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Commentary: At Arizona State, expect the exuberance to continue past the first varsity faceoff

I0000n.2sjye5EyM Commentary: At Arizona State, expect the exuberance to continue past the first varsity faceoff

Arizona State goalie Robert Levin was the rookie of the year in the ACHA last season (photo: Courtney Pedroza/House of Sparky).

Editor’s note: Justin Emerson is the managing editor of HouseOfSparky.com, an SB Nation site, and a student in Arizona State’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Starting next season, Arizona State will have a Division I hockey team. I never thought I’d type those words. I don’t think anyone ever expected to read those words.

I’ve covered the ASU team for three years now and have seen what this team is, and that’s one of the most exciting teams at a school with a ton of excitement. The football team made it to No. 6 in the rankings, the basketball team is in the infancy of its season, the baseball team has a new stadium and a new coach.

And yet, everyone is excited for hockey right now. And why not? This is a region that, while watching the rest of the country, is enjoying the slightly chilly 70-degree weather. I’m sitting outside by my pool as I write this.

This team has always been a little different. It never identifies itself has a club team. It’s the “C” word around the program. On my first day on the beat, my headline included the “C” word, and I got called by three people inside the team asking me to not use it when not absolutely necessary. The players don’t think of themselves as “C” word players, and now they won’t have to.

As for the fan support, that’s where it gets fun. The ASU basketball team’s student section has what it likes to call the “Curtain of Distraction.” Essentially, they have a giant curtain they pull back when the opposing team attempts a free throw to reveal something utterly ridiculous in an attempt to make him miss.

Now take that level of exuberant fandom, stick it in the seats behind the opposing goalie and see what happens. The poor guy. He’s going to let in a goal and hear his name serenaded behind him until the final horn sounds.

What’s intriguing is the possibility for Pac-12 hockey. ASU and the University of Arizona are extraordinarily competitive, and UA won’t like the fact it is losing in anything to its northern neighbors.

Oregon has Nike’s Phil Knight in its corner and surely won’t be lacking in the funds to make it possible if it is something Oregon wants to prioritize.

Same for the Los Angeles schools. USC and UCLA would have no trouble, and Colorado already has an ACHA team.

There’s the six schools the Pac-12 would need to form a hockey conference. And that doesn’t include Washington, Washington State, Oregon State, Stanford, California and Utah.

The one thing that is for sure is that it is an exciting time for hockey in Arizona, the West Coast and the college world. ASU brings name recognition to a college hockey landscape that (no disrespect to Union) has a national champion not many outside of New York or the college hockey world has heard of. Obviously, it’s tremendous hockey played there and Union deserves far more credit than it receives, but if you ask a random fan who the defending NCAA football, basketball and hockey champions are, they’d probably get two.

ASU is certainly buzzing with hockey fever right now. Next year the team will play a hybrid NCAA-ACHA schedule, followed by a full NCAA conference-independent schedule the following year and joining a conference in 2017-18.

Next season will be my fourth on the beat. I was around when the Sun Devils beat Division I Penn State, I was there for the 37-game winning streak against rival UA and I was at the national tournament. But next year will be the most excited I’ve ever been for ASU hockey.

Follow Justin Emerson on Twitter at @J15Emerson.

Plattsburgh senior Stewart finds success, stays on even keel

shannon stewart plattsburgh gabe dickens Plattsburgh senior Stewart finds success, stays on even keel

For Plattsburgh senior Shannon Stewart, success only means the hard work is never complete (photo: Gabe Dickens).

Most hockey players are humble and down to Earth.

Even coming off a national championship last spring, Plattsburgh senior forward Shannon Stewart still has her head on straight.

Then again, coming off three years of big-time success is an even greater accomplishment, but Stewart wants no discussion on the past – it’s only about looking forward for her.

“I expect a lot out of this team because we have been so successful in the last three years,” said Stewart, a Pickering, Ont., native. “Everybody is working hard and wants to be back in that championship game again. In order to succeed, we have to focus on one game at a time and not look past anyone. Working hard doesn’t just consist of on the ice, but also doing what were supposed to be doing outside of the rink.”

In 2011-12, Plattsburgh finished third in the nation and then repeated that in 2013. Then came the Cardinals’ 28-1-1 campaign of 2013-14 and everything just fell into place.

Stewart said last year was simply a dream and wants to go through the rigors again this season.

“I think the past three seasons have been very successful,” explained Stewart, “As a freshman, we were the underdogs going into the Final 4 weekend. We were happy to be there and had a great year. Obviously, my sophomore year was not what we wanted only losing one game all year and it being the semifinals game, but at the same time, it was still an amazing season for us. Last year was something that I will never forget. We finally ended up on top and it was very exciting.”

As a top player in Canada, many schools were after Stewart. After careful consideration, the choice came down to just one – Plattsburgh – and she even got a second opinion on the matter.

“I visited the campus twice before deciding that Plattsburgh was the place for me,” Stewart said. “I came up with my mom on one trip and traveled to Potsdam to watch the team play. Later on in the year, I came up with my dad and spent a night with the team. I really liked the way coach [Kevin Houle] talked about the program on and off the ice. Plattsburgh had my major [childhood education] and his coaching record really stood out to me.”

Houle has been impressed with Stewart’s progression through the years and isn’t sure what the plan is next season.

“Shannon has been an impact player since halfway through her freshman year, but as a sophomore, she became a force,” Houle said. “Last season, she was one of the top players in the country and she started to mature as a leader of our team. This season, she has become our leader at the forward position and is off to a great start. She makes plays every shift on the ice. You can’t replace a Shannon Stewart with a freshman as you are not just replacing points, you are trying to replace a role model and the leadership she brings to the team. As a coach, you hope that a current player will step into her role.”

Looking back, was it an adjustment for Stewart moving to a foreign land?

“There wasn’t a culture shock, but it took time to get used to,” admitted Stewart. “I wasn’t used to practicing every day and at first, it was very exhausting. It took me a while to adjust, but now that I am so used to it, I love being busy and doing something constantly.”

What she has also done on a constant basis is rack up points. In 96 career games, Stewart has posted 53 goals and 53 assists for 106 points, including six goals and eight points through seven games this year.

Just as she won’t dwell on the past, Stewart also won’t pine over the future, instead choosing to take her approach one day at a time.

“I think that as a team, we are all level-headed,” Stewart said. “We don’t talk much about last year because this is a new year and anything can happen. We also know how to overcome adversity and give it everything we’ve got. Coach is always on us about hard work and I think that has helped us in a lot of situations. We try to be relentless every game.”

So what does happen next year when Stewart’s college career comes to a close? Her goals are very reasonable.

“I hope to play hockey somewhere, if it’s in Europe or the CWHL,” said Stewart. “I don’t think that I am ready to hang up the skates just yet. At the same time, if a job opportunity arises I would take it.”

Again, Stewart’s humility shines through.

Noteworthy

St. Scholastica if off to a 5-1 start and has outscored opponents 29-7, averaging nearly five goals a game (4.83). Saints’ senior Nina Waidacher leads the country in scoring with a 7-6—13 line in six games … St. Anselm senior defenseman Robin Yoshida is the lone New Mexico native in all of NCAA Division I or Division III women’s hockey (more on that next week) … Amherst has scored just three goals in its first two games this season, but won both last weekend in a home-and-home with Hamilton, 2-0 and 1-0 … Hamilton is the only team yet to score a goal this season, with the exception of Bowdoin, which hasn’t played yet … Karen Larson and Kayla Goodwin each have 10 points each for Wisconsin-Superior this season … Bethel has scored 18 goals as a team, yet is just 3-2-1 … Plattsburgh freshman Kayla Meneghin leads all D-III freshman and the country with eight goals, including two shorthanded snipes … Senior Ally Ross is 5-0-1 between the pipes for Plattsburgh and carries a 1.64 GAA and a .904 save percentage.

Snowstorm postpones Friday’s Mercyhurst-Canisius game

Friday’s Mercyhurst home game against Canisius has been postponed because of the snowstorm in Western New York.

Benedetto proving to be more than points for Suffolk

tim benedetto suffolk Benedetto proving to be more than points for Suffolk

Suffolk senior Tim Benedetto is a valuable piece to the Rams this year (photo: Dan McHugh Photography)

After a long bus ride home following a hard-fought 1-1 tie with ECAC Northeast power Nichols Wednesday night, you might expect Suffolk senior Tim Benedetto to jump at the chance to take a day off.

Nah. Don’t need one, don’t want one.

That pretty much summed up the response after Rams’ coach Chris Glionna stepped off the team bus at 1 a.m. Thursday morning and offered Benedetto the chance to sit out that day’s practice.

“The nice thing about Tim,” said Glionna, “is that he doesn’t ever take anything for granted. We played a really hard game [at Nichols], and I told him, ‘If you want to take Thursday off, I’m okay with that. He kind of gave me this look that said, ‘What are you talking about. I’ll be there.’”

Just like he always is, so it seems.

“One day this week I walked in the rink, and there he was,” Glionna said. “The only guy on the ice. He had a bunch of pucks out there, and he was shooting. That tells you a lot about him.”

Benedetto is not much of a point producer, with just eight goals and nine assists in four seasons. But he seems to get them when it counts.

His one tally this year gave the Rams a 2-1 overtime win over Johnson and Wales, and earned him ECACNE player of the week laurels.

“He’s a super character kid,” said Glionna. “He does it all for us. Blocks shots. He’s not the greatest skater, and he doesn’t shoot the puck as hard as other guys. (But) he just never stops working. He wants to win, super bad. He’s just a heart and soul guy.”

One of many among the Rams, it seems.

Suffolk (4-0-1, 3-0-1) is off to its best start in years, is tied with Nichols for first place, and has all the makings of being a serious contender in the North East.

And notice this. Each of the Rams wins have come by one goal (with an empty netter against Western New England thrown in), a sure sign of a poised team that can flourish in tight spots.

“What we tell these guys,” said Glionna, “is just ‘work, work, work.’ They know no other way.

“We’re not super fast, and we’re not super big. We may not have the skill players like Nichols or Salve [Regina] have, but we know how to work.”

Let it snow

The massive lake effect snow storm (if you want to consider a 70-inch dumping to be massive) that engulfed Buffalo (home base for your faithful correspondent) and Western New York environs this week, may or may not intrude upon the weekend’s local Division III schedule.

It so happens that the two SUNYAC schools that sit along Lake Erie – Buffalo State and Fredonia – play each other on Friday. Make that, scheduled to play each other on Friday.

As for now, the game to be played at Fredonia’s Steele Hall is still a “go.”

For now.

That would likely change as the New York State Thruway – which served as the unhappy parking spot for the Niagara women’s basketball team for 30 hours – remains closed for a fourth consecutive day.

Meanwhile, the only game being played by either team is the waiting game.

“All is well here in Buffalo,” said Buff State coach Nick Carriere. “We had to cancel practice [Wednesday], but we are a go for [Thursday] for the guys that can make it. We will have to see if the Thruway is opened tomorrow.”

Said Fredonia bench boss Jeff Meredith, “We are dealing with the storm. School was canceled, but we have practiced each day. Game is on Friday. Stay tuned.”

Jay flying high for Westfield State

After going pointless in his first three encounters, Westfield State junior Dalton Jay erupted for five points in last weekend’s tilts (both wins) with Framingham St. and Salem State.

Jay’s three goal hattie against Salem helped Westfield bury the defending MASCAC champs, 6-1.

It was Jay’s second career hat trick.

“Dalton is able to contribute to our team in many ways because of his speed and skill,” said Owls’ coach Bob Miele. “He has logged a lot of minutes for us since he has been here. We are excited he is off to a good start and he will work hard to keep producing.”

Curley manning Neumann crease

Replacing a top-flight goalie is not always an easy task.

Sitting behind one isn’t any easier.

Thus, Neumann’s Ben Curley moves into the Knights’ net vacated by graduate Braely Torris with no drop off in crease quality.

Curley, a senior, has backstopped Neumann to three wins in their first four starts, including a 3-0 shutout of Manhattanville.

“Ben has taken full advantage of the opportunity he earned this year,” said Knights’ coach Dominick Dawes. “He is a competitor, he wants to be in the net. Even when he was not [playing], he has consistently been one of our hardest workers. The guys trust him and respect what he brings to the ice every day. He played well both nights last week, our guys trust that he will come up big when we need him, he gives us a chance to win every time we take the ice.”

Margin between winning, losing in Hockey East gets even thinner

2014101019 46 55152 Margin between winning, losing in Hockey East gets even thinner

Chad Katunar is in a rotation with Cal Petersen as Notre Dame tries to find a No. 1 goaltender (photo: Jim Rosvold).

Last week was notable for how every Hockey East team playing a series could manage only a split. As noted in Monday’s blog, this held true regardless of home ice or rankings.

It seems that getting the upper hand has become tougher and tougher.

“I thought that was true last year, too,” Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson says. “[It was] our first year in Hockey East, and I felt like it was certainly much more balanced competitively than any other years prior when we were in the CCHA.

“We finished in eighth place and we were [five] points out of second. I think we were seventh or eighth in the country at that time.”

That balance throughout the league has accelerated.

“A lot of teams are elevating right now,” Jackson says. “Vermont and the team we just played, Merrimack, are better teams than they were a year ago. Obviously, BU is improved.

“Some of the other teams, like ourselves and BC, are younger, and we’re kind of feeling our way through it, although it’s not that BU isn’t young, too.”

