Notre Dame completed its weekend sweep of No. 4. Michigan in a very strange game where neither team scored for more than 57 minutes before Spencer Stansny broke a deadlock for the Irish with 2:14 remaining.
Alex Steeves added an empty-netter at 18:29 that became the game-winning goal after Michigan’s Jacob Truscott notched his first-career goal with 44 seconds remaining.
— Notre Dame Hockey (@NDHockey) November 29, 2020
With a penalty also called on the play, Michigan finished the game with a power play but the Notre Dame defense stood tall when necessary.
Michigan allowed a season-high 31 shots on goal while Notre Dame’s Ryan Bischel finished the game stopping 22-of-23 shots to earn his second win of the weekend.
The two-game sweep for the Irish brings them solidly back to form after being swept at home by Wisconsin to begin the season.
Michigan State 3, No. 10 Ohio State 2 (OT)
Nico Muller’s goal at 3:36 of 3-on-3 overtime lifted Michigan State to an upset victory over No. 10 Ohio State.
The goal finished off the victory for a Spartans team that outshot the Buckeyes, 45-22.
— MSU_Hockey (@MSU_Hockey) November 29, 2020
Ohio State opened the scoring at 7:37 of the second period. But Michigan State twice responded before the end of the middle frame on goals by Charlie Combs and Adam Goodsir.
Over the final two periods and overtime, Michigan State held a 37-14 shot advantage, but it was the Buckeyes who scored the only goal of the third, a Travis Treloar tally with 27 seconds remaining in regulation.
No. 2 Boston College 6, No. 7 Massachusetts 3
Boston College captain Marc McLaughlin scored twice and No. 2 Boston College never trailed as the Eagles earned a 6-3 road victory to complete a two-game sweep of seventh-ranked Massachusetts.
Drew Helleson and Mike Hardman for Boston College and Jake Gaudet for UMass each tallied a goal and an assist.
▶️ Tee it up for Helly, who does the rest pic.twitter.com/XzXWCLMSgZ
— BC Hockey (@BCHockey) November 28, 2020
BC’s netminder Spencer Knight was busy, stopping 30 shots, including 16 in the third period.
Though considered non-conference games, these two contests could be used in the Hockey East standings should the league pair between these two teams not be able to be played later in the season due to COVID.
Arizona State 8, No. 14 Wisconsin 5
In four games entering Saturday night’s game against No. 14 Wisconsin, Arizona State had scored a grand total of two goals.
On Saturday, the Sun Devils offense had an overdue explosion scoring eight times, including three goals in each of the final two periods to upset Wisconsin, 8-5, and earn their first win of the season.
Arizona State built a 6-2 lead early in the third before Wisconsin rifled off three goals in 10:35 off the sticks of Jack Gorniak, Owen Lindmark and Linus Weissbach. A penalty called during the fifth Badgers goals gave them a power play with all the momentum.
But Willie Knierim scored shorthanded less than a minute into the power play and added an empty-net tally for the final.
First career points for Eckerle and Murray 🥰🥰 pic.twitter.com/tAkoosy3S1
— Sun Devil Hockey (@SunDevilHockey) November 29, 2020
The pair faceoff again on Sunday at 5:00 ET.
Robert Morris 5, Canisius 4
Randy Hernandez scored with 1:31 remaining in regulation to break a 4-4 tie and give host Robert Morris a 5-4 victory and split of the weekend series with Canisius.
THAT'S GAME! pic.twitter.com/3SAqFwItWP
— RMU Men’s Hockey (@RMUMHockey) November 28, 2020
The late goal spoiled a comeback for the Griffs, which trailed 3-1 and 4-3 before Grant Meyer scored the game-tying goal with 7:00 remaining in the third.
Justin Adamo scored twice for the host Colonials while teammate Grant Hebery added a goal and two assists.
No. 2 Boston College, Matt Boldy power past No. 7 Massachusetts, 4-3, in early-season powerhouse battle; Notre Dame upsets No. 4 Michigan, 3-2
Matt Boldy’s goal 1:06 into the third period broke a 3-3 tie as second-ranked Boston College found a way past No. 7 Massachusetts, 4-3, in a back-and-forth heavyweight battle.
— BC Hockey (@BCHockey) November 28, 2020
For an early-season game, albeit one delayed due to COVID postponements, Friday’s opening game of a two-game, home-and-home tilt between nationally-ranked powers lived up to its billing. Two of the nation’s top 10 teams finding ways to score, back-and-forth, including a five-goal second period.
