Archive for the 'Notes, Thoughts, Ramblings' Category

The Takeaway: Leonard and Diebold Lead RPI to 2-1 Non-Conference Win at UNH

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Durham, NH - Rensselaer made the 200 mile trek to UNH for a Tuesday night tilt in which it frustrated the home team to no end. UNH controlled play for a good portion of the game and got the game’s first goal. John Furgele sent in a point shot from the right point, in which RPI starter Jason Kasdorf gave up a rebound. Warren Foegele found the rebound and buried it into the empty net giving UNH the 1-0 lead at eight minutes, nine seconds of the first period. Rensselaer responded six minutes later, as Curtis Leonard sniped a shot from the high slot to the top corner of the net knotting the game. A mere two minutes later, RPI took the lead for good off the stick of Parker Reno. The 2-1 lead held to the third period, as the Engineers frustrated UNH in the period, stifling most quality chances with sticks and bodies.

The third period saw the Engineers hold on with Scott Diebold putting on a show late. Diebold made 6-8 saves in the game’s last two minutes to preserve the win for RPI, which was its fifth in eight games after 1-5-0 start to the season. With the 2-1 win, Rensselaer improves its record to 6-7-1, while UNH’s record fell to 4-8-0 overall on the season. To view highlights visit this link, via the UNH athletics website and youtube channel. (more…)

Three Things I Think: WCHA, Nov. 25

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

The big news in the WCHA this past weekend was Michigan Tech’s fall from the ranks of the undefeated. The Huskies were swept at home by Minnesota State in a pair of tight games, ending MTU’s 10-0-0 run to start the season.

They were the close, defensive type of games that Tech has won all season, but the Mavericks found a way to get it done. Michigan Tech was either tied or led heading into the third period of both games, but the Mavericks outscored MTU 4-1 in the final frame in the series. to secure the program’s first sweep of a No. 1-ranked team in its history.

As a result, the Huskies toppled from the top spot in the national polls down to No. 6. Minnesota State, which has won four straight and seven of its last eight, moved up two spots to No. 7. Bowling Green moved up three spots to No. 15 after sweeping Bemidji State, while a split with Alaska-Anchorage moved Northern Michigan down two spots to No. 19. Ferris State, which split with Alabama Huntsville, is the only WCHA team receiving votes in the poll (4).

College Hockey News also released the KRACH ratings this week and the WCHA boasts three teams in the top-10, including No. 1-ranked Minnesota State. Michigan Tech follows at No. 4 and Bowling Green is at No. 6. Next closest is Bemidji State at No. 21, followed by Ferris State (No. 29), Northern Michigan (No. 33), Alaska (No. 38), Alaska-Anchorage (No. 42), Alabama-Huntsville (No. 50), and Lake Superior State (No. 54).

Rapid Weekend Recap: Minnesota State stated its case as the league’s top team, sweeping Michigan Tech in a pair of close games in Houghton. Bowling Green kept pace at the top of the standings, sweeping Bemidji State. The Falcons have now won six of their last seven games. Alabama-Huntsville and Ferris State, Lake Superior State and Alaska, and Northern Michigan and Alaska-Anchorage all split their series to further clog the middle of the conference standings.

(After the jump: My three stars of the weekend in the WCHA and a few thoughts on what went down.)

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Three Things I Think: NCHC, Nov. 25

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Seven of the NCHC’s eight teams — all but a struggling Western Michigan — head into Thanksgiving feeling thankful for experiencing at least one win (two each for Miami and Denver) this past weekend.

Now, a quick look back at three of the many take-home points from an eventful weekend:

Benik on the goal line

St. Cloud State and North Dakota played one of the more entertaining series in recent memory within league play, and it was fitting that this one concluded with a weekend split, with the Huskies taking the first game before UND rebounded to win on Saturday. Friday’s most memorable moment, for me, was the Jonny Brodzinski power play goal that put St. Cloud State up 3-1 in the third period — memorable most of all because of Joey Benik’s impressive goal-line stickhandling around the typically sure-footed Paul LaDue, UND’s sophomore defenseman. Benik drew two more penalty killers to him before sliding the puck across the top of the crease to a wide open Brodzinski, who one-timed the eventual game-winner past UND’s Zane McIntyre for his second of the game and team-leading seventh of the season. Benik continued to play well Saturday, despite the loss — again from the goal line, scoring over McIntyre’s right shoulder on an almost impossible short-side angle, pulling the Huskies at the time to within a goal. Benik seems to benefit playing on a line with Brodzinski and classmate David Morley, as the Andover, Minn., native is proving to be a critical component of St. Cloud’s offense. Benik has six goals thus far this season.

