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Beanpot Challenge on Feb. 8 to benefit former Princeton women’s player Denna Laing

The Ninth Annual Charity Beanpot Challenge will be held by the Travis Roy Foundation and the Mark Bavis Leadership Foundation on Monday, Feb. 8, at Boston University’s Agganis Arena and the TD Garden.

A minimum of $50,000 of the proceeds will be set aside as a coming home fund for Denna Laing.

Laing, a former Princeton player, was playing in an outdoor game Dec. 31 for the Boston Pride against the Montreal Canadiennes and crashed into the boards during the game, suffering a spinal cord injury.

A total of 67 players have registered to take part in the 2016 Charity Beanpot Challenge. Each participant will play in one of the two casual scrimmages on the Monday afternoon of the Beanpot finals. Following the scrimmages, each player receives a ticket to the Garden View Suite at the TD Garden to watch the Beanpot consolation and final games.

“The Charity Beanpot Challenge has turned into one of our most successful fundraisers, as the continued generosity of the hockey community is amazing,” said Travis Roy, founder of the Travis Roy Foundation, which helps support those who have spinal cord injuries live healthy and productive lives, both through research and individual grants. “This will be an especially meaningful year as we will be raising money in part for Denna Laing. The short and long-term medical expenses for Denna will be significant, and like the rest of the hockey community, we are proud to help make her life a little easier.”

In order to participate in the event, all players are required to raise funds for the Travis Roy Foundation and the Mark Bavis Leadership Foundation through online fundraising pages. Since its inception, the charity event has raised over $1 million for the two charities.

The Mark Bavis Leadership Foundation was created after Bavis, a former Terrier and NHL scout, lost his life on Sept. 11, 2001. The organization provides opportunities for deserving young men and women to experiences that are similar to those that contributed to making Bavis the person that he was, such as academic scholarships and extracurricular activities.

To make a donation, or to learn more about the Charity Beanpot Challenge, visit beanpotchallenge.org.

Michigan duo of Motte, Connor garner monthly HCA honors

Michigan’s Tyler Motte leads the country with 22 goals this season (photo: Michael Dubicki).

The Hockey Commissioners’ Association announced this week that Michigan junior forward Tyler Motte and Wolverines freshman Kyle Connor have been chosen the HCA’s Player and Rookie of the Month, respectively, for January.

Ironically, Motte and Connor are also linemates for the Wolverines this season.

Motte scored in every game last month as the Wolverines went 5-0-1. The Chicago Blackhawks prospect recorded 10 goals and 18 points in just six games, averaging three points per game. Motte currently has an NCAA-best 22 goals among his 35 points.

Connor, a Winnipeg Jets draft pick, has earned the HCA rookie award for the second consecutive month after tallying eight goals and nine assists for 17 points in six games. He leads the country with 42 points overall on 20 goals and 22 assists.

WCHA women’s commissioner Kemp steps down; men’s commissioner Robertson takes over on interim basis

The WCHA announced Friday that women’s commissioner Aaron Kemp has resigned to pursue other professional opportunities, effective immediately.

WCHA men’s commissioner Bill Robertson has been named interim commissioner of the women’s league and will assume overall leadership and supervision through the remainder of the women’s 2015-16 season, which concludes March 20, 2016.

“On behalf of the league and its member institutions, we thank Aaron for his important contributions to the continued growth and success of the women’s WCHA, and wish him and his family all the best in their future endeavors,” said Minnesota State faculty athletics representative and women’s WCHA chair Dr. Jeffrey Pribyl in a statement. “At the same time, we are excited to welcome Bill Robertson as our interim commissioner. Robertson has worked closely with Aaron over the past 18 months on overarching WCHA matters. He has established trust and credibility with league staff and will provide a seamless transition as we enter the final weeks of the regular season and prepare for the 2016 WCHA Final Face-Off at Ridder Arena on March 5 and 6.”

“I am grateful to the leadership of the WCHA and its member institutions for the opportunity to serve the premier conference in women’s college hockey,” added Kemp. “I thoroughly enjoyed my time working with our tremendous student-athletes, coaches and administrators, and I am proud of what we were able to accomplish in the last year and a half. The WCHA is in prime position moving forward and is in good hands to do so. At this time, it is in the best interests for me and my family to pursue professional opportunities closer to our extended family.”

Kemp was named the second commissioner in the history of the women’s WCHA on April 23, 2014. A college hockey veteran with extensive experience as a player, coach and administrator, Kemp came to the WCHA from Mercyhurst, where he served as senior associate athletic director/Mercyhurst North East director of athletics. Kemp also was an assistant men’s hockey coach at Canisius (2002-04) and Mercyhurst (2004-08).

Permanent staffing plans for the women’s WCHA will be determined in the spring.

Seniors a ‘Beacon’ of determination for Massachusetts-Boston

Massachusetts-Boston junior Tyler Bishop is tied for the lead nationally in goals with 10 and is sixth overall in scoring for defensemen (photo: SpoprtPix).

The Beacons of Massachusetts-Boston are certainly enjoying a successful season to date.

Ranked eighth in the most recent USCHO.com Division III Men’s Poll with a 16-3-2 record and sitting atop the NEHC standings, there are still major goals to be achieved, starting with the regular-season title and opportunity to host the conference final four.

Just four conference games remain on the schedule and while noted seniors Matt Lemire and Frankie DeAugustine receive a lot of attention and credit for the team’s success this season, head coach Peter Belisle believes the senior leadership and example for other lesser-known players has galvanized his team for a strong playoff run.

“This senior class is a special one,” noted Belisle. “Matt and Frankie obviously get a lot of credit along with Colin [Larkin] because of the offense and their point totals, but this senior class is about so much more in terms of perseverance and commitment – attributes the whole team has latched on to and a story I continue to build for the underclassmen as we try to go to the next level in this conference.”

While goalie Zach Andrews, forwards Jeremy Finger, DeAugustine and Mike Miller are the core of the senior group along with transfers Billy Faust and Lemire, the character stories of Derek Colucci, Andrew Crawford and junior Alex Demchuck showcase the heart and soul of the Beacons sense of determination this season.

“You know, it isn’t easy for a player to complete four years of a college hockey program,” said Belisle. “It is a hard road and commitment to make with individual priorities and team direction being key challenges that each player faces along the way. A lot of players who don’t play regularly will often look to leave the game and focus on academics or transfer somewhere that they feel there may be better opportunity. We have a core group of upperclassmen that really leads by example in terms of their commitment, preparedness and passion for the game and the program that are great motivations for the rest of the team.”

Belisle also ran down what impresses him about Demchuk, Colucci and Crawford.

– “Alex Demchuk played just one game – ONE – in his prior three seasons here. I had the difficult conversation about whether he wanted to stay here knowing he wasn’t going to play and he has stuck with it and been extremely positive in working hard every day. He scored his first career goal against Norwich [back on Dec. 4], one of our biggest rivals – that is storybook stuff.”

– “Derek Colucci has come back for a difficult injury last season when he broke his ankle and is a key leader and contributor to getting balance in scoring across all of our lines, not just the big line. He also has stepped into the alternate captain role when Albee [Daley] went down early in the season.”

– “Andrew Crawford has stepped up after not playing a lot early in his time here. Knowing our challenges entering the season on the defensive side and helping out with the freshmen that see a lot of time, Andrew has been our first defender on the penalty kill unit all year and has been a terrific leader for the young ‘D’ corps.”

Senior Derek Colucci is among the key leaders for coach Peter Belisle’s eighth-ranked Beacons while adding balance and depth to the offense with 16 points on the season (photo: SportPix).

“These guys all moved past adversity that stood in their way due to injury or team circumstances or factors I actually put in front of them based on the personnel situations at the time,” explained Belisle. “All of them are still here and are a big part of this season’s success. They may not get the press that our big point-getters do, but they are as big a part of our overall determination and accomplishments to date. That is why this senior class is so special. It hasn’t come easy for a lot of the group, but their dedication has set a great example for the team. I do love telling these stories about the character of these players and the commitment they have made to themselves and the program.

“This senior class is special because of the combination of all these stories and I hope there more stories to tell about further success for this group in February and March.”

The rest of the team is not without its own success stories this season, starting with freshman forward Garrison Sanipass, who is on the verge of a 20-point season, and junior defenseman Tyler Bishop, whose 10 goals are tied for second on the team. Bishop is the only defenseman in the country to post a hat trick this season. His three goals, including the overtime game winner against New England College in early January, is still something his coach is talking about.

“Tyler just goes about his business so quietly,” Belisle said. “He is not flashy, but has a natural knack for the offensive part of the game and knows not only when to join the rush, but when to push the play in the zone, where to be for offensive chances like a fourth forward and be a key contributor on the power play. We had a lot of questions at the beginning of the year about our defensive group, especially with three freshmen expected to see a lot of minutes. Freshman Bryan Carter has been the perfect partner for Tyler and as a freshman, has performed really well. He is a ‘stay-at-home’ kind of player although I laugh since he scored on a rebound against Southern Maine last weekend. They have been very good together and the young defensemen have been a strong part of our overall game this season.”

Old or young, the Beacons have found ways as a team to gel and create success on the ice. Just four regular-season games remain in conference play and with rivals Babson and Norwich close behind, the coach isn’t taking anything for granted starting on Friday night with St. Michael’s in Winooski, Vt.

“We set goals at the beginning of the season,” said Belisle. “They are a little more tangible now, but we still have to go out and earn it these next two weekends and into the playoffs. Knowing the obstacles many on this team have overcome to get this far, I am confident of their motivation and determination but am happy to remind them of our stories of perseverance as a driver to goals yet to be reached.”

Robertson eyes WCHA growth, both on the ice and off

WCHA commissioner Bill Robertson (left) says he’d like to see the league get to 12 teams (photo: Bruce Kluckhohn/WCHA).

For WCHA commissioner Bill Robertson, growth of the conference remains the No. 1 priority. So when he watched two of the league’s teams skate toe to toe with the top teams from the west’s other conferences, he was delighted.

Bemidji State and Minnesota State both beat Minnesota, which sits atop the Big Ten, in the North Star College Cup last weekend in St. Paul. They both lost to third-ranked St. Cloud State, which sits a game out of first in the NCHC. The Beavers fell to the Huskies in Sunday’s title game, while the Mavericks were edged in Saturday’s semifinals on a late power-play goal.

“Overall, I was very pleased with the way both Mankato and Bemidji played,” Robertson said. “They represented the WCHA extremely well and proved our conference can play against any Division I conference in college hockey, at any level. To me, it reaffirmed that we have a great league.”

Any success by the league is fodder for Robertson’s promotion of the league elsewhere, whether that’s to potential ticket buyers for this year’s Final Five in Grand Rapids, Mich., to potential partners for future championship weekends or to potential new league members through expansion.

This year’s Final Five, March 18-19, will be the second at the Van Andel Arena. The event was held there two seasons ago following the first season of conference realignment, and ticket sales were slim. Attendance for the Broadmoor Trophy championship game was 3,968, a far cry from a year earlier in St. Paul when 18,782 filled the Xcel Energy Center for the final tournament before realignment.

“We want to make it fan-friendly,” said Robertson, who will travel to Grand Rapids to meet with officials next week. “We’re working really hard on a youth hockey piece. … The building is fantastic, and the town has been very receptive. We just hope that translates into ticket sales.”

Next season, the event will move back to St. Paul, as it did last year when 8,204 was the announced attendance for the championship. Beyond that, Robertson said he and the league are “open to exploring different models.”

That includes combining conference tournaments, something about which he said he’s already spoken to the Big Ten, as well as considering other venues in other cities.

“It will be an overall conference decision,” Robertson said, adding that his goal is to have a plan in place by late summer or early fall.

Another decision Robertson hopes comes this spring or summer is the future of Arizona State. The WCHA has been courting the sport’s newest program, which just completed its first Division I schedule.

“We took a group from the WCHA to Tempe in November to make our pitch,” Robertson said. “I feel like we put our best foot forward as a conference. We’d love to have them, and told them that.”

Robertson said there’s been continual dialogue with Arizona State, and he’s also had “exploratory discussions” with other schools in “the western part of the United States,” that are considering adding college hockey, although he wouldn’t name them.

Robertson said he’d ultimately like to see the WCHA expand to 12 teams, keeping the current 10 in place, with two six-team divisions divided geographically.

Huskies gain ground

Michigan Tech’s Reid Sturos scored on a two-man disadvantage in the Huskies’ win over Bowling Green last Saturday (photo: Rachel Lewis).

Michigan Tech entered its WCHA series at Bowling Green in third place, four points behind the second-place Falcons.

After last weekend, the Huskies are still in third place. But now, after they beat and tied BG in Ohio, the Huskies are just two points back of the Falcons — and, more importantly, just four points back of league-leading Minnesota State.

“This was a gut check for us,” Huskies coach Mel Pearson told the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette. “This was a good win for the boys. … They played a tough, physical series. We did a good job despite the lack of power-play chances.”

Although the Huskies lost a two-goal third-period lead in Friday’s 4-4 tie, they made up for it Saturday in a 4-1 win. Alex Petan scored on the power play and Reid Sturos netted a 5-on-3 short-handed goal after the Falcons took an early 1-0 lead.

Tech has lost just one game away from Houghton since October — a 4-2 neutral-site loss to Michigan in the Great Lakes Invitational. They Huskies are 10-3-4 away from home this season compared to 4-4-1 at home.

The Huskies host Upper Peninsula rivals Lake Superior State, a team from which they took three points in December, for Winter Carnival weekend.

Friday’s game will be the second WCHA game this season broadcast on the American Sports Network.

Ice chips

• The big series of the weekend pits No. 18 Minnesota State against No. 19 Bowling Green in Mankato. The first-place Mavericks hold a two-point lead over the Falcons in the standings. The two teams tied twice — both 2-2 — on Dec. 4-5 at Bowling Green. The series features the top two scoring defensemen in the WCHA in Minnesota State’s Casey Nelson (4-15–19) and Bowling Green’s Mark Friedman (4-13–17).

• Following a split at Alaska-Anchorage, Alabama-Huntsville is 2-3-1 in its last six games. That’s the Chargers’ best stretch since starting the season 3-2-1.

• Alaska-Anchorage will leave its home state for the last time in the regular season when it travels to Northern Michigan. Of the Seawolves’ final six games after that, two series are at home and the last one is at Fairbanks.

• Alaska will play a home series for the first time since Jan. 2-3 when it hosts Ferris State this weekend. The Nanooks are looking for their first home victory since Nov. 6. They’ve gone 0-6-1 at the Carlson Center since then. Including the Ferris State series, six of their final eight games are in Fairbanks.

