Archive for the 'Notes, Thoughts, Ramblings' Category

WCHA Weekend Preview, Jan. 23-25

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

With Minnesota State at the North Star College Cup, both Michigan Tech and Bowling Green have a chance to close the eight-point lead the Mavericks have opened up at the top of the WCHA standings. The Falcons will also be looking to jump into second place. They come into the weekend just one point behind the Huskies.

Northern Michigan, coming off being swept by Alabama-Huntsville, will have to re-group without its head coach, Walt Kyle, who was placed on indefinite administrative leave by NMU athletic director Forrest Karr on Monday. No time frame was given for the leave and the reason for it has yet to be identified. NMU’s associate athletic director, Bridget Berube Carter, was also placed on leave. In Kyle’s stead, assistant coaches Rob Lehtinen and John Kyle will share the coaching duties this weekend at Penn State.

In other league news, three WCHA teams had recruits ranked among the top North American skaters and goaltenders in NHL Central Scouting’s 2015 midterm rankings: Forward Jacob Jaremko (No. 107, Minnesota State), forward Collin Peters (No. 128, Northern Michigan), and goaltender Ryan Bednard (No. 15 goalie, Bowling Green).

Also, be sure to check out CHN’s Jen Dobias’s feature, “A Reason to Play,” which looks at how Alaska is approaching this season in wake of the program’s NCAA-imposed postseason ban.

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Big Ten: A Look Into Corsi, Penn State

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

Each week this season I’ve looked into Big Ten Corsi stats. A few days ago, College Hockey News introduced metrics for each game – which accounts for all shots taken by each player on each team.

The stats are lifted off shot charts, so it displays attempts that were blocked, wide, hit the post, saved or were goals. This allows us to calculate the Corsi For total for each players. Unfortunately we have no way of knowing (yet) how many shots were taken against these players while they were on the ice. But looking at the Corsi For totals for each player can give us a better idea who’s shooting the most, where their shots are going, and how many of their attempted shots are goals.

Penn State is a team known for puck possession. They average 40.29 shots on goal per game, most in the country. And they average 73.38 attempts per game. Of all their attempts, Penn State has recorded 71 goals – converting on 4.61 percent of their total shots attempted.

Casey Bailey leads Penn State with 26 goals, and he leads the team in shot attempts at 212. Almost half of Bailey’s shots have been on target, and he’s converted on 10.85 percent of his total attempted shot. In close situations, Bailey isn’t converting as much. But the forward still leads Penn State players with 142 attempts. So in close situations, Bailey averages 6.76 shots per game, and in total he averages 10.10 shots per game.  (more…)

Three Things I Think ECAC 1/21

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Some interesting results in the past week, included a statement by St. Lawrence over Harvard. Quinnipiac continues to lead the ECAC by four points, over Harvard, while SLU and RPI sit six points back in third place. The standings as a whole are really close as second to seventh are separated by just four points. This weekend Yale and St. Lawrence play a huge game on Friday, while Rensselaer and Union play in their poorly named Mayors Cup (Should be Mayors’ Cup but I guess it is the Albany Mayor’s trophy despite the schools being in Troy and Schenectady). For now, here is what I think now that is out of the way.

The old Harvard is Back

I have seen two out of four Crimson games this semester and what I see is troubling. The thing that can be seen not only on box scores but from the press box is how Harvard seems disinterested with first periods. Since returning from the break, the Crimson are 2-2 but its first period statistics are downright ugly. The Crimson have been outscored 9-2 in first stanza, in four games. On Saturday, the Crimson looked awful and were outscored 3-0 by St. Lawrence. SLU was the aggressor, while it seemed the Crimson just wanted an easy night quite frankly. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Jan. 19

Monday, January 19th, 2015

The return to Big Ten play featured a couple of ties and a very heated Minnesota-Wisconsin rematch. Penn State emerged on top of the conference standings, with a 5-2-1 record. After a 10-6 win over Ohio State, Michigan is second. The Gophers moved up from No. 5 to No. 3, while the Badgers are still in the basement.

“Heated” doesn’t accurately describe the closing minutes of Saturday’s Gophers-Badgers match. A very, very ugly hit from Eddie Wittchow on Leon Bristedt. That resulted in a full-out brawl – which includes Brady Skjei running and tackling a Badger and Joel Rumpel grabbing Skjei in a chokehold.

It was crazy.

On Friday night, the Gophers dominated the Badgers. But Wisconsin scored two goals late to tie the game, and then won in the shootout. It was a pretty disappointing result for Minnesota, which has been struggling lately. The Gophers are now 18th in the PairWise. Michigan passed them and moved up to No. 17, now the highest-ranked Big Ten team.

