Five Thoughts: Conference Races Heat Up

Short blog tonight. Everyone please subscribe to the Huskies Hockey Podcast where @SCSUTravelinFan and I talk all things involving St. Cloud State and a smattering of other things in college hockey. We record once a week during the season (usually on Wednesdays). I’ll also put a link on the blog.

  1. With North Dakota Able to Take NCHC Stranglehold, Instead Strangle Their Necks

For the first time this season, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks suffers back-to-back losses against the Denver Pioneers by scores of 6-4 and 4-1.

It was an uncharacteristic defensive effort from the Fighting Hawks, who allowed 10 goals on the weekend. They have allowed one or fewer goals in 17 games this season. However, the Pioneers were able to move the puck into key scoring areas and capitalized on them, making it a long weekend for North Dakota goaltender Cam Johnson.

Junior Trevor Moore had a monster weekend, scoring two goals assisting on five other goals.

  1. Omaha Gets Revenge, Takes Two from Western Michigan

Earlier this season, the Omaha Mavericks were an undefeated 6-0 before crashing down to earth and getting swept in Kalamazoo. This weekend held a different fate for the Western Michigan Broncos.

The Mavericks took the sweep 2-1 and 6-3 in Omaha to gain a little bit of revenge. Sophomore Tyler Vesel was the man of the weekend, opening the scoring shorthanded in Friday’s game and adding another two goals and an assist on Saturday’s penalty filled affair. A total of 17 penalties were called during the game.

With the sweep, Omaha has vaulted to a tie with Minnesota Duluth for the fourth and final home playoff spot.

  1. Minnesota Takes Slim Big Ten Lead

The Minnesota Golden Gophers were able to sweep the Ohio State Buckeyes, but it wasn’t without a flair for the dramatic.

The Friday see-saw battle was 4-3 in the waning seconds of the game when Buckeye forward Matthew Weis scored his seventh of the year in the nick of time with .1 seconds left to send it into overtime.

The victory was short lived and Gopher leading scorer Justin Kloos netted the game winner at the 3:25 mark.

Saturday’s game was also a nail-biter, but for a different reason. The Gophers took a 4-1 lead into the second intermission, but the Buckeyes cut the score to 4-3 midway through the third. However, the Gophers defense would stand tall and were able to hold on for the victory.

The Michigan Wolverines beat and tied the Wisconsin Badgers over the weekend. The Maize and Blue did end up winning the a shootout for the extra conference point, but leaving the win on the table vaulted Minnesota to the top of the conference standings with only six games to go.

  1. WCHA leading Minnesota State Manages Two Ties Against Cellar Dweller Alabama-Huntsville

The surprise of the weekend came south of the Mason-Dixon line, as the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers were able to tie the conference leading Minnesota State Mavericks by scores of 3-3 and 1-1.

Now, ties are extremely common in the WCHA, but Chargers have actually had fairly good goaltending for a team with a record as bad as they have. Junior Matt Larose has a .931 save percentage on the season and got the nod in both games. He was clearly enough to frustrate the Maverick shooters.

Minnesota State currently sits atop of the WCHA with a four-point lead over second place Michigan Tech and Bowling Green.

The Mavericks are off this week, so both Michigan Tech and Bowling Green can make up those four points and give the Mavericks a run for its money.

  1. Quinnipiac Finally Falters

We knew the Quinnipiac Bobcats haven’t been playing a quite the level of hockey as they were at the beginning of the season. They have been playing from behind quite a bit and have flirted with disaster since the turn of the calendar. This time, St. Lawrence caught them.

Senior Brian Ward scored his eighth of the year on the first shot in overtime to beat the Bobcats 4-3.

Quinnipiac moves to 22-2-6 on the season (following the Saturday win against Clarkson), which I guess is pretty okay. However, they have been tying quite a bit. They are 5-1-4 in the past 10 games and haven’t gotten much help from senior goaltender Michael Garteig. He has only a .894 save percentage in since the second Princeton game. I don’t expect those numbers to keep up, but it sure is of note.

For a quick blog, this is verbose. Podcast tomorrow. Preview Thursday. Week is already flying by! My shift is over.

