Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Dec. 15

Posted: December 15th, 2015 / by Jashvina Shah

Last weekend featured five Big Ten teams in action. Penn State defeated Princeton, Ohio State was on a bye and Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and Michigan State participated in the only two conference matches.

Both series ended with splits, leaving little to glean from the weekend. We already know that Wisconsin is a better team than expected. And the quality of the conference isn’t great overall, and many of the games have been close so far. It’s still hard to figure out exactly what the deal is with Minnesota and Michigan, especially when it comes to goals allowed. Michigan beat Minnesota 8-3 on Friday night, but fell 3-2 on Saturday. Michigan State beat Wisconsin 4-3 but lost to the Badgers 3-0 the next night.

It’s still early and the standings don’t mean much, but Minnesota is currently in first place. Michigan is second, Penn State third, Wisconsin fourth, Michigan State fifth and Ohio State sixth.

(After the jump: Kyle Connor should be at WJC camp, what’s wrong with the Spartans and the problem with the Big Ten is…)

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NCHC Saturday Dec. 12: Three Things

Posted: December 12th, 2015 / 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 saw St. Cloud State (5-2 at Denver) and North Dakota (3-0 at UMD) win on the road, while Western Michigan broke out of its prolonged offensive drought with a 7-3 home win over Colorado College. All three series conclude tonight, the final NCHC conference action of 2015.

1. Cam Again

Cam Johnson’s 18 save shutout in Grand Forks over Denver last week was impressive, but the North Dakota Fighting Hawks netminder’s performance last night — 40 saves in UND’s 3-0 win — was exceptional. Johnson is now undefeated in five starts since returning from injury, and North Dakota — led by opportunstic offensive talent of the likes of Drake Caggiula and Nick Schmaltz — looks downright scary. Johnson had 15 saves in the third period and held the Bulldogs off the scoreboard repeatedly, most notably on power play opportunities that clearly left the UMD players frustrated. Kasimir Kaskisuo didn’t play poorly per se on the other end, but may have to be perfect in tonight’s rematch if Johnson continues to stay locked in. UND is 15-2-2 overall and three points clear of St. Cloud at the top of the NCHC standings.

2. That Escalated Quickly

Coming off a 7-2 loss to Omaha, things weren’t looking terrific for St. Cloud State halfway through its game in Denver last night, trailing 2-0. The Pioneers then gave the Huskies their only power play opportunity of the night, which St. Cloud converted to cut the lead to 2-1… and the rest of the game looked as though St. Cloud had a man advantage. The persistence paid off in the third period when things completely fell apart for Denver. Joey Benik, Kalle Kossila, and David Morley all scored in span of 1:33 to turn a 2-2 deadlock into a comfortable 5-2 Huskies win. That trio of seniors, in addition to classmates Jimmy Murray and Ethan Prow, are arguably the top upperclassmen group in the country in terms of overall talent. They’ve also become impressive leaders on the ice, no longer making defensive lapses that cost the Huskies last year, and St. Cloud — like UND — has the look of a team ready to make a serious NCAA title run. Denver, meanwhile, has lost three straight behind an anemic offense, and their response tonight will be telling, one way or the other.

3. About time

Western Michigan shook off weeks of frustration with last night’s 7-3 win over CC, and the Broncos clearly wanted the win desperately — they forced turnovers, were quicker to loose pucks, and were determined in all phases. The final score isn’t as reflective of how close the game was for two periods, but things fell apart for CC late in the second period when the Broncos forced a turnover at the blueline from Tigers sophomore defenseman (and Nashville Predators draft pick) Teemu Kivihalme. Michael Rebry scored his first of the season to give the Broncos a 4-2 lead at the time, and Kivihalme contributed to another defensive zone turnover in the opening minutes of the third period — again leading to a Western Michigan goal. Truthfully, Western Michigan looked like a different team with renewed energy and purpose, while on the other end, it’s disappointing to see the Tigers regress after sweeping Miami last week — especially against a team that had to be desperate after entering the weekend with eight consecutive losses. Still, CC can climb out of the NCHC cellar with a win tonight since Miami is idle.

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Dec. 11

Posted: December 11th, 2015 / by Jashvina Shah

Play continues this weekend for all Big Ten teams except for Ohio State. Penn State hosts out-of-conference Princeton, while Michigan, Minnesota, Michigan State and Wisconsin continue conference play.

Last week, the first weekend of Big Ten play, didn’t reveal much. But it seems as if most matches will be close, based on Ohio State losing two one-goal games to Minnesota and Wisconsin playing a pair of close games with Michigan.

