Looking at the finals of men’s Division III conference tournaments

Ceasar action Looking at the finals of mens Division III conference tournaments

Gordon Ceasar has kept Plymouth State in numerous games this season and hopes to continue that trend in the MASCAC championship game this weekend (photo: Kim Bownes/PSU Athletics).

Our columnists take a look at what’s in store for all nine men’s Division III conference tournament semifinal and finals.

ECAC EAST – No. 3 Babson (19-5-3, 12-4-2) @ No. 1 Norwich (23-3-1, 17-1-0). This could evolve into a low-scoring goalie battle, as some of the best keepers in the country will be in the crease. Babson’s Jamie Murray twirled six shutouts, tied for tops (with St. Thomas’s Drew Fielding) in the nation. Norwich can counter with either sophomore Ty Reichenbach (1.35 GAA) or freshman Braeden Ostepchuk (1.52 GAA), who stand 1-2 in the country in goals against. The Cadets, ranked No. 1 in the nation, took both regular-season meetings with No. 10 Babson, 3-2 (in OT) and 6-3.

ECAC NORTHEAST – Championship matchup to be determined by Wednesday’s semifinal tilts pitting No. 4 Curry at No. 1 Nichols and No. 3 Johnson & Wales at No. 2 Salve Regina. Nichols, ranked No. 15 in the nation, is gunning for its second consecutive conference crown.

ECAC WEST – No. 2 Neumann (14-8-4, 9-5-1) @ No. 1 Hobart (20-6-0, 12-3-0). Winners of nine straight, Hobart, ranked 12th, is the second hottest team in the country (next to Adrian). That string includes two wins over the Green Knights in late January (the Statesmen also prevailed in their first meeting in Week Two). Neumann freshman Mike Davis is the West’s leading goal-getter (with 12 in league play), while Hobart first-year goalie Frank Oplinger (1.75, .942) leads the league’s tendies.

MASCAC – No. 2 Salem State (13-10-3, 9-7-2) @ No. 1 Plymouth State (15-8-3, 14-3-1). The seedings would have been reversed if this matchup had been more even during the regular campaign. As it was, Plymouth took all three meetings with the Vikings, two of them by 3-2 scores. Backboned by junior goalie Gordon Ceasar, the Panthers have won nine of its last 10 starts, while Salem freshman Michael Casale was the MASCAC’s second leading goal-scorer with 12. Immovable object?

MIAC – Hamline (13-10-4) at St. Mary’s: (15-9-2): Hamline has won two in a row and is seeking its first NCAA tourney bid since 2011. Charlie Adams has been phenomenal, scoring 18 goals and dishing out 13 assists for a Pipers team that averages three goals per game. John Sellie-Hanson, who has won 11 games, gives fifth-seeded Hamline a strong presence in goal. The Pipers, one of the biggest turnaround stories of the year, come in playing with confidence, especially after knocking off top-seeded St. Thomas on the road last weekend. Second-seeded St. Mary’s won both games against the Pipers in the regular season and has performed well under pressure, winning four of their last five, including three in a row, by one goal. Martin Gruse has fueled the success with his 19 goals and 19 assists, while four other players have tallied at least 20 points for the Cardinals’ offensive attack. Goalie Phil Heinle has won 13 games, including three shutouts, and the Cardinals are looking to continue their magical ride during a season where they have their most wins since going 15-11-1 during the 1996-97 campaign.

NCHA – St. Norbert (20-5-2) at Adrian (22-3-3): Riding a 10-game win streak, Adrian is playing as well as anyone in the nation right now and will have the advantage of playing in front of a sold-out crowd at home in the Harris Cup Final against the reigning conference and national champions. Kyle Brothers and Josh Ranalli lead a high-powered offense that has produced 134 goals. Brothers has scored 22 goals and tallied 24 assists while Ranalli has come through with 17 goals and 25 assists. Mathew Thompson has done his part as well, coming up with 20 goals and 19 assists. Adrian is also set on the defensive end of the ice behind the play of Scott Shackell, who has won 16 games in goal and allows less than two goals per game. The Green Knights can’t be counted out, however, even if they do have to play in a tough road environment. St. Norbert is in the title game for the 13th time in the last 14 years and has won the last five conference championships. Winners of the their last six, the Green Knights have cranked out 124 goals and have given up just 45. Mason Baptista has helped pave the way with eight goals and 26 assists, fueling a team that shares the puck as well as anyone. St. Norbert has dished 195 assists. Tony Kujava has filled in nicely in goal after David Jacobson went down with an injury, winning eight of the 12 games he has played in this season.

NESCAC – Conference championship will be decided Sunday following Saturday’s semifinal clashes featuring No. 4 Williams and No. 3 Connecticut College and No. 8 Tufts and No. 2 Amherst. All games will be played at Amherst. The NESCAC is the lone Eastern conference whose top seed – Trinity, ranked No. 2 at the time – was ousted in the quarterfinals.

SUNYAC – No. 2 Oswego (18-3-4, 12-2-2) @ No. 1 Plattsburgh (19-5-2, 13-2-1). Lions and lambs, Lakers and Cardinals. March is usually ushered in by both combinations and this year is no different. The two SUNYAC titans will meet conference title for the sixth time in eight years, with Platty ranked eighth in the nation, holding a 3-2 edge in the previous bouts since 2008. Oswego, ranked fourth, for that matter, will be seeking its third consecutive league championship. There is a strong likelihood that both teams will wind up with NCAA tournament bids. The Lakers held the upper hand during the season, winning at Plattsburgh (3-2), while the teams tied 3-3 in overtime in the rematch at Oswego.

