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With Borkowski back, Colgate enters playoffs as ‘a well-oiled machine’

140104 MINN COLG M 013 With Borkowski back, Colgate enters playoffs as a well oiled machine

Colgate’s Mike Borkowski returned to the lineup on Feb. 6 (photo: Ryan Coleman, d3photography.com).

In a way, Colgate forward Mike Borkowski’s progression leading into the postseason has mirrored the Raiders’ improvement the last few weeks.

Initially thought to be out for the year after injuring his knee against Quinnipiac in November, the junior returned to the lineup Feb. 6.

Since then, it’s been a steady progress from Borkowski and Colgate, as both player and team look to be getting up to speed entering the playoffs. The Raiders ended the regular season on a 4-0-1 run, giving Colgate a first-round bye for the third time in four years.

With Borkowski back in the lineup, the Raiders finally have their contingent of top-six forwards together. In addition to Borkowski’s injury, Colgate was without an injured Tylor Spink for most of the first half.

“Anytime you are hit with an injury bug like we have, it throws things off,” Borkowski said. “Guys step up and play some roles they’re not normally accustomed to. With our forward lines intact, it solidifies things a little bit. It’s allowed us to build some chemistry with guys we’re used to playing with. It’s a well-oiled machine right now.”

That chemistry is due in part to a quick comeback by Borkowski, who had surgery following his injury and was deemed out for the rest of the season at the time.

“Getting my range of motion back has been huge,” Borkowski said. “My game is slowly getting better here in terms of how much pain there is after a game. I feel like I am getting a little more jump back.”

Last Friday against Yale, the junior scored his first goal since returning, stealing the puck from the Bulldogs’ John Hayden in the slot and firing a shot past an unsuspecting Alex Lyon.

“It’s a remarkable story,” Colgate coach Don Vaughan said of Borkowski’s return. “I don’t know any guys who have come back after three months with the type of injury he had. He was so driven to do it. Our trainer, Steve Chouinard, did a fantastic job with him. It’s phenomenal.

“He’s not at 100 percent, but I’ll take him at 85 [percent], which is probably about where he is at, and everything else he brings to our team.”

The bye was especially important for Colgate because it gives a chance for senior defenseman and captain Spiro Goulakos to return to the lineup. Goulakos, who plays plenty of key minutes for the Raiders, has been out since Jan. 17, and is “week-to-week,” according to Vaughan.

“I’m really proud of that part of this group,” Vaughan said following Saturday’s win at Brown. “It’s not just injuries, it’s injuries to key players. We fought through it and hopefully a couple of weeks off will do us some good. You always ask guys to step up and play different roles and more minutes when guys are down, and our guys responded that way.”

20141206 7D2 9536 With Borkowski back, Colgate enters playoffs as a well oiled machine

Eric Neiley leads Dartmouth with 13 goals and 29 points (photo: Shelley M. Szwast).

Playoff central

Here’s a quick look at the four first-round series taking place this weekend. Each series is a best-of-three matchup. Check back later in the week for colleague Brian Sullivan’s predictions.

No. 12 Princeton at No. 5 Dartmouth

Season series: Dartmouth 2-0

The Big Green are one of the hottest teams in ECAC Hockey entering the playoffs, ending the regular season on a 9-2-1 run, including a 3-1 win over Princeton Saturday. Dartmouth tied fourth-place Colgate with 26 points but lost out on the final first-round bye due to a tiebreaker. Princeton, meanwhile, struggled to find consistency for much of the year. The Tigers are averaging just 1.32 goals per game, last in the country. Goalie Colton Phinney is solid, but it’s hard to pick up wins when you’re not scoring.

No. 11 Brown at No. 6 Harvard

Season series: 1-1

Just as they were a trendy pick for a surprise team entering the season, the Bears could be one of the favorites to pull off an upset this weekend. Brown beat Harvard 2-1 on Feb. 7, continuing a second-half free fall for the Crimson. The Bears ended the regular season on a 4-2-1 stretch, thanks in part to goalie Tim Ernst and the top line of Matt Lorito, Mark Naclerio and Nick Lappin starting to produce. Harvard misses top defenseman Patrick McNally, who won’t return this year, but still has plenty of firepower in Jimmy Vesey, Kyle Criscuolo, Tyler Moy, Alexander Kerfoot and Sean Malone.

No. 10 Union at No. 7 Cornell

Season series: Cornell 2-0

A miserable second half of the season has Union on the road for the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Defense has been a problem for the Dutchmen for much of the season, but the offense disappeared for a stretch before Union scored three goals in each of its two wins last weekend. Cornell ranks second in the country in team defense, trailing only Yale. But the Big Red have scored only 55 goals in 29 games this year, although they did score a season-high five times against the Dutchmen on Jan. 16.

No. 9 Rensselaer at No. 8 Clarkson

Season series: Clarkson 1-0-1

Like Cornell, Clarkson has been stout defensively, but simply can’t score; the Golden Knights are averaging just over two goals per game this season. Both teams play a tough, physical style game, and it will be interesting to see who is in goal for each side. Clarkson has rotated Steve Perry and Greg Lewis of late, while senior Scott Diebold started on RPI’s senior night Saturday in place of junior Jason Kasdorf, making 34 saves in the Engineers’ win over St. Lawrence. RPI hasn’t won a playoff series since 2012 when it beat Clarkson in three games in Potsdam.

Around the league

• Dartmouth’s Brandon McNally (player), Rensselaer’s Drew Melanson (rookie) and Dartmouth’s James Kruger (goalie) were named the weekly award winners by the league. McNally and Melanson each had three goals on the weekend, while Kruger stopped 52 of 54 shots in a 2-0 weekend for the Big Green.

• Dartmouth’s Eric Neiley was named the player of the month for February, while Melanson was the rookie of the month and Brown’s Ernst was the goalie of the month.

• The league announced that all of the upcoming games in the ECAC tournament will be streamed online and on iOS devices and Androids through www.ecachockey.com. The cost is $9.95 per game.

• Former Union forward Daniel Carr was named the AHL rookie of the month for February. Carr plays for the Hamilton Bulldogs, an affiliate of Montreal, and led the league with 10 goals in February.

Looking back

One of my favorite things about preseason polls is looking back at the end of the season to see how wrong I was. Here’s how I slotted the league’s 12 teams, with each school’s actual finish in parentheses.

1. Union (10)
2. Colgate (4)
3. Quinnipiac (1)
4. Yale (4)
5. Cornell (7)
6. Brown (11)
7. Dartmouth (5)
8. Clarkson (8)
9. Rensselaer (9)
10. Harvard (6)
11. St. Lawrence (2)
12. Princeton (12)

Here’s what I had for the preseason all-conference team:

F Mark Naclerio, Brown
F Matthew Peca, Quinnipiac
F Sam Anas, Quinnipiac
D Joakim Ryan, Cornell
D Gavin Bayreuther, St. Lawrence
G Colin Stevens, Union

Looking back, I’d leave Peca on (although Harvard’s Kyle Criscuolo made a strong case) and swap out Naclerio and Anas for Harvard’s Jimmy Vesey and Union’s Daniel Ciampini. For defense, I’d have Yale’s Rob O’Gara and St. Lawrence’s Eric Sweetman, with St. Lawrence goalie Kyle Hayton in place of Stevens.

Penn State’s Holstrom may miss rest of season with leg injury

DSC 0768 Penn States Holstrom may miss rest of season with leg injury

Taylor Holstrom leads Penn State in assists with 26 (photo: Tim Brule).

Penn State may have to play the rest of the season without top-line center Taylor Holstrom.

The team’s Twitter account quoted coach Guy Gadowsky on Tuesday saying Holstrom, a senior, will miss this weekend’s series against first-place Michigan and isn’t expected to return this season.

 

Holstrom left last Saturday’s game at Ohio State favoring his right leg after a collision with the Buckeyes’ Nicholas Jones, the Centre Daily Times reported.

Holstrom is second on the Penn State roster with 33 points, 26 of them coming from assists.

Gadowsky indicated that junior Tommy Olczyk will get a look on the top line with top scorer Casey Bailey and David Goodwin.

North Dakota loses top goal-scorer MacMillan indefinitely to lower-body injury, surgery

DSC 0073 North Dakota loses top goal scorer MacMillan indefinitely to lower body injury, surgery

Top-ranked North Dakota will be without Mark MacMillan on an indefinite basis (photo: Candace Horgan).

North Dakota announced Tuesday that senior forward Mark MacMillan will undergo surgery on Wednesday to repair a lower-body injury and will be out of action indefinitely.

MacMillan suffered the injury during North Dakota’s 3-1 victory over St. Cloud State last Saturday in Grand Forks, N.D.

On the season, MacMillan leads top-ranked UND with a career-high 16 goals, ranks third on the team in scoring with 25 points and his 13 goals during conference play lead the NCHC.

A fourth-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 2010, MacMillan has posted 99 points (46 goals, 53 assists) in 151 career games and this season, is a finalist for both the Hockey Humanitarian Award and the Senior CLASS Award.

Canisius reaps the benefits of its new home at Buffalo’s HarborCenter

DSC 4616 Canisius reaps the benefits of its new home at Buffalos HarborCenter

Canisius’ home at HarborCenter holds 1,800 fans (photo: Omar Phillips).

Hockey players of a certain age have probably played at dozens of rinks, from open-air facilities to the “old barns” that dot the landscape of North America, each with its own charm and some shortcomings. You’re thankful for what you have, but probably wish for a little more.

The Canisius Golden Griffins couldn’t ask for anything more.

It was with great expectation, and even greater appreciation that Canisius christened one of two facilities new to Division I men’s college hockey this season. The Rinks at HarborCenter officially opened in the fall, one part of a three-tiered, $172 million project that includes a hotel and restaurants, an effort to enhance the Buffalo waterfront.

