Archive for the 'Commentary' Category

NCHC Weekend Predictions, March 8-9

Friday, March 8th, 2019

The final weekend of the 2018-19 regular season in the NCHC kicks off in about 90 minutes. Check out this article summarizing what’s at stake for each team.

St. Cloud State vs. Minnesota-Duluth

The marquee matchup of the weekend — a potential Frozen Four preview — features two of the top three teams in the Pairwise. It’s hard to imagine either team coming away with a sweep — I’ll take St. Cloud as the winners on Friday, UMD on Saturday. St. Cloud has already locked up the No. 1 seed in the NCHC playoffs, starting next weekend. With a weekend split, UMD would clinch the second seed. 

Denver vs./at. Colorado College

Denver has an outside chance of moving up to the No. 2 seed this weekend, but will likely finish in third place — and therefore will likely host CC in the NCHC quarterfinals next weekend. So this weekend could serve as a playoff preview, too. Both games between the Pioneers and Tigers this season have been close, and I’d expect the same this weekend as well. I’ll take Denver with a regulation win at home on Friday, and a tie between the two teams on Saturday (with CC getting the extra point at home). In that scenario, Denver remains in third and CC remains in sixth.

Western Michigan vs. Miami

The real intrigue heading into the final weekend is which team — Western Michigan or North Dakota — will earn the final home ice spot in the NCHC quarterfinals next weekend. Despite the Broncos’ blunders of late, I’m still taking Western Michigan — but that’s mostly because Miami seems unlikely to help out North Dakota. Western Michigan wins on Friday night to clinch the fourth seed, then Miami wins Saturday to move up into seventh place…

North Dakota vs. Nebraska-Omaha

North Dakota hasn’t been able to pull off a weekend sweep the last six weekends, but this may be the weekend they get it done. It won’t be enough though, if Western can win a game this weekend. Omaha finishes as the the 8th seed.

If everything above happens, the NCHC QF matchups will be:

St. Cloud State vs. Nebraska-Omaha

Minnesota-Duluth vs. Miami

Denver vs. Colorado College

Western Michigan vs. North Dakota

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, March 4

Monday, March 4th, 2019

The quarterfinals are set. I’ll have more on that later in an official preview, but Minnesota will host Michigan, Penn State will host Wisconsin and Notre Dame will host Michigan. The Buckeyes have the bye.

Ohio State is the only team on the inside of the tournament at seventh. Notre Dame and Penn State sit on the bubble at 15th and 16th, respectively. Minnesota is 21st.

Cale Morris will be the key

The Fighting Irish weren’t doing so well in the beginning of the year and, despite a Frozen Four appearance, have struggled this season. But Cale Morris has looked more and more like the goaltender of last year. Morris was key in the Friday game against Penn State last weekend, and his performance was key in helping the Fighting Irish hold onto home ice.

And it’s going to be the catalyst for the Fighting Irish as the playoffs progress. Right now Notre Dame is on the bubble, and this week will have heavy PairWise implications. While Notre Dame, which lost a few key players in the offseason, has become pretty solid. But goaltending is always what wins championships.

How good is Minnesota, really?

Quietly the Gophers picked up home ice and a third-place finish in the league, which is an improvement from their start to the season. The Gophers, though, are still 21st in the PairWise and likely to miss the NCAA tournament again (unless they earn the automatic bid) although in much less dramatic fashion and in a much more certain way. 

Even though the Gophers will probably be a long shot instead of a near miss this season, I don’t think it means Minnesota is wose than it was before. There’s always a period of adjustment with a new coach, and the Gophers still have a top scorer in Rem Pitlick. 

Of the top three teams, the Gophers have the shakiest goaltending, which doesn’t bode well for their NCAA tournament hopes. But Mat Robson is still a good goaltender, and he’d just need to get really hot at the right time. And the new Big Ten tournament format might be beneficial to teams without lights-out goaltending.  

Give credit to Wisconsin

Heading into last weekend I assumed there was little chance Wisconsin would get home ice because they needed to sweep Michigan, and I doubted they would sweep Michigan – epecially without K’Andre Miller.

But the Badgers pulled through. After winning 5-4 in overtimeon Friday, Wisconsin won 4-3 again in overtime. They didn’t earn home ice, but that’s an impressive feat  – especially without one of your top players. 