• Bemidji State showed off some solid special teams play at the North Star College Cup, scoring twice on the power play (once in each game) but, most importantly, holding Minnesota and St. Cloud State to a combined 0-for-4 on the power play. The Beavers have killed off 20 consecutive power plays and have allowed only 10 man-advantage goals all season. Their PK is No. 3 overall nationally at 90.6 percent.

• After a week off, Ferris State will look to extend its five-game unbeaten streak when it plays at Alaska.

• Lake Superior State was off last weekend, so the Lakers have two games in hand over just about everyone in the conference (both the Lakers and Northern Michigan have played 18 games, compared to 20 for the rest of the league). The Lakers are tied for seventh place with Alaska-Anchorage with 16 points. The Lakers will need to improve their offensive output if they want a chance to move up in the standings. After scoring a single goal two weekends ago against Minnesota State, their last-place scoring offense dropped to 1.82 goals per game.

• Northern Michigan hosted Minnesota-Duluth in a nonconference series last weekend in Marquette and did something few WCHA teams have been able to do this season: beat an NCHC team. The Wildcats defeated the Bulldogs 4-3 on Friday. After UMD’s 3-1 win on Saturday, the WCHA’s record against the NCHC is 3-18-2 with two games left.

• This week’s WCHA players of the week were Bemidji State senior forward Markus Gerbrandt (offensive), Minnesota State junior defenseman Casey Nelson (defensive) and Alabama-Huntsville freshman forward Tyler Poulsen (rookie).

• January’s WCHA player of the month was Michigan Tech senior forward Alex Petan. The rookie of the month was Ferris State goaltender Darren Smith.

Wisconsin-Stout senior Useldinger more than just a name for Blue Devils

Wisconsin-Stout senior captain Jake Useldinger is finding his offensive touch this season for the Blue Devils (photo: UW-Stout Athletics).

Jake Useldinger is having quite a season for Wisconsin-Stout.

The senior forward has almost as many goals (8) as he did in his first three years (9) for the Blue Devils and has already matched his assist total from a year ago when he tallied nine.

“I’m having a pretty good year on a personal level,” Useldinger said. “But I’m not really worried about my stats. I’m more focused on doing what I can to help our team win.”

Stout does have a winning record, sporting a 9-8-5 mark through 22 games. The Blue Devils are 1-3-1 in the always-rugged WIAC.

Useldinger said the competition in practice has been instrumental in the team’s success.

“We have a lot of good players on the team and there is a lot more competition for playing time this year,” Useldinger said. “I think it’s helped us become a better team.”

Hard work has made Useldinger a better player. He also tries to bring a lot of energy every time he steps on the ice.

“Having a good work ethic is the most important thing to me,” Useldinger said. “I’m also a high-energy guy and I try to provide a spark to the team.”

Useldinger played junior hockey with the NAHL’s Coulee Region Chill before coming to Stout.

In high school in Minnesota, he was a three-time all-conference selection at East Grand Forks High and ended his career as the program’s all-time leading scorer.

He played in 21 games as a freshman at Stout and saw action in 26 games a year later. Last season was a breakout year as he finished with 17 points, including seven goals.

Getting used to the speed of the game was the biggest adjustment when he first came to Stout.

“The game is definitely a lot faster,” Useldinger said. “But the more I played, the more confident I became. It helped me become a much better player.”

It also took time adapt to life in the WIAC.

“We have one of the best conferences in the country,” Useldinger said. “You have to be ready to play every night. It’s a very competitive conference.”

Stout, on a two-game losing streak, is hoping to finish on a high note. It won’t be easy, though. The regular-season schedule wraps up with two games against No. 12 Wisconsin-River Falls and one game against No. 5 Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

“We just have to go out and play hard and play with confidence,” Useldinger said. “If we do that, we will give ourselves a chance to be successful.”

Pipers back on track

Hamline remained in the mix for a MIAC playoff spot after sweeping Bethel over the weekend. The defending tournament champions topped the Royals 5-4 and 4-0 to improve to 8-9-4 overall and 5-6-1 in the conference. They are currently fifth in the MIAC.

Charlie Adams came through with a hat trick, pushing his league-leading total to 19 goals for the season. His 43 points is the best in NCAA Division III. Teammate Brandon Zurn ranks second in the country in points with 42. Zurn has tallied 16 goals and 26 assists.

John Sellie-Hanson took care of business on the defensive end of the ice, stopping 19 shots en route to his first shutout of the season. He has three shutouts in his career.

Hamline suffered through a six-game winless streak at one point this season, but has won four of its last six to catapult itself back into contention for a playoff berth.

Saints continue streak

St. Scholastica stretched its win streak to four games over the weekend with a pair of wins against Aurora in NCHA action. The Saints topped the Spartans 5-1 and 5-3 in the two games.

In the finale, St. Scholastica scored three goals in the final eight minutes of action to nail down the win.

Dylan Nowakowski helped pave the way as he scored twice and also dished out two assists. Keegan Bruce came through with four assists in Saturday’s game.

Goaltender Peter Megariotis shined in the win as well. He made 12 saves to earn his first collegiate victory. He transferred to St. Scholastica a few weeks ago from Adrian.

Nowakowski leads the team in points (30) ranking second in goals scored (10) and first in assists (20), playing a key role in the success of the team. The Saints have scored 73 goals in all and are 13-4-2 overall and 11-3 in the conference.

Superior play against Stout

Wisconsin-Superior has won two of three and is 2-1 against Stout this season, including a 6-3 victory on Friday. The Yellow Jackets are 7-12-2 overall and 1-3 in the conference. They have scored 57 goals and allowed 68. Ian Ecklund leads Superior in points, having tallied nine goals and 17 assists.

Against Stout, the Yellow Jackets scored two goals in each period en route to the win. Jordan Neduzak scored his sixth goal of the year in the win, while Beau Browning came through with his first collegiate point as he dished out an assist. Anton Svensson tallied his 11th goal of the year.

Cory Simons earned the win in goal, making 29 saves. He is 4-2 on the season.

Best of the West

Adrian is in sole possession of the No. 1 ranking in the USCHO.com Division III Men’s Poll this week, while fellow NCHA team St. Norbert checks in at No. 2. Stevens Point is fifth and Wisconsin-Eau Claire is ninth as the two WIAC powers remain in the top 10. River Falls is 12th, St. Scholastica is ranked 13th and Marian moves into the top 15, sitting at No. 14 this week.

Injuries change the lineup, but North Dakota keeps getting positive results

Brock Boeser got NCHC rookie of the week honors for scoring three times and adding an assist last weekend (photo: Bradley K. Olson).

It hasn’t always been easy to tell who this college hockey season has been tougher on: the North Dakota men’s hockey players or the Fighting Hawks’ training staff.

Injuries to high-profile players have become almost regular problems for UND this season. That hasn’t deterred the Hawks, however, as much as it likely would for most teams.

Earlier this season, with injuries sidelining top two goaltenders Cam Johnson and Matej Tomek — the latter of whom still hasn’t played for UND this season — third-string goaltender Matt Hrynkiw stepped in and kept the Hawks afloat. In 13 games played so far this season, the junior has posted a 9-2-2 record and .908 save percentage.

Johnson has since returned, however, and the sophomore (13-1-1 so far this season) is a big reason why second-ranked UND is three points clear at the top of the NCHC standings. Two months after returning from a groin injury, he came up big again last weekend in a road sweep of Western Michigan despite the Hawks again missing some key pieces.

UND star skaters Drake Caggiula (shoulder) and Nick Schmaltz (lower body) both missed the trip to Kalamazoo, Mich. On Friday, however, the big story on the ice involved Johnson making 31 saves and earning his fifth shutout of the season in a 2-0 win.

Johnson’s play was vital again Saturday night when UND defeated the Broncos 2-1 on goals from freshmen Brock Boeser and Shane Gersich. Johnson racked up 28 saves in the rematch.

UND was without four of the top nine forwards on the Hawks’ roster. Chris Wilkie (arm) and Rhett Gardner (illness) were also out of the lineup against the Broncos.

Another key cog was ruled out during Saturday’s game when standout defenseman Troy Stecher departed in the second period. He is not, however, expected to miss further game action due to an injury picked up Saturday.

Despite all that, the Hawks still got the results they wanted last weekend inside Lawson Ice Arena, one of the toughest places in the NCHC for visiting teams.

“I said to our guys in the locker room that we have a really special group in our team this year,” Hawks coach Brad Berry told reporters after Friday’s game, “to the point where it doesn’t matter who is in the lineup, we find a way to win.

“That goes to our mentality at North Dakota and the players and their character.”

UND will be idle this weekend. It’s a good time for the Hawks to have a bye week, too, with a chance for players to rest up ahead of a trip to No. 13 Denver next weekend.

The Hawks should also be glad for the opportunity to decompress after a tough weekend in Michigan.

“It was a hard-fought battle,” Berry said after UND’s sweep-clinching win Saturday. “We knew that coming in. We talked about how tough it is to win in this building.

“[Western's] a hard, heavy team. They play the right way. They are well-coached. We’re grateful to come out with six points.”

RedHawks keep climbing

Miami’s Taylor Richart (left) blocked eight shots in the RedHawks’ win over Denver last Friday (photo: Bradley K. Olson).

Three weeks ago, Miami sat at 2-8-2-2 in NCHC play and was 22 points behind then-leader St. Cloud State in the league standings.

Since then, things have changed dramatically for the RedHawks. They’re still not a major factor in the race for the NCHC’s regular season championship, but Miami is now tied for fourth place with Omaha and Minnesota-Duluth.

Including one three-on-three overtime victory, Miami has won six of its last eight games. Four consecutive victories were rattled off before the RedHawks fell 5-3 last Saturday at home against Denver.

Confidence is up in the Miami camp. So, too, are the RedHawks’ cohesiveness and sense of drive on the ice.

That made itself apparent, for example, when Miami blocked 43 shots in its two-game set last weekend against Denver, which included a 3-1 win over the Pioneers on Friday.

“For me, blocking shots is an indication that guys are playing for each other and trusting each other,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said this week. “That’s been our focus and what we’ll continue to focus on.

“You’ve got to sacrifice for each other, and I think our guys are doing a pretty good job of that right now.”

Blasi hopes his RedHawks maintain their energy levels this weekend during another tough home test against No. 3 St. Cloud State.

The Huskies will enter Oxford, Ohio, possessing the nation’s second-best offense. St. Cloud State, winner of its last six games, has scored 4.39 goals per outing so far this season.

“I think you have to play good team defense, period, against St. Cloud,” Blasi said. “They’re a high-scoring team and they like to score goals and they score them in bunches, so you’ve got to play good team defense.

“Whether it’s blocking shots or getting sticks in lanes or making sure you’re doing a good job on the backcheck and tracking back and that your exits are clean [and] your entries are clean, all that stuff comes into play when you’re playing a high-skilled team like St. Cloud.”

These two teams have already met twice this season. St. Cloud State outscored Miami a combined 6-1 in a pair of home wins on Oct. 30-31.

Both teams are better now than they were then, and the RedHawks are well aware of what they’re up against this weekend and what Miami itself will have to do to keep up its recent good form.

“You’re probably talking about a top-three team in the country,” Blasi said, “so they possess a lot of weapons and offensively they’re very gifted on four lines, their D corps is as good as anybody in the country and mobile, and they’re very good at dictating the pace of the game and their goaltending is really good.

“Couple all that with good coaching and you’ve got yourself a pretty good team. Our focus again, just like any other weekend, is to play our best hockey and we’ll continue to do that.”

NCHC players of the week

Offensive player of the week — Mikey Eyssimont, St. Cloud State: The freshman from suburban Denver had the best weekend of his young collegiate career. Eyssimont picked up three goals and two assists last weekend while helping the Huskies capture the North Star College Cup title as Minnesota’s de facto state champion.

Defensive player of the week — Andy Welinski, Minnesota-Duluth: The senior blueliner picked up a goal and two assists in a road split last weekend against Northern Michigan. Welinski also helped the Bulldogs kill all six of the Wildcats’ power plays.

Rookie of the week — Brock Boeser, North Dakota: Boeser had a hand in all four of UND’s goals last weekend in a sweep at Western Michigan. The forward racked up three goals and an assist and collected the game-winning goals in both games.

Goaltender of the week — Cam Johnson, North Dakota: Johnson gave up only one goal in two games against Western and posted a .983 save percentage for the weekend. Fifty-nine of the Broncos’ 60 shots against the Fighting Hawks didn’t cross the goal line.

Criscuolo, Dylewski, Murray, Richardson, Rolandelli named finalists for 2016 Hockey Humanitarian Award

A new version of the BNY Mellon Wealth Management Hockey Humanitarian Award debuted in 2015 (photo: Jim Rosvold).

Five senior players have been named finalists for the 2016 BNY Mellon Wealth Management Hockey Humanitarian Award.

They are: Harvard forward Kyle Criscuolo, Air Force goaltender Chris Dylewski, Babson goaltender Jamie Murray, Cornell defenseman Morgan Richardson and Brown defenseman Allison Rolandelli.

Presented since 1996, the award honors college hockey’s finest citizen, with nominations open to men’s and women’s players from Divisions I, II and III.

The 2016 recipient will be named at the Frozen Four in Tampa, Fla., on April 8.

Here are the biographies of the finalists, courtesy of the Hockey Humanitarian Award Foundation:

Kyle Criscuolo, Harvard senior forward, Southampton, N.J.

Senior co-captain Kyle Criscuolo has been everything Harvard Hockey could ask for in a leader. The New Jersey native is among the top point scorers on the team and he has been successful in the classroom, receiving the 2015 ECAC Student-Athlete of the Year award. His leadership carries over into the Harvard and Boston communities as well. He has led Harvard Hockey through a number of community service initiatives during his career. Included in those initiatives are the Making Strides Count Program, his organization of a volunteer day at the Cristo Rey School, programs with the Special Olympics, hosting learn-to-skate programs in conjunction with the One Summit organization, banding a team for the annual Boston Wiffle Ball Challenge for charity and his early morning efforts at the Y2Y homeless shelter in Cambridge. All of this has also made him a candidate for the Senior CLASS Award.

Chris Dylewski, Air Force senior goaltender, Colorado Springs, Colo.

A senior goaltender, Chris Dylewski’s contributions to the Air Force Academy and the Colorado Springs community are unparalleled. He founded a non-profit company, RISE, Inc., whose mission is to develop the skills needed for ethical and inspirational leadership. Chris has travelled to Juarez, Mexico to assist with building a home in an intensely impoverished area, providing much-needed housing for four families. Chris took the lead on working with a young boy, Jason, who suffers from a rare skeletal disease. In part due to these efforts, Chris recently became a recipient of the prestigious Spirit of the Springs Award, presented by the mayor of Colorado Springs. He founded two cadet clubs – Operation Safe and the Genocide and Mass Atrocity Awareness Club – and was instrumental in arranging for the Wounded Warrior sled hockey team to practice at the Academy’s Cadet Ice Arena.