The combination of last year’s powers taking perhaps a step backward while last year’s middle-of-the pack (or lower) teams have advanced has added up to a razor-thin margin between winning and losing.

“Certainly from top to bottom,” Jackson says, “I don’t know if there are any easy outs in this league.”

Notre Dame: Good and bad streaks

Notre Dame has without question opened the season in streaky fashion. The Irish lost their first two games at the Ice Breaker Tournament, then won five straight and tied another before losing three of four.

“Consistency has been an issue for us,” Jackson says. “That may be hand and hand with having a young group, but I’ve told our guys that it can’t be an excuse. The important thing is they have to learn how to play not just game to game, but period to period.”

That inconsistency has extended to the crease, where freshman Cal Petersen and sophomore Chad Katunar have vied to see who will replace Steven Summerhays, who recorded all but three of the decisions last year.

“It’s a competition right now,” Jackson says. “Katunar has been good at times. Petersen had a real good stretch, but then he hasn’t been quite as good lately.

“It’s going to be a competition until somebody shows me that they can play with consistency at a high level. I’m OK with two guys rotating if I have to until somebody steps forward.

“At this point, they both have had their real positive moments, and they’ve had some borderline moments, which is what you’d expect from two goalies who basically haven’t played college hockey before.”

At the other end of the experience spectrum, senior defenseman Robbie Russo is leading the team in points with five goals and seven assists.

“Robbie’s probably been one of the more consistent two-way defensemen we’ve had,” Jackson says. “He has offensive ability and he can defend.

“He did miss the second half of last year because of academic reasons, and if anything it might have put a little fire under his rear. I told him last year that he needed to prepare himself to have an All-American type of year because he had All-American capabilities. Right now he’s playing up to those capabilities.”

Junior Mario Lucia is also elevating his game, scoring eight goals in 12 games.

“Mario’s a kid that always had scoring ability,” Jackson says. “I just think this year he’s competing a little harder and being stronger over the puck, [which are] some of the things we know he has to get better at so he has the puck more.

“I think he’s winning more of those battles on the walls for possession and maybe battles in front of the net. When he has the puck, [he's] being stronger over the puck, not getting stripped.

“I think he’s making a conscious effort to improve in those areas, and I think it’s put him in more situations where he can score.”

Nonetheless, the Irish have lost three of four and will need to improve significantly with their next two games against fifth-ranked Massachusetts-Lowell, followed by another against defending national champions, Union, a team that was ranked second a few weeks ago.

“Obviously, both teams are high-quality teams,” Jackson says. “Lowell brings different elements to their game that make them challenging to play. They’re always good defensively, but they’re also real offensive on transition from their defensive style.

“You have to be real smart with the puck. That’s probably where we’ve been the most inconsistent. We’re going to have to play with discipline in how we approach these guys.

“They’re No. 5 for a reason. I haven’t seen a lot of them yet but I know how they play. [Lowell coach] Norm [Bazin] has done a great job there. He recruits to the style in which they play, so it’s not hard for them to replace guys with similar players.

“They’re very balanced up front and in the back end, and obviously they haven’t missed a beat in goal. They’re going to be a big challenge for us, without question.”

141004 20571325 Margin between winning, losing in Hockey East gets even thinner

Quinn Smith scored his third goal of the season in Boston College’s win at Michigan State (photo: Melissa Wade).

Boston College: A memorable win

Boston College’s 3-2 win last Friday at Michigan State was notable on multiple fronts.

For starters, BC coach Jerry York tied a legend, John “Snooks” Kelley, as the winningest coach in program history with 501 wins. Kelley stood behind the bench from 1932 to 1942 and 1946 to 1972, compiling a 501-244-15 record (.670). York, who played for Kelley, is 501-247-68 (.656) at BC and 968-582-102 overall.

No doubt, York dismissed all talk of his record after the game to focus on the team’s win. Which in a sense, is understandable.

The Eagles had gone into the contest having lost an eye-opening four straight. The last time that happened? Way back in the 2003-04 season.

It should be noted that BC advanced to the Frozen Four that year, so a four-game losing streak hardly sounds a death knell for the Eagles. Even so, the win was a welcome turnaround.

“We’ve been in a little funk as far as how we’ve been playing recently and we’ve talked about how we have to be more cohesive in all of it — defensively, offensively — and raise our grit meter, which has been very lukewarm, as far as I’ve seen,” York said after the win.

“I thought our grit was better, I thought our cohesiveness was better. We needed everything, because State gave us all we could handle tonight. It’s a significant victory for us.”

Northeastern: Off the schneid

Who would have thought it would take until Nov. 15 for Northeastern to earn its first victory? The Huskies defeated New Hampshire 2-1, holding off the UNH power play in the closing minutes.

“We needed a win in this building,” Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said after the win. “We haven’t played very well in this building.”

The Huskies take on Merrimack this weekend in a home-and-home series.

“I have faith in the group in this locker room because they’re good kids and they’re good hockey players,” Madigan said. “We dug ourselves a hole and now it’s gonna be one game at a time.”

Coining a phrase

Maybe I’m nuts — maybe? — but I got an absolute kick out of coining a phrase in Boston University’s win over BC two weeks ago. I’m usually a pretty humble guy, but I think it should earn a regular place in the hockey lexicon.

You all, of course, are well read and know that a pièce de résistance is some sort of prized feature, such as the mouth-watering specialty of a French chef.

Well, in the BU-BC game, the Terriers scored a succession of “greasy” goals to power their comeback win, so I wrote the following to lead off the game story:

No. 5 Boston University rallied with four goals in the third period to defeat third-ranked Boston College 5-3. BC held a 2-1 lead, but the Terriers scored a succession of “greasy” goals to topple their archrivals in front of a capacity crowd. Evan Rodrigues scored twice, including the game-winner, the grease de résistance.

Am I the only one who thinks that grease de résistance is brilliant?

I guess so. Hey, I laugh at my own jokes, too.

Well, if I have any say in it, that’s going on my tombstone.

Minnesota-Duluth enjoying no-loss November and benefiting from challenges

2014111522 34 101307 Minnesota Duluth enjoying no loss November and benefiting from challenges

Minnesota-Duluth celebrates its sweep of Minnesota last Saturday (photo: Jim Rosvold).

Minnesota-Duluth had a down-and-up start to this season.

And then down again, and then up again, and then down again, and … well, you get the picture.

In their first eight games, the Bulldogs were having difficulty finding the right kind of consistency. They were 4-0 in series finales — if you include the Oct. 12 Ice Breaker Tournament consolation game, two days after the semifinals took place — but they were 0-4 in series openers.

Since the start of November, however, it seems the Bulldogs have finally figured things out.

Starting with a 4-3 win over No. 10 Miami on Nov. 1, UMD has jumped out to a perfect 5-0 record so far this month. The good times kept rolling last weekend when the Bulldogs defeated archrival Minnesota 3-0 in Minneapolis on Friday before besting the Golden Gophers again 2-1 on Saturday in Duluth.

The wins over the hated Gophers came on the backs of two wins at then-No. 7 St. Cloud State on Nov. 7-8.

In UMD’s defense, most teams would struggle with the early-season slate the Bulldogs have. From the start of the season through to the middle of January, Colorado College (at home on Dec. 5-6) is UMD’s only unranked opponent.

Duluth coach Scott Sandelin said he is glad for the stern competition, however, something he said is expediting his team’s development.

“Just playing the teams we’ve played has helped us identify some things about ourselves, and I’m talking about both good and bad things,” Sandelin said. “I’d like to think it’s made us a better team, and when you play good teams, you have to be forced to get better, and I think that’s helped. It is what it is, though, and there aren’t a lot of bad teams, but there’s none at all on our schedule, and in our league everybody is good.

“Our schedule in general is challenging, but it’s fun, our guys like it, and the idea behind having a schedule as tough as ours is it makes you better.”

That certainly seems to be the case, and Minnesota found that out the hard way last weekend. UMD played its most complete game of the season to date on Friday in Minneapolis, as a power-play goal from Andy Welinski 2:07 into the game set the pace in what ended up as a 3-0 blanking.

The victory kept up Duluth’s emerging trend of solid performances on Fridays, as UMD had also defeated St. Cloud State 3-2 on the road in overtime on Nov. 7. Getting out to a good start in series openers, Sandelin said, has led to other good things happening for his Bulldogs, too.

Three of their last four games have been on the road, as well, and taking hostile crowds out of the game has helped matters.

“I think the key over the last two weekends is that we’ve had really good first periods and have just been able to get out to good starts and get a lead,” Sandelin said. “Especially when you’re on the road in the buildings we were playing in like in St. Cloud and at Minnesota, if you can start fast and take the crowd out of it, that’s a big help.”

On Saturday, UMD welcomed the Gophers to Duluth for the first time in three years, and the Bulldogs used the big occasion to their advantage. In defeating Minnesota 2-1, UMD picked up its first sweep of the Gophers since 2009.

Sandelin knew that Saturday was a big night for his program, but he said that wasn’t something he played up to his team before the game began.

“I don’t think anything really needed to be said,” he said. “We knew we were going to have a good crowd and, coming off of Friday, it was more about making sure our guys were prepared for another battle and I think they were.

“We just went out and competed hard, and I think for our fans it was great because it’s nothing better than when your building’s full and you’re playing an in-state rival.”

Going into the series, however, it was tough to tell what Sandelin’s team would look like against the Gophers. He had wondered how his Bulldogs, who travel to No. 13 Omaha this week, would handle such big occasions with the Gophers right after sweeping SCSU.

“I’d been kind of curious how we were going to respond after playing St. Cloud, because turning right back around to play Minnesota was a big deal,” Sandelin said. “Our guys are always excited to play them and it’s a rivalry game, and I thought Friday was our best game of the year from start to finish, and in their building.

“We knew it would be a lot tougher on Saturday, which it was, but we got a good start and got a good push at the end in the third period and held on a little bit, and that’s what I expected. Getting a one-goal win over them then wasn’t unexpected, but results like that against a team like that is what you want.”

27975November 15 2014 Minnesota Duluth enjoying no loss November and benefiting from challenges

Drake Caggiula’s highlight-reel goal propelled North Dakota last Saturday (photo: Bradley K. Olson).

Big Caggiula goals propel North Dakota

Another big series last weekend was going on in Grand Forks, N.D., where second-ranked North Dakota faced No. 7 Miami in a battle between the NCHC’s two big preseason favorites.

Miami was a slight underdog in the series but took care of business on Friday night in a 3-2 win. The RedHawks flew out of the blocks and scored two goals in the first 4:15 of the game before fending UND off just enough the rest of the way.

It took a little longer the following night, but Miami eventually gained the upper hand in the rematch, as well. A backhanded Anthony Louis shot beat UND goaltender Zane McIntyre 67 seconds into the second period to give the RedHawks a 1-0 lead.

From there, however, UND took over. Michael Parks created a turnover in UND’s offensive zone before Mark MacMillan beat Miami goaltender Ryan McKay from close range at 3:47 of that same period.

Less than three minutes later, UND went ahead for good on an early goal-of-the-year candidate from Drake Caggiula.

Just over six minutes into the second period, Caggiula poked the puck away from a Miami forechecker in the neutral zone. UND’s Bryn Chyzyk then fed the puck to Caggiula, who worked the puck between Miami defenseman Ben Paulides’ legs before beating McKay five-hole from close range.

“Any time a D-man turns his feet, as an offensive player, you like to cross and make him try to open up his feet,” Caggiula said of his nifty move to navigate past Paulides. “Luckily for me, he turned his feet and, as soon as I cut the other way, there was a huge gap between his legs and I was lucky enough to split it through his legs and go in on net.”

He also gave plenty of credit to Chyzyk, who was leveled on a big hit at center ice after recording the eventual assist to Caggiula.

“Without Chyzyk taking that hit and making that play, that goal didn’t happen,” Caggiula said. “It was a great play by him and a great sacrifice to get the puck to me, and you can’t ask for any more.”

UND coach Dave Hakstol also took a big-picture view of the play and credited Chyzyk for getting the proverbial ball rolling.

“First of all, I was looking at Bryn Chyzyk at center ice hoping he’d be able to get up, because he took a huge hit to make that play,” Hakstol said. “That’s what started the play, and then Drake just caught a defenseman flat-footed.

“We’ve seen him do those things before, and it was nice to see him finish on it. He made no mistake once he was in all alone on the goaltender. It was quite a play.”

The goal was named NCAA.com’s men’s ice hockey play of the week.

Players of the week

Offensive player of the week — Drake Caggiula, North Dakota: The junior UND forward was a big reason why his team was able to pick up a split last weekend against Miami. Caggiula recorded five points and three goals in the two-game set, including two goals on Saturday in a winning effort.

Defensive player of the week — Joey LaLeggia, Denver: The senior defenseman was expected to be an anchor again this year for DU at the blue line, and he hasn’t disappointed. He certainly didn’t last Friday, either, in picking up a goal and two assists in an 8-1 pounding of in-state rival Colorado College.

Rookie of the week — Patrick Russell, St. Cloud State: The Danish forward has been an early bright spot for the Huskies, and he kept up his good run of form last weekend against Western Michigan. In two games against the Broncos, Russell recorded a goal, two assists and a plus-2 rating.

Goaltender of the week — Kasimir Kaskisuo, Minnesota-Duluth: Kaskisuo has been an excellent plug-and-play netminder early in his time in Duluth. Sandelin has seen the Finn flourish early and he did so again last weekend against top-ranked Minnesota, blanking the Gophers 3-0 on their own ice on Friday before defeating them again 2-1 on Saturday up in Duluth.

