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St. Cloud State’s early gauntlet continues with series against top-ranked Minnesota

130410 12 56 3583A St. Cloud States early gauntlet continues with series against top ranked Minnesota

Coach Bob Motzko and St. Cloud State face a third straight team currently ranked in the top five (photo: Melissa Wade).

If you are a St. Cloud State fan, you could be forgiven for wondering if the season might ever get easier.

After an opening weekend split with current No. 4 Colgate, last weekend the Huskies traveled to New York for a series with No. 2 Union, again earning a split.

Now the Huskies return home to Minnesota, with only a home-and-home with in-state rival and current No. 1 Minnesota on the docket this weekend.

The current No. 3, North Dakota, will face the Huskies in late November.

In fact, in its first six weekends of play, the only currently nonranked team the Huskies will face is Western Michigan, which made the semifinals of last year’s NCHC tournament.

Asked about the seemingly brutal start to the season, St. Cloud coach Bob Motzko downplayed it as something not unique to this year.

“I kind of think it’s tough every year; I think all of us are used to it,” said Motzko. “When you say we have a tough schedule, if it was something else I’d like to know what easy is, because I’ve never found an easy schedule in college hockey.

“I don’t think we look at it from a standpoint of rankings. We’re playing awful good hockey teams right now, and we’re trying to get our season off to a good start and move forward.”

Last weekend against Union, St. Cloud lost the first game 5-1, plagued by a poor start and excellent play by Union netminder Colin Stevens, who kept St. Cloud off the board until there were only five seconds left in the game.

“We had plenty of chances that night to get back into the game, but I thought their goaltender, Colin Stevens, was outstanding, and we could have got in it to make it look better,” said Motzko. “We had three straight breakaways, power plays, plenty of shots, and Stevens was just outstanding in goal.”

Ben Storm finally got the Huskies on the board at 19:55 of the third, and while it would be easy to wonder if the goal helped give St. Cloud momentum that it used for a 3-2 win on Saturday, Motzko said it’s not the case.

“When you break it back down, it definitely wasn’t a 5-1 game,” Motzko said of Friday’s loss. “We really made a lot of mistakes to give them such a big lead. When you break the game down, we did a lot of good things Friday night, and we carried the momentum from good play.

“I’m sure it was encouraging that we got that goal late, but we played pretty good hockey for five periods, almost five and a half periods. It was really the first seven, eight minutes Friday night.”

Though the home-and-home with top-ranked Minnesota might seem to warrant more preparation, Motzko, whose team took it easy Monday after a long travel day on Sunday, said that his team is mainly concentrating on what it needs to do to improve.

“We’re breaking our game film down right now from the tendencies that a team has to work on defensively or offensively, and those are the things each week that you try to get your team working on better and moving your team forward to get better in the areas you have to have success,” he said.

“Early in the year, you are concentrating 90 percent on your own team, your own play, and worrying very little about the opponent you are going to play. It is what it is. Obviously, Minnesota has got tremendous talent and has some great strengths that we will have to be very well aware of, and we’ll try to be prepared for that and do our best.”

20140131 Omaha StCloudState 01 MBishop St. Cloud States early gauntlet continues with series against top ranked Minnesota

Dominic Zombo is part of a key line for Omaha (photo: Michelle Bishop).

Omaha retains scoring prowess

Coming into this season, many wondered where Omaha would find its scoring.

The Mavericks, who were 16th in team offense last season, lost three of their top six scorers to graduation and their top scorer, Josh Archibald, to early departure.

So far, scoring hasn’t been a problem. The Mavericks are 10th in team offense nationally, and sophomore Jake Guentzel is third nationally in scoring while his classmate, Austin Ortega, is 13th.

“That’s our line right now, Ortega, [Dominic] Zombo and Guentzel,” said Omaha coach Dean Blais. “They’re doing everything for us, power play and penalty kill. We knew coming into the year that if we were going to be successful early, especially with a lot of freshmen, that those guys were going to have to carry us, and they’ve done a great job so far.”

In their last outing two weeks ago, the Mavericks swept Western Michigan on the road, notching 5-2 and 3-0 wins. While the top line was active on the score sheet, the Mavericks got contributions from others as well, such as Tanner Lane and Brian Cooper.

“We need scoring from other people, other players, than just that top line. That’s the key to anyone’s success, is a balanced scoring attack,” said Blais. “Last year, we had a bunch of seniors that could provide it, whether it was Ryan Walters, Zahn Raubenheimer, Brock Montpetit and Josh Archibald, certainly, who scored 29 goals for us. That’s hard to replace. Our whole freshman class might not get 29 goals together. It does put pressure on Zombo, Ortega and Guentzel, but it’s really important that those freshmen come along as fast as they can.”

The Mavericks have nine freshmen who have seen action so far. These young players are getting a tough introduction to the college game, as most of the first two months sees UNO on the road; the Mavericks have only one home series in a stretch of six series that started with Western Michigan.

“That’s always a concern, but we played really well against Western Michigan and won both those games against a real physical team, and we’re going right into Cornell and Ohio State with the same kind of mentality,” said Blais. “We have to be the aggressor; we can’t be the retaliator. Big and physical means that we are going to have use speed and discipline to have a chance to win.”

This weekend, the Mavericks travel to New York to face Cornell for a pair. Last year, the Big Red swept the Mavericks in Omaha.

“They did it on the power play mainly,” Blais said of that series. “They’re a well-coached team with Mike Schafer. They play the same way every year, and that’s good, honest, hard-nosed hockey, and we’re going to have to not try to do outdo them. We have to play to our strength, which is fast and execute well.”

Players of the week

Offensive player of the week — Austin Farley, Minnesota-Duluth: In a split with No. 11 Denver, Farley scored a goal in each game for the Bulldogs and had an assist. On Friday, he scored UMD’s only goal on a power play to tie the game at one before Denver scored twice to win. On Saturday, he fired 10 shots, recording another power-play goal and an assist in the third period in UMD’s 6-1 win.

Defensive player of the week — Troy Stecher, North Dakota: Stecher notched four assists, two on each night, while finishing with a plus-3 rating as North Dakota recorded a win and a tie against No. 5 Providence. On Friday, he assisted on the game-winning goal while finishing plus-2, and on Saturday, he assisted on both North Dakota goals in a 2-2 tie while blocking three shots. Stecher also helped North Dakota kill 14 of 15 penalties on the weekend.

Rookie of the week — Kasimir Kaskisuo, Minnesota-Duluth: Kaskisuo had a .923 save percentage and 2.02 GAA in Minnesota-Duluth’s split series with Denver. In Friday’s 3-1 loss, he made 19 saves and helped kill three of Denver’s four power plays. In Saturday’s 6-1 win, he made 29 saves and helped kill four of Denver’s five power plays. He totaled 48 saves on the weekend while giving up only two even-strength goals.

Goaltender of the week — Lukas Hafner, Western Michigan: Hafner played both games in Western Michigan’s split with No. 16 Alaska, recording a 1.52 GAA and a .953 save percentage. He made a total of 61 saves on the weekend, over 30 in each game, allowing only three goals on the weekend. On Friday, he helped kill six of seven Alaska power-play attempts in a 1-0 loss, and on Saturday he made 30 saves. One of Alaska’s two goals Saturday was on a penalty shot by Garrick Perry in the first period.

Improvements on blue line make the difference for resurgent Vermont

141011 20065142 Improvements on blue line make the difference for resurgent Vermont

Defenseman Michael Paliotta leads Vermont with seven points through four games (photo: Melissa Wade).

A couple of seasons ago, Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon knew that his club had a lot of potential. The burning question was how to turn that potential into results.

Having begun the season 4-0, including 2-0 in Hockey East, it seems early on that the fruits of the labor the Catamounts coaching staff and players have delivered in recent years is beginning to harvest.

Sneddon said a lot of his team’s success this year can be traced back to last year’s senior class, the leadership of which changed the brand of hockey this club is playing while helping the team return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010.

“The one thing that group did was, especially their junior and senior year, they wanted to make sure they put Vermont hockey back on the map,” said Sneddon. “Even in their junior year we saw some positive signs in terms of the culture and we knew we just had to do a good job in recruiting.”

Fast forward two seasons to the current day and that senior class led by Chris McCarthy and H.T. Lenz has graduated but the players remaining in the locker room are proving the cultural change paid off and they are ready to compete for championships.

One major step forward on the recruiting side was at the defensive position. Two years ago, Vermont had some relatively skilled blueliners but the mobility of these players was called into question.

Players like Michael Paliotta took steps forward improving both on the back end and offensively (Paliotta leads the Catamounts with seven points in four games), while classmate Nick Luukko became more mobile and reliable on the defensive side of the puck.

Recruiting has brought in a number of defensemen with talent, including transfer Alexx Privitera, who scored 28 points in 48 games at Boston University before leaving for Vermont at the beginning of last season.

“Recruiting and development has been a big part of it,” Sneddon said of his team’s defensive improvements. “In college hockey nowadays, team defense is a top priority for everybody. Certainly we want to have dynamic forwards who can score goals, but the bottom line is that if you don’t have your defensemen involved in not only jumping up in the play offensively but having great gap [control] because they have good feet and trust their feet, it certainly makes life very difficult for you.

“It’s been a process. That’s one of the positions that’s extremely hard to improve overnight.”

The other part of the defense that is putting forth stellar performances is goaltending. Brody Hoffman and Mike Santaguida continue to share the bulk of the work, so much so that Sneddon said his local media is trying to build a perceived “goaltender controversy.”

To Sneddon, that’s nowhere near correct as the pair pushes one another each and every day.

“We’re really fortunate to have that situation,” Sneddon said of having two solid goaltenders. “I don’t know that we’re in a rotation. It’s kind of a flip from last year where Brody was hurt for the first five games we had to throw Mike into the fire. This year, Mike came in a little bit banged up and Brody came back in fantastic shape and was ready to carry the ball.

“They’re competitive but really respectful. Like they’re brothers.”

Now the question for the Catamounts is whether this team can sustain a fast start. Health is the obvious factor, but often a lack of experience as the giant as opposed to the giant slayer can bring forth challenges.

That may get tested this weekend at Notre Dame, where Vermont will travel for two games to face the 20th-ranked Irish.

“We’ll be playing a team that certainly is young on paper but that is attracting some of the best talent in the country,” Sneddon said of the Irish. “They have some confidence right now, putting up some great numbers offensively the last two weekends.

“So we’ve got our hands full. I’m really excited to see how our team responds to this challenge.”

kevinroy Improvements on blue line make the difference for resurgent Vermont

Northeastern’s Kevin Roy has just one point through four games (photo: Melissa Wade).

At 0-4, not yet panic time for Northeastern

Yes, this was supposed to be the season for Northeastern. Returning two of the league’s best forwards in Kevin Roy and Mike Szmatula as well as last year’s eye-popping goaltender in Hockey East Clay Witt, there was plenty of hope for the Huskies.

An opening-weekend loss to Vermont paired with two road shutout losses to Colgate, both by an identical 3-0 tally, certainly worried many of the Northeastern faithful.

But Massachusetts was on the docket ahead, at home. Should be an easy win, right? Lest we forget this same UMass team lost 8-1 at home to Boston University?

Well, the Minutemen didn’t seem to want to follow script last Friday night, the result a 3-2 victory for the road underdogs and a frightening 0-4 start for Northeastern.

And while you might expect plenty of frustration spouting from the Northeastern locker room after, that was hardly the case as coach Jim Madigan felt his team played a good enough game to win, something that had been absent for the Huskies to date.

“I like the way our guys played,” Madigan said. “We played with some pace and generated some offense. We had 44 shots on goal. We had some good looks.”

Looks didn’t translate to goals, something that could be the result of players feeling the weight of preseason expectations.

“If we get that effort [like we had Friday], we’ll get the monkey off our backs,” said Madigan. “We’re gripping the sticks too tight. We haven’t won yet.”

In an effort to get more offense, Madigan has moved Szmatula onto a line with Roy, trying to pair together his best two forwards instead of spreading offense among the lines. On Friday it created solid chances, just no goals.

Still, there is enough hockey remaining to right the ship.

“At the end of the day we’re 0-2 in the league,” Madigan said. “There’s 22 league games, so there’s a long way to go.”

If there is one major concern for Northeastern, however, it is the absence of goaltender Witt. Surprising to many, Witt wasn’t dressed for Friday’s loss, with Derick Roy playing well in the loss as Witt’s backup.

“That will be day-to-day and we’ll continue to monitor his progress any hopefully have more information,” said Madigan.

Still, the fourth-year coach isn’t ready to push the panic button just yet.

“We’ll turn this around the next game,” Madigan said of a road contest at Quinnipiac on Saturday. “I’m positive because I’ve seen too many good signs and the kids are working.”

Santini a major loss on BC blue line

Sophomore Steve Santini will miss the remainder of the first half for Boston College, the school announced on Tuesday.

Santini suffered ligament damage in his wrist on Saturday versus Massachusetts, an injury that required surgery to repair. He won’t return until, at earliest, January.

“Our priority is for Steve to get healthy,” Eagles coach Jerry York said in a statement. “His presence will be missed throughout this stretch of tough competition ahead of us, but we are looking forward to him returning to our club just after the New Year.”

Santini’s loss leaves a significant hole on a blue line that doesn’t have too much depth past its starters. It will require York to turn to either junior Travis Jeke, who played 22 games as a rookie but just two last season, or classmate Peter McMullen (eight games played in two season), or, as the team did a season ago, move forward Danny Linell back to the blue line.

Linell, who began his career at BC as a forward who didn’t see extensive playing time, moved to the defensive position during the 2013-14 season to help fill injury voids. Calling upon him in a similar situation might bring Matthew Gaudreau, the brother of last year’s Hobey Baker Award winner Johnny Gaudreau, into the lineup on a more permanent basis.

BU’s key to success: solid finishes

Jumping out to a 3-0 record for Boston University is a welcome sight after the team’s 10-21-4 mark a season ago.

The most impressive of the three opening wins for the Terriers came last Saturday against Michigan. A night after the Wolverines dismantled a respected Massachusetts-Lowell team 8-4, BU found itself trailing 2-1 entering the third.

The Terriers rallied, however, killing off an early Michigan power play before netting the tying and winning goals later in the frame.

The third-period success is becoming somewhat of a norm for this Terriers team, which has yet to surrender a goal in the final frame through three contests. Conversely, BU has scored eight times in the final period, including a six-spot on UMass to make a 2-1 contest an 8-1 rout.

The success the team has had over the final 20 minutes brings a smile to the face of second-year coach David Quinn.

“We’ve won all of our third periods which I think is a great sign,” Quinn said. “Depth up front allows us to keep guys fresh.

“It was doom and gloom after the second period [Friday]. We thought we had played well early in the second and then they get that power-play goal late [to take a 2-1 lead]. But when you win every third period this year, that’s a good sign.”

Quinn said that there is a confidence about his team heading into the third period, meaning if BU can stay within striking distance through 40 minutes, there’s no reason it can’t win.

“You could see it in their faces. We talked that, ‘Hey we’ve all been down 2-1 before and come back and won hockey games. This is nothing new,’” Quinn said about Friday’s comeback.

At 3-0, this BU team has taken a major step forward from a season ago. Knowing there is still room for improvement further enhances this team’s unbeaten record.

“We’re a work in progress still,” said Quinn. “It’s nice to be winning when you think you’re going to get better and that our best hockey is ahead of us.”

Kohler is a big reason for confidence at North Dakota

1D3L2713 Kohler is a big reason for confidence at North Dakota

(Becca Kohler-51 North Dakota)(Lauren Smith-25 Mankato State)2 Mar.. 13 The University of North Dakota hosts Bemidji State in a WCHA match-up at the Ralph Engelsted Arena in Grand Forks, ND. (BRADLEY K. OLSON)

For the 2007-08 season, Brian Idalski took over a North Dakota program that had gone winless in the WCHA the previous year. Under Idalski, the team showed some improvement, finishing tied for fifth place in his second year, but its upward climb looked to be a slow one.

In the spring of 2009, Grand Forks natives Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux announced their plan to transfer to their home university. After competing in the 2010 Olympics, they began playing for UND in 2010-11 as sophomores, and the team had its first 20-win season. The following year, Finnish Olympian Michelle Karvinen joined the cast, and the trio combined for 214 points and led North Dakota to its first NCAA tournament. The 2012-13 campaign produced a program-best 26 wins and a return to the NCAAs, but ended an eyelash shy of a first Frozen Four trip. Last season, Karvinen captained UND to another 20 wins as a senior.

Now Idalski is left with the task of reconstructing North Dakota in the wake of its three graduated Olympians.

“[Karvinen] is just such a dynamic player,” Idalski said. “It’s very interesting. She was really just coming into her own. I don’t know if you replace a kid like that. Same thing with the Lamoureuxs. I don’t think you replace kids like that. They’re very few, and they’re getting fewer and fewer every year, to be honest with you. That’s a bit of a void; there’s no doubt about that.”