 

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Five Thoughts: Conference Races Tighten Up

Even though many teams enjoyed the final off week of the regular season, plenty of big games were to be had and key points were up for grabs. Here are my five thoughts.

  1. Miami Impresses in Hard-Earned Split

On first glace, it’s easy to make assumptions about the St. Cloud State Huskies against the Miami Redhawks. It looks like the Huskies dominated with a 5-1 win on Friday, while the Redhawks were able to sneak away with a 3-2 victory on Saturday.

Watching that series, I feel Miami has the better of the play most of the series. A 5-1 score can look deceiving, but the Redhawks peppered junior goaltender Charlie Lindgren with 36 shots on goal, including 17 in the first, and controlled most of the play.

The Huskies got four of the five goals off odd-man rushes or breakaways and only finished with 24 shots. Credit the Huskies for capitalizing on its chances, but you can’t expect to win many games with that little puck possession.

That’s what happened on Saturday. Again Miami came out strong, but went into the first intermission with a 1-0 deficit. The tide turned in the second period when Miami scored three goals in 4:37 to get the lead for good.

I’ve been nervous about how the Huskies respond to giving up goals all season. It feels like they can let a game get out of reach. That’s what happened here.

I think Miami is set up well for home ice. They have a favorable schedule remaining against Western Michigan, Colorado College, and Minnesota Duluth.

  1. Minnesota Duluth’s Sweep Vaults Bulldogs to Home Ice Position

Speaking of home ice, the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs currently occupy the final home-ice spot in the NCHC. The season hasn’t been ideal for the Bulldogs, but a nice sweep of Colorado College may provide them with a spark to turn it around.

The sweep wasn’t without a fair share of drama, however. After a back and forth affair on Friday, the Tigers had a 2-1 lead late in the third period and seemed poised for a split. The Bulldogs were able to score two goals less than a minute apart and hang on for a 3-2 win.

Even though the Bulldogs are off this weekend, they can fall back no farther than a tie for fourth, depending on what Omaha does against Western Michigan (remember, the Broncos swept the Mavericks earlier this year). This battle for the last home ice spot may be the best battle in the conference as it looks to me that North Dakota has the best chance at the Penrose. Duluth does have the edge in points over Miami, but Duluth’s schedule down the road involves games at North Dakota and at Saint Cloud. That is a huge test and may be too much to overcome. The key series will be the final showdown between the Bulldogs and the Redhawks. Any way I look at the remainder of the schedule, it comes down to that series as being the key series for fourth place.

  1. Harvard is 1-3 in Last Four, Falls to 11 in Pairwise

The Harvard Crimson started the season strong, going 8-1-3 in its first 12 games. However, the team has taken a little bit of a hit and currently sits at 13-7-3 and has stumbled as of late, only scoring seven goals in the past four games.

Harvard finished last in the Beanpot, losing the first game 3-2 against Boston College and 5-1 Monday against Northeastern.

The Crimson are led in the goal scoring department by seniors Jimmy Vesey and Kyle Criscuolo with 18 and 16 goals, respectively. Keeping them off the score sheet is tough, but has been proven to be possible. At the beginning of the season, I thought they were one of the top teams in the country, but they seem less scary than they were early in the year.

  1. Michigan State Upsets Michigan, Gets Split

The upset of the week came from the Big Ten as the Spartans were able to stifle the potent Michigan Wolverine offense and win the Friday tilt 3-2 in overtime. Senior Matt DeBlouw tallied his fourth of the year for the game winner. The win was only the seventh of the year and third in the Big Ten for the Spartans.

The Wolverines were able to bounce back on Saturday, winning 4-1 the following night, firing 42 shots on goal and 20 in the first period alone.

The Wolverines have one of the best lines in college hockey with juniors JT Compher, Tyler Motte, and freshman Kyle Connor. The trio has combined for a total of 121 points on the season and has accumulated a 17-4-4 record.

I am not that high on the Michigan Wolverines. While they do have that talented trio and a pretty good supporting cast for depth, the goaltending has been mediocre all season. Senior Steve Racine has been flirting with a save percentage below .900 all season and at times has looked real shaky. I think a well-disciplined team in a regional will knock them out.

