Archive for the 'NCHC' Category

NCHC Weekend Preview: Nov. 21-22

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Minnesota-Duluth has received plenty of attention on CHN over the past two weeks, with back-to-back Team of the Week honors, Nicole Brodzik’s look at the offensive contributions of the Bulldog defense, and Kara Hille’s look back on UMD’s sweep of Minnesota last week.

This weekend, with all NCHC teams in action on both nights, the Bulldogs go on the road for the third consecutive week, this time carrying a five-game winning streak into a two-game set at UNO (5-0-1 in its last six games) in a matchup between two of the top teams not just in the NCHC, but in the country.

Nebraska-Omaha (6-1-1 overall, 2-0-0 NCHC) hosts Minnesota-Duluth (8-4-0 overall, 4-2-0 NCHC)

Both teams have enjoyed timely offenses this season, each squad averaging over three goals a game and led in each case by a sophomore forward — Omaha’s Jake Guentzel, who’s bounced back nicely from an injury earlier in the season, and UMD’s Dominic Toninato. But the matchup to watch this weekend will be between the goaltenders. Duluth’s freshman netminder Kasimir Kaskisuo of course backstopped the Bulldogs to their sweep over Minnesota last week. The reigning NCHC Goaltender of the Week only had to make 41 saves all weekend, reflecting strong defensive play in front of him — but the saves he did make, in many cases, were huge, including a memorable handful on Gopher power play opportunities. He’ll face the more experienced senior Ryan Massa, who for the Mavericks is fifth in the country in goals-against average and a big reason Omaha has a penalty killing percentage approaching 90 percent. The other players to keep an eye on this weekend are a pair of Minnesota natives who play for the Mavericks — freshmen Jake Randolph (a Minnesota Wild draft pick) and Avery Peterson. The rookies, who play on different lines, combined for 9 points in Omaha’s sweep of Ohio State last week and have fit in nicely to coach Dean Blais’ offensive scheme. As a result, the Mavericks have three lines who have been scoring consistently, as opposed to two lines for UMD. That sets the stage for a chess match between veteran coaches Dean Blais and Scott Sandelin. Prediction: Nebraska-Omaha wins Friday, Minnesota-Duluth wins Saturday.

St. Cloud State (4-5-1 overall, 1-2-1-0 NCHC) hosts North Dakota (8-2-1 overall, 3-1-0 NCHC)

Last season, the Huskies and UND battled all season for the regular season title, and St. Cloud’s 3-1-0 record against North Dakota proved to be the difference in the Huskies taking that inaugural regular season crown in the NCHC. Last week, UND split with Miami, while St. Cloud followed a win over Western Michigan with a shootout loss the next night. Both teams enter this weekend with strong special teams play. The focus, for St. Cloud and sophomore goaltender Charlie Lindgren, has to be on stopping UND’s potent top line that has been difficult for opponents to contain so far this season. Junior forward Drake Caggiula, the NCHC Player of the Week after 5 points last weekend, centers the line, and he’s tied for the nation’s lead with 16 points so far. His linemates are seniors Michael Parks and Mark MacMillan (MacMillan returned from a wrist injury last weekend). The trio has combined for 40 points and is a combined plus-18. They also play in all situations, contributing four power play goals and five shorthanded goals so far this season. Last weekend, St. Cloud coach Bob Motzko, on the heels of a three-game losing streak, switched up his defensive pairings, most notably splitting up Ethan Prow and Andrew Prochno. No matter the combinations this weekend, the focus clearly will be on UND’s top line. Meanwhile, St. Cloud’s offense will look to get going, particularly juniors David Morley and Jimmy Murray, who as part of the Huskies’ exceptional junior class are off to slow starts so far. Prediction: North Dakota wins Friday, st. Cloud State wins Saturday.

Miami (8-4-0 overall, 4-2-0 NCHC) hosts Western Michigan (3-6-1 overall, 1-4-1-1 NCHC)