Jamie Murray, Babson senior goaltender, Scituate, Mass.

Murray founded the Cure For Cole Wiffle Ball Tournament to benefit his neighbor who was diagnosed with Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis as a child. The tournament has attracted over 1,110 competitors and raised more than $31,000 over the last six years. In 2013, he organized Roller Hockey to Remember following the Boston Marathon tragedy. This event has raised close to $10,000 while supporting the One Fund and a pair of charities with ties to family and alumni of the Babson hockey program. Murray also helped run a memorial hockey tournament for his late friend Patrick Falaro in April 2014 that raised $8,200 for Scituate Recreation and the Pine Street Inn homeless shelter. A two-time All-America selection and the 2015 Joe Concannon Award winner, Murray carries a 3.61 grade-point average and is a two-time Hockey Humanitarian Award finalist.

Morgan Richardson, Cornell senior defenseman, Ottawa

In addition to being a leader on the Cornell blue line, Richardson has been making her mark on the greater hockey community and beyond. After her sister Daron tragically took her own life in 2010 at the age of 14, Richardson and her family founded Do It For Daron (DIFD), an organization dedicated to promoting mental health awareness, particularly in youth. Richardson has been instrumental in the cause’s growth throughout the hockey world, with teams at every level – from youth to college to professional – hosting their own DIFD events and donning the cause’s recognizable purple heart. Dedicated to ending the stigma around free and open discussion of mental health, DIFD has raised over $4 million since its founding, and Richardson has assisted in distributing the funds to a number of mental health awareness programs throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Allison Rolandelli, Brown senior defenseman, Minnetonka, Minn.

To honor her mother, who lost her battle with cancer in 2014, Rolandelli has sought various ways to help cancer patients. She was a driving force in the effort to amend compliance regulations so that NCAA student-athletes have the right to participate with Love Your Melon, a student-founded apparel brand that not only gives hats to children battling cancer but also funds research and provides support for in-treatment children and their families. Rolandelli organizes visits with children at homes and hospitals, building relationships by playing games and socializing to take their minds off of the illness. For the past four years, Rolandelli has been volunteering weekly at an elementary school, interacting with first graders by helping them with schoolwork and sharing her experiences as a student and athlete. Within hockey, Rolandelli has volunteered as a skating coach the past two years, working with children and adults with developmental disabilities.

The Hockey Humanitarian Award Foundation will make a donation to the charity most important to each finalist.

U.S. College Hockey Online has been a Hockey Humanitarian Award media and marketing partner since 2007.

Hockey Humanitarian nominee Loebs making college more than books and athletics at St. Michael’s

St. Michael’s senior Emily Loebs has put together a solid career with the Purple Knights, on and off the ice, and has her future planned out post-graduation (photo: James Buck).

Emily Loebs is a true humanitarian in every sense of the word.

Yet even as the St. Michael’s senior is the lone Division II or Division III women’s player nominated for the prestigious Hockey Humanitarian Award, she deflected the attention elsewhere.

“I am beyond honored to have even been nominated for this award,” said Loebs. “It is really cool to be the only D-II women’s player, which is surprising, though, because I know of a lot of people on this campus alone that I could think of that have done some amazing things.”

One of 18 nominees for the honor, Loebs said to win the award would render her speechless.

“It would all be because of the people around me,” Loebs said. “I am so grateful for their help and support along the way, because I sure couldn’t have done any of what I’ve done without the people I have met and worked with the past four years. Whether it is professors who have supported and respected me as a two-sport athlete and understanding my determination to succeed in the classroom, or mentors who have pushed me to get involved and give back in so many different ways, I honestly don’t know where I would be.”

A defenseman and captain on the ice, Loebs also plays for the Purple Knights’ lacrosse team; while away from athletics, she is heavily involved on campus.

Loebs is serving her second year as the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee president and she also sits on the Athletic Advisory Council, Hall of Fame Board, and Senior Gift Committee.

“Within SAAC alone, we partner with Special Olympics and Make-A-Wish, as well as smaller local programs such as a pen pal program that we started this fall and a partnership with Woodside, which is a correctional facility for juveniles,” explained Loebs. “SAAC has given me an outlet to really go above and beyond my comfort level in both the managing of people, running meetings off agendas, and working with a number of different people.”

The native of Acton, Mass., also went through the Purple Knight Leadership Academy and was a student representative on the search committee for the school’s new AD last year.

“Both were experiences that truly pushed my comfort level through the experiences,” said Loebs. “Through these experiences, as well as the numerous volunteer experiences directly with both teams, I feel like I have grown to value giving back and reaching out to the local community. Whether it be spending a few hours at an Alzheimer’s nursing home painting with patients, coaching young girls and boys for hockey, or cheering on the Special Olympics basketball team for hours during a tournament, seeing the smiles and impact that one can leave is something I wouldn’t trade for anything.”

Loebs added that being more than a student and an athlete is part of who she is, and it will pay off in the long run.

“For me, being well rounded is beyond important because the reality is I will not be playing sports forever,” said Loebs. “Getting involved with the community, learning how to work in large and small groups, but mainly learning how to meet, communicate and make a difference in other people’s lives is something I have valued learning how to do.”

Now in the home stretch of her college career, Loebs can still remember her first day she set foot on campus.

“It is crazy that I am already a senior,” said Loebs. “I feel like I was just moving in and so nervous about whether I would make the team and what college would be like. The typical ‘It goes by so fast, enjoy it’ has become more apparent as I have gotten older and I wish I appreciated it as much as my upperclassmen had once told me to.”

Choosing to make SMC her college of choice was an easy decision some four years ago for Loebs.

“What initially attracted me to St. Mike’s was definitely the community and how amazing the people are up here,” said Loebs. “Being able to feel comfortable my first minute on campus was something I wasn’t expecting. Also, I was really drawn to the amount of opportunity that was presented to me in terms of my studies, extracurriculars, as well as the opportunity to try to play both hockey and lacrosse here.

“I have met some truly remarkable people here throughout my four years and continue to be amazed every day with the people around me. Creating and holding onto relationships is really not the easiest thing, especially in college. I have been fortunate to have my best friends around me also be my teammates and support me in my efforts with both teams and everything else that I do.”

Like most seniors, Loebs said when she looks back on her time spent at St. Michael’s, she realizes how much she has matured as a person and as an athlete.

“When I think back and assess my four years at SMC, I think a lot about how much I have grown not only as an athlete, but as a person as well,” said Loebs. “That is definitely a focus here, to really develop athletes into well-rounded people who will be able to make a difference after graduation. On the ice, I think I have grown into a confident player and leader. To be honest, I can’t think of any hockey highlights. I just go out trying to play consistent and be a team player. If I had to pick a highlight out, I guess I would say my first collegiate goal, which was the last game of my freshman year against Manhattanville. I remember it was on the power play, a shot from the point.”

This season, the Purple Knights are just 3-14-1 and 1-10-0 in the NEHC, with home games on tap this weekend against No. 10 Castleton and New England College.

“It has been a tough season so far, but I think going forward with a positive outlook is my plan,” Loebs said. “I sometimes have to ask myself why I started playing hockey and it used to always be because of the love of the game. As you mature and get older and more involved, sometimes I feel like this is pushed away and forgotten, so I really am trying to play because of the love of the game. That will make everything happen that needs to happen.”

And what got that ball rolling? A simple email.

“Coach (Chris Donovan) emailed us a great article that sums up what I hope I can do my last semester here — to focus on how I can serve the team on and off the ice,” noted Loebs. “It does no good to focus on what I can get and take away from my experiences, but I want to be remembered and leave a legacy in this service way.”

Once graduation takes place and the “real world” opens up for Loebs, she already has a plan in place.

A psychology major with minors in accounting and business administration, Loebs originally wanted to pursue a career in the FBI, but is now looking at the finance industry. She has a job lined up with the professional development program at State Street in Boston.

“Finance has a competitive and fast-paced environment, which is definitely where I thrive,” said Loebs. “The one thing I know for sure is that I am a people person and want to be in a career in which I am surrounded by people and constantly challenged to better myself and those around me. I have really enjoyed sports psychology throughout my education, so if I go directly anywhere with psychology, it would definitely be connected with athletics. For me, psychology is all about understanding people, and in most jobs, you work with all sorts of different kinds of people.”

Yes, even humanitarians.

Giving prose a break

Late in the season, teams get a little stale. Writers do too. In my case, I was probably stale long before the Ivies got started, but enough about me.

Teams have three weeks left in the seasons of a handful, a month for most, and for a lucky quartet, seven more weeks. For just a quick glimpse at where each team is in its league standings, let’s turn to poetry, and I’m using that term loosely. As each league has its own personality, we’ll choose a different style for each conference.

ECAC
The oldest of the leagues deserves a classic form. You know — one that rhymes and maybe even has some sort of meter. Okay, probably just rhymes. Poetic-license style rhyming. Note that we’re not talking Shakespeare here. Nor Poe. Nor Dickinson. Or even Dr. Seuss.

Quinnipiac
January scampered right past
Without a hint of disaster.
The victories keep coming fast
And expectations rise faster.
A league title looks in the bag;
Can we peek ahead to the dance?
The Bobcats aren’t likely to brag,
But they must feel they’ve got a chance.

Clarkson
Those winter nights can be brutal.
They’re typically long, dark and cold.
Once the calendar flips into March,
Our thoughts turn to Knights that are Gold.

Colgate
The Raiders have won sixteen times
Despite sometimes blowing the lead.
Mick said you can’t get what you want,
But if you try, get what you need.

Princeton
The Tigers on a report card
Definitely get a high grade.
Yet one gets a sense their season
Totters on the edge of a blade.

Harvard
The season could have been better,
It’s had silver linings at least.
The Crimson won’t catch the Bobcats,
But BC plays in Hockey East.

St. Lawrence
The Saints are tricky to predict
Year to year, game to game, as well.
Can’t always know where they’re going,
But they’ll have great stories to tell.

Yale
The season, it sure started rough.
Triumphs, precious, yet all too few.
Just didn’t play Brown quite enough,
But remember, they knocked off “Q!”

Rensselaer
Selander’s done wonders in Troy.
She’s given the Engineers hope.
But no goals are coming from Wash,
Maybe she slipped on the soap?

Cornell
Cornell had a run at the top,
I’m not saying it’s over yet.
But life was easier back when,
That trio put pucks in the net.

Dartmouth
Skating out to defeat Harvard,
A promising start to be sure.
Who could have known in October
How quickly it’d turn to manure.

Brown
When it comes to granting wishes,
It would work out better for Brown,
If planning a comeback season
The Bears didn’t start so far down.

Union
Would one win be too much to dream?
Sweetness to hold through the summer.
Evidently, so it would seem
Sometimes, life can be a bummer.

Hockey East
The newest of the leagues — it might not seem that way, but it is — would seem to be best suited to free verse.

Boston College
Alexander the Great
wept with no more worlds to conquer
will that be the destiny of a modern Alex?
all other tears would seem to be of joy

Northeastern
One last Coyne
precious, spend wisely
yet to purchase treasure
will exact a higher price than one alone can pay

Boston University
She is not coming back this time
you are the cavalry
you are the magic wand waiting to be waved
it’s your blade that must carve the path to greatness

Connecticut
last
tied for fifth
fifth
fourth!
how to move higher when the barriers appear so steep
they who hold these perches glare menacingly
at any who would dare to move amongst them
banish such thoughts and climb

New Hampshire
we were that team
decades ago, the team that all knew as champion
even recently, your defeat was inevitable should we skate onto your ice
is it still within us
can we still crush dreams with a flick of a stick
let’s find out

Providence
Yeah.
That.

Vermont
some of us remember
the joy of that lone playoff win
three OTs
so tired, so, so tired
but so alive
oh to feel such pain again

Maine
journeys are composed of single steps
many single steps, each following the one before
yes, it would hasten the journey
if all the steps were in the right direction

Merrimack
endless, it seemed endless
at least at times it did
look how far we’ve come
I don’t recognize our reflection anymore
we stand straighter
place our sticks on the faceoff dot with more authority
skate into the corners with less trepidation
in a year, two years
the thought brings a smile
but we’ve farther to go on this journey that now doesn’t seem that long

CHA
This wacky circuit calls for a good limerick. Would you settle for a half-dozen not-so-good limericks?

Mercyhurst
The team from Erie, Pa.
Always wins at the end of the day.
Though they seldom do score
And aren’t ranked anymore
A title’s just six games away.

Syracuse
The Orange came oh so near
With an overtime loss last year.
Just one more snipe;
No one will gripe.
And the banner can hang over here.

Robert Morris
The weeks just keep ticking past.
The Colonials have had a blast.
Though young they could shock,
Be the kids of the block,
As long as they don’t play half fast.

Penn State
In ’15 they got through one round,
But an encore couldn’t be found.
‘Lions need scoring,
Can’t be so boring.
To have a shot to be crowned.

Lindenwood
With Hensley stationed in net
The Lions won’t be done yet.
If Jasper can tally,
The whole team will cele’
As they pull the latest upset.

RIT
Is McDonald planning a theft
To leave his opponents bereft?
“Ain’t no way!” they all sing,
Though they sang it last spring.
The trophy Tigers surely did heft.

WCHA
For the league found closest to the Pacific, let’s borrow an art form found in an island nation on the far side of the ocean. (And for those who wish to point out some flaw in my attempted Tanka, remember that I’m a sports columnist and lower your expectations.)

Wisconsin
Badgers rule their league
many ask varied questions
Desbiens says “No”
only Fighting Hawks a threat
future omen for Eagles?

Minnesota
Gophers are trailing
breathing Wisconsin’s exhaust
unable to pass
though adding Kessel — thrilling,
team defense must improve

North Dakota
the most intriguing
of the teams on the bubble,
highs are very high
but with regularity
these Hawks fly low, lacking fight

Bemidji State
one bite at a time
the Beavers labor away
the tree soon topples
of late the sturdiest wood
proves to be impervious

St. Cloud State
Huskies climb higher
than most would have expected
well done Fitzgerald
and Illikainen as well
avoid the thaw’s avalanche

Minnesota-Duluth
who starts in the net?
what to do while first line rests?
Bulldogs face riddles
staff sorts possibilities
while the days pass swiftly by

Ohio State
Buckeyes find offense
last four games bring 20 goals
now comes sterner test
a squad that has yet to yield
as many in its season

Minnesota State
Mavericks don’t beat
WCHA foes
keep eye on Tigers
store up your league victories
for automatic bid time

A familiar matchup for the Beanpot, and Maine takes a step forward

Miles Wood and Boston College have a win and a tie against Boston University already this season (photo: Melissa Wade).

