After two different rounds of voting and over 800 ballots submitted, fans have selected NCHC Frozen Faceoff for the name of the conference’s championship weekend. The inaugural event will take place March 21-22, 2014, at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn.
St. Lawrence’s Greg Carey and Quinnipiac’s Sam Anas were honored as the national player and rookie of the month, respectively, for November by the Hockey Commissioners Association.
Carey led the nation in scoring last month with 21 points in 10 games, posting nine goals and 12 assists.
It’s the second time the senior forward from Hamilton, Ontario, has been named the national player of the month. He also earned the nod in February 2013.
Anas led all rookies with 16 points in November, posting six goals and 10 assists.
The Potomac, Md., native helped Quinnipiac to a 7-1-2 record last month.
The winners were chosen from nominees by each of the six Division I leagues. The other player of the month nominees were forwards Alex Grieve of Bentley, Andrew Copp of Michigan, Johnny Gaudreau of Boston College and Shane Berschbach of Western Michigan; and goaltender CJ Motte of Ferris State.
The other rookie nominees were forwards Todd Skirving of Rochester Institute of Technology, Hudson Fasching of Minnesota, Ryan Fitzgerald of Boston College, Jake Guentzel of Nebraska-Omaha and Kyle Schempp of Ferris State.
Last season, St. Scholastica had a rocky start to say the least, going 4-9-0 in the first half.
The Saints then exploded to a 9-5-1 second half. Their season ended with a loss to St. Norbert in the NCHA semifinals.
So far this season, St. Scholastica has been able to take that second-half momentum and catapult it to a successful beginning of the season. The Saints are off to a 6-1-2 overall start, while holding a 4-0-2 conference record.
“I think last season was a motivator for us,” said Saints’ coach Mark Wick earlier this season. “We had a good stretch in the end with a lot of big games that left a bitter taste in our mouth. Our team can be in that top mix. There were a lot of positives out of last season.”
The Saints suffered their sole loss this season in a hard-fought 3-2 game against old conference foe Wisconsin-Superior.
This past weekend, the Saints downed St. Norbert 4-2, handing the Green Knights their first loss of the season. The win marked the first time Wick has beaten the top-ranked team of the nation.
Senior forward Chad Golanowski scored two goals as he scored the first goal of the game and also added a shorthanded goal in the second period.
After scoring four unanswered goals, it looked like St. Norbert was back in the game, scoring two of their own goals, but the Saints held on to their lead.
Three of the top five scorers in the conference are St. Scholastica forwards. Senior Brandon Nowakowski (6-5-11) leads the pack, followed by his younger brother, sophomore Dylan Nowakowski (5-5-10). Rounding out the group of skilled scorers is senior Paul Marcoux (3-6-9).
Brandon is tied for first in the conference in power-play scoring, having four goals and one assist with the man-advantage. The Saints’ power-play has shined, going 9-for-22 (40.9%) in conference play. They have the second best power play in the nation.
The Saints have two series left in 2013. This upcoming weekend, they will host Lake Forest, a team that is two points behind St. Scholastica in the standings and will look solidify their spot in the top half of the NCHA.
The team will close out the year with nonconference games against St. John’s and St. Thomas. As the Saints look forward to the rest of the season, they’ll draw from their past success to drive them through.
Around the League
Freshman forward Blake Roubos had a five-point night in Lawrence’s 6-6 tie against Gustavus Adolphus on Friday night. Roubos scored two goals, including the game-tying goal. The goals, along with three assists contributed to Roubos’ seven-game point streak that was halted on Saturday night. Roubos’ efforts gained him the NCHA offensive player of the week honors.
NCHA defensive player of the week went to Concordia (Wis.) senior defenseman Brandon Bayer, who had four assists on the weekend series against Bethel. Bayer had two assists in Friday’s 5-5 tie. He then added an assist on a power-play goal and another on the game-winner as the Falcons downed Bethel 4-2 on Saturday.
Lawrence and Marian did not fare well in the NCHA/MIAC Thanksgiving Showdown. Lawrence went to the aforementioned 6-6 tie against Gustavus Adolphus before dropping a 5-1 loss to St. Olaf. Marian suffered a 4-3 loss in Friday’s game against St. Olaf before a 3-2 loss against Gustavus Adolphus.
Adrian is the lone team left in the conference who has not lost this season, toting a 9-0-0 overall record. The Bulldogs hosted nonconference opponents last weekend as they downed Fredonia 7-2 before a 2-1 overtime win against Nazareth to hold onto their streak. Seven different skaters scored in the win over Fredonia.
St. Norbert, St. Scholastica and Adrian remained unbeaten within the conference. The Green Knights and Bulldogs are tied for the top spot in the conference with 12 points each. St. Scholastica is sitting in second with 10 points.
Massachusetts-Dartmouth is taking positive steps in the Corsairs’ rebuild.
Last year’s MASCAC champions are sitting 2-6-1 overall, but the record doesn’t indicate how they have been playing.
“We have four losses with less than a minute left,” said UMass-Dartmouth coach John Rolli after the game against Bowdoin on Sunday. “We lost a game with 30 seconds left, we lost a game with seven seconds left, we lost a game in overtime and last night was a loss even though it was a 4-4 tie because we gave up the tying goal with 11 seconds left.”
Rolli, now in his 30th season at UMass-Dartmouth, knows these losses are a product of inexperience. On Sunday against Bowdoin, he only had three upperclassman in the 5-1 loss.
It was the first time all year the Corsairs were down after 20 minutes of play.
“For us, we played the game with two seniors and one junior,” Rolli said. “We had a lot of inexperience out there and we are trying to coach them to play college hockey.”
Some of the freshmen have been stepping up for the Corsairs, though.
“We have three freshman forwards that are really playing well for us,” Rolli added. “On our first line, Tanner Zacharewicz is a big right winger and then on the second line, left winger Yuriy Sokayev comes out of the New York Apple Core in the old Eastern Junior Hockey League and Tommy Braswell played prep hockey at Bridgeton Academy last year. They have been pleasant surprises for us.”
Zacharewicz has two goals and two assists this season, while Sokayev has two goals in eight games played and Braswell has two assists in six games.
Also contributing to the offense so far this season is Mark Restuccia, who has three goals and 11 assists in nine games this season.
Shaun Walters, the lone junior on the team, has eight goals and four assists in nine contests. As a sophomore, he had eight goals and a total of 19 points in 26 games.
Despite allowing five goals on Sunday, Rolli was impressed with freshman J.J. Solloway, who made his second career start in net, making 48 saves.
“Solloway did himself certainly well [Sunday],” Rolli stated. “I think he will be a very good goaltender for us down the road.”
For now, Rolli is taking it one game at a time.
“This a big step for us,” said Rolli. “I thought [Saturday] night at Colby, we battled them to a 4-4 tie was a positive for us. [Sunday], we ran out of gas in the third period, but that’s all credit to Bowdoin.”
Rolli hopes his team can work on game situations and protecting a lead and be able to comeback against stronger opponents in the future.
According to a news release issued Thursday evening, New Hampshire women’s head coach Brian McCloskey “is no longer employed by the university as of Dec. 5, 2013.”
This decision comes on the heels of an investigation into an incident of inappropriate physical contact with a player on the bench at the team’s home game on Nov. 30.
“The safety and well-being of our student-athletes is our No. 1 priority,” said UNH athletics director Marty Scarano in a statement. “Coaches are role models for our students and responsible for their dignity and safety and we have zero tolerance for unsportsmanlike behavior on any of our athletic teams.”
The team’s two assistant coaches, Jamie Wood and Stephanie Jones, will coach the Wildcats in their two games this weekend against Harvard and Dartmouth.
Four years and a shade more besides.
That’s how long since it’s been since Plattsburgh had occupied the top spot in USCHO’s Division III Men’s Poll.
Not that the Cardinals, perennial national championship contenders, hadn’t come close a few times since their last top ranking, the Oct. 26, 2009 preseason poll.
But it wasn’t until last Monday, when the most recent rankings were released, that Plattsburgh had ascended once again to the top spot.
Naturally enough, that was the big news of the week in the cozy world of D-III hockey.
And naturally enough, the Cardinals themselves were taking their new lofty perch with a small grain of birdseed.
“It’s exciting,” said sophomore center Michael Radisa. “It’s definitely something as a team that you want to achieve as much as possible.”
Ah, but the but is just ahead.
“… being the No. 1 team only makes things harder,” Radisa continued. “Now everyone is going to want to take your spot. It’s exciting, like I said, but it’s going to be more challenging to keep it.”
Plattsburgh (8-0-1) is, with No. 3 Adrian (9-0-0), one of two undefeated teams in the land left standing.
Senior goaltender Mathieu Cadieux (1.10 GAA, .952 save percentage) is as stingy as ever and the scoring load is spread out over 15 different goal getters.
That is a recipe for success if ever there was one.
“Our goaltending has been phenomenal, as always,” said Radisa. “And our special teams have picked up from where they were last year.”
But here comes another but.
“…I still think we can play better,” said Radisa.
For his own part, Radisa has already seen an uptick in his own game this year.
Last year, as a member of a strong group of Cardinal freshmen, Radisa earned copious playing time, 20 games worth, and saw action in all sorts of situations.
“It gave me a lot of confidence,” said Radisa, a marketing major. “It showed a lot that [Plattsburgh coach] Bob [Emery] was able to get me in the lineup. Coming back this year, things didn’t change a lot and it’s been more comforting. Now I know I don’t have to [guess] where I should be.”
One thing that eluded Radisa as a freshman was the chance for a goal celebration. He finished the year with five assists, but no tallies.
He said that the “bagel” next to his name didn’t weigh much on his mind during the offseason.
“Not too much,” he said. “Any time you have a zero in the column, you don’t feel too good about it, but I was able to stay in the lineup and it was never an issue with the coaches.”
Still, Radisa admitted to be a little relieved when scored his first collegiate goal – against Geneseo – in the second game of the season.
