Archive for the 'Regular Season' Category

WCHA Weekend Preview, Nov. 21-22

Friday, November 21st, 2014

This week marks the first full weekend of WCHA play. All ten teams will be in action against one another, and if we learned anything from last season’s tight conference race, it’s that every game matters in this league.

The slate is highlighted by the Michigan Tech-Minnesota State match-up in Houghton. The Huskies and Mavericks come in as the top two teams in both the WCHA and the early edition of the Pairwise rankings. The Pairwise doesn’t mean much this early in the season, but it adds a little extra excitement to an already highly-anticipated series — one the WCHA hopes will bring the league attention nationally.

While it is early, you can see the WCHA race beginning to take shape now that most teams have played six conference games. It’s looking like a three-way race at the top between Michigan Tech, Minnesota State and Bowling Green, but Northern Michigan could put itself in the conversation as well. Ferris State’s offensive outburst last weekend has restored hope for its season, while both Alaska teams – who were expected to be in the thick of things this year – have struggled recently.

(After the jump: A look at this week’s slate of games.)

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Three Things I Think: WCHA, Nov. 18

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

For a conference trying to re-build its image as one of the best in the country, having a team ranked No. 1 in the polls is a huge step in the right direction. The WCHA’s Michigan Tech now occupies that spot after pushing its record to 10-0-0 with a sweep at Bemidji State this weekend. With 10-straight wins to start the season, the Huskies are now off to the best start in the program’s 94-year history.

The sweep of the Beavers wasn’t Michigan Tech’s most dominant performances of the season, but good teams find ways to win and the Huskies did that. They face their stiffest test of the season this weekend in welcoming reigning WCHA playoff champion Minnesota State to Houghton.

In the latest edition of the USCHO.com poll, following bye weeks, the Mavericks remained at No. 9 and Northern Michigan moved up a spot to No. 17. After splitting with Ohio State, Bowling Green also jumped a spot to No. 18. Ferris State (53) is the only WCHA team receiving votes in the poll.

Rapid Recap: In conference play, Michigan Tech grinded out a pair of wins in Bemidji to remain the NCAA’s lone unbeaten team, Ferris State’s offense exploded in a sweep of Alaska Anchorage, and Alabama-Huntsville and Lake Superior State split – pushing the Chargers’ record in their last four games to 2-1-1. Elsewhere, Bowling Green and Ohio State split a non-conference home-and-home series, with each winning at the other’s barn. The WCHA is now 22-17-4 (.558) in non-conference play this season.

(After the jump: My Three Stars of the Weekend in the WCHA and thoughts on what went down)

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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)

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Three Things I Think: WCHA, Nov. 11

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

This week in the WCHA featured the conference’s top teams flexing their muscle. Three of the four conference series resulted in sweeps, while Alabama-Huntsville continued the league’s success this season in non-conference play.

In the polls, Michigan Tech slid up four spots in the USCHO.com poll to No. 5 after running its undefeated start to 8-0-0. Minnesota State also moved up four places to No. 13 after sweeping Bemidji State. Northern Michigan jumped two spots to No. 18 with a split versus Ferris State — which dropped out of the top-20 – and, at No. 19, Bowling Green broke into the top-20 for the first time this season after sweeping Alaska.

Ferris State (107) is the only WCHA team receiving votes in this week’s poll.

This week’s top-billed matchup, Ferris State at Northern Michigan, saw an epic goaltending dual between two of the league’s top net minders. Bulldogs senior C.J. Motte and Wildcats sophomore Mathias Dahlstrom each registered 24-save shutouts on Friday and Saturday, respectively. The Bulldogs took the opener in a 1-0 OT thriller before the Wildcats salvaged the split with a 2-0 win on Saturday.

Michigan Tech got its own solid effort in goal from junior Jamie Phillips against Alaska-Anchorage. Phillips stopped 45-of-46 shots on the weekend, including a 19-save shutout on Friday. Huskies sophomore defenseman Shane Hanna led the way for MTU with three points (1+2) as it continued its undefeated start to the season with 2-0 and 3-1 wins over the Seawolves.

Minnesota State and Bemidji State combined for 17 goals in their two games, but it was the Mavericks that proved why they’re among the conference favorites, sweeping the series with 6-3 and 5-3 wins. MSU has now won five of its past six games. Minnesota State junior forwards Bryce Gervais and Teddy Blueger combined for six goals and 10 points in the series.

Continuing the theme of strong play in the crease, Bowling Green junior Tommy Burke backstopped the Falcons to a pair of 3-2 wins on the road versus Alaska, turning away 62-of-66 shots thrown his way. Sophomore forward Mark Pohlkamp lit the lamp twice for BGSU, including the game-winner on Saturday.

