Archive for the 'Hockey East' Category

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.

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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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