“I was definitely happy to get the first one out of the way, this year, relatively early,” Radisa said. “Now I don’t have to worry about it.”
Radisa added his second goal of the season in the Cardinals’ last start, against Middlebury, as he picked up his first-ever SUNYAC player of the week award.
NEWS & NOTES: Last week saw a rash of upsets throughout D-III, none more surprising than Morrisville’s upending of then-No. 8 ranked Utica, 3-2.
It was the Mustangs’ last win over a nationally-ranked teams since Feb. 12, 2010, when they shocked top-ranked Oswego.
“It was definitely a great win for us on Friday night at Utica,” said Morrisville coach Kevin Krogol. “Our guys played the type a game that we are capable of playing and have showed on and off throughout the first few weeks of the season. We have a very young team and it seems as if it’s finally starting to come together.”
Like most Atlantic Hockey teams, the Tigers of Rochester Institute of Technology have had an up-and-down season so far. RIT started the 2013-14 campaign 0-6-2 but has won four of its last six contests, including three in a row.
“I think overall we’ve played well,” said coach Wayne Wilson, in his 15th season. “We’ve played six league games [3-3], one at home. That one [2-0 loss to Air Force], I thought we were the better team. [Falcons coach] Frank [Serratore] said as much after the game. I thought we played well at Mercyhurst [a 3-2 loss].
“We’ve played some good teams, although maybe not with the results we were hoping for. We split with St. Lawrence, and they’re a very good team. We stole a point at Clarkson and they’ve turned out to be really good. And Michigan, a top-three team, a game I thought was winnable. We tied at Penn State, which is not an easy place to play.”
Wilson can take some solace in playing well against difficult competition, but, as you’d expect, the bottom line is what’s on the scoreboard.
“We’re not looking for excuses,” he said. “We did not get the results we’re accustomed to and the results we’ve been looking for. We did not play well at all against Colgate. We did not play well at Canisius. We’ve had lapses at bad times that have cost us.”
But the Tigers showed improvement last weekend in a 5-2, 4-0 sweep of Sacred Heart. Senior Mike Colavecchia was named co-player of the week in the AHA after a five-point weekend against the Pioneers. He’s been a steady point-getter, averaging 1.2 per game.
The rest of the offense was sputtering early, and things looked bad after an injury to captain and proven scorer Matt Garbowsky, who hasn’t played since Nov. 9 and isn’t expected to return any time soon. But a pair of underclassmen have stepped up big time. Sophomore Dan Schuler had just two assists prior to Garbowsky’s injury but has six goals and two helpers in the five games since.
Rookie Todd Skirving has a similar story: one goal prior to Garbowsky leaving the lineup and two goals and six assists since. Skirving was the rookie of the month in Atlantic Hockey for November.
“[Skirving] is getting more comfortable and continues to grow,” said Wilson. “The freshmen are making some big contributions already.”
That rookie class includes goaltender Mike Rotolo, who has started the last three games in net for the Tigers, backstopping them to three straight wins. He recorded his first collegiate shutout on Saturday in that 4-0 win.
“He’s played better with each game,” said Wilson. “The team is responding to him right now. He’s a little different, he’s a vocal guy.”
Next up is just the second and third league home games for the Tigers, who host American International on Friday and Saturday. The Yellow Jackets come in losers of five in a row after getting off to a 3-0 start in conference play, their best ever.
“I know they can win 8-7 and win 1-0,” Wilson said on AIC’s victories over Bentley and Holy Cross. “It sounds simple, but it’s true: If we play well we’re going to have a good chance to win. If we don’t, we’re probably going to lose.”
Cross another one off
Despite a less-than-awesome nonconference record, this season has seen AHA teams slay a few giants. The most recent example came last Friday when Holy Cross sprinted out to a 5-1 lead over host Boston College and then held on for a 5-4 win.
It was the best offensive output of the season so far for the Crusaders, and goaltender Matt Ginn made 34 saves, including 14 in the third period.
The win marked the first time that Boston College had lost to an Atlantic Hockey team, which leaves, by my research, 10 Division I teams left that have not been beaten by an AHA team. Some I would have guessed; others were a surprise. If there are errors, they are mine, so feel free to corrected me in the comments below.
• Alaska Anchorage (6-0-2, beaten by Robert Morris it was in the AHA)
• Bowling Green (10-0-4, defeated by Niagara before it was in the AHA)
• Harvard (4-0)
• Michigan State (8-0-1)
• Minnesota-Duluth (1-0)
• Minnesota State (7-0)
• North Dakota (7-0)
• Northern Michigan (1-0)
• Wisconsin (10-0)
• Vermont (3-0-2, lost to Niagara before it was in the AHA)
I found it interesting that Northern Michigan and Minnesota-Duluth have each played just a single game against an entire league in over 10 seasons. Both meetings were on neutral ice, with Minnesota-Duluth defeating Mercyhurst in the 2010 Catamount Cup and Northern Michigan beating Sacred Heart at the Denver Cup in 2007.
West is best again, for now
The league’s Western contingent has gotten the better of its Eastern counterparts since the league’s expansion in 2006. The standings each season reflect parity in the early going as inter-pod play keeps things close. But once the regions begin to square off against each other, we’ve seen the West often rise to the top.
As my co-columnist Dan Rubin pointed out, the West had a big weekend, going 5-1-2 against the East. The bright spot for the New England schools was Bentley’s win and tie at Air Force. The (Air Force) Falcons managed to steal a point with an extra-attacker goal with 28 seconds to play on Saturday, but the (Bentley) Falcons took the weekend series in Colorado Springs for the second straight time.
Bentley’s big guns got the job done in the series. Brett Switzer had a pair of goals in Friday’s 4-2 win on Friday, and Alex Grieve and Brett Gensler scored in Saturday’s 2-2 draw.
Gensler’s four points last weekend put him one behind Bentley’s all-time scorer Dain Prewitt, who finished with 126 career points. Defenseman Steve Weinstein’s three assists last weekend moved him into first place in career points for a blueliner with 58, and Weinstein is less than halfway through his junior season.
Canisius’ penalty kill was the second-best in the nation last year, stopping opponents 90.1 percent of the time. But the Golden Griffins got off to a rough start this season, averaging just 68.8 percent through their first seven games.
But the Griffs have locked things down recently, recording a stretch of 22 kills in a row in games from Nov. 9 to Dec. 1. Canisius shut down Connecticut, which came into last weekend’s series against the Griffs with the best power play in Division I (29.6 percent), in the Huskies’ first nine attempts. The streak came to an end at an inopportune time for Canisius on Saturday, as UConn scored a six-on-four power-play goal with 1:25 to play to earn a 2-2 tie.
I can’t decide
RIT’s Rotolo is the AHA goaltender of the week, but there were several good performances in net that deserve recognition:
• Bentley’s Branden Komm posted a .941 save percentage at Air Force, allowing four goals on 68 shots.
• Tony Capobianco faced 64 shots and stopped 61 of them against UConn for a .953 save percentage.
• Mercyhurst’s Jimmy Sarjeant made 51 saves on 55 shots in a sweep of American International, keeping him a perfect 5-0 in league play.
• And finally, in leading Holy Cross to that 5-4 win over Boston College, Matt Ginn made his 2,000th career save. He’s second all-time in saves at Holy Cross with 2008 and counting, and is only in his junior season.
USCHO weekly awards
The league had a two-way tie for player of the week, but I’m throwing in a third candidate.
Players of the week: RIT’s Colavecchia (a goal and four assists) and Mercyhurst’s Daniel Bahntge (three goals and an assist) were the AHA’s choice, but I’m adding Jon Puskar of AIC, who had a pair of goals and three assists in a losing effort.
Goalie of the week: Rotolo from RIT, who stopped 64 out of 66 shots at Sacred Heart.
Rookie of the week: Holy Cross’ Mike Barrett, who had a pair of goals in the 5-4 win over Boston College. He has four goals on the season, tops on the team.
There is much to be said for winning a close game.
After Ohio State scored to tie Michigan late in the third period the day after Thanksgiving in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines won 4-3 on Andrew Copp’s goal at 3:38 in overtime. In last Monday’s rematch in Columbus, Mac Bennett scored with 1:35 left in regulation to lift Michigan over OSU 5-4.
Last Saturday night, Minnesota’s Seth Ambroz scored at 19:34 in the third to put the Golden Gophers ahead of Wisconsin 4-3, giving Minnesota a sweep of the weekend.
But there is also something to be said about the experience of losing close games. Motivation is one byproduct of such a loss — especially when that loss comes at the hands of a traditional rival.
“When you work this hard and get this close and don’t win, it hurts.” That’s what Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said after that second loss to Minnesota. “I think we have to build on that hurt and get better.”
“It could be better,” is how Ohio State Steve Rohlik described his week following the home-and-home sweep at the hands of Michigan. “Frustrating weekend when you lose in the last minute of overtime and then in the last minute of a game against a very good hockey team.”
Penn State dropped two one-goal games to Union last weekend, losing 4-3 Saturday and 5-4 Sunday. In the second game, the Nittany Lions were leading 4-1 by the middle of the second period.
“Union is an excellent team,” said Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky. “For stretches we felt really good about how we played, but for the present, we can’t maintain that for a full 60 minutes.”
In Sunday’s contest, said Gadowsky, “We got into some penalty trouble and that cost us.” After David Glen scored short-handed to push the Penn State lead to 4-1 at 11:43, Union’s Shayne Gostisbehere scored on the power play at 12:48 and then again at 15:54, making it a 4-3 game after two.
“They got momentum and we couldn’t hold on,” said Gadowsky. “You’ve got to go through those types of games to understand how to play them.”
And that is the situation in which Penn State finds itself. Entering Big Ten play this weekend with two road games against Wisconsin, the Nittany Lions have very little against which to measure, well, anything.
Even with almost half a season of Big Ten affiliation under their collective belts, the Nittany Lions are so new to Division I hockey that nearly every experience is a learning experience.
Gadowsky said that he can’t contextualize what his team learned from the two close losses to Union because his team has never lost two close games to a ranked team before.
