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Three Things I Think: WCHA, Nov. 18

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

For a conference trying to re-build its image as one of the best in the country, having a team ranked No. 1 in the polls is a huge step in the right direction. The WCHA’s Michigan Tech now occupies that spot after pushing its record to 10-0-0 with a sweep at Bemidji State this weekend. With 10-straight wins to start the season, the Huskies are now off to the best start in the program’s 94-year history.

The sweep of the Beavers wasn’t Michigan Tech’s most dominant performances of the season, but good teams find ways to win and the Huskies did that. They face their stiffest test of the season this weekend in welcoming reigning WCHA playoff champion Minnesota State to Houghton.

In the latest edition of the USCHO.com poll, following bye weeks, the Mavericks remained at No. 9 and Northern Michigan moved up a spot to No. 17. After splitting with Ohio State, Bowling Green also jumped a spot to No. 18. Ferris State (53) is the only WCHA team receiving votes in the poll.

Rapid Recap: In conference play, Michigan Tech grinded out a pair of wins in Bemidji to remain the NCAA’s lone unbeaten team, Ferris State’s offense exploded in a sweep of Alaska Anchorage, and Alabama-Huntsville and Lake Superior State split – pushing the Chargers’ record in their last four games to 2-1-1. Elsewhere, Bowling Green and Ohio State split a non-conference home-and-home series, with each winning at the other’s barn. The WCHA is now 22-17-4 (.558) in non-conference play this season.

(After the jump: My Three Stars of the Weekend in the WCHA and thoughts on what went down)

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Three Things I Think: ECAC Nov. 17

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Another interesting weekend in ECAC league play, brought another weekend that teams made statements. Quinnipiac continues to win, it has now won six games in a row. Yale swept Harvard and Dartmouth over the weekend on the road. Brown, Cornell and Princeton continue to struggle. Rensselaer continues to sit atop the ECAC standings, but it is now tied with Quinnipiac for the top spot. Again it is still early to really pay attention, but now into the second week we are starting to see some trends.

As an ECAC fan, we don’t want to look at the Pairwise yet because they are hardly being kind in the early going. Despite having three teams in the top 15, all three of those teams are on the bubble from positions 12-15. Yale looked good over the weekend, I was able to see them twice thanks to a last minute change in my schedule on Saturday. It was the smarter team and it looked the part of being a team that is just a year removed from being a national champion. I will speak more to this below, but also expect a feature in the coming days on why they were so consistent. But for now here are the three things I think after the second full week of conference games. (more…)

The Takeaway: Yale Grits Out 2-1 Win at Harvard

Sunday, November 16th, 2014

Cambridge, Mass. -Another chapter in the storied rivalry of Yale and Harvard was written on Saturday night as 2575 watched an entertaining contest between two good teams. Alex Lyon and Steve Michalek put on a show for much of the game. The teams went into the third period scoreless, but the period would see three goals. Ryan Obuchowski opened the scoring on a weird play from the side wall that found its way into the net at six minutes, 48 seconds of the third period. Yale would add an empty netter late in the third, but Harvard responded with 17 seconds to go in the game to make for an entertaining final moments. Despite a chance to tie, Alex Lyon and his Bulldogs held on for the 2-1 road win, which finished the weekend sweep of Dartmouth and Harvard.

With the win, Yale improves to 3-1-2 overall, and 2-1-1 in the ECAC. Harvard was handed its first loss of the season and its record drops to 3-1-2, 2-1-2. Harvard drops to third place in the ECAC, while Yale moves up to fifth in the conference. (more…)

The Takeaway: Yale Runs Away From Dartmouth, Wins 4-1

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Hanover, NH - A good crowd of 3,121 showed up to Dartmouth’s Thompson Arena to watch two Ivy League rivals play for the 151st time. Dartmouth came out flying in the early going, registering the first four shots on goal. Yale. though, would pick up the first goal at six minutes, 17 seconds of the first period when Charles Orzetti sent a point shot that bounced in front of the net and hit the leg of Mike Doherty to give the Elis a 1-0 lead. It was Yale that came out flying in the second period and Frankie DiChiara scored three minutes in to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead.  Dartmouth came on midway through the period, when Mosey found the back of the net. But Brandon Kirk took a dumb boarding call seconds later, which Yale capitalized on to kill the momentum.

