Archive for the 'Hockey East' Category

Three Things I Think: Hockey East, March 18, 2014

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Boston College will go a second straight season without winning a Lamoriello Trophy. The Eagles won’t even be in the championship game, nor will they be at TD Garden. It’s not mind-boggling from a hockey standpoint. Notre Dame’s a great team. Hockey East is a hard league to win — parity and stuff. But, thinking over the last decade in Hockey East, a Championship Weekend without the Eagles in plainly weird.

Massachusetts-Lowell’s win of Hockey East last season ended a three-year title reign for Boston College. Notre Dame’s defeat of the Eagles on Sunday afternoon, to complete a 2-1 series win, clinched the first semifinal group without BC since 2004. That year, the Eagles also lost to the No. 8 seed (Boston University) as the No. 1 seed in three games.

Ultimately, BC’s chances as a national title contender are still as strong as they were before the loss. There aren’t many teams in the country that can stifle BC like Notre Dame did on Friday and Sunday. The Irish are an uncommonly sound defensive team with the type of scoring talent that makes their possession-focused attack so effective. It’ll take a similar effort to prevent BC from coming out of Worcester and advancing to the Frozen Four in Philadelphia.

Even as BC ran away with the Hockey East Regular Season Championship, some problems still existed for BC. Like last season, the club’s young and talented defensive corps just never looked like a championship-level group. At different times, Mike Matheson has been great. At other points, it seemed like he took a step back in his development. Freshmen Steve Santini, Ian McCoshen and Scott Savage have all been great in their first seasons, but they’re still just rookies. Beyond Isaac MacLeod’s consistently strong play, the Eagles have serious issues on the blue line, especially when it comes to defensive breakdowns. The group moves the puck well  and regularly dominates the physical side of the game. It also can make life awfully difficult for BC’s goaltenders.

Losing to Notre Dame won’t change much for BC in terms of tournament locale. The Eagles will still be the No. 1 seed in Worcester (more than likely) and will play a team they’re probably better than. However, a better performance in the Hockey East Tournament may’ve meant the difference between playing the Atlantic Hockey Champion and a strong team from one of college hockey’s power conferences.

BC is as much of a contender as it’s been at any point this season. That level seems to have been greatly exaggerated, though. (more…)

A Quick Pairwise Look Heading Into Championship Weekend

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Conferences across the nation will crown their league champions, and NCAA automatic qualifiers, this upcoming weekend.

For some teams these will be do-or-die games. For others, there’s a trophy at stake but their tickets to the NCAA tournament have already been punched. Here’s what we know:

(more…)

The Takeaway: Northeastern Exorcises Demons at UNH To Send Series to a Decisive Game 3

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

Durham, NH - Northeastern entered UNH’s Whittemore Center on Saturday night, without a win in seven seasons at New Hampshire last winning on the olympic sheet in 2007. To make matters worse, the Huskies haven’t defeated UNH in the playoffs since 1989. For much of the first two periods, it appeared to be much of the same for NU on its opponents ice. Grayson Downing opened the scoring for UNH at 11 minutes, 35 seconds of the first period, but NU answered just three minutes later off the stick of Ryan Belonger. UNH took another lead at 18:27 of the first when Nick Sorkin was left all alone in front of Clay Witt. UNH not only took the 2-1 lead into the first intermission, but it entered the second period with 1:34 of of 5 on 3 powerplay time. The powerplay ended up being the turning-point in the series.

UNH’s two-man advantage got plenty of opportunities, but was unable to capitalize. The Huskies caught UNH napping at the end, as Matt Benning exited the box and headed down the ice on a break-away. He was tripped and the Huskies were awarded a penalty shot, which Kevin Roy took and scored to tie the game. UNH would then dominate the middle portions of the second period and would take a 4-2 lead on goals by Kelleher and Agosta. The Huskies though were ever pesky and fought back. Colton Saucerman scored at the 16:29 mark of the second and Kevin Roy scored his second to send it into the third period tied at three.

The third period was a stalemate that saw NU control the possession on UNH, but NU did appear to score midway through the period to take a 5-4 but it was overturned by the guys in stripes to keep the game tied at 4. It was overturned for goaltender interference and the game would head into the overtime tied at four. Mike Szmatula broke the deadlock at 3:39 of the overtime to give NU the 5-4 overtime win. UNH and NU will faceoff in a crucial game three tomorrow at 4:30 at the Whittemore Center. See highlights courtesy of UNH Athletics. (more…)

The Takeaway: Kelleher Goal Leads UNH To 1-0 Victory Over NU and a 1-0 Series Lead

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Durham, NH - UNH entered the Hockey East tournament without an appearance at the TD Garden in three seasons.  It looked hungry to get there again. Both Northeastern and UNH had last week off with byes. UNH had the better of the play in the period but the two teams left the period scoreless. The second period was marked by a UNH parade to the penalty box, as the Huskies had five power-plays in the period, but the Huskies were unable to capitalize. UNH had the better of the five on five play in the period, but again the teams left the period scoreless.