North Dakota lost another forward with Olympic experience when Susanna Tapani elected to remain in Finland after her freshman year.

Beyond the losses, the UND roster is unique in that only two of its 24 players are freshmen, and neither of those rookies has appeared in a game as yet. Might it have an advantage early in the year against opponents counting on newcomers still acclimating to the college game?

“I would have thought that we would, if we didn’t change everything,” Idalski said. “When you’re doing and trying to execute things that are vastly different than what you did in the past, I still think you’re falling back and there’s a learning curve to that before you don’t have to think about it.”

Junior forward Becca Kohler is one player who has done less falling back in the early going.

“Being a two-time U-18 player, she’s definitely skilled and somebody that was looked upon in the recruiting process to be an impact player for us,” Idalski said.

It took Kohler a bit to get rolling in the college atmosphere. She had 12 points as a rookie and added another 16 points in year two. Meanwhile, Canadian U-18 teammate Meghan Dufault recorded 69 points through two years.

“I think for me coming in as a freshman, my role was a little different than [Dufault],” Kohler said. “I’m a bigger player, and I think we’re different kind of players. I think she’s really speedy, and for me it took a while to kind of adjust to college hockey and adapt to my role.”

Most players find Division-I hockey to be more demanding physically than playing for their prep teams.

“In my last year of junior, I was really more offensive, so it was kind of a struggle coming here to college hockey and being up against stronger players,” Kohler said. “I think now I’m more comfortable like I was back in junior and I’m learning to use my size again. I’m kind of figuring out that my size is a really big advantage.”

While her six-foot frame gives her an edge, her age does not.

“I think what most people don’t know is she’s extremely young,” Idalski said. “Most of our sophomores are older than she is. It’s just taken her a bit to feel comfortable and being that kind of player and the consistency of showing up game in and game out and being a go-to kid. That’s really her role and she’s accepted it, and she’s doing great.”

Kohler charged out of the gate in October with four goals and six assists in her first five games, including a hat trick on opening night versus Rensselaer. The fast start is due at least in part to her preparation.

“This year coming in, I was more aware of what I was expected to do,” she said. “So I worked really hard in the summer with my shooting and knowing how to be more offensive. Coming in and knowing that was going to be my role, and I’ve been given the opportunity, and luckily, I’ve capitalized on it. I think I really enjoy this role more than being [on] the third or second line.”

She got another boost to her game in September thanks to Hockey Canada.

“I was at the national team camp,” Kohler said. “That was really exciting to be with the Olympians. I think that’s another thing that contributed to my good start here is that I came right from that camp, so I was practicing at a really high pace. I think coming right from that to here kind of helped my jump in the games. I attribute a lot to being at that camp, and that’s my goal, is to keep getting invited back to Hockey Canada.”

The national team benefit goes beyond the physical advantages it offers.

“I think just going to that camp and fitting in and knowing I belong there and deserve to be there really from a mental standpoint gave me a good start to this year,” Kohler said. “I attribute a lot to the mental aspect of it, so I think I got more confidence from that. When I play with confidence, I’m a lot more effective.”

Opponents recognize Kohler’s effectiveness as well and adjust their tactics.

“I feel like I have more pressure on me when I’m in the corners,” she said. “I feel like that’s always been there, but now it’s a little more intense. I kind of feed off that intensity, and I like when people are tough on me, because then it makes me go harder.”

That defensive intensity can also take its toll. After her quick start over which North Dakota won four of five, Kohler has been held without a point in the last three games, all UND losses, two by shutout. She can now better relate to what the Lamoureux twins faced as the object of every defense’s attention.

“I understand what they went through,” Kohler said. “You look at them and I saw how they handled the pressure. They were role models to look at in how they handled it, and they kept working hard. I’m fortunate enough I got to play with them [for a year].”

The best way to alleviate that pressure on Kohler is if other players are producing offense and drawing some of the defensive focus. Dufault is averaging a point per game, and five of senior Josefine Jakobsen’s 115 career points have come this year. Beyond that, there aren’t many people who have put up big numbers at this level.

“[Senior Andrea] Dalen has had some good looks,” Idalski said. “I think that we can get a little bit more there. [Junior Layla] Marvin has shown some flashes. We need to get production from the blue line. Gracen Hirschy and Halli [Krzyzaniak] need to jump in there. Sam Hanson has shown some flashes back there as well. I think [Northeastern transfer Jordan] Hampton is just starting to get comfortable for us. There’s a decent group of players that I think we’re going to get something from. As far as that being one person who is really going to jump up, I don’t know if that’s going to be the case. We’re going to need a core of kids that consistently are doing some better things for us offensively.”

Idalski has tried to increase the offensive output by moving some of his higher-scoring defensemen, in particular Hirschy, a WCHA All-Rookie Team honoree last year, to forward.

North Dakota is hardly alone in its quest for more firepower.

“You don’t see the Brandts or the Poulins or the Lamoureuxs as much,” Idalski said. “I don’t think there’s a lot of kids out there who are that dynamic. BC has a good group of them, but it’s getting more structured; it’s getting where everybody can play. You’re starting to see teams trap more and more and be good at it, because they can skate and angle and they have talent. It’s been very interesting to watch the game grow. In some areas, I’m not sure it’s super great, but obviously, we’re following the men. Twenty years ago it was where one or two people could carry a full team and do well. Now it’s depth and four lines. I think we’re mirroring that, too. A team can trap and win hockey games, and that wasn’t the case four, five years ago.”

Offense isn’t the only way to win, and UND demonstrated as much last year. It arrived at the final weekend of the WCHA tournament knowing it would have to win the championship in order to extend its string of NCAA appearances to three.

Against Wisconsin in the semifinals, a 35-save shutout from goaltender Shelby Amsley-Benzie and a goal from Dufault were enough to frustrate the Badgers and advance to the final. The same recipe worked against Minnesota — to a point. North Dakota held a 1-0 lead halfway through on a Jakobsen goal. Amsley-Benzie did her part with 41 more stops, but when the Gophers got a couple of power-play tallies, UND could not come up with an equalizer.

The North Dakota defense is much improved from just a few years ago when it first rose to national prominence. However, it is tough to win games against ranked opponents consistently by scoring only a goal or two.

That’s why it would be huge for UND if its tallest player can continue to take her game to new heights.

“[Kohler is] playing with a lot of confidence and she’s creating offense for us consistently,” Idalski said. “I’m super excited for her. The sky is the limit. She’s just scratching the surface of what she’s capable of.”

Riding a 4-0 start, Michigan Tech ready for a rare visit from Michigan

2012101920 29 3074 Riding a 4 0 start, Michigan Tech ready for a rare visit from Michigan

Michigan Tech fans will see Michigan at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena for the first time since 1983 (photo: Jim Rosvold).

Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula has been Wolverine-free since 1983.

That will change this weekend.

Michigan visits Houghton, Mich., this weekend to take on Michigan Tech at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena for the first time in more than 30 years.

It couldn’t have come at a better time for the 17th-ranked Huskies, who are 4-0 and riding high after their recent sweep of Ferris State in Big Rapids, Mich.

“Well, I don’t know if there’s ever a good time to play them,” Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson said. “They’re such a good team. They’re so scary up front. They’re always a tough team to play.”

This weekend’s series will be Michigan Tech’s first home games this season. The Huskies started the season Oct. 4-5 at Lake Superior State, then had two weeks off before visiting Ferris.

Pearson wasn’t sure what to expect early this season, given the early start on the road plus a series at defending MacNaughton Cup champions Ferris State. The Bulldogs hadn’t lost at home in more than a year and made Ewigleben Ice Arena a house of horrors for league foes in 2013-14, going 15-0-1 at home in the WCHA.

But the Huskies allowed just one goal against the Bulldogs, with goaltender Jamie Phillips stopping 67 of 68 shots.

“I’m really happy with how we started,” Pearson said. “Considering last year we went 0-3-1 in our first four games, it’s quite a turnaround. Especially early, when you don’t know a lot about your team. But points are so critical, and any time you can get conference points on the road this early in the season, you’re happy. You bank those.”

Now the Huskies return home looking not for conference points but for in-state bragging rights and a little bit of confidence.

The significance of playing Michigan at home is not lost on Pearson, who played at Michigan Tech in his college days and was a longtime Michigan assistant under Red Berenson from 1988 to 2011.

“One of the first things I did when I got this job and got up here was to try and get Michigan on the schedule again,” Pearson said. “And Red was all for it. He’s all for college hockey. His teams aren’t afraid to travel.”

The Huskies and the Wolverines meet often, but it’s typically on neutral ice — Tech and Michigan annually take part in the Great Lakes Invitational played at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The last time the Wolverines visited Houghton, it was a conference series, when both teams were members of the CCHA.

It wasn’t until recently that the teams have decided to schedule one another for a home-and-home nonconference series.

The Huskies visited Ann Arbor in 2013 and are scheduled to return in the 2016-17 season; Pearson said he and Berenson were working hard to keep the scheduling relationship going and get the Wolverines back in the western U.P. in the near future.

For now, however, the Huskies will be looking for another solid series against a top team. Pearson is anxious to see how his team plays at home amid all the distractions — in addition to the Wolverines, the Stanley Cup will also be visiting Houghton on Friday, as will the MacNaughton Cup.

“This should give us a good idea of where we’re at,” Pearson said. “It’s going to be a festive weekend. We have to find a way to focus and play hockey.”

IMG 4008 Riding a 4 0 start, Michigan Tech ready for a rare visit from Michigan

Minnesota State and Bowling Green last met in last season’s WCHA semifinals (photo: Michael Dubicki).

Series of the week

Minnesota State plays at Bowling Green this weekend, and if recent history is any indication, the series should feature a pair of close games.

The Mavericks and Falcons split four one-goal games last season, with three of the going into overtime. Minnesota State won two of the OT games.

“I think we developed a little bit of a rivalry,” Bowling Green coach Chris Bergeron said.

The rubber match was played in the semifinals of the Final Five, with the Mavericks winning 4-0.

“That wasn’t a 4-nothing game,” Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings said, recalling goalie Cole Huggins’ 36-save shutout. Shots were 36-36 in the game, and Huggins went on to take tournament MVP honors.

The Mavericks also got a great performance that night in Grand Rapids from Bryce Gervais (this week’s league offensive player of the week, by the way), who had a goal and two assists to lead his team into the Broadmoor Trophy championship game.

As for this season’s matchup, Bowling Green has the league’s and the nation’s top goal scorer in sophomore Kevin Dufour with eight goals, while Minnesota State senior defenseman Zach Palmquist is tied with Dufour for the league scoring league with eight points (3 goals, 5 assists).

The Falcons and the Mavericks are both averaging 3.5 goals per game, best in the WCHA.

Stay on schedule

Alabama-Huntsville travels to Northern Michigan for what will be a nonconference series in Marquette. According to Huntsville coach Mike Corbett, the quirk in the schedule comes from an agreement set before league realignment.

The two teams will play just one league series this season, which will take place Jan. 16-17 in Huntsville.

Ice chips

• At 3-1-2, Alaska Anchorage is off to its best six-game start since 2007-08.

• Ferris State goalie CJ Motte recorded his 2,400th save on Friday. He is third in the nation among active career saves leaders.

• Northern Michigan leads the nation in scoring defense, having allowed just three goals in four games for a 0.75 GAA. NMU sophomore goaltender Mathias Dahlström is second nationally with a 0.33 GAA in three games.

• Bowling Green sophomore forward Kevin Dufour scored nine goals all of last year. Now, he leads the NCAA with eight goals — at least one in all six of the Falcons’ games.

Players of the week

This week’s players of the week are: Minnesota State junior forward Bryce Gervais (offensive), Michigan Tech junior goaltender Jamie Phillips (defensive) and Bowling Green freshman forward Mitchell McLain (rookie).

Quinnipiac AD McDonald calling it a career next June

Quinnipiac director of athletics and recreation Jack McDonald will retire in June 2015 after 20 years in that position, according to the New Haven Register.

The 63-year-old McDonald reportedly made the announcement at an athletic department staff meeting Wednesday morning.

McDonald, a former chairman of the NCAA men’s ice hockey committee, was hired in the fall of 1995 to oversee Quinnipiac’s transition from Division II and in that time, the school built a dual-sport facility for basketball and hockey (the $52 million TD Bank Sports Center, which opened in January 2007), upgraded conferences in all sports (hockey joined the ECAC in 2006), came within one win of a hockey national championship (in 2013, losing to Yale) and saw the women’s Frozen Four hosted by the school this past spring.

He is currently the chairman of the NCAA women’s ice hockey committee.

The former athletic director at Denver, McDonald helped lay the groundwork for that school’s return to Division I athletics in the late 1990s, with the hockey program as the centerpiece.

Distractions in the past, Penn State gets down to business with wins

DSC 3383 Distractions in the past, Penn State gets down to business with wins

Matthew Skoff has a 1.96 GAA in helping Penn State to a 3-1-2 start (photo: Omar Phillips).

Halloween is this Friday. What do you think is scarier: an 0-4 Wisconsin or a 3-1-2 Penn State?

“Wisconsin is very young and they’ve played all veteran teams right now,” said Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky. “It won’t be long before they come around.”

Through four games, the Badgers have registered three goals by players belonging to three different classes: senior Brad Navin — who had four goals in 36 games last season — sophomore Tim Davison and freshman Matt Ustaski.

With eight rookies and four sophomores seeing time those four games to start the season, Wisconsin is going to look for underclassmen to fill some offensive voids when they return to the ice Nov. 7 against North Dakota.

But other teams have gotten production out of their freshmen in the early going. Four newcomers in the Big Ten are averaging at least a point per game: Michigan’s Dylan Larkin and Zach Werenski are averaging 1.20 points per game, tied for third among rookies nationally; Ohio State’s Matthew Weis and Penn State’s Scott Conway are averaging a point per game, tied for sixth nationally among freshmen. Incidentally, Werenski is tied for seventh among defensemen in points per game.

With the help of a 10-goal weekend, the Nittany Lions are tied for third nationally in scoring offense, averaging 4.17 goals per game — the same as Notre Dame and Union, at least in the early going.

And while a 7-1 victory over Holy Cross on Sunday may artificially inflate the Nittany Lions’ numbers, PSU had another seven-goal output against Connecticut on Oct. 11 and has netted fewer than three goals in a game this season just once, in a 2-2 tie against Connecticut to open the season Oct. 10.

Against Holy Cross, said Gadowsky, “I thought we played well.” He hastened to add, “I still think we have a long way to go. Still, we’re much, much further ahead than we were at the start of last season.”

No longer a rookie team in many ways, the Nittany Lions can turn to a few veterans to help propel them this season, especially junior goaltender Matthew Skoff (1.96 GAA, .931 save percentage).

“His value is more than his numbers,” said Gadowsky. “He’s such a great teammate and he’s got such a high level of work ethic. He’s also very calm in the net. The guys want to play for him.”

With a few weeks to digest the difference between this year and last, Gadowsky said that his team is no longer distracted by so many firsts.

“It was very easy to get distracted last year, but in ways in which you were honored,” he said. “There were a whole bunch of firsts, like the first game in Pegula [Arena], moving into Pegula, the first Big Ten game, the first Big Ten win — all of it. It was easy to let your focus wander a bit.”

Another difference between this season and last is something that Gadowsky is beginning to appreciate more as the current campaign progresses: the opportunity to play quality opponents with a schedule of all Division I play in 2013-14.

The Nittany Lions were a much different team at the end of last season than they were at the start of it, and not every team gets to continue that kind of momentum from one season to the next, but Gadowsky said it was kind of inevitable.

“Being in the Big Ten, you’re playing against some of the top programs in the country night in and night out, and it’s hard not to improve,” he said.

The Nittany Lions may be one of the stories to watch in the early part of this season, but Gadowsky said that he can’t exaggerate how far the program has to go. PSU has a short week this week, having played Holy Cross on Sunday with a game scheduled against visiting Bentley on Thursday.

“And don’t forget,” said Gadowsky, “Bentley’s a team that just swept RPI on the road.”

Thursday’s game between the Falcons and the Nittany Lions is the first of a two-game set that concludes Friday night in Pegula Arena.

2013101820 45 3751 Distractions in the past, Penn State gets down to business with wins

Travis Boyd scored both game-winning goals for Minnesota last weekend (photo: Jim Rosvold).

Fast starts

No one is surprised by Minnesota’s fast start. The 4-0 Gophers were the unanimous No. 1 team in this week’s USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll, partly because Minnesota’s offense looks so convincing, netting 4.25 goals per game on average and sporting the best power play in the nation so far, converting at 35.3 percent.

