Archive for the 'Hockey East' Category

Three Things I Think: Hockey East, Dec. 1

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Part of Hockey East’s willingness to welcome Notre Dame and Connecticut was to increase the likelihood of at least five teams in the NCAA tournament every year. Additionally, the expanded Hockey East tournament gives bubble teams in Hockey East a chance to add a few more wins and bolster their standing in the Pairwise.

There’s no doubt that Hockey East can expect to send four or five teams to the NCAA tournament most seasons. A year ago, Massachusetts-Lowell, Boston College, Providence, Vermont and Notre Dame all advanced to the 16-team field. This season, each of those teams expected to get there. A resurgent Boston University also had its sights on a chance to play for a national championship. Despite the league’s efforts, the first two months of the season have changed a lot of that.

At the moment, four Hockey East teams (No. 10 Vermont, No. 12 BU, No. 14 Merrimack and No. 16 UMass-Lowell) are in the top 16. A major issue for the league at this point has been poor strengths of schedule almost across the board. Only Providence (11) and UConn (18) have played schedules in the top 20. With holiday tournaments and the rigor of league play still to come, this should change as the season progresses. But it’s going to take some major improvements from a few of the league’s best for Hockey East to get more than four in the NCAA tournament.

Disappointing starts from Boston College (7-7-0) and Notre Dame (6-8-2) have made it pretty clear 2014-15 is a down year for Hockey East. The ECAC and NCHC have established themselves have the deepest league’s in the country at the moment. The WCHA’s success hasn’t helped Hockey East either, with Minnesota State, Bowling Green and Michigan Tech all looking likely for the national tournament at this point.

A lot can change between now and Championship Saturday. BC’s youth and talent suggests it should string together a strong second half. There’s nothing bad about sending 25 percent of teams in one league to the national tournament. Hockey East, however, seems to have higher expectations, and a lot will have to change to achieve that goal this season. (more…)

Hockey East Weekend Preview: Nov. 28

Friday, November 28th, 2014

Boston College hosts Minnesota Friday night before heading south for its first meeting with Providence this season.

The Eagles’ problems during their recent four-game losing streak received more attention than they probably deserved. BC lost games to teams looking like NCAA Tournament probables in Denver, Boston University and Harvard. The 1-0 defeat to Connecticut obviously wasn’t acceptable for the Eagles, but few clubs skate through a season without a bad loss or two.

Since those four games without a win, the Eagles have made relatively easy work of Michigan State, Massachusetts and Maine. It was a nice recovery for Jerry York’s team. But this weekend’s games present BC with two great chances to undo some of the damage done during that four-game drought.

While it’s not worth looking at the Pairwise just yet, a win over the Gophers on Friday is the type of factor that can undo any number of troubling losses. Additionally, Saturday’s game with the Friars is crucial for BC to get back in the race for the Hockey East regular season title.

BC has games in hand on every team ahead of it in the standings, including five games on first-place Vermont. Beyond the regular-season trophy, BC’s goal, at least, has to be to get into the league’s top for to avoid a preliminary round playoff series.

After this weekend’s games, BC has a home-and-home with New Hampshire and hosts Michigan to end the first half on Dec. 13. All three of these are very winnable games against inconsistent, albeit talented, clubs. BC should take at least two of those games without issue. However, the games this weekend are a bit more challenging. BC needs wins. They’ve recovered well in the last two weekends. Friday is a chance to build on that even more. (more…)

The Takeaway: Leonard and Diebold Lead RPI to 2-1 Non-Conference Win at UNH

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Durham, NH - Rensselaer made the 200 mile trek to UNH for a Tuesday night tilt in which it frustrated the home team to no end. UNH controlled play for a good portion of the game and got the game’s first goal. John Furgele sent in a point shot from the right point, in which RPI starter Jason Kasdorf gave up a rebound. Warren Foegele found the rebound and buried it into the empty net giving UNH the 1-0 lead at eight minutes, nine seconds of the first period. Rensselaer responded six minutes later, as Curtis Leonard sniped a shot from the high slot to the top corner of the net knotting the game. A mere two minutes later, RPI took the lead for good off the stick of Parker Reno. The 2-1 lead held to the third period, as the Engineers frustrated UNH in the period, stifling most quality chances with sticks and bodies.

