Michigan and Michigan State will be on break this week, leaving Penn State, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Minnesota in action. Penn State will play Princeton while the Gophers will compete in the last-ever North Star College Cup.
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It was an okay weekend in the Big Ten, but it didn’t really teach us anything new. Michigan State had a good weekend against the Wolverines, posting a win and a tie. Ohio State took five of six points at Penn State in the same manner (with a shootout win) while Minnesota and Wisconsin split at the Kohl Center.
The results did have a pretty big impact on the Pairwise, which is going to fluctuate a lot between now and the end of the season. Penn State dropped from first to fourth because of its loss, while the Buckeyes jumped up to eighth because of the win. Even after losing to Wisconsin, Minnesota has nestled itself in at seventh. The Gophers also have the lead in the conference, but it’s a two-point margin over Penn State. The Buckeyes are seven points out of first place and the Badgers (which I’m not surprised about) are six points out.
The Spartans had their three goals spaced out amongst all three periods in Friday’s win. Ed Minney made all 24 stops for his shutout, while Jack Lafontaine started for Michigan. The Wolverines countered with Zach Nagelvoort on Saturday, continuing the weird rotation they have in place, and he made 23 stops.
On Friday the Gophers had the 2-0 lead going into the second. The Badgers tied it in the middle frame but the Gophers took a 3-2 lead. Freshman Trent Frederic tied it in the third period, but Justin Kloos won it in OT. Eric Schierhorn and Jack Berry started. Matt Jurusik started the next night and had 32 saves (the same as Shcieirhorn) as the Badgers won 5-3.
So as it stands now, here’s the Pairwise:
4. Penn State
8. Ohio State
And here’s the conference standings:
2. Penn State
4. Ohio State
6. Michigan State
(After the jump: Why Penn State lost, Wisconsin will contend and is Michigan State really progressing)
From game one to now, there is no team that has come further in the ECAC than Yale. Early in the season, the Bulldogs struggled to find an identity, had head-scratching performances against Colgate and RPI and in its first five league games the Bulldogs gave up 22 goals. The defense, which I wrote about in a feature last week, struggled to find a rhythm after losing its top four defensemen from last season.
Honestly, though, any team would struggle in this situation and it would have been understandable if Yale had its first bad season since Keith Allain took over, a decade ago. Yale left the first half near the bottom of the standings and in the low 40’s of the Pairwise rankings, a place you would never expect an Allain coached Yale team to be.
Those days seem all but over for the New Haven team. Big wins against Connecticut and defending Hockey East champion Northeastern, got the second half going on the right foot. In those games the Elis scored nine goals. Those games were undoubtedly positives, but then a setback against Providence may have provided a turning-point. Despite losing by a 3-1 score, Yale was pushed around in a big way. Entering the third period, the Bulldogs had a meager six shots on goal and never got going. Considering how Yale plays, that was a head-scratcher and even Allain admits that. (more…)
All six teams are in action this weekend. It’s the first edition of this year’s border battle and an early rematch of Penn State-Ohio State. In the other series Michigan and Michigan State face off again for the first time since the Great Lakes Invitational.
In the Pairwise there are three teams currently sitting inside the bubble – Ohio State, Minnesota and Penn State. The Nittany Lions are almost a lock for the tournament, Minnesota is kind of towards the middle but the Buckeyes are in danger of dropping out.
Thwo teams are tied for first in the conference – Penn State and Minnesota. The Gophers are six points behind, while Ohio State is fourth and nine points out of first.
The weekend of Big Ten/non-conference play featured two and a half sweeps. The only half sweep came in non-conference competition as Ohio State defeated and then tied Arizona State. It was not the best game for the Buckeyes, who did lose in the meaningless shootout. The Gophers swept Michigan while Penn State swept Michigan State..
Penn State is still No. 1 in the Pairwise and it would probably take a lot (maybe losing every remaining game) to knock them out of the tournament. The Buckeyes, however, are on the bubble and they’ve dropped down to No. 13. The Gophers and Nittany Lions are tied for the Big Ten lead with 15 points each. Wisconsin is third with nine.
Per Scarlet & Grey Radio’s Miles McQuinn, OSU’s leading scorer Nick Schilkey is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. He was hurt in Saturday’s tie against Arizona State. The Gophers announced that Tommy Novak is out for the rest of the season.
