NCHC Weekend Preview: Jan. 30-31

Posted: January 30th, 2015 / by Avash Kalra

Two months from today, the only college hockey games remaining in the 2014-15 schedule will be the games to be played at the NCAA Frozen Four in Boston — the national semifinals and the national championship game. As of now, five NCHC teams sit in the top 11 of the Pairwise, certainly well-positioned for an NCAA spot if they continue to play well, but of course, for all league teams, the stretch run to the NCHC tournament and the possibility of an automatic berth are inspiring factors during these final weeks of the regular season.

Still, before any of that, to remain in the conversation two months from now will require a strong upcoming six weeks, and this weekend, with 10 games remaining for each team in the regular season, one series in particular could end up having major implications for whether North Dakota or Nebraska-Omaha can position themselves for a No. 1 seed — not just in the NCHC tournament, but in the NCAA tournament as well.

Nebraska-Omaha (15-6-3, 9-4-1-1 NCHC) hosts North Dakota (18-5-2, 9-4-1 NCHC): North Dakota, No. 2 in the Pairwise, trials UNO (No. 4) by a single point for the NCHC regular season lead heading into this significant weekend series in Omaha. Tonight’s game — televised on CBS Sports Network — is UND’s first road contest since a Dec. 13 win at Denver, while UNO has been off for two weeks since a weekend split with Colorado College (whom UND swept in Grand Forks a week ago). The teams last met in a contested and physical late November series in Grand Forks, when UNO won a shootout following a 2-2 tie in the Friday night game and UND came back for a 3-2 win on Saturday. North Dakota’s game-winner on Saturday night was a Stephane Pattyn shorthanded goal — insult to injury after UND held the Mavericks scoreless on seven power play chances during the weekend.

Aside from the obvious storylines (e.g. a matchup of two of the nation’s top teams, UNO head coach Dean Blais returning to his former stomping grounds, where he won two national titles, etc.), consider this: in NCHC play, UNO is the league’s top-scoring offense, while UND is the best defense. It’s a matchup of two upperclassmen goaltenders, UNO’s Ryan Massa and UND’s Zane McIntyre, who are No. 1 and No. 2 in the league in save percentage. Think that means it’ll be a pair of low-scoring games? Not necessarily. This series also features four of the five NCHC players — North Dakota’s Mark MacMillan and Drake Caggiula and Omaha’s Austin Ortega and Jake Guentzel — who are averaging over a point per game in NCHC play this season (Denver senior defenseman Joey LaLeggia is the other). MacMillan in fact leads the league in goals in conference play. And it’s not just the upperclassmen who have stepped up for these teams — three of the league’s top five scoring rookies are also in action in this series this weekend.

So, clearly, there’s plenty to keep an eye on in this series. Omaha coach Dean Blais told Tony Boone of the Omaha World-Herald this week, “We could play our best game of the year on Friday night and not win. But if we play our best game of the year, all the pressure is on them, not us.” It’s a nice motivational tactic by the veteran coach, but for a team looking for the same legitimacy that North Dakota (a Frozen Four team last season) already has, and with UNO playing at home trying to distance itself from the visitors in the standings, there’s plenty of pressure on the Mavericks as well. Prediction: Omaha wins Friday, North Dakota wins Saturday.

