Archive for December, 2012

Three Things I Think, December 19: WCHA

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Sometimes it isn’t easy to be a college hockey fan. As much as our passion for the sport bleeds through, few outsiders would know that and that’s disappointing. If the NHL is a niche sport in the United States then college hockey is a niche of a niche. You could say we’re the hockey fans of hockey.

So it is satisfying to see when fans of locked out teams check out games on NBC Sports Net and double viewership from last year. The same is true when Peter Richmond gives Sports Illustrated readers a chance to experience the passion of a North Dakota game and Grantland’s Katie Baker writes nearly 5000 words on the Minnesota-Wisconsin rivalry at Mariucci Arena. The things WCHA fans experience on a weekly level that normally stay inside are  out there for the rest of the world to see.

It’s even more rewarding when college hockey polls make the bottom line of major sports networks or John Buccigross casually drops scores in the middle of a Sportscenter or to his 111,000 Twitter followers. Many of these things don’t mean much in the long run but as fans that aren’t used to any attention, the effort is appreciated. It’s much better than watching intermission reports that have nothing to do with college hockey.

Along with them and everyone who works hard day-in and day-out to bring more attention to college hockey, I’m thankful for this great sport we all love.

After the break, I continue to celebrate college hockey and the holiday season with bad puns. There’s also Bemidji State helping Denver crash to rock bottom, North Dakota rising to the top and thoughts on Minnesota State’s split with Nebraska-Omaha, but mostly bad holiday puns. (more…)

WCHA Power Rankings: 12/19/12

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Well, we’ve arrived at winter break. The top two teams in these rankings are exactly who we thought they’d be before the season, but there have been plenty of surprises after that. Minnesota State, under first-year head coach Mike Hastings, has overcome a slow start to emerge as a top-five team. Elsewhere, Denver has dropped from one of the top teams in the country to the middle of the pack, and Wisconsin hasn’t even come close to meeting preseason expectations that, in hindsight, were probably too high in the first place.

1. Minnesota (11-3-3, 6-3-3 WCHA) — Last week: 1
The Gophers had the weekend off, so they stay at the top heading into break. North Dakota certainly closed the gap a bit, though. Minnesota leads the league in both defense (2.00 goals allowed per game) and special teams net (+9), and ranks fourth in offense (3.35 goals per game). Erik Haula enters the break riding a 12-game point streak, and he currently ranks seventh in the league with 22 points on the season.

2. North Dakota (10-5-3, 7-2-3 WCHA) — Last week: 2
North Dakota pulls right up to Minnesota’s bumper after outscoring Michigan Tech 10-2 in a weekend sweep. Corban Knight and Danny Kristo led the way with six points apiece in the series. Knight now has a 13-game point streak, and his 23 points on the season are tied for fourth in the conference. Clarke Saunders stopped 65 of 67 shots and is now fourth in the league with a .925 save percentage.
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Atlantic Hockey Power Rankings

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

We’ve reached the midpoint of the season and the standings are starting to take shape. While Niagara is starting to pull away from everyone else, the rest of the standings are still jumbled. But its holiday time which means non-conference games and holiday tournaments. At the midpoint, it’s starting to look like no one is going to beat the Purple Eagles. They hold a five point lead over second place Holy Cross with a game in hand.

1. Niagara – The Purple Eagles are undefeated in their last 12 games but there could be some cracks in the armor. They’ve fallen behind 2-0 in each of the last two games. That can’t happen against better opponents. (more…)

ECAC Power Rankings 12/12/12

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

We have made it to the winter break and it has been a roller coaster ride in the ECAC. With most teams off until after the holiday break these rankings will be the ones that bring us into the much anticipated tournaments at the end of the month. The standings are starting to come together with the rankings, but there are still some deviations based on who is playing well. Quinnipiac is standing tall in the league standings with their closest competitor seven points behind and they will head into the break in the top spot in these rankings. Breaking from tradition a bit we will not only look at last weeks rankings but also preseason Power Rankings to see how well we have done. If you could make a guess, it is per usual and never set in stone.