(After the jump: The inconsistency returns, a Pairwise update/NCAA tournament outlook and a national scoring update)
This weekend again there are two Big Ten series with Michigan State traveling to Penn State and the Gophers hosting the Wolverines. Wisconsin has a bye week while Ohio State will host Arizona State.
As the season goes along I try to find trends within how teams are playing and the form of each. Although I have seen the struggle of ECAC teams in non-conference play, I know that the quality of games in the league isn’t down. This season teams have been filling holes from last season, left and right, but as a league fans can point to the five ECAC teams in the top 18 of the Pairwise to realize maybe things aren’t so bad. The thing with that is, is the top teams have a ton of wins, while the bottom teams have struggled to pick up points against them. The top three (Union, SLU and Harvard) have a combined 22-3-4 record, while the bottom six are 12-37-5 in ECAC play this season.
One interesting stat that I have found, is that although defenses are struggling the offenses are still clicking at a high rate. In comparison to last year, most teams have a higher goals/game ratio. At this time last season, there were just two ECAC teams that were averaging north of three goals a game, Quinnipiac (3.78) and Harvard (3.93). The rest of the league was tightly bunched in a range from 126.96.36.199 goals a game.
This season the Crimson are off the charts at 4.58 goals scored a game, while Union (3.90), Yale (3.21), Clarkson (3.19), St. Lawrence (3.18) and Princeton (3.0) are each averaging higher than three. That realistically proves what many know, many teams are rebuilding defenses and the goaltending is a tad down from the last season. I suppose most fans like this kind of hockey and teams have adjusted to their strengths. Whatever it is most teams are scoring at higher rates.
Also read my thoughts on RPI’s Struggle this season, I feel they are an important case study of what can happen when things go seriously wrong.
Without further ado, here are my thoughts for the week… (more…)
The second half of the season officially began and the four games this weekend were not very surprising. Wisconsin swept Michigan State while Penn State and Ohio State split. a bunch of NCAA players, including a few from the Big Ten, secured gold at the World Juniors on Thursday and then returned home – although they did not play on Friday (understandably). The Wolverines, who were off, held their alumni game against Red Wings alumni to benefit Scott Matzka, who has ALS.
The Gophers, who were also off, are tied for first with Penn State and Wisconsin, who all have nine points. Ohio State is fourth with six points (remember, regulation and overtime wins count for three points) and Michigan is fifth with three. The Spartans still have no conference points, and each team has played four Big Ten contests.
Luke Kunin, after captaining America to gold, was back in Wisconsin to watch the Badgers win 5-1 over the Spartans. On Saturday Kunin helped the Badgers win 5-1 after potting two goals. Matt Jurusik returned from his injury on the same day and stopped 20 shots. Michigan State’s Ed Minney made 61 saves over the weekend.
Tanner Laczynski was another World Junior gold medalist, although he didn’t play for the Buckeyes over the weekend. Ohio State won 3-0 on Friday and then fell 4-2 with a last-minute comeback attempt failing. Without one of their leading scorers, Ohio State got five goals from three different players while Christian Frey made 46 saves in the win and 39 saves in the loss. Peyton Jones stopped 24 in the win and 18 in the loss. While freshman Denis Smirnov was kept from scoring, his assist on Saturday gave him 28 points – a new program record for points in a single season by a freshman.
Michigan’s Joe Cecconi and Minnesota’s Ryan Lindgren also came home with gold, although both their teams were off.
(After the jump: What this means for Penn State, the problem for Ed Minney and what Wisconsin’s offense should be)
The Denver Pioneers welcomed back forward Troy Terry on Saturday, just 48 hours after his shootout goal against Canada propelled Team USA to a memorable gold medal win at the World Junior Championships. You can ready all about the homecoming — and his now famous ‘5-hole’ shootout strategy — here.
But another layer to Terry’s story this week was his palpable humility. After Saturday’s 6-1 win by the Pioneers vs. Arizona State — Terry had 2 goals, 3 assists — the 19-year old sophomore fielded question after question about his week. First beating Russia. Then Canada. Then the social media attention from celebrities and professional athletes.
Clearly grateful, he seemed to catch himself often, making sure to deflect some of the attention.
