Three Things I Think: Atlantic Hockey, November 13

Posted: November 15th, 2017 / by Melissa Burgess

As Atlantic Hockey continued its action this past weekend, it was exciting to see the conference’s top two teams – Army and Niagara – face off in a pair of games. In the end, they split the weekend, with Army remaining atop the conference standings.

Meanwhile, RIT won twice to make its way up to third in the conference, and Canisius’ Dylan McLaughlin had himself quite a weekend to earn honors in the conference and NCAA.

Here are the Atlantic Hockey standings:

  1.  Army
  2. Niagara
  3. RIT
  4. Holy Cross
  5. Canisius
  6. AIC
  7. Robert Morris
  8. Mercyhurst
  9. Bentley
  10. Air Force
  11. Sacred Heart

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Injury Riddled St. Lawrence Struggling with Depth

Posted: November 15th, 2017 / by Josh Seguin

Entering Brown’s Meehan Auditorium and taking a look at St. Lawrence’s line chart on Saturday night, I was struck by one thing and one thing only- On that line chart, the Saints had just three forward lines and three D-pairs, which is something I had never seen before in my career of covering DI college hockey. It has always been normal to see a team missing maybe one on that chart and dressing 17 skaters, instead of the normal 18, but seeing a team short three bodies is something I cannot think of. I am sure it happened a lot in the old days, but today it just never happens that way.

In retrospect, the line chart had just eight forwards listed as Philip Alftberg was playing a wing and he is a natural defender. Going deeper, eight of the fifteen were freshmen and only two of the forwards were upperclassmen. The fact half the lineup were freshmen would cause any team to struggle, but coupled with the depth issues it is just a disaster.

Depth is so key in college hockey and not having it often times leads to even more problems, so to see a team have so many injuries is something that is just uncommon. On Saturday, I felt SLU was giving their all and Mark Morris was coaching enough to show there is hardly an issue with either of those aspects, but the numbers game just was not in their favor. In fact, I will go as far to say being so short is just not competitive and if the injuries are long term, it will be a long season in Canton. It is normal for a team to be missing guys, but to be down 7 of 15 forwards is just tough.

Morris didn’t want to talk on Saturday, understandably so. Morris called me on Monday, and called this season “one of the most challenging seasons I have ever experienced.” Those are strong words considering how long he has been coaching at a high level. Read the rest of this entry »

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Three Things I Think: ECAC, 11/14

Posted: November 14th, 2017 / by Josh Seguin

Another weekend, another set of surprises in the ECAC. As I was watching results pour in over the weekend, I couldn’t help but to think to myself how topsy turvy the league is setting up to be. Quinnipiac fell twice in the capital region, falling to 0-4-0 in ECAC play, while Harvard is 2-3-0. On the flip side of those two is Union, who I picked 10th in preseason. The Dutchmen are now 5-1-0 in the ECAC play and have looked good in the process. Its only loss was to Clarkson last week, while it has defeated RPI twice, St. Lawrence, Quinnipiac and Princeton. Like the Dutchmen, Colgate is off to a surprising start and is 3-0-1 in ECAC play and is on an overall seven game unbeaten streak. The Raiders have also won their last three games and I will talk about this success below.

Cornell is the only defeated team left in the nation, at 6-0-0. The Big Red were expected to be up in the top echelon of teams but they are looking the part of one of the better teams in the ECAC. This success, is setting up for a huge showdown against long-time ECAC rival Clarkson. The REAL Golden Knights are also off to a great start, with a 4-0-0 record in the league. Honestly, these two teams have looked like the best teams but it is still early.

Without further ado, here are my thoughts of the week… Read the rest of this entry »

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Nov. 10

Posted: November 10th, 2017 / by Jashvina Shah

The Wolverines split with Ferris State. After winning the first game 7-2, Michigan lost 3-2 in overtime. Minnesota swept Michigan State by a total score of 7-1. Notre Dame also swept, taking down Ohio State 4-1 and 3-2. Penn State split with Mercyhurst and allowed 12 goals on the weekend. The Badgers lost to North Dakota 3-2 and tied 2-2.

Up next:

Minnesota at Michigan
Wisconsin at Michigan State
Penn State at Notre Dame
Ohio State at UConn

(After the jump: Mitch Lewandowski, Notre Dame’s net, and Penn State’s struggles)

Mitch Lewandowski is the key to Michigan State’s offense

The Spartan offense has fared well lately. And although they haven’t been playing the toughest competition, it’s evident a big boost comes from Lewandowski. He’s a really good player, arguably the best on the team and the best the Spartans have had for a long time. He’s a great playmaker and made some spectacular passes, and the offense is running off his abilities.