Although pictures and descriptions of the new facility dribbled out on social media, the Canisius players were astounded when they arrived for their first day of practice at their new home, one of two NHL-sized rinks built kitty-corner on the sixth floor of the 20-story facility built directly across from and connected to the First Niagara Center, home of the Buffalo Sabres.

“It’s incredible,” said sophomore Shane Conacher. “Right when we walked in, everyone was in awe. We expected it to be nice and it exceeded all expectations.”

The Golden Griffins have their own locker room facility, complete with a lounge. The dressing room is backlit by blue LED lights and the walls are lined with enhanced images of Canisius hockey history. The wall that greets the players upon entering the room has the on-ice trophy celebration when Canisius won the Atlantic Hockey title in 2013.

The coaches’ suite is located near the players’ lounge, making it easy for interaction between the staff and the team, something that was not possible at the Golden Griffins’ old home at Buffalo State.

“It has brought the whole team together,” coach Dave Smith said.

One conversation piece is invariably the design of the rink itself. The truss ceiling of the facility is constructed of exceptionally strong wood imported from tall, narrow trees from Quebec. The lighting is first-rate, and there is ample seating for 1,800 — the adjacent rink has minimal seating of 150. The players have said it feels like the crowd is right on top of them when they play.

“It’s outstanding. It’s classy. It’s professional,” Smith said. “It’s appropriate in terms of size, and it was really, really well done, top to bottom.”

The players are appreciative of the new amenities. There are leather seats, nine television sets and an Xbox available to the team, which makes the lounge a prime destination for the players to hang out and spend extra time together, ideal for building team relationships.

“It’s a nice place to hang out, which we didn’t have before,” senior co-captain Doug Jessey said.

Smith said there had been discussions between Canisius and the Buffalo Sabres for as long as 10 years about combining efforts for a rink. For a while, there was talk about building a rink on campus grounds.

Smith admitted he was disappointed when he first heard about the project shifting to a downtown location, as proposed by Sabres owner Terry Pegula, but he certainly isn’t complaining now. Ground was broken in April 2013.

“Terry Pegula said we could change the face of Buffalo,” Smith said. “Once we heard the scope and magnitude of the entire project, with the Marriott connected to the rinks and the other development going down there at Canalside and the facility and relationship with the Buffalo Sabres, there was nothing but support on our end.”

DSC 4597 Canisius reaps the benefits of its new home at Buffalos HarborCenter

Canisius and Ohio State played to a 3-3 tie on opening night for HarborCenter on Oct. 31 (photo: Omar Phillips).

The Sabres use HarborCenter as their training rink, and Canisius shares the main rink with the Buffalo Junior Sabres. The NHL will hold its 2015 and 2016 scouting combines at the facility, and the 2016 NHL Entry Draft will be hosted by Buffalo.

Smith said the new facility is a big selling point in his recruiting.

“We’ve gotten tremendous feedback from kids, from young players that have simply said, ‘I want to play for Canisius in this building,’” Smith said. “The high-profile talent we have been targeting have been impressed with our facilities, compared to other places in the country. It’s hard to pull a specific quote from a recruit but it is tangible when they step in our building.”

Canisius made its HarborCenter debut on Halloween night, playing to a 3-3 tie with Ohio State. Shane Conacher lit the lamp for the first time, just 22 seconds after the opening draw. The first loss (4-1) came a night later to the Buckeyes. The first win had to wait until Black Friday, Nov. 28, when visiting Air Force went down 3-1.

Shane Conacher has long ties to the Canisius program; his older brother, Cory, played for the Golden Griffins before launching a pro career. Shane made sure to brag about Canisius’ new digs.

“He’s jealous,” Shane said. “I remember sending him pictures right away. He said, ‘You’re so lucky.’ He wishes he had a place like that.”

Canisius wrapped up its first regular season at HarborCenter with a satisfying 3-1 win over rival Mercyhurst on Feb. 21. The Golden Griffins were 7-4-5 in the new rink during the regular season and will host an Atlantic Hockey quarterfinal series March 13-15.

Canisius had used the Buffalo State Ice Arena for many years and the school was thankful for the opportunity. Only now, the Canisius players won’t hear the chirps about playing on someone else’s rink, adorned with the orange-and-black Bengal tiger logo at center ice.

The blue-and-gold Golden Griffins logo proudly adorns the HarborCenter ice.

“Buffalo State is a nice rink,” Jessey said. “Now we have our own place to call a home. It feels like Canisius’ rink, so that’s cool.”

TMQ: Perilous playoff paths, defense vs. offense and Hobey’s freshman bias

DSC 9211 TMQ: Perilous playoff paths, defense vs. offense and Hobeys freshman bias

Atlantic Hockey champion Robert Morris will host the lowest remaining seed in the conference quarterfinals after a weekend off (photo: Omar Phillips).

Each week during the season we look at the big events and big games around Division I men’s college hockey in Tuesday Morning Quarterback.

Jim: Here we are at the beginning of March, and the regular season is complete for three leagues (Hockey East, ECAC, Atlantic Hockey) and three are still playing. Let’s start with those leagues that are complete.

All three regular season champions (Boston University, Quinnipiac and Robert Morris) won their leagues with some comfort (BU won by four points; the others each won by six). But looking at the final weekend of the regular season, I don’t feel like any of the three are far and away favorites to win their conference championship.

BU dropped a game to Northeastern on Friday and struggled to clinch solo first. Quinnipiac fell to Dartmouth, albeit with nothing to play for in the conference (its spot in the PairWise Rankings is a different story). And Robert Morris lost to a Niagara team that, according to the PairWise, is the worst in college hockey. So how vulnerable do you think each of these teams are in their conference playoffs?

Matthew: I still feel like Robert Morris has the most straightforward playoff route of these three teams. Niagara did just play the Colonials close, but I would have trouble seeing either Army or Sacred Heart — or whichever lowest-ranked team emerges from the first round — win two of three games in Moon Township, and then RMU just has to take care of business in Rochester. That won’t be easy as Canisius and Rochester Institute of Technology both could give RMU real problems once the later rounds start, but I think the Colonials are the class of that league and should edge whoever they end up playing in the AHC tournament.

Boston University really ought to win the Hockey East championship. I can’t see Connecticut or New Hampshire shutting the Terriers down at Agganis, and I’m not sure I look at anyone else in the tournament field and think that any of those teams have a considerable edge over BU. There’s still plenty of hockey left to be played, obviously, but I would be surprised if BU isn’t celebrating again at TD Garden here in a few weeks like it was at the end of the Beanpot tournament.

That leaves us with Quinnipiac, which I think might be the most vulnerable of the three teams we’re focusing on here. The Bobcats will be favored to win the ECAC Hockey tournament, and rightfully so, but it’s so tight between second-seeded St. Lawrence and seventh-seeded Cornell that you dismiss any of them out of hand at your own peril. Is that fair to say, or do you look at it differently?

Jim: I agree about both Robert Morris (theirs to lose) and Quinnipiac (a tougher path). But I don’t know that the Hockey East tournament is BU’s to lose. I feel there are too many good teams playing well right now in Hockey East.

Providence has been equally as dominant in the second half and I’m not sure there is any quarterfinal opponent the Friars can face that should be scary. And in a single-game scenario, I prefer the team with the hot defense and goaltender. As good as Boston University has been in the second half, I worry about its defense. Using two goals against as a good threshold for the playoffs (meaning you should win a game if you allow two goals or fewer), BU has only done that six times in 17 games since the break.

Providence, on the other hand, has only allowed more than two goals five times in 16 games since January. In fact, Providence has limited opponents to two goals or fewer in each of the last eight games, going 5-2-1 in that span. I know BU has an offense that clicks, but doesn’t it seem like the BU defense might be a concern?

Matthew: That’s a good point, but while Providence boasts the league’s best defense — and you’re right, the Friars have been hot in their own end lately — BU isn’t necessarily a pushover. I don’t like that the Terriers gave up two and a half goals per game in league outings this season, but the game is played at both ends of the ice and BU is about as irresistible as it gets when it’s on the attack.

It starts with Jack Eichel and the potential Hobey Baker Award-winning season he’s having, of course, but he’s far from their only offensive weapon. BU is the kind of team that is going to ship goals in its own end but it’s also going to score plenty of its own, too, unless things start to go south in that department.

Jim: Well, you just brought up two words in the same sentence that have had my mind thinking a lot lately: Eichel and Hobey. As a freshman, Eichel’s stats are incredible. He exploded down the stretch and, to this point, has 55 points in 32 games, including 28 points in the 16 games since break. But Michigan’s Zach Hyman came on strong late, with 30 of 47 points in the 15 games the Wolverines have played since break.

Offensively, those two rank one and two, respectively, in points per game. And while there are players with competitive numbers — notably Jimmy Vesey at Harvard (22 goals and 44 points in 29 games) and Eichel’s linemate, Evan Rodrigues (17 goals and 49 points in 33 games) — I still look at Eichel and Hyman as the favorites for the Hobey this season.

I am ignoring goaltenders to this point, and Alex Lyon at Yale has put up impressive numbers — 1.57 GAA, .940 save percentage and six shutouts. All of these numbers either lead or are tied for the lead among goaltenders. But goalies have never fared well with the Hobey Baker voters (two goaltenders, Robb Stauber and Ryan Miller, have won in the past) so I have my doubts whether Lyon will get the appropriate recognition.

So how do you see the Hobey race? Two horses? Three? Maybe more?

Matthew: At this point, I think it’s probably a two-horse race between Eichel and Hyman, although that beats the one-horse race that we had for so long last season with Johnny Gaudreau. Eichel really ought to win it, and I don’t see people splitting votes between BU players even with Rodrigues playing as well as he has.

I would suggest that Hyman might mean a little more to Michigan than Eichel does to BU, as I think BU is still better than Michigan without either of those two players involved. Although Hyman will get plenty of votes, I do think Eichel might have one hand on the trophy at this point. What do you think? Am I being short-sighted on this one?

