Archive for the 'NCHC' Category

NCHC Saturday Jan. 16: Three Things

Saturday, January 16th, 2016

In place of traditional weekend previews, check this space on the CHN blog each Saturday for developing mid-weekend NCHC storylines and observations from Friday night games.

Friday’s action saw St. Cloud State (3-1 at Duluth) and Nebraska-Omaha (4-3 OT thriller at North Dakota) win on the road, while reigning CHN Team of the Week Denver held serve at home with a 5-3 win over Western Michigan. All three series feature a second game tonight. In nonconference action, Miami takes on Bowling Green.

1. Troy Terry

In each of his three seasons as the Denver head coach, Jim Montgomery has had a freshman breakout star. Two years ago, it was Trevor Moore. Last season — Danton Heinen. This year, Dylan Gambrell entered this weekend as the Pioneers’ leading scorer. Last night, freshman forward Troy Terry stood out as one of the most impressive players on the ice, and earned two points (a goal and an assist) in the process. Terry, a product of the U.S. National Team Development Program, showed off a stunning wrist shot on his power play goal late in the first period. The goal, Terry’s fifth of the season, found a miniscule opening in the top corner of the net, above Western Michigan goaltender Lukas Hafner’s right shoulder — and it gave DU a lead that it wouldn’t relinquish. Terry’s quick one-two passing play with Quentin Shore in the second period was another notable example of Terry’s quality. The Denver, Colorado, native could be a key component as Denver continues to roll in the second half. The Pioneers have now won three straight, while Western Michigan continues to play inconsistently on defense. The Broncos are winless in three straight.

2. Second line

Much hype has surrounded North Dakota’s “CBS” line this year — and deservedly so, as Drake Caggiula, Brock Boeser, and Nick Schmaltz are each over 20 points this season already and are arguably the best line in the country. In last night’s loss to Omaha, another line for North Dakota seemed to stand out for entirely different reasons. Freshmen Joel Janatuiene (-2 last night) and Chris Wilkie (-3) played alongside Luke Johnson (-3), and all three were on the ice for the two most notable Omaha goals last night: Jake Randolph’s last-second goal in the second period, and Austin Ortega’s overtime winner. In each case, the line got caught too far up ice, and allowed quick rushes the other way. Ortega’s score came on an odd-man rush and was the latest in a long line of clutch goals for the junior forward from California. Ortega has seven game-winning goals this year, leading the NCAA, and with 19 GWGs in his career is just four behind the all-time NCAA record in that category. Ortega, clearly, can make any line in the country look bad, but last night’s concluding moments did highlight a potential weak point for an otherwise excellent UND team.

3. 0 for 20

Minnesota-Duluth fell at home to St. Cloud State last night, losing 3-1, and a subplot is the Bulldogs’ ongoing woes on the power play. Despite facing one of the nation’s worst (statistically) penalty killing units last night, UMD is now 0 for its last 20 on the man-advantage, a span that stretches five full games. That’s frustrating for UMD fans who saw an opponent score on the power play with such ease, as the Huskie’s Kalle Kossila convert on a perfectly executed St. Cloud power play last night — faceoff win, stretching the penalty killers out with a cross-ice pass, and finding an open player in the slot. All in less than 10 seconds. It’s not the first power outage in Duluth this season, but this one will need to be resolved just as quickly if the Bulldogs are to keep pace in a tough stretch run.

NCHC Saturday Dec. 12: Three Things

Saturday, December 12th, 2015

In place of traditional weekend previews, check this space on the CHN blog each Saturday for developing mid-weekend NCHC storylines and observations from Friday night games.

Friday’s action saw St. Cloud State (5-2 at Denver) and North Dakota (3-0 at UMD) win on the road, while Western Michigan broke out of its prolonged offensive drought with a 7-3 home win over Colorado College. All three series conclude tonight, the final NCHC conference action of 2015.

