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Three Things I Think: ECAC 1/26

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

The league standings started to take shape over the weekend and some teams certainly made the most of their opportunities against teams near them. Harvard outclassed Cornell at Lynah on Saturday, which saw them build on a good win at Colgate on Friday night. Dartmouth continued its resurgence with a weekend sweep opposite of Harvard, while Clarkson and Yale picked up three points. Quinnipiac still has a wide margin in the league standings, followed by Harvard, RPI, Yale and Dartmouth. The Big Green are now 7-1-0 since the break and are on a current five game winning streak, including four against conference opponents.

Over the weekend I got to visit the two Central New York rinks and had a good time in doing so, certainly both share interesting histories and a certain charm. It is always tough to see old barns close, like Starr, and I really enjoyed that rink. Cornell of course had quite the atmosphere for the Harvard game, but it was quelled fast as Harvard never looked challenged by the Big Red.  Cornell is winless in its last four and is dropping fast, as its offense has sputtered in recent weeks. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Jan. 26

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

Another week in the Big Ten produced some surprises. Actually, the only series I thought was surprising was Wisconsin-Minnesota. but I’ll get to that later. The Gophers swept the Badgers by a combined score of 13-2. After shutting out Wisconsin on the first night, Minnesota won 9-2 the second night.

The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions split their series. Penn Statewon 3-2 on Friday before Ohio State won 5-1 on Saturday. Michigan and Michigan State both had exhibitions games against the NTDP. Michigan won 5-2, while Michigan State won 3-2.

Michigan is still the highest Big Ten team in the PairWise at No. 6. The Gophers are 15th while Penn State is 16th. After the losses, Wisconsin stands at 44. Next weekend features another little break in some Big Ten play, as the Gophers get their last non-conference tests in the North Star College Cup.

(After the jump: What’s wrong with Wisconsin, the truth about Penn State and limiting dangerous hits) (more…)

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Jan. 22

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

This weekend features just two Big Ten series, as the Wolverines and Spartans take the weekend off for exhibition games against the NTDP. The Badgers host the Gophers in the border battle, while Penn State travels to Ohio State. This is the last Big Ten matchup for Minnesota until February, as the Gophers take a break from conference play for the North Star College Cup.

Entering the weekend, Minnesota and Michigan are tied for first place. Penn State is third, Ohio State and Wisconsin are tied for fourth and Michigan State is last.


ECAC Weekend Preview 1/22

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

Looking down on a good college hockey game between RPI and Quinnipiac while writing this, I cannot help but think of all the great ECAC games I have seen the last couple of weeks. This weekend there will be eight league games, while Quinnipiac, Princeton, Union and RPI all have Friday ad Saturday off from league games. Union and RPI will play their annual Capital Region Mayor’s cup game at the Times Union Center, in front of 8,000 or so college hockey fans. The game will be a Times Union Center dress rehearsal for when it hosts the NCAA East Regional in late March.

The standings are close and every game matters from this point on out. Harvard and Cornell will play their annual game in front of a packed Lynah crowd on Saturday night, which I will be checking out for the first time. Dartmouth has looked good in recent weeks and will play a big game with Cornell on Friday. With very little separation from second all the way down to the bottom, every game should be good from here on out.

RPI and Quinnipiac played an entertaining tie on Thursday night. Sam Anas, which is usually the case when I am in the building, scored a goal with 9.4 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. Quinnipiac remains unbeaten in league play, with three ties on its record against RPI, SLU and Clarkson. The Bobcats have a long blemish on their overall record and remain in first place in the all important Pairwise rankings. They next play at Dartmouth on January 29th. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Jan. 18

Monday, January 18th, 2016

There were a couple surprises during Big Ten play last weekend, or at least in the Minnesota-Michigan State series. The Spartans played the Gophers closely, losing 5-2 and 3-1. The Badgers and Nittany Lions battled to overtime on Friday before Penn State won 4-1 on Saturday.

