firsts with the win, as it was the first seven-goal game against a Division I opponent, the first win over UConn and the first Hockey East victory.

The stories are different for Penn State and Wisconsin, but it’s been much of the same for Minnesota. The Gophers defeated Minnesota-Duluth and then dominated RPI over the weekend to claim their second-straight Ice Breaker championship.

While Minnesota played a closer game with UMD, the Gophers just crushed the Engineers. The only reason Minnesota didn’t score more than three goals is because Jason Kasdorf is back in net for RPI.

While it’s only been one weekend, Minnesota really does look like the team most of us think will win the NCAA tournament. It’s hard to argue with a powerful offense, Kyle Rau, a spectacular defense and a wall in net with Adam Wilcox.

So far, Michigan State is the only team that hasn’t played a regular-season game yet.

(After the jump: It’s still early, Wisconsin’s learning curve and Ohio State’s scoring surprise) Read the rest of this entry »

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Three Thoughts on Merrimack, Holy Cross After Weekend Series

Posted: October 12th, 2014 / by Mike McMahon

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Here are three thoughts on both Merrimack College and Holy Cross, after the Warriors completed the weekend sweep on Saturday night. The Warriors took two one-goal games – 3-2 on Friday and 2-1 on Saturday – but Holy Cross showed plenty of promise at the start of the David Berard era.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Hockey East’s Top-10 Non-Conference Games for 2014-15

Posted: August 13th, 2014 / by Mike McMahon

Mark your calendars.

Hockey East fans will be blessed this coming winter. Along with a shortened 22-game league schedule, which as it did last year when the schedule was at 20 games, should make for closer playoff races come the end of February, there’s a slew of premiere non-conference games headed to Hockey East rinks this upcoming season.

Union, the defending national champions, will visit three Hockey East rinks. Michigan makes a pair of trips and even Minnesota will fly to Boston, marking the first time the Gophers will travel to the city that houses four Division I programs since it helped close Walter Brown Arena and open Agganis Arena in Jan. 2005, if you exclude a visit to Vermont in 2012-13 and a trip to Hockey East newcomer Notre Dame last season, which is really in the midwest and not the east.

Since that trip to Boston in 2005, Minnesota has hosted 13 games against Hockey East opponents, and traveled east for just those two in Vermont.

Here are the top-10 non-conference games Hockey East will HOST this season:

10. Yale at Northeastern, Jan. 6
Two classic programs, playing in a classic building. Yale’s program has roots back to 1893 while Northeastern’s has been around since 1929. Matthews Arena has been around since 1909, and you know the history there. Besides, Northeastern is on an upswing in Hockey East the past two seasons under Jim Madigan and Yale just won a national title two years ago.

9. Michigan at Boston University, Oct. 25
Boston University endured one of its tougher seasons in 2013-14, but Jack Eichel will pull a BU shirt over his head this fall, and that makes this early-season matchup with Michigan a must see. Eichel will go against his NJEC linemate, Tyler Motte, as well as a plethora of his other former U.S. National Team Development Program teammates.

8. Union at Boston University, Jan. 3
If the national champions are visiting your building, it’s a big game. BU’s struggles could linger into the early parts of the 2014 schedule, but by January, the Terriers could very well be firing on all cylinders. The only problem here is that Eichel, and any other players that make the World Junior Team, will likely still be playing in the tournament.

7. Union at Maine, Oct. 17 & 18
Maine was reinvigorated last season with new head coach Red Gendron behind the bench, and the Black Bears will bring in their best non-conference opponent to Orono in just the second week of the regular season. Gendron is giving his players a mighty test right away.

6. Michigan at UMass Lowell, Oct. 24
It should be an interesting year for Lowell, which has now lost the bulk of the nucleus that has won back-to-back Hockey East championships. But they’re still the defending two-time champs. Lowell, which in both championship years has gotten off to sluggish starts, will be tested early against an ultra-talented Michigan team.

5. Union at Notre Dame, Nov. 28 (Shillelagh Tournament First Round)
Notre Dame, by its standards, limped through its first year as a member of Hockey East. But parity in college hockey, which is a theory everyone likes to talk about, in most cases doesn’t actually exist. Notre Dame is a reload program. They don’t rebuild. Teams like Merrimack, Vermont and Massachusetts have all had cups of coffee among the nation’s elite, but have failed to sustain it. Notre Dame had a taste of what it’s like near the bottom of Hockey East in its first season – the Irish finished eighth – but don’t expect that to sustain either. Then there’s Union. Did I mention they’re the defending national champions?

4. Michigan at Boston College, Dec. 13
This might as well be called the “NTDP All Star Game.” By my count, there will be 11 former NTDP players on the ice in this one, including BC goaltender Thatcher Demko. For much of these rosters, it will be one of their last games on opposite benches before players like Tuch, Milano, Demko, Motte, Compher, Downing and Larkin likely join the World Junior Team.

3. Minnesota at Northeastern, Nov. 29
A night after it plays a huge game at BC – we’ll get to that in a minute – the Gophers will travel to Matthews Arena to play Northeastern. The Huskies can score and they’ll be trying to improve on a defense that allowed the eighth-most goals in Hockey East, despite starter Clay Witt posting the second-best save percentage. That tells you how many shots Northeastern was allowing. But the Huskies will still be a team in the top-half of the Hockey East standings and it doesn’t get any more marquee than a matchup with Minnesota.

2. Quinnipiac at UMass Lowell, Oct. 18
Lowell and Quinnipiac have been surging at a similar time, and will collide early in the season. Just as Lowell has risen to prominence, winning back-to-back tournament titles, Quinnipiac has made a similar move in the ECAC.

1. Minnesota at Boston College, Nov. 28
This, you can’t beat. Two of the most storied programs in college hockey will meet up on Thanksgiving weekend. Take the league out of it, this will be the most anticipated non-conference game of the season across the entire nation. Union won the national title last April, and that’s all that counts, but BC and Minnesota actually finished No. 1 and 2 in the final Pairwise. Union had to knock off both these programs en route to its championship. Like it has in many years, the road to a national title likely goes through Minnesota or BC, if not both.

Honorable Mention: U.S. Under-20 Team vs. Boston University, Dec. 19
It’s only an exhibition, but Jack Eichel and the WJC team against BU should be a fun take.

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