Archive for October, 2016

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Oct. 29

Friday, October 28th, 2016

All six teams are in action for the Big Ten this weekend. A few teams are hitting the east coast, starting with a trip to the North Country from Wisconsin and Minnesota. Michigan will also be on that side of the coast to play Vermont and Dartmouth while Ohio State will face Niagara.

Michigan (3-1-1) at Vermont (2-1-1): Oct. 28 at 7:05 p.m.; at Dartmouth: Oct. 29 at 7:30 p.m.

The Wolverines will try to extend their unbeaten streak as they head east to face the Catamounts and the Big Green. Michigan has won three of its last four games and haven’t lost since dropping the season opener to Union. The Wolverines have used a goaltending rotation, and so far the freshmen Hayden Lavigne and Jack LaFontaine are proving they can hold their own in net. That’s not the only place rookies are contributing, though, as Will Lockwood and Jake Slaker lead the team with three goals and six points each.

The Catamounts are unbeaten in their last two after tying and beating Nebraska-Omaha. Vermont also split with Clarkson. Craig Puffer leads the team with five points while Stefanos Lekkas and Mike Santaguida have split goaltending duties with a .930 and .907 save percentage, respectively. The Big Green have not played yet this season.

This will be an interesting test for Michigan, but it’s still too early to tell what kind of test it will be. But Michigan, while it may not have played the toughest schedule yet, has shown some positives early. The Wolverines do have a hand up on Dartmouth, as Saturday night’s contest will be the first this season for the Big Green.

Prediction: Michigan splits

Michigan State (0-4-0) vs. Princeton: Oct. 28 at 7:05 p.m.

The Spartans host Princeton for a one-game set, the first meeting between the teams since a Thanksgiving weekend matchup at Baker in 2014. The teams split that weekend, but the Spartans have won three of the last four contests against Princeton. Michigan State has had an interesting season. The Spartans are winless but did a pretty good job of limiting Denver’s offense last weekend. They’ve also had both Ed Minney and John Lethemon play, although Minney has seen more minutes. Neither has a save percentage near .900. Mason Appleton has three points.

Princeton has yet to play this year but returns much of its roster, including leading scorers Max Veronneau and Ryan Kuffner. Colton Phinney, the senior, has been solid in net over the last few seasons. It’s hard to tell who’ll win, since Princeton hasn’t played yet this year and Michigan State’s defense seems a little inconsistent.

Prediction: Princeton wins

Minnesota (2-2-0) at Clarkson (3-2-1): Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.; at St. Lawrence (3-3-0) Oct. 29 at 7 p.m.

The Gophers make a trip to the North Country this weekend to visit Clarkson and St. Lawrence. Minnesota just dropped a pair to St. Cloud State, which included a lost third-period lead. The Gophers have the second-best offense in the country with 4.75 goals per game, led by Tyler Sheehy’s three goals and eight points.

Clarkson just defeated UMass-Lowell 4-3 after tying Providence 3-3 last weekend. The Golden Knights have played a range of Hockey East competition so far this season and has a few wins and losses. Freshman Devin Brosseau and junior Sam Vigneault have five points each. Freshman Jake Kielly has a .909 save percentage.

St. Lawrence has also played a heavy Hockey East schedule but did split a series at Penn State to begin the season. St. Lawrence has lost its last two games, which snapped a three-game winning streak. The Saints have one of the best defenses in the country, although Kyle Hatyon’s goals-against average has dipped to .891 so far this season. St. Lawrence has gotten some scoring though, and Mike Marnell has eight points.

The Gophers have offense, yes, but proved they’ll struggle against good teams. St. Lawrence will definitely be a test for Minnesota.

Prediction: Minnesota beats Clarkson and loses to St. Lawrence

Ohio State (3-0-2) at Niagara (0-3-2): Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.; Oct. 29 at 7 p.m.

The Buckeyes look to continue their unbeaten streak with two games against the Purple Eagles. Ohio State has played well to start the season, which is contrary to how they normally play. In years past, the Buckeyes have started playing well midway through the season, but the wins are just too little, too late. Things are a little different this year, and Matt Tomkins has a .936 save percentage, giving Ohio State the goaltending it needs. Three players – Tanner Laczynski, Nick Schilkey and Ronnie Hein have six points. Schilkey has four goals.

The Purple Eagles are winless this season, dropping games to Holy Cross, Mercyhurst, RPI and Union, with some ties sprinkled in. Freshman Kris Spriggs has five points while Joe O’Brien and Jackson Teichroeb have split goaltending duties with a .917 and .843 save percentage, respectively.

