Beyond Montpetit’s Goal

Posted: March 14th, 2014 / by Avash Kalra

Denver boasted the best penalty killing unit in the NCHC this season, thanks in large part to All-NCHC First Team goaltender Sam Brittain. Thursday night in the NCHC playoff opener, UNO converted on three of four power play chances and took a 1-0 lead in its quarterfinal series against Denver. Game 2 is tonight.

The lasting highlight of the game will be Brock Montpetit’s highlight reel goal that broke a 3-3 tie in the third period. Montpetit received a pass from Ryan Walters and beat Pioneer defenseman Joey LaLeggia, expertly slipping by him and sliding a backhander by Brittain.

“He makes a heck of a move,” UNO head coach Dean Blais told the Omaha World-Herald, “and then he goes in and beats an All-American goaltender who’s going to be playing in the NHL.”

Beyond Montpetit’s heroics, however, was perhaps a more important storyline — especially if Omaha plans on making a serious playoff run.

Consider that less than a week earlier, the Mavericks defense fell apart against Minnesota-Duluth, with the Bulldogs prevailing 8-2. Thursday, by contrast, UNO’s defense outplayed Denver’s, particularly in the third period — evidenced not just by Montpetit’s goal but by four blocked shots in the frantic final 60 seconds, and by playing the third period with just five defensemen. Captain Michael Young was ejected late in the second period after receiving a major penalty and game misconduct for a contact to the head infraction. In his absence, his teammates on the back end stepped up — most notably junior Jaycob Megna and freshman Ian Brady.

On the other end, Denver’s defense is among the most trusted in the nation, not just for their play on the blue line but also for their offensive output. After all, with the goaltender pulled late in the game last night, four of the six Pioneers on the ice trying to score the tying goal were defensemen — LaLeggia, in addition to Nolan Zajac, David Makowski, and Will Butcher. That foursome has combined for 32 goals this season.

The Pioneers have lost three of four and five of seven, and now face the end to their season if they lose either tonight or tomorrow. And their defense will have to return to form if they want to avoid that.

“The key was killing off the five-minute major,” continued Blais after last night’s game, highlighting again his team’s effort on defense in Game 1. “It might have switched the whole momentum.”

The question remaining is whether UNO carries that momentum to the inaugural NCHC “Frozen Faceoff” a week from today in Minneapolis.

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, March 14

Posted: March 14th, 2014 / by Jashvina Shah

This is the last weekend in the regular season. Minnesota and Wisconsin have locked up first-round byes, while Michigan is in the No. 3 spot and Penn State is the last seed.

Ohio State and Michigan State will play each other, and either the Buckeyes or Spartans will earn the No. 4 seed. The other team will be No. 5.

The Gophers are guaranteed at least a share of the Big Ten title. Both Minnesota and Wisconsin have first-round byes, and the Badgers can earn a share of the Big Ten title. 

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, March 11

Posted: March 11th, 2014 / by Jashvina Shah

With just two games left in the regular season, Minnesota and Wisconsin have clinched a first-round bye. Wisconsin is five points behind Minnesota and still has a chance to win the Big Ten title.

If Minnesota wins one game next week, they will clinch the title.

For Wisconsin to earn a share of the title, the Badgers must win at least one game in regulation or overtime and another game either in regulation or a shootout — and Minnesota would have to lose both games.

There is another scenario where Minnesota can lose and tie, and Wisconsin would have to win both games in regulation or overtime.

Michigan is locked into the third seed, meaning it will face Penn State in the opening round. Ohio State is currently fourth and Michigan State fifth, but the Buckeyes are two points ahead of the Spartans. Michigan State closes out the season against Wisconsin, while Ohio State will face Penn State.

Last weekend was an interesting one in Big Ten hockey. The Gophers destroyed and out-played the Buckeyes in the first game of their series, winning 5-1. But the next night Ohio State played much better. The teams skated to a 2-2 tie before the Buckeyes won in a shootout.

On Friday, Michigan — backed by Andrew Sinelli’s hat trick — beat Michigan State 7-1, but the Wolverines lost to the Spartans 4-3 on Saturday. Steve Racine started both games for the Wolverines.

