Archive for the 'Hockey East' Category

Despite Despair, O’Connor’s Poise Is Why We Love The Game

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

BOSTON — You hardly see a National Hockey League player cry after a crushing loss. Last night, after a 4-3 loss to Providence in the national championship game, there wasn’t a dry eye in the Boston University dressing room.

That’s because in college hockey, at places like Boston University and everywhere else, you’re playing for something bigger than you, and you know it.

Players like Cason Hohmann, Evan Rodrigues and Anthony Moccia might play hockey beyond this season, but it will never be the same. Never.

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A Rebuttal To Every ‘We Got Screwed’ Column You’ll Read This Week …

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

In a blog post earlier this week on the website for The Lowell Sun, which covers UMass Lowell, a writer admitted that he didn’t “know squat” about the Pairwise. That’s fine. Unless you’re a college hockey diehard, you probably wouldn’t know the difference between the Pairwise and a pair a shoes.

But that didn’t stop the newspaper from publishing a front-page column on Tuesday, where the lede was “The UMass Lowell hockey team got screwed,” and calling the River Hawks “victims of a computer” in its headline.

Before I sat down to write this blog post, I asked my laptop if it had any bias against any particular college hockey programs. It didn’t answer me.

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PairWise Possibilities

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

With the conference tournaments approaching, I’ve been running a lot of scenarios through CHN’s PairWise calculator. It started with my interest in Minnesota’s chances (since I cover Big Ten hockey) but has expanded since then.

According to the Pairwise Probability Matrix, there are about nine teams that are locked into the NCAA tournament, and two others (Providence and Quinnipiac) that have very high chances of making it. North Dakota, Minnesota State, Boston University, Denver, Michigan Tech, Minnesota-Duluth, Miami, Nebraska-Omaha and Boston College are all most likely making the NCAA tournament.

Regardless of the results this weekend, the NCHC will have five teams make the NCAA tournament -North Dakota, Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, Miami and Nebraska-Omaha. Very few scenarios have Nebraska-Omaha – the lowest-ranked NCHC team – moving to ninth on the PWR list. I’ve encountered none that have the Mavericks dropping below ninth.

So below I ran through some points of interest, different scenarios, the likelihood of certain teams making it and what they need for that to happen. I will periodically add to this as I calculate more scenarios.  (more…)

Thoughts on Frank Vatrano Signing with the Boston Bruins

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

News broke on Thursday that undrafted free agent Frank Vatrano will forego his final two seasons of eligibility at Massachusetts, and has signed an entry-level contract with the Boston Bruins.

At first the news took me by surprise. It’s not that Vatrano, who scored 18 goals and amassed 28 points in his first full season in college hockey, wasn’t talented enough to take his game to the next level. Far from it, in fact. But I never gave much thought to Vatrano leaving UMass after one season, especially not after essentially sitting out two years in order to get there.

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Three Things I Think: Hockey East, Feb. 9, 2015

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Once again, the 2015 Beanpot final and consolation game were postponed due to the ongoing wrath of whatever from high above the thing. Seriously, it’s been snowing for 24 hours, and it’s not supposed to stop until some time Tuesday.

The effect of the blizzard on college hockey has been widespread already. A number of games were postponed in the last few weeks. Tuesday night, Merrimack and Connecticut are scheduled to play a makeup game. If the Warriors can make it down to Hartford at this point, it’ll be a minor miracle.

Both Connecticut and Merrimack need this game badly if they plan to stay home for the first round of the Hockey East playoffs. UConn is currently in eighth place and in line to host a first-round series. Merrimack is just a game back of the Huskies with one game in hand.

It’s been a rough stretch for both clubs of late. UConn’s reliance on Rob Nichols was bound to catch up with it eventually. Just the same, Merrimack’s ability to control games has faded along with tougher competition.

It’ll be a tough matchup for either team in the playoffs. Merrimack, though, badly needs to stay in North Andover if it wants to see its season extend past that first week of the postseason.

