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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.


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)


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…)

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Oct. 14

Friday, October 14th, 2016

As the second weekend approaches, all Big Ten teams are in action. Michigan State starts its season while the Gophers will have an exhibition game against the NTDP. A couple teams are in one-game series, with Ohio State against Miami, Michigan at Ferris State and Penn State at Mercyhurst. Wisconsin hosts Boston College for a two game set and Michigan State will face Lake Superior State for a pair.

Michigan (1-1) at Ferris State (0-4): Oct. 15 at 7:07 p.m.

The Wolverines resume action at Ferris State. Michigan is 1-1 on the season with a total of seven goals, although it’s too early to know what that means. Freshman Will Lockwood has jumped in already and has a goal and an assist, while Max Shuart leads the team with three points. Both Zach Nagelvoort and Hayden Lavigne have started, and Lavigne has a shutout.

Ferris State is 0-4 on the season, dropping contests to Alabama Huntsville and Western Michigan. Craig Pefley has four points while both Mitch Maloney and Gerald Mayhew have two goals each. Darren Smith has started all four game and has a .904 save percentage.

It’s too early to know if Ferris State will be a better test for Michigan than Union was, but it should show if Lavigne’s success – and the team’s offense – was a fluke or a trend.

Prediction: Series split

Michigan State at Lake Superior State: Oct. 14 at 7:37 p.m.; Oct. 15 at 6:07 p.m.

The Spartans start their season with a series in the Upper Peninsula. Michigan State looks very different this season without its leading scorers and its netminder for the past several years. There are some bright spots in Mason Appleton, last year’s leading freshman scorer, and Jerad Rosburg, who’s back from injury.

Lake Superior is also starting its season this weekend. The Lakers played to a 3-3 tie in their exhibition game against Laurentian. Lake Superior is returning both its goaltenders from last year and its leading scorer. The Lakers finished last year with a 14-22 record, six wins more than the previous season.

The teams met last year for a two-game set, one that ended in a split. The Spartans lost the first game 4-2 before winning 2-0. Like Michigan State, Lake Superior has struggled recently. This weekend will be a test for both teams.

Prediction: Series split

Ohio State (1-0-1) at Miami (1-1): Oct. 15 at 8:05 p.m.

After a successful Ice Breaker Tournament, the Buckeyes resume their annual rivalry with Miami for one game. Ohio State is undefeated on the season after earning a surprising win over Denver last weekend. The Buckeyes have won some big games before, but they’ve struggled with consistency and iffy goaltending. Christian Frey started the first game but then split the second with Matt Tomkins.

Miami is 1-1 after splitting its series at Providence. Miami lost the first game 4-3 and won the second game 2-1. Several players are tied for two points, while freshman Ryan Larkin received both starts in net. He has a .906 save percentage.

Last year Miami swept the home-and-home series but the games were close, with Miami winning 3-2 and 3-1. The Buckeyes are off to a much better start this year than they were last season, though, when it took eight games for Ohio State to win.

Prediction: Miami wins

Penn State (1-1) at Mercyhurst: Oct. 14 at 7:05 p.m.

The Nittany Lions had a good start to their season. While they ended in a split that saw freshman Peyton Jones pulled from the loss, the Nittany Lions proved they can still score, especially against a good defensive team. The underclassmen are leading the offensive charge, and sophomore Andrew Sturtz has three points.

This is the first game of the season for Mercyhurst, which finished with a 17-15-4 record last year. Derek Barach, who scored 32 points last year, is back. Mercyhurst lost their freshman netminder Adam Carlson after he signed a pro contract, but netminder Brandon Wildung has experience in net.

If Penn State can keep up the scoring and play better defensively and in net, they have a good chance of winning.

Prediction: Penn State wins

Wisconsin (1-1) vs. Boston College (1-1): Oct. 14 at 7:07 p.m. CT; Oct. 16 at 3:07 p.m. CT

The Badgers return to the Kohl Center to host Boston College for a two-game series. Wisconsin put up nine goals last weekend, and Corbin McGuire, J.D. Greenway and Seamus Malone all have three points, while McGuire has three goals. But the Badgers also gave up eight goals, and Matt Jurusik has a .837 save percentage.

