TMQ: Monday poll, Friendship Four, Army West Point

9 Jan 16:  The St. Cloud State University Huskies host the University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks in a NCHC matchup at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud, MN. (Jim Rosvold)
Omaha celebrates a goal last weekend as the Mavericks played to a split with St. Cloud State on the road (photo: Jim Rosvold).

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

Paula: Jimmy, looking at the results of the weekend, I think there were very few surprises and this week’s poll reflects that relative stability. It’s not surprising that Minnesota-Duluth retains the top spot and Denver is still No. 2 after those two teams split. Boston College drops a little after that close road loss to Notre Dame and Quinnipiac drops out of the top 10 after being swept in that home-and-home series with Princeton. Of course, this allows two teams that didn’t even play this weekend to edge up. Harvard’s new position at No. 4 reflects where it is in the PairWise, and Ohio State moved from No. 10 to No. 9 in the poll. Of course this happens all the time, teams moving up or down after not having played a given weekend. It just so happens that, this week, both the Crimson and the Buckeyes maybe moved closer to where they should be polling.

This past weekend of hockey was surprisingly predictable, especially in league play and especially among ranked teams. Not only did Duluth and Denver split, but so did Boston University and Vermont, St. Cloud and Omaha, Western Michigan and North Dakota.

In Atlantic Hockey, two upper-tier teams distanced themselves further from the teams beneath them as both Army and Air Force swept, and with a sweep of Bowling Green in two close games, Michigan Tech created some space between the top two WCHA teams and a very tight middle pack.

I think the only outcome that really surprised me this weekend was Quinnipiac’s two losses to Princeton. The Bobcats are now 1-4-1 in their last six, and their drop from No. 7 in the poll to No. 14 is probably a better reflection of those last six games than just these most recent two losses.

Jim: If there was a way to sum up last weekend when it came to the top 20, “splitsville” might be most appropriate. In fact, 10 of the 17 teams in the poll that were active split, which, as you mentioned, is why there was so little movement.

But Quinnipiac, the only top 20 team to lose twice, took one of the biggest falls we have seen this seasons. The recent play of the Bobcats is certainly concerning and I can’t help wonder if the travel to Northern Ireland for the Friendship Four had something to do with it. Last season, the four teams that traveled to Belfast had a difficult time upon return. Collectively a season ago, the four teams were 1-7-0 in the weekend following.

This season, it isn’t as dramatic. But looking at the two weekends since returning, Vermont (which didn’t play the first weekend back) is 1-1-0 and Massachusetts is 1-2-0 (the win came against Notre Dame, though). St. Lawrence at 2-1-0 isn’t showing much sign of wear. But then there’s Quinnipiac.

The Bobcats are 1-3-0 since returning from Belfast, that after the team scored just one goal in two games during the tournament. Offense has disappeared and Quinnipiac is averaging less than two goals a game since the Friendship Four began.

I had talked to Rand Pecknold before his team left and he said he “hesitated” when making the decision to head to Northern Ireland. That was more related to the fact that his club was giving up a home game against St. Lawrence, but now the twist that his team’s season has taken, I do wonder if there is some remorse about taking such a trip.

Paula: That is an interesting observation about the Friendship Four, Jim. An overseas trip during the season is probably a grueling thing, especially for college students who are also expected to keep up with their studies in addition to playing hockey. I am sure that no coach wants to deny his team that opportunity, though.

It’s sort of the opposite of what can happen with midseason tournaments, which can propel teams forward through the second half even if they don’t take the tournament title. A good performance at the holiday break can help a team maintain first-half momentum, or regain confidence, or find some chemistry.

As we close in on the end of the first half of the season, I’m looking both backward and forward. I’m surprised by some developments in the first half, and as someone who covers the Big Ten, I can’t help but be excited about the second half, as that’s when the majority of that conference’s league play takes place.

I’m really surprised by how down the WCHA seems to be this season. As I’ve said before, if I lived any closer to any of the league’s teams, that is a league I would love to cover, as it is comprised of member schools where hockey is a very prominent sport on every campus. I wonder, though, how much the restructuring of Division I four years ago has hurt the teams in that league. When a team like Ferris State was competing in a league that also housed Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Notre Dame, the Bulldogs benefited through exposure at the very least. It’s true of many teams in that league, and while the WCHA is interesting in and of itself, its first-half performance has me thinking back to realignment.

Then there are some delightful surprises, like Union senior forward Mike Vecchione. His 17 goals through 17 games has him two short of his career-best 19 goals he scored in 39 games in 2014-2015.

Jim: I guess there are two ways to look at the WCHA. Out of conference, the league’s performance borders on a dumpster fire. The .287 winning percentage for the league is the worst of the six conferences. But within the walls of the league, there are some good storylines that continue to develop. Bemidji State’s 13-1-2-2 mark inside the WCHA is excellent, and it’s certainly good to see Alabama-Huntsville turn from homeless a few years back to a top-five team in the WCHA at break.

