Archive for the 'Commentary' Category

Three Things I Think: ECAC 12/7

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

Seeing it has been some time since I have checked in with this, I figured I would get back in the swing of it just before the break. Now that we are almost at the holiday break, many trends have taken hold and there certainly seems like a few tiers have developed within the conference. Union and Clarkson sit at the top of the conference with 12 points, but the Golden Knights are unblemished at 6-0-0 in league play and have two games in hand on the Dutchmen. Union has been a surprise in the first half of the season and have gotten contributions from a lot of new faces. Cornell and Colgate also fit into the top tier, as the two have big wins and have just looked the part of being near the top. The Big Red are currently third with 10 points, while the Raiders are right behind with nine.

Brown has more wins in just 12 games this season than it did all of last year. It also has more ECAC wins, four, than it did last season. The Bears are tied for fifth with Harvard and Yale. The Crimson have been surprising, given the talent on the team and have a few tough losses. Another team I will mention is Princeton that has also largely underachieved.

If the NCAA tournament started today, the ECAC would have just two teams in it. Clarkson is third in the pairwise, while Cornell is fifth. Colgate is just outside the picture in 17th and Union is off the pace in 26th. This is largely caused by a poor inter-conference record by the league. Although the league has played a tough schedule, the .426 mark is hardly good for the coefficients. Clarkson and Cornell have largely been the best teams in non-conference play and both are reaping the benefits of it.

Without further ado here are my random thoughts of the last few weeks.

Below the break Clarkson’s young nucleus, Union’s New Charges, RPI fans should trust the process. (more…)

Friendship Four in Belfast is Quite the Experience

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

I was skeptical of the Friendship Four tournament in Belfast, Northern Ireland a few years ago when it was introduced to the college hockey landscape, and honestly many coaches and programs didn’t want to subject their teams to the travel, either. But three years have passed and over the weekend I quickly learned why Hockey East and ECAC coaches should be flocking in droves to do this. It has become one of the most successful holiday tournaments.

The Friday afternoon match that pitted Clarkson and RPI saw probably 4,000 people. Most of the crowd was comprised of school children from local schools that hosted the players during the week, where the teams taught them about hockey and why it is a great sport to play. (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC, 11/14

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

Another weekend, another set of surprises in the ECAC. As I was watching results pour in over the weekend, I couldn’t help but to think to myself how topsy turvy the league is setting up to be. Quinnipiac fell twice in the capital region, falling to 0-4-0 in ECAC play, while Harvard is 2-3-0. On the flip side of those two is Union, who I picked 10th in preseason. The Dutchmen are now 5-1-0 in the ECAC play and have looked good in the process. Its only loss was to Clarkson last week, while it has defeated RPI twice, St. Lawrence, Quinnipiac and Princeton. Like the Dutchmen, Colgate is off to a surprising start and is 3-0-1 in ECAC play and is on an overall seven game unbeaten streak. The Raiders have also won their last three games and I will talk about this success below.

Cornell is the only defeated team left in the nation, at 6-0-0. The Big Red were expected to be up in the top echelon of teams but they are looking the part of one of the better teams in the ECAC. This success, is setting up for a huge showdown against long-time ECAC rival Clarkson. The REAL Golden Knights are also off to a great start, with a 4-0-0 record in the league. Honestly, these two teams have looked like the best teams but it is still early.

Without further ado, here are my thoughts of the week… (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC, 11/7

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

Now that all ECAC teams have played games, there are certainly some interesting trends. Who would have guessed after the first full weekend of play that Quinnipiac would 12th on the table and 0-2? If you said you expected it, I would say you’re lying because since the Bobcats entered the league over a decade ago, it has not been 0-2 in the league. I will discuss their troubles below and a lot of it stems from the same questions that were asked in the preseason. Dartmouth, after a rough 5-0 loss in its ECAC opener against Harvard responded well and won both its games over the weekend.  Cornell is 4-0-0 to begin the year and had an impressive road sweep of Quinnipiac/Princeton on the weekend.