Jim: Listen, there are a large number of excellent candidates for the Hobey, but I agree with you that these two (and probably Lyon at Yale, in my opinion) should garner the most attention. The one issue with Eichel could be that he is a freshman. Just once in the award’s history has a freshman won the award, and that was Paul Kariya at Maine when he scored 100 points his rookie year and led his team to a national championship. That was easily the most memorable rookie campaign in college hockey until this year.

Has Eichel lived up to Kariya? I’m not sure. I would argue that goals are a lot harder to come by these days than they were in 1993, but I would also argue that Kariya had more of an ability to simply take over a game on command. Even Gaudreau a year ago at Boston College had more of an ability to impose his will than Eichel seems to this year. So the major question is whether Hobey voters will be biased either for or against the fact that Eichel is a freshman. Do you agree that is possible? Or am I overplaying this fact?

Matthew: I don’t know that they would necessarily have to hold Eichel being a freshman against him. I wonder if, for sports in general, maybe we’ve been experiencing a sea change in terms of younger college student-athletes getting more attention in terms of national MVP honors.

Like you alluded to, Kariya winning the Hobey was a long time ago now — Kariya isn’t even in the NHL anymore, which never ceases to make me feel really old — but we’re not that far removed from watching Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston win the Heisman Trophy, both as freshmen for their schools. Manziel was a redshirt quarterback, but the point is it’s not beyond kids that are that talented to completely take over in their first season in college. Does the analogy extend to hockey? I don’t see why it couldn’t.

Thumbs up

On a play many might consider a thumbs down, we give a thumbs up to Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin for knowing the situation his team was in on Saturday night against RIT. Mercyhurst needed a win to gain the final home-ice spot in the Atlantic Hockey quarterfinals. In overtime, Gotkin pulled his goaltender to try to win the game. The play didn’t work. Instead, RIT scored into the empty net, but that doesn’t take away from the fact Gotkin made the move in the first place. Sometimes coaches get so get caught up in a game they forget the various outcomes. Not the case for Gotkin.

Thumbs down

To overtime basketball games getting in the way of Michigan State fans seeing most of the bright spots for their team last Thursday. The Michigan State-Minnesota basketball game went to an extra five minutes, which in basketball of course means you can count on 15 to 20 extra minutes. So the Big Ten Network didn’t get to the Spartans-Gophers hockey game until Michigan State was ahead 3-0. Once BTN joined the hockey broadcast, the Gophers scored five unanswered goals to win.

Coming up

The postseason gets started in Atlantic Hockey, ECAC Hockey and Hockey East, with four best-of-three first-round series in each.

It’s the final week of the regular season for the NCHC and the WCHA, and No. 1 North Dakota can wrap up sole possession of the NCHC’s Penrose Cup with one point in a two-game series at No. 5 Miami. No. 2 Minnesota State has a three-point lead over No. 4 Michigan Tech. The Mavericks play at Bemidji State; the Huskies have a home-and-home series against Northern Michigan.

Lake Forest goalie Podolsky tabbed NCHA Player of the Year

leo podolsky2 Lake Forest goalie Podolsky tabbed NCHA Player of the Year

Leo Podolsky posted a sub-.2.00 GAA and a .940 save percentage this season for Lake Forest (photo: Erin Shamley).

The NCHA recently announced its year-end awards, including Player, Coach and Freshman of the Year, the All-Conference Team and All-Freshman Team.

Lake Forest junior goaltender Leo Podolsky was named Player of the Year after posting 15 wins, a 1.99 GAA and a .940 save percentage.

“Leo being named NCHA Player of the Year is a confirmation of the hard work he has put in and the growth he has experienced over the past three seasons,” LFC coach Patrick Kelliher said in a news release. “We couldn’t be happier for him. He was our backbone this year from day one. He came into this season with a quiet confidence and was as competitive as I have ever seen him in his three years.

“Our team’s success during the regular season came in large part from the confidence that our players had in Leo when he was in the net. They knew he was going to make the saves he should and even a couple he probably shouldn’t have.”

Adam Krug was selected Coach of the Year in his first season with Adrian, taking the Bulldogs to a 21-3-3 overall record and the NCHA regular-season title.

Freshman of the Year was Adrian’s Kyle Brothers, who posted an NCHA-best 43 points on 20 goals and 23 assists.

2015 NCHA All-Conference Team

Player's Name
Position
Class
School
Brian BergerFSr.Marian
Cullen BradshawFSr.St. Norbert
Kyle BrothersFFr.Adrian
Michael HillFJr.St. Norbert
Omar MullanFFr.Milwaukee School of Engineering
Josh RanalliFSr.Adrian
Ben CertoDJr.Lake Forest
Marian FialaDSr.St. Norbert
Ryan GieselerDSr.Adrian
Blake ThompsonDSo.St. Norbert
David JacobsonGSr.St. Norbert
Leo PodolskyGJr.Lake Forest

2015 NCHA All-Freshman Team

Player's Name
Position
School
Kyle BrothersFAdrian
Omar MullanFMilwaukee School of Engineering
Mat ThompsonFAdrian
Blake ButzowDAdrian
Sean CampbellDSt. Norbert
Mark WhiteleyDMarian
Mike GudmandsonGMarian

Recurring injuries have Penn State junior Milley leaving the game

DSC 4366 Recurring injuries have Penn State junior Milley leaving the game

Penn State’s Jonathan Milley has called it a career after injuries shelved him for all but four games this season (photo: Omar Phillips).

Penn State junior forward Jonathan Milley will not continue his playing career in Hockey Valley due to recurring injuries.

“Jonathan has spent more time and worked harder in the training room than any other athlete I have ever seen,” said PSU coach Guy Gadowsky in a statement. “I know he gave his absolute best effort to play, but his body just didn’t comply. He is a great student and will continue to help our program off the ice. I am very impressed with the support of Penn State University in regards to Jonathan’s health and commitment to get his degree.”

“I am very honored to have gotten this far in hockey,” added Milley. “Injuries have prevented me from continuing to play, but at this point and time, my health and degree are what is most important. I am so grateful to be considered part of an awesome team and to be able to get an education beyond my expectations.”

Milley, who played in four games this season, last played at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 29 in a 3-1 loss to Cornell. Milley had a goal and an assist in the second game of the season against Connecticut.

For his career with the Nittany Lions, Milley played 33 games and registered six goals and seven assists for 13 points.

Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Feb. 23-28

2015022820 31 571629 Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Feb. 23 28

No. 2 Minnesota State took three points from a series against No. 3 Michigan Tech (photo: Jim Rosvold).

Here’s how the teams in the Feb. 23, 2015, USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll fared from Monday, Feb. 23 to Saturday, Feb. 28:

RANKLAST WEEK’S RESULTSRECORDTHIS WEEK’S GAMES
1und Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Feb. 23 28
North Dakota
Friday: beat St. Cloud State 3-2
Saturday: beat St. Cloud State 3-1
24-6-3Friday-Saturday: at Miami
2mnst Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Feb. 23 28
Minnesota State
Friday: tied No. 3 Michigan Tech 1-1
Saturday: beat No. 3 Michigan Tech 4-2
24-6-3Friday-Saturday: at Bemidji State
3mtu Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Feb. 23 28
Michigan Tech
Friday: tied at No. 2 Minnesota State 1-1
Saturday: lost at No. 2 Minnesota State 4-2
24-8-2Friday: vs. Northern Michigan
Saturday: at Northern Michigan
4bu Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Feb. 23 28
Boston University
Monday: beat Northeastern 4-3 (OT)
Friday: lost to Northeastern 6-5
Saturday: won at Northeastern 6-1
21-7-5Off
5mu Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Feb. 23 28
Miami
Friday: won at No. 7 Denver 5-3
Saturday: lost at No. 7 Denver 6-2
20-11-1Friday-Saturday: vs. North Dakota
6umd Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Feb. 23 28
Minnesota-Duluth
Friday: tied No. 8 Omaha 1-1 (SOL)
Saturday: tied No. 8 Omaha 1-1 (SOL)
19-12-3Friday-Saturday: at Western Michigan
7du Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Feb. 23 28
Denver
Friday: lost to No. 5 Miami 5-3
Saturday: beat No. 5 Miami 6-2
19-11-2Friday-Saturday: at St. Cloud State
8uno Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Feb. 23 28
Omaha
Friday: tied No. 6 Minnesota-Duluth 1-1 (SOW)
Saturday: tied No. 6 Minnesota-Duluth 1-1 (SOW)
17-10-5Friday-Saturday: vs. Colorado College
9bc Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Feb. 23 28
Boston College
Monday: beat Harvard 3-2 (OT)
Friday: won at Notre Dame 2-0
Saturday: lost at Notre Dame 3-1
20-11-3Off
10qu Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Feb. 23 28
Quinnipiac
Friday: won at No. 16 Harvard 5-2
Saturday: lost at Dartmouth 3-1
21-9-4Off
11bgsu Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Feb. 23 28
Bowling Green
Friday: won at Alaska-Anchorage 4-3
Saturday: lost at Alaska-Anchorage 6-1
19-10-5Friday-Saturday: vs. Alabama-Huntsville
12yu Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Feb. 23 28
Yale
Friday: tied Colgate 2-2
Saturday: beat Cornell 4-0
17-7-5Off
13pc Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Feb. 23 28
Providence
Friday: beat Maine 5-2
Saturday: beat Maine 5-2
21-11-2Off
14uml Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Feb. 23 28
UMass-Lowell
Friday: beat No. 18 Vermont 4-1
Saturday: tied No. 18 Vermont 2-2
18-10-6Off
15umn Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Feb. 23 28
Minnesota
Thursday: beat Michigan State 5-3
Friday: lost to Michigan State 4-2
18-11-3Friday-Saturday: at Ohio State
16hu Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Feb. 23 28
Harvard
Monday: lost to No. 9 Boston College 3-2 (OT)
Friday: lost to No. 10 Quinnipiac 5-2
Saturday: beat Princeton 5-0
15-11-3Friday-Sunday: vs. Brown
17um Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Feb. 23 28
Michigan
Friday: beat Wisconsin 3-0
Saturday: beat Wisconsin 5-2
19-11Friday-Saturday: at Penn State
18uvm Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Feb. 23 28
Vermont
Friday: lost at No. 14 UMass-Lowell 4-1
Saturday: tied at No. 14 UMass-Lowell 2-2
18-12-4Friday-Sunday: vs. Maine
19slu Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Feb. 23 28
St. Lawrence
Friday: lost at Union 3-2
Saturday: lost at Rensselaer 4-3
18-13-3Off
20rm Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Feb. 23 28
Robert Morris
Friday: lost at Niagara 2-1
Saturday: beat Niagara 2-1
22-7-5Off

Two returning finalists among 28 nominees for 2015 Mike Richter Award

wilcoxfront Two returning finalists among 28 nominees for 2015 Mike Richter Award

Minnesota’s Adam Wilcox is one of two returning finalists that were nominated for the 2015 Mike Richter Award (photo: Jim Rosvold).

