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ECAC Notebook: 11/20

Tuesday, November 20th, 2018

Quinnipiac made a big statement over the weekend with a sweep of Colgate and Cornell, while Princeton faltered twice on the same trip. What seemed last week like two teams heading in the opposite directions, has done a 360 with the Bobcats really looking good. this weekend Clarkson also had a really good weekend against Michigan Tech, sweeping the Huskies of the WCHA out of the North Country. The other North Country team, SLU, picked up a much needed win against Minnesota on Friday night, in a great turnaround from a loss to Mercyhurst, but fell to the Gophers on Saturday night.

We are another week into the season, but the standings are still a mess. Although QU is sitting at the top with eight points, but the uneven nature of the schedule means that Cornell is two points back, with a pair of games in hand, while Dartmouth is also two points back and has played one less game. Interestingly enough, while QU has played six league games, the two north country schools have played just two. I wouldn’t write off Clarkson from being near the top at the end because they have played four less games and they have looked really good, at times, which I will talk about below. As I keep reminding everyone, look at standings and pairwise with a load of caution until say Christmas time. 

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ECAC Notebook: Nov. 12

Monday, November 12th, 2018

Another week, another one filled with interesting results. The Princeton Tigers appear to be the team to beat in the ECAC right now. The Tigers are 3-0-1 in the league and recently seem to score just for fun.  Behind them, a mess of teams has been on-again, off-again in recent weeks. Like Quinnipiac and Dartmouth. The Big Green lost to Brown on Friday, but beat Yale on Saturday. Likewise, Quinnipiac defeated RPI and lost to Union.

Since the RPI sweep, the Dutchmen have just a lone loss against Princeton. It is easy to see now: Those losses to the Engineers will prove costly. Cornell is obviously a team to watch, but the team has only played two league games. The Big Red swept Northern Michigan this weekend to make it four straight wins. Colgate deserved a better fate on Saturday against Ohio State, while Brown has looked better so far.

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ECAC Notebook 11/4

Sunday, November 4th, 2018

Another week in the books, but this one lacked big surprises. Cornell got back on track with a pair of wins, like I predicted they would. So did Union. I argued that both teams will still be good regardless of results in one week, and it seems both have come true to their identity. Union picked up a pair of wins against Clarkson and SLU, at home, while Cornell held serve against Brown and Yale. Quinnipiac got tripped up by Dartmouth, which provided the Bobcats their first loss, and Rensselaer went 1-1 after win against SLU and a loss to Clarkson.

It is much too early to talk about standings and stuff, but it is interesting to see RPI at the top after the struggles they have had in recent seasons. Dave Smith has instilled confidence in that group, which is only growing. A 6-0 setback to Clarkson on Friday was tough but the Engineers provided a good bounce-back in a 3-2 win against SLU. The pairwise is literally the same, you can look at it but it means zilch until about Christmas.

Without further ado, here are my thoughts:

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ECAC Picks 11/1

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

The first full weekend of league action begins this weekend with some juicy matchups. Princeton at Dartmouth is probably the game of the weekend, but Harvard hosting the Tigers and Quinnipiac are both right on its heels. In New York, it seems like the matchup of the week will be Union, who will try to recover from its weekend sweep at the hands of RPI, against Clarkson. As usual, league games will be tight and there will be a surprise here and there.

Friday

Brown (0-2-0, 0-1-0 ECAC) at Colgate (2-3-0, 0-0-0); 7pm.

Bruno probably deserved a better fate in both games it played last weekend, but it was unable to get a result. The Raiders started 2-0, but have lost three in a row, and will look to get on track. Gate won both meetings last season and will seek to regain the momentum it had to start the year. Despite the two game sweep of New Hampshire opening weekend, the Raiders will be looking for goals, as they have scored just six in five games.

Gate 3-2

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ECAC Notebook 11/1

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

After a decent first three weekends for the league, this weekend turned downright scary for teams like Cornell and Union, both of whom were expected to be near the top of the league. Cornell, surprisingly, gave up nine goals to Michigan State in a weekend sweep, while Union dominated both games but got swept by its rival, Rensselaer. It was all a weird weekend for many teams in the league, which included a 13-goal thriller for Dartmouth and Harvard, Brown playing well enough to win both games but getting swept, and Quinnipiac scoring nine goals against AIC on Saturday night.

Without further ado, here are my thoughts for the week:

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NCHC Oct. 26-27: Three Takeaways

Monday, October 29th, 2018

Fighting Hawks gaining momentum

The season started off slowly for North Dakota, and Brad Berry’s group looked particularly out of sorts after a 7-4 loss to Minnesota State on Oct. 19. The next night, faced with a tie game entering the third period, UND rebounded for a 4-3 win against the Mavericks, and the Fighting Hawks carried that momentum into last night’s contest against long-time rival Minnesota, in a game played at Orleans Arena in Paradise, NV.

