Archive for December, 2015

Preview: Big Ten, Dec. 28

Monday, December 28th, 2015

After a short winter break, college hockey is back in action starting today. The second half of the season kicks off with several tournaments, featuring a couple Big Ten teams. The Three Rivers Classic, Florida College Classic and, of course, the Great Lakes Invitational all take place this week. The Gophers host their own annual tournament, the Mariucci Classic, this weekend.

While five Big Ten teams are playing this week or weekend, the Badgers have another “bye” week. They face Trinity Western on New Year’s Day in an exhibition match – Wisconsin’s only exhibition game of the season.

Michigan State and Michigan vs. Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan, Great Lakes Invitational: Dec. 29 and 30 at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

This has been a really difficult season for Michigan State. Even having one of the best goaltenders around isn’t enough to support a very struggling defense. A part of that could be because of Josh Jacobs’ unexpected offseason departure (he was one of their best defenseman). But whatever the reason, the team defense has looked very weak. The offense has stepped up a little bit though, with freshman Mason Appleton contributing 15 points. Michael Ferrantino,  J.T. Stenglein and Mackenzie MacEachern have 14. The Spartans have one win in their last 10 games.

Michigan fared well in out-of-conference play, but didn’t destroy Wisconsin the way it was expected to. The Wolverines have a 9-3-3 record so far, with a pretty powerful offense backed by Kyle Connor. But they are without Zach Werenski, who’s at the World Junior Championship. Connor leads the team with 22 points and is amongst the nation’s highest-scoring players. Michigan has used two goaltenders again this year, but Steve Racine received most of his starts in November and Zach Nagelvoort had most of his in December. While Michigan lacks a stellar defense, the team leads the nation with 4.47 goals per game.


Growing Belief Among Coaches Big 10 Proposal Will Pass

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

Talking to several college hockey coaches this week on a variety of topics, one issue that keeps coming up is the proposed Big 10 legislation to limit the recruiting of 21-year-old freshmen.

According to five different coaches this week, all who voted against the measure in the informal straw poll that was conducted, they expect the measure to pass when the NCAA council votes officially on the legislation next year.

As one coach put it:

“This is big in terms of college hockey, but for the people voting on this council, this is not a big deal. They’re going to look at this, see that it was proposed by the Big 10, and I’m expecting it will be passed in a matter of minutes. They’ll have more important things to discuss.”

If that comes to fruition, it’s good news for the 11 programs that voted in favor of the measure. Some of those head coaches have cited “stockpiling” as a reason for the proposal being needed.


ECAC First Half Review

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

As always, the ECAC is not where we thought it would at this point in the season. Yale isn’t the dominant defensive team we thought it would be, Harvard’s offense is second to Quinnipiac, Cornell (I picked them 11th in preseason dumb ehh?) looks like a team to be reckoned with come March and well who thought RPI would ever have a nine game unbeaten streak?

The ECAC standings are extremely tight heading into the second half, with Quinnipiac having 14 points and Cornell close on its heels at 13. Cornell’s only ECAC league loss came to Quinnipiac, in a game it had a three goal lead and couldn’t hold on. Harvard and RPI are tied for third at 11 points, while St. Lawrence and Yale round out the top six with nine and eights points respectively. Any of those six teams are contenders at this point, because the bottom half have been less than stellar, or as I would like to say there is a step down in quality.

One of the biggest ECAC storylines of the first half is the quality of hockey being played throughout the league. The inter-conference record has been sparkling, although it has come down a bit in recent weeks. The .632 winning percentage in non-conference play has the league setup well in terms of the pairwise, as currently five teams are in NCAA tournament positioning. Quinnipiac sits first in the all important Pairwise rankings, while Harvard, Cornell, St. Lawrence and Yale sit sixth, seventh, 11th and 13th in those rankings. Even RPI sits in good positioning, as it is 17th in those rankings. Last year, the NCHC had a .652 inter-conference record and it had six teams in the tournament. Even more important for the ECAC as a league, it has a 24-16-3 against the two best conferences in the country, the NCHC and Hockey East. Maybe the ECAC is the best right now? Ya, lets see how the non-league games go in the next few weeks.