  1. WCHA Race Coming Down to the Wire

It has turned into a three-team race for the top of the WCHA. Minnesota State leads the pack for the time being, but both Bowling Green and Michigan Tech are both only two points back.

Minnesota State and Bowling Green just split a series in Mankato, so no ground was gained or lost from that front. But with no WCHA teams currently occupying an at-large bid for the national tournament, seeding for the WCHA tournament will be very critical.

I can see any one of those teams stepping up and representing the WCHA, but I don’t see any of them jumping up to get an at-large bid. Once the Final Five rolls around, every time will be fighting to avoid elimination.

That is all for me. Weekend preview will be coming on Thursday. My shift is over.

Weekend Preview: Minnesota Teams in Pivotal Series

Big games highlight the three conferences in the West. With precious conference titles and Pairwise positioning is on the line, some of the conference leaders can’t afford to stumble.

St. Cloud State at Miami

Last meeting: Huskies sweep 3-0, 3-1

Without a doubt, there is much more on the line in this series for the Redhawks. Sure, the Penrose Cup would be nice, but in many sports, the regular season championship is the hardest to win but the least celebrated. The Huskies are in very good position for the NCAA tournament.

Miami will be the more desperate team. They are currently tied for the last home ice spot in the conference with Minnesota Duluth and Omaha. At 22 in the Pairwise, the Redhawks are running out of time to push for and at-large bid and really need to set themselves up for a post-season push. Home ice would be the best way to do that.

The Redhawks have been doing that as of late. They are 4-1 in the past five games, averaging 3.6 goals per game during that stretch. The Redhawks are getting more consistent play from some of the top players like senior Sean Kuraly and junior Anthony Louis. The two freshmen, Jack Roslovic and Josh Melnick, are a threat to score every game.

I’m not a huge fan of the goaltending, however. Seniors Ryan McKay and Jay Williams save percentages of .905 and .900 don’t exactly scare anyone.

On the other side of the ice, the Huskies are fresh off winning the North Star College Cup and have nearly every part of the game clicking. Freshman Mikey Eyssimont was named the tournament MVP with three goals and two assists on the weekend and has added even more depth to a team that has nine players with at least 19 points. Expect Miami’s defense to be very busy all weekend long.

One key match-up will be the potent Huskies power play (31.7 percent) against the Redhawks penalty kill (93.1 percent).

Bowling Green at Minnesota State

Last meeting: 2-2 ties, both games

The top two teams in the WCHA look to take command of the ship as we enter the final leg of the season. If this series is anything like the one that was played early in the season, nothing will be solved.

The Bowling Green Falcons have had an up and down year. The highlight has come in the middle when the team went nine games without a loss. However, taking just one point from third-place Michigan Tech last series puts them in a position where they need to make a jump.

Enter Minnesota State. The Mavericks lost a back and forth game against St. Cloud State last weekend and beat the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The top Maverick players are playing very well and have improved quite a bit throughout the year.

The Falcons don’t have a lot of players that jump out on the stat sheet. Sophomore Brandon Hawkins leads the team with an even split 18 points while senior Mark Cooper leads the team with 10 goals. But a respectable 11 players have reached double digits in points. Nothing to sneeze at.

The main strength of the Falcons’ game comes from goaltender Chris Nell. The sophomore has an impressive 11-5-6 record and an even more impressive .937 save percentage and 1.64 goals against average. Both stats are in the top five in the nation.

The Mavericks will have its hands full. The home ice will be an advantage for the purple, as they are 9-4-0 at home. If the game stays close, the Mavericks have the advantage, as they are 7-2 in one goal games. The leaders of senior Teddy Blueger and sophomore C.J. Franklin played very well and the team will look for them to continue to this important conference tilt.

Both teams are on the outside looking in when it comes to the Pairwise bubble. Bowling Green enters the weekend at 25 whereas Minnesota State sits at 17. The Mavericks can get firmly on the bubble with a sweep this weekend.