Pfalzer, Bender are two of many reasons Boston College is fast becoming the team to beat

bender Pfalzer, Bender are two of many reasons Boston College is fast becoming the team to beat

Lexi Bender (BC – 21) has the highest scoring average in the country for a defenseman. (Melissa Wade)

Boston College has spent November ranked as the country’s top team for the first time in the program’s history. Why? There are many reasons, and most of them involve speed and offense.

The Eagles’ best-known player is junior forward, captain, and U.S. Olympian Alex Carpenter. Before her Olympic stint last year, Carpenter had a reputation as a player with great hands and a head for the game, but she was not considered to be a fast skater. Once on Team USA, it was hard to find any complaint with her speed, so it may be that it was just when at BC and surrounded by players like Haley Skarupa, Emily Field, and Dana Trivigno that she didn’t seem fast.

With 26 points in her 10 games played, Carpenter leads the nation in scoring. Eight of the nine forwards on the top three lines for Boston College have reached double digits in points already. Andie Anastos, last year’s Rookie of the Year in Hockey East, is the only one who has not; she has nine points. Simply, coach Katie King Crowley has more than a few options up front.

The focus of this story, however, is on the team’s defensemen. That means we’ll just start at a different point before we end up talking about speed and offense.

“I do think we have great forwards, but I’ve been really impressed with our defense this year,” King Crowley said. “And I think a lot of that goes to not only ‘Court,’ but Emily Pfalzer and Lexi Bender.”

“Court” is assistant coach Courtney Kennedy, who is the position coach for the team’s defensemen. When I started following women’s hockey, Kennedy was an All-American and Patty Kazmaier Top Three Finalist, who, despite playing only three years at Minnesota, ranks fourth in points and third in goals by a defenseman in the program’s history. It’s a safe bet that she’s not coaching her pupils to hang back and leave the scoring to the forwards.

Thus, it’s not surprising that Bender (5 goals – 10 assists – 15 points, 12 games) and Pfalzer (2-9-11, 10) rank first and second in the nation in scoring average for defensemen.

Pfalzer was one of five Eagles to miss a couple games due to the Four Nations Cup, her first appearance on the senior U.S. national team.

“I think she’s been great,” King Crowley said. “Two years ago at the end of the year she got hurt and then had a surgery, so the beginning of last year, I think she was working herself back into it, but after the new year, I thought she really kind of exploded for us. I would say in our last game last year against Clarkson, she was one of the best players on the ice. That’s the kind of player that she is and dynamic player that she is when she’s fully healthy. Not only has she done it for us on the ice, but she’s also been a tremendous leader for our kids, off the ice and on the ice. It’s been fun to kind of watch her grow and progress.”

The kids in the line-up include three rookies on the blue line, not usually a recipe for immediate success.

“They’ve done a great job,” King Crowley said. “They all came in, and we really needed to use them right away. I think they’ve all adapted pretty well, and they’re still adapting to a certain degree. They all kind of bring different qualities.”

Megan Keller, one of those freshmen on defense, joined Pfalzer on the Four Nations Cup roster. Where many Eagles on the blue line look like they would be equally adept at dueling the Chinese and South Koreans in short track speedskating, Keller, at 5 feet, 10 inches, possesses the size coaches covet in a prototypical defenseman.

“I think she’s got a huge upside,” King Crowley said. “She’s a kid that I think is just going to continue to get better and better, learning from Emily and Lexi, and now we have [junior defenseman] Kaliya [Johnson] back. Just being able to learn from those kids that have been through a lot in their careers I think is only going to help her continue to get better. She’s going to be in the weight room more. She’s going to be working on her strength, but that’s not even an issue right now, so it’s only going to help her continue to get better. She sees the ice really well. She’s a really smart defenseman. She’s got some nice hands on her; she can dangle with some of our forwards. She’s got a lot of really, really nice tools.”

Her defensive classmates have gifts of their own.

“You talk about quickness, and Kali Flanagan has first-step quickness that I haven’t seen in too many kids,” King Crowley said. “She’s continuing to just learn the game even more than what she knows already. When I watch Toni Miano, she reminds me a lot of a kid that we had a couple of years ago, Dru Burns, with the way she’s just very, very smart. She knows the game. She sees the game really, really well, and she’s been able to show that at the college level. We’ve been fortunate that these kids have stepped right in and they don’t let nerves get to them and what not.”

Early contributions were necessary, because Johnson was injured and has only been available for the last four games.

“She’s someone that will stay at home a little more than I would say Emily and Lexi,” King Crowley said. “You know that there’s very few people that can beat her with her speed as well. And just having a little more experience back there, having another older kid back there who has been through a lot with our program, who’s been to a Frozen Four, been to the first round of the tournament last year, so she’s been through a lot as well. To have three freshmen and to have Kaliya jump into that mix with the older kids, now all of the freshmen can have someone that’s experienced to play with.”

As the only senior in the group, Pfalzer hasn’t found it necessary to do much to help the youngsters adjust.

“I think just leading them and making them comfortable,” Pfalzer said. “All three of them are very talented, and just allowing them to play their game without making mistakes.”

She has seen her own game evolve over the course of her college career.

“I think being more aware of when I can jump up into the play,” Pfalzer said. “I think maybe I’m just maturing as a player. I guess being more poised and having more confidence out there.”

Jumping into the rush is something that the Eagles do a lot from the blue line. The speed BC has up front leaves little time to react.

“You have to make the decisions very quick, but I think that also makes it more of an instinctual decision,” Bender said. “If it’s right, it’s right. You don’t have to think about whether it’s right or not.”

She and Pfalzer are often paired together, both bringing that aggressive, offensive mindset.

“There’ve definitely been times where we’ve kind of looked at each other and we’re both in the offensive end and been like, ‘Oh, gees, one of us needs to get back,’” Bender said. “But I would say we’re pretty good at reading each other, and one staying back and taking turns.”

Not that opponents would have time to notice if all of the Eagles were down below the dots attacking.

“Honestly, five days a week in practice I’m going against our forwards, and I understand that it would be so overwhelming to have that rush coming in, and then you add a couple more defensemen,” Bender said. “I would be overwhelmed.”

To date, opponents have been overwhelmed a lot. BC is averaging 5.58 goals per game, and its average goal differential of four and a half goals is greater than any other team’s scoring average. Bender is a big reason why.

“I try to sneak in places, but I’m not exactly that sneaky, so I’ll see that spot behind a forward, and then I’ll just skate as fast as I can,” she said.

“She is fast,” King Crowley said. “When she gets to full speed, man, she is fast.”

The game is full of fast players, although not to the same degree as Bender, but she also knows how to use that speed effectively.

“I think what is unique about her is she can make that jump pretty quickly, and you don’t really see her coming,” King Crowley said. “It’s like all of a sudden, she’s there.”

The Snohomish, Washington, native is honing her game so that she can make a greater impact once she arrives.

“This summer, I worked a lot on my edges,” Bender said. “I worked with a coach at home when I get on my outside edges and more the agility piece. I think that’s really paid off. Also, I took a ton of shots this summer, trying to get my shots down good, able to shoot more places.”

Bender is rapidly transforming from another quality piece for BC to someone who can be a dominant player.

“When she stays within herself and plays her game the way she can, she really can take over a game,” King Crowley. “It’s kind of been the same as with Emily; it’s been fun to watch her progress during college, and she’s only a junior. We have another year with her after this.”

Of course, the primary task of any defenseman is to defend. That may seem to be a tall order with not only youth on the blue line, but young freshman Katie Burt in goal.

“I think at first, just being aware that we had a 17 year old in net, but she’s done a great job,” Pfalzer said. “Honestly, I don’t even realize that she’s a freshman that accelerated her senior year of high school.”

Burt has settled right in, ranking in the top five in most statistical categories, and she’s seventh in save percentage. Most importantly, her record of 11-0-1 trails only the 9-0-0 mark of Quinnipiac senior Chelsea Laden.

That’s given Pfalzer and her partners plenty of time to watch the havoc that the forwards are causing.

“It’s awesome to see what they can do,” she said. “Especially like being defensemen and them being in front of us, sometimes we’ll be like, ‘Wow, those were great plays.’ For example, when we played UNH, we scored in the first maybe 30 seconds, and it was just tic-tac-toe. It’s just something that’s really cool to watch and play with.”

The one concern to date might be whether or not the Eagles have faced enough pressure from opponents to develop optimally on defense.

“Definitely in practice, every day we’re going against the best players in the country, let alone possibly the world,” Bender said. “So I think we’re definitely getting enough practice defending during the week.”

Boston College reached the Frozen Four in 2007, 2011, 2012, and 2013, but has yet to win once there. One senses that will be different in Pfalzer’s final campaign.

“I think that every game we’re going in with the same mindset that we want to be the best team and the hardest-working team,” she said. “Going into every game with that same mindset will help us to the end.”

In the meantime, they’ll all enjoy the season.

“We have a great group of kids,” King Crowley said. “They have fun every day. They’re fun to coach. That’s been a great experience for us so far, where they love the game of hockey. All of them — they love it. So it’s been a lot of fun for me and ‘Court’ to work with them every day.”

Nowakowski making most of chances at St. Scholastica

Dylan Nowakowski CSS sized Nowakowski making most of chances at St. Scholastica

Dylan Nowakowski is one of the focal points of the St. Scholastica offense this season (photo: CSS Athletics).

Dylan Nowakowski has been making an impact at St. Scholastica since he arrived on campus.

As a freshman, he was named one of the top rookies in the NCHA, leading the team in assists (18).

Last year, the junior forward out of Calgary once again led the team in assists, dishing out 16, as he showed no signs of a sophomore slump.

Nowakowski hasn’t missed a beat this year either. He has already tallied two goals and dished out four assists, tying him for second on the team in points.

Not every player is destined for success at the college level, but Nowakowski has certainly made the most of his opportunities with the Saints, who are 5-1 and ranked No. 12 in the country.

“I’m not really surprised I’ve played well,” he said. “I owe a lot of that to being put into situations where I can make plays. I’ve been given a chance to be productive, and I’ve taken advantage of it.”

He said feeling comfortable within the system has been a huge help as well.

But Nowakowski has never become complacent in his role for the Saints, who are hoping to contend for an NCHA championship and spot in the NCAA tournament.

He spent a lot of time in the offseason improving his game.

“I feel like I’ve gotten a lot faster, and I’ve also tried to do a lot more with the puck,” Nowakowski said. “I’ve focused a lot more on trying to be more of a scorer this season.”

Nowakowski scored 15 goals in his first two seasons and came into the year as one of the more experienced players on a team that features 13 freshmen and sophomores.

“We lost a lot of good players from last season, but we had a good group coming back, too, and it’s just a matter of the younger players filling in and playing their roles,” Nowakowski said. “We are just working to get better every week.”

Nowakowski remembers what it was like to be a younger player learning to adapt to life at the college level. Even with the success he enjoyed as a freshman, it wasn’t an easy transition.

“You have to get into a different rhythm and get used to only playing a couple of games a week,” Nowakowski said. “The game is a lot more physical, so the extra time to recover does help. Everyone at this level is good. You have to be at your best in every game.”

The Saints’ only loss this season was to Finlandia, falling 4-3 on Saturday. St. Scholastica bounced back the following day with a 3-2 win.

Derek Sutliffe has paved the way with six goals and four assists. Luke Simpson (2-4), Keegan Bruce (3-2), Justin Krabben (2-3) and Dave Williams (1-4) have all been steady contributors as well. The Saints have a total of 12 players with at least three points apiece.

Still early, the Saints know they still have a long way to go to accomplish their goals, which includes winning a league title. A year ago, St. Scholastica reached the conference tourney title game after winning its first postseason semifinal game since 2007.

St. Norbert, the eventual national champion, ended the run with a 5-1 win. The Saints lost 3-2 to St. Norbert in the 2013 tournament.

“We want to go further this year – we want to be able to win the league tournament and go to the NCAA tournament,” Nowakowski said. “We have the talent and potential to accomplish it, but it’s a matter of being prepared to play every night. It’s a tough league and you can’t afford any let-ups if you hope to succeed in it.”

Johnnies on the spot

St. John’s opened MIAC play in stellar fashion over the weekend, sweeping St. Olaf in a two-game series.

The Johnnies won by the scores of 4-1 and 4-2 to extend their unbeaten streak to six games. St. John’s is 4-0-2 overall.

The two weekend games marked the fifth time this season that St. John’s has scored at least two goals in a game. They have scored 19 goals overall.

A balanced attack has been the key. Five players have scored two or more goals, with Neal Smith leading the way with four. He has dished out one assist as well.

Not only are the Johnnies productive on offense, but they haven’t given up much to the opponent either, allowing only nine goals. Saxton Soley has anchored the defense, giving up just seven goals in five starts.

Making a defensive point

Wisconsin-Stevens Point has won four of the five games it has played this season, and the 2013 national runner-up has found success behind a stellar defensive effort.

Only one opponent has scored more than two goals against the Pointers, and that was St. Olaf in a 3-2 win.

Stevens Point has given up just seven goals in all and has limited opponents to a total of 108 shots. On the flip side, Stevens Point has taken 202 shots, resulting in 23 goals.

The Pointers have room for improvement on the power play, converting on just three of their 18 chances, but they haven’t let opponents fare well on the power play either, giving up just four goals in 18 chances.

Goalie Brandon Jaeger has been instrumental to the success of the defense. In five games he has a sparkling goals-against average of 1.40.