In the shock of the century, Boston College and Boston University will face off against each other next Monday in the Beanpot championship game.

With the rotating schedule of semifinal opponents, a BC-BU title matchup is impossible every third year because the two archrivals face each other in the opening round. But the track record of these two schools in this tournament is jaw-dropping. BU will be appearing in its 28th championship game in the last 33 years. BC will be appearing in its ninth in the last 11, and will be shooting for its seventh title in the last 10.

Not since 1993 has a team other than BU or BC won the ‘Pot.

1993!

The two teams played their league home-and-home series three weekends ago, with BC taking three of four points. But in the closing minutes BU gave up the game-winner one night and the game-tying goal the next. So it was a weekend of what-might-have-been for the Terriers.

The Eagles have, without question, enjoyed the better season so far, posting an 18-4-4 overall record and a first-place standing in Hockey East with a 10-1-4 mark, compared to BU’s 15-7-4 and 8-4-3.

That said, BU coach David Quinn waxed optimistic about his team following the Terriers’ 3-1 win over Northeastern.

“These guys are getting older [and] they’re starting to understand what it takes to have success,” he said. “We’ve played in some big games. The games at Quinnipiac and Yale were real tough. The game at Madison Square Garden against Cornell in front of 19,000 people, it kind of forces you to grow up in a hurry.

“These kids work hard and do a great job. We thought it was going to be a matter of time, and they certainly have grown up in the last few months.”

The Terriers are the defending Beanpot champions. Last year, they broke BC’s streak of five straight ‘Pots (not to mention their own uncharacteristic back-to-back and three-years-of-four last-place finishes).

The edge on paper goes to Boston College, but this one should have fans holding their breath to the final buzzer.

Maine shooting up the standings

Maine climbed the standings with a sweep at Massachusetts (photo: Shelley M. Szwast).

It was just a few weeks ago that the once-proud Maine Black Bears resided in the Hockey East cellar. The fact wasn’t that shocking since Maine was picked in the preseason to finish 10th in the league.

Still, for those who recall the program’s past stature as a perennial national contender and Hockey East powerhouse, seeing Maine at the bottom of the standings had a decidedly unnatural look to it.

Well, you can forget about that now. The Black Bears, who had been 0-for-the-season on the road, traveled to Massachusetts and swept both games. Equipped with those four points, they’ve shot up in the standings to a tie for ninth place and, even more significantly, just two points out of sixth and a home-ice berth for the opening round of the playoffs.

“Obviously, getting four points was enormous for our players and our program,” Maine coach Red Gendron says. “We moved up in the standings, but it’s pretty tight. There’s not a lot separating No. 12 from No. 6.

“So it was great that we did what we did, but we can forget about that now. On to the next step.”

Perhaps most promising, other than the four points, was that Maine, which still ranks as the league’s weakest team in offense and on the power play, scored five goals both nights.

“More than anything else, it’s good for the confidence of the players,” Gendron says. “We’ve generated lots of opportunities. If you look at things like shots on goal, we’re pretty even [with our opponents] throughout the season.

“If you took that further, you’d say Maine should be a .500 hockey team based on hockey analytics. We all know that hockey analytics isn’t a panacea. There are plenty of things that weigh into the outcome of the games. But the bottom line is that our players have the opportunity to get some confidence.

“The weekend before, in one of the two games against BU, we scored a couple power-play goals. So in the last four games we’ve scored four power-play goals, so that’s a positive.

“And then we added a short-handed goal by Blaine Byron, which is his fifth short-handed goal in the last two years.

“Being effective on special teams is a big positive.”

While none of the Maine freshmen has put up big numbers as of yet, Gendron remains optimistic in that regard.

“We like the young players that we have an awful lot, whether they’ve had good numbers or not,” he says. “In this second half-year, I’m starting to see great improvement.

“We started the season 0-8-3. Since that time we’ve been 7-7-3. That’s not great; I’m not excited about that. But the point is we’ve gotten better as a hockey team since a very, very difficult start. That’s just the truth of it.”

The challenge will be to keep that positive momentum going with the next four games coming against Providence and Notre Dame.

“It’s really very simple,” Gendron says. “We’ve played well enough to win a lot more games than we’ve won. But we’re not the type of team that can afford to be deficient in one area of our game, or to have three or four players not play at or near their optimum performance levels.

“The margin for error is relatively slim for our hockey team. It’s something we know, accept and embrace. That’s basically our approach. We have to play our game, and play all phases of it very well, offensively, defensively and on special teams. And the individual players all have to do what they do well.”

There has been steady erosion in Maine’s attendance numbers at Alfond over the past few years, but the Black Bears still average close to 4,000 fans per game and undoubtedly have a loyal and fanatical core group.

“I think the fan support has been very good considering we’re not winning all that much,” Gendron says. “There is a core of Maine fans that come no matter what, and our students, when they’re on campus, they come.

“The bottom line is the foundational fan support at Maine is extremely strong. As we evolve as a program and win more consistently, I guarantee that it’s going to be tough to get a ticket at the Alfond again.”

Supporting a new D-I program

While fans would arguably prefer to be watching their team play standard rivals or nationally ranked nonconference opponents, Hockey East’s three games this past weekend against new Division I program Arizona State were a very good thing for the sport.

The results were not close — Massachusetts-Lowell won 4-1 and 8-1, and Merrimack thumped the Sun Devils 10-0 — but for now, that’s not the point.

“It’s very important that college hockey embraces new teams,” Lowell coach Norm Bazin says. “[Arizona State] is taking time to experience a lot of different leagues. [ASU coach Greg Powers] is giving his kids experience in a lot of different leagues, and he is giving them valuable life experience.

“They are going to become a force very quickly. … They are a first-year program, but they work really hard and it showed through their intensity and aggressive style of play the entire weekend.”

Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy added his own words of praise, first noting that the Sun Devils had to play three nights in a row, and on the road no less, to face his team, which had been off on Saturday.

“I’d like to thank Coach Powers and Arizona State for playing three in a row,” he said. “I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. I’d also like to welcome Arizona State to Division I hockey. It’s great for college hockey.”

A statistical oddity

As noted by Scott Weighart in his recap of Boston University’s Friday night 4-0 win over Merrimack, goaltender Sean Maguire was credited with neither the shutout nor even the win despite making 27 saves.

Just 77 seconds into the game, Maguire’s left skate blade popped out, and he had to be replaced by Connor LaCouvee until he got his equipment back in order. Just before Maguire reentered the game, Robbie Baillargeon scored the first goal of the night, and it stood up as the game winner.

That meant LaCouvee picked up the win for making one save in less than six minutes of action.

According to Quinn, however, it was a bit of deferred justice for LaCouvee.

“We were actually joking about that,” Quinn said after the game. “I realized it when we were walking around shaking hands.

“Connor got dealt a bad hand a couple of times last year. We put him in at New Hampshire when we were down 3-0, and they scored right away to make it 4-0. Then we scored three goals to make it 4-3, and he got a loss. That happened a couple of times last year.”

What makes Maguire’s bad luck even more notable is the nature of the equipment problem that did him in.

“I’ve never seen that,” BU goalie coach Mike Geragosian said. “I’ve never seen a goalie lose a blade in the middle of game and not have a whistle either. Today, the blades are interchangeable on the new skates, so you can lose a blade now.”

Quotes of note

Northeastern coach Jim Madigan on his Huskies failing to advance in the Beanpot:

“I’m disappointed for our seniors who have never had an opportunity to win this tournament. It’s a great tournament. To not be able to walk away with a championship is a disappointment after getting to three Beanpot finals. It would’ve been nice to get to a fourth this year. But as I said to our kids, we’re going to have to use this as a platform moving forward.”

For Boston College, backup goaltender Ian Milosz’s injury forced the desperation move of dressing team manager Chuck Van Kula to fill in for Monday night’s Beanpot semifinal game.

“It’s either [Van Kula] or me,” BC coach Jerry York said.

Denna

I mentioned in this space two weeks ago about the Bruins fundraiser for Denna Laing, who suffered a terrible spinal cord injury in the first-ever Women’s Winter Classic held at Gillette Stadium. The auction for those game-worn jerseys, however, might have been beyond your financial reach.

There’s now a way to help in whatever way you can. Please go to dennalaing.org for information.

Go Denna!

Contributing: Scott Weighart, Michael Flanagan and Mathew Galvao

Kessel officially back with Minnesota women’s team

Minnesota’s Amanda Kessel is back for her final semester of NCAA eligibility. She last played in 2012-13 (photo: Ryan Coleman/d3photography.com).

After first being reported by the Grand Forks Herald back on Jan. 12, two-time All-American and 2013 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner Amanda Kessel has officially returned to the Minnesota women’s team for the remainder of the 2015-16 season.

Kessel last played for the Gophers during the 2012-13 season, during which Minnesota recorded a perfect 41-0-0 mark and won its fifth national title. She took a redshirt year in 2013-14 to represent the United States at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games and then missed the 2014-15 season while recovering from a concussion.

The 2015-16 season marks her final year of eligibility.

“We’re excited to have Amanda returning to the lineup,” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said in a statement. “Her recovery and overall health have always been most important, and we weren’t sure if she would have the opportunity to play college hockey again. Knowing that Amanda and the team of doctors working with her have determined she is healthy and ready to resume playing is certainly great news. She has always been a part of our program, and we’re happy she has a chance to finish out her college career on the ice along with completing her coursework and getting her degree this spring.”

“I’m so happy to be playing hockey again,” Kessel added. “I’m not suffering from any concussion symptoms, and I’ve been evaluated by a number of physicians who have cleared me to play. I feel great, and I’m looking forward to being back on the ice with my teammates on game day.

“Sometimes difficult things happen in life, and they only make you stronger. It was extremely challenging, but I did everything I could to get healthy. I’m grateful for everyone who helped and supported me throughout the difficult times. I wouldn’t be in this position without them. I cannot wait to be back out there doing what I love to do while representing the University of Minnesota.”

Legendary Army coach Jack Riley ‘lived a great life,’ dies at 95

JACK RILEY

JACK RILEY (photo: Army Athletics)

U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer and former Army head coach Jack Riley passed away on Wednesday afternoon on Cape Cod, surrounded by his family and friends.

He was 95.

“Our family is saddened by the passing of our father,” said current Army head coach Brian Riley in a statement. “He lived a great life and although he is known as a hockey coach to many people, he was a great husband, father, grandfather and friend to all. My brothers, sister and I were especially grateful to have been able to call him dad and have had a wonderful and caring father for all these years.”

Army’s all-time winningest coach, Riley compiled a 542-343-20 record during his 36-year career at the Black Knights’ helm. He retired in 1986 as the second-winningest college hockey head coach in NCAA history and currently ranks 18th on the list. Riley was a member of the Army Sports Hall of Fame inaugural class of 2004.

Riley was named the NCAA Coach of the Year in 1957 and 1960, guided Army to 29 winning seasons and led the Black Knights to a school-record 28 victories during the 1983-84 campaign. His Army teams reached postseason play nine times.

“The three most important things to our father was family, serving his country as a Navy pilot and coaching at West Point,” Brian Riley added. “Interacting with and coaching the cadets over the years is what made West Point his dream job.”

Riley served as head coach of the United States Olympic team in 1960 and directed the squad to its first gold medal. A two-time winner of the Lester Patrick Award (1986, 2002), presented for outstanding service to U.S. hockey, Riley was elected to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1979. He was also inducted into International Hockey Hall of Fame in 1998.

Services will be announced by the family at a later time.

Big Ten suspensions indicate a disturbing trend of violence

Ohio State’s Josh Healey has been suspended twice by the Big Ten this season (photo: Rachel Lewis).

There’s something new this season in Big Ten hockey, and it’s a disturbing trend. In a word, it’s violence.

Since the start of the 2015-16 season, the Big Ten has handed out 12 supplementary disciplines, nine of them in incidents that have occurred in conference games. Here’s the list:

• Penn State freshman forward Andrew Sturtz, an additional one-game suspension following Penn State’s 6-3 loss to Michigan last Saturday.

• Wisconsin junior forward Jedd Soleway, an additional game following Wisconsin’s 4-3 win over Alaska last Friday.

• Wisconsin junior forward Aidan Cavallini, an additional game following Wisconsin’s 9-2 loss to Minnesota on Jan. 23.

• Wisconsin senior defenseman Eddie Wittchow, an additional game for the same contest against Minnesota.

• Ohio State junior defenseman Josh Healey, an additional two games following Ohio State’s 5-1 win over Penn State on Jan. 23.

• Michigan sophomore forward Dexter Dancs, an additional game following Michigan’s 8-6 win over Ohio State on Jan. 17.

• Michigan sophomore defenseman Cutler Martin, an additional two games for the same contest against OSU.

• Michigan junior defenseman Michael Downing, an additional two games following Michigan’s 3-2 loss to Minnesota on Dec. 12.

• Michigan sophomore defenseman Niko Porikos, an additional game for a play in the same game against Minnesota.

• Penn State senior forward Eric Scheid, an additional game following Penn State’s 6-1 win over Michigan State on Dec. 5.

• Minnesota junior defenseman Nick Seeler, an additional one-game game following Minnesota’s 7-4 loss to St. Cloud State on Nov. 29.

• OSU’s Healey, an additional game following Ohio State’s 6-4 win over Canisius on Nov. 14.

I knew the moment I saw Sturtz hit Tyler Motte in the third period of Saturday’s game that it warranted additional discipline, but unlike the enormous fight that erupted at the end of the Ohio State-Michigan game — the one in which Martin punched OSU’s Brendon Kearney several times in the head while Kearney was already laid out on the ice with an official on top of him — I’m still not certain that Sturtz’s hit was malicious in its intent.

When I saw Sturtz’s hit live, I knew that Motte would be injured and the collision certainly looked awful enough. Upon reviewing the play repeatedly, though, I’m not sure that Sturtz went into Motte with intent to harm. It looked to me as though he was trying to turn his body away to brace for the impact, and his elbow was down when he made contact. Also, while one foot was off the ice, I don’t think he launched himself into Motte, and it also looked as though he was trying to keep his skate away from Motte when they collided.

In his weekly news conference, Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said that he understood that the additional penalty was assessed correctly but that he didn’t believe that Sturtz was trying to injure Motte.