Michigan against Ohio State ended exactly the way you would expect a game between two teams with minimal defense to go. They combined for 24 goals over the weekend, ending in a 5-5 tie before Michigan won 8-6. Tyler Motte had a hat trick on Sunday, while Kyle Connor added a couple of goals. Steve Racine and Matt Tomkins started both games.

I can’t say Michigan-Ohio State or Wisconsin-Penn State were surprising series, but I wasn’t expecting the Spartans to play well against the Gophers. Having Jake Hildebrand in net helps, though.

After this weekend’s play, it’s getting harder to separate the “elite” teams in the Big Ten from everyone else. Most of the games and series have been close so far, and I highly doubt anyone expected either Ohio State or Wisconsin to be hanging in games against Michigan.

The Wolverines are seventh in the PairWise, although they still haven’t faced a difficult schedule. Penn State is 15 and Minnesota 16, while Michigan State is 55.

(After the jump: No gaps in the Big Ten, the top line, expecting more from Wisconsin)  (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC 1/17

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

The second half of the ECAC season is off to its usual tough-nose nature. All teams came back from the break improved, with Dartmouth and Brown most improved. Quinnipiac continues to lead the league by a wide margin, now seven points, as its top competition of Harvard and Cornell have each dropped games in recent weeks. RPI now sits in second, followed by Cornell and Harvard. Those three teams are separated by a mere three points, while Yale is a mere point behind them four points out of second. The league standings are tight and it will make for a phenomenal second half. RPI and Quinnipiac will meet on Thursday night

Nationally, the league has dropped off a bit but it is because the league is so strong from top to bottom. Clarkson has picked up two wins against top teams, SLU and Harvard. Cornell dropped a game against RPI on Friday and picked up a tie against Union. The ECAC has four teams in tournament positions, with each of them in the top 10. It also has nine teams in the top 27 of the Pairwise and six in the top 19. Quite frankly, on a given night every team can beat any other in the ECAC. This is what makes the league great. (more…)

NCHC Saturday Jan. 16: Three Things

Saturday, January 16th, 2016

In place of traditional weekend previews, check this space on the CHN blog each Saturday for developing mid-weekend NCHC storylines and observations from Friday night games.

Friday’s action saw St. Cloud State (3-1 at Duluth) and Nebraska-Omaha (4-3 OT thriller at North Dakota) win on the road, while reigning CHN Team of the Week Denver held serve at home with a 5-3 win over Western Michigan. All three series feature a second game tonight. In nonconference action, Miami takes on Bowling Green.

1. Troy Terry

In each of his three seasons as the Denver head coach, Jim Montgomery has had a freshman breakout star. Two years ago, it was Trevor Moore. Last season — Danton Heinen. This year, Dylan Gambrell entered this weekend as the Pioneers’ leading scorer. Last night, freshman forward Troy Terry stood out as one of the most impressive players on the ice, and earned two points (a goal and an assist) in the process. Terry, a product of the U.S. National Team Development Program, showed off a stunning wrist shot on his power play goal late in the first period. The goal, Terry’s fifth of the season, found a miniscule opening in the top corner of the net, above Western Michigan goaltender Lukas Hafner’s right shoulder — and it gave DU a lead that it wouldn’t relinquish. Terry’s quick one-two passing play with Quentin Shore in the second period was another notable example of Terry’s quality. The Denver, Colorado, native could be a key component as Denver continues to roll in the second half. The Pioneers have now won three straight, while Western Michigan continues to play inconsistently on defense. The Broncos are winless in three straight.

2. Second line

Much hype has surrounded North Dakota’s “CBS” line this year — and deservedly so, as Drake Caggiula, Brock Boeser, and Nick Schmaltz are each over 20 points this season already and are arguably the best line in the country. In last night’s loss to Omaha, another line for North Dakota seemed to stand out for entirely different reasons. Freshmen Joel Janatuiene (-2 last night) and Chris Wilkie (-3) played alongside Luke Johnson (-3), and all three were on the ice for the two most notable Omaha goals last night: Jake Randolph’s last-second goal in the second period, and Austin Ortega’s overtime winner. In each case, the line got caught too far up ice, and allowed quick rushes the other way. Ortega’s score came on an odd-man rush and was the latest in a long line of clutch goals for the junior forward from California. Ortega has seven game-winning goals this year, leading the NCAA, and with 19 GWGs in his career is just four behind the all-time NCAA record in that category. Ortega, clearly, can make any line in the country look bad, but last night’s concluding moments did highlight a potential weak point for an otherwise excellent UND team.

