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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:

Conference Overall
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.


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:


Close Battles Aplenty in ECAC’s Final Weekend

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018

Going into the final weekend, the Cleary Cup is Cornell’s to lose. For Union to catch them, the Big Red would need to lose in a sweep. Beyond the top of the standings, the races are close. Cornell, Union, Clarkson and Harvard will own the byes, but positioning is up for grabs. The only way Union can win the Cleary Cup would be a win against Colgate on Friday night, a Cornell loss for a second time this season against lowly RPI, and a victory over the Big Red at home on Saturday. It is possible, but Saturday will probably end up pretty insignificant, and then we will think of what could have been.

In terms of positions 2-4 in the standings, Union has a four-point lead on Clarkson and would need to lose a sweep to forfeit that spot. Clarkson has the tiebreakers on the Dutchmen with two wins against them this season. The more interesting battle is for third and fourth, but does it really matter? The Golden Knights and Harvard are separated by a lone point. Clarkson has Princeton and Quinnipiac at home, while the Crimson travels to Brown and Yale. Harvard does own the tiebreakers.

The battle for positioning at the top is not the only entertaining part of this weekend: Only three points separate positions 5-9. Dartmouth is currently in fifth and is probably pretty close to a lock to the first home-ice spot. It has a big game against Yale on Friday night, which is two points back in a tie for seventh. Colgate is a point back of the Big Green in sixth, while Princeton is also in the driver’s seat for a home-ice series next weekend tied with the Bulldogs in seventh.

Dartmouth and Yale will provide the only matchup between teams within the 5-9 band, which is quite remarkable given the number of teams involved. They will faceoff on Friday night at Ingalls Rink in New Haven in what should be an energy-charged game. Yale probably has more on the line given its position and the fact it has Harvard on Saturday night. The Big Green won the reverse fixture, 3-1, in Hanover. The game will also feature the return of Yale coach Keith Allain, who will be back from his role as assistant coach of Team USA.

Quinnipiac is hot on the trail of all these teams and is the only team not in the top 9 to have a chance for home ice. It is a lone point back with games against Clarkson and St. Lawrence. The Bobcats swept the home weekend against the two and will be looking to do the same on the road. If it does so, one would assume they would be at home. The Bobcats have made the league’s championship weekend every year for the last five seasons, last missing it when Atlantic City hosted in 2012. QU has finished in the top 8 of the ECAC every year since 2005-06, its first season in the league.

Brown, Rensselaer and St. Lawrence will finish 10-11-12 in the league and will travel for the first round.

Some random thoughts

No Clear-cut favorite and early picks for the Tournament

Yah, Cornell has been good, but does it have enough possession? Can it get enough shots? Does it have the experience to win in the tournament? Time will tell for the Big Red, I suppose. I personally think if I had to pick a matchup for the Championship game based on how the matchups play out, it would be Clarkson and Harvard. Joe Meloni hit the nail on the head in his piece on Clarkson this week… Despite a 1-5-3 mark in its last nine games, the Golden Knights have been snake-bitten and played bad hockey. The bounces just aren’t going their way. The possession is still there and the top-line, which has been really quiet, will wake up. It is not too late. In terms of Harvard, two words-Ryan Donato. The Crimson defense is also really good, and so is Merrick Madsen.

Still picking Harvard to win it, so sue me everyone or just attack me on twitter at @JoshSeguin24 (honestly, I like it). The scoring has come around and with Donato back it should be fun.

The first round is going to be really interesting, but so will the quarters.

Given how close the 5-9 band of teams are, the first round should pack a lot of interest. Also, St. Lawrence is a team I would watch and the one that could pull an upset. Yah the Saints have had a rough season, but considering the drama that plagued them all season is gone… one should assume the recent better play will continue. In terms of the next round, look out for Princeton and Colgate as lower ranked teams that could make Lake Placid. The Raiders have Colton Point and we all know the story with goalies and tournaments. The Tigers, on the other hand, may have shaky defense and goaltending. But, man, can they score goals and quickly! Quinnipiac is also dangerous because of the experience. Should make for an interesting three weeks.

ECAC, Harvard and Yale a Clear Winner at the Olympics

The ECAC boys scored 7 of the 11 goals for Team USA in South Korea. Harvard’s Ryan Donato had five goals for the Americans, while Mark Arcobello and Brian O”Neill each had goals for the red, white and blue. Kudos to Yale coach, Keith Allain, as well. Not only did he get good press for himself and his program, his former players also played big roles. Both O’Neill and Arcobello played phenomenal hockey, while Broc Little also had a good showing. Ted Donato, of course, is a winner too. After his reactions to his sons’ goals, who wouldn’t want to play for the man? He did himself a lot of good and got great publicity for his program by just showing up. Overall, the tournament was a win for the league.

Playoff hockey is a week away, lets rejoice and be glad.

I will end on that note – no need to say anything else. Enjoy this weekend’s games!

ECAC Notepad 2/7

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

Heading into the stretch run in the ECAC is always a love-hate relationship for me as a reporter.

The good teams always drop games they should win and the teams that have been struggling usually come up with big results.

Over the weekend it began as Clarkson fell to Quinnipiac and Princeton, while Cornell fell to Rensselaer. It was a weird weekend, but outcomes like this are not abnormal as ECAC teams tend to beat up on themselves.

Clarkson and Cornell have some leeway in terms of the pairwise, but more losses like they had last weekend will be damaging. The Big Red also announced this morning that Mitch Vanderlaan will be out for the regular season, but it sounds like there is hope for a playoff return.