The Pointers’ defense will certainly be tested this weekend as they take on Lake Forest and Adrian. Lake Forest received votes in the latest national poll, while Adrian is No. 5 and averaging 6.17 goals per game.

Ferocious attack

Adrian has looked every bit worth of its lofty national ranking this season. The Bulldogs have won their first six games, scoring five or more goals in each one.

What is even more impressive about their offensive success is that they have been efficient on the power play. Adrian has punched in 10 power play goals on 36 opportunities.

The Bulldogs, who have scored 37 goals overall, have also been unselfish, dishing out 61 assists. Six players have come up with five or more assists, including eight by Taylor McCloy.

Kyle Brothers has tallied seven assists while Ryan Gleseler and Ryan Lowe have come through with six assists apiece. Duston Hebebrand and Matthew Thompson have dished out five apiece.

Brothers and Josh Ranalli lead the Bulldogs in goals scored with five apiece.

In the Poll

Several West region teams are ranked in the latest national poll, including St. Norbert, which is No. 1 in the nation. Adrian is ranked fifth and Stevens Point is sixth. Eau Claire and River Falls are also in the top 10, checking in at ninth and 10th, respectively. St. Scholastica is 12th and St. John’s is 15th.

Motte keeps Ferris State afloat, but Daniels says team still lacking in confidence

IMG 0579 Motte keeps Ferris State afloat, but Daniels says team still lacking in confidence

CJ Motte’s goaltending has given Ferris State a chance to win despite a faltering offense (photo: Adelle Whitefoot).

The stats were a little stunning.

Two shutouts. Just 16 goals allowed in nine games.

No, not those stats. Those were CJ Motte’s numbers. As usual, the goaltender was getting it done for Ferris State.

The stunner was the Bulldogs’ record, 4-5.

“As well as he played, goaltending being as it was, I would have been shocked if you said we’d be under .500,” coach Bob Daniels said.

The defending MacNaughton Cup champions scored just 11 goals in their first nine games, including a paltry four in a seven-game stretch going into last week’s league series against Alaska-Anchorage.

They took their frustration out on the Seawolves, scoring 10 goals in the series opener and four more in the second game. The latter was a 4-0 victory that was Motte’s third shutout of the season and the 13th of his career, most among active goaltenders.

Everything’s back to normal now, right?

“I think we did get back on track a bit,” Daniels said. “But I will say this: I still think we’re less than confident. It took quite a while to find the back of the net and break loose.

“We’re not out of the woods yet.”

Daniels said he’s afraid his team was relying a bit too heavily on Motte, the WCHA coaches’ pick as preseason player of the year, to get it through games.

“I can’t help but think we didn’t play with enough urgency,” he said.

Motte’s five defeats this season included two 2-0 losses and another at 1-0. He ranks third in the conference with a .948 save percentage and 1.58 GAA. Daniels was encouraged by last week’s offensive outburst.

In the 10-2 victory, 10 of Ferris’ 12 forwards factored into the scoring.

Gerald Mayhew finished the series with three goals and five points. Chad McDonald and Matt Robertson each had a four-point series.

“Part of our issue is that we lost quite a bit of firepower up front,” Daniels said, referring to four forwards, including the Bulldogs’ top two scorers, who graduated last year. “I’m not saying we didn’t have other guys, but they were secondary scorers. All of sudden, they’re catapulted into primary scorers.”

Ferris State hosts Alabama-Huntsville this weekend before taking a nonconference road trip to Wisconsin over Thanksgiving weekend.

“We took a step in the right direction,” Daniels said. “I’m pretty confident, between now and the end of the year, we’ll have a good team.”

wcha robertson Motte keeps Ferris State afloat, but Daniels says team still lacking in confidence

WCHA commissioner Bill Robertson wants Arizona State to join the league (photo: Bruce Kluckhohn).

WCHA wants Arizona State

WCHA commissioner Bill Robertson has been talking about league expansion since he was hired in April. Now there’s a program he has his eye on.

Arizona State announced on Tuesday that it was upgrading its club team to the NCAA Division I level and planned to have a conference affiliation by 2017.

“The WCHA is very interested in Arizona State University,” Robertson told the Mankato Free Press. “I can say that we have started discussions with their program.”

Robertson hinted that over the summer, talking about “western” expansion of the league.

“Part of my vision is to grow the WCHA and college hockey,” he said. “There’s a lot of potential in the sun belt for growth in college hockey.”

The NCHC has reached out, too, according to reports, so there could be a bidding war.

“I think they would be a wonderful fit to our conference,” Robertson said. “There’s a process in place. That’s all I can really say.”

Uncharted territory for Michigan Tech

For the first time in its 94-year hockey history, Michigan Tech is 10-0. And for the first time since the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll began in 1997, the Huskies are No. 1.

Huskies coach Mel Pearson knows it just gets harder from here.

“Our team’s got to understand that, as the streak continues, we’ve got a target on our back,” Pearson said Friday night following his team’s 2-1 win at Bemidji State. The Huskies came from behind to win 3-2 on Saturday.

“We’ve gone from being the hunter to now the hunted. It’s still a learning, growing process for us to understand how to play when maybe we’re the favorites.”

In both games against the Beavers, the Huskies were badly outshot — BSU had a 71-46 advantage in the series — and outchanced. But, behind the play of goaltender Jamie Phillips and his 68 saves, many of them incredible, Tech found a way to get it done.

“We’ve had a couple signs of this here and there but we’ve found a way to win games,” Pearson said. “I think it’s important to play these tough games early and finding a way to win them. These points are so important.”

Pearson said he’s trying to find the balance between letting his team enjoy its success and not letting it get complacent.

“As a coach you have to let the guys enjoy it for a while, but then at some point you have to get back to basics,” he said. “Sometimes it’s difficult when you’re winning. You try and tell them they have to do this and that, and they say, ‘Hey coach, we’re winning; what’s the big deal?’

“But there are some warts we see that we have to remove. So we’ll be working on ways to get better for next weekend.”

The Huskies will host No. 9 Minnesota State this weekend in what Ferris State coach Daniels called must-see hockey.

“Those are games that, if we weren’t playing as series, I’d like to catch as a fan,” Daniels said.

Said Pearson: “It’s another tough series. There are not too many easy series in this league. So we’ll find out. It’s another measuring stick of where we’re at.”

Ice chips

• For the first time this season, all 10 WCHA teams are in action against each other this weekend.

• Alabama-Huntsville’s win over Lake Superior State on Saturday was its first home victory against a Division I opponent since Jan. 8, 2011, when it defeated Bemidji State. The Chargers were 0-28-3 at home between wins.

• Both Alaska schools will try to end a five-game losing streak this weekend. After a week off, Fairbanks hits the road to play Lake Superior State. Meanwhile, Anchorage is back at home after an 11-day, four-game Michigan swing and will host Northern Michigan.

• Northern Michigan will begin a trip similar to that of the Seawolves, going to Alaska for back-to-back weekend series against Anchorage and Fairbanks. At 6-1-1, the Wildcats are off to their best start since 2001-02.

• Eight of Bowling Green’s first 12 games were played on the road, and the Falcons are 6-1-1 in those games. They are back home this weekend for a series against Bemidji State.

• Minnesota State, which was idle last weekend, is off to its best 10-game start (7-3) since 1998-99, the year before it officially joined the WCHA.

• Bemidji State is 3-7, but all 10 games were been against ranked opponents — North Dakota, Minnesota, Alaska, Minnesota State and Michigan Tech. Only Alaska has dropped out of the top 20 since. Up next for the Beavers: No. 18 Bowling Green and No. 16 St. Cloud State.

• Lake Superior State freshman Gordon Defiel’s 1-0 shutout win over Alabama-Huntsville was the Lakers’ first since Kevin Kapalka blanked Bowling Green 2-0 on March 8, 2013 — a CCHA playoff game.

Players of the week

This week’s WCHA players of the week are Ferris State forward Gerald Mayhew (offensive), FSU goaltender CJ Motte (defensive) and Lake Superior State goaltender Gordon Defiel (rookie).

Penn State, Michigan have surprising starts in opposite directions

DSC 0768 Penn State, Michigan have surprising starts in opposite directions

Taylor Holstrom and Penn State are 6-2-2 after beating then-No. 4 Massachusetts-Lowell on the road last Saturday (photo: Tim Brule).

So far during this young college hockey season there have been numerous surprises, and the Big Ten is no exception.

One story line from the “nobody saw it coming” department is Penn State and its 6-2-2 start. The Nittany Lions’ season is only 10 games old and they’re already close to matching their win total from last season, which ended with an 8-26-2 record.

Penn State is also coming off of a weekend split with then-No. 4 Massachusetts-Lowell.

Oh, what a difference a year makes. So what has propelled this year’s Penn State squad to its fast start?

“The differences have come from us, everything was very new to us last year,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “Just getting in this building was very new, playing in any conference was very new, the first games in the Big Ten were really new. Everything it seemed we were doing was new and now I think the whole program is more comfortable.

“We’re comfortable in this building [Pegula Ice Arena], we’re comfortable in seeing referees now. Last year was the first time we saw referees on a consistent basis from one conference. There’s a much more familiar feel with what we’re doing now.”

Even though Penn State hasn’t played any conference games yet, that comfort level is paying off in victories.

“If someone said that was going to be our start, I would have said that we must have retained a lot of our lessons from last year well,” Gadowsky said. “I think that’s what happened. I still think that we obviously have a long way to go, but we’ve certainly started a lot further ahead this October than we did last October, and that’s good to see.”

One of the bright spots this year has been the play of senior forward Taylor Holstrom, who is tied for the national points lead with 16 points. Holstrom’s 13 assists give him sole possession of the national lead in that category.

“He’s comfortable working extremely hard, because that’s what he’s doing,” Gadowsky said of Holstrom. “His offensive statistics are excellent, but really his all-around game is probably better than his offensive statistics. He’s working extremely hard and he’s getting rewarded because of it.”

Penn State’s offensive numbers are solid. The Nittany Lions are tied with Minnesota State for No. 2 in the nation in goals per game, averaging 3.8. The defense is also above average, giving up 2.2 goals per game, tied with conference foe Minnesota for No. 16 in the country.

That doesn’t mean Gadowsky is satisfied.

“We still have a lot of areas to improve on,” he said. “There’s a lot of work to do, and sometime you pick and choose as to where you have to spend your time. We spent some time at the start of the year on our penalty kill and really haven’t addressed it much because of other needs, but if you look at our penalty kill numbers obviously those are going to have to improve greatly if we want to have success against the teams in the Big Ten.”

Penn State’s penalty kill is working at a 23-of-30 pace, which makes it No. 49 in the nation. A fact that lessens the blow of that stat is that the Nittany Lions average only about eight penalty minutes per game. Only three teams average fewer.

The Nittany Lions have gotten off to a hot start, but that doesn’t mean they’re getting arrogant. When asked what a road win over a top-five team meant for the image of the young program, Gadowsky said, “that’s for other people to decide.”

When the topic turned to the upcoming games against Michigan, he referred to the Wolverines as “one of the best programs in the country.”

“Every time you go play the University of Michigan at Yost Arena, it’s a special occasion,” he said. “It’s something that I think our guys are very excited about.”

141025 21215995 Penn State, Michigan have surprising starts in opposite directions

Andrew Copp is one of three players with four goals this season for Michigan (photo: Melissa Wade).

Berenson knows that Michigan needs to improve

Another surprise in the Big Ten: Michigan’s slow start out of the gates.

The Wolverines are 4-5 after sweeping American International last weekend.

When asked what needed to be improved going forward, coach Red Berenson responded with a laundry list, but he insisted that he truly believed there is a brighter future ahead.

“I’m optimistic because, obviously, our best hockey should be ahead of us,” he said. “We got off to a bumpy start, whether it was a combination of scheduling or injuries, and I’m not using excuses. We played five of the first seven games on the road and I think we ended up with one win on the road and one win in two home games.”

According to Berenson, the problem has been that it has been hard for Michigan to fire on all cylinders in one game; something has always been off so far this year.

“We played pretty well in some games and then we showed signs that we couldn’t score,” Berenson said. “We showed signs that we give up too many goals against. We showed signs that our special teams weren’t that strong — one night we looked pretty good on the penalty kill and the next night we gave up four. So I would say the big thing about our team is that we’ve been inconsistent.”

The veteran coach said that a solution could be rather simple: Give up fewer shots.

“It starts with scoring chances against; part of that is your penalty killing,” Berenson said. “We’ve got to be tougher and stronger on the penalty kill. It could be your goalie, it could be your shot blocking and it could be your defensive-zone faceoffs. We are working on that, so we know our penalty killing has to be better. And we know that our five-on-five hockey has to be better. After last weekend we might be close to the positive side, but most of our team were in the minus column after the first seven games. You can’t expect to win games if most of your players are minus.

“We’re working on being better with the puck and better without the puck, but if you look at our goals against, there are just too many goals against,” he added. “Our average is still over three, I believe. We can’t win giving up over three goals per game.”

Michigan’s offense broke out for 11 goals in two games against American International last weekend, but before that it could have been described as putrid.

“If you look at our offense, it’s not good enough, either,” Berenson said. “After the first seven games, we had scored 19 goals and given up 27. That’s not going to work and we’d only scored three goals on the power play and given up six, plus two short-handed goals. We were negative in all the categories. But as a coach, we can’t get any worse than we were in those seven games and we’ve got to work on getting better, and I think we will.”

The Wolverines will have a chance to get better, and get some momentum rolling, at home, where they play their next five contests.

