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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Feb. 20

Friday, February 20th, 2015

This weekend of Big Ten play takes off with a logjam in the standings. Minnesota and Michigan are tied for first, while Penn State and Michigan State sit two points behind.

The biggest test this weekend will be Minnesota against Penn State. Minnesota just swept Michigan, looking like the team we expected them to be. On the other side, Penn State was just swept by Michigan State.

Michigan vs. Ohio State might be an interesting one, depending on how healthy the Buckeyes are. Even with the injuries, Ohio State put up six goals on Michigan, albeit allowing 10. Wolverine captain Andrew Copp is day-to-day with an injury, that he probably sustained on this collision.

Three Things I Think: ECAC 2/18

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

Quinnipiac has all but locked up the Cleary Cup. It can do so at home against its rival, Yale, on Friday night. Hypothetically it would only clinch a share, but nonetheless to do so in front of your biggest rival is always something special. St. Lawrence is in second place in the standings and in pretty good shape, as it is clear of third place Yale by three points. At that point it gets interesting, as four points separate positions 3-8. Harvard holds the fourth and final bye, which in all honesty it needs to make a run. Dartmouth however is just a point back, while Colgate is two points back of that all important bye. It seems as though, Union and RPI are all but eliminated from contention for the final first round home series. The Engineers are four behind eighth, while its capital region counterpart is five points back.

The national picture is again looking ok for the league, as three teams currently sit in the top 15 of the Pairwise. Quinnipiac is the highest ranked league team, in tenth place. Yale and Harvard are in 14th and 15th respectively, hardly comfortable positioning going forward. Yale could really help itself with a win against Quinnipiac on Friday, ditto Harvard picking up some road wins in the North Country. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Feb. 17

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

The weekend’s play has created a logjam for the top of the Big Ten. The Gophers vaulted into a tie for first after sweeping Michigan, but the Spartans and Nittany Lions are just two points behind. After splitting with Ohio State, the Badgers are still last in the conference.

After struggling since returning from winter break, the Gophers took down Michigan 6-2, with captain Kyle Rau earning a hat trick. Minnesota then won 2-0, getting revenge for dropping tow games at Michigan in January. Rau and Mike Reilly led the team with four points over the weekend.

For the second time in three weeks, it was proven Michigan’s high-powered offense can be stopped. The Wolverines still average the most goals per game, but it dropped from 4.21 goals per game to 3.96 after scoring two goals against Minnesota. It was the first time Michigan was shut out all season. On Monday, Wolverine coach Red Berenson announced that Andrew Copp is week-to-week after suffering an upper-body injury. I’m going to bet he was injured on this play – when he tried to hit Travis Boyd but ended up sending both of them into the boards.

Michigan’s rival, Michigan State, earned a sweep over Penn State – and has won five of its last six games. For some reason, the Spartans have had a lot of success against the Nittany Lions. This season, the Spartans are 2-1-1, and last year Michigan State was 3-0-1 against Penn State.  Mackenzie MacEachern had five points, including a hat trick, for Michigan State this weekend.

The Buckeyes defeated Wisconsin 2-1 on Friday, then fell 3-2 on Saturday. With the win, Wisconsin snapped an 11-game losing streak. Cameron Hughes returned to the lineup, while freshman Adam Rockwood netted two points (1g, 1a), including the game-winning tally on Saturday. Rockwood has scored five points (2g, 3a) over the past six games.

In some other news and notes, Penn State’s David Glen was suspended for butt-ending a Spartan on Saturday. He’ll miss Friday’s game.

(After the jump: The Minnesota we expected, anything can happen, and what can we expect from Michigan State)


Big Ten: A Look Into Corsi, Week 18

Monday, February 16th, 2015

Two Big Ten series ended in sweeps, with Minnesota and Michigan State earning victories in their home rinks. The Buckeyes and Badgers, a matchup between two struggling teams, yielded a sweep.

The Michigan State-Penn State matchup featured a high-powered offense that likes to shoot against a the Big Ten’s best defense. The Nittany Lions have some of the best Corsi stats in the conference (because they aim to shoot the puck), but their Corsi numbers dropped in the first game to Michigan State.