The Warriors are 5-2-2 at home against Hockey East opponents. On the road, Merrimack is 0-6-0. Mark Dennehy’s system is designed to fit the dimensions at Lawler. The dimensions of the rink are the same as any other NHL-sizes sheet. The corners are tighter, though, and the arena itself is about as roomy as a coffin. Players and coaches visiting Lawler know it’s not and easy place to get wins.

Merrimack needs to stay home to advance to the league’s quarterfinals. Tuesday’s game with UConn is essentially a four-point fixture. Merrimack needs the win. And they need it badly. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Hockey East, Feb. 5, 2015

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

I’ve been a pretty unrelenting critic of Connecticut this season. The Huskies have been better than anticipated in their first season as a Hockey East school.

Still, 8-12-7 overall isn’t a very good record.

There have been some brightspots, though, and goaltender Rob Nichols stands out as a legitimate all-star contender for the Huskies. Building teams from the goal out is a plan for most coaches. Nichols, a sophomore, has a .930 save percentage in 26 games played.

That’s not just a good season. Playing behind this UConn team, a .930 save percentage is truly remarkable.

The coaching and recruiting chops of Mike Cavanaugh suggest the Huskies are only going to improve in the next few seasons. A steady presence like Nichols in goal is precisely what a team in that transition phase needs to punch above its weight in a league like Hockey East.

For the next five years or so, UConn is going to be outclassed on paper by at least a few teams. It takes a long time for programs to build programs with enough good players to win games consistently and compete for championships.

In the short term, finding quality goaltending and coaching a team to support him with disciplined defending will help UConn win more games than sheer talent suggests it should.

It’s not a certainty if anyone to follow Nichols will play this well. Moreover, from watching UConn’s games, it’s abundantly clear that Nichols isn’t just a product of good defending. He’s a remarkable shot-stopper with the agility, skating and poise to steal certain goals. That’s not something every program can find for every recruiting class. There are otherwise great teams in college hockey right now that don’t have goaltending nearly as strong as UConn does.

Looking ahead to the Hockey East tournament, it’s difficult to see UConn winning two of three games from most teams in the league. Nichols, though, is a serious equalizer for the Huskies. As the Huskies improve over the next two seasons, Nichols may well be the type of player that can force a deep playoff run. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Hockey East, Jan. 14

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

There’s a long history of prolific forwards at New Hampshire.

As recently as 2011, the WIldcats graduated Phil DeSimone, Paul Thompson and Mike Sislo, all left Durham with more than 100 points in their careers. However, the program has plainly been in decline since their departure. Kevin Goumas graduated after least season and left with 146 career points. He is the only player to reach the milestone since 2011. Nick Sorkin and Stevie Moses fell just short with 98 apiece.

Ultimately, the milestone itself isn’t particularly important, but the steep decline in scoring has marked UNH’s problems.

Currently, senior forward Grayson Downing is just five points short of 100 for his career. For the season, Downing has 12 goals and seven assists. In his last five games, Downing has scored eight goals.

He should hit the mark in the next few weeks, and it’s a nice accomplishment. However, he’s the only UNH upperclassman likely to do so for his career. The Wildcats have qualified for just once NCAA Tournament since falling a game short of the Frozen Four in 2011, and it’s quite clear this decline in scoring — and talent — is a major reason for the problem.

UNH coach Dick Umile just hasn’t been able to attract the type of players he did for so long to Durham. On the current roster, a few Wildcat forwards should enjoy quality careers. The incoming players in the next few seasons should make a bit of noise as well.

It’s clear, though, that UNH just isn’t at the level it was for so long.

