Hockey East Random Thoughts of the Week (10/13/16)

Posted: October 13th, 2016 / by Mike McMahon

– Clayton Keller has been the name almost everyone is talking about when it comes to BU, and for good reason. You’re not the No. 7 overall pick in the NHL Draft by accident. Keller could be in the NHL next season. To some extend, Patrick Harper’s incredible start to the season has been lost in the shuffle, what with him only being a fifth-round draft pick, and not a first-round pick like most of the other players on his team. Harper had two goals at Colgate on Saturday night, and three more in the exhibition. This isn’t a newfound skill for him, either. He had 20 goals in 27 prep games last season and 19 goals in 13 midget games. Between Avon Old Farms and the Neponset Valley River Rats U18 team, he’s been averaging almost one goal per game the last two seasons combined.

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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Oct. 10

Posted: October 10th, 2016 / by Jashvina Shah

Five Big Ten teams opened play this weekend except for Michigan State. It’s early, but with a 6-3-1 record, the Big Ten already has a better non-conference record than it did at this time last season – and that Ohio State win over Denver could have huge implications come the end of the season.

Ohio State had the most interesting weekend. The Buckeyes first beat Denver – one of the top teams in the country – 3-2 at the Ice Breaker Tournament and then tied Air Force in the championship game. Probably no one expected Ohio State to beat Denver, but it’s even more shocking the Buckeyes limited the Pioneers to two goals. Christian Frey made 33 saves in the win. Against Air Force, Frey and Matt Tomkins split the start. Tomkins made 10 saves while Frey made 15 and allowed three goals.

Minnesota started the season 2-0, defeating both Alaska teams by a good margin. The Gophers’ wins weren’t surprising, as both Alaska and Alaska Anchorage have struggled and are in even more difficulty with the uncertain future of their programs. Minnesota defeated Alaska-Anchorage 6-0 and then beat Alaska 6-3. Jake Bischoff scored twice on Friday, while Tyler Sheehy netted two tallies on Sunday. Goaltender Eric Schierhorn assisted on one of them. It’s early, but Sheehy’s five points leads the team.

The Wolverines split with Union, giving up a 3-2 lead in the third period in a Friday night loss. They rebounded with a 4-0 win that included a pair of goals from James Sanchez. Zach Nagelvoort and Hayden Lavigne split starts.

Penn State also split, defeated St. Lawrence 4-2 and then losing 6-3. The freshman Peyton Jones played well in the win, recording five saves. But he was chased from the cage the next night after allowing three goals on eight shots.

Wisconsin earned a split too. After dropping the first game 3-2 against Northern Michigan, the Badgers won 6-5 in Tony Granato’s first win. Corbin McGuire scored twice, while Trent Frederic scored his first goal. McGuire had three goals on the weekend and Will Johnson had two. Matt Jurusik started both games but wasn’t tested much in the first. He made 25 saves in the win.

(After the jump: Michigan’s net, a promising start for Wisconsin and it’s still early) Read the rest of this entry »

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Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Oct. 6

Posted: October 6th, 2016 / by Jashvina Shah

College hockey officially kicks off this weekend for the rest of the nation and it marks the first regular-season games for Big Ten teams. Penn State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin all begin their non-conference competition while Michigan State has the lone bye.

Penn State vs. St. Lawrence: Oct. 6 at 7 p.m.; Oct. 7 at 7: p.m.

The Nittany Lions begin their regular season hosting St. Lawrence. These teams played last year at Pegula, skating to a 2-2 tie on the first night. On the next night, St. Lawrence won 4-2. The Saints were one of the biggest tests the Nittany Lions faced last year, and their defense was one of the only good ones that could stop Penn State’s offense. The Saints are still the same defensive team they were last year but lack some offense. But, St. Lawrence also lost its head coach and skates into the season with Mark Morris at its helm.

Penn State, meanwhile, lost a portion of its offense, defense, leadership group and its goaltenders. The Nittany Lions still have David Goodwin, a player who’s improved each season and led the team in scoring last year. Penn State is looking to improve defensively, but the team’s success depends on its freshmen, especially goaltender Peyton Jones.