In front of a large contingent of traveling fans (of course), junior defenseman Colton Poolman scored his first two goals of the season (and just the 10th and 11th of his career) to lead UND to a 3-1 win. And in a game full of drama (66 combined penalty minutes), senior defenseman Hayden Shaw chipped in with three assists. The victory also gave freshman goaltender Adam Scheel back-to-back wins heading into next weekend’s home series against Wisconsin.

It’s early, but a win like this can prove to be defining, and North Dakota is playing well in all phases as it gains momentum heading into November.

Omaha defense in shambles

After losing 8-2 to Notre Dame last Saturday, UNO allowed 13 goals in a pair of blowout road losses at Arizona State this weekend. Still winless this season, the Mavericks have lost five in a row after a season-opening tie against Union, and their 33 goals allowed is the worst in the nation.

A disturbing statistic is that the Mavericks have allowed a goal inside the first seven minutes of the first period in each of their five consecutive losses. It’s often snowballed from there — in each of the last three games, UNO has allowed three first period goals each time. Those deficits are clearly too large to overcome, for a team that lost forwards David Pope, Tyler Vesel, and Jake Randolph to graduation after that trio combined for 99 points last season.

It hasn’t helped, either, that UNO has averaged 16.8 penalty minutes per game thus far (9th most in the nation), while enjoying success on the penalty kill only 67.6 percent of the time.

It’s a recipe for disaster, obviously, and something has to change quickly. I picked Omaha to finish last in the NCHC this year, and unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s going to happen if things don’t turn around defensively. UNO hosts Miami this weekend.

UMD, St. Cloud Show Off Depth

Minnesota Duluth is, right now, the best team in the nation after sweeping Notre Dame on the road this weekend, in a rematch of last season’s national championship game.

The sweep punctuated a 6-1-1 start to the season in nonconference play, and over the weekend, UMD scored six times from six different goal scorers, and showed off its depth in all facets of the game on each night. The Bulldogs also held the Irish to a 1-for-10 clip on the man-advantage over the weekend.

Nine different players for UMD have scored multiple times already, while only one (Scott Perunovich) is averaging over a point per game. The story is similar for St. Cloud State, with eight multi-goal scorers at this young stage of the season — spread throughout the lineup. The Huskies’ leading scorer is, like UMD, a defenseman — Jack Ahcan. St. Cloud appeared to be heading to a sixth straight win to start the season, but let a two-goal lead slip away on Saturday at Northeastern.

Still, much of each team’s success was expected before the season started, and each team has excelled at translating those expectations into results. But what is emerging as a significant storyline is that each team has enjoyed contributions from key freshmen — Noah and Jackson Cates for UMD, and Sam Hentges and Nolan Walker for St. Cloud State. All four are players to watch as conference play begins this weekend. The Huskies travel to Colorado College, while UMD is idle before hosting CC next weekend.

 

 

ECAC Picks 10/25

Thursday, October 25th, 2018

I have been pretty good doing Ken Schott’s weekly fan picks, where I have a record of 18-3-1. What I pick there I will also post here weekly, with a bit of a blurb on each game. This week features the season opening weekend for the Ivy League squads and the opening of conference play. I am especially interested to see how Cornell fares against Michigan State, while a fun Princeton squad opens up against a free-shooting Penn State team.

Season Record: 18-3-1

Last Week: 8-1-0

Friday

Yale (0-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) at Brown (0-0-0, 0-0-0), 7 pm ET

Yale returns much of its squad and has added some talent coming into the year, while Brown should be pretty strong on the backend. It is always fun to see how the Ivies start off and given it is against each other, the rust should be evident everywhere.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Oct. 23

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018

The season is fully underway now and all Big Ten teams have taken the ice. Weirdly, every Big Ten team has earned a win so far this season. Penn State, Notre Dame and Minnesota are the only “undefeated teams,” while Ohio State and Wisconsin each have three wins.

To clarify, Minnesota may be undefeated, but the Gophers have only played in two games. But the win and tie came against defending champion Minnesota-Duluth. The Wolverines and Spartans also have a win apiece.

Even though there hasn’t been much action yet there’s still been some action, so here are my thoughts so far:

Chill. Nothing that happens now matters

OL it does actually, and some of these results will most likely play a part at season’s end when the final PairWise is being calculated. But these results don’t tell us much about how good or how bad any team actually is.

I seldom use the term “upset” in college hockey, but I never use it in October. Teams are still finding out who they are on the ice and some teams are only playing their first or second game. So it’s not really unusual for a top seed or a so-called favorite to drop a game or two. That team could still end up winning the national championship.

The same thing goes for teams that are winning right now. Taking home a few in the first few weeks of the season could be legitimate or it could just be a fluke. We really don’t know until later on in the year.

Motzko is just what Minnesota needed

I know, I know, just as I wrote above that winning early on in the season doesn’t necessarily mean that a team is good. But I still count Minnesota’s effort against the Bulldogs as a positive sign, especially given how Minnesota has struggled early on against non-conference opposition in the previous few seasons. The Gophers have always had talent, and it seems so far like Motzko can take that talent and translate that to wins.

But, like I said earlier, we’ll know more later.

