Archive for the 'Notes, Thoughts, Ramblings' Category

NCHC Final Weekend: Playoff Races, Scoring Titles

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

The NCHC wraps up its regular season this weekend while the other five conferences start their conference tournaments. Here’s a look at the storylines for this weekend in terms of playoff positioning, and the scoring titles up for grabs.

First, here are the current NCHC standings:

Conference Overall
1 St. Cloud State 22 15-4-3 1 49 87-54 32 21-6-5 122-78
2 Denver 22 11-6-5 4 42 67-47 32 17-8-7 104-67
3 Minnesota-Duluth 22 12-10-0 36 74-51 34 18-13-3 109-75
4 North Dakota 22 8-9-5 2 31 66-62 34 14-11-9 98-82
5 Nebraska-Omaha 22 9-12-1 28 70-92 32 16-14-2 113-121
Western Michigan 22 9-12-1 28 73-90 32 14-16-2 106-118
Colorado College 22 7-11-4 3 28 59-76 32 13-14-5 90-103
8 Miami 22 6-13-3 1 22 56-80 32 11-17-4 89-108


St. Cloud State has wrapped up the Penrose Cup as the NCHC regular season champion and will therefore be the No. 1 seed in the NCHC tournament. The Huskies will likely host Miami in the NCHC quarterfinals (a best-of-three series) next weekend.

As far as I can tell, the only way this doesn’t happen — based on the NCHC tiebreaker scenarios — is if Miami sweeps Denver on the road this weekend (winning in regulation or the first overtime) AND Western Michigan does the same to Colorado College AND Minnesota-Duluth does the same to Nebraska-Omaha. That would leave Miami, CC, and Omaha in a three-way tie for last place with 28 points, and CC would finish as the 8th seed based on having fewer regular season conference wins than Miami. But again… three weekend sweeps with no games going to overtime, including a Miami sweep of Denver… is probably not going to happen. So you can all but pencil in a trip for the RedHawks to St. Cloud next weekend.

Denver will be the No. 2 seed and their second round opponent is to be determined by this weekend’s games. And Minnesota-Duluth will host a first round playoff series, too, likely as the third seed, but can drop to fourth if — for example — the Bulldogs get swept by Omaha AND North Dakota (a team win only two wins in its last 11 games) sweeps St. Cloud State.

Of course, the real intrigue comes down to which team ends up with the final home-ice spot for the NCHC quarterfinals — North Dakota, CC, Western Michigan, or Omaha. The fact that CC could technically finish with a home-ice spot OR finish last in the conference shows how wild the NCHC has been this season. As you can see from the standings above, North Dakota controls its own destiny, but hosting the No. 1 team in the country will be a big challenge. Expect the aforementioned tiebreakers to come into play to ultimately determine playoff seeding. There’s no easy matchup in the league, but teams are certainly going to want to avoid finishing seventh — which would mean a trip to the reigning national champions, Denver.

And lastly. this weekend for North Dakota and Omaha is huge on the national stage as well, with each team squarely inside the NCAA Pairwise bubble at the moment.


Heading into the weekend, Denver’s Henrik Borgstrom leads the conference with 30 points in NCHC play, but CC’s Nick Halloran and Omaha’s David Pope (who leads the conference with 14 goals scored, 11 of which have come on the power play) are certainly within striking distance for the scoring title:


Three Things I Think: Atlantic Hockey, Feb. 26

Monday, February 26th, 2018

The Atlantic Hockey regular season is now officially in the books. Mercyhurst finishes the season atop the conference, thanks in part to a four-game winning streak to end the season and a whopping 12 wins since January 1. The Lakers, along with Canisius, Air Force, Army and Holy Cross, all get a bye through the first round of playoffs.

Here are the final regular season Atlantic Hockey standings:

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


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


Random Hockey East Thoughts (2/16)

Friday, February 16th, 2018

— The two Beanpot losses for Boston College looks really costly, at least right now. The Eagles fell to No. 21 in the Pairwise after Monday’s loss to Harvard in the tournament’s consolation game. Playing with the Pairwise results, if the Eagles beat Northeastern in the opening round and then beat Harvard in the finals (we only had the option of changing games that were actually played, but a win over Harvard or BU would be similar) then the Eagles would find themselves all the way up at No. 14 in the Pairwise right now, solidly on the NCAA bubble rather than on the outside looking in.

