Archive for the 'Commentary' Category

The Takeaway: Third period goals push Lowell past Providence 2-1 in Hockey East semifinals

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

BOSTON - Two third period goals powered Massachusetts-Lowell past Providence College with a 2-1 win in the Hockey East semifinals. The River Hawks came back from a first period 1-0 deficit to cement a spot in the conference championship game Saturday night.

Freshman forward Kevin Rooney’s first career goal came at the right time for PC as the Friars took an early lead. It came on a rebound off Lowell freshman goaltender Connor Hellebuyck at 8:59 when Noel Acciari fed Rooney in front of the net. Despite outshooting the Friars 15-7 in the second period, the River Hawks couldn’t match Rooney’s goal until the start of the final period.

Just 34 seconds into the third, freshman forward A.J. White nabbed his second career goal, beating freshman goaltender Jon Gillies with a rebound, leaving the teams to battle out of the 1-1 tie through the final twenty minutes of regulation play.

It was Lowell who found the net first, when sophomore forward Scott Wilson took a beauty of a pass from senior forward Riley Wetmore and found the back of the net with a one-timer for the 2-1 lead with 7:30 left in regulation.

What I Saw

  • Lowell put a ton of offensive pressure on the PC defense and of course, Gillies. They outshot the Friars 15-7 in the second period after an evenly matched 10 shots per team in the first, but came out of the period with nothing to show for it.. Riley Wetmore and Joseph Pendenza both had shots that could have been goals on most other Hockey East goalies. It wasn’t that the River Hawks weren’t creating Grade A chances, it was just nearly impossible to get anything past Gillies. They finally broke through in the third.
  • The battle between two of the league’s best and youngest goaltenders didn’t disappoint. Gillies and Hellebucyk, both freshmen, made 33 and 32 saves respectively after standout seasons. Hellebucyk has a .944 save percentage with 1.49 GAA while Gillies is working with a .931 save percentage and 2.08 GAA. They both lived up to those numbers tonight. Gillies carried PC, but Hellebucyk’s performance isn’t to be overlooked with only a two-shot differential between the two teams.  (more…)

The Takeaway: PC clinches second consecutive trip to the Garden with 3-2 victory over UNH

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Providence booked their second trip to the TD Garden for the Hockey East semifinals in as many years with a 3-2 win over the University of New Hampshire in the third game of the series. All of the scoring came in the first two periods, and goaltender Jon Gillies and the Friar defense held off the Wildcats in the third for the win.

Mark Jankowski got the early lead for PC with a beauty of a backwards pass to Schaller, who moved the puck across the crease back to Jankowski for the clear shot on net and the 1-0 advantage. The Wildcats answered late in the first at 17:07 when John Henrion tipped in a rebound after an original shot from Trevor van Riemsdyk.

UNH pulled ahead when Grayson Downing struck on the power play with an assist from van Riemsdyk at 10:31 in the second period for the 2-1 lead. But two goals late in the second period undid the Wildcat lead and sealed the victory for PC. First, Tim Schaller ripped one from the bottom of the circle at 16:29 to beat goaltender Casey DeSmith. Nick Saracino got the go-ahead goal at 17:13 when the puck was knocked around in front and he jammed in a rebound while DeSmith was on his back. (more…)

The Takeaway: Wisconsin Advances to the Final Five Defeating Minnesota-Duluth 4-1

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

MADISON – The Kohl Center errupted when the Wisconsin Badgers finished off the first round of the WCHA playoffs by defeating the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs 4-1 in Saturday night’s showdown.

The Badgers sounded the horn for the first goal of the night from Jefferson Dahl just under three minutes into the game, followed by another tally from Michael Mersch.  UMD Bulldog Justin Crandall kept the scoreboard active by cutting Wisconsin’s lead in half, 2-1, all within the first five minutes of the game.  Wisconsin’s Kevin Schulze tallied another goal for the Badgers in the first period to send the home team into the locker room with a 3-1 lead.  The second period failed to produce scoring from either team, but Tyler Barnes recorded his 11th goal of the year in the third period, capping off the weekend with a 4-1 win.

With the sweep of Minnesota-Duluth, Wisconsin will play either Colorado College or Denver in the first round of the WCHA Final Five tournament in St. Paul, Minnesota.  The Badgers join the Gophers, who have already swept Bemidji State in teams that will participate in the 2013 Final Five.


The Takeaway: Hat trick from UNH’s Willows forces Game 3 for Friars and Wildcats

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A hat trick from sophomore forward Matt Willows boosted the University of New Hampshire 4-1 past Providence College to tie up the quarterfinal series at a game apiece and forced a Game 3 Sunday to determine who advances to the semifinal round.

