Defending Eichel, Seney, and Notre Dame

These are the three things I think I learned this week.

1. I wonder if some defensemen give too much space to Jack Eichel.

Not always. Not even most of the time. But too often.

Eichel seems to be a player that you have to play a “tight gap” defense against. You have to stay in his face and give him no space with which to wheel and deal.

The instinct to back off a fast, supremely skilled forward is understandable, especially considering how effortlessly Eichel can accelerate. Blink and he’s at full speed.

But opposing defensemen are going to have to fight that back-off instinct and consistently stay in his face or risk winding up on the wrong end of highlight reels.

Yes, I know. Easier said than done.

2. There’s another terrific rookie in the league and his name is Brett Seney.

Not, he’s not Eichel. No one is.

But Merrimack’s Brett Seney is a terrific freshman, second only to the BU phenom in overall Hockey East points and goals by freshmen.

He’s scored six goals and totaled 15 points.  He’s quick and possesses a deadly wrist shot.

His sixth goal of the season, ripped top shelf after flying up his off wing, staked Merrimack to a 1-0 lead against BU on Friday night. Although the Warriors had to settle for a tie, it amounted to an important point since BU took the home half of the weekend series.

3. Despite the shutout on Saturday, I’m concerned about Notre Dame’s defense.

When you think of Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson, you think of suffocating team defense. His Lake Superior State teams won national championships using that blueprint. Last year, the Irish finished second in team defense in their inaugural Hockey East season. (Massachusetts-Lowell was first.)

Prior to Saturday’s shutout of Massachusetts, however, the Irish had allowed five goals in each of the last two games and at least two goals over their last 11. Two goals isn’t bad, of course, but when that’s the best result during a reasonably long stretch and you allow five goals three times and four goals twice, you’ve got defensive problems.

Even including the shutout, the Irish rank ninth in team defense. Perhaps Saturday’s shutout is a sign of better things to come. It had better if the Irish are going to have a successful season.


    • I think the attendance would be better having a match-up like that. Moving Notre Dame east is a good fit, considering they wanted to be in Hockey East and play basketball out there too. Having either program with Ferris in Cincy is a good proximity for fans to travel to from Indiana or Michigan.

  1. as of now, yes. in the future maybe not so. It will largely depend on how the last few weeks of the season goes, especially in regards to this weekends series between SCSU and UND. A sweep either way (not picking this to happen but it could) will really shift the seeding around with respect to UND. Getting swept puts them back in borderline 4th seeds realm where a sweep puts them in for a 2 seed. Couple that with a juicy matchup with WMU at home to end the season and UND could get up into the 1 seed realm. Still a lot of hockey left to say they both WILL be in the same regional, although I do agree it is likely considering MN is the auto host there and UND being relatively unlikely to end up in the 4 seed territory (although conference tourney spoilers could really impact this esp in the B10 and NCHC)

    • Even if UND moved up to the 1-seed, MN has dibs on the West regional b/c they’re hosting it, MN isn’t going to slide to a 2-seed unless they completely tank down the stretch, so UND moving up to a 1-seed pretty much guarantees them playing in Cincy. Staying a 2-seed would be better for fanbases (much the same scenario can be said for SCSU/WI).

  2. If North Dakota were to meet Minnesota in St. Paul @ the West Regional they will sell more seats than final game at the Frozen Four.

      • In St. Paul, there would be more fans for UND vs. UM than UW vs. UM simply because that is UNDs backyard. Did you ever see a WCHA Final Five? It’s nearly all Sioux and Gophs fans. It’s not a Wisconsin slight, it’s just a nod to UND fans.

        • Scott, I think another thing to consider in terms of Wisconsin fans attendance is that the Final Five occurs the same weekend as the opening weekend of the men’s b-ball tournament. I would have to believe that a good number of fans choose to follow the b-ball team for a weekend rather than come to St. Paul. Could explain some of it, but I definitely agree that Gopher and UND fans comprised around 80% of fans at the Final Five each year.