“You see what the result was,” said Gadowsky, “and you can’t argue the suspension, but I hope everybody knows that Andrew was trying to get out of the way. He wasn’t trying to go and hit him.”

I know the argument can be made that Sturtz intended to injure Motte, from evidence both visual and circumstantial. The video shows a violent collision and Sturtz did skate toward Motte for sure. Motte is also Michigan’s leading goal scorer (22-13–35) and part of a line that is stymieing every team in the league. In fact, Motte scored the final two goals of Saturday’s game after returning to the ice.

Here’s the thing, though: Even if Sturtz’s hit had no malice behind it, it was still violent. In fact, the ferocity of that collision is even more disturbing if Sturtz wasn’t targeting Motte, because it means that we may be seeing a generation of players who do not quite understand how easy the damage can be done in the sport they play.

I’m not alone in thinking this. Earlier this year, Michael McCarthy wrote a column for the Vancouver Sun in which he addressed what he perceives as the growing problem of violence in Canadian hockey. McCarthy’s focus was on the play of Team Canada in the IIHF World Junior Championship tournament. This year’s Canadian team bowed out before the medal round, and McCarthy pointed to undisciplined play as part of the problem.

“We may not be the best anymore,” McCarthy wrote, “but we sure are tough. Also stupid.”

McCarthy argued that the tough style of hockey that he’s seeing in Canada stems directly from how kids are coached. “There is a reason for this violent play. It is coached and encouraged at the junior levels all across Canada, just as it has been for decades.”

Ironically, McCarthy also writes, “You don’t see that in American college hockey.”

It’s true that American college hockey doesn’t encourage violence, and it’s also true that the coaches of suspended players understand the need for the supplemental discipline.

Last week, Ohio State’s Steve Rohlik told OSU’s The Lantern that he has a lot of respect for Steve Piotrowski, the head of officiating for the Big Ten. “I’ve got a lot of respect for the Big Ten and doing what’s best for the game of hockey,” said Rohlik. “We respect that and their decision.”

After Dancs and Martin were suspended, Michigan’s coach Red Berenson told The Michigan Daily that the two needed to take responsibility for their actions. “Our team doesn’t condone that,” said Berenson. “We don’t teach that. We expect players to play with emotion, but to play with discipline.”

The suspensions of Dancs and Martin followed the brawl that erupted when the game between the Buckeyes and Wolverines ended Jan. 17. It was crazy. One push at the sound of the buzzer led to mayhem and a total of 112 penalty minutes assessed for the entire game. “When the whistle goes or the horn goes, the game is over,” Berenson told The Michigan Daily. “I can’t speak for the other team, but that’s not how we play. I’m disappointed, but if we got suspended, then we deserve it.”

What’s happening in Big Ten hockey? It’s not a matter of a penalty-happy league, as the Big Ten is responding absolutely properly to the incidents in question. Most of these incidents involve hits to the head. Many are intentional. Some stem from the heat of the moment and impassioned play, but that can hardly account for the degree of violence in these incidents.

Can it be that the number of violent penalties has risen during Big Ten league play because of the frustration level associated with the current season? As McCarthy argues about the Canadians in his columns, are Big Ten players making up for less success with more violence? In some individual cases, this seems to make no sense — players taking such penalties in games that they’re winning handily or have already won, for example — but could it be an overall reaction to a league that isn’t performing as it should as a whole?

For the most part, players who find themselves on college teams are not coached to violence throughout their lives. Are they being taught, however, to respect how violent the game can be, how dangerous merely playing the sport can be, dangerous to themselves and others around them? That’s what really disturbs me about Sturtz’s hit on Motte. I don’t think Sturtz intended to hurt Motte. I’m not sure, though, that Sturtz fully understood what such a collision could do — and I do not believe that this is Sturtz’s fault. If players are being brought up without a sense of respect for how hard this game can be in the physical sense, that may be one factor contributing to the increasing number of genuinely violent hits — even unintentionally violent hits — that we’re seeing in Big Ten hockey and across college hockey this year.

And all of this comes on the heels of John Scott’s experience. As you probably know, Scott is this year’s NHL All-Star Game MVP after being voted to the team initially as a joke. The drive by fans to have Scott, a known enforcer, named to the All-Star team was so distasteful to the NHL itself that the league tried to prevent Scott from playing in the game. When he was named to the All-Star team, Scott was traded from the Arizona Coyotes to the Montreal Canadiens, who immediately sent him down to the St. John’s IceCaps of the AHL in an attempt to prevent him from playing in the All-Star game. The NHL relented, though, and Scott played.

Scott, who played four seasons with Michigan Tech (2003-06), wrote eloquently about this recent experience in a piece called A Guy Like Me. In his account, he said he never set out to be an enforcer. While Scott had a lot of penalty minutes at Michigan Tech, after reading his story, you realize that his appearance in the All-Star Game wasn’t a reward for a career filled with physical altercations but the reward for him being the kind of coachable role player upon which the NHL is built.

Also when you read Scott’s story, you know that he understands what and who he is and that he has an awareness of the role he plays and a respect for the game and his colleagues all throughout the NHL.

It may be a lack of that kind of self-awareness that is contributing to the increasing number of violent penalties in college hockey and the Big Ten in particular. I really don’t know the answer. I just don’t want to see anyone’s career end before it begins.

A B1G day in the Big Apple

The first Big Ten Super Saturday in New York’s Madison Square Garden was a successful event, with over 13,000 fans in the stands for Michigan’s 6-3 win over Penn State.

Gadowsky had especially good things to say about the experience, which isn’t surprising given Penn State fans in the crowd easily outnumbered Michigan fans four or five to one.

“One of the takeaways from this is, I just thought it was a tremendous event,” said Gadowsky. “I think the Penn Staters had a tremendous time. I’m sorry we lost because there was … a great atmosphere, at the basketball game, out on the street between games, and certainly this one.”

The Penn State fans were loud and fun, and it’s good to see that they’ll travel. That was one thing that I took away from the game.

Another takeaway of mine was that the Wolverines relied on their third period to win — again. After the second period, when Penn State was leading 3-2, someone who covers the Nittany Lions remarked that PSU hadn’t lost a game after taking a lead into the third period. I just looked at him and said, “This is far from over.” I texted my boyfriend in the stands and said, “It’ll be a 7-5 game.” Frankly, I didn’t know whether the game would go for the Nittany Lions or the Wolverines, but I knew there would be a lot of scoring in the third period.

That came in the form of four unanswered Michigan goals in the third. Coming into the contest, the Wolverines had outscored opponents 42-15 in third-period play. It’s now 46-15.

I wouldn’t bet against Michigan in the third this season, but I am still concerned about how the Wolverines’ defense will factor into how 2015-16 ends for them.

As for the event, the Big Ten has announced that Wisconsin will play Ohio State in Madison Square Garden on Jan. 28, 2017, and Minnesota will play Michigan State in MSG on Jan. 20, 2018.

Wisconsin sweeps!

Ryan Wagner scored twice in Wisconsin’s win over Alaska last Friday (photo: Bradley K. Olson).

With 4-3 and 5-2 wins over Alaska, the Badgers completed their second sweep of the season. The first came against Arizona State on Oct. 30-31, so it’s been a while.

Eight different Badgers players scored in the two games, with Ryan Wagner netting two goals, including the game-winner, in Friday’s 4-3 contest.

After Saturday’s win, coach Mike Eaves said that there was “joy in the passes and on the goals,” referring to a level of fun that the Badgers were experiencing in the game that may have been missing from previous contests. “We got the timely goals tonight that we haven’t had earlier in the season, to get the lead, to get scored on, and to get that goal right back.”

With the game tied 1-1 at the end of the first Saturday, Wisconsin’s Luke Kunin put the Badgers ahead 2-1 just 50 seconds into the third period, but Alaska’s Austin Vieth negated the lead at 2:42. One minute and seven seconds later, however, Jake Linhart scored the first of three unanswered Wisconsin goals.

“The timely goal was there tonight,” said Eaves, “and the timely save. I thought Matt [Jurusik] probably wasn’t as tested as much as he has been in some games, but when he needed to be there, he was there for us, so kudos to him as well.

“The guys are into it and they’re doing what it takes to win.”

The Spartans win for real!

Michigan State snapped an eight-game losing streak with a 4-2 road win over Ohio State on Friday night. It came a week after the Spartans bested the U.S. Under-18 team in exhibition play, something that helped.

“I thought we played some good hockey last weekend, so that was a small step,” said coach Tom Anastos. “I thought we had two really good weeks of practice, so I thought we came here in a pretty good state of mind. I really like how we played for the most part. I think it’s something to build off.”

The Spartans were unable to parlay that into two wins, as the Buckeyes took Saturday’s contest 2-1. Friday’s victory was Michigan State’s second Big Ten win of the season, their sixth overall.

Self-awareness, in spades

“You look at the way our year has gone, and it’s a pretty common theme: when we don’t get over two, we haven’t won.”

That is what Minnesota coach Don Lucia said after the Gophers dropped two games in the North Star College Cup, 4-2 to Bemidji State on Saturday and 3-2 to Minnesota State on Sunday.

“It just shows you with this team that we have to have everybody in sync and everybody going,” said Lucia. “We have a fine line between winning and losing with this group.”

Three stars of the week

Tyler Motte is a repeat offender.

First star — Michigan junior forward Tyler Motte: Motte registered his second consecutive four-goal weekend with four goals and three assists as Michigan swept Penn State, winning 7-4 Thursday night in Pegula Ice Arena before winning 6-3 Saturday in Madison Square Garden. Motte scored two goals in each game and is riding a seven-game goal-scoring streak. Motte’s 22 goals in 23 games this season are four more than he scored in 69 total games in his two previous seasons. This is his fifth weekly Big Ten award and his second this season.

Second star — Michigan freshman forward Kyle Connor: Connor had a goal in each game against Penn State, including Thursday’s game-winning goal, plus four assists in the series. Connor (20-22–42) leads the nation in points. With points in each contest, the rookie extended his point-scoring streak to 12 games. This is his fourth weekly Big Ten award, all this season.

Third star — Ohio State junior goaltender Christian Frey: Frey led all Big Ten goaltenders with a .930 save percentage and 2.03 GAA in OSU’s split with Michigan State last weekend. Frey stopped 28 pucks in the Buckeyes’ 2-1 win over the Spartans on Saturday. This is his sixth weekly Big Ten award and his second of the season.

My ballot

1. St. Cloud State
2. Quinnipiac
3. North Dakota
4. Boston College
5. Providence
6. Michigan
7. Boston University
8. Notre Dame
9. UMass-Lowell
10. Harvard
11. Yale
12. Omaha
13. Cornell
14. Denver
15. Minnesota State
16. Minnesota
17. Michigan Tech
18. Penn State
19. Robert Morris
20. Dartmouth

Atlantic Hockey teams chase Robert Morris, which is ready for a run to the finish

Goaltender Terry Shafer and Robert Morris are atop the Atlantic Hockey standings with four weeks left in the regular season (photo: Omar Phillips).

For the first time this season, and despite a small difference in the number of games played by some teams, the Atlantic Hockey standings are in order by winning percentage as well as points.

Still standing in first place is Robert Morris, which was idle last weekend while the other 10 schools used up their games in hand on the Colonials.

It’s close, with Rochester Institute of Technology trailing the Colonials by a point, and Holy Cross and Air Force just two points back.

“We gave [the players] the weekend off,” said Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley. “We practiced as usual.”

Schooley said his team’s bye was far enough away from the end of the regular season that it came as a welcome respite.

“We’ve had a few injuries here and there,” he said. “It was a good time to renew and refresh.”

With nine seniors on the roster, the Colonials are a team aware that time is winding down.

“Any time you have an older team, things are going to be a little different,” said Schooley. “Any time you’re at the top of your recruiting cycle, you expect to do well.

“This senior class has had tremendous success. Their freshman year they won 20 games. The next year, 19. Last year, 24. This season we have 15 wins with eight more [plus playoffs] and we’re in the mix for home ice.”

Air Force coach Frank Serratore is fond of saying seniors are going to be either your best players or your worst players. In Robert Morris’ case, it’s clearly the former. Its top four and five of the top six scorers are seniors, including Zac Lynch (38 points), Greg Gibson (36), Brandon Denham (30), David Friedmann (27) and Matt Cope (23).

Senior Terry Shafer has been the go-to guy in net down the stretch, recording a 2.54 GAA and a .930 save percentage.

“[Junior goaltender] Dalton [Izyk] has been battling some injuries,” said Schooley. “And late in the year we’ve counted on Terry Shafer to finish in the top spot and [gain] home ice. He’s done a very good job.”

Robert Morris gets back into action this weekend with a pair of games at Sacred Heart.

“They’re a very good team that’s improved over the last four years,” said Schooley. “C.J. Marottolo is a good coach and has his team playing well. They’ll be excited to play one of the top teams in the league and show what they can do. It should be a great series.”

No agony of defeat

Air Force has an eight-game unbeaten streak (photo: Michelle Bishop).

A few teams entered last weekend riding unbeaten streaks, and in part thanks to four ties in 10 games played (including three of five contests on Saturday), four came out with streaks intact and extended:

• Air Force: eight games (six wins, two ties)

• Rochester Institute of Technology: seven games (five wins, two ties)

• Army West Point: four games (three wins, one tie)

• Bentley: four games (two wins, two ties)

RIT and Air Force will put those streaks on the line this weekend when they tangle in Colorado Springs.

At the other end of the spectrum, some other streaks were extended:

• American International has gone nine games without a win (0-7-2).

• Niagara’s winless stretch stands at 11 games (0-10-1).

A few other factoids from last weekend:

• Holy Cross has gone to overtime four games in a row (0-1-3), which tied a school record.

• Canisius needed overtime in four of its past five games (1-0-3).

• Army West Point’s sweep at Niagara was the first road sweep for the Black Knights since 2006.

• Robert Morris, Holy Cross, Canisius and Air Force have yet to be swept in league play. Canisius does not have a sweep.

May the odds be ever in your favor

With four weekends left in the regular season, here’s a look at the strength of each team’s remaining schedule. Only league records and remaining league games are included:

Sacred Heart.604
Army West Point.588
Air Force.556
Niagara.543
Canisius.532
Robert Morris.513
American International.504
Bentley.455
Holy Cross.439
Mercyhurst.438
RIT.425

It’s an honor just to be nominated

One of the signs that the season is winding down is the announcement of nominees and/or finalists for the various awards handed out at the end of the year.

The one and only Hobey Baker

The biggest award, the Hobey Baker Award, is in its preliminary phase, where fans can vote for their favorite player. Players are nominated by their schools, so ignore the mentions of “Hobey Baker finalists.” Eventually the Internet field will be culled to 10 and a re-vote taken. The player who finishes with the most votes at the end of that phase will earn a very small percentage of an actual vote cast by the Hobey Baker committee.