This weekend, Michigan hosts Minnesota – a matchup of the preseason top two teams. The Gophers have struggled this year, but they do have goaltending. Meanwhile, Michigan State hosts Wisconsin. The Spartans have been a difficult team to characterize this year and the Badgers have been better than expected.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Dec. 7

Posted: December 7th, 2015 / by Jashvina Shah

The first weekend of Big Ten play concluded in interesting fashion. The Wolverines participated in a high-scoring shootout with Wisconsin, Ohio State hung in with Minnesota and Penn State demolished Michigan State.

The Nittany Lions defeated the Spartans by a combined score of 10-3. The Wolverines sneaked by the Badgers on the first night, and then tied ina 6-6 contest the next night. Minnesota swept the Buckeyes, but both games were one-goal contests.

While I didn’t know what to expect last weekend, I definitely wasn’t expecting that. The Gophers and Nittany Lions are tied for first place right now, while Michigan State and Ohio State are tied for last.

It’s really early to jump to conclusions (and the PairWise, stay away from the PairWise) but there are some things we can infer – like Michigan’s lack of defense and goaltending.

(After the jump: Michigan’s weakness, bad defenses, World Junior rosters)

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UNH-Maine Rivalry Just Isn’t What it Used To Be

Posted: December 6th, 2015 / by Josh Seguin

I sat in the press box of the Whittemore Center and thought to myself this used to be one of the premier matchups in college hockey. The crowds flocked, the atmospheres at the Alfond and the Whitt were electric and the quality of play on the ice was top notch (even as recent as 2011). Fast forward to 2015, and it seemed to be something else. UNH picked up a solid 5-2 win against its border rival on Saturday night, but the game provided little in the way of excitement. The crowd was in a way dull and the third period was a snooze-fest to be honest, with UNH up three goals. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hard Work Paying Off For Providence’s Nick Ellis

Posted: December 5th, 2015 / by Mike McMahon

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Hard work pays off.

That’s a saying coaches across the country are constantly trying to drill into the heads of their players.

Good thing for Providence head coach Nate Leaman, he was one shining example sitting in his own locker room.

Goaltender Nick Ellis spent the last two years behind Jon Gillies. That’s not saying much. There were roughly 180 goalies in college hockey last season, and just about every single one of them would have been behind Gillies on a depth chart.

After waiting it out, patiently, while Gillies led the Friars to a national championship last season, it’s been Ellis’ time to shine.

After Saturday’s shutout over Merrimack, Ellis’ second of the season, he has a .939 save percentage and a 1.75 goals-against average. His team, meanwhile, is 11-0-3 and hasn’t lost since an overtime defeat to New Hampshire in the quarterfinals of the Hockey East playoffs last season, a span that has now stretched 18 games.

“He’s been our hardest worker the past two years,” Leaman said. “There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it. The guys, when he got his chances last year, the guys were really rooting for him. The guys here love him for how hard he works and it’s one of those stories that makes you really happy as a college coach, because you see a guy that had to battle through some adversity, and he had to keep working and working and when he’s had his opportunities he’s made the most of it. Those are the lessons you want to teach these kids. Things aren’t always going to go your way but if you keep doing the right thing and you keep battling, you’ll be able to take advantage of your opportunity when it comes. That’s why a lot of guys are happy for him.”

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NCHC Saturday Dec 5: Three Things

Posted: December 5th, 2015 / 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.

Last night’s NCHC action featured all eight league teams in conference action, and home ice advantage was the story, with Minnesota-Duluth (7-0 over Western Michigan), Colorado College (2-1 over Miami), St. Cloud State (4-1 over UNO), and North Dakota (5-1 over Denver) all earning wins at home.

1. Win streak

Earlier this week, we featured a story on Colorado College and the optimism within the team despite 13 consecutive losses to open the 2015-16 campaign. Suddenly, the Tigers have now won two in a row, following up their defeat of Air Force last Saturday with another one-goal win last night, this time against Miami. In both wins, CC has taken control of the game in the third period — an impressive trend for a young team that put together arguably its best defensive performance of the season last night. Hunter Fejes scored both CC goals in the third period to turn a 1-0 deficit into the 2-1 win, but the turning point came halfway through the final period when Fejes, a senior, stole the puck from the usually sure-handed Matthew Caito, Miami’s senior defenseman who was carrying the puck out of the RedHawks defensive zone. That resulted in a breakaway for Fejes, who tied the game and swung the momentum for the rest of the evening in Colorado College’s favor. It was a great opportunistic moment for Fejes, but a dreadful play by Caito, a leader for a Miami team that has suddenly lost four of its last five.