WIAC – Wisconsin-River Falls (19-7-1) at Wisconsin-Stevens Point (21-5-1): The fourth-ranked Pointers feature one of the most impressive offenses in the nation, racking up 121 goals, and are in the title game for the first time. Five players have scored at least 10, with Joe Kalisz fueling the attack with 16. In two of the three meetings with River Falls during the regular season, Stevens Point emerged with the win, including a 1-0 shutout in the first showdown. Behind the stellar play of goaltender Brandon Jaeger – he has 20 wins – the Pointers have been tough to score on all year, allowing 64 goals. But they will be up against a River Falls team that thrives off its defense. The eighth-ranked Falcons have played well on the road, going 9-4, and they are playing in their first WIAC title game as well. Tanner Milliron has been solid in goal, recording three shutouts, and he has 19 wins. Kyle Gattelaro anchors the offensive attack with 13 goals and 12 assists.

Ohio State tries to build toward a Big Ten postseason run

RachelLewis USCHO 02202015 OSU Michigan 23 Ohio State tries to build toward a Big Ten postseason run

Ohio State has played better recently after losing six straight in January and February (photo: Rachel Lewis).

Ohio State resides in fifth place in the six-team Big Ten.

The Buckeyes are 15 points behind conference leader Michigan with four games remaining in the schedule and are 37th in the ever-important PairWise Rankings.

An at-large bid into the NCAA tournament is off the table for the Buckeyes, and in any other conference they would have to win at least one road series against one of the conference’s top teams before proceeding to win the conference tournament to capture an automatic bid.

However, Ohio State playing in the Big Ten means it only has to do the latter — winning three games in a row at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena later this month would give Ohio State the conference’s bid.

With the way the team played in January and for most of February — they lost six conference games in a row at one point — Ohio State might have been pretty even with Wisconsin in terms of teams people were betting on to find success in the postseason.

That being said, the Big Ten has proven to be a league where anybody can win any given weekend.

Ohio State hasn’t won three games in a row this season, but with two weekends remaining in the regular season the Buckeyes are arguably playing their best hockey right now.

The way they’ve turned it around, according to coach Steve Rohlik, is simple: by taking everything one game at a time.

“We’re buying into it, but that’s just the approach we have to take,” Rohlik said. “We certainly went through a struggle there after Christmas for a stretch of about a month and a half.”

The No. 1 thing that has helped Ohio State turn things around is that Rohlik has, for the most part, a full stable to work with. At times this year various injuries made it difficult to field a full team.

He also pointed to the team rededicating itself to of working hard “Monday through Thursday.” If Allen Iverson is reading this, you may want to skip this portion, because we are indeed talking about practice.

“I really believe that sometimes, as you know, the college hockey season is a very long year. Practices at times can become monotonous, and as a coach you have to take a look at what you’re doing,” Rohlik said. “For us, I think it was more or less we’ve got to understand what we’re doing during the week, that really what you do every time you step on the ice is preparing yourself for Friday.”

Rohlik added that a big thing was communicating with the team that it couldn’t expect to simply “go through the motions” during practice and expect to get results during the actual game.

“Our focus seemed to change and they kind of pushed each other out of their comfort zone instead of just getting through practice,” Rohlik said.

After what could be kindly described as a tough go between the pipes earlier this season, Christian Frey seems to have finally settled into his sophomore campaign. Frey, the goaltender who enrolled halfway through the school year last season and finished with an impressive 9-4-3 record and 2.27 GAA, has guided Ohio State to a 4-2 record in its last six contests.

“I think that both my goalies would attest and look back and say they didn’t have best first half,” Rohlik said. “Christian looks like he’s back to where he was before. He’s comfortable and he’s giving us a chance every night, and that’s the key.

“He’s going out there, he looks comfortable and he’s got that confidence and that little bit of swagger that you need from a goaltender,” he added. “So that’s exciting for a coach.”

For Frey and the Buckeyes to continue their run of success this weekend, they’ll have to find a way to beat the team that extended the previously mentioned conference losing streak to five and six games — Minnesota.

The Gophers beat Ohio State 4-2 and 6-2 at Mariucci Arena in early February. The wins helped Minnesota exit its own streak of less-than-favorable results.

“They’re as good as anyone else in the country and I think everybody out there knows it,” Rohlik said of Minnesota. “They start to lose a couple games and everybody’s wondering what the heck is going on. Well, they’re only human.”

Minnesota is a hard team to beat on home ice — the Gophers are 12-3-1 at Mariucci this season — so the Buckeyes aren’t the only team to go in there and get swept. Rohlik said playing at home this time around should help his team’s chances.

The Buckeyes’ miserable 2-6-1 record to start 2015 featured eight road games. This weekend’s contests against Minnesota will be the team’s last home games of the season.

“Minnesota knows what they have in the locker room and they know their skill-set,” Rohlik said. “They’re a scary team, for us and for anybody that plays them, but you just have to stick to your game plan and get after it and that’s the approach anybody’s going to take.”

Whether the Buckeyes extend their winning streak to three games this weekend or not, the fact remains that a short winning streak could put them in the big dance at the end of the year.

DSC 4366 Ohio State tries to build toward a Big Ten postseason run

Jonathan Milley had six goals in 33 career games for Penn State (photo: Omar Phillips).

Milley calls it a career

Penn State announced on Monday that junior Jonathan Milley will not continue his career due to recurring injuries. Milley had six goals and seven assists for the Nittany Lions in 33 career games.

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

Three stars of the week

First star — Michigan junior goaltender Steve Racine: Racine had a .960 save percentage and 1.00 GAA in Michigan’s sweep of Wisconsin last weekend. He stopped all 22 shots he saw on Friday for his first collegiate shutout and turned aside 26 shots on Saturday. This is Racine’s third career Big Ten weekly award.