The third period saw the Engineers hold on with Scott Diebold putting on a show late. Diebold made 6-8 saves in the game’s last two minutes to preserve the win for RPI, which was its fifth in eight games after 1-5-0 start to the season. With the 2-1 win, Rensselaer improves its record to 6-7-1, while UNH’s record fell to 4-8-0 overall on the season. To view highlights visit this link, via the UNH athletics website and youtube channel. (more…)

The Takeaway: No Gillies, No Problem for PC. Friars Blank UNH 1-0

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

Durham, NH- Jon Gillies, the much celebrated Friars goaltender didn’t start because of a violation of team policy. His replacement, Nick Ellis, had a night as he shut down a struggling UNH team. The first two periods, were stalemates, as UNH and Providence used strong defensive systems to shut each other down. UNH came out in the third period flying, but Ellis had its number and stopped everything that was sent its way. Despite being outplayed early in the third, Providence found a way. Shane Luke sent a beauty of a pass to Trevor Mingoia, who was wide open in front of the UNH net and at eight minutes, exact, Mignoia beat Clark to break the scoreless tie.

The 1-0 lead would hold until the end, as Providence defeated UNH on the road. Providence improves its record to 5-5-2 overall and 4-3-0 in Hockey east. UNH falls to 4-7-0, and 1-4-0 in conference play. UNH now sits in a tie for last place in Hockey East with UMass, while Providence sits in a tie for fourth place. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Hockey East, Nov. 19

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Penn State beat Massachusetts-Lowell, 4-1, on Saturday in the second game of two at Tsongas Center over the weekend.

The night before, UML cruised by PSU with a 5-3 win that really wasn’t that close. PSU added a pair of goals late in the third period after C.J. Smith gave UML a 5-1 lead at 8:21 of the period.

Seeing a fledging program like PSU knock off one of the nation’s best team in UML was a bit jarring, it seems, to many. The River Hawks’ 6-1-2 start before last weekend’s games was the best the program has seen since moving to Division I.

Losing to Penn State won’t be great for UML’s Pairwise standing later in the season. However, it’s not exactly a devastating blow either.

Freshman goaltender Jeff Smith, who’s split time with Kevin Boyle to this point, was due for bad start. In his three starts prior to Saturday, he’d stopped 73 of 76 shots. Some pucks were going to sneak past him eventually, and it just so happened to come Saturday night. Moreover, UML as a club wasn’t quite as dominant as its record suggested.

In his first three seasons at UML, Norm Bazin has found a way to make sure his teams are at their best once the second half begins. UML is 38-11-5 in regular-season games after winter break in his three years. There’s no reason not expect UML to get even better than it’s been to this point.

Some things haven’t come together as they will for the River Hawks. A split with Penn State, however, won’t prevent any of that from happening. Relying on a .750 winning percentage in the second half to get favorable league and national tournament seeding can be a dangerous proposition. For UML, though, it just seems like standard procedure. (more…)

Hockey East Weekend Preview: Nov. 14

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Friday night, Connecticut, fresh off its win and draw against Hockey East’s Boston powerhouses, will play Sacred Heart at the 950-seat rink of the Taft School in Watertown, Conn.

The game is in honor Jason Pagni, a beloved member of the Connecticut amateur hockey community. Pagni recently died in a car accident at the age of 43. His memory has been honored by numerous members of the Connecticut hockey family.

Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, who grew up in Hamden, Conn., and played his college hockey at Massachusetts put an homage to Pagni on his mask. “Everybody rides,” it says.

I don’t know much about the situation, so here’s Chip Malafronte of the New Haven Register on the game and its meaning. The piece is certainly worth a read.

For UConn, this game is especially important in its ongoing process to earn and maintain legitimacy in college hockey. Sacred Heart may not be the out and out doormat it was a few years ago, but the Huskies need to win this game.

Any Given Sunday type sayings aside, UConn must show it can win games against low-level Atlantic Hockey teams to deserve the kind of praise it received after its impressive display last week moving forward.

Tougher matchups Rensselaer, Vermont and Boston University await the Huskies after the meeting with SHU. There are games UConn should win and Friday’s is just that. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Hockey East, Nov. 11

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

There really isn’t anything Connecticut fans care to discuss about last week’s results against Boston College and Boston University aside from the final scores. UConn defeated BC, 1-0, in the Huskies’ first-ever home opener in Hockey East. Then, they went to Agganis Arena and earned a 4-4 tie against BU.

Rightfully, UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh was thrilled with the three points and proud of the mettle his team showed in the face of a dominating even strength performance by BU. The Huskies did what inferior teams need to do to wins games. They kept most shots to the perimeter, blocked a ton of attempts and limited time and space when pucks did sneak into the grade-A. Beyond all that, goaltender Rob Nichols was fantastic; he stopped 64 of 69 shots in the two games.

