Archive for the 'Commentary' Category

Last Night: Hockey East Playoff Picture

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

The final night of the Hockey East regular season is upon us. The new playoff format has eliminated the type of drama we’re accustomed to. Every team qualifying for at least the preliminary round means each club has at least one game to look forward after Saturday night’s regular-season finale.

Here’s a look at where it all stands now, and what everyone has to lose.

The Champion

Boston College locked up the top seed in the Hockey East Tournament a couple weeks ago, picking up yet another trophy for legendary head coach Jerry York.

The Eagles were idle on Friday, but they host Notre Dame Saturday night at Conte Forum. Within the league, BC has nothing to gain, but a win over the Fighting Irish is especially important for BC in its quest to be the No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA Tournament. Moreover, it’s always an important game when BC and Notre Dame meet in any sport.

Highest Possible Finish: 1st
Lowest Possible Finish: 1st (more…)

The Takeaway: UNH Flat In Weekend Home Sweep by UVM

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

Durham, NH - Last weekend looked so positive for UNH, as it swept Notre Dame but its opponent this weekend had different plans for this weekend. Last night, the Catamounts defeated UNH, 5-2, and tonight was much of the same except for the fact UNH looked a tad better. Vermont, though, looked like the sharper team all weekend.

After a scoreless first period that saw Vermont dominate the central portions of the ice, its play was rewarded in the second period. The Catamounts scored first at three minutes, 45 seconds of the second period, as Pete Massar was left alone in the slot. Vermont  was great with responses last night and tonight was no different, as it responded quickly with a second one less than three minutes later  when super-freshman, Mario Puskarich, scored on a UNH defensive breakdown. Nick Sorkin brought the Wildcats within one at 11:40 of the second and that score held into the third period. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Hockey East, Jan. 28, 2014

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Massachusetts senior Michael Pereira earned his 100th career point Saturday night in a 3-2 loss to Merrimack. Pereira scored twice in the game, both in the second period and on the power play. UMass lost the game, however, and the story of Pereira’s career in Amherst received another troubling chapter.

In the fall of 2010, Pereira arrived at UMass, along with about a dozen other freshmen. Naturally, that team struggled badly in Hockey East, winning only five games and just barely sneaking into the league tournament. At times, Pereira, Branden Gracel, Conor Sheary and other youngsters on that club revealed the talent and skill that made people wonder about the future.

In the last three-and-a-half years, that class has produced the occasional great result, but they, like UMass classes before them, have never amounted to much more than some good players who can’t win games. Mix in the departure of Don Cahoon as head coach two summers ago, and it’s been a difficult career for Pereira and his talented classmates.

Seven years ago, UMass was in the midst of one of only a few successful seasons since the program’s rebirth more than 20 years ago. That year, guided by all-American goaltender Jon Quick, was supposed to signify the beginning UMass’ ascent to regional prevalence. Instead, Quick bolted and everything fell apart. The Minutemen haven’t finished above .500 since that season, and the next couple seasons don’t look much brighter.

When John Micheletto took over for Cahoon in August 2012, he proclaimed, as everyone associated with that programs always has, that UMass would become “the place to be.” Moving toward the end of his second season with UMass, Micheletto is banking on his recruiting talent to turn UMass around. It’s inevitably going to take some time, especially with nine players graduating this season. At this point, though, it’s difficult to think it will ever actually happen.

(After the jump: BC’s Hockey East dominance; UMass-Lowell is very good no matter what else you’ve read; Still not sold on Northeastern? Nope.) (more…)

Three Things I Think: Hockey East, Jan. 21

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

A year ago, the final night of the regular season decided the Hockey East title. Massachusetts-Lowell defeated Providence to earn its first regular-season championship, but four different teams could’ve claimed the distinction with some slightly different results.

It was, for most, the most exciting ending to a regular season in the league’s history. Similar results were expected this season, but it’s not likely to happen. With about seven weeks left before the postseason, Boston College has the trophy wrapped up. It will take a bit of a collapse from the Eagles and near perfect performances from Northeastern, UMass-Lowell or Providence to get past BC.

With eight league games remaining, BC has 21 points with a 10-1-1 record through its first 12. UML looks like the only realistic contender to knock off BC. Even then, the River Hawks essentially can’t lose more than once or twice to do the job and must sweep BC in the process.