“I think our best hockey is ahead of us, and the schedule didn’t help us get back on track,” Berenson said. “Sometimes you go on the road and you don’t play very well and then you come home and get a little more confidence for your next road series. That didn’t happen. In the mean time we’ve got a chance to get some momentum.

“We had two good games against American International, but they’re not a top Division I program, compared to the Big Ten teams we’re going to play. But we got through those games and we got some momentum from that and we got to take it into Penn State. We’ve got a good chance, with our schedule, to reverse this [negative] momentum.”

As Berenson eluded, the five-game home stand will start this weekend with a two-game set against Penn State. Berenson returned similar respectful words about the Nittany Lions as Gadowsky did about his Wolverines.

Penn State downed Michigan three times last season, the last one eliminating Michigan from the Big Ten tournament.

“I think there’s — not a revenge factor, there’s more of a respect factor,” he said. “Penn State was an unknown last year. They were essentially an expansion team that just started their program. They hadn’t won a game in the Big Ten, so it was obvious that they were the lowest team on the totem poll, but when we played them, they got their first victory against us and I think they got their second victory against us and then they knocked us out of the Big Ten playoffs in that double-overtime game. They definitely left their mark against Michigan and so we have a lot of respect for Penn State.”

Three stars of the week

First star — Penn State junior forward Casey Bailey: Bailey had three goals and one assist in the Nittany Lions’ weekend split with No. 4 Massachusetts-Lowell. He lit the lamp twice in Penn State’s victory over the River Hawks on Saturday and had the game-winning goal. The junior from Anchorage, Alaska, leads the Big Ten with 0.8 goals per game and 5.4 shots per game. This is his first career Big Ten weekly award.

Second star — Michigan junior forward Andrew Copp: Copp had three goals and one assist in the Wolverines’ two-game sweep of American International. Michigan’s hometown player is currently riding a three-game goal-scoring streak. This is Copp’s third career Big Ten weekly award.

Third star — Penn State senior forward Taylor Holstrom: Holstrom was the dish master during Penn State’s split with Lowell. He tallied five assists on the weekend, two on Friday and three during Saturday’s game. Holstrom leads the nation with 1.44 assists per game and is second with 1.78 points per game.This is his first career Big Ten weekly award.

B1G in the poll

Minnesota slipped from No. 1 to No. 4 in this week’s USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll after it was swept by Minnesota-Duluth last weekend. The Gophers remain the Big Ten’s lone representative in the poll. Penn State and Michigan received votes.

My ballot

1. North Dakota
2. Michigan Tech
3. Boston University
4. Minnesota
5. Colgate
6. Miami
7. Massachusetts-Lowell
8. Minnesota-Duluth
9. Minnesota State
10. Denver
11. Vermont
12. Boston College
13. Union
14. Omaha
15. St. Cloud State
16. Providence
17. Northern Michigan
18. Bowling Green
19. Ferris State
20. Quinnipiac

This week’s games

Michigan State at Ohio State (Thursday and Friday, Value City Arena)

Penn State at Michigan (Friday and Saturday, Yost Ice Arena)

Wisconsin at Colorado College (Friday, Colorado Springs World Arena)

Wisconsin at Denver (Saturday, Magness Arena)

Air Force takes a look in the mirror and corrects some flaws

DSC 3822 Air Force takes a look in the mirror and corrects some flaws

Cole Gunner and Air Force claimed a tie and overtime win at previously unbeaten Robert Morris last weekend (photo: Omar Phillips).

It’s probably the wrong time of the season to talk about all the “close shaves” we’ve had in Atlantic Hockey, but last week’s results and the current state of the standings demand it.

For the past several years, many college hockey teams have celebrated “Movember,” which encourages participants to raise money for charity by collecting sponsorships to cultivate mustaches of all varieties. Canisius, Mercyhurst and Rochester Institute of Technology, for example, are raising money.

But there’s no denying the close shaves we’ve seen on the scoreboard and the standings.

As I pointed out in my weekend wrap-up, an amazing seven of the eight conference games played last weekend went to overtime. Air Force, Army, Bentley and RIT came out with three points each, while Canisius, Holy Cross, Mercyhurst and Robert Morris had to settle for a single point each.

Saturday’s 2-1 overtime loss to Air Force knocked RMU from the ranks of the unbeaten.

Two points currently separate third place from eighth place in the standings. You could say a barely a whisker separates those squads.

A look in the mirror

It’s been an up-and-down season for the Air Force Falcons so far. They’ve been on both sides of late comebacks and overtime wins. Five of their last six games have gone into overtime. They’ve looked good enough to skate with nationally ranked teams but have lost at home to programs with losing records.

Coming off a poor showing at Cadet Ice Arena that saw Frank Serratore’s team manage only a tie and loss to previously winless Alabama-Huntsville, the Falcons turned things around last weekend at first place Robert Morris, taking three of four points from the Colonials.

The strong showing gives Air Force some momentum going into this weekend’s games with local rivals Colorado College and Denver.

“Those are games we circle,” said Serratore. “The Army games and these two [against CC and Denver] are the ones the fans have an extra interest.”

Serratore said against Robert Morris, his team was able to correct mistakes made against Alabama-Huntsville.

“Huntsville is not a bad team,” he said. “But our enemy is in the mirror. Our D-zone coverage was terrible. We’ve been turning the puck over at our blue line. Puck management has been a problem.”

But against Robert Morris, the Falcons were able to maintain possession as well as the lead.

“Robert Morris, which is an explosive team, a good defensive team, never had the lead,” Serratore said about the series, in which the Falcons tied the Colonials 3-3 and defeated them 2-1 in overtime.

Senior Scott Holm got the game-winner on Saturday, his fifth goal of the season. He and linemates Cole Gunner (15 points) and Chad Demers (10 points) lead the way, along with sophomore A.J. Reid (four goals).

Freshman defenseman Phil Boje often joins those four on the Falcons’ top power play line as the only blueliner, and he has cashed in three times this season, including a goal against Robert Morris on Friday.

“He’s the type of defenseman who’s going to have more goals than assists,” said Serratore. “He’s good defensively, too, but he can shoot the puck.”

Air Force is out of conference this weekend with those games against Denver (at Denver) and Colorado College (at home). Then it’s four consecutive league series on the road as well as the Catamount Cup tournament at Vermont.

Serratore said he wants to make sure his team establishes some consistency moving forward.

“It’s a commitment to playing smart hockey,” he said. “We can’t take a night off. Not ever. It used to be that the top four teams [in Atlantic Hockey] were a step above. Then it was the top eight. Now it’s everybody.”

Double zeros

Army rookie goaltender Cole Bruns has an unusual distinction: He picked up his first collegiate shutout before getting his first collegiate win.

Bruns stopped all 27 shots he faced against Holy Cross on Saturday, but his counterpart, Crusaders’ goalie Matt Ginn, also pitched a shutout. The result? A 0-0 tie.

It was the sixth career shutout for Ginn, a senior, tying him for first all-time in the Division I era at Holy Cross.

Bruns’ record stands at 0-2-1.

Power outage

HarborCenter, Canisius’ new home, literally shines. The lighting in the arena is some of the best I have seen anywhere.

But there’s been something of a power outage there, at least so far. Teams playing there (Canisius, Ohio State and RIT) are 1-for-31 on the power play. Golden Griffins defenseman Chris Rumble’s goal on Friday against RIT is the only man-advantage goal scored there so far.

That may change in January when Bentley comes to Buffalo. The Falcons are clicking at an impressive 36.4 percent (14-for-44) so far, tops in the nation by six percentage points over second-best Quinnipiac.

It’s been a while

Besides snapping Robert Morris’ nine-game unbeaten streak, Air Force’s overtime win on Saturday broke a stretch of 27 consecutive overtimes without a loss for the Colonials, dating to Nov. 20, 2010.

Robert Morris was 8-0-19 in overtime since then.

DSC 8250 Air Force takes a look in the mirror and corrects some flaws

Mercyhurst’s Ryan Misiak is the latest member of the Century Club (photo: Omar Phillips).

Centurions

Mercyhurst’s Ryan Misiak scored his 100th career point on Saturday, becoming the 18th player to accomplish the feat at the school and the second this season. Matthew Zay reached the milestone on Oct. 11.

Classmates Daniel Bahntge (96 career points) and Chris Bodo (82) are close.

Air Force senior Chad Demers sits at 99 career points. Bentley’s Brett Switzer (91), Steve Weinstein (90), and Andrew Gladiuk (82) also are in line to become members of the Century Club.

Weekly awards

I’m going with the same honorees as the league, because, like me, they couldn’t make up their minds due to several strong performances. I threw in a third goalie.

Players of the week — Andrew Gladiuk, Bentley, and Matt Garbowsky, RIT: Gladiuk had a hat trick, including the game-winner in overtime, to lead the Falcons to a 5-4 win over Mercyhurst on Saturday. Gladiuk had a goal and an assist on Friday as well, giving him six points on the weekend.

Garbowsky scored all three RIT goals in a 3-3 tie at Canisius on Friday and added a goal and an assist in Saturday’s 3-0 win.

Goalies of the week — Andrew Bodnarchuk, Sacred Heart; Jordan Ruby, RIT; and Chris Truehl, Air Force: Ruby and Bodnarchuk were the league’s choices, both pitching shutouts last weekend. Bodnarchuk made 29 saves in a 2-0 win for the Pioneers over Connecticut, and Ruby stopped 19 shots in a 3-0 win against Canisius.

Truehl made a total of 77 saves last weekend to help the Falcons to three points at Robert Morris, including a 44-save effort in Saturday’s 2-1 overtime win.

Rookie of the week — Cole Bruns, Army: Bruns recorded his first career shutout in a 0-0 tie against Holy Cross on Saturday.

Tying the knot

It seems appropriate that with all the ties on the ice last weekend, my fellow AHA correspondent Dan Rubin tied the knot. Congratulations to Dan and Michelle, and wishes for many happy years to come.

Wednesday Women: Trends and turns

20110226 IMG6864 Wednesday Women: Trends and turns

Erica Uden Johansson had an explosive outing last weekend, which bodes well for Quinnipiac ahead of a key ECAC trip. (Shelley M. Szwast)

Candace: There’s a lot to talk about after our first full week of action after the Four Nations, but to me what stands out is in Minnesota, where Bemidji State followed up a shootout win and win over Minnesota by sweeping North Dakota. The Beavers now stand at 7-4-1 on the year and are four points behind fourth-place Ohio State with two games in hand in the WCHA, and are tied with North Dakota in points but have two games in hand. The Beavers started the season 4-0, but then followed that up with two losses to Ohio State, which is where I thought they might have fallen back to Earth. Instead, they lost a pair of one-goal games to Wisconsin and used that play to have success against Minnesota and North Dakota. I voted for Bemidji this week in the USCHO.com poll for the first time, and I’m beginning to wonder if the Beavers might not be a threat to make the NCAA tournament down the road. Certainly if they can keep up this play, they might be. This weekend, they are off again, then the following weekend they’ll host Minnesota-Duluth, another team they need to do well against. Are you beginning to look at Bemidji as a tournament team?

Arlan: The WCHA has only had two teams in the last two NCAA fields, and early indications are that we’re heading in that direction again. The middle tier tends to inflict enough damage that when added to the defeats at the hands of the top teams, the third WCHA team has too many losses to qualify. Certainly that cost North Dakota last year, and I think that the league is stronger overall this year. The one exception is a green Minnesota State squad that has been hurt by injuries to its veterans. Flirting with fourth place isn’t going to be enough to boost a team into the national tournament picture. A WCHA team needs to finish no worse than third, and a solid third at that, to think about getting an at-large bid to the NCAAs. UMD will have a great opportunity to help itself in the PairWise picture when it hosts Cornell for a series this weekend. The Big Red showed signs of life against Brown and Yale, and in their next few games they’ll also meet Mercyhurst and Clarkson. If UMD can sweep Cornell and also Bemidji State and Ohio State, it would go into the break with 14 wins and be on pace to finish with the type of record that can survive the scrutiny of the selection committee.

Back to the Beavers, they’ve only advanced out of the first round of the WCHA tournament one time, that back in 2010, so life is simpler if they just keep about coach Jim Scanlan’s plan of getting better every day. The only remaining nonconference games they have are at Lindenwood, not giving them an opportunity to put much of a dent in another contender’s hopes. Their schedule is also different from that of many teams. They are heading into their third bye week of the season, and second in three weeks, but then they play three league series in December. Jan. 2 finds the Beavers right back at work at Lindenwood, so they don’t get much of a holiday break. The first half often wears a team down, and young players in particular benefit from a longer break to recuperate.

Brittni Mowat is playing as well as any goalie in the conference, as was Erin Deters before she was injured. They are fronted by a team that is devoid of stars, but is a nice collection of hard-working hockey players. They are willing to pay the price to block shots and defend all over the ice, so they are dangerous when they can capitalize on a couple of mistakes or bounces. BSU’s top line carried much of the load in the first game versus UND, but then the second and third lines came through in game two. I’ve been voting for Bemidji State since watching them play in Minneapolis, but the burden of proof will be considerable to maintain that ranking and parlay the strong start into a postseason run.

What about the other side of that sweep? Can North Dakota recover from its 4-7-1 start, or has it buried itself behind the eight ball?