At the moment, the team’s spirit is sky high, and Cavanaugh’s ability to adopt the same microscope and telescope approach his mentor, Jerry York, has long instilled in his own teams seems to be working for the Huskies. He said after Saturday’s draw that he and his staff have kept the team focusing on individual games instead of looking forward to every twist and turn the Hockey East calendar can offer.

A few nice results in November were important for UConn. It’s not going to last all season, and the Huskies are still certain to finish in the lower half of the league. The way they’re winning right now isn’t sustainable. However, there are plenty of positive characteristics of this team. They defend well in their own end, break quickly and efficiently up ice and avoid the type of high-risk plays that team like BC and BU can turn into offense.

Saturday night against BU, UConn got a pair of power-play goals — one during a 5-minute major — and kept the Terriers scoreless on their own man advantages. The Terriers were the better team, but UConn’s success in high-leverage situations warranted the point it received.

Prior to the season, UConn was picked to finished last in the league by both the coaches and the media. That may very well happen, but this year was never about championships. Even if the coaching staff and players say they expect to win trophies, the 2014-15 season is about building a positive foundation to continue attracting high-quality players to Storrs and eventually compete within Hockey East. Picking up three points last week was an important piece and that foundation, and it will be even when the Huskies start to struggle. (more…)

The Takeaway: NU Remains Winless in 4-3 Loss at Quinnipiac

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Hamden, Ct. - Northeastern has struggled to this point scoring goals but tonight was a different story, as it ran into a team that has been struggling to keep pucks out of the net. The game was marred with penalties, including 34 PIMS in the second period combined. Northeastern opened the scoring at seven minutes, 45 seconds of the first period, when Mike Szmatula collected his own rebound in the slot putting it over the glove of Michael Garteig.Szmatula would follow that goal up with a power-play tally four minutes later to give the Huskies a 2-0 lead after a period.

The floodgates opened in second period but so did the penalty box, as the teams combined for 34 penalty minutes in the stanza. Landon Smith would open the scoring 23 seconds into the period and follow it up 10:29 to tie the game at two. NU would respond 31 seconds later to retake the lead on a Ryan Rosenthal goal. Andrew Taverner finished off the wild four goal period at 18:53 to send the game into the third tied at three.

The third period saw the teams trade chances, but Quinnipiac was the only to team to find the net. Sorren Jonzzon scored to make the game 4-3, which held for the Bobcat victory. Quinnipiac improves its record to 3-2-1 on the season, while Northeastern’s troubles continue at 0-6-0. Both teams will play conference games next weekend.Inline image 1

What I Saw

  • Northeastern and Quinnipiac struggled to find rhythm, mainly caused by the amount of penalties that were called on both teams. All told 80 penalty minutes were called in the game and 10 power-plays were handed out. At five on five the game was played at a standstill, mainly because of the lack of flow.
  • Quinnipiac outchanced Northeastern, but when NU had glorious chances it finished. This game had few nice saves, as the goalies stopped everything that should have been stopped and the defenses just struggled to cover the men left open in the slots. Whereas Quinipiac is struggling, NU is more so. The Bobcat defense still has holes and it showed tonight. as none of the goals were bad goals given up by its goalie. Michael Garteig still doesn’t bail his team out in goal, which has been problematic for QU.
  • Northeastern has struggled to score, which has been mainly caused by possession problems. Tonight it was much of the same, but it wasn’t dominated by any means. The shots on goal were close but the amount of possession time was still controlled by QU. For them to get wins in the tough Hockey East, this will need to improve but it is not a new problem as it has been ongoing.

What I Thought

  • Landon Smith was in the right places at the right time. To begin the second period, Rand Pecknold put him on the first line with Sam Anas and Matt Peca. It paid immediate dividends as the line scored on its first shift, 23 seconds into the period. Smith and Macmaster are both talented freshman forwards, but Smith proved he deserved a shot on the top line with his play tonight. His second goal, was a rebound goal in front of the net. His presence immediately turned the tide for the Bobcats.
  • Northeastern is snake-bitten but isn’t doing itself any favors. After the a successful first period, the Huskies fell apart by taking penalties and just making small mistakes that caused the game to get away. They had chances to win the game and score but those chances are going by the wayside. For them to get off the schneid, their game will need to be simplified. Right now, it seems to be a case of holding the sticks tight and not getting the bounces in their favor.
  • Mike Szmatula found the scoresheet twice in the game and Kevin Roy chipped in with two assists. The guys that Northeastern need to get scoring have begun to do so, which can only mean good things for NU. Entering the weekend, NU had scored a mere four goals in its four contests. This weekend the Huskies saw its first line come alive. Kevin Roy registered a goal and three assists to go along with the pair of genos scored by Szmatula tonight. It is a step in the right direction, but it wasn’t able to register the win.