Tuesday night, the Wildcats beat Providence, 2-1, in Durham. The win pushed UNH’s record to 7-11-2, 2-5-1 in Hockey East. They’re currently in 10th place with 14 league games remaining. There’s plenty of time to make a push for home ice in the preliminary round of the tournament. But that hardly seems like enough for a UNH program that, for decades, was one of the nation’s best. (more…)

Take: Tirone Makes 30 Saves in 2-1 UNH Win Over PC

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Durham, NH - UNH entered the night an improved team because of a goalie addition that made for competition at the position, and tonight it continued to improve. New Hampshire scored first at four minutes, nine seconds of the first period. Grayson Downing was the beneficiary of a Tyler Kelleher pass from slot to slot and Downing backhanded the puck over the glove of Jon Gilles, giving UNH the 1-0 lead. Eight minutes later, it was again Downing that made it 2-0 UNH but this time there was a little luck involved as the puck bounced up over the glove of PC goaltender, Jon Gillies and bounced right into the net. The two goals for Downing gives him 12 on the season and four in the last two games for UNH, all of its goals in those games. Providence answered a few minutes later on a power-play goal, by Noel Acciari to make it a 2-1 game.

Both teams played even hockey for the remainder, while both Jon Gillies and Dan Tirone put on a show for the few fans that came to the Whittemore Center on a cold Tuesday night. The 2-1 score held until the end and UNH picked up only its second win in Hockey East. Providence’s record falls 14-8-1 overall, 6-5-0 in Hockey East. UNH improves its record to 7-11-2, 3-5-1. The Wildcats are on a three game unbeaten streak, their longest of the season, and have not lost in regulation this half. In that time it has wins over Omaha and Providence College. Providence dropped consecutive games for the first time this season, as it lost to Brown on Saturday night.

See this line for highlights from UNH Athletics. (more…)

Hockey East Weekend Preview – Jan. 9

Friday, January 9th, 2015

When Boston University and Wisconsin agreed to their current scheduling pact, they likely viewed the games as a marquee matchup of two high-end teams.

Instead, BU heads out to Madison to play a Wisconsin team with just two wins on the season. The Badgers are in a similar position to BU a year ago, caught in the occasional trap of recruiting talented, albeit young, players and relying on them to win at an early age.

For the Terriers, these have become must-win games in terms of the Pairwise. With just two wins, Wisconsin is 56th in the Pairwise; BU us currently eighth.

The Terriers have NCAA Tournament aspirations, and losses to Wisconsin could out BU in a very tough spot.

Getting Jack Eichel back after a one-game absence caused by World Juniors is a good sign for the Terriers. For last week’s tie against Union, BU welcomed Robbie Baillargeron and Nikolas Olsson back after length spells on the sideline to due to injury.

The Terriers are in good position to pick up a pair of wins this weekend. Wisconsin, however, is a desperate team, trying to get anything it can accomplished before it heads into Big Ten play. BU can’t afford any slip-ups against the Badgers. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Hockey East, Jan. 5

Monday, January 5th, 2015

Massachusetts-Lowell ended its holiday season on Saturday afternoon with its second consecutive tournament win. The River Hawks knocked off Merrimack, 3-1, to claim the Mariucci Classic. Two weekends ago, UML won the Frozen Holiday Classic, beating Sacred Heart and Connecticut without much issue.

Even with the trophies handed out each weekend, the four wins Lowell picked up are little more than good non-conference wins. None of the opponents were particularly tough outs, though Merrimack has proved its a truly difficult team to beat on several occasions this year. Beating inferior opponents without issue is a good sign for teams with the aspirations of Lowell. Norm Bazin’s club, the two-time defending Hockey East Tournament champion, expects to compete for titles now. At the moment, Lowell is level on points with Boston University atop the Hockey East standings with a game in hand on the Terriers.

BU, Vermont, Providence and Boston College all seem like contenders for league championships, and, in years past, Lowell may’ve been the darkhorse. That isn’t the case any longer, though. UML has had more success than any of these programs in the last couple seasons in terms of winning titles. As the tough second-half of Hockey East play ramps up, it’s pretty clear the regular-season and tournament titles are Lowell’s to lose.

There’s good competition from the Comm. Ave clubs. Moreover, Lowell still has two games with BU, Providence and Vermont as well as one more with BC. So there’s a lot left to prove. Lowell is the favorite the rest of the way, though. (more…)