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Big Ten Hockey Releases Inaugural Awards

Monday, March 17th, 2014

The Big Ten released its inaugural conference awards, which include the Player of the Year, Goaltender of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year and Coach of the Year.

Some of the media (myself included) weren’t asked to vote, but I compiled my own awards.

A lot of the choices I agree with and a lot of them are close calls. Adam Wilcox earned a first team selection as well as the goaltender and player of the year awards. I would’ve put Wisconsin’s Joel Rumpel on the First Team and made him the Goaltender of the Year — but only by a very, very slim margin.

But I think Ohio State’s Ryan Dzingel should be the league’s Player of the Year. Overall he leads Big Ten players with 43 points, and he has a league-high 24 points in conference play. He’s also an extremely skilled and talented player.

The All-Freshman Team consisted of JT Compher, Hudson Fasching, Nick Schilkey, Michael Downing, Drew Brevig and Christian Frey.

It’s surprising Frey earned the nod over Zach Nagelvoort, who was forced into Michigan’s starting job after Steve Racine went down. I think Nagelvoort had to play in a very tough situation with the Wolverines.

Frey had to join a tumultuous situation in Ohio State, but he played less than half the season. I’ve seen both Frey and Nagelvoort playa little bit this season. I’ve seen good things from them and I’ve also seen them struggle.

My guess is it’s because Nagelvoort started four of the last 10 games, while Frey started seven of the last 10.

I also swapped JT Compher for Hudson Fasching as the Rookie of the Year.

Here are my Big Ten awards:

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A Quick Pairwise Look Heading Into Championship Weekend

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Conferences across the nation will crown their league champions, and NCAA automatic qualifiers, this upcoming weekend.

For some teams these will be do-or-die games. For others, there’s a trophy at stake but their tickets to the NCAA tournament have already been punched. Here’s what we know:

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The Takeaway: Northeastern Exorcises Demons at UNH To Send Series to a Decisive Game 3

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

Durham, NH - Northeastern entered UNH’s Whittemore Center on Saturday night, without a win in seven seasons at New Hampshire last winning on the olympic sheet in 2007. To make matters worse, the Huskies haven’t defeated UNH in the playoffs since 1989. For much of the first two periods, it appeared to be much of the same for NU on its opponents ice. Grayson Downing opened the scoring for UNH at 11 minutes, 35 seconds of the first period, but NU answered just three minutes later off the stick of Ryan Belonger. UNH took another lead at 18:27 of the first when Nick Sorkin was left all alone in front of Clay Witt. UNH not only took the 2-1 lead into the first intermission, but it entered the second period with 1:34 of of 5 on 3 powerplay time. The powerplay ended up being the turning-point in the series.

UNH’s two-man advantage got plenty of opportunities, but was unable to capitalize. The Huskies caught UNH napping at the end, as Matt Benning exited the box and headed down the ice on a break-away. He was tripped and the Huskies were awarded a penalty shot, which Kevin Roy took and scored to tie the game. UNH would then dominate the middle portions of the second period and would take a 4-2 lead on goals by Kelleher and Agosta. The Huskies though were ever pesky and fought back. Colton Saucerman scored at the 16:29 mark of the second and Kevin Roy scored his second to send it into the third period tied at three.

The third period was a stalemate that saw NU control the possession on UNH, but NU did appear to score midway through the period to take a 5-4 but it was overturned by the guys in stripes to keep the game tied at 4. It was overturned for goaltender interference and the game would head into the overtime tied at four. Mike Szmatula broke the deadlock at 3:39 of the overtime to give NU the 5-4 overtime win. UNH and NU will faceoff in a crucial game three tomorrow at 4:30 at the Whittemore Center. See highlights courtesy of UNH Athletics. (more…)

The Takeaway: Kelleher Goal Leads UNH To 1-0 Victory Over NU and a 1-0 Series Lead

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Durham, NH - UNH entered the Hockey East tournament without an appearance at the TD Garden in three seasons.  It looked hungry to get there again. Both Northeastern and UNH had last week off with byes. UNH had the better of the play in the period but the two teams left the period scoreless. The second period was marked by a UNH parade to the penalty box, as the Huskies had five power-plays in the period, but the Huskies were unable to capitalize. UNH had the better of the five on five play in the period, but again the teams left the period scoreless.