Second star — Michigan sophomore forward JT Compher: Compher had four goals against the Badgers last weekend. He scored one goal in the Wolverines’ 3-0 victory on Friday and recorded his first collegiate hat trick on Saturday. Michigan is undefeated this season when Compher scores a goal and is 11-2 when he records a point. This is Compher’s third career Big Ten weekly award.

Third star — Ohio State senior forward Tanner Fritz: Fritz recorded four points last weekend and led Ohio State to a sweep over Penn State. He scored the game-winning goal in Friday’s game and added a goal and two assists in Saturday’s 5-3 victory over the Nittany Lions. This is Fritz’s third career Big Ten weekly award.

Big Ten in the poll

No. 15 Minnesota and No. 16 Michigan represent the Big Ten in this week’s USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll.

My ballot

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

This week’s matchups

Wisconsin at Michigan State (Friday and Saturday, Munn Ice Arena)

Minnesota at Ohio State (Friday and Saturday, Value City Arena)

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

RIT finishes with a flourish, gains its highest standings position on the final day

DSC 9710 RIT finishes with a flourish, gains its highest standings position on the final day

RIT’s Myles Powell scored in overtime last Saturday to push the Tigers into third place (photo: Omar Phillips).

It took some wild finishes, but in the end the Atlantic Hockey standings didn’t change much when the dust had settled on the final weekend of the regular season. The big mover was Rochester Institute of Technology, which was the only AHC team to earn four points last weekend and as a result jumped from fifth to third.

The Tigers dominated Mercyhurst 8-0 on Friday and then prevailed in a wild, 2-1 overtime game against the Lakers on Saturday. Knowing his team needed a win to gain home ice in the quarterfinals, Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker in the final minute of overtime, and the Tigers capitalized when freshman Myles Powell cleared the puck from the RIT zone, sailing it 150 feet into the open net.

“You don’t expect many of those games,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said of the eight goals scored on Friday, many of the highlight-reel variety. “And we knew it would be a different game the next night.”

The win on Saturday moved the Tigers into their highest position in the standings of the season. His team, like most, has been a work in progress, Wilson said.

“We’ve cut down on the mistakes, which a young team is going to make,” he said. “We’ve been skating three freshman defensemen all season, and no seniors [on the blue line]. We’ve had a young roster.”

Up front it’s been a pair of seniors and a junior that have clicked the way few lines have this season. Matt Garbowsky, Brad McGowan and Josh Mitchell have combined for 52 goals and 124 total points. Garbowsky notched his second hat trick of the season on Friday and McGowan’s second goal of that game was his 100th career point.

“I’ve been happy with our play since Christmas,” said Wilson. “I can look at our losses since then and think we played pretty well. I thought we played well in the Minnesota tournament even though we gave up seven goals to Lowell.

“The game we lost [2-1] at Bentley, we outshot them 33-17. The loss at Holy Cross [3-1], we were bad for 10 minutes and that cost us. It was unfortunate the way we lost [4-3 at home] to Robert Morris [on a goal with 10 seconds to play], but I was happy with our effort.

“We had one bad game against Army [4-2] where I thought we were very flat, but other than that, I have liked the way we have played.”

RIT was able to counter each of those conference losses with a win the following night. Other than a sweep at the hands of Robert Morris in late October and a tie and a loss to Holy Cross at home the following weekend, the Tigers were able come away with at least a split in the other 12 Atlantic Hockey series played this season.

Wilson’s team knew it needed three points against Mercyhurst to secure a home quarterfinal playoff series.

“It was a nice situation,” he said. “We didn’t have to scoreboard-watch. We were playing the team right in front of us and it was for home ice.”

And while the Tigers will enjoy their first postseason series at the new Polisseni Center, Wilson said that his team will need the kind of effort it had last weekend in order to move on to Blue Cross Arena.

“There will be upsets in the first round,” he said. “There will be upsets in the second round, and there will be upsets in the finals.

“Count on it.”

DSC 4862 RIT finishes with a flourish, gains its highest standings position on the final day

Nolan Sheeran and Canisius are 4-1 in their last five games (photo: Omar Phillips).

Taking a temperature reading

The postseason is all about momentum, and one has to look no further back than the last two Atlantic Hockey champions as examples.

In 2012, Canisius finished seventh but got on a roll late in the season that took the Golden Griffins all the way to the title. Last season, Robert Morris went on a tear in the second half and parlayed a fifth-place finish into a championship.

Here’s where we stand at the end of the 2014-15 regular season:


• Robert Morris has cooled off a bit recently, but still has the best record (7-2-1) in the league over its final 10 games. But a 2-2-1 mark in the Colonials’ final five contests ties for their biggest dry spell of the season.

• Canisius moved up in the standings to finish second on the basis of a 6-3-1 record in its final 10 games, 4-1 over the Griffs’ last five contests.

• RIT was in seventh place just a few weeks ago, but the Tigers were 6-3-1 in their final 10 games, including 4-1 down the stretch.

• Sacred Heart defeated Holy Cross and Bentley to end the regular season, just the second time this season that the Pioneers have won back-to-back games. But they are 5-2-3 in their last 10.


• Holy Cross has been playing .500 hockey for a while now, going 5-5 in its last 10 games. The Crusaders closed the regular season 3-2.

• Bentley was a respectable 5-3-2 in its last 10 but went only 1-2-2 down the stretch.

• Niagara was 2-6-2 in its last 10 but closed the season 2-2-1, the pair of victories accounting for 40 percent of the Purple Eagles’ wins this season (5-25-4).

Cold as ice

• American International’s win last Friday against Army was its first since Jan. 2. The Yellow Jackets are 1-7-2 in their last 10 games; 1-4 in their final five.

• Army has been unable to put together back-to-back wins all season and is 3-5-2 in its last 10 games and 1-2-2 in its last five.

