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Three Things I Think: ECAC 12/5

Monday, December 5th, 2016

Another week and another great weekend of conference play, for some teams. Harvard swept in the North Country, doing so in fine fashion outscoring SLU and Clarkson by an aggregate of 11-5. Union also picked up a sweep of Princeton and Quinnipiac on the road. The loss by the Bobcats marked their first home loss, within ECAC play, since December 6, 2014 against Harvard. Princeton picked up a dramatic 6-5 win over RPI on Saturday night, in a game it trailed 4-1 and stormed back to win in overtime. It was the Tigers’ first ECAC win of the year and it bumped them up to ninth in the league standings.

Cornell picked up an impressive home sweep of Miami over the weekend, as it defeated the Red Hawks 4-1 on Friday night and a 2-1 victory on Saturday. The Big Red join a mess of ECAC teams in the Pairwise top 20. Five of the top 20 teams hail from the ECAC, as Harvard (4th), Union (14), Quinnpiac (15), Cornell (16) and St. Lawrence (18) all find a spot among the 20 best in college hockey, according to the numbers. Clarkson also sits on the outside looking in at 22 in those ratings. The interconference record of 33-33-9 is fourth among the other conferences, but in recent weeks that has been improving. There are many key games in upcoming weeks, that can change that and one can assume the progression of some teams will bode well for the non-conference window, which starts this weekend for many teams.

Without further ado, here are my thoughts of the week: (more…)

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Dec. 5

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

The first weekend in Big Ten play taught us… nothing, really. Penn State beat Michigan, a team with spotty defense (and no Hayden Lavigne) 11-1 combined. Ohio State and Minnesota split, although the Buckeyes avenged a 5-3 loss with an 8-3 win. The Badgers had an interesting weekend against Omaha, tying 3-3 the first night and then falling 7-4.

So after two Big Ten series, what do we know about the Big Ten? Nothing new, really.

After the jump: No one in college hockey is good this year, strength of schedule matters for measuring success and the Big Ten inconsistency is killing me)

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Dec. 1

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

This weekend features the first foray into Big Ten play, starting with Michigan and Penn State. The Gophers and Buckeyes will also face off, while the Badgers host Nebraska-Omaha in their last non-conference slate before their Big Ten play starts.

After a good weekend the Spartans have the week off the face the U-18 NTDP.

And since Big Ten play is going to start, here is my revised poll:

1. Ohio State
2. Wisconsin
3. Minnesota
4. Michigan
5. Penn State
6. Michigan State

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Three Things I Think: ECAC 11/29

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

It seems like it has been forever since I have done one of these, because well it has been. I hope everyone had a great holiday and was able to check out some of the great hockey over the last two weekends. I was in the UK the week before the Friendship Four and for the people that crossed the pond for the SLU/Quinnipiac visit to Belfast, I am sure that was a great experience because Europe is such a great place to visit, no matter where you are.

In watching the games the last few weekends, there seems to be a big divide between the top half of the league and the bottom half. Struggling teams such as Yale, Brown, RPI and Princeton seem to be struggling to keep up with the offense of teams like SLU, Harvard, Quinnipiac, Union, Cornell and Clarkson. SLU and Clarkson are unbeaten in a combined 16 games, with the Saints unbeaten in nine and the Golden Knights without a loss in seven games. Quinnipiac is unbeaten in five league games, but dropped a 5-1 decision to Vermont on Saturday in Belfast.

To speak to this lack of parity so far, one can look at the records of the top teams in comparison to the bottom of the league. SLU, Quinnipiac, Clarkson and Union are a combined 18-3-6 in ECAC play thus far, with the Saints still undefeated approaching the halfway mark. SLU already has an 11 point lead on the bottom team in the league, Princeton, and a nine point lead on ninth place, Yale. One team near the bottom will make a run, it always happens but the difference between top and bottom certainly seems larger then normal.

Without further ado here are my thoughts for the week, which includes St. Lawrence, Clarkson and Princeton. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Nov. 28

Monday, November 28th, 2016

The biggest storyline from the weekend was Michigan State taking three out of four points in a series against North Dakota. But we’ll talk more about that later. This was a big weekend for the Big Ten and the last one before conference play starts. The Gophers, Wolverines and Badgers all split their weekends.

Wisconsin earned a 2-1 win over Colorado College and followed with a wild 6-5 loss to Denver. The Pioneers had a 5-2 lead heading into the third, but the Badgers scored three goals in the last frame to come so close to tying it. Jack Berry started both games and Trent Frederic did not play.

Minnesota had a two-goal lead as the third period began but gave up four goals in the third period to lose the game. The Gophers have been a team to make comebacks late in the game, not lose them. It’s more proof that the Gophers are struggling with consistency and figuring out how to put everything together. The Gophers then beat BC. While the Eagles aren’t the strongest team, but Joe Woll is a good goaltender.

That win over BC was also Don Lucia’s 700th win. Per Minnesota, Boston College was also the team Lucia earned his first win over on Oct. 29, 1999.

The Wolverines split their series with Lake Superior State, and it was Zach Nagelvoort who was in net for Michigan’s 4-1 win. Jack LaFontaine took the other start but only allowed two goals.

(After the jump: Let’s talk about Michigan State, Jerad Rosberg and when will Minnesota be consistent)

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More on North Dakota (CHN Team of the Week)

Thursday, November 24th, 2016

Four of the first seven CHN ‘Teams of the Week’ this season have been NCHC squads (first Denver, then St. Cloud State, then Minnesota-Duluth, and now North Dakota). You can read the full story about North Dakota’s back-to-back shutouts of St. Cloud State here.

