WCHA weekend rewind, Jan. 9, 2012

What Huntsville really exposed

Alabama-Huntsville shocked the college hockey world once again when it upset Denver, 3-2, Friday night.

No one saw that coming. Not anyone who looked at the matchup going into the weekend, not George Gwozdecky and neither did us when we picked Denver to sweep the series.

The Chargers did it by erasing a 2-0 lead and killing off five penalties after the first intermission and despite being outshot 43-20. Hats off to UAH.

The win, however, did not expose “stupid” or “lazy” journalism on our behalf.

Going into the series, the tale of the tape spelled two Pioneers victories with all advantages going Denver’s way, with the possible exception of goaltending. UAH had one win through 23 games going in, what is there to break down?

When such an obvious underdog like UAH pulls off a shocker like this, it’s decided by things you can’t possibly foresee.

Then again, the Chargers did expose, perhaps, arrogance on Denver’s part. Gwozdecky said his team got “a bit reckless and lazy” with the two-goal lead and committed too many “unforced” errors down the stretch. It seems the Pioneers figured the disparity between them and UAH was enough for them to get away with their poor play.

But ranking No. 1 in the haughty department was the decision to let  Jason Zucker rest up at home in Las Vegas for the weekend before he returned to the team from the World Juniors tournament in Edmonton. This, according to a tweet by Mike Chambers of the Denver Post.

[blackbirdpie id=”155497147821858818″]

Team USA’s last game was Wednesday and that kind of a tournament can take a toll on a player, no doubt. So get him back to Denver, rest him Friday (and Saturday if he needs it) but just make sure he’s back for the sake of his teammates.

Zucker’s Team USA linemates for part of the tournament, Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau, were both back in the lineup for Minnesota Saturday night and though Team Canada captain, Jaden Schwartz, sat out Colorado College’s game Friday, he played Saturday despite his stay in Edmonton being a day longer.

But Zucker wasn’t a healthy scratch wearing a coat and tie sitting in the press box this weekend. In fact, he wasn’t in Magness Arena at all, but 700 miles away in Vegas, instead.

It doesn’t matter who the opponent is; when your one of your leaders is healthy or free of any other circumstances keeping him from rejoining the team, he should be in the dressing room before the game, between periods and after the final horn blows.

Whether he’s suited up, or wearing a suit, a guy like Zucker takes charge when his team lets a second-period lead slip away against arguably the worst team in the country.

If Friday’s loss keeps Denver out of the playoffs via the PairWise Rankings, folks will look back to Jan. 6.

All they do is win or, at the very least, not lose.

A pair of road wins against CCHA foe Western Michigan over the weekend extended Minnesota Duluth’s nation-leading unbeaten streak to 16 games. The sweep gives the Bulldogs the country’s best winning percentage, the No. 1 RPI, and vaults them to the top spot in both the PairWise and KRACH rankings.

A consensus No. 1 ranking in the polls to be released later today is sure to follow.

Despite winning a national title last spring, this level of success was not in the forecast for UMD just a few short months ago. The Bulldogs began their first-ever title defense last fall surrounded by several question marks leaving many prognosticators, ourselves included, picking UMD to finish closer to the middle than the top of the WCHA standings.

Among the questions to be answered about Scott Sandelin’s club: How was UMD going to replace the 134 combined points lost via the departures of forwards Justin Fontaine, Kyle Schmidt, and Mike Connolly? Who was going to fill the void— particularly on the power play—left by Justin Faulk’s ascension to the pros? Would Kenny Reiter’s late-season surge last year propel him to providing the stability and consistency the Bulldogs would need to mount a suitable title defense?

Between Jack Connolly’s nation-leading 33 points and increased production from J.T. Brown, Travis Oleksuk, and Mike Seidel, all four are poised to shatter career-best scoring marks. Add freshman Caleb Herbert’s 17 points and the Bulldogs are averaging 0.70 more goals per game overall this season and nearly a full goal (0.96) more in conference play over last year.

Output like that has UMD leading all NCAA Division I teams in offense at 4.10 goals per game.

While we don’t intend to insinuate that Brady Lamb is Faulk’s heir apparent per se, he ranks higher than Faulk in goals (0.250 to 0.205) and assists (0.65 to 0.64) per game which, obviously, puts him on pace to exceed Faulk’s production from last season. Additionally, Scott Kishel and Wade Bergman are each trending to meet or exceed 20 assists. Runner-up to Faulk in blue line assists a year ago? Dylan Olsen with 12 in just 17 games before turning pro.

