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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.

2017 CHN Pairwise Live Blog

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, March 13

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

The Big Ten regular season concluded over the weekend and it had major effects on Minnesota, Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State. Minnesota emerged the victor, and the Gophers have now claimed six-straight regular season titles – split between the WCHA and the Big Ten. The Buckeyes swept the Badgers, giving Ohio State the edge in the Pairwise. Michigan swept Penn State, keeping the Nittany Lions from a bye spot.

For three teams – Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State – their best chance of making the NCAA tournament is through a Big Ten championship. That isn’t to say Ohio State and Penn State can make the tournament without getting the title, but things are very shaky for them.

Ohio State and Michigan State will face off in the first set, and the winner will play Wisconsin. Penn State and Michigan will play in the other game, and whoever makes it out alive has to face Minnesota. The matches favor Ohio State more than the other teams, aside from maybe Minnesota, but there could possibly be a few “upsets.”

(After the jump: Who’s going to make NCAAs, Michigan is dangerous and tournament predictions)

Who’s Going To Make The NCAA Tournament

Ah, this is always fun. In the beginning of the year it looked like – okay maybe not beginning but at least midway through – that Penn State was a lock. The Buckeyes were high up there. Minnesota was in the mix. But now, it’s possible that neither Ohio State or Penn State make the NCAA tournament. The conference could have three teams make it, or they could have less than that.

Earlier I said that Penn State, Wisconsin and Minnesota would be the three teams to make the NCAA tournament, with Ohio State on the outside. But I think it will flip to Penn State, Ohio State and Minnesota. The Nittany Lions may be up in the air, but I think they need some strange scenarios to happen for them to be pushed out. Ohio State received a big boost from the sweep of Wisconsin and they seem to have the Badgers’ number this year, so I could see the Buckeyes advancing to the championship game.

Michigan Is Dangerous

Watch out for the Wolverines. I’m sure no team envies Penn State right now, since the Nittany Lions drew the worst matchup in facing Michigan – the team that just swept them – in the first round. The Wolverines haven’t been good for much of this season, but they’ve earned a few big wins – over Minnesota, Ohio State and Penn State – and have really gotten better at the end of the season.

And they have what no other Big Ten team has – solid goaltending. It may be in the form of an odd rotation, but all players have been putting up good numbers this year and goaltending is usually the difference in this tournament.

Tournament predictions

I have Minnesota over Ohio State for the championship.

Really though, anything can happen this year. While Ohio State is the only top seed that I see winning without upsets, keep in mind the Spartans have played them closely. But I’m still picking Ohio State over Michigan State and then Ohio State over Wisconsin. As I said earlier, the Buckeyes have the Badgers’ number. But it’s tough to put faith in Ohio State when they’ve consistently been one of the most inconsistent teams, so a first-round loss to Michigan State wouldn’t surprise me.

I also have Michigan beating Penn State. While it’s tough to beat a team three straight games in a row, the Wolverines are good right now. And that’s in part thanks to their goaltending, which gave Penn State fits last year. Penn State doesn’t have the same level of goaltending that Michigan does, or defense, so the Wolverines get the edge. And while Michigan beat Minnesota recently, I view that as more of a fluke than a trend.

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, March 10

Friday, March 10th, 2017

The last weekend in Big Ten regular season play is here. Much in the conference will be decided this weekend –  including who wins the regular season championship and who earns the bye spots. Only two teams – Minnesota and Wisconsin – can earn first place. The Gophers are a lock for a bye day, but Penn State has a chance at getting the No. 2 seed, which would give them the second bye day.

Here are the current standings:

1. Minnesota (39)
2. Wisconsin (36)
3. Penn State (31)
4. Ohio State (29)
5. Michigan (16)
6. Michigan State (11)

So here’s the deal. The Badgers and Gophers tied the regular-season series, which means Minnesota must win at least one game to either win the Big Ten or earn a share of the title. The Badgers can clinch a piece of the title with at least a win and either a Gophers loss or shootout win. There are several scenarios where the Badgers can claim the title or a share of the title, but basically they’re good if they win both games, or if they win and Minnesota splits, or if they win one game and Minnesota loses both. (This gets a little more complicated because there are three points up for grabs in each game, so it’s not just wins and losses but also potential shootout wins).