Penn State at Minnesota

Last meeting: Split. Penn State won 3-2 OT, Minnesota won 7-1

The Minnesota Golden Gophers were playing very well until the two losses at the North Star College Cup. It felt like junior Hudson Fasching, the team leader in goals and points, disappeared for the two games last weekend, as Bemidji State and Minnesota State were able to shut him down. He was instrumental in the Gophers hot streak and the maroon and gold hopes he gets back on the score sheet.

The Penn State Nittany Lions has slipped a little bit since they got into the meat of the Big Ten schedule. They have lost the last three games and have given up an average of six goals against in those losses.

The majority of the Nittany Lions schedule is on the road from here on out. In fact, they have had only one conference series away from Hockey Valley, a split with Ohio State. Eight of the last ten games are on the road.

A pair of freshmen lead Penn State in goals with Andrew Sturtz with 13 and Chase Berger with 11. They love to put shots and pressure the goalie as they average almost 44 shots on goal per game, so you know Gophers freshman goalie Eric Schierhorn will be busy.

The Gophers are currently tied with the Michigan Wolverines with 24 points in the Big Ten Conference. Penn State sits at third.

In the pairwise, both teams are outside looking in. The Nittany Lions have the edge at 17 to the Gophers placement at 20.

One-timers:

  • It’s great to see Gopher women’s hockey senior Amanda Kessel back on the ice. She hasn’t played since the 2014 Olympics due to concussion issues. She has been cleared by the doctors and will add much more depth to an already dangerous team.
  • The Quinnipiac Bobcats, a team that sits at 20-1-5 and somehow isn’t a consensus number one team according to the polls that shan’t be named, has been playing with a little bit of fire lately. Last Friday against Dartmouth, the Big Green had a 4-1 lead before the Bobcats roared back and ended up winning 7-5. If they fall behind again to Cornell this weekend, I’m not sure the Bobcats will be able to climb back. Cornell is too good defensively.

That is it for me. Enjoy the games this weekend. My shift is over.

North Star College Cup Preview

The North Star College Cup is once again upon us. The tournament consists of four of the five Division I teams in Minnesota meet at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul for a tournament for Paul Bunyan’s Chalice (unofficial term).

The defending champion happens to be the Bemidji State Beavers, which won fairly easily with a 4-0 win over Minnesota Duluth and a 3-1 victory against WCHA foe Minnesota State.

This year, it’s Minnesota Duluth’s time to spectate. The tournament moved to a Saturday-Sunday afternoon format, instead of the traditional Friday-Saturday.

Much has been discussed about this change, so I may as well add my two cents. I think it’s a good move. By changing the dates and times, you encourage fans from outstate to watch the tournament. Fans of Bemidji won’t have to take off work on Friday and spend two nights in the Twin Cities. Instead, fans can come down on Saturday morning and only spend one night before heading back on Sunday night.

I’m certain players and coaches are also not happy about having to be outside of their normal routine. My main problem with that line of thinking is due to the NCAA tournament and how those game times will be out of your routine. May as well get some experience with it.

Changing topics to the actual games to be played, this will be a very interesting tournament. All teams have been playing very well lately and have good reasons they will take the trophy. Let’s get to the contestants.

St. Cloud State Huskies           20-5-1

The favorite in the tournament has to be St. Cloud State. The Huskies have lost one game since December 11th and is coming off a series where they lit up Western Michigan for 15 goals.

Why they will win: The Huskies have five players, all seniors, that are averaging at least point per game. The defense has been rock solid as well, with junior Charlie Lindgren providing the team with great stability between the pipes. The power play is also one of the best in the country, clicking at 30.6 percent.

Why they won’t win: If there is one weak spot for the Huskies, it is on the penalty kill. While is has been a little bit better lately, overall the Huskies only kill off 78 percent of the time. There is no clue to tell how the referees will call the game, but if it is tight and the Huskies get into penalty troubles, it could be disastrous. In all five losses, they have allowed at least one power play goal.

Key Stat: The Huskies are 34-4 when senior David Morley scores a goal in his career.

Minnesota State Mavericks        13-8-5

It’s been an up and down year for the Minnesota State Mavericks. After starting the season with four losses where they only scored a combined two goals, the Mavericks have torn through the WCHA competition and currently sports a 12-3-5 in conference.