Wisconsin won both games against Penn State, 4-2 on Friday and 3-2 in overtime. The games were close, but the Badgers now have a three-game winning streak on the road.

(After the jump: First-round matchups, Big Ten inconsistency, Badgers on the road.)

Badgers on the road

Wisconsin’s series against Penn State was an important one, sine there were still questions of whether or not the Badgers could win on the road. It’s not guaranteed, like it almost was at the Kohl Center, but it’s more likely they can win away.

The Badgers are on a five-game winning streak and have been playing much better of late. They’ve won three games in a row, beating Ohio State and Penn State. Last week’s games were close, but the Nittany Lions are better than their record indicates.

It’s been a long time since the Badgers were destroyed in their road trip to Boston. I mentioned this before, though, Joel Rumpel was not in net in those two games. Since then, the Badgers haven’t been grossly outplayed in a road game, and last weekend’s series proved it. 

Big Ten inconsistency

With the way Wisconsin’s been playing lately, its no longer an inconsistent team. Minnesota isn’t either, but Michigan and Ohio State are two of the biggest question marks in the league.

Earlier I thought Ohio State had the potential to be one of the better teams, and a candidate for the third seed. The Buckeyes could tie for the third seed this weekend, but they’d lose the tiebreaker to Michigan.

I wasn’t expecting Minnesota to dominate the Buckeyes the way they did in the first game. And after watching, I thought Ohio State would lose the second match. Goalkeeping hasn’t helped the Buckeyes find consistency, and Christian Frey was pulled on Friday. He looked less than stellar,  but he played on Saturday.

The only two teams Ohio Sate has really struggled to win against are Minnesota and Michigan. The Buckeyes split the season series with the Badgers, and won a game at the Kohl Center.

It’s odd Ohio State hasn’t beaten Michigan this season and is 0-3-1 against the Wolverines. After last week’s series between Ohio State and Michigan, I thought the Wolverines might’ve finally found some consistency.

But turning around and losing to Michigan State 4-3 after a 7-1 win doesn’t help Michigan’s case. The Wolverines had lost to the Spartans once this season, but that was outdoors at the Great Lakes Invitational. 

Netminding hasn’t been stable for the Wolverines either this season. But, Steve Racine has started the past three games and six of the last eight.

First-round matchups

The inconsistency in Big Ten lends itself to an interesting inaugural tournament, especially in the first round.

After the past month of Big Ten play, seeding in the tournament does matter. I think the Wolverines have drawn one of the worst matchups, facing the Nittany Lions in the first round.

Penn State won its two conference games against Michigan, but the last series between the two teams was closer than the first.

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Final Night: What’s at Stake

Posted: March 8th, 2014 / by Avash Kalra

The final night of the inaugural NCHC regular season kicks off in just a few hours. Here’s a look at what’s on the line:

Regular Season Championship

The first-ever winner of the Penrose Cup will be determined tonight, and North Dakota controls its own destiny. UND and St. Cloud both won Friday night — UND shutting out Western Michigan 2-0 and St. Cloud overcoming Colorado College 7-4 — and as a result, the two teams remain tied atop the NCHC standings with 45 points. Nebraska-Omaha sits in third place with 39.

Either way, North Dakota and St. Cloud will host quarterfinal series when the playoffs kick off next week. The team that finishes in first place will host last-place Miami, and the No. 2 seed will host Colorado College — thereby setting up a potential St. Cloud/CC rematch if both North Dakota and St. Cloud win tonight. If the night ends with North Dakota and St. Cloud both still tied atop the standings, UND will earn the No. 1 seed by virtue of one more conference win than St. Cloud — despite the fact that St. Cloud won three of four games against UND this season. Head-to-head results are the second tiebreaker in the NCHC, as they are in the new Big 10. Head-to-head results form the first tiebreaker, in contrast, in the ECAC, WCHA, and Hockey East.