If you’re looking for pleasant surprises, you can also find one in West Point where Army is sitting atop the Atlantic Hockey standings after a two-game sweep of Holy Cross. The wins might have been overshadowed on campus by the football team’s first win over Navy since 2001, but they are significant for an Army program that hasn’t finished above .500 in league play since capturing the AHC regular-season title in 2008.

We haven’t spent a ton of time discussing Atlantic Hockey teams in this space recently, so maybe this is a good time. Is Army one of the more pleasant surprises of the first half?

Paula: Without question, Army is one of the more pleasant surprises of the first half. Senior goaltender Parker Gahagen is one of those players whose career has always been consistently good enough but overshadowed by his team’s overall performance. He’s also shown significant improvement from season to season, and this year, his save percentage (.940) is second-best nationally and his goals-against average (1.69) is third.

In front of him, the Black Knights are an improved team. Last season, Army West Point averaged 2.32 goals per game (50th) compared to this year’s 2.75 (38th), a small push upward that sometimes means the difference between winning and losing one-goal games – except that’s not how the Black Knights win or lose this season. They score by committee, with 16 players recording at least one goal and no one with more than seven total. Their scoring defense (1.81) is second-best nationally, up from 16th last year. They don’t take a lot of penalties, but their PK is fourth nationally (90.1).

Whatever the Black Knights are doing, they’re finding ways to win games. Like you, Jim, I have a soft spot for both Army and Air Force, knowing that the current players will go on to active duty, but beyond that, the emergence of Army hockey is good for Atlantic Hockey. The more teams that becoming consistently competitive in that league the better, and a more competitive Atlantic Hockey is good for Division I hockey as a whole.

Still, we’re all riveted by the teams at the top of the proverbial heap, and that series between Minnesota-Duluth and Denver did not disappoint. Two games that were essentially one-goal games is exactly what you want to see from the top two teams in the country. It was the Bulldogs’ performance in their loss that likely influenced poll voters. In Denver’s 4-3 win, the Pioneers unloaded for three second-period goals, but Duluth scored the last goal in that period to make it 3-2 after two. Then the Bulldogs answered Denver’s fourth goal in the third period with a goal at 17:55 to draw within one again.

In Saturday’s game, it was Denver playing from behind the whole night and unable to capitalize on power-play chances. And it was a true 2-1 game until Duluth added the empty netter with a minute to go in regulation.

Not only was that exactly what you’d hope for in a match between the top two teams in the country, but it was what we are coming to expect from the NCHC.

Jim: I thought the Denver vs. Minnesota-Duluth series was very interesting. I was so very tempted to vote for Denver this week in the USCHO.com poll, because I really like how they played. But results are still results. In Friday’s loss, I thought Minnesota-Duluth showed the resiliency they have shown all season and came close to tying the game. In Saturday’s win, I actually thought Denver was the better team, but the Bulldogs took advantage of a “bad goal” by goaltending standards on the first goal and a broken stick that led to a 2-on-1 rush on the second goal.

But the more I thought about how to vote, the one thing that stands out if Minnesota-Duluth’s resilience. They fell behind but kept coming back on Friday, something they’ve done all season. And then they took advantage of mistakes and won a game thanks to great defense and goaltending on Saturday.

If we learned anything this weekend about the two teams, we learned this could be a great ride in the second half for the NCHC and its fans.

And seeing as this is our last column of TMQ before the holidays, might I take a chance to wish everyone a very happy holiday season. We’ll see you in the New Year!

Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down

Thumbs up to two coaches who hit significant milestones this weekend. We’ll start with Omaha head coach Dean Blais who reached the 400-win plateau on Friday night with a win at St. Cloud State. A night later, Robert Morris bench boss Derek Schooley earned his 200th win (and the 200th win for the program) when his team earned a 4-1 win on the road at Bentley. Two good guys hitting great milestones.

Thumbs down to breaks. We hate breaks. We really do. And though the holidays are coming, what we’ll miss most as we toast egg nog and warming bourbon drinks is college hockey. So our thumbs down is to the fact that we’ll be missing it for a number of days. Yes, there are games this weekend (and a heckuva home-and-home between No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth and No. 15 Bemidji State), but we will miss hockey for days after that. Thanks to all our readers and a happy holidays to all!

87 COMMENTS

  1. WCHA is better this season than last IMO. It is hurt by getting off to a slow start. Tech, Ferris, Bowling Green all took a long time to get things figured out. We know the bottom is weak, that is a given every year. Relying on just Minnesota State and Lake State in non-conference will result in poor results.

