Archive for October, 2011

Three Things I Think: WCHA

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Another week in the books and with October hockey in the books, here are three things I think about the WCHA this week.

• OK, so Michigan Tech wasn’t going to go undefeated in conference play. But just a week after being swept by Bemidji State, the Huskies put up a three-point weekend against conference favorite Denver. Don’t look now, but Tech is all alone in second place with the league’s worst team, Minnesota State, headed to Houghton this weekend. If the Huskies sweep the Mavericks this weekend, they’ll almost certainly avoid last place in the conference standings this season. If Tech is for real, it is this weekend’s series that will tell the story. One would expect a team to have no trouble getting hyped to play the Denvers of the world. But with a banged up, bad hockey team coming to their building, getting ready this weekend may prove a bit more difficult.

• As I said before the start of the season, way too many folks were overvaluing the goaltending in Anchorage. One of the darlings of the preseason media poll, several believed the Seawolves were ready to compete for a home ice spot after UAA upset the Gophers in the first round last year to advance to the Final Five. Fact is, UAA got a nice five game stretch from Chris Kamal at just the right time last season. Anchorage didn’t bring in any blue-chip freshmen, and other than that five game stretch, Kamal and Rob Gunderson have done zilch to prove themselves among the best in the league. They did lose their best offensive threat in Tommy Grant. And all of that led many to believe Anchorage actually improved during the offseason? I didn’t buy in, putting UAA 10th in my poll, and that may be a little high. The Seawolves have had trouble scoring so far in conference play, so unless Kamal is going channel his ‘inner-late-2010-11′ self, UAA will continue to struggle to get points in the conference. There’s simply too much uncertainty around this squad right now.

• Speaking of uncertainty, it was reported by Brad Schlossman over the weekend that Mike Lee has an injury — potentially a serious one — that could cost him the rest of this season. If that’s the case, St. Cloud State could be in free fall mode. Already shaky along the blueline, adding a major question mark in goal could be too much for SCSU to overcome this season. Lee has the ability to win games by himself when he’s right, and it remains to be seen whether the Huskies have another goalie that can do that. Ryan Faragher pitched a shut out Friday in Grand Forks and was solid this weekend in helping the Huskies get two points at Ralph Engelstad. But is a long term answer in goal for the Huskies? Behind Faragher, SCSU has former Hill-Murray standout Joe Phillippi and senior Nate Hardy. Neither have played a single minute of meaningful hockey past the NAHL level. Until two weeks ago, neither had Faragher. More should be known about Lee’s status as soon as this week, but reports from the Granite City don’t sound encouraging.

The Takeaway: UNH Looks Strong in Win over Northeastern

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Durham, N.H. — On a night where winter was out in full force, it was New Hampshire that was also at full force sending shots toward Clay Witt. The sophomore started the game in lieu of normal starter, Chris Rawlings. It was his first start of the season, and, at times, it was a strong performance for the sophomore — 33 saves — but the Huskies gave up 38 shots on the night and allowed five goals, in a lackluster road effort but an impressive effort by UNH. With the win UNH head coach Dick Umile notched his 300th  Hockey East win becoming the second coach in Hockey East history to accomplish the feat. He is also 14 wins shy of 400 overall wins.

What I saw

  • UNH received a phenomenal performance from the fourth line. The fourth line of UNH combined for three of the five goals and also sent 10 shots at Clay Witt. If UNH has one thing they have depth at the forward position and this was proven tonight as the fourth line came up huge for the Wildcats with Mike Borisenok leading the charge with two goals.
  • Northeastern was a much different team than the club that UNH played at Matthews Arena in Boston just two weeks ago.  The lack of forechecking, puck possession and power play prowess is something that seemingly changes when the team leaves Matthews. Giving up 38 shots, a good portion of which were quality shots, and only throwing 17 shots at Matt Di Girolamo has to be alarming to first year head coach Jim Madigan. The one positive for Northeastern was that its discipline in the game was commendable, given the circumstances that were brought about throughout the game.

