Archive for the 'Hockey East' Category

Hockey East Picks: Nov. 8-13, 2018

Thursday, November 8th, 2018

Last Week: 9-0-1
This Season: 18-8-3

Thursday

Boston College 3, Vermont 1 
BC seemed to figure something out on Saturday against Merrimack. Granted, the game was a little more even than the 4-1 score would suggest, but I think the Eagles finally have some confidence cooking and playing at home will be a big help here.

UMass 5, Providence 3
The Minutemen are for real. This is the most exciting matchup of the weekend. Right now, Providence and UMass look like the best two teams in Hockey East. UMass is pumping this game as their biggest home game in a decade, and it might be. I’m expecting a charged-up UMass team to come out flying and pick up a memorable win.

Friday

Boston College 5, Vermont 2
The Eagles will pick up their first sweep of the season, and they’ll get their offense going against the Catamounts, who have defended pretty well (as far as goals against) but have allowed some big shot totals this season.

Boston University 3, UConn 2
This is one of the tougher games to pick this weekend. BU looked good on Saturday night to get its first win, but they looked bad in some early-season games. UConn, meanwhile, has been slow but steady. I think BU edges out a close one.

UMass Lowell 2, New Hampshire 1
UNH is struggling to score goals but have defended well. UMass Lowell has more firepower, but they’ve been in the same position. The River Hawks come out victorious in a low-scoring game.

Merrimack 2, Bemidji State 1
Craig Pantano has rebounded well after getting pulled, including posting a shutout over BU one game after getting yanked against Army. Pantano was pulled against BC on Saturday as Merrimack faces a Bemidji team that is 4-1 despite scoring just 1.67 goals per game. Pantano powers the Warriors to a win on the road.

Saturday

Northeastern 3, UMass Lowell 1
So far, Northeastern has been able to find pieces for its lost firepower up front. Oh, and Cayden Primeau continues to shine.

Providence 3, UMass 2
The Friars come back and get some redemption for the Thursday game at home. Both of these games are going to be close, though.

New Hampshire 3, Boston University 2
I’m not sure what to make of this game. We could see UNH break out of a funk on home ice, or we could see BU’s skill players take advantage of more time and space on the larger ice. Both teams are also likely to be in for a grind the night before. 

Bemidji State 2, Merrimack 1
Bemidji gets the split with the Warriors with some stellar goaltending, which the Beavers have received all season.

Tuesday

UConn 4, Brown 1
I watched Brown-Vermont a few weeks ago, and it was a tight game despite Brown not being all that stellar. The Bears have made some inroads with recruiting in recent months, but they’re going to struggle against a more-talented UConn squad.

Hockey East Picks Nov. 1-3, 2018

Friday, November 2nd, 2018

Last Week: 5-5-1
This Season: 9-8-1

Thursday

Northeastern 4, Boston University 2
The Huskies are playing well, and BU can’t seem to figure anything out. BU looks sloppy and unorganized, and while I think the Terriers have more talent than Northeastern, right now, Northeastern is playing like the team that has things put together.

Friday

Merrimack 2, Boston College 1
Merrimack traditionally struggles at Conte Forum, but BC has run into problems at Lawler Arena in the past. And those BC teams have been better than this version. Given BC’s struggles to score goals, they could struggle again to find time and space to use their skill in the tighter confines of Lawler Arena.

Maine 3, UMass Lowell 1
The Black Bears are struggling right now, and seemed to get derailed a bit in a trip at Minnesota Duluth a few weeks ago, but this is a good spot for them to get back on track at home.

UConn 3, Vermont 1
Vermont has had an up-and-down first half. They picked up a nice win at Brown on Sunday, even though I thought the Bears outplayed them at even strength. UConn is playing above expectations recently and they look like the better team right now.

Saturday

Boston College 3, Merrimack 1
The Eagles will get back on track at home against a Merrimack team that’s beat up and will be missing some players due to injury. 

Boston University 3, Northeastern 2
Yes! That’s right. I think BC and BU both get their first wins of the season on Saturday night at home. You have to figure that BU gets a win at some point, right?

UMass 5, New Hampshire 2
UMass looked incredible last weekend against Merrimack. Cale Makar might be the best player in the league. UMass can score goals and UNH has been trying to figure things out still. 

Vermont 3, UConn 2
Vermont comes back and earns a split with UConn after the Huskies are able to catch them on Friday night.