— So much for the thought that UConn would struggle without Adam Huska, who was injured after a game at Merrimack on Jan. 12. The Huskies have won six games in a row (6-1) all with Tanner Creel between the pipes. Creel’s season-long numbers aren’t great (3.14, .896) but he has posted a 2.44 GAA and a .919 save percentage since Huska went down. During this six-game winning streak, Creel has a .923 save percentage.

— Speaking of predictions gone awry, Vermont is unbeaten in its last seven games (5-0-2), and in reality, that should be its last eight after blowing a lead against UMass Lowell. The Catamounts went from a last-place lock to a team that looks like it might host a first-round Hockey East playoff series.

— As the top-two scorers in the country, Adam Gaudette and Dylan Sikura are getting much-deserved attention, but all that attention is throwing some shade on Nolan Stevens’ tremendous senior year. Back after an injury-plagued junior year, Stevens already has 20 goals, which is tied for third in the nation, and this is his second career 20-goal campaign. Last year he had 10 goals in 17 games, meaning he was on pace for 20 goals. Stevens, flying under the radar, has put together a very impressive goal-scoring career.

Series of the Week: Northeastern vs. Vermont 

This is a big weekend for the Catamounts. They’re at home, with a chance to prove these last seven games aren’t a fluke. Vermont’s analytics suggest that the recent level of play is unsustainable, which I understand, but a solid weekend against Northeastern could lock down a home-ice spot and have the Catamounts feeling even better about themselves heading into the playoffs. This will be one of the toughest tests for them in this stretch, despite the games coming at home.


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)


ECAC Notepad 2/7

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

Heading into the stretch run in the ECAC is always a love-hate relationship for me as a reporter.

The good teams always drop games they should win and the teams that have been struggling usually come up with big results.

Over the weekend it began as Clarkson fell to Quinnipiac and Princeton, while Cornell fell to Rensselaer. It was a weird weekend, but outcomes like this are not abnormal as ECAC teams tend to beat up on themselves.

Clarkson and Cornell have some leeway in terms of the pairwise, but more losses like they had last weekend will be damaging. The Big Red also announced this morning that Mitch Vanderlaan will be out for the regular season, but it sounds like there is hope for a playoff return.

This weekend Clarkson and Cornell will face off in Potsdam in what could be the biggest game of the stretch run. The Big Red enjoys a three-point lead in the ECAC standings on the Golden Knights. Cornell is fourth in the Pairwise after its loss to RPI, while Clarkson has dropped in recent weeks from a peak of two down to seven. It was inevitably a big game, but it probably won’t impose the influence it could have been a few weeks ago when both were ranked in the top four in the country.

Clarkson has a two point lead on Union in third and three points on Harvard in fourth. The Crimson have a gulf of four points on Colgate in fifth, but also have one less league game. Two points separate Colgate in fifth and Princeton/Dartmouth in seventh, while Quinnipiac is three points back of fifth. Another big game this weekend will be when Yale hosts Quinnipiac on Friday night, as the Bulldogs sit in ninth just one point back of the Bobcats in eighth. That race should be fascinating to watch going forward.

For now, here are my notes for this week:

Below the Break: Ryan Kuffner has been scoring at a high rate, is Quinnipiac back on Track, Colgate relies on Colton Point, Clarkson’s struggles, RPI and Harvard will be fine. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Atlantic Hockey, Feb. 5

Monday, February 5th, 2018

Just three weeks remain in the Atlantic Hockey regular season, and it’s still anyone’s conference to win. After a split weekend, Canisius and Holy Cross remain tied with 28 points, though the Griffs have the extra edge (14-2-2) that’s putting them in first with more games left to play.

With a pair of wins this weekend, Robert Morris is just two points behind, with Mercyhurst a pair behind them.

Here are the Atlantic Hockey standings as of February 5, with the number of games each team has remaining:

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


Three Things I Think: Atlantic Hockey, Jan. 31

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

As we head into the final month of regular-season action in Atlantic Hockey, the race for the top is heating up. The Golden Griffins remain in first place with 26 points and a 13-7 record, but the Crusaders are on their heels, matching their point total but with a 10-6-6 conference record.

Mercyhurst’s Lakers are just two points behind, with Robert Morris, Niagara and AIC all eclipsing the 20-point mark as well.