The effect of Faulk’s departure on the Bulldog power play has been statistically minimal thus far with its success rate falling barely over a single percentage point.

Reiter has started 19 of UMD’s 20 games, has lowered his goals against average, and his winning percentage is 150 points higher than he finished with last season. His three shutouts so far already match his 2010-11 total.

As Nebraska-Omaha and, more recently, Denver found out, college hockey offers no guarantees. But with the roll the Bulldogs are on and with the schedule that lies ahead, it’s hard not to wonder if the team with the best, not the only, chance to beat them is themselves.

Hakstol open to Winnipeg return

In defeating Clarkson 3-1 at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba in the U.S. College Hockey Classic, North Dakota played its first game in Canada since being swept by Fort Frances, Ontario, on Dec. 29-30, 1953.

If UND coach Dave Hakstol has his way, and it’s a sure bet he usually does, North Dakota will be returning to Winnipeg in the not-too-distant future.

“I certainly don’t want this to be the last time we have a chance to come back to this building,” Hakstol told USCHO’s Timothy Boger. “Whether it’s two or three years down the road, I’d sure like to get together with all the parties involved and see if we can make it happen, use it as a baseline and build a great event.”

The game was played before a crowd of 7, 075 and the locals in attendance were treated to three Manitoba natives—UND’s Brendan O’Donnell, Stephane Pattyn, and Taylor Dickin—participating in the game and, fittingly, all four goals were scored by Canadians. Carter Rowney (Alberta) scored twice and Mark MacMillan (British Columbia) tallied once for North Dakota while Quebec’s Julien Cayer scored Clarkson’s lone goal.

53 COMMENTS

  1. Zucker isn’t DU’s captain.  He was the US U-20’s captain.  Drew Shore/Dustin Jackson are DU’s co-captains, and John Lee wears an A.  

    • I wasn’t going to go after the ‘lazy’ journalism comment, but now there’s support for the argument.  Your entire argument was a diatribe on Zucker’s captaincy, which he doesn’t even possess.  Pretty lazy not to look up the team’s roster to confirm who the captains are before launching into that diatribe.  Secondly, when you corrected your article, you use the identical argument, replacing ‘captain’ with a grammatical wreck of “when your one of your leaders”.  

      No disrespect to UAH, but DU’s talent on the ice Friday night was enough to win.  Their focus was not good enough.  UAH took advantage, to their credit.  There’s no amount of Zucker shaking a pom-pom from the press box that would have changed that.  They won’t point at this one game if they miss the tournament (playoffs?); they will have a bevy of work to evaluate and be somewhat disappointed with.  It simply hasn’t been a good year so far, and singling out Zucker for this is more than a little preposterous.

  2. You couldn’t be bothered to break down UAH vs. Denver even though UAH beat UNO before Xmas. Now you say that maybe UAH might match up in goaltending. That’s not what you said in your lame “breakdown”. It was indeed stupid and lazy journalism and you look even worse trying to defend it.

    • What exactly did you want them to breakdown? UAH had lost every game since UNO with a combined score of something like 36-9. While some of their journalism may be lazy the fact is there wasn’t anything to break down. Denver should have swept the series.

      • You’re right – UAH’s four wins over WCHA teams during the last year or so shouldn’t count. Because they are big underdogs there is absolutely no way they can win and there is no sense in even considering the possibilities.

        • Yes. They have won 6 times in the last season and a half. They have proven that they can win games… they just usually don’t. If I were a coach I certainly wouldn’t take them for granted but do you really expect anyone to pick them to win?  I will ask again… what exactly did you want Tyler and Brian to break down about that series?

          • You still haven’t told me what they should have said. You don’t like what they have to say. Do you have a better idea or do you just like to complain. I don’t know much about UAH… seems they don’t get much coverage from any conferency reporters. Do you have any ideas for them??? Seeing as how there are upcoming UAH vs WCHA games maybe you can help them research a little.
            With that said… thanks for finally giving the Dogs a little respect Tyler and Brian. But honestly… what do they have to do for you to write a real story on them not just talk about how they are exceeding your expectations?

      • What the reporters say after the series:”Going into the series, the tale of the tape spelled two Pioneers victories with all advantages going Denver’s way, with the possible exception of goaltending”What the reporters said before the series:”The Pioneers have every advantage in this series from up front to the defense to the goaltending”.