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The Takeaway: BU defeats UMass in OT, ends turbulent period

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

BOSTON — In a season where Boston University has struggled to develop consistency, the Terriers overcame deficits in two games over the weekend and earned three Hockey East points against Massachusetts. The Terriers tied UMass, 2-2, at the Mullins Center in Amherst on Friday, and earned a 5-4 overtime win at Agganis Arena Saturday night. For UMass, the disappointment was palpable after the game. UMass had leads of two goals and three goals on Friday and Saturday night, respectively, but only have one point to show for its effort.

What I Saw

  • After discouraging performances against Holy Cross last weekend and UMass on Friday, BU managed 60 minutes of good hockey to earn its second Hockey East win. Parker certainly sent a message to his team by starting senior goalie Grant Rollheiser and making junior forward Alex Chiasson a healthy scratch. The coach said after Friday’s game that he would award playing time to those he thought had clearly earned it. Chiasson looked disinterested in play at times against Holy Cross, despite offering a two-goal performance.
  • Similar to Friday night’s game at the Mullins Center in Amherst, BU found itself in a multiple-goal deficit. Only this time the Terriers game back to win, rather than settling for a 2-2 draw. However, the circumstances were certainly different. UMass played much better Friday and truly earned its two-goal advantage. On Saturday, UMass benefited from scrappy play and several fortunate bounces. In addition, BU was playing much better hockey on Saturday when it went down 3-0 in the first. After the game, Parker said that he was not concerned with his team’s play, and communicated that message to his team during the first intermission.

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The takeaway: UNH Steals One from a Tough Union Team

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

Durham, N.H.-Despite being outshot 38-23, the UNH wildcats picked up their first win of the year against a tough nonconference opponent, Union College. It’s amazing to be saying that after 5 games UNH was without a win on the young season but in the end they picked up their first win behind an impressive performance by their goaltender, Matt Di Girolamo. He had 37 saves in the game and some of which of the spectacular variety. The first win was hard fought and came as a relief to UNH head coach Dick Umile.

What I saw

-Unh played a much better defensive game than they have for most of the season. Even though the Wildcats gave up 38 shots, the defensive breakdowns that have been costing them goals all season long were fewer and far between. The committed defensive game by UNH gave them a chance to win it. They were blocking shots, playing tight defensively, and keeping the Dutchmen to the outside portions of the ice.

-The goal by Mat Brodie early in the third period could have given UNH every reason to throw in the towel but this moment brought them together defensively for the remainder of the game. UNH kept at it into the overtime period, in which they eventually won.

-Union played a tight defensive system and frustrated UNH skaters in the neutral zone all night. Allowing just 23 shots, the Dutchmen played well defensively only to have their goaltender beaten twice on ‘dirty area’ goals; one by Henrion, who used great stick work and a second a perfect pass from behind the net by Connor Hardowa to a waiting Kevin Goumas on the doorstep for the overtime game-winner 31 seconds in. (more…)

Prier shines in Princeton coaching debut

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

Princeton started its 2011 regular season campaign with a positive 2-2 tie against the Yale Bulldogs in the opening contest of the Ivy Shootout.

Head coach Bob Prier was very optimistic heading into the game — his first ever game as a head coach at the Division I — and equally pleased with the outcome.

“A tie, it’s nice. I felt that our team, as the game wore on, we got better and better,” said Prier.

A result against an ECAC powerhouse like Yale is good start to any team’s season, for Princeton it is a confidence booster,

“Yale have garnered a ton of respect here over the last several years. They certainly look like they didn’t lose a step from last year,” said Prier.

The Tigers  showed some strong defensive prowess against Yale, spearheaded by a 28-save performance by goaltender Sean Bonar. The sophomore continued his promising collegiate career by making a few key saves. Bonar frustrated Yale’s top forward line of Andrew Miller, Nicholas Wedberg and Brian O’Neill all night.

On the offensive front, Princeton had a fairly slow start. Despite Michael Sdao opening the scoring in the first period, the team took awhile to warm up to the tight play of Yale, earning only four shots on net in the entire period.