Jack McBain’s goal with 4:40 left in the first was the only goal of the opening stanza, but also set up the wild 20 in the middle frame.
UMass sophomore Zac Jones sniped a shot on a shorthanded break at 1:52 of the second before Mike Hardman had the equalizer just 81 seconds later.
McBain gave the Eagles a 3-1 lead at 12:41 of the second. But UMass knotted the game at two when Josh Lopina scored twice on greasy goals – each deflections in front of the net – in a span of 73 seconds.
Bainer in slo-mo 🏹 pic.twitter.com/RrU2sITU40
— BC Hockey (@BCHockey) November 28, 2020
Both goaltenders were excellent, despite the final score. Each had to make grade ‘A’ saves, UMass’ Matt Murray finishing with 28 saves and BC’s Spencer Knight earning the win with 30 saves.
The two teams play Saturday in Amherst, Mass., at 4:30 p.m. ET.
Notre Dame 3, No. 4 Michigan 2
A hungry Notre Dame team, sitting out last weekend after being swept by Wisconsin to begin the season, exacted a measure of revenge on Friday, making certain people don’t forget the Irish.
Notre Dame opened a 3-0 lead by the midway point of the game, then held on as fourth-ranked Michigan rallied before the Irish closed out the game, 3-2, to score the upset victory.
Nick Leivermann, Nate Clurman and Grant Sillanoff spotted the Irish the three-goal advantage by 7:41 in the second.
— Notre Dame Hockey (@NDHockey) November 28, 2020
And while Luke Morgan pulled the Wolverines closer with 2:12 left in the second and Michael Pastujov within a goal at 2:25 of the third, Notre Dame’s Ryan Bischel stopped 11 of 12 shots in the third period to earn the one-goal victory.
RIT 8, No. 9 Clarkson 5
RIT scored five goals in the third period, including two in the frame and a hat tirick in the game by Will Calverley, as the Tigers pulled off a non-league upset of ninth-ranked Clarkson, 8-5.
— Bucci Mane (@Buccigross) November 28, 2020
After RIT jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first, Clarkson scored twice in the middle frame on goals by Alex Campbell, Anthony Romano sandwiching a goal by RIT Jake Joffe.
Trailing by one heading to the third, Clarkson’s Grant Cooper and Noah Beck scored in the first 75 seconds to jump to a 4-3 lead.
But it was the final rally by host RIT, two goals coming from Calverley and all in the final 10:01, that changed the tenor and the outcome.
The two teams will play again at Clarkson on Sunday.
Yet again, COVID is making a bit of a mess of the Hockey East schedules. After just two men’s games were played last weekend, the league is expected to play just three this weekend.
Jim last week: 1-0-1 (similar to goaltender’s stats, we’ll be counting shootouts as ties in our head-to-head standings)
Marisa last week: 1-0-1
Boston College vs. UMass (at BC, Fri.; at UMass Sat.)
Friday and Saturday, Nov. 27-28
It’s difficult to think of a sweep this early in the season, and though UMass should be hungry after a tie against UConn last Saturday, this highly touted Boston College team deserves all the accolades as they finally kick off their seasons. Will the Eagles prove they are worthy of a preseason top ranking by Hockey East coaches?
Jim’s picks: BC 3, UMass 2; BC 4, UMass 3
Marisa’s picks: UMass 4, BC 2; BC 3, UMass 1
Providence at UMass Lowell
Saturday, Nov. 28
With neither team having an opponent because of COVID postponements this weekend, the two will square off in their respective openers. Lowell returns arguably a top tier crop of forwards and defensemen but very little experience in net. Providence also has a question between the pipes but also has one of the league’s best forwards in Tage Thompson.
Jim’s pick: UML 3, PC 2
Marisa’s pick: PC 2, UML 1
On The Season:
Dan: 3-1 (.750)
Chris: 2-2 (.500)
This Week’s Picks:
Friday Nov 27 and Saturday, Nov 28
Air Force at American International
Chris: I’ve lost track of how many games have been cancelled at this point, but at least a couple involved AIC. Hopefully, these games stay on. I picked the Yellow Jackets to win the league,so I guess that starts with a couple of wins here. AIC sweeps.
