Beanpot consolation game has consequences for Harvard, Northeastern

The consolation game of the Beanpot always has one guarantee that goes along with it: the lack of atmosphere in the TD Garden.

In the average Beanpot year, players hope a few students make the trek from campus to join the families cheering on their loved ones to maybe make the building that seats close to 18,000 feel more like a hockey rink and less like an empty cathedral.

When Mother Nature dropped a few inches of snow on the downtown Boston area on Monday and drilled the South Shore region with blizzard conditions, the best both Northeastern and Harvard could hope for was that Boston College and Boston University fans would arrive at the Garden early just to make sure they were on time for the finals.

The empty arena, however, didn’t take away from the fact that this was about a lot more than which team wouldn’t finish last in the legendary tournament. Each team had plenty to play for.

For Northeastern, which began the season with a win against Colgate then proceeded to go 0-11-2 over the next 13 games, Monday offered hope to continue some momentum it had built.

Since losing to UMass-Lowell on Nov. 27, the last of those 13 games in that ugly stretch, the Huskies were 8-2-3 coming into Monday. In Hockey East, Northeastern was 4-1-2 in that same stretch. So despite last Monday’s loss, the consolation game provided a chance for the Huskies to keep their second-half surge moving forward.

For Harvard, the game was probably even more important. The Crimson are on track for an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament, entering Monday ninth in the USCHO.com PairWise Rankings. A win could be powerful and move the Crimson to seventh, a position that at this point in the season is quite secure.

But an all-out effort by the Huskies, which included three goals in the opening 20 minutes, led to a 5-1 Northeastern win. A big positive for the Huskies.

The Crimson may leave Monday smarting. That potential seventh position in the PairWise morphed to sitting in 11th with three weekends to play in the ECAC Hockey regular season.

What’s more, Harvard’s loss on Monday culminated a recent struggle for ECAC teams against Hockey East clubs. A winning percentage that was, at one point in November, a 2-to-1 advantage against Hockey East has now basically become even (ECAC has a .508 winning percentage against Hockey East). You can’t blame Harvard for that, even though the Crimson lost each of their Beanpot games. In reality, the ECAC has 25 losses to Hockey East.

But when the league tournaments are over and the NCAA field is being selected, don’t be surprised to see an ECAC team on the NCAA bubble and possibly looking up at a Hockey East team.

These two leagues are battling it out for the final spots in the PairWise. Right now, Yale is 10th, Harvard is 11th, UMass-Lowell is 13th, Cornell is 14th, Dartmouth is 16th, Clarkson is 17th and Rensselaer is 22nd.

If we place the PairWise bubble after the 14th seed (Atlantic Hockey and the WCHA each have no teams in the top 16, thus the winners of the respective tournaments will take spots 15 and 16), four of those ECAC and Hockey East teams would be in the tournament and three would be out.

But every weekend, teams shift and shift quickly sometimes in the PairWise. Harvard faces six ECAC games before the league tournament. Three are nationally ranked. Win those games and its PairWise will benefit.

Any sort of slump, though, could be disaster for the Crimson. If Harvard loses all six remaining games, they are in oblivion, dropping to 23rd or so in the PairWise based on potential RPI. Had Harvard won Monday, it would still be on the bubble (17th) and would have a chance with some wins in the ECAC tournament.

So, yes, the Beanpot consolation game is boring and means nothing in the grand scheme of the tournament.

But if Harvard bubbles in the NCAA tournament, look back to this snowy Monday where Harvard was outplayed and lost bad and may have hurt its NCAA hopes.

Spearing incident gets Massachusetts-Lowell’s Chapie suspended one game by Hockey East

Hockey East has suspended Massachusetts-Lowell senior forward Adam Chapie for one game stemming from a spearing incident at the 20-minute mark of the third period on Feb. 6 against New Hampshire.

Chapie will miss the River Hawks’ game Feb. 12 game at Boston University and will be able to return to the lineup Feb. 13 when Lowell hosts BU.

