Archive for the 'Commentary' Category

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Nov. 13

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

Another week, another question of what’s really going on. There are a few teams that have been successful since October – like UMass and Arizona State, although we still haven’t figured out what’s “for real.” I actually believe UMass is for real, but I guess we’ll find out about that soon.

Big Ten play has begun, but so far it’s been hard to see who’s acrually better than who. We’ll find out soon, hopefully. 

Notre Dame has settled down 

It was hard not to wonder what happened when the Fighting Irish surrendered six goals to Mercyhurst en route to the Ice Breaker tournament championship. And it was still early enough in the season to wonder if that would be a trend for Notre Dame.

The Fightinng Irish haven’t allowed more than three goals since, and Cale Morris’ save percentage is resting at .927. Also those two three-goal games all came against Minnesota-Duluth.

The Fighting Irish that have barely allowed more than two goals per game and are mostly keeping opponents off the scoreboard more closely resemble the Fighting Irish we knew from later on last season as well as the Fighting Irish that I chose to finish first. 

It’s not unusual for teams to have uncharacteristic games at any point in the season, especially in the start, but when these games happen at seaosn’s start we don’t yet know if that’s how the team will actually play. Now we know it was just a blip for Notre Dame.

Daniel Lebedeff

Before the season started, Badgers head coach Tony Granato spoke highly of Lebedeff. The Badgers have badly needed good goaltending, especially with the young teams Wisconsin seems to be getting each year. There was hope, after St. Lawrence transfer Kyle Hayton wasn’t unable to fill the role last year, that Lebedeff will. 

I watched last Friday’s Gophers-Badgers border battle. He earned the loss but didn’t get any help from his team, which largely looked confused. One of his players also pushed a Gopher into him on a Minnesota goal, so it’s hard to fault him for that one. 

At .927 he is tied for second in Big Ten save percentages. He’s started the last three games and has played in the last six after not playing for the first three.

Penn State’s offense

The Nittany Lions have been scoring, a lot. It’s not surprising because that’s been an asset for them over the past few years. But Nikita Pavlychev and Alex Limoges have 16 points each, which currently ranks second nationally. The Nittany Lions have five of the country’s top six scorers and Penn State is averaging 5.78 goals per game, which is first nationally. 

Penn State is still averaging the most shots per game, with 42.67 shots on goal per game. They’re converting 13.5 percent of those chances, which is third nationally. That’s important, because a few years ago Penn State was shooting the puck heavily but not converting as high a number of those shots. 

ECAC Notebook: Nov. 12

Monday, November 12th, 2018

Another week, another one filled with interesting results. The Princeton Tigers appear to be the team to beat in the ECAC right now. The Tigers are 3-0-1 in the league and recently seem to score just for fun.  Behind them, a mess of teams has been on-again, off-again in recent weeks. Like Quinnipiac and Dartmouth. The Big Green lost to Brown on Friday, but beat Yale on Saturday. Likewise, Quinnipiac defeated RPI and lost to Union.

Since the RPI sweep, the Dutchmen have just a lone loss against Princeton. It is easy to see now: Those losses to the Engineers will prove costly. Cornell is obviously a team to watch, but the team has only played two league games. The Big Red swept Northern Michigan this weekend to make it four straight wins. Colgate deserved a better fate on Saturday against Ohio State, while Brown has looked better so far.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten Nov. 5

Monday, November 5th, 2018

Happy November! The results from last weekend make minimal sense. I know it’s already November, but teams are still finding out who they are. Now if it’s still going on in December, I guess we’re just back to the usual weird inconsistency we’ve seen from the Big Ten in years past. Most likely though this will all settle down soon.

Ohio State and Notre Dame will still be the best

The Buckeyes and Fighting Irish met for the first time since their thrilling Big Ten final last year. The games went how you’d expect, ending in a couple of low-scoring, one-goal games. I know the Buckeyes were rocked by Bowling Green last weekend, and Notre Dame hasn’t exactly been stellar either so far, but these two are still some of the best and this past weekend proved that.