The Eagles suffered from a lot of roster turnover and dropped their first game of the season to Air Force 2-1. They rebounded with a 3-1 win over Denver and showed promise in net. Senior Austin Cangelosi leads the team with three points while Joe Woll has a .955 save percentage.
Boston College was a good team last year while Wisconsin was not, but BC lost a lot of its roster and the Badgers only got stronger. Even with a much different makeup, the Eagles will still be a challenge for Wisconsin.

Prediction: Series split.

Hockey East Random Thoughts of the Week (10/13/16)

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

– Clayton Keller has been the name almost everyone is talking about when it comes to BU, and for good reason. You’re not the No. 7 overall pick in the NHL Draft by accident. Keller could be in the NHL next season. To some extend, Patrick Harper’s incredible start to the season has been lost in the shuffle, what with him only being a fifth-round draft pick, and not a first-round pick like most of the other players on his team. Harper had two goals at Colgate on Saturday night, and three more in the exhibition. This isn’t a newfound skill for him, either. He had 20 goals in 27 prep games last season and 19 goals in 13 midget games. Between Avon Old Farms and the Neponset Valley River Rats U18 team, he’s been averaging almost one goal per game the last two seasons combined.


Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Oct. 10

Monday, October 10th, 2016

Five Big Ten teams opened play this weekend except for Michigan State. It’s early, but with a 6-3-1 record, the Big Ten already has a better non-conference record than it did at this time last season – and that Ohio State win over Denver could have huge implications come the end of the season.

Ohio State had the most interesting weekend. The Buckeyes first beat Denver – one of the top teams in the country – 3-2 at the Ice Breaker Tournament and then tied Air Force in the championship game. Probably no one expected Ohio State to beat Denver, but it’s even more shocking the Buckeyes limited the Pioneers to two goals. Christian Frey made 33 saves in the win. Against Air Force, Frey and Matt Tomkins split the start. Tomkins made 10 saves while Frey made 15 and allowed three goals.

Minnesota started the season 2-0, defeating both Alaska teams by a good margin. The Gophers’ wins weren’t surprising, as both Alaska and Alaska Anchorage have struggled and are in even more difficulty with the uncertain future of their programs. Minnesota defeated Alaska-Anchorage 6-0 and then beat Alaska 6-3. Jake Bischoff scored twice on Friday, while Tyler Sheehy netted two tallies on Sunday. Goaltender Eric Schierhorn assisted on one of them. It’s early, but Sheehy’s five points leads the team.

The Wolverines split with Union, giving up a 3-2 lead in the third period in a Friday night loss. They rebounded with a 4-0 win that included a pair of goals from James Sanchez. Zach Nagelvoort and Hayden Lavigne split starts.

Penn State also split, defeated St. Lawrence 4-2 and then losing 6-3. The freshman Peyton Jones played well in the win, recording five saves. But he was chased from the cage the next night after allowing three goals on eight shots.

Wisconsin earned a split too. After dropping the first game 3-2 against Northern Michigan, the Badgers won 6-5 in Tony Granato’s first win. Corbin McGuire scored twice, while Trent Frederic scored his first goal. McGuire had three goals on the weekend and Will Johnson had two. Matt Jurusik started both games but wasn’t tested much in the first. He made 25 saves in the win.

(After the jump: Michigan’s net, a promising start for Wisconsin and it’s still early) (more…)

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Oct. 6

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

College hockey officially kicks off this weekend for the rest of the nation and it marks the first regular-season games for Big Ten teams. Penn State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin all begin their non-conference competition while Michigan State has the lone bye.

Penn State vs. St. Lawrence: Oct. 6 at 7 p.m.; Oct. 7 at 7: p.m.

The Nittany Lions begin their regular season hosting St. Lawrence. These teams played last year at Pegula, skating to a 2-2 tie on the first night. On the next night, St. Lawrence won 4-2. The Saints were one of the biggest tests the Nittany Lions faced last year, and their defense was one of the only good ones that could stop Penn State’s offense. The Saints are still the same defensive team they were last year but lack some offense. But, St. Lawrence also lost its head coach and skates into the season with Mark Morris at its helm.