“We won’t know until the future when we come into another situation like that,” said Gadowsky. “Those experiences, we’re obviously lacking. We haven’t played many Division I games. We’ve never been in a league before. We still haven’t. This [first game against Wisconsin] is our first league game. We played some Division I games last year as an independent. I do think it’s all new territory.”
Because Penn State is still learning the Division I ropes, Gadowsky said that in practice weekly, the team focuses primarily on itself. “We’re really using every weekend to gain as much as we can. We’re really concentrating on ourselves. That’s the best way to gain every bit of knowledge and experience that we need.”
As much fun as Gadowsky admits he and his coaching staff are having with the new program, he said that it’s still frustrating.
“We do expect to be a little further ahead than we thought at this time,” he said, “but it’s a process and we’re well aware of that and we look forward to the challenge of making it right.”
Rohlik, in his first year at Ohio State, said that the games against Michigan were a barometer of sorts for a program that is attempting to redefine itself.
“Michigan is usually a measuring stick in college hockey for where you’re at,” said Rohlik. “[Wolverines coach] Red [Berenson has] proven that for 30 years. When you compete with Michigan, here’s a good measuring stick for where we’re at.”
And where is Ohio State?
“I feel we played very well Monday,” said Rohlik. “I thought we deserved some points Monday night.” At this point, Rohlik chuckled. “I guess I felt that way coming out of Friday, too. Good teams find a way to win.”
After Friday’s overtime loss, Rohlik said that the Buckeyes “came out and did what” they had to do.
“They scored in the last minute,” said Rohlik. “Tough way to lose on both nights. If you don’t learn from it, you’re not getting better. I think our team took a step forward, but we know that we have work to do. Michigan has proven themselves so far right now as one of the top teams in college hockey. We’re a pretty good hockey team. Knowing that, there’s room for improvement.
“I want our guys to believe they can go out and win every night. We want to expect to win no matter who we play. That’s a little bit of an attitude thing that good teams have. It’s a step in any program. We’ve improved. We’ve gone through a lot.”
The Big Ten, finally
The Wisconsin-Minnesota and Ohio State-Michigan series last weekend marked the start of Big Ten league play.
Congratulations to Wisconsin junior forward Joseph LaBate, whose goal at 6:31 in the first period of the early Friday game between the Badgers and Golden Gophers became the first goal scored in Big Ten league play.
Kudos as well to Minnesota sophomore goaltender Adam Wilcox, who earned the first win in Big Ten league play.
Two weeks ago, Minnesota coach Don Lucia told me that the first Big Ten series for the Golden Gophers — the games last weekend against Wisconsin — would hardly feel like playing in a new league because of the longstanding rivalry and because the series against the Badgers capped three straight weekends of play against former WCHA foes, including a series against Minnesota State and one against Minnesota-Duluth.
In the home-and-home series between Ohio State and Michigan, the opposite was true for Rohlik.
“The rivalry with Michigan to me is unmatched — if it’s hockey, it’s football, you see the rivalry,” said Rohlik.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany dropped the puck at the beginning of the OSU-Michigan game at Yost Ice Arena the day after Thanksgiving, and Rohlik said that he felt the significance of it.
“The feeling you had going into that building was different,” he said. “Jim Delany dropping the puck, talking about the Big Ten, it’s finally here.
“There’s only one first. That started to sink in. There is only one first. We’ve played Michigan however many times and now in the Big Ten, this was our first ever.”
Rohlik said that as he and his staff prepared the Buckeyes for the series against Michigan, they began to talk about how important the series was historically.
“Just a couple days prior we talked about the Big Ten conference being here,” Rohlik said. “There’s only 20 games and we are aware that there are only 20 league games. I told our guys to enjoy themselves because that first game won’t come again.”
Rohlik said that the two close losses were “motivational” for the Buckeyes. “It’s all part of our process. It’s just tough to walk away with two losses at the end of the first half of the season.”
Yes, the first half of the season is over for Ohio State. The Buckeyes don’t play again until they meet Mercyhurst in Columbus for two games Dec. 28-29. The Big Ten schedule is a little, well, quirky.
“I hate that we have to wait a month to play,” said Rohlik. “It’s pretty different when you get to get back out on the ice after a weekend like that.”
Is there anyone more quotable than Tom Anastos?
Michigan State coach Tom Anastos is a natural-born storyteller — and he can tell a big story with just a few words.
“It was nice to see the puck go in the net.” That is what Anastos said after the Spartans beat visiting Princeton 8-2 on Sunday. Six different MSU players scored.
The Spartans scored a dozen goals in two games against the Tigers; MSU had netted three goals in four previous games — a series against Michigan Tech and one against Western Michigan — and had been shut out twice in that span.
Players of the week
This week’s three stars are brought to you by the letter M.
First star: Minnesota junior forward Seth Ambroz
Ambroz had the game-winning goals in each of Minnesota’s wins over Wisconsin and had a total of four on the weekend. That brings his season total to seven goals in 14 games — two shy of the nine he had in 38 games last season and two more than he had in 41 games two seasons ago as a freshman.
Second star: Michigan freshman forward JT Compher
Compher had three goals and an assist in Michigan’s sweep of Ohio State and he leads all Big Ten freshmen with an average of 1.08 points per game.
Third star: Michigan senior defenseman Mac Bennett
Bennett had the first assist on Andrew Copp’s overtime winner against Ohio State last Friday and the game-winner itself in Monday’s win. He also finished plus-6 on the weekend.
3. St. Cloud State
4. Ferris State
10. Boston College
11. Notre Dame
14. Lake Superior
18. New Hampshire
20. North Dakota
Keep in touch …
… and say hello. I’ll be covering Saturday’s Minnesota-Michigan State matinee game.
Remember that next week, Drew Claussen has the column and I have the Monday blog. I’ll post our picks for this weekend’s games on Friday morning.
The names are a bit different on the roster, experience may be not as deep in years past and the goaltender, until now has gone under the radar screen, but a quick look at the NESCAC standings finds Amherst sitting atop the league at 4-0-0 coming into their final weekend of play before finals, the semester break and the holidays.
So just how does that happen when many teams are still figuring out the new pieces of the puzzle especially early in the season?
“We have some of those key pieces that have been here during our successful run in the past couple of years,” noted Lord Jeffs’ coach Jack Arena. “Our top four or five guys have been really good since the first drop of the puck and we are getting some contributions from our sophomore group to help with our balance. Dave [Cunningham] has been very sharp in goal for us and we focus on really playing our game and doing the things we are known for in our style of play. We play really sound team defense, rely on getting a big save when we need one, timely scoring and really good special teams. So far, that has us off to a good start.”
The Lord Jeffs are off to a very good start with their only blemish on their overall record coming last weekend in a nonconference game against Babson. The 2-0 defeat reminded the coach of some things in Amherst’s recent past and the need to get better as the season progresses.
“It was a good game and [Babson] is really good,” stated Arena. “It reminded me of our teams a couple years ago where you couldn’t tell the difference between their top line and their third line, all six defensemen were solid and the goaltender was really good. They put on a passing clinic against us and showed us we still have room to improve. They are probably about as good as we are going to see in level of competition, so we know to compete at that level we are going to have to get better.”
With such a young roster, one way the team has maintained the culture and consistency in playing style has been the addition of recent Amherst grad Eddie Effinger to the coaching staff. Although just a couple of years removed from the team, Effinger has blended in nicely with the very experienced group of coaches on Arena’s staff and has already made noticeable contributions to the team and their individual skills.
“He is a natural,” said Arena. “If he decides he wants to do this for the long-term, he can be a very good hockey coach. He has such energy and enthusiasm to go with really understanding the game. We have a very experienced group of coaches on staff here, but Eddie has fit right in and speaks right up as part of the conversation as much as anyone else in the room. It is a big help that some of the kids like Brian [Safstrom], Andrew [Kurlandski], Mike [Rowbotham] and Aaron [Deutsch] were here with him when we made our run, so there is that respect. The younger guys have that respect, too, just in the way he approaches the game and the details. Right now, he is mostly working on the offense, but spends a lot of 1-on-1 time with players working on individual skills and that has had obvious benefits with our players and our team overall.”
The last weekend of the first semester doesn’t present any easy ones on the schedule for Amherst. Just behind them in the standings finds this week’s opponents from Middlebury and Williams – two teams that are also off to very good starts in this young season.
“We don’t expect any game in our conference to be easy,” said Arena. “[Games will be] especially difficult with these two teams. We had Middlebury’s number for a few games until last year’s conference tournament and they certainly have the offensive weapons to cause us some problems. They are off to a good start and other than the first period against Plattsburgh last week seem to be playing Middlebury hockey.
“I saw some of the Williams game against Babson online. I don’t think that Babson came out with the same intensity and crispness that we saw on Saturday, but that is to take nothing away from Williams, who skated well and held them to just a single goal in the third period when they were trying everything to get back in the hockey game. These will be true tests for our team and it is nice to have both games here at home to close out the semester.”
Amherst doesn’t play again until after the New Year with their inclusion in the annual tournament hosted by Norwich, so there will be a lot of focus on each game this weekend with no other action until 2014.
“This weekend is really it until the 28th,” stated Arena. “We can’t officially practice, but the ice will be available for guys that can make the time outside of papers and finals. You’re never sure what access they have when they go home, but unlike past years where we may have only had three or four days before playing, this year we have an entire week to get tuned up before heading off to Norwich. I am sure most of the guys will be doing something over the break, so we shouldn’t lose too much and hopefully, we will be getting a couple of our key guys back from injuries to give us a little more depth on both ends of the ice.”
The view from the top of the league standings is a nice one and to stay there the Amherst style will have to be executed well against two tough contenders this weekend. The recipe remains the same and when all of the ingredients are mixed right, the results have been great so far.
For years, this writer and coach Jeff Beaney at Southern Maine have had a running joke come season preview time.
Beaney, tongue-in-cheek, always looks for the lowest predicted standing possible so he can build his team for success and over-achievement versus whatever the bottom end number looks like.
