Archive for the 'Notes, Thoughts, Ramblings' Category

The Takeaway: No Gillies, No Problem for PC. Friars Blank UNH 1-0

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

Durham, NH- Jon Gillies, the much celebrated Friars goaltender didn’t start because of a violation of team policy. His replacement, Nick Ellis, had a night as he shut down a struggling UNH team. The first two periods, were stalemates, as UNH and Providence used strong defensive systems to shut each other down. UNH came out in the third period flying, but Ellis had its number and stopped everything that was sent its way. Despite being outplayed early in the third, Providence found a way. Shane Luke sent a beauty of a pass to Trevor Mingoia, who was wide open in front of the UNH net and at eight minutes, exact, Mignoia beat Clark to break the scoreless tie.

The 1-0 lead would hold until the end, as Providence defeated UNH on the road. Providence improves its record to 5-5-2 overall and 4-3-0 in Hockey east. UNH falls to 4-7-0, and 1-4-0 in conference play. UNH now sits in a tie for last place in Hockey East with UMass, while Providence sits in a tie for fourth place. (more…)

NCHC Weekend Preview: Nov. 21-22

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Minnesota-Duluth has received plenty of attention on CHN over the past two weeks, with back-to-back Team of the Week honors, Nicole Brodzik’s look at the offensive contributions of the Bulldog defense, and Kara Hille’s look back on UMD’s sweep of Minnesota last week.

This weekend, with all NCHC teams in action on both nights, the Bulldogs go on the road for the third consecutive week, this time carrying a five-game winning streak into a two-game set at UNO (5-0-1 in its last six games) in a matchup between two of the top teams not just in the NCHC, but in the country.

Nebraska-Omaha (6-1-1 overall, 2-0-0 NCHC) hosts Minnesota-Duluth (8-4-0 overall, 4-2-0 NCHC)

Both teams have enjoyed timely offenses this season, each squad averaging over three goals a game and led in each case by a sophomore forward — Omaha’s Jake Guentzel, who’s bounced back nicely from an injury earlier in the season, and UMD’s Dominic Toninato. But the matchup to watch this weekend will be between the goaltenders. Duluth’s freshman netminder Kasimir Kaskisuo of course backstopped the Bulldogs to their sweep over Minnesota last week. The reigning NCHC Goaltender of the Week only had to make 41 saves all weekend, reflecting strong defensive play in front of him — but the saves he did make, in many cases, were huge, including a memorable handful on Gopher power play opportunities. He’ll face the more experienced senior Ryan Massa, who for the Mavericks is fifth in the country in goals-against average and a big reason Omaha has a penalty killing percentage approaching 90 percent. The other players to keep an eye on this weekend are a pair of Minnesota natives who play for the Mavericks — freshmen Jake Randolph (a Minnesota Wild draft pick) and Avery Peterson. The rookies, who play on different lines, combined for 9 points in Omaha’s sweep of Ohio State last week and have fit in nicely to coach Dean Blais’ offensive scheme. As a result, the Mavericks have three lines who have been scoring consistently, as opposed to two lines for UMD. That sets the stage for a chess match between veteran coaches Dean Blais and Scott Sandelin. Prediction: Nebraska-Omaha wins Friday, Minnesota-Duluth wins Saturday.

St. Cloud State (4-5-1 overall, 1-2-1-0 NCHC) hosts North Dakota (8-2-1 overall, 3-1-0 NCHC)

Last season, the Huskies and UND battled all season for the regular season title, and St. Cloud’s 3-1-0 record against North Dakota proved to be the difference in the Huskies taking that inaugural regular season crown in the NCHC. Last week, UND split with Miami, while St. Cloud followed a win over Western Michigan with a shootout loss the next night. Both teams enter this weekend with strong special teams play. The focus, for St. Cloud and sophomore goaltender Charlie Lindgren, has to be on stopping UND’s potent top line that has been difficult for opponents to contain so far this season. Junior forward Drake Caggiula, the NCHC Player of the Week after 5 points last weekend, centers the line, and he’s tied for the nation’s lead with 16 points so far. His linemates are seniors Michael Parks and Mark MacMillan (MacMillan returned from a wrist injury last weekend). The trio has combined for 40 points and is a combined plus-18. They also play in all situations, contributing four power play goals and five shorthanded goals so far this season. Last weekend, St. Cloud coach Bob Motzko, on the heels of a three-game losing streak, switched up his defensive pairings, most notably splitting up Ethan Prow and Andrew Prochno. No matter the combinations this weekend, the focus clearly will be on UND’s top line. Meanwhile, St. Cloud’s offense will look to get going, particularly juniors David Morley and Jimmy Murray, who as part of the Huskies’ exceptional junior class are off to slow starts so far. Prediction: North Dakota wins Friday, st. Cloud State wins Saturday.

