Hockey East Random Thoughts (10/20/16)

Posted: October 21st, 2016 / by Mike McMahon

- For all the talk of what Providence lost heading into this season, the Friars have the best even-strength Corsi in Hockey East (60.1%) and it’s fifth-best in the nation. Yeah, they’re 1-2, and yeah, they lost to Holy Cross, but the Friars record will improve if the possession stats remain that high. Also, quality possession like that, even with so many new players in new roles, speaks to how good Providence’s coaching is. There’s no getting around it, Nate Leaman and Norm Bazin (Lowell keeps chugging along) are two of the best in the business right now.

Providence’s PDO is just 95.87 right now, in large part due to a team save percentage of .889. I’m expecting that to be a lot better, and even the Friars’ 7.0 shooting percentage is likely to come up. The possession metrics tell us that Providence has had the puck a lot, they just haven’t been finishing it. At the same time, opponents are finishing chances despite possessing the puck for less time. It’s three games, that’s not a trend that will continue all season.

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Oct. 21

Posted: October 21st, 2016 / by Jashvina Shah

The Big Ten looks to continue its non-conference success this weekend with five schools playing. All teams but the Badgers, who will play the NTDP U-18 team, are locked into weekend series. The competition is tougher than last weekend, and some of the Big Ten teams may no longer be undefeated. But the conference has done well in non-conference competition so far with a 9-6-2 record.

There isn’t much we know about the Big Ten teams so far since it’s still early, but we do know that sophomores are leading Minnesota and both Michigan and Ohio State have done well defensively. Those three teams are facing a step up in competition, but their opponents for the weekend have been struggling.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Oct. 17

Posted: October 17th, 2016 / by Jashvina Shah

The Big Ten actually has the second-best winning percentage against other conferences this season, behind only the NCHC. That’s much different from years past, when the conference teams have struggled in early-season non-conference games. Two Big Ten teams are undefeated – Minnesota and Ohio State. The Badgers split with Boston College in an interesting series, Michigan State was swept and Penn State won against Mercyhurst.

It’s still early, but it looks like Penn State’s offense will be okay this year. The Badgers are definitely already a better team than they were last season, and Michigan has a bigger goaltending question than in the past few seasons.

The Gophers were off last weekend but defeated the NTDP U-18 team 9-0. Rem Pitlick had three goals and an assist, Brent Gates had two goals and Leon Bristedt had three assists. Ohio State skated to a 1-1 tie with Miami, and the Buckeyes have not allowed more than three goals in a game this season. Matt Tomkins earned the start and made 22 saves, while David Gust scored the lone goal.

Michigan defeated Ferris State 2-1 thanks to goals from Jake Slaker and Sam Piazza. The Wolverines started their third goaltender in as many games, and Jack LaFontaine made 28 stops in the win. So far, thanks to his shutout, Hayden Lavigne has the best save percentage on the team. LaFontaine has a .966 save percentage. Penn State defeated Mercyhurst 7-0. Nate Sucese had two goals and Peyton Jones made 20 saves. Sophomore Chase Berger had three points.

The Spartans started their season last weekend and it ended badly. Michigan State dropped a 6-1 decision to Lake Superior and followed with a 7-3 loss. In the first game, Ed Minney made 28 saves. John Lethemon had the save the next night but was pulled after allowing four goals on 13 shots. Minney replaced him and made 14 saves on 17 shots.

Wisconsin played a couple of interesting games against the Eagles. The Badgers won the first game 3-1 but lost the second 8-5. While the Eagles probably won’t be a great team this season, a split and eight goals on the weekend is encouraging for the Badgers. Ryan Wagner and Grant Besse both had two goals on the weekend. Matt Jurusik played in both games but Jack Berry saw some playing time on Sunday.

(After the jump: Cameron Hughes, Rough year for Michigan State and Penn State’s scheduling)

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Making A Case To Do Away (Or Change) With ECAC Travel Partners

Posted: October 17th, 2016 / by Mike McMahon

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to visit the beautiful North Country, taking in a game at Clarkson and St. Lawrence. If you’ve never made the trip, it’s highly recommended, especially in the fall where the temperatures aren’t too cold and the scenery is second to none.