A pair of returning finalists and five other players who were nominated last season are among 28 player announced Friday as nominees for the 2015 Mike Richter Award for the nation’s top Division I men’s goaltender.

Minnesota’s Adam Wilcox and Northeastern’s Clay Witt are back after being named finalists last season, when Massachusetts-Lowell’s Connor Hellebuyck was the inaugural winner.

Boston College’s Thatcher Demko, Providence’s Jon Gillies, Michigan State’s Jake Hildebrand, Ferris State’s CJ Motte and Union’s Colin Stevens were nominated last year as well.

Here are the 2015 nominees:

Name
School
Year
Michael BitzerBemidji StateFr
Thatcher DemkoBoston CollegeSo
Charlie FinnColgateSo
Michael GarteigQuinnipiacJr
Mitch GilliamCornellSo
Jon GilliesProvidenceJr
Matt GinnHoly CrossSr
Carmine GuerrieroAlabama-HuntsvilleSo
Kyle HaytonSt. LawrenceFr
Jake HildebrandMichigan StateJr
Charlie LindgrenSt. Cloud StateSo
Alex LyonYaleSo
Olivier ManthaAlaska-AnchorageFr
Ryan MassaOmahaSr
Zane McIntyreNorth DakotaJr
CJ MotteFerris StateSr
Rob NicholsConnecticutSo
Matt O’ConnorBoston UniversityJr
Steve PerryClarksonSo
Cal PetersenNotre DameFr
Jamie PhillipsMichigan TechJr
Mike SantaguidaVermontSo
Colin StevensUnionSr
Rasmus TirronenMerrimackSr
Adam WilcoxMinnesotaJr
Jay WilliamsMiamiJr
Stephon WilliamsMinnesota StateJr
Clay WittNortheasternSr

The nominees were chosen by head coaches of the 59 Division I men’s teams. The finalists and winner will be selected by a committee of coaches, scouts and media members, and the finalists will be announced on March 18.

Candidates must meet five criteria:

• Candidates must display outstanding skills on the ice

• Candidates should be in good academic standing at an NCAA college or university

• Consideration should be given to academic achievement and sportsmanship

• Candidates must comply with all NCAA rules; be full-time students at an NCAA college or university; and complete 50 percent or more of the season

• Consideration should be given to the candidate’s activities in the community

The award is presented by Let’s Play Hockey and the Herb Brooks Foundation.

Minnesota, Boston College trios highlight 2015 Patty Kazmaier finalists

skarupa1 Minnesota, Boston College trios highlight 2015 Patty Kazmaier finalists

Boston College’s Haley Skarupa is one of 10 finalists for the 2015 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award (photo: Melissa Wade).

Three players each from Minnesota and Boston College are among the 10 finalists for the 2015 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award.

The winner of the award, given to the best player in Division I women’s hockey, will be unveiled at a brunch ceremony at the McNamara Alumni Center in Minneapolis on Saturday, March 21, as part of the NCAA Women’s Frozen Four weekend.

The top three finalists will be announced on Thursday, March 5.

Clarkson forward Jamie Lee Rattray won the award in 2014.

Player's Name
Position
Class
School
Shelby Amsley-BenzieGRS-Jr.North Dakota
Hannah BrandtFJr.Minnesota
Dani CameranesiFSo.Minnesota
Alex CarpenterFJr.Boston College
Kendall CoyneFJr.Northeastern
Brianne JennerFSr.Cornell
Emily PfalzerDSr.Boston College
Marie-Philip PoulinFSr.Boston University
Rachel RamseyDSr.Minnesota
Haley SkarupaFJr.Boston College

Brown women’s coach Bourbeau resigns after four seasons

Brown women’s coach Amy Bourbeau stepped down on Thursday.

“I want to thank Coach Bourbeau for her contributions to the Brown women’s hockey program and its student-athletes,” said Brown director of athletics Jack Hayes in a statement. “I wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors.”

Bourbeau coached the Bears from 2011 to 2015, compiling a 23-79-14 overall record. She helped lead Brown to its first appearance in the ECAC playoffs in five years during the 2011-12 season and her teams won the Mayor’s Cup against crosstown rival Providence three out of four years during her tenure.

A national search for a new head coach will begin immediately.

North Dakota’s Faison replaces Knowlton as NCAA Division I committee chair

North Dakota athletic director Brian Faison will serve as chair of the NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Committee when it convenes to set the bracket for this season’s NCAA tournament.

Rensselaer athletic director Jim Knowlton had been the committee chair, but he is leaving the school for Air Force and has been removed from the committee roster.

The committee is made up of one member from each of the six Division I conferences. Three members must be administrators.

ECAC Hockey schools are in the process of choosing a replacement for Knowlton on the committee. Nominations were due Feb. 20 to the NCAA’s Administration Cabinet, which makes the pick.

Faison has been North Dakota’s athletic director since 2008 and has chaired the NCHC Board of Directors and the Big Sky Conference Joint Council.

He joined the NCAA hockey committee last season.

As with any member of the committee and his or her school, Faison will have to recuse himself from discussions involving North Dakota’s place in the NCAA tournament.

The committee also includes Minnesota senior associate athletic director Tom McGinnis and coaches Brian Riley of Army, Kevin Sneddon of Vermont and Mel Pearson of Michigan Tech.

Playoff preview: WCHA women

1D3L1730 Playoff preview: WCHA women

North Dakota will be home for the entirety of the WCHA playoffs should it advance, but still needs a big performance from Shelby Amsley-Benzie.  (BRADLEY K. OLSON)

It’s conference tournament time.

Two weeks, three rounds, and four conference champions will be determined. More so than any previous year, a wide variety of narratives could unfold in most of the leagues. Let’s scratch the surface of what a few of those might be.

No. 1 Minnesota versus Minnesota State
Postseason history: When the two teams met in the 2010 quarterfinals, MSU extended Minnesota to the third overtime in the second game.

Minnesota Gophers
Record: 29-2-4
Impact players: Hannah Brandt is second in the NCAA with 62 points; linemate Dani Cameranesi has had a breakout sophomore season with 55 points to rank fourth in the country, and her 34 assists are third.
Hurdles to overcome: Minnesota lacks the offensive balance through its lines that it enjoyed last year.
Why they will advance: The Gophers are the only team to reach the semifinals in all 15 seasons.
Why the Gophers will win the WCHA tournament: Their seniors won their first three years.

Minnesota State Mavericks
Record: 3-30-1
Impact players: Freshman forward Nicole Schammel leads the team in all three categories with 11 goals, 10 assists, and 21 points; senior Kathleen Rogan is third in team scoring despite missing 13 games.
Hurdles to overcome: MSU ranks dead last in both scoring offense and scoring defense.
Why they will advance: Returning Mavericks can be encouraged by the memory of pushing Wisconsin to three games last year when nobody gave them a chance.
Why the Mavericks will win the WCHA tournament: Though it would take more wins in nine days than the Mavericks have had all season to date, there’s always a chance.

No. 2 Wisconsin versus St. Cloud State
Postseason history: The Huskies were swept at Wisconsin in 2013 and are 0-6 all time against the Badgers in the postseason.

Wisconsin Badgers
Record: 24-6-4
Impact players: Although much of the impact comes from the team’s balance, goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens and freshman Annie Pankowski have stood out.
Hurdles to overcome: There have been days during the second half where the only place to see Wisconsin’s offense was on a milk carton.
Why they will advance: The Badgers’ penalty kill has allowed only four goals all season.
Why the Badgers will win the WCHA tournament: Just reaching the final would be a good step, something they haven’t done since 2011.

St. Cloud State Huskies
Record: 8-26-1
Impact players: Although the numbers may not always show it, the strength of St. Cloud State is its goaltending.
Hurdles to overcome: Already offensively challenged, the Huskies’ scoring is down from last year.
Why they will advance: Julie Friend will need to repeat her performance from Friday when she made 52 saves to bump off the Badgers.
Why the Huskies will win the WCHA tournament: First-year coach Eric Rud has been holding some top-secret tactics in reserve.

No. 3 North Dakota versus Ohio State
Postseason history: This is the first postseason meeting.

North Dakota
Record: 20-11-3
Impact players: Goaltender Shelby Amsley-Benzie has the top save percentage in the country, and junior Becca Kohler is having a career year to lead the scoring.
Hurdles to overcome: At times the offense provides little margin for error.
Why it will advance: It displayed a knack for getting by the Buckeyes in tight games.
Why North Dakota will win the WCHA tournament: UND will be playing on home ice the whole way and is as hot as any team in the country, going 10-1-1 over its last dozen games.

