Archive for December, 2018

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Dec. 10

Monday, December 10th, 2018

It was the weekend of offenses. Well, only if it was the Notre Dame-Penn State series, which saw 19 goals on the weekend. Most of that came from Saturday’s game whe Penn State score nine goals.

Yes, nine goals. On Notre Dame.

Wisconsin swept Michigan State, which sounds correct. Minnesota and Michigan tied on the first night before the Gophers defeated the Wolverines. 

Penn State’s offense is really good

It’s one thing to score goals and another thing to score goals on Notre Dame and Cale Morris. While I have said before that it’s very difficult to sustain high-scoring offenses for a long time, there’s no question Penn State’s is quite powerful. 

Evan Barratt leads the country with 13 goals and 29 points. Next is Alex Limoges, who has 29 points. The Nittany Lions are averaging 5.29 goals per game — over a goal per game more than the runner-up, Minnesota State. 

The question always remains how good a team’s shooting percentage actually is, though. Because Penn State still leads the country in shots on goal and averages 41.06 shots on goal per game, almost 13 shots more per game than Minnesota State takes. 

Even so, Penn State still ranks second in goals per shots on goal with a 12.9 percent conversion percent. In that department the Nittany Lions trail Minnesota State by less that two percent. 

This is an interesting statistic to keep an eye on, because in previous years Penn State was still shooting and still scoring, but not at nearly as high of a rate. In 2016-17, when Penn State led the country in goals per game with 4.10, they also converted 9.3 percent of their shots on goal. But again, that was for the whole season.

In 2016-17 through Dec. 10, Penn State was averaging 4.87 goals per game and taking 48.27 shots on goal per game. The Nittany Lions converted 10 percent of those shots.

The Badgers are quietly getting better

Between the power of Penn State’s offense, the high expectations for Ohio State, questions about Michigan, a new coaching staff in Minnesota and the return of Cale Morris, other teams in the Big Ten were almost forgotten. Wisconsin was one of those forgotten teams and it’s easy to see why.

The Badgers were a good team with a bright future, but all of that collapsed after 2014. Since then Wisconsin struggled to win, even with high-end talent. Goaltending was supposed to solve any issues, but Kyle Hayton’s arrival last year fixed nothing. 

So this year, no one really knew what to think. But right now the Badgers are tied for first place in the league with Ohio State. They’ve won eight games overall and four in the conference. The Badgers also haven’t lost in their last six games and are on a three-game winning streak. Daniel Lebedeff’s save percentage isn’t great, but it’s above .910, which isn’t bad.

Ohio State is the best team in the Big Ten

It’s strange that the Buckeyes have been using a goaltending tandem, but it seems to be working. Ohio State is tied with Wisconsin for first has played just eight games, two less than the Badgers. Ohio State has just four losses this season and only two in the conference.

The important thing is the Buckeye defense and goaltending is still really good. That’s no surprise since Steve Miller is still there, and the team’s commitment to defense from last year is still there. 

Ohio State has only allowed more than two goals in a conference once this year when it gave up four goals to Penn State. Overall the Buckeyes have surrendered just 13 goals in eight conference games. And Tommy Nappier’s .951 save percentage is second nationally. 

Atlantic Hockey Notebook 12/9

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

The Sacred Heart Pioneers captured a pair of wins over the RIT Tigers this weekend. Elsewhere, Robert Morris and Holy Cross, and Air Force and Mercyhurst, split their respective series. Niagara then split their weekend with Colgate in non-conference action.

AIC, Army, Canisius and Bentley were all inactive this week.

Mike Lee scored the game-winner for Sacred Heart on Friday, as the Pioneers beat the Tigers 4-3 in overtime. Lee also scored in regulation, while Marcel Godbout and Jason Cotton also scored. Ryan Kruper, Adam Brubacher and Alden Dupuis scored for RIT. Josh Benson made 27 saves in the win.

The Pioneers then took a 6-4 win over the Tigers in the rematch Saturday, powered by a trio of third-period goals. The Tigers took an early lead and went up 2-0 on goals by Brubacher and Shawn Cameron, with both goals coming on the man advantage. Sacred Heart got on the board with a shorthanded goal from Matt Tugnutt later in the first period.