Dan: I’m with Chris here. The start of the season has been bumpy to say the least, but AIC is one of those teams equipped to handle the quick-moving changes. I think they come out strong and take this weekend, though Air Force will give them all they can handle.
Canisius vs. Robert Morris
Chris: The Colonials looked impressive with a sweep of Alabama-Huntsville last weekend and I look for that to continue. RMU sweeps.
Dan: Last weekend made me a little prophetic about RMU. I think they keep momentum this week. RMU sweeps.
Army West Point vs. Sacred Heart
Chris: I think this will be the closest, most entertaining series of the weekend as point teams (finally, hopefully) kick off their seasons. I’m going with a split.
Dan: I think these teams are probably chomping at the bit for a chance to get after one another on the ice. For that reason, I’m going with Chris again. Split them.
Friday, Nov 27 and Sunday Nov 29
Clarkson vs. RIT
Chris: This series was hastily but together after each team’s scheduled opponents had to pull out. I’m picking the eighth-ranked Golden Knight to sweep this home and home series.
Dan: All the bad juju surrounding ECAC headlines will just sort of melt away into a really solid home-and-home series. I like RIT to give Clarkson a run for its money, but I’m running with the Golden Knights here to make the most of two of their six currently-scheduled games. Clarkson sweeps.
Tuesday, Dec 1
Sacred Heart at AIC
Chris: The top two teams from last year face off. Both lost key pieces to graduation, especially SHU. I’m going with an AIC win.
Dan: I picked Sacred Heart to win the eastern pod, and this is one of the games the Pioneers will win to prove me right. I’m going with SHU to win on the road.
With the first two weeks of Big Ten play producing some interesting results, already it looks as though the league may split into two tiers with Michigan State the single team of demarcation. Already, too, we’ve seen that Drew Claussen is better at this picks thing than I am.
Drew: 8-1-1 (.850)
Paula: 7-2-1 (.750)
Drew: 10-3-1 (.750)
Paula: 8-5-1 (.607)
There are two B1G series this week while Wisconsin hosts Arizona State in nonconference play. Games this week are Friday through Sunday. All times are local.
Michigan State at No. 9 Ohio State
Saturday and Sunday, 5:30 p.m.
The Spartans were 1-0-1 against Arizona State Nov. 19-20 to start their season while the Buckeyes dropped two games to Minnesota Nov. 23-24. Michigan State leads this all-time series 91-49-13, but Ohio State won all four times the teams met last season. The battle in net should be very interesting. Drew DeRidder looked really solid against ASU while Tommy Nappier looked a little rattled versus the Gophers. I think each team gets its first B1G win of the season. Drew disagrees.
Drew: Ohio State 3-2, 3-1
Paula: Ohio State 3-2, Michigan State 3-2
Notre Dame at No. 6 Michigan
Friday and Saturday at 7:00 p.m.
Michigan is off to its fastest start since the 2011-12 season, fueled by a deep and threatening offense and the stellar play in net of Strauss Mann. Worth a mention: In four games, 13 different Wolverines have accounted for the team’s 18 goals, so it’s not just the shiny new rookies (who are outstanding) doing all of the heavy lifting for the Wolverines. The Irish looked like they were struggling defensively in two losses against Wisconsin Nov. 13-14. The teams split their season series last year, with each sweeping on the road. Neither Drew nor I see Notre Dame getting past Michigan this weekend.
Drew: Michigan 4-1, 5-3
Paula: Michigan 4-1, 5-1
Arizona State at No. 14 Wisconsin
7:00 p.m. Saturday, 4:00 p.m. Sunday
I am all in on Wisconsin. (See what I did there? I can’t help myself sometimes.) The Badgers have looked solid from net out with the exception of one loss against Michigan. Robbie Beydoun seems to be playing the best hockey of his career, and the team in front of him is playing like many expected Wisconsin to play for all of last season. Wisconsin outscored Penn State 13-6 in a pair of wins Nov. 23-24. The Sun Devils lost two close games to Michigan State Nov. 19-20 and are still looking for their first win of the season. Drew thinks that will happen in this series. I do not.
Drew: Wisconsin 4-2, Arizona State 4-3
Paula: Wisconsin 4-2, 4-1
Say hello on the Twitter machine!
Follow both Drew (@drewclaussen) and me (@paulacweston) on Twitter. We’ll say hello if you do, and even though we are whole humans who tweet about a lot of things, we also say some stuff about hockey.