UMass Lowell 2, Maine 1
If Lowell is going to get a split up at Maine, it’s going to require one of the teams to be low-scoring like this one. Tyler Wall steals them two points.

Providence 4, Holy Cross 0
The Friars fell asleep against Sacred Heart earlier this season and had to settle for a tie. That’s not going to happen this time around with Holy Cross. 

Hockey East Picks (10/25-10/28)

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018

Last Week: 4-3-1
Season Record: 4-3-1 (.571)

Thursday

St. Cloud State at Boston College
BC is struggling, as we know. On the flip side, St. Cloud State has been choking the life out of their opponents thus far, posting a 4-0 record and outscoring opponents 18-5. BC’s top-end talent is on the younger side, whereas St. Cloud is led by a top junior class.
Pick: St. Cloud State 4, Boston College 2

Friday

Merrimack at UMass
The Mullins Center is always a tough place for Merrimack to play. Going back through my 13 years of covering the Warriors, I’m not sure I can remember more than two or three solid road games down there. The travel is tough — it can be as much as a three-hour ride on a Friday — and the building rarely has energy.
Pick: UMass 3, Merrimack 1

Maine at Connecticut
The Black Bears need to get back on track after an ugly road trip to Minnesota Duluth, but they’ll have to do it on the road. UConn has wins over RPI and Army, but was thrashed by Providence and also fell to Quinnipiac. I have a feeling Maine finds a way to get back in the win column, and goaltender Jeremy Swayman will lead the way.
Pick: Maine 3, Connecticut 0

Northeastern at UMass Lowell
Looking at all the teams in Hockey East, these might be the two teams we know the least about. Northeastern is still trying to find its new core after losing so much talent last season and UMass Lowell has Tyler Wall back in form, but it needs more consistent scoring. The home-ice edge gives the River Hawks a win on Friday.
Pick: UMass Lowell 3, Northeastern 2

Providence at Boston University
BU needs some home cooking, heading into this Providence game 0-3 to start the season. BU was outworked against Merrimack on Saturday night, and Providence will make the Terriers work again. The Friars are also licking their wounds after letting a game against Sacred Heart slip away. I’m going with the more-experienced Friars here.
Pick: Providence 4, Boston University 2

Saturday

Maine at Connecticut
It’s really hard to sweep teams on the road. This weekend represents UConn’s first home games of the season, and the 3 p.m. start on Saturday is a little odd for college hockey players. UConn is used to it though, often playing games at times like this to accommodate the Hartford Wolfpack. UConn finds a way to earn the split, despite Swayman once again playing well for Maine.
Pick: Connecticut 2, Maine 1

Massachusetts at Merrimack
Since 2014, UMass and Merrimack have essentially traded wins, excluding a couple of ties. Just like Friday, I think the home team has an advantage here. In an early-season home-and-home last season, UMass pumped Merrimack 4-0 on Friday before the Warriors came home and outworked the Minutemen to a 5-3 win on Saturday. Home ice has been huge in this series, and I expect it to continue. Also, Merrimack’s Homecoming is on Saturday and the game will be sold out. It will be a rocking atmosphere for the home team.
Pick: Merrimack 4, UMass 2

Vermont at New Hampshire
Someone has to win, right? Both of these teams are struggling out of the gate, despite Vermont’s win over Michigan (look at the shots in that game). UNH is finally home after two weekends on the road, and Mike Souza gets his first win as UNH head coach.
Pick: UNH 2, Vermont 1

St. Cloud State at Northeastern
Traveling to Lowell and then coming home to face St. Cloud is a tough task for Northeastern. St. Cloud completes the Hockey East sweep and heads back to the NCHC with some bragging rights.
Pick: St. Cloud 4, Northeastern 1

UMass Lowell at Bentley
This won’t be an easy game for the River Hawks. Bentley lost to Merrimack 1-0 earlier this season and then lost and tied AIC (both in OT) last weekend, and those games were on the road. Bentley can score — they have eight goals in their last two games — but they’ll be up against one of the hottest goaltenders in the league in Tyler Wall, assuming he starts. This could also be a game where Norm Bazin gives Christoffer Hernberg a look, though. I’m going out on a limb and predicting a Bentley win.
Pick: Bentley 3, UMass Lowell 2

Sunday

Vermont at Brown
The Catamounts’ bus continues south after a game at UNH on Friday and they’ll get back in the win column against the Bears. This will only be Brown’s second game, and they’re lacking scoring.
Pick: Vermont 5, Brown 2

Hockey East Picks (10/20)

Saturday, October 20th, 2018

OK, I’m late starting this. Forgive me.

