Archive for November, 2017

Friendship Four in Belfast is Quite the Experience

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

I was skeptical of the Friendship Four tournament in Belfast, Northern Ireland a few years ago when it was introduced to the college hockey landscape, and honestly many coaches and programs didn’t want to subject their teams to the travel, either. But three years have passed and over the weekend I quickly learned why Hockey East and ECAC coaches should be flocking in droves to do this. It has become one of the most successful holiday tournaments.

The Friday afternoon match that pitted Clarkson and RPI saw probably 4,000 people. Most of the crowd was comprised of school children from local schools that hosted the players during the week, where the teams taught them about hockey and why it is a great sport to play. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Atlantic Hockey, Nov. 26

Monday, November 27th, 2017

Following a busy week in Atlantic Hockey, there’s been quite a shake-up in the standings. Canisius jumped several spots to the top of the conference, while Bentley also made an impressive jump following a pair of wins this weekend.

Army and Niagara remain among the conference’s top three teams after playing three games each over the past week. Niagara won one of three this weekend, while Army tied once and lost twice. These games, combined with the Griffs’ pair of wins, shook things up at the top of the conference.

Here are the Atlantic Hockey standings, as of November 27:

  1. Canisius
  2. Army
  3. Niagara
  4. Holy Cross
  5. RIT
  6. Bentley
  7. RMU
  8. AIC
  9. Air Force
  10. Mercyhurst
  11. Sacred Heart


Three Things To Be Thankful For: Big Ten

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

Since it’s Thanksgiving, I decided to put together a list of three things the Big Ten and its members/associates should be thankful for. Right now Notre Dame leads the standings with 12 points, Minnesota is second with 11 and Wisconsin is third with 10. Michigan has nine, Penn State has six and Ohio State and Michigan State each have three.

It’s too early to look at the Pairwise, but we can, so we might as well. Minnesota, as usual, leads the Big Ten at No. 7. But Michigan State is right behind them at No. 10. Michigan is No. 13, Wisconsin No. 16 and Ohio State No. 18.

Last weekend featured almost a full non-conference slate, but the teams resume conference play this weekend as Ohio State plays Michigan, Michigan State plays Penn State and Minnesota plays Notre Dame. Wisconsin hosts Mercyhurst.


Three Things I Think: Atlantic Hockey, Nov. 22

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

Atlantic Hockey has a busy weekend ahead, with fourteen games over the next few days. Although a lot of that action will be between conference teams, several teams will also face non-conference opponents, including Arizona State, Connecticut, and Wisconsin.

Last weekend, Army failed to beat Holy Cross and tied with Sacred Heart, while Canisius swept Bentley and Robert Morris swept AIC. RIT and Air Force split a pair of games.


Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Nov. 17

Friday, November 17th, 2017

The Big Ten is ready for another weekend of play, but it will only feature on conference matchup as the Wolverines and Badgers face each other. In non-conference action, Notre Dame will be at RPI, Michigan Sate hosts Ferris State, Penn State will at Arizona State and Minnesota will host Harvard. The Buckeyes are on a bye week after defeating and tying UConn.

Last weekend Notre Dame swept Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan State split and Michigan and Minnesota played in a couple high-scoring games with Michigan winning one game and teams tying the other.

(After the jump: The Fighting Irish are back, this is the Gophers and Michigan is good)


Three Things I Think: Atlantic Hockey, November 13

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

As Atlantic Hockey continued its action this past weekend, it was exciting to see the conference’s top two teams – Army and Niagara – face off in a pair of games. In the end, they split the weekend, with Army remaining atop the conference standings.

Meanwhile, RIT won twice to make its way up to third in the conference, and Canisius’ Dylan McLaughlin had himself quite a weekend to earn honors in the conference and NCAA.

Here are the Atlantic Hockey standings:

  1.  Army
  2. Niagara
  3. RIT
  4. Holy Cross
  5. Canisius
  6. AIC
  7. Robert Morris
  8. Mercyhurst
  9. Bentley
  10. Air Force
  11. Sacred Heart


Injury Riddled St. Lawrence Struggling with Depth

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

Entering Brown’s Meehan Auditorium and taking a look at St. Lawrence’s line chart on Saturday night, I was struck by one thing and one thing only- On that line chart, the Saints had just three forward lines and three D-pairs, which is something I had never seen before in my career of covering DI college hockey. It has always been normal to see a team missing maybe one on that chart and dressing 17 skaters, instead of the normal 18, but seeing a team short three bodies is something I cannot think of. I am sure it happened a lot in the old days, but today it just never happens that way.

In retrospect, the line chart had just eight forwards listed as Philip Alftberg was playing a wing and he is a natural defender. Going deeper, eight of the fifteen were freshmen and only two of the forwards were upperclassmen. The fact half the lineup were freshmen would cause any team to struggle, but coupled with the depth issues it is just a disaster.

Depth is so key in college hockey and not having it often times leads to even more problems, so to see a team have so many injuries is something that is just uncommon. On Saturday, I felt SLU was giving their all and Mark Morris was coaching enough to show there is hardly an issue with either of those aspects, but the numbers game just was not in their favor. In fact, I will go as far to say being so short is just not competitive and if the injuries are long term, it will be a long season in Canton. It is normal for a team to be missing guys, but to be down 7 of 15 forwards is just tough.