This year, I had picked the Huskies eighth in the very competitive ECAC East, which was duly noted by coach Beaney.
“I have joked with you on this subject for years,” noted Beaney. “I can see why you would have picked us there based on finishing tenth last season and really struggling for the first time in a lot of years. We had some real issues last season and it showed in the results. Some teams might have used that as validation for where we are as a team, but this group didn’t do that. This group has really used last season as motivation to move the program back forward and be competitive every game we play. The kids came back stronger, fitter and definitely more focused in looking for greater success this season and putting behind us what was a difficult year last year.”
The Huskies have started off well this season, moving towards the top of the standings early. While the roster is young, many players who saw extensive playing time last season are showing improved play and the strong commitment to helping the team succeed.
“We had like 13 freshmen all see a lot of ice last year,” said Beaney. “That experience has helped them come back with a greater focus this season and definitely more successful outcomes on the ice having been through the indoctrination of college hockey and the challenges of our conference last season. We are definitely getting great effort and consistent effort so far this season, as well as some secondary scoring from guys that aren’t really expected to carry the load for this team. The balance has been nice to see so far.”
Perhaps the biggest difference for the Huskies can be found in the goal crease where last year, the team struggled to find consistency from a No. 1 goaltender for virtually the entire season.
Enter freshman Dylan Wells, who has assumed the starting role and has provided goaltending that the team obviously has confidence in.
“You must not have known about the goaltender when you picked us eighth,” joked Beaney. “Dylan has certainly been a big piece of the puzzle for us so far this season. He has made us better in his level of play, but also in the level of competition with Josh [Hillegas] in practice and certainly from our own team looking to score. We clearly struggled with our consistency there last season and having that consistency each and every night is a huge factor in our improving our game and increasing the level of confidence with what is still a very young roster this season.”
Despite the good early momentum, the coach is taking nothing for granted in this conference and continues to express the need for focus and effort every night to his team.
“A lot of people have said you should be much improved this season,” Beaney said. “That is true or we hope that it is true, but everyone else has improved, too, in this league. Right now, Babson is probably the best team in the conference, but you know Norwich is going to be there and with all the talent Massachusetts-Boston has, you would think they should be top three. So then there is that three to six band and really that could be anybody, including us. New England [College] is off to a good start, Castleton has a lot returning, Skidmore is right there, so there are no nights off regardless of the opponent.
“With the level of talent in this league, I am not so sure any top seed is going to be excited about who ends up as the eighth seed. They are all tough games and tough opponents in this league and we need to keep moving forward if we want to be playing for higher position in the standings.”
There are just a couple of games remaining on the five-game homestand scheduled before the semester break, so limited chances to keep their forward momentum moving into the semester break abound.
The opponents don’t get any easier with Babson, Massachusetts-Boston and NESCAC power Bowdoin all coming to play the Huskies.
Beaney is taking a disciplined approach to keeping his young team focused and ready to play. Last year’s difficulties are behind them and the young Huskies are now hoping to show the rest of the conference that they are back in contention.
Suffolk coach Chris Glionna is relying on his veterans through the first half of the season.
And that situation is paying dividends for the Rams.
“I like our leadership, we have had some kids that have been with us for three or four years,” stated Clionna. “They understand the price to pay to win and they work very hard. They are a good group, they are not just only a good hockey players, but they are tremendous off the ice. We have 21 kids with a 3.2 [grade-point average] and three kids with 3.75.”
One of those veteran players is Charlie McGinnis, who has four goals and two assists so far. The last two seasons, he has been the leading scorer for the Rams.
Jon Stauffer is once again providing offense from the back end this season with nine assists. As a junior last year, he provided a goal and 13 assists and had a goal and 10 assists two years ago.
Freshman Simon Leahy has come right in and has contributed right away. He has played in nine games, scoring five goals and three assists after playing with Northern Cyclones’ program out of the old Atlantic Junior Hockey League.
“[Leahy] had a real good start to the season,” Glionna said after the game against Colby on Sunday. “We ran a faceoff play and he was able to make a pass to Charles McGinnis on the third goal. I thought that was a very nice goal.”
The Rams are are 3-5-1 so far on the season with all three wins coming at home. In conference, they are 2-2-1 and are only three points from first place in the ECAC Northeast.
“It’s been pretty amazing, anyone can beat anyone on any given night,” Glionna said. “We dropped a couple early against Salve [Regina] and to Johnson and Wales. We got our feet under us against Western New England and Nichols. It was a hard-fought game against Becker. We wish we could have pulled that one off instead of the tie.”
Despite the struggles, Glionna said he is learning more about his team.
“We ran into a Southern New Hampshire team that was playing well and this is always a good challenge for us to play Bowdoin and Colby [this weekend],” he said. “We get an idea where we are and it gets ready for the second semester.”
There wasn’t much separating Rensselaer from Princeton in the 2012-13 season. The Engineers were two games and four points better in the standings for ECAC Hockey, but overall, the Tigers won more games and had the better winning percentage.
Yet as in most sports, a season is judged by a team’s postseason, and Princeton didn’t have one.
“Last year, we missed the playoffs by a point,” Princeton coach Jeff Kampersal said.
That broke a string of 11 straight seasons with postseason hockey for Kampersal, now in his 18th season guiding the Tigers. However, a season that ends with the final regular-season game is a risk for teams that languish near the bottom of the ECAC, where one third of the 12 squads are excluded from the tournament.
Each year, the bar is seemingly raised to place in the top eight.
“The ECAC is so competitive,” Rensselaer coach John Burke said.
His team has proven as much by knocking off otherwise unbeaten Harvard one day and then losing to a Dartmouth team with only one other conference victory the next. They’re not alone.
“Our Princeton team, we can beat anybody, or we can lose to anybody this year,” Kampersal said.
The Tigers have yet to provide a striking example of that; they’ve for the most part won and lost as expected in league play. Within games, there have been stretches where Princeton has been either better or worse than one would predict.
“We’ve had a solid start, but we had a tough game against Clarkson, where they absolutely steamrolled us,” Kampersal said. “We’ve had a good tie against Quinnipiac. We had a great tie against Boston College, a good win against UNH, even though those aren’t ECAC teams. Going back to ECAC, like Cornell, they took it to us in the first period, and we took it to them in the second period. It was crazy.”
After falling behind by five in the first period to the Big Red, Princeton fought back and reduced the deficit to one in just over 10 minutes after the intermission, but the comeback stalled and the Tigers could not net the equalizer in the near half game that remained.
“That consistency is our big issue,” Kampersal said. “We could come out tomorrow and be completely different than we were today. We’ve been a really bad first-period team, a pretty good second-period team, and we’ve been a great third-period team through this season.”
A year ago, the Tigers were hampered by a shortage of bodies, with only 15 skaters.
“We have depth this year, but I think it’s just a matter of finding like a scoring line, which we haven’t identified yet,” Kampersal said. “Line combinations, I mess around with it probably too much, but trying to generate some sort of offense right now.”
Through 13 games, nobody on the Princeton roster has reached double digits in points.
“You look for someone like Kelly Babstock in our league; she scores a goal a game,” Kampersal said. “It would be nice to have that luxury, but we don’t, so we have to generate it somehow.”
The Tigers’ top scorers have been seniors Rose Alleva and Sally Butler with nine points. Alleva and Olivia Mucha, another senior, lead in goals with five.
“[Alleva has] done a great job her four years, she’s stepped it up her senior year so far,” Kampersal said. “She’s probably been our best player through our first games.”
Alleva, a defenseman from Red Wing, Minn., got to play in her home state for the first time over the weekend when the Tigers played a series at Minnesota. As was the case in losses to other highly ranked teams like Harvard, Cornell, and Clarkson, Princeton fell behind by multiple goals early and was unable to battle back, losing 6-0 and 9-1.
“No one plays perfectly, but when you play against teams like Minnesota, you have to play as perfect as you can,” Kampersal said.
The team has shown in ties with a pair of other ranked opponents, No. 6 Boston College and No. 8 Quinnipiac, that it is capable of hanging with contenders if it can limit its goals allowed.
“In the teams that I’ve coached, I feel like we’ve been solid defensively and we’ve always struggled to score goals,” Kampersal said. “Now, it’s a little inconsistent. We can score six goals or we can score zero. I would like to get back to good, solid goaltending, good, solid defense play, and some 2-1, 1-0 games instead of high-scoring games. Just get back to that style of hockey.”
As is often the case, youth is one factor in the inconsistency for Princeton.
“We have seven freshmen that are trying to figure out how to play defense and battle for 60 minutes,” Kampersal said.
Eventually as a season progresses, freshmen make fewer and fewer rookie mistakes.
“It’ll take some time,” Kampersal said. “A lot of kids trying to learn the D-zone and learn stopping and starting, which seems simple. That’s a good thing, learning the right habits.”
While Princeton was learning some hard lessons in Minneapolis, RPI also played a weekend series roughly an hour north and west in St. Cloud. The Engineers had a better experience, claiming 4-1 and 2-1 victories over the Huskies. The series followed a 4-1 win over Brown, giving the team a season-best three-game winning streak. Prior to that, the Engineers had not scored more that three goals in a game.
“We finally put two games back to back where we scored four goals,” Burke said. “I think we’ve got kids who can score.”
One of those is senior forward Jordan Smelker.
“I’d say we’re having trouble finishing,” Smelker said. “We’re having lots of chances, our goalies are playing great, but that’s just one thing we’re missing right now.”
That figures to be key in a league that features strong goaltenders like Emerance Maschmeyer, Erica Howe, Aubree Moore, Shanae Lundberg, and Jaimie Leonoff, as well as Kendall Newell at Princeton and Kelly O’Brien for RPI.
“The big thing is scoring and playing hard in the [defensive zone],” Smelker said. “Everyone in the ECAC has really great ‘D.’ I think the difference is if you can score when it counts.”
Burke says that one key is for his team to be “a little more gritty in the grade-A area” in front of the net.