Both teams are in interesting situations. For St. Lawrence, it’s adapting to a new head coach. For Penn State, it’s creating a cohesive group with a lot of new faces. The Saints’ defense and goaltending is hard to beat, though.

Prediction: St. Lawrence sweeps

Wisconsin vs. Northern Michigan: Oct. 7 at 7:07 p.m. CT, Oct. 8 at 7:07 p.m. CT

A new era of Badger hockey begins this weekend as the Badgers host Northern Michigan. The Wildcats and Badgers also played at the beginning of last season, with teams playing to a pair of low-scoring ties. Wisconsin won eight games last year while Northern Michigan won 15.

Both teams destroyed their opponents in exhibition games. The Wildcats won 10-1 against Victoria while the Badgers beat the same team by the same score. Wisconsin has its leading scorers returning in Grant Besse and Luke Kunin. The offensive talent is there, but the team needs to use it and needs to play better defensively. Northern Michigan lost its leading scorer but returns Dominick Shine, who had a career-high 30 points last season. The Wildcats also have goaltender Atte Tolvanen, who had a .929 save percentage last year.

It’s an early test to see if the Badgers can play a different style of hockey cohesively, but if the exhibition game is any indication, Wisconsin is already using its talent better than in seasons past.

Prediction: Wisconsin sweeps

Michigan vs. Union: Oct. 7 at 7:35 p.m., Oct. 8 at 7:35 p.m.

The Wolverines take the ice against Union to open their season. The Dutchmen, after winning the NCAA tournament three years ago, have struggled ever since. But this won’t be an easy test for the Wolverines, who lost the offensive power they used to win with. The teams played last year and the game ended in a 5-5 tie, illustrating Michigan’s lack of defense.

Michigan’s leading returning scorer is Alex Kile, but the team will also be without promising sophomore Cooper Marody. The Wolverines still have the same defensive and goaltending troubles in the past, so they might not be able to win a shootout against the Dutchmen. Union hasn’t been as offensively strong lately, but their leading scorer from last season, Mike Vecchione, is still with the team.

Since Michigan can’t outscore its opponents anymore, the key will be defense.

Prediction: Series split

Minnesota vs Alaska Fairbanks: Oct. 7 at 7:07 p.m. AT; at Alaska at 4:30 p.m. AT

After not playing any exhibition games, Minnesota opens its season with a trip to Alaska. The Gophers have only played Alaska Fairbanks four times and last played Alaska Anchorage in 2011-12.

The Gophers had some offseason losses but retained a good portion of its roster. In net they still have Alaska native Eric Schierhorn who could be better this year but turned in some good performances for the Gophers last season. Minnesota has retained captain and leading scorer Justin Kloos, who has 107 points in his three-year career.

This is a tumultuous time for Alaska hockey, as a budget crisis in the state has led to budget cuts at both schools, leaving the future of both hockey programs is a question mark. The Nanooks’ lost their top three leading scorers but return Marcus Basara, who posted 18 points last year. The Seawolves have Matt Anholt, who recorded 22 points last season.

Last season it took Minnesota a few non-conference games to start winning, but with most of the team returning it should be easier for the Gophers to adjust this year.

Prediction: Minnesota sweeps

Ohio State vs. Denver at 7:35 p.m. CT; vs. Air Force/Boston College at TBA (Ice Breaker Invitational)

The Buckeyes begin their season with the biggest test out of all Big Ten teams. Denver, a Frozen Four member last year, is one of the top teams in college hockey this season. The Pioneers lost some key players but have skaters like Dylan Gambrell and still have goaltender Danny Jaillet. The Buckeyes have struggled for the past few seasons but have some of their scoring back and added a few good freshmen.

Ohio State will either face Air Force or Boston College afterward. Air Force finished high in Atlantic Hockey last year but failed to make the NCAA tournament. Boston College did, and made a Frozen Four appearance, but lost much of its roster to graduation and early departures.

It’s a tough test for the Buckeyes to start the season, and they might not be ready to handle them.

Prediction: Ohio State loses both games

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Hockey East Has Plans in Place For 11-Team Schedule

Posted: August 31st, 2016 / by Mike McMahon

With Notre Dame’s departure from Hockey East coming at the end of the 2016-17 season, the league is moving forward with plans for an 11-team schedule beginning with the 2017-18 season.