ECAC Notebook 2/28

Thursday, February 28th, 2019

Heading into the last weekend of the Regular, I am not sure even true ECAC fans could have pictured just how close things are at the top. But here we are, as Cornell leads Quinnipiac and Harvard by a lone point, while Clarkson is just two points back of the Big Red. Cornell controls its own destiny, at the top, but with a tough game at Clarkson on Saturday, a lot could go wrong for the team from Ithaca. In a sense, because the Golden Knights own the tiebreaker, the Big Red could go from winning the Cleary Cup, to the four seed in just one game. Luckily for the Red, they have SLU on Saturday, which should assure them at least a bye.

Quinnipiac travels to Brown and Yale, while Harvard is in the capital region for a pair of games. Quinnipiac would hold singular tiebreakers on Cornell and Harvard, while Clarkson owns the singular tiebreaker on each of the other three in the top-4. Cornell would hold the singular tiebreaker on Harvard. Three-way tiebreakers would be a bit more complicated, but are a legitimate possibility. How cool would it be to see a four-way tie at the top, though. In that scenario, the cup is shared, but the seeding is ever important. Yale still can get a bye and are two points back of Clarkson, but the Knights would hold the tiebreaker, with its superior record against the other teams in the top-4.

This weekend is important for all of the above in regards to the pairwise, as well, as all but Quinnipiac are bubbilicious. Clarkson is 12th, Cornell is 13th and Harvard is 14th. Yale probably will need to win the ECAC tournament to get into the dance, as it is 24th in the pairwise.

Without further ado, here are my thoughts of the week:


Big Ten Home Ice Scenarios

Thursday, February 28th, 2019

The Buckeyes clinched their first Big Ten championship. The rest of the teams are still fighting for home ice, with just four points separating teams two through five.

The Buckeyes clinched their first Big Ten championship, earning a first-round bye for the Big Ten playoffs. Minnesota also clinched home ice. There are two more home ice spots remaining, with Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State and Wisconsin all still alive. The Badgers will play the Wolverines and the Nittany Lions will play the Fighting Irish.

This is where it gets complicated. With three points available in each game, there are six possible cumulative point totals each team could finish the weekend with, there are many different scenarios to determine who would receive home ice. The easiest thing for me to do, then, is to direct this on a point basis instead of a game basis.

Here are the points each team can finish the weekend with (the team’s current point total is in parenthesis):

Michigan (34): 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40
Notre Dame (34): 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40
Penn State (32): 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38
Wisconsin (28): 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34

But now we have to take into account tiebreakers. The tiebreakers are as follows:

  1. B1G wins
  2. Best regular-season winning percentage against the other tied teams
  3. Team with fewest Big Ten losses

For the purpose of this exercise and limited time, I only took into account the first tiebreaker. It’s also important to note that for the purpose of this tiebreaker, B1G wins refer to regulation or 5-on-5 OT wins and not the 3-on-3 OT/SO wins.

So, it’s pretty complicated (and I’m on a major time crunch). BUT I’m going to see how far I can get. I didn’t even include thelast few tie-breaking scenariosbecause I’m really hoping it doesn’t get there.

The way I calculated this (I mean problem-solved, because eh, math) is that I took each team’s possible final points total after Saturday’s games and walked back to determine if and how they would clinch with that total. (Minus UW, because that was the easiest to figure out). If you see a mistake here, PLEASE let me know!

Wisconsin (vs. Michigan):

The Badgers don’t control their own fate. Even if Wisconsin wins both games, Penn State currently has three more Big Ten wins and would win that tiebreaker. So, the Badgers need to finish with more points than Penn State. If Wisconsin won both games, they’d have the same number of points as Michigan but would win the first tiebreaker. So they’d only need more points than Penn State, which means Penn State can’t earn more than one point. That’ll be tough.

Michigan (vs. Wisconsin)

40: IN
39: IN
38: IN
37: IN
36: IN if Notre Dame earns three points or more
35: IN if ND takes two points OR PSU sweeps
34: This would happen if UW sweeps UM. Both teams would have the same number of Big Ten wins (tiebreaker No. 1) and it would move to  tiebreaker No. 2. I’m waiting on clarification on that.

