Three Things I Think: Big Ten, March 7

Posted: March 7th, 2016 / by Jashvina Shah

After a really interesting weekend, the Big Ten standings haven’t changed – but it has made things more interesting. Michigan was swept by Ohio State. Yes, swept by Ohio State. Penn State split with Wisconsin and the Gophers also split with Michigan State.

The Gophers are first with 39 points, securing a first-round bye. The Wolverines are still second but are now just three points ahead of Penn State. The Badgers’ fate for last is sealed. So the interesting battle remains for second spot. The Wolverines probably don’t need a tournament win to make the NCAA tournament, while Penn State probably does.

With just three points separating both teams for that last bye spot, next weekend’s matchup between the two will be fun.

(After the jump: PairWise implications, Michigan takeaways, who’s getting that second spot)

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NCHC Saturday March 5: Three Things

Posted: March 5th, 2016 / by Avash Kalra

In place of traditional weekend previews, check this space on the CHN blog each Saturday for developing mid-weekend NCHC storylines and observations from Friday night games.

One night remains in the NCHC regular season, and from a playoff seeding standpoint, all eyes are on the games in Denver and Colorado Springs. The stage was set on Friday night — North Dakota thumped Western Michigan 8-1 to win the Penrose Cup as NCHC regular season champions. Minnesota-Duluth’s 5-0 shutout of Miami locked those two teams into the 4/5 seeds, respectively, guaranteeing a rematch next weekend, with Duluth as the host for the best-of-3 quarterfinal round. Finally, Denver (3-0 over Omaha) and St. Cloud State (5-2 at CC) both won to remain in a tie for second place. The Huskies control their own destiny by holding the tiebreaker over Denver, so if both teams win the rematch again, St. Cloud will finish second and Denver third. The No. 2 seed will host Western Michigan next weekend, while the No. 3 seed will host Omaha. This also means that Denver fans will be rooting for CC tonight to beat St. Cloud in what will be the Tigers’ final home game of the season.

1. 8 in a row

Denver has won eight in a row now, shutting out UNO for the second time this season (the only two instances this year that the Mavericks have been held scoreless). The Pioneers got stronger as the game went on — which has been somewhat of a trademark for Jim Montgomery’s team since January 1. Denver, as above, has a chance to finish second in the league, and that’s potentially important considering the dropoff (on paper) in quality between what will be the No. 6 seed (UNO) and the No. 7 seed (Western Michigan).

“We’re rolling, there’s no doubt about it,” said senior captain Grant Arnold, who scored the first goal of the game, the eventual game-winner — his 10th of his career in his 146th career game. “But that was one game. We’ve got another one tomorrow. I think we can have a much better first period. I don’t think our first period was good enough tonight. Our mindset is ‘never satisfied.’ It takes a long time to engrain that in yourself.”

Arnold and the rest of the senior class at Denver will play in the NCAA tournament for their fourth time and are in the hunt for a second NCHC tournament title. This senior class also continued Denver’s run of 20-win season and will celebrate ‘senior night’ at Magness Arena on Saturday night.

2. 8 in a roll

Eight was a good number for North Dakota on Friday, too, as the Fighting Hawks scored early, and late, and often, to clinch the regular season crown. UND’s 8-1 win over Western Michigan marked the 10th time UND has scored five or more goals in a game this season, and incredibly, the sixth (SIXTH) time the Broncos have allowed 6 or more goals in a game. For the third time this season, WMU lost by a margin of seven or more. Only two teams in the nation (UMass and American International) have allowed more goals this season. For UND, obviously, it’s another step in what’s been a great first year for Brad Berry, with the Fighting Hawks headed towards another NCAA No. 1 seed. But for Western Michigan, you have to wonder what’s going on defensively. UND scored some spectacular, highlight-reel goals (as usual), but the CBS line et al. had free access to any area of the ice in the offensive zone that they wanted.

Western Michigan has trended down in the five years under Murray, and it’s hard to imagine a late season miracle in the NCHC first round next weekend, when the Broncos will travel to either Denver or St. Cloud State.

