Archive for February, 2012

WCHA Playoffs: Looking Ahead (Part 2)

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Part 2 today of my look at the WCHA Playoffs and who these teams would LIKE to play. Should have explained yesterday, but these opinions are based on realistic match-ups for the playoffs. Yeah, St. Cloud State would love to play Alaska-Anchorage (as everyone else probably would), but it’s not going to happen.

Without further ado, here is the top-half of the league, and who they’d like to play:

T4 — North Dakota: The Fighting Sioux have a big series at Denver this weekend, and a pair of wins would vault UND ahead of DU in the standings. At 27 points, North Dakota is just three points out of third place.

Who they want: Bemidji State

The Beavers beat North Dakota 1-0 earlier this season to score their first win over North Dakota. Ever. Safe to say, history resides on the side of the Fighting Sioux in this one.

T4 — Nebraska-Omaha: The Mavericks are hoping to stay within striking distance of Denver this weekend, because UNO hosts the Pioneers next weekend to wrap up the season. Although Omaha is tied with North Dakota in the standings, UNO has to be hoping for a split in the UND-DU series. If it happens, Omaha needs to take care of business against Minnesota.

Who they want: St. Cloud State

The Mavericks took 3 of 4 points against the Huskies in Omaha earlier this season and went 3-0-1 against them last season. Personally, I don’t think the Mavs care who they play, as long as it’s not Bemidji State. For some reason, the Beavers present UNO with a host of problems when they play, and I doubt the Mavericks would enjoy the constant questions in the lead up to that series.

T4 — Colorado College: The Tigers have been an average team virtually all season. After a 4-0 start, CC is just 12-12-2 overall and just a game over .500 in conference play. At 5-7 on the road in WCHA play, maintaining home ice is critically important and provides the Tigers with a distinct advantage.

Who they want: Wisconsin

CC is extremely familiar with the Badgers — the Tigers beat Wisconsin in three games in the first round last year. CC swept Wisconsin in their lone meeting this season at World Arena and are 5-2 against UW over the last two seasons. Plus, Wisconsin has just one road win this season, and a trip to Colorado Springs is probably the second most tedious in the league for the boys from Madison.

1-3 — Minnesota, Minnesota Duluth, Denver: All three of these teams are in a similar spot in terms of who they want to play… obviously only one will get them. Third place Denver and league-leading Minnesota are separated by four points with UMD stuck right in the middle, meaning plenty of shuffling can still take place among the top-3 teams.

Who they want: Alaska-Anchorage

The Seawolves style of play can present problems for any team, but it’s pretty safe to say all three teams would love the opportunity to take on Anchorage, a team that’s a lengthy plane ride away and has won just three times since Thanksgiving. These three teams are a combined 7-1-0 against UAA this season, with the lone Seawolf victory coming against UMD in Anchorage just a couple of weeks ago. I’m sure the Gophers would love the opportunity to avenge last season’s embarrassing playoff ouster at the hands of the Seawolves.

WCHA Playoffs: Looking Ahead (Part 1)

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Instead of the weekly WCHA Power Rankings, I thought I’d delve ahead into the WCHA Playoffs, now just two weeks away. Afterall, the league’s actual power rankings — the standings — have separated a bit here in the last couple weeks. And while there is still plenty to be decided, if things hold serve this weekend, the league’s home ice teams and travelling teams will be quite clear.

That said, here is a look at who each team should be HOPING for when the playoffs do kick off Mar. 9. Feel free to agree or disagree below. Today, I will look at the bottom half of the WCHA. I will post the top-half Friday.

12 — Alaska-Anchorage: The Seawolves are locked into the 12th and final spot in the WCHA, meaning they will play the league’s top seed and MacNaughton Cup champion.

Who they want: Minnesota

When the Seawolves played at Minnesota in October, the Gophers were the best team in the country. Since then, the Gophers have been brilliant one weekend and just OK the next. UAA showed they can win at Mariucci Arena last season when they were to Minneapolis and knocked out the Gophers, advancing to the Final Five. This Seawolves team isn’t half as good as last year’s, so Anchorage will be a massive long-shot no matter where it goes. Minneapolis would also be easy from a travel standpoint.


Atlantic Hockey Power Rankings

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

It’s all come down to this: one weekend to decide everything. No one has clinched any spot. The only sure things are 1) Air Force will have a first round bye and 2) UConn and Canisius will play each other in the first round of the playoffs. Other than those things, everything is up in the air.

1. Air Force – The Falcons have already clinched one of the first round byes but don’t have the regular season title wrapped up just yet. They travel to Robert Morris.

2. RIT – The Tigers need just two points for a first round bye. And the regular season title is still in sights. They face Niagara.

