Archive for March, 2012

WCHA Hit Hard By Departures… Already.

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

The offseason is not even a week old for some, barely two weeks for others and the WCHA has already been hit exceedingly hard by early departures.

At this rate, there won’t be many top players left by the time the new season kicks off seven months from now.

Your early departures so far: Colorado College’s Jaden Schwartz, Nebraska-Omaha’s Terry Broadhurst, St. Cloud State’s David Eddy and Denver’s Drew Shore and Jason Zucker.

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Air Force takes AHA title

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

For the second straight year it came down to Air Force vs. RIT. And for the second straight year the Falcons emerged victorious with a shutout. It’s the Falcons fifth title in six years. Unlike last year’s final, this one had little drama. The Falcons jumped out to a 2-0 in the first period and never looked back.

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BC Wins Hockey East Title With 4-1 Victory Over Maine

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

BOSTON — Among the impressive Hockey East accomplishments amassed by Boston College during the 28-year existence of the league, it had never won three-consecutive tournament championships. In fact, no team had accomplished that feat. Saturday night, however, the Eagles won their third in-a-row with a 4-1 win over Maine.

Now, the challenge for BC turns to the national spotlight. The Eagles clinched the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, which will be drawn Sunday afternoon.

“The Lamoriello Trophy is something we strive toward and it’s a major goal for us,” BC coach Jerry York said in reference to the award given to the tournament’s winner. “I think ourselves and the three other teams from Hockey East can do some damage in the national tournament.”

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Hockey East Championship Game Preview: Maine/BC

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

On Saturday night Boston College will take on the University of Maine Black Bears in the Hockey East Championship game. Boston College will be looking for their third consecutive Lamoriello trophy while Maine will be looking for their first title since 2004.

Boston College defeated Providence College 4-2 on Friday night in the first semifinal led by depth scoring and four different goal scorers. Johnny Gaudreau scored the game winning goal for the Eagles and Paul Carey had a goal and an assist in the game. Boston College enters the championship game on a 14 game winning streak.

Maine enters the Championship game off a win against Boston University on Friday night in the second semifinal.  Maine got solid goaltending from Dan Sullivan late in the game to seal the victory. Will O Neill had his game of the year as he scored two goals and assisted on another. Maine also received two goals from Joey Diamond on the night. (more…)

Maine knocks off BU in the semifinals, 5-3

Friday, March 16th, 2012

The matchup of Maine and Boston University in tonight’s semifinal game proved to be as gritty and hard fought as thought, as the Black Bears and Terriers battled goal by goal for a chance to play in the Hockey East Championship.

Although BU struck early in the first period with a goal from Alex Chiasson at 2:46 when Chris Connolly set Chiasson up and the junior forward was able to throw Maine sophomore goaltender Dan Sullivan off, creating space to slide it past him, an early lead would not prove to be enough for the Terriers as they were knocked off by Maine, 5-3.

“I can’t describe how disappointed I was in our team’s effort tonight,” BU head coach Jack Parker said. “We gave up opportunity after opportunity… we looked like we were afraid to lose. We looked like we were trying not to lose instead of trying to win.”

Maine’s second line, namely Matt Mangene, created early scoring opportunities for the Black Bears, but they were unable to capitalize leaving BU with the lead coming out of the first. Kieran Millan’s goaltending for BU kept Maine down, stopping a wrister from Brian Flynn after covering a backhander from Mangene in the first.

After allowing Chiasson’s goal, the goaltending on the other end of the ice matched Millan’s, as Sullivan recovered well, stopping the next five BU shots and only allowing three of BU’s total 31 shots.

Early on, frustrations mounted as Joey Diamond and Evan Rodrigues were sent to the box for unsportsmanlike conduct, but Maine’s frustrations came to an end just 46 seconds into the second when a BU player fell on the loose puck in front of the goal, bringing it into the net with him to tie it up, 1-1.

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BC Defeats Providence, 4-2, Advances to Hockey East Finals

Friday, March 16th, 2012

BOSTON — It was not the semifinal matchup most expected at the outset of the Hockey East playoffs. But Providence upset UMass Lowell and earned the right to face Boston College, which had made quick work of Massachusetts in the quarterfinals.

However, the Providence defense, which was key in the victories over Lowell, was no match for the BC offense. The Friars fell, 4-2, despite a pair of first-period goals. BC will face the winner of Boston University and Maine in Friday’s second semifinal.

As much as the Eagles generated offense and kept puck possession, Friday’s win was far from the dominant performance that BC typically delivers this time of year. Many expected the game to be a replay of a pair of 3-0 and 7-0 victories for the team over the Friars about one month ago.