What They Said 

Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said,

“Congratulations to Quinnipiac. They are a team that plays hard, is well coached and well balanced. In the third we felt good but they scored a goal. This is not where we want to be our how we drew it up, our record is our record. We need to get the monkey off our back.”

“When you’re not winning you need to do all the little things well. I thought we did more of that tonight with an emphasis on it but discipline is part of it.”

Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said,

“We are ecstatic with the win tonight and the sweep on the weekend. It wasn’t our best hockey but to be down 2-0 and battle back, I liked our energy. We really showed a lot of compete.”

“We were flat in the first period, so we juggled a couple of lines. It works once in a while and it worked well tonight. Landon had started there at the beginning of the year. Landon gave us some jump on that line and that kind of energized Sam and Matt.”

Quinnipiac forward Landon Smith said,

They are two very good hockey players and I felt fortunate to be out there with them. I have really good chemistry with them, so hopefully we can continue that.” (In response to his move to the top line before the second period)

Quinnipiac forward Sam Anas said,

“The three of us worked well together, but I think the team needed a change. We needed to shake things up and try to get some momentum on our side. There was no way better to do that then a goal on the first shift.”

What Else You Should Know

Qunnipiac will host the two headed monsters of Colgate and Cornell next weekend. The confidence of this weekend should prove large heading into its first conference weekend, but it won’t be easy. Cornell is entering the weekend off a loss and a tie to Nebraska-Omaha, but should be pretty good with all the returning skaters in its roster. Colgate fell to 6-2-0 on the young season on Saturday in a 2-1 loss to Mercyhurst.

Things won’t get any easier for Northeastern as it will play UMass-Lowell in a home and home series next weekend. The Huskies are still winless and just need to get the proverbial monkey off the back.

Jim Madigan gave some injury updates after the game. Clay Witt’s timetable is up in the air, as Madigan said  “They are going day-to-day hopefully week to week.” Madigan also said, “Colton Saucerman is getting close and Snydeman is day-to-day.”

The Takeaway: Lowell Locks Down UNH, wins 2-0

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Durham, NH- Despite controlling the play for much of the first 40 minutes of play, Lowell was able to play consistent defense in front of its goaltender to take a 2-0 lead after two periods. The River Hawks opened the scoring at 16 minutes, 40 seconds of the first period when John Edwardh took a lively bounce off the board and put it into the open net. it was much of the same in the second period until Lowell again got a lively bounce to work in its favor. This time AJ White took a feed to the weak side and put it past Clark to give UML the 2-0 lead after two.

Lowell would look comfortable in third and continued to hold UNH to the outside areas of the Ice. UML improves its record to 4-1-1 on the year, 2-0-0 in Hockey East. UNH falls to 2-3-0, 0-1-0. UNH has yet to lose consecutive games, but haven’t put together a winning streak as such. Lowell has now won two games in a row for the second time this season. The Wildcats out-shot the River Hawks 34-17, but were unable to solve Kevin Boyle. (more…)

Hockey East Weekend Preview, Oct. 31

Friday, October 31st, 2014

The college hockey season started a few weeks ago. Only now, though, comes a full slate of games. All 12 Hockey East teams are in action twice this weekend with four two-game series in the league and four teams playing a pair of non-conference games.

The first few weeks of the season are always a bit disjointed. Teams play one or no games in a weekend, and it’s not easy to assess their efforts in single games when their league foes have played as many as three more games than they have.

At this point, teams are still more focused on the process than results. Wins are important, of course, but no team with a poor start can afford to panic just yet. The same is true of clubs off to hot starts.

Come Monday morning, the Hockey East picture will, of course, still be very incomplete, but we’ll have a better idea. This piece will be a new weekly feature designed to highlight a few things I’m keeping an eye on this weekend. I’m not going to make game predictions because I’ve never been a fan. I’m not going to preview every game. I, like you, just have a few thoughts on the games and what teams hope and need to see from their players. (more…)