Why they will win: The Mavericks have only two losses since November 13th. The scoring woes that plagued them earlier this year have seemed to sort itself out as the Mavericks scored 13 goals last weekend against Lake Superior State.

Why they won’t win: With the first game against St. Cloud State, the Mavericks clearly don’t have the depth to compete. No member has reached double digits in goal scoring. Sophomore C.J. Franklin leads the team with nine goals on the season and senior Teddy Blueger leads team with 21 points. To put that into context, the Huskies have six players over 21 points.

Key Stat: The Mavericks only have one non-conference win on the season, come-from-behind 3-2 overtime win to Minnesota. And speaking of… (sweet segue, if I do say so myself!)

Minnesota Golden Gophers      13-10-0

Much has been made of the Minnesota Golden Gophers this season. Whether the team will be torn apart from it or will come together stronger is yet to be seen. But there is no doubt this team is playing better as of late, winning its last five games.

Why they will win: Plenty of players have stepped up in the scoring column during the five-game winning streak. During that stretch, the Gophers have scored an amazing 38 goals. Junior Michael Brodzinski has provided the team with much needed offense from the blue line, scoring a hat trick in his last game.

Why they won’t win: The Gophers have been having trouble stringing together complete games all season. In fact, they have a negative goal differential during the second period throughout the season. A full 60-minute game effort will go a long way to taking the tournament.

Key Stat: Junior Hudson Fasching has 15 goals on the season, but 11 of them have come in the last 12 games. If any team is going to slow them down, they will need to keep him off the score sheet.

Bemidji State Beavers           10-10-5

The Beavers also has been playing every well as of late, going 5-1-2 in the last eight games. In that stretch was a four-game stint where they battled both Alaska teams and going 3-0-1 on that road trip. Any current or former WCHA fan is aware how hard it is to string two good games together on Alaska trips, and the Beavers did that on back-to-back weekends.

Why they will win: The Beavers have the incredible knack to turn any game into a defensive slog. They play well in the neutral zone and can smother teams defensively. Opponents only average about 24 shots per game against the Beavers, so you need to make sure your shots count.

Why they won’t win: While sophomore Gerry Fitzgerald leads the team with 12 goals on the season in four few teams than many players on the team, no one else has more than six on the season. If teams focus on Fitzgerald, the Beavers don’t have many other players to step up. The goaltending tandem of sophomore Michael Bitzer and junior Reid Mimmack may have impressive goals against average, but the save percentage of .915 and .908, respectively, doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

Key Stat: Of the 10 losses this season, six of them are one-goal losses and another one was a two-goal loss with an empty net. This team isn’t one to get blown out and will always fight to the end whistle.

That’s it for me. This will be a fun tournament and I hope it really takes off in popularity. Make sure you watch a game this weekend. My shift is over.

Five Thoughts: Red Lamps Get A Workout

There were goals aplenty all over college hockey last weekend. Here are my five thoughts:

  1. Minnesota Crushes in Border Battle

The Minnesota Golden Gophers put up a total of 13 goals in the sweep against the Wisconsin Badgers. Sophomore defenseman Michael Brodzinski had an assist on Friday and capped off Saturday’s game with hat trick in the rout.

As much as the Gopher offense should be the headline for the series, the focus will be on what happened to freshman Tommy Novak.

Novak took two hits that eventually earned suspensions from the Big Ten, the second of which may have Novak sitting out at least for the North Star College Cup.

Junior Aidan Cavallini will sit one game and senior Eddie Wittchow will miss a total of three.

With all the new studies shown about the long-term effects of concussions, I do think stiffer penalties need to be in place at all levels for these types of plays (and when you punch someone while they are lying down on the ice).

Special thanks to twitter user @cjzero. Seriously. Follow him.

Minnesota is currently on a five game win streak heading into the North Star College Cup against Bemidji State.

  1. St. Cloud State Drills Western Michigan, Again

The St. Cloud State Huskies proved the last series against Western Michigan was no fluke as the Huskies 8-2 and 7-3 over the weekend, including six goals on the power play.