Some people asked me why I picked Notre Dame over Ohio State when I made my conference picks, and the reason lies with goaltending. Cale Morris is still better than Sean Romeo, and I’ll take that over the stifling defense Ohio State *usually* has. (I have to say usually because of that game against Bowling Green. Yikes). Both teams are going to have games where they stumble (like Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin in Chicago last year), which is why I always take the goaltenders. 

Outdoor games are still overrated

People can say I hate fun, which may sometimes be fair. Mostly I love fun, but I don’t think any amount of fun is worth outdoor games. It’s not even because I think they’re overdone, or boring or just a money-making gimmick (although I do think those things). Ultimately I don’t like teams playing in them because they put players at much higher risk for injuries. I was there three years ago when Denna Laing was hurt skating on outdoor ice with sub-par conditions. And last year Will Lockwood got hurt because he was also skating on questionable ice.

I get that it’s a fun event. I’ve gone as a fan once, and while I wouldn’t go again, I do think it’s something people should experience once. But it makes injuries way more likely to happen because there are factors that either can’t be controlled or won’t be controlled when it comes to ice conditions.

Anyway, the point of this rambling, angry-man-yells-at-cloud post is that the Wolverines and the Fighting Irish will be playing in an outdoor game in South Bend. 

Michigan State is on fire

I mean in a good way. The Spartans are quietly winning. Actually, almost everyone in the conference is winning, or sort of winning, because every team except for Minnesota has t least four victories. The Spartans just suffered a loss at Ferris State but had won three in a row, before the loss. Two of those wins came at Cornell, and that’s pretty impressive.

I don’t think Michigan State’s success is a fluke, and I think they can do some damage in the Big Ten this year. That top line of Taro Hirose, Mitchell Lewnadowski and Patrick Khodorenko has to be one of the most underrated lines in college hockey and they’ve already amassed 28 points so far. Khondorenko already has five goals and Hirose’s 12 points are tied for the Big Ten lead.

But the kicker — and what will define how far Michigan State’s success goes — is John Lethemon. Before the season, Danton Cole spoke a little bit about how Lethemon grew and what the team was expecting from him. So far he’s done well, posting a .919 save percentage. 

ECAC Picks 11/1

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

The first full weekend of league action begins this weekend with some juicy matchups. Princeton at Dartmouth is probably the game of the weekend, but Harvard hosting the Tigers and Quinnipiac are both right on its heels. In New York, it seems like the matchup of the week will be Union, who will try to recover from its weekend sweep at the hands of RPI, against Clarkson. As usual, league games will be tight and there will be a surprise here and there.

Friday

Brown (0-2-0, 0-1-0 ECAC) at Colgate (2-3-0, 0-0-0); 7pm.

Bruno probably deserved a better fate in both games it played last weekend, but it was unable to get a result. The Raiders started 2-0, but have lost three in a row, and will look to get on track. Gate won both meetings last season and will seek to regain the momentum it had to start the year. Despite the two game sweep of New Hampshire opening weekend, the Raiders will be looking for goals, as they have scored just six in five games.

Gate 3-2

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ECAC Notebook 11/1

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

After a decent first three weekends for the league, this weekend turned downright scary for teams like Cornell and Union, both of whom were expected to be near the top of the league. Cornell, surprisingly, gave up nine goals to Michigan State in a weekend sweep, while Union dominated both games but got swept by its rival, Rensselaer. It was all a weird weekend for many teams in the league, which included a 13-goal thriller for Dartmouth and Harvard, Brown playing well enough to win both games but getting swept, and Quinnipiac scoring nine goals against AIC on Saturday night.

Without further ado, here are my thoughts for the week:

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Atlantic Hockey Notebook 10/21

Sunday, October 21st, 2018

Atlantic Hockey teams faced a mixed bag of results this past weekend against non-conference opponents. On the plus side, the RIT Tigers, powered by an Erik Brown hat trick, topped Colgate, and Sacred Heart tied #5 in the nation Providence, a significant feat for the Pioneers. Mercyhurst also split their series with Ferris State, including a win Saturday. But elsewhere, Niagara fell twice to Penn State and were outscored 12-3 on the weekend, and Holy Cross fell to St. Lawrence and Clarkson.