Last night, the Wildcats saw shift after shift of good play and didn’t have a problem getting pucks on net, but the scoring didn’t come proportionally. That play paid off early Saturday when sophomore Matt Willows took the puck following a faceoff win in the PC zone. With some stick work in front of Jon Gillies, he went outside and beat the goaltender for the 1-0 lead at 15:19 in the first.

The Wildcat lead grew when Willows struck again, this time on an open net when Goumas sent the puck across to his linemate at 1:45 in the second period. Gillies was still facing Goumas by the time Willows took the slap shot. The two-goal lead was short lived for UNH, and once again it was freshman Nick Saracino who proved dangerous to the Wildcats, and with an assist from freshman defenseman John Gilmour, he beat Casey DeSmith to bring the Friars within one. The 2-1 score in favor of UNH held through the end of the second.

PC’s best chance to tie it up came when a Tim Schaller shot rang the underside of the crossbar, but rebounded down and out. But the third period scoring was all UNH. Jeff Silengo, who replaced Nick Sorkin on the third line, went five-hole and beat Gillies on one he’ll surely want back. Willows sealed both the game and a hat trick with an empty netter for the 4-1 UNH final, forcing a Game 3 to determine which team heads to the TD Garden for the Hockey East Championship. (more…)

The Takeaway: Saracino lifts Providence past in UNH in Game 1

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

PROVIDENCE, R.I.  – Freshman Nick Saracino helped lift the Friars past the University of New Hampshire with two goals and an assist in PC’s 3-2 victory in Game 1 of their Hockey East quarterfinal series. A goal from fellow freshman, defenseman John Gilmour rounded out the PC scoring. New Hampshire’s goals came from Grayson Downing and Austin Block, who beat Jon Gillies backhand. The Wildcats had the momentum on their side early, and finished the game outshooting the Friars 37-25, but couldn’t overcome a surging PC third line coupled with Gillies in net.

UNH controlled the first period, with the 23-15 advantage on shots attempted, but the talent of Gillies in net counteracted any Wildcat chances and the teams were scoreless after the first twenty. It looked like UNH would take the 1-0 lead about halfway through the first period when a giveaway in UNH’s zone resulted with the puck on Grayson Downing’s stick. Downing rushed through the PC defense and shot inside the right circle, but the puck rang the inside of the post and bounced out. There was a steady back-and-forth pace to the game until the 12:30 mark of the first, when the Wildcats had some sustained pressure in the PC zone in peppered Gillies with shots, two of which came from Knodel. Shane Luke finally cleared it for the Friars  with some smart play behind the net to end the onslaught of shots.

The momentum shifted in the second as the Friars came out flying and Saracino scored the game’s first goal at 2:06 with an assist from linemate Shane Luke. Just under five minutes into the period, Dan Correale beat the PC defense and had a breakaway chance on Gillies, who came up with the save. Gillies came up big again when Block stole the puck from Myles Harvey, who was attempting D-to-D pass in the PC zone. While Gillies kept UNH scoreless, Gilmour gave the Friars a 2-0 cushion with assits from Saracino and Luke at 13:27. But the Wildcats weren’t far off, and Downing scored a power play goal to pull UNH within one 23 seconds later at 13:50.

The final period became a lot more intense when Block’s beauty of a backhand shot got past Gillies, and it was a tied game at 2-2 with 18 minutes to play. Saracino’s second of the night gave PC some breathing room and was the final goal of the night. (more…)

The Takeaway: Wisconsin Takes Game One With 3-1 Win Over Minnesota-Duluth

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

MADISON – The Wisconsin Badgers take the first game with a physical 3-1 victory over Minnesota Duluth.

UMD’s Dan DeLisle was able to add the first tally to the scoreboard, even though the Badgers controlled the first five minutes of play.  Wisconsin answered with two goals in the second period by Nic Kerdiles and John Ramage, followed by a full-ice, empty-net goal by Mark Zengerle to seal the deal for the Badgers in the 3-1 win. (more…)

The Takeaway: UMD Earns Weekend Sweep With 6-0 Win Over UNO

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

DULUTH – Minnesota-Duluth continues to surprise not only it’s fans, but the rest of college hockey with a large-margined, 6-0 victory and weekend sweep over #16 Nebraska-Omaha.  Ryan Massa started in net for the Mavericks, but John Faulkner finished the game off after the Bulldogs had scored four straight powerplay goals from Austin Farley, Cal Decowski, Joe Basaraba and Andy Welinski.