Not to mention you get to take in two awesome college hockey buildings. There’s not another building in the country like Appleton Arena.

But this weekend got me thinking … is the ECAC travel partner concept outdated? Do coaches even like it?

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Three Things I Think: ECAC, 10/16

Posted: October 16th, 2016 / by Josh Seguin

The first weeks of the regular season are past us and for the non-Ivy league schools some trends are taking shape. We are about a week and a half away from when the Ivy League schools begin play. Harvard and Cornell will each open their seasons on Friday October, 28th against Arizona State and Merrimack, respectively. Conference play will begin the next weekend, with Quinnipiac/Clarkson probably the best matchup in the first week. This weekend there will be many intriguing non-conference matchups, which I will delve on later in the week in my weekend preview blog.

The league as a whole had a good weekend in non-conference and some younger players are coming forward, while some newer trusted hands are also breaking out. While the league has no one that remains undefeated, St. Lawrence and Quinnipiac again look poised to be near the top. SLU after a struggle in the opener, has looked lights out in the past three games, winning going away in each. Clarkson has been a tad inconsistent over the first couple weeks. Colgate, is having some expected bumps early on, RPI is surprisingly as well. Quinnipiac has been hit or miss in the early going and Union has had a decent start to the year with a win and a loss at Michigan, with a win and draw against AIC and Sacred Heart over the weekend. Clarkson split its two weekends against Hockey East foes. All told over the first two weekends ECAC teams have gone 9-9-4. Read the rest of this entry »

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Oct. 14

Posted: October 14th, 2016 / by Jashvina Shah

As the second weekend approaches, all Big Ten teams are in action. Michigan State starts its season while the Gophers will have an exhibition game against the NTDP. A couple teams are in one-game series, with Ohio State against Miami, Michigan at Ferris State and Penn State at Mercyhurst. Wisconsin hosts Boston College for a two game set and Michigan State will face Lake Superior State for a pair.

Michigan (1-1) at Ferris State (0-4): Oct. 15 at 7:07 p.m.

The Wolverines resume action at Ferris State. Michigan is 1-1 on the season with a total of seven goals, although it’s too early to know what that means. Freshman Will Lockwood has jumped in already and has a goal and an assist, while Max Shuart leads the team with three points. Both Zach Nagelvoort and Hayden Lavigne have started, and Lavigne has a shutout.

Ferris State is 0-4 on the season, dropping contests to Alabama Huntsville and Western Michigan. Craig Pefley has four points while both Mitch Maloney and Gerald Mayhew have two goals each. Darren Smith has started all four game and has a .904 save percentage.

It’s too early to know if Ferris State will be a better test for Michigan than Union was, but it should show if Lavigne’s success – and the team’s offense – was a fluke or a trend.

Prediction: Series split

Michigan State at Lake Superior State: Oct. 14 at 7:37 p.m.; Oct. 15 at 6:07 p.m.

The Spartans start their season with a series in the Upper Peninsula. Michigan State looks very different this season without its leading scorers and its netminder for the past several years. There are some bright spots in Mason Appleton, last year’s leading freshman scorer, and Jerad Rosburg, who’s back from injury.

Lake Superior is also starting its season this weekend. The Lakers played to a 3-3 tie in their exhibition game against Laurentian. Lake Superior is returning both its goaltenders from last year and its leading scorer. The Lakers finished last year with a 14-22 record, six wins more than the previous season.

The teams met last year for a two-game set, one that ended in a split. The Spartans lost the first game 4-2 before winning 2-0. Like Michigan State, Lake Superior has struggled recently. This weekend will be a test for both teams.

Prediction: Series split

Ohio State (1-0-1) at Miami (1-1): Oct. 15 at 8:05 p.m.

After a successful Ice Breaker Tournament, the Buckeyes resume their annual rivalry with Miami for one game. Ohio State is undefeated on the season after earning a surprising win over Denver last weekend. The Buckeyes have won some big games before, but they’ve struggled with consistency and iffy goaltending. Christian Frey started the first game but then split the second with Matt Tomkins.

Miami is 1-1 after splitting its series at Providence. Miami lost the first game 4-3 and won the second game 2-1. Several players are tied for two points, while freshman Ryan Larkin received both starts in net. He has a .906 save percentage.