Denver (14-8-1, 7-6-0 NCHC) hosts Minnesota-Duluth (14-9-1, 8-5-1 NCHC): Plenty has changed since these teams last met in October, which resulted in a weekend split in Duluth. First and foremost, DU sophomore Evan Cowley started both games for the Pioneers, which is unlikely to happen this weekend. Freshman Tanner Jaillet has emerged as the goaltender whom Jim Montgomery has called upon most often over the past few weeks, as Cowley hasn’t seen action since being pulled 18 minutes into the first period against St. Cloud on Jan. 16 (after allowing just one goal). Jaillet picked up three straight wins before a loss at Miami last Saturday. Now, the Pioneers host a Bulldogs team that is coming off a North Star College Cup appearance in Minneapolis last weekend, where UMD beat Minnesota on Saturday (its third win over the Gophers this season) after falling to Bemidji State a night earlier. Junior Matt McNeeley earned the win over Minnesota, starting in place of freshman Kasimir Kaskisuo. Kaskisuo played well in the first half of the season, but has been much more inconsistent of late — now with a four-game winless streak in his starts. Given the recent results, it wouldn’t be surprising to see McNeeley, Kaskisuo, Jaillet, and Cowley all play in some capacity this week. I’ll be at Magness Arena for both games this weekend. Prediction: Denver sweeps.

Colorado College (5-16-1, 1-11-1 NCHC) hosts St. Cloud State (10-13-1, 5-8-1 NCHC): In a matchup of the only two teams in the league with overall records below .500 this season, the Tigers start a six-game home stretch with their first meeting of the season with St. Cloud State. CC, despite just one win in 13 NCHC games this season, has played much better of late. After beating Omaha two weeks ago tonight, CC went to Grand Forks last weekend and lost two close games, 2-1 on Friday and 5-3 (with an empty-netter) on Saturday. The improved play has come thanks to a more creative and effective power play and on-ice leadership from senior Scott Wamsganz, who has points in five straight games. Without question, the Tigers look much better than they did in November but will still have their hands full against a St. Cloud team that, while sometimes maddeningly inconsistent, has the potential to be dominant. Last Friday, the Huskies used their own Olympic ice sheet to their full advantage, creating space and frustrating Western Michigan with a 7-0 win. It was arguably the best St. Cloud had looked all season, but the weekend was spoiled by blowing a 2-0 third-period lead the following night (ultimately losing 3-2). Of course, CC plays on the larger ice surface as well, and that will play to the strength of talented forwards like juniors Joey Benik and Jonny Brodzinski. Prediction: St. Cloud wins Friday, Colorado College wins Saturday.

And finally, in a one-game series on Saturday night:

Western Michigan (11-10-3, 4-7-3-3 NCHC) hosts Miami (15-9-0, 8-6-0 NCHC): The RedHawks swept the Broncos earlier in the season, and now, with the second game of this series set for next weekend (outdoors at Chicago’s Soldier Field), both teams come into this one-game affair in Kalamazoo after wins last Saturday (WMU over St. Cloud, Miami over Denver). For Miami, the win snapped a three-game losing streak during which the RedHawks struggled to find offense. WMU met the same problem in last week’s 7-0 shutout against St. Cloud. Without question, certain players will be the focus of each team’s defensive efforts this weekend — Miami, a bit more balanced thanks to the playmaking ability of Austin Czarnik, relies on Riley Barber, Sean Kuraly, Blake Coleman, and Cody Murphy to score goals, while WMU relies heavily on its top line of Nolan LaPorte, Sheldon Dries, and Colton Hargrove. LaPorte’s eight power play goals lead the nation for a WMU power play unit that is fourth-best (23.5 percent effective) in the country, so Miami (averaging 14.0 penalty minutes per game) will have to stay disciplined on Saturday. Prediction: WMU wins in a shootout.

 

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WCHA Weekend Preview, Jan. 30-31

Posted: January 30th, 2015 / by Ryan Evans

With only six weeks left to go, the WCHA races are turning the corner for the stretch run. While Minnesota State, Michigan Tech, and Bowling Green vie for the MacNaughton Cup, the other six teams have their eyes on the last home ice spot for the playoffs. Ferris State and Northern Michigan are currently tied for the No. 4 spot, but No. 4 and No. 10 are separated by just six points.

Last year, the WCHA playoff races came down to the final day and it looks like this season has that same potential, meaning league points will be at a premium from here on out.