Lately, even in last Saturday’s loss at North Dakota, Miami has started games well, typically scoring first and earning the opportunity to play with the lead. Combine that with very few mental mistakes, and the RedHawks look unrecognizable compared to last season’s team. As we’ve mentioned here repeatedly, the success has come from Miami’s balanced offense. Check back next week for a feature we’ll have on junior forward Sean Kuraly, who is tied for the nation’s lead with nine goals (including, somewhat remarkably, six game-winners). Kuraly has been a force, along with Blake Coleman and Alex Wideman, who have helped shoulder the load for a Miami offense (obviously that also includes Austin Czarnik and Riley Barber) that puts plenty of shots on goal. On the other end, junior Jay Williams has been exceptional in goal. Ryan McKay, now winless at 0-3-0, started last Saturday and although he didn’t play terribly, we have to wonder if Miami head coach Enrico Blasi will stray away from his rotation and stick with Williams, who seems to have earned a pair of starts this weekend. Western Michigan dominated Miami (4-0-0) last year but have struggled with consistency this year. Still looking for consistent offense, another problem for the Broncos has been their goaltending, with junior Lukas Hafner outplaying senior Frank Slubowski so far. The two have alternated starts. I’d expect a Hafner/Williams matchup to kick off the series tonight. Prediction: Miami sweeps

And in non-conference action:

Denver hosts Air Force, Wisconsin: The Pioneers are going to face a tougher test Friday night against the Falcons than they did against Colorado College last week (when Denver beat CC 8-1). Denver enters the weekend after hearing advice from Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz, who visited the team’s practice on Wednesday prior to standing behind the bench for the Caps 3-2 win over the Avalanche the following night. Trotz stressed that success on the NHL level is all about keeping a focus on the details, and maintaining that focus for more than just two or three weeks. This 2014-15 Denver team has shown it can do that already, and it’s started with the play of sophomore Evan Cowley in goal, whose strong start has allowed the Pioneer defensemen to jump into more offensive rushes and complement a strong group of forwards, led again in scoring by Trevor Moore (12 points in nine games). Denver faces an Air Force team that has played three consecutive overtime games and then a Wisconsin team that is winless (0-6-0) to start its season. Prediction: Tie on Friday, Denver wins Saturday

Colorado College hosts Wisconsin, visits Air Force: Friday’s matchup is one between two teams desperate for a win. The old WCHA rivals have struggled mightily so far. CC lost 8-1 at Denver last week in a rivalry matchup and is 2-7-0 this year, losing seven straight after a pair of wins over Alabama-Huntsville. The Badgers, meanwhile, haven’t had much go right so far. Wisconsin has scored just seven goals in six games, all losses, while allowing four or more in four of those six games. Similarly, the Tigers have scored just a pair of goals over their last three games and have allowed 35 goals over six games. Only Niagara (1-9-0) has allowed more goals this season. The Tigers defense, simply, has to be better. I’d expect Chase Perry to get the start in goal for CC tonight. Prediction: CC wins Friday, loses Saturday

A look back at UMD’s sweep against Minnesota

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

Over the weekend, reigning CHN Team of the Week Minnesota-Duluth continued its red hot play with a two-game sweep against Minnesota. CHN’s Kara Hille was there, and here she takes a look back:

UMD dominant in in-state rivalry matchup against Minnesota

By Kara Hille

With an in-state rivalry like the one between the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers and UMD Bulldogs, there’s a demand for high-energy play from the moment the puck drops. Though the Gophers were 134-73-17 against UMD, the Bulldogs were the first to get on the board Friday night at Mariucci Arena in their 225th match against “The U.”

Bulldogs sophomore Austin Farley scored just over two minutes into the first, putting UMD on trend for a possessive period, outshooting the Gophers 15-7.

“They obviously come out flying right away,” said Gopher forward, Justin Kloos following the game. “There’s a lot of Minnesota kids in that locker room, so I think they have this one marked on the calendar.”

Facing the Bulldogs without key players, the Gophers looked to fill gaps left by defenseman Brady Skjei and forward Travis Boyd, both players suffering lower-body injuries earlier in the season.

The series opener was without a doubt a battle of the goaltenders, pitting Gopher senior Adam Wilcox to UMD newcomer, Kasimir Kaskisuo. By the end of the second, Wilcox faced just nearly twice the shots as Kaskisuo, making an additional nine saves as sophomore defenseman Dan Molenaar scored his first career goal for the Bulldogs halfway through the period. UMD kept their opponents on their heels through the end of the second period – causing Minnesota’s frustration to boil over in the third.

In the third period, the Bulldogs were able to capitalize on another Minnesota penalty. Scoring his eighth goal of the season, Dominic Toninato, a second-generation UMD forward, put the Bulldogs up 3-0, which would remain the score until the 60 minutes of play were over.

The final period saw four Gopher penalties including a five-minute boarding major for senior Christian Isackson shortly following Toninato’s goal. UMD registered two minor penalties while Minnesota racked up 17 penalty minutes in total.