1. Cam Again

Cam Johnson’s 18 save shutout in Grand Forks over Denver last week was impressive, but the North Dakota Fighting Hawks netminder’s performance last night — 40 saves in UND’s 3-0 win — was exceptional. Johnson is now undefeated in five starts since returning from injury, and North Dakota — led by opportunstic offensive talent of the likes of Drake Caggiula and Nick Schmaltz — looks downright scary. Johnson had 15 saves in the third period and held the Bulldogs off the scoreboard repeatedly, most notably on power play opportunities that clearly left the UMD players frustrated. Kasimir Kaskisuo didn’t play poorly per se on the other end, but may have to be perfect in tonight’s rematch if Johnson continues to stay locked in. UND is 15-2-2 overall and three points clear of St. Cloud at the top of the NCHC standings.

2. That Escalated Quickly

Coming off a 7-2 loss to Omaha, things weren’t looking terrific for St. Cloud State halfway through its game in Denver last night, trailing 2-0. The Pioneers then gave the Huskies their only power play opportunity of the night, which St. Cloud converted to cut the lead to 2-1… and the rest of the game looked as though St. Cloud had a man advantage. The persistence paid off in the third period when things completely fell apart for Denver. Joey Benik, Kalle Kossila, and David Morley all scored in span of 1:33 to turn a 2-2 deadlock into a comfortable 5-2 Huskies win. That trio of seniors, in addition to classmates Jimmy Murray and Ethan Prow, are arguably the top upperclassmen group in the country in terms of overall talent. They’ve also become impressive leaders on the ice, no longer making defensive lapses that cost the Huskies last year, and St. Cloud — like UND — has the look of a team ready to make a serious NCAA title run. Denver, meanwhile, has lost three straight behind an anemic offense, and their response tonight will be telling, one way or the other.

3. About time

Western Michigan shook off weeks of frustration with last night’s 7-3 win over CC, and the Broncos clearly wanted the win desperately — they forced turnovers, were quicker to loose pucks, and were determined in all phases. The final score isn’t as reflective of how close the game was for two periods, but things fell apart for CC late in the second period when the Broncos forced a turnover at the blueline from Tigers sophomore defenseman (and Nashville Predators draft pick) Teemu Kivihalme. Michael Rebry scored his first of the season to give the Broncos a 4-2 lead at the time, and Kivihalme contributed to another defensive zone turnover in the opening minutes of the third period — again leading to a Western Michigan goal. Truthfully, Western Michigan looked like a different team with renewed energy and purpose, while on the other end, it’s disappointing to see the Tigers regress after sweeping Miami last week — especially against a team that had to be desperate after entering the weekend with eight consecutive losses. Still, CC can climb out of the NCHC cellar with a win tonight since Miami is idle.

NCHC Saturday Dec 5: Three Things

Saturday, December 5th, 2015

In place of traditional weekend previews, check this space on the CHN blog each Saturday for developing mid-weekend NCHC storylines and observations from Friday night games.

Last night’s NCHC action featured all eight league teams in conference action, and home ice advantage was the story, with Minnesota-Duluth (7-0 over Western Michigan), Colorado College (2-1 over Miami), St. Cloud State (4-1 over UNO), and North Dakota (5-1 over Denver) all earning wins at home.

1. Win streak

Earlier this week, we featured a story on Colorado College and the optimism within the team despite 13 consecutive losses to open the 2015-16 campaign. Suddenly, the Tigers have now won two in a row, following up their defeat of Air Force last Saturday with another one-goal win last night, this time against Miami. In both wins, CC has taken control of the game in the third period — an impressive trend for a young team that put together arguably its best defensive performance of the season last night. Hunter Fejes scored both CC goals in the third period to turn a 1-0 deficit into the 2-1 win, but the turning point came halfway through the final period when Fejes, a senior, stole the puck from the usually sure-handed Matthew Caito, Miami’s senior defenseman who was carrying the puck out of the RedHawks defensive zone. That resulted in a breakaway for Fejes, who tied the game and swung the momentum for the rest of the evening in Colorado College’s favor. It was a great opportunistic moment for Fejes, but a dreadful play by Caito, a leader for a Miami team that has suddenly lost four of its last five.