In the week’s only non-conference series, Alabama-Huntsville got into the win column for the first time this season with a 4-2 road win over Air Force on Friday before battling the Falcons to a 3-3 tie on Saturday. Chargers freshman forward Brennan Saulnier earned WCHA Rookie of the Week honors for his two points in the series. The WCHA is now 3-3-1 against Atlantic Hockey and 21-16-3 overall in non-conference play this season.

(After the jump: WCHA Three Stars of the Weekend and Three Thoughts on what went down)

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Hockey East’s Top-10 Non-Conference Games for 2014-15

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Mark your calendars.

Hockey East fans will be blessed this coming winter. Along with a shortened 22-game league schedule, which as it did last year when the schedule was at 20 games, should make for closer playoff races come the end of February, there’s a slew of premiere non-conference games headed to Hockey East rinks this upcoming season.

Union, the defending national champions, will visit three Hockey East rinks. Michigan makes a pair of trips and even Minnesota will fly to Boston, marking the first time the Gophers will travel to the city that houses four Division I programs since it helped close Walter Brown Arena and open Agganis Arena in Jan. 2005, if you exclude a visit to Vermont in 2012-13 and a trip to Hockey East newcomer Notre Dame last season, which is really in the midwest and not the east.

Since that trip to Boston in 2005, Minnesota has hosted 13 games against Hockey East opponents, and traveled east for just those two in Vermont.

Here are the top-10 non-conference games Hockey East will HOST this season:

10. Yale at Northeastern, Jan. 6
Two classic programs, playing in a classic building. Yale’s program has roots back to 1893 while Northeastern’s has been around since 1929. Matthews Arena has been around since 1909, and you know the history there. Besides, Northeastern is on an upswing in Hockey East the past two seasons under Jim Madigan and Yale just won a national title two years ago.

9. Michigan at Boston University, Oct. 25
Boston University endured one of its tougher seasons in 2013-14, but Jack Eichel will pull a BU shirt over his head this fall, and that makes this early-season matchup with Michigan a must see. Eichel will go against his NJEC linemate, Tyler Motte, as well as a plethora of his other former U.S. National Team Development Program teammates.

8. Union at Boston University, Jan. 3
If the national champions are visiting your building, it’s a big game. BU’s struggles could linger into the early parts of the 2014 schedule, but by January, the Terriers could very well be firing on all cylinders. The only problem here is that Eichel, and any other players that make the World Junior Team, will likely still be playing in the tournament.

7. Union at Maine, Oct. 17 & 18
Maine was reinvigorated last season with new head coach Red Gendron behind the bench, and the Black Bears will bring in their best non-conference opponent to Orono in just the second week of the regular season. Gendron is giving his players a mighty test right away.

6. Michigan at UMass Lowell, Oct. 24
It should be an interesting year for Lowell, which has now lost the bulk of the nucleus that has won back-to-back Hockey East championships. But they’re still the defending two-time champs. Lowell, which in both championship years has gotten off to sluggish starts, will be tested early against an ultra-talented Michigan team.

5. Union at Notre Dame, Nov. 28 (Shillelagh Tournament First Round)
Notre Dame, by its standards, limped through its first year as a member of Hockey East. But parity in college hockey, which is a theory everyone likes to talk about, in most cases doesn’t actually exist. Notre Dame is a reload program. They don’t rebuild. Teams like Merrimack, Vermont and Massachusetts have all had cups of coffee among the nation’s elite, but have failed to sustain it. Notre Dame had a taste of what it’s like near the bottom of Hockey East in its first season – the Irish finished eighth – but don’t expect that to sustain either. Then there’s Union. Did I mention they’re the defending national champions?

4. Michigan at Boston College, Dec. 13
This might as well be called the “NTDP All Star Game.” By my count, there will be 11 former NTDP players on the ice in this one, including BC goaltender Thatcher Demko. For much of these rosters, it will be one of their last games on opposite benches before players like Tuch, Milano, Demko, Motte, Compher, Downing and Larkin likely join the World Junior Team.

3. Minnesota at Northeastern, Nov. 29
A night after it plays a huge game at BC – we’ll get to that in a minute – the Gophers will travel to Matthews Arena to play Northeastern. The Huskies can score and they’ll be trying to improve on a defense that allowed the eighth-most goals in Hockey East, despite starter Clay Witt posting the second-best save percentage. That tells you how many shots Northeastern was allowing. But the Huskies will still be a team in the top-half of the Hockey East standings and it doesn’t get any more marquee than a matchup with Minnesota.

2. Quinnipiac at UMass Lowell, Oct. 18
Lowell and Quinnipiac have been surging at a similar time, and will collide early in the season. Just as Lowell has risen to prominence, winning back-to-back tournament titles, Quinnipiac has made a similar move in the ECAC.