However, in the second the team came out of the locker room with a bit more energy and forced Bulldog goaltender Jeff Malcolm to make some crucial saves for his team.

Princeton’s night was highlighted by a beautiful game-tying goal from Rob Kleebaum. The junior was taken down in front of the Yale goal, but still managed to put a shot in the corner of the net from his stomach.

When asked about how the team has reacted to having a new coach, Prier felt that his group of seniors have be key to the transition,

“The leadership on this team is absolutely incredible. It makes life that much easier on a coach,” he said.

Next up for the Tigers (0-0-1) at the Ivy Shootout is a 4 p.m. match up against Brown (0-1-0) Saturday. Yale (0-0-1) will face Dartmouth (1-0-0) at 7 p.m.

Note: Games at the Ivy Shootout are considered non-conference games even though all teams are from the ECAC.

WCHA Power Rankings: Week 3

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Five conference series and 11 of the 12 teams are in action this weekend around the league. Here are a look at my WCHA power rankings as we hurdle towards November:

1 — Colorado College (Last week: 1)

The Tigers got the week off last week and head out east for a nonconference series at RPI this weekend. Should be a great chance at a pair of wins.

2 — Denver (Last week: 3)

DU got off to a sluggish start Friday against Minnesota State, allowing the Mavericks to keep it a game until the very end. Saturday, they took advantage of a banged up MSU bunch and hung 10 goals en route to a relatively easy 4 points.

3 — Minnesota (Last week: 2)

Nobody in the league in scoring more than the Gophers, but the goaltending effort by Kent Patterson on Sunday was not good enough. It didn’t help that Minnesota was taking dumb penalties. Shore those things up and Minnesota can beat anyone in the country.

4 — Minnesota Duluth (Last week: 6)

The Bulldogs quietly went out east and took 3 points from Providence, a boost for UMD’s confidence more than anything. They’ll need at least that many this weekend against Bemidji in order to be considered a true contender.

5 — Nebraska-Omaha (Last week: 7)

Alex Hudson returns to the line-up and the Mavericks gain four points. I guess he was as big a loss as advertised.

6 — North Dakota (Last week: 4)

To say Aaron Dell and Brad Eidsness have not provided the type of goaltending they did last year would be like saying after A, B, and C comes D. With a young group, combined with some injuries and eligibility issues, North Dakota is limping through the first month of the season.

7 — Bemidji State (Last week: 9)

Yes, it was Michigan Tech. But the Beavers showed some killer instinct last weekend and the ability to put the puck in the net. That could come in handy this weekend in Duluth.

8 — Wisconsin (Last week: 10)

The Badgers rebound off being swept at Michigan Tech by sweeping North Dakota. Only in the WCHA, I tell you…

9 — St. Cloud State (Last week: 11)

After opening their home schedule with a win and a tie last weekend against UNH, the Huskies open their conference schedule back on the road at UND. They need to take advantage of a staggering North Dakota team, as these points could be crucial in March.

10 — Alaska-Anchorage (Last week: 5)

After a good start, the Seawolves hit the road for the first time last weekend and were promptly swept in Omaha. Back in Anchorage this weekend, their challenge gets even tougher as a red-hot Minnesota team comes to town.

11 — Michigan Tech (Last week: 8 )

After already equaling their win total from the year before, perhaps asking Tech to start the season with a three game conference winning streak was a bit too much. They’ll get a true test this weekend as the Pioneers come to Houghton.

12 — Minnesota State (Last week: 12)

Never has a week off been better timed. MSU was down eight players last Saturday because of injuries, and it showed as MSU was pounded 10-2 at Magness Arena. This weekend is all about getting healthy before jumping back into WCHA action next week. The Mavericks need points and will have a shot to get some at Tech in seven days.