NCHC hands down one-game ban to Minnesota-Duluth’s Kotyk for illegal hit

The NCHC on Monday issued a one-game suspension to Minnesota-Duluth junior defenseman Brenden Kotyk.

The suspension stems from an illegal hit during UMD’s game against Colorado College on Feb. 6.

Kotyk was suspended after a review of a play in which his stick was used to deliver a hit to the head of a Colorado College player, who was not in possession of the puck, at 2:24 of the third period Saturday at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. A minor penalty for elbowing was issued on the play.

Kotyk will be required to serve the suspension during UMD’s next game on Feb. 9 against Bemidji State. He is eligible to return for the Bulldogs’ next NCHC series against North Dakota Feb. 19-20.

Harvard’s Malone suspended one game by ECAC Hockey, ineligible to play in Beanpot third-place game

ECAC Hockey announced Monday that Harvard junior forward Sean Malone has been assessed a one-game suspension as the result of his actions in the Harvard-Yale game from Feb. 6.

The action was taken after review of an incident that occurred in the third period in the Crimson-Bulldogs contest.

Based upon the disciplinary action, Malone is not eligible to compete in Harvard’s next game on Feb. 8 when the Crimson face Northeastern in the Beanpot consolation game.

St. Lawrence, Quinnipiac, Massachusetts, Vermont heading to Northern Ireland over Thanksgiving 2016

College hockey will once again head to Northern Ireland this coming November.

ECAC Hockey’s St. Lawrence and Quinnipiac, along with Massachusetts and Vermont from Hockey East, are slated to compete in the second annual Friendship Four Tournament in Belfast, Northern Ireland Nov. 25-26, 2016.

The teams will first compete against their conference rival in a league contest before a crossover game. The winning programs will compete for the Belpot Trophy, while the two other teams will vie for third place.

“We are very excited about returning to Belfast to participate in the second annual Friendship Four tournament,” ECAC Hockey commissioner Steve Hagwell said in a statement. “Our friends in Belfast provided a tremendous first-class experience for everyone involved in the 2015 inaugural event. We are honored to have UMass, Quinnipiac, St. Lawrence and Vermont comprise the 2016 tournament field, and very much look forward having them compete in such a memorable and significant endeavor.”

“The memory of Thanksgiving in Belfast remains strong and I am pleased that four other hockey-playing institutions will get to enjoy the hospitality of our hosts,” added Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna. “We all look forward to another smashing success.”

The squads will square off at the SSE Arena, home of the Belfast Giants, a professional team in Elite Ice Hockey League. The arena also hosted the inaugural Friendship Four Tournament in 2015, a four-game set that featured Brown, Colgate, Massachusetts-Lowell and Northeastern.

Additionally, the four teams will take part in cultural experiences, including visiting with youth groups and exploring the history of Northern Ireland.

Last year’s iteration of the tournament was an international success, seen on television in North America and Europe, and attended by over 20,000 spectators. The event, part of Boston and Belfast’s sister cities project, marked the first time that NCAA college hockey was played outside of North America.

Rankings roundup: How ranked teams fared, Feb. 1-7

Michigan State beat No. 5 Michigan on Friday (photo: Michael Dubicki).

Here’s how the teams ranked in the Feb. 1, 2016, USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll fared between Feb. 1 and Feb. 7:

Friday: tied No. 17 Cornell 2-2
Saturday: beat Colgate 6-3
21-1-6Friday: at St. Lawrence
Saturday: at Clarkson
North Dakota
Off22-3-3Friday-Saturday: at Denver
St. Cloud State
Friday: won at Miami 5-1
Saturday: lost at Miami 3-2
Boston College
Monday: beat No. 7 Harvard 3-2
Friday: beat New Hampshire 4-3
19-4-4Monday: vs. Boston University
Friday: vs. Merrimack
Saturday: at Merrimack
Friday: lost to Michigan State 3-2 (OT)
Saturday: won at Michigan State 4-1
17-4-4Friday-Saturday: at Wisconsin
Friday: won at Maine 1-0 (OT)
Saturday: won at Maine 4-2
19-5-4Friday: vs. Connecticut
Saturday: at Connecticut
Monday: lost to No. 4 Boston College 3-2
Friday: won at Brown 3-2
Saturday: lost at No. 11 Yale 2-1
13-6-3Monday: vs. Northeastern
Friday: vs. Rensselaer
Saturday: vs. Union
Friday: tied Northeastern 2-2
Saturday: lost to New Hampshire 3-2
17-6-5Friday: at Boston University
Saturday: vs. Boston University
Boston University
Monday: beat Northeastern 3-1
Friday: won at Massachusetts 6-3
16-7-4Monday: vs. Boston College
Friday: vs. UMass-Lowell
Saturday: at UMass-Lowell
Notre Dame
Friday: won at Vermont 2-1
Saturday: won at Vermont 3-1
16-5-7Friday-Saturday: vs. Maine
Friday: beat No. 20 Dartmouth 5-1
Saturday: beat No. 7 Harvard 2-1
14-5-4Friday: at Colgate
Saturday: at Cornell
Off16-9-1Friday-Saturday: vs. Western Michigan
Off13-8-5Friday-Saturday: vs. North Dakota
Friday: lost to St. Lawrence 3-0
Saturday: lost to Clarkson 4-2
14-10-6Friday: at Harvard
Saturday: at Dartmouth
Michigan Tech
Friday: beat Lake Superior State 3-0
Saturday: beat Lake Superior State 3-1
Penn State
Friday: lost at Minnesota 4-1
Saturday: won at Minnesota 5-3
17-8-3Friday-Saturday: at Michigan State
Friday: tied at No. 1 Quinnipiac 2-2
Saturday: won at Princeton 1-0
12-7-4Friday: vs. Brown
Saturday: vs. Yale
Minnesota State
Friday: beat No. 19 Bowling Green 5-1
Saturday: lost to No. 19 Bowling Green 3-1
15-10-5Friday-Saturday: at Alabama-Huntsville
Bowling Green
Friday: lost at No. 18 Minnesota State 5-1
Saturday: won at No. 18 Minnesota State 3-1
16-9-6Friday: vs. Miami
Friday: lost at No. 11 Yale 5-1
Saturday: won at Brown 6-3
12-10-1Friday: vs. Union
Saturday: vs. Rensselaer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan duo of Motte, Connor garner monthly HCA honors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seniors a ‘Beacon’ of determination for Massachusetts-Boston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robertson eyes WCHA growth, both on the ice and off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Huskies gain ground

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ice chips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It also took time adapt to life in the WIAC.

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

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

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

Pipers back on track

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

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

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

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

Saints continue streak

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

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

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

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

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

Superior play against Stout

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

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

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

Best of the West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RedHawks keep climbing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NCHC players of the week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jamie Murray, Babson senior goaltender, Scituate, Mass.

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

Morgan Richardson, Cornell senior defenseman, Ottawa

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

Allison Rolandelli, Brown senior defenseman, Minnetonka, Minn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And what got that ball rolling? A simple email.

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

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

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

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

Yes, even humanitarians.

Giving prose a break

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maine shooting up the standings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Supporting a new D-I program

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

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

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

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

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

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

A statistical oddity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quotes of note

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

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

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

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


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

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

Go Denna!

Contributing: Scott Weighart, Michael Flanagan and Mathew Galvao

Kessel officially back with Minnesota women’s team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


JACK RILEY (photo: Army Athletics)

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

He was 95.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Ten suspensions indicate a disturbing trend of violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A B1G day in the Big Apple

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wisconsin sweeps!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Spartans win for real!

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

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

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

Self-awareness, in spades

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

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

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

Three stars of the week

Tyler Motte is a repeat offender.

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

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

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

My ballot

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

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