Over the summer, Smelker had the opportunity to train with players who are among the best in the world at such grit when she was invited to the United States selection camp to choose a roster to centralize for the Olympics.
“It was amazing to be able to play with those girls, like their commitment level and what I have to do to be able to compete with them,” Smelker said. “Everything they do is centered around being the best they can be. That for me is doing the best you can every day, getting better every day, not taking a day off.”
Hopefully, those traits are transferred to her teammates as well, in order to avoid losses like those to Dartmouth and Yale on home ice.
“Just [being] consistent, being able to deal with stuff in a game,” Burke said. “Stuff happens, whether in life or in the game, but it’s going to just happen. And how do you deal with it? I think we may have been a little bit immature last year as a team. We still are fairly young, but our kids have done a good job of that, handling some of those things.”
While reaching the postseason as the Engineers did last campaign is a first step, it isn’t the ultimate destination.
“Our goal this season is to finish in the top four and have home ice for playoffs,” Smelker said. “I think we’re really capable of that. We’ve just got to find a way to put the puck in the back of the net.”
Standing in the way, both in the standings and in the net, are the Tigers. Rensselaer and Princeton meet at Baker Rink on Friday night to battle for two points that figure to be crucial for both. Princeton is currently sixth in the standings, three points and one spot above RPI, but having played three more games. Both teams are .500 in league action.
Which team will come out on top? As Burke said, something unforeseen is bound to happen to both the Tigers and Engineers, and the victor will be determined by how each deals with it.
“A good, smart, disciplined, competitive effort is what is necessary for pretty much all the teams,” Kampersal said.
Coaches are constantly seeking to bring their athletes to the next step, the next level. For St. Thomas coach Tom Palowski, most of the energy directed into his work has already paid handsome dividends, as it is a resume that would be envied by most neophyte coaches. As such, Palowski is about to reach the lofty plateau of 100 career wins with the Tommies in just his seventh season. Still, the accolade that Palkowski most desires is an extended outing, one that could find his crew in the position to contend for the national championship.
After 13 consecutive winning campaigns, the Tommies have a lone NCAA top four finish to speak of. Back in the 2002-03 season, St. Thomas, under then coach Kevin Gorg, compiled a 19-7-2 record on the way to the tournament. Palkowski took the reins in 2007-08 and immediately guided his club to a 21-win season.
After jetting out to an overall 4-1-0 slate thus far, the Tommies coach is set to take the next step, hoping this season will be the golden one.
“Our goal is to continue to try and develop and improve throughout the season,” said Palkowski. “I think it’s just a matter of consistency. Over the years, we have played the top end teams fairly even, but tend to have a hiccup or two during the year which has cost us. We have been pretty stingy on giving up goals, but have struggled a little getting goals at crucial times. So, we hope to capitalize this season at those times and make this a special season.”
The Tommies have indeed been stingy in their own end in an historical context. Thus far, the offense has been a pleasant focal point of Palkowski’s club. Sophomores Courtney Umland and Rachel Friberg have led the club in scoring so far, combining for nine points in five outings.
A successful merging of offense and defense is the favored scenario that might extend their season into the deep postseason.
Part of the above equation falls squarely on the shoulder pads of senior goalie Alise Riedel. The Hudson, Wis., native has been the go-to goaltender since she arrived on campus. Although her statistical profile has not been as strong as her body of work in her first three season, the size of the sample is a bit small for Palkowski to be concerned.
“I guess for so many years I have not had to worry about goaltending and Alise just has continued that trend,” Palkowski said of Riedel, who has had three seasons of a GAA under 2.00. “She’s a unique individual, like most goalies. She’s a great competitor and has a lot of confidence, which is a great quality for that position. With us only carrying two goalies the past few years, she sees a lot of pucks on a daily basis. This helps keep her focused, makes her work, and makes it difficult for our players to score during practice. She has always started the seasons a little slow, and then just keeps getting tougher as the season goes on, so we look for her to keep getting better as we get into the heart of the schedule.”
Like her coach, Riedel is also within a reachable milestone, as she is one victory shy of 40 wins for her career at St. Thomas. Palkowski also acknowledges that Riedel will have a healthy amount of support in getting everyone on the same page.
“We have nine seniors this season, and they are a quality group,” Palkowski said. “From the classroom to the ice, they have really been a terrific group of leaders. We hope to use and ride their experience throughout the season.”
As for Palkowski, the personal high water mark was reflective.
“I guess I hadn’t thought about it much. It’s just a number, and hopefully will come sooner rather than later. Obviously, it takes a combination of many things to get there. Quality student athletes, a good coaching staff, and administration that supports and believes in what you’re doing. It’s been a lot of fun, and as long as that continues, I hope to continue for a few more years.”
Last Saturday’s overtime win over Merrimack wasn’t quite as dramatic as Yale’s last win in overtime — a 3-2 victory over Massachusetts-Lowell in the opening game of the 2013 Frozen Four that sent the Bulldogs to their first national championship game and ultimately the school’s first national title.
Still, it was an important win for Yale, as the Bulldogs came back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits to tie the Warriors before freshman Chris Izmirlian scored with 45.3 seconds left in overtime for the 3-2 win.
“It was a great character-building win,” Yale coach Keith Allain said following the game. “The fact that the guys stuck with it was key.”
The Bulldogs got the victory despite missing three key players with injuries: forwards Anthony Day and Jesse Root, along with defenseman Ryan Obuchowski.
Allain said this week that some of the three would play this weekend, but he wasn’t entirely sure. Day has missed three games, while Root and Obuchowski sat out for this first time this weekend.
Yale has plenty of returners from last year’s national title team but has gotten contributions from several freshmen, including leading scorer Mike Doherty and goalies Patrick Spano and Alex Lyon.
Sophomore forward Nico Weberg returned to the lineup last weekend, while Allain is also pleased with the progress Day has made.
“All year long we’ve been getting contributions from everybody,” Allain said. “You can’t pick one guy who has been ‘the guy.’ If we develop that strength going forward, that’s going to make us pretty dangerous toward the end of the hockey season.”
Lyon has started five straight games for the Bulldogs after splitting time with Spano earlier in the year.
“He seems to be like our team: a guy that has the ability to get a bad break or bad situation and kind of let it roll off your shoulders and be ready for the next shot,” Allain said of Lyon. “He’s gotten better at handling the puck in each game.”
The Bulldogs (6-2-2) look to be in good position heading into the break. Yale this weekend hosts Dartmouth and Harvard, two teams that have struggled this season and teams against whom the Bulldogs have a recent run of success. Yale is on an 11-1-1 run against the Big Green, and swept the regular season series against Harvard last season.
Former Big Red player sets out on his own
There are plenty of ECAC Hockey players who have gone on to a career in the NHL. Former Cornell alternate captain Mitch Carefoot played with some of them, including Matt Moulson, Ben Scrivens, Byron Bitz and Ryan O’Byrne.
But Carefoot, who graduated in 2007 with a degree in Applied Economics and Management with a focus in marketing and finance, has used his hockey experience and Ivy education for success in a different field. Carefoot recently left his corporate job at E.H. Price in Canada to start his own entrepreneurship with another former college hockey player, Rochester Institute of Technology alumnus Matt Crowell.
The pair run Get in the Loop, a mobile marketing service that connects businesses with websites’ paid members.
Crowell and Carefoot met through dinner with a mutual friend and made a connection thanks to their hockey backgrounds and entrepreneurial interests.
For Carefoot, who was an eighth-round pick of Atlanta in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and played two seasons with the Phoenix Roadrunners in the ECHL, it was a chance to break free from his corporate job and do something he was passionate about.
“I was wrestling with myself — was this something I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life?” Carefoot said of working at E.H. Price.
He said he gradually started planning his next move, making sure he was prepared once he did leave. “It was making sure all your bases are covered,” he said. “What am I going to do to make this business flourish? How am I going to expand into different cities? I organized and reached out to the right people.”
Carefoot finally left E.H. Price in November. “Everything was all lined up, so I woke up on Monday and walked in and said, ‘You know, I think I’m going to go a different route,’” he said.
Get in the Loop, based in Kelowna, British Columbia, has several major clients, including Canad Inns, Moxie’s, Boston Pizza, Harvest Golf Course and the Brandon Wheat Kings, the WHL team that once held Carefoot’s junior hockey rights after a trade with the Prince Albert Raiders.
In addition to Get in the Loop, Carefoot and Crowell are planning to launch LinkforPay, an online business set to debut sometime in 2014.
He said running a tech startup isn’t that different from leading a hockey team, which Carefoot did as the Roadrunners’ captain during his final pro season, 2008-09.
“In hockey, you have 20 different guys and they’re all into different things,” Carefoot said. The same goes for Get in the Loop’s 15 employees. “It’s a small team; you have to kind of bring everyone together. There are always going to be some issues that you have to contend with trying to find the best way to make it work for everybody.”
Despite having his rights held by the Wheat Kings as a youth player, Carefoot decided to go the college route, in part because his father Brad played at Denver.
“Obviously, I wanted to give pro hockey a go, but if you’re good enough you’ll be found,” he said. “I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
“All these different young guys develop [differently]. Matt Moulson was at Cornell when I was there. He struggled in juniors but then came to school, and look at him now.”
Carefoot says he still follows the Big Red and stays in touch with coach Mike Schafer and assistant coach Topher Scott, who played with Carefoot in Ithaca.
“I loved everything about Cornell,” Carefoot said. “Playing in front of the crowd at Lynah Rink — it doesn’t get any better than that for sure.”
Around the league
• Union rallied from a 4-1 deficit Sunday at Penn State, with Daniel Ciampini scoring the game winner with three seconds left in regulation. Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere had two goals, giving him five in his last five games, and finished the night with 12 shots on net. Boston University had 11 shots as a team in Saturday’s 3-2 win over Cornell at Madison Square Garden.
• Ciampini and Brown forward Matt Harlow both made the NCAA’s top five plays of the week. Check out the video here.