In conference action, the AIC Yellow Jackets took a win and a tie away from their midweek series against the Bentley Falcons. Both games went to overtime. Martin Mellberg registered his third point of the night with the game-winning goal on Tuesday; Blake Christensen, Hugo Reinhardt, Joel Kocur and Jared Pike also scored for AIC. The teams tied 4-4 on Thursday.

Elsewhere, Army West Point tied their Friday night match with Robert Morris 2-2, then beat the Colonials 5-2 Saturday. Eric Butte, Zach Evancho, Mason Krueger, Colin Biley and Dominic Franco all scored for the Black Knights in the win. The Black Knights were missing Michael Wilson, who was suspended as a result of a contact to the head major and game misconduct received in the prior match.

The Lakers, meanwhile, came off with a win against Ferris State in the Saturday night rematch. Dalton Hunter had a pair of goals for Mercyhurst, while Stefano Cantali had 28 saves.

RIT beat Colgate 6-1 on Saturday night at Blue Cross Arena in front of 10,556 fans. Erik Brown registered the hat trick, while Shawn Cameron added a pair of goals. Gabe Valenzuela also scored for the Tigers. Abbott Girduckis potted three assists. The Tigers scored on two of five power play opportunities.

Finally, Air Force and Canisius split their weekend series. The Falcons won 7-3 on Friday powered by a four-goal third period and a hat trick from Evan Feno. Kieran Durgan also added a pair of goals. The Griffs were without Jimmy Mazza Saturday due to suspension, but they rallied back for a 2-0 win, giving netminder Blake Weyrick his first collegiate victory and first collegiate shutout (34 saves).

Conference action in the week ahead includes Holy Cross and Bentley facing off; a series between RIT and Robert Morris; a pair of games between Army West Point and Mercyhurst, and two meetings between Niagara and Air Force. In non-conference action, AIC faces Quinnipiac twice; Canisius visits Clarkson, and Bentley hosts UMass Lowell.

Here are the current Atlantic Hockey standings:

  1. AIC
  2. Canisius
  3. Army
  4. Air Force
  5. Holy Cross
  6. Niagara
  7. Robert Morris
  8. Bentley
  9. RIT
  10. Sacred Heart
  11. Mercyhurst

The Curious Case of UAA’s Coaching Position

Sunday, April 15th, 2018

Mark Divver reported on Saturday that Providence assistant coach Kris Mayotte turned down the UAA head coaching job. That’s strike three for the Seawolves.

Just before the Frozen Four, our own Chris Boulay reported that UAA had three finalists — Mayotte, UMass Lowell assistant Cam Ellsworth and Denver assistant David Carle. Then this week, CHN learned that both Carle and Ellsworth had declined the job. Mayotte was the third.

Where did UAA go wrong? Well, part of it could be their target list. There were reportedly 43 applicants, and UAA chose to target some of the brightest — and youngest — up-and-coming assistants in college hockey. That’s usually not a mistake, but in Anchorage’s case it probably was.

There are serious question marks surrounding the long-term viability of the UAA program. Right now, there’s no permanent athletic director. Candidates have to wonder who they will be working for? That’s a big question, and it looms even larger when you’re talking about moving your family to Alaska. On top of that, there is the possibility of one of the Alaska programs folding into the other one, as the state tries to come to grips with budget problems. There’s the perception out there, among coaches and certainly among recruits, that those programs are in trouble.

For Ellsworth (37), Mayotte (35) and Carle (28), their futures are bright. UAA could be a place their careers go to die, and the money isn’t going to be enough to make up for it.

In 2015, UAF ran an Athletics Financial Assessment. You can view the report by clicking here. In it, the coaching salaries for UAA hockey was listed at around $485,000. But, that number likely includes both assistant coaches as well as any other benefits (insurance, phone, car, etc.) and bonuses. The $485,000 was not Matt Thomas’ salary alone.