Well and to finish off I would like to say Happy Holidays to all. Hope all of you have an enjoyable holiday, no matter what you celebrate. See you in a week or so for my annual trip to Hanover’s Ledyard Bank Classic. (more…)

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Dec. 18

Saturday, December 19th, 2015

The holiday break has started for almost all of college hockey, and the Big Ten.  Michigan State is the only conference team in action this weekend, and the Spartans travel to Northeastern for a Saturday game. After that, Big Ten play breaks for just over a week.

Michigan State at Northeastern: Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. 

The Spartans travel to Northeastern for their only game of the weekend. Michigan State has struggled this year, especially on the defensive side. The Spartan offense has improved a little bit, though. Michigan State just snapped a seven-game winless streak with a win over Wisconsin last weekend.

The Spartan offense ranks 27th in the country, while Northeastern’s is tied for 48th with 2.29 goals per game. The Huskies have also struggled to win this year, and has just two wins this season – both over Colgate. Zach Aston-Reese leads the Huskies with 15 points.

Prediction: Michigan State wins

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Dec. 15

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

Last weekend featured five Big Ten teams in action. Penn State defeated Princeton, Ohio State was on a bye and Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and Michigan State participated in the only two conference matches.

Both series ended with splits, leaving little to glean from the weekend. We already know that Wisconsin is a better team than expected. And the quality of the conference isn’t great overall, and many of the games have been close so far. It’s still hard to figure out exactly what the deal is with Minnesota and Michigan, especially when it comes to goals allowed. Michigan beat Minnesota 8-3 on Friday night, but fell 3-2 on Saturday. Michigan State beat Wisconsin 4-3 but lost to the Badgers 3-0 the next night.

It’s still early and the standings don’t mean much, but Minnesota is currently in first place. Michigan is second, Penn State third, Wisconsin fourth, Michigan State fifth and Ohio State sixth.

(After the jump: Kyle Connor should be at WJC camp, what’s wrong with the Spartans and the problem with the Big Ten is…)


NCHC Saturday Dec. 12: Three Things

Saturday, December 12th, 2015

In place of traditional weekend previews, check this space on the CHN blog each Saturday for developing mid-weekend NCHC storylines and observations from Friday night games.

Friday’s action saw St. Cloud State (5-2 at Denver) and North Dakota (3-0 at UMD) win on the road, while Western Michigan broke out of its prolonged offensive drought with a 7-3 home win over Colorado College. All three series conclude tonight, the final NCHC conference action of 2015.

1. Cam Again

Cam Johnson’s 18 save shutout in Grand Forks over Denver last week was impressive, but the North Dakota Fighting Hawks netminder’s performance last night — 40 saves in UND’s 3-0 win — was exceptional. Johnson is now undefeated in five starts since returning from injury, and North Dakota — led by opportunstic offensive talent of the likes of Drake Caggiula and Nick Schmaltz — looks downright scary. Johnson had 15 saves in the third period and held the Bulldogs off the scoreboard repeatedly, most notably on power play opportunities that clearly left the UMD players frustrated. Kasimir Kaskisuo didn’t play poorly per se on the other end, but may have to be perfect in tonight’s rematch if Johnson continues to stay locked in. UND is 15-2-2 overall and three points clear of St. Cloud at the top of the NCHC standings.

2. That Escalated Quickly

Coming off a 7-2 loss to Omaha, things weren’t looking terrific for St. Cloud State halfway through its game in Denver last night, trailing 2-0. The Pioneers then gave the Huskies their only power play opportunity of the night, which St. Cloud converted to cut the lead to 2-1… and the rest of the game looked as though St. Cloud had a man advantage. The persistence paid off in the third period when things completely fell apart for Denver. Joey Benik, Kalle Kossila, and David Morley all scored in span of 1:33 to turn a 2-2 deadlock into a comfortable 5-2 Huskies win. That trio of seniors, in addition to classmates Jimmy Murray and Ethan Prow, are arguably the top upperclassmen group in the country in terms of overall talent. They’ve also become impressive leaders on the ice, no longer making defensive lapses that cost the Huskies last year, and St. Cloud — like UND — has the look of a team ready to make a serious NCAA title run. Denver, meanwhile, has lost three straight behind an anemic offense, and their response tonight will be telling, one way or the other.