Yale scored the only goal of the third period, off the stick of Ryan Hitchcock to seal the game and give them a 4-1 win over Dartmouth. The win improves Yale to 2-1-2 on the season and 1-1-1 in ECAC play. Dartmouth falls to 1-2-1 and 1-2-1 in league play. (more…)

ECAC Weekend Preview, Nov. 15-16

Friday, November 14th, 2014

After two weeks, Rensselaer has the ECAC lead but several other upstarts have begun the conference slate with success. Harvard and St. Lawrence have also begun their slates undefeated, while Quinnipiac has as well. All three of those teams have four points, while the resurgent Engineers have six points. Cornell has struggled to begin the year. It is one of two teams that have zero points heading into this weekend, joining Brown who also lost a pair last weekend.

It is much too early to look at the conference but one can see trends. Harvard looks as good as any team in the league. Union is struggling with just a lone point in four conference games. Yale has begun quiet and Princeton picked up a win against Cornell last week to give coach Ron Fogarty his first win as a head coach. It is tough to prognosticate so early in the season and the early results have proven that. There is always that mantra, some teams play better in conference. That team may just be RPI. I have seen team’s struggle in non-conference play but win the conference title, it happens. For this week though I will attempt to preview the games, briefly to give you a better idea what to expect. (more…)

NCHC Weekend Preview: Nov. 14-15

Friday, November 14th, 2014

A few hours from now, as part a yet another intriguing slate of games involving seven of the eight NCHC teams this weekend, Denver hosts in-state rival Colorado College in the continuation of college hockey’s most frequently played rivalry — a rivalry that, in the past, has included plenty of drama beyond just the closely contested games and a pair of passionate fan bases. For example, a game in the 1960’s involved such as massive on-ice brawl that CC students got involved; that led to the cancellation of the season series for a year. And a game in the mid 1970’s resulted in CC goaltender Eddie Mio getting knocked unconscious by a chicken — yes, a frozen chicken — thrown at him by a Denver fan during a game.

Separated by just over 60 miles on Interstate 25, the two private schools have combined for nine national titles, 24 Frozen Four appearances, and 13 Hobey Baker Award finalists (including three combined Hobey winners since 2003). They’ve seen plenty of each other since their first meeting in January 1950, and for the last four seasons, they’ve alternated possession of the “Gold Pan” trophy (an ornate bragging right to the winner of the season series), with CC winning it last year.

Tonight, as long and dramatic as the history between the programs might be, the focus is very much on the present and future. It’s the first meeting between coaches Jim Montgomery (in his second year, of course, with the Pioneers) and Mike Haviland (who, in his first season with the Tigers, gets his first taste of the rivalry tonight). CC has lost six straight games overall, allowing 30 goals over that stretch. Freshman goaltender Chase Perry played well last Friday in a 3-0 loss to Miami, and played well in stretches the following night too until the RedHawks blew the game open with rapid-succession power play goals late in the second.

The defensive lapses, combined with a struggling offense, has understandably led to plenty of problems for this young CC team, and things aren’t getting any easier as they travel to Magness Arena tonight. Denver has played well overall, although allowing 10 goals in its weekend series split with Western Michigan last weekend was somewhat uncharacteristic for its typically robust defense. Ty Loney and Joey LaLeggia played particularly well in last Friday’s win — just two of many offensive weapons the Pioneers boast this year. The key tonight, as in most rivalry games, may be which team handles the early game emotion the best. Puck drop is at 7:37PM mountain time. I’ll be at Magness for this one tonight and will have thoughts from the game posted here over the weekend. Prediction: Denver wins.