The Third period was much like the first two in that UNH dominated the possession and quality opportunities. Freshman,Tyler Kelleher broke the scoreless tie at four minutes, 49 seconds of the third period when he found a Grayson Downing tip right in front of Witt that he roofed to give UNH the 1-0 lead. The Huskies struggled to get quality chances late and in game, it was held to just four Grade A opportunities in the contest. UNH defeated Northeastern, 1-0 in front of 3,135 fans at the Whittemore Center and improves its record 20-16-1, moving up a spot in the Pairwise to a tie for 17th, just outside tournament positioning. Northeastern is also in that tie for 17th place with a record of 18-13-4. See these Highlights courtesy of UNH Athletics. (more…)

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, March 14

Friday, March 14th, 2014

This is the last weekend in the regular season. Minnesota and Wisconsin have locked up first-round byes, while Michigan is in the No. 3 spot and Penn State is the last seed.

Ohio State and Michigan State will play each other, and either the Buckeyes or Spartans will earn the No. 4 seed. The other team will be No. 5.

The Gophers are guaranteed at least a share of the Big Ten title. Both Minnesota and Wisconsin have first-round byes, and the Badgers can earn a share of the Big Ten title. 

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, March 11

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

With just two games left in the regular season, Minnesota and Wisconsin have clinched a first-round bye. Wisconsin is five points behind Minnesota and still has a chance to win the Big Ten title.

If Minnesota wins one game next week, they will clinch the title.

For Wisconsin to earn a share of the title, the Badgers must win at least one game in regulation or overtime and another game either in regulation or a shootout — and Minnesota would have to lose both games.

There is another scenario where Minnesota can lose and tie, and Wisconsin would have to win both games in regulation or overtime.

Michigan is locked into the third seed, meaning it will face Penn State in the opening round. Ohio State is currently fourth and Michigan State fifth, but the Buckeyes are two points ahead of the Spartans. Michigan State closes out the season against Wisconsin, while Ohio State will face Penn State.

Last weekend was an interesting one in Big Ten hockey. The Gophers destroyed and out-played the Buckeyes in the first game of their series, winning 5-1. But the next night Ohio State played much better. The teams skated to a 2-2 tie before the Buckeyes won in a shootout.

On Friday, Michigan — backed by Andrew Sinelli’s hat trick — beat Michigan State 7-1, but the Wolverines lost to the Spartans 4-3 on Saturday. Steve Racine started both games for the Wolverines.

Wisconsin won both games against Penn State, 4-2 on Friday and 3-2 in overtime. The games were close, but the Badgers now have a three-game winning streak on the road.

(After the jump: First-round matchups, Big Ten inconsistency, Badgers on the road.)

Badgers on the road

Wisconsin’s series against Penn State was an important one, sine there were still questions of whether or not the Badgers could win on the road. It’s not guaranteed, like it almost was at the Kohl Center, but it’s more likely they can win away.

The Badgers are on a five-game winning streak and have been playing much better of late. They’ve won three games in a row, beating Ohio State and Penn State. Last week’s games were close, but the Nittany Lions are better than their record indicates.

It’s been a long time since the Badgers were destroyed in their road trip to Boston. I mentioned this before, though, Joel Rumpel was not in net in those two games. Since then, the Badgers haven’t been grossly outplayed in a road game, and last weekend’s series proved it. 

Big Ten inconsistency

With the way Wisconsin’s been playing lately, its no longer an inconsistent team. Minnesota isn’t either, but Michigan and Ohio State are two of the biggest question marks in the league.

Earlier I thought Ohio State had the potential to be one of the better teams, and a candidate for the third seed. The Buckeyes could tie for the third seed this weekend, but they’d lose the tiebreaker to Michigan.

I wasn’t expecting Minnesota to dominate the Buckeyes the way they did in the first game. And after watching, I thought Ohio State would lose the second match. Goalkeeping hasn’t helped the Buckeyes find consistency, and Christian Frey was pulled on Friday. He looked less than stellar,  but he played on Saturday.

The only two teams Ohio Sate has really struggled to win against are Minnesota and Michigan. The Buckeyes split the season series with the Badgers, and won a game at the Kohl Center.

It’s odd Ohio State hasn’t beaten Michigan this season and is 0-3-1 against the Wolverines. After last week’s series between Ohio State and Michigan, I thought the Wolverines might’ve finally found some consistency.