“We’re in that mode where we just try to win and advance,” BC coach Jerry York said. “Providence played us hard — there was certainly a lot of action to start the game with four goals.”

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CCHA Championship Weekend Predictions

Friday, March 16th, 2012

The CCHA championship weekend is finally here, with Miami and Western Michigan set to kick things off in Friday’s matinee. They’ll be followed by Michigan and Bowling Green in the nightcap. Check out the full preview of the weekend here but for now, here are predictions for the entire weekend.

Of note, last weekend I correctly predicted three of the four series. And you really can’t fault anyone for picking Ferris State to be in Detroit this weekend instead of Bowling Green. But the Falcons pulled off an upset for the ages and look to keep their momentum rolling against the Wolverines.

No. 2 Western Michigan vs. No. 3 Miami 

Though the RedHawks have been offensively dominant in their recent games, outscoring opponents 32-5 in their current eight-game winning streak, I expect this game to be much more low-scoring. Miami will rely on senior goaltender Connor Knapp, who will be matched up against Western Michigan’s freshman goaltender Frank Slubowski.

“Our forwards and our defenseman are doing a really good job at playing hard in front of [Knapp] and blocking shots,” said Miami coach Enrico Blasi on Tuesday. “Connor seems to be seeing the puck well and making the saves he needs to make.”

This is a rematch of last year’s CCHA championship game, and much like a year ago, it’ll be tough to slow Miami’s momentum — at least on Friday.

Prediction: Miami wins 3-1

No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 4 Bowling Green

The Falcons’ historic run to the CCHA championship weekend has been well-chronicled all week, as has the recent regular season series between Bowling Green and Michigan, which the two teams split. Michigan coach Red Berenson has no misconceptions regarding which team has the most momentum entering Friday night.

“They’ve got the momentum,” said Berenson. “They’ve played six games the past two weekends, they’ve got a lot of emotion, a lot of confidence, and this is going to be a good challenge for us as well.”

Nevertheless, as impressive as rookie forward Dan DeSalvo — 10 goals in six playoff games — and his teammates have been for the Bowling Green, the run may come to an end on Friday night against a Michigan team that may just be the best team in the country. On Thursday, Shawn Hunwick was named one of the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, and now he’ll have a chance to affirm that selection.

Prediction: Michigan wins 5-2

CCHA Championship Game Prediction: Michigan 3 Miami 2 (OT)

WCHA Final Five: Thursday Thoughts

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

After missing much of the Final Five last season because of a family vacation, I am exceedingly happy to be back for its entirety this year. Afterall, there is only one of these left after this season before we can expect major changes — not only in the teams, but in the look and feel as well as the locale of this tournament starting in 2014.

If you are not in town and want to follow along, please follow me on Twitter @MyersHockey. I will be providing updates from here all weekend long.

If you’re interested and haven’t yet found my WCHA Final Five preview, please check it out here.

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Pairwise Live Blog 2012

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Follow this live blog all weekend as we discuss the up-to-the-minute ramifications of the games on the Pairwise.

The Pairwise is the system used by the NCAA to select and seed the NCAA Tournament. For more on how it works, check out our Pairwise Primer. Also, check out our You Are the Committee tool, which allows you to plug in projected winners of every game this weekend, and see how it would affect the Pairwise.

Saturday, 11:25 p.m. (ET) … As expected, BC and North Dakota both held on to win their third straight conference tournament titles. That means the field I have below is finalized, and the bracket I have is my final projection. We’ll find out how close I am Sunday at noon when the bracket is announced on ESPNU.

Saturday, 10:20 p.m. (ET) … Only two games still going on. BC leads Maine 3-1 in the third and North Dakota leads Denver 4-0 in the third. If those scores hold, this is what the field would look like (EDIT- this is now the final field):

1. Boston College
2. Michigan
3. Union
4. North Dakota
5. Miami
6. Ferris State
7. Minnesota-Duluth
8. Minnesota
9. Boston University
10. Maine
11. Denver
12. Massachusetts-Lowell
13. Cornell
14. Western Michigan
15. Michigan State
16. Air Force

Here’s what I think the bracket will look like:

Northeast Region, Worcester: 1. Boston College vs. 16. Air Force / 7. Minnesota-Duluth vs. 10. Maine
Midwest Region, Green Bay: 2. Michigan vs. 13. Cornell / 6. Ferris State vs. 11. Denver
East Region, Bridgeport: 3. Union vs. 15. Michigan State / 5. Miami vs. 12. Massachusetts-Lowell
West Region, St. Paul: 4. North Dakota vs. 14. Western Michigan / 8. Minnesota vs. 9. Boston University

Saturday, 9:55 p.m. (ET) … Union hangs on for a 3-1 win over Harvard to take its first-ever ECAC tournament title and clinch the No. 3 overall seed. Western Michigan hangs on for a 3-2 win over Michigan to grab its first CCHA tournament title since 1986 and clinch an NCAA berth. By virtue of Union’s win, Michigan State has clinched the last at-large spot. So the field is now set, although the Hockey East and WCHA finals will cause a little bit of jockeying once they go final.