The other NCHC series this weekend:

North Dakota hosts Miami: UND is unbeaten in eight games, and Miami has won seven of nine, in the matchup of two of the top teams in the country. As we mentioned in this space earlier in the week, Miami’s success this year seems to stem from a renewed commitment to defensive accountability, combined with timely lineup changes that have off-loaded the RedHawks’ two undisputed stars (Riley Barber and Austin Czarnik). They’re still averaging a point per game, but coach Enrico Blasi, who in the offseason was candid about the fact that he had to take an honest look at his team and the coaching staff’s approach, has moved Alex Wideman to the top line to play with the Barber/Czarnik duo. In doing so, he moved Cody Murphy off that line to play on the wing with center Blake Coleman, and placed Sean Kuraly with Anthony Louis on a line that’s both quick and physical. As a result, three lines that are scoring proficiently. All of North Dakota’s games thus far have come against teams currently below .500 — including the winless Wisconsin team that UND swept in Madison this weekend. This is easily North Dakota’s toughest weekend opponent yet (especially now that freshman Nick Schmaltz will be out of the lineup due to injury), and I wouldn’t expect anything close to the 9-2 UND win the last time the two met in Grand Forks. This is the first meeting since Miami stunned North Dakota in the NCHC semifinals last March. Prediction: Miami wins Friday, North Dakota wins Saturday

Western Michigan hosts St. Cloud State: The Broncos and Huskies both enter the weekend at 3-5-0 overall. WMU split it series with Denver last weekend, while St. Cloud suffered a sweep at home against Minnesota-Duluth. For St. Cloud, the memory of back-to-back wins against Union and Minnesota (last season’s national title game participants) seems a distant memory now after three consecutive losses. The surprising downfall over that stretch has been an inability to score 5-on-5. The Huskies’ last even strength goal was over 125 minutes of game time ago — a surprising fact considering the offensive talent St. Cloud boasts, especially in its junior class. For Western Michigan, the Broncos are looking for more consistent netminding from its duo of Frank Slubowski and Lukas Hafner. The offense, fortunately, has been better lately. Junior center Nolan LaPorte and defenseman Kenney Morrison both enter the weekend with three-game point streaks, while sophomore center Sheldon Dries scored goals in both games against Denver last week. The Broncos and Huskies also have two of the best power play units in the country, but it’ll still likely be the team that can score 5-on-5 that gets the edge this weekend. Prediction: Western Michigan wins Friday, St. Cloud State wins Saturday.

And finally, in non-conference action:

Minnesota-Duluth at/vs. Minnesota: Minnesota-Duluth was named CHN Team of the Week after sweeping St. Cloud State last week, and our Nicole Brodzik took a look at the new-found success of the Bulldogs’ offensively-minded defensive corps. This weekend, obviously, represents an enormous test for Scott Sandelin’s club, in its home-and-home with arguably the best team in the country. The Gophers 7-1-0 overall (their only hiccup coming against St. Cloud) and have enjoyed early season success from all of the expected contributors. Seniors Kyle Rau and Sam Warning (12 points and 6 points, respectively, in 8 games) have played well out of the gate, as have sophomores Taylor Cammarata, Justin Kloos, and Hudson Fasching. Defensively, Mike Reilly not only has helped out his goaltender Adam Wilcox, but has already contributed 11 points (tied for second-most on the team). Needless to say, the weekend presents a great challenge for the Bulldogs’ rookie goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo. Prediction: Minnesota wins Friday, Minnesota-Duluth wins Saturday.

ECAC Power Rankings: Nov. 13

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

Lots of love on here should be a breath of fresh air in comparison to what happened in Hamden, Connecticut last weekend. I was on vacation in the great west but the hockey did not stop, poor vacation planning on my part. Harvard made a statement against Boston College, Quinnipiac has come out of nowhere to be the team we thought they could be, St. Lawrence is just killing teams right now and others are just playing that line that doesn’t see them mentioned at the top. Lots of trends began to take shape last weekend, hence there will be a plethora of movement throughout the rankings this week

Some of the top teams just a few weeks ago, have struggled in recent weeks. Colgate will still be good but dropped a game at Quinnipiac on Friday. Cornell is winless on the year, have struggled to score and are looking like they aren’t the team we thought they would be. Union is winless in five, who would have ever thunk that possible? That proves that preseason can be arbitrary but then again it is still early. As will be evident throughout, the less games played the more movement in these rankings. Without further ado here we go.