Brubacher scored his second of the night, again on the power play. But the Pioneers scored twice in a span of 2:31, with goals coming from Nick Boyagian and Marc Johnstone, to tie the game before the second period was over. Bryston Traptow regained the lead for the Tigers in the back-and-forth game early in the third, but Ruslan Rakhmatov and Austin McIlmurray scored later in the third, with Matt Tugnutt also adding a goal, for the 6-4 win.

Robert Morris shut out Holy Cross 2-0 on Friday, but the teams flipped positions on Saturday with the Crusaders taking the win. Luke Lynch and Michael Coyne had the goals for the Colonials Friday, with Francis Marotte notching a 36-save shutout.

The next night, Michael Laffin notched both goals for the Crusaders in their 2-0 win. Erik Gordon made 26 saves in the shutout victory.

Elsewhere, Air Force shut out Mercyhurst 2-0 Friday before falling to the Lakers 4-1 Saturday. Kyle Haak and Trevor Stone were credited with goals in Friday’s win, while goaltender Billy Christopoulos made 18 saves in the shutout.

The following night, Joseph Duszak registered a pair of goals in Mercyhurst’s victory. Jeremy Wu and Joshua Lammon also scored, with half of the Lakers goals coming shorthanded. Haak had his second goal of the weekend for the lone goal for the Falcons. Garrett Metcalf made 33 saves.

Finally, the Purple Eagles beat Colgate 4-2 on Friday before falling 2-0 Saturday.

Justin Kendall put Niagara up with 34 seconds remaining in the first period. Colgate tied the game, then took the lead, early in the second period. Johnny Curran tied the game for Niagara late in the second with a power-play goal before Reed Robinson gave the Purple Eagles the edge early in the third. Eric Cooley also added a goal in the win.

Here are the Atlantic Hockey standings:

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

There is only one Atlantic Hockey game next weekend, with RIT hosting Niagara.

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Dec. 2

Sunday, December 2nd, 2018

After another season of Big Ten play, it’s evident the teams are pretty even. Wisconsin and Penn State split while Ohio State and Minnesota and Michigan State and Michigan almost split — the Buckeyes won a game and tied while Michigan State won a game and tied. Notre Dame swept RPI.

The Buckeyes are now first in the conference with a three-point lead over Notre Dame. Michigan is still fourth, while Penn State – despite its 10 overall wins, which is tied with Notre Dame for first in the conference – is last. But only eight points separate Ohio State and Penn State.

Only the Buckeyes and Fighting Irish have four wins, while every other team in the Big Ten has just two conference wins. The difference between place No. 3 and place No. 7 lies in the ties and shootout wins. 

Can Notre Dame keep up the scoring?

The Fighting Irish quickly took down RPI this weekend. They scored eight goals total, just after I wrote a story about the team trying to fill in for some of its lost scoring from last season. The Fighting Irish really aren’t that far off from where they were at this time last year, but last year they didn’t score eight goals on the Engineers.

Even if Notre Dame wasn’t going to find replacement scoring, I still wouldn’t be worried about the team. Cale Morris is Cale Morris and there is no substitute nor equal to solid goaltending. 

It seems like the Fighting Irish are in a much better spot than last season, and some of the other players who scored last year have been stepping up. But, before last weekend Jeff Jackson did say that the team is still trying to find consistency in its lines. There’s no proof yet that Notre Dame will keep up its scoring.

Offense isn’t sustainable

I spoke to Mel Pearson last week about the team’s goaltending situation. Michigan currently doesn’t have the same level of goaltending — at least when it comes to numbers — as it did last year with Hayden Lavigne’s save percentage. I asked Pearson if he thought the Wolverines can still make a run like they did last year given they have been scoring well of late.

His answer was simple: Not really. Pearson said he wants that goaltending back because offense isn’t the way to win championships. At some point, the offense is going to run out. He said it would for them and it most likely will for Penn State.

I agree. Defense and goaltending does win championships, and there’s no better proof of that than the Big Ten from a few years ago. Pearson was still in the WCHA at the time, but Michigan boasted players like JT Compher and Kyle Connor. It wasn’t enough. Like the other Big Ten teams that year, the Wolverines were stalled pretty early into the NCAA tournament.

It’s still a little early to see who’s going to fare well defensively but it’s worth noting.