 

THIS WEEKEND AROUND THE WCHA

Denver at Michigan Tech

The Huskies better get their goaltending taken care of or, like Minnesota State, Tech will get run out of the building. Beau Bennett dished out five assists in a game and a half before a game misconduct Saturday took him out of the goal scoring bonanza. With Drew Shore and Jason Zucker already in midseason form, adding a playmaker like Bennett to the mix is truly unfair.

Bemidji State at Minnesota Duluth

The Beavers have had their share of success against the Bulldogs over the years, including a Final Five quarterfinal match-up in St. Paul last season — a 3-2 BSU win, the final time UMD suffered a defeat en route to the national title. Nine goals last weekend against Michigan Tech could be a precursor to what they will need this weekend, as the ‘Dogs can still score, seemingly at will.

Nebraska-Omaha at Wisconsin

A pair of Jekyll and Hyde outfits do battle in Madison this weekend as the Mavericks (poor start, nice sweep last weekend) take on the Badgers (swept by Tech two weeks ago, sweep of North Dakota last weekend). Wisconsin must take advantage of shaky goaltending like they did last weekend, scoring 10 goals in two games despite putting only 41 shots on goal. John Faulkner has been a model of inconsistency so far, but kept the previously hot UAA virtually off the board all weekend (just two goals in two games).

St. Cloud State at North Dakota

The Fighting Sioux broke with history last season by starting the year red-hot — and pretty much carrying that momentum all the way to the Frozen Four. UND is back to its old tricks this season, but with questionable play in net combined with missed man games from Rocco Grimaldi, climbing out of this hole will be significantly harder than in years past. UND can’t win the MacNaughton Cup in October, but they’ll certainly able to lose it. SCSU is the only team without a conference game played, so any points this weekend will be points in hand on everyone else.

Minnesota at Alaska-Anchorage

It’s safe to say the Gophers offensive explosion is more a trend than a mirage. They even scored four in their first loss of the season Sunday against Vermont. As long as Minnesota learns from its mistakes in game two against the Catamounts, they’ll be fine. A sweep in Alaska would go a long ways towards silencing the critics. It would also exact a bit of revenge for UAA’s sweep of Minnesota at Mariucci Arena in the first round of the WCHA playoffs last season.

Colorado College at RPI

RPI is off to a 1-4-0 start, with that lone win coming at home to Minnesota State (a night after they were shut out by the Mavericks). If CC can jump ahead early, these games could get ugly.

Three Things I Think: WCHA

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

As October draws to a close in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, 11 of the 12 league teams have played at least one conference series (SCSU has played six games with none counting in the league standings). Already, there are some clear trends starting to take hold, and as the holiday season approaches, it will be interesting to see whether these trends become mirages.

Here are three things I think, in no particular order, about the WCHA right now:

• Welcome back Minnesota. When the Gophers were raising banners and winning trophies during the early part of Don Lucia’s tenure, Minnesota was a fun team to watch. Their power play was nearly unstoppable, they scored four or five goals it seemed like every night and they had a physical presence that could slow an opponent’s momentum.In recent years, Minnesota has struggled to score, struggled to defend and was seemingly pushed all over the ice by teams like North Dakota. Finally, it seems, the style that won Lucia and the Gophers a pair of national championships a decade ago is back. Led by sophomores Erik Haula and Nick Bjugstad and freshman Kyle Rau, the Gophers have scored 35 goals over their first six games (13 more than the second best team in the league, UMD) at almost a six goal per game clip. It’s power play is scoring over 36 percent of the time, tops in the league, and the roster boasts monsters up front in Bjugstad and Zach Budish (Both 6-4) and on the back end in Seth Helgeson and Mark Alt (both are also 6-4). In goal, Kent Patterson has played every minute, stopping over 92 percent of shots faced and allowing just over two goals per contest. Obviously, it’s early. But if October is any indication, the mighty Minnesota Golden Gophers could be very much back in the picture.