Michigan State and Penn State tied on Friday, but Penn State’s offense exploded in a win over the Spartans on Friday. Maybe that’s not the right word, because I think “exploded” would lend itself more for the 10 goals Michigan scored over Ohio State.

Anyway, Penn State has one of the best lines in the country of Taylor Holstrom, Casey Bailey and David Goodwin. They might not be as flashy as Dylan Larkin, Alex Kile and Zach Hyman, but they’re pretty solid. Penn State slipped in the PairWise after a slow post-break start, but is now 21st.

Going back to Ohio State. Anthony Greco recorded his second hat trick, and joined Robert Morris’ Cody Wydo and Canisius’ Ralph Cuddemi as the only players in the nation with two hat tricks. If it weren’t for injuries, the Buckeyes could have competed in the weak Big Ten.

(After the jump: Why I still don’t trust Michigan, why Penn State differs from its Big Ten counterparts, and Mike Eaves gives the best analogies.) (more…)

Big Ten: A Look Into Corsi, Week 14

Monday, January 19th, 2015

Big Ten play resumed this weekend, giving us a chance to compare possession during in-conference play. Penn State and Michigan State tied on Friday night, but the Nittany Lions offense broke out on Saturday for the win. Michigan dominated Ohio State, while Minnesota dominated Wisconsin – yet still ended the weekend with a tie and win.

Despite Michigan scoring 10 goals in its win over Ohio State, the Buckeyes actually finished with a slightly higher Corsi. But the Wolverines did score a couple of goals on a five-minute major power play.

The Gophers dominated possession against Wisconsin on Friday, but allowed the Badgers to tie the game very late. And Wisconsin won in the shootout, earning the extra point in conference play and leaving Minnesota disappointed. That rivalry resumed its hatred on Saturday night, with a crazy scrum ensued in the closing minutes. There were a lot of penalties handed out.

The complete Corsi stats are listed below, along with the score context and Corsi close from each game: (more…)

NCHC Weekend Preview, Jan. 16-17

Friday, January 16th, 2015

A busy weekend in the NCHC officially kicks off in less than 2 hours. Before a quick look at all the weekend’s series, here are links to all the NCHC stories on CHN from the last 48 hours. Check them out:

Beggars Can Be Choosers – Nick Marek’s look at UNO star and California native Austin Ortega

A Bug’s Life — Kara Hille’s feature on Minnesota-Duluth’s Austin Farley, nicknamed “Bug,” having a strong comeback season

Tigers, by the Tail — My look at Colorado College, as they finally return home after a tough and lengthy road stretch

Pair of Aces — Tony Jovenitti’s look at Minnesota-Duluth’s defense

(St.) Cloud Lifting — Joe Meloni’s look at the expectations at St. Cloud and a tough first half for the Huskies

Denver (11-7-1, 4-5-0 NCHC) hosts St. Cloud State (9-10-1, 4-5-1 NCHC): Denver enters the weekend after being swept last weekend by Nebraska-Omaha, including the Pioneers’ first shutout loss on Saturday night in over two calendar years. The Pioneers’ strength, aside from an active defense corps and steady goaltending, has been special teams play, which will likely be a key factor this weekend, as time and time again this season, Denver’s power play and penalty kill have both provided momentum for the Pioneers. Denver’s penalty killing percentage (24.4 percent) and power play efficiency (25.6 percent) are both among the best in the nation. St. Cloud, meanwhile, comes to town with momentum after sweeping Miami last weekend. As I wrote in this space earlier in the week, a key for the Huskies was the play of St. Cloud goaltender Charlie Lindgren in the first few minutes of last week’s series, where he had 17 first period saves (including a dozen or so in the first 10 minutes) to help set the tone. But another important factor was senior forward Joe Rehkamp, who joined the top line with Jimmy Murray and Jonny Brodzinski and earned NCHC Offensive Player of the Week after scoring the game-winning goal in both games. Prediction: St. Cloud wins Friday, Denver wins Saturday.

Colorado College (4-13-1, 0-8-1 NCHC) hosts Nebraska-Omaha (14-5-3, 8-3-1-1 NCHC): Yes, the Tigers are winless through nine league games this year, but in talking to Mike Haviland earlier this week, it’s reasonable to expect much more from CC this second half, as the Tigers now begin a stretch where they play 10 of their next 13 at home. CC is coming off an important win at UConn last week and despite the tough opposition this weekend could produce a winning result by matching its defensive performance against the Huskies, and by continuing its recent power play success. Tonight is CC’s first official home game since November 21. Nebraska-Omaha comes in after sweeping Denver last week, and the Mavericks — led by sophomore Austin Ortega and his eight game-winning goals — is playing as well as any team in the nation. A big question mark after last Friday’s game (despite the win) was whether sophomore goaltender Kirk Thompson could fill in well for injured starter Ryan Massa. Thompson was pulled on Friday, and UNO won 5-4. Still, the sophomore rebounded the next night, stopping all 39 Denver shots to earn a 1-0 shutout win. Prediction: CC wins Friday, UNO wins Saturday.