Candace: I think North Dakota is likely out of the NCAA tournament already, barring an improbable run in the WCHA tournament. UND has too many losses to rise high enough in the PairWise. They’ve lost to Vermont, Minnesota-Duluth, Wisconsin, Minnesota (twice), and now were swept by Bemidji. They aren’t getting great scoring from some players they depend on, particularly Josefine Jakobsen, who is not having a good senior year, averaging only .416 points per game so far. Shelby Amsley-Benzie played well in net initially, but she’s given up three goals in each of her last four outings. I don’t know if she’s being hung out to dry by the defense, and admittedly three of those games were against Minnesota and Wisconsin, two high-powered offenses, but North Dakota doesn’t look to have enough places to make up ground. Their only remaining out-of-conference games are against RIT and Syracuse, which aren’t going to boost them in the PairWise too much.

Moving on, one team that really didn’t have a good weekend was Harvard. The Crimson had been highly touted at the start of the year, and were ranked third at one point without having played a game. After opening with wins over Union and Rensselaer, the Crimson went on the road for their first test of the season, and I’d say failed, tying Clarkson and losing to St. Lawrence. The latter is particularly troubling, because Harvard is supposed to be sound defensively, yet the Crimson gave up five goals on 21 shots to a St. Lawrence team that had been having difficulty scoring.

Might we have overestimated the Crimson?

Arlan: I don’t think that optimism in Harvard is misplaced. Admittedly, I thought that it was going to have an easier time of things in the ECAC than now appears to be the case. Clarkson has rebuilt quicker than I expected, and Quinnipiac is as impressive defensively as Boston College is offensively. The Bobcats yield very few shots on goal, and senior goaltender Chelsea Laden is stopping 97 percent of those few shots that are allowed. It’s too bad that they only play BC once in January, because that figures to be some hockey that is well worth watching.

We saw that Cornell took a while to start to figure things out, and the Crimson are going through much the same adjustment. Because Katey Stone was gone last year, this is her first season coaching the 13 freshmen and sophomores on her roster, so it will likely take time for her to sort out all the pieces that she has at her disposal and how best to use them. I watched the end of both North Country games on Saturday — I’d have watched more if I’d realized sooner that both Clarkson and St. Lawrence offered free video — and I was impressed by all four teams. They were both high-tempo games with good flow. Harvard over the last couple of seasons plus goes as Emerance Maschmeyer goes. When she is on, she’s sensational and Harvard is tough to beat. When she’s not on, much of the air seems to escape the balloon. I don’t consider yielding a goal on nearly one shot in four, as was the case versus SLU, to be particularly encouraging. When I look at the talent on the top three lines and consider the defensive corps, Sarah Edney and Michelle Picard in particular, Harvard is going to win a lot of games. Over the years, Harvard has frequently deployed a lethal power play. This past weekend, Clarkson and St. Lawrence committed one penalty combined versus the Crimson. The saying goes that the best way to stop a good power play is to stay out of the box, and the Golden Knights and Saints certainly took that to heart. This weekend was a bit of a wakeup call for the Crimson, so it will be interesting to see how they respond as they face Boston University and Boston College over the next couple of weeks.

Another team that had a rough North Country trip was Dartmouth, a team that was ranked No. 10 heading into the weekend. I felt that was a bit generous, given the Big Green didn’t reach double figures in wins a season ago, and they had feasted on weaker teams and the wildly inconsistent St. Lawrence. Dartmouth’s new-found offense disappeared as it scored once in Canton and was blanked in Potsdam, but it did look much improved from what I remembered from last year. Junior Laura Stacey in particular looks to have grown into a big-time threat. We discussed them a couple of weeks back, but with a few more results now available to ponder, what do you think the future holds for the Big Green?

Candace: I’m a little unsure. You had called them ninth in your season preview, which would have them out of the ECAC playoffs, and I think that pick is inaccurate at this point. Certainly they should finish higher than Colgate and I think make the ECAC playoffs.

The ECAC looks really volatile right now. Quinnipiac has been the most consistent team, and it looks like Clarkson is getting it into gear. How do we compare Dartmouth to Harvard, or Cornell, which has had a lot difficulty early, or Yale, which has been up and down, or the hot-cold St. Lawrence, which has wins over Harvard and Clarkson and a tie with Boston College, but losses to Dartmouth and Brown? Princeton has looked pretty good early too, and even Brown warrants a mention with its recent play.

To me, it seems like almost anybody could win the ECAC at this point, aside from Union, Colgate, and Rensselaer, and while I feel pretty confident in picking the eight teams that would make the playoffs, how they will finish is anybody’s guess. Brown is the wild card I think, in that the Bears have demonstrated some scoring touch recently that they’ve lacked in previous years. Then again, the Bears just lost to Colgate in OT Saturday, so their consistency isn’t there yet.

Hockey East also seems pretty volatile right now, except for Boston College, which is piling up goals in bunches. Alex Carpenter and Haley Skarupa are terrorizing opposing goalies; both are averaging over two points a game, the only players at this point at that number.

Below the high-flying Eagles is Boston University, and the Terriers have shown a little vulnerability. A goal by Maddie Elia with 30 seconds left gave them a win over Connecticut this past Friday. The Terriers lost to Northeastern 6-3 while Marie-Philip Poulin was out, but then again, BC beat Northeastern 6-1 when the Eagles were without five players, including Carpenter and Skarupa. After BU, every team has shown a lot of up and down, and I think I could predict the Hockey East order even less than the ECAC. Northeastern just split with previously winless Providence, Vermont barely squeaked by Syracuse, and Maine got swept by Brown in its last outing.

Do you expect any of the other HE squads to start to be more consistent?

Arlan: I might expect it, but that doesn’t mean it will happen. For as long as we’ve been doing this column, Hockey East has been the land of equal opportunity, where any team can rise up and play a solid game one day and back it up with a clunker the next. BC used to join in, maybe just because that’s the way things were done in that circuit. Now the Eagles are just too fast for all of the other Hockey East teams I’ve seen them play, so it would take some creativity for BC to find a way to lose. Even if they took a period off and got behind by three goals, unlikely as that sounds, I think 40 minutes would be plenty for a rally once they get the turbines a humming.

I wouldn’t use Northeastern as a gauge for trying to compare the other two Boston squads. The Huskies this year have been as up and down as anyone. When Kendall Coyne produces, they do okay. If she doesn’t, the doldrums tend to extend to everyone else. Coyne was gone when BC defeated Northeastern by five, so while that result reflects favorably on BC, it doesn’t tell me much about Northeastern.

Several of the Hockey East teams have had consistency issues in net. I think that’s been part of the problem for the Terriers as they try to replace Kerrin Sperry and save percentages hover around .900. It’s been a major stumbling block for Providence ever since Genevieve Lacasse graduated, and ironically, it took 42 saves by Allie Morse on 43 Northeastern shots for the Friars to finally get in the win column. Vermont is trying to get its young replacements for Roxanne Douville into a groove, and thus wound up in 6-5 and 5-4 shootouts with a Syracuse club that usually isn’t that prolific offensively.

Then there are teams like New Hampshire, Maine, Providence, and Connecticut that don’t have much in the way of offensive clout. So teams struggle to score, goaltending varies from one game to the next, which leads to unpredictability in results. The one obvious exception is Boston College, which scores at will and usually possesses the puck, so it is less susceptible to unkind bounces or shaky goaltending.

One thing that can be said for Brian Durocher’s teams is that they are playing their best hockey at the end of the year. Vermont also showed signs of that last season in Jim Plumer’s second season. Northeastern has also closed well the last three years. So perhaps one or more of those clubs will mount a challenge to BC before all is said and done, but they sure have some ground to make up at this point. I think it is the Eagles running away with the league, and BU finishing second on the strength of offensive depth. With newcomers like Victoria Bach scoring steadily, the Terriers’ offensive production will be hard for the non-BC members of the league to match if the defense can tighten up a couple of notches.

The race for third goes to Vermont or Northeastern, depending on which does a better job of keeping its level of play somewhat steady. Best guess is Maine, Connecticut, UNH, and Providence in that order. To me, that looks more predictable than the ECAC, where even the top spot is more of a mystery and half the teams just started playing in the last month. Or compare that to the CHA, where teams finishing second through sixth are basically just a wild guess. Or is your issue with Hockey East that teams finish in a big clump, so a point or two can make a two or three-place difference in the standings?

Candace: It’s more of the latter. Last year, there were four teams that had 27 points or more, and four that had 13 or fewer. I don’t think there will be quite that level of stratification this year, but if your point about closing strong holds true, that could easily emerge. So far, Maine has beaten both Boston University and Northeastern, Connecticut has tied Maine and played BU close, Providence has beaten Northeastern, and New Hampshire has beaten Vermont, though that last result admittedly happened when the Catamounts were without the services of Amanda Pelkey. If we keep seeing one up and one down the rest of the year, I think the results might be a lot closer than last year and previous years.

You mentioned the CHA, and Penn State took another step last weekend by splitting with RIT in Rochester. Who would have thought that after one month, Lindenwood would be in second and Robert Morris would be in the basement? This weekend’s CHA action presents some interesting possibilities, as RIT travels to Mercyhurst, Penn State hosts Lindenwood, and Robert Morris hosts Syracuse. You are right that it seems a wild guess to see where the CHA is headed; can you shed any light on it?

Arlan: Only of a rather dim wattage. Penn State is the perfect poster child for the CHA; other than when it swept Colgate, it has had one good result and one not as good every weekend. The big difference between the Nittany Lions this year from the past is that they have tightened up defensively and goals allowed are down by nearly a goal a game. After allowing eight goals opening night, Penn State has only allowed as many as four goals twice, once into an empty net, and the other game was a win. Its own scoring is up by more than half a goal on average, so PSU is in range more often than it used to be. It doesn’t have as many difference-makers as some opponents, but there are enough such that it has already improved on last year’s win total. Penn State is gradually morphing into an RIT-type team; the two have identical records both in the CHA and overall.

The Tigers are likely a bit further along the path, but it is a similar script: keep a game close and try to steal it late if need be. They use a bit more of an offense-by-committee approach than does Penn State, with a little more scoring depth but nobody averaging a point a game. Ali Binnington has played over 70 percent of the minutes in goal, and is in the top three in both goals-against average and save percentage, so she’ll be key in how high RIT can rise.

Both of those teams tend to be more steady, known qualities, while Lindenwood is a bit of a work in progress under new coach Scott Spencer. The Lions rely on Nicole Hensley a lot, and my concern would be that she’ll wear down facing nearly 40 shots a game. Junior transfer Shara Jasper has added some pop that they lacked last year. I still look for a sixth place finish for Lindenwood, but Spencer’s changes could start to bear fruit in later weeks.

I see Robert Morris and Syracuse as being the two wild cards in the race. Both likely have more offensive potential than the previous three teams, but those offenses don’t always click. Of CHA teams, RMU ranks last in scoring average, and has also been inconsistent defensively. The result is a very disappointing start to the season. Will Brittany Howard get healthy at some point and help fuel the attack after only appearing in two games thus far? That likely will be crucial in whether or not the Colonials can turn things around. Meanwhile, Syracuse ranks near the bottom defensively. It outshoots its opponents on average, but too high a percentage of shots wind up in the Orange net.

That leaves Mercyhurst without an obvious challenger. Four years ago, it had a potent attack but wasn’t always interested in defending. Now the roster has turned over and is more in keeping with the program’s defense-first roots. It scores less than three goals a game, but still has the best offense in the league, and one of the best defenses in the country. As a senior, Amanda Makela ranks near the top in all of the goaltending categories. That bodes well for winning the season title, although it may be more vulnerable to an upset in a one-and-done format come playoff time. And there you have it — my seven-week analysis of the CHA.

You mentioned Princeton earlier. After dropping their first game, the Tigers are unbeaten over their next seven. Will they be able to keep it up as their 2014 schedule concludes with a brutal stretch?

Candace: If the Tigers finish the first half on a 3-4 run, I think they’d have to be ecstatic, considering that two of those seven games are against Minnesota, one is against Quinnipiac, one is against Clarkson, and one is against Harvard. The only nonranked teams on their first-half stretch are St. Lawrence and Dartmouth, which are no slouches either. Princeton could easily finish on a seven-game losing streak and it wouldn’t be a surprise. So far to date, aside from the win against Cornell, which really was a huge surprise, the Tigers have beaten teams they’re supposed to, but have hardly done it in inspiring fashion. Their last four games have been OT contests, during which they’ve gone 3-0-1 against RIT (win and tie), Union, and Rensselaer.

Now the Tigers will start playing squads that have much better offenses and defenses, and it could be a challenge for them. Kelsey Koelzer has emerged as a scoring threat in her sophomore year, leading the team in scoring with 1.25 points per game, and Molly Contini continues to contribute as well. At the other end, Kimberly Newell has played well in net so far, but RIT, Union, and Rensselaer are hardly offensive powerhouses, so we’ll have to see how Newell does against St. Lawrence and Clarkson this weekend to get a better read on Princeton.

I think this weekend will also reveal a lot about a couple of other teams. Harvard faces Boston University in a potentially big clash on Friday night. Also, you mentioned Quinnipiac’s stingy defense earlier, and this weekend, the Bobcats, who are undefeated and have a tie with Penn State as their only blemish, will take on No. 5 Clarkson and St. Lawrence. Aside from the win against what really looked like an awful Cornell team a few weeks ago, Quinnipiac hasn’t faced anybody who they shouldn’t have beaten. Do you see the Bobcats meeting the challenge this weekend, or do they show their first cracks?