2. Play of the night

With all due respect to North Dakota’s Brock Boeser, who showed off his impressive ability to pick top corners in North Dakota’s dismantling of Denver in Grand Forks, the clear play of the night came at St. Cloud, where the Huskies’ Ethan Prow floated a pass from his defensive zone to teammate Jimmy Murray at the opposite blue line, setting up a goal that put St. Cloud up 3-1. The goal came shortly after Huskies netminder Charlie Lindgren stopped UNO leading point-scorer Jake Guentzel on a two-on-one, payback for a goal Guentzel scored earlier in the night — a play which culminated in the forward’s momentum knocking down Lindgren for several moments. Opponents will have to figure out how to limit the Huskies’ offense, as St. Cloud has now scored three or more goals in a game for nine straight contests.

3. Early and often

UMD scored at will last night against Western Michigan, winning by a touchdown, 7-0. The Broncos have given up an alarming 25 goals over four games now, and it was easy to see why. The Bulldogs took the lead on a shorthanded goal from Austyn Young just 9:01 into the first period, but on the play, WMU netminder Lukas Hafner failed to hold on to the puck sent in from essentially the blueline. Hafner gave up a rebound, and Young capitalized, and for the remainder of the night, the Bulldogs didn’t look back. In fact, they were relentless, getting in front of Hafner’s eyes on multiple subsequent goals, including the goals that extended the lead to 2-0 and 3-0. When Dominic Toninato doubled the Bulldogs lead just three and a half minutes after Young’s goal, senior Austin Farley took away Hafner’s line of sight — a great example of a contribution that doesn’t show up on the scoresheet.

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Dec. 4

Posted: December 4th, 2015 / by Jashvina Shah

And now the fun starts. The rest of college hockey is still fuming at the Big Ten, and non-conference play is now almost over for the six power conference teams. So far, all Big Ten teams have struggled – making it interesting to see who’ll do well in the league.

The Big Ten has a 29-32-11 non-conference record, third-worst in the country behind the WCHA and Atlantic Hockey. But if you take away the 23 non-conference wins against Atlantic Hockey, the Big Ten’s record drops to 17 non-conference wins.

Right now, Penn State has the best record at 8-2-3. The Wolverines are behind them with seven wins, while Minnesota and Michigan State are tied with four. The Badgers and Buckeyes both have three wins, but Ohio State’s nine losses are more than Wisconsin’s.

It’s pretty early to tell which teams will fare well in the conference, although competition may be closer than we think. Read the rest of this entry »

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ECAC Weekend Preview: 12/3

Posted: December 3rd, 2015 / by Josh Seguin

Another full slate of league games awaits us this weekend, as the schedule is a tad more manageable this weekend in comparison to last week’s full slate of non-conference games. Yale hosts Quinnipiac in the game of the week, as the two New Haven area rivals renew their acquaintances at the Whale. Last season, the matchup was as close as possible with two ties in its two meetings. Quinnipiac is still undefeated at 13-0-2, which the best start since Colorado College started 15-0-2 in 1995-1996. St. Lawrence at Cornell is another highlight of Friday night, while RPI and Harvard will play for the second straight week after the Crimson took home the Shillelagh Tournament title back to Cambridge, with a 4-0 win, on Saturday.

Each weekend is crucial within conference play. RPI and Quinnipiac remain tied at the top of the standings with 10 points. The top 7 are separated by just four points, with Brown rounding out the bunch at seven. The conference still has six teams in the top 16 of the Pairwise and wins within league play are so important, because there isn’t a bad loss within the league because of a .648 win pct. in inter-conference play. There are many great matchups this weekend. as always I urge you to hit a rink to see your favorite team play. Also see this week’s Three Things I Think, for more of my thoughts. Read the rest of this entry »

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Three Things I Think: ECAC 12/1

Posted: December 1st, 2015 / by Josh Seguin

Another successful weekend in non-conference play has the conference in pretty good shape going forward. In terms of strength of schedule according to Krach, league teams have been pretty successful and have played some of the more difficult schedules in college hockey. The ECAC owns 10 of the top 18 schedules nationally, which is a direct consequence of the league’s non-conference winning percentage. The inter-conference record dropped a tad over the weekend, but still sits at a national best of .648. This all means good things, as the ECAC currently has seven of the top 16 teams in the Pairwise. It probably won’t stay at that, but its fun to look at because there still is good chance the league will have four, maybe five teams. Read the rest of this entry »

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