1. Quinnipiac (12-3-2, 8-0-0)- Last Week 1, Preseason 4

The Bobcats keep winning and have entered the break on a ten game unbeaten streak. It was easy to be hesitant to put the Q in this position, they do have losses to AIC and Robert Morris on their resume, but at the end of the day they have been the only ECAC squad to assert themselves within the conference as a contender for the regular season title. They are undefeated, unblemished in conference play at 8-0-0 and stand clear of second place Dartmouth and Union by seven points. If anything the break was the last thing Quinnipiac wanted to see, but continue playing the way they have for past month after the break and we will be talking about the Q in March. (more…)

Three Things I Think, December 12: WCHA

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

As the seasons change and a foot of snow welcomes me outside on 12/12/12, so does the WCHA. And things are getting interesting with the changes.

Yesterday’s top dog Denver has gone from a runaway leader last month to seeing their lead cut down to a single point. Several teams have taken advantage of their recent six-game winless streak and the top half of the WCHA are all within 3 points. That includes the Pioneers’ opponent this weekend, North Dakota, who outshot them twice en route to taking three points and are beginning to look capable of making that near-annual second half run. Although they have failed to sweep an opponent in the WCHA, neither has second-place Minnesota, whose third-period collapse Saturday kept that streak alive.

Regardless, what once looked to be a battle for second has heated up into a second half battle for the final MacNaughton Cup as we know it.

After the break, I discuss the hottest team in the WCHA faces a tough challenge this weekend, Rylan Schwartz is proving his worth and St. Cloud State’s freshmen. (more…)

Hockey East Power Rankings: 12/12/12

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Given that only two teams play again before Christmas, this will be the last power rankings until after the holiday tournaments. The toughest call was at the top, where UNH and BC are about as close as you can get. Elsewhere, one of the biggest questions of the second half will be whether or not Lowell can finally get it together and make a run at home ice and NCAAs. The River Hawks move up this week, but they still have a lot of work to do.

1. New Hampshire (11-2-2, 8-2-1 HE) — Last week: 1
The Wildcats barely hang onto the top spot despite losing to BU 3-2 on Thursday. Had BC won on Friday, UNH would’ve dropped back to second, but that didn’t happen. The Wildcats go into break leading Hockey East in offense (3.60 goals per game), defense (1.80 goals allowed per game) and special teams net (+11). Kevin Goumas, who scored a goal against BU, leads the league in points with 24, while Casey DeSmith ranks first in save percentage at .939.

2. Boston College (11-2-1, 9-2-1 HE) — Last week: 2
The Eagles were 10.5 seconds away from reclaiming the top spot and giving Jerry York his record-breaking win, but they were forced to settle for a 3-3 tie against Providence. Johnny Gaudreau had a goal and an assist and goes into break ranking first in the league in goals (11) and second in points (23). Michael Matheson scored the other two goals and now ranks second among freshman defensemen with 10 points. Pat Mullane had two assists and is now third in points with 19.

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WCHA Power Rankings: 12/12/12

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

For the first time since Nov. 7, we have a new entry in the top six. Minnesota State pulled within striking distance last week, and now they make the move after extending their winning streak to six games. Now the attention in the middle of the pack shifts to whether or not Colorado College can fight its way back, and whether or not anyone else will be able to crack the top seven.

1. Minnesota (11-3-3, 6-3-3 WCHA) — Last week: 1
The Gophers stay at the top after taking three of four points from Colorado College to improve to 5-1-1 in their last seven. Sam Warning, Erik Haula and Zach Budish each registered two points in Friday’s 4-2 win, while Seth Ambroz, Travis Boyd and Nate Schmidt each had two in Saturday’s 4-4 tie. The Gophers continue to lead the WCHA in special teams net, as they are first on the penalty kill (89.5%) and second on the power play (21.2%).