    That said, the league has a ton of non-conference games coming up. It can win 2/3rds (I believe that possible) of the following:

    MSU @ Princeton

    Tech in GLI

    Ferris against RMU, QU/BC

    Huntsville in the Mariucci Classic

    Lake St @ UNO

    Bemidji home and home with UMD

    Tech @ Notre Dame

    All of a sudden you’d see Bemidji and Tech in Top 16 with Minnesota State knocking on the doorstep. Lake State would probably be somewhere around 25 too depending on how it does against Omaha.

    • I don’t think there will be a top 16 team from the WCHA at the end of the season in the pairwise rankings. The only participant will be the conference tournament winner.

      • I totally agree, gimruis. Beating 2/3 of the above mentioned teams, other than WMU (#11) in GLI and UMD(#1), will do nothing for a rise in the PWR enough to qualify for the NCAA tourney. Beating QU (#18), BC (#13), or Notre Dame (#14) will have little impact on PWR. A loss to any of the rest mentioned will plummet these teams so low in PWR that they cannot possibly recover.

        • I think the goal is to get wins against the top teams in the league to yield some quality points. The computers would like a win by Bemidji in Houghton a lot more if Tech is 15 than it does now with Tech at 23.

          It would also serve to make teams like Penn State, Ohio State and BC who feasted on lighter nonconference schedules vulnerable. Take out OSU’s win against DU and what exactly do they have on the resume? Ferris leapfrogging the likes of Niagara or Canisius to further dilute SOS plus some conference losses and more than one team in top ten is very prone to sliding quickly. PSU and OSU play each other four times before the end of January. If one team takes 3 of 4, the other probably isn’t in top 16 anymore.

          • Totally agree. Same reasoning I stated for WCHA having a hard time goes double for B1G. The “best” two teams in B1G, according to record, have 27th and 34th SOS. Any loss to Michigan or Michigan State will drop them deep down in PWR.

          • Case in point this past weekend. The Gophers were #10 in the pairwise and they swept Sparty on the road. After the weekend, they only moved up one spot to #9.

      • That is very possible. I was pointing out that teams expected to be towards the top of the conference have figured things out compared to during October non-conference play. Tech being a prime example of that.

        If the 3 teams ranked from 18-25 in the PWR all play well next couple weeks it will help. Minn St already has a sweep of St Cloud St and a win over the Gophers.

        If Bemidji picks up a win over UMD, Tech wins GLI and gets a game in South Bend, and Lake St adds to a 3-1 non-con record on the road in Omaha…I think you will see bubble ECAC/NCHC schools get pushed down and WCHA schools get moved up.

        Having 0 quality wins is what hurts teams. Pop two teams to the 13-16 range and the conferences SOS will be helped immensely. All of a sudden BGSU and Ferris could get away from being associated with AH clubs like Niagara (of which they are assuredly better than.)

  2. WCHA is better this season than last IMO. It is hurt by getting off to a slow start. Tech, Ferris, Bowling Green all took a long time to get things figured out. We know the bottom is weak, that is a given every year. Relying on just Minnesota State and Lake State in non-conference will result in poor results.

    That said, the league has a ton of non-conference games coming up. It can win 2/3rds (I believe that possible) of the following:

    MSU @ Princeton

    Tech in GLI

    Ferris against RMU, QU/BC

    Huntsville in the Mariucci Classic

    Lake St @ UNO

    Bemidji home and home with UMD

    Tech @ Notre Dame

    All of a sudden you’d see Bemidji and Tech in Top 16 with Minnesota State knocking on the doorstep. Lake State would probably be somewhere around 25 too depending on how it does against Omaha.

    • I don’t think there will be a top 16 team from the WCHA at the end of the season in the pairwise rankings. The only participant will be the conference tournament winner.

      • I totally agree, gimruis. Beating 2/3 of the above mentioned teams, other than WMU (#11) in GLI and UMD(#1) , will do nothing for a rise in the PWR enough to qualify for the NCAA tourney. Beating QU (#18), BC (#13), or Notre Dame (#14) will have little impact on PWR. A loss to any of the rest mentioned will plummet these teams so low in PWR that they cannot possibly recover.

        • I think the goal is to get wins against the top teams in the league to yield some quality points. The computers would like a win by Bemidji in Houghton a lot more if Tech is 15 than it does now with Tech at 23.

          It would also serve to make teams like Penn State, Ohio State and BC who feasted on lighter nonconference schedules vulnerable. Take out OSU’s win against DU and what exactly do they have on the resume? Ferris leapfrogging the likes of Niagara or Canisius to further dilute SOS plus some conference losses and more than one team in top ten is very prone to sliding quickly. PSU and OSU play each other four times before the end of January. If one team takes 3 of 4, the other probably isn’t in top 16 anymore.

          • Totally agree. Same reasoning I stated for WCHA having a hard time goes double for B1G. The “best” two teams in B1G, according to record, have 27th and 34th SOS. Any loss to Michigan or Michigan State will drop them deep down in PWR.