Before this weekend’s games, be sure to check out CHN’s WCHA content from this week: After their outstanding performances at the North Star College Cup, Bemidji State was named the Team of the Week and in his feature, “Minnesota State-ment,” Avash Kalra took a look at how Minnesota State’s program has grown, culminating in the success they have had this year.

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Three Things I Think: NCHC, Jan. 29

Posted: January 29th, 2015 / by Avash Kalra

McIntyre preserves both UND wins vs. CC

It seems odd to even suggest that, with North Dakota, it’s easy to forget about North Dakota goaltender Zane McIntyre. But in this case, that’s meant as a high compliment — for a goaltender that backstopped UND to the Frozen Four last season and now has the fifth best winning percentage among goaltenders this season. He also ranks in the top 10 nationally in save percentage and goals-against average. Clearly, there’s plenty of room for praise. But with such a versatile offense and balance defense, it can be easy to forget about the steady and technically sound junior netminder — until, of course, he simply forces you not to.

Last weekend in UND’s weekend sweep over CC — essentially a pair of one-goal wins when discounting a Saturday night empty-netter — McIntyre made last-minute saves in each game to preserve the wins for UND. Sure, most goaltenders are forced to make saves to preserve one-goal wins, but McIntyre — especially on Friday — made saves that most others might not. On Friday, having already used his right leg pad to thwart Cody Bradley with about 8 minutes left in the third, McIntyre’s instincts took over in the final minute, when the Tigers (who by the way continued to show team improvement despite the losses) were buzzing with their net empty. With traffic clouding his view, McIntyre slid to his left, covering a previously empty portion of the net and in doing so made a game-saving stop on CC’s Sam Rothstein. North Dakota won the game 2-1.

The next night, with UND up 4-3, a key left pad save by McIntyre on the Tigers’ Jaccob Slavin with about 1:40 left in the third, solidifed UND’s first NCHC weekend sweep since Oct. 17-18 (also against CC). Overall, North Dakota has won five straight.

Touchdown, St. Cloud

When St. Cloud and Western Michigan faced off on Friday night, the matchup featured a St. Cloud team struggling on offense after being swept a week earlier by Denver and a Western Michigan team that headed to St. Cloud with a five game winning streak. So Friday’s final score, 7-0 in favor of the Huskies, was one of the more surprising conference results of late — on one hand, reflecting the parity in the league, but on the other, calling into question just how much progress Western Michigan had made of late. The Broncos bounced back the next night for a 3-2 win, though not before falling into a 2-0 hole heading into the third period. WMU looked stale on Friday, while St. Cloud was inspired, but the take-home points for the Broncos seemed to be that:

a) they rely heavily on the power play to jump-start their offense (Western’s power play, converting 23.5 percent of the time, is fourth-best in the country, and a power play goal on Saturday proved to spark the comeback), and

b) Andy Murray seems to have maintained confidence in goaltender Lukas Hafner. Hafner started Friday’s debacle and was pulled after allowing two goals in the first 14:30. Of course, backup Frank Slubowski wasn’t much better, allowing five the rest of the way, as the Broncos were noticeably slow to acclimate to St. Cloud’s Olympic-sized ice sheet, which the Huskies used to their full advantage. Hafner rebounded Saturday night in the Broncos’ 3-2 win, stopping 33 shots.

Scoring from the blue-line

Here’s a look at the top 10 scorers in the nation among defensemen (courtesy: collegehockeystats.net):

Points Per Game (Defensemen):                               GP    G- A- P    P/GM
  1 Mike Reilly (CLB)          Minnesota         JR D       22    4-20-24    1.09
  2 Patrick McNally (VAN)      Harvard           SR D       15    4-12-16    1.07
  3 Jeff Taylor (PIT)          Union             SO D       24    4-21-25    1.04
  4 Robbie Russo (NYI)         Notre Dame        SR D       26   11-14-25    0.96
  5 Joey LaLeggia (EDM)        Denver            SR D       22    8-13-21    0.95
  6 Mike Paliotta (CHI)        Vermont           SR D       25    7-16-23    0.92
  7 Zach Werenski              Michigan          FR D       20    5-13-18    0.90
  8 Casey Nelson               Minnesota State   SO D       25    5-16-21    0.84
  9 Jordan Schmaltz (STL)      North Dakota      JR D       25    3-17-20    0.80
 10 Nolan Zajac                Denver            JR D       23    5-13-18    0.78