Because it has been a pair of weeks since I last posted, I wanted to talk about the Pairwise and the inter-conference record of the league-surprisingly it isn’t all doom and gloom. As early results poured in, it seemed as though the ECAC was going to have struggles. But as I have delved into the numbers further, the league’s record is 45-49-11 in non-conference play. If one subtracts St. Lawrence’s 1-7-0 mark in non-conference play, the league would be 44-42-11. This is right on par with last season and the current .481 record is fourth best among the conferences. With many of the better teams being Ivy League schools, that mark should only improve as the season heads into the holiday non-conference game binge.

Before I get to my three thoughts, I will mention I am going to Belfast for the Friendship Four tournament Thanksgiving weekend. So be on the lookout for my thoughts of that trip, as I am really excited about it and will probably post a travel blog on the experience in Northern Ireland… Until then here are my three thoughts of the week:

Below the break: Quinnipiac’s Goal Scoring problems, Cornell’s Big Sweep, Clarkson Recovers, team-by-team thoughts/power rankings (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC, Oct. 22

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

It always seems to come quick, but now that week three has gone and passed the Ivy League teams will finally join the fray. The early season has been interesting in terms of the league, but a few things are becoming quite clear: Quinnipiac might be a different team in terms of style than we expected, Clarkson has picked up some great wins behind goaltending from Jake Kielly, RPI is much improved, and St. Lawrence has been unable to catch steam with a brutal schedule.

Clarkson has led the way in the early non-conference play at 4-1-1, while Quinnipiac has gone 3-1-0. Union got off to an 0-5-0 start but swept its weekend against Niagara and RIT to improve to 2-5-0. Overall the conference has had tough sledding in the early non-conference period, but many of the teams have played tough schedules, like SLU. So far ECAC teams are 12-16-6.

Below the break I will discuss Clarkson’s hot start, SLU’s poor run of form and RPI’s boost in energy in the early going. (more…)

NCHC Preview

Friday, October 13th, 2017

All eight NCHC teams are in action this weekend, and aside from Miami’s exhibition tonight against the U.S. Under-18 team, all the games — finally — count. Western Michigan is already off to a good start this week, with a 3-1 mid-week win over Bowling Green. The Broncos’ Colt Conrad already has three goals this season.

In case you missed it, some relevant NCHC items on the site from the past two weeks:

  1. My full NCHC preview, i.e. an overview of the strengths/weaknesses/outlook of each of the league’s teams.
  2. NCHC Watch List: A look at 5 storylines to watch this season, as well as 5 players to watch (beyond just the names you’ve seen garner preseason honors on the all-conference team)
  3. Above and Beyond: A feature on Denver, after I spoke to head coach Jim Montgomery and sophomore star Henrik Borgstrom about whether it’s really possible to be as motivated to repeat as champions as they were last year to win their first title
  4. Quiet on the Western Front: A feature on North Dakota, with comments from Shane Gersich about his outlook for the season.
  5. Denver Seems Destined to Repeat: A column by my colleague Joe Meloni about the favorites to win the title this season.

3 Things to Watch this weekend:

  1. St. Cloud’s season opener

In the NCHC preview above, I talked about St. Cloud as the team in the league most likely to challenge Denver this season. And that’s in large part because players who scored 100 of the team’s 105 goals last season return this year.

“I think the guys are ready,” said the Huskies’ Judd Peterson at the NCHC Media Day last month. “I know we have goal-scorers, and we just need to find a way this year.
“It’s exciting to be in a leadership role and to kind of show the young guys how it’s done. It’s going to be a fun year, and it’s going to be exciting to see where we go. We have a lot of depth in our lineup this year, so I’m excited.”