          • Case in point this past weekend. The Gophers were #10 in the pairwise and they swept Sparty on the road. After the weekend, they only moved up one spot to #9.

      • That is very possible. I was pointing out that teams expected to be towards the top of the conference have figured things out compared to during October non-conference play. Tech being a prime example of that.

        If the 3 teams ranked from 18-25 in the PWR all play well next couple weeks it will help. Minn St already has a sweep of St Cloud St and a win over the Gophers.

        If Bemidji picks up a win over UMD, Tech wins GLI and gets a game in South Bend, and Lake St adds to a 3-1 non-con record on the road in Omaha…I think you will see bubble ECAC/NCHC schools get pushed down and WCHA schools get moved up.

        Having 0 quality wins is what hurts teams. Pop two teams to the 13-16 range and the conferences SOS will be helped immensely. All of a sudden BGSU and Ferris could get away from being associated with AH clubs like Niagara (of which they are assuredly better than.)

  3. WCHA is better this season than last IMO. It is hurt by getting off to a slow start. Tech, Ferris, Bowling Green all took a long time to get things figured out. We know the bottom is weak, that is a given every year. Relying on just Minnesota State and Lake State in non-conference will result in poor results.

    That said, the league has a ton of non-conference games coming up. It can win 2/3rds (I believe that possible) of the following:

    MSU @ Princeton

    Tech in GLI

    Ferris against RMU, QU/BC

    Huntsville in the Mariucci Classic

    Lake St @ UNO

    Bemidji home and home with UMD

    Tech @ Notre Dame

    All of a sudden you’d see Bemidji and Tech in Top 16 with Minnesota State knocking on the doorstep. Lake State would probably be somewhere around 25 too depending on how it does against Omaha.

    • I don’t think there will be a top 16 team from the WCHA at the end of the season in the pairwise rankings. The only participant will be the conference tournament winner.

      • I totally agree, gimruis. Beating 2/3 of the above mentioned teams, other than WMU (#11) in GLI and UMD(#1) , will do nothing for a rise in the PWR enough to qualify for the NCAA tourney. Beating QU (#18), BC (#13), or Notre Dame (#14) will have little impact on PWR. A loss to any of the rest mentioned will plummet these teams so low in PWR that they cannot possibly recover.

        • I think the goal is to get wins against the top teams in the league to yield some quality points. The computers would like a win by Bemidji in Houghton a lot more if Tech is 15 than it does now with Tech at 23.

          It would also serve to make teams like Penn State, Ohio State and BC who feasted on lighter nonconference schedules vulnerable. Take out OSU’s win against DU and what exactly do they have on the resume? Ferris leapfrogging the likes of Niagara or Canisius to further dilute SOS plus some conference losses and more than one team in top ten is very prone to sliding quickly. PSU and OSU play each other four times before the end of January. If one team takes 3 of 4, the other probably isn’t in top 16 anymore.

          • Totally agree. Same reasoning I stated for WCHA having a hard time goes double for B1G. The “best” two teams in B1G, according to record, have 27th and 34th SOS. Any loss to Michigan or Michigan State will drop them deep down in PWR.

          • Case in point this past weekend. The Gophers were #10 in the pairwise and they swept Sparty on the road. After the weekend, they only moved up one spot to #9.

      • That is very possible. I was pointing out that teams expected to be towards the top of the conference have figured things out compared to during October non-conference play. Tech being a prime example of that.

        If the 3 teams ranked from 18-25 in the PWR all play well next couple weeks it will help. Minn St already has a sweep of St Cloud St and a win over the Gophers.

        If Bemidji picks up a win over UMD, Tech wins GLI and gets a game in South Bend, and Lake St adds to a 3-1 non-con record on the road in Omaha…I think you will see bubble ECAC/NCHC schools get pushed down and WCHA schools get moved up.

        Having 0 quality wins is what hurts teams. Pop two teams to the 13-16 range and the conferences SOS will be helped immensely. All of a sudden BGSU and Ferris could get away from being associated with AH clubs like Niagara (of which they are assuredly better than.)

  4. Paula, you stated UMD and Denver split then said St. Cloud and Denver split. Should have been Omaha and St. Cloud split. The DU-UMD games were a perfect example of what college hockey is about, you both got that right. Saturday night Jaillet gave up two “soft” goals that turned out to be the difference, while Miska was terrific. I totally agree to your thumbs up-thumbs down. Dean Blais is a well-respected, class act.

    • Thanks for changing it, Paula. Very big of you to admit it was wrong (sarcasm), at least Jim acknowledges his mistakes. I realize it is not easy to write these columns, especially with no “ghost writers”.

      • Thanks man.. This is a tough column to write as there is a lot of back and forth through email. We appreciate you reading and, more so, appreciate the comments. Weekly this is usually the column with the most comments (even if some are mine!)