Gophers players out to fast starts include senior Travis Boyd and sophomore Connor Reilly. Boyd has three goals in four games, including two on the power play and two game-winning goals; in 41 games last season, Boyd had nine total goals, with five on the power play and no game winners. Reilly has two goals in four games this year, two on the power play; last year in 37 games, he netted six goals with one on the man advantage.

The special teams were a big factor in Minnesota’s sweep of Bemidji State last weekend. The Gophers beat the Beavers 5-2 and 5-3, with Boyd’s game-winning goal Friday coming short-handed and his game-winner Saturday on the power play. He also followed up Friday’s second-period short-hander with a power-play tally four minutes later.

“We are clicking right now on the power play and that is good to see because so much of the game depends on special teams,” said Boyd. “Our penalty kill was good this weekend, too. We talk about winning the special teams battle every game and every weekend and that is a big reason why we came out with two wins this weekend.”

Other players around the league who have opened the season well include Ohio State junior Anthony Greco and Buckeyes senior Tanner Fritz; Michigan State senior Matt Berry — who was hampered by injury during his junior season — and Michigan’s Alex Kile and Zach Hyman. Kile, a sophomore, has three goals in five games, including two on the power play; in 2013-14, Kile had four goals in 28 games.

Hyman’s three goals this season all came against Massachusetts-Lowell last Friday night, his first collegiate hat trick and only his second multi-goal game. Last season, Hyman netted seven goals in 35 games, and Hyman’s three-year career total before this season was 13 goals in 114 games.

All three of Hyman’s goals came in the second period of that 8-4 win, and he credited the Wolverines’ aggressive forecheck for his success. Michigan’s coach Red Berenson said that in the eight-goal game, the Wolverines got some “puck luck” that they hadn’t yet experienced so far this season.

Michigan’s offense is tied for 20th in the nation so far, averaging 3.20 goals per game. Michigan finished last season 19th nationally in offense, averaging 3.06 goals per game.

The Big Ten/Hockey East Challenge … and some grumbling

Let me make it clear from the start that the grumbling isn’t mine. It’s too early in the season for me to complain. Much. Yet.

We are approaching the midway point of the Big Ten/Hockey East Challenge. Five of the Big Ten’s schools are playing nine of Hockey East’s schools between Oct. 10 and Nov. 29. There are 20 games total scheduled for the challenge, 10 in Big Ten venues, 10 in Hockey East arenas.

There is a cup at stake, and it will be presented to the conference that records the most points from the 20 games. Teams earn two points for a win, one point for a tie, and a bonus point is awarded to a team with a road win. So far through Oct. 25, Hockey East leads 16-12.

Last weekend, both Michigan State and Michigan went east to face Hockey East opponents, and the Big Ten did not fare well in terms of points. The Wolverines had the only win, that 8-4 game against Lowell that delivered to the River Hawks their first loss of the season. The other three contests were losses for the Spartans and Wolverines.

Michigan State, which had put up eight goals against visiting Massachusetts to open the season Oct. 17-18, scored a single goal in the weekend, losing to Boston University 1-0 and Lowell 2-1.

In the Friday loss to BU, Jake Hildebrand made 39 saves for the Spartans. Saturday against Lowell, the Spartans scored to tie the game 1-1 in the second, but Michael Kapla’s short-handed goal within the first minute of the third period held up to be the game winner for the River Hawks.

After beating the River Hawks on Friday, the Wolverines led Boston University 2-1 going into the third period but gave up goals at 2:29 and 16:50 to let that one slip away — and Berenson was pretty vocal about all the goals in that contest.

“It’s disappointing when the outcome of the game comes down to the referees sitting in the penalty box looking at a monitor to decide whether the goals were in,” said Berenson, who was especially upset about a goal that was waved off near the midway point in the third, when the score was tied 2-2. A shot by freshman Sam Piazza would have given the Wolverines a 3-2 lead, but after some deliberation, the goal was disallowed.

“Of the five goals that were scored, I think all five of them were disputed goals or reviewed goals, and one that was called off on us,” said Berenson. “So I don’t know how we ever played hockey without the review, but the referees shouldn’t be the goal judges.”

Not surprisingly, Boston University coach David Quinn saw the calls a little differently, especially since the penalties in the game were lopsided: BU had six minors for 12 minutes to Michigan’s three for six. Both of Michigan’s goals came on the power play.

“They went to the review system and they were called goals, and that’s why you have the review system in place,” said Quinn. “I wish we had five power plays, but that’s a whole other story.”

The Big Ten and Hockey East tangle again when Michigan State travels to New Hampshire Nov. 7-8.

Players of the week

A newcomer, a familiar name and a name that may well become increasingly familiar.

First star — Minnesota senior forward Travis Boyd: Boyd scored both game-winning goals in Minnesota’s sweep of Bemidji State, tallying three goals and an assist on the weekend. Boyd has three goals in four games this season; he had nine goals in 41 contests in 2013-14. This is his third career Big Ten weekly award.

Second star — Michigan freshman forward Dylan Larkin: Larkin registered one goal and five assists in Michigan’s two games against Hockey East opponents. Larkin netted the game-winning goal in the Wolverines’ 8-4 win over Lowell on Friday and assisted on both Michigan goals in Michigan’s 3-2 loss to Boston University on Saturday. It’s his first career Big Ten weekly award.

Third star — Penn State junior goaltender Matthew Skoff: Skoff earned the third star for the second consecutive week, stopping 57 of 59 shots he faced in the Nittany Lions’ sweep of Holy Cross, for a weekend save percentage of .966 and GAA of 1.00 in the two contests. This is his third career Big Ten weekly award.

My ballot

1. Minnesota
2. Union
3. Boston College
4. North Dakota
5. Colgate
6. Providence
7. Notre Dame
8. Massachusetts-Lowell
9. St. Cloud State
10. Ferris State
11. New Hampshire
12. Michigan
13. Miami
14. Minnesota State
15. Quinnipiac
16. Denver
17. Minnesota-Duluth
18. Robert Morris
19. Alaska
20. Alaska-Anchorage

St. Norbert the defending champ, but NCHA looks wide-open early

coghlin St. Norbert the defending champ, but NCHA looks wide open early

Tim Coghlin led St. Norbert to the 2014 national title and has his eyes on doing it again, but knows it’s a tough road ahead (photo: St. Norbert Athletics).

St. Norbert won the national championship last year, its fourth in program history, but Green Knights’ coach Dan Coghlin doesn’t see his team as the defending champs.

“We don’t look at it as defending a title,” Coghlin said. “It’s a brand new season and every team wants to be a champion. We want another shot at the title, too.”

But before the Green Knights can dream about a national championship, they need to focus on surviving the NCHA. That is much easier said than done.

“It’s one of the best conferences in the country, and I expect that to be the case again this year,” Coghlin said. “I think the teams near the bottom are going to be much better this year, and the fact that it is competitive makes everyone better.”

The Green Knights are led by Cullen Bradshaw, who led the team in points (42) and was tied for third in goals on a team that put the puck in the net 150 times. The return of David Jacobson in goal should also help St. Norbert’s cause to repeat as league champs and contend for the national title.

“We lost some very good players from last year’s team, core guys who killed penalties and core guys who scored goals, but we do have experience back, too,” Coghlin said. “This spot isn’t new to us. We’ve been here before. But we have a different team and have to find some other guys to step up and fill the voids.”

Adrian will also contend for the league title after playing in the NCAA tourney. The Bulldogs fell to St. Norbert in the opening round. Josh Ranalli and Duston Hebebrand will lead the way, scoring 21 and 18 goals, respectively last year.

Lake Forest and St. Scholastica will be contenders as well. Both teams played in the league tournament last year, with St. Scholastica finishing as the league tourney runner-up. The Saints will lean heavily on Dylan Nowkowski and Dave Williams. Nowkowski was second on the team in poitns (25) and Williams was the team’s second-leading goal scorer (10).

The Foresters are coming off one of their best seasons in program history, winning 15 games, and they are ready to ride that momentum into this year. Bobby Barrett will pave the way as he tallied 18 goals and 12 assists last season.

Marian just missed out on a spot in the conference tourney, finishing fifth in the standings, but have a shot at getting there this season as they are expecting big things from Brian Berger, who racked up six goals and nine assists last year.

The Milwaukee School of Engineering, which battled injuries, will be looking for a bounce-back year after losing several close games. One of the keys to its success will be goalie Austin Campbell, one of the most talented freshmen in the league. He made 337 saves last year.

Finlandia, Lawrence and Northland are expected to be improved teams and could very well pull off an upset win on any given night. Finlandia and Northland are two of the four teams in the league with new coaches. Lake Forest and Adrian are the other two schools.

Seamus Gregory, the head coach of Northland, shared his thoughts on trying to get a program back on track. His team has 17 newcomers.

“In our first year of this rebuilding process, we are looking to compete every night,” Gregory said. “There will be growing pains, but we are excited about what the future holds.”

 

Adrian

Nickname: Bulldogs

2013-14 Record: 22-3-4 overall, 14-1-3 NCHA

2013-14 Postseason: Lost 7-2 to St. Norbert in opening round of NCAA tournament

Head Coach: Adam Krug (1st season)

Key Returning Players: F Josh Ranalli (21-13–34); F Duston Hebebrand (18-16-34); D Ryan Gieseler (3-15–18); G Scott Shackell (2.40 GAA)

Key Departures: F Josh Cousineau (8-22–30); F Shelby Gray (9-8–17); F Zach Wilson (5-2–7)

Thoughts: The cupboard certainly won’t be bare for first-year head coach Adam Krug, who played two seasons for the Bulldogs and ranks seventh all-time in points (129). Among the key players back for the Bulldogs are high-scoring forwards Josh Ranalli and Duston Hebebrand. The seniors combined to score 39 goals last year, including 21 by Ranalli as the Bulldogs finished second in the league standings. Adrian racked up 119 goals as a team, averaging 35.2 shots per game, and should be just as productive again this season. The Bulldogs will also be able to count on an experienced goalie in Scott Shackell, who played in 15 games while fashioning an 11-1-1 record. Adrian closed the year with two consecutive losses, but shouldn’t have any problem starting strong and putting itself in the mix for the NCHA championship.

 

Concordia (Wis.)

Nickname: Falcons

2013-14 Record: 10-13-4 overall, 7-9-2 NCHA

2013-14 Postseason: Did not qualify

Head Coach: Jasen Wise (17-31-4, 3rd season)

Key Returning Players: F Devin Stuermer (12-13–25); F Brett Penner (12-12–24); F Chris Hughes (11-12–23); F Buster Hebda (5-7–12); D Brandt Weldon (3-8–11) G Domingo Torrenueva (3.62 GAA); G Jake Hebda (3.54 GAA)

Key Departures: D Brandon Bayer (2-10–12); F Dan Shilts (3-7–10); F Riley Storzuk (6-14–20)

Thoughts: The Falcons will have an opportunity for a winning season as they return a good chunk of their offensive talent, including forward Devin Stuermer, who scored 12 goals and dished out 13 assists. Brett Penner came through with 12 goals and 12 assists and Chris Hughes also finished in double figures in goals, tallying 11. The Falcons will also look for leadership from Buster Hebda, who will a team captain this season. Hebda scored five goals and dished out seven assists last year. Goaltending shouldn’t be an issue either as the Falcons return two goalies with experience. Domingo Torrenueva played in 19 games last year and tallied 507 saves. He fashioned a record of 7-7-2. Jake Hebda was injured after playing in only five games last year, but is healthy again and ready to compete for time in goal after a 2-1-2 season a year ago.

 

Finlandia

Nickname: Lions

2013-14 Record: 3-20-1 overall, 2-16 NCHA

2013-14 Postseason: Did not qualify

Head Coach: Dan Litke (1st season)

Key Returning Players: D Travis Armstrong (7-13–20); F Ryan Daavetilla (7-3–10); F Scott Vargas (4-5–9); G Andrew Brownlee (.909 save percentage)

Key Departures: F Shigenobu Kakudate (7-17-24); D Mike Montrose (3-10–13); F Cody Essel (2-8–10)

Thoughts: It was a tough year for the Lions, who finished last in the conference. They struggled offensively, scoring only 50 goals, and struggled on defense as well, giving up 107 goals. Finlandia lost its top scorer in Shigenobu Kakudate and will look to players such as Travis Armstrong, Ryan Daavetilla and Scott Vargas. But others will have to step up as well if Finlandia is going to take a step forward under a new head coach. The Lions have added several newcomers with scoring ability, including Cody Wickstrom, Tim Santapoalo and Lane King. They will likely get an opportunity to make an immediate impact. First-year head coach Dane Litke has his work cut out for him, but in time, he should be able to turn things around. He was a successful coach in the NAHL and won a national title as a player at North Dakota.

 

Lake Forest

Nickname: Foresters

2013-14 Record: 15-12-1 overall, 11-7 NCHA

2013-14 Postseason: Lost 6-0 to St. Norbert in semifinals of NCHA tournament

Head Coach: Pat Kelliher (1st season)

Key Returning Players: F Bobby Barrett (18-12–30); F Jack Lewis (10-8–18); F Jason McAloon (9-9–18); F Luke Swardenski (6-12–18); D Ben Certo (3-15–18); D Andrew Stein (7-10–17); D Charlie Stein (1-13–14); G Leo Podolsky (2.60 GAA)

Key Departures: F Mike Violette (8-18–26)

Thoughts: The Foresters are coming off one of their best seasons in a decade, including their best conference record in 27 years. And while Lake Forest will be under the direction of a new coach, he is a coach familiar with the program. Pat Kelliher was promoted to the top job after serving as an assistant since 2010. The Foresters have plenty of talent back, including Bobby Barrett, who scored 18 goals and dished out 12 assists last season to lead the team in points (30). Jack Lewis, Jason McAloon, Luke Swardenski, Ben Certo, Andrew Stein and Charlie Stein will all be key contributors as well for an offense that tallied 92 goals last season. The defense should be improved as Leo Podolsky is back in goal. Lake Forest will look to improve on the road this year as well. A year ago, it went 6-8-1 while going 9-4 at home.

 

Lawrence

Nickname: Vikings

2013-14 Record: 6-19-2 overall, 5-12-1 NCHA

2013-14 Postseason: Did not qualify

Head Coach: Mike Szkodzinkski (90-114-18, 9th season)

Key Returning Players: F Blake Roubos (10-15–25); F Logan Lemirande (5-10–35); F Rudi Pino (5-4–9); D Brandon Boelter (1-14–15); D Steve Hughes (1-7–8); D Erik Soderlund (0-1–1); G Mattias Soderqvist (3.64 GAA)

Key Departures: F Huck Sanders (13-9–22); D Will Thoren (4-8–12)

Thoughts: The Vikings are coming off their worst season under head coach Mike Szkodzinski, but are hoping to bounce back on the strength of several key returning players. That group includes Blake Roubos, who led the Vikings in points and was second on the team in assists with 15. He also scored 10 goals and was named one of the top newcomers in the conference. Logan Lemirande and Rudi Pino are also back to provide help offensively for a team that managed only 58 goals last season. Like Roubos, Lemirande also earned a spot on the All-NCHA Freshman Team. Defenseman Brandon Boelter will provide a lift to the offense after dishing out 14 assists last year. The Vikings will also have experience in goal as Mattias Soderqvist returns. He tallied 482 saves last season and should help the Vikings improve defensively after they allowed 111 goals as a team.

 

Marian

Nickname: Sabres

2013-14 Record: 12-13-2 overall, 10-7-1 NCHA

2013-14 Postseason: Did not qualify

Head Coach: AJ Aitken (25-25-3, 3rd season)

Key Returning Players: Brian Berger (6-9–15); D Tom Nosella (0-5–5); F Matt Williams (10-11–21)

Key Departures: F Tyler Klein (14-18–32); Josh Baker (2.29 GAA)

Thoughts: Marian finished on the outside looking in for the conference tournament, finishing fifth but is poised to contend for a spot this season. The Sabres have one of their best offensive threats back in Brian Berger, who tallied six goals and nine assists. He is a threat to score every time he has the puck. Tom Nosella and Matt Williams will both provide leadership as well in their fourth seasons. Williams will look to build on the offensive success he enjoyed a year ago. One of the biggest keys for the Sabres will be replacing goalie Josh Baker, a three year starter between the pipes. Baker started 22 games last year. Marian has brough on several key newcomers, including Hunter Stewart, a standout in the BCHL who should make an immediate impact on offense. Curtis Lewington and Mark Whitley will also have a chance to play right away while Mike Gudmandson could compete for time in goal. Marian will be challenged often, facing five opponents who finished in the top 10 of the national rankings last year.

