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Three Things I Think: ECAC 1/18

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Nearing the midway point of the ECAC season, there are two teams that are a combined 18-1-1 in league play. Those two teams, of course, are Clarkson who is 10-0-0 in the ECAC, while Cornell is 8-1-1. The parity, or lack thereof, in the league this year is concerning to me. It sure seems that Clarkson and Cornell are going to be a runaway pair, which I will discuss below. Of course the St. Lawrence situation is tough and they have yet to win a league game. I assume they will before the end of the year, but time is running out to do so.

In terms of the pairwise, Clarkson and Cornell are solid and if the tourney started today both would be one seeds. Clarkson moved as high as the top spot over the weekend, but Notre Dame took that spot back when all the results came back in. Both, the Golden Knights and Big Red will have a tough time keeping those lofty positions because of the league’s record in non-conference play, if they were to lose games down the stretch. Clarkson has a better chance to keep it because it has five wins against teams in the top-17 of pairwise, not including its win against Cornell. I would also look for Harvard to maybe get in the picture in the coming weeks, which I will also discuss below.

Without further ado, here are my thoughts for the week, some predictions for the weekend and power rankings.

Below the Break: Lack of Parity in the league, Harvard Set for a Run, Princeton hasn’t been the team I thought they would be (more…)

Friday Thoughts Around the ECAC and Union’s Bennett Goes Off

Saturday, January 13th, 2018

Last night, a lot went on throughout the ECAC and I figured I would give an update on some of my thoughts heading into a full slate of Saturday games. Clarkson is now the top ranked Pairwise team in the country after its, 4-1, win against Union on the road. The Golden Knights have won 13 games in a row and are now 9-0-0 in league play. Clarkson is first in the standings and have a three-point lead on Harvard/Cornell. Union fell to fourth in the standings, while Colgate is right on its heels. There is a steep divide between the top five teams and Dartmouth in sixth, with a four point difference.

Clarkson Rolls On. Who ends the Winning Run?

Each time I see Clarkson, I feel as though they only get better. Despite having some rough patches in the second period on Friday night, the Golden Knights stood behind goaltender Jake Kielly and pulled away in the third.

No matter what Union threw at them, I never thought they were losing that game and it seemed like they were comfortable.

The Golden Knights are deep at forward, have great goaltending, work hard and their defense is exemplary at both ends of the ice. Teams with this much balance go far in the tournaments and one should think Tech should continue on this roll. There is so much to like about this team and if you listen to Union coach Rick Bennett, he would tell you the same: (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC 1/1

Monday, January 1st, 2018

A few weeks ago, it wouldn’t have been suggested that St. Lawrence would head three hours east and win the Catamount Cup but over the weekend the Saints did just that. A win against Vermont was a positive development for the team that went 1-14-1 in the first half, the fact it was able to beat UMass-Lowell the next night showed that anything can happen in college hockey and anyone can beat any team. Considering what that program has gone through, it will go down as a bright spot in a season that is largely gone south. Below, I will talk about whether it is a sign of things to come or whether it might be a mirage.

Dartmouth and Princeton were two other teams that had good weekends, as the Tigers picked up two ties against St. Cloud State while Dartmouth had a win/tie against UNH and Minnesota-Duluth, respectively. I will talk about Princeton below, but I will wait on Dartmouth for a feature later this week. Both Harvard and Yale had up-and-down weekends, while Union and RPI struggled to the tune of two losses.

The weekend’s results continued the rocky non-conference results that the ECAC has put together this season, but the saving grave has been teams like Cornell and Clarkson have been impressive. That is why both teams are currently in the top-4 of the pairwise, while others have fallen back. It will take a be tough to get more than two teams into the NCAA’s, but it is possible. The league has played a tough non-conference schedule, as a whole, and has fared decently well against top teams.

Without further ado here are my thoughts of the week.

Below the break: Great Response from Yale, Princeton needs to build on last weekend, Can St. Lawrence sustain it? (more…)

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.

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.

Friendship Four in Belfast is Quite the Experience

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

I was skeptical of the Friendship Four tournament in Belfast, Northern Ireland a few years ago when it was introduced to the college hockey landscape, and honestly many coaches and programs didn’t want to subject their teams to the travel, either. But three years have passed and over the weekend I quickly learned why Hockey East and ECAC coaches should be flocking in droves to do this. It has become one of the most successful holiday tournaments.

The Friday afternoon match that pitted Clarkson and RPI saw probably 4,000 people. Most of the crowd was comprised of school children from local schools that hosted the players during the week, where the teams taught them about hockey and why it is a great sport to play. (more…)

Three Things To Be Thankful For: Big Ten

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

Since it’s Thanksgiving, I decided to put together a list of three things the Big Ten and its members/associates should be thankful for. Right now Notre Dame leads the standings with 12 points, Minnesota is second with 11 and Wisconsin is third with 10. Michigan has nine, Penn State has six and Ohio State and Michigan State each have three.

It’s too early to look at the Pairwise, but we can, so we might as well. Minnesota, as usual, leads the Big Ten at No. 7. But Michigan State is right behind them at No. 10. Michigan is No. 13, Wisconsin No. 16 and Ohio State No. 18.

Last weekend featured almost a full non-conference slate, but the teams resume conference play this weekend as Ohio State plays Michigan, Michigan State plays Penn State and Minnesota plays Notre Dame. Wisconsin hosts Mercyhurst.

(more…)

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)

(more…)

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…)