        • I realize that, even when I give you some crap about Mass. hockey. It is tough to churn out a column every week, and tougher yet to decide what teams to highlight. Your “thumbs up”, “thumbs down” section was apropos this week. Nice job. I will be catching the Bemidji-UMD this Friday, thank goodness it’s on NCHC.TV.

  5. Paula, you stated UMD and Denver split then said St. Cloud and Denver split. Should have been Omaha and St. Cloud split. The DU-UMD games were a perfect example of what college hockey is about, you both got that right. Saturday night Jaillet gave up two “soft” goals that turned out to be the difference, while Miska was terrific. I totally agree to your thumbs up-thumbs down. Den Blais is a well-respected, class act.

      • Thanks man.. This is a tough column to write as there is a lot of back and forth through email. We appreciate you reading and, more so, appreciate the comments. Weekly this is usually the column with the most comments (even if some are mine!)

        • I realize that, even when a give you some crap about Mass. hockey. It is tough to churn out a column every week, and tougher yet to decide what teams to highlight. Your “thumbs up”, “thumbs down” section was apropos this week. Nice job. I will be catching the Bemidji-UMD this Friday, thank goodness it’s on NCHC.TV.

  6. Paula, you stated UMD and Denver split then said St. Cloud and Denver split. Should have been Omaha and St. Cloud split. The DU-UMD games were a perfect example of what college hockey is about, you both got that right. Saturday night Jaillet gave up two “soft” goals that turned out to be the difference, while Miska was terrific. I totally agree to your thumbs up-thumbs down. Den Blais is a well-respected, class act.

      • Thanks man.. This is a tough column to write as there is a lot of back and forth through email. We appreciate you reading and, more so, appreciate the comments. Weekly this is usually the column with the most comments (even if some are mine!)

        • I realize that, even when a give you some crap about Mass. hockey. It is tough to churn out a column every week, and tougher yet to decide what teams to highlight. Your “thumbs up”, “thumbs down” section was apropos this week. Nice job. I will be catching the Bemidji-UMD this Friday, thank goodness it’s on NCHC.TV.

    • Q-pac absolutely has been overrated this year. They’ve been consistently voted way above their PWR position, and we’ve got enough games in the books now that the PWR is a pretty decent indicator. They simply lost too much talent after last year and haven’t been able to come close to last year’s consistency. They’ve had some good performances, but they haven’t sustained that. I’m a St. Lawrence guy, and although the SLU-QU game in Belfast was another barnburner of the sort that those two teams typically put on, the Bobcats looked just awful when SLU beat them by another shutout earlier in the season.

  7. I don’t understand the Friendship Four argument from Jim. UVM split with No. 5 BU, St. Lawrence went 2-1 and UMass, who already had a losing record, went 1-2 and beat a ranked ND. The only team that struggled was Quinnipiac, which suggests it was their preparation for the tournament, and not the tournament itself, that was the problem. Of course, if you look at Quinnipiac’s schedule, their only quality wins were against Northeastern, who may not be that good, and Harvard. So maybe Quinnipiac wasn’t as good as previously believed?

    • Q-pac absolutely has been overrated this year. They’ve been consistently voted way above their PWR position, and we’ve got enough games in the books now that the PWR is a pretty decent indicator. They simply lost too much talent after last year and haven’t been able to come close to last year’s consistency. They’ve had some good performances, but they haven’t sustained that. I’m a St. Lawrence guy, and although the SLU-QU game in Belfast was another barnburner of the sort that those two teams typically put on, the Bobcats looked just awful when SLU beat them by another shutout earlier in the season.

  8. I don’t understand the Friendship Four argument from Jim. UVM split with No. 5 BU, St. Lawrence went 2-1 and UMass, who already had a losing record, went 1-2 and beat a ranked ND. The only team that struggled was Quinnipiac, which suggests it was their preparation for the tournament, and not the tournament itself, that was the problem. Of course, if you look at Quinnipiac’s schedule, their only quality wins were against Northeastern, who may not be that good, and Harvard. So maybe Quinnipiac wasn’t as good as previously believed?

    • Q-pac absolutely has been overrated this year. They’ve been consistently voted way above their PWR position, and we’ve got enough games in the books now that the PWR is a pretty decent indicator. They simply lost too much talent after last year and haven’t been able to come close to last year’s consistency. They’ve had some good performances, but they haven’t sustained that. I’m a St. Lawrence guy, and although the SLU-QU game in Belfast was another barnburner of the sort that those two teams typically put on, the Bobcats looked just awful when SLU beat them by another shutout earlier in the season.