I spoke to UND goaltender Cam Johnson on Tuesday evening. Johnson returned to form with a 62-save performance during the weekend, and the NCHC Goaltender of the Week propelled North Dakota to its first sweep at St. Cloud since 1998.

The performances helped quell some of the anxiety surrounding the Fighting Hawks’ six game winless streak heading into the weekend, especially with the pressure of trying to meet the highest of standards set by the 2015-16 national champions.

“We have a way different team than last year,” said a candid Johnson. “The standard people hold us to, which is tough, is that they expect us to be as great as we were last year. I think we have a really good team this year, but we have a much different recipe.”

That’s indisputable. Last season’s team was fueled by a series of dramatic Frozen Four losses and was led by a dominant top line of Drake Caggiula, Nick Schmaltz, and Brock Boeser. Caggiula debuted for the Edmonton Oilers last week, while Schmaltz has played in all 21 Chicago Blackhawks games this season. That left Boeser — now a sophomore — behind, and if this past weekend’s performance is any indication, players like Shane Gersich and Austin Poganski are helping shoulder the burden offensively.

Gersich, after a hat-trick on Friday, leads UND in scoring with 10 goals and 8 assists.

The last meeting between St. Cloud and North Dakota at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center was a 6-1 Huskies win last season — a game in which Johnson allowed three goals on 13 shots.

So the redemption, understandably, felt good.

“It felt unbelievable,” he said. “Especially because St. Cloud is a really quality opponent. They’re a team the last few years that we’ve had wars with. Obviously to get back-to-back shutouts, I don’t think that’s been done in their building, so that’s a pretty cool accomplishment. It was huge for our group.”
Indeed, after outscoring St. Cloud 7-0 over the course of the weekend, North Dakota became the first team to shut out the Huskies on consecutive nights in the history of the National Hockey Center, which opened in 1989.
In the big picture, though, the wins — to Johnson — were meaningful for what they represent for the Fighting Hawks going forward.
“It’s something that helps our group,” said the junior. “It fuels us to continue to get better and not get complacent. Day in and day out, it’s going to be a battle, and we’re going to see every team’s best every weekend.”

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Nov. 24

Thursday, November 24th, 2016

If you’re searching for some post-Thanksgiving hockey, look no further. Four Big Ten teams are playing this weekend – Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota and Ohio State. It’s the last weekend before Big Ten play, so it’s the last chance for teams to get a tune up.

The toughest challenge of the week is definitely for the Spartans, who will face North Dakota. But the young Badgers also will have a tough weekend in a road trip out to Denver. Minnestoa’s trip to Boston may also be difficult though, as the Gophers are still struggling to find their identity.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Nov. 21

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

Four Big Ten teams were in action over the weekend. Minnesota split with Minnesota State, rebounding for a 1-0 win after a 4-1 loss. The Badgers also split their series, a home contest against Merrimack. Wisconsin won on Friday and Jack Berry made 17 saves. In Saturday’s 2-0 loss, Berry and Matt Jurusik split the game.

Ohio State won both games at RPI. Friday’s contests was a 4-0 victory, but Saturday’s game was much closer. The teams were knotted 2-2 until freshman Tanner Laczynski scored the game-winning goal midway through the third period. Matt Tomkins started both games.

Penn State swept Arizona State, scoring 15 goals on the weekend. On Friday Penn State won 7-4 and on Saturday the Nittany Lions won 8-0. Chris Funkey got a chance to start, making 18 saves on Saturday. (Yes, Penn State took over 50 shots in each game).

Also a brief injury update – per the Wisconsin State Journal’s Todd Milewski, Trent Frederic was injured and miss the series against Merrimack.

(After the jump: Big Ten offenses, Michigan’s best goaltending, things each team should be thankful for)

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Nov. 18

Friday, November 18th, 2016

This weekend features four Big Ten teams in play. For some, this is the last weekend of non-conference action before Big Ten play begins. Penn State, Ohio State and Wisconsin all have easier slates than Minnesota, which faces Minnesota State in a home-and-home series. Michigan is playing the NTDP while the Spartans have a bye week.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Nov. 14

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

The weekend featured a couple of interesting wins from Big Ten teams, including a 4-3 victory by the Spartans over Ferris State. Penn State swept Alaska-Anchorage (shocking, I know) and holds the longest unbeaten streak in the country along with Boston College. But, the Nittany Lions aren’t that good (more on that later) and this is another great reminder that a) polls mean literally nothing and b) it is way too early to look at the Pairwise.

The win was Michigan State’s first “real” victory (I say “real” because beating a team that has not played a regular season game yet when you’ve already played four seems a little skewed). The Spartans lost 4-1 on Thursday, with Ed Minney in net. He was in net during the win, though, and made 20 saves. In not surprising news, Mason Appleton is Michigan State’s leading scorer.

The Wolverines split their home series with Boston University, but the Terriers were without Clayton Keller. It was more impressive that Michigan shut BU out 4-0 on the first night, but the Terriers rebounded with a 4-2 win. Again it was Hayden Lavigne and Jack LaFontaine who split netminding duties, and the freshmen seem to be doing well so far.

Ohio Sate defeated UConn 7-4 and then tied the Huskies 3-3. The Buckeyes are now 1-2-1 in their last four games but are still undefeated in their last three. Christian Frey is healthy and started both games over the weekend. Frey’s consecutive starts are probably less a sign he’ll take the starting role and more a sign that Steve Rohlik is trying to make up some of the playing time that he missed.

(After the jump: Penn State is not good, Ed Minney musings and a possible end to the North Star College Cup)

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