Archive for the 'Hockey East' Category

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.

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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.

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Two of Hockey East’s Most Underrated Players Called Up By Devils

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

Earlier this week, the New Jersey Devils recalled two of Hockey East’s most underrated players from two of the league’s most memorable teams in recent memory.

Kevin Rooney was called up for his first NHL action over the weekend after signing an NHL contract last week. Rooney had been playing with the Devils’ AHL affiliate in Albany. Rooney was never a big scorer for the Friars — he scored just 36 points in his career — but he was arguably the heart and soul of the Providence team that won a national championship in 2015. It’s no mistake that Rooney was voted team captain the following season as a senior.

The Canton, Mass. native skated on Providence’s top line with Mark Jankowski and Brandon Tanev through the 2015 NCAA Tournament, but he wasn’t there to score goals, he was there to shut down the best player on the other team. As the No. 4 seed in the East Regional that season, the Friars were the road team throughout the tournament, and weren’t given the benefit of a last change. So, when Boston University rolled Jack Eichel’s line, for instance, out against Jankowski’s, it was Rooney who was often tasked with one of the most difficult assignments — shut down that top line.

After that championship run, several Hockey East coaches that summer praised the work of Rooney throughout the tournament, and coaches were well aware of having to game plan against his matchup the following season.

The Devils also recalled former Merrimack defenseman Karl Stollery, who was a junior on the Merrimack team that won 25 games in 2011 and a senior on the Merrimack team that was the first team left out of the NCAA Tournament in 2012.

Stollery was often lost in the shuffle, as far as praise goes, behind players like Stephane Da Costa and Joe Cannata. But, Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy would say oftentimes during those two seasons that Stollery was the team’s workhorse, logging 30 minutes per night at least. Dennehy has even admitted, in the years following Stollery’s time, that there were nights he even pushed close to 40 minutes.

Over Stollery’s final two seasons, Merrimack posted a record of 43-22-11.

On Wednesday, Stollery and Rooney were both sent back to Albany, but given their work ethic, it wouldn’t be surprising to see both called up for more action in New Jersey.

Examining Hockey East Strength of Schedule & Projecting Final Standings

Friday, February 10th, 2017

Believe it or not, the final weekend of the regular season will be upon us in just two weeks. For the rest of the season, we’ll take a weekly look at remaining strength of schedule, and how it could affect the final Hockey East standings. To do this, we’ll use a team’s individual KRACH rating, alongside an average of the KRACH rating, per game, of their remaining opponents.

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A Mea Culpa On Outdoor Hockey (sort of)

Friday, January 6th, 2017

Three years ago, the last time Hockey East ran a Frozen Fenway, I wrote this column where I grumpily told you why outdoor hockey has lost its novelty, and in reality, it’s not fun or special anymore.

Now three years wiser, I’d like to take that column back. At least certain elements of it.

Truthfully, I mostly still feel the same way I did in 2014. To me, the novelty has worn off. To me, it’s growing old.

But the thing is, these games aren’t about me.

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Hockey East Random Thoughts (11/11)

Friday, November 11th, 2016

IT’S NOT WHO YOU’D THINK … 

Let’s take a look at some surprises around Hockey East when it comes to scoring. There are several players among team leading scorers that no one predicted back in September. First, let’s start at BU, where Patrick Harper is the leading scorer and not first-round pick Clayton Keller. At BC all the talk was Colin White and Ryan Fitzgerald, yet there are four players who top them on BC’s list. Mitchell Fossier, not touted freshman Chase Pearson, leads the scoring at Maine. UNH is being led by rookie Patrick Grasso, and not returning 50-point scorer Tyler Kelleher. Up in Vermont, sophomore Craig Puffer has almost matched his point total from all of last season, leading the Catamounts in scoring to start the year.

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Hockey East Random Thoughts (11/5/16)

Friday, November 4th, 2016

— Boston College is quietly on a six-game unbeaten streak after starting the year 1-2, including a loss to Air Force. The Eagles have scored four goals or more in four of those six games and have scored six or more three times. Despite the offensive output — the Eagles have 35 goals in nine games — they have not a single player scoring more than one point per game. Matthew Gaudreau and Chris Brown lead the team with eight points in nine games and Colin White and Casey Fitzgerald have seven points in eight games. The scoring has been spread out, with 15 different players scoring at least one goal and nine players scoring two or more; BC has six players with at least three goals. It’s all about depth at BC right now, with Joseph Woll (.931) playing more than well between the pipes.

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Hockey East Random Thoughts (10/20/16)

Friday, October 21st, 2016

– For all the talk of what Providence lost heading into this season, the Friars have the best even-strength Corsi in Hockey East (60.1%) and it’s fifth-best in the nation. Yeah, they’re 1-2, and yeah, they lost to Holy Cross, but the Friars record will improve if the possession stats remain that high. Also, quality possession like that, even with so many new players in new roles, speaks to how good Providence’s coaching is. There’s no getting around it, Nate Leaman and Norm Bazin (Lowell keeps chugging along) are two of the best in the business right now.

Providence’s PDO is just 95.87 right now, in large part due to a team save percentage of .889. I’m expecting that to be a lot better, and even the Friars’ 7.0 shooting percentage is likely to come up. The possession metrics tell us that Providence has had the puck a lot, they just haven’t been finishing it. At the same time, opponents are finishing chances despite possessing the puck for less time. It’s three games, that’s not a trend that will continue all season.

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Hockey East Random Thoughts of the Week (10/13/16)

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

— Clayton Keller has been the name almost everyone is talking about when it comes to BU, and for good reason. You’re not the No. 7 overall pick in the NHL Draft by accident. Keller could be in the NHL next season. To some extend, Patrick Harper’s incredible start to the season has been lost in the shuffle, what with him only being a fifth-round draft pick, and not a first-round pick like most of the other players on his team. Harper had two goals at Colgate on Saturday night, and three more in the exhibition. This isn’t a newfound skill for him, either. He had 20 goals in 27 prep games last season and 19 goals in 13 midget games. Between Avon Old Farms and the Neponset Valley River Rats U18 team, he’s been averaging almost one goal per game the last two seasons combined.

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