3. Final minute

The difference in last night’s St. Cloud/CC game was, simply, the Huskie’s unrelenting offensive zone pressure in the late stages of the first and second periods. Yes, St. Cloud outshot CC 55-24, but in each of the first two periods, it was a timely shot — each time, with less than 20 seconds remaining in the period — that resulted in a goal. The second occurrence, with less than a second left in the second period, was the backbreaker. As noted above, the Huskies control their own destiny: a win on Saturday will clinch the No. 2 seed as St. Cloud holds the tiebreaker (head to head) over Denver if the two teams finish tied in points.

Also worth watching: The NCHC regular season scoring title will be decided tonight as well. North Dakota freshman Brock Boeser (33 points) is four points clear currently, so it would take a big night from Denver (Danton Heinen, Trevor Moore, and Dylan Gambrell are all tied with 29) to catch the UND rookie.

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Possession (Again) Not a Factor as UNH Opens Playoffs With Win Over Merrimack

Posted: March 4th, 2016 / by Mike McMahon

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — For the second time this season, Merrimack outshot New Hampshire by a wide margin but walked away without a win, as the Wildcats took the lead in the best-of-three Hockey East playoff series after scoring a 3-1 win over the Warriors last night.

UNH leads the series, 1-0. Merrimack will need to win tonight’s Game 2 in order to extend its season or else the Warriors will become the first team in college hockey this season to see it’s campaign come to a close.

Merrimack finished the night with a 79-50 Corsi advantage (61.2%), and earlier this season, when the Wildcats beat the Warriors 4-2 on Halloween, Merrimack had a 75-30 Corsi advantage (71.4%). In those two losses alone, Merrimack controlled 65.8% of the possession.

“I think if we play like that again we’re going to win,” Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy said. “That’s been my experience. You throw that much rubber at a goaltender, and it wasn’t like these were all outside shots, they were inside, too. I thought we had plenty of chances to score. You tip your cap and get back at it.

“What we need to do is pay attention when we’re not in their zone. Their first goal, we just fell asleep. We had five guys back, it was a little quick counter and those guys don’t need a lot of space to score goals. That’s on us. You can’t fall asleep there. That’s too easy a goal, especially after how hard we need to work. You know that they can be sleepy. That’s what they do. It’s like the old Miami Dolphin defense, bend don’t break, right? They give up 15 shots and then they go down and they score. They transition, so you need to pay attention. You can’t fall asleep for a second.”

UNH received two goals from freshman Marcus Vela, who scored from the slot after a blocked shot early in the third period, and then tacked on the empty-net goal from the neutral zone to ice the game.

“Every shot in here is a good shot,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “We watched them play and they throw the puck to the net a lot. Deflections, rebounds, and if you are in position to go to the net, you get some scoring chances.”

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, March 4

Posted: March 4th, 2016 / by Jashvina Shah

The second-to-last weekend in Big Ten play features all six teams in action. The two biggest matchups will probably be between the Buckeyes and Wolverines and Wisconsin and Penn State. The Wolverines and Gophers are trying to hold onto their bye spots, while Penn State is trying to steal one.

I don’t think Minnesota will have any trouble beating Michigan State. Michigan, however, will have some trouble with Ohio State. And with Wisconsin’s it’s hard to tell – the weekend could be an easy sweep, or the Badgers could give the Nittany Lions trouble.

The Gophers have a seven-point lead over Penn State and Michigan has a six-point lead over the Wolverines.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, March 1

Posted: March 1st, 2016 / by Jashvina Shah

With four teams in action this weekend, the two Big Ten series were close. Now we transition into the part of the season where conference tournaments have started, meaning other teams’ seasons are starting to end. The Big Ten still has a couple weekends left before its tournament commences.

The Gophers and Wolverines met in Minnesota for the anticipated matchup of the top two Big Ten teams. The series ended in a split, with Michigan winning 6-2 on Thursday and Minnesota winning 3-2 the next night in overtime. The Badgers and Buckeyes played in a couple shootouts. The teams tied 4-4 on Friday and then Ohio State won 6-5.