• You gotta feel bad for Minnesota State. Already down six players because of injuries over the course of the opening two weeks, the Mavericks lost two more players while getting hammered by Denver over the weekend. And these aren’t just third or fourth line players the Mavs are missing either. Michael Dorr, Chase Grant and Eriah Hayes are expected to be among the team leaders in points. Tyler Elbrecht is the team’s captain and emotional leader. Max Gaede has the potential to be an impact freshman this season. Combined with suspect goaltending in all but one game (the season opener, a 1-0 win over RPI), the Mavericks have just one win in six tries to open the season. A weekend off could not have come at a better time for MSU, as the Mavericks will look to get healthy this weekend before heading to Houghton the first weekend in November.

• Reports of Michigan Tech’s rise as well as Wisconsin’s and Nebraska-Omaha’s demise were greatly exaggerated. Just one weekend after sweeping the Badgers, the Huskies traveled to Bemidji and lost twice. I didn’t expect Tech to sweep the Beavers, but a point or two on the road would have gone a long ways towards showing folks that perhaps Mel Pearson is the savior he appeared to be after two weeks. The Badgers, meanwhile, lacking in offense and in upperclassmen, welcomed North Dakota to the Kohl Center and duplicated what Minnesota did to UMD last weekend — gain four points in the standings despite getting outshot both nights (including a 42-15 deficit Saturday). Home cooking did the red Mavericks well too, as UNO avenged a nonconference loss to Anchorage in the Brice Alaska Goal Rush two weeks ago by sweeping the Seawolves in a pair of games that counted in the standings. Matt White and Terry Broadhurst are doing an adequate job of filling Alex Hudson’s skates right now, but the faster Hudson can get back up to speed (he was back in the line up this weekend), the better of UNO will be.

Be sure to check back later this week for my weekly power rankings and a look at action this weekend in the WCHA.

CCHA Wrap, Oct. 25

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

It’s only October, but seven of the top 15 goaltenders in the country — based on current goals-against average — are from the CCHA. Courtesy of collegehockeystats.net:

  1 C.J. Motte                 Ferris State      FR       180:00     1    0.33
  2 Joe Howe                   Colorado College  JR        80:00     1    0.75
  3 Frank Slubowski            Western Michigan  FR       124:56     2    0.96
  4 Doug Carr                  UMass Lowell      SO        60:00     1    1.00
  5 Joe Cannata (VAN)          Merrimack         SR       179:54     4    1.33
  6 Taylor Nelson              Ferris State      SR       179:24     4    1.34
  7 Dan Clarke                 Quinnipiac        SR       259:05     6    1.39
  8 Alex Evin                  Colgate           SR       125:00     3    1.44
  9 Troy Grosenick             Union             SO       249:44     6    1.44
 10 Andrew Hammond             Bowling Green     JR       363:47     9    1.48
 11 Shawn Hunwick              Michigan          SR       316:52     8    1.51
 12 Nick Pisellini             Western Michigan  JR       249:40     7    1.68
 13 Stephen Caple              Air Force         SR       246:33     7    1.70
 14 Paul Karpowich (STL)       Clarkson          SR       363:53    11    1.81
 15 Kevin Kapalka              Lake Superior     SO       358:22    11    1.84

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The weekend that was in the AHA

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

Non-conference action continued this past weekend, with AHA teams picking up a couple big wins. But the conference’s slow start continued overall. AHA teams went 2-5-3 in out of conference action. In the lone conference game, Canisuis upset RIT in Buffalo. (more…)

Union Still Going Strong

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

Rick Bennett is still undefeated as a NCAA Division One head coach. His Union Dutchmen tied Niagara 3-3 on Friday and defeated RIT by a scoreline of 5-0 on Saturday. Forward Jeremy Welsh led the team with three points on the weekend ( two goal’s and one assist).

Bennett has had an optimal start to his tenure at Union. Leading the way for Bennett’s team in the goal scoring department so far this season is Welsh with five goals. Senior forward Kelly Zajac has also contributed with a team leading eight points ( 2g, 6a). As a team, Union’s offense ranks seventh in the country with a 4.20 Goals For Average. The teams power play unit’s might even be more impressive as they rank second in the country with a 34.78 conversion percentage.

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