Archive for the 'Hockey East' Category

Thoughts on Eichel, Demko Major Junior Rumors

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

It felt foolish even having to ask the question yesterday of some within the BU hockey program, but it was once again necessary after yet another firestorm of rumors out of Canada that Jack Eichel was “jumping ship” to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League after the World Junior Championships concluded.

The response, by the way, after some laughter, was a definitive “no.”

No one at BU is worried about Eichel, yet rumors persist. SportNet’s Junior Hockey Podcast tweeted yesterday that there were “rumors” that Eichel was going to sign with Saint John after the tournament. Host Jeff Marek – who I respect, but he’s way off on this – made an argument for why, in his mind, Eichel should leave college hockey. It’s the old “he’ll play a more pro schedule” argument that we’ve heard a million times.

More games doesn’t make Eichel, or anyone else, a better player. For most 18-year-old stars making the jump to the NHL, which I’d expect Eichel to do after this season, skill isn’t the issue, it’s strength. Playing a 60 or 70-game schedule allows for very little time in the weight room. Playing two games per week at BU, along with a lot more practice time, allows Eichel the chance to get in strength and conditioning work with BU strength coach Anthony Morando, a disciple of the great Mike Boyle.

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Three Things I Think: Hockey East, Dec. 9

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

When Don Cahoon left Massachusetts following the 2011-12 season, the subsequent coaching search looked a lot like most of UMass’ seasons. Nothing went as planned, and it took far too long to figure out the proper course of action.

Ultimately, the Minutemen settled on then-Vermont assistant John Micheletto.

Two-and-a-half seasons into Micheletto’s tenure, the Minutemen are worse off than they were before Cahoon departed.

A 4-11-0 start has come with a number of embarrassing losses and very little in the way of promise moving forward. UMass was swept by Notre Dame last weekend in a pair of games at the Mullins Center. Both losses continued two themes of the program over the years. UMass had a lead heading into the third on Friday night, and Notre Dame promptly scored four times to take a lead. The Minutemen tried to come back but fell short. Saturday, they were plainly outclassed by the Fighting Irish in a 4-0 loss — a scoreline that flatters UMass.

The 2014-15 season was never going to be a successful year, but there’s been nothing in the way of progress either.

UMass won 12 games in Micheletto’s first year, eight games last season and it’ll be lucky to reach that number before it gets swept out of the Hockey East tournament in a few months.

A look at the roster paints a pretty clear picture of UMass’ problems. There are a handful of high-end forwards and really nothing else.

UMass allows 4.47 goals per game — the most in the nation. It scores 2.67 goals per game, 29th in the country. A fair amount of offense and no defense has been the theme with Micheletto running the show. Insisting upon playing an uptempo brand of hockey without the players capable of doing it.

The next two seasons, based on players departing and those coming in, don’t figure to be much better in Amherst. Anaheim Ducks second-round draft choice Brandon Montour, a high-end defenseman, has joined the team and will be eligible for next Tuesday’s non-conference game against Northeastern. But that’ll hardly be enough.

When Cahoon left, UMass had an opportunity to improve its program vastly. As Providence, Massachusetts-Lowell and Connecticut have showed, both on the ice and in recruiting, all it takes is a good coaching hire to change things. Micheletto may well be the answer, but the returns to this point suggest UMass missed badly on this hire. And it’s set the program back even further as a result. (more…)

Hockey East Weekend Preview: Dec. 5, 2014

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Hockey East coaches like to proclaim the difficulty of winning on the road. It’s true, of course, that home teams usually win games. Traveling isn’t easy. Rinks are different. Opposing fans are very mean.

It all makes sense.

For Notre Dame, though, anything but the majority of the points taken from its trip to Amherst for two with Massachusetts has to be a disappointment.

The Fighting Irish enter the weekend sixth in Hockey East with six points from a 2-2-2 start. This, of course, isn’t a particularly bad start, but the games with UMass are a great chance to get back to .500 overall and leap back into the race for a first-round playoff bye.

UND has games in hand one every team ahead of it, but it hasn’t shown the ability to put wins together on a consistent basis. The Fighting Irish are 1-6-2 in their last nine games. Only five of those were Hockey East games.

Notre Dame makes its first trip to Amherst since New Year’s Eve 1994. Playing two games against one of the worst teams in the country demands a great performance from UND. It needs wins now. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Hockey East, Dec. 1

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Part of Hockey East’s willingness to welcome Notre Dame and Connecticut was to increase the likelihood of at least five teams in the NCAA tournament every year. Additionally, the expanded Hockey East tournament gives bubble teams in Hockey East a chance to add a few more wins and bolster their standing in the Pairwise.

There’s no doubt that Hockey East can expect to send four or five teams to the NCAA tournament most seasons. A year ago, Massachusetts-Lowell, Boston College, Providence, Vermont and Notre Dame all advanced to the 16-team field. This season, each of those teams expected to get there. A resurgent Boston University also had its sights on a chance to play for a national championship. Despite the league’s efforts, the first two months of the season have changed a lot of that.

At the moment, four Hockey East teams (No. 10 Vermont, No. 12 BU, No. 14 Merrimack and No. 16 UMass-Lowell) are in the top 16. A major issue for the league at this point has been poor strengths of schedule almost across the board. Only Providence (11) and UConn (18) have played schedules in the top 20. With holiday tournaments and the rigor of league play still to come, this should change as the season progresses. But it’s going to take some major improvements from a few of the league’s best for Hockey East to get more than four in the NCAA tournament.

