Three Things I Think: WCHA, Jan. 5

Posted: January 5th, 2015 / by Ryan Evans

WCHA teams, with the exception of Bemidji State and Lake Superior State, returned from the holiday break this past weekend to resume a tight conference race. Minnesota State was the of the three top dogs in league play and the Mavericks took advantage, grabbing first place and opening up a three point lead on Michigan Tech, though the Huskies have two games in hand. Among the middle of the pack, Ferris State and Northern Michigan continue to tumble down the standings and are going to have their work cut out for them in the second half if they want to be home ice teams, while Alaska has settled nicely into its second half spoiler role.

Rapid Recap: In league play, Minnesota State took over sole possession of first place in the conference, taking three points from Northern Michigan on the road with a 4-1 win and 2-2 tie. Alabama-Huntsville earned its first sweep as a member of the WCHA, taking back-to-back games from visiting Alaska-Anchorage, 3-2 and 2-1, and Alaska also took care of business at home, sweeping Ferris State with wins of 2-1 and 6-0. In non-conference action, Bowling Green tied Robert Morris, 2-2, in the Winterfest outdoor game at Fifth Third Field in Toledo, Ohio, before beating the Colonials on the road, 4-1. Michigan Tech trounced Wisconsin, 8-1, on Friday before Badgers goalie Joel Rumpel stymied the Huskies in a 2-0 defeat in the finale.

In the Polls: Minnesota State is the highest ranked team in the first USCHO.com poll of 2015, checking in at No. 4. Michigan Tech sits at No. 8, while Bowling Green is No. 11. Alaska (9) and Northern Michigan (1) are both receiving votes.

In the PairWise, the Mavericks were knocked down to No. 2 thanks to the combination of tying with Northern Michigan on Saturday and the WCHA’s non-favorable non-conference results. Bowling Green surpassed Michigan Tech as the conference’s second-highest ranked team. The Falcons are No. 5 and the Huskies dropped to No. 13.

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Three Things I Think: Hockey East, Jan. 5

Posted: January 5th, 2015 / by Joe Meloni

Massachusetts-Lowell ended its holiday season on Saturday afternoon with its second consecutive tournament win. The River Hawks knocked off Merrimack, 3-1, to claim the Mariucci Classic. Two weekends ago, UML won the Frozen Holiday Classic, beating Sacred Heart and Connecticut without much issue.

Even with the trophies handed out each weekend, the four wins Lowell picked up are little more than good non-conference wins. None of the opponents were particularly tough outs, though Merrimack has proved its a truly difficult team to beat on several occasions this year. Beating inferior opponents without issue is a good sign for teams with the aspirations of Lowell. Norm Bazin’s club, the two-time defending Hockey East Tournament champion, expects to compete for titles now. At the moment, Lowell is level on points with Boston University atop the Hockey East standings with a game in hand on the Terriers.

BU, Vermont, Providence and Boston College all seem like contenders for league championships, and, in years past, Lowell may’ve been the darkhorse. That isn’t the case any longer, though. UML has had more success than any of these programs in the last couple seasons in terms of winning titles. As the tough second-half of Hockey East play ramps up, it’s pretty clear the regular-season and tournament titles are Lowell’s to lose.

There’s good competition from the Comm. Ave clubs. Moreover, Lowell still has two games with BU, Providence and Vermont as well as one more with BC. So there’s a lot left to prove. Lowell is the favorite the rest of the way, though. Read the rest of this entry »

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Three Things I Think: ECAC 1/5

Posted: January 5th, 2015 / by Josh Seguin

While I have been eating leftover ham and enjoying the long holiday season, I have left you my readers begging for more in terms of writing. In which case I am sorry, but the return of three things is always something I look forward to. Over the weekend, I was able to see league members Brown and Dartmouth in the Ledyard Bank Classic. As always it was a good experience and one that I truly enjoy year in and year out (more on that below).  For the rest of the league, it was non-conference action, in a weekend that most fans of the conference would like to forget.