1. Minnesota at Boston College, Nov. 28
This, you can’t beat. Two of the most storied programs in college hockey will meet up on Thanksgiving weekend. Take the league out of it, this will be the most anticipated non-conference game of the season across the entire nation. Union won the national title last April, and that’s all that counts, but BC and Minnesota actually finished No. 1 and 2 in the final Pairwise. Union had to knock off both these programs en route to its championship. Like it has in many years, the road to a national title likely goes through Minnesota or BC, if not both.

Honorable Mention: U.S. Under-20 Team vs. Boston University, Dec. 19
It’s only an exhibition, but Jack Eichel and the WJC team against BU should be a fun take.

The Takeaway: Maine Defeats UMass, 2-0, Moves to Eighth Place in HEA

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

AMHERST, Mass. — In a series that will contribute significantly to the determination of the final Hockey East playoff spot, Maine defeated Massachusetts, 2-0, at the Mullins Center Friday night. Junior goaltender Martin Ouellette offered an excellent performance in net for the Black Bears, including saves on multiple above-average UMass scoring chances throughout the game. This was the goalie’s second career shut-out, the result of 30 saves.

The teams will skate again on the same ice tomorrow night. With the victory, Maine moves into eighth place while the Minutemen fall to ninth. Meanwhile, Northeastern lost to Providence, 6-2, staying in the tenth position.

What I Saw

Ouellette made one of the season’s best saves near the beginning of the second period, robbing K.J. Tiefenwerth from very close range. The save maintained a scoreless game. For the next few minutes, the teams traded quality scoring chances through rapid end-to-end action. Several pucks sailed through each crease, as the pair of goaltenders supported their struggling defensemen.

More significantly, the save preserved the complexion of the game in Maine’s favor. The Black Bears finally started the scoring near the end of the second frame as the team took advantage of a power play opportunity. Freshman defenseman Ben Hutton launched a shot past a screened Boyle. Four minutes later, Maine doubled its lead as senior Mark Anthoine sent a perfectly-placed snap shot into the top-right corner above goalie Kevin Boyle’s glove side. The goal prompted UMass coach John Micheletto to replace Boyle with Steve Mastalerz.

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The Takeaway: Minnesota Starts Season On The Right Foot

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

Minneapolis, MN- A slow start by Michigan State ended up haunting the Spartans Friday night as three goals by the Gophers in the season’s first 13:38 fueled the #1/2 team in the country to a 5-1 win that was as close as the final score.

WCHA preseason player of the year Nick Bjugstad scored a goal and added an assist while freshman Mike Reilly and redshirt junior captain Zach Budish each had two assists. Tanner Sorenson scored the lone Spartan goal with 4:01 left as Minnesota goaltender Michael Shibrowski made 25 saves en route to his first win as a Gopher.

Ben Marshall, Christian Isackson, Erik Haula and Travis Boyd also scored for Minnesota. MSU goalie Will Yanakeff made 37 saves in defeat.

What I saw:

-The Spartans were one of two teams last year (Denver was the other) to hold Minnesota without a win in a two-game series and much of it was thanks to their defense containing the Gophers’ potent offense.  This year, however, it was the Gophers who used their speed advantage over the Spartans to beat them to pucks, out-muscle their defense and spend entire shifts in the MSU zone. While the top line of Bjugstad, Kyle Rau and Christian Isackson ran wild, the Spartans’ top line of Kevin Walrod, Lee Reimer and Greg Wolfe could not get anything going. (more…)

A star is born for St. Cloud in win over Minnesota

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

If there was any doubt about St. Cloud State’s goaltending situation before St. Cloud State’s 4-3 win over No. 1 Minnesota Friday night, there sure isn’t much anymore.

After an injury to SCSU’s Mike Lee last month — an injury which will likely cost the junior his season — the Huskies were forced to turn things over to Ryan Faragher, a freshman from Fort Frances, Ont. via the North American Hockey League.

And the freshman has responded.

“When Mike went down, we didn’t really know what was going to happen,” admitted junior forward David Eddy, who had three assists Friday. “But he’s stepped up huge. Bigger than we expected. He makes saves where you’re just like ‘Wow, how did he do that?’ He made a couple of those tonight.”

Faragher playing well has become somewhat redundant in the Granite City. It seems to be a topic that comes up for head coach Bob Motzko each week.

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Thoughts on an eventful weekend at Mariucci

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

What a game tonight at Mariucci Arena.

First things first:

The Gophers sweep North Dakota for the first time since December of 2005. It was Don Lucia’s first home sweep of North Dakota as Gophers head coach and Minnesota’s first sweep of the Fighting Sioux at Mariucci since 1996-97.