  9. I love you Jim but raising this Friendship Four issue is really disappointing. Everyone points out the records of last year’s teams when they returned from Ireland but no one mentions what their records were BEFORE Ireland. Other than Lowell, the other three teams were off to horrible starts and their records after Belfast were actually better than before. This year, UMass upsets Notre Dame, SLU only loses to Harvard, who is in the top third of the rankings, and Quinnipiac splits in their return weekend, only losing to Union who is also ranked. By the way, Lowell lost and tied to UConn on the same weekend this year. Maybe it wasn’t travel last year. Maybe UConn, who beat Lowell twice last year, is a good team who earned those wins.

    • Joe… all excellent points. Maybe all of that is factors. But I think the points I was trying to make all have some potential validity. I also think the headline sensationalized those points as well (remember, editors write headlines, not writers :-)

      All that said, I personally think the entire Belfast experience is more than worth it, whatever tax it might take on a team.

  10. I love you Jim but raising this Friendship Four issue is really disappointing. Everyone points out the records of last year’s teams when they returned from Ireland but no one mentions what their records were BEFORE Ireland. Other than Lowell, the other three teams were off to horrible starts and their records after Belfast were actually better than before. This year, UMass upsets Notre Dame, SLU only loses to Harvard, who is in the top third of the rankings, and Quinnipiac splits in their return weekend, only losing to Union who is also ranked. By the way, Lowell lost and tied to UConn on the same weekend this year. Maybe it wasn’t travel last year. Maybe UConn, who beat Lowell twice last year, is a good team who earned those wins.

    • Joe… all excellent points. Maybe all of that is factors. But I think the points I was trying to make all have some potential validity. I also think the headline sensationalized those points as well (remember, editors write headlines, not writers :-)

      All that said, I personally think the entire Belfast experience is more than worth it, whatever tax it might take on a team.

  11. I love you Jim but raising this Friendship Four issue is really disappointing. Everyone points out the records of last year’s teams when they returned from Ireland but no one mentions what their records were BEFORE Ireland. Other than Lowell, the other three teams were off to horrible starts and their records after Belfast were actually better than before. This year, UMass upsets Notre Dame, SLU only loses to Harvard, who is in the top third of the rankings, and Quinnipiac splits in their return weekend, only losing to Union who is also ranked. By the way, Lowell lost and tied to UConn on the same weekend this year. Maybe it wasn’t travel last year. Maybe UConn, who beat Lowell twice last year, is a good team who earned those wins.

    • Joe… all excellent points. Maybe all of that is factors. But I think the points I was trying to make all have some potential validity. I also think the headline sensationalized those points as well (remember, editors write headlines, not writers :-)

      All that said, I personally think the entire Belfast experience is more than worth it, whatever tax it might take on a team.

  12. The Friendship Four is not just some mid-season tournament. To treat this as such misses the entire point. League games are, of course, important, but long after the results of the games fade, the experience of the week in Ireland/Northern Ireland will remain. Players I saw over there really embraced the whole week, from visiting schools to exploring the city to meeting locals. It’s a wonderful, remarkable trip and I hope it sticks around for a long time. And, really, is the trip any more grueling (about a 5-6 hour flight) than what teams make on the league roadie to Alaska? If you get a chance to cover the tournament in person, you’ll see it is absolutely worth it.

  13. The Friendship Four is not just some mid-season tournament. To treat this as such misses the entire point. League games are, of course, important, but long after the results of the games fade, the experience of the week in Ireland/Northern Ireland will remain. Players I saw over there really embraced the whole week, from visiting schools to exploring the city to meeting locals. It’s a wonderful, remarkable trip and I hope it sticks around for a long time. And, really, is the trip any more grueling (about a 5-6 hour flight) than what teams make on the league roadie to Alaska? If you get a chance to cover the tournament in person, you’ll see it is absolutely worth it.

  14. The Friendship Four is not just some mid-season tournament. To treat this as such misses the entire point. League games are, of course, important, but long after the results of the games fade, the experience of the week in Ireland/Northern Ireland will remain. Players I saw over there really embraced the whole week, from visiting schools to exploring the city to meeting locals. It’s a wonderful, remarkable trip and I hope it sticks around for a long time. And, really, is the trip any more grueling (about a 5-6 hour flight) than what teams make on the league roadie to Alaska? If you get a chance to cover the tournament in person, you’ll see it is absolutely worth it.

  15. I happened to be in Denver this past weekend and was very lucky to be able to go to both Denver-UMD games. A real treat to see probably the two best teams in the country go at it. But I have to say, I totally disagree with Jim’s assessment of Saturday’s game. Yes, Denver outshot UMD comfortably, but I thought UMD clearly deserved to win that game. I thought Denver made tons of bad little decisions all night, mainly in the form of bad pass selection, as well as lots of way-too-soft passes. And those mistakes gave UMD a lot of chances. As I saw it, the first goal was the result of the Denver forwards failing to cover for a rushing defenseman. On the flip side, I thought UMD’s backchecking was impeccable. But in any event, a fun weekend of hockey between two great teams, and as an outside observer not rooting for either one, I thought a split was an appropriate result.