Certainly, one thing to notice is that three NCHC blueliners — North Dakota’s Jordan Schmaltz and Denver’s Joey LaLeggia and Nolan Zajac — are featured. The other is that there are seven NHL draft picks on the list, including each of the top six. Compare that to the top scorers overall in the nation (3 of the top 10 and 6 of the top 20 are NHL draft picks). Obviously, there are plenty of factors that partially explain this (e.g. some of the nation’s top scorers, most notably BU freshman Jack Eichel, haven’t been drafted yet but certainly will be), but it’s worth noting that top-level defensemen prior to college seem to a) be bigger/stronger (and more appealing to NHL teams), and b) translate their offensive skills to the college game a little bit more easily. Another reason for the trend is that these players tend to score a lot on the power play, placed at the ever-important point positions to “quarterback” power play units.

Either way, beyond this trend,  it’s worth noting that North Dakota and Denver rely heavily on scoring from defensemen, but it’s often said of UND and Pioneers that their success is tied to offensive production form the blueline. Suggesting that, though, might be a mistake. After all, one reason UND (No. 2 in the current Pairwise) and Denver (No. 11) have been so successful this season is that the scoring from the blueline complements well-balanced scoring lines up front, and that’s been a dangerous combination for opponents to face.

Each team (UND at Omaha, Denver vs. UMD) now have big tests this weekend, which we’ll preview here, along with all this weekend’s NCHC series, tomorrow.

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Three Things I Think: ECAC 1/27

Posted: January 27th, 2015 / by Josh Seguin

Another week of conference action and the standings are as close as they have been in a while. Quinnipiac continues to lead the league, while St. Lawrence and Harvard are tied two points back. All in all the top six are separated by just six points, while the top ten are separated by ten. The North Country was again a tough place to play over the weekend, as Clarkson and St Lawrence swept Yale and Brown respectively. St. Lawrence has been hard charging this half, I explained why in last week’s edition of this blog. The Saints have now won four games in a row and five of its last six, its lone loss being to Colgate. Clarkson meanwhile has won three games in a row, which followed a three game losing streak. Both those schools have more home games upcoming than they do road tilts, so one should expect the good play to continue in the North Country.

The national picture is again on the bleak side for the conference, but it is not horrible as many of the league teams are lurking on the outside looking in. Harvard continues to sit in the top five of the Pairwise, as it has pretty much from the outset of its season. Yale and Colgate are in 16th and 17th in the Pairwise, while five others are in the top 33. The Crimson have the Beanpot upcoming, which could help the conference with two big non-conference games. All in all, having one team in would be bad, but in the end the league will have tons of opportunities to pick up big victories against each other. Read the rest of this entry »

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Three Things I Think: WCHA, Jan. 26

Posted: January 26th, 2015 / by Ryan Evans

Both Michigan Tech and Bowling Green had chances to make up ground on first place Minnesota State this weekend, but only the Huskies took full advantage. Tech took all four points from a hard-fought series with Alaska to cut the Mavericks lead in half. The Falcons managed just two points at home against Lake Superior State and now sit three points back of the Huskies and seven back of MSU, albeit with two games in hand on both of them.

We got an all-WCHA final at the North Start College Cup in St. Paul, Minn., with Bemidji State prevailing over Minnesota State for the Beavers’ first NSCC title in their first appearance in the tournament. BSU freshman goaltender Michael Bitzer was fantastic in the two games. More on the Beavers NSCC triumph later.