Still, I anticipate that the defense will make or break the Huskies this season, so players to watch in that regard are junior Will Borgen (a fourth-round draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres in 2015), sophomore Jack Ahcan (21 points as a rookie last year), and junior Jimmy Schuldt (the Huskies’ captain).

It helps, too, to have a head coach in Bob Motzko who has led a team to the Frozen Four recently and won a gold medal last season as head coach for the World Junior team — a position he will renew this winter.

This is Motzko’s 13th year as head coach of the Huskies. St. Cloud takes on Alaska (WCHA) in a two-game nonconference series starting tonight.

I never want to sound like an old guy, but I truly enjoy the building of the team and the process that we go through,” said Motzko ahead of the season. “Individual wins are awesome moments, but then when that moment’s over, and you go back over, and it’s — you know, when you recruit a Nic Dowd out of Huntsville, Alabama, and he becomes an All-American and now he’s playing in the National Hockey League. To be a part of that whole process… It’s not cliche. Those are the things you enjoy the most, watching the development of young men.”

2. Denver/Notre Dame rematch

Denver pummeled Notre Dame, 6-1, in the national semifinals last year en route to the national title. The result was somewhat unexpected given the close regular season meetings recently, but regardless, the anticipated rematch begins tonight. Both games will air on NBC Sports Network.

For Denver, Montgomery confirmed that he will start the season with the same top line with which he ended last season — Dylan Gambrell centering Jarod Lukosevicius and Troy Terry. On his second line, Henrik Borgstrom will be paired with classmate Liam Finlay and rookie Ryan Barrow.

During the offseason, Terry (Anaheim Ducks), Gambrell (San Jose Sharks), and Borgstrom (Florida Panthers) all turned down offers to sign with the NHL teams that drafted them.
Said Montgomery, “I give them credit. They wanted to come back because they felt like there was something they wanted to add here at Denver still. But also, more importantly, and I always tell them this, they have to be selfish in their decisions, and they have to do what’s best for them. And they felt that the best thing for them was to come back to the University of Denver, get closer to a degree, and be able to walk into the NHL instead of having to earn your way through the minors.”
It’s an interesting comment from Montgomery — and hard to argue with. The sample size is small, but just look at what reigning Hobey winner Will Butcher, who stayed all four years at Denver, has done in his first week at the NHL level with the New Jersey Devils (3 assists in his season debut, against the team that originally drafted him, the Colorado Avalanche).
Tonight will also be the first official action for an incoming Denver freshman class considered one of the top recruiting groups in the nation. That includes Chicago Blackhawks prospect Ian Mitchell on the blueline, as well as a pair of talented but undrafted forwards, Jake Durflinger and Kohen Olischefski.
“I’m surprised that a couple of our freshmen didn’t get drafted this year,” said Montgomery, who singled out 6-foot-4 defenseman Griffen Mendel — who wears Butcher’s old No. 4 jersey — as a player he expects to be drafted in next summer’s NHL Entry Draft. “But we don’t concern ourselves with whether our players are drafted or not. We’re concerned with them being prominent college hockey players, that they fit our culture and the way we play.”
3. UMD defense
In last week’s season opening weekend, Minnesota-Duluth earned a thrilling 4-3 overtime win over in-state rival Minnesota before falling, 4-3, to Michigan Tech in the final of the annual IceBreaker tournament. UMD’s goaltenders — Nick Sheery and Hunter Shepard, taking over for Hunter Miska, who opted not to return for his sophomore season — allowed seven goals on just 38 shots.
Last season, the Bulldogs — en route to the national title game — had the eighth best statistical defensive unit in the nation, allowing 2.26 goals per game.
Watch for renewed focus in the defensive zone this weekend as UMD takes on Bemidji State in a home-and-home series. These are the season opening games for the Beavers.

 

Top 30 Soundgarden Songs

Friday, May 19th, 2017

In the fall of 1991 into the winter of 1992, I was a senior in college. It was the moment when Nirvana and Pearl Jam were hitting the campus like a genuine thunderbolt. It’s cliche, sometimes, to say that such and such a band “changed things,” but I can tell you that, Nirvana especially, genuinely did. You could feel it. I remember it.