The Third period was much like the first two in that UNH dominated the possession and quality opportunities. Freshman,Tyler Kelleher broke the scoreless tie at four minutes, 49 seconds of the third period when he found a Grayson Downing tip right in front of Witt that he roofed to give UNH the 1-0 lead. The Huskies struggled to get quality chances late and in game, it was held to just four Grade A opportunities in the contest. UNH defeated Northeastern, 1-0 in front of 3,135 fans at the Whittemore Center and improves its record 20-16-1, moving up a spot in the Pairwise to a tie for 17th, just outside tournament positioning. Northeastern is also in that tie for 17th place with a record of 18-13-4. See these Highlights courtesy of UNH Athletics. (more…)

Last Night: Hockey East Playoff Picture

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

The final night of the Hockey East regular season is upon us. The new playoff format has eliminated the type of drama we’re accustomed to. Every team qualifying for at least the preliminary round means each club has at least one game to look forward after Saturday night’s regular-season finale.

Here’s a look at where it all stands now, and what everyone has to lose.

The Champion

Boston College locked up the top seed in the Hockey East Tournament a couple weeks ago, picking up yet another trophy for legendary head coach Jerry York.

The Eagles were idle on Friday, but they host Notre Dame Saturday night at Conte Forum. Within the league, BC has nothing to gain, but a win over the Fighting Irish is especially important for BC in its quest to be the No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA Tournament. Moreover, it’s always an important game when BC and Notre Dame meet in any sport.

Highest Possible Finish: 1st
Lowest Possible Finish: 1st (more…)

Three Things I Think: Hockey East, Feb. 24, 2014

Monday, February 24th, 2014

As much as the 2014 Winter Olympics disappointed American hockey fans, it’s abundantly clear that the state of hockey in the United States is strong. On both the men’s and women’s sides, strong American teams fell to worthy opponents despite rightfully lofty expectations. The talent pool for each of these national teams is only going to get larger moving forward. There won’t always be generational talents with each new crop of 18- or 19-year-olds, but there’s more talent than ever before.

It’s with this that the role of college hockey takes on an even greater responsibility. College coaches draw the difficult charge of having to focus on the development of their players while also trying to win games. Looking around Hockey East rosters and the minutes players receive, it’s often a balancing act between helping an 18-year-old with all the upside in the world and a 22-year-old who may not have the ceiling but is a more effective player at this time. Regardless, most of what we’ve seen from USA Hockey of late is generally positive for the future.

That in itself should be enough for the NHL to guarantee that the next round of Winter Olympics includes NHL players. It’s, in my opinion, because NHL players represent their countries in the Olympics that more Americans have started watching the game. Moreover, the annual World Junior Ice Hockey Championships have reached a level of popularity and esteem in this country that they wouldn’t without NHL players appearing in the Olympics.

The ongoing rivalry between the U.S. and Canada is great for hockey in North America. Seeing this rivalry play out at the junior level each year and the senior level every four years is good for everyone. If NHL players aren’t going to appear in the Olympics, the tournament loses a lot of its cachet. Before everyone starts ranting and raving about the Olympic spirit and the archaic ideal of amateurism in athletics, think about what this specific Olympic event means for hockey. No, hockey shouldn’t be considered more important than the other events in the eyes of organizers. The NHL and USA Hockey need the Olympics, however. If the teams competing in those games aren’t made up of the best players in the world, then there is no major ice hockey tournament that truly suggests which nation is the best.

The IIHF World Championships aren’t taken too seriously by North Americans because of when they occur. A World Cup of Hockey, while an interesting idea, would invariably come with the same hiccups as the world championships. Playing the event at anytime in the summer would prevent some players from participating. As much as all of us like to think representing your country should come first, professional players’ first responsibility is to the organization that guarantees them their paychecks.

The current status quo is the best arrangement. Annual matchups between the best young players in the world, along with a premier senior tournament every four years gives us the best opportunity to showcase the sport’s growth and significance while also attracting young athletes to local rinks.

Any discussion about removing NHLers from the Olympics must consider the potential influence of this tournament on the game itself. Aside from the prospect of losing high-quality college players for a season like occurs in the women’s game, it also will comes with a significant drop in interest for a game that simply can’t afford that in the United States. (more…)

The Takeaway: BU Valiant in Comeback Attempt, But Falls 4-3 to UNH

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Durham, NH - On the night that UNH celebrated its seniors, the Wildcats came out rocking against a BU team that has been struggling in recent weeks.  Dan Correale scored the first of the night for UNH at the two minute, 52 second mark when he found a puck on the doorstep and put it past O’Connor in a scrum. BU, though controlled much of the play in the period. UNH, though, was ever advantageous of BU mistakes, as Eric Knodel scored on the power-play from the point. Matt Willows followed it up seven minutes later to give UNH a 3-0 lead. BU scored a 5 on 3 power-play goal with 8 seconds remaining in the first period, as Evan Rodrigues received a pass and buried it past Desmith to send the game into the first intermission, 3-1. The goal was a turning point in the game.