Boston University at Merrimack

Merrimack always plays opponents tough at home, but they have the unenviable task of taking on a BU team that’s still looking for its first win. It will be a tight game, because it always seems to be at Lawler, but BU finds the win column.
Pick: BU 3, MC 2

UMass at Ohio State

UMass got a huge win on Friday night against the Buckeyes, but Ohio State was a Frozen Four team last year for a reason.
Pick: OSU 3, UMA 1

New Hampshire at Colorado College

UNH is still looking for its first win under Mike Souza after getting swept last weekend at Colgate and then tying CC last night. CC is a good team, but UNH will catch them on the road with a one-goal win.
Pick: UNH 2, CC 1

Connecticut at Rensselaer

UConn, which relies on a lot of younger players, has looked better in the first few weeks of the season than I expected. But they’re on the road here and RPI is a team that’s on its way up.
Pick: RPI 4, UConn 3

Union at Northeastern

The Dutchmen won in overtime on Friday night at Matthews Arena, and they’ll complete the weekend sweep over a younger Northeastern team.
Pick: Union 3, Northeastern 1

UMass Lowell at Miami

Lowell shutout Miami, 3-0, on Friday. This is a Miami team that’s trying to change the way it operates, and I don’t think they’ll get swept at home. Lowell had an up-and-down series against RIT a week ago, and Miami will be too tough to handle in the finale.
Pick: Miami 2, Lowell 1

Providence at Sacred Heart

Providence is one of the best teams in Hockey East, and that makes them at least a top-10 team in the nation. Sacred Heart doesn’t have the firepower to match up.
Pick: Providence 5, Sacred Heart 1

Maine at Minnesota Duluth

The defending national champions ran Maine out of the building on Friday night (8-2), outshooting them 46-18. Maine is improved, and I expect it to be tighter, but Duluth completes the sweep.

Pick: Minnesota Duluth 4, Maine 2

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.

 

Comparing penalty numbers in college hockey with the NHL

Friday, January 12th, 2018

Special teams has become a major focus for teams across college hockey, with more game time spent on special teams than every before, it seems. Across the country, the WCHA has the most power plays per game this season, with 9.2. The disparity between top and bottom is somewhat large, with the Big Ten averaging the least number of power plays (7.1) and then there’s a group in the middle — the ECAC, Hockey East, Atlantic Hockey and the NCHC — that all range between 8.6-8.4.

College hockey averages far more time on special teams than the NHL. This season, NHL games are averaging 6.4 power plays per game, and last season the league averaged just 5.8 power plays per game. College Hockey doesn’t have a single league that averages less than seven power plays per game, and the NHL hasn’t averaged more than seven per game since 2008.

“In some games, they let you play, and in other games, they don’t,” Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said. “I don’t think there is an across-the-board standard and that’s an issue. The NCAA gives us the rules, and then each league interprets them differently. It’s the same rulebook, but you go league-to-league and you see different averages. Are some leagues playing cleaner than others? I don’t think so. I think it comes down to each league interpreting the rulebook differently.”

Dennehy said the biggest disparity in how rules are called is in regards to goalie interference, and contact with the goaltender in front of the net.

“I think scoring is up slightly,” he said. “My guess is injuries to goalies might also be up, because what you’re basically allowed to do now is run the goalie. It still blows my mind. If you were to take someone who doesn’t understand hockey, and you asked them to explain when you could hit the goalie and when you can’t, they would tell you that if the goalie is out of the blue, you can’t hit them, but if they’re in the blue you can hit them as much as you want. If you touch a goalie when he leaves the crease to go behind the net, you’re going to the box every single time. How often is there contact with the goalie with the crease? It makes zero sense. None. You can’t interfere on dumps, but what about when they’re standing in front of your own net?”

Friendship Four in Belfast is Quite the Experience

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

I was skeptical of the Friendship Four tournament in Belfast, Northern Ireland a few years ago when it was introduced to the college hockey landscape, and honestly many coaches and programs didn’t want to subject their teams to the travel, either. But three years have passed and over the weekend I quickly learned why Hockey East and ECAC coaches should be flocking in droves to do this. It has become one of the most successful holiday tournaments.