This weekend Clarkson and Cornell will face off in Potsdam in what could be the biggest game of the stretch run. The Big Red enjoys a three-point lead in the ECAC standings on the Golden Knights. Cornell is fourth in the Pairwise after its loss to RPI, while Clarkson has dropped in recent weeks from a peak of two down to seven. It was inevitably a big game, but it probably won’t impose the influence it could have been a few weeks ago when both were ranked in the top four in the country.

Clarkson has a two point lead on Union in third and three points on Harvard in fourth. The Crimson have a gulf of four points on Colgate in fifth, but also have one less league game. Two points separate Colgate in fifth and Princeton/Dartmouth in seventh, while Quinnipiac is three points back of fifth. Another big game this weekend will be when Yale hosts Quinnipiac on Friday night, as the Bulldogs sit in ninth just one point back of the Bobcats in eighth. That race should be fascinating to watch going forward.

For now, here are my notes for this week:

Below the Break: Ryan Kuffner has been scoring at a high rate, is Quinnipiac back on Track, Colgate relies on Colton Point, Clarkson’s struggles, RPI and Harvard will be fine. (more…)

North Dakota’s Cole Smith: Dirty Hit?

Saturday, January 27th, 2018

“Same fu**ing guy, same fu**ing guy,” screamed Denver head coach Jim Montgomery on the bench — picked up by the TV microphones and cameras early in the third period of Friday’s thrilling game between Denver and North Dakota. It was the first college hockey game since 2011 featuring two starting goaltenders who have won national titles.

The game officially ended in a 3-3 tie, with Troy Terry scoring in the bonus 3-on-3 overtime session to give Denver the extra point in the NCHC standings.

Montgomery’s comments from the bench referred to an incident in November, the last time North Dakota and Denver squared off. UND sophomore Cole Smith was called for a boarding major that injured Denver defenseman Adam Plant, who needed significant on-ice attention from the medical and training staff before being helped to the locker room. Plant is a reliable senior defenseman for Montgomery — Friday’s game in Grand Forks, after all, was his 139th in a Pioneer uniform.

At 3:14 of the third period, Plant collided with Smith again, this time with both players battling for a loose puck in the Denver offensive zone. In real time, it genuinely looked like an unfortunate mishap, with Plant’s momentum seemingly propelling him into Smith as they both reached for the puck.

The replays on CBS Sports Network, unfortunately, show a different story.

There’s no objective way to sugarcoat this — it was truly a shocking hit by Smith. Here’s what happened: Smith was a step late to the play. After Plant won the loose puck, Smith raised his left arm in an unnatural position, and as he leans in (as opposed to trying to avoid the hit), his elbow struck a defenseless Plant in the right temple. Plant, who crumpled to the ice, lying flat on his back, very well may have been unconscious for a moment. Clearly shaken, he needed plenty of assistance to skate off the ice. Though there’s no official word from Denver yet, it was an obvious, serious head injury and presumably a concussion.  

After the game, UND head coach Brad Berry said, “Is it a penalty? Probably a penalty.” — which is a bit disappointing. It was definitely (not probably) a major penalty, and the only question now is whether the NCHC will issue a suspension this afternoon.

I’m not suggesting Smith — a sophomore who has scored 5 goals this season — is a dirty player (typically, in fact, he isn’t), and it’s impossible for me or anyone else to comment on what he was thinking as the play unfolded. An otherwise clean player can certainly suffer a lapse and deliver an anomalous dirty hit, and in reality, these plays happen quickly and the players’ movements are instinctive. And of course, despite Montgomery’s comments on the bench, it’s likely just an unfortunate coincidence that Friday’s occurrence involved the same two players as the Nov. 18 contest. But again, this singular play was startling and unnecessary, and I can’t imagine that Smith will avoid a brief suspension from the NCHC as a result of the hit. 

Of note, 36 of the sophomore forward’s 58 penalty minutes this season have come in three games against Denver.

The injury to Plant depleted the Pioneer defense for the remainder of the game, but the Fighting Hawks battled back regardless — overcoming Terry’s power play goal on the ensuing major power play and earning a tie thanks to a Hayden Shaw extra-attacker goal that beat Denver’s Tanner Jaillet. Still, North Dakota remains winless in its last four games. Denver remains in first place in the NCHC standings, although St. Cloud State — four points back — has two games in hand.

UND and Denver face off again on Saturday in Grand Forks to complete the regular season series — continuing what has become one of the most dramatic rivalries in college hockey over the last few years.

In case you missed it:

  • Terry will be the youngest player on Team USA at the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea next month. I spoke to him earlier this week about the opportunity to return to international play.
  • Western Michigan has been hit with the injury bug, losing two of its most talented offensive players in Colt Conrad and Wade Allison. Allison is out for the season, and I spoke to head coach Andy Murray on Thursday about how his team is trying to overcome these injuries. On Friday, the Broncos gave up 6 goals for the second consecutive game, this time in a 6-2 loss in Omaha in a game that was 2-2 with seven minutes to play.
  • Special teams proved important around the NCHC on Friday. Minnesota-Duluth scored 2 shorthanded goals in a 5-1 win against St. Cloud, while Colorado College went 3-for-3 on the power play to beat Miami 6-3. The Tigers improve to 11-11-3 this season, looking to finish over .500 for the first time since 2012.


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 happened in 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 has 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, nobody would’ve suggested St. Lawrence could 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, this win will go down as a bright spot in a season that has largely gone south. Below, I will talk about whether this outcome is a sign of things to come or whether it might be a mirage.

Dartmouth and Princeton also 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 grace has been Cornell and Clarkson; they have been impressive. That is why both teams are currently in the top-4 of the pairwise, while others have fallen back. 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.

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.