But there was another band that blew me away even more. Soundgarden.

I was still listening to mostly ’80s metal type stuff at that point, but I was getting restless with it. There was so much garbage. So the time I got to work on our campus radio station the prior two summers, I was turned on to all sorts of alternative rock that was great. Thankfully, the supervisor of our station geared things towards more guitar-oriented rock, as opposed to the more dancy alternative of, say, Depeche Mode and its ilk — not that there’s anything wrong with Depeche Mode, I like some of it.

But this enabled me to pick up on Faith No More, who I just ran with after that and remain an all-time favorite. I also first heard of Soundgarden. The station had played a couple tracks — though I didn’t do a deep dive into yet.

Then one day, I was taking a long road trip to Florida from upstate New York. It was December, it was the middle of the night, and we were driving through South Carolina, of all places, when the DJ must have decided he needed to take a pee or something. He put on the entire Soundgarden Badmotorfinger album — which had just recently gotten released — start to finish.

My reaction was immediate. What is this? This is awesome. It knocked me over right away. I couldn’t wait to get back to NY so I could buy the thing and play it over again.

Soundgarden went on to release their popular breakthrough Superunknown in 1994, and I played that thing up the wazoo as well. For a while, I thought it was the best record of the ’90s, until I realized that I liked Badmotorfinger more. Then came Down on the Upside in 1996, and I didn’t like the singles they released from that album as much. They were good songs – but not “blow me away Soundgarden” quality. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized the deep cuts of that album were pretty good in their own right.

Then Soundgarden broke up. It was probably for the best, I said at that time.

When they came back in 2012, the singles they released here and there were really good. But the best part of it was that it afforded me the opportunity to see them live a few more times. Soundgarden was never a stellar live band, in the sense that Chris Cornell is not a showman, like Eddie Vedder or Billie Joe Armstrong. They just play the songs and not much else. But it’s an experience as much as anything — being there amid all of that sound and fury.

They also released Echo of Miles, a compilation of stuff they had done, like B-sides. And I had never heard them before. It was like hearing a new Soundgarden album for the first time — something with the tone and sensibility of that late ’80s/early ’90s era. Tremendous stuff.

Needless to say, Chris Cornell‘s death this week hit me with the same thunderbolt that all that music did in 1991. I don’t need to repeat much of what others have said — the shame of it, the fact that it takes one more piece of our youth away, that he’s yet another Seattle-area singer to leave us too soon. But his hit the hardest, because, for one, I thought he had it together these days, and two, he (along with Layne Staley) were the pinnacle for me. I revered these guys’ talents.

Like many others, I started listening to their catalog over and over when the news broke. Chris Cornell had a lot of amazing solo stuff, too — the acoustic covers he did at many live shows, some of which are incredible (the U2/Metallica ‘One’ mashup? my god); and his Euphoria Morning album with the incomparable “Sunshower” track. And of course, there was the Audioslave work, and the Temple of the Dog album, great stuff in their own right.

But I focused on Soundgarden — and as a result, realized all over again just how incredible they were. Even the early releases like the Screaming Life EP, and of course Ultramega OK and Louder Than Love. Stuff that I never really dove into after Badmotorfinger came out. Those early releases are filled with one great track after another, powerful stuff that I had forgotten about.

So with all of that said … here are my Top 30 Soundgarden tracks of all time. Don’t expect all of the popular ones. My tastes fall not on the pop hits, as good as some of them may be, but squarely on that dirgy, psychedlic grunge-metal sound. And there’s a lot of good ones of those buried inside stuff many people haven’t heard. I hope you listen to these.

A lot of this is splitting hairs, so don’t worry about exact placement too much. I may change my mind tomorrow on the order.

