Archive for the 'Commentary' Category

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.

(more…)

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.)

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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…)

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.

(more…)

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…)