Friday’s results were very typical of North Dakota and St. Cloud’s style of wins this year — timely goals and strong goaltending (Zane Gothberg) for UND, compared to prolific offensive output (on Friday, led by a hat trick from sophomore Jonny Brodzinski and a five-point night from Joey Benik) that tends to overcome occasional defensive lapses for the Huskies. That said, goaltender Ryan Faragher showed character on Friday for St. Cloud after allowing three consecutive CC goals in the second period; prior to that,  St. Cloud had gone ahead 4-1, but Faragher made several key saves in the late second period and early third period while his teammates put the Huskies ahead for good.

Home Ice

The top four teams in the standings will host the bottom four next week, and heading into tonight, Denver and Minnesota-Duluth are still in contention for the final home ice spot in the upcoming playoffs. The Pioneers and Bulldogs both won on Friday — Denver winning 5-2 against Miami and UMD trouncing Nebraska-Omaha 8-2 — and as a result, Denver (35) still trails Duluth (37) by two points. Denver needs a win and a loss or shootout loss by Minnesota Duluth to clinch home ice for the quarterfinals. Omaha currently sits in third place with 39 points but could fall to fourth depending on tonight’s results.

Western Michigan, with its loss to North Dakota on Friday night, was eliminated from home-ice contention and will finish the regular season in either fifth or sixth place — guaranteeing that last Saturday’s 3-1 win against Denver was the Broncos’ final home game of the season.

Scoring Titles

Point Scoring:                                               GP     PPG    G- A- P
  1   Josh Archibald           Nebraska Omaha     JR F       23    1.30   20-10-30
  2   Chase Balisy             Western Michigan   SR F       23    1.17   12-15-27
  3   Jonny Brodzinski         St. Cloud State    SO F       23    1.09   12-13-25
      Kalle Kossila            St. Cloud State    SO F       23    1.09    9-16-25
      Jake Guentzel            Nebraska Omaha     FR F       23    1.09    5-20-25

Josh Archibald will likely win the NCHC point-scoring title. Heading into tonight, Archibald’s 30 points are three more than Western Michigan’s Chase Balisy’s 27. The junior forward for UNO will certainly finish the season as the conference’s top goal-scorer. His 20 goals pace the league by a wide margin. Balisy along with St. Cloud teammates Nic Dowd and Jonny Brodzinski are tied for second-place with 12 goals.

Omaha’s rookie sensation Jake Guentzel will finish the regular season with the most points among freshmen (25 points heading into tonight), while UMD’s Kyle Osterberg’s 10 goals will lead all rookies.

A look at some other “titles” that are in play heading into tonight:

Defenseman Scoring:                                          GP     PPG    G- A- P
  1   Dillon Simpson           North Dakota       SR D       23    0.83    6-13-19
  2   Jaccob Slavin            Colorado College   FR D       19    0.95    5-13-18
Goals Against Average:                                 Minutes    GA     GAA
  1   Zane Gothberg            North Dakota       SO    898:02    34    2.27
  2   Ryan Massa               Nebraska Omaha     JR    786:16    30    2.29
  3   Sam Brittain             Denver             SR   1274:07    49    2.31
 

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, March 7

Posted: March 7th, 2014 / by Jashvina Shah

Michigan (16-10-4, 8-6-2-1 B1G) vs. Michigan State (9-15-7, 3-7-6-4 B1G): March 7 at 7 pm., March 8 at 7 p.m.

Michigan ranks third in the conference with 27 points, four behind Wisconsin. The Wolverines still have a chance to earn the second seed.

The teams will face off in a home-and-home series, but the Spartans haven’t won at Yost since Nov. 13, 2009. The Wolverines are 2-1 against the Spartans this season, with Michigan State’s only win happening at the Great Lakes Invitational.

Matt Berry has nine points against Michigan all-time, while Jake Hildebrand has a .935 save percentage and a 2.34 goals against average against the Wolverines.

Michigan’s goalkeeping has been anything but certain lately, with Steve Racine getting the start in four of the past six games. Racine and Nagelvoort have both played against Michigan State.

Nagelvoort is 2-0-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average and a .954 save percentage, while Racine has a 2.55 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage against the Spartans.

JT Compher leads Michigan in scoring and all Big Ten freshmen with 28 points.