• Dartmouth finally broke through with its first win of the season, scoring two unanswered goals to beat Harvard 2-1 Saturday. The Big Green moved to 1-8, leaving Alabama-Huntsville as the only winless Division I team in the country.
• Princeton had arguably its biggest win in recent memory two weeks ago at Quinnipiac, scoring three straight third-period goals to snap the Bobcats’ 13-game unbeaten streak. But the Tigers failed to carry any of that momentum to last weekend; they were swept at Michigan State by a combined score of 12-3.
• The league announced a one-game suspension for Quinnipiac forward Brooks Robinson for an incident at 19:16 in the second period Saturday against Massachusetts. Robinson was assessed a major and a game misconduct for hitting from behind. The senior has played in five games this season and will have to sit out Friday’s matchup against Rensselaer.
Weekly and monthly awards
As selected by the league:
Player of the week — Greg Carey, St. Lawrence: Carey had his third four-point night of the season to help the Saints to a 5-2 win at North Dakota Friday. His five points on the weekend was tied for first among all Division I players, and his 29 points on the season leads the nation.
Rookie of the week — Mitch Gillam, Cornell: Gillam became the first goaltender in Division I history to score a goal in his collegiate debut. Gillam’s 180-foot shot into an empty net iced a 4-2 victory over Niagara, which included 24 saves from the Big Red goalie. He is just the third Division I goalie to shoot the puck for a goal (the first since 2002) and the eighth goalie to ever be credited with a goal (the first since 2008).
Goalie of the week — Charles Grant, Dartmouth: The Dartmouth sophomore stopped 22 of 23 shots to lead the Big Green to its first win of the season Saturday night against Harvard.
Player of the month — Greg Carey, St. Lawrence: Carey had goals in nine of the Saints’ 10 games in November, and is on a 10-game point streak.
Rookie of the month — Sam Anas, Quinnipiac: Anas had six goals and 10 assists in November, and leads all freshman nationally with 12 goals and 12 assists.
Goalie of the month — Michael Garteig, Quinnipiac: The sophomore was 7-1-2 with a 1.59 GAA and .917 save percentage for the month. He also had three shutouts.
The biggest question for the U.S. National Junior Team is obvious: Can the Americans repeat their gold medal run from the 2013 World Junior Championship?
That remains to be seen, but with three players returning from that championship squad of a year ago (Riley Barber, Ryan Hartman and Jon Gillies) to the 26-man preliminary roster released by USA Hockey on Wednesday, Team USA will have at least a smattering of experience from last year.
2014 World Junior Championship
Dec. 26-Jan. 5, Malmo, Sweden
Barber is a sophomore forward at Miami, while Gillies plays between the pipes at Providence as a sophomore. Hartman, who reneged on a commitment to Miami, is in his second season with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League.
Jim Johansson, USA Hockey’s assistant executive director of hockey operations and GM for the national junior team, said having Barber, Gillies and Hartman back in the fold will be a major asset for the Americans.
“I think if you look at the seasons those guys are having, they were certainly a big part of last year’s team and we expect leadership coming from them,” said Johansson. “We also have a group of players who have had international success playing for USA Hockey and are having good seasons on their respective clubs.
“I think we came out of Lake Placid [at the summer evaluation camp] with a pretty good feel on some players, but it was very challenging to separate some players out. Certain players really raised their games in the fall to solidify their spot on this team. Until you get guys to camp and on the ice, it’s important to show that you’re a versatile player, which is helpful in short tournaments.”
Last year, the Americans defeated Sweden 3-1 in the gold-medal game in Ufa, Russia, to win their first crown since 2010 and third overall. Team USA nabbed the 2004 title as well.
This year’s head coach, Minnesota’s Don Lucia, said he expects nothing short of success in Malmo, Sweden.
“I like the group we have,” said Lucia. “I think we have a team that can get up and down the rink and I think we’ll have a team that will compete hard shift in and shift out. And like in any tournament, you have to have flexibility in the lineup and that’s what we’re looking for. You have to have guys that can play multiple roles.”
While this team is not the 2013 version, Johansson knows that and added his thoughts on what the new crop will need to do in order to raise some hardware in January.
“This is a group that will need to create their own identity and create their trademarks, if you will,” Johansson said. “It’s a group that has very good depth at all positions and, certainly, when you talk about the World Juniors and short tournaments, it all starts with goaltending. We feel very strong about the goaltenders coming to camp and where they fit.”
“You go in with certain expectations, but at the same time, you’re going to have to play your way into spots,” Lucia added. “[Gillies] was on the team last year [and] he’s had two very good years at Providence, but I thought [Anthony] Stolarz was very good this summer at camp. [Boston College freshman Thatcher] Demko is the youngest of the three, but he’s done a nice job at Boston College this year and had a pretty good camp this summer. That’s one of the things you want to let it play itself out. We’ll have three exhibition games to make further evaluations on these guys.”
Stolarz began the 2012-13 season at Nebraska-Omaha before leaving for the OHL’s London Knights midway through the season.
One notable addition to the preliminary roster is U.S. National Team Development Program forward Jack Eichel, a 17-year-old Boston University recruit that isn’t eligible for the NHL draft until 2015 and is already being pegged as a possible first-rounder.
“[Eichel] is a dynamic offensive player,” Johansson said. “He is physically ready to play at this level. He’s had success playing the college schedule we play here and has dominated the USHL [teams] he’s played against. Regardless of his age, we think he’s ready for this challenge and that’s why he’s coming.”
A glaring absence on the roster is defenseman Pat Sieloff, a one-time Miami recruit who is out with an infection. He played a major role on last year’s World Junior team, but he has played just two games for the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat this season in the Calgary system.
“[Sieloff is] going to be missed, no question,” Lucia said. “He was very good this summer. I had been [to Lake Placid] two years in a row and I was impressed by the growth of his game. I thought he was a tough, physical, rugged defenseman, but I thought his decision-making and stick skills really improved over the last year and he would have been counted on. But at the same time, we know we don’t have him and we like the group we do have. It’s another opportunity for somebody else.”
Johansson mentioned that the preliminary roster could have a handful of additions after this weekend.
Prior to the tournament itself, the 26 players will participate in a training camp Dec. 15-18 at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis and will then travel to Angelholm, Sweden, before the final 23-man roster is announced on Dec. 23.
Team USA has three exhibition games scheduled, including Dec. 17 against Minnesota State in Mankato, Minn., and two in Angelholm, against Finland on Dec. 20 and Sweden on Dec. 22.
“In a perfect world, for planning, we’d like to get down to a player or two less prior to going over to Europe,” Johansson said.
The box score from Sunday’s contest could have read, “Jake Mooney 3, Tufts 0,” but of course, it didn’t.
Hockey wins are never the product of a one-man effort and Mooney would be the first to say so, the first guy to tell you that the pucks are going in for him mostly because of his Manhattanville teammates.
“Being surrounded by good players is huge,” said Mooney, who is fresh from ECAC West player of the week honors. “Obviously, I’m capitalizing right now and it’s nice to have a hot stick, but I think having a good group around you is crucial to success and that’s helped me out, for sure.”
And Mooney has returned the favor.
The junior winger has potted five goals in the Valiants’ last three games – including his first career hat trick which accounted for all three Manhattanville goals against the Jumbos. Not by coincidence, the Vals won ‘em all.
“Our power play is pretty hot right now,” said Mooney. “We’re doing a good job of capitalizing.”
Mooney, who transferred from Plattsburgh after two seasons, is making capital gains, too, with his increased ice time.
Last year, when he saw action in just 11 games – with just a goal and a pair of assists for his effort – was particularly disappointing to him.
After doing a personal rethink, Mooney decided to search for a better fit.
He found it, among coach Arlen Marshall’s top-six forward group.
“I got a better appreciation being able to play just because I struggled a bit last year and wasn’t able to play in all the games,” said Mooney. “You realize that it’s short-lived and you only get four years, so you have to work hard to get in the lineup every day.”
Mooney expected that the shift in schools would bring about a few new wrinkles, but he’s handled those as surely as he handles a sharp pass out through the neutral zone.
“There were differences,” he said. “But it’s still college hockey at an elite level, so there were some similarities coming in. I really like the atmosphere in the dressing room when I first came here. It was really easy to adjust. The coaches have shown a lot of confidence in me, which has also helped.”
The recent surge has improved the Valiants’ mark to 6-4-0 (3-3-0 in conference).
Mooney said that as a newcomer with a set of fresh eyes, he’s seen his new mates gradually develop a team identity.
“We were struggling a little bit at first trying to find an identity,” said Mooney. “But recently, we’ve been turning it around, especially defensively. A lot of it was just the sense of urgency, not being able to sit back. Guys are realizing that every game is important. The season is so short, every game is so crucial. Guys are starting to realize that and are preparing mentally better. That’s huge.”
And at this stage of the year, so is Mooney’s game.
From strictly results and momentum perspectives, perhaps Nebraska-Omaha’s first idle weekend of the season didn’t come at the best time.
The Mavericks finished November 6-2 and atop the NCHC standings before taking last weekend off.
On a human level, though, Mavericks coach Dean Blais was happy he and his team were able to recharge their batteries over Thanksgiving weekend.
November looked like it could’ve given UNO a bumpy ride as Blais’ group faced, in order, Denver away and then North Dakota, Michigan and Miami at home. All four were ranked at the time they faced the Mavericks, who had stumbled out of the blocks and finished October 2-4.
Things got a lot better for UNO last month, but going from the proverbial night to day took a toll on the Mavericks’ energy reserves. That left Blais feeling his team’s first off week of the season came just when the Mavericks needed it most.
“We needed the time off because of the intensity of the last month,” Blais said. “If there was a meter on your energy and your concentration, we’d have kind of depleted it with Denver, North Dakota, Michigan and Miami.
“Those are four of the best teams in the country, traditionally, and they were all ranked in the top 20 when we played them, for sure, and some even in the top 10. You’ve only got so much emotional energy in your body, and I think we used it all up.