1. Slaves and Bulldozers – Badmotorfinger
2. Hands All Over – Louder Than Love
3. Rusty Cage – Badmotorfinger
4. Mailman – Superunknown
5. Jesus Christ Pose – Badmotorfinger
6. Birth Ritual – Singles Soundtrack
7. The Day I Tried to Live – Superunknown
8. Cold Bitch – Spoonman B-side
9. Searching With My Good Eye Closed – Badmotorfinger
10. Tighter & Tighter – Down on the Upside
11. Loud Love – Louder Than Love
12. Hunted Down – Screaming Life
13. Limo Wreck – Superunknown
14. Power Trip – Louder Than Love
15. Beyond the Wheel – Ultramega OK
16. Spoonman – Superunknown
17. Rhinosaur – Down on the Upside
18. 4th of July – Superunknown
19. Blind Dogs – Basketball Diaries Soundtrack
20. Black Rain – Telephantasm (Compilation)
21. I Awake – Louder Than Love
22. Head Down – Superunknown
23. Room A Thousand Years Wide – Badmotorfinger
24. Toy Box – B-side
25. Outshined – Badmotorfinger
26. Flower – Ultramega OK
27. Holy Water – Badmotorfinger
28. Hand of God – Screaming Life
29. Nothing to Say – Screaming Life
30. Blood on the Valley Floor – King Animal

I left out these hits … In somewhat order of how much I like them:

  • Pretty Noose
  • Blow Up the Outside World
  • Fell on Black Days
  • Black Hole Sun
  • Burden In My Hand
  • My Wave

2017 CHN Pairwise Live Blog

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

A look at the ECAC Stretch Run

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

Now that every team in the ECAC has played an equal amount of league games, the standings have  finally started to take shape. One of the first things I noticed at first glance, was the top four teams have separated themselves from the rest of the pack and those teams are only separated by a mere two points. Doesn’t it always seem that the races are close in the ECAC? Certainly the case this year.

Despite its loss to Harvard on Friday night, Union has the league lead at 27 points, Harvard is in second with 26, while Cornell and SLU each have 25. These teams seem to be in a drivers seat for the top four spots, as Quinnipiac is four points back with just four games to play. The Bobcats are still mathematically in the race for a bye but it would need some help. Six points back of the Cleary with just four to play seems quite the uphill battle for the Bobcats and with all the games left between the top teams, it is even more unlikely. (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC 2/2

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

Heading into the final few weeks of the season, one has to wonder where the time has gone. Just four weeks are left in the regular season and it appears that the top three have, in a sense, pulled away from the pack. SLU picked up a huge win against Union to take the lead in the conference with 25 points, but the Dutchmen have two games in hand and  trail by just two points. Harvard is also hot on the heels of the leaders with 22 points and could pounce with any slip-ups above them. Also look out for Cornell, who still has games in hand on fourth place Quinnipiac, Harvard and SLU. The Big Red could find themselves higher with big wins in the coming weeks. Cornell travels to Union on Friday night for an 8:30 contest that will be shown live on ASN.

The ECAC seems to be going as normal with interesting, surprising results across the board. On Saturday, Dartmouth went to Lynah Rink and defeated Cornell. A few years back, the Big Green had a similar result at Lynah as it seems the Big Red sometimes overlooks them after playing Harvard. It is one Cornell needed to bolster its national and league standing, but just couldn’t muster much out of it. The last couple years, Cornell has had a February and early winter swoon.One must wonder if it is happening again…

Unless SLU continues its hot play or Cornell goes on a run, the ECAC is seemingly a two-bid league into the NCAA as per-usual. Union sits in a comfortable position of sixth, while Harvard is also a two seed in eighth in the pairwise. SLU is in 14th and on the outside looking in, but obviously leading the conference could lead to a bid if they so win the conference title in Lake Placid. The Big Red are in 17th after their sweep at the hands of Harvard and Dartmouth. Without further ado here are some thoughts on the league (more…)