It’s getting increasingly harder to pick against Ohio State.

Prediction: Buckeyes sweep

Penn State (3-1-1) vs. Canisius (2-3-1): Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.; Oct. 29 at 7 p.m.

Penn State is quietly putting together one of the best records in the country (even though it’s early) and their schedule actually hasn’t been a too easy so far. The Nittany Lions are unbeaten in their last three after tying and defeating Notre Dame. The only loss came to St. Lawrence. But now things start getting easy for Penn State, which will host Canisius, Niagara, Alaska Anchorage and Arizona State before getting into Big Ten play. Denis Smirnov, Chase Berger and Trevor Hamilton each have six points while Peyton Jones has a .916 save percentage.

The Griffins have won two of their last four games with an overtime win at Alaska and a win over Robert Morris. Ryan Schmelzer and Felix Chamberland lead Canisius’ offense with five points, while Charles Williams has a .927 save percentage. While the Griffins have three losses, two were against defending national champions North Dakota.

The Nittany Lions are probably going to just pad their record over the next few weeks.

Prediction: Penn State sweeps

Wisconsin (2-2-0) at St. Lawrence (3-3-0): Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.; at Clarkson (3-2-1) Oct. 29 at 7 p.m.

After defeating the NTDP U-18 team, the Badgers are back in action to join their border-battle rivals on a North Country road swing. The Badgers are already playing much better than they have in the last two years, and their offense has been playing well. Their defense, though, has not. But that’s to be expected. Head coach Tony Granato wants them to be creative offensively, and for a young team that means some mistakes and turnovers. Trent Frederic and Seamus Malone each have six points, While Matt Jurusik has a .856 save percentage.

So far this season it looks like the Badgers are capable of playing in high-scoring or low-scoring matches, and they’ll probably be able to match the pace of their North Country opponents.

Prediction: Wisconsin sweeps the weekend

NCHC: More on St. Cloud State (CHN Team of the Week)

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

As you can see on the front page, St. Cloud State is CHN’s Team of the Week. I had the opportunity to speak with sophomore Mikey Eyssimont yesterday about the Huskies’ weekend sweep of Minnesota — featuring back-to-back dramatic comebacks.

Eyssimont, an LA Kings draft pick, played a big role in each win. Friday, he scored a power play goal to cut Minnesota’s lead to 5-4 with six minutes to play (St. Cloud went on to win, 6-5, in OT), and on Saturday, he picked the top corner over Minnesota goaltender Eric Schierhorn’s left shoulder with a pinpoint wrist shot in the third period — the eventual game-winning goal.

You can read more about the comeback wins in the link above, but I also talked to Eyssimont about St. Cloud’s power play, which proved to be a spark plug for the weekend sweep. The Huskies went 3-for-6 on Friday night (not including the game-tying extra-attacker goal with 73 seconds left in regulation), and Eyssimont’s Saturday night snipe came on the man-advantage as well.

Said Eyssimont, “It’s really important for us. We have a lot of work to do on our penalty killing, but our power play was a good sign. [This weekend vs. Alabama-Huntsville], we’re going to try and keep our power play dialed in, and improve our penalty kill.”

The weekend sweep also gave St. Cloud fans some optimism, after losing so much to graduation and early departures in the offseason.

“It’s a totally new team this year,” Eyssimont acknowledged. “We lost a ton of scoring, and some really good players. But I think the guys who played with them, they learned a lot. I know I learned a lot from guys like [Kalle] Kossila and [Ethan] Prow.

“But it’s not going to be the same team this year. I don’t think that means we can’t put up seven or eight goals in a game. I think we still have a lot of really good offense. But we’re going to find different ways and different players to make that happen.”

Going forward, look for junior Judd Peterson, sophomore Jacob Benson, and freshman Jake Wahlin (who scored Friday night’s sudden-death game-winner), to join Eyssimont in providing much of the scoring this season.

Quick Thoughts on a Young Providence Team

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

Over the weekend I was able to see PC against St. Lawrence.  The Friars were at times dominating and its talented back-line helped to lead a good performance on special teams. They also got a dominating performance in a tie against Clarkson on Friday night, but just weren’t able to find the back of the net. Mike McMahon talked about last week in his Hockey East random thoughts of about how the advanced numbers they were putting up pointed to how things would improve.

Over the weekend, they certainly did against two of the better teams in the ECAC, if not the two best in that conference this season.

