Archive for the 'Notes, Thoughts, Ramblings' Category

The Takeaway: Yale Runs Away From Dartmouth, Wins 4-1

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Hanover, NH - A good crowd of 3,121 showed up to Dartmouth’s Thompson Arena to watch two Ivy League rivals play for the 151st time. Dartmouth came out flying in the early going, registering the first four shots on goal. Yale. though, would pick up the first goal at six minutes, 17 seconds of the first period when Charles Orzetti sent a point shot that bounced in front of the net and hit the leg of Mike Doherty to give the Elis a 1-0 lead. It was Yale that came out flying in the second period and Frankie DiChiara scored three minutes in to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead.  Dartmouth came on midway through the period, when Mosey found the back of the net. But Brandon Kirk took a dumb boarding call seconds later, which Yale capitalized on to kill the momentum.

Yale scored the only goal of the third period, off the stick of Ryan Hitchcock to seal the game and give them a 4-1 win over Dartmouth. The win improves Yale to 2-1-2 on the season and 1-1-1 in ECAC play. Dartmouth falls to 1-2-1 and 1-2-1 in league play. (more…)

ECAC Weekend Preview, Nov. 15-16

Friday, November 14th, 2014

After two weeks, Rensselaer has the ECAC lead but several other upstarts have begun the conference slate with success. Harvard and St. Lawrence have also begun their slates undefeated, while Quinnipiac has as well. All three of those teams have four points, while the resurgent Engineers have six points. Cornell has struggled to begin the year. It is one of two teams that have zero points heading into this weekend, joining Brown who also lost a pair last weekend.

It is much too early to look at the conference but one can see trends. Harvard looks as good as any team in the league. Union is struggling with just a lone point in four conference games. Yale has begun quiet and Princeton picked up a win against Cornell last week to give coach Ron Fogarty his first win as a head coach. It is tough to prognosticate so early in the season and the early results have proven that. There is always that mantra, some teams play better in conference. That team may just be RPI. I have seen team’s struggle in non-conference play but win the conference title, it happens. For this week though I will attempt to preview the games, briefly to give you a better idea what to expect. (more…)

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.

Hockey East Weekend Preview: Nov. 14

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Friday night, Connecticut, fresh off its win and draw against Hockey East’s Boston powerhouses, will play Sacred Heart at the 950-seat rink of the Taft School in Watertown, Conn.

The game is in honor Jason Pagni, a beloved member of the Connecticut amateur hockey community. Pagni recently died in a car accident at the age of 43. His memory has been honored by numerous members of the Connecticut hockey family.

Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, who grew up in Hamden, Conn., and played his college hockey at Massachusetts put an homage to Pagni on his mask. “Everybody rides,” it says.

I don’t know much about the situation, so here’s Chip Malafronte of the New Haven Register on the game and its meaning. The piece is certainly worth a read.

For UConn, this game is especially important in its ongoing process to earn and maintain legitimacy in college hockey. Sacred Heart may not be the out and out doormat it was a few years ago, but the Huskies need to win this game.

Any Given Sunday type sayings aside, UConn must show it can win games against low-level Atlantic Hockey teams to deserve the kind of praise it received after its impressive display last week moving forward.

Tougher matchups Rensselaer, Vermont and Boston University await the Huskies after the meeting with SHU. There are games UConn should win and Friday’s is just that. (more…)

ECAC Power Rankings: Nov. 13

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

Lots of love on here should be a breath of fresh air in comparison to what happened in Hamden, Connecticut last weekend. I was on vacation in the great west but the hockey did not stop, poor vacation planning on my part. Harvard made a statement against Boston College, Quinnipiac has come out of nowhere to be the team we thought they could be, St. Lawrence is just killing teams right now and others are just playing that line that doesn’t see them mentioned at the top. Lots of trends began to take shape last weekend, hence there will be a plethora of movement throughout the rankings this week

Some of the top teams just a few weeks ago, have struggled in recent weeks. Colgate will still be good but dropped a game at Quinnipiac on Friday. Cornell is winless on the year, have struggled to score and are looking like they aren’t the team we thought they would be. Union is winless in five, who would have ever thunk that possible? That proves that preseason can be arbitrary but then again it is still early. As will be evident throughout, the less games played the more movement in these rankings. Without further ado here we go.

1. Colgate (7-3-0, 1-1-0 ECAC) – Last Week 1

I am going to get hell from all of Quinnipiac and probably everyone in the league on this one. I still think Colgate is really good and the best team in the league, hence I keep them here. The Bank is a tough place to play and it showed. Colgate had these games last year and I think we would be remiss to think they were just going to disappear this season. Good luck finding me a deeper team, lets not dwell on one blowout loss. Those things happen to all teams. Gate has lost to Mercyhurst, St. Cloud and Quinnipiac. Those teams are all good squads. The loss of Mike Borkowski will prove to be a big one, however. (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC, Nov. 13

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

Three Things is very late this week, I will blame myself for being on vacation. The hockey did not stop and I was able to watch some games on Friday before I left for the west, where there is a serious lack of hockey I must say (I did see a Coyotes games against the Stars). Harvard had a huge statement win against Boston College, winning 6-3, in a game they dominated for much of the contest. Harvard will be one of the topics this week because it is the last undefeated in the ECAC entering this weekend, where it has two winnable games at home. With the win against BC, the ECAC is 10-5-1 against Hockey East on the season. There are many key games in that series in the coming weeks, which feature top teams UMass-Lowell and Boston University, against three of the ECAC’s best in Colgate, Harvard and Dartmouth.

