Archive for the 'Notes, Thoughts, Ramblings' Category

Three Things I Think: ECAC 1/12

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

Harvard struggled defensively last week, but its offense is still the most talented in the league. Despite a poor showing in the first period against Quinnipiac at Madison Square Garden, where they left trailing 4-0, the Crimson were able to come all the way back to force overtime. Quinnipiac got a goal from Derek Smith in a seeming fitting ending on the World’s Most Famous Stage. Struggles were abounded in non-league play, as SLU was swept by struggling Northeastern, while Colgate split with Maine in Orono.

This weekend marks the return of ECAC play for most league teams, while Quinnipiac and Princeton have the weekend off. Quinnipiac has a commanding lead in the standings, but it is not as large as it appears. Its lead over Cornell sits at nine points and it has a ten point lead on third place, RPI. But both the Big Red and Engineers have games in hand. Cornell has four games in hand, while RPI has three games on the Bobcats. Five points separate Harvard in fourth place and Union in tenth place. The battle for the last bye and home ice positioning looks to be as close as it usually is. but then again it is still early, with most teams yet to hit the halfway mark of the league slate. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Jan. 11

Monday, January 11th, 2016

The weekend of Big Ten action featured a sweeps, a series split and a win/loss and a tie. Michigan swept Michigan State, Ohio State defeated and tied Wisconsin while Penn State split with Minnesota.Michigan scored 15 goals over the weekend, defeating the Spartans by a combined score of 15-5. Penn State defeated Minnesota 3-2 in overtime on Friday night, while Minnesota won 7-1. The Buckeyes beat the Badgers 2-0 before settling for a 4-4 tie the next night.

The most interesting series of the weekend were Penn State-Minnesota and Ohio State-Wisconsin. I’m not surprised the Gophers and Nittany Lions split, although I am surprised that Minnesota limited Penn State to four goals in two games … and scored seven of its own in one game.

As far as the Badgers and Buckeyes are concerned, the Buckeyes have the edge – for now. The results say that Ohio State, which has played well against most teams all season, is definitely a better team than Wisconsin. But where can the Buckeyes finish?

We learned some things from conference play, but it’s hard to tell if these impressions will hold as the season progresses.

(After the jump: Michigan State’s fate, a defensive test and the surprise team)

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Jan. 7

Friday, January 8th, 2016

After a week filled with holiday tournaments, the Big Ten is back to conference play. This means all teams are in action, featuring some interesting matchups and in-state rivalries. Probably the best matchup will be Wisconsin and Ohio State, so we can finally see which team belongs in the Big Ten basement. Penn State against Minnesota could also be interesting.

The Michigan-Michigan State series, probably not so much. While the Wolverines and Spartans haven’t met yet this season, Michigan State really hasn’t been playing well and the defense has struggled, meaning it’s doubtful the Spartans can contain the Wolverines.

But before conference play resumes, here’s a breakdown of the Big Ten conference standings:

  1. Minnesota (9 points)
  2. Michigan (8 points)
  3. Penn State (6 points)
  4. Wisconsin (4 points)
  5. Michigan State (3 points)
  6. Ohio State (0 points)

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Three Things I Think: ECAC 1/6

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

The ECAC keeps winning in non-conference play and in recent weeks it has picked up in regularity. Last weekend both Harvard and Dartmouth took home holiday tournament titles, while Union also went undefeated at the Ledyard Bank Classic and missed out to its conference rival on goal differential. Brown took down one of the best teams in the nation, defending national champion Providence, looking good in the process. RPI also split a non-conference series with Miami. Clarkson did the same against Bowling Green. All told, the league is now second in inter-conference record with a .620 winning percentage against the other leagues.

ECAC  teams have played strong schedules, partly because they have played each other but it is furthered by the fact it has played strong non-conference schedules. Dartmouth played a pair at Michigan, Brown played Providence twice, Quinnipiac hosted St. Cloud twice and so on and so forth. This helps the overall strength of schedule and because the league has won a good portion of these games, the ECAC is doing really well in the Pairwise. Quinnipiac and Harvard are one and two in the Pairwise, while four other teams join them in the top 15. All told, there are six teams in NCAA tournament positions (QU, Harvard, Cornell, Yale, SLU, RPI), five league teams in the top 10 of Pairwise and eight in the top 20. You can see how strong the schedules have been in the league, in CHN’s Krach ratings.