The win puts the Gophers 10 points ahead of North Dakota in the WCHA standings — still a long ways from the finish line, that 10 points back of a quality team like Minnesota likely means the MacNaughton Cup will be somewhere other than Grand Forks, N.D. come early March.

UND has gained a reputation as a bit of a slow starter during the Dave Hakstol era — but not this slow. This is North Dakota’s worst start in WCHA play in almost four decades, when UND started 1-9 in 1974.

If there was any doubt heading into the weekend about how good Minnesota is, that doubt is now gone. Yeah, North Dakota is down right now. But the Gophers showed a grit and determination Saturday night they haven’t shown in years. Despite heavily outshooting the Sioux through two and a half periods and having been blanked on their previously powerful power play, Minnesota refused to quit — tying the score with a greasy goal by Nick Larson with 6:04 left before scoring another dirty one by Kyle Rau with under a minute left. (more…)

Minnesota vs North Dakota post-game wrap

Friday, November 4th, 2011

A bit of a different look at Friday’s rivalry game between Minnesota and North Dakota.

THE BOTTOM LINE

At the University of Minnesota’s media day Wednesday, Gopher captain Taylor Matson predicted a “bloodbath.”

And while the blood wasn’t necessarily flowing, the Gophers and North Dakota combined for 69 minutes in penalties Friday (29 penalties in all) in a 2-0 Minnesota victory at Mariucci Arena, with much of the action coming in a rough second period.

Seth Ambroz got the festivities started with a five minute major for contact to the head just 30 seconds into the middle frame, although he also checked UND captain Mario Lamoureaux from behind. Minnesota killed the five minute UND power play however, and according to numerous players and coaches after the game, that was the turning point.

Tied 0-0 at the time, the major penalty seemed to stir the emotions a bit, and at 11:47, feelings boiled over as a melee ensued, sending 3 players from each team to the box. North Dakota got the extra 2 minutes though, setting up a Gopher power play. Minnesota took advantage as Nick Bjugstad scored what amounted to the game winner with the extra attacker on.

The Gophers got a separation goal with 8 minutes and change remaining in regulation when Nick Larson’s pass sent Tom Serratore in on Aaron Dell for a breakaway. The sophomore buried his second goal of the season to make it 2-0.

For the night, Minnesota outshot North Dakota 32-24. It was a historic night for Gopher goalie Kent Patterson, as the senior secured his fifth shutout of the season — tying a school record set by Robb Stauber in 1987-88. Just nine games into the year, Patterson may have a couple chances to break that record this season.

Stauber, by the way, won the Hobey Baker Award that season.

AROUND THE LOCKER ROOM

On Patterson tying the shutout record

• “Our team has been doing a great job of letting me see pucks,” Patterson said. “I’m going to have to make a few big saves every once in a while, but guys are back checking through the middle and picking up guys so they aren’t getting those opportunities.”

• “I enjoy each and every day. When I do get a shutout, great, but you have to take the good with the bad.” Patterson said. “I just have to make sure I come to the rink everyday preparing for each game individually, and take my game day by day.”

• “He’s something special, he gives us a chance to win each and every night,” Matson said. “He does all the little things right and everything is going well for him right now.”

On getting the separation goal

• “That was great to see, especially off the face off,” Patterson said. “Tom works hard. He had a huge blocked shot at the beginning of the game. He deserved that goal, he worked his butt off.”

• “We’ve been doing a great job of scoring first this season, but that second goal was huge for us,” Matson said. “Especially off the face off, we’ve been stressing intensity off the face off this season, so it was big to get that goal from our fourth line.”

• “We didn’t have a lot of breakdowns, but that was one of them,” said UND head coach Dave Hakstol. “They took advantage of it.”

On the intensity and atmosphere

• “It was the type of game we expected. It was hard hitting, it was physical, it was blocked shots, it was goaltending. The game was settling in and you knew it was going to be a low scoring game,” said Gophers head coach Don Lucia. ”

• “These games are pretty special to us, there was a lot more hitting, a lot more intensity. The atmosphere was something special to be apart of here tonight,” Matson said.

On killing the UND 5×3 power play in the second period

• “I think the pivotal moment for us was that 5-on-3,” Lucia said. “It was a 0-0 game and we were able to get a little bit of momentum from our [penalty] kill.”

• “It was a huge momentum boost, especially when the crowd gets into it like that,” Patterson said. “It gets our bench going and gave our guys a momentum boost.”

IN OTHER ACTION FROM AROUND THE LEAGUE
Michigan Tech 1, Minnesota State 0
St. Cloud State 7, Wisconsin 2
Nebraska-Omaha 7, Colorado College 5
Denver 3, Minnesota Duluth 3 (OT)
Bemidji State 3, Lake Superior State 2 (OT)