Senior Joey Benik was named the offensive player of the year for the NCHC have a monstrous two goal, five assist weekend.

As much as this looks like a massacre, there were actually key moments in each game that really turned the momentum toward St. Cloud.

On Friday’s game, the Huskies were up 1-0 when the Broncos had a golden 5×3 opportunity for 1:04 late in the first to take the lead.

Even though the Huskies’ penalty kill sitting at a poor 78 percent, they were able to stay strong and kill the penalties. Shortly after the penalties expired, the Huskies rattled three goals by the time the five-minute mark of the second period was reached.

Saturday’s key moment happened at the end of the second period with the Huskies up 6-3. It appeared the Broncos scored, but was eventually reviewed and disallowed being ruled the puck was played with a high stick before entering the net. I was surprised it was overturned by the TV cameras, but maybe the official have access to a different angle. The Huskies scored another and clamped down defensively to make sure another didn’t get past junior goaltender Charlie Lindgren.

I would imagine the Broncos are privately hoping not to play the Huskies in the first round of the playoffs as the Huskies have outscored the Broncos 31-8 in three games.

  1. North Dakota Survives Friday Scare Against Colorado College

The first 15 minutes couldn’t have gone any better for the Fighting Hawks in last Friday’s game. Up 4-0, it would seem like losing senior Drake Caggiula and freshman Nick Schmaltz wouldn’t be a problem at all.

The Tigers came roaring back and scored five straight to take the 5-4 lead in Grand Forks and had the lead until the last minute.

After a few failed empty net attempts that turned into icings against the Tigers, the Fighting Hawks kept up the pressure and finally tied it up with about 32 seconds remaining by freshman Rhett Gardner.

The Tigers have been playing very well recently, so it was no surprise to see them push the Fighting Hawks to the limit. The depth scoring is something the Fighting Hawks really need as the season goes on, and coming back Friday and winning 5-1 Saturday is a welcome sight for them.

  1. Omaha Falling Faster than the Canadian Dollar

Things were rolling along just fine throughout the season, but the Mavericks momentum hit a brick wall the last three series.

The Mavericks are just 1-5 in its last six game and just got swept in very ugly fashion to Miami.

It was just a few weeks ago where they were sitting in the fifth spot in the pairwise and flirting with a one seed. This recent slide has them fallen to ninth with a trip to a much improved Colorado College squad next weekend.

Fans should be very worried about the Maverick’s conference performance. While they are a perfect 10-0 in non-conference play, they are just 5-8-1 against NCHC foes and sitting outside home ice.

A lot has to do with the loss of freshman goalie Evan Weninger, who was injured when this slide started. He is easily the best choice in goal, but three of the losses the Mavericks were shutout or only scored one. Hard to win that way.

  1. Minnesota State Finds the Net Often Against Lowly Lake Superior State

If you remember the start of the season, Minnesota State was shut out in three of the first four games of the season. They had no such problems against the Lakers with 8-0 and 5-1 victories.

In Friday’s 8-0 shellacking, 15 different players found the score sheet and fired 42 shots on net. Only one of those goals came on the power play, which isn’t usually the case when one team dominated on the score sheet. Usually they are aided by a few power play goals.

The 5-1 game on Saturday saw Minnesota State leading goal scorer sophomore C.J. Franklin score two goals and senior Teddy Blueger add two assists.

Minnesota State is feasting on WCHA competition with a 12-3-5 record and is sitting at the top, three points ahead of Bowling Green. It looks like the WCHA will be a one-bid conference, so seeding position will be very important come tournament time.

Minnesota State has only lost twice in the last 15 games.

That is all for this evening. I’ll have a North Star College Cup preview. All four teams are playing well, so it will be a very fun tournament. My shift is over.

 

Five Thoughts: Tigers Goalie Finds His Roar

College hockey surprises were out in full force last weekend, but the top team in the land still stays hot. Here are my five thoughts.

  1. Colorado College Stuns Saint Cloud State, Tiger goalie Jacob Nehama stops 81

You have to hand it to Jacob Nehama. The freshman goaltender had a very active weekend but stood tall to earn the split in Saint Cloud.