1. Colgate (7-3-0, 1-1-0 ECAC) – Last Week 1

I am going to get hell from all of Quinnipiac and probably everyone in the league on this one. I still think Colgate is really good and the best team in the league, hence I keep them here. The Bank is a tough place to play and it showed. Colgate had these games last year and I think we would be remiss to think they were just going to disappear this season. Good luck finding me a deeper team, lets not dwell on one blowout loss. Those things happen to all teams. Gate has lost to Mercyhurst, St. Cloud and Quinnipiac. Those teams are all good squads. The loss of Mike Borkowski will prove to be a big one, however. (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC, Nov. 13

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

Three Things is very late this week, I will blame myself for being on vacation. The hockey did not stop and I was able to watch some games on Friday before I left for the west, where there is a serious lack of hockey I must say (I did see a Coyotes games against the Stars). Harvard had a huge statement win against Boston College, winning 6-3, in a game they dominated for much of the contest. Harvard will be one of the topics this week because it is the last undefeated in the ECAC entering this weekend, where it has two winnable games at home. With the win against BC, the ECAC is 10-5-1 against Hockey East on the season. There are many key games in that series in the coming weeks, which feature top teams UMass-Lowell and Boston University, against three of the ECAC’s best in Colgate, Harvard and Dartmouth.

It is too early to be talking about the NCAA picture and standings, but some trends have taken hold. RPI has played two more games than any other ECAC school but are 3-1-0 and lead the standings. Its wins in the league are against Union and Dartmouth,which should both find themselves near the bye spots at the end of the season. Its loss was against a Harvard team which looks as good as a any right now in the league. So it appears that RPI may be around to stay at the top. The Pairwise rankings are not being nice, but again it is too early to care. The highest ranked is Harvard at 14th, followed by SLU at 15 and Colgate 17. For now though, lets just look at trends and thoughts because it is much too soon to look at anything. Things will change. (more…)

WCHA Weekend Preview, Nov. 13-15

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

The WCHA race is starting to take shape as conference play begins in earnest. Michigan Tech’s undefeated start has established the Huskies as the class of the league, but Minnesota State and Bowling Green have shown they’re more than up for a title fight.

Those three teams sit within two points of each other at the top of the conference standings. Northern Michigan might also have a say in the race to the top before all is said and done, but the Wildcats will have to prove themselves against tougher opponents.

For the league as a whole, it has been about as good a start as first-year commissioner Bill Robertson could have hoped for the re-building league. The WCHA has three teams in the top-10 and four teams in the top-15 in winning percentage, which is tied with Hockey East for most among the six conferences, and WCHA players lead the country in nine different statistical categories.

Most importantly for Robertson, whose stated goal in the preseason was to get more teams into the national tournament, is that four teams rank in the top-16 of the PairWise rankings in the (very) early going — No. 1 Michigan Tech, No. 3 Minnesota State, No. 11 Bowling Green, and No. 13 Northern Michigan. I want to stress the “it’s early” part, but it’s a promising sign nonetheless for the WCHA as it tries to build itself back up.

(After the jump: Previewing this weekend’s match-ups)

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Nov. 13

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

Five teams will play for the Big Ten this weekend, as both Penn State and Michigan return from byes. The Badgers will be idle for the third time in the past month.

But the best part about this week is it’s the last week of non-conference play for several teams. Next week Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan will kick off Big Ten play.

Several teams will be tested this week, as the Gophers should have tougher competition against Minnesota-Duluth in a home-and-home series. Ohio State will have its own challenge in Bowling Green, a team that sits tied for second in the WCHA — a conference that’s quietly been one of the better ones this season.

Michigan State will host a struggling Boston College team, while Penn State will face against UMass Lowell. The pair of games will contribute to the Big Ten-Hockey East Challenge.

Inconsistent Michigan returns home to host AIC, and should be able to snap out of their losing streak.

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