Archive for December, 2017

Three Things I Think: Atlantic Hockey, Dec. 11

Monday, December 11th, 2017

What a weekend in Atlantic Hockey, filled with plenty of exciting non-conference action as well as several critical conference games that have shaken up the standings.

With a pair of wins in the Battle of the Bridge over Niagara, Canisius has taken over the top spot in Atlantic Hockey. The Purple Eagles have been bumped down to second place for the time being. They’ll stay that way for a while now, as both teams are off until the last weekend of the month.

AIC jumped two spots in the standings after splitting their weekend series.

Looking ahead, there are only two games this coming weekend, a home-and-home series between Robert Morris and Mercyhurst.

Here are the Atlantic Hockey standings as of December 11:

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

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Three Things I Think: ECAC 12/7

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

Seeing it has been some time since I have checked in with this, I figured I would get back in the swing of it just before the break. Now that we are almost at the holiday break, many trends have taken hold and there certainly seems like a few tiers have developed within the conference. Union and Clarkson sit at the top of the conference with 12 points, but the Golden Knights are unblemished at 6-0-0 in league play and have two games in hand on the Dutchmen. Union has been a surprise in the first half of the season and have gotten contributions from a lot of new faces. Cornell and Colgate also fit into the top tier, as the two have big wins and have just looked the part of being near the top. The Big Red are currently third with 10 points, while the Raiders are right behind with nine.

Brown has more wins in just 12 games this season than it did all of last year. It also has more ECAC wins, four, than it did last season. The Bears are tied for fifth with Harvard and Yale. The Crimson have been surprising, given the talent on the team and have a few tough losses. Another team I will mention is Princeton that has also largely underachieved.

If the NCAA tournament started today, the ECAC would have just two teams in it. Clarkson is third in the pairwise, while Cornell is fifth. Colgate is just outside the picture in 17th and Union is off the pace in 26th. This is largely caused by a poor inter-conference record by the league. Although the league has played a tough schedule, the .426 mark is hardly good for the coefficients. Clarkson and Cornell have largely been the best teams in non-conference play and both are reaping the benefits of it.

Without further ado here are my random thoughts of the last few weeks.

Below the break Clarkson’s young nucleus, Union’s New Charges, RPI fans should trust the process. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Dec. 4

Monday, December 4th, 2017

The past weekend featured conference contests. Notre Dame swept Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin split and Penn State tied and defeated Ohio State. There’s still a lot of inconsistency in the conference, but the Fighting Irish are now on an 11-game winning streak.

Notre Dame is now 8-0-0 in the conference and has a nine-point lead over the second team, which is Penn State. Minnesota sits behind Penn State by one point.

Next weekend the Wolverines will have a home-and-home with Michigan State, Ohio State will host Minnesota, Penn State will play Robert Morris and Wisconsin will host Notre Dame.

What happened to Kyle Hayton?

When Hayton came to Wisconsin as a grad transfer, it seemed like he’d be the best goaltender in the league. The Big Ten has struggled in that department, and Hayton had been the best goaltender in the ECAC. But Hayton has struggled in the offensive league. He gave up five goals against Minnesota and sat on the bench the next night. His save percentage is currently .892.

I was one of the people who assumed Hayton would be the best goaltender in the conference. I’m not surprised that he’s struggling, though. The ECAC is a much more defensive league than the Big Ten, but it’s partly because of goaltending and defense. While Hayton was a good goaltender at St. Lawrence, he also had an excellent defense. While he did see action and face quality scoring chances, they weren’t like the chances he sees in the Big Ten.

That’s partly because there are some spectacular offenses in the Big Ten (like Minnesota’s) and partly because Wisconsin still makes some bad plays and turns the puck over. Maybe once Hayton gets settled his performance will improve.

The Rem Pitlick Show

Yes, Casey Mittelstadt is good. But so is Rem Pitlick. Last year he scored 31 points last year, considerably less than Tyler Sheehy or Justin Kloos. But those were still good numbers for a freshman on a veteran-laden team. Still Pitlick, who was highly-touted coming into Minnesota, wasn’t talked about much nationally. He currently leads the Gophers with 19 points and still doesn’t get talked about as much as some of his teammates. But not only can Pitlick score, he also has some of the skill and speed that makes Mittelstadt so much to watch.