But turning around and losing to Michigan State 4-3 after a 7-1 win doesn’t help Michigan’s case. The Wolverines had lost to the Spartans once this season, but that was outdoors at the Great Lakes Invitational. 

Netminding hasn’t been stable for the Wolverines either this season. But, Steve Racine has started the past three games and six of the last eight.

First-round matchups

The inconsistency in Big Ten lends itself to an interesting inaugural tournament, especially in the first round.

After the past month of Big Ten play, seeding in the tournament does matter. I think the Wolverines have drawn one of the worst matchups, facing the Nittany Lions in the first round.

Penn State won its two conference games against Michigan, but the last series between the two teams was closer than the first.

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, March 7

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Michigan (16-10-4, 8-6-2-1 B1G) vs. Michigan State (9-15-7, 3-7-6-4 B1G): March 7 at 7 pm., March 8 at 7 p.m.

Michigan ranks third in the conference with 27 points, four behind Wisconsin. The Wolverines still have a chance to earn the second seed.

The teams will face off in a home-and-home series, but the Spartans haven’t won at Yost since Nov. 13, 2009. The Wolverines are 2-1 against the Spartans this season, with Michigan State’s only win happening at the Great Lakes Invitational.

Matt Berry has nine points against Michigan all-time, while Jake Hildebrand has a .935 save percentage and a 2.34 goals against average against the Wolverines.

Michigan’s goalkeeping has been anything but certain lately, with Steve Racine getting the start in four of the past six games. Racine and Nagelvoort have both played against Michigan State.

Nagelvoort is 2-0-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average and a .954 save percentage, while Racine has a 2.55 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage against the Spartans.

JT Compher leads Michigan in scoring and all Big Ten freshmen with 28 points.

The storyline for Michigan State is still their shot blocking, defense and goalkeeping . They block an average of 17.71 shots per game and have the nation’s 13th-best defense that allows 2.35 goals per game. Hildebrand has stopped 851 pucks on the year, which ranks 10th in the nation.

Michigan has been shaky this season, but has won two of the last three games. Seven of Michigan State’s past nine games have all been one-goal games or ties.

Prediction: Series plit

Penn State (6-22-2, 2-13-1-0 B1G) vs. Wisconsin (19-9-2, 10-5-1-0 B1G): March 7 at 7 p.m., March 8 at 7 p.m.

The Badgers, four points ahead of Michigan for the second seed, return to action after sitting out with a bye week for their first rip to Penn State. The Badgers are 2-7-1 away from the Kohl Center, but they did win in their last road game.

Wisconsin is on a three-game winning streak. The Badgers have won five of their last six, including a pair of victories over Minnesota. In the last three games, Wisconsin’s line of Nic Kerdiles, Nark Zengerle and Tyler Banres have combined for 11 points.

Joel Rumpel has been one of the Big Ten’s best goal keepers this season, even if his numbers on the road aren’t stellar. His 1.83 goals-against average and .936 save percentage leads this season the Big Ten.

The Badgers swept the Nittany Lions earlier this season at the Kohl Center. Penn State has one win in the series against Wisconsin — an overtime victory at the Kohl Center in February last year. Max Gardiner leads the Nittany Lions in scoring against the Badgers with four points.

The Nittany Lions are on a three-game losing streak, but have earned their two conference wins in the past seven games. Matthew Skoff started six in a row, but PJ Musico was in net against Minnesota on Saturday. He made 35 saves and allowed two goals in the loss.

The Badgers have had trouble winning on the road this season and the Nittany Lions have proved they can earn conference wins. There’s a chance Penn State will earn a tie and possibly win a game, but it’s doubtful Wisconsin will drop two games.

Prediction: Wisconsin sweeps

Ohio State (15-11-4, 5-7-4-3 B1G) vs. Minnesota (23-4-5, 12-2-2-0 B1G): March 7 at 7:30 p.m., March 8 at 6:30 p.m.

If Minnesota beats Ohio State and Penn State beats Wisconsin once, the Gophers will clinch at least a share of the Big Ten regular-season title. If the Gophers win both games over Ohio State, they’ll be guaranteed the No. 1 seed.

Ohio State has the nations ninth-best offense, but haven’t scored more than two goals in five of the past six games. Over that stretch, the Buckeyes are 1-2-3.