Last year Miami swept the home-and-home series but the games were close, with Miami winning 3-2 and 3-1. The Buckeyes are off to a much better start this year than they were last season, though, when it took eight games for Ohio State to win.

Prediction: Miami wins

Penn State (1-1) at Mercyhurst: Oct. 14 at 7:05 p.m.

The Nittany Lions had a good start to their season. While they ended in a split that saw freshman Peyton Jones pulled from the loss, the Nittany Lions proved they can still score, especially against a good defensive team. The underclassmen are leading the offensive charge, and sophomore Andrew Sturtz has three points.

This is the first game of the season for Mercyhurst, which finished with a 17-15-4 record last year. Derek Barach, who scored 32 points last year, is back. Mercyhurst lost their freshman netminder Adam Carlson after he signed a pro contract, but netminder Brandon Wildung has experience in net.

If Penn State can keep up the scoring and play better defensively and in net, they have a good chance of winning.

Prediction: Penn State wins

Wisconsin (1-1) vs. Boston College (1-1): Oct. 14 at 7:07 p.m. CT; Oct. 16 at 3:07 p.m. CT

The Badgers return to the Kohl Center to host Boston College for a two-game series. Wisconsin put up nine goals last weekend, and Corbin McGuire, J.D. Greenway and Seamus Malone all have three points, while McGuire has three goals. But the Badgers also gave up eight goals, and Matt Jurusik has a .837 save percentage.

The Eagles suffered from a lot of roster turnover and dropped their first game of the season to Air Force 2-1. They rebounded with a 3-1 win over Denver and showed promise in net. Senior Austin Cangelosi leads the team with three points while Joe Woll has a .955 save percentage.
Boston College was a good team last year while Wisconsin was not, but BC lost a lot of its roster and the Badgers only got stronger. Even with a much different makeup, the Eagles will still be a challenge for Wisconsin.

Prediction: Series split.

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Hockey East Random Thoughts of the Week (10/13/16)

Posted: October 13th, 2016 / by Mike McMahon

– Clayton Keller has been the name almost everyone is talking about when it comes to BU, and for good reason. You’re not the No. 7 overall pick in the NHL Draft by accident. Keller could be in the NHL next season. To some extend, Patrick Harper’s incredible start to the season has been lost in the shuffle, what with him only being a fifth-round draft pick, and not a first-round pick like most of the other players on his team. Harper had two goals at Colgate on Saturday night, and three more in the exhibition. This isn’t a newfound skill for him, either. He had 20 goals in 27 prep games last season and 19 goals in 13 midget games. Between Avon Old Farms and the Neponset Valley River Rats U18 team, he’s been averaging almost one goal per game the last two seasons combined.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Oct. 10

Posted: October 10th, 2016 / by Jashvina Shah

Five Big Ten teams opened play this weekend except for Michigan State. It’s early, but with a 6-3-1 record, the Big Ten already has a better non-conference record than it did at this time last season – and that Ohio State win over Denver could have huge implications come the end of the season.

Ohio State had the most interesting weekend. The Buckeyes first beat Denver – one of the top teams in the country – 3-2 at the Ice Breaker Tournament and then tied Air Force in the championship game. Probably no one expected Ohio State to beat Denver, but it’s even more shocking the Buckeyes limited the Pioneers to two goals. Christian Frey made 33 saves in the win. Against Air Force, Frey and Matt Tomkins split the start. Tomkins made 10 saves while Frey made 15 and allowed three goals.

Minnesota started the season 2-0, defeating both Alaska teams by a good margin. The Gophers’ wins weren’t surprising, as both Alaska and Alaska Anchorage have struggled and are in even more difficulty with the uncertain future of their programs. Minnesota defeated Alaska-Anchorage 6-0 and then beat Alaska 6-3. Jake Bischoff scored twice on Friday, while Tyler Sheehy netted two tallies on Sunday. Goaltender Eric Schierhorn assisted on one of them. It’s early, but Sheehy’s five points leads the team.

The Wolverines split with Union, giving up a 3-2 lead in the third period in a Friday night loss. They rebounded with a 4-0 win that included a pair of goals from James Sanchez. Zach Nagelvoort and Hayden Lavigne split starts.