Friday’s game started almost got ugly very quickly for the Tigers as the Huskies scored two shortly after the 12-minute mark of the first period. But then Nehama took over. Sure, he didn’t get the win Friday as the Tigers fell 2-1, but Nehama stifled the relentless Husky attack and his squad held the potent Husky power play to 0-for-5 on the night.

Saturday night was all Nehama as he stopped 47 or 49 shots, including 19 of 20 in the third period to beat the Huskies 5-2. Junior Sam Rothstein pitched in a goal and an assist.

Quietly, the Tigers have really turned it around. After starting an atrocious 0-13 on the season, the Tigers have won a respectable five out of the last nine. This team is has 13 freshman and have looked to have turned the corner. This team played very tough along the boards all weekend and won a lot of battles. They will only continue to get better as the season continues.

  1. Quinnipiac Still Firing On All Cylinders

Not a lot has rattled the Quinnipiac Bobcats this season. The top squad in the Pairwise rattled off a total of 10 goals in a 5-0 against Union and a 5-4 OT win against Harvard.

I went a little bit more in depth in last Thursday’s blog, so I’ll talk more about the game against Harvard at Madison Square Garden. The Bobcats took a 4-0 lead into the first intermission, including a 12th from senior Travis St. Denis and number 13 from junior Sam Anas. The Bobcats scored three in a span of 36 seconds and added a fourth later in the period.

However, the Crimson clawed back into the game answering with three goals of in the second and added another in the third to force the game into overtime.

The Bobcats hero would end up being junior defenseman Derek Smith who scored his third goal of the season to give the Bobcats the win.

This team shows no sign of slowing down. They currently sit at 19-1-3. They have won tight games, blowouts, given up leads and battled back, seemly every way possible. A couple of good tests remain on the schedule, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they enter the ECAC tournament with only one loss.

  1. Harvard Drop Two Versus Strong Competition

On the flip side of the showdown at MSG, the Harvard Crimson had a tough weekend against premier competition. The losses to Boston University and Quinnipiac dropped Harvard to fourth in the Pairwise.

While that doesn’t sound like much of a drop, losses for Ivy League schools are always magnified due to the fewer games they play. For instance, Harvard will only play 29 games this year, one of the least in college hockey.

Harvard gave up 11 goals on the weekend, which is very uncharacteristic of them. Harvard only gives up an average of 2.23 goals per game, but has shown shakiness in net.

  1. Denver Rebounds With Weekend Sweep of Omaha

Omaha suffered its first home loss of the season (and first in its brand new arena) in 3-0 and 4-3 decisions to the Denver Pioneers, but those two games weren’t the biggest loss for the Mavericks.

Freshman goalie Evan Weninger, who has had a terrific season between the pipes for the Mavericks, suffered an ankle sprain in the first period of Friday’s game and will not make the trip to North Dakota this weekend. He has been a huge part of the Mavericks success this season.

Junior Kirk Thompson will in all likelihood get the nod against the Fighting Hawks, and his .889 save percentage doesn’t exactly stem confidence.

  1. Minnesota Scores Three Shorthanded in Rout of Penn State

Minnesota and Penn State split their Big Ten battle. Penn State got out to a 2-0 lead in the second period of Friday’s game only to give up two in the third. Freshman defenseman Vince Pedrie scored his fourth of the season in overtime to get the victory.

The Golden Gophers answered back in force on Saturday afternoon, putting up seven on the Nittany Lions and cruising to an easy 7-1 victory. Junior Hudson Fasching scored two goals; both shorthanded, and junior Justin Kloos added a shorthanded goal and three assists to pick up the victory.

According to the official Golden Gopher men’s hockey twitter account, the last time the team tallied three shorthanded goals was an 8-2 victory against Michigan in 2006.  It’s actually pretty impressive it was that recently.

I remember one time I had former Minnesota State Maverick Zach Harrison on my bench in a fantasy hockey league and he scored a shorthanded hat trick.  Let’s just say it would have been worth a lot of points if I would have started him. No wonder I don’t play fantasy sports anymore.