2. Play of the night

With all due respect to North Dakota’s Brock Boeser, who showed off his impressive ability to pick top corners in North Dakota’s dismantling of Denver in Grand Forks, the clear play of the night came at St. Cloud, where the Huskies’ Ethan Prow floated a pass from his defensive zone to teammate Jimmy Murray at the opposite blue line, setting up a goal that put St. Cloud up 3-1. The goal came shortly after Huskies netminder Charlie Lindgren stopped UNO leading point-scorer Jake Guentzel on a two-on-one, payback for a goal Guentzel scored earlier in the night — a play which culminated in the forward’s momentum knocking down Lindgren for several moments. Opponents will have to figure out how to limit the Huskies’ offense, as St. Cloud has now scored three or more goals in a game for nine straight contests.

3. Early and often

UMD scored at will last night against Western Michigan, winning by a touchdown, 7-0. The Broncos have given up an alarming 25 goals over four games now, and it was easy to see why. The Bulldogs took the lead on a shorthanded goal from Austyn Young just 9:01 into the first period, but on the play, WMU netminder Lukas Hafner failed to hold on to the puck sent in from essentially the blueline. Hafner gave up a rebound, and Young capitalized, and for the remainder of the night, the Bulldogs didn’t look back. In fact, they were relentless, getting in front of Hafner’s eyes on multiple subsequent goals, including the goals that extended the lead to 2-0 and 3-0. When Dominic Toninato doubled the Bulldogs lead just three and a half minutes after Young’s goal, senior Austin Farley took away Hafner’s line of sight — a great example of a contribution that doesn’t show up on the scoresheet.

NCHC Saturday Nov. 28: Three Things

Saturday, November 28th, 2015

Instead of traditional weekend previews, check this space on the CHN blog each Saturday for developing mid-weekend NCHC storylines and observations from Friday night games.

Friday’s results: three nonconference wins by NCHC teams over Big 10 foes (St. Cloud State over Minnesota, UNO over Ohio State, and North Dakota over Michigan State), while CC and Western Michigan continued to trend in the wrong directions with losses to Air Force and RPI, respectively.

1. Left wing locked down

UNO took control of its game in Omaha against the Buckeyes with a pair of second period goals, about five and a half minutes apart — first from Luc Snuggerud, then David Pope. Snuggerud (pinching in from his left defense position) and Pope both fired home shots from the left faceoff circle after finding open spots within a porous Ohio State defense — their first and second goals of the season, respectively. You wonder if it was a point of emphasis in the second period after the coaching staff potentially noticed a weak spot in the OSU defense. Regardless, it’s important for the players playing on the left side for UNO, especially with the playmakers they have at the center and right wing positions.

2. Welcome back, Cam

While Drake Caggiula continued to highlight the scoresheet for North Dakota, the big story for the Fighting Hawks was the strong play of Cam Johnson, who had been out since mid-October with a lower body injury before playing sparsely in relief last weekend. In that relief appearance though, things didn’t go too well — with Johnson giving up three goals on 13 shots. Last night in East Lansing, Johnson stopped 24 shots in a 3-1 win over the Spartans and appeared confident between the pipes, where Matt Hrynkiw had played superbly in Johnson’s absence.  I’d expect Hrynkiw to continue finding a way to some playing time as Johnson works his way back into the rotation for UND, now 11-2-2 this season.

3. CC loses heartbreaker

Still searching for their first win, the Tigers found themselves in penalty trouble and allowed the Falcons to score the game winning goal in the final minute of the game. CC fell to 0-13-0 this season. Last week, CC head coach Mike Haviland told me that, despite the record, the attitude within the locker room has remained positive — which is impressive considering some of the varied ways the Tigers have lost. The rematch is of course tonight. Haviland said on Wednesday, ““You’ve got bragging rights for Colorado Springs. And that’s been the message. And also we can’t be looking too far down the road. We have to take one game at a time and break it down to one period at a time.” Check the main site for a full story on CC this Monday

NCHC Saturday Nov. 21: Three Things

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

Again, instead of traditional weekend previews, check this space on the CHN blog each Saturday for developing mid-weekend NCHC storylines and observations from Friday night games.