Notre Dame:

40: IN
39: IN
38: IN
37: IN
36: IN if UW takes 4/5 points from UM. PSU would be seeded higher than ND thanks to tiebreaker No. 1
35: IN if UW takes 5 out of 6 points from UM
34: IN if UW sweeps UM

Penn State

38: IN
37: IN
36: This one is really complicated. If this happened, PSU and ND would be tied in total points, which the series point breakdown as 4/2  in favor of PSU. Now it depends on how those points were earned. If PSU won a game in regulation/5-on-5 and lost a game in 3-on-3/SO, they’d win the first tiebreaker. But if they won two games in 3-on-3/SO, the wins would be even and we’d move to tiebreaker No. 2. But, if UW takes at least five of six points from Michigan, both teams would earn home ice.
35: IN if UW takes 5 of 6 points from UM
34: IN if UW sweeps
33: OUT
32: OUT

ECAC Notebook: 2/21

Thursday, February 21st, 2019

With the ECAC race as close as it can be, the couple of weeks will be very interesting to see play out. Cornell only took a point out of a weekend against Yale and Brown, after a disappointing tie to Brown and a heavy loss to Yale. The Big Red’s lead at the top of the league is just one point, as Quinnipiac sits on 24 points. Beyond those two, the league continued to be tight down to seventh as the top-seven teams are separated by just seven points. Ultimately, all those teams have a mathematical shot at the regular season title but I would keep the favorite as Cornell, with Quinnipiac right on their heels. Yale is two points back and has been getting hotter, of late, while Clarkson and Harvard are three points back. 

The final bye will probably be one of the things to watch, as Clarkson and Harvard are currently tied on 22 points, while Brown and Dartmouth are three points back. I could see Dartmouth getting in that mix, but Brown’s schedule is pretty tough down the stretch. Brown plays Harvard on Friday, while the Big Green have a crucial game against Yale. The home ice berths seem pretty comfortable for the team’s 6-8, as RPI is four points behind Union and five behind the pair in sixth. Union, of course, is an enigma and we await to see which is the real one that will show up in the tournament.

Quinnipiac is still pretty close to a lock for the NCAA tournament, as it sits pretty in the top-six of the pairwise. Positions third to sixth are pretty close in RPI rating, so a big weekend for the Bobcats could help it move up. Really, however, just one win counts for anything, the Clarkson game is huge. Cornell, Clarkson and Harvard are bubble-minded as the three are 10th, 13th and 15th, respectively. Positions 9-16 are relatively close in RPI ratings, so any stumbles could move those teams out of the picture.

Here are my thoughts for the week:


ECAC Notebook: 2/14

Thursday, February 14th, 2019

With the stretch run in offing, the league is still insanely close in key spots. Cornell has built a three-point edge in the league standings as they are unbeaten in 12 of their last 13 games, dating back to a loss against Dartmouth in late November. Colgate, who also has other big results, defeated the Big Red in overtime a few weeks back. The run from positions 2-8, however, is really close as six points separate Quinnipiac from Union in eighth place. Positions 2-5 are separated by just a pair of points, while Brown finds itself a meager three points out of a bye (yes that Brown).

The top-team’s had plenty of success in non-conference and have the ECAC is reaping the rewards, as four league teams would currently make the tournament with all four being in the top-13 of the all important pairwise. This does not include both Union and Yale, who are 20th and 23rd, respectively in the pairwise. Both have long shots, but Union has some big wins that has propped it up all season. It has become evident that the league could be wide open in the tournament, which could mean a team outside these six could win the Whitelaw, like Princeton did last season.


Atlantic Hockey Notebook: January 27

Sunday, January 27th, 2019

Here are the current Atlantic Hockey standings:

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

Here’s a look at what happened this past weekend, when 10 of the 11 teams in Atlantic Hockey were active.

Air Force Beats Robert Morris Twice: The Falcons topped the Colonials both night by a score of 3-1. Kieran Durgan, Evan Feno and Kyle Haak scored for Air Force on Friday, while Alex Tonge had the lone Robert Morris goal. Haak scored again on Saturday, while Walker Sommer and Brady Tomlak also registered goals. Jacob Coleman had Saturday’s goal the Colonials. Billy Christopoulos stopped 35 of 37 shots faced in the wins. At the other end, Francis Marotte made 45 saves but lost both games.

