ECAC Power Rankings 12/2

Posted: December 2nd, 2014 / by Josh Seguin

Because of the holiday last week, I was unable to find the time to do a power rankings but much has certainly changed in two weeks. Colgate’s struggles for consistency have continued, while Quinnipiac’s inconsistency has also come forward. The Bobcats dropped a decision to Clarkson two weeks ago, defeated St. Lawrence and dropped a home decision to UMass. It recovered, but damage has already been done because other ECAC teams had great two week stretches. The league standings tell us nothing about how the league is going because everyone is still too close to call. Quinnipiac sits at the top with ten points, but a four way tie for second place contains Harvard, St. Lawrence, Clarkson and RPI. Colgate, Yale and Cornell all sit within a weekend either three or four points behind.

The conference has been impressive of late in non-conference. Despite Clarkson’s 0-4-0 record against Hockey East and Quinnipiac’s 3-3-0 record against that other eastern conference, the rest of the league has put together quite the impressive 14-2-2 record against the usual “best conference in the country.” Note the quotation marks, because all of my ECAC fans will get the joke in that. Both Dartmouth and Harvard picked up huge wins against Boston University last week, with the Green doing so at home and the Crimson pulling out an overtime decision at BU’s, Agganis Arena. Overall the league is set up for future success in the Pairwise and has the possibility to get more than four teams in the tourney, because of its 35-27-4 record against the other conferences. That mark is good for second among the nation’s conferences. If the tournament began today, both Harvard and Yale would be in comfortably because of their 6th and 11th ranking respectively in the Pairwise. St. Lawrence sits on the bubble, but in, in 15th, while Quinnipiac, Colgate and Dartmouth all sit within distance in the top 20.

As for the power rankings, I am starting to see some trends that make my life easier. Harvard has proven it is the best team in the conference at this point, a thought I have had for a few weeks now but now I am comfortable to say it. Yale is the only team that has beaten Harvard this season and it has won four of its last five games. Its goaltending will get it far this season and its built from the net out nature makes it a dangerous team going forward. Those teams seem to be the clear top two and the rest seem to be really close together behind them. I feel more confident in these rankings than I have at any point this season. The league will again shake out this weekend, as eight conference games and teams will play league games. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big Ten: A Look Into Corsi, Week Eight

Posted: December 2nd, 2014 / by Jashvina Shah

All Big Ten teams returned to non-conference action this weekend. The Gophers split a Boston road trip, defeating Boston College and losing to Northeastern. While Minnesota lost, the Badgers earned their first win of the season.

Michigan State split with Princeton, while the Wolverines swept RPI. Penn State dropped its match at MSG to Cornell. Ohio State rebounded from a 6-2 loss at the Shillelagh Tournament to defeat Notre Dame 5-1 on Saturday.

The only thing that stood out were Minnesota’s Corsi numbers against Boston College. The Gophers passed the 70 percent mark for possession in the first, and had a 60 percent 5-on-5 Corsi for the game.

As usual, the stats are listed below with context:

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Dec. 1

Posted: December 2nd, 2014 / by Jashvina Shah

Minnesota lost to Northeastern. It happened, and one night after the Gophers – bolstered by the return of Brady Skjei – defeated Boston College. The Gophers are now winless at Matthews Arena all time.

It’s odd, especially because the Gophers have one win in their last four games. Minnesota is still missing Travis Boyd, but Brady Skjei returned for both games last weekend.

Form what I’ve heard from my colleagues who witnessed Northeastern’s upset win (yes, this I consider an upset), the Huskies came out and were ready to play. The Huskies scored a goal late to take the lead permanently.

It’s only December, but the Gophers are the only Big Ten team on the inside of the PairWise top-16. While it’s early to use the rankings as a good judge of teams, its accurate for the Big Ten conference.

The Badgers turned in their most successful weekend of the season and are now undefeated in their last two games, with a tie and a win against Ferris State. Saturday’s 5-3 victory marked Joel Rumpel’s 50th win, Corbin McGuire’s first point and Jack Dougherty’s first goal.

After watching Michigan State with Princeton this weekend, I know roughly the same about them as I did before. A once-strong Spartan defense allowed five goals on the weekend to the NCAA’s worst offense. Princeton entered the series averaging a goal per game, but scored three in Friday’s win over the Spartans. It was Princeton’s first win over Michigan State, and Spartan coach Tom Anastos was not happy.