This weekend most of the league will head back into ECAC play, with the lone exceptions being Dartmouth, Harvard, Yale and Brown. The Green will play New Hampshire in a nationally televised game on Friday night (NBCSN), while Yale and Harvard will take part in the Rivalry on Ice at Madison Square Garden also on NBCSN, Saturday. The exposure will be great for the league and if you ask me, the league could’t ask for for four better teams to show the league over two weekends. Union also played on national television last weekend in a 3-3 tie at Boston University. Read the rest of this entry »

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Three Things I Think: NCHC, Jan. 5

Posted: January 5th, 2015 / by Avash Kalra

There are a couple more weeks of sporadic non-conference action, including this weekend’s home-and-home between Western Michigan and Notre Dame, but of course, the primary focus for NCHC teams now is on conference play and on preparing for a postseason that, last year, saw the league’s No. 6 and No. 8 seeds play for the tournament title.

Miami at the faceoff dot

There are plenty of storylines to highlight when it comes to Miami’s success over the first half of the season, which the RedHawks continued with a sweep of Rensselaer over the weekend. There is, of course, the statistical anomaly of seeing Austin Czarnik atop Miami’s list of point-scorers despite having scored just one goal, and there’s Jay Williams, who has quietly become one of the top goaltenders in the league, coming off back-to-back shutouts of Cornell and RPI. Another storyline, though, that hasn’t received as much attention has been Miami’s strong faceoff play. Simply put, at the faceoff dot, the RedHawk centers have been downright dominant. Blake Coleman (166-78), Sean Kuraly (224-146), and Justin Greenberg (67-48) are the only NCHC players who have faceoff winning percentages over .580 this season, with Coleman’s .680 faceoff winning percentage the best among all NCHC players. Those faceoff wins have led to timely defensive zone clears, increased offensive zone pressure, and puck possession that’s given Miami the edge in several close games this year. The RedHawks have 14 wins as they head to St. Cloud State this weekend, where a 15th win will already match last season’s win total.

UNO block party

Joining Miami in the top 6 in the current Pairwise is Nebraska-Omaha. The Mavericks had a six-game winning streak snapped on New Year’s Eve with a 6-2 loss to New Hampshire (after UNO had beaten the Wildcats in overtime the night before). Senior goaltender Ryan Massa, who missed the series due to the flu, has helped steady a UNO defense that was suspect at times last season, and the defenders in front of him have clearly played harder as well. That’s evident by looking at Omaha’s shot-blocking prowess. The Mavericks defense has arguably the most prolific shot-blocking crew in the league, led by senior Brian O’ Rourke’s 2.47 blocks per game, best among any NCHC player . O’Rourke, along with junior Brian Cooper, and freshman Joel Messner, have combined for 120 blocked shots this season so far — the most for any trio of defensemen in the NCHC.

Hafner takes over

On November 14, Western Michigan senior goaltender Frank Slubowski was pulled in an eventual loss to St. Cloud State and was replaced by junior Lukas Hafner. Slubowski, a talented goaltender who goes by “Frank the Tank” as one of his nicknames, is well-liked and respected by his teammates, but it’s been Hafner who has taken control of the Broncos’ goaltending position this year. The Broncos are in need of a strong January, and Hafner’s play has put WMU in a good position. The Toledo, Ohio, native is 4-1-1 in his last six games, allowing two goals or less in all of them. Moreover, Hafner is in fact the only NCHC goaltender who’s allowed two or less in the last six games overall.

Coming soon: On Friday, we’ll preview all the weekend’s NCHC action.

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Big Ten: A Look Into Corsi, Week 12

Posted: January 4th, 2015 / by Jashvina Shah

This week, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Minnesota combined for a 3-2-1 record. The Gophers and Badgers split their weekend, while Ohio State defeated and tied Mercyhurst.

Despite missing Hudson Fasching and Ryan Collins on Friday, Minnesota still recorded its highest 5-on-5 Corsi for the season. This marked the fourth and fifth time so far the Gophers passed the 60 percent mark for 5-on-5 Corsi.

The Badgers earned their second win of the season, snapping a four game losing streak. But Wisconsin’s Corsi numbers hovered around the 35 percent mark for both games, and the Badgers won Saturday largely because of Joel Rumpel’s play.