The Friday afternoon match that pitted Clarkson and RPI saw probably 4,000 people. Most of the crowd was comprised of school children from local schools that hosted the players during the week, where the teams taught them about hockey and why it is a great sport to play. (more…)

HEA’s Struggles Keeping The Puck Out Could Severely Hurt Its Pairwise Chances

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

There’s no sugarcoating it, Hockey East’s inter-conference record stinks. The league is 19-27-4 (.420) in non-conference games, and that includes a 4-1-1 record against Atlantic Hockey. If you pull those games out, the league is 15-26-3.

Will that hurt the league later this season in the Pairwise? Potentially. There’s still time to make up ground, but the league is in an awfully big hole with the bulk of non-conference games already in the books. Right now the Big Ten (.679), NCHC (.667) and ECAC (.452) all have better non-conference winning percentages.

Last year, Hockey East was .570 in inter-conference games. The league hasn’t been below-.500 since 2010-11, when it went 25-30-12 (.463). Not ironically, the league only had three teams in the NCAA Tournament that season: Merrimack, New Hampshire and Boston College.

Bad inter-conference performance hurts the entire league when teams are positioning for at-large bids in March.

So many inter-conference games take place here at the beginning of a new season, and Hockey East’s combined goaltending has been the worst in the country to start the year. The league has a combined save percentage of .899, with the national average .908 (a number Hockey East drags down a bit). The conferences outside of Hockey East are combining for a .910 save percentage.

Four goalies that most had pegged as the best in the league — Joe Woll (BC), Tyler Wall (UML), Adam Huska (UConn) and Jake Oettinger (BU) have combined for an .877 save percentage, and Oettinger is the only one in that group to be above .900 (.907).

Is Hockey East having a “down year?” There’s evidence to suggest it.

Fact is, teams hoping to earn an at-large bid in March need to be rooting for their league counterparts in inter-conference games today.

There’s only league action this weekend, but next weekend provide some intriguing opportunities. UConn vs. Ohio State is suddenly a big game, with the stranglehold the Big Ten has on these numbers. Hockey East is WINLESS against the Big Ten this season (0-6) and the Huskies are the league’s last hope at changing that. Those games are huge not only for UConn, but potentially other teams in the conference.

There are plenty of ECAC matchups on the schedule, but Hockey East needs to make headway with the NCHC as well. All of a sudden, Merrimack vs. Denver and Merrimack vs. Colorado College in December could mean a lot for the league.

Hockey East might be able to get ahead of the ECAC and stay ahead of the WCHA and Atlantic Hockey, but the Big Ten and NCHC appear to be the two leagues who will win the race for the most NCAA Tournament bids.

Hockey East Weekend Takeaways: Oct. 24

Tuesday, October 24th, 2017

— Call me crazy, but I’m still not 100 percent sold on UNH. Sure, the Wildcats are improved over a year ago, but anyone who follows analytics will look at UNH’s 106 PDO and say to themselves, “something’s got to give.” The Wildcats have Vermont this weekend, a team that is struggling to get going, and then is at the rebuilding UMass Minutemen the week after. The true litmus test for UNH will begin on Nov. 10, when the Wildcats begin a stretch that includes games against Lowell, BU, BC, Yale and Providence. It’s a seven-game stretch where four will be on the road.

(more…)

Merrimack Takes Homeward Approach to Non-Conference Schedule

Friday, October 20th, 2017

Last week may have been Homecoming Weekend at Merrimack College, but this weekend will serve as a legitimate homecoming for one Warrior.

Merrimack senior captain Jared Kolquist is from Hermantown, Minnesota, which is just a couple of miles from Minnesota Duluth’s campus. Kolquist played four varsity seasons at Hermantown High School and was all-conference as a junior and senior while also being named to Team Minnesota those two seasons.

As as a senior at Hermantown, Kolquist was selected to the Duluth Area All-Star Game and was named All-State by the Associate Press. His 118 career points set a Hermantown High School career record for defensemen.

According to Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy, this weekend’s series at UMD was spark, in essence, to give Kolquist the opportunity to play in front of his friends and family. UMD assistant, Jason Herter, is on the board of College Hockey Inc. with Dennehy and according to UMD radio man Bruce Ciskie, credit Denney with setting up this weekend so Kolquist could have a homecoming.

(more…)