It’s the Division I coaches who select the 10 official finalists, and then a 27-member committee votes for the winner as well as the two runners-up. The finalists will be announced on March 17, and the winner will be crowned on April 8 in Tampa, during the Frozen Four.

Atlantic Hockey has had a total of nine Hobey finalists in the 11-year history of the league, including two last season (RIT’s Matt Garbowsky and Robert Morris’ Cody Wydo), the first time a pair of players from the AHC had made the top 10 in a single season.

Even though it’s mostly for fun, the fan vote generates interest in a diverse group of players that deserve national attention.

This year, the ballots are available on Facebook. Fans can vote now for the following Atlantic Hockey players:

Shane Conacher, Canisius
Brandon Denham, Robert Morris
Max French, Bentley
Greg Gibson, Robert Morris
TJ Moore, Holy Cross
Zac Lynch, Robert Morris

There are 66 players overall on the fan ballot.

Showing some CLASS
Next up is the Senior CLASS Award, a multi-sport award that recognizes “Community, Classroom, Character and Competition.”

Army’s Cheyne Rocha (2013) and Air Force’s Jacques Lamoureux (2011) are past winners.

Nominees this year from the AHC are:

Ralph Cuddemi, Canisius
Andrew Gladiuk, Bentley
Alexander Kuqali, RIT
Zac Lynch, Robert Morris
Tyson Wilson, Robert Morris

There are a total of 20 finalists in Division I. This award will also be given out in Tampa.

The Hockey Humanitarian Award

This prestigious award recognizes “college hockey’s finest citizen.” All NCAA hockey players are eligible: men and women from Divisions I, II and III.

Nominees for the 2016 award were recently announced and Air Force goalie Chris Dylewski and Robert Morris forward David Friedmann were among the field of 18.

Five finalists will be announced in the coming weeks, with the award presented just before the Hobey Baker in Tampa on April 8.

New England’s best

And finally, this week the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston announced 23 semifinalists for the Walter Brown Award, presented annually to the top American-born player in New England.

Among the semifinalists is Bentley sophomore Kyle Schmidt, the lone Atlantic Hockey player to make the cut.

In 2012, Brett Gensler of Bentley won the Walter Brown, becoming the first player from a non-Hockey East or ECAC Hockey school to capture the honor since 1959.

Weekly awards

Player of the week — Justin Danforth, Sacred Heart: The junior won the award for the second time in three weeks. This time he had a career-high four points in a 7-4 win at Connecticut and chipped in a goal and an assist against Bentley. He had 18 points in the month of January, including 10 goals.

Goalie of the week — Shane Starrett, Air Force: Like Danforth, this is the second time in three weeks that Starrett has won the award, and the sixth time this season that he’s been honored with a weekly distinction. Last weekend, he made 48 saves on 51 shots in a win and a tie against Canisius. Starrett has allowed eight goals total in his last eight games.

Rookie of the week — Derek Barach, Mercyhurst: The freshman tallied three goals and added an assist in a sweep of American International.

Defensive player of the week — Mitch Mueller: The rookie blueliner had a pair of goals and an assist last weekend. Friday’s goal in a 3-1 loss to Mercyhurst was the first of Mueller’s collegiate career.

Wednesday Women: Surprises and status quo

Bailey Larson (Colgate - 61). ((c) Shelley M. Szwast 2014)

Bailey Larson leads Colgate in a key series against Princeton this weekend. ((c) Shelley M. Szwast 2014)

Candace: This weekend certainly brought its share of interesting results Arlan. I’m not sure what the most surprising were, but I’d probably lean toward the WCHA, where we saw Ohio State beat Minnesota-Duluth and Minnesota State tie North Dakota. I’d say the latter has more shock value. North Dakota had to rally four times, trailing 1-0, 3-1, 4-3, and 5-4, before finally getting a shootout win. North Dakota fired 42 shots on net, though since I didn’t see the game, I don’t know how many were high-quality chances. At the other end, Shelby Amsley-Benzie only faced 18 shots, and made 13 saves, a performance we’re not used to seeing from the senior netminder. Becca Kohler came through with the tying goal with 17:18 left in the third, and North Dakota picked up an extra point via the shootout.

Thanks to Minnesota’s sweep of Bemidji, including a come-from-behind OT win on Saturday, the Fighting Hawks leapfrogged the Beavers into third place. This weekend, North Dakota faces Minnesota, and Bemidji plays St. Cloud, so Bemidji could possibly leapfrog North Dakota after this weekend, which will be interesting to see.

With OSU and Minnesota-Duluth, the Bulldogs did come back to win Saturday’s game, 4-3. You had seemed to think Duluth would be showing improvement in the second half, but I’m just not seeing it right now. The defense is too inconsistent. Given the way Minnesota State played North Dakota, I’m wondering whether the Mavericks could get their first WCHA win this weekend when they host the Bulldogs. I also think St. Cloud might be able to stay in fifth for the rest of the season.

What is your take on what happened in the WCHA this weekend and what it means for the final month of the season?

Arlan: I watched Minnesota-Duluth play two times in the first half, and in those games versus Minnesota and Harvard, freshman goaltender Maddie Rooney was playing great. Her 2016 started against Wisconsin, she only lasted for one period and four goals, and it seems that she’s been up and down since. Against the Buckeyes, she had another 20-minute game. All three UMD goaltenders played in multiple games in January, and from the statistics and starting decisions that followed, it looks like all have had good stretches as well as weaker ones. From what I saw of the rest of the Bulldogs’ roster, they are going to need excellent goaltending to demonstrate the improvement that I expected. There is some high-level talent, but not enough of it to offset too many soft goals.

Managing goaltenders may be a facet of the game to which Maura Crowell is still adjusting. During her interim season at Harvard, she had Emerance Maschmeyer in net. That was her sophomore season, and she was likely less consistent than she is now, but there wasn’t much question as to who was the primary goaltender for the Crimson. Anyway, it wasn’t a good sign for UMD that it allowed more goals on the weekend to Ohio State than it did in any of its previous series versus ranked teams Wisconsin, North Dakota, or Bemidji State, and if we look back to the first half, you could add Boston College to that list. Only Minnesota scored more against the Bulldogs than the Buckeyes just did.

As for those Buckeyes, their results tend to swing quite a bit from game to game. I watched them play what was essentially a one-goal game against the Gophers, and then they got blown out by nine the next day. Even though they took five of six points in Mankato a week ago, the Mavericks scored six goals on the weekend, the most they’ve tallied in any series. I thought that didn’t bode well for OSU, but then the Mavericks scored the same number of goals in Grand Forks, so who knows. The Buckeyes’ goaltending has been all over the place as well this season as they try to make do without Kassidy Sauve. All of these teams are moving targets, and that’s even more true in the first season under a new coach, and that’s where UMD, Ohio State, and Minnesota State are. One day things click, and it looks like the squad has turned a corner, but that doesn’t meant there won’t be a future game where players revert to old tendencies and abandon their systems.

In the WCHA, nobody is making bigger adjustments than the Mavericks with a roster than includes 10 freshmen plus 10 sophomores. I doubt that anyone other than Merrimack is younger. Coach John Harrington said that in the second half his message to his new players is that they are veterans now. Young veterans, to be sure, but at least they’ve seen all the teams that there is to see. They will skate into some unfamiliar buildings, but that didn’t seem to bother them much at Ralph Engelstad Arena this weekend.

That brings us to North Dakota. That was a potential trap series for the Fighting Hawks, wedged between trips to Madison and Minneapolis, but to be a national power, you can’t just pick and choose certain times when you’re going to bring the effort. Playing against the backup goaltender for a team that’s winless in the league, going to a shootout isn’t a positive result. I’ve seen the Mavericks lately, so I can see how that is possible, but it seems like UND winds up in these conversations all too often. I’m sure they will bring their best effort against the Gophers just like they did against the Badgers on the previous road trip, but it’s a 28-game WCHA schedule, and each is worth the same three points. UND swept its first two series of the season, and since then, they’ve had only one more sweep, and we’re into February now. Teams are going to have off games; it’s human nature. You just can’t have them every weekend.

Despite some of the inconsistency we’ve viewed in the WCHA over the course of the season, there has also been a lot of separation. That’s not the case in the ECAC. Every weekend, sometimes every game, the picture changes. What did the latest fluctuations in that circuit reveal to you?

Candace: Well, we wondered last week what Princeton’s status was, and a 4-1 loss to Harvard tells me either the Tigers weren’t quite as good as their win streak might have indicated, Harvard isn’t quite as bad as its struggles might have indicated, or some sort of combination of the two. The Tigers’ 4-1 loss came on the heels of a 4-1 defeat of reeling Dartmouth, which then had a much better showing Saturday, but still lost, 2-1, to league-leading Quinnipiac. Then there was the 2-1 OT win by Rensselaer over Cornell, which better positioned the Engineers in the ECAC playoff race.

I honestly don’t see too many surprises from the ECAC this past weekend. The big one was the 2-2 tie between Clarkson and St. Lawrence. That came on Clarkson’s home ice, just two days after Clarkson blew the Saints out in St. Lawrence, 6-1. Perhaps the Saints used that embarrassment as extra motivation, not that should be any sort of criteria when we have playoff positioning on the line. Clarkson twice had a lead, but couldn’t hold it, and a penalty proved costly late in the third when Lydia Grauer got a power-play goal at 15:08 to net the tie. Grace Harrison made 29 saves, which indicates that while Clarkson had chances, it wasn’t the type of game where the Golden Knights were spending most of the time in the St. Lawrence end.

Getting back to Harvard, for the first time, Quinnipiac swept a season series from the Crimson after netting a 1-0 win on Friday. The stats indicate that Quinnipiac might have been in even more control, as the Bobcats fired 38 shots on Emerance Maschmeyer. Meanwhile, the Crimson could only muster 20 on Sydney Rossman. Against Princeton, Harvard again gave up a lot of shots, as the Tigers put 35 on Maschmeyer, but the Crimson at least got more shots, totaling 29 on Kimberly Newell. Harvard took a 2-0 lead in the first 10 minutes of the game and never looked back.

The story for me in the ECAC is still Colgate. After this weekend, the Raiders look better than ever poised to get home ice for the first round of the playoffs. You yourself indicated that when you interviewed the players last fall and they told you that was their goal, you thought, “Good luck with that.” After getting wins over Rensselaer and Union this weekend, the Raiders are in third place, tied in points with Princeton. That makes this weekend’s clash between Colgate and Princeton even more important, as it could allow the Raiders to take sole control of third; they currently lose the tiebreaker to the Tigers because of a 3-2 loss to them back in November.

I still think Harvard is positioned for home ice. The Crimson’s remaining ECAC games include five against the bottom third of the ECAC, plus one against the Raiders, while Princeton has Colgate, Clarkson, and St. Lawrence on the docket and the Raiders have Princeton, Quinnipiac, and Harvard. The Crimson are in fifth, two points behind Colgate and Princeton and three behind second-place Clarkson, so I expect that Harvard will finish in the top four.

I also think Quinnipiac pretty much sealed its first ECAC regular season crown this weekend after beating Harvard and Dartmouth. The Bobcats should at least go 4-2 down the stretch, and that will win them the division.

Yale’s sweep of Brown put the Bulldogs into seventh and in the ECAC playoffs, with Cornell now out. Do you think the Bulldogs can hold onto that?

Arlan: I could argue either side of that. My first thought was that they won’t, because the schedule isn’t their friend. The Bulldogs surged into the playoff field on the strength of a four-game winning streak: home wins over Union, Rensselaer, and Brown, and a road win at Brown. Now things get tougher with a trip to take on the Dartmouth and Harvard duo, then hosting Colgate and Cornell, and finally finishing in the North Country. Compounding the schedule issue is that Yale has one of the weakest travel partners in Brown, so teams heading into the weekend will be more focused on the Bulldogs.

However, if I take a more positive view of it for Yale, the Big Green and Crimson aren’t as intimidating a trip as they once were. Dartmouth’s best results all came early. Over the last two and a half months it has a tie with St. Lawrence to go with a baker’s dozen in the loss column. For every three streps forward, Harvard takes two back, and Yale catches the Crimson on the weekend between the two rounds of the Beanpot. As well as things have gone for Colgate this season, its defeat of Yale came on a goal with 93 seconds left, and the rematch will be in New Haven. Yale lost by two in Ithaca, but both of those goals were scored in the last five minutes. Clarkson is playing better of late, so that’s likely a loss, but Yale won the first game from the Saints, so it should have a shot against SLU. Given the number of contests that figure to be close, Yale could easily earn about four more points.

To miss out on the playoffs, it would have to be passed by two teams. RPI is only a point back, but its schedule is even tougher than Yale’s, as it has Princeton and Quinnipiac replacing Colgate and Cornell. Dartmouth is six points back, and although its upcoming schedule is conducive to winning, I’m not sure that it remembers how to win. Cornell is three points back, with games remaining against Brown and Dartmouth, but it will need to take the head-to-head match versus Yale in order to catch the Bulldogs. So if Yale can get those four points, then I think it will make the postseason. I don’t see enough momentum and schedule opportunities for RPI, Cornell, and Dartmouth for two of them to get to 21 points or above. Also, Yale is currently tied for sixth with St. Lawrence, so there’s a chance that the Bulldogs will finish above the seventh spot, rather than out of the playoffs entirely. That could be important, because once into the playoff field, Quinnipiac and Clarkson, the teams currently in first and second, will be tough in a best-of-three series on their home ice. The other two home-ice teams, whether Harvard supplants Colgate or Princeton or not, are looking a bit more vulnerable.

Speaking of vulnerable, everybody in the CHA looks pretty shaky from week to week. After another split with Syracuse, Mercyhurst is in control of the race, but the Lakers have had only two sweeps all season and none since the second week of November. Nonetheless, they figure to nail down first if they can get a series win over Robert Morris, because closest pursuer Syracuse looks to have some problems of its own. However, Mike Sisti can’t feel too confident once the postseason starts knowing that Syracuse has outshot the Lakers in three of their meetings, and in two of the games the Orange shot advantage was roughly three to one. What do you think is going on in Erie such that Syracuse has such an edge territorially over the league’s leader and traditional power?

