Archive for October, 2017

Three Things I Think: Atlantic Hockey, October 29

Sunday, October 29th, 2017

You win some, you lose some. While several Atlantic Hockey teams had solid weekends – including Niagara and RIT, who each picked up a pair of wins, others found nothing but defeat.

Niagara, who was ranked 11th in preseason polls, closes out the month of October as the top-ranked team in Atlantic Hockey. Meanwhile, RIT jumped from last-place in the conference standings to fourth after a pair of victories.

Here are the Atlantic Hockey Standings:

  1. Niagara
  2. Holy Cross
  3. Army
  4. RIT
  5. Canisius
  6. Mercyhurst
  7. Robert Morris
  8. Bentley
  9. Air Force
  10. AIC
  11. Sacred Heart


Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Oct. 26

Thursday, October 26th, 2017

The past weekend was not a great one for the Big Ten, featuring a few splits. Michigan State split with Western Michigan, Penn State split with AIC, the Gophers split with North Dakota, Notre Dame split with Sacred Heart, Wisconsin split with Northern Michigan. Ohio State and Michigan were the only teams to sweep their opponents, UMass and Vermont, respectively.

There were some other odd things that happened, like Michigan State socring six goals in one game. There were some lackluster defensive performances from Penn State, Notre Dame and Wisconsin, who allowed five, six and five goals in one game, respectively.

The Big Ten, though, still has the best inter-conference record with a winning percentage of .629. Most of those wins have come against Hockey East (although the bottom half of the league).

Michigan will travel to Penn State this weekend, Michigan State will host Lake Superior State, the Gophers will host Clarkson, Nebraska-Omaha, the Buckeyes will play Robert Morris and the Badgers will host St. Lawrence.

(After the jump: These losses will hurt, who’s giving up the least goals and good old inconsistency and Michigan State’s offense)


Three Things I Think: Atlantic Hockey, October 25

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

First wins, first goals, non-conference victories and more filled the week for Atlantic Hockey. Each team in the conference played at least one game, with AIC and Bentley each playing three times.

Army remains atop the conference standings after splitting the weekend with Robert Morris. Meanwhile, Holy Cross jumped two spots in the standings thanks to a pair of wins over Bentley. Air Force, Sacred Heart and RIT are all still awaiting their first conference games but have been tested early by strong non-conference competition in teams like Notre Dame, RPI and Bemidji State.

Here are the Atlantic Hockey standings:

  1. Army
  2. Holy Cross
  3. Robert Morris
  4. Niagara
  5. Canisius
  6. Mercyhurst
  7. AIC
  8. Bentley
  9. Air Force
  10. Sacred Heart
  11. RIT

 (After the jump: plenty of non-conference action keeping us busy.)


Hockey East Weekend Takeaways: Oct. 24

Tuesday, October 24th, 2017

— Call me crazy, but I’m still not 100 percent sold on UNH. Sure, the Wildcats are improved over a year ago, but anyone who follows analytics will look at UNH’s 106 PDO and say to themselves, “something’s got to give.” The Wildcats have Vermont this weekend, a team that is struggling to get going, and then is at the rebuilding UMass Minutemen the week after. The true litmus test for UNH will begin on Nov. 10, when the Wildcats begin a stretch that includes games against Lowell, BU, BC, Yale and Providence. It’s a seven-game stretch where four will be on the road.


Three Things I Think: ECAC, Oct. 22

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

It always seems to come quick, but now that week three has gone and passed the Ivy League teams will finally join the fray. The early season has been interesting in terms of the league, but a few things are becoming quite clear: Quinnipiac might be a different team in terms of style than we expected, Clarkson has picked up some great wins behind goaltending from Jake Kielly, RPI is much improved, and St. Lawrence has been unable to catch steam with a brutal schedule.

Clarkson has led the way in the early non-conference play at 4-1-1, while Quinnipiac has gone 3-1-0. Union got off to an 0-5-0 start but swept its weekend against Niagara and RIT to improve to 2-5-0. Overall the conference has had tough sledding in the early non-conference period, but many of the teams have played tough schedules, like SLU. So far ECAC teams are 12-16-6.