Ohio State scored six goals on Friday, while controlling 5-on-5 play. The second game between Mercyhurst and Ohio State was more even, and the Buckeyes recorded a 50 percent Corsi for 5-on-5 play.

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

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NCHC Weekend Preview: Jan. 2-4

Posted: January 2nd, 2015 / by Avash Kalra

This weekend includes four non-conference series involving NCHC teams, with St. Cloud State set to host Quinnipiac in a two-game set starting in less than two hours from now. Meanwhile, Denver, Miami, and Colorado College all travel east for their weekend games.

A look at the four series, as 2015’s first weekend of college hockey gets underway:

Providence (11-6-1, 6-4-0 HEA) hosts Colorado College (3-11-1, 0-8-1 NCHC): This is a Saturday-Sunday series, a rematch of a pair of games last year in Colorado Springs, when Providence left with a 2-2 tie (which the Friars earned with a late third period extra-attacker goal) and a dominant 7-2 win. Jon Gillies was in net for Providence in both of those games and likely will be this weekend as well, against a CC team that’s playing its sixth and seventh consecutive road games this weekend. The Tigers’ last official home game was their November 21 win over Wisconsin — CC’s last win overall. Scoring goals has been a challenge for CC through the first half of the season, failing to score more than two in a game for 13 of the last 14 contests. On the other side, top forwards Trevor Mingola, Nick Saracino, and Shane Luke are starting to heat up for a Providence team that’s won seven of eight and three in a row — including a pair against Massachusetts and Vermont to close out 2014. Prediction: Providence wins Friday, CC wins Saturday.

Denver (10-5-0 overall, 4-3-0 NCHC) at the Ledyard Classic (at Dartmouth, vs. Brown): Denver will be without star sophomore defenseman Will Butcher, who despite a strong tournament in Montreal, was part of Team USA’s World Junior team that was eliminated earlier today after a 3-2 quarterfinal loss to Russia. Still, Dartmouth and Brown will have to focus on containing a defensive corps that is active in all game situations. In particular, Joey LaLeggia (who leads the nation in both shots and goals per game among defensemen) and Nolan Zajac are big reasons why Denver is ranked in the top 5 in the nation in both power play and penalty killing percentage. The key, really, for all teams this weekend will be how sharp they are coming off a lengthy break — Denver last played on December 13, Dartmouth last played on December 14, and Brown hasn’t seen game action since a December 6 win over Rensselaer, just the Bears’ third win of the year. Dartmouth’s Tyler Sikura comes into tonight’s game against Denver with a five-game point streak on the line. Prediction: Denver sweeps.

Rensselaer (6-13-1, 4-5-0 ECAC) hosts Miami (12-6-0, 7-3-0 NCHC): Miami heads to the capital district of New York to play its second consecutive ECAC opponent, after the RedHawks shut out Cornell 3-0 on Monday in Florida — a steady win that snapped a two-game losing stretch. In the game against Cornell, Miami captain Austin Czarnik added two more assists to bring his total to 20 for the season. Czarnik leads the nation in assists and is the only player in the top 100 in points per game who has not scored a goal yet this season. Veteran leadership — and continued strong play from goaltender Jay Williams — will be important for Miami, who are in the midst of a 12 game stretch in which the RedHawks play nine games away from home. The key for RPI this weekend will be whether the Engineers can display a renewed commitment to defense after a six game losing streak to end 2014, in which Seth Appert’s young team gave up a combined 29 goals. Prediction: A win and tie for Miami.