2. North Dakota (8-5-3, 5-2-3 WCHA) — Last week: 4
UND moves up two spots after taking three of four points from Denver. They tied 2-2 on Friday before picking up a big 6-3 win on Saturday. Carter Rowney had five points on the weekend, Rocco Grimaldi had four, and Corban Knight and Drake Caggiula each had three. Knight now has an 11-game point streak. UND outshot the Pioneers 66-43 on the weekend, marking the second straight weekend they’ve allowed fewer than 50 shots.

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The Takeaway: Scotti’s late goal gives Merrimack 4-2 win over Army

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

NORTH ANDOVER – Merrimack freshman Vinny Scotti came up with the biggest goal of his young career, netting the game-winner with just over seven minutes to play as Merrimack defeated Army on Tuesday night at Lawler Arena, 4-2.

Scotti beat Army goalie Rob Tadazak with a shot after a wide shot by fellow freshman Justin Hussar found its way to his stick at the bottom of the left circle.

What I Saw

- Merrimack threw 94 shot attempts on Army sophomore goaltender Rob Tadazak. The Black Knights blocked a whopping 23 shots, with 46 making their way to Tadazak, who turned aside 42 of the 45 shots he faced (the Warriors added an empty netter). The Warriors offense shrunk the ice for large stretches, with some of the best work in the offensive zone that the Warriors have displayed all season.

- Mac Lalor, normally a defenseman, played the wing on Army’s second line. He potted a pair of goals in just 36 seconds in the third period on the power play, but both goals came from his more familiar spot on the point. Army was in the midst of a power play when Merrimack’s Kyle Bigos was whistled for holding the stick, giving Army a 5-on-3 advantage. They stuck just 10 seconds into the two-man advantage, and 36 seconds later, struck again to, at the time, tie the score at 2-2.

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Atlantic Hockey Weekly Recap

Monday, December 10th, 2012

This past weekend could have been a make or break weekend for Air Force and RIT. And both managed to keep hope alive that they can turn around their seasons. The Falcons earned three points against Bentley, winning 7-4 on Friday before tying 2-2 on Saturday. The Tigers, like the Falcons, swept Sacred Heart to get a huge confidence boost, scoring five times in each game. Both teams have an trouble sustaining winning streaks. They’ll need to if they want to reclaim their spots at the top of the standings. But there is still a long ways to ge before that happens. The Falcons are eight points behind first place Niagara while the Tigers are 10 points back. (more…)

The Takeaway: Maguire, Penalty Kill Guide BU to 1-0 Win over Maine

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

BOSTON — Boston University defeated Maine, 1-0, Saturday night at Agganis Arena. Garrett Noonan’s first period goal was all goaltender Sean Maguire needed, as the freshman made 28 saves to pick up his second consecutive shutout. Noonan’s third goal of the season came on the power play. BU overloaded the right half of the ice to create space. A Danny O’Regan pass drifted by Evan Rodrigues to Noonan who beat Maine’s Martin Oullette to the near post.

With 5 minutes, 32 seconds left in regulation, BU’s Ben Rosen went off on a boarding major. Despite the five-minute power play, including a 6-on-4 for the final 1:04 of the period, Maine could not beat Maguire.

What I Saw

  • Sean Maguire has shaken off the early-season nerves that gave him problems in his first couple starts. Maguire stopped 21 shots on Saturday night and didn’t too troubled making any of them. For young goalies, problems with nerves manifest themselves in poor positioning and a noisy performance. Against Maine, Maguire wasted little movement and kept himself in good position to make important saves. His defense did its job well, keeping his eyes clear and erasing any second chances with quick clears to the corners. Those second opportunities rarely came for Maine ,though, and that’s a credit to Maguire’s calm and confident play. Fellow freshman Matt O’Connor has played well enough to warrant his position as the team’s No. goalie, but a viable second choice could prove vital for BU in the second half. (more…)