• Air Force has struggled to find its groove since the end of January, and went 3-6-1 (final 10 games) and 2-2-1 (final five).

• Mercyhurst was looking good three weeks ago for a second- or third-place finish and home ice in the quarterfinals, but dropped its final four games to finish fifth. The Lakers are 4-6 in their last 10 games.

Here we go

The Atlantic Hockey quarterfinals will be hosted by Robert Morris, Canisius, RIT and Bentley. Mercyhurst claimed the final first-round bye and will travel to Bentley. The other three bye teams await the results of this weekend’s three first round, best-of-three series:

No. 11 Niagara (5-25-4) at No. 6 Holy Cross (13-16-5)

This is the first playoff meeting between the schools. Holy Cross is 6-1 all-time in the first round of the AHC playoffs, while this is only Niagara’s second time in the first round since joining the league in 2010. The Crusaders won all four regular season meetings between the schools.

No. 10 American International (4-23-7) at No. 7 Air Force (14-19-4)
Air Force has enjoyed a home playoff series each season since joining the league in 2006. The Falcons are 22-7 all-time in the AHC postseason but have been knocked out at home in the quarterfinals the past two seasons. Air Force went 4-0 against AIC in the regular season.

No. 9 Army (8-20-4) at No. 8 Sacred Heart (11-17-6)
The teams haven’t met since their season openers on Oct. 10 and 12. They split those games at Army. This is the first postseason meeting between the two schools, and Sacred Heart’s first home playoff games since 2010, when the Pioneers advanced all the way to the AHC championship game.

How’d we do?

Here’s how Dan Rubin and I did in our preseason predictions compared to the league’s coaches:

Actual finish
Coaches' prediction
USCHO prediction
Robert Morris122
Holy Cross6810
Air Force734
Sacred Heart898
American International101111

The coaches’ prediction was off by an average 2.15 places per team while Dan and I missed by a slightly better 2.08 places per team.

Niagara was the farthest off, picked to finish fourth or fifth but coming in last. Canisius and RIT exceeded expectations the most, both finishing four positions higher than anticipated.

Weekly awards

I’m going with league’s choices:

Players of the week — Matt Garbowsky, RIT, and Cole Gunner, Air Force: Two of the most explosive players in the league share the award. Garbowsky scored his second hat trick of the season on Friday. He is second nationally in goals (24) and fourth in points (46). Gunner also had a hat trick, his coming on Saturday in a 4-1 win against Canisius. He leads the Falcons with 39 points.

Goalie of the week — Mike Rotolo, RIT: The sophomore stopped 47 of 48 shots in a sweep of Mercyhurst, including his first shutout of the season on Friday. Rotolo is 8-1-1 in his last 10 starts.

Rookie of the week — Brendan McGuire, Army: McGuire scored twice and added an assist in a 5-0 win against American International. He has seven goals and four assists so far this season, third among Army’s rookie class.

Defensive player of the week — Joe McNamara, Holy Cross: The junior led a Crusaders defense that held Bentley to a single goal in a 2-1 win. He assisted on Holy Cross’ first goal and blocked four shots.

Wednesday Women: One down, many to go

Mowat 15WIH Vermont 0263 Wednesday Women: One down, many to go

Brittni Mowat’s play will be important if Bemidji State is to advance (Tim Brule).

Arlan: The quarterfinals didn’t offer any huge shockers, and part of the reason for that is so many teams are so closely bunched that wins by road teams aren’t all that surprising. Still, road teams did advance in three of 14 series, one in every conference except the ECAC. That there wasn’t an upset in the ECAC was perhaps a surprise in itself, because the results in that league had gone back and forth all year, but ultimately, the visitors couldn’t even take one game.

RIT demonstrated that its players understand how to elevate their games when the postseason arrives. Even though the Tigers were seeded last, they had played Robert Morris even during the season, and the Colonials never really were able to get in a groove and stay there.

The upset in Hockey East, if we can call it that, was Connecticut going to Maine and coming home with a sweep. Since the Huskies did the same thing to close the regular season, we’d been prepared for that as well, and you predicted as much in your picks on Friday. New Hampshire extended Northeastern and all three games went down to the wire, but NU survived and advances.

The three versus six and four versus five series in the WCHA looked to be closely contested on paper, and they proved to be on the ice as well. Ohio State and North Dakota played into a third overtime Saturday before the UND could close out the series. The best series of all was probably Bemidji State at Minnesota-Duluth. The Beavers won a fairly straightforward game on Friday, and UMD bounced back by getting a third-period goal to break a scoreless tie. That recipe looked to be clicking again on Sunday for the Bulldogs, until Hanna Moher scored a last-minute goal to tie it and Kaitlyn Tougas struck in overtime to keep the Bemidji State ride going.

In addition to those results and the upcoming conference semis and finals, we also have the 10 finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Award to discuss. What seems like a good starting point?

Candace: Bemidji State ending Minnesota-Duluth’s season seems as good a starting point as any. It’s not really an upset per se; the Beavers and Bulldogs split their four games this season, but it’s kind of an upset in that the Bulldogs were at home. Further, it seems that Shannon Miller’s career at UMD has ended with a whimper. You have to wonder if all the sideshow with Miller affected the team on the ice, and if it did, it’s a shame. Perhaps the Bulldogs were overrated slightly in January during their winning streak, considering the teams they were beating up on, but you would have thought that would give them confidence for the first round.

That’s not to knock Bemidji. The Beavers have been the hardest out not named Minnesota or Wisconsin, and possibly North Dakota, in the WCHA this season. They have wins over everyone except Ohio State in the WCHA. Brittni Mowat was rock solid in net for Bemidji, making 35 saves in Friday’s 3-2 win and another 35 in Sunday’s 2-1 come-from-behind overtime win, including stopping five in the extra session.