3. Niagara – The Purple Eagles finish the regular season with a huge weekend against RIT. They can clinch a first round bye if they win. They have yet to lose to RIT as a Division I school. (more…)

The Weekend Ahead Hockey East 2-23

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Two weeks remain in the regular season and the regular season crown could still mathematically go to five different teams.  Boston College has the slimmest of margins over second place UMass-Lowell, at one point. Boston University is in third place, one point behind UMass-Lowell and two points back of Boston College. Maine has a hold on the final home ice spot and is two points ahead of fifth place Merrimack. (more…)

Hockey East Power Rankings: 2/22/12

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

For the second time this season, a disturbing off-the-ice incident at Boston University took the spotlight away from some great hockey on the ice. This continues to be arguably the greatest regular-season title race in league history. The narrowest gap between first and fifth was six points in 2005-06. Right now, the top five are separated by just five points. This week’s power rankings feature a new No. 1, and only one of the top seven teams is in the same spot as last week.

1. Boston College (21-10-1, 15-7-1 HE) — Last week: 2

The Eagles return to the top spot for the first time since Jan. 11 after beating Merrimack 4-2 on Friday and 2-1 on Saturday. BC has now won seven straight, and Friday marked Jerry York’s 900th career victory. Johnny Gaudreau registered a goal and two assists on the weekend and now has five goals and five assists in his last five games. He is second among Hockey East freshmen with 14 goals and 28 points on the season.

2. Massachusetts-Lowell (20-9-0, 15-8-0 HE) — Last week: 1

Lowell’s three-week run atop these rankings comes to an end, but more because of what BC did than anything. The River Hawks split with BU, losing 7-4 on Friday and winning 4-2 on Saturday. Doug Carr gave up a season-high six goals on Friday and got pulled for the first time all year, but he bounced back by stopping 39 of 41 shots on Saturday. Scott Wilson, Riley Wetmore and Chad Ruhwedel all had three points on the weekend. (more…)

Three Things I Think, February 21

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

During playoff races, it’s not uncommon to hear coaches discuss the value of “controlling your own destiny.” The ability to clinch playoff spot or positioning with wins is the preference for coaches and players in any sport. For Massachusetts and Northeastern, though, that may no longer be the case.

Currently, the clubs are knotted in eighth place in Hockey East, dangerously close to falling subject to the league’s tiebreaking scenarios. The first of which is head-to-head record in conference games. The clubs tied, 3-3, to open the season. UMass defeated Northeastern, 4-2, on Nov. 12 in Amherst, and Northeastern beat UMass, 4-3, in overtime on Feb. 3. So that tiebreaker won’t get us anywhere.

The second tiebreaker is wins in Hockey East play. Both teams currently have seven.

So this is where we get to control of each teams’ destinies being taken from them. The third tiebreaker is record against first-place team. If that’s tied, it falls to record against second-place team and so on. Currently, Boston College occupies the top spot in the conference, which gives the Minutemen the tiebreaker over Northeastern for the time being.

Now, with each team having four games left, it’s likely that we’ll have a clear cut eighth-place team by the time the regular season ends — around 10 p.m. on March 3. However, BC, Massachusetts-Lowell, Boston University and Maine are all still very much alive for the league regular season title. Should either UMass or Northeastern play well enough to separate from the other, the control of their destiny remains in their hand. However, neither has done so to this point, and there’s no reason to believe either will.

Merrimack needs to find its offense

Even after a sweep at the hands of BC, Merrimack is still just two points shy of Maine for the final home ice spot in the Hockey East Tournament. However, the pair of losses continued a difficult stretch for the Warriors, who have gone 1-4-1 in their last six and 6-9-5 since starting the season 9-0-1. (more…)

Three Up, Three Down, February 21

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

The postseason awards in Hockey East are always great for conjecture. As we quickly approach the end of the regular season, nearly all of the league’s end of year distinctions have resulted in heated debates on various web forums.

In the player of the year battle, the discussion will likely fall to Maine’s Spencer Abbott, who enters this weekend’s trip to Northeastern with 16 goals and 36 assists, for a league- and nation-high 52 points. However, there’s little doubting that Boston College’s Chris Kreider is the best player in the conference, if not the country, based solely on his raw talent and prospects as a pro.

Meanwhile, the freshman of the year race is down to either BC’s Johnny Gaudreau or Massachusetts-Lowell’s Scott Wilson. Once again, Wilson possesses the edge in almost every statistical category, but Gaudreau’s recent brilliance has led some to consider the BC winger the favorite.

These final few weeks will determine the winners — along with that whole business of a conference champion. No matter where your allegiances lie nor where your conclusions for these individual honors rest, it’s safe to say we’re in for a fantastic finish.