Penn State, meanwhile, lost a portion of its offense, defense, leadership group and its goaltenders. The Nittany Lions still have David Goodwin, a player who’s improved each season and led the team in scoring last year. Penn State is looking to improve defensively, but the team’s success depends on its freshmen, especially goaltender Peyton Jones.

Both teams are in interesting situations. For St. Lawrence, it’s adapting to a new head coach. For Penn State, it’s creating a cohesive group with a lot of new faces. The Saints’ defense and goaltending is hard to beat, though.

Prediction: St. Lawrence sweeps

Wisconsin vs. Northern Michigan: Oct. 7 at 7:07 p.m. CT, Oct. 8 at 7:07 p.m. CT

A new era of Badger hockey begins this weekend as the Badgers host Northern Michigan. The Wildcats and Badgers also played at the beginning of last season, with teams playing to a pair of low-scoring ties. Wisconsin won eight games last year while Northern Michigan won 15.

Both teams destroyed their opponents in exhibition games. The Wildcats won 10-1 against Victoria while the Badgers beat the same team by the same score. Wisconsin has its leading scorers returning in Grant Besse and Luke Kunin. The offensive talent is there, but the team needs to use it and needs to play better defensively. Northern Michigan lost its leading scorer but returns Dominick Shine, who had a career-high 30 points last season. The Wildcats also have goaltender Atte Tolvanen, who had a .929 save percentage last year.

It’s an early test to see if the Badgers can play a different style of hockey cohesively, but if the exhibition game is any indication, Wisconsin is already using its talent better than in seasons past.

Prediction: Wisconsin sweeps

Michigan vs. Union: Oct. 7 at 7:35 p.m., Oct. 8 at 7:35 p.m.

The Wolverines take the ice against Union to open their season. The Dutchmen, after winning the NCAA tournament three years ago, have struggled ever since. But this won’t be an easy test for the Wolverines, who lost the offensive power they used to win with. The teams played last year and the game ended in a 5-5 tie, illustrating Michigan’s lack of defense.

Michigan’s leading returning scorer is Alex Kile, but the team will also be without promising sophomore Cooper Marody. The Wolverines still have the same defensive and goaltending troubles in the past, so they might not be able to win a shootout against the Dutchmen. Union hasn’t been as offensively strong lately, but their leading scorer from last season, Mike Vecchione, is still with the team.

Since Michigan can’t outscore its opponents anymore, the key will be defense.

Prediction: Series split

Minnesota vs Alaska Fairbanks: Oct. 7 at 7:07 p.m. AT; at Alaska at 4:30 p.m. AT

After not playing any exhibition games, Minnesota opens its season with a trip to Alaska. The Gophers have only played Alaska Fairbanks four times and last played Alaska Anchorage in 2011-12.

The Gophers had some offseason losses but retained a good portion of its roster. In net they still have Alaska native Eric Schierhorn who could be better this year but turned in some good performances for the Gophers last season. Minnesota has retained captain and leading scorer Justin Kloos, who has 107 points in his three-year career.

This is a tumultuous time for Alaska hockey, as a budget crisis in the state has led to budget cuts at both schools, leaving the future of both hockey programs is a question mark. The Nanooks’ lost their top three leading scorers but return Marcus Basara, who posted 18 points last year. The Seawolves have Matt Anholt, who recorded 22 points last season.

Last season it took Minnesota a few non-conference games to start winning, but with most of the team returning it should be easier for the Gophers to adjust this year.

Prediction: Minnesota sweeps

Ohio State vs. Denver at 7:35 p.m. CT; vs. Air Force/Boston College at TBA (Ice Breaker Invitational)

The Buckeyes begin their season with the biggest test out of all Big Ten teams. Denver, a Frozen Four member last year, is one of the top teams in college hockey this season. The Pioneers lost some key players but have skaters like Dylan Gambrell and still have goaltender Danny Jaillet. The Buckeyes have struggled for the past few seasons but have some of their scoring back and added a few good freshmen.

Ohio State will either face Air Force or Boston College afterward. Air Force finished high in Atlantic Hockey last year but failed to make the NCAA tournament. Boston College did, and made a Frozen Four appearance, but lost much of its roster to graduation and early departures.