Friday’s results: road wins by North Dakota (4-3 at St. Cloud) and Minnesota-Duluth (5-0 at Colorado College), and a pair of 3-3 ties (Nebraska-Omaha at Miami, and in the lone nonconference game of the night, Denver at Wisconsin). Though the game ended as a 3-3 tie for NCAA record purposes, Miami earned the extra NCHC standings point by scoring in the 3-on-3 OT period. As a reminder, NCHC conference games play a five minute 5-on-5 OT followed by a 5 minute 3-on-3 OT if the game remains tied (and then, if still tied, a shootout).

1. Slow out of the gates

It was an unfortunate opening minute for Colorado College last night, playing at home against Minnesota-Duluth At least three turnovers in the defensive zone led to groans around the World Arena in Colorado Springs, with fans looking for a one-time powerhouse to show some signs of life. CC came into the night with an 0-10-0 record and 1:12 into the first, fell behind 1-0 thanks to UMD’s Austin Farley’s seeing-eye wrist shot from the slot.

Certainly, UMD pressured the Tigers and came out of the gates looking for a goal as quickly as possible, but it was far from reassuring from a CC standpoint to see the Tigers start so slowly — all things considered. Netminder Tyler Marble had little chance on the goal, which is a shame considering the flashes of talent he still is able to show (one example was on a UMD breakaway in the second period). The Bulldogs put the game away in the second with three quick even-strength goals in a 4:14 span. The Tigers mustered just 19 shots on goal, fell to 0-11-0 (the last remaining winlesss team in the nation), and continue to test head coach Mike Haviland.

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NCHC Saturday Nov. 14: Three Things

Saturday, November 14th, 2015

Something a little different – instead of traditional weekend previews, check this space on the CHN blog each Saturday for developing mid-weekend NCHC storylines and observations from Friday night games.

Friday’s results: road wins by St. Cloud State (5-2 at Western Michigan) and Denver (3-0 at Minnesota-Duluth), and a dominant home win by North Dakota (6-2 over Miami).

1. Highlight Reel

Thanks in large part to a quick start from North Dakota (two fourth-minute goals, separated by 20 seconds), the ultimate result in the UND/Miami game in Grand Forks last night was essentially decided long before a pair of highlight reel third period goals, one by each team. Check them out here. But those goals are also notable for typifying the remainder of the game. First, for Miami, Josh Melnick scored his fourth goal of the season (second-most on the team) to pull the RedHawks within three — it was an impressive individual play below the left circle for the sophomore, who corralled the puck while falling down and sniped a wrist shot into the top left corner behind UND netminder Matt Hrynkiw.

Taking nothing away from Melnick’s outstanding goal, it typified Miami’s play on Friday by highlighting the reliance on individual plays, without few signs of the teamwork displayed just a week ago in the RedHawks’s sweep of Western Michigan. Less than 90 seconds later, Nick Schmaltz finished off a spectacular four-player passing play to punctuate UND’s win — after a dizzying series of five passes between Schmaltz, Brock Boeser, Troy Stecher, and Drake Caggiula. All night, UND played well as a unit — routinely situating two players in front of the Miami goaltenders (Jay Williams and Ryan McKay), and that teamwork was highlighted again with Schmaltz’s highlight-reel goal.

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NCHC Saturday Nov. 7: Three Things

Saturday, November 7th, 2015

Friday’s action involving NCHC teams included league wins by Denver, UNO, and Miami — all of whom were playing at home — in addition to a North Dakota loss in Grand Forks to Wisconsin. North Dakota was undefeated (6-0-2) prior to the 3-1 loss to the Badgers.

1. Tape to tape

After three consecutive road losses during which the RedHawks were outscored 11-4, Miami returned home with a 2-1 win over CHN’s Team of the Week, Western Michigan. Freshman Jack Roslovic, a native of Columbus, Ohio, scored his sixth goal of the season — most among rookies nationally. His power play goal in the second period tied the game for Miami and was an impressive example of how to open up passing lanes on a power play. Louis Belpedio at the left point and Roslovic in the right circle combined on multiple tape to tape passes, stretching the space between the WMU penalty-killers (particularly junior forwards Aidan Muir and Michael Rebry) and allowing for the opportunity for one-timer by Roslovic. As a team, Miami was notably more accurate with its passing compared to its most recent road losses, and the RedHawks have a chance to move back over .500 with another win tonight.