A similar effect happened in the Minnesota-Michigan series. The Gophers shut down Michigan’s offense, and also finished with a higher Corsi than the Wolverines. It’s surprising because Minnesota’s Corsi numbers haven’t been very strong throughout the season.

The full Corsi stats are listed below: (more…)

WCHA Weekend Preview, Feb. 13-14

Friday, February 13th, 2015

The WCHA has a full slate of league play this weekend, with five conference series on the docket as the races for playoff positioning head toward the stretch run.

Minnesota State and Michigan Tech have already clinched home ice for the playoffs and Bowling Green can join them this weekend. The fourth spot it up for grabs though, with three teams — Northern Michigan, Ferris State, and Bemidji State — in the best positions to clinch it. Though, Lake Superior State and Alabama-Huntsville can put themselves in the conversation with strong showings this weekend.

With so many teams packed together in the middle of the standings, it’s looking like a lot will have to be decided on the final weekend of the season.

Two WCHA players — Michigan Tech senior forward Tanner Kero and Ferris State senior goaltender CJ Motte — have been named as finalists for the Senior CLASS Award. Players are nominated based on notable achievements in the community, in the classroom, in their character, and in competition. Fans can vote for the winner on the Senior CLASS website.

I apologize for the lack of a “Three Things” article after last weekend, luckily CHN has a lot of good WCHA content to check out: BGSU was featured as a the team of the week, and Jen Dobias wrote a great piece about Alabama-Huntsville’s return to relevance this season in her feature, “Southern Revival.”

In the Polls: No movement for any of the three teams in this week’s poll. Minnesota State remains the No. 1 team in the country, Michigan Tech joins them in the top-five at No. 5, and Bowling Green sits at No. 8. Bemidji State (1) is the only WCHA team receiving votes in this week’s poll.

In the Pairwise, the Mavericks remain No. 1, the Huskies jumped up a spot to No. 6, and the Falcons dropped a couple places to No. 8.


Parity in Atlantic Hockey Alive and Well

Friday, February 13th, 2015

Earlier this week, I joined Hockey on Campus‘ Bernie Corbett to discuss the playoff race in Atlantic Hockey, and it got me thinking …

Parity is something most college hockey conferences love to brag about, but until recently, it never really existed. The front-runners were almost always the front-runners and the also-rans were almost always the also-rans, with a few extraordinary years strewn about throughout history.

That trend has changed the last four seasons. UMass Lowell and Providence have become definite powers in Hockey East while Maine and New Hampshire have slid backwards; even Merrimack had a run to the Hockey East title game in 2011. The ECAC’s rise to power has been clearly evident, with back-to-back national champions and a few other programs – most notably Quinnipiac – without a title but still one of the nation’s best teams.


Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Feb. 13

Friday, February 13th, 2015

The Big Ten enters another week of conference play, with Michigan at the top of the conference. Its series with Minnesota is the marquee matchup of this week, featuring two of the Big Ten’s top teams.

The Gophers swept Ohio State last weekend, but haven’t earned a quality win against a good team in a long time. Meanwhile, the Wolverines still have defensive questions. The last time both teams met, Michigan swept Minnesota – but allowed five goals to the Gophers on Jan. 10.

All three series are interesting, as Penn State  –  is on an eight-game unbeaten streak, and has scored four or more goals in eight of the last nine contests. It’s another defensive test for the Spartans, who just faced the top-ranked offense in the country with a split against Michigan.

In probably the most underrated series of the weekend (for all the wrong reasons) the Buckeyes and Badgers will face off to see which team is the worst in the Big Ten. Ohio State’s struggles have been masked by Wisconsin’s even more impressive issues, but this weekend will be telling.


ECAC Weekend Preview Feb. 13-14

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

The standings are so close that with three weeks remaining any of the teams in the top ten could get a bye in the first round. Quinnipiac and St. Lawrence have run away with the league, as the Bobcats have a three point lead on the Saints and SLU has five points clear of the mess of teams in third place. Behind the two front-runners it is a mess, as four teams are tied for third with two others just a point behind in the standings. The battle for the byes and home ice will come down to the last game of the season in three weekends.