    • Totally agree a split was an appropriate result. The “soft” goals were a major factor in Saturday night’s loss. Jaillet has been outstanding all year, this was his worst game by far. So glad you got to experience it live. I hate scheduling these games when students are away, even though the attendance was decent.

      • btw, after Saturday’s game, I hung around the rink and took some pictures of your championship banners. I’m a born, raised, and educated St. Lawrence fan — did radio for them when I was in school there — and I made sure to get a zoomed-in picture of just the 1961 banner, as that was the year that you guys beat us 12-2 in the championship game!

        • Wow, you have some memory. I have a hard time remembering back to 2004, my favorite championship game. Four of us, 2 couples, went to the FleetCenter to see the most exciting 1-0 ever. Kind of wish you got to see the NCHC 5v5 OT, then 3v3, than shootout. The authors of this TMQ blog are totally against it, probably never seen it live. It is so exciting for the fans, and the players and coaches in our league like it. Good luck to your Saints, they are off to a good start in the PWR.

          • Well, we have way fewer championship games to keep track of than you do, so it’s not that hard! I was only 2 at the time, so I don’t remember that 1961 game, but I remember my dad telling me about it when I was older (he was a prof there, so knew some of the players), and I’m kind of obsessive about SLU hockey history. That’s great that you got to see that 2004 championship. I’m hoping to find myself in Denver on another hockey weekend sometime.

          • I am not totally against the 5×5, 3×3 overtime format. I like it a ton better than 5×5 becoming a shootout. But I also think that it should be used nationally in every game. And I think that the PairWise (or whatever you want to call the selection process) needs to find a formula to credit teams for wins but not punish teams for 3×3 OT losses. It’s just such an atypical situation to practice. Thanks for reading and commenting!

          • I really doubt that every league will adopt the NCHC OT format. Until they do, the NCAA and PWR has no choice but to consider a tie after 5v5. The NCHC adopted it so that there is a “winner” in every game, mainly for the fans. Unlike the NHL when there are only 2 points at stake, there are 3 in college hockey. With the NCHC “winner” they are divided two and one. This format is really exciting, I wish fans from other leagues could see it in action. By the way, the NCHC coaches and players also like it.

  16. I happened to be in Denver this past weekend and was very lucky to be able to go to both Denver-UMD games. A real treat to see probably the two best teams in the country go at it. But I have to say, I totally disagree with Jim’s assessment of Saturday’s game. Yes, Denver outshot UMD comfortably, but I thought UMD clearly deserved to win that game. I thought Denver made tons of bad little decisions all night, mainly in the form of bad pass selection, as well as lots of way-too-soft passes. And those mistakes gave UMD a lot of chances. As I saw it, the first goal was the result of the Denver forwards failing to cover for a rushing defenseman. On the flip side, I thought UMD’s backchecking was impeccable. But in any event, a fun weekend of hockey between two great teams, and as an outside observer not rooting for either one, I thought a split was an appropriate result.

    • Totally agree a split was an appropriate result. The “soft” goals were a major factor in Saturday night’s loss. Jaillet has been outstanding all year, this was his worst game by far. So glad you got to experience it live. I hate scheduling these games when students are away, even though the attendance was decent.

      • btw, after Saturday’s game, I hung around the rink and took some pictures of your championship banners. I’m a born, raised, and educated St. Lawrence fan — did radio for them when I was in school there — and I made sure to get a zoomed-in picture of just the 1961 banner, as that was the year that you guys beat us 12-2 in the championship game!

        • Wow, you have some memory. I have a hard time remembering back to 2004, my favorite championship game. Four of us, 2 couples, went to the FleetCenter to see the most exciting 1-0 ever. Kind of wish you got to see the NCHC 5v5 OT, then 3v3, than shootout. The authors of this TMQ blog are totally against it, probably never seen it live. It is so exciting for the fans, and the players and coaches in our league like it. Good luck to your Saints, they are off to a good start in the PWR.

          • Well, we have way fewer championship games to keep track of than you do, so it’s not that hard! I was only 2 at the time, so I don’t remember that 1961 game, but I remember my dad telling me about it when I was older (he was a prof there, so knew some of the players), and I’m kind of obsessive about SLU hockey history. That’s great that you got to see that 2004 championship. I’m hoping to find myself in Denver on another hockey weekend sometime.

          • I am not totally against the 5×5, 3×3 overtime format. I like it a ton better than 5×5 becoming a shootout. But I also think that it should be used nationally in every game. And I think that the PairWise (or whatever you want to call the selection process) needs to find a formula to credit teams for wins but not punish teams for 3×3 OT losses. It’s just such an atypical situation to practice. Thanks for reading and commenting!