“I was really disappointed, I had not seen that, I’m embarrassed with some of those penalties at the end,” said head coach Don Lucia. “That’s not the way we play, that’s not the way we coach.”

In the first game of the series, the Bulldogs outshot the Gophers 38-17. Though Wilcox made a season-high 35 saves, UMD handed Minnesota its first home loss in 17 games – since they last played Minnesota Duluth on Nov. 24, 2013.

“For the second time in two years, we didn’t match their intensity and we had a similar outcome,” said Kloos on Friday night. “It’s really disappointing right now, but we get to get some revenge tomorrow.”

The revenge would have to wait.

Much like Friday night, the Saturday tilt played at Amsoil Arena in Duluth opened with an early Bulldog goal from Toninato at only 28 seconds into the game. The first period finished 2-0 as freshman Karson Kuhlman scored his fourth goal of the season and the third UMD power play goal of the series after Hudson Fasching was sent to the box for slashing.

Shortly thereafter, UMD’s Justin Crandall was handed a five-minute major for kneeing as well as a game misconduct. In a scoreless second period, Minnesota’s AJ Michaelson received five minutes for checking from behind as well as a game misconduct.

In front of a record crowd of 7,424 at Amsoil, Leon Bristedt was the first and only Gopher goal of the series, finding the back of Kaskisuo’s net with under nine minutes left in the game assisted by Seth Ambroz and Jack Glover. The rally, however, was too little too late for Minnesota, and the score remained 2-1 until the end of regulation.

By the end of the third, UMD outshot Minnesota for the second night in a row, this time 34-25. Though the Gophers were able to put more pucks in front of Kaskisuo, Wilcox kept them in the game with numerous show-stopping saves.

In true rivalry fashion, the series finished in a flurry of penalties. Four minors were assessed for unsportsmanlike conduct, shared by UMD’s Carson Soucy and Alex Iafallo as well as Minnesota’s Michael Brodzinski and Leon Bristedt.

Minnesota Duluth swept Minnesota for the first time since 2009.

Though the all-time record now stands at 134-75-17 in Minnesota’s favor, there’s no doubt they’re still looking for revenge. There’s a possibility the teams could meet in late January as part of the North State College Cup at the Xcel Energy Center.

For now, Minnesota Duluth will travel to face Nebraska-Omaha (6-1-1) this weekend while the Gophers take on the US Under-18 team back at Mariucci on Friday night.

NCHC Weekend Preview: Nov. 14-15

Friday, November 14th, 2014

A few hours from now, as part a yet another intriguing slate of games involving seven of the eight NCHC teams this weekend, Denver hosts in-state rival Colorado College in the continuation of college hockey’s most frequently played rivalry — a rivalry that, in the past, has included plenty of drama beyond just the closely contested games and a pair of passionate fan bases. For example, a game in the 1960’s involved such as massive on-ice brawl that CC students got involved; that led to the cancellation of the season series for a year. And a game in the mid 1970’s resulted in CC goaltender Eddie Mio getting knocked unconscious by a chicken — yes, a frozen chicken — thrown at him by a Denver fan during a game.

Separated by just over 60 miles on Interstate 25, the two private schools have combined for nine national titles, 24 Frozen Four appearances, and 13 Hobey Baker Award finalists (including three combined Hobey winners since 2003). They’ve seen plenty of each other since their first meeting in January 1950, and for the last four seasons, they’ve alternated possession of the “Gold Pan” trophy (an ornate bragging right to the winner of the season series), with CC winning it last year.

Tonight, as long and dramatic as the history between the programs might be, the focus is very much on the present and future. It’s the first meeting between coaches Jim Montgomery (in his second year, of course, with the Pioneers) and Mike Haviland (who, in his first season with the Tigers, gets his first taste of the rivalry tonight). CC has lost six straight games overall, allowing 30 goals over that stretch. Freshman goaltender Chase Perry played well last Friday in a 3-0 loss to Miami, and played well in stretches the following night too until the RedHawks blew the game open with rapid-succession power play goals late in the second.

The defensive lapses, combined with a struggling offense, has understandably led to plenty of problems for this young CC team, and things aren’t getting any easier as they travel to Magness Arena tonight. Denver has played well overall, although allowing 10 goals in its weekend series split with Western Michigan last weekend was somewhat uncharacteristic for its typically robust defense. Ty Loney and Joey LaLeggia played particularly well in last Friday’s win — just two of many offensive weapons the Pioneers boast this year. The key tonight, as in most rivalry games, may be which team handles the early game emotion the best. Puck drop is at 7:37PM mountain time. I’ll be at Magness for this one tonight and will have thoughts from the game posted here over the weekend. Prediction: Denver wins.