 

Milwaukee School of Engineering

Nickname: Raiders

2013-14 Record: 7-19-1 overall, 6-12 NCHA

2013-14 Postseason: Did not qualify

Head Coach: Mark Ostapina (196-149-15, 14th season)

Key Returning Players: F Gage Christianson (6-14–20); D Logan Bauman (2-4–6); F Evan Wilson 5-1–6); G Austin Campbell (2.04 GAA)

Key Departures: F West Bauman (2-12–14); F Steven Shaffroth (6-7–13); D Michael Thompson (3-7–10); D Devin Schmitt (1-3–4)

Thoughts: Injuries and a tough schedule made life tough last season, but the Raiders still managed to be competitive despite everything and should be poised for a bounce-back season. Having Gage Christianson back will help a great deal as he finished with 20 points last season. The return of Logan Bauman and Evan Wilson will also be key as the Raiders look to improve on an offensive effort that produced only 45 goals. Defensively, MSOE should be in good shape with Austin Campbell back in goal. Campbell made 337 saves a year ago and was named one of the league’s top freshmen. Fourteen newcomers have also been added to the roster and several will have a chance to make an impact. Among the key newcomers are Jerad Tafoya, James Ring and Clint Garris. All three played for the Topeka Roadrunners of the NAHL and led the team to a South Divsion playoff title last year. Patrick Dwyer could also step up right away after leading the Salt Lake City Moose of the WSHL in scoring each of the last two seasons. As long as the Raiders are healthy, they should be in a position to be much more successful this year.

 

Northland

Nickname: Lumberjacks

2013-14 Record: 4-21 overall, 4-14 NCHA

2013-14 Postseason: Did not qualify

Head Coach: Seamus Gregory (1st season)

Key Returning Players: F Anthony Stempin (5-7–12); F Matt Lennon (3-5–8); D Matthew Valley (0-5–5)

Key Departures: F Michael Lennon (9-12–21); F Louis Labbe (7-11–18)

Thoughts: Northland will be under the direction of a new head coach and there is no question that the Lumberjacks will be in rebuilding mode after winning only four games last season. Anthony Stempin will be counted on to help lead the way offensively, while Matt Lennon and Matthew Valley will need to step up as well if Northland is going to improve offensively after scoring just 54 goals last season. The Lumberjacks aren’t expected to win a lot of games but they will be expected to be compete hard night in and night out. The hope is that the competitiveness of the team will translate into success in the long run.

 

St. Norbert

Nickname: Green Knights

2013-14 Record: 28-3-1 overall, 16-2 NCHA

2013-14 Postseason: Won national championship with 3-1 win over Wisconsin-Stevens Point

Head Coach: Tim Coughlin (462-122-47, 22nd season)

Key Returning Players: F Cullen Bradshaw (15-27–42); F Mason Baptista (11-26–37); F Erik Cooper (15-21–36); F Michael Hill (20-13–33); D Marian Fiala (5-20–25); D Blake Thompson (4-18–22); F Tyler Zepeda (9-12–21); F Chris Rial (7-8–15); F Pijus Rulevicius (7-8–15); F Ross Pavek (5-6–11); D Sam Higgins (2-11–13); D George Maliaras (2-11–13); F Noah Nelson (1-10–11); F Sam Dougherty (1-1–2); D T.J. Wees (0-1–1); G David Jacobson (1.27 GAA); G Tony Kujava (2.38 GAA)

Key Departures: F Joe Perry (23-13–36); F Brandon Hoogenboom (12-7–19); D Reid Campbell (3-9–12); D Zach McDonald (1-9–10)

Thoughts: It’s hard not to look at St. Norbert’s roster and think they won’t contend for a national championship again this season. The Green Knights, who finished No. 1 in the country, won their fourth title a year ago, winning 18 of their final 20 games en route to the title. Cullen Bradshaw led the team in points last season and was tied for third on the team in goals. Mason Baptista, Erik Cooper and Michael Hill also scored 10 or more goals last season while Marian Fiala and Blake Thompson are back after combining for 38 assists, including 20 by Fiala. Fiala and Thompson are also among six other players who scored at least four goals last season. The Green Knights racked up 150 goals on the season and only gave up 45 thanks in large part to the play of David Jacobson, who started 25 games and allowed only 32 goals. St. Norbert was the first team to lead the country in scoring offense and scoring defense since the NCAA began tracking those statistics in 1996. Repeating as a conference or national champion isn’t easy, but if there is a team capable of doing it, it’s an experienced Green Knights team.

 

St. Scholastica

Nickname: Saints

2013-14 Record: 16-9-4 overall, 10-5-3 in the NCHA

2013-14 Postseason: Lost 5-1 to St. Norbert in NCHA tournament championship game

Head Coach: Mark Wick (135-112-33, 11th season)

Key Returning Players: F Dylan Nowakowski (9-16–25); F Dave Williams (10-13–23); D Matt Malenstyn (2-15–17); G Tyler Bruggeman (2.16 GAA, .919 save percentage)

Key Departures: F Brandon Nowakowski (16-13–29); F Alex Valenti (9-14–23); F Paul Marcoux (9-11–20); G Colin Rundell (2.76 GAA)

Thoughts: St. Scholastica played for the NCHA tournament title a year ago after winning its first postseason semifinal game since 2007 when it knocked off Adrian 4-3. The Saints finished third in the overall standings and have the potential to be one of the top teams in the league again this year. It helps that Dylan Nowakowski is back. He was second on the team in points while Dave Williams was the second-leading goal scorer last year. Tyler Bruggeman started 23 games in goal and brings experience to the defense. The Saints will have depth at goal as well as Corey Koop transferred from Wisconsin-Stout. Koop played in 24 games for the Blue Devils last season. The Saints have also added defenseman Rich Coyne from Alaska. The added talent combined with a strong group of returning players should put the Saints in a position to contend for a title.

Broken wrist to sideline Minnesota-Duluth captain Krause for November

DSC 0022 Broken wrist to sideline Minnesota Duluth captain Krause for November

After suffering a broken wrist last weekend against Denver, Minnesota-Duluth captain Adam Krause will be on the shelf the better part of the next month (photo: Candace Horgan).

According to the Duluth News Tribune, Minnesota-Duluth senior captain Adam Krause will be out all of November with a broken wrist.

Krause told the paper he broke the radius bone “in a few spots” during the first period of last Saturday’s home win over Denver and that doctors have told him his wrist is “in a pretty fragile state.” He’s hoping for an early December return.

“I don’t want it to be a long-term thing,” Krause said in the report. “I want it to heal correctly, even though it’s going to be tough to stay out. Hopefully, they can get me a cast that can form to my stick so at least I can push some pucks around.

“It was kind of a fluky thing. I’ve been lucky not to have many injuries. Obviously, the timing isn’t great, it’s never great. I’ll battle back. It’s tough watching the guys practice and not be out there.”

Krause has a goal, two assists and a plus-4 rating on the season.

Bentley gets back to its preferred style, and a road sweep is the result

gladiuk Bentley gets back to its preferred style, and a road sweep is the result

Andrew Gladiuk leads Bentley with four goals through five games (photo: Melissa Wade).

There have been nine two-game series so far in Atlantic Hockey, and only two have resulted in a team taking all four available points: a Robert Morris sweep of Niagara on Oct. 17 and 18, and Canisius’ pair of victories at American International last weekend.

There have been two series that saw one team manage three points, but the other five two-game sets decided nothing, with each team recording a win and a loss.

Ah, parity. All leagues talk about it, but they prove it in the AHA every weekend.

Two on the road

There was another sweep in Atlantic Hockey last weekend, but it was of the nonconference variety. Bentley scored a pair of convincing wins at Rensselaer, defeating the Engineers 5-2 on Friday and 4-0 on Saturday.

For the Falcons, it was a chance to get back on track after a 6-3 loss to Sacred Heart in their home opener the previous Saturday. Bentley lost its cool as well as the game, taking 48 minutes in penalties in the final 2:08 of the contest, including a game disqualification and another added later by the league.

“It was addressed,” said Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist. “It wasn’t the way we wanted to play and represent our school. We took care of business behind closed doors and were able to put it behind us.”

Soderquist’s team indeed put the incident in the rear-view mirror with 120 minutes of the kind of hockey he says Bentley wants to play every night.

“We were able to do the things we worked on and talked about,” he said. “It started with a team commitment to defense first. It means blocking shots and backchecking.

“We got great secondary scoring. Our second power-play unit was great. Our PK was phenomenal.”

The Falcons got goals from eight different players (including three power-play goals and a short-handed tally) and after allowing Sacred Heart to score six times the previous Saturday, held RPI to just two goals on the weekend, killing off all eight Engineers power plays.

Junior Gabe Antoni made 18 saves to pick up the win on Friday, and senior Blake Dougherty, who had played sparingly in three seasons behind former starter Branden Komm, posted a shutout in just his second career start.

“[Both goalies] had a good week of practice,” said Soderquist. “We decided that both would get a start and both played well.

“I’m happy for Blake. He made the most of his opportunity.”

The Falcons hope to replicate the success of last weekend as they travel to Penn State this weekend for another two-game series in front of another large, partisan crowd.

“We have the same game plan,” said Soderquist. “At this point in the season for us it’s about establishing what we want to do to be successful as a team, running our systems and playing our game.”

When asked what has surprised him so far this season (besides the play of Dougherty), Soderquist pointed to the depth that has emerged at forward so far.

“We really have four solid lines that can score,” he said. “And we’re going to need another team effort this weekend. With the parity in college hockey, the margin of error is small.”

2011 03 20 al 0008 Bentley gets back to its preferred style, and a road sweep is the result

The Erie Insurance Arena hosted the 2011 Women’s Frozen Four (photo: Angelo Lisuzzo).

A home away from home

When Mercyhurst announced that it was hosting something called the “Snowtown Throwdown,” I thought to myself, “Not another outdoor game!”

But I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Lakers will remain indoors, but for two games this season, and hopefully annually, Mercyhurst will play in the more spacious Erie Insurance Arena.

Mercyhurst will move its series with Ohio State on Jan. 2-3 from the Mercyhurst Ice Center (capacity 1,300) to the larger arena downtown (capacity 6,000).

Proceeds from the games will benefit The Warming Center hosted at the Mental Health Association of Northwest Pennsylvania.

“We are extremely excited to be hosting this event,” Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin said in a statement. “To not only have a nationally recognizable school like Ohio State come to Erie to play, but to be able to do so at the beautiful Erie Insurance Arena is unbelievable.”

Points taken

Army is off to a good start, in third place in the standings after three weekends of conference play. A key for the young Black Knights is consistency: Army has taken points each of those weekends, the latest coming in a 3-3 tie with Robert Morris, the first blemish on the Colonials record (5-0-1) and ruining their bid to set a record for the longest winning streak in school history.

Nine different players have scored for the Black Knights this season, and three of their top four scorers so far are freshmen. Sophomore Parker Gahagen sports a .929 save percentage.

Army steps out of conference play for the first time this season on Friday, hosting Brown.

Welcome to the club

Last Friday, Mercyhurst senior Matt Zay became the 17th player in school history to record 100 career points with a goal with 32 seconds left in regulation to force overtime against Merrimack. The Lakers lost the game 5-4.

Zay has 34 goals and 66 assists in 116 games. Two teammates are right behind him: Ryan Misiak has 96 career points and Daniel Bahntge has 91.

Finishing strong

Teams that finish strong are usually successful, and a look at the top of the standings finds Robert Morris and Canisius in first and second place, respectively.

Both have capitalized on strong third periods. The Colonials have scored almost half of their goals in the final frame: ten out of 21. Canisius’ scoring is even more lopsided with 11 of its 18 goals coming in the last 20 minutes of play.

Weekly awards

I’m going with the same honorees as the league, especially because it couldn’t decide on forwards or goalies either.

Players of the week — Cody Freeman, Canisius, and Cody Wydo, Robert Morris: Freeman had three goals and an assist to lead the Golden Griffins to a sweep at American International, while Wydo matched that to help the Colonials take three points from Army. Wydo leads the conference in scoring so far with seven points, while Freeman is tied for second with six.

Goalies of the week — Dalton Izyk, Robert Morris, and Blake Dougherty, Bentley: Izyk wins the award for the second time in this young season, posting his second shutout in three starts last Saturday with a 36-save performance at Army. Dougherty, making just his second career start for the Falcons, made 19 saves in a shutout of RPI.

Rookie of the week — Nolan Sheeran, Canisius: Like Bentley’s Dougherty, a native of East Amherst, N.Y., Sheeran had three assists to help the Griffs to their sweep at AIC.

‘No easy games’ in the MIAC as ‘everyone is good’

Altenbernd sized No easy games in the MIAC as everyone is good

Alex Altenbernd contributed his share of offense last season for St. Thomas and will be a catalyst again in 2014-15 (photo: Mike Ekern/University of St. Thomas).

St. Thomas head coach Jeff Boeser wanted his top assistant, Parker Burgess, to do the inteview about the season ahead.

As far as the Tommies are concerned, it really doesn’t matter who does the talking. The resutls speak for themselves.

St. Thomas enters the year as the favorite to win the MIAC. The Tommies have won the last three championships.

But being the favorite means a target is on the back of the Tommies.

“We know we are going to get everyone’s best shot,” said Burgess. “There are no easy games. Everyone is good.”

The Tommies are poisedfor another title run, both at the conference level and the national. They lost only three seniors and have one of the best players in the league back in All-American Alex Altenbernd, who led the team in goals (11).

Michael Krieg and Drew Fielding were also All-Americans, with Fielding, a goalie, earning co-player of the year honors in the MIAC.

“We have lofty goals – we want to win a national championship,” Burgess said. “But we have stressed to the players that it’s a step-by-step process. You have to keep getting better and peak at the right time.”

There are no shortage of challengers in the MIAC. Gustavus-Adolphus finished just one point behind St. Thomas in the standings and lost to the Tommies by a goal in the MIAC title game. The Gusties have the talent to make another run. One of the keys to its success will be goalie John McLean.

St. John’s and St. Olaf are both coming off appearances in the MIAC semifinals. The Johnnies will be led by John Haeg, who has led the team in scoring the last three years. Saxton Soley is one of the top goalies in the league.

The Oles will look to be one of the better offensive teams in the league again, and helping that cause will be Peter Lindblad, who finished with 15 goals last year.

Concordia (Minn.) played in the conference tournament as well last year and will look to be even better this season. The Cobbers are led by Andrew Deters, an All-MIAC pick who scored 34 points.

Augsburg won 13 games and didn’t make the tourney, but its fortunes could change this year. The Auggies welcome back seven players who racked up 10 or more points last season.

Bethel, Hamline and St. Mary’s all struggled a year ago, but on any given night, they are more than capable of knocking off anyone.

The Royals have 16 newcomers, but also has its top three scorers, back including Brock Raffaele (20 points).

Hamline is under the direction of a new coach in Cory Laylin after spending the last two years as an assistant. He was an assistant with the Pipers from 2008 until 2010 when they played in the MIAC tourney twice.

St. Mary’s lost 11 players to graduation, but have a rising young goalie, Phil Heinle, to help them push for a winning season.

But talent only goes so far. In the end, it’s about being able to survive the grind.

“Division III hockey, in general, is being played at an all-time high level across the board,” Augsburg coach Chris Brown said. “Every game is a grind because on most, if not all nights, you are going to be in a 60-minute contest. I think the team that comes out on top in our league will have a chance to win it all.”

 

Augsburg

Nickname: Auggies

2013-14 Record: 13-9-3 overall, 6-7-3 MIAC

2013-14 Postseason: Did not qualify

Head Coach: Chris Brown (88-99-18, 9th season)

Key Returning Players: F Mark Ohnsted (6-19–25); F Ben McClellan (15-6–21); G John Bretzman (2.67 GAA)

Key Departures: D Chris Student (1-11–12); F Niklas Almstrom (10-8–18); F B.J. McClellan (3-4–7)

Thoughts: The Auggies are poised to be a contender for the conference title this year its leaders in goals and assists from last season are both back. Mark Ohnsted dished out 19 assists last season and scored a goal or assist in 18 games. Ben McClellan led the team in goals a year ago, tallying 15, and came through with three multiple point games. The Auggies should be in good shape offensively as seven players who tallied 10 or more points a year ago are back for a team that averaged 3.16 goals per game. Goalie John Bretzman also returns after saving nearly 90 percent of the shots he faced. Augsburg should also get a lift from several newcomers, including forward Evan Hesse, who scored 16 goals and dished out 28 assists for the Brookings Blizzard of the NAHL last season.