In other news today, The Mining Journal sports reporter Ryan Stieg is reporting that Northern Michigan head coach Walt Kyle is no longer on administrative leave and is allowed to return to his position behind the bench. Kyle and NMU Associate Athletic Director Bridget Berube were placed on leave last week for mysterious reasons. In Kyle’s absence, the Wildcats lost to and tied Penn State on the road.

Rapid Recap: In league play, Michigan Tech pulled off a pair of one-goal victories at home against Alaska, 4-3 (OT) and 3-2. Senior forward Blake Pietila scored the OT-winner for the Huskies on Friday as part of a three-point weekend. Bowling Green stumbled a bit, splitting with Lake Superior State at home, losing, and winning, 3-1. Friday’s loss was BGSU’s first at home since mid-November. In non-conference action, Bemidji State won the North Star College Cup with a pair of wins over top-10 teams. The Beavers knocked off No. 7 Minnesota-Duluth, 4-0, in the semifinals before stymieing then-No. 1 Minnesota State, 3-1, in the final. The runner-up Mavericks defeated then-No. 17 Minnesota, 4-2, to reach the title game. Without the services of head coach Walt Kyle, Northern Michigan lost, 5-4, and tied, 5-5, Penn State on the road. The Wildcats did win the exhibition shootout on Saturday, though. Finally, Alabama-Huntsville was swept, 2-1 (OT) and 4-2, by the USA U-18 Team at home in a pair of exhibition games.

In the Polls: Minnesota State’s loss to Bemidji State ended the Mavericks’ two-week reign at the top of the USCHO.com poll. MSU checks in at No. 3 this week. Bowling Green held steady at No. 6 and Michigan Tech moved up two spots to No. 8. The Beavers’ tournament win was enough to garner them three votes in the poll.

Minnesota State remains the No. 1 team in the Pairwise, while Bowling Green and Michigan Tech are No. 6 and No. 10, respectively.

(After the jump: My three thoughts on what went down this past weekend in the WCHA)

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Jan. 26

Posted: January 26th, 2015 / by Jashvina Shah

After throwing up 13 goals on the weekend in a sweep over Wisconsin, Michigan is now first in the Big Ten. The Wolverines have scored 34 goals in their past five games, and average 4.36 goals per game.

Eventually Michigan will face a strong defensive team (Ohio State and Wisconsin aren’t exactly defensive stalwarts), and their offensive numbers will go down. Next weekend will be telling, as the Wolverines will host the Spartans.

Speaking of the Spartans, they unsurprisingly stymied Ohio State’s offense, surrendering just one goal over the weekend. Matt Berry returned to the team after a force leave, and had a goal and an assist on Friday. He added an assist on Saturday. Berry now leads Michigan State with 16 points, and averages a point per game. Also, Matthew Weis was given a 10-minute misconduct for this hit on Michael Ferrantino. It definitely looked like contact to the head.

Until they get healthy, the Buckeyes have little chance of defeating any of their Big Ten opponents (except for Wisconsin). They’re missing some of their offensive power, and don’t have the defense to stop teams with poor defenses (like Michigan).

The Gophers lost both their games at the North Star College Cup, and have lost five of their nine games against Minnesota teams, and haven’t won since Nov. 1. I was actually expecting Minnesota to lose to Minnesota State. At the end of this game, Maverick goalie Stephon Williams knocked his net off so the referees would blow the whistle as his teammate late injured on the ice. Seth Ambroz took the penalty shot, and Williams made the save (not surprising considering the Gophers are terrible at shootouts).

This was my first time watching the Mavericks, and they looked excellent against the Gophers – like a true No. 1 team. But I was even more impressed with Bemidji State, which took down both Minnesota-Duluth and the Mavericks. I was pretty impressed with some of the skill, especially this goal from Kyle Bauman.

