Archive for February, 2014

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Feb. 28

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Michigan (15-10-3, 7-6-1-1 B1G) vs. Ohio State (15-10-3, 5-6-3-2 B1G): Feb. 28 at 6:30 p.m., March 2 at 1 p.m.

The Wolverines won both games over the Buckeyes when the two teams met earlier this season. Michigan leads the all-time series 73-33-11 and will make its first trip to Nationwide Arena on Saturday.

While JT Compher leads the Wolverines in scoring with 27 points, Zach Hyman has netted 11 points over the last eight games. But the Wolverines may be without captain Mac Bennett, who left last Saturday’s game with an upper-body injury.

Goalkeeping continues to be a question for the Wolverines, as Steve Racine has started three of the last four games. He was in net for Michigan’s win over Penn State, which snapped a four-game losing streak. Racine’s Feb. 14 start was his first since Dec. 28. (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC Week 19

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Can anyone else believe that we have hit the last weekend of the season? It seems like just yesterday that Clarkson faced off in the Ice Breaker, but we have reached the last weekend of the year my friends. Union clinched the Cleary Cup outright on Saturday night with its win against St. Lawrence. Colgate became the second team to clinch a first round bye in the ECAC tournament, as it defeated QU on the road. Quinnipiac at 25 points needs just one point to clinch a first round bye, while Cornell sits in fourth and needs a win to clinch because Clarkson three points behind owns the tiebreaker on it. Only Yale and Clarkson could stake a claim on catching QU or Cornell for a bye.

Just like the battle for positioning for byes is interesting so is home ice, but Clarkson and Yale have clinched spots for home ice if they are unable to catch a bye. Rensselaer and Brown currently hold the final two home ice positions. RPI sits in good position but needs to pick up two points, either by a win or a St. Lawrence loss because the Saints would hold the tiebreaker if RPI only picked up one point when St. Lawrence picked up two wins. Complicated stuff but it’s like that I guess. Brown is ahead of St. Lawrence by one point and ahead of both Dartmouth and Harvard by three. The right things would have to fall into place fr Harvard or Dartmouth to get a first round home series, but it isn’t impossible. Princeton will enter the ECAC tournament as the twelfth and final seed, finishing in last place. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Feb. 24

Monday, February 24th, 2014

The Badgers have 31 points in Big Ten play this season, just one point behind Minnesota. It doesn’t really matter who finishes first or second, just who finishes in the first two spots. The Gophers were off this week, so the Badgers picked up six points to close the gap.

With the pair of wins over the Spartans, the Badgers are now eight points ahead of Michigan for the No. 2 spot. The Badgers have four games left while Michigan has six, so it is possible for the Wolverines to overtake Wisconsin. But it’s unlikely, since the Badgers face Penn State and Michigan State to close out the season.

Ohio State also did not play last weekend, while Michigan split its series against Penn State. The only two conference wins the Nittany Lions have earned this year were both over the Wolverines. The Friday win was Penn State’s only conference win on the road.

(After the jump: How the Badgers have played at Kohl this season, Michigan’s struggles and Big Ten hockey success at the Olympics.) (more…)

Three Things I Think: Hockey East, Feb. 24, 2014

Monday, February 24th, 2014

As much as the 2014 Winter Olympics disappointed American hockey fans, it’s abundantly clear that the state of hockey in the United States is strong. On both the men’s and women’s sides, strong American teams fell to worthy opponents despite rightfully lofty expectations. The talent pool for each of these national teams is only going to get larger moving forward. There won’t always be generational talents with each new crop of 18- or 19-year-olds, but there’s more talent than ever before.

It’s with this that the role of college hockey takes on an even greater responsibility. College coaches draw the difficult charge of having to focus on the development of their players while also trying to win games. Looking around Hockey East rosters and the minutes players receive, it’s often a balancing act between helping an 18-year-old with all the upside in the world and a 22-year-old who may not have the ceiling but is a more effective player at this time. Regardless, most of what we’ve seen from USA Hockey of late is generally positive for the future.