 

Bethel

Nickname: Royals

2013-14 Record: 3-20-2 overall, 2-13-1 MIAC

2013-14 Postseason: Did not qualify

Head Coach: Charlie Burggraf (22-70-8, 5th season)

Key Returning Players: C Brock Raffaele (8-12–20); W Travis Payne (10-9–19); W Mitch Hughes (6-6–12) D Eric Szafranski (2-7–9); D Tony Larson (2-7–9) G Matt Rowe (3.52 GAA)

Key Departures: F Colin Mayer (4-4–8); D Tyler Swanson (1-4–5); D Tyler Sorenson (1-4–5); F Garrett Windle (1-2–3)

Thoughts: The Royals return their top three scorers. Brock Raffaele led the team in points while Payne scored the most goals. Hughes was third on the team in points. Those three will need to be at their best each night if the Royals are going to improve. Bethel needs to be more productive on both ends of the ice after scoring 45 goals and allowing 80 last season. Goalie Matt Rowe need to elevate his level of play with the loss of Steven Bolton. Rowe played in two games last year and gave up seven goals while tallying 66 saves. It will take time for the Royals to click as 16 newcomers are on the roster, including forward Jackson Purvis, defenseman JT Walters, forward Taylor Brown and forward Justin Bonanno, but the Royals will have an opportunity to be a better team than they were a year ago.

Concordia (Minn.)

Nickname: Cobbers

2013-14 Record: 12-9-5 overall, 6-6-4 MIAC

2013-14 Postseason: Lost 5-3 to St. Olaf in opening round of MIAC tournament

Head Coach: Chris Howe (55-78-21, 7th season)

Key Returning Players: F Andrew Deters (10-24–34); F Jordan Bancroft (9-18–27); F Garrett Hendrickson (10-13–23)

Key Departures: D Caleb Suderman (16-14–30); G Chris Neamonitis (2.57 GAA)

Thoughts: Replacing the co-MVP of the MIAC in Caleb Suderman, the highest scoring defenseman in the nation last season, won’t be easy, but the Cobbers have enough talent back to have another strong season. The Cobbers have played in the conference tournament three of the last four seasons, including the last two. Back to lead the way is Andrew Deters, who tallied 34 points, tied for the most in conference games. Deter was an All-MIAC selection. Jordan Bancroft also earned All-MIAC honors and was third on the team in scoring. Garrett Hendrickson is coming off a successful freshman campaign where he was on the league’s all-rookie team. He was the top scoring freshman in the league with 23 points. Finding a goalie will be key as the Cobbers lost Chris Neamonitis to graduation. He was third in the league in save percentage.

 

Hamline

Nickname: Pipers

2013-14 Record: 2-22-1 overall, 1-15 MIAC

2013-14 Postseason: Did not qualify

Head Coach: Cory Laylin (1st season)

Key Returning Players: F Kevin Novakovich (9-8–17); D Joe Rubbelke (2-9–11); F Brandon Zurn (5-10–15)

Key Departures: None

Thoughts: Head coach Cory Laylin spent two seasons as an assistant at Hamline and is now back to lead the Pipers. During his first go-round at the school from 2008-10, the Pipers won 32 games and played in the MIAC tournament twice, including a title game appearance in 2009. Laylin’s top assistant, Joe Long, is a 2009 Hamline grad and tallied 52 goals and 54 assists in his four-year career. It won’t be easy building the Pipers into a contender again, but he does have a few pieces in place to help on the journey ahead. Joe Rubbelke is back after earning All-MIAC honors last season while Kevin Novakovich is coming off a year where he was the team’s leading scorer. Brandon Zurn will also provide a lift to an offense that managed to score only 40 goals last season. Hamline has also brought in a talented cast of newcomers, including Nebraska-Omaha transfer Charlie Adams and Army transfer Jonathan Gehrt. Hamline should take steps forward this year and be much more competitive than it was a season ago.

 

Gustavus Adolphus

Nickname: Golden Gusties

2013-14 Record: 16-7-4 overall, 12-3-1 MIAC

2013-14 Postseason: Lost 2-1 to St. Thomas in MIAC championship game.

Head Coach: Brett Petersen (198-148-32, 15th season)

Key Returning Players: G John McLean (1.97 GAA); F Tyler Lapic (6-11–17)

Key Departures: F Corey Leivermann (18-12–30); F Adam Smyth (11-8–19)

Thoughts: Gustavus is coming off a remarkable season where it finished just one point behind conference champion St. Thomas in the final standings. The Gusties made a run at the MIAC tourney title as well, losing by a goal to the Tommies. But expectations will be as high as usual, especially with John McClean back in goal. The junior won 15 games last season. Offensively, Tyler Lapic will be counted on to pave the way. He was the third-leading scorer on the team last season. Finding a solid supporting cast will be key as no one else back scored more than five goals last year. Forwards Jack Walsh and Andy Pearson could be key to the offensive success as they combined for 19 assists last year, including 10 by Pearson. One player who could provide a lift defensively is freshman Jake Bushey, who played in Fairbanks last year and helped the Ice Dogs clinch the NAHL’s Robertson Cup.

 

St. John’s

Nickname: Johnnies

2013-14 Record: 16-10 overall, 10-6 MIAC

2013-14 Postseason: Lost 3-2 to Gustavus in semifinal round of MIAC tournament

Head Coach: Doug Schueller (68-74-13, 7th season)

Key Returning Players: F John Haeg (8-16–24); F Phil Johnson (7-7–14); D Nick Senta (2-10–12); G Saxton Soley (2.02 GAA)

Key Departures: F Josh Gross (7-11–18); F Justin Hochsprung (3-9–12); D Trent Johnson (2-5–7); D Axel Ramsgard (0-4–4)

Thoughts: The return of John Haeg is huge for the Johnnies as they look to contend for a MIAC championship. Haeg, a three-time all-conference selection, is coming off his third consecutive season of leading St. John’s in points and is poised for another big year. Phil Johnson is also a key scoring threat and a two-time All-MIAC pick. The Johnnies, who scored 69 goals last season, also welcome back their top defenseman in Nick Senta, a first-team all-league selection last year. Limiting an opponent’s goals shouldn’t be a problem with Saxton Soley back between the pipes. Soley is one of the top goalies in the league and is already seventh in school history in wins (29). Newcomers Tyler Dunagan and Huba Sekesi should make an immediate impact. Both have more than 100 games of experience in the NAHL.

 

St. Olaf

Nickname: Oles

2013-14 Record: 12-11-4 overall, 9-4-3 MIAC

2013-14 Postseason: Lost 2-1 to St. Thomas in semifinal round of conference tournament.

Head Coach: Sean Goldsworthy (182-204-55, 18th season)

Key Returning Players: G Steve Papciak (2.45 GAA); F Peter Lindblad (15-7–22); F Steven Sherman (4-14–18); F David Rath (6-10–16); F Mark Rath (7-7–14)

Key Departures: F Dan Cecka (18-13–31)

Thoughts: The Oles featured one of the top offenses in the league scoring 81 goals a year ago, but duplicating that success won’t be easy with the loss of Dan Cecka. Still, it’s not as if St. Olaf is going into the year without experience. Several scoring threats are back, including Peter Lindblad, who came through 15 goals last season. Steven Sherman, David Rath and Mark Rath have all proven they can produce offensively, and their presence should help the Oles be right back in the mix for a league title this year. Contending for a title requires an experienced goalie as well, and the Oles have one in senior Steve Papciak. He allowed just 2.45 goals per game and owned a save percentage of over 90 percent. If he is on top of his game, the Oles will be in position to be one of the top teams in the conference again.

 

St. Mary’s

Nickname: Cardinals

2013-14 Record: 10-14-1 overall, 6-10 MIAC

2013-14 Postseason: Did Not Qualify

Head Coach: Bill Moore (49-118-9, 8th season)

Key Returning Players: D Bob Marx (10-7–17); F Martin Gruse (6-11–17); F Nick Albergo (9-7–16)

Key Departures: F Bobby Thompson (10-10–20); F Austin Balko (4-5–9); F Nick Nagel (6-7–13)

Thoughts: Although the Cardinals have lost their top goal scorer in Bobby Thompson, the good news is they have three key players back, including senior defenseman Bob Marx. Marx scored 10 goals and dished out seven assists last year, ranking second among defensemen in the league in scoring. Martin Gruse also returns after leading the Cardinals in assists and Nick Albergo is also back. Those three should help soften the blow of losing 11 players to graduation. Phil Heinle should be able to build on what he did last season after racking up 341 saves in 12 games. Heinle allowed 36 goals and went 6-3-1 during his freshman campaign. The Cardinals closed out last season with three consecutive wins, and if they can win the close games — 13 were decided by two goals or less — they should be poised to take a big step forward.

 

St. Thomas

Nickname: Tommies

2013-14 Record: 21-5-2 overall, 13-1-2 MIAC

2013-14 Postseason: Won MIAC tournament but lost 3-0 to Wisconsin-Stevens Point in quarterfinal round of NCAA tournament.

Head Coach: Jeff Boeser (66-32-8, 5th season)

Key Returning Players: F Alex Altenbernd (11-13–24); D Michael Krieg (3-7–10); D Jeremy Hepler (3-7–10); D John Kirtland (0-2–2); G Drew Fielding (1.43 GAA)

Key Departures: F Tyler Gubb (8-12–20); F Alex Niestrom (9-2–11); F Bryce Walker (1-5–6)

Thoughts: St. Thomas lost only three seniors and is ready to take aim at its fourth consecutive conference championship. Leading the way will be three All-Americans in Alex Altenbernd, Michael Krieg and Drew Fielding, who was the co-player of the year in the MIAC. Altenbernd led the team in goals (11) while Krieg is a two-time All-MIAC selection. Fielding has 39 wins in his career and is set to make the most of his senior season. The Tommies have the talent to be one of the more balanced teams in the nation, and they have a defense that is expected to be equally impressive. Last season, St. Thomas scored 82 goals — 19 players scored at least one — and only allowed 41. The Tommies not only have plenty of talent coming back, but they are bringing in a strong recruiting class. Four of the newcomers are Division I transfers in Willie Faust (Army), Bobby Murphy (Alaska-Anchorage), Joakim Broberg (Alabama-Huntsville) and D.J. Jones (Bemidji State).

WIAC a ‘very balanced’ league this season with no clear-cut favorite

garrett ladd uwsp WIAC a very balanced league this season with no clear cut favorite

Wisconsin-Stevens Point forward Garrett Ladd is back for his senior season with the Pointers as the reigning WIAC Player of the Year (photo: Jack McLaughlin/ActionPointPhoto).

Wisconsin-River Falls coach Steve Freeman talked about how strong the WIAC really is from top to bottom.

He noted that a year ago his River Falls team won the regular-season title, but Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Wisconsin-Superior played for the conference title, with the Blugolds prevailing in the championship game.

Yet, it was Wisconsin-Stevens Point that ended up going to the NCAA tournament, skating all the way to the national title game, where it fell to St. Norbert.

With a new year on the horizon, Freeman doesn’t expect much to change.

“This league is very balanced,” Freeman said. “You have to play well every night, from the beginning until the end of each game. It’s tough to get two points in this league. I expect it to be just as tough this year.”

Eau Claire coach Matt Loen echoed those thoughts.

“Every team is good, and you always have to be at your best to win,” Loen said. “Nothing is going to come easy, but we’re excited about getting started.”

Stevens Point will come in with the biggest target after finishing as the national runner-up for the third time in program history. A total of 22 letterwinners are back, with WIAC Player of the Year Garrett Ladd leading the way. Ladd finished fourth in the country in points (42).

Eau Claire, which won the national title two years ago, could very well contend for the title again this year. The Blugolds, who punched in 93 goals a year ago, will be one of the best offensively again this year. They are led by Joe Krause, who led the team in goals with 12.

Loen said his team felt slighted by not getting into the NCAA tournament and is using that as added motivation.

“We are going into the year with a chip on our shoulder,” Loen said. “We thought we should have gotten into the tournament, and the guys coming back are using that as motivation.”

River Falls have four of their top five scorers back, including Blake Huppert, who came through with 21 points last season. Christian George led the team in assists with 14. The Falcons have finished no lower than third in the WIAC standings in the last five years and should be in good shape to win another title as they play five of their final eight regular season games at home.

“We are optimistic,” Freeman said. “We feel like we have added a lot of speed and skill, and that is the identity we want as a team. We want to be a fast and skilled team. We can’t wait to start playing games.”

It might take time for Superior to find its identity as it lost more than 60 percent of its scoring. Eric Shand will led the way after tallying 14 points last year. Coach Dan Stabuer enters the year on the cusp of school history, needing only nine wins to get to 249 and become the program’s winningest coach.

Stout will be young with six freshmen and 14 sophomores. The Blue Devils also lost three of their top five scorers. The good thing for Stout is that it will play 10 of its last 12 at home, which will give it an opportunity to close the year on a high note.

“Every game is going to be extremely competitive,” Freeman said. “We are expecting intense battles all year in the conference, and hopefully, we will have a chance to win it again.”

 

Wisconsin-Eau Claire

Nickname: Blugolds

2013-14 Record: 19-8-1 overall, 6-5-1 WIAC

2013-14 Postseason: Won the WIAC tournament with a 3-0 win over Superior

Head Coach: Matt Loen (103-80-13, 8th season)

Key Returning Players: Joe Krause (12-9–21); Ross Andersen (10-9–19); Jack Callahan (5-14–19); G Tyler Green (2.25 GAA, .927 save percentage); Jay Deo (0.71 GAA, .972 save percentage)

Key Departures: D David Donnellan (9-10–19); F Jon Waggoner (10-8–18); F Daniel Olszewski (5-12–17)

Thoughts: Eau Claire is one of the best teams in the country, and while it fell short of a trip to the NCAA tournament, don’t expect the Blugolds to be anything less than a contender this season. The Blugolds scored 93 goals last season, and the top goal scorer, Joe Krause is back to lead the offense. Andersen is also a legit scoring threat and was tied for second in points. Both Krause and Andersen are very good at getting others involved as well and if they play up to their potential, Eau Claire is poised for success on the offensive end of the ice. The Blugolds also appear to be in good shape defensively with goalies Jay Deo and Tyler Green both back. Green played in 19 games while recording five shutouts. Deo saw action in 10 games and also came through with five shutouts. Eau Claire is bringing in a cast of talented newcomers as well, with NAHL experience, including Jake Davidson from Kenai River. He played in the league’s top prospects game last season.

Wisconsin-River Falls

Nickname: Falcons

2013-14 Record: 15-9-3 overall, 8-4 WIAC

2013-14 Postseason: Lost in two games in WIAC tournament semifinal series to Superior

Head Coach: Steve Freeman (320-165-40, 19th season)

Key Returning Players: F Blake Huppert (9-12–21); F Christian George (6-14–20); F Ryan Doner (7-12–19); F Mitch Kotney (10-6–16); G Tanner Milliron (2.16 GAA, .921 save percentage)

Key Departures: G Scott Lewan (2.33 GAA, .920 save percentage); D Jeff Burke (3-9–12); D Jon Schreiner (3-6–9); F Alex Hagaman (8-8–16); F Willie Hess (11-8–19)

Thoughts: River Falls won its 17th WIAC championship in program history last year, the most of any team in the league, and expectations will be high again for a program that has had just two losing seasons in the last 22 years. Several key players are back, including Blake Huppert, who scored nine goals last season. Christian George, Ryan Doner and Mitch Kotney will also be counted on to pave the way for an offense that scored 77 goals last year. River Falls should also be set in goal with Tanner Milliron back. He gained valuable experience a year ago despite playing in only nine games, finishing with 232 saves. If he handles the role as starter well and the offense clicks as expected, the Falcons despite losing several of its top scorers from last season, will be in the mix for a league title again.

 

Wisconsin-Stevens Point

Nickname: Pointers

2013-14 Record: 22-6-2 overall, 7-4-1 WIAC

2013-14 Postseason: Lost in three games to Eau Claire in semifinals of WIAC tournament but played in the national title game, falling 3-1 to St. Norbert.

Head Coach: Chris Brooks (51-27-2, 4th season)

Key Returning Players: F Garrett Ladd (20-22–42); D Kyle Brodie (8-18–26); G Brandon Jaeger (1.93 GAA, .926 save percentage)

Key Departures: F Kyle Heck (8-7–15); D Tyler Krueger (0-6–6); F Max Bobrow (3-6–9)

Thoughts: The Pointers were the national runner-up a year ago and are poised to make another run at the title this year. Stevens Point returns its top scoring threat in Garrett Ladd, who was the WIAC Player of the Year and finished tied for fourth in the nation in points. Kyle Brodie brings experience to the table as well after a season where he was the top defenseman in the league. Stevens Point’s title hopes will also be strengthened by the return of goalie Brandon Jaeger, who recorded four shutouts and ranked 10th in the country in goals-against average. Jaeger is a three-time All-WIAC selection. Overall, the Pointers return their top nine scorers. Several newcomers could make an immediate impact as well, including Skyler Smutek and Cody Von Rueden. Smutek played at Connecticut last year, while Von Rueden played at Illinois a year ago. Their experience will benefit the Pointers in their quest to be a contender at the national level once again. One of the other key newcomers is goalie Max Milosek, a freshman who played for Port Huron of the NAHL last season. He will benefit greatly from being able to learn from one of the nation’s best goalies in Jaeger.