It is too early to be talking about the NCAA picture and standings, but some trends have taken hold. RPI has played two more games than any other ECAC school but are 3-1-0 and lead the standings. Its wins in the league are against Union and Dartmouth,which should both find themselves near the bye spots at the end of the season. Its loss was against a Harvard team which looks as good as a any right now in the league. So it appears that RPI may be around to stay at the top. The Pairwise rankings are not being nice, but again it is too early to care. The highest ranked is Harvard at 14th, followed by SLU at 15 and Colgate 17. For now though, lets just look at trends and thoughts because it is much too soon to look at anything. Things will change. (more…)

WCHA Weekend Preview, Nov. 13-15

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

The WCHA race is starting to take shape as conference play begins in earnest. Michigan Tech’s undefeated start has established the Huskies as the class of the league, but Minnesota State and Bowling Green have shown they’re more than up for a title fight.

Those three teams sit within two points of each other at the top of the conference standings. Northern Michigan might also have a say in the race to the top before all is said and done, but the Wildcats will have to prove themselves against tougher opponents.

For the league as a whole, it has been about as good a start as first-year commissioner Bill Robertson could have hoped for the re-building league. The WCHA has three teams in the top-10 and four teams in the top-15 in winning percentage, which is tied with Hockey East for most among the six conferences, and WCHA players lead the country in nine different statistical categories.

Most importantly for Robertson, whose stated goal in the preseason was to get more teams into the national tournament, is that four teams rank in the top-16 of the PairWise rankings in the (very) early going — No. 1 Michigan Tech, No. 3 Minnesota State, No. 11 Bowling Green, and No. 13 Northern Michigan. I want to stress the “it’s early” part, but it’s a promising sign nonetheless for the WCHA as it tries to build itself back up.

(After the jump: Previewing this weekend’s match-ups)


Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Nov. 13

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

Five teams will play for the Big Ten this weekend, as both Penn State and Michigan return from byes. The Badgers will be idle for the third time in the past month.

But the best part about this week is it’s the last week of non-conference play for several teams. Next week Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan will kick off Big Ten play.

Several teams will be tested this week, as the Gophers should have tougher competition against Minnesota-Duluth in a home-and-home series. Ohio State will have its own challenge in Bowling Green, a team that sits tied for second in the WCHA — a conference that’s quietly been one of the better ones this season.

Michigan State will host a struggling Boston College team, while Penn State will face against UMass Lowell. The pair of games will contribute to the Big Ten-Hockey East Challenge.

Inconsistent Michigan returns home to host AIC, and should be able to snap out of their losing streak.


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…)

Three Things I Think: Hockey East, Nov. 11

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

There really isn’t anything Connecticut fans care to discuss about last week’s results against Boston College and Boston University aside from the final scores. UConn defeated BC, 1-0, in the Huskies’ first-ever home opener in Hockey East. Then, they went to Agganis Arena and earned a 4-4 tie against BU.

Rightfully, UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh was thrilled with the three points and proud of the mettle his team showed in the face of a dominating even strength performance by BU. The Huskies did what inferior teams need to do to wins games. They kept most shots to the perimeter, blocked a ton of attempts and limited time and space when pucks did sneak into the grade-A. Beyond all that, goaltender Rob Nichols was fantastic; he stopped 64 of 69 shots in the two games.

At the moment, the team’s spirit is sky high, and Cavanaugh’s ability to adopt the same microscope and telescope approach his mentor, Jerry York, has long instilled in his own teams seems to be working for the Huskies. He said after Saturday’s draw that he and his staff have kept the team focusing on individual games instead of looking forward to every twist and turn the Hockey East calendar can offer.

A few nice results in November were important for UConn. It’s not going to last all season, and the Huskies are still certain to finish in the lower half of the league. The way they’re winning right now isn’t sustainable. However, there are plenty of positive characteristics of this team. They defend well in their own end, break quickly and efficiently up ice and avoid the type of high-risk plays that team like BC and BU can turn into offense.

Saturday night against BU, UConn got a pair of power-play goals — one during a 5-minute major — and kept the Terriers scoreless on their own man advantages. The Terriers were the better team, but UConn’s success in high-leverage situations warranted the point it received.

Prior to the season, UConn was picked to finished last in the league by both the coaches and the media. That may very well happen, but this year was never about championships. Even if the coaching staff and players say they expect to win trophies, the 2014-15 season is about building a positive foundation to continue attracting high-quality players to Storrs and eventually compete within Hockey East. Picking up three points last week was an important piece and that foundation, and it will be even when the Huskies start to struggle. (more…)