“It was good for the guys to go home and get away from hockey, but now it’s our job as coaches to get them back to where they were going into last week.”
This week, UNO is trying to resume normal service before the Mavericks fly out to Colorado Springs, Colo., on Thursday ahead of this weekend’s series against Colorado College.
With his players working to get their legs back after spending the second half of last weekend with their families, Blais said Monday that he’s excited to see what his team can do against the Tigers, whose World Arena houses one of only two Olympic-sized rinks in the NCHC (St. Cloud State’s National Hockey Center is the other).
The other six arenas housing league teams have NHL-size rinks, which are 85 feet wide. UNO split its only two games on the 100-foot-wide ice so far this season in a series at Northern Michigan Oct. 18-19, and the Mavericks will be on Olympic-sized ice again Jan. 3-4 when they travel to face New Hampshire.
UNO pulled out a 3-2 win Oct. 18 at Northern Michigan before losing 6-3 the following night. Blais said that when his team hits the bigger ice again against the Tigers, he’s looking for a pair of cleaner performances from his team than it had against the Wildcats.
“I thought, at Northern, we played pretty well on the big ice offensively,” Blais said. “Defensively, we didn’t cover as well as we should’ve because they scored some goals where we just had some breakdowns. We’d have control of the puck but then turned it over and, bam, it’s in the back of our net because we got beat.
“We were real sloppy defensively, so that’s what we need to concentrate on in our Thursday practice this week [at World Arena]: our play without the puck. Playing with the puck, on our rink here, we’ll have good practices, but you have to defend on the bigger ice, so our approach changes a little bit.”
North Dakota recovers well after hitting low point
It’s hard to look at North Dakota’s 5-2 loss last Friday at home to St. Lawrence as anything other than the lowest point of UND’s 2013-14 campaign to date.
Running a winless streak to four games, UND fell flat in the series-opener against the Saints. St. Lawrence never trailed in the game, and its special teams units notched four goals en route to the Saints’ first victory in Grand Forks, N.D.
UND coach Dave Hakstol didn’t mince words when asked if the loss last Friday was his team’s lowest point of the season thus far.
“That’s the poorest 60 minutes of hockey we’ve played in quite some time,” Hakstol said. “Obviously, I’ll keep it to this year, but it was just 60 minutes where, in every phase of the game, we were slow and sluggish within it.”
Hakstol’s group did, however, make a marked improvement the following night. UND’s special teams units contributed both a short-handed and a power-play goal, netminder Zane Gothberg made 25 saves, and a Stephane Pattyn tally in the dying seconds of Saturday’s second period stood up as the game-winner in a 3-2 victory for the hosts.
Hakstol said he didn’t feel relieved about his team snapping its winless skid, but he did say Saturday’s performance was much closer to what he expects from his team than Friday’s was.
“Our battle level and our compete level was present for 60 minutes,” Hakstol said of his team’s effort Saturday. “More importantly than anything [compared to] 24 hours before, those are the things we wanted to make sure we accomplished.”
His team’s next challenge will be to keep the ball rolling this weekend at Western Michigan. Hakstol’s familiar with the Broncos from his own playing days at North Dakota but, apart from a 3-1 win over Western in the 2012 NCAA tournament, that’s a program UND has no other recent experience with.
Prior to that postseason meeting, UND and WMU hadn’t faced each other on the ice since the first week of 1998. UND is, however, 5-0 all-time against the Broncos.
Hakstol’s group will have a major challenge on its hands as it tries to pick up a couple of positive results in what’s usually a hostile atmosphere inside Lawson Arena, and Hakstol suggested one of the keys to any success his team has this weekend will involve silencing the home crowd in Kalamazoo.
“Obviously it’s a new venue [for us], but we’re going out there to play a couple of games of hockey,” Hakstol said. “And if we’re going to start looking for excuses and that type of a disadvantage, then I think we’re making a big mistake.
“It’s a big challenge because Western is a good hockey team that plays very well in its building.”
Chad Johnson remembered
Memorial services were held Nov. 25 in Fargo, N.D., for Chad Johnson, a former North Dakota player who died Nov. 18 after being hit by a train in an industrial area of the city.
Hakstol and Johnson were teammates at UND for two seasons, and Hakstol said Monday the memorial services for Johnson provided a send-off worthy of someone who touched so many lives in and around the UND hockey program as well as the greater communities in Fargo and Johnson’s hometown of Grand Forks, N.D.
“It was a fitting turnout for Chad, and it showed just what kind of a person he was, not just with the quantity but the quality of people that were back for the two days in and around his services,” Hakstol said.
“He was a pretty special guy that’s missed by many, but there’s a lot of great memories we all have of him.”
Following a four-year professional playing career, Johnson turned to coaching. He had most recently spent three seasons as the head coach of the USHL’s Lincoln Stars, but he resigned from that role in September, citing personal and health issues, before moving to Fargo to be nearer to his girlfriend and their young son.
Blais, who hired Johnson as an assistant coach for the same league’s Fargo Force, shed some light on what he knew of Johnson’s situation up until his passing.
“Chad was a good guy and everything, but he held everything in internally,” Blais said. “When you get mad, people probably know you’re getting mad, and when you’re happy, same thing, but he held everything in.
“He was always upbeat and everything, but a lot of little things bothered him. His girlfriend didn’t come down to Lincoln when he was coaching the Stars and they had a little baby and he didn’t see his baby enough, and that’s why he resigned in Lincoln: He just wanted to be around his kid more.”
Blais knew Johnson well even away from the ice, and Blais said not a day has gone by in the last two weeks where he didn’t think of Johnson.
“It pops into my mind every day at some point,” Blais said. “Even driving back from Minneapolis [for Thanksgiving], out of the blue, I thought about Chad, whether it was hunting with him or fishing. We did a lot of things together, and I had him on my staff in Fargo as an assistant coach.
“I’ve known him and his family for a lot of years, and [the news of Johnson's passing] was really upsetting. His dad died at the same age, 43 years old, but that’s a really solid family.”
NCHC players of the week
Offensive player of the week — Austin Czarnik, Miami: The junior forward had a monster night Saturday during Miami’s 6-3 victory at Bemidji State. Czarnik was limited to only one shot on goal in the RedHawks’ 4-4 tie with the Beavers on Friday, but he came back and netted five assists — three of them primary helpers — in the rematch. His fourth assist of the night saw him reach the 100-point mark for his collegiate career, making him Miami’s 48th centurion.
Defensive player of the week — Troy Stecher, North Dakota: Stecher was UND’s rock at its blue line last weekend against St. Lawrence in posting an assist, a blocked shot and a plus-2 rating in his team’s split with the Saints. He was particularly heroic in UND’s 3-2 win Saturday over SLU, assisting on a power-play goal in the second period that put UND up 2-1. He helped UND kill all three power-play opportunities Saturday for a Saints team that boasted the nation’s top power-play units.
Rookie of the week — Keaton Thompson, North Dakota: The defenseman picked up the first goal of his collegiate career in Friday’s third period to cut St. Lawrence’s lead to 3-2. Thompson then returned the following night to help Stecher and UND’s other penalty killers shut down the Saints’ power-play personnel.
Goaltender of the week — Frank Slubowski, Western Michigan: The Broncos junior officially stopped 56 of the 57 shots he faced last weekend in Notre Dame’s Shillelagh Tournament. Slubowski made 32 saves Friday against Northeastern in a 1-1 overtime tie before the Huskies advanced to the tournament final thanks to a win in the shootout. In Saturday’s consolation game against Alabama-Huntsville, Slubowski stopped all 24 shots he faced in the Broncos’ 1-0 win but had to settle for a partial shutout after he missed 1:48 of game action due to an equipment issue.
As a former college goaltender at Notre Dame, Northern Michigan athletic director Forrest Karr couldn’t help but feel a bit of sympathy on Friday for Ferris State goaltender CJ Motte, even though the Bulldogs beat the Wildcats 4-1.
With 11 seconds to play in the game, Motte lost what would have been only his second shutout of the season, giving up a power-play goal.
Karr said after the game he’d have a tough time that night letting go of that goal, but not Motte.
The only goose egg that matters to him is the one that still stands in his loss column after 13 starts.
“I played hard the whole game. The defense really played hard the whole game, so I can’t be too upset,” Motte said Friday after picking up his 11th win of the season.
“Being a goalie, you want to stop every one, but realistically, it’s not going to happen. I just go out there and try to give my team a win. Every time we win, it’s a job accomplished.”
The Bulldogs are on a nation-best 11-game unbeaten streak, having gone 9-0-2 during the stretch. That includes 8-0-2 in their first 10 WCHA games to comfortably lead second-place Bemidji State by seven points in the league standings.
Motte has been in goal the entire time, and while his GAA (2.35) is good for only sixth in the WCHA and his save percentage (.919) ranks only fifth in the league, he’s dominating in the ultimate statistic with a league- and nation-best winning percentage of .923 at 11-0-2.
“It’s a nice security blanket for us,” Ferris State coach Bob Daniels said. “I don’t want to rely as heavily as we did on him [Friday] night, but I’d prefer to play more like [Saturday] where he makes some big saves, but he’s not overly tested.”
Motte has given up three or more goals in seven games this year, with his lone shutout coming Nov. 1 at Alabama-Huntsville. His offense, however, has scored four or more goals in nine of his starts and averages a league-best 3.73 goals per game.
“It’s good knowing those guys can really put some pucks in the net,” Motte said. “A three- or four-goals-per-game average is pretty good, but we can’t rely on that. Moving forward in the season, we have to continue to play and get better defensively and me as a goaltender, cutting that goals against average down.”
Wildcats lose captain Ludwig for season
Northern Michigan coach Walt Kyle said Tuesday that Wildcats senior defenseman and captain C.J. Ludwig is indeed out for the season with a right knee injury. An MRI confirmed Tuesday what Kyle feared on Friday after the loss to Ferris.
“For as long as he’s out, that’s a big loss for them,” Daniels said.