Three Up

Alex Chiasson, Junior, Forward, Boston University

The 2011-12 season got even worse for Boston University Sunday morning when Max Nicastro was arrested on sexual assault charges. BU’s been through his before, as Corey Trivino as also arrested on charges related to an on-campus incident in December. After the Trivino arrest and the departure of Charlie Coyle to the QMJHL, the Terriers needed several players to pick them up. Now, with Nicastro out of the lineup, there are more questions. (more…)

Atlantic Hockey Wrap

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Only one week remains in the regular and there is still a lot to be decided. The difference between first place and sixth place is just three points.

Air Force – The Falcons scored eight against Mercyhurst on Friday but probably should have saved some for Saturday as they fell 2-1. John Kruse, Stephen Carew, and Chad Demers each scored twice for the Falcons. It was the first career multi-goal game for Demers. Kyle De Laurell continued his best season of his career with three assists. In net, Jason Torf has regained the No. 1 job. He recorded his third shutout of the season on Friday and was riding a seven game unbeaten streak until Saturday.

AIC – The Yellow Jackets got back on the winning side after a sweep of Army. Adam Pleskach scored twice and has now scored in three straight games. Michael Penny had a goal and two assists to set a new career high with 13 assists. (more…)

BU’s Max Nicastro Arrested on Sexual Assault Charges

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

Boston University defenseman Max Nicastro was arrested early Sunday morning and charged with sexual assault, according to BU Today. Nicastro has been suspended from the team pending the outcome of the investigation. BU coaches and players were not available for comment Sunday afternoon.

Nicastro, a junior, becomes the second Terrier to be arrested for sexual assault this season. Corey Trivino was arrested on Dec. 11 and was subsequently dismissed from the team.

According to the report, Nicastro was arrested by Boston University police at 6:30 a.m. Sunday morning. He is being held on $25,000 cash bail and will be arraigned Tuesday morning.

BU spokesman Colin Riley said the incident occurred in an on-campus dormitory and that the school would not take any action beyond the indefinite suspension from the team until the investigation is complete. He also said Tuesday would likely be the earliest anyone would be made available for comment.

Nicastro has three goals, six assists and a minus-2 rating in 27 games this season. The Terriers will be at Vermont for two games this weekend. With Nicastro suspended and Alexx Privitera still recovering from a broken wrist, the Terriers will likely have just five healthy defensemen this weekend. They played with five defensemen in games against Maine and Merrimack a few weeks ago while Nicastro was out with a shoulder injury.

The Takeaway: Northeastern, PC Tie, 2-2, at Matthews

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

BOSTON — Northeastern and Providence tied, 2-2, Saturday at Matthews Arena. The clubs battled to a pair of draws this weekend, but the two games couldn’t have looked more different.

On Friday, a 1-1 tie, neither team managed to create consistent rhythm offensively, resulting in just 44 total shots in the game. Saturday, however, was a back-and-forth affair, with the teams creating chances. Northeastern’s Chris Rawlings made 47 saves in the game, while PC’s Alex Beaudry stopped 33 of NU’s 35 shots.

The clubs combined for 34 penalty minutes in a second period that two players ejected for illegal hits, two 5-minute power plays and three goals, one of which was reviewed and rewarded to the Friars.

In overtime, a Myles Harvey tripping minor put Northeastern on the power play, but the aggressive PC power play negated the Huskies’ man advantage.

The point keeps PC one point clear of New Hampshire in sixth place in Hockey East. Northeastern slips back to an eighth-place tie with Massachusetts. Entering the weekend, Northeastern held the tiebreaker with UMass. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head record. With the clubs splitting the season series, 1-1-1, it fell to the second tiebreaker, Hockey East wins, which gave NU the advantage — seven league wins to UMass’ seven. However, with UMass defeating Maine Saturday night, that is no longer the case. The first two tiebreakers are now even as well, so it falls to third — record against the first place team. With BC defeating Merrimack Saturday, the Eagles jumped into first. Northeastern 0-3-0 against BC in league play, while the Minutemen took two of three from the Eagles. As of now, this gives UMass the tiebreakers, lifting them into the playoffs and leaving Merrimack out for the second time in three years.

What I Saw

  • Providence carried its gameplan of taking of taking odd-angle shots on Chris Rawlings over to Saturday’s game. Tim Schaller scored from the goal line on PC’s first shot of the weekend, and the Friars kept trying from that point forward. On Saturday, these attempts had the same general effect of creating second and third opportunities for the Friars. The difference being that they got to these pucks in the second game. Rawlings turn away most of the rebounds in one of his stronger performances of late. However, the effort was certainly there, which only demonstrates the compete level and belief from PC. Nate Leaman has brought a whole new attitude to this club, and it seems to respond to his methods. They didn’t get any wins this weekend, but they didn’t deserve to lose either game. (more…)