Ohio State Buckeyes
Record: 17-14-3
Impact players: Four of the team’s top five scorers are seniors.
Hurdles to overcome: North Dakota does many of the same things, and it does them a little better.
Why they will advance: It’s due to get a few bounces at UND’s expense.
Why the Buckeyes will win the WCHA tournament: They can ride the scarlet and gray wave started by the football team.

No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth versus Bemidji State
Postseason history: UMD defeated the Beavers 7-3 in the semifinals in 2010, the only time they’ve advanced beyond the first round.

Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs
Record: 19-10-5
Impact players: Six players have at least 20 points, but only Zoe Hickel tops 30.
Hurdles to overcome: It’s looking likely that no Bulldogs player will reach 40 points for the third straight year, after only having one such season through the program’s first 13 campaigns.
Why they will advance: I can’t imagine Shannon Miller losing her final game in Duluth.
Why the Bulldogs will win the WCHA tournament: It seems like the kind of thing Miller would do for a swan song.

Bemidji State Beavers
Record: 18-15-1
Impact players: Goaltender Brittni Mowat, leading scorer Kaitlyn Tougas, and a bunch of kids sporting ice bags from blocking shots.
Hurdles to overcome: They’ll almost surely have to win four games versus ranked opponents to win the championship.
Why they will advance: The Beavers outscored the Bulldogs 9-6 in splitting the season series.
Why the Beavers will win the WCHA tournament: Determination can go a long way.

Assessing NCHC teams’ goals for the final two weeks of the regular season

28469November 15 2014 Assessing NCHC teams goals for the final two weeks of the regular season

North Dakota and Miami go into the final two weeks of the NCHC regular season in the top two spots in the standings (photo: Bradley K. Olson).

When the NCHC was announced as the rival to the newly constituted Big Ten, it was recognized as a power conference. Talk to any coach in the league and they will comment on how competitive the league is, and how hard it is to sweep a league opponent.

In just its second year, the NCHC has surpassed all expectations. The league sports the best out-of-conference record of all six conferences at 53-25-4. Of the league’s eight teams, seven have at least a .500 or better record against out-of-conference competition.

The lone team below .500 is Colorado College, which went 4-5 against out-of-conference teams, including 1-0 against the Big Ten and 2-0 against the WCHA. As a comparison, CC is 1-18-1 in the conference, so it did far better when playing nonleague opponents.

That stellar out-of-conference record has translated to the PairWise Rankings, where the NCHC has three teams in the top four, five teams in the top eight, and six in the top 14. The next-best conference after the NCHC in terms of the top 15 teams who could conceivably make the NCAA tournament (the Atlantic Hockey champion is awarded an autobid, and Robert Morris is the highest-ranking AHC team at 23 in the PairWise, so 15 teams maximum will make it) are Hockey East and the WCHA with three. The ECAC has two, and the Big Ten one.

With two weeks to go in the regular season, the competition for the Penrose Cup, awarded to the league regular season champion, is fierce. Six teams have a mathematical chance at both home ice in the first round of the NCHC playoffs and the Penrose Cup. Let’s break down each team.

North Dakota

League record: 13-5-2
Nonleague record: 9-1-1
Conference rank: First
PairWise rank: Second
Highest possible finish: First
Lowest possible finish: Sixth
Series left: St. Cloud State (home), Miami (away)

North Dakota controls its destiny, thanks to the split last weekend between Miami and Minnesota-Duluth and St. Cloud State’s sweep of Omaha. Win out, and UND wins the Penrose Cup.

Considering its opponents, that is easier said than done. St. Cloud has shown flashes of the form that won the Huskies the inaugural Penrose Cup, and Miami has battled North Dakota for first all season long.

North Dakota has a lot of pluses, including the seventh-best offense in the country and the 10th-best defense. The latter is particularly impressive, since UND is only 23rd in the country in penalty killing.

Zane McIntyre has been a force in net, sporting a 1.95 GAA and .932 save percentage.

UND’s chance at the Penrose Cup could come down to its last series against Miami.

Miami

League record: 12-7-1
Nonleague record: 7-3
Conference rank: Second
PairWise rank: Fourth
Highest possible finish: First
Lowest possible finish: Sixth
Series left: Denver (away), North Dakota (home)

Some people, including yours truly, picked the RedHawks to win the NCHC this year. Miami has a lot going for it, including goaltender Jay Williams, who sports the fourth-best GAA in the country at 1.72.

Williams is one of the reasons Miami boasts the 10th-ranked defense in the country.

Miami also has talented offensive stars, including Austin Czarnik, Riley Barber and Sean Kuraly, the latter of whom is chasing fellow conference forward Austin Ortega for the national game-winning goals lead.

If Miami is going to win the NCHC, it will have to do it the hard way. It faces the third and first teams in the conference to close its season. Beating Denver in Denver is a tough ask, and whether North Dakota is home or away, it always seems to get points.

If Miami can stay within three points of North Dakota ahead of the series between the two on the last weekend of the year, it will control its destiny — sweep North Dakota, and Miami wins the Penrose.

Denver

League record: 11-8-1
Nonleague record: 7-2-1
Conference rank: Tie, third
PairWise rank: Seventh
Highest possible finish: First
Lowest possible finish: Sixth
Series left: Miami (home), St. Cloud State (away)

After sweeping archrival Colorado College, Denver leapfrogged Minnesota-Duluth into a home-ice spot for the first round of the NCHC playoffs. Like several other teams in the conference, the Pioneers control their destiny. Win out, and Denver is home for the first round.

The Pioneers have a talented group on offense, including freshman Danton Heinen, who is 20th in the country in scoring and the top-ranked NCHC player nationally in scoring.

The defense is anchored by senior and Hobey Baker Award candidate Joey LaLeggia, who is 33rd in the country in scoring.

While Denver could finish first, it would need help. Taking home ice for the first round of the playoffs is more pressing.

20141121 Omaha UMD 11 MBishop Assessing NCHC teams goals for the final two weeks of the regular season

David Pope and Omaha hope to pull out of a slump that has the Mavericks 3-5 in their last eight games (photo: Michelle Bishop).

Omaha

League record: 11-8-1
Nonleague record: 6-2-2
Conference rank: Tie, third
PairWise rank: Eighth
Highest possible finish: First
Lowest possible finish: Sixth
Series left: Minnesota-Duluth (away), Colorado College (home)

Entering last weekend’s series with St. Cloud State, Omaha was tied for first in the NCHC. However, after last weekend’s sweep by the Huskies, Omaha is fighting just to capture a home-ice spot for the first round of the playoffs.

Sophomore forward Ortega has been a bright spot, tying the NCAA record for game-wining goals with 10.

Coach Dean Blais has gotten a lot out of his team, especially considering how young the Mavericks are; they sport 10 freshmen on the roster.

Omaha has struggled over the last month, posting a 3-5 mark, which is one reason Omaha, which had sole possession of first in early January, is now down to fourth and fighting to stay ahead of Minnesota-Duluth and St. Cloud for the final home-ice spot.

Even hosting Colorado College on the final weekend of the year isn’t a good omen, considering CC’s one league win came at Omaha’s expense in January.

Minnesota-Duluth

League record: 11-8-1
Nonleague record: 8-4
Conference rank: Fifth
PairWise rank: Third
Highest possible finish: First
Lowest possible finish: Sixth
Series left: Omaha (home), Western Michigan (away)

It says something about the competitiveness of the NCHC that while Minnesota-Duluth is third in the PairWise, the Bulldogs are only fifth in the NCHC. In the second half of the season, the Bulldogs have a 4-5-1 mark in conference play, but a 3-1 mark in nonconference play.

Saturday’s OT loss to Miami was particularly costly. The Bulldogs held a 3-1 lead but couldn’t hold on, and the loss dropped them out of the home-ice spot for the first round of the NCHC playoffs.

Winning the NCHC is not outside the realm of possibility, as the Bulldogs host reeling Omaha and then close against Western Michigan, but the first priority for Duluth has to be getting more points than Omaha in the series between the two this weekend so that the Bulldogs get to host the first round of the playoffs.

St. Cloud State

League record: 10-9-1
Nonleague record: 5-5
Conference rank: Sixth
PairWise rank: 14
Highest possible finish: First
Lowest possible finish: Sixth
Series left: North Dakota (away), Denver (home)

St. Cloud boasts some impressive wins this season, but also some puzzling losses that have hurt its playoff chances. However, after sweeping Omaha last weekend, the Huskies have moved up to 14th in the PairWise, which could be enough to get them into the NCAA tournament, depending on how the conference tournaments shake out.

A home-ice spot for the Huskies is possible, but challenging. Like Miami, St. Cloud closes its season with the first and third teams in the conference. Denver swept the Huskies in January in Denver, and St. Cloud split with North Dakota in November.

Regardless, the Huskies should look at the big picture: making the NCAA tournament.

20150213 Omaha WesternMichigan 06 MBishop Assessing NCHC teams goals for the final two weeks of the regular season

Western Michigan will be on the road for the first round of the playoffs (photo: Michelle Bishop).

Western Michigan

League record: 5-11-4
Nonleague record: 7-3
Conference rank: Seventh
PairWise rank: 24
Highest possible finish: Fifth
Lowest possible finish: Seventh
Series left: Colorado College (away), Minnesota-Duluth (home)

The Broncos know they will be on the road for the first round of the NCHC playoffs, but who they play and how they finish is up in the air. Further, at 24th in the PairWise, the Broncos would need to win the NCHC tournament to advance to the NCAA tournament.

First up for the Broncos is a road series with Colorado College, from whom they took five of six points at home in December right before the break. The win was a one-goal affair. With the Tigers looking for any positive, a sweep is no sure thing.

Then the Broncos host Minnesota-Duluth; the Broncos got a tie and win back in January against the Bulldogs in Duluth, and also won the shootout, which is the reason Minnesota-Duluth trails Denver and Omaha, despite having identical records.

