Practices officially open on Saturday, which means college hockey is back this weekend. In Hockey East, 10 teams will host exhibitions with CIS programs Saturday and Sunday. Let’s take a look at them:
Archive for the 'Hockey East' Category
BOSTON — Hockey East officially announced its agreement with American Sports Network to produce its league television slate. It’s a two-year contract and will consist of 14 games for this upcoming season.
ASN is a production company, and will produce the games for its series of networks. Locally, it’s likely that games will continue to air on NESN, though that portion of the deal was not formally announced by the league on Monday.
BOSTON — With just two weeks to go before the exhibition season officially kicks off, a trio of Hockey East teams are entering the year with question marks thanks to some injuries to top players.
On Monday at the league’s media day, held at TD Garden, Boston College head coach Jerry York confirmed to WEEI.com’s Scott McLaughlin that goaltender Thatcher Demko could miss the start of the upcoming season. That’s certainly not what the favorited Eagles need heading into the season, though BC doesn’t play a league game until Nov. 3 when it hosts a UMass team that was picked to finish last in Hockey East.
Demko had surgery on his hips in the offseason. It’s the type of surgery that’s becoming more common for players at that position.
Down the road, Boston University defenseman Matt Grzelcyk is also unlikely to be ready for the start of the season after undergoing knee surgery over the summer. The BU captain is a key piece for the Terriers this season, who last Jack Eichel, Evan Rodrigues, Matt O’Connor and others off a team that won the Hockey East Championship last March.
Grzelcyk has been skating, but BU head coach David Quinn said on Monday that the Terriers will likely err on the side of caution and not rush him back into action.
UConn goaltender Rob Nichols had similar surgery to Demko, and according to a report in last week’s Hartford Courant, he might also not be ready for the start of the season. Nichols reportedly just got back on the ice last week and still hasn’t skated in back-to-back days, nor has he been cleared for game action.
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.
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.
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…)
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.
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…)
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…)
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…)