According to several sources, plans were discussed by league athletic directors and administrators over the course of this summer, and while nothing has been formally finalized, the leading scenario would include a 24-game league schedule with all 11 teams qualifying for the Hockey East tournament. Currently, Hockey East utilizes a 22-game league schedule (11 opponents x 2 games), however many coaches wanted to see more league games added in an effort to minimize the number of non-conference games that need to be scheduled on a yearly basis.

Expansion plans for a 12th team have been discussed, but nothing is imminent. It appears that the league is willing to wait for the right fit and won’t be in a rush to court another program just to get the league back to 12 teams. After all, Hockey East functioned for many years as a nine-team league. While an even number of teams is ideal from a scheduling standpoint, it’s certainly not necessary.

The proposed 24-game schedule would consist of:

  • Two games against each of the other 10 Hockey East opponents broken into one home and one away game, with exceptions made for Vermont and Maine (2 home or 2 away, alternating yearly).
  • The final four league games would be determined by an algorithm based on the standings from the previous season. Those four games would include two home games and two road games.
  • Each team would play 12 home games and 12 road games.

Everything is pretty normal until we get to that second bullet point, where it’s been proposed that they utilize a weighted schedule. Teams can fluctuate so much from year to year, especially with the graduation of a large senior class or a slew of pro signings. However, there’s no fair way to project regression. It’s similar to the old league schedule where teams would play opponents three times, two on one campus and one at the other. There seems to be much more thought going into this proposed schedule, whereas before the 2-and-1 format felt like it was randomized, alternating on a year-by-year basis.

It has also been proposed that all 11 teams make the Hockey East tournament, with the top-5 teams getting byes in the first round and 6 vs. 11, 7 vs. 12 and 8 vs. 9 determining the final three spots in the quarterfinals. Many believed, when Hockey East adopted the format where all teams qualified, that it was done so in an effort to help the team seeded fifth. Within a 12-team league, that fifth team would host the last-place team for a series at home, more often than not giving them two more wins in the Pairwise which could help Hockey East get another team into the NCAA Tournament. That rationale won’t exist in a format where the top-5 teams receive byes.

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AIC’s Move to Downtown A Big Step

Posted: August 9th, 2016 / by Mike McMahon

AIC announced today that it plans to play all of its hockey games at the MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield, Mass.

That’s a big step for an AIC program that, until recently, looked like it was on life support.

In just the past few months, AIC has hired former Army assistant coach Eric Lang, an AIC alum, to lead the program after Gary Wright stepped down. Now the Yellow Jackets are moving on from the outdated Olympia Arena and into state-of-the-art facilities in a renovated arena in Springfield, where they will share the ice with the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds.

Even better, the MassMutual Center is only a little more than one mile from AIC’s campus.

The new home should help AIC’s recruiting efforts immensely. In prior seasons, AIC generally went the entire season without a single commit on its list, instead recruiting mostly scraps from the rest of Division I once the season was over. The result was teams that routinely finished at or near the bottom of the RPI. AIC’s last season with a winning percentage above .500 was 1994, a mere 22 years ago.

The recruiting strategy started to change, thanks mostly to the efforts of assistant coaches Mike Towns and Stephen Wiedler, both of whom Lang has retained on his coaching staff. This season AIC had a handful of commits before the end of the season, and I suspect that Lang is going to have his staff be more active in recruiting moving forward.

In Wright’s defense, it also seems like the college is more invested in the program now than it ever was during his tenure.

At a time where RIT and Canisius have built new buildings, and Bentley has a new arena on the way, this is a necessary move for a program like AIC if it is serious about competing in Atlantic Hockey. It’s also a good move for college hockey. AIC should be able to attract more non-conference opponents  for home games now that they are at an adequate facility. With many Hockey East schools in the region, there are a lot of natural non-conference opponents for AIC in what could develop into multi-year agreements.

While it’s perhaps the longest of long shots, there’s also Hockey East’s situation to consider. The league will be at 11 schools after this upcoming season when Notre Dame moves to the Big Ten. AIC has not been one of the programs discussed for possible expansion, but if AIC is willing to invest in 18 scholarships, and plays at the MassMutual Center, it’s a similar situation to UConn prior to it joining Hockey East a few years ago.