Miami (8-4-0 overall, 4-2-0 NCHC) hosts Western Michigan (3-6-1 overall, 1-4-1-1 NCHC)

Lately, even in last Saturday’s loss at North Dakota, Miami has started games well, typically scoring first and earning the opportunity to play with the lead. Combine that with very few mental mistakes, and the RedHawks look unrecognizable compared to last season’s team. As we’ve mentioned here repeatedly, the success has come from Miami’s balanced offense. Check back next week for a feature we’ll have on junior forward Sean Kuraly, who is tied for the nation’s lead with nine goals (including, somewhat remarkably, six game-winners). Kuraly has been a force, along with Blake Coleman and Alex Wideman, who have helped shoulder the load for a Miami offense (obviously that also includes Austin Czarnik and Riley Barber) that puts plenty of shots on goal. On the other end, junior Jay Williams has been exceptional in goal. Ryan McKay, now winless at 0-3-0, started last Saturday and although he didn’t play terribly, we have to wonder if Miami head coach Enrico Blasi will stray away from his rotation and stick with Williams, who seems to have earned a pair of starts this weekend. Western Michigan dominated Miami (4-0-0) last year but have struggled with consistency this year. Still looking for consistent offense, another problem for the Broncos has been their goaltending, with junior Lukas Hafner outplaying senior Frank Slubowski so far. The two have alternated starts. I’d expect a Hafner/Williams matchup to kick off the series tonight. Prediction: Miami sweeps

And in non-conference action:

Denver hosts Air Force, Wisconsin: The Pioneers are going to face a tougher test Friday night against the Falcons than they did against Colorado College last week (when Denver beat CC 8-1). Denver enters the weekend after hearing advice from Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz, who visited the team’s practice on Wednesday prior to standing behind the bench for the Caps 3-2 win over the Avalanche the following night. Trotz stressed that success on the NHL level is all about keeping a focus on the details, and maintaining that focus for more than just two or three weeks. This 2014-15 Denver team has shown it can do that already, and it’s started with the play of sophomore Evan Cowley in goal, whose strong start has allowed the Pioneer defensemen to jump into more offensive rushes and complement a strong group of forwards, led again in scoring by Trevor Moore (12 points in nine games). Denver faces an Air Force team that has played three consecutive overtime games and then a Wisconsin team that is winless (0-6-0) to start its season. Prediction: Tie on Friday, Denver wins Saturday

Colorado College hosts Wisconsin, visits Air Force: Friday’s matchup is one between two teams desperate for a win. The old WCHA rivals have struggled mightily so far. CC lost 8-1 at Denver last week in a rivalry matchup and is 2-7-0 this year, losing seven straight after a pair of wins over Alabama-Huntsville. The Badgers, meanwhile, haven’t had much go right so far. Wisconsin has scored just seven goals in six games, all losses, while allowing four or more in four of those six games. Similarly, the Tigers have scored just a pair of goals over their last three games and have allowed 35 goals over six games. Only Niagara (1-9-0) has allowed more goals this season. The Tigers defense, simply, has to be better. I’d expect Chase Perry to get the start in goal for CC tonight. Prediction: CC wins Friday, loses Saturday

WCHA Weekend Preview, Nov. 21-22

Friday, November 21st, 2014

This week marks the first full weekend of WCHA play. All ten teams will be in action against one another, and if we learned anything from last season’s tight conference race, it’s that every game matters in this league.

The slate is highlighted by the Michigan Tech-Minnesota State match-up in Houghton. The Huskies and Mavericks come in as the top two teams in both the WCHA and the early edition of the Pairwise rankings. The Pairwise doesn’t mean much this early in the season, but it adds a little extra excitement to an already highly-anticipated series — one the WCHA hopes will bring the league attention nationally.

While it is early, you can see the WCHA race beginning to take shape now that most teams have played six conference games. It’s looking like a three-way race at the top between Michigan Tech, Minnesota State and Bowling Green, but Northern Michigan could put itself in the conversation as well. Ferris State’s offensive outburst last weekend has restored hope for its season, while both Alaska teams – who were expected to be in the thick of things this year – have struggled recently.

(After the jump: A look at this week’s slate of games.)

