Archive for the 'Notes, Thoughts, Ramblings' Category

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Feb. 9

Friday, February 10th, 2017

This weekend features two interesting series. The Badgers and Nittany Lions will face off as will the Gophers and Buckeyes. Those games will all have major Pairwise and Big Ten standing implications. The Michigan-Michigan State will also be interesting, but neither team has a chance at a top-two seed in the conference or the NCAA tournament.

Ohio State has been slipping badly in the Pairwise and a win would be huge for them. Meanwhile Penn State has a lot to prove this weekend.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Feb. 6

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

Now that it’s February we can finally start taking stock in the Pairwise. That’s good if you’re Minnesota, not good if you’re Penn State. But we’ll get to that later. Both Minnesota and Wisconsin swept this weekend, which leaves both teams tied for the lead in the Big Ten standings. Meanwhile Michigan and Ohio State split in two odd, high-scoring games, meaning nothing has changed between those two teams since last year.

The tournament is still over a month away, but those No. 1 and No. 2 sports are crucial. A team can’t win the crown without the bye day.

(After the jump: Will Penn State make the NCAA tournament, Nick Schilkey is underrated and who’s better – Wisconsin or Minnesota?) (more…)

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Feb. 3

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

The Wolverines and Buckeyes face off in another installment of the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry (I’ve been told it’s a big deal, but can’t confirm yet). The Spartans are playing Wisconsin, leaving the best matchup of the weekend the series between Minnesota and Penn State.

The Badgers are close to creeping inside the Pairwise bubble while Ohio State is sliding out, so the Buckeyes really can’t afford to lose to a struggling Michigan team. The Badgers and Gophers, bitter rivals till the end, are locked in a tie for first place. Penn State is third and Ohio State is fourth, but the Buckeyes aren’t too far out.

Ohio State captain Nick Schilkey still has not played since Jan. 14. I asked Steve Rohlik if there was an update on him after Saturday’s game and Rohlik said there was none. Tanner Laczynski returned, though, and Rohlik said he’s doing better.

Hobey Baker nominees were released this week. Grant Besse, Jake Bischoff, Peyton Jones, Justin Kloos, Luke Kunin, Nick Schilkey, Tyler Sheehy and Denis Smirnov were nominated. Penn State’s David Goodwin was also named a finalist for the Hockey Humanitarian award.

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Three Things I Think: ECAC 2/2

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

Heading into the final few weeks of the season, one has to wonder where the time has gone. Just four weeks are left in the regular season and it appears that the top three have, in a sense, pulled away from the pack. SLU picked up a huge win against Union to take the lead in the conference with 25 points, but the Dutchmen have two games in hand and  trail by just two points. Harvard is also hot on the heels of the leaders with 22 points and could pounce with any slip-ups above them. Also look out for Cornell, who still has games in hand on fourth place Quinnipiac, Harvard and SLU. The Big Red could find themselves higher with big wins in the coming weeks. Cornell travels to Union on Friday night for an 8:30 contest that will be shown live on ASN.

The ECAC seems to be going as normal with interesting, surprising results across the board. On Saturday, Dartmouth went to Lynah Rink and defeated Cornell. A few years back, the Big Green had a similar result at Lynah as it seems the Big Red sometimes overlooks them after playing Harvard. It is one Cornell needed to bolster its national and league standing, but just couldn’t muster much out of it. The last couple years, Cornell has had a February and early winter swoon.One must wonder if it is happening again…

Unless SLU continues its hot play or Cornell goes on a run, the ECAC is seemingly a two-bid league into the NCAA as per-usual. Union sits in a comfortable position of sixth, while Harvard is also a two seed in eighth in the pairwise. SLU is in 14th and on the outside looking in, but obviously leading the conference could lead to a bid if they so win the conference title in Lake Placid. The Big Red are in 17th after their sweep at the hands of Harvard and Dartmouth. Without further ado here are some thoughts on the league (more…)

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Feb. 1

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

Another weekend of the season passed, bringing us closer to the end. The Gophers split the last-ever North Star College Cup, falling to Minnesota-Duluth 3-2 and beating Bemidji State 4-0. Penn State lost to Princeton, while Wisconsin swept Ohio State.

The Pairwise have shifted quite a bit. Unsurprisingly Penn State has dropped to fifth, while Ohio State has fallen to 16th. The Badgers are creeping up and now sit at 18. Minnesota is seventh. In the Big Ten Wisconsin now is tied for first place with Minnesota. Penn State is two points behind, while Ohio State is back by five points. It looks like Michigan and Michigan State, while not mathematically eliminated, most likely won’t get a bye.

Over the past few years the bye day has been huge because teams needed to win the tournament to get into NCAAs, but this year it looks like at least a couple teams will be high up enough for an at-large bid.

Tanner Laczynski returned for Ohio State but Nick Schilkey is still out. The Buckeyes have still been playing well, and it’s a testament to them they’ve won without their top scorer. Speaking of the Buckeyes, Josh Healey was suspended for Friday’s game against Michigan for making a hit he wasn’t supposed to on Saturday. In that game Grant Besse was also hurt and didn’t return. After the game Tony Granato said Besse was sore so the trainers didn’t want him to come back.