The Hockey East Tournament promises some drama to decide the 2014 recipient of the Lamoriello Trophy. For now, though, the hardware handed out for the regular season champion is almost guaranteed to land in Chestnut Hill.

(After the jump: Four critical points at stake between Providence and Lowell; Notre Dame needs to get going; A tough year for BU isn’t all on its first-year head coach)

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Jan. 20

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Big Ten play has been picking up, although not every team in the conference has faced off yet. All teams, except for Michigan, have now played at least six league games. Minnesota leads Big Ten play with a 7-0-1 record over eight games.

Michigan and Wisconsin were idle over the weekend, while Michigan State swept Penn State and Minnesota swept Ohio State.

With the limited amount of conference games, it’s hard to tell which teams — aside from the Gophers — are elite in Big Ten hockey. But the Buckeyes proved over the weekend they’re capable of playing against the best.

The Nittany Lions are still searching for their first conference win, and their four wins this season have all been against Atlantic Hockey teams. In Saturday’s contests against the Spartans, Penn State lost 3-2 but played well and tied the Spartans twice during the game.

But the rest of the season is only going to get harder for the Nittany Lions, who resume against Boston College. The Eagles defeated Penn State 8-2 earlier in the season. After that, Penn State will play 14 games against Big Ten teams.

(After the jump: Minnesota’s offense, Ohio State’s goalkeeping and Ryan Dzingel) (more…)

Three Things I Think: Hockey East, Jan. 14

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

College hockey’s winter break came and went pretty quickly. As teams traveled to various holiday tournaments and other series around the country, Hockey East clubs produced some results that, as they often do, offered as many questions as they answered.

Even now, after another weekend of games, it’s difficult to say with any certainty where most teams stand.

The jump into the second half also leads to year-end award discussions. These arguments reveal as much about the league as any of the results on the ice. Within Hockey East, the coach of the year conversations are as wide open as any in recent memory. In the last two seasons, it came down to either Massachusetts-Lowell’s Norm Bazin or Providence’s Nate Leaman. With more than 50 wins in that time, Bazin was the clear favorite.

However, the presence of Jerry York always means there’s another candidate to discuss. Once again, York has his Eagles in great position. BC is atop the Hockey East standings to this point and in equally great shape on the national scene. That was expected, though. The Eagles are among the nation’s most talented clubs, and nothing they do really surprises anyone anymore. York’s the best at what he does. If he won the coach of the year award every season, it really wouldn’t come as much of a shock.

Beyond York, and even Bazin, there are four candidates warranting serious consideration. Leaman’s Providence team is in position to earn a bye in the Hockey East Tournament and an NCAA bid. Again, though, most anticipated a strong year from the Friars led by goaltender Jon Gillies and junior center Ross Mauermann. Outside of Leaman, Northeastern’s Jim Madigan, Maine’s Red Gendron and Vermont’s Kevin Sneddon are all guiding teams currently outpacing their preseason expectations.

Each, of course, comes with some caveats that we’ll get a better understanding of in the next two months. At this point, I’d give Madigan the nod. Northeastern missed the last two Hockey East Tournaments thanks to horrendous regular-season campaigns. While that can’t happen again as a result of a new playoff format, the Huskies are currently tied for second in Hockey East with Providence. NU holds the tiebreaker over PC after defeating the Friars, 2-1, last Tuesday in overtime and playing to a 3-3 tie at Matthews Arena in December.

There are some concerns with Northeastern moving forward (more on that later), but the Huskies continue to prove they’re a legitimate contender within Hockey East play. NU hosts Vermont this weekend for two games (only one is a conference game) before traveling to South Bend, Ind., in two weeks for a pair with Notre Dame. Outside of league play, the Huskies are ninth in the Pairwise.

Like it will for every club, the next few weeks will reveal Northeastern’s true standing. At this point, though, it’s not fair to say they haven’t earned some respect.