The curious case of the goaltending tandems

Right now there are a few teams in the Big Ten that have been using two goaltenders. Most notably is Ohio State. After a great performance last season, Sean Romeo was presumed to be the starter by many. But then came sophomore Tommy Nappier. He played in siz games last season but has been splitting starts with Romeo and has already played in nine.

And he’s doing really well.

Nappier has a .951 save percentage, the second-highest in the country. Of the top-10 goaltenders, only five goaltenders have played in more games than him, and one of those is Cale Morris. Romeo’s save percentage is .912, but the rotation seems to be working for Ohio State. The Buckeyes seem poised to make a return to the NCAA tournament, which poses an interesting question.

Will the Buckeyes end up in the NCAA tournament with a goaltending rotation?

Atlantic Hockey Notebook 12/2

Sunday, December 2nd, 2018

This week in Atlantic Hockey, AIC, Air Force and Mercyhurst all swept their respective series over Holy Cross, RIT and Bentley. Army and Canisius split their series, as did Robert Morris and Sacred Heart. Finally, Niagara dropped a pair of non-conference games.

The Yellow Jackets snagged a 4-3 win over Holy Cross in a mid-week matchup on Tuesday to open their series. Tobias Fladeby scored twice, including the game-winner, while Joel Kocur and Hugo Reinhardt also scored for AIC. Errka Vanska, Ryan Leibold and Neil Robinson scored for the Crusaders. Zackarias Skog registered 13 saves in the win.

AIC then captured a 4-2 win over the Crusaders in the rematch over the weekend. Kyle Stephan, Luka Maver, Blake Christensen and Jared Pike all scored for the Yellow Jackets in their second win of the week. Jack Surowiec and Matt Barry had the goals for Holy Cross. Skog registered 24 saves in his second victory of the week – both of which have helped propel AIC up in the Atlantic Hockey standings, where they now sit second.

Air Force outscored RIT 6-1 over the course of two games this weekend. Although RIT struck first in Friday’s game, the Falcons scored the next three, including one on the man advantage. Kieran Durgan, Evan Feno and Matt Pulver registered goals in Friday’s win, with Dan Willett scoring the lone goal of the weekend for the Tigers.

Feno then added a pair of goals on Saturday, with Evan Giesler also scoring for the Falcons in the 3-0 win. Billy Christopoulos had 48 saves over the course of the two wins, pushing Air Force up to the top of Atlantic Hockey.

Elsewhere, the Lakers nabbed two wins over Bentley, starting with a 5-3 victory Friday powered by a hat trick from Derek Barach. Joshua Lammon and Steven Ipri also scored for the Lakers, who registered a pair of power-play goals. Brendan Hamblet, Drew Callin and Matt Lombardozzi scored in the first period for Bentley, but they couldn’t maintain their momentum and fell.

In the rematch, the Lakers took an early 2-0 lead on two more goals from Barach, but couldn’t hold on Michael Zuffante and Tanner Jago scored on the power-play for Bentley, and it wasn’t until 16:39 of the third period that Mercyhurst would take the lead. Brendan Riley had the game-winning goal for the Lakers.

Army and Canisius split their weekend, with the Black Knights taking a 5-4 win Friday and the Griffs rallying for a 4-2 win Saturday. Daniel Haider, Dominic Franco, Dalton MacAfee, Zach Evancho and Mason Krueger all scored for Army in the win Friday. Nick Hutchison scored a pair for Canisius, while captain Ian Edmondson and Austin Alger also scored.

Dylan McLaughlin had a pair of goals Saturday, while Edmondson and Alger also registered goals. Tucker DeYoung and Trevor Fidler had the goals for Army, but Canisius was powered by a 31-save performance from goaltender Blake Weyrick in the win.

Robert Morris and Sacred Heart split their weekend series. Austin Magera had the game-winning goal for Sacred Heart in Friday’s win; Matt Tugnutt also scored. Saturday’s game required overtime to solve, with Michael Louria notching the game-winner for Robert Morris. Alex Tonge, Jordan Kaplan and Luke Lynch also registered goals over the weekend.

Finally, the Niagara Purple Eagles dropped a pair of games to non-conference for Western Michigan, falling by scores of 3-2 and 7-3. Justin Kendall and Eric Cooley scored for the Purple Eagles, while Noah Delmas had three goals over the course of the weekend.

Here are the Atlantic Hockey standings:

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