Archive for February, 2013

Atlantic Hockey Power Rankings 2/28

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

We’ve reached the last weekend of the regular season and there is still much to be decided. The only things we know for sure are Niagara will finish first and Sacred Heart will finish last. Everything in between will be decided this weekend.

1. Niagara – The regular season champions just continue to win. We’ll see if Dave Burkholder gives any of his regulars some rest this weekend at Air Force.

2. Air Force – The Falcons have locked up a first round bye but still have a lot to play for. They can finish as high as second if they win. They host Niagara this weekend. (more…)

WCHA Power Rankings: 2/27/13

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

With just two weekends left in the season, the race for the MacNaughton Cup is still wide open. St. Cloud State is two points clear of the field, but Minnesota, Nebraska-Omaha, North Dakota and Minnesota State are all within four points of the Huskies. Denver and Wisconsin are long shots at six points back, but they have a battle of their own going on for the final home ice spot. In this week’s power rankings, I take a look at each team’s postseason situation, both in the WCHA and in the Pairwise.

1. Minnesota (21-6-5, 13-6-5 WCHA) — Last week: 1
Minnesota took three of four points from UMD and moved into second place in the league. Erik Haula scored twice in Friday’s 5-3 win, while Adam Wilcox made 35 saves in Saturday’s 2-2 tie. The Gophers are now just two points out of first with a home series vs. Denver and a road series at Bemidji left on the schedule. They’re still second in the Pairwise, and they should lock up a one-seed with just a few more wins.

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The Takeaway: BU Rolls Merrimack, 5-2

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

BOSTON — Boston University defeated Merrimack, 5-2, Tuesday night at Agganis Arena. The win ended a five-game home winless streak for the Terriers. Meanwhile, the loss extended Merrimack’s own winless streak to three games.

Matt Nieto scored twice in the game and added an assist to pace the Terriers’ offense. Freshman goaltender Matt O’Connor made 32 saves to earn his first victory since Dec. 6 against New Hampshire.

What I Saw

  • BU eliminated the issues that cost it so many points in January and February. The Terriers were efficient in their own zone for the most part. They didn’t give Merrimack anything in transition, nor did they allow any second or third chances. Basically, the Terriers played as well as can be expected of them after playing as poorly as can be expected for most of 2013 thus far. Tuesday night was a positive step for BU. Allowing X shots on goal may seem like a red flag, but Merrimack quickly found themselves with a multi-goal deficit to erase. At that point, they started sending everything toward the goal. O’Connor was up to it all.
  • Merrimack created offense for most of the game, including the first period. In the early portion of the game, the score could’ve been flipped in Merrimack’s favor. O’Connor kept the Warriors scoreless, and the Terriers worked well in transition to create some chances. As the deficit swelled, the Warriors inflated their shot total by basically sending everything they could at O’Connor. There were rebounds to capitalize on, but the Terriers defensemen kept the low slot and goalmouth clear before the Warriors could generate much.
  • BU’s best scorers were present and accounted for all night. Nieto picked up two goals, Cason Hohmann, Evan Rodrigues and Wade Megan added the others. BU scored on the rush, jamming rebounds home and with some nice shots. Tuesday was the type of offensive effort BU needs to play as late into March as it wants to. Depth scoring is important, but BU needs its best players to lead the way offensively as they did against Merrimack.

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The Takeaway: Folin’s Late Goal Propels UML to Win Over BC

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Chestnut Hill, Mass - It was a game that had all the meaning in the world, as Boston College entered the night in a three-way tie atop the Hockey East standings and UMass-Lowell entered the night two points back in fifth place. The first period would go the way of Lowell as the River Hawks would score a power-play goal at ten minutes, 41 seconds of the period off a slap-shot by Scott Wilson just above the left faceoff circle. BC would respond two minutes later as Travis Jeke took a weak shot towards the net that found Bill Arnold all alone in front and Arnold beat Hellebuyck over the shoulder. But 26 seconds later, Josh Holmstrom would give the River Hawks the lead back on a shot BC goaltender Parker Milner probably should have had. Lowell would take that 2-1 lead into the first intermission, which hold through the second intermission.

Bill Arnold would add his second of the night at 8:40 of the third period to tie the game at two going into the late stages of the game. Christian Folin would score a crucial goal with 4:47 remaining in the game to give the River Hawks a late lead that they wouldn’t relenquish, as the UMass-Lowell jumped into a four-way tie for first place in Hockey East with BC, UNH and Providence College. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Defense Win Championships Edition – Feb. 26

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

The ascent of Providence, Massachusetts-Lowell and Merrimack to the top of the Hockey East standings this season led many to point to goaltending as the deciding factor in success or failure in college hockey. Certainly, having a high-quality, reliable netminder is important, and the impact of a great goalie is unquantifiable, especially in the postseason. More than just the man between the pipes, though, Providence, Merrimack and Lowell have another thing in common: they win games because the skaters in front of their goaltender play strong defense.

The way these teams defend are different. They are equally effective, though. Connor Hellebuyck, Sam Marotta and Jon Gillies are very good players. The skaters on these teams, however, are vital to the goalies’ ability to win games. Last weekend, Lowell swept Boston University in a series that brilliantly illustrated the value of a strong defensive philosophy. BU didn’t play poorly in either game. Still, they managed very little offense — just one goal in 120 minutes — and seemed entirely inept offensively. This is uncharacteristic of the Terriers, even during this run of bad play that has been their second half. Lowell simply prevented BU accomplishing anything, especially once they established a lead. The River Hawks executed their system perfectly both nights, and BU had almost no answer for it.