RIT Tops Army Twice: The Tigers beat the Black Knights 4-2 on both Friday and Saturday. Erik Brown, Gabe Valenzuela, Jake Hamacher and Regan Seiferling all scored in Friday’s win. Hamacher added a pair of goals the next night; Brown also scored in Saturday’s win, as did Shawn Cameron. Zach Evancho, Michael Wilson, Brendan Soucie and Taylor Maruya all scored for Army over the weekend. Ian Andriano stopped 61 shots over the course of the two games for RIT; Jared Dempsey had 23 saves on Friday for Army, while Trevin Kozlowski stopped 21 of 24 shots faced Saturday.

Bentley Continues Streak vs. Canisius: More about Bentley’s impressive streak to come, but the Falcons topped the Griffs twice this weekend by scores of 4-2 and 3-1 to extend their unbeaten streak to seven games. In both games, the teams remained scoreless until the second period. Tanner Jago opened the scoring Friday, with Jakov Novak, Jonathan Desbiens and Drew Callin also adding goals. Matt Hoover had both Canisius goals. On Saturday, the Griffs struck first (Nick Hutchison) but Bentley got three straight (Luke Santerno, Jake Kauppila, Desbiens) to secure the win. Aidan Pelino had 50 saves in the two games.

Sacred Heart, Holy Cross Split: The Pioneers, powered by five different goalscorers, beat the Crusaders 5-2 on Friday. Ryan Steele opened the scoring, while Mike Lee, Austin Magera and Nick Boyagian all scored within five minutes of each other in the third period. Vito Bavaro also added a goal, while Josh Benson had 20 saves. Kevin Darrar and Spencer Trapp had the goals for Holy Cross in Friday’s loss; Tommy Nixon had 27 saves. The next night, the Crusaders came out on top 4-1 thanks to goals from Ryan Leibold, Michael Laffin, Darrar and Anthony Vincent. Sacred Heart’s lone goal was scored by Marc Johnstone. Benson had 12 saves in the loss, while Holy Cross’ Erik Gordon made 32 saves.

Mercyhurst, AIC Split Weekend: The Lakers beat AIC 4-2 on Friday before dropping a thrilling 8-5 decision the following night. On Friday, Mercyhurst got goals from Joseph Duszak (2), Dalton Hunter and Jonny Lazarus. Brennan Kapcheck and Chris Theodore scored for AIC. Stefano Cantali recorded 24 saves in the win, while Zackarias Skog made 17 saves at the other end.

Saturday’s game was a bit more intense. AIC took a 2-0 lead on goals by Blake Christensen and Martin Mellberg before Mercyhurst got on the board with a goal from Duszak, his third of the weekend. The Yellow Jackets scored two more (Kyle Stephan, Justin Cole) before the Lakers struck again (Joshua Lammon). AIC then got three straight goals (Christensen, Luka Maver, Shawn McBride) – with just over 13 minutes left in regulation. The Lakers scored three times in a span of just over six minutes (Tommaso Bucci, Jonny Lazarus, Dalton Hunter), but the Yellow Jackets also added one more (Joel Kocur) to secure the win.


Atlantic Hockey Notebook: January 14

Monday, January 14th, 2019

Here are the current Atlantic Hockey standings:

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

Who’s Hot: The RIT Tigers climbed three spots in Atlantic Hockey standings, thanks to a pair of wins over AIC this past weekend. Overall, RIT has won three in a row and hasn’t lost a game since December 8. They’re on their way up, but will face a hot Bentley team this coming weekend. Speaking of….

Bentley beat Robert Morris twice this weekend, outscoring them 10-3 in the pair of games. Those two big wins were Bentley’s first conference action of 2019 and first since December 1. Thanks to those wins, the Falcons moved up two spots in Atlantic Hockey standings.

The Crusaders of Holy Cross, meanwhile, haven’t lost since January 4. Since then, they’ve beaten Mercyhurst once (a 5-4 victory) and tied and beaten Niagara. The Crusaders may still be at the bottom of Atlantic Hockey, but they’re only two points from bumping both Sacred Heart and Canisius down in the standings. What they do going forward could help move them out of the basement.

Mercyhurst’s Lakers beat Canisius twice this past weekend, which helped move them up to second place in Atlantic Hockey standings. Those two wins are helping turn things around for ‘Hurst, who had previously split a series against Holy Cross after dropping a pair of games to Ohio State to finish out the 2018 calendar year.

