Archive for February, 2013

Atlantic Hockey Wrap 2/18/13

Monday, February 18th, 2013

We’re coming into the last two weeks of the regular season and things are as jumbled as ever in Atlantic Hockey. There was some thought that the previous weeks would help clarify things, but that’s not what happened. The difference between second place and ninth is just seven points, with all nine of those team holding a shot of a first round bye.

Niagara officially clinched the regular season title, but stumbled into it as they split a series against Robert Morris. The Purple Eagles have lost two league games this month after losing just one the entire season. It could just be a little hiccup or maybe the Purple Eagles are declining a little. Either way, things don’t get any easier for the Purple Eagles. Their last four games are against Mercyhurst and Air Force, both fighting for second place. (more…)

ECAC Hockey Notebook:Postseason Push

Monday, February 18th, 2013

With two weeks remaining in the ECAC regular season, it is crunch time for many ECAC teams to make the NCAA Tournament in March.

Quinnipiac locked up the Cleary Cup this weekend and can coast its way into a second round series at home. The Bobcats also currently sit in first place within the all important pairwise rankings. It seems that the team will likely be a first seed in the national tournament, that is of course if the team does not collapse in the next couple weeks. Still it has to look good for the league to have a team at the top of pairwise for a good chunk of the season.

RPI sits in second place in the ECAC standings. Who would have thought that after the first month of league play? It seemed that this team would be dangerous late in the season, but to be in play for a first round bye is incredible. Head coach Seth Appert has really taken the reigns of this team and could make it to the NCAA Tournament. Right now the Engineers sit in 17th place and can push their way into the top 16 over the next two weeks very easily.

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Hockey East Power Rankings, and a Plea to the League

Monday, February 18th, 2013

Dear Hockey East,

Please reconsider the new playoff plan you’re implementing next season. Vermont just swept Northeastern in a huge series. Northeastern now heads to UMass on Tuesday for what is essentially a must-win game. Then this coming weekend, UMass hosts Maine in a series that could wind up deciding both teams’ seasons. Why are all these games so important? Because of that race for the eighth and final playoff spot. Because not all of those teams are going to make the postseason.

This is what makes the Hockey East regular season better than the regular season in any other conference. In other leagues, none of those games I just mentioned would be nearly as important. Sure, they might decide seeding, but they wouldn’t decide seasons. I think I speak for a lot of fans when I say that in a league where everyone makes the playoffs, I don’t really care if someone finishes ninth instead of 10th. Home ice in that new first round is something to shoot for, but there’s no way that race will ever be as exciting or as meaningful as a race for the final playoff spot.

I’m not saying you have to stick to the same eight-team format. In fact, I’d be worried that an eight-team playoff in a 12-team league would lead to too many meaningless games at the end of the regular season for the bottom couple teams. A 10-team playoff would be ideal in my opinion. There are several ways to make this work. One would be the old WCHA format, with first-round series pitting 1 vs. 10, 2 vs. 9, etc., followed by a play-in game between the two lowest remaining seeds prior to the semifinals. Another would be having two play-in games pit 7 vs. 10 and 8 vs. 9 prior to the quarterfinals.

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The Takeaway: Lowell Completes Season Sweep of UMass

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

LOWELL, Mass. – Massachusetts-Lowell completed a season sweep of Massachusetts on Saturday, winning 3-2 in front of a Tsongas Center crowd of 5,468. All five goals came during a seven-minute stretch in the middle of the second period. Lowell’s Christian Folin opened the scoring 6:23 into the period on a shorthanded 2-on-1. The River Hawks’ special teams struck again four minutes later, as Riley Wetmore one-timed a Scott Wilson pass into the back of the net for a power-play tally.

The Minutemen (10-15-2, 7-12-1 Hockey East) cut the deficit in half 38 seconds later when Michael Pereira batted a rebound out of the air for his 10th goal of the season. Just 26 seconds after that, Derek Arnold deposited a rebound to give Lowell (16-9-2, 10-8-2 HE) a 3-1 lead. Conor Sheary cut the lead to 3-2 two minutes later, but that was as close as UMass would get.

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The Takeaway: Vermont Completes Sweep of Northeastern

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

BOSTON — Vermont defeated Northeastern, 3-1, Saturday night to complete a weekend sweep of the Huskies at Matthews Arena.

Junior winger Chris McCarthy scored twice of UVM in the win. His game-winner at 8 minutes, 24 seconds of the third period broke a 1-1 tie. Brett Bruneteau added an empty-net goal for the Catamounts with 29 seconds left in regulation to seal the win.

The points put UVM in seventh place in the Hockey East playoff race. Northeastern, however, remains out of a playoff spot.