Similarly, Merrimack and Providence play strong defense as well. They allow more shots than Lowell, but they don’t give up many quality scoring chances. At the moment, Lowell allows the fewest shots on goal per game in the league (27).

Compare that to Massachusetts, which allows a shade more at 27.2 per game. The Minutemen, though, have one of the league’s worst defenses in Hockey East. They give up far more grade-A scoring chances than Lowell. Moreover, whatever combination of Kevin Boyle, Jeff Teglia and Steve Mastalerz just isn’t as good as Hellebuyck and Doug Carr. UMass allows far more quality scoring chances than other clubs and has looked defensively uninterested for most of the season.  (more…)

ECAC Power Rankings 2/25/13 and Playoff Scenarios

Monday, February 25th, 2013

It is hard to believe that we have reached the final week of the regular season in the ECAC, as it seems very recent that Quinnipiac opened up the regular season schedule against Maine on the road picking up a win at the famed Alfond Arena. This guy would have not have foreseen the successes watching that game from the press box that night, but the rest is history and the Bobcats had the Cleary Cup clinched entering last weekend. Quinnipiac enters the weekend with just one loss in conference play, as they face Harvard and Dartmouth on the road.

Coming into the weekend seven teams will fight for three first round byes, as the top four teams get a bye. Currently Rensselaer, St. Lawrence and Yale control their own destinies as they enter this weekend with those positions joining Quinnipiac who has long clinched. Dartmouth, Union, Clarkson and Brown also have numerical shots at byes, but will need help from those above them. Home-ice advantage goes to positions five through eight in the standings, which numerically 11 out of 12 ECAC teams could end up hosting. See the current standings and I will go into the possibilities for each team.

If the NCAA tournament began today four ECAC teams would be included, but the scary part of it for the ECAC is the fact that Yale and Rensselaer are tied for 16th in the Pairwise Rankings that determine the NCAA Tournament field. This is the last entry without any surprise teams earning a berth from outside the top 16 and usually there is at least one from outside the top 16 that makes it. Realistically that means that one team, Quinnipiac, is a number one seed, while Dartmouth (13th), Yale (15) and Rensselaer (16) are all on the bubble. (more…)

Hockey East Power Rankings: 2/25/13

Monday, February 25th, 2013

We’re down to two weekends left in the regular season (plus two Tuesday night makeup games this week), meaning it’s do-or-die time. There are a handful of teams fighting not just for home ice, but also for the regular-season title. Three teams are in pretty good shape in the Pairwise, while three others have some work to do if they hope to get an at-large bid. Then at the bottom of the league, four teams continue to battle for the final two playoff spots. In this week’s power rankings, I take a look at each team’s postseason situation.

1. Boston College (18-8-3, 13-7-2 HE) — Last week: 1
Quinn Smith scored 2:23 into overtime to give BC a huge 2-1 win at Merrimack on Sunday. The Eagles are now in a three-way tie for first, but they have a game in hand on both UNH and Providence. That game in hand comes Tuesday against Lowell, and a weekend series against Providence follows that. Sunday’s win also jumped the Eagles ahead of UNH for the final one-seed in the Pairwise. Parker Milner stopped 43 of 44 shots and now has a .940 save percentage since the start of February.

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Atlantic Hockey Wrap 2/25/13

Monday, February 25th, 2013

The standings are becoming a little more clear. Niagara clinched the regular season title a few weeks ago and now Air Force has joined them in the first round bye. The Falcons hold a three point lead over third place UConn. If the Falcons just win, they’ll clinch the number two seed. This leaves two first round byes left, with UConn, Holy Cross and Robert Morris all in the running. Mercyhurst, RIT and Bentley can also gain the first round bye, but they need some help.

UConn has been on a roll at the right time, going 6-2 in February so far. That streak has propelled them to third in the standings and in position for a first round bye. A lot of the credit goes to Matt Grogan, who has gone 11-3-2 since taking over for Garrett Bartus. Grogan had played just 10 games entering this season. (more…)

The Takeaway: BC takes down Merrimack in OT

Monday, February 25th, 2013

NORTH ANDOVER — Quinn Smith found an opening on a rebound with 2:32 remaining in overtime as Boston College beat Merrimack College, 2-1, in OT on Sunday afternoon at Lawler Arena.

Parker Milner made 43 saves for the Eagles while Sam Marotta stopped 26 shots for the Warriors, including two of the best saves you’ll see all season in the third period, robbing both Bill Arnold and Danny Linell of point-blank opportunities.

Shawn Bates scored Merrimack’s only goal in the first period, hammering home a loose puck in the crease after his initial shot was blockered away by Milner.

The Warriors fall into fourth place in Hockey East, one point back of a three-way tie for first between BC, New Hampshire and Providence. Merrimack suffered a devastating loss in the Pairwise rankings, falling from 18th to 23rd. Boston College meanwhile, climbed to No. 4.

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The Takeaway: Lowell Completes Season Sweep of BU

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

LOWELL, Mass. – Massachusetts-Lowell beat Boston University 3-1 on Saturday to complete its first season sweep of the Terriers since the 2000-01 season. With the win, the River Hawks pulled within two points of first place and moved up to 11th in the Pairwise. BU dropped to 23rd in the Pairwise and now sits two points out of a home ice spot.

Lowell’s Scott Wilson opened the scoring for the second night in a row, once again firing a slap shot into the top corner from about 40 feet out. Chad Ruhwedel made it 2-0 midway through the second when he finished off a 4-on-1 power-play rush. BU’s Evan Rodrigues cut the lead in half with a shorthanded goal 8:25 into the third, but then Joseph Pendenza provided an insurance marker with 7:55 to go.

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