(After the jump: Northeastern’s possession problems; BC’s depth; Maine’s coming road test.) (more…)

The Takeaway: Dartmouth Wins First of Six

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Boston, Mass - Though winless since Dec. 6 and in the midst of a five-game Hockey East stretch, the Dartmouth Big Green downed Boston University 4-2 Wednesday night at Agganis Arena in the first meeting between the two teams since 2008. Charlie Mosey, Brad Schierhorn, Nick Lovejoy and Eric Neily tallied goals for Dartmouth, while Cason Hohmann and Matt Grzelcyk scored for the Terriers. Big Green goaltender Charles Grant made 26 saves on 28 shots.

What I saw:

– Dartmouth was very aggressive in the offensive zone, attempting 55 shots over the first two periods, also totaling 20 grade-a chances throughout the night.

– Boston’s defense seemed sluggish at times, specifically its backcheck, which led to several Big Green odd-man rushes, and approximately four or five 2-on-1’s.

What I thought:

– Dartmouth came to play, and it was evident from the get-go. The Big Green was winning battles and races at both ends of the ice, and also looked to be skating with a greater sense of urgency. For a team that’s gone just 3-11-2 this season, it was certainly a pleasant surprise.

– Boston struggled in its second game back from winter break; not good for a Terriers team that has gone 0-4-1 in its past five. It definitely feels like Boston hasn’t found its identity yet, which will need to come together soon given the start of the second half.

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Three Things I Think: Hockey East, Nov. 18

Monday, November 18th, 2013

November is moving month in Hockey East. As teams wind down the portions of their schedules laden with non-conference games and play more league games, the league’s best teams typically reveal themselves now. It’s not uniform, and teams do occasionally  piece together successful years without great performances in November. Massachusetts-Lowell’s run from December through the Frozen Four last year is a good example.

For the most part, though, the next few weeks will offer an idea of the team’s truly contending for first-round byes in the Hockey East Tournament and at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament. Teams like Boston University and New Hampshire, which have struggled at times in the early part of the season, need to win games for the rest of the first half to make up for some of the issues they had in October and November.

North Dakota visits Agganis Arena next weekend. BU needs both of those games, as well as major success in the rest of the first half, if it’s going to make any noise in the league and the national picture. UNH, meanwhile, has won five straight games by a combined score of 24-4. Neither Massachusetts, Brown nor Northeastern, the teams UNH beat in that stretch, are particularly strong teams at this point. So these wins don’t make UNH a legitimate contender in the Hockey East race. They have improved the Wildcats’ mindset, though. Winning games cures all wounds. After their last five games, UNH is ready to make a push as the end of the first half approaches.

(After the jump: Hockey East’s contenders are already clear; UNH is what we thought they were; Ross Mauermann is off to a great start for PC.)

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The Takeaway: North Dakota Downs Minnesota Duluth 4-2

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

GRAND FORKS, ND – North Dakota finally looked to have found the traction they’ve been looking for since their 4-game skid.  Rocco Grimaldi lit the lamp first off of a power play goal, decreasing UMD’s former #1 ranked penalty kill, followed by a weird goal (see below) from Michael Parks.  UMD’s Alex Iafallo and Adam Krause responded 20 seconds apart, Krause scoring on the power play, to tie the game at twos.

Jordan Schmaltz buried the game winner off a beautiful wrister from the point, which ended up counting as the game winner, but Stephane Pattyn would record an empty-net goal before time expired, giving North Dakota the 4-2 victory.  North Dakota is now 4-4-1 overall and 3-4-0 in the NCHC, while Minnesota Duluth stands at 4-4-1 overall and 1-2-0 in NCHC action.

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ECAC Power Rankings: Week 3

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Over the weekend, the Power Rankings seemed to take hold, as all ECAC teams were in action. The Ivies finally began their seasons over the weekend, with Cornell and Brown looking the most impressive. From Brown’s impressive weekend at the Liberty Invitational to Clarkson’s continued success to the rest of the happenings within the conference, teams made statements from top to bottom.

Last night Harvard and Rensselaer kicked off the conference schedule with a tie. The tie seemed fitting based on how it looks like the conference will play out this year; a battle.It has been an interesting first month for ECAC teams but the month has been a downright success for the teams. Only Dartmouth, Union and Colgate will leave October with sub-500 records, with Dartmouth’s only losses at the Liberty Invitational over the weekend. Those teams will make up the bottom three positions, only because wins matter in Power Rankings. Without further ado I suppose here is my weekly take on how the teams stack up. (more…)