Minnesota Duluth (13-7-0, 8-4-0 NCHC) hosts Western Michigan (9-9-2, 2-6-2-2 NCHC): In last year’s NCHC quarterfinal round, Western Michigan headed to AMSOIL Arena in Duluth and swept the Bulldogs out of the playoffs. This is the Broncos’ first trip to Duluth since that meeting and come into the weekend with momentum after sweeping Notre Dame last year. The Broncos are playing more consistently in front of goaltender Lukas Hafner, who will have to deal with a versatile UMD offense this weekend — led by leading goal-scorer Dominic Toninato. These are arguably the two most physical teams in the league — the makings of an entertaining series this weekend. Prediction: UMD sweeps.

And in non-conference action:

North Dakota (14-5-2, 7-4-1 NCHC) hosts Niagara (3-15-2, 3-11-1 AHA): Niagara heads to Grand Forks winless in its last eight games and will be without junior defenseman Matt Dineen, who was suspended for a checking from behind major penalty during the Purple Eagles’ game against Air Force last Friday. Still, Niagara will try to take advantage of a strange trend for North Dakota, a team that’s started weekends slowly of late, winning just one of its last six Friday night games. Niagara had a third period lead in both games against Air Force last weekend and will look to have more complete efforts this weekend. North Dakota, meanwhile, finished last weekend strong, rebounding from a Friday night loss to UMD to come back with a 5-2 win on Saturday. Senior Brendan O’Donnell led the way with his first career hat trick. O’Donnell now has eight goals this season after scoring just nine combined over his sophomore and junior seasons — reflecting North Dakota’s versatile offense, where seemingly someone new each weekend keys UND’s wins. This is the first meeting between North Dakota and Niagara since UND topped the Purple Eagles 2-1 in the first round of the 2013 NCAA tournament. Prediction: North Dakota sweeps.

WCHA Weekend Preview, Jan. 16-17

Friday, January 16th, 2015

The WCHA boasts a full slate of conference action for the second-straight week, the marquee match-up of which is a showdown between title contenders Michigan Tech and Bowling Green in Houghton, Mich. The Huskies and Falcons come into the match-up separated by just one point in the standings.

Elsewhere, the two Alaska teams renew their rivalry and annual battle for the Governors’s Cup, newly-minted No. 1 Minnesota State heads on the road to face Ferris State, Northern Michigan heads south to face Alabama-Huntsville, and streaking Bemidji State meets Lake Superior State.

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Jan. 16

Friday, January 16th, 2015

It’s a full slate of conference play this weekend, with a couple rivalries resuming. The Buckeyes visit the Wolverines, while Minnesota hosts Wisconsin. Penn State and Michigan State will play two in Pennsylvania.

Michigan and Penn State are tied for first in the conference, while Minnesota and Wisconsin are in the bottom two slots. Yes, Minnesota is just slightly above Wisconsin, which is in the Big Ten basement,

The Wolverines have been rising in the PairWise, while Minnesota has been dropping – and now is No. 16. This is a big weekend for the Gophers, and it should be a pair of easy victories for a team struggling to win.

The Penn State and Michigan State series should be interesting. The Nittany Lions seem to have shaken off their winter break sleepiness, while the Spartans have played well in their past few contests.

As for Michigan-Ohio State, well, the Wolverines are just too good right now. And Ohio State isn’t really healthy.  (more…)

ECAC Weekend Preview 1/15

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

An almost full slate of conference games this weekend, as Quinnipiac and Princeton are the only teams no playing an ECAC opponent. Quinnipiac holds a six point lead in the ECAC standings, which will almost certainly evaporate this weekend as its closest competition has two games this weekend.

There are no huge tilts this weekend, within league play. the biggest games on the calendar are the non-conference pair that Quinnipiac plays, when it hosts and travels to Merrimack College. For Pairwise purposes, the game is huge because of how close the season series is between the Hockey East and ECAC conferences. Quinnipiac is also within a game of going below .500 in non-conference. A sweep would make it difficult for them to solidify a spot in the Pairwise going forward.

Can Harvard recover?