While we’re on the highlight reel, some of my favorite tallies from the weekend were this goal from Bryce Gervais (and a great pass from Matt Leitner), Evan Rodrigues’ end-to-end rush, Eric Scheid’s shorthanded goal on Saturday, another breakaway from Scheid, this hit on Travis Boyd from Minnesota-Duluth, and especially this huge hit from P.J. Musico, Penn State’s goalkeeper.

Michigan moved up to No. 12 in the PairWise, now Big Ten’s highest-ranked team. Minnesota is No. 20, while Penn State is No. 24. Michigan State is very low at No. 38, but I think they have a chance at winning the Big Ten tournament – especially with the offensive boost Matt Berry brings.

(After the jump: Penn State’s problem, quite the comeback(s), and why Michigan isn’t built for a tournament run)   Read the rest of this entry »

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Big Ten: A Look Into Corsi, Week 15

Posted: January 26th, 2015 / by Jashvina Shah

Over the week, College Hockey News released in-depth metrics for each game. This allows for a better breakdown of who the shots are coming from. But I still calculated total Corsi the way I normally do – by going through the play-by-play sheets for the games so I can have numbers for each individual period as well as 5-on-5 and special teams.

After looking at the Corsi stats for this weekend, Wisconsin still has the worst in the league. Michigan is nearing the best, and I don’t think it’s a strategy to take more shots (like Penn State has) and just a bi-product of their high-powered offense. The Wolverines also convert more of their attempted shots than Penn State.

The Corsi stats are listed below: Read the rest of this entry »

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Jan. 23

Posted: January 24th, 2015 / by Jashvina Shah

In conference play this weekend, Michigan and Wisconsin square off while Michigan State hosts Ohio State. Minnesota participates in the second annual North Star College Cup, and Penn State hosts Northern Michigan.

Michigan’s high-powered offense will be a difficult challenge for Wisconsin, which was dominated by the Gophers last weekend. Ohio State was impressive last weekend despite its numerous injuries, but should have a tougher time against a much better Michigan State defense.

The North Star College Cup features Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota State and Bemidji State. The Mavericks are ranked No. 1 in the PairWise, and have been strong all season. They’ll be Minnesota’s first matchup of the tournament, but don’t forget – Minnesota-Duluth gave the Gophers trouble earlier in the season.

Senior CLASS Award candidates were announced this week, featuring Ohio State’s Tanner Fritz, Michigan’s Zach Hyman and Minnesota’s Kyle Rau. Hyman was also named a finalist for the Hockey Humanitarian Award, along with Wisconsin’s Joel Rumpel.

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NCHC Weekend Preview, Jan. 23-24

Posted: January 23rd, 2015 / by Avash Kalra

Three conference series highlight the weekend schedule in the NCHC, and at this point of the season, many of the matchups are rematches of meetings from earlier in the season. Meanwhile, in nonconference action, the second inaugural North Star College Cup is already underway in Minneapolis (there, Minnesota-Duluth currently trails Bemidji State 2-0 at the end of the second period).

CHN’s Kara Hille is in Minneapolis covering the NSCC, and we’ll have more on UMD and all the teams over the next few days. So for now, here’s a quick look at the conference series that are set to start within the hour.

St. Cloud State (9-12-1, 4-7-1 NCHC) hosts Western Michigan (10-9-3, 3-6-3-3 NCHC): The Huskies return home after suffering a sweep at Denver last weekend, a disappointing result after earning an impressive home sweep over Miami just a week earlier. St. Cloud struggled offensively a week ago against a talented and physical Pioneer defense; the Huskies scored just twice all weekend and went 0-for-6 on the power play. St. Cloud has actually played fairly well in man-advantage situations this year (scoring over 20 percent of the time), and that should be a key factor against a Western Michigan team that is rolling in front of goaltender Lukas Hafner. We featured the Broncos’ one-two punch of Nolan LaPorte and Colton Hargrove earlier in the week, but beyond the improved offense (led by WMU’s top line), Hafner has been integral.