Faulkner took the net to begin the third period, but a powerplay goal from Joe Basaraba and an even-strength goal from Mike Seidel allowed the Bulldogs to finish with two goals in each period.  When the final horn sounded, the Bulldogs earned the weekend sweep while outscoring the Mavericks 11-4.

What I Saw

Nebraska Omaha was paralyzed with penalties all night long, giving the Bulldogs a man-advantage for a large amount of time.  When things were even, the Mavericks were able to display the talent they’ve normally been able to produce, but couldn’t find a hole in UMD Goalie Aaron Crandall.  The physical game one could expect from UNO was there, but the line between being penalized was crossed much too many times.

Minnesota-Duluth is on a tear.  The powerplay was performing very well tonight, going 5/8 while the penalty kill didn’t give up a goal during the three attempts UNO had.  The Bulldogs were able to breakout, connect passes, avoid neutral-zone turnovers, and sloppy play that plagued them for most of the season, allowing for the performance that we’ve seen.

What I Thought

Just when things seemed as though they were looking up for UNO, they would either take a penalty or turn the puck over.  The amount of times UNO would “shoot themselves in the foot” kept adding up, usually resulting in goals.  Blais would have liked his goaltenders to play a little differently, too, as they gave up six goals.  Had they not taken so many penalties and had some momentum growing from the goaltenders making great saves, the game would have been much closer and could have resulted in the Mavericks winning.

UMD is right where they want to be going into the playoffs.  Although they are heading on the road, either to Minnesota State, Wisconsin, or Denver (most-likely, anyway), the Bulldogs will take a large amount of momentum and confidence with them after two sweeps.  The powerplay and goaltending are performing at the best of its ability, which could end up giving UMD a bid into the WCHA Final Five.

What They Said

Nebraska-Omaha coach Dean Blais said,”It didn’t seem to matter what we did, they found a way to take advantage of our mistakes so you’ve got to give Duluth credit.”

Minnesota-Duluth coach Scott Sandelin said,”Like last night, we took advantage on the powerplay.  Our guys played with a lot passion tonight; we played smart and aggressive.”

Minnesota-Duluth senior Mike Seidel said,”We really stressed coming out in the first period because we knew they were going to come out with fire.  We told ourselves that we were going to match their intensity and push forward and to gain momentum.”

What Else You Should Know

Aaron Crandall earned his second shutout in a row for UMD.  He stopped 32 shots and did a fine job at redirecting pucks away from potentially dangerous situations, as well as seeing shots through a good amount of traffic.

The Bulldog powerplay is now 11 for 23 in the last four games (48%) and penalty kill sits at 13 for 14 (93%).

Nebraska-Omaha has now lost four games in row resulting in the longest losing streak of the season.  They’re also 2-7-0 in their last nine games.

The Takeaway: Four Goal Period Propels UMD Over UNO

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

DULUTH – Minnesota-Duluth defeats Nebraska-Omaha 5-4 after scoring four straight goals in the second period.  UNO sits in sixth place in the WCHA, but will fall to seventh tonight as Denver is going to defeat Alaska Anchorage.  The drop in standings results in Omaha taking the road for an away game to kick-off the WCHA playoffs, making tomorrow’s game even more important.

The Mavericks hit the board first with a Josh Archibald tally, finishing off the period ahead of the Bulldogs 3-1.  The second period belonged to the Bulldogs, though.  After killing a five-minute major penalty, the Bulldogs scored four straight goals giving them the 5-3 lead to end the second.  Johnnie Searfoss cut UMD’s lead 5-4 in the third period, but were unable to find anymore offensive production to tie the game.

What I Saw

UNO was able to capitalize on missed passes and sloppy play from UMD which allowed them to dominate most of the first period.  Ryan Massa started the game for the Mavericks, but was pulled and replaced by John Faulkner after giving up four goals.  With the exception of the second period, which I’m sure they’d like to have back, UNO played pretty well.

UMD didn’t exactly fly out of the gates to begin the game, but eventually found traction and success after awhile.  The Bulldog power play helped in adding two goals in four attempts, which looked to be firing on all cylinders in each attempt.

What I Thought

Omaha came to play, and quieted Amsoil Arena very early in the game.  The dominant offense UMD had hoped to stop from UNO produced early in the game, but failed when it counted most.  But when momentum was sided with the Mavericks, which was mainly the first period, they displayed a dangerous amount of talent in connecting with one another and moving the puck.