Now the Beavers get Minnesota, who made a statement sweep of the Beavers in Bemidji a couple of weekends ago. I’m not sure the Beavers have the heroics to pull off an upset of Minnesota again, but you never know.

What stood out for you in the WCHA?

Arlan: I thought the WCHA went very much to form. St. Cloud State and Minnesota State really don’t have the players to hang with Wisconsin and Minnesota if those two favorites play well. The Huskies did well to get a game off the Badgers to end the regular season, but they really don’t match up that well. The Mavericks took it to Minnesota pretty well for a period on Saturday after getting blown out on Friday, but once they had the Gophers’ attention, it was only going to end one way.

Ohio State and North Dakota are both capable of making it very hard for the other to score. The Buckeyes only had one lead in that quarterfinal series, and they couldn’t quite take it to the locker room, as Andrea Dalen scored with six seconds left in the second period on Friday to tie the game. Both are really more effective when playing with the lead. North Dakota has a bit of an edge in goal, and I think it has more people that are dangerous in transition. That ultimately proved decisive when Meghan Dufault and Amy Menke got loose and were able to get up the ice and execute on a two-on-one break to end the triple-overtime game.

It will be interesting to see what impact, if any, that game has on North Dakota next weekend. When Minnesota and North Dakota played three overtimes two years ago, players said it took about three days before they quit feeling like they had been hit by a truck. That case was closer to a full three overtimes, and Minnesota had to come back and play on Friday, while North Dakota is off until Saturday. Another difference is that the game two years ago occurred during an NCAA quarterfinal where teams only played one game that weekend. North Dakota now had to play its marathon game on the heels of already playing a grueling first game of the series on Friday. I would think that players would hit the wall more quickly, but that likely isn’t as bad as last year when Yale and Harvard played a pair of double-OT games and then went to a third game. I don’t know that it necessarily had any impact, but the Crimson didn’t win another game after that. North Dakota has had success versus Wisconsin in the WCHA tourney the last couple of seasons; that will have to continue if UND is going to make the national tournament.

When the news about Miller’s contract not being extended broke, she complained that it would be a distraction for her players. She seemed to be the one trying to make it a bigger distraction throughout the second half, and when the players didn’t play well, she’d point her finger at them. Someone else was always at fault when things went poorly, but the credit went to the coach when it went well. I do feel for the Bulldogs, because it is hard on the players, the seniors in particular. Ultimately, they were done in by a Bemidji State squad that was on a mission and refused to accept being beaten.

The Beavers will also be asked to face a more rested opponent come Saturday. BSU had to play three games plus half of an overtime, whereas the Gophers were able to play everyone versus Minnesota State. The good news for the Beavers is that they matched up against Minnesota better than anyone else did this year. None of the four games ever got away from them. Tougas and defenseman Ivana Bilic seem to play their best games against the Gophers, and players from the state like Stephanie Anderson and Alexis Joyce always get up for those games. If Mowat is on, it’s very possible that Bemidji State could extend its season by at least another day. Pulling a second upset on Sunday to win the title will likely be the harder part.

What are your thoughts on how the WCHA tourney might unfold?

Candace: I have trouble seeing it as anything other than another WCHA championship for the most successful college hockey class in the game’s history. Minnesota’s seniors continue to roll, and they’ve bounced back from any setbacks they’ve had. Yes, Bemidji State and North Dakota have wins over Minnesota this season, but I think Minnesota’s sweep of Bemidji a couple of weeks ago shows that the Gophers aren’t going to take the Beavers lightly again. Wisconsin doesn’t match up well with Minnesota; it’s been years since they’ve beaten the Gophers.

That leaves North Dakota. While UND is at home, and is the team I think is most likely to be able to pull off the upset, the fatigue factor you alluded to might come into play, not only from the grueling win over Ohio State, but from having to play Wisconsin in the second game of the semis. Even should North Dakota win that, it will be a tough contest, and Minnesota will be better rested simply from having played earlier. The one X factor is that the WCHA semis and finals are in Grand Forks, so UND has its home crowd cheering it on. I don’t know if that will be enough though to overcome all the challenges UND has in winning the WCHA tournament.

Let’s move to Hockey East. Like the WCHA, there was a nominal upset, as Connecticut went up to Orono and swept Maine. New Hampshire gave Northeastern all it could handle, while Boston College and Boston University rolled. The latter was a small surprise, as the Terriers were facing Vermont, but the Catamounts had a lot of issues this season, particularly in conference.

BC plays Connecticut in one semi, and BU plays Northeastern. Can either Huskies team pull off the upset, and if not, can BU stop the Eagles?

Arlan: Looking first at Connecticut, I don’t see an upset brewing. I get the sense it is playing well, having taken four straight from a decent Maine team, but there is nothing encouraging in the season results versus the Eagles. UConn and BC have essentially played a men’s grand slam tennis match, and it is hard to find much promise in losing 6-1, 6-0, 6-0. Two of those meetings were in the first half, when the Eagles were more dominant than they were at times in 2015. Connecticut was outshot roughly three to one in that first pair of games, but the margin was still two to one a month ago. The troubling stat out of that game was that Elaine Chuli, likely her team’s best hope for pulling off the huge shocker, allowed six goals on 31 shots over 40 minutes. The goals-against can’t be higher than two or three for Connecticut to have any chance, and I don’t see it being able to stop the Eagles at crunch time. All the games have been pretty well decided by the second intermission, so they never really get to crunch time. It was a nice achievement to reach Hyannis, but Connecticut’s season should end on Saturday.