 

Wisconsin-Stout

Nickname: Blue Devils

2013-14 Record: 8-18 overall, 4-8 WIAC

2013-14 Postseason: Lost 6-3 to Superior in opening round of WIAC tournament

Head Coach: Terry Watkins (215-51-28, 19th season)

Key Returning Players: D Jordan Tredinnick (8-8–16); D Danny Ray (4-9–13); F Jake Useldinger (1-6–7); D Pat Regan (0-1–1); F/D Carl Bombardier (0-0–0); G Chase Hollander (3.01 GAA, .913 save percentage)

Key Departures: F Kevin O’Donnell (12-13–25); F Zach Vierling (9-11–20); D Logan Maly (4-10–14)

Thoughts: The Blue Devils enter the season with a lot of uncertainty. Three of their top five scorers are gone and that means the pressure will be on for others to step up and fill those voids. Jordan Tredinnick and Danny Ray should be able to provide a spark offensively, but others will need to rise to the occasion for a team that scored only 67 goals a year ago. Stout does return goalie Chase Hollander, but he played in only five games. Hollander will need to become a netminder the Blue Devils can count on night in and night out if they are going to improve on last year’s eight-win season. Stout only won three times in its first 10 games a season ago and could be in for another slow start as this team will likely need time to get things settled as the younger players gain experience.

 

Wisconsin-Superior

Nickname: Yellowjackets

2013-14 Record: 11-15-3 overall, 3-7-2 WIAC

2013-14 Postseason: Lost 3-0 to Eau Claire in WIAC championship game

Head Coach: Dan Stauber (240-115-54, 15th season)

Key Returning Players: F Cody Hotchkin (5-16–21); D Eric Shand (2-12–14); F Jordan Neduzak (7-5–12); F Jordan Shockley (3-3–6); F Tanner Dion (1-4–5); F Connor Faupel (3-1–4); D Matt Audette (0-3–3); D Owen Stauber (1-2–3); G Zach Thompson (.688 save percentage)

Key Departures: G Drew Strandberg (2.52 GAA, .911 save percentage); G Dayne Belfour (2.66 GAA, .909 save percentage); F Michael Ray (15-12–27); F Pat Dalbec (12-15–27); D Jeff Forsythe (4-10–14); D Derek Stauber (1-5–6); F Joey Massingham (3-5–8); F Brad Phenow (3-3–6); F Andy Singerhouse (2-3–5); F Marc Fortin (1-2–3)

Thoughts: Despite struggling in league play, the Yellowjackets made a heck of a run to the title game and hope to build on that momentum this season. It won’t be easy with its top two scorers among the 15 players not returning this season. Cody Hotchkin will be counted on to help lead the offense after scoring five goals and dishing out 16 assists last season. Eric Shand, an all-league freshman last season, will also be looked upon to help fuel the offense. One of the biggest concerns will be in goal as Superior lost its top two goalies from last season. Zach Thompson saw limited time last year, playing in only two games. How quickly he develops as the starter will go a long way in determining Superior’s success this season.

Wednesday Women: Finding consistency

 

141004 14162590 Wednesday Women: Finding consistency

Kate Leary (BC – 28). (Melissa Wade)

Candace: After about a month of play, it seems that there’s really a clear divide in the game right now. Harvard, which is ranked fourth, hasn’t started play yet, so the Crimson are an unknown quantity, and Quinnipiac still hasn’t played a top opponent, so the jury is still out. However, No. 1 Minnesota and No. 3 Boston College both looked dominant in defeating top 10 opponents in No. 9 North Dakota and No. 5 Cornell, respectively. Minnesota won by 5-2 and 5-0 decisions, and Boston College won by identical 6-2 scores. While Wisconsin didn’t look quite as strong, the Badgers nevertheless swept. Other squads have had hiccups however, such as No. 6 Boston University, which lost, 4-2, to Maine on Saturday. Just when I was ready to write off Robert Morris and write in Northeastern, the Colonials took three of four points from the Huskies on the weekend. Previous weekends have seen puzzling results from teams that were supposed to roll, such as Mercyhurst. Were there any results that really stood out for you, and do you agree that there seems to be a divide right now?

Arlan: I’d have to include a “but” in my assent to your question about a divide existing. I’ve had Harvard in my top four all season, when I consider the Crimson didn’t graduate much, get a coach and two players back from the Olympics, and bring in a freshman class with a lot of talent. They can skate with teams like Wisconsin and BC, and they have more experience in net and the type of defensemen that can stand up to handling the puck under pressure. As good as the Eagles looked in demolishing Cornell, the Big Red looked pretty awful. Will they drift down and become one of those teams whose best chance to reach the NCAAs is to have all the other contenders lose, or, now that they’ve had a weekend to shake off some rust, will the Big Red show marked improvement moving forward?

I’m guessing that it will be more of the latter. Back in fall 2009, Cornell kicked off its season by hosting Mercyhurst in a series and got swept by identical 4-1 scores. In March of that year, the teams met in the Frozen Four and Cornell bounced the top-seeded Lakers from the bracket. Teams evolve to be much more than they show in week one, and if they open against opponents with one, two, or, in this case, three weeks of games behind them, it makes direct comparisons more complicated. This year, Cornell didn’t even have the benefit of an exhibition game before starting NCAA play; I’m tempted to at least partially dismiss getting trounced by BC when evaluating the Big Red.

As for what stood out, I’d stick with the BC sweep. Given what I said above, it isn’t that significant that Cornell lost in one-sided fashion. What I found more telling was that it just didn’t match up well defensively at all. Ever since that Mercyhurst series in 2009 when Laura Fortino and Lauriane Rougeau made their debuts, Cornell has been known for its blue line. Last season, that duo was gone but the Big Red still had Alyssa Gagliardi and Hayleigh Cudmore. Now only Cass Poudrier is left in terms of all-conference or above caliber players we’ve come to expect back there. I don’t think sophomore goalie Paula Voorheis is at the point in her career where she can be successful if she’s getting as little help as she did in Boston from the defensemen and the forwards. That will have to change, or Cornell will be vulnerable against a wide range of ECAC opponents, including Harvard, St. Lawrence, and Yale.

That series didn’t reveal as much about Boston College as I had hoped that it would. I already knew that BC can skate a line chart that is likely the fastest in the country, an opponent has to be aware of defensemen joining the rush, and that Alex Carpenter and Hayley Skarupa are lethal if given time, space, and the puck in scoring areas. I only saw a portion of each game, but Kate Leary did stand out to me on Friday with the pass she made between her skates to set up the game-winning goal. That flair in her game was a revelation.

What did you learn from the weekend?

Candace: Well, looking at Boston College again, I learned that they are not only the fastest team in the country, but that they are balanced. The attention is mostly on Carpenter and Skarupa, and rightly so, as those two would be top line anywhere in the country. BC has depth beyond that, however. You mentioned Kate Leary, and Saturday I saw her do an end-to-end rush right after a BC penalty expired in the third period that ended with her scoring by beating Voorheis cleanly. Andie Anastos had a good game Saturday, scoring a goal, and Kenzie Kent played well. Dana Trivigno had a couple of goals in Friday’s game. Two of their defenseman, Lexi Bender and Emily Pfalzer, have also been playing well at both ends.

I think Boston College’s production is especially impressive when you consider that Emily Field only has one point so far, and that Kristyn Capizzano is still recovering from the injury she suffered against St. Lawrence. Capizzano had five points in her first three games, but left the third game early after running into Carpenter, and her production has been hampered since. Field meanwhile, has averaged close to a point a game in her first three seasons, but hasn’t gotten untracked yet. If BC starts seeing production from those two, watch out.

Before turning to Minnesota’s dismantling of North Dakota, I want to look at a team we haven’t talked about much: Penn State. The Nittany Lions edged Princeton on Sunday, 2-1, and currently have a .500 record, at 3-3-2, for the first time in my memory. They’ve beaten Union, tied Quinnipiac, and beaten St. Cloud. Amy Petersen is producing well for them, and they’ve got some depth below that as well. Their goaltenders, Celine Whitlinger and Hannah Ehresmann, have platooned effectively so far. Penn State travels to Syracuse this weekend, and I guess we’ll know more about them after this coming weekend, but has Penn State been the surprise of this young season so far?

Arlan: The surprise team can change from day to day. One minute I think it is Bemidji State, then St. Lawrence, and Penn State looks like a good choice after it ruins Princeton’s debut. A Vermont or Dartmouth could be next, and that doesn’t consider all of the negative surprises. All of these teams have a wide range of performance from their best days to where everyone is misfiring or critical players are out of the lineup.

Looking at Penn State, I think it needs a few more players getting into the scoring column on a regular basis to continue to surprise. Through eight games, sophomore Amy Peterson is averaging a point per game, and classmate Laura Bowman is close with six points. After that, it falls off to a couple with three points, so the net result is that the team has scored 13 times and is shy of a scoring average of two. It puts a lot of pressure on the defense when the offense produces a goal and maybe a second, and that leads to upset wins, not sustained success. The Nittany Lions may be another solid recruiting class away from some attention-getting results.

You mentioned Minnesota sweeping North Dakota, and that is a prime example of how teams can vary from one day to the next. Friday’s contest was a one-goal difference with over two minutes to play when UND pulled its goaltender. Gracen Hirschy had a good scoring opportunity but didn’t convert, Milica McMillen picks up the puck, carries it over the red line, and hits the empty net. If Hirschy scores, who knows how the rest of the weekend plays out? As it is, the Gophers played what Brad Frost called their best 60 minutes of hockey in years on Saturday, and according to Peter Elander, North Dakota had its worst game in the five years that he’s been on staff. When they play in February, I’m not going to rule anything out.

Overall, I’d say Minnesota is starting to see more from its three freshmen that are getting regular shifts every game: Cara Piazza, Kelly Pannek, and Sydney Baldwin. They seem more comfortable just reacting to what is in front of them, rather than having to think about what is expected. Hannah Brandt and Dani Cameranesi have carried much of the offensive load, and now Maryanne Menefee has joined them the last couple of weeks and it has the makings of a strong top line. North Dakota is mostly a work in progress as it makes wholesale changes. UND and junior forward Becca Kohler will be the topic of this week’s column. What are your thoughts on the North Dakota at Minnesota series?

Candace: Well, I’m looking at Minnesota as the top squad in the country, and it’s not just because of how they beat North Dakota so convincingly on Saturday; I’m looking at it as back-to-back weekends. Two weeks ago in Madison, the Gophers won handily on the first night and then figured out a way to eek out a win Saturday, coming from behind in the last minute and winning in OT. This weekend, the first game was close, but the second the Gophers won running away. What I am seeing is that even an opposing squad’s best effort isn’t enough to beat Minnesota, and that it will take not only a supreme effort, but a little puck luck, to come out on top. I think that’s all the more impressive because the Gophers thought they would have Amanda Kessel back, only to see her sit out the year with an injury.

Brandt currently leads the country in scoring with 18 points, and she and Carpenter are both averaging over two points a game. Cameranesi has really stepped up in her sophomore year, and at her current pace would nearly double her production from her freshman campaign. Minnesota is also strong in net with Amanda Leveille, who has a 1.25 goals-against and a .951 save percentage.

Let’s turn our attention to Pennsylvania, where Robert Morris woke up to beat and tie Northeastern. I think that series took both of us by surprise, as I thought the Huskies were likely to win both. Robert Morris was still without the services of Brittany Howard, who has been down with an injury; there is no timetable for her return yet. Senior Rebecca Vint didn’t show up on the score sheet, but she was in the line-up against Northeastern, and I think her leadership really helped. It will be needed this weekend, as the Colonials face Mercyhurst in Erie. The Colonials have done well against their CHA rival in the past few seasons. Do you think the Colonials have woken up in time for that trend to continue?

Arlan: I wouldn’t say that RMU is now awake, because I never thought that they were asleep to start with. Over the last month or so of last season and the first four weeks this year, the Colonials just didn’t play good enough hockey to win on a regular basis. I’m not close enough to say exactly why that is, and perhaps even those with the program would have trouble pinpointing the problem or problems. We certainly can’t get too far in any discussion of winning or losing in hockey without talking about goaltending. Jessica Dodds was unbeatable during much of her rookie campaign. Her play fell back down to earth, and her team sputtered. Through 10 games, we’ve seen good and bad results for both Dodds and senior Courtney Vinet. Why is that? Maybe the goalie is a little off on a particular day, or her team breaks down in front of her early and her confidence takes a beating, or the bounces have been largely unkind. I have no definitive answer. Everybody at this level can play hockey, so when they take the ice against opponents that also have skill, it can wind up being a mental challenge of deciding that you’re going to find a way to win no matter how the puck bounces. When both teams think that way, something has to give, and this weekend Northeastern fell behind by multiple goals each day and was able to salvage only one tie out of two comeback efforts.

Despite the growing pains, there is no reason that the Colonials can’t have success in the CHA. When they are playing well, there aren’t any opponents that exist in a different stratosphere. They had a better result versus Northeastern than Mercyhurst did a week before, and Syracuse has been tying middling teams and getting pummeled by better ones. RIT is intriguing and has been the most consistent defensively, but the Tigers haven’t exactly been facing the who’s who of hockey powers. So yes, if the goalies can put a string of good games together, a blue line that is young on experience if not years in school can solidify, and Vint, Howard, and the other forwards can get their bodies and games healthy, RMU can have success against the Lakers and all the rest. But I think it is always going to be a thin line between triumph and disaster.

We’ve seen that with Boston University in past seasons and again this weekend. Both Marie-Philip Poulin and goalie Victoria Hanson contributed to Friday’s 3-0 win at Maine, but weren’t available when the Terriers fell on Saturday. Am I wrong, or do BU’s results swing on the availability of one or two players, Poulin in particular, more than most teams?

Candace: It certainly seems to be the case, doesn’t it? Last year, Minnesota, having been undefeated the previous year, lost their top scorer and Patty Kazmaier Award winner Kessel to the Olympic team, but Minnesota was one off period away from winning a third-consecutive NCAA Championship, in part because other players, like Brandt, elevated their games. That was also impressive because the Gophers lost Noora Räty to graduation. The Olympics took Carpenter from Boston College, but with Skarupa stepping up her level, the Eagles did win the Hockey East regular season tournament. They ended on a sour note, losing to the Terriers in the final of the Hockey East tournament and to Clarkson in the NCAAs, but they overall had a good year.

With Poulin playing for Canada in the Olympics last year (and breaking the hearts of U.S. hockey fans once again), Boston University struggled at times. In January, the Terriers lost five of six games at one point, and also lost both games in the Beanpot. Until the Hockey East tournament, the Terriers were struggling to find bright spots, though Sarah Lefort was definitely that for them. The Terriers were one loss from finishing fourth in Hockey East last year, instead of second.

The Terriers had looked good this year, aside from losing badly to Minnesota on opening weekend, but the Maine loss does seem to indicate that the Terriers might lean on Poulin a little too much, and if she goes out, it might take a while for others to really step up for them. Lefort actually leads the team in scoring, but I think Poulin not only gives BU scoring punch, she elevates her entire team.

Of course, the Maine loss could say something about the Black Bears as well. Maine opened the year by defeating New Hampshire and Robert Morris, and also has a tie against Mercyhurst to go with a one-goal loss to the Lakers. Maine is currently 3-5-1, and all five losses are shutouts. Like Penn State, it seems as though if the Black Bears score, they get points. Do you expect Maine to build on this weekend, especially with suddenly vulnerable Connecticut and Northeastern on tap this coming weekend?

Arlan: Last year, I was thinking of Kayla Tutino as the player whose injury seemed to cause BU to slump, although we definitely saw it three years ago when Poulin was injured for long stretches.

As for Maine, it seems to have some problems, but effort isn’t one. The only time I’ve seen the Black Bears this year was versus Quinnipiac, and they were at a speed disadvantage. That stopped most of their offensive thrusts before they could ever really take shape. Not many teams are as stout defensively as Quinnipiac, but it does suggest that speed could present a problem, and Northeastern is typically fast, although I haven’t seen this year’s edition. Maine isn’t really built to play from behind. Three times this year it has come back from a single goal, but more of a hill would likely be too steep. Coming into Saturday, it was averaging less than a goal per game, so a three-goal third period and back-to-back goals within a minute versus the Terriers would count as an explosion. Is that a sign of things to come? Maybe, but I’m inclined to believe that it will prove to be a rarity, and Maine’s best chance to win is to frustrate opponents by keeping a game scoreless and capitalizing on any mistakes that result. Both Huskies squads may be fragile enough at present that it won’t take as much to throw them out of whack. Northeastern, in particular, will probably be without Kendall Coyne and Paige Savage on Saturday due to the upcoming Four Nations Cup tournament. That should level the ice to an extent.