The storyline for Michigan State is still their shot blocking, defense and goalkeeping . They block an average of 17.71 shots per game and have the nation’s 13th-best defense that allows 2.35 goals per game. Hildebrand has stopped 851 pucks on the year, which ranks 10th in the nation.

Michigan has been shaky this season, but has won two of the last three games. Seven of Michigan State’s past nine games have all been one-goal games or ties.

Prediction: Series plit

Penn State (6-22-2, 2-13-1-0 B1G) vs. Wisconsin (19-9-2, 10-5-1-0 B1G): March 7 at 7 p.m., March 8 at 7 p.m.

The Badgers, four points ahead of Michigan for the second seed, return to action after sitting out with a bye week for their first rip to Penn State. The Badgers are 2-7-1 away from the Kohl Center, but they did win in their last road game.

Wisconsin is on a three-game winning streak. The Badgers have won five of their last six, including a pair of victories over Minnesota. In the last three games, Wisconsin’s line of Nic Kerdiles, Nark Zengerle and Tyler Banres have combined for 11 points.

Joel Rumpel has been one of the Big Ten’s best goal keepers this season, even if his numbers on the road aren’t stellar. His 1.83 goals-against average and .936 save percentage leads this season the Big Ten.

The Badgers swept the Nittany Lions earlier this season at the Kohl Center. Penn State has one win in the series against Wisconsin — an overtime victory at the Kohl Center in February last year. Max Gardiner leads the Nittany Lions in scoring against the Badgers with four points.

The Nittany Lions are on a three-game losing streak, but have earned their two conference wins in the past seven games. Matthew Skoff started six in a row, but PJ Musico was in net against Minnesota on Saturday. He made 35 saves and allowed two goals in the loss.

The Badgers have had trouble winning on the road this season and the Nittany Lions have proved they can earn conference wins. There’s a chance Penn State will earn a tie and possibly win a game, but it’s doubtful Wisconsin will drop two games.

Prediction: Wisconsin sweeps

Ohio State (15-11-4, 5-7-4-3 B1G) vs. Minnesota (23-4-5, 12-2-2-0 B1G): March 7 at 7:30 p.m., March 8 at 6:30 p.m.

If Minnesota beats Ohio State and Penn State beats Wisconsin once, the Gophers will clinch at least a share of the Big Ten regular-season title. If the Gophers win both games over Ohio State, they’ll be guaranteed the No. 1 seed.

Ohio State has the nations ninth-best offense, but haven’t scored more than two goals in five of the past six games. Over that stretch, the Buckeyes are 1-2-3.

Six different Buckeyes have registered a point against Minnesota, including leading Big Ten scorer Ryan Dzingel.

Minnesota is 2-0 against the Buckeyes this season, winning 1-0 at the Hockey City Classic and 4-2 at Minnesota. After dropping a pari of games to Wisconsin at the Kohl Center, the Gophers are on a four-game winning streak.

Hudson Fasching had two points in Friday’s win over Penn State and scored the game-winning tally. His 12 goals leads Big Ten freshmen.

Minnesota has the best defense in the country and allows 1.91 goals per game. Against Ohio State, Sam Warning leads the Gophers with three points thanks to a hat trick on Jan. 18.

Prediction: Minnesota sweeps

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Three Things I Think: ECAC, Final Edition

Posted: March 4th, 2014 / by Josh Seguin

In all honesty, I have no idea where the time went. The best time of the year is upon us, as eight teams will play this weekend for a chance to advance to the quarterfinal round, where Union, Colgate, Quinnipiac and Cornell wait in the wings with byes. I will have a more complete preview of the ECAC first round later this week.

The last weekend, showed the true grit of playoff hockey. Union, despite not playing for much, was locked into a battle with Brown on Saturday. On Friday night the Bears and RPI were locked into a playoff hockey game. Some teams flourish in the environment and it will be very interesting to see who that team is this season. Last season it was Brown, but this season there are a few teams that could be that team.