The Spartans look like a much better team than they were last year. While, aside from Lewandowski, they don’t really have the talent, they’re working well with the pieces they do have. It’s hard to explain how they look better, but they seem to be more coherent than they have been the last couple of seasons, and it’s working well. Michigan State probably won’t fare this well the rest of the season, but they could finish higher than people (like myself) thought they would.

Notre Dame’s Goaltending

Dylan St. Cyr was expected to be Cal Petersen’s heir in net. but that’s been far from true. The freshman started four games this season but hasn’t played since a 6-4 loss to Nebraska Omaha. In his place is sophomore Cale Morris, Petersen’s understudy. Morris has helped the Fighting Irish to three straight wins and pinned Ohio State to just three goals total last weekend, and even stopped 39 shots in the 3-2 win.

Penn State’s Struggles

While I spent all of last year saying Penn State wasn’t as good as everyone thought they were, I assumed at least that they would beat Atlantic Hockey teams. But it’s only been a few weeks and they’ve already dropped two of the contests. And they gave up 12 goals to Mercyhurst last weekend, which shouldn’t happen. These past few weeks – especially the losses to American International and Mercyhurst – expose the flaws Penn State has, especially defensively. The Nittany Lions thrive when they can set up in the offensive zone and take shots on net.

While that’s worked in the past against weaker teams (no offense, American International), it is odd that formula isn’t working against weaker teams now, and, unless Penn State smooths this out, will make this season very hard for them.

It’s still early, but while it’s easy to let one odd loss slide, it’s harder to let two odd losses slide (I’m looking at you, Denver)

 

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Three Things I Think: ECAC, 11/7

Posted: November 7th, 2017 / by Josh Seguin

Now that all ECAC teams have played games, there are certainly some interesting trends. Who would have guessed after the first full weekend of play that Quinnipiac would 12th on the table and 0-2? If you said you expected it, I would say you’re lying because since the Bobcats entered the league over a decade ago, it has not been 0-2 in the league. I will discuss their troubles below and a lot of it stems from the same questions that were asked in the preseason. Dartmouth, after a rough 5-0 loss in its ECAC opener against Harvard responded well and won both its games over the weekend.  Cornell is 4-0-0 to begin the year and had an impressive road sweep of Quinnipiac/Princeton on the weekend.

Because it has been a pair of weeks since I last posted, I wanted to talk about the Pairwise and the inter-conference record of the league-surprisingly it isn’t all doom and gloom. As early results poured in, it seemed as though the ECAC was going to have struggles. But as I have delved into the numbers further, the league’s record is 45-49-11 in non-conference play. If one subtracts St. Lawrence’s 1-7-0 mark in non-conference play, the league would be 44-42-11. This is right on par with last season and the current .481 record is fourth best among the conferences. With many of the better teams being Ivy League schools, that mark should only improve as the season heads into the holiday non-conference game binge.

Before I get to my three thoughts, I will mention I am going to Belfast for the Friendship Four tournament Thanksgiving weekend. So be on the lookout for my thoughts of that trip, as I am really excited about it and will probably post a travel blog on the experience in Northern Ireland… Until then here are my three thoughts of the week:

Below the break: Quinnipiac’s Goal Scoring problems, Cornell’s Big Sweep, Clarkson Recovers, team-by-team thoughts/power rankings Read the rest of this entry »

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Three Things I Think: Atlantic Hockey, November 5

Posted: November 5th, 2017 / by Melissa Burgess

Army West Point opened the month of November strong in Atlantic Hockey action, sweeping Air Force and taking the top spot in the conference standings. Holy Cross, meanwhile, opened the month with a tie and a loss; every other team in the conference earned at least one win over the weekend.

Here are the Atlantic Hockey standings:

  1. Army
  2. Niagara
  3. Holy Cross
  4. Robert Morris
  5. RIT
  6. Canisius
  7. Bentley
  8. Mercyhurst
  9. AIC
  10. Air Force
  11. Sacred Heart

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HEA’s Struggles Keeping The Puck Out Could Severely Hurt Its Pairwise Chances

Posted: November 3rd, 2017 / by Mike McMahon

There’s no sugarcoating it, Hockey East’s inter-conference record stinks. The league is 19-27-4 (.420) in non-conference games, and that includes a 4-1-1 record against Atlantic Hockey. If you pull those games out, the league is 15-26-3.