Penn State also split, defeated St. Lawrence 4-2 and then losing 6-3. The freshman Peyton Jones played well in the win, recording five saves. But he was chased from the cage the next night after allowing three goals on eight shots.

Wisconsin earned a split too. After dropping the first game 3-2 against Northern Michigan, the Badgers won 6-5 in Tony Granato’s first win. Corbin McGuire scored twice, while Trent Frederic scored his first goal. McGuire had three goals on the weekend and Will Johnson had two. Matt Jurusik started both games but wasn’t tested much in the first. He made 25 saves in the win.

(After the jump: Michigan’s net, a promising start for Wisconsin and it’s still early) Read the rest of this entry »

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Oct. 6

Posted: October 6th, 2016 / by Jashvina Shah

College hockey officially kicks off this weekend for the rest of the nation and it marks the first regular-season games for Big Ten teams. Penn State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin all begin their non-conference competition while Michigan State has the lone bye.

Penn State vs. St. Lawrence: Oct. 6 at 7 p.m.; Oct. 7 at 7: p.m.

The Nittany Lions begin their regular season hosting St. Lawrence. These teams played last year at Pegula, skating to a 2-2 tie on the first night. On the next night, St. Lawrence won 4-2. The Saints were one of the biggest tests the Nittany Lions faced last year, and their defense was one of the only good ones that could stop Penn State’s offense. The Saints are still the same defensive team they were last year but lack some offense. But, St. Lawrence also lost its head coach and skates into the season with Mark Morris at its helm.

Penn State, meanwhile, lost a portion of its offense, defense, leadership group and its goaltenders. The Nittany Lions still have David Goodwin, a player who’s improved each season and led the team in scoring last year. Penn State is looking to improve defensively, but the team’s success depends on its freshmen, especially goaltender Peyton Jones.

Both teams are in interesting situations. For St. Lawrence, it’s adapting to a new head coach. For Penn State, it’s creating a cohesive group with a lot of new faces. The Saints’ defense and goaltending is hard to beat, though.

Prediction: St. Lawrence sweeps

Wisconsin vs. Northern Michigan: Oct. 7 at 7:07 p.m. CT, Oct. 8 at 7:07 p.m. CT

A new era of Badger hockey begins this weekend as the Badgers host Northern Michigan. The Wildcats and Badgers also played at the beginning of last season, with teams playing to a pair of low-scoring ties. Wisconsin won eight games last year while Northern Michigan won 15.

Both teams destroyed their opponents in exhibition games. The Wildcats won 10-1 against Victoria while the Badgers beat the same team by the same score. Wisconsin has its leading scorers returning in Grant Besse and Luke Kunin. The offensive talent is there, but the team needs to use it and needs to play better defensively. Northern Michigan lost its leading scorer but returns Dominick Shine, who had a career-high 30 points last season. The Wildcats also have goaltender Atte Tolvanen, who had a .929 save percentage last year.

It’s an early test to see if the Badgers can play a different style of hockey cohesively, but if the exhibition game is any indication, Wisconsin is already using its talent better than in seasons past.

Prediction: Wisconsin sweeps

Michigan vs. Union: Oct. 7 at 7:35 p.m., Oct. 8 at 7:35 p.m.

The Wolverines take the ice against Union to open their season. The Dutchmen, after winning the NCAA tournament three years ago, have struggled ever since. But this won’t be an easy test for the Wolverines, who lost the offensive power they used to win with. The teams played last year and the game ended in a 5-5 tie, illustrating Michigan’s lack of defense.

Michigan’s leading returning scorer is Alex Kile, but the team will also be without promising sophomore Cooper Marody. The Wolverines still have the same defensive and goaltending troubles in the past, so they might not be able to win a shootout against the Dutchmen. Union hasn’t been as offensively strong lately, but their leading scorer from last season, Mike Vecchione, is still with the team.

Since Michigan can’t outscore its opponents anymore, the key will be defense.