          • I really doubt that every league will adopt the NCHC OT format. Until they do, the NCAA and PWR has no choice but to consider a tie after 5v5. The NCHC adopted it so that there is a “winner” in every game, mainly for the fans. Unlike the NHL when there are only 2 points at stake, there are 3 in college hockey. With the NCHC “winner” they are divided two and one. This format is really exciting, I wish fans from other leagues could see it in action. By the way, the NCHC coaches and players also like it.

  17. I happened to be in Denver this past weekend and was very lucky to be able to go to both Denver-UMD games. A real treat to see probably the two best teams in the country go at it. But I have to say, I totally disagree with Jim’s assessment of Saturday’s game. Yes, Denver outshot UMD comfortably, but I thought UMD clearly deserved to win that game. I thought Denver made tons of bad little decisions all night, mainly in the form of bad pass selection, as well as lots of way-too-soft passes. And those mistakes gave UMD a lot of chances. As I saw it, the first goal was the result of the Denver forwards failing to cover for a rushing defenseman. On the flip side, I thought UMD’s backchecking was impeccable. But in any event, a fun weekend of hockey between two great teams, and as an outside observer not rooting for either one, I thought a split was an appropriate result.

    • Totally agree a split was an appropriate result. The “soft” goals were a major factor in Saturday night’s loss. Jaillet has been outstanding all year, this was his worst game by far. So glad you got to experience it live. I hate scheduling these games when students are away, even though the attendance was decent.

      • btw, after Saturday’s game, I hung around the rink and took some pictures of your championship banners. I’m a born, raised, and educated St. Lawrence fan — did radio for them when I was in school there — and I made sure to get a zoomed-in picture of just the 1961 banner, as that was the year that you guys beat us 12-2 in the championship game!

        • Wow, you have some memory. I have a hard time remembering back to 2004, my favorite championship game. Four of us, 2 couples, went to the FleetCenter to see the most exciting 1-0 ever. Kind of wish you got to see the NCHC 5v5 OT, then 3v3, than shootout. The authors of this TMQ blog are totally against it, probably never seen it live. It is so exciting for the fans, and the players and coaches in our league like it. Good luck to your Saints, they are off to a good start in the PWR.

          • Well, we have way fewer championship games to keep track of than you do, so it’s not that hard! I was only 2 at the time, so I don’t remember that 1961 game, but I remember my dad telling me about it when I was older (he was a prof there, so knew some of the players), and I’m kind of obsessive about SLU hockey history. That’s great that you got to see that 2004 championship. I’m hoping to find myself in Denver on another hockey weekend sometime.

          • I am not totally against the 5×5, 3×3 overtime format. I like it a ton better than 5×5 becoming a shootout. But I also think that it should be used nationally in every game. And I think that the PairWise (or whatever you want to call the selection process) needs to find a formula to credit teams for wins but not punish teams for 3×3 OT losses. It’s just such an atypical situation to practice. Thanks for reading and commenting!

          • I really doubt that every league will adopt the NCHC OT format. Until they do, the NCAA and PWR has no choice but to consider a tie after 5v5. The NCHC adopted it so that there is a “winner” in every game, mainly for the fans. Unlike the NHL when there are only 2 points at stake, there are 3 in college hockey. With the NCHC “winner” they are divided two and one. This format is really exciting, I wish fans from other leagues could see it in action. By the way, the NCHC coaches and players also like it.

  18. It’s almost disappointing that “travel” and “the experience” were the described reasons for the subpar performance by QU in Belfast. Many can argue that players dream for these type of special events (outdoor games, games at MSG, Florida holiday tournaments, the list goes on). Teams like the Colorado schools, the Alaska schools, even Huntsville, go through this type of travel all the time. It was purely about poor preparation or poor execution. It’s unfortunate to shed a bad light on these special events that not only the players, but the supporters of the teams, remember for the rest of their lives as well.

  19. It’s almost disappointing that “travel” and “the experience” were the described reasons for the subpar performance by QU in Belfast. Many can argue that players dream for these type of special events (outdoor games, games at MSG, Florida holiday tournaments, the list goes on). Teams like the Colorado schools, the Alaska schools, even Huntsville, go through this type of travel all the time. It was purely about poor preparation or poor execution. It’s unfortunate to shed a bad light on these special events that not only the players, but the supporters of the teams, remember for the rest of their lives as well.

  20. It’s almost disappointing that “travel” and “the experience” were the described reasons for the subpar performance by QU in Belfast. Many can argue that players dream for these type of special events (outdoor games, games at MSG, Florida holiday tournaments, the list goes on). Teams like the Colorado schools, the Alaska schools, even Huntsville, go through this type of travel all the time. It was purely about poor preparation or poor execution. It’s unfortunate to shed a bad light on these special events that not only the players, but the supporters of the teams, remember for the rest of their lives as well.

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