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ECAC Weekend Preview: Nov. 20

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

To think we are almost ready to have turkey with our families, is something I can hardly fathom. It also means that we are over a quarter of the way through the season. Where did the time go? Well I have no idea, but to soothe our troubles there are a plethora of games and a mixture of non-conference and conference games to make us happy. Four teams will participate in conference games this weekend, as Quinnipiac looks to take control of the conference. It is the only team that is tied at the top, which plays this weekend. It has two games in hand on both Harvard and RPI, who are also tied for first place.

As Quinnipiac looks for distance in the league, St. Lawrence has a monumental opportunity. The Saints play Princeton on Friday, while Quinnipiac plays at Clarkson. St. Lawrence sits two points behind the mess at the top, which includes Quinnipiac. If Both win on Friday, or both lose for that matter, SLU will be just two points behind the lead and will thus be playing for the league tie with the Bobcats or if both lose on Friday and SLU wins there could be a four way tie at the end of the week. All the possibilities seem pretty fun. I like SLU’s chance on Friday playing Princeton, but QU will be in a battle with Clarkson. Colgate and Yale would also be in the mix at five points, sitting a lone point behind SLU and three behind Quinnipiac. Before I get too carried away, in November, we should actually preview the games I guess. (more…)

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Nov. 19

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

It’s finally here. This weekend, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State start conference play. Big Ten teams have struggled out of conference this season, there are little clues about what will happen in conference play.

Both conference matchups are intriguing. Penn State has the second-best overall record in the Big Ten and has consistently played well. But it’s possible to argue Penn State hasn’t beaten quality opponents. Michigan has continued its inconsistent play, but at times the Wolverines have looked like a strong team. This will be a test for both teams.

With a Thursday matchup, the Buckeyes and Spartans will start conference play. The past four games between these two teams have gone into overtime, and the Buckeyes went 1-0-3-2 in those games. (This is also your friendly reminder that the Big Ten has shootouts.) This series features two teams known for low scoring, and it could come down to the goalkeepers.

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a how Big Ten shootouts work. Each OT or regulation win earns a team three points. If the game goes into a shootout, the winning team gets two conference points and the losing team one. For PairWise purposes, all shootout games are officially counted as a tie.

After spending three of the past four weekends on a bye, the Badgers are back in action with a trip to Colorado. First the struggling Badgers play Colorado College and then they’ll travel to Denver. Minnesota will face the NTDP U-18 team in exhibition play.

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ECAC Power Rankings: Nov. 19

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Another interesting week has led to even more movement in the Power Rankings. Yale impressed me in a weekend road trip to Harvard and Dartmouth. Quinnipiac, Rensselaer and Harvard are tied at the top of the ECAC standings, but hypothetically QU is the leader because it has two games in hand against the others. I am reluctantltly keeping Colgate at the top, but QU, Yale and Harvard are nipping at its heels. Without further ado, here is my weekly take.

1. Colgate (8-3-1, 2-1-1 ECAC) – Last Week 1

Colgate continues its reign at the top of the ECAC power rankings, a place it has yet to relinquish this season. The Raiders have been pretty inconsistent over the past few weeks, but they are still in my astute estimation the best team in the conference top to bottom. Injuries are plaguing them, with two of its top scorers out. That billing may change in the coming weeks, if the results continue to be inconsistent. Last weekend it beat SLU and tied Clarkson, at home. It hangs on to the top spot by a small margin.

2. Quinnipiac (7-2-1, 4-0-0) – Last Week 4

Maybe I should jump back on the Quinnipiac bandwagon? Well I am not fully ready to do so because I do not fully trust a few weeks of good goaltending and defensive play. I need a week more to think there is any more improvement. There seems to be on the surface, which is a good sign. With it the Bobcats could just be the best team in the conference. Regardless, they will still light up the possession stats but I say use caution. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Hockey East, Nov. 19

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Penn State beat Massachusetts-Lowell, 4-1, on Saturday in the second game of two at Tsongas Center over the weekend.

The night before, UML cruised by PSU with a 5-3 win that really wasn’t that close. PSU added a pair of goals late in the third period after C.J. Smith gave UML a 5-1 lead at 8:21 of the period.

Seeing a fledging program like PSU knock off one of the nation’s best team in UML was a bit jarring, it seems, to many. The River Hawks’ 6-1-2 start before last weekend’s games was the best the program has seen since moving to Division I.

Losing to Penn State won’t be great for UML’s Pairwise standing later in the season. However, it’s not exactly a devastating blow either.