So if the money isn’t there — let’s say it’s $200,000 per year — then why would a top assistant (who is probably making slightly north of $100,000), give up their career prospects for a few more bucks from UAA? It’s a tough sell. Especially if you have a family. If things go sour at UAA again, you end up out of a job and you’ve made a few hundred grand extra over 4-5 years. That’s not enough to retire on … especially if you’re only in your early-40’s.

The Seawolves have had one winning season since 1993 and they’ve gone through five head coaches. At some point, it’s not the people in charge of the team, it’s other institutional factors. Some of those factors can’t be changed, like the university’s location.

Coaches want to be head coaches. No one aspires to be an assistant. But when you have three guys like Ellsworth, Carle and Mayotte, they have to be selective about that first job. They need to go to a program that, while maybe it has struggled, has sent coaches to bigger and better programs. Brett Larson going to St. Cloud State is a good example. Take Nate Leaman, who went to Union after Kevin Sneddon left to go to Vermont. At UAA, coaches have coached for a few years and then people grow restless and coaches get fired. That’s not going to boost up anyone’s resume.

Situations like St. Cloud State don’t come up often. Teams that make coaching changes usually need to be torn apart and rebuilt. But coaches need the assurance that the tools will be there for them to succeed. UAA has too many questions surrounding it.

Close Battles Aplenty in ECAC’s Final Weekend

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018

Going into the final weekend, the Cleary Cup is Cornell’s to lose. For Union to catch them, the Big Red would need to lose in a sweep. Beyond the top of the standings, the races are close. Cornell, Union, Clarkson and Harvard will own the byes, but positioning is up for grabs. The only way Union can win the Cleary Cup would be a win against Colgate on Friday night, a Cornell loss for a second time this season against lowly RPI, and a victory over the Big Red at home on Saturday. It is possible, but Saturday will probably end up pretty insignificant, and then we will think of what could have been.

In terms of positions 2-4 in the standings, Union has a four-point lead on Clarkson and would need to lose a sweep to forfeit that spot. Clarkson has the tiebreakers on the Dutchmen with two wins against them this season. The more interesting battle is for third and fourth, but does it really matter? The Golden Knights and Harvard are separated by a lone point. Clarkson has Princeton and Quinnipiac at home, while the Crimson travels to Brown and Yale. Harvard does own the tiebreakers.

The battle for positioning at the top is not the only entertaining part of this weekend: Only three points separate positions 5-9. Dartmouth is currently in fifth and is probably pretty close to a lock to the first home-ice spot. It has a big game against Yale on Friday night, which is two points back in a tie for seventh. Colgate is a point back of the Big Green in sixth, while Princeton is also in the driver’s seat for a home-ice series next weekend tied with the Bulldogs in seventh.

Dartmouth and Yale will provide the only matchup between teams within the 5-9 band, which is quite remarkable given the number of teams involved. They will faceoff on Friday night at Ingalls Rink in New Haven in what should be an energy-charged game. Yale probably has more on the line given its position and the fact it has Harvard on Saturday night. The Big Green won the reverse fixture, 3-1, in Hanover. The game will also feature the return of Yale coach Keith Allain, who will be back from his role as assistant coach of Team USA.

Quinnipiac is hot on the trail of all these teams and is the only team not in the top 9 to have a chance for home ice. It is a lone point back with games against Clarkson and St. Lawrence. The Bobcats swept the home weekend against the two and will be looking to do the same on the road. If it does so, one would assume they would be at home. The Bobcats have made the league’s championship weekend every year for the last five seasons, last missing it when Atlantic City hosted in 2012. QU has finished in the top 8 of the ECAC every year since 2005-06, its first season in the league.

Brown, Rensselaer and St. Lawrence will finish 10-11-12 in the league and will travel for the first round.