The other NCHC series this weekend:

North Dakota hosts Miami: UND is unbeaten in eight games, and Miami has won seven of nine, in the matchup of two of the top teams in the country. As we mentioned in this space earlier in the week, Miami’s success this year seems to stem from a renewed commitment to defensive accountability, combined with timely lineup changes that have off-loaded the RedHawks’ two undisputed stars (Riley Barber and Austin Czarnik). They’re still averaging a point per game, but coach Enrico Blasi, who in the offseason was candid about the fact that he had to take an honest look at his team and the coaching staff’s approach, has moved Alex Wideman to the top line to play with the Barber/Czarnik duo. In doing so, he moved Cody Murphy off that line to play on the wing with center Blake Coleman, and placed Sean Kuraly with Anthony Louis on a line that’s both quick and physical. As a result, three lines that are scoring proficiently. All of North Dakota’s games thus far have come against teams currently below .500 — including the winless Wisconsin team that UND swept in Madison this weekend. This is easily North Dakota’s toughest weekend opponent yet (especially now that freshman Nick Schmaltz will be out of the lineup due to injury), and I wouldn’t expect anything close to the 9-2 UND win the last time the two met in Grand Forks. This is the first meeting since Miami stunned North Dakota in the NCHC semifinals last March. Prediction: Miami wins Friday, North Dakota wins Saturday

Western Michigan hosts St. Cloud State: The Broncos and Huskies both enter the weekend at 3-5-0 overall. WMU split it series with Denver last weekend, while St. Cloud suffered a sweep at home against Minnesota-Duluth. For St. Cloud, the memory of back-to-back wins against Union and Minnesota (last season’s national title game participants) seems a distant memory now after three consecutive losses. The surprising downfall over that stretch has been an inability to score 5-on-5. The Huskies’ last even strength goal was over 125 minutes of game time ago — a surprising fact considering the offensive talent St. Cloud boasts, especially in its junior class. For Western Michigan, the Broncos are looking for more consistent netminding from its duo of Frank Slubowski and Lukas Hafner. The offense, fortunately, has been better lately. Junior center Nolan LaPorte and defenseman Kenney Morrison both enter the weekend with three-game point streaks, while sophomore center Sheldon Dries scored goals in both games against Denver last week. The Broncos and Huskies also have two of the best power play units in the country, but it’ll still likely be the team that can score 5-on-5 that gets the edge this weekend. Prediction: Western Michigan wins Friday, St. Cloud State wins Saturday.

And finally, in non-conference action:

Minnesota-Duluth at/vs. Minnesota: Minnesota-Duluth was named CHN Team of the Week after sweeping St. Cloud State last week, and our Nicole Brodzik took a look at the new-found success of the Bulldogs’ offensively-minded defensive corps. This weekend, obviously, represents an enormous test for Scott Sandelin’s club, in its home-and-home with arguably the best team in the country. The Gophers 7-1-0 overall (their only hiccup coming against St. Cloud) and have enjoyed early season success from all of the expected contributors. Seniors Kyle Rau and Sam Warning (12 points and 6 points, respectively, in 8 games) have played well out of the gate, as have sophomores Taylor Cammarata, Justin Kloos, and Hudson Fasching. Defensively, Mike Reilly not only has helped out his goaltender Adam Wilcox, but has already contributed 11 points (tied for second-most on the team). Needless to say, the weekend presents a great challenge for the Bulldogs’ rookie goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo. Prediction: Minnesota wins Friday, Minnesota-Duluth wins Saturday.

Three Things (I Think?): NCHC, Nov. 11

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

While the NCHC certainly hasn’t been immune to the inconsistency that most teams experienced last year on an almost weekly basis, the start to the 2014-15 season has been highlighted most of all by exceptionally strong starts from Minnesota-Duluth (in first place), Miami (7-3), North Dakota (7-1-1), Denver (5-3-0), and Nebraska-Omaha (6-1-1), while St. Cloud (wins over Union and Minnesota) and Western Michigan (coming off a win over Denver) have showed plenty of potential in the early going.