“I think it all started with him working hard to take over the lead role from Frank [Slubowski],” LaPorte told me while discussing the Broncos’ current 6-1-2 stretch. “That’s the great thing about having two really good goalies, is that they push one another. He’s been great for us since he took over that leading role.” Hafner’s last performance against St. Cloud came in a 21-save shootout win in mid-November. Prediction: St. Cloud wins Friday, Western Michigan wins Saturday.

Miami (14-8-0, 7-5-0 NCHC) hosts Denver (13-7-1, 6-5-0 NCHC): Tonight is Miami’s first game in Oxford since a December 6 loss to Nebraska-Omaha and their first game overall since being swept against St. Cloud two weeks ago. More notably, this is the first meeting between the RedHawks and Pioneers since the inaugural NCHC tournament championship game last March, which sent Denver to the NCAA tournament. The stakes may not be quite as high this weekend, but each team needs a strong weekend to try and provide some separation in the top half of the NCHC standings. The series figures to be low-scoring, with both teams boasting strong goaltending lately — Jay Williams (Miami) and Tanner Jaillet (Denver), both of whom have been involved in goalie rotations this season, will start the weekend in the crease for their respective teams. They’ll have their hands full with plenty of offensive ability on the ice, from Denver’s Danton Heinen (the NCHC scoring leader) to Miami’s duo of Riley Barber and Austin Czarnik. Prediction: Miami wins Friday, Denver wins Saturday.

North Dakota (16-5-2, 7-4-1 NCHC) hosts Colorado College (5-14-1, 1-9-1 NCHC): UND and CC met in October, and North Dakota swept the weekend after outscoring the Tigers by a 10-3 margin. UND’s offense has continued to roll (outscoring Niagara 12-1 in a pair of games just a week ago), but expect the Tigers to be more sound defensively this weekend than they were in October. CC upset Nebraska-Omaha last Friday night behind strong performances from Jaccob Slavin and Hunter Fejes, and the next night, the Tigers held UNO to just 14 shots on goal. I’d expect Tyler Marble (who was in goal for the win last Friday) to return to the goal for CC tonight, to be matched up with UND’s Zane McIntyre, who continues to be stellar (16-5-2 this season). Both games of this series are on CBS College Sports. Prediction: Tie on Friday, UND wins Saturday

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ECAC Weekend Preview

Posted: January 23rd, 2015 / by Josh Seguin

Will the real favorite please stand up

The standings are close and so has the play been in recent weeks. My perceived top three of Harvard, Yale and Quinnipiac aren’t exactly looking as strong as they once were, while upstarts St. Lawrence and Rensselaer are hanging around in the top five of the league looking to pounce. One of the things I have been asking myself in recent weeks is who exactly is the favorite right now? The casual person will look at the standings and see the Bobcats up by four points, followed by Harvard and the rest of the mess in the top eight or so. So I guess Quinnipiac?

I will caution and let you watch the highlights of the Merrimack-Quinnipiac game on Friday. Teams that make mistakes so glaring aren’t usually contenders but Quinnipiac will be there and be better. When it is good, it is really good and when it is ugly, it is very ugly. Harvard was the most consistent team in the first half, while Yale was right with them. The Bulldogs have been constantly consistent this half as well, but Harvard is just 2-2 with a second loss to Yale and a blowout loss to SLU. Based on what I have seen this half I almost want to say Yale is the team to beat. The Elis have two huge weekends upcoming, which can change that.

Rensselaer is an interesting case study and I talked about them earlier in the week. What they do have, is a great defensive core and goaltender in Jason Kasdorf. It is also getting healthy, which is always something that needs to be taken into account. Teams like Colgate, Clarkson and Cornell are also lurking. I have no idea right now beyond what I presented, kind of a weird feeling at this point in the season. I think Yale? What do you guys think? Read the rest of this entry »

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