2. Backing off

Colorado College’s woes were compounded on Friday, as the Tigers dropped to a dismal 0-9-0 following a 5-3 loss at Denver. CC joins Army, Niagara, Brown, and Maine as the only winless teams in the country, and Tigers head coach Mike Haviland now has just six wins in 44 games behind the bench for CC. In the rivalry contest on Friday, the CC defense looked alarmingly passive in its own zone, setting the stage for multiple DU goals. With the game tied 1-1 in the second, the Pioneers put the game out of reach with three goals — by Danton Heinen, Will Butcher, and Trevor Moore. On the first two of those goals, Heinen and then Grant Arnold were able to gain the zone with easy along the left wing  (Arnold set up Butcher for his goal), and on the third goal of the period, Moore gained the zone on the right wing with similar ease. It’s been a long, rough journey for CC already, but the defensive effort will have to improve if the Tigers plan on trying to build any momentum at all within arguably the toughest conference in the country. Moreover, CC has the worst penalty killing unit in the NCHC but continues to lead the league in overall penalty minutes per game.

3. Score early, score often

Nebraska-Omaha stayed unbeaten in its new home facility, Baxter Arena, following the Mavericks’ 4-2 defeat of Minnesota-Duluth. UNO scored two first period goals, continuing its trend of fast starts. The Mavericks have now scored 14 goals this season (more than any other NCHC team in the game’s opening 20 minutes), while scoring 13 in the second and third combined. Austin Ortega (who else?) scored the ultimate game-winner, and leads the nation in goals. His goal, which at the time put the Mavericks up 3-1, came on the power play thanks to a textbook down-low passing play in which Ortega and freshman Steven Spinner made sure their sticks were on the ice for re-directions that led to the goal. Freshman Evan Weninger earned the win, and remains in the top 10 nationally in both goals-against average and save percentage.

 

NCHC Weekend preview: Oct. 23-24

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

NCHC teams went 12-2-1 in their nonconference games this week (with both losses coming in a CC sweep at Mass.-Lowell), and this weekend, Nebraska-Omaha opens its new arena as the Mavericks host Air Force, while elsewhere, two of the three teams in the country who are currently 4-0-0 square off — as St. Cloud, already with three shutouts in four games, travels to Vermont.

Weekend Schedule (all two-game series):

Nebraska-Omaha (4-0-0) hosts Air Force (1-2-1):  Following a pair of wins at Minnesota State, Omaha stayed hot on the road last week, sweeping Vermont, and as a result was named CHN Team of the Week on Wednesday. This weekend, the Mavericks open up their brand new facility, Baxter Arena, and will raise their Frozen Four banner honoring last season’s team that advanced to Boston. UNO’s success has been buoyed first of all by offense from its stars: (more…)

Icebreaker Game Notes: UND Settles to Defeat LSSU, 5-2

Friday, October 9th, 2015

Portland, Maine - It seemed as though, Lake Superior State was going to put up the upset of the the early season. The Lakers scored two early goals, off of snipes in the slot by J.T Henke and Mitch Hults.  It also had an early goal that was disallowed because it was hit in by a hand, just 11 seconds into the contest. It was able to escape out of the period with the 2-0 lead, but the second period brought about a much different scenario. UND scored three goals in the first eight minutes, seven

The seeds were able placed at the end of the first period, for UND to take over the game. For much of the second half of the firrst period, North Dakota poured shot after shot onto Laker goalie, Gordon Defiel. UND outshot the Lakers, 12-0 in the remaining moments of the first. The onslaught continued in the second and its opponent wasn’t able to register a shot til about the midway point of the second period.

Lake Superior had chances to tie. Drake Cagguila was assessed a five minute game misconduct late in the second period and North Dakota took two quick penalties early in the third to give its opponent . But a restless, non-existent power play and good kill by North Dakota stymied any opportunity for a comeback. North Dakota added another in the third period, and poured more shots onto Defiel. North Dakota outshot its opponent 45-26 in the game. (more…)

PairWise Possibilities

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

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…)