A number of teams are going to have to find ways to survive over the next couple of weekends without stars. Teams have tried to schedule a bye to mitigate the impact, but the United States is apparently following the Canadian operating procedure and requiring its college players to report earlier than in past years. This weekend, that means that a team like Wisconsin will be without Canadians Blayre Turnbull and Emily Clark and American Annie Pankowski as it faces a UND squad that will miss Halli Krzyzaniak. Just about all of the top teams are impacted to an extent. Erin Ambrose likely misses Clarkson’s game with Yale. Cornell won’t have Jillian Saulnier when it faces a Quinnipiac team missing Shiann Darkangelo, and presumably, Erica Uden Johansson. No Brandt, Cameranesi, and Lee Stecklein for Minnesota against Bemidji State on Saturday. BC has to play without five players: Carpenter, Skarupa, Trivigno, Pfalzer, and Megan Keller, for several games. That impact is mitigated in that its opponents include Northeastern and Vermont, which is minus Amanda Pelkey. Harvard waits this long to play and then loses Michelle Picard, although the Crimson are a deep team and will still be heavy favorites against Union. New Hampshire will be missing goalie Vilma Vaattovaara when it plays Boston University Sunday and Vermont the following Saturday, and Minnesota-Duluth will be missing Tea Villilä, Linnea Hedin, and Michelle Löwenheim when facing a Minnesota State team for a pair this weekend that will be without Elin Johansson.

Do you think we’ll be able to remember all that, much less sort it out, come February when trying to analyze why teams performed the way they did in November?

Candace: Well, it probably depends. These next two weeks will really be a good test of that depth thing that we were talking about earlier. Boston College, for instance, still has Field, Leary, Anastos, Bender, Capizzano, and Kent. Minnesota still has McMillen, Rachael Bona, Meghan Lorence, Rachel Ramsey, Menefee, and Leveille. Wisconsin still has Karley Sylvester, Brittany Ammerman, and Sydney McKibbon. Quinnipiac still has Taylar Cianfarano up front and Chelsea Laden in goal. Boston University still has Lefort.

In looking at the schedules, most teams seem to have avoided playing during Four Nations, except for the Hockey East squads. After Saturday, Wisconsin isn’t in action again until Nov. 13, while Minnesota, North Dakota, Cornell, Quinnipiac, and Harvard resume play on Nov. 14. Meanwhile, Boston University will face a stout test on Nov. 8 when, with Poulin either playing for Canada or still injured, the Terriers have to face Yale and Phoebe Staenz, and Boston College, as mentioned earlier, faces Northeastern and Vermont. BU also faces Northeastern on Nov. 11. It’s interesting that the Hockey East squads play on.

As far as puzzling results, you’re really only looking at one game for most of these teams, and they should be able to overcome it. Teams have to be more than one player, or they won’t have success in the long run. That’s why Yale, for instance, has to be happy that it’s getting production from Stephanie Mock, Taylor Marchin, Krista Yip-Chuck, Eden Murray, and Janelle Ferrara. If the Bulldogs were built only on Staenz, as they seemed to be at times last season, they’d be much more vulnerable if Staenz got hurt. In that sense though, playing on the weekend of the Four Nations should help teams like Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern, and Vermont come the playoffs, and, if they get that far, the NCAAs.

Moving on, let’s talk about Yale. Yes, Providence and Sacred Heart aren’t exactly the stoutest test, but the Bulldogs are off to a good start. We’ll know more about the Bulldogs next weekend after they host travel pair St. Lawrence and Clarkson. Do you see the Bulldogs moving up the ECAC ladder?

Arlan: I do. Yale was a seventh-place team last year. Every rung up the ladder is earned at someone’s expense, so for Yale to move up, at least one team has to drop. The Bulldogs should be fairly safe from pursuit from behind. None of the four teams that missed the playoffs is above .500 so far. Eighth-place Dartmouth is, but that is just after one game. Princeton looks to be within range. The Tigers were four points better last time, so a two-game improvement by Yale could be enough. Before the season, I thought that St. Lawrence may also be at risk from a Yale surge, but the Saints are looking pretty strong. Quinnipiac looks more likely to move up than down. Cornell and Clarkson have had their wobbles, but they finished 14 and 17 points ahead, respectively, so that’s a big gap to close.

I still think Harvard wins the league. So, if Yale finishes higher than sixth in the ECAC, I think it’ll have to be due to either some team near the top really falling off the map in a way we don’t anticipate, or the Bulldogs making a jump similar to what Cornell did in 2009-10. To do anything close to that, Yale will have to stay healthy, and that’s been an issue in previous seasons. Senior Jackie Raines is the career leader in points on the current roster, and she averaged over a point a game last year, but played in only 15 contests. Raines played Friday but not Saturday, so hopefully, she isn’t sidelined for any length of time. Yale may be better positioned to survive an injury or two now. Joakim Flygh said this may be the best incoming class he has had at Yale, and I thought both his current sophomore and junior classes were quite strong. If nothing else, the Bulldogs can say they have the best record in the country at present.

There are some other teams with winning records that we haven’t discussed all that much. One is Vermont. Initially, the loss at Bemidji looked like a bad loss, but given Wisconsin had a tough time putting away the Beavers this weekend, maybe it deserves a second look. The Catamounts’ only other loss is to RIT, but Mercyhurst can attest that it can be tough to score on Ali Binnington. Vermont also has a win over the Tigers and a victory at North Dakota. Sophomore Madison Litchfield is handling her duties in net fine with a .932 save percentage, and Molly Depew made her debut this weekend by blanking Union. The roster looks to have the makings of at least a couple of lines that can score and some young talent on the blue line.

Ohio State didn’t get much accomplished in Madison, but then, few teams do. Those are its only losses, and it is tough to gauge the value of home sweeps of New Hampshire and Bemidji State. The Buckeyes are going predominantly with rookie Kassidy Sauve in net, and as she gets more comfortable, there could be some upside later in the year. Twins Sara and Kari Schmitt, although not widely known outside of the league, may lead their team to some great things in their senior season on the blue line.

Any thoughts on the Catamounts, Buckeyes, or other teams that we may have overlooked?

Candace: Vermont has just been a little inconsistent, but maybe the Catamounts can use this past weekend against Union as something to build on. Ohio State is sort of similar to Vermont, in that I see the Buckeyes as a four or five team in their conference that can potentially trouble the squads above them, but is probably a little lacking in the depth needed to do so on a consistent basis. Ohio State hosts St. Cloud this weekend, and then travels to Minnesota State, and I would think is well positioned to win all four of those games. I think we should hold off on evaluating the Buckeyes until perhaps Nov. 16 or Nov. 23, as Ohio State faces Mercyhurst on Nov. 11, then hosts Minnesota for a pair, then travels to North Dakota for a pair. Given UND’s inconsistencies, a split between Ohio State and North Dakota could tell us a lot about where the Buckeyes might finish.

Vermont looked good with its opening win against North Dakota. As you said, the Bemidji loss may not be as bad in retrospect. The tie with Rensselaer is really their only inexplicable result, especially since it was at home. I’ll be interested to see how Vermont does against Boston College on Nov. 9, as well as at Syracuse the following weekend in a pair.

RIT has also played well initially. The Tigers strange result was the loss to New Hampshire. They start CHA play this weekend against Lindenwood, then travel to Princeton for a pair the following weekend. That series could become important. RIT’s series against North Dakota in December could really help the Tigers in the PairWise if they at least split, but they can’t afford to falter against Princeton, Penn State, or Rensselaer before that, and ideally should get at least a split against Mercyhurst their series in three weeks.

Slow start no cause for alarm for Quinnipiac, but Bobcats need better goaltending

20131122 5D3 5803 Slow start no cause for alarm for Quinnipiac, but Bobcats need better goaltending

Michael Garteig and Quinnipiac are off to a shaky start this season (photo: Shelley M. Szwast).

The Quinnipiac men’s hockey program had not had a losing record through four games since the fall of 1999. Through this October’s first quartet, the Bobcats are 1-2-1.

That said, there is no need for Bobcats fans to fret. After all, if somehow a season 15 years ago sets some sort of portentous precedent, the Bobcats will be A-OK: By playoff time, the 1999-2000 team was 26-5-3 and 13-1-2 at home.

“I really like our team. I like the makeup of our team, I like the character, I think we’ve got talent,” said the coach of both the present and 1999-2000 Quinnipiac teams, Rand Pecknold. “But the results haven’t been as good as we’ve desired, for a variety of reasons.

“We’re better than 1-2-1. We’ve got 18 freshmen and sophomores, which I think puts us as the second- or third-youngest team in the country [by class years]. We lack game experience, and we’ve been getting exposed because of that.”

An avatar for Quinnipiac’s unaccustomed early-season struggles is the play of its junior goaltender. Whether the deficiencies lie more with the defense or his own play, Michael Garteig’s career save percentage is sinking past .905 due to his abysmal .828 save rate thus far this fall.

“It’s a little bit of both. Michael Garteig was .910 all last year, and had a really good season for us, so [this] is not going to hold through,” Pecknold said, “but certainly, there have been some struggles. You’re not going to win with .880 goaltending, .890 goaltending, and we’re well below that right now. That will improve, but we think we can play better in front of our goalies, too.”

Garteig’s play has cracked the door for freshman Sean Lawrence, but the rookie’s own .833 save percentage and 3.11 GAA is hardly exemplary.

“Right now, we need someone to step up and make some saves,” Pecknold said. “‘Gartzy’ has proven that he can do it, but he’s going to have to go on a little bit of a run now. We’re very confident in our goaltending; this is a very small sample size, it’s only four games. We’re not in panic mode with that.”

In front of the crease, Pecknold and his staff are understandably still toying with combinations.

“I like [freshman] Landon Smith when he played with [senior Matthew] Peca and [sophomore Sam] Anas. I liked [freshman] Tanner MacMaster, who’s there now. We’re still trying to tinker with our other lines.

“It’s a little bit early [to commit to line combinations]. We’re still trying to figure out who’s going to play center, who’s going to play on the wings, and same thing with the D pairings. We didn’t put Sam on the wing with [graduated twins] Connor and Kellen [Jones] until about the fifth game, maybe game six, so it takes a little while to figure that out.”

Among the newcomers, Pecknold has noted some bright spots.

“I’ve been real happy with both Smiths,” he said.”Landon Smith and [defenseman] Derek Smith have played well. [Senior defenseman and New Hampshire transfer] Justin Agosta has adapted to our system, which is different than UNH’s, and he’s been really good. In the Lowell game, he had a huge goal on the power play.

“It’s still a little early with our other freshmen; you just never know how they’re going to adapt. Some kids, you throw them in the mix and they’re great right out of the gate. Other kids, it takes a couple months, other kids it takes ’til January. We’re going to see good results here; it’s just a matter of time.”

Agosta isn’t the only transfer on the roster. Unlike Agosta, former Massachusetts defenseman K.J. Tiefenwerth sat out a season between programs.

“It’s always tough when you’re transferring, having to sit out a year. It’s a very difficult year. All you do is practice — there is no light at the end of that tunnel with games,” Pecknold said in appreciation of Tiefenwerth’s work ethic.

On the whole, it’s still far too early to pull the parachute in Hamden.

“I don’t want to say we’re in survival mode, because we’re not, but we’re so young,” Pecknold said. “We’re just taking it one game at a time, whether it’s on the road or home, just trying to get guys to buy into our identity and play to our identity. I think that’s the biggest challenge we have as a team right now, is those two things.”

2014101019 21 1224 Slow start no cause for alarm for Quinnipiac, but Bobcats need better goaltending

Rensselaer has lost five straight since an opening-night win at Notre Dame (photo: Jim Rosvold).

Engineers have plenty of fight left

“We’re making some immature mistakes,” is how Rensselaer coach Seth Appert began his comments.

In the next breath, however, he emphasized that “it’s early, we haven’t played a league game yet, half our league hasn’t even played a game yet, so we’re trying to keep things in perspective.”

RPI is 1-5 and in the midst of a five-game skid. The Engineers have scored six goals in six games and already have suffered three shutout losses. They had a rough year last time out — finishing 15-16-6 — but the 2013-14 squad didn’t endure its third scoreless game until late February.

Appert isn’t expecting an offensive epiphany by any stretch, so don’t come to Houston Field House expecting a touchdown and two-point conversion every night. But he is banking on redoubled defense and exceptional goaltending to right the ship.

“We’re not happy with it by any stretch,” he said. “I like the way we played in the first weekend. We were a little flat in Denver, and we actually probably defended better than the scores look [last] weekend. We only gave up 37 shots the whole weekend, but we are fighting the puck a little bit, fighting our offensive confidence. But like I said, it’s early. We’re learning about ourselves and trying to get ready for league play.

“Quite frankly, I think we’re going to be a very good defensive team, and I think we’re very close to that. We held Notre Dame to two goals. We held Minnesota — probably the best offensive team in the country — to two until about the last 10 minutes of that game. We held Bentley, one of the highest-scoring teams in the country last year, to 37 shots on the weekend.”

One of RPI’s major sore spots is in its special-teams play. The power play has just two goals on 26 opportunities (7.7 percent); the penalty kill has been more speed bump than brick wall at a mere 71.4 percent kill rate.

“Our special teams need to improve in both aspects. The power play hurts the penalty kill; the penalty kill feels a little more pressure when you’re not scoring. It’s simply not been good enough,” Appert said.

Lament though some Puckman fans might, Appert and Co. are not withering after a mere six games.

“There was [frustration], but I think we’re all right,” he said. “I think there was frustration this weekend, but at the end of the day, that needs to be [redirected] by myself and our staff and by Curtis Leonard, our captain.

“We have a tremendous captain. One of the things that makes me feel good about this team early on is that I think our captain is an absolute stud of a leader and a human being, and I think we’ll have — as the season plays out — some of the best goaltending in the country. And that reminds me a lot of our team two years ago, with [captain] C.J. Lee and [then-freshman] Jason Kasdorf, and that propelled us to a second-place finish even though we didn’t have a forward on that team score 30 points.”

Kasdorf — who missed most of last season with a shoulder injury — has already played to rave reviews from both familiar and new observers alike. His coach is a former collegiate goalie himself, and his pleased with what he’s seen.

“He’s better than he was. About a month ago … we were talking during a goalie session, and I just told him flat out: ‘Jason, you’re a much better goalie than you were a year ago or two years ago — it’s not even close — but your numbers might not look like it in the first month of the season,’ because we’re inexperienced in some key areas, and he hasn’t played games in over a year, all those things,” Appert said.

All in all, the ever-optimistic Appert knows that while negative reactions are to be expected in the wake of a depressing start, there is no room for despair in the Rensselaer locker room.

“Urgency and disappointment, yes, but not panic and frustration, because that does not lead to quality play,” he said.

Liberty Hockey Invitational to showcase local talent

The second annual Liberty Hockey Invitational at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., will feel like a homecoming for more than a dozen of its participants.

Between Yale, Princeton and Merrimack, there are 15 Garden State-bred players who will hope to skate on native ice in the state’s biggest hockey venue. (Fourth entry Connecticut does not have a Jersey-raised player on its roster.)

Princeton: Forwards — senior Aaron Kesselman (Mays Landing, N.J. — Bishop Brady HS), junior Mike Ambrosia (Chatham, N.J. — Delbarton), freshman Eric Robinson (Bellmawr, N.J. — Gloucester Catholic). Defensemen — sophomore Tommy Davis (Ho-Ho-Kus, N.J. — Delbarton), freshman Joe Grabowski (Lawrenceville, N.J. — Notre Dame HS). Goaltender — sophomore Colton Phinney (Chatham, N.J. — Delbarton).

Yale: Forwards — junior Matthew Beattie (Whitehouse Station, N.J.), junior Charles Orzetti (Ridgewood, N.J. — Delbarton), freshman John Baiocco (New Vernon, N.J.). Defensemen — senior Matt Killian (Basking Ridge, N.J. — Delbarton), sophomore Dan O’Keefe (North Wall, N.J.).

Merrimack: Forward — junior Vinny Scotti (Vineland, N.J.). Defensemen — senior Dan Kolomatis (Basking Ridge, N.J.), junior Craig Wyszomirski (Mahwah, N.J. — Don Bosco Prep). Goaltender — senior Joe Pantalone (Hammonton, N.J. — Saint Augustine Prep).

Merrimack and UConn square off at 4:30 p.m. EDT on Friday; Princeton meets Yale at 7 p.m. The third-place and championship games will be held on Sunday — not Saturday — at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., respectively.

Boston College defenseman Santini to miss rest of first half after wrist surgery

141004 20124900 Boston College defenseman Santini to miss rest of first half after wrist surgery

Boston College defenseman Steve Santini is out for the rest of the first half after undergoing wrist surgery on Oct. 28 (photo: Melissa Wade).

Boston College sophomore defenseman Steve Santini will miss the remainder of the first half of the season following scheduled wrist surgery on Tuesday afternoon.