That in itself should be enough for the NHL to guarantee that the next round of Winter Olympics includes NHL players. It’s, in my opinion, because NHL players represent their countries in the Olympics that more Americans have started watching the game. Moreover, the annual World Junior Ice Hockey Championships have reached a level of popularity and esteem in this country that they wouldn’t without NHL players appearing in the Olympics.

The ongoing rivalry between the U.S. and Canada is great for hockey in North America. Seeing this rivalry play out at the junior level each year and the senior level every four years is good for everyone. If NHL players aren’t going to appear in the Olympics, the tournament loses a lot of its cachet. Before everyone starts ranting and raving about the Olympic spirit and the archaic ideal of amateurism in athletics, think about what this specific Olympic event means for hockey. No, hockey shouldn’t be considered more important than the other events in the eyes of organizers. The NHL and USA Hockey need the Olympics, however. If the teams competing in those games aren’t made up of the best players in the world, then there is no major ice hockey tournament that truly suggests which nation is the best.

The IIHF World Championships aren’t taken too seriously by North Americans because of when they occur. A World Cup of Hockey, while an interesting idea, would invariably come with the same hiccups as the world championships. Playing the event at anytime in the summer would prevent some players from participating. As much as all of us like to think representing your country should come first, professional players’ first responsibility is to the organization that guarantees them their paychecks.

The current status quo is the best arrangement. Annual matchups between the best young players in the world, along with a premier senior tournament every four years gives us the best opportunity to showcase the sport’s growth and significance while also attracting young athletes to local rinks.

Any discussion about removing NHLers from the Olympics must consider the potential influence of this tournament on the game itself. Aside from the prospect of losing high-quality college players for a season like occurs in the women’s game, it also will comes with a significant drop in interest for a game that simply can’t afford that in the United States. (more…)

Weekend Results Set Up SCSU/UND showdown

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

Each team in the NCHC has four games to play, but it may very well be next weekend’s St. Cloud State / North Dakota series in St. Cloud that determines the first NCHC regular season champion.

Conference Overall
1 St. Cloud State 20 12-5-3 39 71-53 30 18-7-5 109-80
North Dakota 20 13-7-0 39 67-56 30 18-9-3 95-79
3 Nebraska-Omaha 20 10-8-2 1 33 68-59 30 13-15-2 98-100
4 Western Michigan 20 9-9-2 2 31 59-61 32 15-12-5 86-84
5 Denver 20 8-9-3 2 29 49-49 32 14-12-6 81-72
6 Minnesota-Duluth 20 8-10-2 2 28 54-60 30 13-13-4 84-87
7 Colorado College 20 6-9-5 1 24 46-56 30 6-18-6 60-92
8 Miami 20 5-14-1 1 17 48-68 30 11-16-3 88-92

We learned this past weekend that even the teams that have struggled for much of the season — namely, Miami and Colorado College — can’t be taken lightly. On Friday night, the RedHawks toppled St. Cloud, energized by the return of Blake Coleman, who scored two goals in his first game since December 6. More importantly, Miami survived the first several minutes without allowing a goal and enjoyed steady goaltending from Jay Williams for the first time in a while. Colorado College, meanwhile, is suddenly 4-2-2 in its last eight games, including a three game win-streak after sweeping archrival Denver thanks to goals over the weekend from six different goal-scorers.

North Dakota swept Minnesota-Duluth, dropping the Bulldogs to sixth place in the standings, and Dave Hakstol’s team — as they often do this time of year — is peaking, and may just be the favorite to finish the season in first place. Again, though, if St. Cloud or North Dakota has to play Miami or Colorado College in the first round of the playoffs, we saw this weekend that neither will be an easy task.

This week on CHN look for a feature about the St. Cloud/North Dakota showdown, and we’ll also look into Nebraska-Omaha’s roller-coaster February.