Most Hockey East fans want Quinnipiac, however most sources close to the league say that as of right now, that’s not happening. And from Quinnipiac’s standpoint, what does Hockey East have to offer them that they aren’t already receiving as part of the ECAC?

Again, it’s the longest of long shots, but there was a zero percent chance of Hockey East ever considering AIC prior to this offseason. There is still a lot of work for AIC to do, too. But now, with today’s news and what appears to be a serious investment from the college, I wonder if Hockey East would at least take a pitch meeting. Before this, AIC wouldn’t even get into the same room as Hockey East. I think now, the league might at least answer the phone if AIC called.

Before Twitter overreacts, it’s probably a 1% chance, but it’s a chance nonetheless. In college hockey the last few years, stranger things have happened.

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The Right Choice For St. Lawrence

Posted: May 3rd, 2016 / by Josh Seguin

When I first heard Mark Morris’ name pop up, it was early in the process. I included Morris in my preliminary look at candidates that should be involved. It was based mostly on his North Country connections. I said then and I will say here, Mark Morris was the best, most seasoned candidate that wanted this job. Remember, I have seen all the candidates and I say this with plenty of confidence.

Now here we are with the former Clarkson coach, who led that program to new heights, being announced as the head coach at the Golden Knights’ biggest rival St. Lawrence… Who would have ever thought this was even remotely possible about ten seasons ago, five or even last year?

I suggest you read CHN editor Adam Wodon’s piece last week on why this move was a move SLU should make. There we were getting the idea that this was happening and he wanted to start the conversation on it… Enjoy the other perspective, while you read mine… He comes from a past perspective on this, having reported on Clarkson during his firing, while I come from the present having watched Morris’ work with Manchester.

It was hardly a shock when I learned Mark Morris applied for the job (I was the first to report that), it was not a shock when I learned he was the favorite and it certainly wasn’t a surprise to me that he quickly went to the top of the list of candidates. A guy with 300 wins as a college hockey coach, 9 appearances to the NCAA tournament and 374 wins at the AHL level should have never been dismissed.

His success speaks loudly of the person that he is. Quite frankly, accept it or not, everywhere he has gone he has won. If you polled people about a coaching hire, I would assume they would say they want someone that could win and win a lot.

Why would St. Lawrence, a place close to his home, be any different? Morris wanted this job, because it offered him a way to be closer to his family that he has been away from for over a decade. For what it is worth, isn’t that something that would  make a guy strive to be better? He wants this to work, he wants to prove Clarkson was wrong for firing him over a decade ago and of course isn’t there a lot of pride in knowing he will be around a school that is close to home, where his friends and family will be around for every game? I would think so…

Of course the character and coaching style were always going to be in question. Will there be a loss or more among the current roster and commits, I assume so because it happens in nearly every coaching change. Know what I say to that? A player that leaves a program in this regard probably doesn’t want to be in that program to begin with. Ya coaches play a huge role in where a player goes, but if they truly want to be there they will stay and attempt to learn, regardless of who the coach is.

Any player that wants to successful would want to play under Morris. He has developed players at every level. Just look at the Los Angeles Kings for example, he built those Stanley cups in Manchester, New Hampshire when he was the coach of the Kings AHL affiliate, the Monarchs. Many of those players that he coached in Manchester, ended up winning two cups in LA. During the 2014-15 LA Stanley Cup run, 13 of those players had played for Morris in Manchester and in 2012, 14 were former Monarchs. Of course many of his players at Clarkson also went on to successful careers, which should not be forgotten.

Now there are many SLU fans that won’t like this move. That is fine, of course, but at the end of the day if they really support the program they will come around to really love this guy as a coach. There may be a difficult transition for those that don’t think this is right, because he is a Clarkson guy, but eventually those ties will be forgotten, to some degree.

They may not like to hear it, but this was the best move for St. Lawrence not only from a coaching perspective but a marketing perspective as well. The Saints brand will now be easier to sell in the North Country, as a whole, and heck as a program Durocher hit a home run here because there may be many locals that weren’t drawn to SLU that now will be. You have to think too, Morris was affordable because of his local ties and the fact he wanted to be home (I do not know).