Some random thoughts

No Clear-cut favorite and early picks for the Tournament

Yah, Cornell has been good, but does it have enough possession? Can it get enough shots? Does it have the experience to win in the tournament? Time will tell for the Big Red, I suppose. I personally think if I had to pick a matchup for the Championship game based on how the matchups play out, it would be Clarkson and Harvard. Joe Meloni hit the nail on the head in his piece on Clarkson this week… Despite a 1-5-3 mark in its last nine games, the Golden Knights have been snake-bitten and played bad hockey. The bounces just aren’t going their way. The possession is still there and the top-line, which has been really quiet, will wake up. It is not too late. In terms of Harvard, two words-Ryan Donato. The Crimson defense is also really good, and so is Merrick Madsen.

Still picking Harvard to win it, so sue me everyone or just attack me on twitter at @JoshSeguin24 (honestly, I like it). The scoring has come around and with Donato back it should be fun.

The first round is going to be really interesting, but so will the quarters.

Given how close the 5-9 band of teams are, the first round should pack a lot of interest. Also, St. Lawrence is a team I would watch and the one that could pull an upset. Yah the Saints have had a rough season, but considering the drama that plagued them all season is gone… one should assume the recent better play will continue. In terms of the next round, look out for Princeton and Colgate as lower ranked teams that could make Lake Placid. The Raiders have Colton Point and we all know the story with goalies and tournaments. The Tigers, on the other hand, may have shaky defense and goaltending. But, man, can they score goals and quickly! Quinnipiac is also dangerous because of the experience. Should make for an interesting three weeks.

ECAC, Harvard and Yale a Clear Winner at the Olympics

The ECAC boys scored 7 of the 11 goals for Team USA in South Korea. Harvard’s Ryan Donato had five goals for the Americans, while Mark Arcobello and Brian O”Neill each had goals for the red, white and blue. Kudos to Yale coach, Keith Allain, as well. Not only did he get good press for himself and his program, his former players also played big roles. Both O’Neill and Arcobello played phenomenal hockey, while Broc Little also had a good showing. Ted Donato, of course, is a winner too. After his reactions to his sons’ goals, who wouldn’t want to play for the man? He did himself a lot of good and got great publicity for his program by just showing up. Overall, the tournament was a win for the league.

Playoff hockey is a week away, lets rejoice and be glad.

I will end on that note – no need to say anything else. Enjoy this weekend’s games!

Three Things I Think: Atlantic Hockey, Feb. 18

Sunday, February 18th, 2018

Well, here we are. It’s nearly the end of the Atlantic Hockey regular season, with just one more weekend to go before playoffs begin. But before we get too ahead of ourselves, let’s talk about this past weekend, because it was certainly an interesting one.

Here are the Atlantic Hockey standings as of Feb. 18:

  1. Mercyhurst
  2. Canisius
  3. Holy Cross
  4. RIT
  5. Air Force
  6. Robert Morris
  7. Army
  8. AIC
  9. Niagara
  10. Bentley
  11. Sacred Heart

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Three Things I Think: Atlantic Hockey, Feb. 14

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

The race for the top of Atlantic Hockey is really heating up. Canisius managed to stay in first despite splitting the weekend with Army, but Mercyhurst – with two wins and an OT loss, and Holy Cross, who lost twice this weekend, are nipping at their heels.

The Griffs are now 15-13-2 overall on the season, while the Lakers are 15-11-4. The Crusaders are 12-13-7.

Robert Morris’ Brady Ferguson continues to lead the conference in scoring, with 42 points (15-27) in 30 games. Canisius’ Dylan McLaughlin has 39 points in 29 games, and RMU’s Alex Tonge has 35 points (12-23) in 30 games. Holy Cross’ Scott Pooley is also averaging a point-per-game with just two weeks left in the regular season.

Here are the Atlantic Hockey standings as of February 13, following the noontime Air Force vs. Sacred Heart game, with each team’s number of remaining games:

  1. Canisius (4)
  2. Mercyhurst (4)
  3. Holy Cross (2)
  4. Robert Morris (4)
  5. RIT (4)
  6. Army (4)
  7. Air Force (4)
  8. Niagara (2)
  9. AIC (3)
  10. Bentley (3)
  11. Sacred Heart (4)

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