It’s a tough test for the Buckeyes to start the season, and they might not be ready to handle them.

Prediction: Ohio State loses both games

AIC’s Move to Downtown A Big Step

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

AIC announced today that it plans to play all of its hockey games at the MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield, Mass.

That’s a big step for an AIC program that, until recently, looked like it was on life support.

In just the past few months, AIC has hired former Army assistant coach Eric Lang, an AIC alum, to lead the program after Gary Wright stepped down. Now the Yellow Jackets are moving on from the outdated Olympia Arena and into state-of-the-art facilities in a renovated arena in Springfield, where they will share the ice with the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds.

Even better, the MassMutual Center is only a little more than one mile from AIC’s campus.

The new home should help AIC’s recruiting efforts immensely. In prior seasons, AIC generally went the entire season without a single commit on its list, instead recruiting mostly scraps from the rest of Division I once the season was over. The result was teams that routinely finished at or near the bottom of the RPI. AIC’s last season with a winning percentage above .500 was 1994, a mere 22 years ago.

The recruiting strategy started to change, thanks mostly to the efforts of assistant coaches Mike Towns and Stephen Wiedler, both of whom Lang has retained on his coaching staff. This season AIC had a handful of commits before the end of the season, and I suspect that Lang is going to have his staff be more active in recruiting moving forward.

In Wright’s defense, it also seems like the college is more invested in the program now than it ever was during his tenure.

At a time where RIT and Canisius have built new buildings, and Bentley has a new arena on the way, this is a necessary move for a program like AIC if it is serious about competing in Atlantic Hockey. It’s also a good move for college hockey. AIC should be able to attract more non-conference opponents  for home games now that they are at an adequate facility. With many Hockey East schools in the region, there are a lot of natural non-conference opponents for AIC in what could develop into multi-year agreements.

While it’s perhaps the longest of long shots, there’s also Hockey East’s situation to consider. The league will be at 11 schools after this upcoming season when Notre Dame moves to the Big Ten. AIC has not been one of the programs discussed for possible expansion, but if AIC is willing to invest in 18 scholarships, and plays at the MassMutual Center, it’s a similar situation to UConn prior to it joining Hockey East a few years ago.

Most Hockey East fans want Quinnipiac, however most sources close to the league say that as of right now, that’s not happening. And from Quinnipiac’s standpoint, what does Hockey East have to offer them that they aren’t already receiving as part of the ECAC?

Again, it’s the longest of long shots, but there was a zero percent chance of Hockey East ever considering AIC prior to this offseason. There is still a lot of work for AIC to do, too. But now, with today’s news and what appears to be a serious investment from the college, I wonder if Hockey East would at least take a pitch meeting. Before this, AIC wouldn’t even get into the same room as Hockey East. I think now, the league might at least answer the phone if AIC called.

Before Twitter overreacts, it’s probably a 1% chance, but it’s a chance nonetheless. In college hockey the last few years, stranger things have happened.

The Right Choice For St. Lawrence

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

When I first heard Mark Morris’ name pop up, it was early in the process. I included Morris in my preliminary look at candidates that should be involved. It was based mostly on his North Country connections. I said then and I will say here, Mark Morris was the best, most seasoned candidate that wanted this job. Remember, I have seen all the candidates and I say this with plenty of confidence.

Now here we are with the former Clarkson coach, who led that program to new heights, being announced as the head coach at the Golden Knights’ biggest rival St. Lawrence… Who would have ever thought this was even remotely possible about ten seasons ago, five or even last year?

I suggest you read CHN editor Adam Wodon’s piece last week on why this move was a move SLU should make. There we were getting the idea that this was happening and he wanted to start the conversation on it… Enjoy the other perspective, while you read mine… He comes from a past perspective on this, having reported on Clarkson during his firing, while I come from the present having watched Morris’ work with Manchester.

It was hardly a shock when I learned Mark Morris applied for the job (I was the first to report that), it was not a shock when I learned he was the favorite and it certainly wasn’t a surprise to me that he quickly went to the top of the list of candidates. A guy with 300 wins as a college hockey coach, 9 appearances to the NCAA tournament and 374 wins at the AHL level should have never been dismissed.