Who’s Not: AIC dropped both of its games to RIT this past weekend, by scores of 6-3 and 3-2. Overall, the Yellow Jackets have lost five of their last six games dating back to December 30. These losses have brought them down in the standings, from the top of Atlantic Hockey last week to third this week. While there’s still time to make up those losses and grab some points in the final few weeks of the season, they need a strong finish if they hope to be in the top of the conference at season’s end.

Canisius followed up their stellar wins over North Dakota by losing twice to Mercyhurst this past weekend, by scores of 6-2 and 6-3. The Griffs were outplayed in both games, and their goaltending struggled. These losses dropped them all the way to 10th in Atlantic Hockey, certainly not where Trevor Large and co. would like to be at this point in the season.

Niagara hasn’t won a game since December 7 – which is obviously not good for the Purple Eagles. They tied and lost to Holy Cross this past weekend, and they’ve dropped a few games lately in the final minutes. These strings of non-wins have dropped them all the way to sixth in Atlantic Hockey, a place they’ll try to dig out of starting this weekend against Mercyhurst.

Robert Morris, meanwhile, have dropped four straight games, including the pair to Bentley this past weekend. They let the Falcons put up five goals in each of those games and have overall allowed 22 goals against in the last four games. Ouch!

Finally, Sacred Heart only played one game this past weekend, dropping a 3-1 decision to Yale. The Pioneers haven’t won since December 8, falling to Vermont, AIC and Yale in the stretch since then. They’ll hit a busy stretch here with eight games in the next 19 days, starting with a battle against the Yellow Jackets Tuesday night.

Army, Air Force Tie: In the ever-heated battle of Army West Point vs. Air Force, the winner is…. no one. The two teams tied twice this past weekend (say that five times fast). The score each game: 2-2. The weekend series marked the return to conference action for both teams; Army hadn’t played an Atlantic Hockey team since their bout with Canisius way back on December 1. Since then, they lost to Dartmouth, Brown and RPI.

ECAC Notebook: 1/9

Wednesday, January 9th, 2019

Despite minimal conference games, the last few weeks have told us a ton about a lot of teams in the ECAC. Mainly there have been some positives, but many more setbacks as teams have tried to get back in a rhythm of playing regular games. The highlights of non-conference play, thus far, have been Union’s win over St. Cloud, who is second in the pairwise, and Clarkson’s recent win over Minnesota Duluth. The Golden Knights seem to be trending in the right direction and are certainly a team to watch going forward.

In terms of the Pairwise, Quinnipiac is fifth, while Union (15), Clarkson (16), Cornell (17), Yale (20) and Harvard (22) are bubble bound. If any of those bubble teams can pick up wins in the second half, it could mean good things for their chances of getting to the tournament come March. That said, the .477 winning percentage of league teams against the other conferences will make it tough for teams to break into the top-15.

As teams head into a more consistent conference schedule, it seems like teams like Clarkson, Brown and Harvard are trending in the right direction, while Quinnipiac, Yale and Dartmouth are trending down a tad. On Brown, we have to give them credit for the job they are doing in recent weeks…
The Bears are 4-1-2 in their last seven games and over the weekend won the Three Rivers Classic. They could have beat Providence, as well, just last week but fell just short., mainly because a questionable PC goal was allowed to stand.


ECAC Notebook: 12/12

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

Now that many teams have entered the annual holiday break, we can take a look back at the first half and everything that we have learned about the league. It is clear that power has shifted back to the Greater New Haven area, as Quinnipiac is the undisputed top dog in the and Yale will probably end up right on its heels. The Bobcats picked up a split against upstart Massachusetts over the weekend, while the Bulldogs dropped a lone game to the Minutemen.

QU has had most of the success in non-conference action in recent weeks, as the league’s record against the other conferences has plummeted. With many games still to go in the busy holiday stretch, that can improve and it will be integral for the few teams that have tournament aspirations. In terms of the conference standings, they are starting to take shape with Yale at the top with 13 points and Quinnipiac hot on its trails with 12. The Bobcats have a game in-hand, however, and in a cruel set of circumstances we will have to wait until mid-February before the two teams play in Hamden. Dartmouth, as I have nicknamed Jeckyll and Hyde this year, is in third, while Cornell is in fourth.