Below the break I will discuss Clarkson’s hot start, SLU’s poor run of form and RPI’s boost in energy in the early going. (more…)

Merrimack Takes Homeward Approach to Non-Conference Schedule

Friday, October 20th, 2017

Last week may have been Homecoming Weekend at Merrimack College, but this weekend will serve as a legitimate homecoming for one Warrior.

Merrimack senior captain Jared Kolquist is from Hermantown, Minnesota, which is just a couple of miles from Minnesota Duluth’s campus. Kolquist played four varsity seasons at Hermantown High School and was all-conference as a junior and senior while also being named to Team Minnesota those two seasons.

As as a senior at Hermantown, Kolquist was selected to the Duluth Area All-Star Game and was named All-State by the Associate Press. His 118 career points set a Hermantown High School career record for defensemen.

According to Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy, this weekend’s series at UMD was spark, in essence, to give Kolquist the opportunity to play in front of his friends and family. UMD assistant, Jason Herter, is on the board of College Hockey Inc. with Dennehy and according to UMD radio man Bruce Ciskie, credit Denney with setting up this weekend so Kolquist could have a homecoming.


Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Oct. 18

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

Big Ten play is already in full swing, which is an interesting thing to see in October. Personally, I like this format more. It’s better to see how the teams stack up against each other now and sprinkle in some non-conference games throughout the season, rather than stacking all Big Ten games towards the end.

Penn State and Minnesota split, Michigan State split with Bowling Green, Notre Dame tied Denver and then lost to the defending champions and the Buckeyes and Engineers skated to 1-1 games on both nights.

Leep in mind that it’s still October. It’s too early in the season and results here don’t indicate whether teams are good or bad. With that being said, here are some very-early-take-this-with-a-grain-of-salt thoughts:


(After the jump: Ohio State’s defense, Notre Dame looks good, and that good old inconsistency)


Three Things I Think: Atlantic Hockey, October 18

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

The Atlantic Hockey season is well underway, with each team having hit the ice at least once in game action. While several teams are still waiting on their first conference action, there are already a few standouts in the standings and statistics just a few short weeks in.

It’s obviously still early, but Army sits atop the Atlantic Hockey standings after winning a pair over AIC. Air Force, the 2017 conference champions, are awaiting their first conference game.

Here are the Atlantic Hockey standings:

  1. Army
  2. Niagara
  3. Canisius
  4. Holy Cross
  5. Mercyhurst
  6. Robert Morris
  7. Bentley
  8. AIC
  9. Air Force
  10. RIT

(After the jump: who’s hot — and who’s… not)


NCHC Preview

Friday, October 13th, 2017

All eight NCHC teams are in action this weekend, and aside from Miami’s exhibition tonight against the U.S. Under-18 team, all the games — finally — count. Western Michigan is already off to a good start this week, with a 3-1 mid-week win over Bowling Green. The Broncos’ Colt Conrad already has three goals this season.

In case you missed it, some relevant NCHC items on the site from the past two weeks:

  1. My full NCHC preview, i.e. an overview of the strengths/weaknesses/outlook of each of the league’s teams.
  2. NCHC Watch List: A look at 5 storylines to watch this season, as well as 5 players to watch (beyond just the names you’ve seen garner preseason honors on the all-conference team)
  3. Above and Beyond: A feature on Denver, after I spoke to head coach Jim Montgomery and sophomore star Henrik Borgstrom about whether it’s really possible to be as motivated to repeat as champions as they were last year to win their first title
  4. Quiet on the Western Front: A feature on North Dakota, with comments from Shane Gersich about his outlook for the season.
  5. Denver Seems Destined to Repeat: A column by my colleague Joe Meloni about the favorites to win the title this season.

3 Things to Watch this weekend:

  1. St. Cloud’s season opener

In the NCHC preview above, I talked about St. Cloud as the team in the league most likely to challenge Denver this season. And that’s in large part because players who scored 100 of the team’s 105 goals last season return this year.