Now for the No. 2 seed. The Nittany Lions are just five points behind the Badgers. Penn State has the season series tiebreaker, but they’ll still need some help. They need to at least win one game and take the other one into the shootout and have the Badgers lose both games. That’s a plausible scenario because the Badgers have a tougher test in Ohio State while Penn State should beat Michigan. But, Penn State is playing at Michigan and the Wolverines are just coming off a big win over Minnesota (that could cost the Gophers a piece of the Big Ten title).

So the last weekend in Big Ten play will be full of drama. And that’s not even including the Pairwise (the Badgers are in the bubble and the Buckeyes are on the outside. But the difference between the two teams isn’t much.)

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, March 7

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

There is now just one weekend left in the Big Ten regular season. Minnesota is first in the conference but has just a three-point lead over the Badgers. That will make for a fun conclusion to the regular season since there are a few things on the line: That regular-season title, a shot at a bye day and a possible NCAA tournament at-large spot for the bubble teams.

Last weekend’s split with Penn State helped the Badgers in that regard. They’re 13th, so still on the bubble. Losing to Michigan State did not really help Ohio State’s cause, as now the Buckeyes are back on the wrong side of the cutoff line. The Gophers split their series with Michigan and while that looks bad, it didn’t have much of an impact for the Gophers. Except for in the standings, where that loss allowed Wisconsin to creep a little closer to the first spot.

Here are the standings:

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

(After the jump: What to watch, why does no one talk about the really good forwards and is Michigan good)

What To Watch

The biggest games of the upcoming weekend will be the ones for Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State. So pay close attention to the Buckeyes-Badgers series because that has a lot of meaning in the Pairwise for big teams. Ohio State is now outside the Pairwise bubble while the Badgers are close to the edge. The Badgers are also just three points away from the No. 1 conference spot and five points away from dropping out of the second spot.

Which brings us to Penn State. The Nittany Lions should have an easy time defeating Michigan (should, but the Wolverines just beat the Gophers). For Penn State, a possible Big Ten tournament title is on the line, since they’d need a bye day if they want to win.

Penn State is just five points behind the Badgers, which means they’d need at least a regulation/OT win and a shootout win and the Badgers to lose both games. But if the Badgers win one of their contests against Ohio State, the bye day will be out of reach. 

And as I mentioned before, the Badgers have a lot riding on their series – a potential regular season championship, a bye day for the tournament and an at-large bid. 

As for the Buckeyes… this is their last hope.

Why Does No One Talk About The Really Good Forwards

Over the weekend, Minnesota’s Tyler Sheehy passed the 50-point mark. Actually he did it last Saturday after scoring two goals and an assist. But no one is talking about it. And no one is really talking about his linemate, Justin Kloos, who has 41 points. And then there’s Ohio State’s Nick Schilkey and Mason Jobst. All of those players are in the top-20 nationally in scoring, yet they’re rarely talked about.

Why?

I can’t really answer that, aside from maybe it’s East Coast bias for Sheehy and Kloos. As far as Schilkey and Jobst are concerned, I think that’s just a side effect of paying for Ohio State, a hockey program that will always kind of be in the shadows. Either way, it’s odd that these players aren’t getting much attention since they’re have great seasons. 

Is Michigan Good?

Of course not. Michigan has an offense that’s struggling and minimal defense, but oddly have good goalkeeping, finally. Although having a three netminder rotation seems odd, that’s niether nere nor there. But the Wolverines have gotten a few spoiler wins against some of the Big Ten’s better teams. 

Michigan’s win over Ohio State could be a reason their rival Buckeyes don’t make the NCAA tournament. Michigan’s win over Minnesota could be a reason why the Gophers don’t win the Big Ten regular season title.

They were big wins, but are they indicative of an upward trend for the Wolverines or just a couple of odd wins? I think they were just a couple of out-of-the-ordinary wins, but the Wolverines won’t struggle like this for long.

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, March 3

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

There are just two weeks left in the Big Ten regular season. A couple of Pairwise spots are still up for grabs, along with the first two conference spots. Ohio State is playing Michigan State and Minnesota is playing Michigan, and that should result in sweeps for the Buckeyes and Gophers. The Penn State-Wisconsin series is the only question mark, but two wins would be huge for a Wisconsin team close to making the tournament.

(more…)