          • Is it really going to be anything other than MN or Wisco fans at the X for the big10 tourney? I dont see any of the Mich school or Ohio traveling all the way to St. Paul.

          • I’m wondering the same thing. Attendance is probably going to be an issue because the conference schools are much more spread out. The only saving grace may be that all six schools know that they will be playing in St. Paul, so fans wanting to travel wouldn’t have to worry about not getting to see their team play at least once.

          • True, there is that. And I guess the same can be said for next year when it is in Detroit……although I dont know anyone in their right mind that would actually want to go to Detroit……

          • Frankly, the fans who choose to watch the first round of the Big 10 bball tourney are probably not the ones that are coming to the WCHA Final Five. Hockey has pretty distinct fan bases.

        • I’ve been to the WCHA Final Five enough times, and saw plenty of Badger fans. Yes, Sconnie also has a basketball team so that draws people away. FWIW: I always cheered for UND against any Minnesota team they played. How about you?

      • That’s not the point, though. NoDak & MN at the St. Paul regional sells it out, so why waste sending UW & their 3-5K fans there? Doesn’t make fiscal sense.

    • I wouldn’t be so sure about that, Mamba. I was at the regional in 2012 and there were plenty of open seats outside of the lower bowl. I was actually a bit disappointed in how many open seats there were. As Scott mentioned, Final Fives at Xcel were predominently Gopher and UND fans, but with having the regionals the next weekend, it can get pretty expensive. Plus, for UND fans, I would guess that less are able or willing to travel both weekends due to work, finances, etc. Attendance would still be very good without a doubt, but not as packed as people think, at least in my opinion.

      • I think the ND fans would pack it when they were playing. Not many need to travel. There are plenty of alumni and fans that live in the Twin Cities. But then again, who knows. Regionals in MN always cost way more than the others.

        • That’s the thing though. In 2012, UND and Minnesota were playing in the regional final and the attendance was well below what most would have expected. Who knows what the reason was. I am sure there will be plenty of UND fans in Minneapolis for the NCHC tourney this year, so the same back-to-back weekends issue could come up, if that’s a factor. Just have to wait to see how everything shakes out this year I guess.

          • Maybe there needs to be a weekend off between the conference tourneys and regionals. MIght help with some attendance issues. Having only about 4 days to get travel plans in place is quite tough.

  3. Your “Attendance Moves” are not based on any factual data, just hunches. Who are the fans that attend the NCAA tournaments? Are these fans more willing to travel than regular season fans? How sensitive are they to distance? Does the NCAA have any data? The reason I bring this up is that the more you make moves, supposedly to improve attendance, the more you end up with a schedule that looks like a conference tournament and who wants to see team A play team B for the 16th time. Some of these schools, like some of the IVY and Notre Dame have a huge fan bases all over the country. Moreover your diehard fans are not going to care if they have to travel 200 miles or 2000 miles. How many are there and which schools have them? I would love to see some research that shows some understanding of schools fan bases and their sensitivity to distance. Without that data attendance moves could actually end up hurting rather than helping regional site turnout. Time for a Gallup poll.

          • Think who’s invincible? It’s a tough bracket. I could actually care less about U of M, I’m a UML fan, but nice assumption just the same.

          • For how well Colgate is playing, anyone could win the west regional. Your original comment made it sound like Colgate would get smoked in game 1

          • Funny that you think that that couldn’t happen. My original point is that it looks like the toughest bracket. Something you and your Gopher hate totally missed.

          • Think what couldn’t happen? Yeah it would be a tough bracket, but saying sucks to be Colgate would imply that they would get worked in that regional.

          • OK, so, saying that they did get past MN, they then get a date with either NoDak or a very hot Wisconsin team. In my book, that seeding sucks. Go look up ‘obtuse’ in the dictionary while you’re at it…

          • What world do you live in that going 5-1 in your last 6 and sweeping the then #1 team in the country isn’t hot?