His success speaks loudly of the person that he is. Quite frankly, accept it or not, everywhere he has gone he has won. If you polled people about a coaching hire, I would assume they would say they want someone that could win and win a lot.

Why would St. Lawrence, a place close to his home, be any different? Morris wanted this job, because it offered him a way to be closer to his family that he has been away from for over a decade. For what it is worth, isn’t that something that would  make a guy strive to be better? He wants this to work, he wants to prove Clarkson was wrong for firing him over a decade ago and of course isn’t there a lot of pride in knowing he will be around a school that is close to home, where his friends and family will be around for every game? I would think so…

Of course the character and coaching style were always going to be in question. Will there be a loss or more among the current roster and commits, I assume so because it happens in nearly every coaching change. Know what I say to that? A player that leaves a program in this regard probably doesn’t want to be in that program to begin with. Ya coaches play a huge role in where a player goes, but if they truly want to be there they will stay and attempt to learn, regardless of who the coach is.

Any player that wants to successful would want to play under Morris. He has developed players at every level. Just look at the Los Angeles Kings for example, he built those Stanley cups in Manchester, New Hampshire when he was the coach of the Kings AHL affiliate, the Monarchs. Many of those players that he coached in Manchester, ended up winning two cups in LA. During the 2014-15 LA Stanley Cup run, 13 of those players had played for Morris in Manchester and in 2012, 14 were former Monarchs. Of course many of his players at Clarkson also went on to successful careers, which should not be forgotten.

Now there are many SLU fans that won’t like this move. That is fine, of course, but at the end of the day if they really support the program they will come around to really love this guy as a coach. There may be a difficult transition for those that don’t think this is right, because he is a Clarkson guy, but eventually those ties will be forgotten, to some degree.

They may not like to hear it, but this was the best move for St. Lawrence not only from a coaching perspective but a marketing perspective as well. The Saints brand will now be easier to sell in the North Country, as a whole, and heck as a program Durocher hit a home run here because there may be many locals that weren’t drawn to SLU that now will be. You have to think too, Morris was affordable because of his local ties and the fact he wanted to be home (I do not know).

Of course comes the issue of age, with Morris being 58. Times have changed and those who think Morris will retire at 65 are probably mistaken. If he is successful, I assume he will be around for a while. I don’t even question whether he will be successful, I totally expect him to take the current roster to new heights this coming season. He will be around longer than those other guys that are younger than him and he is the best coach that was available.

It seems like a win for SLU, in my book because we just saw what happened when a promising coach that was an alum just did, he left for supposed greener and bigger pastures. I respect Carvel’s decision, as a friend of his, but at the end of the day it shows just what the SLU job has become, a stepping stone in the hockey world.

One of the things that draws me to St. Lawrence is the camaraderie of the area and the close knit nature of the community. In recent weeks, as this move started to become likely I have seen a lot of divisive, unhappy fans and alums come to the forefront. It concerns me, because this is one of the ECAC’s premier programs. I really hope that everyone can rally around this move, whether they like it or not, and support their Saints. I hope the players can appreciate why this move would be made and I also hope they realize how much they are learning from this guy who can teach them a lot.

My hope of course, is that SLU is the same place that I have come to love as a reporter. I know where I will be when Clarkson and SLU play for the first time this season. By then, I hope all SLU fans are behind this move and are unchanged in their opinions of the program. It seems like a large task, but it will happen and I hope it is sooner rather than later. The Saints will always be the Saints, or they should be…

So It’s Been a Tough Week at Boston College …

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

One week ago today, the Boston College Eagles lost to Quinnipiac in the Frozen Four, with Michael Garteig turning aside a pair of Ian McCoshen shots inside of the final 75 seconds.

Since, there’s been a mass exodus.

Teddy Doherty and Travis Jeke are the only series losses for BC due to graduation. Brendan Silk graduates as well, but he only appeared in one game and Peter McMullen dressed in 15 games, but didn’t record a point and only had one shot on goal.

It’s all the early signings that have haunted BC.