What I Saw

  • Brody Hoffman continued to play well for Vermont. Northeastern carried play for lengthy stretches on Saturday night. UVM’s freshman goaltender help it weather these spells. His save total wasn’t particularly lofty — 21 saves — but he made every save he should have a few he probably shouldn’t have. Offensive woes aside, the Huskies have plenty of talent up front. They moved the puck well on Saturday, creating some difficult saves that Hoffman wiped away without too much trouble. The Catamounts are in a battle with the Huskies and two other teams for two playoff spots. Quality goaltending will be the difference. Hoffman provided that all weekend, and he has for most of the season.
  • Hoffman’s success aside, Northeastern’s forwards missed a series of high-quality scoring chances in the third period. NU coach Jim Madigan’s frustration with his team’s inability to finish has been clear for most of his tenure. The group is among the league’s most talented and diverse, but offense hasn’t been consistent for the Huskies the last two seasons. Saturday night, Cody Ferriero scored the Huskies’ lone goal on a lovely finish. The sequence is one of many from the season that revealed the talent level of this Northeastern team. The misses in the third period showed the other side of this Northeastern team.
  • The Catamounts thrive on keeping opponents out of synch. Throughout the weekend, they prevented Northeastern from gaining any real rhythm. The Huskies’ breakouts rarely resulted in offensive zone possession time. The Catamounts snuffed them out before they got that far. A physical slant to UVM’s game also kept Northeastern from generating much consistency on Saturday.

What I Thought

  • Northeastern’s injury problems were among the reasons they struggled to win games in the early parts of the second half. At this point, they’ve become the reason the Huskies won’t make the Hockey East tournament. Madigan dressed seven defensemen on Saturday, with freshman Dustin Darou returning to the ice for the first time since the New Year. Despite the extra blue liner, it seemed like Colton Saucerman or Josh Manson were on the ice every other shift for the Huskies. The two rarely played together, but they certainly saw time with the rest of their colleagues. They’re both quality defenseman, but it’s difficult for players to remain at their best when they’re playing that a often as these two have to. It extends to the forwards lines as well. Ferriero, Kevin Roy, Vinny Saponari and the other more talented NU forwards play major minutes in all situations. The injury situation for the Huskies isn’t going to improve any time soon.
  • Chris McCarthy was brilliant on Saturday night. The winger is among UVM’s biggest scoring threats. He scored twice for the Catamounts in the win over Northeastern. His eighth and ninth goals of the season were both critical. His first came at 12:10 of the second period to tie the score, 1-1, before he scored his second at 8:24 of the third. McCarthy’s wrist shot is among the league’s best. He brought it out for both of his markers on Saturday. Despite UVM’s place in the standings, coach Kevin Sneddon expects the team to compete for a league championship should it earn a playoff spot. McCarthy needs to continue scoring to make that a possibility.
  • UVM’s defensive unit looked as sharp as it has in a long time. Sophomore defenseman Michael Paliotta logged major minutes on Saturday, along with freshman Caylen Walls. Both are big bodies who add a physical presence along with efficient puck movement. Nick Bruneteau, Nick Luukko and the other UVM defensemen contributed with strong performances in front of Hoffman.

What They Said

“He’s raw from a technical standpoint, but if you want to talk about maturity, poise and those kinds of things, he’s not a freshman.” — UVM coach Kevin Sneddon on Brody Hoffman

Hockey East is full of talented freshmen. It’s unlikely Hoffman will warrant any consideration for Freshman of the Year or even on the all-Freshman team. Still, he’s been a critical component of a talented UVM team that’s improved on last season’s struggles. After the weekend, Hoffman’s save percentage is at .909 on the year, while his goals-against average is 2.74. Neither of these are elite — or even particularly good — numbers, but Hoffman’s performance in his first year with UVM has Sneddon excited about his potential moving forward.

What They Didn’t Say

Sneddon didn’t elaborate too much on some injuries that occurred during the game, but neither Kyle Reynolds or Robert Polesello should miss much time. Reynolds left the game in the first period and did not return. Polesello’s bump came in the third.

What Else You Should Know

  • Northeastern is back in action on Tuesday night against Massachusetts in Amherst, Mass. The date is the result of the postponement from last weekend’s snow storm in New England.
  • UVM hosts New Hampshire for two games at Gutterson Fieldhouse next weekend.
  • This weekend’s games left Northeastern in 10th place in Hockey East. The Huskies are four points behind UMass for the eighth and final playoff spot. Meanwhile, Vermont is three points clear of UMass for seventh place.

The Takeaway: Merrimack Beats BC in OT, Takes Over First

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Connor Toomey scored a power-play goal with 34 seconds left in overtime to give Merrimack a 2-1 victory over Boston College on Friday night. With the win, the Warriors (14-10-5, 12-6-2 HE) jumped the Eagles (17-8-2, 12-7-1 HE) and moved into sole possession of first place in Hockey East. Quinn Smith opened the scoring for BC midway through the second, but John Heffernan tied it with 7:03 left in regulation when he scored right off a faceoff. Sam Marotta made 39 saves for Merrimack, while Parker Milner stopped 40 shots for BC.