3. About time

Western Michigan shook off weeks of frustration with last night’s 7-3 win over CC, and the Broncos clearly wanted the win desperately — they forced turnovers, were quicker to loose pucks, and were determined in all phases. The final score isn’t as reflective of how close the game was for two periods, but things fell apart for CC late in the second period when the Broncos forced a turnover at the blueline from Tigers sophomore defenseman (and Nashville Predators draft pick) Teemu Kivihalme. Michael Rebry scored his first of the season to give the Broncos a 4-2 lead at the time, and Kivihalme contributed to another defensive zone turnover in the opening minutes of the third period — again leading to a Western Michigan goal. Truthfully, Western Michigan looked like a different team with renewed energy and purpose, while on the other end, it’s disappointing to see the Tigers regress after sweeping Miami last week — especially against a team that had to be desperate after entering the weekend with eight consecutive losses. Still, CC can climb out of the NCHC cellar with a win tonight since Miami is idle.

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Dec. 11

Friday, December 11th, 2015

Play continues this weekend for all Big Ten teams except for Ohio State. Penn State hosts out-of-conference Princeton, while Michigan, Minnesota, Michigan State and Wisconsin continue conference play.

Last week, the first weekend of Big Ten play, didn’t reveal much. But it seems as if most matches will be close, based on Ohio State losing two one-goal games to Minnesota and Wisconsin playing a pair of close games with Michigan.

This weekend, Michigan hosts Minnesota – a matchup of the preseason top two teams. The Gophers have struggled this year, but they do have goaltending. Meanwhile, Michigan State hosts Wisconsin. The Spartans have been a difficult team to characterize this year and the Badgers have been better than expected.


Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Dec. 7

Monday, December 7th, 2015

The first weekend of Big Ten play concluded in interesting fashion. The Wolverines participated in a high-scoring shootout with Wisconsin, Ohio State hung in with Minnesota and Penn State demolished Michigan State.

The Nittany Lions defeated the Spartans by a combined score of 10-3. The Wolverines sneaked by the Badgers on the first night, and then tied ina 6-6 contest the next night. Minnesota swept the Buckeyes, but both games were one-goal contests.

While I didn’t know what to expect last weekend, I definitely wasn’t expecting that. The Gophers and Nittany Lions are tied for first place right now, while Michigan State and Ohio State are tied for last.

It’s really early to jump to conclusions (and the PairWise, stay away from the PairWise) but there are some things we can infer – like Michigan’s lack of defense and goaltending.

(After the jump: Michigan’s weakness, bad defenses, World Junior rosters)


UNH-Maine Rivalry Just Isn’t What it Used To Be

Sunday, December 6th, 2015

I sat in the press box of the Whittemore Center and thought to myself this used to be one of the premier matchups in college hockey. The crowds flocked, the atmospheres at the Alfond and the Whitt were electric and the quality of play on the ice was top notch (even as recent as 2011). Fast forward to 2015, and it seemed to be something else. UNH picked up a solid 5-2 win against its border rival on Saturday night, but the game provided little in the way of excitement. The crowd was in a way dull and the third period was a snooze-fest to be honest, with UNH up three goals. (more…)

Hard Work Paying Off For Providence’s Nick Ellis

Saturday, December 5th, 2015

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Hard work pays off.

That’s a saying coaches across the country are constantly trying to drill into the heads of their players.

Good thing for Providence head coach Nate Leaman, he was one shining example sitting in his own locker room.

Goaltender Nick Ellis spent the last two years behind Jon Gillies. That’s not saying much. There were roughly 180 goalies in college hockey last season, and just about every single one of them would have been behind Gillies on a depth chart.

After waiting it out, patiently, while Gillies led the Friars to a national championship last season, it’s been Ellis’ time to shine.

After Saturday’s shutout over Merrimack, Ellis’ second of the season, he has a .939 save percentage and a 1.75 goals-against average. His team, meanwhile, is 11-0-3 and hasn’t lost since an overtime defeat to New Hampshire in the quarterfinals of the Hockey East playoffs last season, a span that has now stretched 18 games.

“He’s been our hardest worker the past two years,” Leaman said. “There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it. The guys, when he got his chances last year, the guys were really rooting for him. The guys here love him for how hard he works and it’s one of those stories that makes you really happy as a college coach, because you see a guy that had to battle through some adversity, and he had to keep working and working and when he’s had his opportunities he’s made the most of it. Those are the lessons you want to teach these kids. Things aren’t always going to go your way but if you keep doing the right thing and you keep battling, you’ll be able to take advantage of your opportunity when it comes. That’s why a lot of guys are happy for him.”