Here are the Atlantic Hockey standings, as of January 31:

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

North Dakota’s Cole Smith: Dirty Hit?

Saturday, January 27th, 2018

“Same fu**ing guy, same fu**ing guy,” screamed Denver head coach Jim Montgomery on the bench — picked up by the TV microphones and cameras early in the third period of Friday’s thrilling game between Denver and North Dakota. It was the first college hockey game since 2011 featuring two starting goaltenders who have won national titles.

The game officially ended in a 3-3 tie, with Troy Terry scoring in the bonus 3-on-3 overtime session to give Denver the extra point in the NCHC standings.

Montgomery’s comments from the bench referred to an incident in November, the last time North Dakota and Denver squared off. UND sophomore Cole Smith was called for a boarding major that injured Denver defenseman Adam Plant, who needed significant on-ice attention from the medical and training staff before being helped to the locker room. Plant is a reliable senior defenseman for Montgomery — Friday’s game in Grand Forks, after all, was his 139th in a Pioneer uniform.

At 3:14 of the third period, Plant collided with Smith again, this time with both players battling for a loose puck in the Denver offensive zone. In real time, it genuinely looked like an unfortunate mishap, with Plant’s momentum seemingly propelling him into Smith as they both reached for the puck.

The replays on CBS Sports Network, unfortunately, show a different story.

There’s no objective way to sugarcoat this — it was truly a shocking hit by Smith. Here’s what happened: Smith was a step late to the play. After Plant won the loose puck, Smith raised his left arm in an unnatural position, and as he leans in (as opposed to trying to avoid the hit), his elbow struck a defenseless Plant in the right temple. Plant, who crumpled to the ice, lying flat on his back, very well may have been unconscious for a moment. Clearly shaken, he needed plenty of assistance to skate off the ice. Though there’s no official word from Denver yet, it was an obvious, serious head injury and presumably a concussion.  

After the game, UND head coach Brad Berry said, “Is it a penalty? Probably a penalty.” — which is a bit disappointing. It was definitely (not probably) a major penalty, and the only question now is whether the NCHC will issue a suspension this afternoon.

I’m not suggesting Smith — a sophomore who has scored 5 goals this season — is a dirty player (typically, in fact, he isn’t), and it’s impossible for me or anyone else to comment on what he was thinking as the play unfolded. An otherwise clean player can certainly suffer a lapse and deliver an anomalous dirty hit, and in reality, these plays happen quickly and the players’ movements are instinctive. And of course, despite Montgomery’s comments on the bench, it’s likely just an unfortunate coincidence that Friday’s occurrence involved the same two players as the Nov. 18 contest. But again, this singular play was startling and unnecessary, and I can’t imagine that Smith will avoid a brief suspension from the NCHC as a result of the hit. 

Of note, 36 of the sophomore forward’s 58 penalty minutes this season have come in three games against Denver.

The injury to Plant depleted the Pioneer defense for the remainder of the game, but the Fighting Hawks battled back regardless — overcoming Terry’s power play goal on the ensuing major power play and earning a tie thanks to a Hayden Shaw extra-attacker goal that beat Denver’s Tanner Jaillet. Still, North Dakota remains winless in its last four games. Denver remains in first place in the NCHC standings, although St. Cloud State — four points back — has two games in hand.

UND and Denver face off again on Saturday in Grand Forks to complete the regular season series — continuing what has become one of the most dramatic rivalries in college hockey over the last few years.

In case you missed it:

  • Terry will be the youngest player on Team USA at the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea next month. I spoke to him earlier this week about the opportunity to return to international play.
  • Western Michigan has been hit with the injury bug, losing two of its most talented offensive players in Colt Conrad and Wade Allison. Allison is out for the season, and I spoke to head coach Andy Murray on Thursday about how his team is trying to overcome these injuries. On Friday, the Broncos gave up 6 goals for the second consecutive game, this time in a 6-2 loss in Omaha in a game that was 2-2 with seven minutes to play.
  • Special teams proved important around the NCHC on Friday. Minnesota-Duluth scored 2 shorthanded goals in a 5-1 win against St. Cloud, while Colorado College went 3-for-3 on the power play to beat Miami 6-3. The Tigers improve to 11-11-3 this season, looking to finish over .500 for the first time since 2012.