          • The Goofer sweep was nice, watched both games. My point was Wis road record is lackluster, and O St. n Mich St. aren’t top 20 teams. They (Wis) should be winning those games. Kohl is a tough barn to play in, but the remaining games are on the road. 9-1 to finish out the reg season is hot. Not quite there yet.

          • They just swept Mich St. last weekend. Zengerle n Kerdiles are a nice one-two, but come post-season I think you’ll see that good ol fashion Badger D. Old school hockey.

          • Old school hockey??? You mean the clutch and grab, and hooking and whacking interference they get away with when playing at home?
            That’s all Wisconsin can do, they can’t skate with the better teams in college hockey.
            It’s the same old Mike Evaes coached Wisconsin hockey team…… Obstruct, grab, clutch, slash….. BORING HOCKEY!!!

          • We get it. You comment on every story about your hate for MN. Is that all you have to do all day? I’ve seen you comment about the Gophers in stories that don’t even include the “Sue” or “Rodents”. Get some new material

          • What ever you say. I was just pointing out that it sounded like he said Colgate would get smoked. Please remind me where I mentioned that MN sucked and would lose? or where I said any sort of prediction for that matter. and “Sue” original, get some new material………..

          • The reason Sue and Rodents are in quotation marks is because it’s ridiculous how the two fan bases continue to think those monikers are creative. BTW; I’m a 2000 UND grad, how about you? Did you even go to school there?

  4. You know no matter what happens, the NC$$ will make sure to place North Dakota and MN in the same regional. Never fails…..

    • I thought this was an interesting enough claim to check it out.

      UND regional assignments since 1994

      (2 regionals, E/W)
      1994: out
      1995: out
      1996: out
      1997: UND west, UMN, west – did not play
      1998: UND west, UMN out
      1999: UND west, UMN out
      2000: UND west, UMN out
      2001: UND east, UMN east – did not play
      2002: out

      (4 regionals)
      2003: UND west, UMN west – did not play
      2004: UND west, UMN midwest – did not play
      2005: UND east, UMN west – played in national semifinal
      2006: UND west, UMN west – did not play
      2007: UND west, UMN west – played in regional final
      2008: UND midwest, UMN northeast – did not play
      2009: UND northeast, UMN out
      2010: UND northeast, UMN out
      2011: UND midwest, UMN out
      2012: UND west, UMN west – played in regional final
      2013: UND west, UMN west – did not play

      In the last 20 years, UND and UMN have both gotten to the national tournament in the same year ten times, and played each other three times. Of those ten times, they have been in the same regional seven times. In those seven regionals, they have played each other twice.

      • Seemed like a lot more. I know they haven’t obviously played each other every time they have been in the same regional, but it just seems like they had been in the same regional a lot.

        • Well, seven out of ten is quite a few, more than I expected to find, frankly. Perhaps more surprising is that they played each other only twice in those seven trips; although I don’t think many people expected Yale to advance in that regional last year, since Yale was not generating the offense it was a couple years earlier.

          Another thing that is interesting is the number of times in the same period that UND and BC have been in the same regional—five by my count, although I could be off—and the number of times they have played each other (seven) compared to UND vs. UMN (three).

        • I’d say that being in the same regional 70% of the time when both teams made it is abnormally high. Can’t control what happens when the games are actually played, but there certainly seems to be some backing for the notion that UND and Minnesota play in the same regional more often than would be expected…

          • To me, this speaks to a larger issue, one that is complicated (compromised?) by attendance considerations. My personal preference is to see teams play opponents in the tournament they have not seen earlier in the season, to the extent it is possible.

            Until this season’s HE expansion, it was entirely possible that if BC played BU in the tournament, it was the sixth (or even eighth) game of the season between the two (three league games, the Beanpot, the HE tournament, and the national tournament). Rather than a sixth game against BU (not this year, of course), I’d rather see BC play teams it hasn’t seen, such as UND, SCU, or Colgate.

            Regarding UND-UMN though, with realignment taking away their regular league games, I would think the fans of both teams would welcome a meeting in the tournament. No?