Liam Folkes is really good

Liam Folkes is one of the most underrated players in a really talented conference. He scored one of the most important goals in Penn State history a year and half ago and continued that success into his sophomore year. It’s only been four games into the season and it looks like he’ll surpass his career totals yet again. Folkes broke out for four points — two goals and two assists – in last weekend’s game against Niagara.

So far he has five points in four games. Last year he had 23 in 38.

He’s the subject of my latest feature, so I asked Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky what has made him so good and why he’s improved instead of suffering from a sophomore slump. Stay tuned for that…

ECAC Notebook 10/21

Sunday, October 21st, 2018

Friday night was arguably one of the better night’s the ECAC has had in non-conference play in a while. Union picked up a road win against Northeastern behind a pair of Brett Supinski goals, while Quinnipiac beat Boston College and Clarkson had a big win against Wisconsin. Add in St. Lawrence, who picked up a win against Holy Cross, and ECAC teams went 4-0 on the night. It may seem a bit early to talk about pairwise, but this night will prove crucial when the Pairwise rankings come into play later in the season.  Saturday was just so-so, but Union finishing off the road sweep in Boston was a big weekend for the Dutchmen and one that will put the league coaches on notice.

One thing that has become obvious in the early going, is that the league should have eight or nine really good teams, while the bottom three (Brown, RPI and St. Lawrence) might see some struggles. Union, Clarkson, Colgate and Quinnipiac are a combined 11-3-1 in their opening games, while RPI is 0-3-0 and SLU is 1-3-0. Honestly, this is a really good position for the league to be in with five of my top seven teams yet to drop the puck on their seasons. Obviously, time will tell on what will actually happen but going forward the league looks good. (more…)

NCHC Final Weekend: Playoff Races, Scoring Titles

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

The NCHC wraps up its regular season this weekend while the other five conferences start their conference tournaments. Here’s a look at the storylines for this weekend in terms of playoff positioning, and the scoring titles up for grabs.

First, here are the current NCHC standings:

NCHC
Conference Overall
GP W-L-T SOW PTS GF-GA GP  W-L-T GF-GA
1 St. Cloud State 22 15-4-3 1 49 87-54 32 21-6-5 122-78
2 Denver 22 11-6-5 4 42 67-47 32 17-8-7 104-67
3 Minnesota-Duluth 22 12-10-0 36 74-51 34 18-13-3 109-75
4 North Dakota 22 8-9-5 2 31 66-62 34 14-11-9 98-82
5 Nebraska-Omaha 22 9-12-1 28 70-92 32 16-14-2 113-121
Western Michigan 22 9-12-1 28 73-90 32 14-16-2 106-118
Colorado College 22 7-11-4 3 28 59-76 32 13-14-5 90-103
8 Miami 22 6-13-3 1 22 56-80 32 11-17-4 89-108

 

St. Cloud State has wrapped up the Penrose Cup as the NCHC regular season champion and will therefore be the No. 1 seed in the NCHC tournament. The Huskies will likely host Miami in the NCHC quarterfinals (a best-of-three series) next weekend.

As far as I can tell, the only way this doesn’t happen — based on the NCHC tiebreaker scenarios — is if Miami sweeps Denver on the road this weekend (winning in regulation or the first overtime) AND Western Michigan does the same to Colorado College AND Minnesota-Duluth does the same to Nebraska-Omaha. That would leave Miami, CC, and Omaha in a three-way tie for last place with 28 points, and CC would finish as the 8th seed based on having fewer regular season conference wins than Miami. But again… three weekend sweeps with no games going to overtime, including a Miami sweep of Denver… is probably not going to happen. So you can all but pencil in a trip for the RedHawks to St. Cloud next weekend.

Denver will be the No. 2 seed and their second round opponent is to be determined by this weekend’s games. And Minnesota-Duluth will host a first round playoff series, too, likely as the third seed, but can drop to fourth if — for example — the Bulldogs get swept by Omaha AND North Dakota (a team win only two wins in its last 11 games) sweeps St. Cloud State.

Of course, the real intrigue comes down to which team ends up with the final home-ice spot for the NCHC quarterfinals — North Dakota, CC, Western Michigan, or Omaha. The fact that CC could technically finish with a home-ice spot OR finish last in the conference shows how wild the NCHC has been this season. As you can see from the standings above, North Dakota controls its own destiny, but hosting the No. 1 team in the country will be a big challenge. Expect the aforementioned tiebreakers to come into play to ultimately determine playoff seeding. There’s no easy matchup in the league, but teams are certainly going to want to avoid finishing seventh — which would mean a trip to the reigning national champions, Denver.

And lastly. this weekend for North Dakota and Omaha is huge on the national stage as well, with each team squarely inside the NCAA Pairwise bubble at the moment.

SCORING TITLES

Heading into the weekend, Denver’s Henrik Borgstrom leads the conference with 30 points in NCHC play, but CC’s Nick Halloran and Omaha’s David Pope (who leads the conference with 14 goals scored, 11 of which have come on the power play) are certainly within striking distance for the scoring title:

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