Arlan: Clarkson in particular has been a tough matchup for Quinnipiac. The Bobcats came up with a huge quarterfinal series win in three games in 2012, but they are still only 2-7-1 in that head-to-head matchup over the last three years, including falling 6-0 in the ECAC semifinal in March. They’ve fared better with St. Lawrence, holding a 5-4-2 edge during that same time frame, and they swept the quarterfinal in the previous meeting. Because they’ve met in the postseason so often of late, I think that ups the intensity of the rivalry and it makes the teams’ current records less meaningful. Opponents have had trouble skating with Quinnipiac so far, but the Saints were able to hang with BC and Harvard, so I don’t think it will be an issue. Clarkson does a lot of the same things as Quinnipiac; in the past, it’s done them a bit better with a stronger roster. The competition should be tighter this time.

The schedule to date will likely work against the Bobcats this weekend. Cornell was missing Brianne Jenner and Jillian Saulnier, so they haven’t played opponents of the quality that Clarkson and St. Lawrence have. They’ve just been able to swallow up any offensive rushes by most foes, and I don’t expect defending to be quite that simple this weekend. Quinnipiac hasn’t seen offenses that have been able to challenge it as much as this weekend; the first game versus Clarkson will be a higher hurdle from that aspect, as it adjusts to a faster game. At the other end, the top line of Nicole Kosta between Erica Udén Johansson and Shiann Darkangelo caught fire over the weekend with six points in each game, with half of those points coming from Udén Johansson. Prior to that, none of them had more than five points on the season, so it’s key that they stay hot. The Bobcats generally play well at home, so that should provide a lift. My best guess is that Quinnipiac gets one win and either a loss or tie in the other game.

There’s not a lot of nonconference action this weekend, but there are some big games, with Harvard at BU and Cornell in Duluth for two games. Do you think the wins over Brown and Yale indicate that the worst is over the Big Red, or are there still flaws that UMD will be able to expose?

Candace: Cornell beating Brown isn’t really that much of a surprise, given the talent level of the Big Red. I was impressed by how easily Cornell handled Yale, which I thought would mount more of a challenge than losing 6-2, so perhaps Cornell just needed a few games under its belt before starting to play well. A couple of weeks ago, you pointed to 2009, when Cornell opened its season by getting swept by Mercyhurst, but then beat the Lakers in the Frozen Four before losing in the championship. Jenner and Saulnier are both top players, and Emily Fulton is playing very well also, leading the team in scoring. Cornell has also gotten solid contributions offensively from Erin O’Connor and Taylor Woods.

The question mark is in net, where Paula Voorheis has gotten off to a rough start. Her GAA is 4.08, and her save percentage is only .857. Those numbers are pretty poor, and perhaps Voorheis is still adjusting to her role as the starter after being a capable backup to Lauren Slebodnick last year as a freshman.

Minnesota-Duluth presents a stiff challenge for the Big Red, especially in Duluth. Sophomore Ashleigh Brykaliuk has emerged as a good scorer, leading the Bulldogs, and Jenna McParland and Zoe Hickel are playing very well also. In net, the Bulldogs have Kayla Black, who is very solid.

The Bulldogs are riding a six-game win streak, and have looked much stronger since getting blown out by Wisconsin the second weekend of the season. The series with Cornell might be one of the best ones of the weekend to watch, and I expect a split is likely.

Players in unfamiliar positions gives Yale’s Allain a glance at team’s character

141115 22261966 Players in unfamiliar positions gives Yales Allain a glance at teams character

Yale’s Alex Lyon was the first recipient of the Tim Taylor Cup, presented to the most valuable player of the Yale-Harvard game in Boston. Tim Taylor’s brother David made the presentation (photo: Melissa Wade).

It was an all-Connecticut sweep last weekend in ECAC Hockey, as Quinnipiac and Yale were the only two teams to finish with four points.

The Bobcats have been one of the hottest teams in the country, while the Bulldogs recovered nicely with wins at Dartmouth and Harvard after taking just one point at home two weeks ago.

Saturday’s win against the Crimson was the first game featuring the newly created Tim Taylor Cup, which will be given to the most outstanding player each year at the Harvard-Yale game at the Bright-Landry Center.

The award is in honor of the late Tim Taylor, who was a member of the Harvard class of 1963 and served as a captain of the 1962-63 ECAC championship team. He returned to his alma mater as a freshman coach and assistant varsity coach to Bill Cleary before winning 337 games as head coach at Yale from 1978 to 2006.

Taylor passed away on April 27, 2013, just weeks after the Bulldogs won the program’s first national title.

Sophomore goalie Alex Lyon was the inaugural award winner following a 33-save night in Yale’s 2-1 win over the previously undefeated Crimson.

“It was cool for me to see the Tim Taylor award go to a goalie, seeing how I was one of Tim’s goalies,” said Yale coach Keith Allain, who played for the Bulldogs from 1976 to 1980. “It was more important to me that it went to a Yale player, as it was my understanding that it went to a player on the winning team.”

The Bulldogs beat Harvard without injured forwards John Hayden or Nicholas Weberg, each of whom played Friday at Dartmouth. As a result, defensemen Matt Killian and Dan O’Keefe were in the lineup at forward against Harvard.

Killian saw time up front in the NCAA playoffs two years ago, while it was only the second career game for O’Keefe, a sophomore.

“It says a lot about our team character,” Allain said of shuffling the lineup. He did not have a timetable for when either Hayden, Yale’s leading scorer, or Weberg would return.

Still, the Bulldogs should be in good shape thanks to Lyon and a steady defensive group. Lyon had a solid freshman season and looks to have recovered nicely following getting pulled after one period last Saturday against St. Lawrence.

“I think as a former goalie, I understand the importance of goaltending,” Allain said when asked if he took any extra pride in watching Lyon develop. “But I take pride in all our players getting better.”

20140110 5d3 8269 Players in unfamiliar positions gives Yales Allain a glance at teams character

Defenseman Luke Curadi missed Rensselaer’s game Tuesday against Connecticut (photo: Shelley M. Szwast).

Next man up for the Engineers

If you were a healthy skater on Rensselaer’s roster, you were in the lineup Tuesday night at Connecticut.

Coming off a home split in conference play, the Engineers faced the Huskies without injured defensemen Luke Curadi and Chris Bradley, and forwards Milos Bubela, Zach Schroeder and Lou Nanne.

Curadi, Bradley and Bubela missed Saturday’s game against Quinnipiac, while Schroeder and Nanne each left that game with injuries. Forward Matt Neal and defender Bradley Bell both played Tuesday after sitting out Saturday. But the Engineers lost forward Mark Miller midway through Tuesday’s 1-1 tie with the Huskies, putting RPI down another top-six forward.

“It’s our third game in five nights,” RPI coach Seth Appert said. “By the middle of the second period we were probably down four of our top eight forwards and two of our top four defensemen. We had a real makeshift lineup in there tonight. Even though we didn’t get a win I thought it was good to see our guys battle to get a tie.”

The Engineers have a timely off-weekend coming up, and their next game is Tuesday against New Hampshire. Appert said Bubela and Curadi should be back against the Wildcats, and Bradley is probable, while Schroeder and Nanne are doubtful.

Part of RPI’s makeshift lineup included defenseman Craig Bokenfohr centering the fourth line.

“It’s kind of exciting for some of the guys,” said Scott Diebold, who had 33 saves against Connecticut. “When ‘Bokes’ goes out at center and he makes a good play in the corner and you’re not used to seeing him there, it gets the guys going.”

Bokenfohr, who finished the night 2-for-5 on faceoffs, had played only one shift at forward for the Engineers earlier this season at Denver before getting a game misconduct.

“I think the only advice I gave to him before the game was, ‘Let’s see if we can get through the first shift and we’ll take it from there,’” Appert said. “But I think it’s a great example. … We pulled him aside and said, ‘We need you to play center’ and he just steps in and does it. I think that says a lot of about the locker room. I like the mentality that we have as a group; we just have to keep getting better.”

Saints, Big Red rack up the penalty minutes

There’s was plenty of action after the final horn of Saturday’s Cornell-St. Lawrence game, a 4-2 win for the Saints. The teams combined for 205 penalty minutes in the game, with 177 as a result of a post-whistle melee.

St. Lawrence captain Gunnar Hughes was given a pair of disqualification penalties for fighting and spearing, while senior Chris Martin was given a disqualification for fighting. Sean McGovern, Eric Sweetman and Tommy Thompson each received misconducts.

For Cornell, Matt Buckles and Holden Anderson were given a misconduct and disqualification penalties, while Jake Weidner, Jeff Kubiak and Cole Bardreau each got a misconduct.

Per NCAA rules, Martin, Buckles and Anderson will sit out Friday’s games, while Hughes will miss the next three games. The ECAC will not issue any additional penalties, according to a league spokesman.

Union’s Shier feted for bravery

Union snapped a five-game winless streak with a 6-1 win over Princeton on Saturday, but a pregame ceremony was more important than anything on the ice.

Union freshman Kevin Shier was awarded a medal for helping to save the life of New York Army National Guard Capt. Timothy Neild on Dec. 9, 2013.

Shier and his father were on their way to Union for an official visit when they noticed Neild’s pickup truck on fire on the side of Interstate 90 in New York.

They pulled over and, along with several other bystanders, pulled an unconscious Neild to safety from his truck, which had collided with a bridge. Shortly after pulling him free, the truck erupted in flames.

Shier was given the Conspicuous Service Medal, which is the second-highest award presented in the name of the governor of New York, and is usually given to members of the New York Army National Guard.

Ken Schott of the Schenectady Daily Gazette has several video interviews here.

Around the league

• Quinnipiac’s six-game winning streak is the second-longest streak in the nation behind Michigan Tech’s 10-game winning streak. Travis St. Denis scored the game-winning power-play goal Friday against Union, and then had his first career hat trick in a 3-1 win at RPI on Saturday.

• Former Union goaltender Troy Grosenick had quite the NHL debut for San Jose debut Sunday. Grosenick set an NHL record for most saves in a debut in the Sharks’ 2-0 win over Carolina. Grosenick, who played at Union from 2010-2013, finished with 45 saves, including this highlight-reel stop.

He got his second start of his NHL career Tuesday in a 4-1 loss to Buffalo.

• St. Denis (player) and Lyon (goalie) each earned weekly honors from the league, while RPI defenseman Jared Wilson was named rookie of the week. Wilson had the game-winning power-play goal Friday against Princeton and added an assist Saturday.

DeSmith no longer on New Hampshire roster

SB Nation is reporting that New Hampshire goaltender Casey DeSmith is no longer a student at the school or a member of the Wildcats’ hockey team.

DeSmith, who was a senior, was arrested and subsequently suspended in September after domestic assault charges were filed.

In his three seasons at UNH, DeSmith went 48-36-8 with a 2.32 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage.

North Dakota women’s player Marvin injured in auto accident, ‘lucky to be alive’

According to the Grand Forks Herald, North Dakota sophomore forward Lisa Marvin was transported to Altru Hospital on Monday after being rear-ended on the side of a city road.

The report states that Marvin’s 1984 Dodge pickup had stalled in the westbound lane of Gateway Drive and she was attempting to fill it with gas when a car driven by 18-year-old Tristen Johnson hit her pickup from behind at approximately 1:20 p.m.

Marvin’s injuries were non-life threatening and she was in satisfactory condition as of 4 p.m. Monday, according to Altru spokesperson said Angie Laxdal.

Johnson was cited for careless driving, but those charges may be amended or he may receive additional charges as police continue investigating the crash, said Lt. Mike Ferguson in the article.

Marvin’s and Johnson’s vehicles each sustained about $5,000 in damage and were towed from the scene.

Marvin scored her first goal of the season last Friday night against Bemidji State.

UPDATE (Nov. 20, 2014): Gruesome details of the accident were revealed in Thursday’s edition of the Grand Forks Herald.

According to the report, Marvin’s arm was shattered between her elbow and shoulder and the bone went through her skin, leaving “a big hole, almost the size of a pop can,” her father, David Marvin, said. About three inches of the bone was taken out. She also suffered nerve damage to her arm and cannot straighten or close her fingers on her right hand, her right knee also needs major reconstructive surgery and Marvin may need bone grafts off of her hips.

“It’s going to take a lot of hard work on her part if life can be normal again,” David said to the paper. “She’s going to have a ton of doctor appointments, check-ups and X-rays. It’s going to be a very, very long road of rehab in front of her. At the moment, she’s extremely uncomfortable, even with the [painkillers]. Her best time is when her teammates come and visit her. That takes her mind off the pain.

“[Lisa is] really, really, really lucky to be alive.”

In announcing addition of varsity hockey, Arizona State hopes to ‘tip the dominos’ for Pac-12 schools

asu powers anderson In announcing addition of varsity hockey, Arizona State hopes to tip the dominos for Pac 12 schools

Arizona State coach Greg Powers (left) and athletic director Ray Anderson speak at a news conference Tuesday (photo: Jeremy Hawkes, Sun Devil Athletics).

In what athletic director Ray Anderson called a “historic and bold decision,” Arizona State announced Tuesday that thanks to $32 million in combined donations, including “the single-largest donation ever to Sun Devil athletics,” the school will begin competing in Division I men’s hockey starting in 2015.

The donations, from an anonymous donor and Don and Chris Mullett and their families, will also be enough to launch a women’s team to keep the school in Title IX compliance; ASU is looking at adding either women’s lacrosse or rowing in 2016.

“It’s critical to note that the donors’ willingness to financially support the addition of new women’s sports programs as part of this hockey initiative is phenomenal,” said Anderson. “On behalf of all of us at ASU, we thank you for that participation and that commitment. That is very meaningful to this university.”