Saturday, 9:45 p.m. (ET) … Going around the country- Western Michigan leads Michigan 3-2 in the third, Union leads Harvard 2-1 in the third, BC leads Maine 3-1 after two, North Dakota leads Denver 3-0 in the second. If those scores all hold, BC, Michigan, Union and North Dakota would be the one-seeds, and Michigan State would be the last team in. More to come once games start going final.

Saturday, 9:20 p.m. (ET) … Air Force beats RIT 4-0 to win the Atlantic title and clinch a spot in NCAAs. Northern Michigan has been eliminated. Michigan State needs Union to beat Harvard in order to get in.

Saturday, 8:45 p.m. (ET) … Going around the country- Air Force leads RIT 3-0 in the third, Western Michigan leads Michigan 2-0 in the second, Union and Harvard are scoreless in the second, BC leads Maine 2-0 after one, and North Dakota leads Denver 2-0 in the first.

If all the teams leading hang on, Michigan State would need Union to beat Harvard in order to get in. A Harvard win would leave the Spartans as the first team out. At the top of the Pairwise, Union and North Dakota can both clinch a one-seed with a win. I’ll have more analysis of what happens if one or both of them lose later, if needed.

Saturday, 7:45 p.m. (ET) … Air Force leads RIT 2-0 after one. I believe an Air Force win would eliminate Northern Michigan. It would also be good news for Michigan State. If Air Force hangs on, the only way the Spartans would be eliminated is if both Western Michigan and Harvard win. For Western Michigan, an Air Force win would mean the Broncos either need a win or a Harvard loss to get in.

Saturday, 6:45 p.m. (ET) … Both consolation games have gone final, as Miami beats Bowling Green 4-1 and Cornell beats Colgate 3-0. Miami winning means all the scenarios from my 4:15 p.m. update are still in play. Cornell’s win clinches a tournament spot for the Big Red and eliminates Merrimack from contention. Northern Michigan is still alive, although its chances did take a hit with the Cornell win. See my 1:45 a.m. update for what the Wildcats need.

Saturday, 4:15 p.m. (ET) … Miami leads Bowling Green 2-0 after one in the CCHA consolation. The RedHawks can still potentially grab a one-seed if they win. One way for that to happen would be for Harvard to beat Union and BC to beat Maine. If Union wins, they’ll need Denver to beat North Dakota and Maine to beat BC in order to move into the top four. If Maine wins, they’ll need Harvard and Denver to win.

Saturday, 1:00 p.m. (ET) … I’ve gotten a couple questions about Michigan State. The Spartans are in a very interesting position. Believe it or not, the Atlantic Hockey title game has a big effect on MSU’s chances. If Air Force wins, the Spartans just need one of Cornell, Harvard or Western Michigan to lose. If RIT wins, though, things get a bit more dicey for the Spartans. Then they would need Western Michigan to lose and at least one of Cornell or Harvard to lose.

Saturday, 11:45 a.m. (ET) … Cornell is in with a win or tie against Colgate in the ECAC consolation. If the Big Red tie, they can’t finish any worse than 14th, meaning they’d make the field even if Harvard wins the championship and moves the cut line up a spot. Cornell is out if it loses today.

In related news, Western Michigan would be out if it loses and both Harvard and Cornell make the field (i.e. Harvard wins and Cornell wins or ties). If the Broncos lose, they need one of Harvard or Cornell to lose in order to get in.

Saturday, 1:45 a.m. (ET) … Thanks to reader Matt Wellens for pointing out a way Northern Michigan gets in without Cornell losing on Saturday. If Western Michigan, Union and RIT all win on Saturday, the Wildcats are in. In this scenario, they jump ahead of Michigan State (who ends up out), so it wouldn’t matter what Cornell does.

If Cornell does lose in this scenario, Merrimack gets in ahead of Michigan State and Cornell for the last at-large spot. So, as crazy as it sounds, there is still a way for both Northern Michigan and Merrimack to get in despite both of them being on the outside looking in right now. Merrimack can get in with Union, Colgate and RIT wins, and help elsewhere. The simplest “help elsewhere” scenario is Western Michigan beating Michigan. Northern Michigan also makes it in that scenario.