“I think the guys are ready,” said the Huskies’ Judd Peterson at the NCHC Media Day last month. “I know we have goal-scorers, and we just need to find a way this year.
“It’s exciting to be in a leadership role and to kind of show the young guys how it’s done. It’s going to be a fun year, and it’s going to be exciting to see where we go. We have a lot of depth in our lineup this year, so I’m excited.”

Still, I anticipate that the defense will make or break the Huskies this season, so players to watch in that regard are junior Will Borgen (a fourth-round draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres in 2015), sophomore Jack Ahcan (21 points as a rookie last year), and junior Jimmy Schuldt (the Huskies’ captain).

It helps, too, to have a head coach in Bob Motzko who has led a team to the Frozen Four recently and won a gold medal last season as head coach for the World Junior team — a position he will renew this winter.

This is Motzko’s 13th year as head coach of the Huskies. St. Cloud takes on Alaska (WCHA) in a two-game nonconference series starting tonight.

I never want to sound like an old guy, but I truly enjoy the building of the team and the process that we go through,” said Motzko ahead of the season. “Individual wins are awesome moments, but then when that moment’s over, and you go back over, and it’s — you know, when you recruit a Nic Dowd out of Huntsville, Alabama, and he becomes an All-American and now he’s playing in the National Hockey League. To be a part of that whole process… It’s not cliche. Those are the things you enjoy the most, watching the development of young men.”

2. Denver/Notre Dame rematch

Denver pummeled Notre Dame, 6-1, in the national semifinals last year en route to the national title. The result was somewhat unexpected given the close regular season meetings recently, but regardless, the anticipated rematch begins tonight. Both games will air on NBC Sports Network.

For Denver, Montgomery confirmed that he will start the season with the same top line with which he ended last season — Dylan Gambrell centering Jarod Lukosevicius and Troy Terry. On his second line, Henrik Borgstrom will be paired with classmate Liam Finlay and rookie Ryan Barrow.

During the offseason, Terry (Anaheim Ducks), Gambrell (San Jose Sharks), and Borgstrom (Florida Panthers) all turned down offers to sign with the NHL teams that drafted them.
Said Montgomery, “I give them credit. They wanted to come back because they felt like there was something they wanted to add here at Denver still. But also, more importantly, and I always tell them this, they have to be selfish in their decisions, and they have to do what’s best for them. And they felt that the best thing for them was to come back to the University of Denver, get closer to a degree, and be able to walk into the NHL instead of having to earn your way through the minors.”
It’s an interesting comment from Montgomery — and hard to argue with. The sample size is small, but just look at what reigning Hobey winner Will Butcher, who stayed all four years at Denver, has done in his first week at the NHL level with the New Jersey Devils (3 assists in his season debut, against the team that originally drafted him, the Colorado Avalanche).
Tonight will also be the first official action for an incoming Denver freshman class considered one of the top recruiting groups in the nation. That includes Chicago Blackhawks prospect Ian Mitchell on the blueline, as well as a pair of talented but undrafted forwards, Jake Durflinger and Kohen Olischefski.
“I’m surprised that a couple of our freshmen didn’t get drafted this year,” said Montgomery, who singled out 6-foot-4 defenseman Griffen Mendel — who wears Butcher’s old No. 4 jersey — as a player he expects to be drafted in next summer’s NHL Entry Draft. “But we don’t concern ourselves with whether our players are drafted or not. We’re concerned with them being prominent college hockey players, that they fit our culture and the way we play.”
3. UMD defense
In last week’s season opening weekend, Minnesota-Duluth earned a thrilling 4-3 overtime win over in-state rival Minnesota before falling, 4-3, to Michigan Tech in the final of the annual IceBreaker tournament. UMD’s goaltenders — Nick Sheery and Hunter Shepard, taking over for Hunter Miska, who opted not to return for his sophomore season — allowed seven goals on just 38 shots.
Last season, the Bulldogs — en route to the national title game — had the eighth best statistical defensive unit in the nation, allowing 2.26 goals per game.
Watch for renewed focus in the defensive zone this weekend as UMD takes on Bemidji State in a home-and-home series. These are the season opening games for the Beavers.