In this series, both goaltenders played well, but did so especially — strange as this may sound — in the games they lost. On Friday, McIntyre made several key saves to keep UND within striking distance of St. Cloud, and on Saturday, the Huskies’ Charlie Lindgren did the same. Saturday’s biggest save for Lindgren, arguably, came when he stopped a 3-on-0 breakaway featuring UND’s Michael Parks, Connor Gaarder, and Brendan O’Donnell.

Denver offense versatile

The Pioneers followed up their 8-1 win over Colorado College with a 7-0 drubbing of another in-state rival on Friday night, this time Air Force. DU then toppled Wisconsin, 3-2, on Saturday. Sure, the last three games for Denver have come against three of the worst teams in the country (a combined 7-23-2 and among the bottom in most statistical categories), but regardless, Denver’s offense has been notable not just for the sheer number of goals scored but also for the versatile manner in which they’ve been scoring. It’s clearly been a focus, too, to turn last season’s No. 6 league offense into what’s now the No. 1 offense in the league and the No. 4 offense in the nation (3.64 goals per game, trailing only Robert Morris, UMass-Lowell, and Boston University). One consistent part of the offense has been the ability for DU players to find room behind the net, below the goal line, and be able to keep their heads up to see open players streaking into the slot, or at the top of the crease. Combined with quick hands by its veteran forwards around the net, and lightning-fast passes in odd-man and power play situations, Denver has clearly found a nice rhythm in the offensive zone. It doesn’t hurt, either, when your players can make moves like Quentin Shore did on Friday (a toe drag around a helpless Air Force defender who was then used as a screen on a shorthanded goal) or like Daniel Doremus did on Saturday (a behind the back pass while lying flat on stomach, right to leading scorer Trevor Moore). Shore, an Ottawa Senators draft pick, was named the NCHC’s Offensive Player of the Week after amassing five points, including a natural hat-trick in the second period of Friday’s shutout win.

Sticking with one

Until this point of the season, we’ve seen a few goalie platoons on display in the league — for instance, Jay Williams/Ryan McKay (Miami), Lukas Hafner/Frank Slubowski (Western Michigan), and Tyler Marble/Chase Perry (Colorado College). Elsewhere, an anticipated rotation between Denver sophomore Evan Cowley and freshman Tanner Jaillet hasn’t come to fruition because of how outstanding Cowley (6-3-0 with a 1.85 goals-against average and .929 save percentage) has been so far — though DU coach Jim Montgomery is more than laudatory any time Jaillet’s name comes up. This weekend saw the Miami, Western Michigan, and Colorado College coaching staffs all stick with the goaltender who’s played better until this point in the season — Miami’s Williams, WMU’s Hafner, and CC’s Perry — with each getting both weekend starts.

The move worked for Miami, where Enrico Blasi (despite historic tendencies to suggest otherwise) may be forced into sticking with Williams, who’s been in net for all 10 of the RedHawks wins this season. Unfortunately for CC and Western Michigan, the votes of confidence didn’t go as smoothly — especially for the Broncos, who lost both their games at Miami with Hafner in net each time. Perry, meanwhile, earned a win on Friday over Wisconsin — a game that showed improved effort from the Tigers as a team — but lost Saturday to Air Force. In Miami’s case, they seem to have found their No. 1 for the season, while the search has been less clear for Western Michigan and Colorado College.

As an aside, the other four teams in the league have had a clear-cut No. 1 established starter, and all have been successful in the early going this season (Kasimir Kaskisuo for Minnesota Duluth, Zane McIntyre for North Dakota, Charlie Lindgren for St. Cloud State, and Ryan Massa for Nebraska-Omaha).

Coming soon: Check CHN before this weekend’s games for feature articles on North Dakota’s Drake Caggiula and Miami’s Sean Kuraly. And on Friday, we’ll preview the North Dakota/Nebraska-Omaha series, Western Michigan’s trip to South Bend for the Shillelagh Tournament, and St. Cloud State’s upcoming two-game series at Bemidji State.

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

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Big Ten play finally kicked off this week. Given how the teams have played against non-conference teams, I was intrigued to see what their Corsi numbers would look like. For the most part, 5-on-5 play Corsi numbers hovered around 50 percent.

Michigan State and Ohio State faced off, as did Michigan and Penn State. Both series were split, although Michigan’s win over Penn State on Saturday night was very lopsided. The last few minutes of the game were disastrous for Penn State, which allowed five goals in the third.