The Takeaway: Colgate Impresses Again in 3-1 Win at QU

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

Hamden CT. – Colgate and Quinnipiac entered the night deadlocked for second place in the ECAC. The first period is exactly what one would have expected, as the two played up and down hockey. Quinnipiac appeared to score twice in the period, only to be ruled no goal on the ice. The first was when Brice van Brabant went in all alone but held up a Colgate player to get the puck originally. The second was a controversial kicking call, called on the ice as such. Those two were the only close calls in the period, which ended with the teams both scoreless. Colgate took the lead at nine minutes, 14 seconds of the second period when Tylor Spink went around the net and sent a wicked wrister straight past QU goaltender, Michael Garteig. QU responded minutes later when Matthew Peca sent a wrister toward the net that was tipped home by Connor Jones.

The teams entered the third period tied at one goal apiece. It stayed that way until Tylor Spink scored his second of the game, deking Garteig out as he was all alone in front of him. Darcy Murphy added an empty net goal late in the third period, giving Colgate a 3-1 victory at Quinnipiac. The win moves Colgate into second place all alone with a record of 16-11-5 overall, and 12-5-3 in the ECAC. Quinnipiac, meanwhile, falls to 21-8-5, 11-6-3 and to third in the ECAC standings. QU also falls to seventh in the Pairwise rankings, while Colgate rises into an at large bid at 13. (more…)

ECAC Standings Update, 3 Games Remaining: What Do We Know and What Can Be Clinched Tonight

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

Last night, Union clinched at least a share of the Cleary Cup with three games remaining. Quinnipiac and Colgate mathematically have a chance to share that title, but it seems unlikely given the way Union is playing. The Dutchmen need just one point to win the title outright and clinch the number one seed throughout the ECAC tournament.

Battles are shaping up from positions 2-11. Union is the only team to clinch a bye. Quinnipiac and Colgate play tonight with the winner clinching a second first round bye. Cornell currently holds the final bye position in fourth, with Clarkson and Yale nipping at its heels. Yale and Clarkson are the only two that are currently not in bye position that has a chance at it. The Bulldogs are one point back of the Big Red and the Golden Knights are two points behind Cornell. Home ice positioning is even closer. Below I will go into each team’s positioning and what can be accomplished tonight. Check out the CHN standings page as a guide (more…)

The Takeaway: Cornell Grits Out 2-1 Road Win At QU

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

Hamden, CT. – Cornell and Quinnipiac played a physical quarterfinal last season, in which Quinnipiac won in three games. Tonight, was much of the same and the bad blood continued between the schools, as the two played a very physical game. Quinnipiac scored first at 12 minutes, 54 seconds of the first period when a Cornell defender kicked the puck into his own net on a Quinnipiac feed from Tommy Schutt, who was credited with the goal. The Big Red, as it usually does, responded moments later, as Joakim Ryan sent a wrister from the point straight into the net. The teams took the 1-1 game into the second period and much of the same physical play ensued. Cornell broke the one all deadlock at 13:27 of the period when Brian Ferlin went in on a breakaway and beat Garteig, high over his glove.

The third period was much of the same, as Quinnipiac pummeled Andy Iles with shots and dominated the shot attempts, 38-6. Cornell held on to win on the road, 2-1, against the Bobcats. Cornell moves into fourth place all alone with a 13-7-5 overall record and 9-6-4 mark in the ECAC, one point clear of Yale for fifth. Quinnipiac falls to third in the ECAC standings with a record of 21-7-5, 11-5-3. Cornell also gained in the Pairwise rankings, where it now sits in ninth, while Quinnipiac remains in sixth place. (more…)

The Takeaway: Tyson Spink Nets Hat Trick in Colgate Win

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

Princeton, N.J. – After recording two ties last weekend, Colgate returned to a barn where it was winless in its last three games. Tyson Spink struck first and finished the game with a hat trick, the third Colgate player to record one this season. Colgate controlled the first period, attempting 35 shots and 18 at freshman Colton Phinney. But Phinney played well, keeping Colgate from adding another.

The Tigers tied it up in the second period when captain Jack Berger scored his fifth of the season. But Colgate regained the lead 1:31 later when Tyson Spink netted his second of the game.

