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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)

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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…)

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Nov. 2

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

It’s November, leaves are on the ground and all but two teams have started conference play. The Big Ten has a record of 26-12-3 against non-conference opponents for a winning percentage of .671, which is best in the country.

The Wolverines and Nittany Lions split. Penn State edged Michigan 5-4 in overtime before the Wolverines earned a 5-2 win the night after. Michigan State swept Lake Superior State, throwing up 10 goals over the weekend. Don’t look now, but Michigan State’s offense is tied for 12th with an average of 3.50 goals per game.

The Gophers swept Clarkson, winning 3-1 and 2-1. Notre Dame split with Nebraska-Omaha in a couple of high-scoring games. The Buckeyes swept the Colonials and are off to a hot start, much like they were last season. Ohio State has won four games in a row and has just one loss this season.

Conference action this weekend features Minnesota vs. Michigan State and Notre Dame at Ohio State. Michigan will host in-state rival Ferris State, Penn State will host Mercyhurst and Wisconsin will host North Dakota.

Notre Dame’s Jake Evans leads the country with 15 points.

(After the jump: Penn State leads the conference, Who’s going to stay consistent and Injuries)

Penn State’s at the top

If you looked at Penn State’s overall schedule, this would be weird. The Nittany Lions sit at an even .500 and lost to American International, but they’re the only team that has won two Big Ten games. They’re also the only team that’s played in more than two.

Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio State have all played in two conference games and they’ve all won one. Michigan State and Notre Dame have yet to play a conference match, although that will change this weekend.

Who’s going to stay consistent?

The Big Ten had a rough week a few weeks ago, but the conference still has a pretty good non-conference record. Some teams have fared quite well for themselves so far, although strength of schedule for the most part is so-so.

The hottest team in the Big Ten right now is probably Ohio State, which is taking advantage of a great season from Sean Romeo so far. We saw this from Ohio State last year, though, and that dipped as the season went on. This time I actually think the Buckeyes can keep it up, but that rests on Romeo.

The other team that’s doing quite well for itself is… Michigan State. But again, strength of schedule plays a part. Even so, when you’re a new team with not many skilled players and you lack offense, defense and solid goaltending, a 4-2-0 record under a new coach isn’t bad. Will this hold up? Probably not.

Notre Dame’s depth isn’t here yet

The Fighting Irish, despite losing Anders Bjork and Cal Petersen, still entered the season as an extremely deep team with talent. The problem is, Notre Dame hasn’t been healthy so far this year. Andrew Oglevie missed two games over the weekend with an injury. Junior Joe Wegwerth has missed two contests. Just 10 players have played in all eight games this year.

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Oct. 26

Thursday, October 26th, 2017

The past weekend was not a great one for the Big Ten, featuring a few splits. Michigan State split with Western Michigan, Penn State split with AIC, the Gophers split with North Dakota, Notre Dame split with Sacred Heart, Wisconsin split with Northern Michigan. Ohio State and Michigan were the only teams to sweep their opponents, UMass and Vermont, respectively.

There were some other odd things that happened, like Michigan State socring six goals in one game. There were some lackluster defensive performances from Penn State, Notre Dame and Wisconsin, who allowed five, six and five goals in one game, respectively.

The Big Ten, though, still has the best inter-conference record with a winning percentage of .629. Most of those wins have come against Hockey East (although the bottom half of the league).

Michigan will travel to Penn State this weekend, Michigan State will host Lake Superior State, the Gophers will host Clarkson, Nebraska-Omaha, the Buckeyes will play Robert Morris and the Badgers will host St. Lawrence.

(After the jump: These losses will hurt, who’s giving up the least goals and good old inconsistency and Michigan State’s offense)

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Three Things I Think: ECAC, Oct. 22

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

It always seems to come quick, but now that week three has gone and passed the Ivy League teams will finally join the fray. The early season has been interesting in terms of the league, but a few things are becoming quite clear: Quinnipiac might be a different team in terms of style than we expected, Clarkson has picked up some great wins behind goaltending from Jake Kielly, RPI is much improved, and St. Lawrence has been unable to catch steam with a brutal schedule.

Clarkson has led the way in the early non-conference play at 4-1-1, while Quinnipiac has gone 3-1-0. Union got off to an 0-5-0 start but swept its weekend against Niagara and RIT to improve to 2-5-0. Overall the conference has had tough sledding in the early non-conference period, but many of the teams have played tough schedules, like SLU. So far ECAC teams are 12-16-6.

Below the break I will discuss Clarkson’s hot start, SLU’s poor run of form and RPI’s boost in energy in the early going. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Atlantic Hockey, October 18

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

The Atlantic Hockey season is well underway, with each team having hit the ice at least once in game action. While several teams are still waiting on their first conference action, there are already a few standouts in the standings and statistics just a few short weeks in.

It’s obviously still early, but Army sits atop the Atlantic Hockey standings after winning a pair over AIC. Air Force, the 2017 conference champions, are awaiting their first conference game.

Here are the Atlantic Hockey standings:

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

(After the jump: who’s hot — and who’s… not)

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Pairwise Live Blog Bracket Projection

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

CHN managing editor Adam Wodon posted a bracket projection here, and he breaks down how the process is supposed to go. So, we’ll direct you there to read his bracket and learn more on the process.

My bracket differs a little bit from Adam’s, but we agree on almost everything.

Here’s what I came up with:

PROVIDENCE
1. Minnesota vs. 4. Providence
2. Boston University vs. 3. Penn State

MANCHESTER
1. Harvard vs. 13. Notre Dame
2. UMass Lowell vs. 3. Cornell

FARGO
1. Denver vs. 4. Michigan Tech
2. Union vs. 3. North Dakota

CINCINNATI
1. Minnesota Duluth vs. 4. Ohio State
2. Western Michigan vs. 3. Air Force

The only thing we disagree on is what the committee will do with Providence and Manchester. Adam and I have the same Fargo and Cincinnati brackets. We both have BU-Penn State in Providence and we both have Lowell-Cornell in Manchester.

I have Minnesota-Providence in Providence and Harvard-Notre Dame in Manchester. Adam has it flipped.

I could certainly see them using Adam’s bracket. I flipped it here because I think the committee places a value on placing Providence in Providence. While I think that Harvard and BU could carry that region for attendance by themselves — and Penn State is only a little more than 400 miles away — I think the committee will want the security blanket of putting the Friars in the Providence regional. If they do, then it makes sense to put Harvard in Manchester with Lowell, in order to give that regional two “local” teams in order to draw attendance.