Will that hurt the league later this season in the Pairwise? Potentially. There’s still time to make up ground, but the league is in an awfully big hole with the bulk of non-conference games already in the books. Right now the Big Ten (.679), NCHC (.667) and ECAC (.452) all have better non-conference winning percentages.

Last year, Hockey East was .570 in inter-conference games. The league hasn’t been below-.500 since 2010-11, when it went 25-30-12 (.463). Not ironically, the league only had three teams in the NCAA Tournament that season: Merrimack, New Hampshire and Boston College.

Bad inter-conference performance hurts the entire league when teams are positioning for at-large bids in March.

So many inter-conference games take place here at the beginning of a new season, and Hockey East’s combined goaltending has been the worst in the country to start the year. The league has a combined save percentage of .899, with the national average .908 (a number Hockey East drags down a bit). The conferences outside of Hockey East are combining for a .910 save percentage.

Four goalies that most had pegged as the best in the league — Joe Woll (BC), Tyler Wall (UML), Adam Huska (UConn) and Jake Oettinger (BU) have combined for an .877 save percentage, and Oettinger is the only one in that group to be above .900 (.907).

Is Hockey East having a “down year?” There’s evidence to suggest it.

Fact is, teams hoping to earn an at-large bid in March need to be rooting for their league counterparts in inter-conference games today.

There’s only league action this weekend, but next weekend provide some intriguing opportunities. UConn vs. Ohio State is suddenly a big game, with the stranglehold the Big Ten has on these numbers. Hockey East is WINLESS against the Big Ten this season (0-6) and the Huskies are the league’s last hope at changing that. Those games are huge not only for UConn, but potentially other teams in the conference.

There are plenty of ECAC matchups on the schedule, but Hockey East needs to make headway with the NCHC as well. All of a sudden, Merrimack vs. Denver and Merrimack vs. Colorado College in December could mean a lot for the league.

Hockey East might be able to get ahead of the ECAC and stay ahead of the WCHA and Atlantic Hockey, but the Big Ten and NCHC appear to be the two leagues who will win the race for the most NCAA Tournament bids.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Nov. 2

Posted: November 2nd, 2017 / by Jashvina Shah

It’s November, leaves are on the ground and all but two teams have started conference play. The Big Ten has a record of 26-12-3 against non-conference opponents for a winning percentage of .671, which is best in the country.

The Wolverines and Nittany Lions split. Penn State edged Michigan 5-4 in overtime before the Wolverines earned a 5-2 win the night after. Michigan State swept Lake Superior State, throwing up 10 goals over the weekend. Don’t look now, but Michigan State’s offense is tied for 12th with an average of 3.50 goals per game.

The Gophers swept Clarkson, winning 3-1 and 2-1. Notre Dame split with Nebraska-Omaha in a couple of high-scoring games. The Buckeyes swept the Colonials and are off to a hot start, much like they were last season. Ohio State has won four games in a row and has just one loss this season.

Conference action this weekend features Minnesota vs. Michigan State and Notre Dame at Ohio State. Michigan will host in-state rival Ferris State, Penn State will host Mercyhurst and Wisconsin will host North Dakota.

Notre Dame’s Jake Evans leads the country with 15 points.

(After the jump: Penn State leads the conference, Who’s going to stay consistent and Injuries)

Penn State’s at the top

If you looked at Penn State’s overall schedule, this would be weird. The Nittany Lions sit at an even .500 and lost to American International, but they’re the only team that has won two Big Ten games. They’re also the only team that’s played in more than two.

Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio State have all played in two conference games and they’ve all won one. Michigan State and Notre Dame have yet to play a conference match, although that will change this weekend.

Who’s going to stay consistent?

The Big Ten had a rough week a few weeks ago, but the conference still has a pretty good non-conference record. Some teams have fared quite well for themselves so far, although strength of schedule for the most part is so-so.

The hottest team in the Big Ten right now is probably Ohio State, which is taking advantage of a great season from Sean Romeo so far. We saw this from Ohio State last year, though, and that dipped as the season went on. This time I actually think the Buckeyes can keep it up, but that rests on Romeo.