      • I don’t know if it is MN being inconsistent or the fact that Colgate is playing really well right now. I’m honestly not sure but didn’t MN lose to a 16th seed in the first round of the NCAA tourney a few years ago?

          • Get your panties out of a bundle. Was answering the above question. Still stings ya? Lighten up nancy……

          • So sad, all you got is something from the last decade and then when someone calls you on it you resort to personal attacks. Typical.

          • Sure, The Gophers lost to Yale in OT. They played a poor game and were lazy for the most part but managed to battle back from a 2-0 deficit to take the game to OT. Unlike your team that carried a lead into the 3 period of your game against Yale and gave up 4 goals in the last 8 minutes. That seems a bit more of a choke to me. But maybe stick to this year, because frankly it is all that matter now anyway.

          • Of which one was an empty net. But hey, at least we won a game in any tournament last year……..and no where did I say they suck this year. But since they are the hated enemy, have to give em as much crap as possible.

      • Sure Minnesota can show times of inconsistency, it is somewhat to be expected with a team that is second youngest in the nation and sports the second largest number of freshmen in their lineup in the nation. I also think that expectations are a bit high for the Gophers on the offensive side. They lost over 50% of their scoring the previous year and then had their incoming freshmen come out all on fire to start the season. Not really sustainable, but they had their mid-season slump where they were playing poorly and frankly won some games they shouldn’t have. In many respects I like this team more than the high talent team of last year, much more balanced.

    • Colgate very well could beat the Gophers if these were the matchups, especially given some of our recent history as a number 1 regional seed and Colgate’s play in the 2nd half. However, there would be no way that Minnesota would look past Colgate given that the two teams played earlier this year and Colgate got a SO win. Gophers were without Skjei and Fasching for that game though too. There’d be enough motivation so that if Colgate won, it shouldn’t be due to a lack of focus or effort on Minnesota’s part.

  5. Can someone answer me how does moving Notre Dame to the East region help attendance? I do understand they play in HE, but the Midwest region seems like a better fit! What do you all think?

    • The Notre Dame move isn’t meant to boost attendance in the East Regional, it’s what has to be done to boost attendance in the Midwest Regional (bringing in Michigan) You can’t place the more logical choice (Colgate) in the East because it would create a first round intraconference matchup. The calculation Jason makes is that Michigan will fill more seats in Cincinnati than Notre Dame, although you could swap the two.

  6. Well, those D-men defending Eichel don’t gap up because they don’t want to look stupid as he blows by them. I don’t blame them, either. Tough to defend that guy one on one.

    Also, and not really in the same skill set as Eichel (I mean, who is?), UML’s C.J. Smith is another freshman to watch. On a team where 20 guys have scored goals, he leads the team in scoring with 14 pts (5-9-14).

    • That’s kind of my point re the fear of a quick forward blowing past a defenseman. That’s the instinct. But if you’re able to play a tight gap and take away his space to maneuver, you’ve actually got a better chance of stopping him even though it feels more scary.

      • Problem is, you gotta have the foot speed to be able to pivot and go stick on stick, or muscle him off the puck as he tries to go around you. I’m guessing fully half the defensemen he’s played against this year don’t and can’t, respectively and therein lies the problem. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

  7. We saw the same thing with Gaudreau last year, no one wanted to lay a body on him coming through the neutral zone, so he’d just dangle and make a move. From what I’ve seen from Eichel, it apears to be the same. Although I blame the forwards a bit more than just D not stepping up to take the body.

    For a team with 14 Freshman, it’s kind of hard to overlook what’s going on up in Lowell. Hard to put Smith not in the conversation. And if your worried about Notre Dame’s D, I’d be interested to hear you’re thoughts on how Lowell goes from the best defensive team in the country, to mediocre at best (horrible penalty kill, where they thrived in past years). And in the meantime becomes one of the most potent offenses.

    • I agree about how impressive Lowell has been and also about how I could mention rookies like C.J. Smith. But I chose to keep my comments focused this Monday rather than spread them across more teams.


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