After the results, Minnesota has a one-point lead over Michigan. Penn State is seven points out of first and six out of the bye.

(After the jump: Are there no big games left, who’s going to play spoiler and who’s in and who should be worried)

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Mike Santaguida Returns For Vermont in Season Finale

Posted: February 27th, 2016 / by Mike McMahon

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — Vermont goaltender Mike Santaguida hasn’t played since Dec. 5, when he suffered an undisclosed injury against Boston University. He’ll make his return in tonight’s regular-season finale, when the Catamounts travel to Merrimack College, needing a win to clinch home ice in the Hockey East playoffs.

Santaguida dressed for the first time in almost three months last night, backing up freshman Packy Munson. The Catamounts fell behind 3-0 before eventually losing, 4-1, to the Warriors.

On the season, Santaguida has a 2.70 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage, including a 4-9-2 record as a starter. Munson was 8-9-1 between the pipes, posting a 2.40 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage.

Santaguida returned to skating a little more than a month ago, and has been practicing with the team. WPTZ’s Jack Korte reported earlier this week that Santaguida would dress, but UVM head coach Kevin Sneddon said he “might not play” this weekend.

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NCHC Saturday Feb. 27: Three Things

Posted: February 27th, 2016 / by Avash Kalra

In place of traditional weekend previews, check this space on the CHN blog each Saturday for developing mid-weekend NCHC storylines and observations from Friday night games.

Friday’s action involved several games with big implications for the conference standings. Most notably, North Dakota won on the road at Minnesota-Duluth, 4-2, to separate itself at the top of the league table as St. Cloud State fell at home, 4-1, to Minnesota-Duluth. Omaha’s loss also kept them off the pace of Miami (3-0 win on Friday vs. CC) and Duluth in the battle for the final top 4 spot in the standings. With three games to go in the regular season, UND, St. Cloud, and Denver (5-1 win over WMU on Friday) are locked into hosting quarterfinal series when the playoffs begin. Denver may be the hottest team of all, by the way, as the Pioneers are 11-1-3 in their last 15 games and were quicker to all the loose pucks in their win over Western Michigan last night.

Meanwhile, UMD, Miami, or Omaha will get the final home ice spot, while Western Michigan and CC will finish seventh or eighth.

1. Poganski, again

A week after his overtime penalty shot goal gave North Dakota a somewhat controversial win over Minnesota-Duluth, UND sophomore Austin Poganski continued his hot play on Friday in Omaha. We know all about the CBS line, but Poganski (20 points this season) is the highest scoring forward after the CBS trio (Drake Caggiula, Brock Boeser, Nick Schmaltz). Friday, Poganski had two assists — each time befuddling the Mavericks defense and then delivering the puck to a goal-scorer (Luke Johnson in the second period, Caggiula in the third). On the Johnson power play goal, Poganski also provided a screen in front of the UNO net. The sophomore now has points in four of his last five games and is clearly a player to watch as North Dakota continues its run toward the Penrose Cup (NCHC regular season winner) and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament

2. Miami PK

Miami’s 3-0 shutout win on Friday over Colorado College was the now-.500 RedHawks’ fourth win in their last five games, and Miami fans can thank their team’s penalty killing units, again. Miami has killed 104 out of 112 (92.9%) opponent power play chances this season, which is the second best penalty killing percentage in the country. Only Yale (killing off 93.9%) has been better. On Friday, the RedHawks killed all seven CC man-advantage chances, including two five minute major power plays. Moreover, on the first major, the RedHawks scored a shorthanded goal — in fact, the second career goal from senior defenseman Taylor Richart. It was an outside shot from the point that solved CC netminder Jacob Nehama — one of two long-range shots Nehama allowed in the game. Timely special teams play like Miami displayed on Friday night in Oxford may be the reason the RedHawks — if they can — end up with that final home ice playoff spot, the No. 4 seed in the upcoming NCHC quarterfinals.