When I wrote a feature in November on RPI it was just a struggling hockey team that was trying to find rhythm and momentum. I felt as though it would turn it around during the second half or late in the first semester. It had points where it seemed like that would be the case. Even then, the Engineers were in games until the end. There was a 3-2 loss against Ohio State, a 3-1 loss to St. Lawrence, it led by two against Yale, late, only to have the Bulldogs come roaring back to win in overtime and there was an overtime defeat on the road to Union. Albeit losses, they weren’t ones that would get anyone’s head shaking.
Unfortunately, the results since then have been downright embarrassing and things have gone from bad to worse. As a Program, it is also approaching some program low-marks if the current trends continue.
Since I wrote that feature, the Engineers have won just once, to Arizona State, have gone a paltry 1-8-0 and are on a current seven game losing streak. It isn’t as if the Engineers are just losing nail-biters in their current seven game losing streak, either. They have given up five or more goals in six of those games and six or more in four of them. During the skid, they had a three-goal lead against Princeton evaporate in a game it ended up losing in overtime. In the third period and overtime, the Engineers put four shots on goal, while the Tigers had 30. Other than that the closest game was against Quinnipiac, a 4-1 defeat that they were outshot 51-15 in.
On the season, the Engineers have a -2.09 goal margin, which is the worst in the ECAC (next worst Brown -1.64). That margin is also the second worst in the country, to Niagara’s 2.35 margin a game. During the seven game skid that I talked about above, that margin shoots to -3.43 per game (39-15 or 5.57-2.14 per gm). For perspective, by the way, 50 out of 60 teams in college hockey have a loss/win margin of less than 1.0 and another five teams have a better goal margin than 1.35. RPI and Niagara are outliers, as they are the only two that have margins of greater than 1.75.
These are not results that RPI or any team in a major conferences should be having. No team in the country should be consistently allowing six goals a night and no team should be losing by 3.14 over a period of nine games. In most of those games, the result isn’t inflated by empty-net goals.
Usually there is more to blame when a college hockey program falls from grace than just a coach or a coaching staff, but the onus in these circumstances always falls there. Teams with the history and backing like RPI usually have a quick trigger, but lets also remember Seth Appert is still under contract until 2020-21. Unless some alum steps forward a buyout would be pricey and probably unreasonable.
That contract was signed in 2013, a season after RPI had a second place finish. The best finish since was last year, when the Engineers finished in a tie for fifth. It bowed out in the quarterfinals, being outscored 13-4 over two nights. Honestly, this year I figured they would come close to that, but it hasn’t happened. There is always some responsibility at that level and based on RPI fans I have read and talked to there certainly is.
As I was digging through the RPI team history, the Engineers are on pace to have its second worst season in its DI hockey history, the worst by percentage was in 1965-66 when it went 3-19-0 (13.64 win pct.). The winning percentage this season, is at a paltry 15.2 percent and over the last few weeks has been falling quickly.
The 19 losses it currently has is already the ninth most, in a season, since it became a founding member of the ECAC, in 1961-62. With 14 more games left in this season there are many more that can be added. Of note, the largest loss total that the engineers have had in a season, is 27 in ’08-09 and 26 in ’14-15, each in the last decade under Appert.
The fewest wins in a season it has had in the ECAC is era is three (65-66) but teams only played 22 games then. This season, the Engineers are on pace for just five, after rounding up from 4.86. This would be astronomically low for the RPI program, considering only once since 1970 has it even been in the single-digits.
It is tough to point to what exactly has gone wrong, but it is clear that defensively there have been some problems, as I mentioned above. There also comes the fact the Engineers have been outshot by an average of 10 on goal per game and giving up an inflated 36.39 shots per game. They have a 43.7 percent corsi that is sixth worst in the country.
Usually when a team is under pressure as much as RPI is, there will be trouble, unless they have great goaltending and a good system in place that keeps those attempts to the outside. Even then at 37 shots allowed per game, a goalie would need to have a .95 save percentage just to allow just two goals and a .92 to keep it to three. This is what RPI has had in the recent past, but now those areas seem to be a trouble.
Whatever has happened to RPI in recent weeks, is something that shouldn’t happen to a team of RPI’s stature, in the ECAC. No program in the country is immune to these seasons, however, they happen. For a program like RPI’s, which has two national titles to its credit, this season has brought about a sad state of affairs. If things don’t turn quick, the blame has to go somewhere I suppose but is there really a sign it will? Lets just hope, it does turn around to some degree.