Be sure to check out Jim Dahl’s blog on SiouxSports.com for a complete breakdown of where each team can finish heading into the final day. The biggest things to take from that are that BC is locked into the No. 1 overall spot, Michigan is locked into the No. 2 overall spot, and Union and North Dakota can both clinch a one-seed by winning on Saturday.

Saturday, 12:05 a.m. (ET) … Michigan beats Bowling Green 3-2 in double overtime. Bubble teams breath a sigh of relief as the Falcons’ cinderella run comes to an end. With the win, the Wolverines move up to second in the Pairwise. They appear to have locked up a one-seed.

Harvard is the only team left that can steal a bid aside from the Atlantic Hockey champ. Cornell and Western Michigan are in with a win tomorrow. Michigan State seems like a lock in most scenarios where Harvard doesn’t steal a spot.

Northern Michigan needs Cornell to lose and Union to win to get in, while Merrimack needs Cornell to lose, Union to win, RIT to win, and more. We’ll see if we can figure out what that “more” is before the end of the night.

Here’s what the bracket would look like if all the higher seeds win tomorrow:

Northeast Region, Worcester: 1. Boston College vs. 16. Air Force / 8. Minnesota-Duluth vs. 9. Boston University
Midwest Region, Green Bay: 2. Michigan vs. 13. Cornell / 7. North Dakota vs. 11. Maine
East Region, Bridgeport: 3. Union vs. 15. Western Michigan / 5. Miami vs. 12. Massachusetts-Lowell
West Region, St. Paul: 4. Denver vs. 14. Michigan State / 6. Ferris State vs. 10. Minnesota

Friday, 11:10 p.m. (ET) … Maine beats BU 5-3 to set up a BC-Maine Hockey East final. The Black Bears are up to sixth in the Pairwise, while BU drops to 10th for the time being. Maine will likely be a two-seed with a win tomorrow, but has an outside shot at a one-seed. BU will likely finish somewhere in the 8-10 range, so it could be a two- or three-seed. More coming later.

Friday, 10:40 p.m. (ET) … North Dakota beats Minnesota 6-3 to set up a North Dakota-Denver WCHA final. The Fighting Sioux are fifth in the Pairwise right now, and it appears that a win tomorrow clinches a one-seed for them. A loss likely keeps them as a two-seed. Meanwhile, Minnesota is now eighth in the Pairwise and will be a two- or three-seed depending on what happens around the country tomorrow.

Elsewhere, Michigan and Bowling Green are in overtime and Maine leads BU 4-3 midway through the third. More on those games once they go final.

Friday, 9:55 p.m. (ET) … Harvard beats Cornell 6-1 to set up a Harvard-Union matchup in the ECAC title game. Bubble teams are starting to sweat a little, as the Crimson are now one win away from stealing a bid, and Bowling Green (another team that could steal a bid) leads Michigan 2-1 early in the third in the CCHA semis.

Cornell is most likely in with a win over Colgate in the ECAC consolation game. The Big Red could still get in even with a loss in that game, but it’s worth remembering that Harvard and Bowling Green can steal bubble spots.

In Atlantic Hockey, RIT beat Niagara 2-1 in overtime to set up an Air Force-RIT final. The winner of that game gets the autobid, while the loser is out. Believe it or not, Northern Michigan and Merrimack are both still alive. Both need Cornell to lose again tomorrow and have neither Harvard nor Bowling Green steal a spot, among other things. Mike McMahon has a great breakdown of what Merrimack needs over at The Mack Report.

Friday, 7:35 p.m. (ET) … Boston College beats Providence 4-2. This doesn’t really do anything except solidify BC as the top overall seed and eliminate another potential upset champion. Only Bowling Green and Harvard are left to potentially steal a bid, meaning everyone 13th or higher is safe. Miami, BU and UMass-Lowell are now mathematical locks to make the field.

Friday, 7:15 p.m. (ET) … Western Michigan smokes a hot Miami team, 6-2, to advance to the CCHA championship game. That’s a big boost to the Broncos’ NCAA hopes, although it doesn’t quite lock up a spot for them just yet. They’re 14th right now, and it would take a couple upset champions to knock them out. Meanwhile, the RedHawks drop to 10th in the Pairwise and appear to be locked into a two- or three-seed.  Also, Western’s win means Northern Michigan needs Cornell to lose tonight to stay alive for an at-large berth. If Cornell wins, I believe the Wildcats are eliminated.