What I saw
-The Eagles’ goal came on a play that was originally ruled no-goal. Smith shot from about 10 feet out and Marotta made the save, but the puck squirted out to his right and eventually rolled across the goal line. The whistle blew and it was ruled no-goal on the ice, but the refs overturned the call after a lengthy review.

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The Takeaway: Mass.-Lowell Rips UMass, 6-3

Friday, February 15th, 2013

Amherst, Mass. - Massachusetts-Lowell scored three first period goals on its way to a 6-3 rout of Massachusetts Friday night at the Mullins Center.

Junior defenseman Joe Houk found Derek Arnold twice for goals, and Riley Wetmore’s third period tally gave him his 100th career point.

Freshman Connor Hellebuyck made 26 saves for the River Hawks in the win, while Kevin Boyle struggled for UMass, making 13 saves on 19 shots for the game.

With the win, Lowell remains in the six spot in the Hockey East standings and sits at 15th in the Pairwise. The Minutemen fall to eighth in the standings with a Vermont win on Friday.

What I Saw

  • There were points in the game where UMass played well — the Minutemen outshot Lowell 19-11 in the first two periods — but the River Hawks got the better of the scoring chances and capitalized on UMass’ mistakes. The backbreaker came late in the second period when Houk found Arnold wide open in the neutral zone for a breakaway goal to give Lowell the 4-2 advantage heading into second intermission. The Minutemen were caught with three players stacked to one end of the ice with the two others pinching, leaving Arnold wide open at the far blue line. That one sequence told the story of the game as the River Hawks capitalized one UMass mistake after another in the win. (more…)

The Takeaway: Three Goal Second Propels Harvard Over Gate

Friday, February 15th, 2013

Cambridge, MASS. - The first period was played to a scoreless tie, but the second period would be much different as both teams combined to put on an offensive showcase. Harvard began the scoring as Alex Fallstrom put in a rebound just 43 seconds into the period. Not to be outdone Colgate would score on the power-play five minutes later to tie the game at one apiece. But Harvard would get two goals by Marshall Everson four minutes apart to give them the 3-1 second intermission lead.

Harvard would add an empty-netter in the third period to make the final 4-1 in favor of the Crimson. Harvard improves to 7-15-2 on the season, 4-12-1 in ECAC play while Colgate falls to 13-12-4, 5-9-3. Colgate will remain in tenth place in the ECAC standings with the loss, but both Harvard and Cornell pulls closer to them, at four and one points respectively. Harvard remains in last place, but remain three points behind Cornell for eleventh and four points behind Colgate for tenth. The loss will move Colgate even further away from an at large spot, according to the Pairwise. (more…)

Atlantic Hockey Power Rankings 2/13/13

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Snow wrecked havoc across New England this weekend, causing cancellation of some games. Every team except for Holy Cross and Sacred Heart were able to play at least once this weekend. All it means is that the standings are even tighter than ever. And with just three weeks left in the regular season, every point is vitally important.

1. Niagara – The Purple Eagles have clinched a first round bye and are closing in on the regular season title. They need just three points and the regular season title is their’s. It’s a real possibility that they’ll have it wrapped up this weekend. While the Purple Eagles have struggle some recently, they are still clearly the best team in Atlantic Hockey. They are 11th in the current Pairwise.

2. Holy Cross – The Crusaders were unable to play this weekend because of the snow. They’ll play the home-and-home with Sacred Heart on Feb. 19 and 26. (more…)

ECAC Power Rankings 2/13/13

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

With Quinnipiac miles away from everyone else at the top, it has come time to focus on the great race that has developed behind them. Six points separate second place Yale and tenth place Colgate in the standings, while third to ninth are separated by a mere two points. The parity within ECAC has turned out to be awesome, it will make for a great few weeks of conference action, as most teams have just six games remaining in the regular season. If the season ended today Quinnipiac and Yale would be in the NCAA tournament, while Dartmouth would join them per the Pairwise Rankings.

1. Quinnipiac (21-3-4, 14-0-2) – Last Week 1

The unbeaten streak is up to 21 games now after a pair of win on the road against Cornell and Colgate. I guess we should start expecting nothing less from the Bobcats, as they have been number one in both Pairwise and Krach for some time now.  But the time will come to prove said rankings when it actually matters. For now though, the Bobcats hang onto the number one position in these rankings. They are balanced and play the best defensive game in the country. The Only question left to be answered is whether an ECAC can find it in them to defeat them. With Yale’s defeat at the hands of Brown the Bobcats need just one tie to clinch at least a share of the Cleary Cup or a win to clinch it outright. It will probably happen this week. (more…)