FSU junior forward Dom Panetta collided with Ludwig’s right knee to the right of the NMU net while both players were chasing down a puck with under four minutes to play in regulation. Ludwig had to be helped off the ice, unable to put any weight on the injured knee.
Ludwig ranks second in the league in scoring among defensemen with five goals and seven assists. With four power-play goals, he’s tied for fourth overall in the league.
“It hurts not having Ludwig,” NMU senior Stephan Vigier said. “He’s our leader and our captain and probably one of our best defensemen. We have guys who can play up there and can do a pretty good job.”
Vigier will take over as the Wildcats’ captain the rest of the season while junior forward Ryan Kesti has been promoted to an alternate captain.
Freshman forward Brock Maschmeyer will move back from forward to defenseman. He played alongside senior defenseman Wade Epp in Saturday’s 1-1 tie with Ferris.
“To me, Ludwig was playing like an all-league guy. He was having a great year,” Kyle said. “He’s our captain on the ice. He’s our leader off the ice. When he’s out of our lineup, we’re going to miss him, but we all waste too much time worrying about the pieces we’re missing and we should be giving credit to the pieces we have.”
Beyond bragging rights
With just two wins between them in their last 13 games combined, Alaska and Alaska-Anchorage hardly need any more motivation for this weekend’s series in Anchorage.
For 20 years, the rivals have played for the Alaska Airlines Governor’s Cup, the prize that goes to the season series winner. The Nanooks have won the trophy four times in a row and lead the overall series 12-8.
But there’s more than just bragging rights on the line this year, as this will be the first time WCHA points are also up for grabs.
Anchorage and Alaska rank eighth and ninth in the league standings, respectively, with four points separating them. However, the Nanooks, with just four points overall, have two games in hand.
The Seawolves will host this weekend’s series and are 5-0-1 at Sullivan Arena. While their home wins alone already have eclipsed last year’s season total, they are 0-5-1 on the road and have just one victory in their last six games overall.
The Nanooks, meanwhile, have just one win in their last seven games since starting the season 4-1-2. Alaska has lost four straight.
This weekend’s series is the first half of the Governor’s Cup competition. This year also marks the first time since 2007-08 that the teams will play four games to decide the winner. They will meet again in Fairbanks on March 7 and 8 to close out the regular season.
Around the WCHA
• Alabama-Huntsville was shut out for the sixth time this season on Saturday when it fell 1-0 to Western Michigan in the third-place game of Notre Dame’s Shillelagh Tournament. It was also the fifth one-goal loss of the season for the Chargers. Huntsville’s 5-2 loss to Notre Dame in the tournament opener was the only game of its last four in which it’s managed to get on the board.
• Bemidji State ranks third in the conference in scoring, averaging 3.0 goals per game. That’s nearly one goal per game more than the Beavers averaged last season when they finished the season 11th in the WCHA with just 2.06 goals per game. Bemidji State tied and lost to Miami, continuing a tough nonconference schedule that included St. Cloud State and Minnesota to start the season. The Beavers will play North Dakota in mid-January.
• Looking for some additional leadership, Minnesota State made junior forward Chase Grant an alternate captain prior to last week’s series against Alaska-Anchorage. He joins captain Johnny McInnis and alternates Brett Stern and Josh Nelson. However, Nelson, a senior defenseman, is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury. The Mavericks have won three straight games and four of their last five league games.
• Michigan Tech broke its road curse in Fairbanks with a sweep of the Nanooks to cap a 13-day Alaska road trip that began with a loss and tie in Anchorage. Tech was 0-7-2 away from Houghton before the trip. The Huskies now play back-to-back series at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena starting this weekend against Bemidji State and the following weekend vs. Bowling Green.
• The Falcons won’t be missing November much after going 4-5-1 overall and 1-4-1 in their three road series. Bowling Green capped the month by getting swept at Lake Superior State. BGSU begins December at home against winless Alabama-Huntsville. The Falcons are 5-1-1 at home this season and 4-0-1 vs UAH all-time at BGSU Ice Arena.
• LSSU’s 4-3 wins over BGSU gave the program its first WCHA sweep and snapped a four-game losing skid that dated to Nov. 2. The Lakers’ last five games have all been decided by one goal.
• This week’s WCHA players of the week are Minnesota State junior forward Jean-Paul Lafontaine (offense), Ferris State junior goaltender CJ Motte (defense) and Michigan Tech freshman defenseman Shane Hanna (rookie).
USA Hockey on Wednesday unveiled its 26-player preliminary roster for the 2014 U.S. National Junior Team that will participate in the IIHF World Junior Championship from Dec. 26, 2013-Jan. 5, 2014, in Malmo, Sweden, defending its gold medal from 2013.
The preliminary roster includes 19 NCAA players and three players that helped the U.S. capture the gold medal at the IIHF World Junior Championship a year ago in forwards Riley Barber (Miami) and Ryan Hartman and goaltender Jon Gillies (Providence).
“We’re excited about the group of players we’ve invited to camp,” said general manager of the 2014 U.S. National Junior Team and assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey Jim Johannson in a statement. “There will be some tough decisions in getting to the final roster, but that’s certainly a good problem to have.”
The 26 players will participate in a training camp Dec. 15-18 at the University of Minnesota’s Mariucci Arena with preparations continuing in Angelholm, Sweden, before the final 23-man roster is announced on Dec. 23.
The U.S. will play three exhibition games before the start of the tournament, including Dec. 17 against Minnesota State in Mankato, Minn., and games in Angelholm versus Finland on Dec. 20 and against Sweden on Dec. 22.
|Tommy DiPauli||F||Notre Dame|
|Jack Eichel||F||Boston University (commit)|
|Ryan Fitzgerald||F||Boston College|
|Dan O'Regan||F||Boston University|
|Matt Grzelyck||D||Boston University|
|Ian McCoshen||D||Boston College|
|Brett Pesce||D||New Hampshire|
|Steve Santini||D||Boston College|
|Thatcher Demko||G||Boston College|
Although St. Thomas has certainly played good hockey through the first month of the season, winnning six of its first eight games and losing just once, coach Jeff Boeser will tell you the Tommies are not a finished product.
“We have a long way to go to be a good team,” Boeser said. “We have done a pretty good job with our penalty kill and we have great goaltending, but we can be better on offense. And we have to continue to eliminate some of our mistakes, but overall, it hasn’t been a bad start.”
The Tommies have been off since Nov. 23 when they knocked off St. Olaf 3-0 in MIAC action. Their only loss during a 6-1-1 start to the season was 3-0 defeat at the hands of nationally-ranked Wisconsin-Stevens Point on Nov. 15.
St. Thomas is 3-0-1 in the MIAC.
Boeser said generating offense has been a work in progress. The Tommies have 20 goals on the season, including five by Alex Altenbernd, and Connor McBride has tallied three goals.
“We’ve been working very hard at being better on offense,” Boeser said. “We’ve been doing different drills in practice and just focused on capitalizing on the opportunities we get. But I do like our depth. We don’t have one star, but we have a lot of guys who are capable of stepping up.”
From a defensive standpoint, the Tommies have not been easy to crack. Not with Drew Fielding stepping up time and again between the pipes. Fielding has started all eight games and has made 210 saves. He owns a goals-against average of 1.36 and has allowed just 11 goals. Fielding has nine shutouts in his career.
“Drew has been very good for us,” Boeser said. “He has made a lot of big saves and prepares very well for each game. He’s been strong all year. Our goaltending coach [Jacque Vezina] does a phenomenal job of getting all of our goalies ready to play. A lot of credit goes to him.”
St. Thomas has been tough in penalty kill situations as well. Opponents are just 2-for 33 on the power play against the Tommies.
“We’ve worked hard all year at being good in those situations,” Boeser said. “Our team defense is definitely a strength. It’s played a big part in our success.”
St. Thomas shared the regular-season championship last season in the MIAC and has its eyes set on a title again this year.
But if the Tommies are to be champions, they will have to be ready to go every night. Wins are not handed out in the tightly-contested MIAC.
“You can’t look at a weekend and say it’s going to be an easy one – every game is going to be tough,” Boeser said. “The parity in this league is as good as I’ve seen it in my time as a coach. We need to play at our best every night.”
STREAK CONTINUES: St. Mary’s stretched its win streak to three games on Saturday as it earned its second straight 2-1 win over Lake Forest.
The Cardinals, who improved to 5-5 overall, forced the Foresters to go 0-for-7 on the power play Saturday. Lake Forest finished 0-for-12 overall on the weekend in power-play situations.
Phil Heinle made his first career start in goal and racked up 30 saves. Dylan Dock and Andrew Ketterer both scored goals for the Cardinals, with Ketterer becoming the fourth St. Mary’s player to score his first goal of the year over the weekend.
OFFENSIVE OUTBURST: St. Olaf rolled to a 5-1 win over Lawrence on Saturday to complete a weekend sweep and eight players from the Oles factored into the scoring in what was highest-scoring game of the season for St. Olaf.
Dan Cecka, Nick Marsh, David Rath, Geoff Gieni and Peter Lindblad all scored goals for the Oles. Rath also tallied two assists. Henrik Wood made his first start since Nov. 9 and came through with a solid performance as he stopped 23 shots and helped St. Olaf improve to 3-6-1 on the year. The Oles have won their last two games.
FINISHING STRONG: Gustavus Adolphus closed out its weekend with a 3-2 win over Marian on Saturday. The Gusties trailed 2-1 going into the final period, but rallied behind a two-goal outburst in the first five minutes of the period.
Corey Lieverman scored his second goal of the weekend to tie the score at 2-2 and Drew Aspinwall came through the game-winner to lift Gustavus to its fourth win in the last five games. Gustavus opened the weekend with a 6-6 tie against Lawrence and hasn’t lost since a 3-1 loss to MIAC foe Concordia on Nov. 15.
The goal by Aspinwall was the first of his career. Tony Paulson also scored his first collegiate goal in the victory.
Goaltender Erik Johnson earned his first win, stopping 23 shots. The Gusties were outshot 25-24.