Archive for the 'Notes, Thoughts, Ramblings' Category

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.

Three Things I Think: Hockey East, Jan. 14

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

There’s a long history of prolific forwards at New Hampshire.

As recently as 2011, the WIldcats graduated Phil DeSimone, Paul Thompson and Mike Sislo, all left Durham with more than 100 points in their careers. However, the program has plainly been in decline since their departure. Kevin Goumas graduated after least season and left with 146 career points. He is the only player to reach the milestone since 2011. Nick Sorkin and Stevie Moses fell just short with 98 apiece.

Ultimately, the milestone itself isn’t particularly important, but the steep decline in scoring has marked UNH’s problems.

Currently, senior forward Grayson Downing is just five points short of 100 for his career. For the season, Downing has 12 goals and seven assists. In his last five games, Downing has scored eight goals.

He should hit the mark in the next few weeks, and it’s a nice accomplishment. However, he’s the only UNH upperclassman likely to do so for his career. The Wildcats have qualified for just once NCAA Tournament since falling a game short of the Frozen Four in 2011, and it’s quite clear this decline in scoring — and talent — is a major reason for the problem.

UNH coach Dick Umile just hasn’t been able to attract the type of players he did for so long to Durham. On the current roster, a few Wildcat forwards should enjoy quality careers. The incoming players in the next few seasons should make a bit of noise as well.

It’s clear, though, that UNH just isn’t at the level it was for so long.

Tuesday night, the Wildcats beat Providence, 2-1, in Durham. The win pushed UNH’s record to 7-11-2, 2-5-1 in Hockey East. They’re currently in 10th place with 14 league games remaining. There’s plenty of time to make a push for home ice in the preliminary round of the tournament. But that hardly seems like enough for a UNH program that, for decades, was one of the nation’s best. (more…)

Take: Tirone Makes 30 Saves in 2-1 UNH Win Over PC

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Durham, NH - UNH entered the night an improved team because of a goalie addition that made for competition at the position, and tonight it continued to improve. New Hampshire scored first at four minutes, nine seconds of the first period. Grayson Downing was the beneficiary of a Tyler Kelleher pass from slot to slot and Downing backhanded the puck over the glove of Jon Gilles, giving UNH the 1-0 lead. Eight minutes later, it was again Downing that made it 2-0 UNH but this time there was a little luck involved as the puck bounced up over the glove of PC goaltender, Jon Gillies and bounced right into the net. The two goals for Downing gives him 12 on the season and four in the last two games for UNH, all of its goals in those games. Providence answered a few minutes later on a power-play goal, by Noel Acciari to make it a 2-1 game.

Both teams played even hockey for the remainder, while both Jon Gillies and Dan Tirone put on a show for the few fans that came to the Whittemore Center on a cold Tuesday night. The 2-1 score held until the end and UNH picked up only its second win in Hockey East. Providence’s record falls 14-8-1 overall, 6-5-0 in Hockey East. UNH improves its record to 7-11-2, 3-5-1. The Wildcats are on a three game unbeaten streak, their longest of the season, and have not lost in regulation this half. In that time it has wins over Omaha and Providence College. Providence dropped consecutive games for the first time this season, as it lost to Brown on Saturday night.

See this line for highlights from UNH Athletics. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Jan. 13

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

Big Ten play resumed last weekend, as Penn State, Ohio State, Minnesota and Michigan combined for a couple overtime games. Michigan finished with the sweep, relegating the Gophers to fifth in the conference.

The Wolverines are now tied with Penn State for the Big Ten lead, and have one conference game on hand. After scoring 11 goals on the weekend, Michigan’s offense is ranked second in the country. Zach Hyman now has 26 points, and is eight away from doubling his total from last season.

Ohio State held a 4-1 lead over Penn State before the Nittany Lions scored four goals in the third period to tie the game. Ohio State salvaged the game but winning in overtime, and is now 2-3-0 against Big Ten opponents.

There’s not much to say about Wisconsin except the Badgers are still bad. They tied BU, but that happened partly because the Terriers scored in their own net.

(After the jump: Minnesota is in trouble, from goalkeeping to offense, why Michigan will win the Big Ten) (more…)

Big Ten: A Look Into Corsi, Week 13

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

Big Ten conference play created some interesting games, with overtime contests between Ohio State and Penn State as well as Minnesota and Michigan.

Penn State, known for good puck possession, continued that trend as it possessed the Buckeyes in a weekend split. Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s poor Corsi numbers continued as the Badgers tied and lost to Boston University.