The most interesting addition in the top 20 is Dartmouth, who played a murderous schedule in the first winter and is 5-7-1, but because of its strength of schedule it is right in the thick of a tournament bid if it goes on a run in the second half. It could be a monumental year for the league in terms of the NCAA tournament and how many teams make it, if the trends continue. There will be no easy games in the second half of the conference slate. It seems as though there is a high probability of at least five teams, but six is a possibility. The worst case scenario seems to be four. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Jan. 4

Monday, January 4th, 2016

After a very brief winter break, college hockey resumed this week with a bunch of tournaments and some non-conference matchups. It also brought some surprises from the break, including an Ohio State championship at the Florida College Classic and some much-needed out-of-conference success.

The Buckeyes stunned everyone by taking down Boston College in the first round of the Florida College Classic. Ohio State followed with a win over Cornell, becoming the first Big Ten team to win a trophy this season.

But the Wolverines followed just one day later with a trophy of their own, winning the Great Lakes Invitational. At the tournament, Michigan defeated Northern Michigan 3-2 and then Michigan Tech 4-2 in the championship game. The Spartans, who also participated in the GLI, lost first to Michigan 3-2 in overtime and then 2-1 to Northern Michigan in overtime.

Penn State continued its in-state rivalry with Robert Morris at the Three Rivers Classic, but dropped the opening-round matchup to the Colonials 6-4, Penn State’s first loss since Oct. 30 against St. Lawrence. The Nittany Lions rebounded with a 5-1 over Clarkson.

The Gophers also failed to come away with a championship, losing in the championship round of their own Mariucci Classic. After defeating UConn 3-2 on Friday, the Gophers dropped a 4-3 overtime decision to Harvard. The Crimson accrued a 2-0 lead before the Gophers scored three straight, but Kyle Criscuolo tied it with 34 seconds left. He also scored the game-winning goal.

(After the jump: Nothing makes sense anymore, holiday tournaments are good, goaltending could lead Michigan to big things.)

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Ledyard Bank Classic: Day 1 Notes

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

Union and Dartmouth both picked up wins, over Merrimack and Robert Morris respectively on Saturday night. Because the Ledyard Bank Classic has predetermined matchups, the format is setup with a point system (2 points for a regulation/ot win, 1 point for a shootout win) with goal differential being the tiebreaker if one or more teams are tied. Dartmouth and Union do not play on Sunday night in a de facto championship game, so we will be relying heavily on the system put in place.Union defeated Merrimack 3-2, while Dartmouth defeated Robert Morris, 5-1.

Union received goals from Matt Wilkins, Nick Cruice and Brett Supinski, which included two power-play tallies. Merrimack took the momentum in the third period but were never able to recover from being down two goals entering the third. Dartmouth took a scoreless game after a period and ran away with it late. It outshot the Colonials 37-18 and recieved goals from five different skaters. Hypothetically Dartmouth has the advantage going into Sunday night’s matchups, after winning by four. The Big Green face Merrimack, while the Dutchmen face Robert Morris. (more…)

Preview: Big Ten, Dec. 28

Monday, December 28th, 2015

After a short winter break, college hockey is back in action starting today. The second half of the season kicks off with several tournaments, featuring a couple Big Ten teams. The Three Rivers Classic, Florida College Classic and, of course, the Great Lakes Invitational all take place this week. The Gophers host their own annual tournament, the Mariucci Classic, this weekend.

While five Big Ten teams are playing this week or weekend, the Badgers have another “bye” week. They face Trinity Western on New Year’s Day in an exhibition match – Wisconsin’s only exhibition game of the season.

Michigan State and Michigan vs. Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan, Great Lakes Invitational: Dec. 29 and 30 at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

This has been a really difficult season for Michigan State. Even having one of the best goaltenders around isn’t enough to support a very struggling defense. A part of that could be because of Josh Jacobs’ unexpected offseason departure (he was one of their best defenseman). But whatever the reason, the team defense has looked very weak. The offense has stepped up a little bit though, with freshman Mason Appleton contributing 15 points. Michael Ferrantino,  J.T. Stenglein and Mackenzie MacEachern have 14. The Spartans have one win in their last 10 games.