My first thought looking at the PC forward lines on the night was how different the Friars looked. They were tasked with replacing its top three scorers, four of its top five and seven of the top 11. That means at the very least, there were seven new faces within its 12 forwards. Among its 12 in the lineup on Saturday night there was just one senior (fourth lines Conor MacPhee), two juniors, five sophomores and four freshmen. In key spots, it is young guys that need to take charge. (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC 10/25

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

Another week, another week and another mixed bag for ECAC teams in non-conference play. Quinnipiac dropped the game of the week at Boston University, SLU was swept by Providence and Lowell. Clarkson had a good weekend with a win and a tie at Providence and Lowell. Union swept Niagara and RIT, while RPI picked up a victory . For some teams it was a tough weekend and for others they are making noise, like Clarkson picking up a win and a tie on the road against two tournament quality teams.

The Ivies will begin play this weekend. Harvard will travel to Arizona State, COrnell to Merrimack, Dartmouth will host Michigan, Brown is at Holy Cross, Princeton goes to Michigan State and Yale has Sacred Heart at Ingalls. These games are often interesting because you have teams playing their first games that are playing teams that have already played six games this season. In the case of Dartmouth it will have its hand full with a new look Michigan team.

Without further ado, here are my thoughts of the week (more…)

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Oct. 24

Monday, October 24th, 2016

The Big Ten, or half of the Big Ten, continued its non-conference success this weekend. The conference still has the second-best non-conference record, and now only the Big Ten, the NCHC and the ECAC have winning percentages above .500.

Ohio State is one of the last remaining unbeaten teams with a 3-0-2 record, but the Wolverines and Nittany Lions both went unbeaten this weekend. Michigan State was unsurprisingly swept by Denver and the Gophers were swept by St. Cloud State. Wisconsin defeated the NTDP U18 team 4-3.

The Buckeyes swept Bowling Green to stretch their undefeated streak to five games. On Friday, the Buckeyes scored twice in the last frame to tie the game and win it. Ohio State won 6-1 on Saturday. Matt Tomkins started both games.

The Wolverines played close games with Michigan Tech. Michigan was ahead on Friday night 3-1 but allowed two goals in the third period to the Huskies. It looked like overtime was near, but freshman Will Lockwood scored a shorthanded goal with 52 seconds left. On Saturday it was almost the same, except Cutler Martin scored the game-tying goal late for Michigan. The Wolverines again used different goaltenders, with Hayden Lavigne making 31 saves on Saturday and Jack LaFontaine making 42 on Saturday.

I still don’t know what to make of Michigan State, which after allowing 13 goals to Lake Superior, only gave up five to Denver. The Spartans dropped the first game 2-1 and then the second 3-1. Ed Minney made 24 saves on Friday and John Lethemon made 23 on Saturday. Penn State tied Notre Dame 3-3 and then won 3-2. While Penn State beating Notre Dame wasn’t expected, it’s not an upset. It’s too early in the season for teams that are still trying to find themselves for any of them to be really good. “Upset” is a term that should generally never be used.

This was not an easy weekend for the Gophers, which had a 5-2 lead in the third period of Friday’s game. The Huskies scored three goals in the last 10 minutes to tie the game, and Jake Wahlin won it for the Huskies in overtime. On Saturday, the Gophers had a 2-0 lead after the first. But St. Cloud scored two goals in the second and the game winner with seven minutes left in the third. This was the toughest competition the Gophers had faced so far, and it didn’t go so well for them.

(After the jump: Too many penalties, what Ohio State’s unbeaten record means and have the Wolverines finally found their goaltender)

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Hockey East Random Thoughts (10/20/16)

Friday, October 21st, 2016

- For all the talk of what Providence lost heading into this season, the Friars have the best even-strength Corsi in Hockey East (60.1%) and it’s fifth-best in the nation. Yeah, they’re 1-2, and yeah, they lost to Holy Cross, but the Friars record will improve if the possession stats remain that high. Also, quality possession like that, even with so many new players in new roles, speaks to how good Providence’s coaching is. There’s no getting around it, Nate Leaman and Norm Bazin (Lowell keeps chugging along) are two of the best in the business right now.

Providence’s PDO is just 95.87 right now, in large part due to a team save percentage of .889. I’m expecting that to be a lot better, and even the Friars’ 7.0 shooting percentage is likely to come up. The possession metrics tell us that Providence has had the puck a lot, they just haven’t been finishing it. At the same time, opponents are finishing chances despite possessing the puck for less time. It’s three games, that’s not a trend that will continue all season.