The other half of the bracket is more interesting because Northeastern’s greatest strength, Kendall Coyne, is able to exploit BU’s vulnerabilities defensively. She had a hat trick and a five-point game in the Northeastern win in the four games played to date, but Marie-Philip Poulin was out of the Terriers’ lineup that day. Coyne was absent in the most recent NU versus BU game at the Beanpot. She’s been skating on a line with Denisa Krížová, and one gets the sense that at last she’s found someone on the Huskies’ roster with whom she naturally clicks. In the past, the synergy with teammates hasn’t always been ideal, because Coyne will either be a zone ahead of them or they just don’t read each other that well, but the game just seems to flow with the Czech rookie. However, Northeastern wasn’t able to really pull away from New Hampshire in the quarterfinal, which is a concern because BU typically plays at a higher level come the postseason. So I give Northeastern a chance, but Coyne likely has to be truly heroic for it to be anything above a minimal chance.

As for your question about the outcome of another possible BU and BC game, that answer isn’t obvious. The Terriers came close to stopping BC on their senior day, couldn’t quite close it out, and had to settle for the tie. That might indicate that the best chance for an upset has come and gone, but Boston College hasn’t always done its best work in the league tournament. One could assume that this is a different team that will respond differently. Still, its only Hockey East Championship was back in the 2011 when Molly Schaus and Kelli Stack wore maroon and gold, and its last win in the event over BU dates back to 2009, when the Terriers hadn’t yet established themselves as a national power. BU has won the last three meetings in the league playoffs. The Eagles should be aware of all of that and skate with something to prove, if they really are the team that they appear to be. I expect they’ll add a second league tourney crown, but I do think it is more likely that they’d be upset there than in an NCAA quarterfinal.

Do you see anything additional that BU has working in its favor for an upset beyond history and Poulin?

Candace: The only other thing favoring the Terriers is that you can often throw out prior results when it comes to rivalry games. I said that before the first BC-BU game this season in January, which the Eagles squeaked out 4-3, and I stand by it. The emotion that comes from playing your biggest rival, especially in the postseason, can add that X factor that can lift a team at the most important time.

The other factor is the most recent result. BC is an awesome frontrunner, and when it gets an early lead by a couple of goals, the Eagles start coming in waves and often dominate opponents, even quality ones like Harvard. However, the Eagles have also shown themselves to feel the pressure if the game gets tight, and the goals don’t come as smoothly because the players start to overthink things. If BU can stay close through the first period, it might plant a seed of doubt in the BC players, and that could be enough for Poulin and Lefort to work their magic.

Let’s move to the conference I hate picking games in more than any other: the CHA. Does Mercyhurst extend its NCAA tournament streak, or do we see a different CHA team claim the first CHA auto-bid? At times, the Lakers have looked very vulnerable, and I wonder if they too might feel the pressure, or if playing on home ice will relax them and allow them to move on.

Arlan: I don’t think there is anything relaxing about the postseason. Everyone is amped up, and it is the team that can turn that nervous energy into a positive that fares the best. That’s truer than ever in the CHA this year, where all four teams are still alive for the NCAAs, but each knows with certainty that winning is the only way to gain entry. All of the other leagues have a mixed bag where some teams are in, some aren’t sure, and others are in the same boat as the CHA teams.

There is no doubt that being at home is a plus for the Lakers, as they only lost once at home and went undefeated at home in conference play. Meanwhile, they were a .500 club on the road, both in league and overall. Only Syracuse even took a point in Erie, and there’s no guarantee that the Orange make it out of their semifinal. Penn State is the slightest of favorites after the two teams split their games this season.

Of course, neither is it assured that Mercyhurst will be playing in the final that it is hosting. RIT outlasted the Lakers in two overtimes a year ago, so the Tigers won’t be intimidated by the venue or the opponent. The flip side of that is Mercyhurst swept all four meetings this year by at least three goals, although it added empty-net goals in a couple of them. The Lakers are the pick, but I don’t foresee any three-goal margins. Ali Binnington looks to be on form, only surrendering one goal all weekend to Robert Morris. The one-two punch of juniors Emily Janiga and Jenna Dingeldein is tough for the rest of the league to match, and that’s the edge that Mercyhurst has over RIT, but as defending champion, I expect the Tigers will go down competing with everything that they have to give.

The other semifinal is even tougher to predict. It will be played at a neutral site, but Syracuse will get last change thanks to being the higher seed. The Orange are a touch better offensively, despite PSU having an edge on the power play. Defensively, the Nittany Lions have the advantage. In terms of depth I’d go with Syracuse, but really, it’s just splitting hairs. The presence of Celine Whitlinger in goal likely tips the scale back in Penn State’s favor. I could analyze this one to death, going back and forth, but this time of year, you just have to lace up the skates and go play.

Mercyhurst is the favorite, but I doubt the odds are as strong as 50 percent that the Lakers emerge as champion. I’d anticipate at least one of the three games in Erie going beyond 60 minutes.

That could be another question — how many OT games will we have? I’ll say that out of the dozen games coming up this weekend that three of them extend beyond three periods. Does that sound high or low to you? Last year we only had the one, the RIT/Mercyhurst championship game.

Candace: That sounds close to being right. I think at least one of the CHA games and one of WCHA games will go an extra session. If a Hockey East game goes to extra session, I’d anticipate it would happen if BC plays BU in the final; I think both semis will be decided in 60 minutes, though it is possible that Northeastern will advance. That leaves the ECAC, which has been another wild league so far this playoffs. Interestingly enough, it was the one conference where there were no upsets, as all four home teams advanced with sweeps, which is ironic considering how much shifting there had been seemingly week-to-week, and how it seemed that all the upper seeds had shown some vulnerability in the last month.