Ohio State also split the weekend. After a 6-2 loss to eventual Shillelagh Tournament champion Western Michigan, the Buckeyes beat Notre Dame 5-1. The Irish aren’t a great team this year, but five goals is impressive for the Buckeyes.

Michigan is now on a three-game winning streak after sweeping RPI, but I’ll have more on the Wolverines below. Penn State dropped a decision to Cornell and The Nittany Lions are now on a two-game losing streak.

I said this last week and I’ll say it again – the Badgers have a legitimate chance of finishing second in the conference.

(After the jump: How the Big Ten is shaping up, Michigan State’s offensive issues and is this Michigan’s turning point?) Read the rest of this entry »

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Three Things I Think: Hockey East, Dec. 1

Posted: December 1st, 2014 / by Joe Meloni

Part of Hockey East’s willingness to welcome Notre Dame and Connecticut was to increase the likelihood of at least five teams in the NCAA tournament every year. Additionally, the expanded Hockey East tournament gives bubble teams in Hockey East a chance to add a few more wins and bolster their standing in the Pairwise.

There’s no doubt that Hockey East can expect to send four or five teams to the NCAA tournament most seasons. A year ago, Massachusetts-Lowell, Boston College, Providence, Vermont and Notre Dame all advanced to the 16-team field. This season, each of those teams expected to get there. A resurgent Boston University also had its sights on a chance to play for a national championship. Despite the league’s efforts, the first two months of the season have changed a lot of that.

At the moment, four Hockey East teams (No. 10 Vermont, No. 12 BU, No. 14 Merrimack and No. 16 UMass-Lowell) are in the top 16. A major issue for the league at this point has been poor strengths of schedule almost across the board. Only Providence (11) and UConn (18) have played schedules in the top 20. With holiday tournaments and the rigor of league play still to come, this should change as the season progresses. But it’s going to take some major improvements from a few of the league’s best for Hockey East to get more than four in the NCAA tournament.

Disappointing starts from Boston College (7-7-0) and Notre Dame (6-8-2) have made it pretty clear 2014-15 is a down year for Hockey East. The ECAC and NCHC have established themselves have the deepest league’s in the country at the moment. The WCHA’s success hasn’t helped Hockey East either, with Minnesota State, Bowling Green and Michigan Tech all looking likely for the national tournament at this point.

A lot can change between now and Championship Saturday. BC’s youth and talent suggests it should string together a strong second half. There’s nothing bad about sending 25 percent of teams in one league to the national tournament. Hockey East, however, seems to have higher expectations, and a lot will have to change to achieve that goal this season. Read the rest of this entry »

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Three Things I Think: WCHA, Dec. 1

Posted: December 1st, 2014 / by Ryan Evans

This weekend in the WCHA didn’t have as much sizzle as the last, but still featured some important match-ups. Michigan Tech and Minnesota State are still neck and neck at the top of the standings. Both teams earned sweeps, leaving the Huskies still just two points ahead of the streaking Mavericks.

In this week’s USCHO.com poll, Minnesota State – winners of six-straight — was the big jumper, sliding up five spots to No. 2. Michigan Tech moved up one spot to No. 5, idle Bowling Green jumped one spot to No. 14, and Northern Michigan held firm at No. 19. Ferris State (7) and Alaska (2) are both receiving votes in the poll.

WCHA teams now occupy the top two, and three of the top five, spots in the KRACH ratings. Minnesota State remains No. 1 this week, while Michigan Tech moved up three spots to No. 2, and Bowling Green jumped up one place to No. 5.

Rapid Recap: In league play, Minnesota State continued its recent roll with a dominating sweep of Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech bounced back with a road sweep of Alabama-Huntsville, and Northern Michigan closed out its Alaskan road trip by splitting with Alaska. Elsewhere, Bemidji State snapped its seven game losing streak on Saturday to split with St. Cloud State, and Ferris State continued its roller coaster season by going winless against previously winless Wisconsin. The WCHA’s non-conference record now stands at 23-19-5 (.543).

(After the break: My WCHA Three Stars of the Weekends and three thoughts on what went down.)

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Three Things I Think: ECAC 12/1

Posted: December 1st, 2014 / by Josh Seguin

Another weekend, another mixed bag of results in non-conference play for the ECAC. Harvard has taken the nation by storm in recent weeks. Last week was its best yet, as it not only knocked off a red hot Boston University on the road but it followed it up with a roadie against Lowell on Saturday night. Cornell picked up a huge non-conference win on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden against Penn State, which marked the first game between the programs. Clarkson’s offensive woes continued against Merrimack and they were swept accordingly on the road. Dartmouth also defeated Boston University on Sunday at home, another huge win for the league.