3. 0 for 20

Minnesota-Duluth fell at home to St. Cloud State last night, losing 3-1, and a subplot is the Bulldogs’ ongoing woes on the power play. Despite facing one of the nation’s worst (statistically) penalty killing units last night, UMD is now 0 for its last 20 on the man-advantage, a span that stretches five full games. That’s frustrating for UMD fans who saw an opponent score on the power play with such ease, as the Huskie’s Kalle Kossila convert on a perfectly executed St. Cloud power play last night — faceoff win, stretching the penalty killers out with a cross-ice pass, and finding an open player in the slot. All in less than 10 seconds. It’s not the first power outage in Duluth this season, but this one will need to be resolved just as quickly if the Bulldogs are to keep pace in a tough stretch run.

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Jan. 15

Friday, January 15th, 2016

This weekend features the big Michigan-Ohio State rivalry, Michigan State vs. Minnesota and Penn State against Wisconsin. At first glance, none of the matchups seem too competitive. But the first and last are certainly intriguing, as Ohio State is playing well lately and the Badgers can score.

There might be some intersecting results from those two matchups, and sweeping Ohio State or Wisconsin won’t be easy – especially since it’s still tough to tell how Michigan and Penn State really stack up against other teams.

I doubt Michigan State-Minnesota will be much of a matchup, unless the Spartans have shored up their defense. The Gophers may not look like their 2014 counterparts, but they’re still at the top of the Big Ten.

At the moment, Michigan is first in the Big Ten. Minnesota is second, Penn State third, Wisconsin fourth, Ohio State fifth and Michigan State last. And since this topic came up on Twitter, I wanted to look at strength of schedule (per CHN’s KRACH) of each Big Ten team. Here’s how they rank:

Michigan: 31
Minnesota: 8
Wisconsin: 30
Michigan State: 26
Ohio State: 24
Penn State: 44

It’s just something to keep in mind.


ECAC Weekend Preview 1/15

Friday, January 15th, 2016

This week, the ECAC returns to full conference play, with Princeton and Quinnipiac having the weekend off. There are many intriguing matchups on the docket, but to me the game of the week is RPI and Cornell on Friday night. RPI has struggled of sorts of late, while Cornell has continued its strong play. Harvard and SLU will also meet on Friday night, with both teams carrying losing skids and in need of wins. A lot of teams can do themselves good in both the conference and national picture, but some teams need wins more than others. SLU and RPI would be most beneficial to the national picture if they could pick up sweeps, while teams like Harvard and Cornell could further their position in the league standings. All told, it should be a pretty good weekend of action throughout the league. (more…)

Hockey East Weekend Preview, 1/15/16

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

It’s hard to believe that the playoff push begins now, but with so many non-conference games over and done with, it’s the push run for Hockey East.

Here is a look at this weekend’s series:

Boston University vs. Boston College (home-and-home) — It’s the marquee matchup of the weekend, without question. We’re not sure if the Eagles will have Thatcher Demko back between the pipes as of this writing. The BC goaltender returned to practice this week after what was described as an “upper-body injury,” that according to some not-so-quiet whispers was a concussion.

BU was sparked last week by the returns of Ahti Oksanen and Matt Grzelcyk. Time is running out for the Terriers, however, if they want to be one of the top teams in the Hockey East standings come the end of the season. BU is only two points behind Notre Dame for third in the league, but the Irish have a game in hand. The Terriers sit four points bak of BC for second in Hockey East.

Mike’s Pick: Series split.