Freshman goaltender Jeff Smith, who’s split time with Kevin Boyle to this point, was due for bad start. In his three starts prior to Saturday, he’d stopped 73 of 76 shots. Some pucks were going to sneak past him eventually, and it just so happened to come Saturday night. Moreover, UML as a club wasn’t quite as dominant as its record suggested.

In his first three seasons at UML, Norm Bazin has found a way to make sure his teams are at their best once the second half begins. UML is 38-11-5 in regular-season games after winter break in his three years. There’s no reason not expect UML to get even better than it’s been to this point.

Some things haven’t come together as they will for the River Hawks. A split with Penn State, however, won’t prevent any of that from happening. Relying on a .750 winning percentage in the second half to get favorable league and national tournament seeding can be a dangerous proposition. For UML, though, it just seems like standard procedure. (more…)

The Takeaway: Harvard Blanks Dartmouth in Hanover for the First Time Since 1953

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

Hanover, NH - Harvard and Dartmouth played one of those Tuesday night games no one shows up for, but on the cold night in Northern New Hampshire the two squads put on quite the show. Dartmouth controlled play throughout the contest and the attempts showed, but it was Harvard that would strike first. Patrick McNally carried the puck over the blue-line with no Dartmouth skaters in sight and took a snap shot over the glove of James Kruger, giving the Crimson a 1-0 lead at nine minutes, 26 seconds of the first period. The lead stuck until the third period.

Harvard held onto the to 1-0 throughout and added a an empty-net goal off the stick of Jim Vesey to defeat Dartmouth, 2-0. The shutout marked the first time Harvard had shutout Dartmouth in Hanover since January 10, 1953, in a 5-0 Harvard win. Harvard improves to 4-1-2 on the season, and 3-1-2 in the ECAC. Dartmouth falls to 2-3-1, and 2-3-1 in league play. Harvard with the win moves into a three-way tie for first place in the ECAC conference. Dartmouth out-attempted Harvard 90-49 in the game but only out-shot the Crimson 29-24 in the game. (more…)

Big Ten: Big Ten: A Look Into Corsi, Week Six

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

Minnesota was swept by Minnesota-Duluth last weekend, suffering losses of 3-0 and 2-1. Both Penn State and Ohio State split their weekend games, while Michigan swept AIC. The Spartans dropped a 3-2 decision to Boston College.

Ohio State’s Corsi numbers seem to be improving, and most teams in the conference have Corsi numbers around the 50 percent mark. Michigan had the highest Corsi close and 5-on-5 Corsi from the weekend as they dominated AIC.

Here are this week’s Corsi stats, with Corsi close and other explanations listed below:

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Nov. 17

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

What a weekend of college hockey. Michigan Tech is still undefeated, Minnesota lost both games to Minnesota-Duluth and Ohio State played Bowling Green well — and earned the series split.

Ohio State and Minnesota’s results were very surprising, but for different reasons. The Bulldogs earned 3-0 and 2-1 wins, backed by Kasimir Kaskisuo in net. On Friday, Minnesota’s home winning streak of 17 games was snapped with the shutout loss. The last time the Gophers lost on home ice was also to the Bulldogs.

After an early 2-0 hole on Saturday, the Gophers battled back in the third. But it was too little too late, and Minnesota wasn’t able to tie the game. The already intense rivalry became more intense when Dominic Tonanato hit Minnesota’s Kyle Rau in the closing minutes of the game, forcing a scrum that almost turned into a full-fledged flight.

The Buckeyes pleasantly surprised this weekend against in-state rival Bowling Green. In the first game, the Falcons struck first. But the Buckeyes scored three goals in the third — including the game winner from Anthony Greco with 34 seconds left in regulation. Scoring was more spread out the next night, but the Falcons also scored the game-winning tally late in regulation.

It was an interesting weekend for Penn State as well. The Nittany Lions lost to UMass Lowell 5-3, which prompted a goalkeeping switch to Eamon McAdam in the middle of the game. McAdam started the second game, helping Penn State to a 4-1 win. Casey Bailey had four points on the weekend, while Taylor Holmstrom — who’s tied for the nation’s lead in points — had five. His 16 points also leads the Big Ten.

As expected, the Spartans fell to Boston College. After a 2-0 deficit, the Spartans rallied just short and lost 3-2. Michigan State blocked less shots than BC, something to keep an eye because they were notorious for blocking shots last year.

Michigan swept AIC at home, but that indicates nothing of how Michigan will play this season, especially in conference games. The Wolverines won 5-2 and 5-3, and Andrew Copp had four points on the weekend, while Zach Nagelvoort started both games.

(After the jump: More goalkeeping controversy, stop looking at PairWise, and the great rivalries)
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