Rapid recap: This past weekend resulted in four sweeps involving NCHC teams, with Omaha (vs. Ohio State) and North Dakota (vs. Wisconsin) extending the NCHC’s NCAA-best non-conference record with road sweeps. In conference action, the Bulldogs (at St. Cloud, where they hadn’t picked up a sweep since ’99) and RedHawks (vs. a struggling Colorado College squad) put together back-to-back wins as well. Denver and Western Michigan split their weekend series that saw a total of 18 goals, nine allowed by each.

Now, a look at three developing storylines:

In the crease

Fifteen NCHC players have averaged a point or more per game so far this season (of the 87 such players nationally). That includes just three players in the nation’s top 20 point scorers (Miami’s Blake Coleman and North Dakota’s Drake Caggiula and Michael Parks). A lot of that can be attributed to strong goaltending throughout the league. This past weekend saw strong performances from several. Among the highlights, Minnesota-Duluth freshman goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo (second only to St. Lawrence’s Kyle Hayton in minutes played among rookie netminders so far) allowed just three goals all weekend (1.47 GAA, .952 save percentage) in the UMD’s series sweep at St. Cloud State. The Espoo, Finland, native has now won three straight for the first-place Bulldogs.

Then, of course, there’s NCHC Goaltender of the Week Jay Williams, who allowed only one goal (an Aaron Harstad power play tally) against Colorado College in the RedHawks’ sweep. Sure, the back-to-back wins (incredibly, Miami’s first NCHC sweep after not being able to accomplish the feat last season) were against a struggling Tigers team, but Williams (1.64 GAA, .921 save percentage) has outplayed fellow junior Ryan McKay so far and has been exceptional in seven of the eight games he’s played. It’s been a great turnaround for Williams, who struggled last year (3.30 goals-against average, .882 save percentage). It’s probably safe to say at this point that the sophomore season was the anomaly, rather than his stellar freshman campaign. In fact, at this point, it’s probably safe to disregard Miami’s 2013-14 season almost entirely. Williams — assuming he gets the starting nod again — gets a pair of games at North Dakota this weekend. With Miami’s track record, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to imagine McKay (very talented himself) still getting one of those starts.

Finally, Omaha’s Ryan Massa and North Dakota’s Zane McIntyre have been keys to each team’s strong starts. Perhaps the more interesting storylines involving goaltenders heading into this weekend are a pair of matchups between teams that struggled with goaltending last weekend. Three of those four teams have had revolving doors in the crease — Denver (with its combination of Evan Cowley and Tanner Jaillet) hosting Colorado College (Chase Perry/Tyler Marble) on Friday and St. Cloud’s Charlie Lindgren attempting to rebound against Western Michigan (with its duo of Frank Slubowski and Lukas Hafner).

Toninato amends

On Halloween night, UMD forward Dominic Toninato was assessed a five-minute major penalty for checking from behind, and the penalty (called late in the third period) proved costly against Miami. Sean Kuraly scored the game-winner with less than two minutes play to give the RedHawks a 3-2 win. Toninato, a sophomore, had played well to that point, with goals in five of UMD’s first six games, but he came up empty in the pair of games last week against Miami. (more…)

NCHC Weekend Preview: Nov. 7-8

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Every NCHC team is in action this weekend. Before we look at the series, check out a pair of features on the main site: on Denver’s rookie sensation Danton Heinen and St. Cloud’s lessons learned from a grueling start to the season.

St. Cloud State (3-3-0 overall, 0-0-0 NCHC) hosts Minnesota-Duluth (4-4-0 overall, 2-2-0 NCHC)

The Huskies have garnered plenty of attention for their nonconference schedule thus far — a whirlwind trio of series against Colgate, Minnesota, and Union, with St. Cloud splitting all three. But Minnesota-Duluth’s schedule has been tough as well, splitting series against Denver, Miami, and Minnesota State. The Bulldogs also boast a win over Notre Dame that followed a season-opening loss to Minnesota.

Both teams come into the weekend with .500 records, and for St. Cloud, it’s the first league series of the year after the Huskies won the regular season title (the Penrose Cup) a year ago. The key to this particular matchup may be which team’s power play continues to play well. Both are converting about 24 percent of their man-advantage chances so far this season, which places each team in the top 10 in the nation in that category. The Bulldogs, despite scoring over 3.6 goals per game this season, will have to be especially careful at the other end as they also lead the nation in penalty minutes so far. Last Friday, a five minute major against leading scorer Dominic Toninato led to Miami’s game-winning power play goal in the third period.