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Oct. 21

Friday, October 21st, 2016

The Big Ten looks to continue its non-conference success this weekend with five schools playing. All teams but the Badgers, who will play the NTDP U-18 team, are locked into weekend series. The competition is tougher than last weekend, and some of the Big Ten teams may no longer be undefeated. But the conference has done well in non-conference competition so far with a 9-6-2 record.

There isn’t much we know about the Big Ten teams so far since it’s still early, but we do know that sophomores are leading Minnesota and both Michigan and Ohio State have done well defensively. Those three teams are facing a step up in competition, but their opponents for the weekend have been struggling.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Oct. 17

Monday, October 17th, 2016

The Big Ten actually has the second-best winning percentage against other conferences this season, behind only the NCHC. That’s much different from years past, when the conference teams have struggled in early-season non-conference games. Two Big Ten teams are undefeated – Minnesota and Ohio State. The Badgers split with Boston College in an interesting series, Michigan State was swept and Penn State won against Mercyhurst.

It’s still early, but it looks like Penn State’s offense will be okay this year. The Badgers are definitely already a better team than they were last season, and Michigan has a bigger goaltending question than in the past few seasons.

The Gophers were off last weekend but defeated the NTDP U-18 team 9-0. Rem Pitlick had three goals and an assist, Brent Gates had two goals and Leon Bristedt had three assists. Ohio State skated to a 1-1 tie with Miami, and the Buckeyes have not allowed more than three goals in a game this season. Matt Tomkins earned the start and made 22 saves, while David Gust scored the lone goal.

Michigan defeated Ferris State 2-1 thanks to goals from Jake Slaker and Sam Piazza. The Wolverines started their third goaltender in as many games, and Jack LaFontaine made 28 stops in the win. So far, thanks to his shutout, Hayden Lavigne has the best save percentage on the team. LaFontaine has a .966 save percentage. Penn State defeated Mercyhurst 7-0. Nate Sucese had two goals and Peyton Jones made 20 saves. Sophomore Chase Berger had three points.

The Spartans started their season last weekend and it ended badly. Michigan State dropped a 6-1 decision to Lake Superior and followed with a 7-3 loss. In the first game, Ed Minney made 28 saves. John Lethemon had the save the next night but was pulled after allowing four goals on 13 shots. Minney replaced him and made 14 saves on 17 shots.

Wisconsin played a couple of interesting games against the Eagles. The Badgers won the first game 3-1 but lost the second 8-5. While the Eagles probably won’t be a great team this season, a split and eight goals on the weekend is encouraging for the Badgers. Ryan Wagner and Grant Besse both had two goals on the weekend. Matt Jurusik played in both games but Jack Berry saw some playing time on Sunday.

(After the jump: Cameron Hughes, Rough year for Michigan State and Penn State’s scheduling)

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Making A Case To Do Away (Or Change) With ECAC Travel Partners

Monday, October 17th, 2016

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to visit the beautiful North Country, taking in a game at Clarkson and St. Lawrence. If you’ve never made the trip, it’s highly recommended, especially in the fall where the temperatures aren’t too cold and the scenery is second to none.

Not to mention you get to take in two awesome college hockey buildings. There’s not another building in the country like Appleton Arena.

But this weekend got me thinking … is the ECAC travel partner concept outdated? Do coaches even like it?

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Three Things I Think: ECAC, 10/16

Sunday, October 16th, 2016

The first weeks of the regular season are past us and for the non-Ivy league schools some trends are taking shape. We are about a week and a half away from when the Ivy League schools begin play. Harvard and Cornell will each open their seasons on Friday October, 28th against Arizona State and Merrimack, respectively. Conference play will begin the next weekend, with Quinnipiac/Clarkson probably the best matchup in the first week. This weekend there will be many intriguing non-conference matchups, which I will delve on later in the week in my weekend preview blog.

The league as a whole had a good weekend in non-conference and some younger players are coming forward, while some newer trusted hands are also breaking out. While the league has no one that remains undefeated, St. Lawrence and Quinnipiac again look poised to be near the top. SLU after a struggle in the opener, has looked lights out in the past three games, winning going away in each. Clarkson has been a tad inconsistent over the first couple weeks. Colgate, is having some expected bumps early on, RPI is surprisingly as well. Quinnipiac has been hit or miss in the early going and Union has had a decent start to the year with a win and a loss at Michigan, with a win and draw against AIC and Sacred Heart over the weekend. Clarkson split its two weekends against Hockey East foes. All told over the first two weekends ECAC teams have gone 9-9-4. (more…)