Candace: It is sort of unusual, given that on the season Mercyhurst has outshot its opponents 699 to 580. Then again, Syracuse has even more of a disparity there, outshooting its opponents 841 to 572. Maybe the Orange are one of those teams that just shoots as soon as it gets over the blue line and hopes good things will happen. Even though Syracuse went 2-2 against the Lakers this season, it’s fair to say the road to the NCAA tournament still goes through Mercyhurst, so Sisti has to at least feel confident in that, and know that even with a young team, his players are in the hunt. I’m going to be interested to see how the move to a neutral site for the CHA tournament affects things, though given that the last few years Mercyhurst has been at home and hasn’t won it, perhaps that doesn’t matter. Maybe it will take pressure off the players and allow them to relax and play to their best, which is really all the coach can ask for.

There are some other potential concerns in Erie though. The defense is solid, ranked 11th nationally and giving up only 2.15 goals per game. Syracuse is next at 2.29, followed by Robert Morris at 2.32. The offense is third in the league, averaging 2.42 goals per game, with Syracuse at 2.43 and Robert Morris at 3.04. Special teams are good on the defensive side, with the penalty kill succeeding 87.8 percent of the time, but the power play struggles, scoring only 14.04 percent of the time. Contrast that with Robert Morris, which scores on the power play at a 24.79 percent clip. Special teams seem to become more and more important as the postseason progresses, so a lack of power play production could hurt the Lakers.

The big issue though facing Mercyhurst is a lack of scoring punch. The goaltending has finally settled down, and freshman Sarah McDonnel has responded, improving her stats to a 1.64 GAA and a .923 save percentage. That type of netminding can be a momentum builder for a team in the postseason, but the offense has to respond. Jenna Dingeldein leads the team in scoring, but she is only averaging .769 points per game, down from her usual pace of a point a game, and Emily Janiga is even worse. She was at 1.29 points a game as a junior, and has always been above a point a game, but in her senior year, she’s only scoring .48 points a game. Without consistent offense, Mercyhurst will always be vulnerable in a one-and-done, no matter how stellar the goaltending and defense is.

Of course, that statement applies to all the CHA teams, all of which can succeed or fail on any given night. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that RIT could run the table again in the CHA tournament and advance to the NCAA tournament, even with its poor record, which currently sits at 6-21-1. All the CHA teams have to at least be excited that they could advance to the NCAA tournament.

Another shaky conference, at least after the top three, is Hockey East. Connecticut swept Vermont over the weekend, putting the Huskies in control of the final home ice spot, and Maine finally won a game, beating Providence 3-1 on Saturday, but then lost to the Friars the next night, 1-0. The Black Bears at least look more certain of making the Hockey East playoffs. What do you see happening in Hockey East in the 4-8 spots down the stretch?

Arlan: First, I admit that I’d missed the announcement that the CHA will be holding its final two rounds at the HARBORCENTER in Buffalo. That’s a drivable trip for five of the fan bases, particularly those of RIT, Mercyhurst, and Syracuse. Obviously, Lindenwood wouldn’t have a convenient trip to any of the other conference members either, but the Lions are still waiting on their first trip to the semifinals anyway. Not that it couldn’t come as early as this year, as unpredictable as the CHA has been. In any case, the new format should work better in the case of a season like last where the top seed loses out in the semifinal and isn’t playing on championship day. The location is more likely to be friendly to fans of the two teams that made the final, plus the hope would be that some neutral fans from the host city will attend to check out the product.

Back in Hockey East, although New Hampshire has been better than first expected, I still think that Connecticut is the best of the rest. Those two finish the season in New Hampshire for a pair, and it’s possible that after the next two weeks play out, even a sweep for the Wildcats in that series won’t be enough. The Huskies are three points up, and they have BC plus three winnable games on home ice versus Providence and Maine twice. If they win all three, then UNH is going to need to take points from BU to stay alive for home ice. I expect that the team that comes up short in the race for fourth will hold onto fifth, so that those two teams will reprise their final series in the quarterfinal a week later.

In the fight for sixth place, Providence has nosed ahead of Vermont, but I prefer the Catamounts’ schedule. Yes, the Friars have a game in hand, but it’s essentially against BC, so I don’t see it producing points. Beyond that, each team has a series versus Merrimack and one more game against the Eagles. The other two games for Providence are Northeastern and Connecticut, while Vermont has two at UNH. To move up the standings, Vermont likely has to take more points home from Durham than the Friars earn against the two teams of Huskies. Those games occur this weekend, so we’ll know at that point who has the inside track on avoiding the ranked teams in the first round.

As for the final playoff spot, I think that Maine should hold on, given it has a four-point lead over a Merrimack team that wins even less often than the Black Bears. Maine could even move up out of eighth and not have to serve as BC’s sacrificial lamb, but that likely means getting production against Connecticut, a team that has had its number of late. As for the Warriors, it was a nice first season, but I don’t see it extending beyond the next three weeks.

As I write this, the first game of the Beanpot just went final. I only saw the third period, and missed most of the carnage. Did you catch any of it? I see that the Eagles got to Maschmeyer for five goals in the first period on 19 shots. After the first 20 minutes, Brianna Laing took over in the Crimson net, and the bleeding at least slowed in the Eagles’ 8-0 win. Given that BC had a four-to-one bulge in shots for the game, I’m guessing it was more the skaters that were the problem for Harvard?

Candace: I didn’t get a chance to see it actually. Seven BC skaters had multi-point games. Megan Keller had two goals and an assist and Makenna Newkirk had three assists, while Alex Carpenter scored twice. I can’t believe BC got 48 shots on a Harvard, a team that normally plays very tight defense, though BC did also get 38 on net when they played three weeks ago. Maybe Harvard tried to open it up a little and got burned? The Eagles have now shut out the Crimson twice this year, a fairly impressive stat, and Katie Burt has 11 shutouts on the year, third in the country and only three behind Ann-Renée Desbiens of Wisconsin.

BC is the type of team that can sometimes get on a roll and just seem to score at will. We’ve seen it several times in the last couple of years, and it seems like that sort of happened last night. Tori Sullivan scored at 4:17 of the first, and less than two minutes later, Kaliya Johnson made it 2-0, and BC was off to the races.

Motivation sometimes comes into these discussions, and I’m sure BC might have had a little extra motivation, since the Crimson ended BC’s undefeated season a year ago in the Beanpot, but I still think BC’s focus is on the NCAA tournament. However, they can’t afford any letdowns. Next week will be tough, with the Beanpot championship game on Tuesday and Northeastern again on Friday.

It’s hard to believe that there are only three weeks left in the season, and while we talk about D-I most of the time, I’d like to turn to D-III. Boston College isn’t the only team with a perfect record. Plattsburgh is currently 20-0-0, and the Cardinals just swept the No. 2 team in the country, Elmira, on the road by scores of 4-2 and 7-1. Have you been following the Cardinals at all, and their chase for perfection?

Arlan: Sorry, but I haven’t. I don’t have time to follow D-III, or to follow men’s NCAA hockey either. The time that I do have available I put into keeping up with women’s D-I. I do realize that Plattsburgh has been the dominant team in Division III, particularly since RIT moved to D-I. I remember three years ago when both women’s Frozen Fours had teams vying to complete undefeated seasons. Ironically, it was Elmira that ruined Plattsburgh’s bid that time, but nobody has had an answer for the Cardinals the last couple of seasons. Between the conference tournament and the NCAAs, the Soaring Eagles could potentially have two more cracks at Plattsburgh. But in all honesty, I have zero idea as to whether or not an Elmira win would be a colossal shocker or just your garden-variety upset. Feel free to chime in and educate me.

Getting back to subjects that I at least know a little bit about, one thing working against Harvard in the first Beanpot semifinal was that it had to play two tough ECAC games this weekend versus ranked teams in Quinnipiac and Princeton, while BC had the entire weekend off. I’d give the Crimson a bit more slack with that in mind, except that it doesn’t excuse them seemingly not being ready to compete from the outset.

In that regard, BU, the other underdog, came out in the second semifinal and really took the game to Northeastern early, and went into the first intermission up, 1-0. Although Rebecca Russo scored the goal, I was really impressed with Victoria Bach in particular. She was repeatedly carving through the NU defense. Then the second period started, and the Huskies were the hungrier team. They scored twice in the middle frame, and reversed the advantage. When Kendall Coyne scored her second goal of the night in the third period to make the score, 3-1, it looked over. The Terriers did get a late five-on-three goal to make it interesting, but Northeastern was able to close out a 3-2 win, meaning they’ll get two shots at ruining BC’s perfection next week. I thought BU looked better than when I’d watched them earlier in the year, but once Northeastern’s speed came into play, the Terriers were stout enough defensively to hold the Huskies off.

Did you see any of the second semifinal, or have thoughts as to what the second week of the Beanpot will bring?

Candace: To answer your question about whether Elmira defeating Plattsburgh would be a colossal upset, probably not, but it would be an upset. The only other team to beat Elmira is Adrian, which with Elmira’s losses to Plattsburgh moved up to the second spot in the USCHO.com poll. Right after Adrian beat Elmira at the start of the season, Plattsburgh beat Adrian, 3-0. It’s not like Plattsburgh has played a light schedule. They’ve beaten teams that were ranked fourth, seventh, ninth, and 10th, in addition to beating No. 2 Elmira. Most of those games have been shutouts. The only team to really push the Cardinals all year has been Norwich, which lost to Plattsburgh 2-1 in the first game of the year between the two. When they played again three weeks ago, Plattsburgh won 6-1. Things can happen, but it’s going to take a monumental effort, and some luck, for someone to beat Plattsburgh.

As for the BU-Northeastern game, I watched some of the third period. The Terriers have been hard to figure out. They gave BC all they could handle last month, falling 4-3, and also took BC to overtime back in November before Carpenter kept BC’s streak alive. There are signs they are getting better, such as the BC game and last night’s game against Northeastern, but there are also puzzling results, such as getting blown out by Quinnipiac, 6-1, and only tying Vermont. BU is off till next Tuesday’s game against Harvard in the Beanpot consolation, and that might be a game the Terriers can win, if they can generate sustained pressure on Maschmeyer.

As for BC against Northeastern, I’m expecting a high-flying game. The two have played twice already. BC won the first game, 4-2, and I think the key was that when Coyne put the Huskies up 1-0 at 3:21 of the first, Tori Sullivan answered for BC a minute later, so the Huskies were unable to generate momentum. The shots in that game were close, 31-24 for BC. When they played again a week layer, BC won 6-1, a strange game because Northeastern outshot the Eagles 37-23. Of course, Northeastern’s starting netminder, Brittany Bugalski, was out for that game, so I’m expecting a game more like the first one between the two than the second.

What do you think the Beanpot will bring next week?

Arlan: I’d hope that Harvard will bring a better effort against BU, although it will again face a fresher opponent with the Terriers being off until then. At least the Crimson should have a slightly easier week this week with games versus Brown and Yale, although that is still a lot of games in a short period. I don’t know that either the Terriers or Crimson have time to climb back into the PairWise picture, so if not, there won’t be much other than pride riding on a third-place game. Of the Boston rivalries, BU and Harvard probably has the least vinegar, given they haven’t played that many times since the Terriers became a varsity program. This will be the first game between the two since Harvard demolished BU in last year’s Beanpot, so that and home ice should give the Terriers the edge in motivation, and their forwards have been more productive. I’ll say BU takes a tight game.

I think that Northeastern will bring a game effort, but they won’t have much in the way of advantages in a game versus the Eagles. IMO, Coyne is playing better than anyone else in the country, but BC should be able to neutralize her enough that she doesn’t get more than a point, or perhaps two. That’s the only place where I’d give an edge to Northeastern, so beyond that, I see the Eagles’ depth taking over. They have plenty of people who can show up on the score sheet in a game like that, even if the Huskies somehow manage to slow Carpenter and Skarupa. Bugalski is light on experience against the truly elite teams, so while I don’t think it will come down to whose goaltender plays better, one would have to like Burt if it does. Things may set up for Northeastern to make a closer game of it three days later at BC. I’d expect the Eagles to be motivated to win a Beanpot on Tuesday, something that Carpenter has yet to do. If Northeastern could only defeat Boston College once, then the Huskies would probably opt for it to happen in a potential fifth meeting in the Hockey East final, thus ensuring beyond a doubt that they’d have that elusive first NCAA trip. On Tuesday, I’ll predict that BC takes the Beanpot by a 5-2 score.

Sullivan develops into a ‘heart-and-soul player’ for St. Lawrence

St. Lawrence’s Joe Sullivan has a team-high nine goals (photo: Shelley M. Szwast).

It’s hard not to think about how far St. Lawrence sophomore forward Joe Sullivan has come — from a fringe recruit to the team’s leading goal scorer in his second season.

But Saints coach Greg Carvel said Sullivan is so much more than that.

“He’s a coach’s dream,” Carvel said.

Sullivan tries not to look at the stats. Carvel either. But it’s hard not to notice what the Saints sophomore has done: He leads the team with nine goals and is tied for the lead in points with 17. He’s scored once in each of the Saints’ last games. Perhaps not coincidentally, St. Lawrence has won three of its last four.

“It doesn’t really change my mentality because I can’t let it change,” Sullivan said. “You can’t look past that stuff. Every day, every situation is the same. It’s honestly taught me to have fun with the game. Have fun and work hard.”

But Sullivan wasn’t exactly in St. Lawrence’s plans two years ago. Not initially, anyway. When Matt Carey left the school to sign a professional contract with the Chicago Blackhawks after his freshman year of 2013-14, Carvel’s roster suddenly had a major hole to fill. What’s worse, it was extremely late in the recruiting process and pickings were slim.

Sullivan, a Las Vegas native, wasn’t heavily recruited. He was finishing his season with the USHL’s Indiana Ice, which won the league championship that season. St. Lawrence was interested, and the prolonged USHL season gave coaches a chance to go watch him play. They presented an offer relatively quickly after that, and Sullivan agreed to join the Saints.

“He’s a sophomore and he’s the heart and soul of our team,” Carvel said. “We’re lucky we found him so late in the recruiting process. He’s a heart-and-soul player, plays hard. When he gets chances, he converts them. … Joe’s just the ultimate teammate, too.”

St. Lawrence (13-11-2 overall, 7-6-1 in ECAC) entered the season with high expectations, projected to go No. 2 in ECAC Hockey standings. But bumps in the road have kept the Saints down behind the conference’s top teams. For at least the second year in a row, Carvel’s team came out of the Christmas break flat — losing five games in eight days to drag the Saints back down to just above .500.

It’s a pattern that Carvel said three years ago would put him in a spin of panic and frustration. But now, four years into the job, he’s learned to focus on the positives. And in the stretch of losses, there were plenty of positives.

“The margin of losing is so small, any team can win,” Carvel said. “This was a recurring stretch; we’ve kind of seen it before. Maybe in years past I may have panicked a little bit. But I knew we weren’t far off from a win or two. We’re just starting to get back our confidence.”