An intriguing matchup presents itself in goal, too — with St. Cloud sophomore Charlie Lindgren and UMD freshman Kasimir Kaskisuo both playing well in starting roles so far. Prediction: St. Cloud State wins Friday, the teams tie on Saturday

Miami (5-3-0 overall, 1-1-0 NCHC) hosts Colorado College (2-4-0 overall, 0-2-0 NCHC)

Miami heads into the weekend after playing five consecutive one-goal games (going 3-2-0 in that stretch) and welcome to Oxford a young but evolving Colorado College team that has lost four straight, albeit against stiff competition (North Dakota, Boston College, New Hampshire). The RedHawks are rolling behind Blake Coleman’s 11 points (third most in the nation) and Sean Kuraly’s four game-winning goals already, and have shown consistency in big moments that they, for whatever reason, lacked last season. Still, Miami has struggled on the penalty kill … but so has CC (allowing 9 power play goals in 25 penalty killing situations). Sophomore goaltender Tyler Marble started both games for the Tigers last weekend, allowing a total of 12 goals on 56 shots. One bright spot for the Tigers has been defenseman Teemu Kivihalme. The rookie has three goals so far, tied for the most by any NCHC rookie so far. Prediction: Miami sweeps

Denver (4-2-0 overall, 1-1-0 NCHC) hosts Western Michigan (2-4-0 overall, 0-2-0 NCHC) 

Had it not been for freshman Danton Heinen’s overtime heroics last week, a moment even bigger considering there were several players out of the lineup with the “stomach flu,” the feeling in the Mile High City might be a little different heading into this weekend. Prior to Saturday’s 2-1 overtime win over BC, Denver had dropped its previous two games, one to those same Eagles, and one to Minnesota-Duluth. Instead, the Pioneers enter this weekend on a high, boasting a balanced offense and a strong goaltender in Evan Cowley. The sophomore has picked up where Sam Brittain left off last year, and has helped the DU defense limit opponents to just over 1.6 goals per game. Cowley will face a Broncos offense that was shut out in back to back games before scoring four in a 4-2 win over Alaska-Fairbanks last Saturday. This weekend marks the first meeting between the programs since Denver ended WMU’s season last year in the NCHC semifinals, and the Broncos will be looking for their first-ever program win at Magness Arena. Prediction: Denver wins Friday, Western Michigan wins Saturday

Non-conference series

North Dakota at Wisconsin: Off to its best start since the 2009-10 season, on the strength of five (yes, five) shorthanded goals already this season (none bigger than last weekend’s Bryn Chyzyk OT winner vs. Air Force), UND heads to one of its many rivals carried over from the old WCHA. North Dakota brings an unbeaten streak of six games to Madison, facing a struggling, winless Wisconsin team that has managed just three goals in four games thus far. Still, expect a close games between the rivals, especially with Joel Rumpel (Wisconsin) and Zane McIntyre (UND) between the pipes. Prediction: Wisconsin wins Friday, North Dakota wins Saturday

Nebraska-Omaha at Ohio State: Speaking of hot starts… UNO is unbeaten in four straight games as well, led by Jake Guentzel’s 1.8 points per game (tied for fourth nationally, with Boston University’s Jack Eichel). The strength beyond Guentzel has unquestionably been Ryan Massa. The Omaha goaltender, recently named the NCHC Player of the Month (October) boasts a 1.38 goals-against average and a .952 save percentage. He backstopped the Mavericks to three figurative points in Ithaca against Cornell last week. Just as UND/Wisconsin represents a WCHA throwback, this matchup is a CCHA throwback. Massa will face an Ohio State offense that was awakened last week after struggling earlier in the season. Senior Tanner Fritz leads the Buckeyes with seven points, but he’s also a team-worst minus-7 while playing a lot of minutes so far. Prediction: Nebraska-Omaha wins Friday, Ohio State wins Saturday

 

Three Things I Think: NCHC, Nov. 4

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Last weekend in the NCHC featured significant showdowns between some of the nation’s top programs — from Boston College’s visit to Denver to St. Cloud’s home-and-home with Minnesota. In the end, those pairs split their series, while elsewhere, North Dakota toppled Air Force (thanks to a dramatic shorthanded goal in overtime), Nebraska-Omaha swept Cornell in central New York, and Miami and Minnesota-Duluth split the only league series of the weekend.