Friday, 7:00 p.m. (ET) … Denver beats Minnesota-Duluth 4-3 in double overtime on a Zac Larraza winner. As far as I can tell, UMD losing means Boston College is the No. 1 overall seed regardless of what the Eagles do this weekend. UMD will most likely be a two-seed, although there’s a chance of dropping to a three. Denver will likely be a two-seed if it wins Saturday or a three-seed if it loses.

Friday, 6:45 p.m. (ET) … We have our first two finals of the day, as Union beats Colgate 6-2 and Air Force beats Mercyhurst 5-2. Union is fourth in the Pairwise as of right now and appears to be a lock for at least a two-seed. Colgate losing means there is one less team that can steal a bubble spot. Out west, Denver and Minnesota-Duluth are battling in double overtime, tied 3-3.

Friday, 10:35 a.m. (ET) … Ten semifinal games on the docket today. Of the teams that are playing, BC, Michigan, Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota and North Dakota all appear to be mathematical locks to make the field already. Miami, BU, Maine, Denver and Union all look safe as well, although there may be a very small possibility of one of them being left out with a loss tonight and a bunch of upsets. For teams not playing, Ferris State is a mathematical lock and UMass-Lowell looks pretty safe.

Assuming those 12 teams all make it, that leaves three at-large spots up for grabs, barring upset champions. Cornell and Western Michigan can both greatly improve their chances of making it with a win tonight, although neither of them lock up a spot with a win alone. Likewise, neither can be knocked out with a loss.

Michigan State, Northern Michigan and Merrimack are all bubble teams not playing this weekend. As far as I can tell, Michigan State cannot be eliminated tonight. In fact, I believe the Spartans clinch a spot if all the higher seeds win tonight. Northern Michigan needs either Western Michigan or Cornell to lose in order to stay alive. If both win tonight, I can’t find a way to get the Wildcats in. Merrimack needs Maine to beat BU, Harvard to beat Cornell, and Union to beat Colgate. If any one of those don’t happen, the Warriors are done. Western Michigan losing would be helpful as well.

It’s worth noting that if MSU, Northern and Merrimack finish in a three-way tie for the last at-large spot (which could happen), they would split the comparisons with each other, but MSU would have the highest RPI and thus make the field.

Thursday, 11:15 p.m. (ET) … Before we call it a night, let’s see what the bracket would look like if the higher seed won every remaining game (which, by the way, I don’t expect to happen).

Northeast Region, Worcester: 1. Boston College vs. 16. Air Force / 8. Miami vs. 9. Massachusetts-Lowell
Midwest Region, Green Bay: 2. Michigan vs. 13. Cornell / 6. Ferris State vs. 12. Denver
West Region, St. Paul: 3. Minnesota-Duluth vs. 15. Western Michigan / 5. Minnesota vs. 11. Maine
East Region, Bridgeport: 4. Boston University vs. 14. Michigan State / 7. Union vs. 10. North Dakota

It’s far from perfect in terms of bracket integrity, but it looks good attendance-wise and avoids any intra-conference matchups in the first round. The only liberty I took was swapping the Ferris-Denver and Union-North Dakota games to bring Union east and help Bridgeport’s attendance. Putting Ferris in Green Bay saves a flight, too.

Thursday, 10:36 p.m. (ET) … North Dakota moves on to the WCHA semifinals after beating St. Cloud State, 4-1. Bubble teams have to be happy with tonight’s results, as that’s two fewer teams that can steal a bid. North Dakota will likely be a two-seed if it beats Minnesota tomorrow. If not, it will likely stay a three. The Fighting Sioux appear to be a lock to make the field at this point.

Thursday, 6:10 p.m. (ET) … Denver pulls out an OT win over Michigan Tech. That’s one less team the bubble teams have to worry about. Denver is looking OK. A loss on Friday could still drop the Pioneers down to 13 at the lowest, it seems. So, barring three conference upsets, they should be OK. Thing is, St. Cloud winning it all bumped Denver up to 11 in scenarios I ran, so Denver would be safe regardless.

And then there were four

Monday, March 12th, 2012

It’s all come down to this. One weekend to decide to who will go to the NCAA Tournament and who will go home. Niagara, Mercyhurst, RIT and Air Force will battle it out in Rochester, N.Y. this weekend. All four teams finished just two points apart at the end of the regular season. Here’s how the teams got here last weekend.

Meryhurst -  The Lakers are going back to Rochester for the first time since 2009. But it wasn’t easy getting there. The Lakers were forced to go three games  against Holy Cross. In the Lakers two wins against Holy Cross, they surrendered two goals. In their loss they gave up three. Daniel Bahntage and Matthew Zay each scored twice in the three games. Daniel O’Donoghue added three assists. In all three games, the Lakers were outshot in every game, including 42-27 in game 3, but Max Strang stood strong. (more…)