Commentary: Thoughts on Minnesota’s potential, national goaltending and rivalries

We’ll keep the vibe … random thoughts on college hockey.

Correcting myself

Last week I floated an idea that video should be allowed to be used to determine if an official got the right guy on a major penalty. I read the rule book prior to that writing and I thought that the only way an official could go to video review on a major penalty was in NCAA championship competition, meaning the NCAA tournament.

Page HR-92, under Video Review, Section 60, letter A provides for video review criteria under a heading called NCAA Championship Procedures. Letter G in that section states that video is allowed “To correctly identify individuals who participated in a fight or committed an infraction.”

I thought NCAA championship procedures meant only the NCAA tourney but I was incorrect. My apologies and thanks to those in high places for correcting my interpretation.


I’d love to buy into Minnesota and say that this is the year it makes a long run into the national tourney, but once bitten twice shy. Over the past eight years Minnesota has put out a goalie that seemed to have the goods to get it done. I wasn’t a huge fan of Kellen Briggs but I did buy into Jeff Frazee and Alex Kangas and look where that got us.

I’m buying into Kent Patterson, even though in the two games I saw him he was pretty average. He has played 99.3 percent of the minutes this season, is 17-9-1, has six shutouts and has played with a lead or been in a tie game for 80 percent of the minutes he has played. That is pretty dominant.

Speaking of Minnesota, Mark Bahr did a great job as the video coach for Team USA at the World Junior Championship. Bahr serves in that capacity for the Gophers.


Earlier this season a list of the top 10 goalies in college hockey was compiled and debated.

My feeling (as well as some of the ex-goalies in the NHL scouting community) this season is that there might not be 10 elite goalies at the NCAA level. You have a lot of B’s and C’s but not a ton of A’s.

If you see enough teams you notice that parity exists in college hockey because teams are not getting Grade A goaltending on a consistent basis. Notre Dame has two good ones who have made the Irish a formidable team but neither has taken over yet with a dominant run. As a tandem they are solid.

That is not to say every team is having goaltending issues, but a lot are. Right now, leaving stats out of this, my top three are Kenny Reiter at Minnesota-Duluth, Kieran Millan at Boston University and Shawn Hunwick at Michigan.

After that, and in no order, I like Andy Iles at Cornell and Patterson at Minnesota. Joe Cannata at Merrimack and Doug Carr at Massachusetts-Lowell have been solid all season in an offensive-minded conference. Taylor Nelson at Ferris State and Cal Heeter at Ohio State would round out my list of guys to whom I’d entrust a big game. Your unbiased thoughts?

Wolverines alum report

Speaking of goalies, former Michigan netminder Bryan Hogan posted his first shutout as a pro for the Dayton Gems in a Central Hockey League game against Rapid City. After a weekend set of games and a 24-hour bus ride home, Hogan was rewarded for his efforts with a trade from the struggling Gems to the first-place Wichita Thunder.

The Thunder are an original CHL franchise in the new version of the league. I’m a proud CHL alum, having been the associate head coach of the Macon Whoopee and interim head coach of the Memphis RiverKings.


While not what it once was, the Maine-BU rivalry seems to bring out the best in the teams. Back before BU and Boston College exploded into what it is today, BU-Maine was the all the rage in the 1980s and ’90s.

If you wanted to play in the big city, you went to BU. If you wanted to play out in the country, you went to Maine. Their rivalry was as much cultural as it was hockey. In the last few years each has been able to win big games against each other. In the 1992-93 season when Maine had a team that lost only one game — to Boston University at home, in overtime.

That intensity still resonates today when these two get together and they see each other for a weekend set at Agganis Arena, with Saturday’s game on CBS Sports Network. Both teams are on fire right now and if Maine keeps this up, it will be back in the NCAA tourney where it belongs.

Have some great memories of this rivalry? Tweet them to me at @DaveStarmanCBS.

Speaking of great rivalries and great games, CBS Sports Network has Colgate at Cornell Friday night from what I consider among the top five hockey atmospheres in NCAA hockey, Lynah Rink at Cornell.

St. Cloud-Minnesota and Wisconsin at North Dakota round out some great weekend sets in college hockey.

On Anders Lee

Anders Lee’s football connections have been well chronicled. What is interesting is that NHL scouts who saw the Notre Dame forward play high school football in Minnesota told me last weekend that he was a Tim Tebow (athletically) style of QB. Lee was a running QB who could throw a bit but it was common to see him run 10-15 yards to the end zone carrying five or six defenders with him. He was never afraid to call his own number.

The concern with many NHL teams was whether he would be committed to football or hockey. One NHL exec even joked that when he got to Notre Dame as a freshman he was the best QB on campus.

Lee is a cross between a junkyard dog and a prototypical NHL power forward. He can play physical and snarly and also has tremendous skills and a touch of finesse near the net.

Split in South Bend

Good series at Notre Dame between ND and Michigan last weekend. A few things became either clearer or were confirmed in my mind out of it:

• Notre Dame can control the pace of a game with its forecheck and puck management. The Irish can be a disciplined team with and without the puck and they have much more of a pursuit mentality than in years past. They also can be a physically intimidating team when everyone in the lineup is on board with that plan.

• Hunwick is among the top three the goalies in the country as mentioned above. I’ve seen most if not all goalies this year in what is not a fantastic goaltending corps across the nation. My opinion, and it is just an opinion, is Hunwick is just better than everyone else out there.

Why? Hunwick plays big. He has that John Vanbiesbrouck quality in him to present a huge target and not use his hands to cover space. He challenges well, plays big, protects his crease, has great feet, controls rebounds and can get out of his net to move pucks to either side of the zone using either his forehand or backhand.

He is also smarter than most of the goalies I have watched this year. He knows how to look around a screen, can anticipate the options of the attacking team and plays a somewhat situational style. He uses his blocker well and catches the puck with consistency, something that seems to be a big problem with a lot of NCAA goalies. Hunwick makes saves as opposed to just blocking shots. He is almost a clone of former Michigan State goalie Jeff Lerg and might be a hair more athletic in the crease.

• Michigan is greater than the sum of its parts. With Jon Merrill back, Greg Pateryn can go back to being that rock-solid defenseman you don’t notice as opposed to playing in the spotlight as he did during Merrill’s absence. Their defense corps isn’t among the best they have had but it is a pretty dependable unit.

Up front, tell me who scares you as a game breaker. Tell me the line that as an opposing coach you look at on paper and say, “Wow, that is a scary line.” The answer on both fronts when looking at a line chart is no one outside of Merrill.

Then you watch them play and you realize that they can roll three good lines and have a fourth that can outwork you if you let them. The top line centered by David Wohlberg between Alex Guptill and Chris Brown has been responsible for about 75 percent of Michigan’s up-front scoring lately. The defense corps is solid with Pateryn, Lee Moffie, Merrill and Mac Bennett as the top four. Then you have goaltending behind you.

What separates Michigan from some of the up and comers that are having good runs this season is that Michigan knows how to win and it knows how to play in the bright lights. The Wolverines usually don’t beat themselves and they don’t panic. This is a group that lost a ton from a team that went to the Frozen Four, and most of the remaining players (and many of the ones who left) will openly admit they had no idea they’d get to St. Paul last year.

As usual, Michigan becomes a very interesting watch nationally. Barring a disaster, they’ll be a team not to take lightly come tourney time. They are not the best team in the NCAA but could play the best when the chips are down in March and April.