3. Kept at bay by Kaskisuo

St. Cloud tried to keep pace with North Dakota at the top of the NCHC standings, but ran into UMD sophomore goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo. The Finnish netminder had 44 saves in the Bulldogs’ 4-1 road win. UMD helped its goaltender out by allowing only two St. Cloud power play opportunities, and on the other end of the ice, seemed comfortable using the wider and more open ice to their advantage. Kaskisuo was in the zone all evening, and played even more confidently as the Bulldogs built up a big lead. Tonight is likely a must-win for St. Cloud if it wants a realistic chance at the regular season championship, so it’ll be intriguing to note if head coach Bob Motzko makes any adjustments as his team tries to beat Kaskisuo tonight. Kaskisuo’s 1.98 goals against average is currently ninth-best in the nation.

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Feb. 25

Posted: February 25th, 2016 / by Jashvina Shah

The last weekend of Big Ten play in February will see a showdown for first pace. The Gophers host Michigan, a rematch of a series split in Ann Arbor back in December. But this is also a battle to remain in a bye spot, because Penn State state isn’t far behind.

The Nittany Lions, along with the Spartans, are actually off this weekend while Ohio State and Wisconsin face play. Read the rest of this entry »

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Three Things I Think: ECAC 2/24

Posted: February 24th, 2016 / by Josh Seguin

As always the regular season hits its last weekend really quick, but here we are. Quinnipiac should clinch the Cleary Cup on Friday against Brown, but ya know Bruno has wrecked the dreams of Bobcats fans before and so has Saturday opponent, Yale, who could steal the Cleary Cup from its New Haven rival. Of course this script was written in Atlantic City and Pittsburgh in the year 2013, so it couldn’t possibly be relived? I doubt it, but stranger things have happened. QU has had a great season, but of late Yale has been better, so I am interested to see what happens this weekend.

Yale has a bye locked up and Harvard needs just a point this weekend to clinch one. The mess in the standings begins behind them. St. Lawrence currently has the fourth spot and is followed just one point behind by Dartmouth and RPI. Cornell also has a chance at the bye and sits two points back of SLU. The Saints and Dartmouth have a huge opportunity to make hay on Friday as the two of them will meet in a defacto bye championship game, well not really because good ole RPI and Cornell could sneak past if the two tie. I will take the Saints at home, because they have been really good in Canton this year.

Union still has a chance to host a first round series, as it sits in ninth just three points behind Clarkson. I find this comeback as unlikely but who knows I guess. What we do know is that Colgate, Brown and Princeton will be travelling in the first round of the ECAC tournament.

In terms of the pairwise, four ECAC would be in if the tournament started today. Quinnipiac remains in its lofty position at the top, Yale has climbed all the way to seventh with its great run of form, Harvard is in 12th but has a little cushion and Cornell after a strong weekend has moved into the 14th position. Of course, the Big Red shouldn’t rest on its laurels because someone could make the tournament that shouldn’t. Right  now both the WCHA and AHA champions would be out of the top 16. Check out this article on the current tournament pictureRead the rest of this entry »

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Feb. 23

Posted: February 23rd, 2016 / by Jashvina Shah

Another weekend in the Big Ten, another slate of odd results. Well, most were expected actually, since Michigan beat Ferris State 5-2 and Michigan State swept Wisconsin. But the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions split the series. Penn State won the first game 6-1 and then Ohio State win 7-4.

But series splits with complete score reversals seems to be the norm for the Big Ten this year.

Since the Gophers were off and the Wolverines had a non-conference opponent, there were only two series to draw from. But it hasn’t helped determine which of the top teams are better. Although with the win, Penn State moved three points behind Michigan and four points behind Minnesota.

The Gophers and Wolverines battle this week for the first spot in the conference.

(After the jump: Wisconsin is the worst team in the Big Ten, the bye is very important and something to remember about the Big Ten teams in the PWR)

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