Michigan fared well in out-of-conference play, but didn’t destroy Wisconsin the way it was expected to. The Wolverines have a 9-3-3 record so far, with a pretty powerful offense backed by Kyle Connor. But they are without Zach Werenski, who’s at the World Junior Championship. Connor leads the team with 22 points and is amongst the nation’s highest-scoring players. Michigan has used two goaltenders again this year, but Steve Racine received most of his starts in November and Zach Nagelvoort had most of his in December. While Michigan lacks a stellar defense, the team leads the nation with 4.47 goals per game.

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Growing Belief Among Coaches Big 10 Proposal Will Pass

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

Talking to several college hockey coaches this week on a variety of topics, one issue that keeps coming up is the proposed Big 10 legislation to limit the recruiting of 21-year-old freshmen.

According to five different coaches this week, all who voted against the measure in the informal straw poll that was conducted, they expect the measure to pass when the NCAA council votes officially on the legislation next year.

As one coach put it:

“This is big in terms of college hockey, but for the people voting on this council, this is not a big deal. They’re going to look at this, see that it was proposed by the Big 10, and I’m expecting it will be passed in a matter of minutes. They’ll have more important things to discuss.”

If that comes to fruition, it’s good news for the 11 programs that voted in favor of the measure. Some of those head coaches have cited “stockpiling” as a reason for the proposal being needed.

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ECAC First Half Review

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

As always, the ECAC is not where we thought it would at this point in the season. Yale isn’t the dominant defensive team we thought it would be, Harvard’s offense is second to Quinnipiac, Cornell (I picked them 11th in preseason dumb ehh?) looks like a team to be reckoned with come March and well who thought RPI would ever have a nine game unbeaten streak?

The ECAC standings are extremely tight heading into the second half, with Quinnipiac having 14 points and Cornell close on its heels at 13. Cornell’s only ECAC league loss came to Quinnipiac, in a game it had a three goal lead and couldn’t hold on. Harvard and RPI are tied for third at 11 points, while St. Lawrence and Yale round out the top six with nine and eights points respectively. Any of those six teams are contenders at this point, because the bottom half have been less than stellar, or as I would like to say there is a step down in quality.

One of the biggest ECAC storylines of the first half is the quality of hockey being played throughout the league. The inter-conference record has been sparkling, although it has come down a bit in recent weeks. The .632 winning percentage in non-conference play has the league setup well in terms of the pairwise, as currently five teams are in NCAA tournament positioning. Quinnipiac sits first in the all important Pairwise rankings, while Harvard, Cornell, St. Lawrence and Yale sit sixth, seventh, 11th and 13th in those rankings. Even RPI sits in good positioning, as it is 17th in those rankings. Last year, the NCHC had a .652 inter-conference record and it had six teams in the tournament. Even more important for the ECAC as a league, it has a 24-16-3 against the two best conferences in the country, the NCHC and Hockey East. Maybe the ECAC is the best right now? Ya, lets see how the non-league games go in the next few weeks.

Well and to finish off I would like to say Happy Holidays to all. Hope all of you have an enjoyable holiday, no matter what you celebrate. See you in a week or so for my annual trip to Hanover’s Ledyard Bank Classic. (more…)

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Dec. 18

Saturday, December 19th, 2015

The holiday break has started for almost all of college hockey, and the Big Ten.  Michigan State is the only conference team in action this weekend, and the Spartans travel to Northeastern for a Saturday game. After that, Big Ten play breaks for just over a week.

Michigan State at Northeastern: Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. 

The Spartans travel to Northeastern for their only game of the weekend. Michigan State has struggled this year, especially on the defensive side. The Spartan offense has improved a little bit, though. Michigan State just snapped a seven-game winless streak with a win over Wisconsin last weekend.

The Spartan offense ranks 27th in the country, while Northeastern’s is tied for 48th with 2.29 goals per game. The Huskies have also struggled to win this year, and has just two wins this season – both over Colgate. Zach Aston-Reese leads the Huskies with 15 points.

Prediction: Michigan State wins