Prediction: Series split

Minnesota vs Alaska Fairbanks: Oct. 7 at 7:07 p.m. AT; at Alaska at 4:30 p.m. AT

After not playing any exhibition games, Minnesota opens its season with a trip to Alaska. The Gophers have only played Alaska Fairbanks four times and last played Alaska Anchorage in 2011-12.

The Gophers had some offseason losses but retained a good portion of its roster. In net they still have Alaska native Eric Schierhorn who could be better this year but turned in some good performances for the Gophers last season. Minnesota has retained captain and leading scorer Justin Kloos, who has 107 points in his three-year career.

This is a tumultuous time for Alaska hockey, as a budget crisis in the state has led to budget cuts at both schools, leaving the future of both hockey programs is a question mark. The Nanooks’ lost their top three leading scorers but return Marcus Basara, who posted 18 points last year. The Seawolves have Matt Anholt, who recorded 22 points last season.

Last season it took Minnesota a few non-conference games to start winning, but with most of the team returning it should be easier for the Gophers to adjust this year.

Prediction: Minnesota sweeps

Ohio State vs. Denver at 7:35 p.m. CT; vs. Air Force/Boston College at TBA (Ice Breaker Invitational)

The Buckeyes begin their season with the biggest test out of all Big Ten teams. Denver, a Frozen Four member last year, is one of the top teams in college hockey this season. The Pioneers lost some key players but have skaters like Dylan Gambrell and still have goaltender Danny Jaillet. The Buckeyes have struggled for the past few seasons but have some of their scoring back and added a few good freshmen.

Ohio State will either face Air Force or Boston College afterward. Air Force finished high in Atlantic Hockey last year but failed to make the NCAA tournament. Boston College did, and made a Frozen Four appearance, but lost much of its roster to graduation and early departures.

It’s a tough test for the Buckeyes to start the season, and they might not be ready to handle them.

Prediction: Ohio State loses both games

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Hockey East Has Plans in Place For 11-Team Schedule

Posted: August 31st, 2016 / by Mike McMahon

With Notre Dame’s departure from Hockey East coming at the end of the 2016-17 season, the league is moving forward with plans for an 11-team schedule beginning with the 2017-18 season.

According to several sources, plans were discussed by league athletic directors and administrators over the course of this summer, and while nothing has been formally finalized, the leading scenario would include a 24-game league schedule with all 11 teams qualifying for the Hockey East tournament. Currently, Hockey East utilizes a 22-game league schedule (11 opponents x 2 games), however many coaches wanted to see more league games added in an effort to minimize the number of non-conference games that need to be scheduled on a yearly basis.

Expansion plans for a 12th team have been discussed, but nothing is imminent. It appears that the league is willing to wait for the right fit and won’t be in a rush to court another program just to get the league back to 12 teams. After all, Hockey East functioned for many years as a nine-team league. While an even number of teams is ideal from a scheduling standpoint, it’s certainly not necessary.

The proposed 24-game schedule would consist of:

  • Two games against each of the other 10 Hockey East opponents broken into one home and one away game, with exceptions made for Vermont and Maine (2 home or 2 away, alternating yearly).
  • The final four league games would be determined by an algorithm based on the standings from the previous season. Those four games would include two home games and two road games.
  • Each team would play 12 home games and 12 road games.

Everything is pretty normal until we get to that second bullet point, where it’s been proposed that they utilize a weighted schedule. Teams can fluctuate so much from year to year, especially with the graduation of a large senior class or a slew of pro signings. However, there’s no fair way to project regression. It’s similar to the old league schedule where teams would play opponents three times, two on one campus and one at the other. There seems to be much more thought going into this proposed schedule, whereas before the 2-and-1 format felt like it was randomized, alternating on a year-by-year basis.

It has also been proposed that all 11 teams make the Hockey East tournament, with the top-5 teams getting byes in the first round and 6 vs. 11, 7 vs. 12 and 8 vs. 9 determining the final three spots in the quarterfinals. Many believed, when Hockey East adopted the format where all teams qualified, that it was done so in an effort to help the team seeded fifth. Within a 12-team league, that fifth team would host the last-place team for a series at home, more often than not giving them two more wins in the Pairwise which could help Hockey East get another team into the NCAA Tournament. That rationale won’t exist in a format where the top-5 teams receive byes.

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