One-Timer:

There are rumblings that Amanda Kessel, sniper for the Minnesota women’s hockey team, has been skating with the Gophers and may return for her last semester of eligibility. The Olympic silver-medalist and Patty Kazmaier award winner has been battling concussion symptoms since the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

That’s it for me. I’ll update everyone Thursday. My shift is over.

Weekend Preview: Buckle Up; Sprint to the Finish Starts Now

College hockey is back in full force. Plenty of top-tier teams face-off and we may see a little Pairwise shuffling after this weekend. Sounds like the perfect way to jump-start the second half of the season. Here is my weekend preview.

First off, since this blog is going up Thursday night, I’ll dip my toe into some major games that just concluded.

Boston University 6 Harvard 5

In a game that really lived up to it’s billing, the Terriers score three goals in the final 3:58 to give Harvard its second loss of the season.

Seniors Danny O’Regan scored three goals and Ahti Oksanen added the game winner with only 1:49 left to top Jimmy Vesey and the Crimson. Jimmy Vesey has 10 goals and 12 assists in just 13 games on the season.

The loss drops Harvard to fifth in the Pairwise.

Harvard has a very tough weekend that started with tonight against Boston University. After tonight, Harvard plays the Quinnipiac Bobcats at Madison Square Garden in a rematch from November 13th, there the Crimson suffered its only loss of the season.

Over the next few games, we are going to really see what type of team Harvard is. After Quinnipiac, Harvard hosts St. Lawrence and Clarkson, before playing at Colgate and at Cornell. That isn’t an easy stretch of games. Harvard will have a huge crimson target on its back.

Union 0 Quinnipiac 5

Quinnipiac had no trouble picking apart Union with help from senior Travis St. Denis’ two goals and an assist. The Bobcats went 2-for-4 on the power play.

Quinnipiac still has only one loss on the season, a 4-1 decision to Boston University.

The Quinnipiac and Harvard meeting on Saturday is a game I wish would be broadcast on a national stage. These two teams play an exciting brand of hockey and feature some of the top players in the game.

Quinnipiac is loaded with scoring talent. Juniors Sam Anas, Tim Clifton, and St. Denis are all averaging over a point per game. The Bobcats come at you in waves and they never let up just as tonight shows you.

Union is an intriguing team. The Dutchman had a terrible stretch where they went 1-6-1 in eight games, but followed that up with a 6-0-1 stretch until tonight’s loss to Quinnipiac. Union has winnable games against Princeton and Colgate before a battle against Cornell. Look for them to be a bubble team the rest of the season.

Heading west, the big tilt in the NCHC involves the Omaha Mavericks hosting the Denver Pioneers.

The Pioneers have lost the last four conference games and have not looked good in any of them, being outscored a combined 20-5 against North Dakota and Saint Cloud State. They hosted Notre Dame and the series ended in two ties.

Denver has been in a scoring black hole, as only three players have five goals and that is the most on the team. If Denver looks to make a good run in the second half of the season, they need a lot more from junior Trevor Moore and senior Quentin Shore only have a combined seven goals.

The Pioneers have a tall task at hand playing a series at Baxter Arena in Omaha, where the Mavericks are a perfect 8-0 in their own barn. Junior Austin Ortega is second in the nation in goals with 16. Junior Jake Guentzel, the Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick, leads the team with 26 points and has 99 on his career.

Sophomore Avery Peterson, who had a great freshman season with 21 points, had only one assist so far this season and has transferred to Minnesota Duluth to be closer to his family.

The Big Ten conference has one really intriguing series with Minnesota traveling to Happy Valley to take on Penn State.

The Penn State Nittany Lions are an impressive 12-3-3 on the season, but many of those games have been against fairly poor competition. This game will be a good test to see what we can expect from Penn State as we enter Big Ten conference play.

The Golden Gophers are a team that really likes to control the pace. For the most part, the Nittany Lions have imposed their will on lesser quality teams like American International and Sacred Heart. I expect to see a high scoring series and one that will have Hockey Valley rocking.

That does it for me. I’ll have my five thoughts and what I imagine is a very different Pairwise ranking. My shift is over.