Quinnipiac and St. Lawrence meet on Friday, with the league in balance. St. Lawrence has quietly won seven games in a row, all in ECAC play, while QU is riding an overall four game unbeaten streak and eight in league play. Realistically, SLU is playing the best hockey in the league right now and its 7-1 trouncing of Union shows it but QU is playing some awesome hockey as well, mainly led by its defense. With a win on Friday, Quinnipiac can practically wrap up the league barring a meltdown with two weeks left in the season, while the Saints can make it a battle for the league title in the coming weeks. (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC 2/9

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Clarkson Has Visibly Improved in Attack, Hence the Results Are Changing

Clarkson has seen its struggles this year on offense. It was visible why that was the case throughout much of the early part of the season. The attack lacked any sort of confidence and the possession game were hardly present in many of its games. In a series against Merrimack, Tech faltered and didn’t move the puck. At times it looked inept and without structure in that series, it could hardly get through the neutral zone. In all fairness, Merrimack does that to a lot of teams but Clarkson just looked lost at times.

Despite scoring a lone goal against Union, the attack just looked more dangerous. If not for the Union goaltender playing well, Clarkson deserved a better fate than playing to a 4-1 loss. The power play had its opportunities and at even strength Clarkson dominated the metrics of the game. Stevens made the better saves of the game and the Knights shot themselves in the foot with uncharacteristic mistakes and a lack of discipline. Change the lack of discipline and the dreadful start to the contest, it would have looked down the eyes of a weekend sweep. On Saturday, Clarkson scored five goals in a win against Rensselaer.

The improvement on offense is not only passing the eye test, but also has showed up on the scoresheet. In its last five wins, it has scored  21 goals for an average of 4.20 per game. Since the dawn of the second half, Clarkson has scored at a clip of 2.70 goals per game. The 2.70 is near 3/4’s of a goal higher than what they were in the first half, just over 2 goals per game. The problem for Clarkson is to improve consistency and to be dangerous like they looked at times.

Sitting at .500 in the half is hardly what Clarkson fans like, but seeing improvement is something I really enjoyed. Kevin Tansey, before he took the game disqualification, was  the best player on the ice against Union. The disqualification was a sad ending to what I thought was a great game by a very underrated player. His presense in the rush and pinching on offense was something that Clarkson needs more of because it is what it lacks the most in its attack. Clarkson still has the best hard nose, defenders in the league so the improved offense has led to better results. Clarkson has much of a chance of anyone to get a bye and to hold fort as a home ice team. Now with the increased confidence in attack I can see it competing for one of those spots. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Feb. 9

Monday, February 9th, 2015

After a win at the Hockey City Classic, Michigan is first place in the Big Ten. Penn State is just two points behind, while Wisconsin is (surprise) still last. But the Buckeyes are only two points out of the conference seller. Thanks to the pair of wins over Ohio State, Minnesota is third.

Nothing exciting happened over the weekend, except Wisconsin is showing improvement. And Cameron Hughes, one of Wisconsin’s better players, is injured. On the more successful side of the Wisconsin-Minnesota rivalry, Travis Boyd had his first career hat trick as Minnesota dominated Ohio State, putting the Gophers back where they should be.

I’m still iffy on Minnesota. Ohio State is one of the weaker teams in the league (partly because of injuries) and there’s no real quality Big Ten competition that Minnesota can test itself against. Michigan and Penn State are good, but they’re not quite Minnesota State or Minnesota-Duluth quality.

Speaking of Minnesota State, the Mavericks are No. 1 in the PairWise. Michigan is still the highest Big Ten team at 12th, while Penn State moved up to 22nd. Minnesota is No. 14, thanks in part to a couple Harvard losses last week. The Wolverines might be able to earn an at-large bid, if they win most of their conference games. If Minnesota is better when those teams face off later, the Gophers might win though. And I’d beware of Penn State, which played well against Michigan earlier this season.

(After the jump: Time to stop outdoor games, Wisconsin is overshadowing Ohio State and too many dangerous hits.) (more…)