ECAC’s dominance this season of Hockey East foes has continued, but not on the level that the early season saw. Last weekend the league went 4-4-0 against the other conference that usually claims supremacy in the east, but on the season the ECAC is still 16-9-2 against Hockey East opponents. Overall, the conference is 35-27-4 in non-conference, which sets it up as the second best record of all the conferences. Only the NCHC has a better record in non-league play. The only alarming prospect of non-conference play so far is that it only has a winning record against Hockey East and Atlantic Hockey. The sample sizes, however, with the western conferences are really small. So take solace in knowing the best teams in the ECAC are actually doing better against top competition in than in previous years. Harvard’s wins against the Hockey East elite are certainly helping, I must say.

Next week will feature the last weekend of conference play before the winter and exam breaks that usually last near three weeks. It has been a fun half of hockey for ECAC fans and I am sure next weekend will be much of the same. Teams will be looking for positioning and there will be a potential first place matchup, featuring Harvard at Quinipiac next Saturday. All in all the league race couldn’t be any closer heading into the break. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hockey East Weekend Preview: Nov. 28

Posted: November 28th, 2014 / by Joe Meloni

Boston College hosts Minnesota Friday night before heading south for its first meeting with Providence this season.

The Eagles’ problems during their recent four-game losing streak received more attention than they probably deserved. BC lost games to teams looking like NCAA Tournament probables in Denver, Boston University and Harvard. The 1-0 defeat to Connecticut obviously wasn’t acceptable for the Eagles, but few clubs skate through a season without a bad loss or two.

Since those four games without a win, the Eagles have made relatively easy work of Michigan State, Massachusetts and Maine. It was a nice recovery for Jerry York’s team. But this weekend’s games present BC with two great chances to undo some of the damage done during that four-game drought.

While it’s not worth looking at the Pairwise just yet, a win over the Gophers on Friday is the type of factor that can undo any number of troubling losses. Additionally, Saturday’s game with the Friars is crucial for BC to get back in the race for the Hockey East regular season title.

BC has games in hand on every team ahead of it in the standings, including five games on first-place Vermont. Beyond the regular-season trophy, BC’s goal, at least, has to be to get into the league’s top for to avoid a preliminary round playoff series.

After this weekend’s games, BC has a home-and-home with New Hampshire and hosts Michigan to end the first half on Dec. 13. All three of these are very winnable games against inconsistent, albeit talented, clubs. BC should take at least two of those games without issue. However, the games this weekend are a bit more challenging. BC needs wins. They’ve recovered well in the last two weekends. Friday is a chance to build on that even more. Read the rest of this entry »

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NCHC Weekend Preview, Nov. 28-29

Posted: November 28th, 2014 / by Avash Kalra

Half the league’s teams are in action this weekend (Denver, CC, Miami, and Minnesota-Duluth, meanwhile, enjoy the Thanksgiving week off).

Here’s a look at this weekend’s sole conference series, as well as St. Cloud State’s and Western Michigan’s non-conference forays:

North Dakota (9-3-1 overall, 4-2-0 NCHC) hosts Nebraska-Omaha (7-2-1 overall, 3-1-0 NCHC)

This is the NCHC’s best Black Friday deal — a matchup featuring two of the top three league offenses and two of the top three league defenses. UND and UNO are both coming off weekend splits a week ago (North Dakota against St. Cloud State, and Omaha against Minnesota-Duluth) and enter the weekend looking for an opportunity to distance themselves from the rest of the top league teams. Of course, the coaching staffs know each other well, with UNO coach Dean Blais returning to Grand Forks this weekend, where he resided as head coach of UND from 1994 to 2004, including four seasons with North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol as an assistant. Hakstol’s teams have traditionally started slow and picked things up right around the Thanksgiving break. This year’s been different, led by a balanced offense and predictably strong goaltending from Zane McIntyre. Earlier this week, Drake Caggiula — UND’s leading scorer — offered his thoughts on why North Dakota has been better in the early stages of the season this year, compared to seasons past.

“We changed the way the way we started off our preseason,” Caggiula told me. “My first two years here, we did a lot of hard conditioning, and guys were getting tired heading into the season. So we made some adjustments off the ice in terms of that. I think that’s given us more of an opportunity to perform well on weekends. The biggest thing though is that we have a lot of returning guys to lead the way, and we know what it takes to be competitive.”