In the third period, It took Mike Borkowski slightly over one minute to make it 3-1 in favor of Colgate. The Raiders dominated from there, and a five-minute major to Princeton’s Ryan Siiro didn’t help the cause for Princeton. Colgate added two more power play goals and an even-strength tally to take the win.

Ryan Benitez appeared in relief for Phinney and played 12:30. It marked the first time Benitez saw collegiate playing time in his career. He finished with 11 saves and allowed one goal.

With the win and a Quinnipiac loss to Cornell, Colgate is now tied for second with the Bobacts with an 11-5-3 conference record. Princeton fell to 4-15-0 in ECAC play and currently sits in the last spot. (more…)

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Feb. 21

Friday, February 21st, 2014

Michigan (14-9-3, 6-5-1-1 B1G) vs. Penn State (5-19-2, 12-1-10-1 B1G): Feb. 21 at 6:30 p.m., Feb. 22 at 5 p.m.

Penn State’s only Big Ten win of the season came over Michigan back on Feb. 8, the last time these teams met. This will be the first series between the two teams in Michigan.

Two Wolverines have three points against Penn State — JT Compher and Mac Bennett. Zach Nagelvoort has a 4.91 goals-against average and a .867 save percentage against the Nittany Lions, while Steve Racine replaced Nagelvoort in net in the Feb. 8 loss to Penn State.

Michigan has struggled to score in the first period of late, surrendering five goals and scoring one in the first frame over the last three games. Penn State has led in its past four games, but is 1-3-1 in that stretch.

Zach Hyman — who was verbally committed to Princeton when Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky was there — has netted four goals and three assists over the last seven games.

The Wolverines won’t have Andrew Sinelli and Michael Downing in the lineup because of suspension issues by the league.

Matthew Skoff has started the past three games for Penn State and has given up three goals total over that stretch. He was in net for Penn State’s victory over Michigan, stopping 32 shots in the shutout win.

Nittany Lion leading scorer Eric Sheid as well as Rickey DeRosa have a team-high three points against the Wolverines.

Michigan is on a three-game losing streak, but the past two losses came against Minnesota, Big Ten’s best team.

I think Michigan is still a better team than Penn State, and two of Michigan’s last three losses came against Minnesota. The Nittany Lions have been playing well lately, and I think they should be able to take another game from the Wolverines.

Prediction: Series split.

Wisconsin (17-9-2, 8-5-1-0 B1G) vs. Michigan State (9-13-7, 3-5-6-4 B1G): Feb. 21 at 9 p.m., Feb. 22 at 6:30 p.m.

Last week the Badgers earned their first road win since Nov. 16, and they’ll be back at home to face Michigan State.

The Spartans, with one of the best defenses in the country, have been playing their opponents well over the second half of the season. A win last weekend over Penn State snapped a seven-game unbeaten streak that consisted of four ties.

Michigan State’s goalkeeper, Jake Hildebrand, has played pretty well. His numbers have been improving all season, and he’s been backed by a team that blocks a lot of shots. In 10 of the last 11 games Michigan State hasn’t allowed more than two goals in a game.

But the Spartans have struggled to score over their last eight games, failing to tally more than two goals in a game. It hasn’t been enough to turn Hildebrand’s effort into wins, even if the Spartans did win a game last weekend despite taking 13 shots on goal.

Last weekend, the Badgers put Nic Kerdiles, Mark Zengerle and Tyler Barnes back on a line together, and the trio responded with three goals and an assist in the win over Ohio State on Saturday.

The teams, who are meeting for the first time this season, will be playing at the Kohl Center. At home this season the Badgers are 15-2-1, and if they sweep they’ll have a 17-2-1 record, the best in Badger history at the Kohl Center.

Before the win, Wisconsin hadn’t netted more than two goals in six contests in a row. So the Badger offense might struggle against a Spartan team that doesn’t surrender many goals.

But the Badgers are just too good at home.

Prediction: Wisconsin sweeps.