Disappointing starts from Boston College (7-7-0) and Notre Dame (6-8-2) have made it pretty clear 2014-15 is a down year for Hockey East. The ECAC and NCHC have established themselves have the deepest league’s in the country at the moment. The WCHA’s success hasn’t helped Hockey East either, with Minnesota State, Bowling Green and Michigan Tech all looking likely for the national tournament at this point.

A lot can change between now and Championship Saturday. BC’s youth and talent suggests it should string together a strong second half. There’s nothing bad about sending 25 percent of teams in one league to the national tournament. Hockey East, however, seems to have higher expectations, and a lot will have to change to achieve that goal this season. (more…)

Hockey East Weekend Preview: Nov. 28

Friday, November 28th, 2014

Boston College hosts Minnesota Friday night before heading south for its first meeting with Providence this season.

The Eagles’ problems during their recent four-game losing streak received more attention than they probably deserved. BC lost games to teams looking like NCAA Tournament probables in Denver, Boston University and Harvard. The 1-0 defeat to Connecticut obviously wasn’t acceptable for the Eagles, but few clubs skate through a season without a bad loss or two.

Since those four games without a win, the Eagles have made relatively easy work of Michigan State, Massachusetts and Maine. It was a nice recovery for Jerry York’s team. But this weekend’s games present BC with two great chances to undo some of the damage done during that four-game drought.

While it’s not worth looking at the Pairwise just yet, a win over the Gophers on Friday is the type of factor that can undo any number of troubling losses. Additionally, Saturday’s game with the Friars is crucial for BC to get back in the race for the Hockey East regular season title.

BC has games in hand on every team ahead of it in the standings, including five games on first-place Vermont. Beyond the regular-season trophy, BC’s goal, at least, has to be to get into the league’s top for to avoid a preliminary round playoff series.

After this weekend’s games, BC has a home-and-home with New Hampshire and hosts Michigan to end the first half on Dec. 13. All three of these are very winnable games against inconsistent, albeit talented, clubs. BC should take at least two of those games without issue. However, the games this weekend are a bit more challenging. BC needs wins. They’ve recovered well in the last two weekends. Friday is a chance to build on that even more. (more…)

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…)

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…)

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…)

Hockey East Weekend Preview: Nov. 14

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Friday night, Connecticut, fresh off its win and draw against Hockey East’s Boston powerhouses, will play Sacred Heart at the 950-seat rink of the Taft School in Watertown, Conn.

The game is in honor Jason Pagni, a beloved member of the Connecticut amateur hockey community. Pagni recently died in a car accident at the age of 43. His memory has been honored by numerous members of the Connecticut hockey family.

Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, who grew up in Hamden, Conn., and played his college hockey at Massachusetts put an homage to Pagni on his mask. “Everybody rides,” it says.

I don’t know much about the situation, so here’s Chip Malafronte of the New Haven Register on the game and its meaning. The piece is certainly worth a read.

For UConn, this game is especially important in its ongoing process to earn and maintain legitimacy in college hockey. Sacred Heart may not be the out and out doormat it was a few years ago, but the Huskies need to win this game.

Any Given Sunday type sayings aside, UConn must show it can win games against low-level Atlantic Hockey teams to deserve the kind of praise it received after its impressive display last week moving forward.

Tougher matchups Rensselaer, Vermont and Boston University await the Huskies after the meeting with SHU. There are games UConn should win and Friday’s is just that. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Hockey East, Nov. 11

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

There really isn’t anything Connecticut fans care to discuss about last week’s results against Boston College and Boston University aside from the final scores. UConn defeated BC, 1-0, in the Huskies’ first-ever home opener in Hockey East. Then, they went to Agganis Arena and earned a 4-4 tie against BU.

Rightfully, UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh was thrilled with the three points and proud of the mettle his team showed in the face of a dominating even strength performance by BU. The Huskies did what inferior teams need to do to wins games. They kept most shots to the perimeter, blocked a ton of attempts and limited time and space when pucks did sneak into the grade-A. Beyond all that, goaltender Rob Nichols was fantastic; he stopped 64 of 69 shots in the two games.

At the moment, the team’s spirit is sky high, and Cavanaugh’s ability to adopt the same microscope and telescope approach his mentor, Jerry York, has long instilled in his own teams seems to be working for the Huskies. He said after Saturday’s draw that he and his staff have kept the team focusing on individual games instead of looking forward to every twist and turn the Hockey East calendar can offer.

A few nice results in November were important for UConn. It’s not going to last all season, and the Huskies are still certain to finish in the lower half of the league. The way they’re winning right now isn’t sustainable. However, there are plenty of positive characteristics of this team. They defend well in their own end, break quickly and efficiently up ice and avoid the type of high-risk plays that team like BC and BU can turn into offense.

Saturday night against BU, UConn got a pair of power-play goals — one during a 5-minute major — and kept the Terriers scoreless on their own man advantages. The Terriers were the better team, but UConn’s success in high-leverage situations warranted the point it received.

Prior to the season, UConn was picked to finished last in the league by both the coaches and the media. That may very well happen, but this year was never about championships. Even if the coaching staff and players say they expect to win trophies, the 2014-15 season is about building a positive foundation to continue attracting high-quality players to Storrs and eventually compete within Hockey East. Picking up three points last week was an important piece and that foundation, and it will be even when the Huskies start to struggle. (more…)