The most points Western could get is 34, which means the Broncos are definitely on the road.

Colorado College

League record: 1-18-1
Nonleague record: 4-5
Conference rank: Eighth
PairWise rank: 53
Highest possible finish: Eighth
Lowest possible finish: Eighth
Series left: Western Michigan (home), Omaha (away)

Colorado College has had a challenging season, and is the only NCHC team that knows exactly where it will finish, and exactly what its fate is. CC will finish last in the NCHC and go on the road to take on the top team in the conference. CC’s only chance at making the NCAA tournament is to win the autobid that goes to the NCHC playoff champion.

The Tigers have struggled mightily, often playing teams tough, only to fade in the last minutes of the third period. They played Denver tough last weekend, forcing a 3-3 tie in the third period Saturday only to have the Pioneers score three times in the final five minutes, only one of which was an empty-netter.

Players of the week

Offensive player of the week — Danton Heinen, Denver: Heinen, the top NCHC scorer nationally, paced Denver to a sweep of Colorado College and the Gold Pan trophy, extending his point streak to five games with four points on the weekend. On Friday, Heinen had two goals and an assist in Denver’s 6-4 win, tying the game in the first period with a goal and scoring the go-ahead goal in the second to make it 4-3. On Saturday, he notched an assist on the final Denver goal. Heinen finished plus-5 on the weekend.

Defensive player of the week — Joey LaLeggia, Denver: Hobey Baker Award candidate LaLeggia won his third straight NCHC defensive player of the week honor, and fifth of the year, by notching four points in Denver’s sweep of Colorado College. LaLeggia, who is the NCHC’s top-scoring defenseman and second-best scoring defenseman nationally, had two assists on Friday, then scored a goal and an assist, both on a power play. LaLeggia finished plus-2 on the weekend.

Rookie of the week — Nick Schmaltz, North Dakota: Schmaltz helped his team sweep Western Michigan by getting two assists, including the primary assist Friday on the game-winner while posting a plus-1 rating on the weekend.

Goaltender of the week — Zane McIntyre, North Dakota: McIntyre posted a 1.46 GAA and .957 save percentage in North Dakota’s sweep of Western Michigan. On Friday, the only goal he gave up came late in the game with Western Michigan having an extra attacker, and on Saturday, both of Western’s goals against McIntyre came with an extra attacker. McIntyre stopped 67 of 70 shots on the weekend and earned his fourth goaltender of the week honor.

Playoff previews: Hockey East women

lefort1 Playoff previews: Hockey East women

BU’s Sarah Lefort is a key to the Terriers’ offense. (Melissa Wade)

It’s conference tournament time.

Two weeks, three rounds, and four conference champions will be determined. More so than any previous year, a wide variety of narratives could unfold in most of the leagues. Let’s scratch the surface of what a few of those might be.

No. 1 Boston College versus Providence
Postseason history: The Eagles defeated the Friars 3-2 in overtime in a semifinal in 2011.

Boston College Eagles
Record: 30-1-2
Impact players: I could probably just insert a link to the whole roster, but they have both the country’s highest scoring player in Alex Carpenter and defenseman in Emily Pfalzer.
Hurdles to overcome: Traditionally, BC doesn’t seem to be at its best in the league tourney, winning the event only once, four years ago.
Why they will advance: The Eagles have the nation’s top offense, while Providence ranks 32nd defensively.
Why the Eagles will win the Hockey East tournament: BC went undefeated against this field in 22 games, so it is unlikely that anyone will stop them over the next four contests.

Providence Friars
Record: 6-23-4
Impact players: Providence has some nice senior forwards, Beth Hanrahan, Haley Frade, and Brooke Simpson.
Hurdles to overcome: The best time to face the top team in the country is probably not while on an eight-game losing skid.
Why they will advance: PC isn’t as big of an underdog as Bye — or maybe that’s not true.
Why the Friars will win the Hockey East tournament: Last season was the first year they didn’t reach the semifinals of Hockey East, so many of the Friars remember better days.

No. 2 Boston University versus Vermont
Postseason history: The two teams meet in the playoffs for the first time.

Boston University Terriers
Record: 21-8-3
Impact players: The Terriers have two of the country’s premier players, and they’ve put up nearly identical scoring lines with Sarah Lefort (22-21-43) and Marie-Philip Poulin (21-21-42)
Hurdles to overcome: BU can be very ordinary at times.
Why they will advance: While there were more favorable first-round opponents than Vermont, BU should manage just fine.
Why the Terriers will win the Hockey East tournament: Brian Durocher has them playing their best every year at tournament time.

Vermont Catamounts
Record: 15-17-2
Impact players: Dayna Colang outscored more-heralded teammates Amanda Pelkey and Brittany Zuback.
Hurdles to overcome: Vermont has yielded a lot of goals, including nine in the last game versus the Terriers.
Why they will advance: They shut BU out a month ago; now they just have to remember how they did it.
Why the Catamounts will win the Hockey East tournament: As much as this may seem like a mismatch, BU has just six more overall wins than does UVM; the second round is where a miracle will be needed.

No. 3 Northeastern versus New Hampshire
Postseason history: New Hampshire defeated Northeastern 5-0 in the semifinals in 2004.

Northeastern Huskies
Record: 12-15-5
Impact players: Kendall Coyne seems to have found a running mate in freshman Denisa Krížová.
Hurdles to overcome: After season-ending injuries to Hayley Scamurra and Paige Savage, production up front isn’t very deep.
Why they will advance: When Chloé Desjardins is at the top of her game, Northeastern can beat anyone — or at least, almost anyone.
Why the Huskies will win the Hockey East tournament: They have come so close to making the NCAA field a number of times in recent years, so it would be fitting that they do so now when nobody expects it.

New Hampshire Wildcats
Record: 9-21-3
Impact players: Point production drops off quite sharply after sophomore Jonna Curtis.
Hurdles to overcome: A matchup with Maine would likely have suited UNH much better.
Why they will advance: The Wildcats have been better of late and are on a 5-5-2 stretch.
Why the Wildcats will win the Hockey East tournament: They’ve done it as many times as any other program.

No. 4 Maine versus Connecticut
Postseason history: This is the first playoff meeting.

Maine Black Bears
Record: 10-18-3
Impact players: Senior Meghann Treacy in net gives Maine a chance every time out.
Hurdles to overcome: Only RIT’s power play converted at a lower rate.
Why they will advance: If before the season Maine was offered the possibility of a home-ice playoff series versus a team that didn’t reach double digits in wins, it would have jumped at the chance.
Why the Black Bears will win the Hockey East tournament: Maine might fare better if the league champ was determined by popular vote.

Connecticut Huskies
Record: 9-17-8
Impact players: Leah Lum has made a difference on the blue line as a rookie, and senior Sarah MacDonnell leads the team in scoring with 28 points.
Hurdles to overcome: It’s a strange situation to be opening the playoffs on the road in the same building where you swept a series the week before.
Why they will advance: Their first opponent has only one more win than they do.
Why the Huskies will win the Hockey East tournament: The Huskies path to a championship would figure to get easier if there is at least one other upset winner in Hockey East’s first round.

Playoff preview: ECAC women

 

staenz Playoff preview: ECAC women

Yale will need a big series from Phoebe Staenz if it wants to advance past Harvard. (Sam Rubin/Yale Sports Publicity)

It’s conference tournament time.

Two weeks, three rounds, and four conference champions will be determined. More so than any previous year, a wide variety of narratives could unfold in most of the leagues. Let’s scratch the surface of what a few of those might be.

No. 1 Clarkson versus Dartmouth
Postseason history: Clarkson swept the Big Green in a 2014 quarterfinal, claiming a pair of 2-0 verdicts.

Clarkson Golden Knights
Record: 22-9-3
Impact players: Clarkson is the top seed thanks to new arrivals like goalie Shea Tiley and defenseman Savannah Harmon, and the growth of returnees such as forwards Cayley Mercer and Shannon MacAulay.
Hurdles to overcome: The Golden Knights aren’t especially deep, and only had 15 skaters dressed when they shut out Harvard to secure first.
Why they will advance: Clarkson swept the Big Green during the season, including a dramatic OT win on the final weekend.
Why the Golden Knights will win the ECAC tournament: After a breakthrough past two years, it’s the one prize missing from the trophy case.

Dartmouth Big Green
Record: 13-13-2
Impact players: Dartmouth is led by the triple threat of forwards Lindsey Allen, Kennedy Ottenbreit, and Laura Stacey.
Hurdles to overcome: The Big Green have the league’s best power play, but their penalty kill ranked 10th, so they’ll need to either improve or stay out of the box.
Why they will advance: Dartmouth has been down this road before, losing a hard-fought series in Potsdam to a much deeper Clarkson.
Why the Big Green will win the ECAC tournament: The gap between them and the rest of the field isn’t as big as it usually is for a bottom seed.

No. 2 Harvard versus Yale
Postseason history: Harvard advanced out of a quarterfinal series in 2014 by taking the third game, 4-0, after splitting a pair of double-overtime contests.

Harvard Crimson
Record: 21-5-3
Impact players: Harvard is deep at forward, deep at defense, but seems to go as junior goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer goes.
Hurdles to overcome: The whole has been mystifyingly less than the sum of the parts at times.
Why they will advance: In the wake of a somewhat flat weekend at home to close the season, I wouldn’t expect another one.
Why the Crimson will win the ECAC tournament: After taking four championships in five years, they haven’t won since their perfect ECAC performance in 2008, so the Crimson are due.

Yale Bulldogs
Record: 15-13-1
Impact players: Jamie Haddad and Phoebe Staenz share the scoring lead with 24 points, but the balance is improved.
Hurdles to overcome: Yale will have to tighten up a defense that ranks seventh.
Why they will advance: Ivy League teams always get up to play Harvard.
Why the Bulldogs will win the ECAC tournament: The Bulldogs are riding a season-best five-game winning streak.