St. Cloud State (6-9-1, 2-5-1 NCHC) hosts Quinnipiac (12-5-1, 8-2-0 ECAC): This is the first meeting between the Huskies and Bobcats since Quinnipiac upended St. Cloud, 4-1, in a national semifinal game at the 2013 NCAA Frozen Four. In that game, Quinnipiac took control with three goals in the first 11:19 of the game, en route to an eventual national title game loss to conference rival Yale. Certainly, getting off to a good start will be important in this series as well. This year, St. Cloud is 3-1-1 when scoring first and just 3-8-0 when conceding the game’s first goal. The Huskies have also won just once in their last five games and enter this weekend with a three-game losing streak. The challenge towards the end of 2014 was the St. Cloud struggled gaining game-to-game, and certainly weekend-to-weekend, momentum, and now have a chance to develop that with a slew of home games over the next few weeks. The stingy defense of Quinnipiac, which held Princeton to back-to-back shutouts last week, will prove challenging though. Junior goaltender Michael Garteig is playing well, and contributions from freshmen like Landon Smith have bolstered the Bobcats, who sit atop the ECAC standings. Prediction: A weekend split.

 

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WCHA Weekend Preview, Jan. 2-4

Posted: January 2nd, 2015 / by Ryan Evans

Eight WCHA teams return to action this weekend after the holiday break and six will resume league play as the race for the MacNaughton Cup resumes.

Of the top three teams in the league standings, only No. 3 Minnesota State is in league play this weekend, travelling to the U.P. to take on Northern Michigan. Any points give the Mavericks sole possession of first place. The Alaska-Anchorage at Alabama-Huntsville and Ferris State at Alaska series can give the middle of the standings increased clarity.

Holiday Recap: Four WCHA teams were in action over the holiday break, including three in two different tournaments. Lake Superior State brought home the only hardware for the conference, capturing the Florida College Classic with a 2-1 win over Notre Dame. LSSU junior defender, a Florida native, netted the tournament-winning goal for the Lakers.

Michigan Tech and Ferris State both participated in the Great Lakes Invitational, but were bounced in the semifinals by Michigan, 2-1, and Michigan State, 2-0, respectively. The Huskies knocked off the Bulldogs, 4-2, in the third place game.

In non-tournament action, Alabama-Huntsville lost, 2-1, and tied, 3-3, Nebraska-Omaha on the road back on Dec. 20-21.

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Wekend Preview: Big Ten, Jan. 1

Posted: January 1st, 2015 / by Jashvina Shah

Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ohio State make their return from break this season. The Gophers will host the 24th annual Mariucci Classic, while Ohio State finishes its non-conference slate. The Badgers will being a difficult stretch, as it hosts Michigan Tech this weekend before facing Boston University and Minnesota.

Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State are idle this week.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Dec. 31

Posted: December 31st, 2014 / by Jashvina Shah

This is the New Year’s Eve edition of Three Things I Think, which means it’s been a year since I started covering Big Ten hockey.

A full year, an inaugural tournament and a bunch of stories later, I can say I’ve really enjoyed covering this conference.

But back to hockey. A very depleted Michigan team missing Dylan Larkin, Tyler Motte, Zach Werenski and J.T. Compher stunned Michigan Tech and took down Michigan State to win the 50th Great Lakes Invitational. Wolverine coach Red Berenson told me before the tournament that all they needed was a No. 1 goalkeeper – and Steve Racine was exactly that.

Penn State saw Zach Saar and Taylor Holstrom return to the lineup, but might have some holiday sleepiness to shake off. The Nittany Lions fell to Robert Morris and Western Michigan at the Three Rivers Classic, as Colgate took the tournament.

The New Year will most likely bring us just one Big Ten team in the NCAA tournament, and a much less exciting Big Ten tournament.

Yes, just one Big Ten team. The conference has failed in out-of-conference play, and playing well in the second half might not be enough to earn Michigan an at-large bid. It might not even be enough for Penn State. Unless one of those two teams wins the Big Ten tournament (my money’s on Penn State).

Now that it’s been a year of coverage and stories like Hudson Fasching’s, I wanted to thank you all for following along. It’s hard to believe 2014 is already over.

(After the jump: Big Ten New Year’s Resolutions, Zach Hyman is good, and it’s the best time of the year.Read the rest of this entry »

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Big Ten: A Look Into Corsi, Week 11

Posted: December 31st, 2014 / by Jashvina Shah

College hockey eased back into the season with holiday tournaments. Penn State struggled at the Three Rivers Classic, losing both games, while Michigan translated a depleted roster into a Great Lakes Invitational championship.

Here are this week’s Corsi stats: Read the rest of this entry »

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