Harvard looked, well bad against Yale last Saturday at Madison Square Garden, in New York City. The Crimson are better than their performance on national television last week. In all honesty, I had a hunch before the game the Crimson were going to struggle and they did. I was surprised however of how easy Yale made it look against its long time rival. I saw the first Yale, Harvard game in November and it was a great hockey game. Saturday night on the big stage was as lopsided as it could have been. (more…)

Three Things I Think: NCHC, Jan. 14

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Lindgren set the tone for the Huskies’ sweep

Considering the season trajectories of Miami and St. Cloud State heading into last weekend’s series (Miami had won 9 of 12 heading in; SCSU had won just 4 of 13), it was hard to imagine that St. Cloud would become the only team this year to score 3 goals against the RedHawks in back-to-back games. Sure, there were plenty of highlights for the Huskies — among them, Joe Rehkamp making the most of a new opportunity to play on the top line with Jimmy Murray and Jonny Brodzinski, and a strong weekend performance from David Morley. On Friday night, Morley’s 5-on-3 goal kicked things off for St. Cloud, and on Saturday night, his exceptional pass from behind the net set up Patrick Russell for a power play goal in the closing stages of the first period.

But almost lost in all of that may have been St. Cloud goaltender Charlie Lindgren’s performance in the first period of Friday night’s game, when Miami players accounted for 10 of the game’s first 12 shots. The RedHawks ultimately outshot the Huskies 17-8 for the period — a common trend for a team ranked in the top 5 nationally in shots on goal per game. Miami’s 17 shots was its most in a period since putting up 24 in the second period of a Nov. 8 game vs Colorado College. Lindgren was able to stop all 17, and his dozen or so saves in the first 10 minutes of the game clearly propelled his teammates to a successful Friday night. After a busy evening for the Lakeville, Minn., native, it was backup netminder Rasmus Reijola who earned his first win of the season on Saturday night as St. Cloud completed its first weekend sweep so far this season.

Not McKay’s year?

Last season, in obviously a ‘down’ year for both goaltenders, Ryan McKay seemed to outplay classmate Jay Williams down the stretch, starting all of Miami’s postseason games and turning in a memorable NCHC semifinal performance, a 32-save shutout, to lead the RedHawks to an improbable tournament title game (ultimately losing to Denver). McKay, who had a strong freshman season before that, has plenty of talent, and (as usual) having two No. 1 caliber goaltenders is a good problem that Enrico Blasi has enjoyed, for the most part, over their careers. But for whatever reason, McKay hasn’t found the same results this year that his counterpart Jay Williams has. McKay has just one win in six appearances, while Williams (tied for the NCAA lead with four shutouts this season) is fourth nationally in win percentage (.812) with a 13-3-0 record. McKay got the start on Friday against St. Cloud, a  3-1 loss, before Williams (who had a shutout streak of over 120 minutes heading into the game) started Miami’s 3-2 defeat on Saturday. McKay has started two consecutive Friday night games now, having won at Rensselaer the previous week.

We’ll see if Blasi sticks with the rotation or rides the hot hand in Williams for the rest of the winter. If indeed Blasi does continue to play McKay, the clear fact is that RedHawks defense will have to limit opponent shot opportunities more than they have thus far this year. A curious stat, noted in the league’s release this week, is that McKay has been in goal for each of the four instances this season when Miami has allowed 30 or more shots in a game. The RedHawks are 0-4 in those games. And the difference isn’t entirely rebounds, either, as McKay has been strong in that area.

No love lost

In a pair of games in Duluth last season, UMD and North Dakota combined for 88 penalty minutes, so by comparison, Friday night’s 4-1 win for the Bulldogs, with just 12 combined penalty minutes, seemed tame. The two former WCHA foes, now in a real battle for both league and national positioning, more than made up for it on Saturday though. After all the goals were scored in North Dakota’s 5-2 come-from-behind win, paced by Brendan O’Donnell’s hat trick, the final 10 minutes included five different mini-brawls that produced 52 combined penalty minutes. And really, it could have been much more, with officials Derek Shepherd and Todd Anderson opting for a slew of roughing and slashing calls instead of game misconducts (or, if they had interpreted some of the action in those scrums as punches, major penalties and game disqualifications). The takeway point, though, from all that action, is that each team knows that the other is a legitimate challenge standing in the way of accomplishing a series of attainable goals — on one side, a North Dakota squad that seems intently (and intensely) focused on returning to the Frozen Four to complete last year’s unfinished business, and on the other a Minnesota Duluth team that has been rolling since the beginning of November, led in terms of leadership by a senior class that came to Duluth as freshmen just a few months after the Bulldogs won a national title. There are no more scheduled game between UMD and UND this season, but a postseason meeting is certainly possible. Still, after the dust settled last weekend, both teams found themselves looking up at Nebraska-Omaha, sitting in first place in the NCHC heading into this weekend.

Coming soon: Check CHN before the weekend’s games. We’ll have features in the next few days on what lies ahead for Colorado College, and on Omaha’s Austin Ortega, who leads the country with eight game-winning goals.