No. 3 Quinnipiac versus Princeton
Postseason history: The Bobcats swept the Tigers in a quarterfinal series in 2011.

Quinnipiac Bobcats
Record: 24-7-3
Impact players: Taylar Cianfarano leads the country with eight game-winning goals, and Chelsea Laden sits atop the shutout list with 14.
Hurdles to overcome: A lot of air has leaked out of the balloon in recent weeks; Quinnipiac has scored multiple goals only three times in its last 10 games.
Why they will advance: The Bobcats didn’t give Princeton much reason for optimism in sweeping the season series.
Why the Bobcats will win the ECAC tournament: For Quinnipiac to make its first championship a reality, it will need to get back to being near impossible to score against.

Princeton Tigers
Record: 15-12-2
Impact players: Kelsey Koelzer leads ECAC defensemen in points with 26, while Molly Contini is tops on the team with 28.
Hurdles to overcome: Goalie Kimberly Newell will have to be on her best form, because any goals allowed will be very challenging to answer.
Why they will advance: The Tigers haven’t reached the semifinals since their NCAA tournament year in 2006, so they’re due.
Why the Tigers will win the ECAC tournament: Princeton is also looking for its first crown, but this year, there doesn’t appear to be a dominant team to overcome, so the time is ripe for a surprise winner.

No. 4 Cornell versus St. Lawrence
Postseason history: SLU fell to the Big Red in a semifinal in 2013 after defeating them in the final in 2012.

Cornell Big Red
Record: 16-10-3
Impact players: Cornell has the league’s biggest offensive threats in seniors Brianne Jenner, Emily Fulton, and Jillian Saulnier.
Hurdles to overcome: The Big Red rank fifth in scoring defense and penalty kill in the league.
Why they will advance: Cornell has won its last five quarterfinal series.
Why the Big Red will win the ECAC tournament: With the players they are graduating, it could be a while before they have a realistic chance to win the tourney again, like they did the last two years.

St. Lawrence Saints
Record: 19-10-5
Impact players: Defenseman Amanda Boulier, goaltender Carmen MacDonald, and a solid stable of forwards.
Hurdles to overcome: There was a wide variance between the Saints on their best day and their worst.
Why they will advance: SLU will need to start faster, as they’ve fallen into 4-0 and 3-0 holes in losing twice to Cornell this year.
Why the Saints will win the ECAC tournament: They’ve come from off the radar to do it before, but only the seniors and Boulier were around to see it.

Minnesota State, Michigan Tech ready for series that could decide which will hoist MacNaughton Cup

Mavericks Win Minnesota State, Michigan Tech ready for series that could decide which will hoist MacNaughton Cup

Minnesota State’s Bryce Gervais (9) and Matt Leitner can clinch the WCHA title with two wins over Michigan Tech (photo: Adelle Whitefoot).

Mike Hastings said the first meeting between his Minnesota State Mavericks and Michigan Tech “seems like two years ago,” but Huskies coach Mel Pearson recalled thinking about the rematch after that November series in Houghton.

“You got the sense that somewhere down the road we’d meet again and it would be meaningful,” Pearson said.

On the penultimate weekend of the regular season, they meet again in Mankato — and it is indeed meaningful.

The second-ranked Mavericks hold a one-point lead over the third-ranked Huskies atop the WCHA standings. A Minnesota State sweep would give the Mavericks their first MacNaughton Cup championship, while two wins by Michigan Tech would slingshot the Huskies into first place and put them in great shape for their first WCHA title since 1976 with a week to go.

“One’s going to finish first; one’s going to finish second,” Hastings said. “Winning a regular season championship, I think, is very difficult in our league.”

The Mavericks swept the Huskies three months ago in a pair of one-goal games, handing Michigan Tech its first losses of the season after a 10-0 start and knocking it out of the No. 1 ranking.

“I still have that feeling and that sense of intensity and that pace and grittiness of those games in November,” Pearson said.

He said the same of the last season’s regular season finale in Mankato in which a tie between the two teams cost MSU a share of the MacNaughton Cup and kept Tech out of a home-ice spot.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about the MacNaughton, if you’re talking about home ice or talking about making the playoffs, one point is usually the difference,” said Hastings, whose own team was recently knocked off the top of the rankings. “Everybody’s playing for something at this time of year — everybody. So I think it’s an exciting time for hockey.”

There’s definitely excitement for the series in south-central Minnesota, where the games are expected to be played in front of two packed houses — perhaps more than 5,000 strong each night — at the Verizon Wireless Center.

And why not? It’s not just about rankings and standings. The series will feature 10 of the WCHA’s top 11 scorers — Tech’s Tanner Kero and Alex Petan and Minnesota State’s Matt Leitner and Bryce Gervais, just to name a few — as well as two of the league’s best goaltenders in the Huskies’ Jamie Phillips and the Mavericks’ Stephon Williams.

“These are the games you want to play in,” Pearson said. “Going into a tough rink against a good team. You can’t ask for anything more. … And it’s good for our league. It sheds some spotlight on our league.”

Both coaches are trying to put the weekend into perspective. No matter what the outcome is in the series, there’s a lot more hockey to be played, including the final weekend of the regular season, the first round of the conference playoffs, the Final Five and the NCAA tournament.

“We’ve found ourselves in a good position,” Pearson said. “We didn’t know that we’d be here. We’re trying to approach the game Friday and again Saturday as being the same as playing Lake Superior in October. It’s two points.”

Tell that to the fans packing the place hoping to see a championship clinched.

“You set goals at the beginning of the year,” Hastings said. “The first is you want to get home ice in the playoffs. The second is you want to be competing for a league championship. … Those are hard to win; it’s hard to get home ice. So it’s an opportunity. And if you win it, you better keep an eye on what’s in front of you.”

2015012419 13 479443 Minnesota State, Michigan Tech ready for series that could decide which will hoist MacNaughton Cup

Bemidji State is tied for fourth place with Northern Michigan and holds the head-to-head tiebreaker (photo: Jim Rosvold).

Home ice on the line

Meanwhile in Big Rapids, there’s another big series between two teams that actually haven’t played in nearly a year.

And depending on how the series breaks, either host Ferris State or visiting Bemidji State could find itself in the league’s fourth and final home-ice position at the end of the weekend.

“Every single team in our conference has something to play for this weekend,” Bulldogs coach Bob Daniels said on a local Big Rapids radio show. “Whether it’s trying to make the playoffs, improve your playoff position, like we are, or playing for the MacNaughton Cup.”

The teams haven’t played at all this season, but they met six times in 2013-14, including the first round of the WCHA playoffs in Big Rapids.

Daniels has been keeping tabs on the Beavers, however.

“They’re coming in on a four-game winning streak,” said Daniels, whose own team has won three in a row. “They’re hard to play against. I’ve been able to catch them a number of times on TV. They’re playing well; they’re well coached. I think we’re going to be tested again this weekend.”

The Beavers are tied with Northern Michigan for fourth place but hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Wildcats. The Bulldogs are just two points behind them.

“It’s always interesting playing Ferris,” Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore said. “They’ve had a lot of success as of late. Frozen Four a couple years ago, league title last year. They’re a very good hockey team that’s playing well right now.”

A Bemidji State sweep would eliminate the Bulldogs from home-ice consideration. If Ferris State sweeps, the Bulldogs would leapfrog the Beavers with two games remaining.

Although neither team can clinch anything or be eliminated by themselves — Northern Michigan will have a lot to say about that as it spends the weekend at Lake Superior State — it’s clear the teams know the implications.

“We have to win all these games right now,” Beavers freshman forward Kyle Bauman said. “We realize how close of a race it is with Northern and Ferris. We’re only beating Northern by a head-to-head tiebreaker, and Ferris is two behind. So we just have to keep winning.”

Ice chips

• Alabama-Huntsville sophomore defenseman Brandon Carlson leads the nation with 74 blocked shots after getting in front of three shots last week against Ferris State. The WCHA has four players in the top 10 nationally in that category, including Bemidji State’s Sam Windle (fourth with 71) and Michigan Tech’s Matt Roy and Cliff Watson (tied for sixth with 69 each).

• Alaska-Anchorage will close out the regular season with four consecutive home games. The Seawolves, who have lost eight games in a row, are hoping to climb out of the league cellar and make the postseason. To do that, they will need to win at least two of their final four games — they host Bowling Green and Alaska — and have Lake Superior State go winless over the next two weeks.

• Alaska plays its final four games of the season on the road, starting this weekend at Alabama-Huntsville. While the Nanooks are ineligible for the postseason, they can still finish as high as fourth place in the league standings by sweeping out and getting some help.

• After getting swept at home by Northern Michigan last weekend, Bowling Green remains two points shy of clinching home ice. A win at Alaska-Anchorage also will secure third place for the Falcons, who are on a three-game losing streak, their longest slump of the season.

• Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan will play this weekend for the Cappo Cup, which dates to the 1991-92 season. The team that scores the most goals in the series wins the trophy. The Lakers, who have lost three games in a row, were swept at home by the Wildcats 4-2 and 3-0 in October. Northern Michigan heads into the home series fresh off its upset sweep at Bowling Green. Wildcats senior Reed Seckel has 10 points in 12 career games against the Lakers.

• This week’s league players of the week are: Northern Michigan senior forward Reed Seckel (offensive), Ferris State senior goaltender CJ Motte (defensive) and Bemidji State freshman forward Kyle Bauman (rookie).

Hockey East hands Northeastern’s Madigan two-game suspension for behavior toward officials

madigan Hockey East hands Northeasterns Madigan two game suspension for behavior toward officials

Northeastern coach Jim Madigan will miss both games against Boston University this weekend (photo: Melissa Wade).

Northeastern coach Jim Madigan has been suspended for his team’s final two regular season games because of what Hockey East called unsportsmanlike behavior directed at officials.