The semis pit Cornell against Clarkson and Harvard against Quinnipiac. Harvard swept the season series against the Bobcats, and I anticipate that the Crimson will advance. I think Harvard is just a little bit better offensively, and defensively the two teams are a wash. Both Harvard and Quinnipiac are high enough in the PairWise that they should make the NCAA tournament, even if they don’t win the ECAC tournament. Harvard is definitely in, and I’d say Quinnipiac is too, since the Bobcats are fifth. The only way they don’t make it is if BU or Northeastern win Hockey East AND Cornell or Clarkson win the ECAC AND North Dakota or Bemidji wins the WCHA. Possible, but unlikely.

That leaves Cornell against Clarkson. The Big Red beat and tied the Golden Knights in the two games this season, with the win being a total beatdown on Clarskon’s home ice. That game is going to come down to Cornell’s top line of Emily Fulton, Jillian Saulnier, and Brianne Jenner against Clarkson’s rookie goaltender, Shea Tiley. The Big Red will also be extra motivated because they are currently tied for ninth in the PairWise, so their only way of getting into the NCAA tournament is to win the ECAC tournament and its concurrent auto-bid. Of course, Clarkson, while in a good position at the moment, tied for sixth with Boston University, is anything but secure too. Say North Dakota wins the WCHA, and only the top six teams make the NCAA tournament. Then if Boston University were to win Hockey East, it would be down to five, and Clarkson would be out too, so it behooves Clarkson to play as if its postseason lives are on the line, because they just might be. Regardless, I’d say that game is the most likely to go to an extra session.

How do you think the ECAC might play out?

Arlan: You forgot Connecticut in your list of teams below Quinnipiac that could knock the Bobcats out of the NCAA field in the event of a perfect storm of auto-bid winners, but it doesn’t change your overall point that it is still unlikely.

My inclination is to look past that 8-3 win for Cornell over Clarkson in the first meeting. Emily Fulton had just been added to a line with Brianne Jenner and Jillian Saulnier that week. Maybe having more time to prepare helped, because Clarkson fared much better versus that trio and overall in the second game, even though it didn’t have last change, like it will on Saturday. I think that is more the type of game that we’ll see this time.

The worst defensive performances for both teams came in the first half of the season, and they have tightened up since then. Clarkson plays as many as a half dozen freshmen, so it is natural that more seasoning would solidify the ranks. While Cornell doesn’t start a freshman in net like the Golden Knights do, sophomore Paula Vorheis has only five more starts in her career than does Tiley, so her learning curve has to be similar. The Big Red have fewer rookies overall, but two of them are on the blue line, and it took awhile for the defensive game to gel. That’s a big reason why Cornell finds itself in win-or-go-home territory.

Clarkson’s situation isn’t quite as dire, but should it fall in the semifinal, that will make for an anxious Saturday night into Sunday. Clarkson has historically performed well versus the Big Red in Potsdam, so I look for the Golden Knights to find a way to win that game. Either way, I expect a low-scoring game, more likely 2-1 or 3-2 than 8-3.

The games that pair the second and third seeds at a neutral site are always interesting. Which teams gets the support of the home crowd, and do any of them even stick around for the second semifinal? It’s probably not a big factor. I don’t think the fact that the Crimson swept the series counts for much either. The first game was the Bobcats’ first loss of the season and came a week after Harvard had been embarrassed by Boston College; the Crimson had to take more motivation into that 2-1 win. The second encounter ended with the same score, but that one went to OT. There’s not much in the way of separation. As tight as both defenses can play, it could come down to a bounce or other timely break. All indications are that this game will be low-scoring as well. I wouldn’t be shocked to see it wind up being Quinnipiac’s day.

So if I’m leaning a little bit toward Clarkson and maybe Quinnipiac to advance, that would pair two teams looking for their first ECAC Championship, and they could play a game that goes well beyond 60 minutes. Nothing like making the selection committee wait. I have no idea who would win that, and it surely would be a guess. Really, the rest of the ECAC tourney is at this point, because it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see any two opponents or outcome on Sunday.

Speaking of surprises, did you see any in the list of 10 finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Award that was announced last week, or do you have any general reactions to that list?

Candace: Yes, I thought there were a couple surprises, actually. There were a few players, such as Alex Carpenter and Haley Skarupa from Boston College and Hannah Brandt and Dani Cameranesi from Minnesota, that were locks. It’s a nice nod for Cameranesi in her sophomore year, but I don’t expect to see her name on the final three. Brianne Jenner of Cornell and Marie-Philip Poulin of BU came on very strong in the second half, so it’s not really surprising for them to be the list. Kendall Coyne has carried Northeastern to whatever success it has had, so she was a strong choice as well.

I was a little surprised not to see BU’s Sarah Lefort on the list. Perhaps it was a factor of there already being five Hockey East players on the final 10 when you include BC’s Emily Pfalzer, who is the highest-scoring defenseman in the country, but Lefort is eighth in the country in scoring, only one point behind Poulin. Granted, Poulin played five fewer games, but still.

Likewise, no CHA player made the list, and I thought Mercyhurst junior Emily Janiga had a pretty good shot, as she is ninth in the country in scoring and is probably the most important factor in whatever success the Lakers have.

I found the selection of Shelby Amsley-Benzie a minor surprise, given that she is only the fourth-best goalie in the country in goals-against right now. Perhaps the committee weighted her play in what is likely the toughest conference in the country, which includes two highly potent offenses. Still, Benzie played seven fewer games than Quinnipiac’s Chelsea Laden, a senior, four fewer than Boston College’s Katie Burt, a freshman, and six fewer than Wisconsin’s Ann-Renée Desbiens. In fact, of the top seven goalies in the country, Benzie is the only one to play less than 30 games, and if you look at the top 10 and throw out Holy Cross’ Alexandra Stevenson, who plays against D-III squads, only Benzie and Emerance Maschmeyer played fewer than 30 games.