Since we’re getting into Big Ten play, I want to note that these stats don’t represent how good a team is, just what their possession looks like. And when you’re looking at possession, think of quality scoring chances. Michigan State rarely out-possess opponents, but they’re still able to win for multiple reasons. Jake Hildebrand, their goalkeeper, is very good, and so are some forwards like Mackenzie MacEachern. The most important reason is the Spartans are very good at finding quality scoring chances when they have the puck.

The stats and context are provided below. Because it’s Big Ten play, I listed the stats a little bit differently this week: (more…)

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Nov. 24

Monday, November 24th, 2014

Well, that was an interesting weekend.

Both Big Ten conference matchups ended in splits, except Michigan rebounded from a 3-2 loss with an 8-1 win. Yes, they scored eight goals against Penn State, and five of those goals came in the third period. After rewatching Michigan’s 8-1 win, the final minutes of the game was a disaster for Penn State. The Wolverines were aggressive in their loss, and continued that play in the victory on Saturday.

The weekend confirmed my suspicion about Big Ten play: I will never know which team is going to win on a given night. Except for Minnesota.

The more the season progresses, the less I know what to expect from any team — except Wisconsin. Even though the Badgers are winless and lost to Colorado College, they still have a legitimate chance to finish high in the Big Ten conference. That’s how inconsistent and questionable the conference is right now.

As far as Ohio State and Michigan State goes, I still don’t know which team is better. The Spartans won 3-1 the first night, but fell to Ohio State 3-0 the second night. From the first game, I learned why Michigan State can win without possessing the puck. They generate quality scoring chances and Jake Hildebrand is good. And so is And Mackenzie MacEachern.

Hildebrand wasn’t the only Big Ten goalkeeper to start both games over the weekend, as Penn State’s Eamon McAdam, Michigan’s Zach Nagelvoort and Ohio State’s Matt T0mkins also played in both games. Joel Rumpel was the only netminder who didn’t, as he only played in the 3-2 loss to Denver.

McAdam has appeared in net for Penn State after replacing a pulled Matthew Skoff on Nov. 14. McAdam has started in three straight games, and his save percentage dropped from .952 to .906 after Saturday’s eight-goal game. Nagelvoort didn’t look too shaky for Michigan, and has started four straight games. Tomkins earned his first shutout of the season in Ohio State’s 3-0 win on Friday.

The only guarantee in the Big Ten is that Minnesota will finish first. But anyone could finish from second to sixth. The scary part is there’s a chance Wisconsin, the worst team in the country, could finish higher than last place.

Also, KRACH is out — the best way to rank reams. Minnesota is fifth, and the next highest team is Penn State at 20. Ohio State is 27, Michigan 31, Michigan State 40 and Wisconsin dead last. Yes, just after winning the Big Ten tournament, the Badgers are dead last. Given the confusing nature of the Big Ten, that order sounds right.

(After the jump: I will never understand Michigan, why Michigan State can win without the puck and Corsi things)
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Three Things I Think: ECAC 11/24

Monday, November 24th, 2014

With some teams having last weekend off while others played conference games, the league got a whole lot closer. Quinnipiac jumped to the lead after a weekend split but second place is a four team log-jam. Clarkson, with a four point weekend was the biggest mover as it jumped into the tie for second, which puts them just two points behind Quinnipiac. RPI, St. Lawrence and Harvard are the other three in that tie with Clarkson. All in all, the top eight are seperated by just four points. It is early, but early parity shows it could be a battle to the end in a wide open league.

Cornell got on track at home last weekend, as it swept Ivy league rivals Brown and Yale. Harvard is the early leader in that race with five points. Brown’s struggles continue, as it is now 0-6-0 ECAC play. The most telling stat of Brown’s struggles comes against its Ivy League rivals, where it has been outscored 16-2 in just three games. The Ivy League race, as much as most of us ignore it, is huge to those schools and thus I am going to try giving it a mention at least once a week. Brown’s struggles, though, probably wont fly for long and won’t be that bad as the season goes on.

St. Lawrence had Quinnpiac on the ropes on Saturday night. With a win the Saints would have left the weekend with the ECAC lead. I talked a couple of weeks back about SLU’s possession and in the last two weeks there has been improvement. SLU is so young that it can only get better. What I saw on Saturday bodes well for it too because the improvement is being seen almost by the minute. Quinnipiac is still the most impressive possession team in the league, but others are catching up to it. SLU and Clarkson both stayed with QU in possession. In all honesty, Clarkson’s performance was a memorable one for me and I mention below as to why. SLU though looked impressive late in that game but couldn’t find a way. The parity in the league is phenomenal right now. As fans of the league, we can do nothing but enjoy it. (more…)

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…)