Madigan, whose Huskies play a home-and-home series against first-place Boston University on Friday and Saturday, are tied for sixth place, one point behind a group of three teams tied for third. The top four teams earn a first-round bye in the Hockey East playoffs, while the next four host a first-round series.

In suspending Madigan, Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna cited Madigan’s behavior toward officials after last Saturday’s loss at Maine and after Monday night’s overtime loss to Boston University in the Beanpot final.

The Northeastern bench was issued a game misconduct penalty after Monday’s game, which ended with a BU overtime goal 42 seconds after a Northeastern penalty.

“Coach Madigan’s actions are not consistent with the expectations we have for our department,” Northeastern athletic director Peter Roby said in a statement. “We hold all members of our department to a high standard, and we expect our representatives to treat others with respect and to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner both on and off the field of competition.”

Northeastern said associate head coach Jerry Keefe will lead the team during Madigan’s suspension.

Madigan is eligible to return to the bench in the Huskies’ first Hockey East playoff game.

“We are committed to operating an athletics program that is reflective of the values of the university and department we represent,” Roby said. “We look forward to having Coach Madigan back behind the bench for the start of the conference playoffs.”

Previewing the D-III women’s postseason

It’s tournament time for the six women’s Division III conferences and one other tournament for ECAC teams that don’t qualify for their tournament.

The ECAC East, ECAC West, MIAC, NCHA, NESCAC, and WIAC all play one-and-done formats, with some games getting underway Thursday night. Games continue through the weekend, with championships being decided a week from now.

In the ECAC East, top-seeded Norwich looks to be the favorite going away and with a spotless record in league play this season (15-0-2), the Cadets have all the confidence right now.

That said, Salve Regina finished 13-4-0 in conference play and could pose a threat to Norwich winning out.

None of the other six teams in the field won more than eight games in conference play this season.

Over in the ECAC West, the top two teams in the conference and in the nation (No. 1 Elmira, No. 2 Plattsburgh) earned first-round byes into the semifinals next weekend.

This conference is really a two-horse race with Elmira and Plattsburgh, and there is no denying that. It’s a fact. The winner of Cortland and Oswego gets Plattsburgh and then the Utica-Buffalo State winner draws Elmira. Yeah, the old “out of the frying pan into the fire” adage bodes well here.

Still, get Elmira and Plattsburgh on opposite ends of the ice and it’s anyone’s game. Literally. Then again, throw Ashley Ryan and Ashton Hogan on the ice for Elmira and it could be lights out, Plattsburgh.

The MIAC has the makings for an upset.

Gustavus Adolphus is the top seed and plays the winner of the Bethel-St. Mary’s quarterfinal, while Concordia (Minn.) and St. Thomas get at it in the other semifinal.

GAC finished the regular season 15-2-1 and St. Thomas right behind at 11-3-4. These two should wind up in the finals, but after that, it’s a roll of the dice as to who comes out of the MIAC.

Adrian ruled the roost in the NCHA this year and enters that conference’s tournament as the top seed. Goaltender Jade Walsh is a solid Laura Hurd candidate and only lost once in regulation this season, which was also the number of times the Bulldogs lost in regulation all year (20-1-4).

Lake Forest could give Adrian a run for its money in the tournament final, but odds are the Bulldogs will be the ones cashing in. Adrian seems like a team on a mission.

Both Adrian and Lake Forest get byes into the semifinals.

In the NESCAC, eight teams make the field, headlined by No. 3 Middlebury, the favorite and regular-season champs.

Second-seeded Amherst has shown an affinity to win big games this season, too, so that squad should not be counted out at all.

The brackets show we could be in for a Middlebury-Amherst final, and that would surprise no one.

The WIAC quartet is probably between Wisconsin-River Falls and Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Wis.-River Falls gets Wisconsin-Eau Claire to open up things and the Pointers, who handed Adrian its lone loss this year, draw Wisconsin-Superior.

All four teams played tough nonconference schedules this season, and that level of competition matters now.

At the end of the day, though, it should be River Falls and Stevens Point battling it out for bragging rights in the state of Wisconsin.

The ECAC Open pits Holy Cross against St. Anselm and Franklin Pierce taking on St. Michael’s. All four are not Division III schools and as such, do not play in the ECAC East tournament.

The Holy Cross-St. Anselm game has the potential to be a barn-burner, though Franklin Pierce may have an edge over St. Michael’s. The winner of the tournament will be who has the momentum after the Holy Cross and St. Anselm game.

Check back to USCHO.com as Candace and Matt pick this weekend’s contests.

Playoff previews: CHA

141004 14004043 Playoff previews: CHA

Melissa Piacentini (SU – 14). (Melissa Wade)

It’s conference tournament time.

Two weeks, three rounds, and four conference champions will be determined. More so than any previous year, a wide variety of narratives could unfold in most of the leagues. Let’s scratch the surface of what a few of those might be.

College Hockey America

No. 1 Mercyhurst versus Bye
Postseason history: Bye was no match for the Lakers in last year’s quarterfinal.
Mercyhurst Lakers
Record: 23-8-3
Impact players: Junior forward Emily Janiga posted her third straight season of 40-plus points with a career-best 45; classmate Jenna Dingeldein (35 points) is also in the 100-point club for her career.
Hurdles to overcome: Their inconsistency over the last 14 games has been surprisingly unlike the Lakers, trudging along at 7-6-1.
Why they will advance: The Lakers have reached the final of every CHA tournament.
Why the Lakers will win the CHA tournament: While the advantage over the rest of the league has shrunk, Mercyhurst is still hosting and needs a tournament win to add to its string of 10 consecutive NCAA appearances. In addition to the top scorers in the league, the Lakers possess the top-scoring defenseman in senior Molly Byrne.

Bye
Record: none recorded
Impact players: none; it doesn’t even have players.
Hurdles to overcome: Questions remain regarding coaching, scoring, goaltending, every other position, and willingness to compete.
Why it will advance: Mercyhurst won’t see it coming.
Why it will win the CHA tournament: Bye has been able to find its way to the bracket of many national tournaments over the years; now that the CHA has an automatic bid, look out.

No. 2 Syracuse versus Bye
Postseason history: The Orange advanced with a quarterfinal bye in 2013.

Syracuse Orange
Record: 10-14-10
Impact players: Junior Melissa Piacentini leads the team with 18 goals and is tied for the points lead at 29 with freshman Stephanie Grossi, the team assists leader with 20.
Hurdles to overcome: Syracuse has struggled at times to put together a full 60 minutes and has been done in by bad stretches in games.
Why they will advance: Despite their propensity to tie, the Orange should be able to manage this one.
Why the Orange will win the CHA tournament: They are the best team in the league of those still looking for a first conference championship, and now that they’ve finally earned that elusive first win over Mercyhurst, the Orange should enter the playoffs with more confidence.

Bye
Record: winless on the season
Impact players: cannot point to anyone who is likely to be a factor.
Hurdles to overcome: One of the knocks on Bye over the years is that it doesn’t show up for big games.
Why it will advance: I doubt that it can; Bye isn’t even going through the motions.
Why it will win the CHA tournament: I don’t see it; Bye lacks championship mettle.

No. 3 Robert Morris versus RIT
Postseason history: The Tigers beat RMU, 4-1 in the semifinals, in 2014.

Robert Morris Colonials
Record: 11-17-5
Impact players: The sophomore class provides much of the clout for the Colonials, including leading scorers Mackenzie Johnston, defenseman Mikaela Lowater, Rikki Meilleur, and goalie Jessica Dodds.
Hurdles to overcome: Robert Morris was maddeningly mediocre in most areas over the course of the season, but its sweep at Penn State was its most complete weekend to date.
Why they will advance: The playoffs provide an opportunity to atone for everything that has gone wrong over the year and get back to the championship game for the first time since winning it three years ago.
Why the Colonials will win the CHA tournament: After a nightmarish start to the season, RMU has gone 5-3-2 over the past month and at last looks to be gathering momentum.

Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers
Record: 11-18-5
Impact players: When healthy, senior Ali Binnington is one of the top goaltenders in the country. Offense has to be by committee, because top scorer Celeste Brown is tied for 18th in the league.
Hurdles to overcome: The Tigers will need to play a complete game, because they don’t have the firepower to compensate for lulls in intensity.
Why they will advance: RIT visited Robert Morris two weeks ago and played a pair of 2-2 ties. Repeating those games would favor the underdog.
Why the Tigers will win the CHA tournament: This is the final chance for a very accomplished senior class to write another chapter in program history, and they’ve been at their best in the postseason.

No. 4 Penn State versus Lindenwood
Postseason history: This is the first postseason clash of the two programs.

Penn State Nittany Lions
Record: 15-15-4
Impact players: Sophomore forward Laura Bowman emerged as a star and is the league’s third-leading scorer, while junior Celine Whitlinger ranks second in the CHA in winning percentage and third in save percentage.
Hurdles to overcome: After contending for the conference crown, PSU finished with a five-game losing streak that dropped it down to fourth; the team will need to shake off that disappointment in a hurry.
Why they will advance: The excitement of the first home playoff game in program history should help dispel any blues not related to the uniform color.
Why the Nittany Lions will win the CHA tournament: Why not? Things looked dark for Cinderella when the hour grew late, and it turned out okay for her.

Lindenwood Lions
Record: 10-19-2
Impact players: Senior Jordyn Constance and junior Shara Jasper, both with 27 points, have provided the Lions a one-two punch that they’ve lacked previously.
Hurdles to overcome: Lindenwood hasn’t won two games in one weekend all season.
Why they will advance: The Lions have never won a postseason game, but then neither has their opponent.
Why the Lions will win the CHA tournament: Nicole Hensley; if Lindenwood is going to top last year’s win by RIT for biggest CHA shocker of all time, their junior goaltender will need to take her place in program lore from historic to legendary.

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