1. Denver is deep

Not many players can be without three 20-point scorers, all NHL draft picks and regulars in the nightly lineup, and still overcome a team like Boston College. But that’s what Denver did on Saturday night, when the Pioneers were without All-American defenseman Joey LaLeggia and forwards Quentin Shore and Zac Larazza. All three were out with, according to Pioneers coach Jim Montgomery, “the stomach flu”.

In their place, others stepped up with ease, from freshman Danton Heinen (check CHN for a full feature on the rookie sensation and Bruins draft pick tomorrow) to senior Daniel Doremus (who quietly scored 24 points last season and is now an integral component to the Pioneers top line, where he centers Heinen and sophomore Trevor Moore). Before the season began, I visited a Denver practice, and afterwards, Montgomery pointed out that his team is “better prepared as a program to handle adversity with injuries.” That depth was clearly on display on Saturday.

2. Overall Player of the Week

The NCHC’s weekly awards this week went to Miami’s Blake Coleman (Offensive Player of the Week after three goals and an assist vs. UMD), St. Cloud’s Ethan Prow (Defenseman of the Week after two assists in the Huskies’ win over Minnesota), Denver’s Danton Heinen (Rookie of the Week after scoring a pair of goals on Saturday, including the OT winner, to beat BC), and Nebraska-Omaha’s Ryan Massa (Goaltender of the Week after a tie and win at Cornell).

It’s hard to argue with those choices. Of them, the overall player of the week, for me, has to be Massa. The senior is now 4-0-1 this season and in his pair of wins at Cornell, he posted a 0.96 goals-against average and a .968 save percentage. The Littleton, Col., native has helped steady a defense that was at times porous last season, especially down the stretch.

One other player worth mentioning in this space is North Dakota’s Bryn Chyzyk. The junior scored just four goals last season but already has two this year — the latest, of course, a shorthanded goal with seconds remaining in overtime against Air Force, with UND a man short after Brendan O’Donnell was sent off after a checking from behind major penalty. Chyzyk handled a terrific Michael Parks pass to slide the puck behind Air Force’s Chris Truehl. In doing so, UND heads to rival Wisconsin this weekend in good spirits and on a six-game unbeaten streak.

3. Miami’s goaltending… controversy?

Heading into the season, my guess was that Ryan McKay would outperform Jay Williams and take over the No. 1 position as the Miami netminder. Instead, Williams is 5-1-0 with a 2.02 goals-against average, and McKay is 0-2-0 with a 3.39 goals-against average. After back-to-back wins by Williams (a 2-1 OT win vs. St. Lawrence last week, then a Friday night win this past weekend vs. Minnesota-Duluth), Miami head coach Enrico Blasi went back to McKay, who took a 4-3 loss on Saturday night despite 36 saves. The game was tied midway through the third period until the Bulldogs’ Willie Raskob scored the game-winner.

Blasi has famously alternated goaltenders, with various duos, for much of the past decade, and that’s been the story for McKay and Williams — both juniors — for the majority of their career as well. Miami hosts Colorado College in a two-game set this weekend. One would imagine Williams would get the start on Friday. If he wins, does McKay get another chance Saturday? It’s essentially impossible to get an answer on the subject from Blasi, so we’re left to speculate.

Both goaltenders are, in truth, incredibly talented, and all accounts suggest that they both have been strong in practice. Time will tell if one starts to get the starting nods over the other.

Coming Soon

Check out CHN prior to this weekend’s games for features on St. Cloud’s lessons learned (from its incredible nonconference schedule against Colgate, Union, and Minnesota) and on Denver’s Danton Heinen.

 

NCHC Weekend Preview, Oct 31-Nov 1

Friday, October 31st, 2014

With several intriguing non-conference games again set for this weekend, the NCHC continues to ease into its conference schedule, with only one league series on tap again this week, this time with Minnesota-Duluth hosting surging Miami in a two-game set. It’s a notable series for many reasons and may be especially important for UMD, as the Bulldogs are a) looking for consistency after an up-and-down season that’s seen them alternate wins and losses (wins so far against Notre Dame and Denver), and b) without their senior captain Adam Krause, who’s out until December with a broken wrist.

That’ll mean even more pressure will rest on the shoulder pads of a pair of players honored as NCHC Players of the Week this week — junior forward Austin Farley, who had a pair of goals against Denver last week, and goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, the Bulldogs’ rookie Finnish goaltender who stopped 29 shots last Saturday in UMD’s 6-1 thrashing of Denver. And of course, there’s Dominic Toninato, whose six goals this season are tied for second best in the nation.