Duluth’s sloppy play allowed UNO to convert early on, but after killing the major penalty, the Dogs caught fire and didn’t look back.  UMD’s special teams continued to perform well from the week before, killing penalties and finding the back of the net when on a man-advantage.  A team that is finally showing some confidence late in the season.

What They Said

UMD coach Scott Sandelin, “We won the battles around the net, the penalty kill was huge and to kill that (Justin Crandall’s major penalty) off and to respond with four goals was huge.”

UMD freshman Austin Farley,”All lines are working well and we’re all clicking.  Our power play is pretty good too and we wanted to win the special teams battle because that’s what it comes down to later.”

UNO junior Ryan Walters, “They gained a lot of momentum for killing it (Justin Crandall’s major penalty) off and as a result they scored four straight goals and we had to come back just like they did.  The third period came along and we got that goal right away and gave ourselves a chance but fell short tonight.”

What Else You Should Know

UMD is locked up to travel for the first round of the WCHA playoffs, but UNO is one point out of playing at home.  Tomorrow’s game could potentially lock the Mavericks up in an away series as well, depending on how Denver does against UAA tomorrow night.

Austin Farley quietly had a four point night with a goal and three assists, and was also one of five Bulldogs with multiple points.

Tomorrow (Saturday) will be the last regular season game for both teams.

Three Things I Think: Defense Win Championships Edition – Feb. 26

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

The ascent of Providence, Massachusetts-Lowell and Merrimack to the top of the Hockey East standings this season led many to point to goaltending as the deciding factor in success or failure in college hockey. Certainly, having a high-quality, reliable netminder is important, and the impact of a great goalie is unquantifiable, especially in the postseason. More than just the man between the pipes, though, Providence, Merrimack and Lowell have another thing in common: they win games because the skaters in front of their goaltender play strong defense.

The way these teams defend are different. They are equally effective, though. Connor Hellebuyck, Sam Marotta and Jon Gillies are very good players. The skaters on these teams, however, are vital to the goalies’ ability to win games. Last weekend, Lowell swept Boston University in a series that brilliantly illustrated the value of a strong defensive philosophy. BU didn’t play poorly in either game. Still, they managed very little offense — just one goal in 120 minutes — and seemed entirely inept offensively. This is uncharacteristic of the Terriers, even during this run of bad play that has been their second half. Lowell simply prevented BU accomplishing anything, especially once they established a lead. The River Hawks executed their system perfectly both nights, and BU had almost no answer for it.

Similarly, Merrimack and Providence play strong defense as well. They allow more shots than Lowell, but they don’t give up many quality scoring chances. At the moment, Lowell allows the fewest shots on goal per game in the league (27).

Compare that to Massachusetts, which allows a shade more at 27.2 per game. The Minutemen, though, have one of the league’s worst defenses in Hockey East. They give up far more grade-A scoring chances than Lowell. Moreover, whatever combination of Kevin Boyle, Jeff Teglia and Steve Mastalerz just isn’t as good as Hellebuyck and Doug Carr. UMass allows far more quality scoring chances than other clubs and has looked defensively uninterested for most of the season.  (more…)

Hockey East Power Rankings, and a Plea to the League

Monday, February 18th, 2013

Dear Hockey East,

Please reconsider the new playoff plan you’re implementing next season. Vermont just swept Northeastern in a huge series. Northeastern now heads to UMass on Tuesday for what is essentially a must-win game. Then this coming weekend, UMass hosts Maine in a series that could wind up deciding both teams’ seasons. Why are all these games so important? Because of that race for the eighth and final playoff spot. Because not all of those teams are going to make the postseason.

This is what makes the Hockey East regular season better than the regular season in any other conference. In other leagues, none of those games I just mentioned would be nearly as important. Sure, they might decide seeding, but they wouldn’t decide seasons. I think I speak for a lot of fans when I say that in a league where everyone makes the playoffs, I don’t really care if someone finishes ninth instead of 10th. Home ice in that new first round is something to shoot for, but there’s no way that race will ever be as exciting or as meaningful as a race for the final playoff spot.

I’m not saying you have to stick to the same eight-team format. In fact, I’d be worried that an eight-team playoff in a 12-team league would lead to too many meaningless games at the end of the regular season for the bottom couple teams. A 10-team playoff would be ideal in my opinion. There are several ways to make this work. One would be the old WCHA format, with first-round series pitting 1 vs. 10, 2 vs. 9, etc., followed by a play-in game between the two lowest remaining seeds prior to the semifinals. Another would be having two play-in games pit 7 vs. 10 and 8 vs. 9 prior to the quarterfinals.