(After the jump The Badgers are on fire, Who’s going to make the NCAA tournament and Penn State is going to struggle)

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NCHC: More on WMU goaltender Ben Blacker

Friday, January 27th, 2017

Western Michigan freshman Ben Blacker has emerged as the starter for Andy Murray’s Broncos, following a recent run that seemed to start with an early December win at North Dakota. In that game, Blacker made 21 saves in the third period alone, and aside from an anomalous outing at Denver in mid-January, he’s been stellar for WMU — 8-1-0 this season, and has helped propel the Broncos to the No. 5 position in the Pairwise.

I spoke with Blacker on Wednesday, and you can read the full story here.

Not included in the feature was our conversation about his transition to college hockey. As a freshman, he’s had plenty to adjust to, including the college game itself. Before starting his college career, Blacker played two seasons in the USHL with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. In the 2015-16 season, he led the USHL in wins with 33.

“The pace is a lot faster, guys are a lot bigger, shots come a lot faster,” said Blacker of NCAA play. “You learn your game through practice. That’s what coach stresses a lot with your team — that you get better every day. And that comes in practice and off the ice.”

Blacker has matured quickly in all aspects. He’s one of four goaltenders on the roster and is by far the youngest, with a 1997 birthday (the other three, including senior Collin Olson, who was a 2012 NHL draft pick, were born in ’94).

“We all have a pretty good relationship, and we push each other,” Blacker said. “We make each other better. Having that kind of support, and the competition between us, I think that’s making the team better.”
Blacker and Western Michigan begin a two game series at Miami tonight. Blacker will match up against Miami goaltender Ryan Larkin, a former teammate of his with the RoughRiders.

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Jan. 26

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

Michigan and Michigan State will be on break this week, leaving Penn State, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Minnesota in action. Penn State will play Princeton while the Gophers will compete in the last-ever North Star College Cup.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Jan. 23

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

It was an okay weekend in the Big Ten, but it didn’t really teach us anything new. Michigan State had a good weekend against the Wolverines, posting a win and a tie. Ohio State took five of six points at Penn State in the same manner (with a shootout win) while Minnesota and Wisconsin split at the Kohl Center.

The results did have a pretty big impact on the Pairwise, which is going to fluctuate a lot between now and the end of the season. Penn State dropped from first to fourth because of its loss, while the Buckeyes jumped up to eighth because of the win. Even after losing to Wisconsin, Minnesota has nestled itself in at seventh. The Gophers also have the lead in the conference, but it’s a two-point margin over Penn State. The Buckeyes are seven points out of first place and the Badgers (which I’m not surprised about) are six points out.

The Spartans had their three goals spaced out amongst all three periods in Friday’s win. Ed Minney made all 24 stops for his shutout, while Jack Lafontaine started for Michigan. The Wolverines countered with Zach Nagelvoort on Saturday, continuing the weird rotation they have in place, and he made 23 stops.

On Friday the Gophers had the 2-0 lead going into the second. The Badgers tied it in the middle frame but the Gophers took a 3-2 lead. Freshman Trent Frederic tied it in the third period, but Justin Kloos won it in OT. Eric Schierhorn and Jack Berry started. Matt Jurusik started the next night and had 32 saves (the same as Shcieirhorn) as the Badgers won 5-3.

So as it stands now, here’s the Pairwise:

4. Penn State
7. Minnesota
8. Ohio State

And here’s the conference standings:

1. Minnesota
2. Penn State
3. Wisconsin
4. Ohio State
5. Michigan
6. Michigan State

(After the jump: Why Penn State lost, Wisconsin will contend and is Michigan State really progressing)

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Yale Continues its Upward Trend in the ECAC

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

From game one to now, there is no team that has come further in the ECAC than Yale. Early in the season, the Bulldogs struggled to find an identity, had head-scratching performances against Colgate and RPI and in its first five league games the Bulldogs gave up 22 goals. The defense, which I wrote about in a feature last week, struggled to find a rhythm after losing its top four defensemen from last season.

Honestly, though, any team would struggle in this situation and it would have been understandable if Yale had its first bad season since Keith Allain took over, a decade ago. Yale left the first half near the bottom of the standings and in the low 40’s of the Pairwise rankings, a place you would never expect an Allain coached Yale team to be.

Those days seem all but over for the New Haven team. Big wins against Connecticut and defending Hockey East champion Northeastern, got the second half going on the right foot. In those games the Elis scored nine goals. Those games were undoubtedly positives, but then a  setback against Providence may have provided a turning-point. Despite losing by a 3-1 score, Yale was pushed around in a big way. Entering the third period, the Bulldogs had a meager six shots on goal and never got going. Considering how Yale plays, that was a head-scratcher and even Allain admits that. (more…)

Weekend Preview: Big Ten: Jan. 20

Friday, January 20th, 2017

All six teams are in action this weekend. It’s the first edition of this year’s border battle and an early rematch of Penn State-Ohio State. In the other series Michigan and Michigan State face off again for the first time since the Great Lakes Invitational.

In the Pairwise there are three teams currently sitting inside the bubble – Ohio State, Minnesota and Penn State. The Nittany Lions are almost a lock for the tournament, Minnesota is kind of towards the middle but the Buckeyes are in danger of dropping out.

Thwo teams are tied for first in the conference – Penn State and Minnesota. The Gophers are six points behind, while Ohio State is fourth and nine points out of first.

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