I am going to a highlight some things below and give some opinions on to who I think will go forward in the tournament. I don’t give much in the way of an opinion in the preview, so this is a much better avenue to do so. All in all, I could see 11 of the 12 teams going to Lake Placid, as the league is so strong. Right now the two favorites among readers seems to be Quinnipiac and a really gritty Union team, I would agree with them. Because of the way this season has gone, there is always thought that the clear-cut favorites wont make it and a team that no one expects will be there, I will say that probably will happen. Read the rest of this entry »

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, March 4

Posted: March 4th, 2014 / by Jashvina Shah

There are just two weeks left in Big Ten regular season play. There will be no more bye weeks, as each team has four games remaining.

The Gophers swept Penn State at home over the weekend by scores of 5-3 and 2-1. Minnesota finished the season 15-1-3 at home, and it’s the first time in Mariucci’s 20 years the Gophers have only lost once at home.

Minnesota ranks No. 1 in the PairWise and have 38 points in the Big Ten conference. The Gophers are ahead of the Badgers by seven points and have won four straight since dropping a pair to Wisconsin.

The Nittany Lions scored first on Friday, but the Gophers netted three tallies before the end of the first period. The next night, P.J. Musico made his first start of the season for Penn State and finished with 35 saves in the 2-1 loss.

The Wolverines are now unbeaten in their last three games and have 27 points. Michigan will face Michigan State and Minnesota to close out the season.

In the exhibition match, the USNTDP U-18 team defeated Michigan State 4-3, and future Spartan Edwin Minney made 20 saves and allowed three goals in the win.

Currently the Gophers are first and the Badgers second in Big Ten standings. Wisconsin is four points ahead of Michigan. The Wolverines could still earn a first-round bye through multiple scenarios.

(After the jump: The first annual Mike Ricther Award, Ohio State’s updated netminding situation and what the weekend means for Michigan.)

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The Takeaway: Brown Squanders Oppotunity for Home Ice in the First Round in 3-0 Loss to Union

Posted: March 2nd, 2014 / by Josh Seguin

Providence, RI. - Brown had everything on the line, with home ice at stake in its game against Union. The Dutchmen had just the national picture to play for. For the second night in a row, Bruno played in a tight checking, physical playoff type game. Defensive and tentative best described the first two periods, as both teams were able to keep each other off the board.

The third period was much of the same, until Kevin Sullivan fed a wide open Daniel Ciampini in front of the net to give the Dutchmen the 1-0 lead at 12 minutes, 51 seconds of the third period. Daniel Carr added his 17th of the year at 16:17 to give the Dutch a commanding 2-0 lead. Kevin Sullivan added an empty netter and Union defeated Brown, 3-0.

With the win, Union finishes the regular season 24-6-4, 18-3-1 in the ECAC. Brown squandered its opportunity to host a first round series with the loss. Its record falls to 11-15-3, 8-13-1 to finish the regular season. Union will have next weekend off with the bye and the number one seed, while Brown will travel to St. Lawrence for a series against the Saints in the first round of the ECAC tournament. Read the rest of this entry »

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ECAC Playoff Picture

Posted: March 1st, 2014 / by Josh Seguin

Lots of shuffling occurred at the top on Friday night, while RPI clinched home ice in the first round and Quinnipiac clinched the third of four byes. The championship is locked up for Union but the final bye and final home ice spot are up for grabs in the last weekend. Lets go through some scenarios but check out the standings page for a more complete record and pts standing. Read the rest of this entry »

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Last Night: Hockey East Playoff Picture

Posted: March 1st, 2014 / by Joe Meloni

The final night of the Hockey East regular season is upon us. The new playoff format has eliminated the type of drama we’re accustomed to. Every team qualifying for at least the preliminary round means each club has at least one game to look forward after Saturday night’s regular-season finale.

Here’s a look at where it all stands now, and what everyone has to lose.

The Champion

Boston College locked up the top seed in the Hockey East Tournament a couple weeks ago, picking up yet another trophy for legendary head coach Jerry York.

The Eagles were idle on Friday, but they host Notre Dame Saturday night at Conte Forum. Within the league, BC has nothing to gain, but a win over the Fighting Irish is especially important for BC in its quest to be the No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA Tournament. Moreover, it’s always an important game when BC and Notre Dame meet in any sport.

Highest Possible Finish: 1st
Lowest Possible Finish: 1st Read the rest of this entry »

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