The teams traded goals in the second, as Boston University again dominated the territorial play against UNH. The Wildcats led Boston University, 4-2, heading into the third period. BU would make it interesting at 9:15 of the third, as Robbie Baillageron netted the Terriers’ second 5 on 4 power-play goal of the night. BU gave a valiant effort in the waning minutes of the game but Casey Desmith had every answer thrown at him, including a late glove save to preserve UNH’s 4-3 win over BU.

The win improved UNH to 17-15-1, 9-8-0 in Hockey East and BU dropped to 8-17-4, 3-9-3. The win moves UNH into a tie for third place with Maine, four points behind UMass-Lowell in second. UNH is one point ahead of Northeastern in fourth, which is the final spot with home ice in the quarterfinals, and two points ahead of sixth place Providence. Positions six  through 11 play first round games, while positions 1-5 have first byes with the top four getting home ice in the quarterfinals. BU sits in tenth place, three points behind home ice in the first round. The win also moves UNH up to 21st in the Pairwise, it would conceivably need to win out to get an at large berth. (more…)

The Takeaway: UVM Dominates UNH in 5-2 Road Win

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Durham, NH - It was a typical UNH-UVM hockey game, which saw very few chances. UNH scored first at six minutes, 22 seconds off the stick of Kevin Goumas, who got a pass into the slot from Matt Willows. The lead was shortlived, though, as UVM would score two quick goals 42 seconds apart at 10:11 and 10:53. UVM took the 2-1 lead into the second period. Late in the second stanza, Connor Brickley added to the lead on the power-play. The Catmounts entered the third period, leading UNH 3-1.

UNH turned the momentum early in the third period, as Brett Pesce wristed a shot from the point into the net to bring the game within a goal. But UNH would get no closer, as UVM smothered and scored two goals of its own in the period. Vermont picked up the impressive, 5-2 win over UNH on the road. Vermont improved to 14-3 overall and 6-7-0 in Hockey East. UNH falls to 16-14-1, 8-7-0 and misses its opportunity to move up in the league Standings or gain some distance. Vermont currently sits in seventh place in the standings with 16 points, two points behind second in the league while Vermont sits in seventh with 12 points. The loss will also hurt UNH in the Pairwise, while Vermont gains with games still to be played. (more…)

The Takeaway: Willows SHG Propels UNH to Sweep of Notre Dame

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

Durham NH - UNH needed wins heading into this weekend but Notre Dame did as well. The Irish sat on the bubble of the national tournament picture and UNH was on the outside looking in. But UNH was the team this weekend that pounced on opportunities and was able to respond well to its opponents charges. New Hampshire took the first game of the series last night on Friday night, defeating the Irish 4-2.

New Hampshire took an early lead midway through the first period at 10 minutes, 21 seconds when Tyler Kelleher fed a trailing Maxim Gaudreault on a 2 on 1. Mario Lucia answered seven minutes later for the Irish on a wicked snipe from the slot to send the game into the first intermission tied at one. The two teams traded goals in the early stages of the first period, as Tynan and Speelman scored. But UNH would get a late highlight reel goal by Matt Willows late in the period and cruise from there to a 5-2 win over Notre Dame. UNH lifts itself into fourth place in Hockey East with the win and to a record of 16-13-1, 8-6-0 Hockey East. UND falls to 15-11-1, 4-8-1 and is in a tie for eighth place in the conference. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Hockey East, Jan. 28, 2014

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Massachusetts senior Michael Pereira earned his 100th career point Saturday night in a 3-2 loss to Merrimack. Pereira scored twice in the game, both in the second period and on the power play. UMass lost the game, however, and the story of Pereira’s career in Amherst received another troubling chapter.

In the fall of 2010, Pereira arrived at UMass, along with about a dozen other freshmen. Naturally, that team struggled badly in Hockey East, winning only five games and just barely sneaking into the league tournament. At times, Pereira, Branden Gracel, Conor Sheary and other youngsters on that club revealed the talent and skill that made people wonder about the future.

In the last three-and-a-half years, that class has produced the occasional great result, but they, like UMass classes before them, have never amounted to much more than some good players who can’t win games. Mix in the departure of Don Cahoon as head coach two summers ago, and it’s been a difficult career for Pereira and his talented classmates.

Seven years ago, UMass was in the midst of one of only a few successful seasons since the program’s rebirth more than 20 years ago. That year, guided by all-American goaltender Jon Quick, was supposed to signify the beginning UMass’ ascent to regional prevalence. Instead, Quick bolted and everything fell apart. The Minutemen haven’t finished above .500 since that season, and the next couple seasons don’t look much brighter.

When John Micheletto took over for Cahoon in August 2012, he proclaimed, as everyone associated with that programs always has, that UMass would become “the place to be.” Moving toward the end of his second season with UMass, Micheletto is banking on his recruiting talent to turn UMass around. It’s inevitably going to take some time, especially with nine players graduating this season. At this point, though, it’s difficult to think it will ever actually happen.

(After the jump: BC’s Hockey East dominance; UMass-Lowell is very good no matter what else you’ve read; Still not sold on Northeastern? Nope.) (more…)