UND will have to deal with an equally strong Omaha team boasting a senior goaltender in Ryan Massa who has, simply, been outstanding so far. His .951 save percentage is second-best in the nation. Sophomores Austin Ortega and Jake Guentzel have led the way for the Mavericks’ offensive output, but freshman Tyler Vesel has emerged in recent games as well. The reigning NCHC Rookie of the Week, an Edmonton Oilers draft pick, had three points in last weekend’s split with UMD. This is usually the time of year that the top freshmen in the country prove themselves as able to produce consistently (yes, we know BU’s Jack Eichel has been doing that from day one) — with the type of game-to-game output that we see out of the veterans on these teams. UND freshman Trevor Olson, who scored the first two goals of his career last week, will be looking to do the same. Prediction: A weekend split

And in non-conference action:

Bemidji State (3-9-0 overall, 2-6-0 WCHA) hosts St. Cloud State (5-6-1 overall, 2-3-1 NCHC): Bemidji State is winless in its last six games as the Beavers prepare to host a Huskies that split its series with North Dakota last weekend. St. Cloud has the clear edge in this series, especially if they can limit Bemidji sophomore center Brendan Harms, who has a four-game point streak entering the weekend. That hasn’t been an easy task, though. Harms had two goals in the season’s first game, a win over North Dakota. St. Cloud comes in with the usual suspects (Jonny Brodzinski, Joey Benik, and the rest of its junior class) playing well in front of sophomore goaltender Charlie Lindgren. Curiously, the top lines have been prone to occasional defensive lapses, and that’ll likely be a focal point in the week of preparation for the Huskies. The aforementioned juniors are great two-way players, and they’ll be expected to play just as well defensively as offensively. Prediction: St. Cloud State sweeps.

Western Michigan (3-8-1 overall, 1-6-1 NCHC) at the Shillelagh Tournament: The Broncos are winless in their last four games and face an Ohio State team in South Bend this afternoon that, overall, has been struggling as well — though put together a nice game last weekend, a 3-0 shutout of Michigan State. WMU has yet to play well both offensively and defensively in a single game, struggling to score goals most of the time — and when they do, their defense and goaltending has let them down. Western Michigan will take on either Notre Dame or Union tomorrow. Prediction: WMU wins Friday, loses Saturday

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WCHA Weekend Preview, Nov. 28-29

Posted: November 28th, 2014 / by Ryan Evans

Eight WCHA teams are in action this weekend, including six conference showdowns and a pair of non-conference match-ups.

Bowling Green is on bye, but No. 6 Michigan Tech and No. 7 Minnesota State will be in action, against Alabama-Huntsville and Lake Superior State, respectively, as the fight for the league’s top spot continues. The Huskies and Mavericks enter the weekend with just two points separating them in the standings.

Northern Michigan travels to Alaska to face the Nanooks and seeking to re-assert itself as the top defensive team in the league. In non-conference play, Bemidji State faces yet another ranked team in No. 16 St. Cloud State, while Ferris State visits struggling Wisconsin.

(After the jump: Previewing this weekend’s WCHA match-ups)

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Nov. 27

Posted: November 27th, 2014 / by Jashvina Shah

After Big Ten play started last season, all teams are back to non-conference slates this Thanksgiving weekend. Each team is in action, and a few are on the East Coast. Minnesota, Michigan State and Penn State are making trips to Boston, New Jersey and New York.

This weekend should be easy for Minnesota and Michigan State. The Gophers will play Boston College and Northeastern, while the Spartans will head to Baker Rink and Princeton for the first time. Minnesota is on a two-game losing streak, its first of the season, but are facing a considerably different Boston College team than last year’s Frozen Four contestant.

After a split with Penn State, the Wolverines host RPI. Both teams have been inconsistent this season, but Michigan should at least be able to take one at home. After allowing eight goals last weekend, Penn State travels to MSG to face Cornell. Ohio State will participate in the Shillelagh Tournament and the Badgers host Ferris State.

Wisconsin is still winless, but they’ve played better of late. It’s hard to tell what kind of teams Ohio State and Michigan are due to inconsistency, although the Buckeyes looked fairly strong last week against Michigan State, and they could make a statement at the Shillelagh Tournament. The offense is coming for Ohio State, and their goalkeeping situation has settled down.

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