“Our priority is for Steve to get healthy,” BC coach Jerry York said in a statement. “His presence will be missed throughout this stretch of tough competition ahead of us, but we are looking forward to him returning to our club just after the New Year.”

Santini suffered the injury in the middle of the second period against Massachusetts on Oct. 25.

In 39 career games with the Eagles, the New Jersey Devils’ prospect has four goals and eight assists for 12 points, along with a plus-27 rating.

Mercyhurst to host Ohio State at Erie Insurance Arena in January 2015

Mercyhurst announced on Tuesday afternoon that its originally-scheduled men’s games against Ohio State on Jan. 2 and Jan. 3, 2015, will be played at the Erie Insurance Arena as part of the “Snowtown Throwdown.” Game time on Friday, Jan. 2 is slated for 7:05 p.m. EDT, while the following day’s game will begin at 2:35 p.m. The Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters are also in town that night for a 7 p.m. faceoff against the Windsor Spitfires. Proceeds from the two-game series will benefit The Warming Center hosted at the Mental Health Association of Northwest Pennsylvania.

Open Dates: Coaches look to old relationships, but common scheduling stereotypes still appear

tomanastos Open Dates: Coaches look to old relationships, but common scheduling stereotypes still appear

Michigan State coach Tom Anastos says his commitment to recruits is to put together the most competitive schedule possible (photo: Matthew Mitchell/Michigan State Athletics).

Third in a three-part series.

There is a tug-of-war in college hockey between coaches desiring nonconference home games and those who demand reciprocity. A team’s schedule is also a reflection of its brand — the type of opponents it likes to face, and fellow coaches who have built rapport among one another.

Since the 2013 conference realignment, some traditional rivals are no longer league opponents. This includes the sad pause in perhaps the greatest rivalry of them all: Minnesota vs. North Dakota (NCAA tournament meetings notwithstanding).

Securing new agreements

Many coaches are trying to rekindle old relationships both to meet the needs of filling dates but also to lock in reciprocal series over the long term.

“Playing Lake Superior is close to my heart, so we’ve created an opportunity to play with them,” said Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson, who led the Lakers to the 1992 and 1994 national championships.

Open Dates

A three-part series by USCHO's Alex Faust on the challenges college hockey teams face in scheduling nonconference games after the 2013 realignment.

Tuesday, Oct. 21: Teams find themselves with more nonconference games to schedule and have to get creative.

Friday, Oct. 24: A tug-of-war emerges between schools who'll pay for an opponent and those who want a return game in their building.

Tuesday, Oct. 28: Coaches turn to old relationships to fill the nonconference schedule, but common stereotypes still appear.

“We’ve been able to partner with some ECAC schools,” Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said, “renewing the old ECAC relationships that I used to play in before Hockey East started.”

Bus trips to old rivals have helped. Northeastern plays five different ECAC Hockey programs this year, a considerable spike compared to years past when no space was available on the schedule due to a larger Hockey East schedule.

Most of the Huskies’ opponents this year fulfilled the criteria of locking teams in for long-term agreements: having bus trips, reciprocal agreements and opponents on a reasonably similar competitive plane.

And if there’s truly an appetite for a throwback, what about interlocking league schedules? In 1984, when Hockey East schools were still emerging from a bitter divorce with the ECAC, the league used a unique interlocking schedule agreement with the WCHA to fill up its teams’ sudden need for nonconference games.

What’s to stop a similar agreement from being formed 30 years later? The reality of modern college athletics. Tight standards for keeping students in the classroom, inflexible home dates in multi-purpose arenas.

In short, there’s a lot more to it than just concocting a dream scenario.

“I think there are opportunities to be more creative,” Blasi said. “But it’s about finding those dates that everyone can be happy with and work with. Those are the difficulties.”

“There’s a reason that nonconference schedules are up to the individual institutions,” Appert said of the idea of an interlocking schedule. “I don’t want it, and I don’t think it’s realistic. Those [Big Ten] teams are going to have more home games than road games, and we just try to do the math to take that into account.”

Executing the philosophy

So, with all of these factors in mind, can a team still have a single, guiding philosophy for building a schedule? And more importantly, have coaches been able to execute it?

Michigan State’s Tom Anastos may have summed up the consensus of his coaching brethren well.

“Teams come and go over time,” Anastos said. “But in the end, when we’re recruiting kids to come, we make the commitment to them that they’re not just going to play a highly competitive conference schedule, but the most demanding schedule that we can put together, and one with the best opportunity to develop us into a championship-caliber team.

“But you’ve got to balance other things — your home and road schedule. Your fans want to be able to see the best schedule possible. Your travel needs to be able to fit within your budget.”

One of the most important elements to crafting a championship-caliber team involves scheduling the right competition.

Notre Dame vs Alabama Huntsville 5 Open Dates: Coaches look to old relationships, but common scheduling stereotypes still appear

Alabama-Huntsville played a series at Notre Dame last season (photo: Eric Kelley, d3photography.com).

Almost every coach mentioned competition among the top priorities in scheduling philosophy: not necessarily facing the toughest opposition possible, but getting exposure to solid competition and a diversity of teams.

That sounds like a lot to manage. But the college hockey community is fairly small. Relationships get built, sometimes simply through an email reaching out during the summer meetings.

A cynic might take the view that realignment has hurt college hockey. That may indeed be the case, but it’s impossible to know for now.

If anything, realignment forced the normally insular world of college hockey to take a look around and be creative.

Coaches need to buy into the process as well. One look at this year’s schedules shows that the stereotypes are still prevalent.

Four of the five most imbalanced schedules this year are from Atlantic Hockey. Only one Hockey East team is among the top 10 in anticipated strength of schedule. On average, Big Ten teams still schedule the least difficult opponents compared to their abilities.

And yes, three out of eight NCHC teams will play a majority of their games at home, the highest proportion of any league.

The NCAA has taken the initiative to incentivize teams against stacking their schedules with home games. While it’ll take a few years to evaluate whether the move was successful, the new Ratings Percentage Index formula has reignited a discussion among coaches to find ways to grow college hockey through new scheduling agreements.

Why can’t American International host Michigan State one time? Why can’t Alabama-Huntsville welcome Boston College? Perhaps those examples are extreme, but it would be a neat step to help grow the game.

This new glut of open games and tweaking the RPI could nudge us in that direction.

TMQ: Some records can be more perfect than others

141025 21330803 TMQ: Some records can be more perfect than others

Matt Lane’s third-period goal completed a Boston University rally past Michigan (photo: Melissa Wade).

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.

Todd: Not counting the six teams that haven’t yet played a game that counts against their record, there are five teams with perfect records so far this season and one more with only a tie as a blemish on its record. We probably could have figured preseason No. 1 as a likely inclusion before the season, but the others have a little bit of intrigue.

Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan and Vermont are 4-0 like the Gophers, and Boston University is 3-0 after rallying to beat Michigan last Saturday. Robert Morris is 5-0-1. Which of those teams has made the biggest statement to you so far?

Jim: I think Michigan Tech and its ability to sweep Ferris State last weekend is likely the most impressive. Allowing just a single goal in the two games, Mel Pearson’s Tech team is playing stingy defense right now.

That said, it is hard to overlook BU’s 3-2 win over Michigan in which it overcame a 2-1 third-period deficit. I saw Michigan’s juggernaut offense dismantle a pretty good Massachusetts-Lowell team a night earlier, scoring eight goals, so seeing the Terriers succeed against the Wolverines, particularly in comeback fashion, got my attention.

Do you agree?

Todd: I was impressed, too, by Michigan Tech’s defense in handing Ferris State its first home losses in over a year. Huskies goaltender Jamie Phillips stopped 67 of the 68 shots he faced in the two games, both of which were one-goal victories.

The Huskies are ranked 17th in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll going into what has to be one of the most anticipated series in Houghton in quite some time. Michigan comes to town this weekend, and tip your cap to the Wolverines for scheduling a series in the UP. Pearson matches up against his former boss, Red Berenson. There’s a lot of intrigue in these two games.

Jim: This is where the creation of the Big Ten benefits college hockey. As Alex Faust has pointed out in his pieces on nonleague scheduling, teams in the Big Ten and Hockey East can’t be as picky, particularly when it comes to playing road games as part of a two-year, home-and-home agreement. As you noted, the intimate venue in Houghton will be rocking this weekend. Definitely a series to watch.

Todd: There was an unfortunate ending to Saturday night’s game at Air Force, where the Falcons beat Rochester Institute of Technology in overtime after an icing call that appeared to be incorrect. Here’s the video of the disputed call:

Air Force scored a few seconds after the ensuing faceoff, with a tired set of RIT players on the ice. On the video, it seems pretty clear that the RIT player was still in the penalty box when the puck was sent down ice — you can vaguely see an orange sweater in the box as the camera pans down ice — so icing should have been waved off. But none of the four officials on the ice saw it, or if they did, they didn’t speak up. To me, this needs to be a lesson to the on-ice officials to get together to get these calls right.

Jim: I generally side with officials as I believe the game is fast enough that it is a very difficult one to referee. But this one, to me, seemed quite obvious that there was time remaining on the penalty clock when the puck was released.

But the question that is more relevant: Should the NCAA add icing to one of the calls that can be reviewed by video replay? In a case like this it seems to make sense, but where do you draw the line on reviewable plays?

Todd: That’s exactly the thing that I think keeps more things from being reviewable. The NCAA doesn’t want to make the entire game subject to a delay for video. They did a good job a few years ago of taking away time between the whistle and the faceoff, and I know they don’t want games to get longer again.

It seems like the penalty timekeeper or scoreboard operator could be helpful in this specific situation, but that would probably require a pretty extensive rewriting of the rules.

A quick note on something I’d like to see more of in college hockey’s future: Last Saturday, Wisconsin played St. Norbert in a scrimmage that ended up in a 3-3 tie. There are a lot of quality Division III teams that I know would love to get a chance to play Division I teams. The schedule usually doesn’t work out because D-III teams aren’t allowed to play until around the start of November, but I think it would be great to see these kinds of matchups, especially where geography makes it even more interesting.

Jim: That is interesting and seemingly makes more sense than playing Canadian teams for exhibition games where players on these Canadian clubs are typically older than the American counterparts and are often interested in playing a different brand of hockey that can include fighting. Plus, a local Division III team brings with it more interest and familiarity making it more appealing to the fans.

Thumbs up

To Robert Morris senior Cody Wydo, who posted a hat trick in the Colonials’ 3-3 tie with Army on Saturday. Wydo made a name for himself last season as the nation’s second-leading goal scorer, and he has six goals in six games this season.

Thumbs down

To the tape on the sticks at Northeastern. Something’s keeping the Huskies from scoring goals.

Coming up

It’s another huge weekend for series between teams ranked in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll.

• No. 1 Minnesota plays a home-and-home series with No. 7 St. Cloud State.

• No. 5 Boston College plays at No. 11 Denver.

• No. 6 Boston University has a home-and-home series with No. 9 Providence.

• No. 10 Miami travels to No. 19 Minnesota-Duluth.

• No. 13 Vermont heads to No. 20 Notre Dame.

• And there’s the aforementioned series between No. 15 Michigan and No. 17 Michigan Tech.

Add to that the rivalry home-and-home series between No. 2 Union and Rensselaer, which had some postgame fireworks the last time around, and you have a high-level weekend on tap.

Beaudoin returns to Western New England as new assistant coach

Chris Beaudoin has been named an assistant coach at Western New England.

Beaudoin, who was a forward at WNE, served in a similar role at Fermi/Enfield High School in Enfield, Conn., last season.

“I am excited to have Chris back with us,” said Western New England head coach Greg Heffernan in a news release. “He is one of my original players when I took over in 2009 and has been through the things that our players are going through. His experience and passion for Golden Bear hockey makes him a tremendous asset for our program in both coaching and recruiting.”

A 2011 graduate of Western New England, Beaudoin was a three-year member of the hockey program, amassing 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 total points in 50 career games from 2009 to 2011 before an injury cut short his collegiate career.

Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Oct. 20-26

2014102520 26 20182 Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Oct. 20 26

Minnesota’s Travis Boyd fights for a puck in front of the Bemidji State net in Saturday’s game (photo: Jim Rosvold).

Here’s how the teams in the Oct. 20, 2014, USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll fared from Monday, Oct. 20 to Sunday, Oct. 26:

RANKLAST WEEK’S RESULTSRECORDTHIS WEEK’S GAMES
1umn Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Oct. 20 26
Minnesota
Friday: beat Bemidji State 5-2
Saturday: beat Bemidji State 5-3
4-0Friday: at St. Cloud State
Saturday: vs. St. Cloud State
2uc Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Oct. 20 26
Union
Friday: beat No. 9 St. Cloud State 5-1
Saturday: lost to No. 9 St. Cloud State 3-2
5-1Friday: at Rensselaer
Saturday: vs. Rensselaer
3und Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Oct. 20 26
North Dakota
Friday: beat No. 5 Providence 6-1
Saturday: tied No. 5 Providence 2-2
4-1-1Saturday: vs. Air Force
4col Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Oct. 20 26
Colgate
Friday: won at Sacred Heart 5-2
Saturday: won at Sacred Heart 4-2
5-1Friday-Saturday: vs. Mercyhurst
5pc Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Oct. 20 26
Providence
Friday: lost at No. 3 North Dakota 6-1
Saturday: tied at No. 3 North Dakota 2-2
1-2-1Friday: vs. Boston University
Saturday: at Boston University
6bc Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Oct. 20 26
Boston College
Friday: beat Colorado College 6-2
Saturday: beat Massachusetts 4-1
3-1Friday-Saturday: at Denver
7uml Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Oct. 20 26
Massachusetts-Lowell
Friday: lost to No. 14 Michigan 8-4
Saturday: beat Michigan State 2-1
3-1-1Friday: at New Hampshire
Saturday: vs. New Hampshire
8fsu Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Oct. 20 26
Ferris State
Friday: lost to Michigan Tech 1-0
Saturday: lost to Michigan Tech 2-1
2-3Friday-Saturday: at Michigan State
9scsu Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Oct. 20 26
St. Cloud State
Friday: lost at No. 2 Union 5-1
Saturday: won at No. 2 Union 3-2
2-2Friday: vs. Minnesota
Saturday: at Minnesota
10mu Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Oct. 20 26
Miami
Friday: lost to St. Lawrence 5-4
Saturday: beat St. Lawrence 2-1, OT
4-2Friday-Saturday: at Minnesota-Duluth
11du Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Oct. 20 26
Denver
Friday: won at No. 19 Minnesota-Duluth 3-1
Saturday: lost at No. 19 Minnesota-Duluth 6-1
3-1Friday-Saturday: vs. Boston College
12bu Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Oct. 20 26
Boston University
Friday: beat Michigan State 1-0
Saturday: beat No. 14 Michigan 3-2
3-0Friday: at Providence
Saturday: vs. Providence
13mnst Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Oct. 20 26
Minnesota State
Friday: beat Alabama-Huntsville 3-1
Saturday: beat Alabama-Huntsville 4-1
4-2Friday-Saturday: at Bowling Green
14um Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Oct. 20 26
Michigan
Friday: won at No. 7 Massachusetts-Lowell 8-4
Saturday: lost at No. 12 Boston University 3-2
2-3Friday-Saturday: at Michigan Tech
15qu Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Oct. 20 26
Quinnipiac
Tuesday: lost 4-1 to Connecticut1-2-1Saturday-Sunday: vs. Northeastern
16uaf Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Oct. 20 26
Alaska
Friday: won at Western Michigan 1-0
Saturday: lost at Western Michigan 4-2
5-1Friday-Saturday: at Bemidji State
17uvm Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Oct. 20 26
Vermont
Saturday: beat Connecticut 2-14-0Friday-Saturday: at Notre Dame
18cor Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Oct. 20 26
Cornell
Friday: beat U.S. Under-18 Team 3-2
Saturday: beat Carleton 3-2
0-0Friday-Saturday: vs. Omaha
19umd Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Oct. 20 26
Minnesota-Duluth
Friday: lost 3-1 to No. 11 Denver
Saturday: beat No. 11 Denver 6-1
3-3Friday-Saturday: vs. Miami
20uaa Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Oct. 20 26
Alaska-Anchorage
Friday: lost at Maine 3-1
Saturday: tied at Maine 3-3
3-1-2Friday-Saturday: vs. Lake Superior State

North Dakota’s MacMillan out indefinitely after surgery on left wrist

North Dakota senior forward Mark MacMillan will be out indefinitely after undergoing wrist surgery on Saturday morning in Grand Forks, N.D.

MacMillan was injured late in the second period of Friday’s game against Providence when a skate blade lacerated his left wrist.

A fourth-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 2010, MacMillan leads UND with five goals in five games and is tied for the team scoring lead with seven points. Overall, he has appeared in 127 career games and leads all active UND skaters in goals (35), assists (46) and points (81).

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