        The reporters also mentioned Zucker’s absence before the series started and made no mention of it as being an issue. Had Denver won both games, it never would have been written about..

    • it wasn’t the journalism that was lazy.  If you were in their shoes you would have picked UAH??????  If say you would have your lying to yourself and the rest of us.  The only thing that was lazy was Denver’s play on Friday night!

      • Of course nobody would have picked UAH. That does not change the fact that the writers were too lazy to offer a decent preview of the series. Just because teams are huge underdogs doesn’t mean that reporters can’t offer a sentence or two.

  3. Tyler and Brian – Have you even seen Duluth play since the Gophers series?  Every week it seems like you try to justify why they shouldn’t be as good as they are.  The “question marks” you continually mention have clearly been answered.  Yes they lost a lot of talented individuals from last year, but it takes a team to win.  The entire team clearly understands and believes in their system, and it shows on the ice.  It would be really nice if you tuned into see the defending national champions play once in a while, especially since you are supposed to be the WCHA experts.  Relying on box scores and pre-season predictions is not cutting it.

    • I know that I’m biased being a die-hard Western Michigan fan, but I believe that they are legitimate top-10 team at this point.  They been able to skate with every opponent so far this season (and they have played some very good teams), but UMD proved to be a different animal.  I thought that WMU actually played extremely well this weekend, and even outplayed the Bulldogs during stretches of each game, but in the end they just simply couldn’t hang with them for a full 60 minutes. If my beloved Broncos are in the NCAA field again, and I think they will be, I just hope we find ourselves in a different bracket than Duluth.  

  4. You have to come down to reality a bit with UMD!  Granted they have had a
    nice run but look at the opponents played in this streak!  

    This last weekend was
    the first real challenge in my opinion since the Gophers!  They tied with Wisconsin (who is have a
    terrible season), Tied Denver who just lost to Alabama-Huntsville because of
    goaltending issues, Tied Providence, (need I say More), let us not forget
    stealing one at home away from Bemidji State on a Saturday night only because
    UMD was on the power play for almost half of the third period!

    I would think the jury is still out on this team!  Let’s see how they do against UNO and Alabama-Huntsville!  You never now!  I mean look at Bowling Green!

    • The jury isn’t out on UMD.  If it were you would have to say the jury is out on every team which it is to some degree because the season is on over.  No team is ever going to be unblemished in a season and the fact is that all other teams have more blemishes than UMD.  If you’ve watched UMD you would know this team is the real deal.  Althougth they had more individual talent last year, they are a better team this year.  Any win in the WCHA is a good win and especially those on the road.  Even in their 3 losses (Dame and UMn) they outplayed those teams over the full 60 minutes but you are never going to win all games in hockey.  They’ve been on the road since November 19th and don’t return to Duluth until January 20th.  They were off for 26 days before playing Western Michigan and had to play them on the road after WM had a tune up the week before.  They answered the bell extremely well this year. This team has faced adversity and deserves all the credit it gets.

    • KRACH puts their SOS at 12th. Not incredibly hard, I’ll admit but not terrible either. The Gophers lost to that same Wisconsin team. Denver is still a ranked team despite losing to UAH in a game they should have won. And they shutout Bemidji in that games you said they “stole”. Last time I checked you can’t win games without scoring any goals. With that said… it seems to me the writers agree with you… the rest of UMD’s schedule is relatively easy… but you never know what can happen. 

    • They were on the power play because BSU couldn’t keep up with UMD’s speed and had to take penalties to keep up.  When they beat BSU 1-0 they didn’t play their best game and still won.  That’s what elite teams are able to do. 

  5. Everyone north of Hinckley knew UMD was for real many weeks ago. Even those in the Cities are coming on board.  Glad you have caught up. 

    Regarding SOS, the last place team in the WCHA almost always has the toughest schedule in college hockey (Tech fan here).  Likewise, the top teams all look like they are playing easier schedules. They are playing a full WCHA schedule, so it all evens out in the end.  You need to look harder at how the WCHA is doing as a whole, to really provide thoughtful analysis. 

  6. How is there not a word on the CC-CU series here in this column beyond Jaden Schwartz not playing Friday. Two top 15 teams play and theres not a word to be said… huh… Also congrats to UAH

  7. Maine sweeps BC and still can’t get any respect, but BU sweeps a weak team like Providence and they are the best team in the world. What a biased hack article. BC’s s goaltending gives up 6 goals (4 unanswered) on Saturday and all you write about is how unimpressed you are with Maine’s goaltending, while readily admitting that you haven’t watched many of the games, so your comment loses all credibility. Then you essentially blame the official for BC losing the game which is pretty weak. Take your BU/BC blinders off and you may see that there are some other good teams in that conference besides your favorites.