It’s no knock on Benzie, who has had a terrific season, and does have the highest save percentage of any goalie in the country, but usually, the goaltender selection is the one ranked tops in the country in almost every category, so like I said, minor surprise.

The major surprise to me was seeing Minnesota’s Rachel Ramsey on the list. Yes, she is the top-scoring defenseman on the Gophers, but she’s significantly behind freshman Kelly Pannek and junior Maryanne Menefee, two players from Minnesota I thought had a good chance to make it. Ramsey is second in scoring among defensemen to Pfalzer, but whereas Pfalzer is 13 in the country and has spent much of the season in the top 10, Ramsey is down in a tie for 34.

If the committee wanted to reward a senior, they could have gone with Minnesota’s Rachel Bona over Ramsey.

I’m not saying Ramsey is a bad player; far from it. I just find her selection a puzzle.

What stood out to you on that list?

Arlan: Overall, the coaches did a very nice job in compiling that list. There are always many people that could be on the list and aren’t; there just isn’t room for everyone with 10 spots. High-scoring forwards always do well come awards time, but when teams get too top-heavy on pure scorers, they never do as well as expected. At least a third of the players on the ice at any one time are defensemen, but people always wonder why a defenseman is recognized with lower point totals.

Had Bona been included over Ramsey, that would have been more puzzling to me. Bona had a huge season last year, but she’s gone through stretches this year where the puck hasn’t gone into the net for her. She only has five points more than Ramsey, and she spends her shifts in much closer proximity to the net. Pannek’s had a nice season, and if she keeps progressing, accolades are in her future. However, Ramsey is much more of a proven commodity. She was first-team All-American last year, as well as WCHA Defensive Player of the Year, and has been on top of one of the Minnesota power-play units that set NCAA records each of the last two seasons and leads in conversion percentage again this year. Beyond the offense, her main job is to help prevent goals, and she is often matched against top forwards on the opposing team.

If defensemen are important, goalies are even more vital, so at least one should be on the list. I’ve always thought that goals-against average, when taken by itself, is a very flawed way to judge goalies. A goalie could play on a team that is so dominant that she only gets 10 shots a game and stops nine of them. Her GAA would be a sparkling 1.0, but a save percentage of .900 isn’t very good in the women’s game. While it is imperfect as well, because it doesn’t account for the quality of defense being played in front of her, save percentage is the best single stat commonly available.

From that respect, Amsley-Benzie has done as well as any goalie at controlling what she can control. I’m sure she’d like to start more games, but if the coach doesn’t call your number, what can you do? Keep working hard and force him to play you. North Dakota’s surge coincides with her getting almost all of the starts. North Dakota entered a key string of series of games versus Ohio State, Bemidji State, UMD, and Minnesota in must-win mode. She started all of them and allowed 0, 0, 1, 1, 0, 2, 0, and 3 goals in those games and lifted UND back into the picture as it went 6-1-1 over that stretch. Sure, she allowed three goals in the loss to Minnesota, but who has held the Gophers to three goals or less on a weekend in recent memory? Only Brittni Mowat, and the Four Nations tourney factored into that. Amsley-Benzie followed that with four straight shutouts and a sweep of Ohio State, including holding the Buckeyes to one goal into a third overtime. She’s in her fourth year with a chemical engineering major and a GPA that I found more impressive than her save percentage. She definitely belongs on the list, although the lack of starts has likely cost her any shot at winning.

As for the omissions, somebody like Lefort is hurt by having not only so many from Hockey East on the list, but so many dominant players. Who is going to vote for Carpenter, Poulin, and Coyne? Everyone. When you add in the years that Skarupa and Pfalzer produced, it’s difficult for others from Hockey East just to get nominated. If you were going to ask me for one player that I watched that I would add to the list, it would probably be Jillian Saulnier — great speed, a nonstop motor, and lots of skill and hockey sense. There just isn’t room for everyone on a list of 10.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Playoff central

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

No. 12 Princeton at No. 5 Dartmouth

Season series: Dartmouth 2-0

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

No. 11 Brown at No. 6 Harvard

Season series: 1-1

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

No. 10 Union at No. 7 Cornell

Season series: Cornell 2-0

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

No. 9 Rensselaer at No. 8 Clarkson

Season series: Clarkson 1-0-1

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

Around the league

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

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

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

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

Looking back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thumbs up

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

Thumbs down

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

Coming up

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

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

Lake Forest goalie Podolsky tabbed NCHA Player of the Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 NCHA All-Conference Team

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

2015 NCHA All-Freshman Team

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

Recurring injuries have Penn State junior Milley leaving the game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two returning finalists among 28 nominees for 2015 Mike Richter Award

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the 2015 nominees:

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

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

Candidates must meet five criteria:

• Candidates must display outstanding skills on the ice

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

• Consideration should be given to academic achievement and sportsmanship

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

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

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

Minnesota, Boston College trios highlight 2015 Patty Kazmaier finalists

skarupa1 Minnesota, Boston College trios highlight 2015 Patty Kazmaier finalists

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

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

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

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

Clarkson forward Jamie Lee Rattray won the award in 2014.

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

Brown women’s coach Bourbeau resigns after four seasons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He joined the NCAA hockey committee last season.

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

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

Playoff preview: WCHA women

1D3L1730 Playoff preview: WCHA women

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

It’s conference tournament time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

North Dakota

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

St. Cloud State

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

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

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

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

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

Western Michigan

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

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

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

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

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

Colorado College

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

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

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

Players of the week

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

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

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

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

Playoff previews: Hockey East women

lefort1 Playoff previews: Hockey East women

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

It’s conference tournament time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Playoff preview: ECAC women


staenz Playoff preview: ECAC women

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

It’s conference tournament time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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