Six different Buckeyes have registered a point against Minnesota, including leading Big Ten scorer Ryan Dzingel.

Minnesota is 2-0 against the Buckeyes this season, winning 1-0 at the Hockey City Classic and 4-2 at Minnesota. After dropping a pari of games to Wisconsin at the Kohl Center, the Gophers are on a four-game winning streak.

Hudson Fasching had two points in Friday’s win over Penn State and scored the game-winning tally. His 12 goals leads Big Ten freshmen.

Minnesota has the best defense in the country and allows 1.91 goals per game. Against Ohio State, Sam Warning leads the Gophers with three points thanks to a hat trick on Jan. 18.

Prediction: Minnesota sweeps

Three Things I Think: ECAC, Final Edition

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

In all honesty, I have no idea where the time went. The best time of the year is upon us, as eight teams will play this weekend for a chance to advance to the quarterfinal round, where Union, Colgate, Quinnipiac and Cornell wait in the wings with byes. I will have a more complete preview of the ECAC first round later this week.

The last weekend, showed the true grit of playoff hockey. Union, despite not playing for much, was locked into a battle with Brown on Saturday. On Friday night the Bears and RPI were locked into a playoff hockey game. Some teams flourish in the environment and it will be very interesting to see who that team is this season. Last season it was Brown, but this season there are a few teams that could be that team.

I am going to a highlight some things below and give some opinions on to who I think will go forward in the tournament. I don’t give much in the way of an opinion in the preview, so this is a much better avenue to do so. All in all, I could see 11 of the 12 teams going to Lake Placid, as the league is so strong. Right now the two favorites among readers seems to be Quinnipiac and a really gritty Union team, I would agree with them. Because of the way this season has gone, there is always thought that the clear-cut favorites wont make it and a team that no one expects will be there, I will say that probably will happen. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, March 4

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

There are just two weeks left in Big Ten regular season play. There will be no more bye weeks, as each team has four games remaining.

The Gophers swept Penn State at home over the weekend by scores of 5-3 and 2-1. Minnesota finished the season 15-1-3 at home, and it’s the first time in Mariucci’s 20 years the Gophers have only lost once at home.

Minnesota ranks No. 1 in the PairWise and have 38 points in the Big Ten conference. The Gophers are ahead of the Badgers by seven points and have won four straight since dropping a pair to Wisconsin.

The Nittany Lions scored first on Friday, but the Gophers netted three tallies before the end of the first period. The next night, P.J. Musico made his first start of the season for Penn State and finished with 35 saves in the 2-1 loss.

The Wolverines are now unbeaten in their last three games and have 27 points. Michigan will face Michigan State and Minnesota to close out the season.

In the exhibition match, the USNTDP U-18 team defeated Michigan State 4-3, and future Spartan Edwin Minney made 20 saves and allowed three goals in the win.

Currently the Gophers are first and the Badgers second in Big Ten standings. Wisconsin is four points ahead of Michigan. The Wolverines could still earn a first-round bye through multiple scenarios.

(After the jump: The first annual Mike Ricther Award, Ohio State’s updated netminding situation and what the weekend means for Michigan.)

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The Takeaway: Brown Squanders Oppotunity for Home Ice in the First Round in 3-0 Loss to Union

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

Providence, RI. - Brown had everything on the line, with home ice at stake in its game against Union. The Dutchmen had just the national picture to play for. For the second night in a row, Bruno played in a tight checking, physical playoff type game. Defensive and tentative best described the first two periods, as both teams were able to keep each other off the board.

The third period was much of the same, until Kevin Sullivan fed a wide open Daniel Ciampini in front of the net to give the Dutchmen the 1-0 lead at 12 minutes, 51 seconds of the third period. Daniel Carr added his 17th of the year at 16:17 to give the Dutch a commanding 2-0 lead. Kevin Sullivan added an empty netter and Union defeated Brown, 3-0.

With the win, Union finishes the regular season 24-6-4, 18-3-1 in the ECAC. Brown squandered its opportunity to host a first round series with the loss. Its record falls to 11-15-3, 8-13-1 to finish the regular season. Union will have next weekend off with the bye and the number one seed, while Brown will travel to St. Lawrence for a series against the Saints in the first round of the ECAC tournament. (more…)