The Corsi stats are listed below:
(more…)

Three Things I Think: WCHA, Jan. 12

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

After this past weekend’s WCHA action, Minnesota State is beginning to pull away from its rivals at the top of the league standings. The Mavericks sweep of Lake Superior State, combined with Michigan Tech’s struggles against Northern Michigan, opened up a six-point MSU lead in the race for the MacNaughton Cup. Bowling Green kept pace with a three-point weekend against Alaska and are now just a point behind the second place Huskies, setting up a showdown between the two this coming weekend in Houghton.

Rapid Recap: Minnesota State continued its roll, sweeping Lake Superior State, 5-2 and 3-1. Mavericks freshman forward C.J. Franklin has two goals and three points in the wins. U.P. rivals Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan played a pair of high-scoring overtime games, with the Wildcats taking three of four points from the suddenly-slipping Huskies, drawing 3-3 Friday before NMU senior defenseman played hero Saturday, scoring the OT winner in a 5-4 win. Bowling Green pushed its unbeaten streak to nine with a 3-0 win and 4-4 tie against Alaska. The Falcons’ salvaged Saturday’s draw with three unanswered goals in the third period, including two from junior forward Ben Murphy, to erase a 4-1 deficit. Ferris State closed out its extended Alaska road trip on a high note, sweeping Alaska-Anchorage, winning 4-1 and 3-2. Senior forward Justin Buzzeo had a big weekend for the Bulldogs, tallying three goals and five points. Bemidji State gave itself some separation in the bottom half of the standings, sweeping rival Alabama-Huntsville with a pair of 4-0 wins. Beavers freshman goaltender Michael Bitzer posted back-to-back shutouts, stopping all 42 Chargers shots he saw.

In The Polls: Minnesota State is the new No. 1 team in the country in the latest USCHO.com poll, marking the first time in program history the Mavericks have held the top spot. They are the second WCHA team to sit atop the polls this season after Michigan Tech held that spot for a week back in November. The Huskies slipped out of the top 10 to No. 11 after a winless weekend, while Bowling Green, which owns the nation’s longest unbeaten streak, cracked the top 10 at No. 7. Northern Michigan (15) is the only WCHA team receiving votes in the poll.

In the PairWise, Minnesota State is back at No. 1, Bowling Green climbed to No. 5, and Michigan Tech fell to No. 14.

(more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC 1/12

Monday, January 12th, 2015

The national picture looks a lot better this week than it did last week. Despite a mediocre .495 non-conference slate, the conference has four teams in the top 15 of the Pairwise rankings. That is a far cry from last week, when only one team was in the top 15. Last weekend, Yale dominated its arch nemesis, Harvard at Madison Square Garden to move itself up. Harvard remains in the third position.

In one of the most surprising results of the weekend, Brown won the Mayor Cup on goal differential. It lost in overtime on Friday and defeated Providence College on Saturday night, 5-3.  Conference play returned in earnest over the weekend, with eight ECAC tilts. Quinnipiac and Colgate swept the capital region and North Country respectively. Quinnipiac pulled off the feat at home, while the Raiders swept at Appelton and Cheel. The latter is always an impressive feat and it seems as though Colgate is catching fire at this time just like it did last season. Ditto to Quinnipiac, which is one of the hottest teams in the nation since November 1st.

The league standings are still a work in progress, because everyone has played a different amount of games. Quinnipiac has an impressive six point lead, but as I said last week it has played more league games than anyone else. Harvard is six points back, but has three games in hand, while Colgate in third has four games in hand on QU. This weekend the league should start getting closer, as the Bobcats have a non-conference series, while everyone else plays in league. (more…)

NCHC Weekend Preview: Jan. 9-10

Friday, January 9th, 2015

As the second half of the season begins in earnest tonight, all NCHC teams with the exception of Colorado College (coming off a mid-week win at Connecticut) kick off big weekend series that have the usual broad implications (for national rankings, conference standings, and so forth) but also plenty of short-term meaning as well. Here’s a look at each series:

North Dakota (13-4-2, 6-3-1 NCHC) hosts Minnesota-Duluth (12-6-0, 7-3-0 NCHC): North Dakota, fresh off its strongest first-half in coach Dave Hakstol’s 11-year tenure, has won just one of its last five Friday night games heading into this weekend’s matchup against a Bulldogs squad that’s quietly played as well, in stretches, as any team in the nation so far this season. Certainly, traveling to Grand Forks to play a UND team that’s been strong at home likely won’t bother UMD very much, as the Bulldogs played the toughest schedule in the country through December, having already completed series against Minnesota, Michigan Tech, Miami, and Denver. UND’s balanced offense — though led by a line featuring the league’s leading scorer Drake Caggiula, paired with seniors Michael Parks and Mark MacMillan — will look to overwhelm UMD’s freshman goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo. Of course, that hasn’t been an easy task for opponents this season at all, as the freshman netminder has only one road loss all season. An experienced defensive pairing of Andy Welinski and Derik Johnson have played well against top opponent lines all season. On the other end, North Dakota goaltender Zane McIntyre has allowed two goals or less in six of his last seven appearances. Saturday night’s game is televised nationally on CBC Sports Network. Prediction: UMD wins Friday, UND wins Saturday.

St. Cloud State (7-10-1, 2-5-1 NCHC) hosts Miami (14-6-0, 7-3-0 NCHC): Unlike the UND/UMD matchup, this series features two teams that have played meaningful games much more recently — Miami is coming off a weekend sweep of RPI while St. Cloud split with Quinnipiac. The Huskies have surprisingly struggled to develop momentum through the first half, plagued by scoring difficulties and inconsistent goaltending. Meanwhile, Miami is rolling behind an offense that has consistently outshot its opponents, a trio of centers that are arguably the NCHC’s best faceoff men, and goaltender Jay Williams, who enters the weekend with a shutout streak of 121:59. For St. Cloud, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Huskies will have to rely on more than just the big names of its junior class —  players like forwards Jimmy Murray, Jonny Brodzinski and David Morley — to build success in the second half of the season. Freshman Judd Peterson scored the game-winner last Friday against Quinnipiac and will be among those who need a strong January. Prediction: Miami sweeps.

Nebraska-Omaha (12-5-3, 6-3-1-1 NCHC) hosts Denver (11-5-1, 4-3-0 NCHC): Plenty of young talent will be on display in Omaha in this weekend, between a pair of teams that have the capability to make a run for the league’s regular season title. You may have heard that there’s a freshman at BU named Jack Eichel who leads the nation in points per game. The second highest freshman scorer in Division I hockey is DU rookie forward Danton Heinen, who tallied five points against Dartmouth and Brown last weekend alone. Beyond Heinen, it’s difficult to understate how valuable the goaltending for DU has been this season. The storyline, of course, had been the departure of Sam Brittain, but the duo of sophomore Evan Cowley and freshman Tanner Jaillet have been exceptional thus far. Cowley’s save percentage (.935) is among the best in the country. UNO has no shortage of impressive young players as well — led this year by sophomores Austin Ortega and Jake Guentzel and freshman Jake Randolph. Ortega was the NCHC Player of the Month for December, while Randolph is part of a Mavericks freshman class that has amassed 60 points this season, second best in the nation. Prediction: Denver wins Friday, UNO wins Saturday.

And in non-conference action:

A home-and-home series between Western Michigan (7-9-2, 2-6-2-2 NCHC) and Notre Dame (9-9-2, 4-2-2 HEA): The puck drops for this one in less than two hours from now. It’s a matchup between old CCHA foes and a pair of well-respected coaches in Andy Murray and Jeff Jackson. For more, check out this preview from Dave Starman, who will be part of the CBS Sports Network’s TV coverage for the game tonight. Prediction: A weekend split, with each team winning at home.

Hockey East Weekend Preview – Jan. 9

Friday, January 9th, 2015

When Boston University and Wisconsin agreed to their current scheduling pact, they likely viewed the games as a marquee matchup of two high-end teams.

Instead, BU heads out to Madison to play a Wisconsin team with just two wins on the season. The Badgers are in a similar position to BU a year ago, caught in the occasional trap of recruiting talented, albeit young, players and relying on them to win at an early age.

For the Terriers, these have become must-win games in terms of the Pairwise. With just two wins, Wisconsin is 56th in the Pairwise; BU us currently eighth.

The Terriers have NCAA Tournament aspirations, and losses to Wisconsin could out BU in a very tough spot.

Getting Jack Eichel back after a one-game absence caused by World Juniors is a good sign for the Terriers. For last week’s tie against Union, BU welcomed Robbie Baillargeron and Nikolas Olsson back after length spells on the sideline to due to injury.

The Terriers are in good position to pick up a pair of wins this weekend. Wisconsin, however, is a desperate team, trying to get anything it can accomplished before it heads into Big Ten play. BU can’t afford any slip-ups against the Badgers. (more…)