      • Read carefully Joseph, I never said Maine was an elite team. I’m not naive enough to think that. Not at this point anyway. They are still 4th in what my opinion is a weak Hockey East this season and still wouldn’t be eligible for the NCAA’s according to the newly released Pairwise.

        My point was that I think they deserve more recognition than they got for sweeping a supposed national power in BC. But the author instead wanted to make excuses for BC (the refs fault) and then discredits Maine’s goaltending even though he admits he never watches any of their games. This article reaks of homerism.  

        Regardless, Maine is on a role right now. and if they make a statement this weekend against BU, they may finally get some attention from people, this “journalist” notwithstanding

    • No need to lump BU and BC into the same bucket of getting too much/biased coverage. BC does deserve a lot less coverage/excuses based on its play against Merrimack, BU and UMaine. But, since BC was the preseason favorite, it is hard to stop talking about them, as much I would like to

      Maine getting four points against BC is enough credit. Providence is going the wrong way after a nice start to its season, but there is no way BU fans like me take too much stock in being #2 in the Polls or putting up a snowman against a struggling team.

      Having watched the BU/Maine game that was nationally covered on CBSSports, it sure looked like Maine has a goaltending issue. To date, in Hockey East play this year, BU deserves to get coverage, as they have the most points, they have played a lot of the top contenders in Hockey East and just had an offensively explosive weekend. This came after their season was written off by many writers (and fans) when the two biggest players to leave Hockey East during this season bolted from BU.

  8. Maine has just 2 quality wins this year – over BC.  The others are against teams deep in the pairwise, generally 30th or worst.  Not sure how you can say wins are wins when bad wins don’t get you into the NCAAs, which has to be this program’s goal every year.  Not gonna happen again this year, unless they win the HEA tournament.  Seems unlikely…

  9. Wow…so much negativity from the Maine ‘faithful’. What ever happened to supporting your team, as opposed to tearing them down on the Internet just because you can without showing your face.

    I agree that Maine is not yet an elite team and there is always room for improvement. But a 9-2-1 record in the last 12 games IS impressive. Maine is actually back in contention after being dead in the water at the half-way point of the season. Imagine that. The power play is clicking, the overall offense has picked up, Sullivan (Maine’s goalie) looked pretty sharp this weekend, and the defense is playing better (not great, but much better than before the winning streak began). I actually think that the article is pretty accurate. Both of the Maine-BC games could have gone either way, with Maine doing just enough to win each night. That is what good teams do, they find a way to win the close games.

    Lastly, all of this is a moot point if they don’t continue to play to their potential. Thankfully, there are enough games left in the season to sort out the HEast haves from the have nots, so why don’t we stop complaining and start supporting the Black Bears? Or maybe you’d just rather sit in front of your computers and pretend that you know how to coach this team better than the current coaching staff?

    Random thought…a split with BU this coming weekend would be nice.

    BBear94, you are up.

    • 18secondstosunrise…being in Afghanistan its difficult to follow the Black Bears or college hockey for that matter….it seems the Division 1 level has a nice parity to it…which makes for close and exciting games……….also following on the ineterner like we must here in Kandahar lets us for a short time not focus on the daily helo  medivac flights we handle…Yuri in Kandahar   

      • Yuri,

        First and foremost, be well and stay safe. My reading about your current situation/location certainly puts college hockey into perspective (i.e., it’s really just a game). I’m glad that it can be a healthy distraction for you.

        Yes, there is a great deal of parity this year in D1 hockey. For example (here are some mindless stats), out of the 24 games played on Friday night, 6 went into overtime, another 6 were 1-goal games, another 7 were 2-goal games. On Saturday, of the 26 games played, 8 went into overtime, another 10 were 1-goal games, another 2 were 2-goal games. I’m not even looking at the games that were very close until the final minutes, only to have a team score a couple of late goals (i.e., the Saturday night Maine-BC game was tied at 4-4 until the 2:59, and then Maine added 2 empty netters. Lastly, there were only 10 sweeps out of the 20 two-game series (not including the ECAC where teams rarely play the same team on back to back nights; only Rensselaer won both of their games this weekend). The ECAC always seems to have great parity…

        Peace.