Speaking of Pitlick, the Gopher offense is really good. They have so much skill and speed that they can score quickly, but the team struggles too much defensively and it’s costing them wins.

An eye on the Nittany Lions

Penn State is now on a six-game unbeaten streak after beating Arizona State, Michigan State and Ohio State. The Nittany Lions are second in the conference just above Minnesota, despite being picked to finish fourth. Have the Nittany Lions finally turned the corner?

That’s hard to say. Arizona State and Michigan State aren’t exactly quality teams, but it looks like Penn State’s offensive tactics that helped them win last year are back on track. The Nittany Lions scored seven goals twice in the past two weeks in wins over Arizona State and Michigan State. That doesn’t mean Penn State has recovered enough to beat better teams, but Penn State might not even really have the chance to test itself.

In the second half of the season, Penn State’s toughest opponents will be Notre Dame and Minnesota. Notre Dame is good but the Gophers are inconsistent, which means they may not even be a test.

Three Things I Think: Atlantic Hockey, Dec. 3

Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

It was a busy weekend for Atlantic Hockey, as every team aside from Robert Morris played at least one game. Niagara came out on top with a pair of wins to regain the top spot in the conference.

Canisius is now second in the conference despite falling to non-conference Clarkson this weekend. Army, meanwhile, fell three spots in conference standings after this weekend’s games.

Here are the Atlantic Hockey standings as of December 3:

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

(more…)

NCHC: Big League Weekend Starts Now

Friday, December 1st, 2017

We’re less than 2 hours from a critical slate of NCHC league games kicking off this weekend, with all of these six teams currently ranked in the top 15 of the Pairwise.

NCHC
Denver at Minnesota-Duluth  7:07 CT Compare Radio  Map
St. Cloud State at Nebraska-Omaha  7:07 CT Compare Radio  Map
Western Michigan at North Dakota  7:37 CT Compare TV Radio  Map

 

Miami also hosts Cornell for a two-game nonconference series, in a pair of games that (given their strength of schedule), is likely to be more important for Cornell than for Miami. That series kicks off in just over an hour.

But clearly, the main event this weekend is a rematch of April’s national title game, with Minnesota-Duluth hosting reigning champion Denver. The Pioneers were just 3-3 in November, although have won three of four. The key will be whether UMD can slow down Denver’s offense — which, through all the ups and downs, has been the one constant. Montgomery’s team has scored at least four goals in each of its last nine games. Henrik Borgstrom, Troy Terry, and Dylan Gambrell — often used on different lines this season — have combined for 25 goals. Still, I would expect lower scoring games this weekend, especially with the intensity expected in this series after the two teams battled for the championship trophy in Chicago.

It will be interesting to see, as well, if two UMD freshman defensemen (Scott Perunovich and Mikey Anderson — who of course had nothing to do with April’s title game) — can continue to generate offense from the blueline for a young, developing UMD team that showed what it is capable of with a well-rounded 3-1 win over Minnesota State last week.

Finally, in case you missed it… two NCHC features this week published on the main site:

  • Tough Love:  A look at Montreal Canadiens first-round prospect Ryan Poehling and St. Cloud State. Poehling shared a great anecdote about his childhood that led him to play hockey.

I also asked Ryan about his relationship with his brothers, Nick and Jack — all of whom are sophomores this season for the Huskies.

“We’ve always been competitive,” said Ryan. “It comes with everything, even when we work out. I see it in golf a lot too, where we always want to be better than one another. I think it’s just friendly competition. We know at the end of the day it doesn’t matter, but at the same time, it’s always nice being able to beat your brother. That’s why we compete so hard.”

  • Second Chance for Nick Jones at North Dakota, after he started his college career at Ohio State

The Fighting Hawks host first-place Western Michigan and will be looking to snap a three-game winless streak at home. Pleasing the home crowd in Grand Forks is one of many goals for UND this weekend. Jones had this to say about North Dakota’s home-ice advantage:

“It’s unbelievable. I grew up going to Oilers games, which are sold out every night. But I can’t recall one Oilers game I’ve ever been to in my life that compares to the Minnesota series out here. The crowd is unbelievable. I’ve never seen a crowd like our crowd. It’s special to play here for sure.”

Western Michigan won three of four games against UND last year.