The other team that’s doing quite well for itself is… Michigan State. But again, strength of schedule plays a part. Even so, when you’re a new team with not many skilled players and you lack offense, defense and solid goaltending, a 4-2-0 record under a new coach isn’t bad. Will this hold up? Probably not.

Notre Dame’s depth isn’t here yet

The Fighting Irish, despite losing Anders Bjork and Cal Petersen, still entered the season as an extremely deep team with talent. The problem is, Notre Dame hasn’t been healthy so far this year. Andrew Oglevie missed two games over the weekend with an injury. Junior Joe Wegwerth has missed two contests. Just 10 players have played in all eight games this year.

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NCHC: Weekend Preview

Posted: November 2nd, 2017 / by Avash Kalra

Each NCHC team has played at least five games, and every team in the league is over .500 at this early stage in the season, after another successful first few weeks of nonconference action.

Conference play is underway, too. Colorado College split with North Dakota last weekend in the first league play of the season, and there are three more league series this weekend — Denver at Western Michigan, CC at Miami, Minnesota-Duluth at St. Cloud State. Omaha is off, while North Dakota plays two at Wisconsin.

As a preview of this weekend’s action, here’s a brief look at each of the team’s starts to the season (teams listed alphabetically):

 

Colorado College: After a split against Vermont and a sweep against Alaska-Anchorage, all eyes were on the Tigers last weekend to see how they would fare in their first league games of the season — one of many areas in which the Tigers have struggled in recent seasons. CC responded in a big way with their split against North Dakota. In the Tigers’ Friday night win, they took advantage of their chances, stayed out of the penalty box (North Dakota had only one power play opportunity), and survived periods of pressure in the third… but I found their loss to be encouraging as well.

Despite defensive lapses in a 6-4 game, CC scored all four of its goals on the rush — an area in which they struggled last year. They showed plenty of speed getting behind the UND defense, and that will serve them well as the season goes on. CC already has five wins this season — incredibly, the earliest the Tigers have reached that mark since the fall of 2005. It’s the best start during the Mike Haviland era in Colorado Springs, and junior Mason Bergh has led the way with seven goals (tied for most in the country).

 

Denver: The defending champions are rolling — undefeated at 4-0-2 after sweeping Boston University and Boston College on the road last weekend. And as expected, the Pioneers’ trio of high-end forwards, Henrik Borgstrom, Troy Terry, and Dylan Gambrell, are leading the way. Borgstrom in particular has picked up where he left off last year, as the potential Hobey Baker candidate has a point in each game he’s played this season and leads Denver with five goals.

It will be interesting this weekend to see how Denver plays on Friday night against the Broncos, as the Pioneers have shown a tendency this season to start slowly before picking up momentum as the weekend goes along. Denver is 1-0-2 on Friday (allowing eight goals in those three games) and 3-0-0 on Saturday (allowing four goals in those three games). Even though Tanner Jaillet is the unquestioned starter in goal, I’d expect head coach Jim Montgomery to mix in freshman Dayton Rasmussen periodically as well. The rookie netminder earned the win for Denver’s first home victory of the season two weeks ago against Lake Superior State.

 

Miami: The RedHawks rebounded from an inconsistent weekend against Maine to pummel UConn last weekend, outscoring the Huskies 10-1 in a pair of games in Oxford. Miami hosts CC this weekend, and one story to watch will be whether the RedHawks can continue their strong power play efforts — after scoring 11 power play goals on their last 21 opportunities. Their 34.3 percent success rate is fourth best in the nation currently, and in years past, CC has struggled on the penalty kill.

Sophomore Gordie Green (11 points already) looks to be one of the NCHC’s breakout stars this season.

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Three Things I Think: Atlantic Hockey, October 29

Posted: October 29th, 2017 / by Melissa Burgess

You win some, you lose some. While several Atlantic Hockey teams had solid weekends – including Niagara and RIT, who each picked up a pair of wins, others found nothing but defeat.

Niagara, who was ranked 11th in preseason polls, closes out the month of October as the top-ranked team in Atlantic Hockey. Meanwhile, RIT jumped from last-place in the conference standings to fourth after a pair of victories.

Here are the Atlantic Hockey Standings:

  1. Niagara
  2. Holy Cross
  3. Army
  4. RIT
  5. Canisius
  6. Mercyhurst
  7. Robert Morris
  8. Bentley
  9. Air Force
  10. AIC
  11. Sacred Heart

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