UMD welcomes a Miami team that has played five one-goal games in its first six contests already — winning four of those, the latest a dramatic 2-1 overtime win against St. Lawrence last weekend.  (more…)

The Takeaway: UNH dominates Colorado College

Saturday, October 25th, 2014

Durham, NH- It was the home opener for UNH and the Whittemore Center was packed to the brim to welcome a struggling Colorado College team. UNH dominated the opening stages of the game but were unable to get quality chances at the CC goal. At 16 minutes, 57 seconds of the first Maxim Gaudreault scored shorthanded, off a 2 on 1 rebound, to give UNH a lead it never relinquished.

Gaudreault would score a similar goal in the second period to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead. Cody Bradley responded a minute and  a half later to bring Colorado College to within one. But UNH’s freshman duo of Andrew Poturalski and Shane Eiserman scored goals 12 seconds apart to give UNH a three goal lead. UNH scored another two in the third, while CC added another to give New Hampshire the 6-2 win.

UNH improved to 2-2-0 on the young season, while Colorado College dropped its fourth straight decision to fall to 2-4-0. The Tigers were outscored 12-4 i its two games over the weekend. (more…)

NCHC Weekend Preview, October 24-25

Friday, October 24th, 2014

There’s only one conference series this weekend, as Denver visits Minnesota-Duluth in the league openers for both teams… but every other NCHC team (except reigning CHN Team of the Week Nebraska-Omaha) is in action in nonconference competition.

DENVER AT MINNESOTA-DULUTH

The reigning NCHC tournament champ Pioneers visit Duluth after a weekend that saw Jim Montgomery’s crew outscore Rensselaer 7-1 in a weekend sweep. The story out of Magness Arena a week ago was the play of Zac Larazza and Quentin Shore, who combined for four goals while playing on a line with highly-touted rookie left-wing Danton Heinen. The trio led the offense, while the Pioneers enjoyed strong goaltending from Evan Cowley, who picked up both wins. On Saturday, he replaced an injured Tanner Jaillet just 2:20 into the Jaillet’s first career start. Cowley and Jaillet will likely split this weekend’s games.

Meanwhile, UMD has seen an inconsistent start to its season, with a pair of Friday night losses coupled with a pair of Saturday night wins. Last weekend, the Bulldogs beat Minnesota State 6-2 a night after falling to the WCHA’s Mavericks in overtime. The player to watch: sophomore Dominic Toninato. The Duluth native scored seven goals last year as a freshman … and already has five this season. The Bulldogs offense has been rolling and will face a tough test against a seasoned and responsible defensive unit in Denver.

Prediction: Denver wins Friday, Duluth wins Saturday

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NCHC Prediction: Winner Will Be…

Friday, March 21st, 2014

The inaugural NCHC Frozen Faceoff kicks off this afternoon from the Target Center in Minneapolis. Denver and Western Michigan, both of whom won on the road last weekend, will square off in Semifinal #1, and will be followed by North Dakota and Miami in the primetime semifinal tonight.

A full preview of the NCHC championship weekend is here, featuring a breakdown of all four teams and exclusive thoughts from North Dakota captain Dillon Simpson, Western Michigan head coach Andy Murray, and Denver head coach Jim Montgomery.

Predictions (though not to be taken seriously, given my lack of success in my March Madness bracket pool so far)…

Denver 3 Western Michigan 1

North Dakota 4 Miami 2

Denver 3 North Dakota 1

Denver looked like a different team over the last two games, outscoring NCHC Player of the Year Josh Archibald and Nebraska-Omaha by a combined 7-1 score in games two and three of their quarterfinal series last weekend. They also boast the NCHC Goaltender of the Year and Richter Award finalist Sam Brittain, who will need to continue to play well if the Pioneers are to win two games this weekend. Of note, a potential Denver/North Dakota championship game would be interesting, as it would feature two of the top defensive units in the country. Five of the six North Dakota starters on the blueline are NHL draft picks.

In speaking with Denver coach Jim Montgomery on Tuesday, he felt that his team finally came together last week in Omaha, away from the distractions of the Mile High City, where his team struggled this season.

“We’ve been a very good road team,” said the first-year coach. “As far as our execution and our effort every night, we’ve been much more consistent on the road than at home. Right now, being on the road is a good thing for Denver hockey.”

Denver and Western Michigan play at 5 p.m. ET, followed by North Dakota and Miami at 8 p.m. ET. Both games will air live on CBS Sports Network.