Morris didn’t want to talk on Saturday, understandably so. Morris called me on Monday, and called this season “one of the most challenging seasons I have ever experienced.” Those are strong words considering how long he has been coaching at a high level. (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC, 11/14

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

Another weekend, another set of surprises in the ECAC. As I was watching results pour in over the weekend, I couldn’t help but to think to myself how topsy turvy the league is setting up to be. Quinnipiac fell twice in the capital region, falling to 0-4-0 in ECAC play, while Harvard is 2-3-0. On the flip side of those two is Union, who I picked 10th in preseason. The Dutchmen are now 5-1-0 in the ECAC play and have looked good in the process. Its only loss was to Clarkson last week, while it has defeated RPI twice, St. Lawrence, Quinnipiac and Princeton. Like the Dutchmen, Colgate is off to a surprising start and is 3-0-1 in ECAC play and is on an overall seven game unbeaten streak. The Raiders have also won their last three games and I will talk about this success below.

Cornell is the only defeated team left in the nation, at 6-0-0. The Big Red were expected to be up in the top echelon of teams but they are looking the part of one of the better teams in the ECAC. This success, is setting up for a huge showdown against long-time ECAC rival Clarkson. The REAL Golden Knights are also off to a great start, with a 4-0-0 record in the league. Honestly, these two teams have looked like the best teams but it is still early.

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

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Nov. 10

Friday, November 10th, 2017

The Wolverines split with Ferris State. After winning the first game 7-2, Michigan lost 3-2 in overtime. Minnesota swept Michigan State by a total score of 7-1. Notre Dame also swept, taking down Ohio State 4-1 and 3-2. Penn State split with Mercyhurst and allowed 12 goals on the weekend. The Badgers lost to North Dakota 3-2 and tied 2-2.

Up next:

Minnesota at Michigan
Wisconsin at Michigan State
Penn State at Notre Dame
Ohio State at UConn

(After the jump: Mitch Lewandowski, Notre Dame’s net, and Penn State’s struggles)

Mitch Lewandowski is the key to Michigan State’s offense

The Spartan offense has fared well lately. And although they haven’t been playing the toughest competition, it’s evident a big boost comes from Lewandowski. He’s a really good player, arguably the best on the team and the best the Spartans have had for a long time. He’s a great playmaker and made some spectacular passes, and the offense is running off his abilities.

The Spartans look like a much better team than they were last year. While, aside from Lewandowski, they don’t really have the talent, they’re working well with the pieces they do have. It’s hard to explain how they look better, but they seem to be more coherent than they have been the last couple of seasons, and it’s working well. Michigan State probably won’t fare this well the rest of the season, but they could finish higher than people (like myself) thought they would.

Notre Dame’s Goaltending

Dylan St. Cyr was expected to be Cal Petersen’s heir in net. but that’s been far from true. The freshman started four games this season but hasn’t played since a 6-4 loss to Nebraska Omaha. In his place is sophomore Cale Morris, Petersen’s understudy. Morris has helped the Fighting Irish to three straight wins and pinned Ohio State to just three goals total last weekend, and even stopped 39 shots in the 3-2 win.

Penn State’s Struggles

While I spent all of last year saying Penn State wasn’t as good as everyone thought they were, I assumed at least that they would beat Atlantic Hockey teams. But it’s only been a few weeks and they’ve already dropped two of the contests. And they gave up 12 goals to Mercyhurst last weekend, which shouldn’t happen. These past few weeks – especially the losses to American International and Mercyhurst – expose the flaws Penn State has, especially defensively. The Nittany Lions thrive when they can set up in the offensive zone and take shots on net.

While that’s worked in the past against weaker teams (no offense, American International), it is odd that formula isn’t working against weaker teams now, and, unless Penn State smooths this out, will make this season very hard for them.

It’s still early, but while it’s easy to let one odd loss slide, it’s harder to let two odd losses slide (I’m looking at you, Denver)


Three Things I Think: ECAC, 11/7

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

Now that all ECAC teams have played games, there are certainly some interesting trends. Who would have guessed after the first full weekend of play that Quinnipiac would 12th on the table and 0-2? If you said you expected it, I would say you’re lying because since the Bobcats entered the league over a decade ago, it has not been 0-2 in the league. I will discuss their troubles below and a lot of it stems from the same questions that were asked in the preseason. Dartmouth, after a rough 5-0 loss in its ECAC opener against Harvard responded well and won both its games over the weekend.  Cornell is 4-0-0 to begin the year and had an impressive road sweep of Quinnipiac/Princeton on the weekend.

Because it has been a pair of weeks since I last posted, I wanted to talk about the Pairwise and the inter-conference record of the league-surprisingly it isn’t all doom and gloom. As early results poured in, it seemed as though the ECAC was going to have struggles. But as I have delved into the numbers further, the league’s record is 45-49-11 in non-conference play. If one subtracts St. Lawrence’s 1-7-0 mark in non-conference play, the league would be 44-42-11. This is right on par with last season and the current .481 record is fourth best among the conferences. With many of the better teams being Ivy League schools, that mark should only improve as the season heads into the holiday non-conference game binge.

Before I get to my three thoughts, I will mention I am going to Belfast for the Friendship Four tournament Thanksgiving weekend. So be on the lookout for my thoughts of that trip, as I am really excited about it and will probably post a travel blog on the experience in Northern Ireland… Until then here are my three thoughts of the week:

Below the break: Quinnipiac’s Goal Scoring problems, Cornell’s Big Sweep, Clarkson Recovers, team-by-team thoughts/power rankings (more…)