“It was particularly frustrating because we know how good we can be,” Sullivan said. “We put ourselves in a pretty good situation to have a similar second half, and then we went and lost five in a row. The one to Clarkson, that hurt. … This is a big weekend is huge for us. We need to keep turning around our momentum.”

The Saints fell into place last weekend with a two-game sweep of Colgate and Cornell. It’s gotten St. Lawrence back on track, where Sullivan expects his team to be.

“We’re playing at a really high confidence right now,” Sullivan said. “We’re desperate. We have to win every night just to get ourselves in a good position. We want home-ice advantage.”

St. Lawrence ranks sixth in the ECAC standings, one point behind Dartmouth and one point in front of Cornell. The Saints will play Rensselaer and Union next weekend.

Around the ECAC

Charles Grant earned a shutout against Princeton last Saturday (photo: Shelley M. Szwast).

• Dartmouth goaltender Charles Grant earned ECAC goalie of the week honors last week, and followed it up with a 7-5 loss to No. 1 Quinnipiac, in which Grant made 37 saves. The Big Green senior made up for it with a 2-0 shutout of Princeton on Saturday. Grant has started every game since Dec. 11, and has gone 8-3 in that stretch. Dartmouth will travel to Yale on Friday.

• St. Lawrence goaltender Kyle Hayton was named ECAC goalie of the week for last weekend, making a season-high 45 saves in a 3-2 win over Colgate and 25 saves in a 2-1 overtime victory over Cornell. Carvel said his team’s play is usually determined by his goaltender, something that he made clear during his team’s recent struggles.

• Harvard was edged 3-2 against Boston College on Monday, despite leading 2-1 after the first period in the Beanpot semifinals. Harvard is 4-2 in its last six games, including victories over St. Lawrence, Colgate and Cornell. Jimmy Vesey leads the team with 16 goals and 16 assists.

• Cornell has fallen hard from grace. Since Jan. 9, the Big Red are 0-5-1 and have not scored more than two goals in each of their losses. Suddenly, the offense seems nonexistent. Cornell will face No. 1 Quinnipiac on Friday.

Former Bowling Green player, coach Alexander loses battle with cancer

TIM ALEXANDER

In the four years that Tim Alexander played for Bowling Green (1976-80), the team captured three CCHA championships and earned three NCAA tournament bids.

Alexander, who later served as an assistant coach at BGSU in 2001-02, died Jan. 26 after a battle with cancer.

He was 58.

Alexander coached in the Cleveland area for more than 30 years at the AAA, high school and junior levels and for the past five years, had served as the Cleveland Barons hockey director and U18 head coach. He was also coach and GM of the Barons’ junior team in the NAHL from 1993 to 2001 and then from 2002 to 2005, in addition to working as an instructor at Michigan State University’s Summer Camp, Huron Hockey School, BGSU Hockey School and other various local camps.

Alexander leaves behind his wife of 18 years, Sandi, his son, Jarrett, mother, Ann, a sister, Jeanne Stocks (Brian), a brother, John (Karen), and in-laws Anita and William Schiefler.

TMQ: Quinnipiac playing with fire, while St. Cloud State heats up

St. Cloud State celebrates one of 10 goals it scored in winning the North Star College Cup (photo: Jim Rosvold).

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

Jim: First off, a welcome to our NCHC columnist Candace Horgan, who’s filling in for an under-the-weather Paula C. Weston this week.

Jumping right in, it was an excellent week for the top teams in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll as among the top nine teams, only Providence lost a game, splitting the weekend with New Hampshire.

Otherwise, it was somewhat smooth sailing for the nation’s best, although I couldn’t help but notice No. 1 Quinnipiac needed another Cardiac Kids effort, rallying from 5-2 down in the third period against Dartmouth, scoring the final five goals in a 7-5 win.

I know as a coach you take wins however they come. But having to pull off late comebacks has become a bit of a necessity of late for the Bobcats. If you’re coach Rand Pecknold, does falling behind worry you or are you thrilled that your team believes in its ability to come back?

Candace: Thanks for the welcome, Jim, and I’ll answer by saying it has to be a little bit of both. Yes, he’s probably happy that his kids have proven resilient and able to rally, but it’s part of a troubling trend for the Bobcats in January. They blew a four-goal lead against Harvard and had to rally to tie Northeastern, Maine and Rensselaer, and then rally to beat Dartmouth. You can’t help but look at the Bobcats’ results in January and not think that sooner or later, this trend is going to come back to bite them at a crucial time. You can play with fire for only so long before getting burned. If that type of play continues in the playoffs or NCAA tournament, I can’t help but think a game will come where the rally falls short and the Bobcats lose.

That ongoing issue with Quinnipiac is one reason I didn’t vote them in the top spot in my poll this week, instead going with St. Cloud State, which I felt won the North Star College Cup in impressive fashion over the weekend. The Huskies’ offense is surpassed only by Michigan’s, and unlike the Wolverines, St. Cloud has a defense that is as impressive as its offense. When you are scoring more than four goals a game and limiting your opponent to two, it points toward long-term success.

I know you mostly have the Hockey East squads and ECAC Hockey teams on your radar, but what are you thinking about the way St. Cloud keeps putting up goals in bunches while shutting down its opponents?

Jim: I think that St. Cloud State is the team that interests me the most in the country right now. I have seen little of them on tape but the Huskies’ numbers speak for themselves.

I always feel like Bob Motzko gets a lot out of his players, and this season with a talented roster he gets the most he can. The team lost twice to Quinnipiac early in the year, which will make it probably impossible to pass the Bobcats in the PairWise Rankings unless Quinnipiac hits a major rut. But I also like the way this team has responded to every single loss (most notably a 6-1 win over against North Dakota a night after falling 4-3).

This week should be an interesting test for both the Huskies and their opponent, Miami. The fact the series is in Oxford makes me realize a sweep could be hard but could also cement St. Cloud in the minds of fans across the country (at least those who pay attention).

You see more NCHC hockey than I do. Is St. Cloud the true class of the league or is North Dakota this club’s equal?

Candace: A month ago, I would have given the nod to North Dakota. However, just as January brought troubling signs to Quinnipiac, the month wasn’t exactly a banner one for the Fighting Hawks. I don’t think the signs of trouble are quite as strong in Grand Forks, though, as North Dakota only had one OT loss and one tie/shootout win as blemishes. However, in the Omaha game, North Dakota had a 1-0 lead but then gave up three of the next four goals and had to rally just to reach OT. In the Colorado College game, North Dakota built up a commanding 4-0 lead in the first period and then gave up the next five goals, and had to again rally to get a tie with an extra-attacker goal in the last 30 seconds.

Last weekend, North Dakota must have been very committed to defense, as it won 2-0 and 2-1 against Western Michigan. Down the stretch, North Dakota arguably has the harder schedule than St. Cloud, as it plays both Denver and Omaha as ranked teams, while the Huskies only have Omaha. They both have series against Duluth, too. I think the Penrose Cup for league champion will come down to the final weekend, when North Dakota plays Western Michigan again and St. Cloud plays CC. Right now, I’d probably still give the edge to North Dakota, but it will be a battle.

As long as we are talking about teams with troubling signs, Providence split with New Hampshire over the weekend, a fitting end to a stretch where the Friars have basically been a .500 hockey club. What do you think is going on in Providence, and is there time for it to rectify things before the postseason?

Jim: I got to see Providence play last weekend and like a lot about the team. But I also feel like they look like every other top team in Hockey East. They have incredible components, including a four-line offense comfortable on the ice and a defense that does its job in both ends.

I am not totally sold on goaltender Nick Ellis, but I will say my sample size is small. His stats still put him among the nation’s leaders, so I know this team is confident in front of him.

That said, Providence has to be in a sweep mentality every weekend if it hopes to win the Hockey East regular season title. Right now, it feels like Providence is more in a battle for the final bye in Hockey East with Boston University than it is in a pennant race. Games in hand can change that but the key to having games in hand is winning them.

One conference that shouldn’t be ignored is Atlantic Hockey. Yet again that league looks like a race for first place carries into one for a first-round bye and home ice in the opening round with four weeks left. I don’t have a PG word available to describe what these standings look like. Have some thoughts?

Candace: The Atlantic Hockey standings certainly seem to be more jumbled than any other conference at a casual glance. It’s pretty neigh impossible to guess how it’s going to play out. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that a team like Bentley, or even Sacred Heart, could play its way into home ice if a few teams above them stumble. The current home-ice teams are separated by only one or two points, and they still need to fend off Mercyhurst, which is five points behind league-leading Robert Morris and three behind a home-ice spot.

The competitiveness among AHA teams should make for a great league playoff tournament. Robert Morris is 21st in the PairWise, the highest-ranking AHC team, but barring major stumbles, I don’t see the Colonials playing their way into an at-large position in the NCAA tournament, so the league will again send only one representative to the NCAA tournament. But the gauntlet that the league representative will have had to run to get there could become a big boon come the NCAA tournament, as that team will be tested and ready for the grind of the NCAAs.

Thumbs up

To Michigan Tech alum John Scott. A man who was sent to the minors so the NHL fan vote could keep him from the NHL All-Star Game, Scott scored twice, one being a sniped shot on a breakaway to lead his Pacific Division team to victory. Scott earned MVP honors and came away a humble, great guy after building a reputation as an enforcer. Love the story of the little guy.

Thumbs down

To the Minnesota Golden Gophers, who lost both games in the North Star College Cup, a tournament in their own backyard in St. Paul. The Gophers could score only twice in each game. Coach Don Lucia then blamed an own goal for the 3-2 loss to Minnesota State in Sunday’s consolation game. Considering that the Gophers couldn’t get an even-strength goal in Sunday’s game, perhaps the Gophers need to refocus on five-on-five hockey.

Coming up

No. 18 Minnesota State hosts No. 19 Bowling Green in a key WCHA series this weekend.

In ECAC Hockey, No. 1 Quinnipiac hosts slumping No. 17 Cornell and No. 11 Yale hosts No. 20 Dartmouth on Friday. On Saturday, No. 7 Harvard plays at Yale.

And the Beanpot wraps up on Monday at Boston’s TD Garden, with Boston College playing Boston University for the title.

After year off, Boston University’s Maguire regains his focus and shines in Beanpot semi

Sean Maguire made 24 saves in Boston University’s win over Northeastern in the Beanpot semifinals (photo: Melissa Wade).

BOSTON — After missing the entire 2014-15 season due to a concussion, Boston University’s Sean Maguire is back in the crease and more focused than ever.

The senior goaltender made 24 saves, 10 in the last stanza alone, to help the No. 9 Terriers beat Northeastern 3-1 in the 64th Beanpot semifinal game Monday night at the TD Garden. With the victory, he improved to 8-4-1.

Beanpot 2016

Semifinals: Feb. 1

No. 4 Boston College 3, No. 7 Harvard 2 | For Harvard, special teams trouble means another loss to Boston College, Beanpot heartbreak

No. 9 Boston University 3, Northeastern 1 | After year off, Boston University's Maguire regains his focus and shines in Beanpot semi

Feb. 8

Third place: Harvard vs. Northeastern, 4:30 p.m. EST

Championship: Boston College vs. Boston University, 7:30 p.m. EST

After a shaky start to the season, Maguire has split the duties in net with sophomore Connor LaCouvee.

“Our season started and both of our goalies — one of them, Sean, didn’t play a game last year, and the other, Connor LaCouvee, played about six, so we knew there was going to be a little bit of some growing pains when the season started,” said BU coach David Quinn.

“Sean struggled early, probably bottoming out up at Merrimack when we pulled him after giving up four goals on 14 shots, and since then, he hasn’t went back and he’s kept a great attitude. He’s played some great hockey in the past month and a half, and there really wasn’t much of a decision to play him tonight.”

Maguire has received each of the last eight starts for the Terriers, going 5-1-2 in those games. He posted a .965 save percentage in his last five games. And over the past 10 weeks, Maguire has posted a 1.92 GAA to go along with a .938 save percentage, which ranked sixth in the nation — and first in Hockey East — during that span.

“I think I just had to find out what kind of goalie I was again,” said Maguire. “It took a little while to get my feet wet, coming back from a year without playing and coming back into a competitive league like Hockey East — it’s not easy. I just needed to get a few wins under my belt, bottle up the performances and roll with it — keep going into each game like you ended the last one. Just flow.”

The turning point was against No. 1 Quinnipiac on Dec. 14, when Maguire made 36 saves in BU’s 4-1 win, a performance that earned him Hockey East defensive player of the week honors.

So why the sudden turnaround? Maguire assures it wasn’t nerves in the beginning of the season after coming off a year of no play. It was quite the opposite.

“I wasn’t nervous, I was actually really excited,” he said without hesitation. “And I was way more intense than I had to be going into games, and I needed to calm down. So that’s what I did.”

Injuries can be devastating, not only physically, but emotionally. However, it’s how people handle tough situations that truly shows their character. Instead of reflecting on his medically redshirted junior season as a setback, the British Columbia native saw it as an opportunity to become even stronger — both mentally and on the ice.

“There’s an opportunity to either decline or excel,” Maguire said. “But what I tried to do was get in the best physical shape I could and follow all the doctors’ orders. I used all of my positive assets to my advantage rather than focus on the negative things because positive thinking always works; negative thinking, it drags you down. All I could do was remain positive and just know that things were going to get better.”

After four months of rest after his March 2014 concussion, the Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick said he “had a lot of extra time” to “focus and hone in on the skills that needed to be developed,” one of those being his hands.

“Catching pucks, seeing pucks, keeping my hands up all the time in front of me — my hand placement and positioning was one thing I had to work on and that’s definitely improved a lot — that’s one of the strongest parts of my game right now,” Maguire said. “I am really happy to have had that time to work on it because when you are in the season you don’t have time.”

Maguire credits his best friends — his fellow senior teammates — as having stuck by his side, providing the support he needed to transition back into his place on the team.

“We have a really tight-knit group,” he said with a smile. “Throughout the process of my recovery, I found out I have a lot of friends who I am going to keep for the rest of my life here.”

Before next Monday’s championship game against Boston College, the Terriers travel to Amherst to face off against Massachusetts on Friday night. The 6-foot-2 netminder has learned to take one day and one save at a time.

“My mindset now whenever a guy is coming down the wing at me or has a puck in the slot is that this is the only thing I have to worry about — this one shot, so let’s make this one save,” Maguire said. “We haven’t won the Beanpot yet, so my next goal is stopping the next shot in practice — that’s all I am focused on, getting better this week. Then I’m focused on UMass. Then as soon as I step on the Garden ice again, we have to figure out how to beat BC.”

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