Earlier story: Arizona State gets $32 million donation to launch varsity men’s team

Anderson also said that the Pac-12 Conference, of which ASU is a member, is supportive of the move, and hopes it might lead other Pac-12 schools to elevate their hockey programs to Division I status.

“It will hopefully tip the dominos in the northern schools in Washington and Oregon and our folks in California, who have many programs, and probably don’t want to see Arizona State competing when they are not,” Anderson said. “We are getting a lot of support from a lot of folks, but they recognize that we are being ASU, which is being entrepreneurial and innovative and out there, and we are willing to do that.”

ASU hockey is the reigning ACHA Division I champ, winning the Murdoch Cup last year by defeating the Robert Morris ACHA team 3-1.

Anderson also announced that Greg Powers, the coach of the club team, will be the varsity coach, acknowledging his “passion and commitment” to the club team, which he worked as a second job.

Powers thanked Anderson and senior associate athletic director Dave Cohen for the opportunity, and said that the 90-day turnaround from the initial exploration of elevating the program “is nothing short of a miracle. I think it speaks volumes to the future and the initiatives that Sun Devil athletics overall has, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.”

In 2015-16, ASU will play a hybrid schedule, competing as a Division I independent and also playing ACHA D-I teams. In 2016-17, the Sun Devils aim to play a full independent D-I schedule with hopes of moving in 2017-18 to a “to-be determined conference,” Powers said.

ASU has not yet decided on a home rink for its new team. They currently play at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe, but Powers indicated he expects to have a facility on campus. The Sun Devils also could play at US Airways Center in downtown Phoenix, the former home of the Arizona Coyotes.

“We have a lot to figure out,” said Powers. “The most important thing is we have very viable options that will be suitable for first-class college hockey. I can tell you that my goal personally as the head coach is to be on campus as soon as possible.”

“We certainly have the commitment to have a Division I-quality home for our varsity team, and we’ll accomplish that,” Anderson said.

When asked what would enable ASU to succeed where U.S. International and Northern Arizona failed as Division I hockey schools in the 1980s, Powers said: “We’re Arizona State; that’s the difference. We are a large, successful, committed university, not to say that U.S. International and certainly NAU are not, but we are in a different market. It’s a different time now than it was when those two programs launched.

“Hockey in general on the West Coast, to say it is growing is a gross understatement. Last year alone, 59 kids from the state of California played Division I hockey, 14 from Arizona. We have the NHL here in Phoenix, and two of the last four Stanley Cups belong to a West Coast team in the Los Angeles Kings.”

Powers also addressed how quickly fans can expect ASU to be a competitive NCAA squad, and pointed to what he believes are ASU’s recruiting advantages.

“Are we going to be a national championship contending team very quickly, within a couple of years at the NCAA level? No, that’s why we have a ramp-up period where we play a hybrid schedule and then an independent schedule and then go into conference play,” Powers said.

“We have proven at the ACHA level with student-athletes turning down scholarship opportunities to come play here that we pushed the most unique college hockey experience in the country. Now we truly are the most unique college hockey experience in the country, and we are going to exploit that.”

College Hockey Inc. executive director Mike Snee was in Tempe for the announcement and said the college hockey community was excited by the news.

“It is always exciting when a school announces it is going to add varsity hockey,” Snee said in a statement. “But this is different. Arizona State elevating its successful men’s ACHA team to NCAA Division I is a defining moment for college hockey. The tremendous growth of hockey participation in the southwestern United States has been well documented, and having an NCAA Division I school offering hockey in this part of the country is actually overdue. Hopefully Arizona State will be the first of many schools in new areas to offer the sport.”

Arizona State gets $32 million donation to launch varsity men’s team

Arizona State on Tuesday announced plans to launch a Division I men’s team over the next three seasons.

The addition will give Division I men’s hockey 60 teams and a presence in the far southwest part of the country not seen since the 1980s.

A $32 million donation from an anonymous donor and Don Mullett, the father of a former Arizona State club hockey player, made the move possible, athletic director Ray Anderson said at a news conference on the Tempe, Ariz., campus on Tuesday.

Club team coach Greg Powers, who led the Sun Devils to a 2014 ACHA national championship, will be the first coach of the school’s varsity program. A full-time home for the program hasn’t been announced, but ESPN’s John Buccigross tweeted that there was a high likelihood the team would play at US Airways Center in downtown Phoenix.

Arizona State will be the first Division I men’s team in Arizona since Northern Arizona dropped its program in 1986. The Lumberjacks were a part of the Great West Hockey Conference with Alaska-Fairbanks, Alaska-Anchorage and U.S. International in the 1980s.

The school is a member of the Pac-12, one of the conferences with its own TV network. That league has been the target of expansion talks in college hockey for many years.

More to come.

TMQ: Michigan Tech’s rise, Miami’s return and Minnesota-Duluth’s stifling performances

28409November 15 2014 TMQ: Michigan Techs rise, Miamis return and Minnesota Duluths stifling performances

Atter finishing last in the NCHC last season, Miami is 4-2 in league play so far this season (photo: Bradley K. Olson).

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

Jim: Well, after remaining at the top since the beginning of the season, Minnesota has been unseated as the No. 1 team in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll.

Michigan Tech is the somewhat unlikely team at the top. I feel like Tech, at 10-0, was the ultimate choice with Minnesota, North Dakota and Massachusetts-Lowell all losing. This sort of reminds me of Quinnipiac a couple of seasons ago. Voters tried to keep the Bobcats from the top spot for a while but ultimately QU became the obvious choice.

This was hardly a unanimous vote for Tech, but I think the Huskies would love to follow the footsteps of that Quinnipiac team that reached the national title game.

Todd: I spent some time Sunday night trying to decide between Michigan Tech, North Dakota and Boston University for the top spot on my ballot. In the end, I fell back on some statistics: Taking out games played against the team in question, Tech had the best opponents’ record of the group.

It’s really an incredible story. The Huskies’ 10 wins so far this season is more than they had in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons combined. There have been a lot of dark days in recent years for Tech — a 13-season stretch from 1998 to 2011 where it cracked the 10-win mark only three times stands out — but Mel Pearson’s transformation of the program has really taken off.

Jim: I think there has to be a tremendous amount of pride for Tech fans for taking such major steps forward. Another team whose fans can be pleased is Miami.

Hardly a school familiar with difficult seasons like Michigan Tech, Miami is still coming off a last-place finish a season ago. Enrico Blasi’s team had a great postseason run to the NCHC title game last season and might be riding some of that momentum this year. So is Miami a legitimate contender in your eyes?

Todd: I think time will show last season to be an anomaly for the RedHawks. This seems much more like the Miami program we’ve seen over the last decade-plus.

That being said, I don’t know if there are any areas where the RedHawks as a team have been outstanding so far this season. I think that will have to change for them to be an NCHC contender, but with players like Sean Kuraly, Austin Czarnik and Riley Barber to go with a defense that has shown the ability to be solid, there is a good chance of that happening.

Speaking of teams trying to do a 180 from last season, Boston University earned another road victory last weekend, beating Maine on Friday to improve to 4-0 away from home. The Terriers were 1-12-1 on the road last season. What’s been key in that turnaround?

Jim: I think there are a number of factors that contribute to BU’s success. The most obvious is the powerful recruiting class led by Jack Eichel, easily Hockey East’s most prominent recruit since Paul Kariya.

The conversion of defenseman Ahti Oksanen to forward has kick started the offense. But most importantly the fact that these players seemingly buy into coach David Quinn’s system in his second year at the helm is most important.

Todd: We’ve gone this far without mentioning one of the most impressive performances last weekend: Minnesota-Duluth holding Minnesota to one goal and 42 shots on goal in a home-and-home sweep. Friday’s 3-0 victory was a complete performance from the Bulldogs, who never gave the Gophers much of a chance.

In each of their first four weekends, the Bulldogs started with a loss and finished with a win. Now on a four-game winning streak, it seems like UMD has something going with a big series at Omaha on deck. Those games might tell us which of those teams will be a real NCHC contender, don’t you think?

Jim: While I agree this weekend’s series is important, I think both teams are going to be contenders in the NCHC come season’s end. In fact, the only team I see as out of the picture in that league is Colorado College, which is defining the term “rebuilding” this season.

Todd: An 8-1 loss to your closest rival, as CC suffered last Friday at Denver, has to put a lot of things in focus for the Tigers. There has to be a long view for new coach Mike Haviland and the Tigers, and maybe someday they’ll point to that loss as a time it became clear how much needed to happen.

Thumbs up

To Rochester Institute of Technology’s Matt Garbowsky, who scored all three Tigers goals in Friday’s 3-3 tie vs. Canisius. He followed that up with a goal and an assist in a 3-0 win on Saturday.

Thumbs down

To the eight misconduct penalties in the final 27 minutes of last Friday’s Denver-Colorado College game, two of which were game misconducts that accompanied major penalties. It’s a rivalry game and the score was 7-1 when those incidents took place, but give it a rest, guys.

Coming up

There are three series between ranked teams on the docket this weekend:

• New No. 1 Michigan Tech hosting No. 9 Minnesota State. Raise your hand if you had this being a meeting of top-10 teams before the season.

• No. 2 North Dakota plays at No. 16 St. Cloud State. The Huskies won three of the four games played between the NCHC’s top two teams in last season’s standings.

• No. 13 Omaha hosts No. 8 Minnesota-Duluth, with the Mavericks looking to extend a six-game unbeaten streak.

Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Nov. 10-16

2014111521 25 401039 Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Nov. 10 16

No. 13 Minnesota-Duluth swept a pair of games against No. 1 Minnesota (photo: Jim Rosvold).

Here’s how the teams in the Nov. 10, 2014, USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll fared from Monday, Nov. 10 to Sunday, Nov. 16:

RANKLAST WEEK’S RESULTSRECORDTHIS WEEK’S GAMES
1umn Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Nov. 10 16
Minnesota
Friday: lost to No. 13 Minnesota-Duluth 3-0
Saturday: lost at No. 13 Minnesota-Duluth 2-1
7-3Friday: vs. U.S. Under-18 Team
2und Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Nov. 10 16
North Dakota
Friday: lost to No. 7 Miami 3-2
Saturday: beat No. 7 Miami 4-1
8-2-1Friday-Saturday: at St. Cloud State
3bu Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Nov. 10 16
Boston University
Friday: won at Maine 3-16-1-1Friday: vs. Maine
Saturday: at Connecticut
4uml Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Nov. 10 16
Massachusetts-Lowell
Friday: beat Penn State 5-3
Saturday: lost to Penn State 4-1
7-2-2Thursday-Friday: at Notre Dame
5mtu Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Nov. 10 16
Michigan Tech
Friday: won at Bemidji State 2-1
Saturday: won at Bemidji State 4-2
10-0Friday-Saturday: vs. Minnesota State
6col Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Nov. 10 16
Colgate
Friday: beat St. Lawrence 5-2
Saturday: tied Clarkson 2-2
8-3-1Friday: vs. Brown
Saturday: vs. Yale
7mu Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Nov. 10 16
Miami
Friday: beat No. 2 North Dakota 3-2
Saturday: lost to No. 2 North Dakota 4-1
8-4Friday-Saturday: vs. Western Michigan
8bc Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Nov. 10 16
Boston College
Tuesday: lost to Harvard 6-3
Friday: won at Michigan State 3-2
5-5Friday: at MassachusettsSaturday: vs. Maine
9mnst Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Nov. 10 16
Minnesota State
Off7-3Friday-Saturday: at Michigan Tech
10uvm Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Nov. 10 16
Vermont
Friday: lost at No. 16 Providence 3-0
Saturday: won at No. 16 Providence 2-1
7-2-1Friday: at Connecticut
Saturday: at Massachusetts
11du Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Nov. 10 16
Denver
Friday: beat Colorado College 8-16-3Friday: vs. Air Force
Saturday: vs. Wisconsin
12uc Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Nov. 10 16
Union
Friday: lost to No. 20 Quinnipiac 4-3
Saturday: beat Princeton 6-1
6-5-1Off
13umd Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Nov. 10 16
Minnesota-Duluth
Friday: won at No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth 3-0
Saturday: beat No. 1 Minnesota 2-1
8-4Friday-Saturday: at Nebraska-Omaha
14uno Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Nov. 10 16
Omaha
Off6-1-1Friday-Saturday: vs. Minnesota-Duluth
15scsu Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Nov. 10 16
St. Cloud State
Friday: won at Western Michigan 4-3
Saturday: tied at Western Michigan 1-1 (SOL)
4-5-1Friday-Saturday: vs. North Dakota
16pc Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Nov. 10 16
Providence
Friday: beat No. 10 Vermont 3-0
Saturday: lost to No. 10 Vermont 2-1
4-5-1Friday-Saturday: at New Hampshire
17rm Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Nov. 10 16
Robert Morris
Friday: tied Air Force 3-3
Saturday: lost to Air Force 2-1, OT
7-1-2Friday-Saturday: at American International
18nmu Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Nov. 10 16
Northern Michigan
Off6-1-1Friday-Saturday: at Alaska-Anchorage
19bgsu Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Nov. 10 16
Bowling Green
Friday: lost to Ohio State 3-2
Saturday: won at Ohio State 3-2
8-3-1Friday-Saturday: vs. Bemidji State
20qu Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Nov. 10 16
Quinnipiac
Friday: won at No. 12 Union 4-3
Saturday: won at Rensselaer 3-1
7-2-1Friday: at Clarkson
Saturday: at St. Lawrence
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