Of course comes the issue of age, with Morris being 58. Times have changed and those who think Morris will retire at 65 are probably mistaken. If he is successful, I assume he will be around for a while. I don’t even question whether he will be successful, I totally expect him to take the current roster to new heights this coming season. He will be around longer than those other guys that are younger than him and he is the best coach that was available.

It seems like a win for SLU, in my book because we just saw what happened when a promising coach that was an alum just did, he left for supposed greener and bigger pastures. I respect Carvel’s decision, as a friend of his, but at the end of the day it shows just what the SLU job has become, a stepping stone in the hockey world.

One of the things that draws me to St. Lawrence is the camaraderie of the area and the close knit nature of the community. In recent weeks, as this move started to become likely I have seen a lot of divisive, unhappy fans and alums come to the forefront. It concerns me, because this is one of the ECAC’s premier programs. I really hope that everyone can rally around this move, whether they like it or not, and support their Saints. I hope the players can appreciate why this move would be made and I also hope they realize how much they are learning from this guy who can teach them a lot.

My hope of course, is that SLU is the same place that I have come to love as a reporter. I know where I will be when Clarkson and SLU play for the first time this season. By then, I hope all SLU fans are behind this move and are unchanged in their opinions of the program. It seems like a large task, but it will happen and I hope it is sooner rather than later. The Saints will always be the Saints, or they should be…

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So It’s Been a Tough Week at Boston College …

Posted: April 14th, 2016 / by Mike McMahon

One week ago today, the Boston College Eagles lost to Quinnipiac in the Frozen Four, with Michael Garteig turning aside a pair of Ian McCoshen shots inside of the final 75 seconds.

Since, there’s been a mass exodus.

Teddy Doherty and Travis Jeke are the only series losses for BC due to graduation. Brendan Silk graduates as well, but he only appeared in one game and Peter McMullen dressed in 15 games, but didn’t record a point and only had one shot on goal.

It’s all the early signings that have haunted BC.

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What’s Next for St. Lawrence

Posted: April 1st, 2016 / by Josh Seguin

This week has been an unexpected one at St. Lawrence. When Greg Carvel took the head coaching job at UMass, he left his alma mater and the school that he grew up following. I am not sure I can fully explain how much of a shock this was to those around the program, in the administration and even the players. None of which had any idea this was coming. What made it even more unexpected, was that Carvel recently signed a five year extension to coach the Saints team that he had heading in the right direction. When opportunities arise, human nature tells us to jump at it, which is exactly what Carvel did and kudos to him.

Right now, SLU will look to pick up the pieces in a situation that is rare in a college hockey. Unlike most jobs that come open in college hockey the cupboard is half full, so to say.

The Saints have a great nucleus returning that will make the job attractive to a coach that may just be looking for an opportunity. It has, arguably, the best three defensemen in the ECAC returning next year, as Gavin Bayreuther, Eric Sweetman and Nolan Gluchowski all return. Of course the other piece, is also the most important.  Its stud goaltender, Kyle Hayton will return for his junior season. Hayton, will enter the season as a Richter Award favorite and on the Hobey Watch List. Heck, I have already started at looking at preseason and this should be a top four team in the league, regardless of what happens. Read the rest of this entry »

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Audio: UMass AD Ryan Bamford Introduces Greg Carvel as Head Coach

Posted: March 31st, 2016 / by Mike McMahon

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“We’re Getting Screwed!” A Yearly NCAA Tournament Tradition: Volume II

Posted: March 23rd, 2016 / by Mike McMahon

Last year, it was a gem from the Lowell Sun that said UMass Lowell was essentially screwed out of a spot in the NCAA Tournament because of … you know … math.

This year, it’s, which is the affiliate of a news station in Connecticut. The argument here is that the NCAA Tournament is broken, because peasants like RIT, Ferris State and even a team that has one loss in forever, Northeastern, have the same chance at winning a national title as the almighty Quinnipiac, which you might assume is covered by this outlet and the writer admits, in the first line of the column, that he’s a Quinnipiac alum.

Well at least we got the bias out of the way quickly.

So, let’s go through this column piece by piece, and see what we make of the NCAA Tournament being broken, because the favorites aren’t given more of an advantage. Convince me!

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