    • Perhaps the average Maine fan is sophisticated enough to understand what they’re watching on the ice and how that translates into their team’s chances in any given year.  The, um, “authors” on this website have no such sophistication because they rarely see Maine play unless they travel to Orono, and as many posters here have pointed out quite correctly they do favor BC BU and to some extent, UNH.  No mention of Lowell – currently # 3 in the PWR – after winning just FIVE games all of last year.  I have seen Lowell many times this year, as I live nearby, and I think they are for real.

      Anyways, back to Maine.  This team has some serious deficiencies, goaltending being most obvious but D is poor, outside of top line not much scoring, and questionable ability of their coaching staff is probably what underlies all these issues.

      12 wins is nice.  Believe me I was thrilled with this weekend.  In fact, I am watching the tv replay right now.  However, as I pointed out early, only two quality wins, quality meaning teams in the top three in any given conference or top 16 in the PWR.  Unfortunately, beating UMass, Clarkson, Vermont and the like leaves a false impression that the team is progressing, yet they continue to give up soft goals, D cannot pass/carry the puck out of their own zone, giving up SHG, taking too many penalties, well I could go on, but the point being it is really these fundamental issues that keep occuring that are going to sink this team.

      Fact is you have to beat the team ahead of you in the PWR and with Maine’s remaining schedule that is going to be difficult to do even should they sweep BU this weekend. 

      • What BBear94, and the rest of Tim Whitehead’s “Internet Crazies” are saying is that we support this team 110%.  We are probably more excited than the average fan for wins, and more disappointed for losses.  I am absolutely ecstatic about sweeping BC at home, something that hasn’t happened in six years.  However, we will not strap on the rose colored glasses after two wins. 

        And 18secondstosunrise, we WERE an ELITE team under Shawn Walsh.  That is the bar that was set for this program.  That is our standard for excellence.  Saying we are not “yet” an elite team, hits the nail right on the head.  We never should have been out of that category.  Mr. Whiteheads record, look it up, is all the reason one needs to send him packing.

  10. Northeastern has a coaching probem. Anyone who belives his power play is fine when it is 56th out of 58th is not right. In addition he continues to reward inconsistant effort and does not  hold his players accountable for their effort. He is good PR but has lost the locker room.

  11. Solid weekend for the black bears as they beat up on my Eagles!  Orono is always a tough place to play for any HE team.  Glad that NESN picked up the game in HD Saturday but some of those ladies from Maine need grooming

  12. First off, the Monday morning blog shouldn’t be the measure of how much attention ANY team is getting. The format is “three things I learned” and it’s typically around 500 words so it’s a quick but limited look at the weekend. MOST of the teams are going to get ignored. I had to bend that “three things” theme to get five teams mentioned. The mid-week column is where there’s room for more in-depth discussion.

    Second, the idea that I never write favorably about Maine is absurd.  I was born in Augusta, lived in Sanford until I was 12, and spent some of my favorite teenage summer moments on Long Lake. I didn’t need to move to the gritty streets of Lynn, Mass, to love the state of Maine.

    As for the writing, check out my last column. Or go back a few years to when I’d write three or four features per issue for the Friends of Maine Hockey Newsletter. (I was paid, but I loved writing those features.  They were some of my all-time favorites.) Black Bear fans sure thought I was writing nice things about their team then.

    (Bad Dave is telling me to ask why my critics don’t know about my writing for the newsletter. Were all of them too young back then? Or is it perhaps because they’re too cheap to support their team? Fortunately, Good Dave is convincing Bad Dave to shut up.)     :)

    Finally, there’s good reason for me to be skeptical about Maine’s goaltending. Dan Sullivan’s save percentage is .896. Can anyone call that elite?  Is there anyone who thinks that’s going to get it done for the Black Bears? How many championship teams have sub-.900 goaltending?

    I watched Sullivan give up five goals and get yanked against Merrimack a couple weeks ago.  I saw him give up four goals on 12 shots and get yanked against BC earlier this year. I saw him give up five goals and get yanked in the game that ended Maine’s season last year. It seems like every game I see him in person, he gets yanked!  Sorry if I’m not impressed, limited sample size or not.

    Hey, I love all the passion that fans bring to USCHO in general and this blog in particular.  I hope you all maintain that passion. But to contend that I’m anti-Maine or anti- any team is just dead wrong.

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