Last week: 1-0
It’s only the second week of the season in ECAC Hockey, but already Quinnipiac and St. Lawrence have both delayed the start of their respective seasons due to COVID-19. St. Lawrence’s first four games of the season were supposed to be against Clarkson, leaving a gaping hole in the Golden Knights schedule.
It is unknown if those games will be made up, so Clarkson added a home-and-home series with RIT this weekend. The Golden Knights travel to RIT Friday, while the Tigers will head to Potsdam on Sunday. Both games start at 5 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN+ as well as B99.3 FM. This weekend opened up for the Tigers after their initial opponent, Niagara, postponed their games due to COVID-19 protocols.
The Golden Knights beat Colgate 2-1 in the program’s season opener last Sunday, while this is the opening weekend for RIT after the program initially announced that it was cancelling it season.
Clarkson is 7-0-2 in the all-time series against the Tigers. I think the Golden Knights continue last weekend’s strong defensive showing and sweep the Tigers this weekend.
Friday: Clarkson 3, RIT 1
Sunday: Clarkson 3, RIT 2
WCHA 2020-21 Season Preview: Teams still prepping for league’s final hockey season, despite ongoing pandemic
Even without a global pandemic, the 2020-21 WCHA season was already destined to be a weird one.
Seven of the league’s ten members had already announced way back in June of 2019 that they would be leaving the conference to reform the CCHA after the conclusion of this year. It was already going to be strange to be celebrating 70 years of one of the oldest college hockey conferences in existence knowing that its position post-2021 is in doubt.
Then the pandemic hit, just before the conclusion of the WCHA playoffs. College hockey shut down for six months. Seasons were delayed. Programs were suspended. Some were lost.
But, as if a miracle, the WCHA will indeed play out its 70th season.
“It felt like some days we would never get here,” Lake Superior State coach Damon Whitten said during the WCHA’s annual media day earlier this month. “To be opening our preseason media day in November, it feels strange. We should have been a month and a half into the season.”
Instead, the WCHA is going to have to make do with truncated schedules, playing conference teams as nonconference games and learning to deal with cancelations and postponements as they come thick and fast. The league had started its season this past weekend, with six teams in action. But positive COVID-tests from both Minnesota State and Northern Michigan. The Mavericks and the Wildcats have now canceled or postponed all of their games for the next two weeks.
“I think if we’re surprised by a cancelation and postponement, then shame on us,” Bowling Green coach Ty Eigner said. “We’ve tried to tell our guys to focus on the things they can control and hopefully with the procedures in place, and the fact that our sport is in the winter and kicking it off when students aren’t on campus and try to the best of our abilities to be as cautious and safe as possible, hopefully we get a chance to play all 18 league games, and the playoffs and it goes off without a hitch, but the reality is the chances of that happening are not too great.”
This adds to an already-shortened slate of games, as Alaska Anchorage announced on Nov. 13 — just two days after the league’s media day — that they were suspending all winter sports for the 2020-21 season, including hockey. The Seawolves had already announced they were cutting the hockey program after this campaign. There’s a good chance they will see their program end without playing another game.
“It certainly has been trying,” Seawolves coach Matt Curley told the Anchorage Daily News last week. “Our focus right now is to right this ship and make way for our survival because I think for a lot of the guys, their best opportunity is to continue to be here.”
The Seawolves are hoping for an outpouring of support and donations similar to that received by Alabama Huntsville this summer. The Chargers, too, had the plug pulled on their program by the UAH administrators, only to be given a last-minute reprieve by hitting a $750,000 funding goal, allowing them to survive for this season.
One more season of Charger hockey was great news, but it got even better earlier this month, when a group including Minnesota Wild goaltender (and UAH’s most successful hockey alumnus) Cam Talbot announced a sizable donation to the program to keep it afloat for even longer.
New coach Lance West — himself an alumnus — said the UAH community is lucky to have the support.
“We went through a lot of stuff this year, with folding and coming back, and the WCHA worked hard and allowed us to do that, and we’re very thankful for that opportunity this year,” he said. “We had such a huge amount of support from fans and even people who weren’t fans of ours; the general hockey community in North America…. I was humbled by the amount of people that supported us in our comeback bid so we hope this year we can make them proud.”
So how are all of these issues going to add up on the ice? It’s hard to say exactly, but the consensus again seems to be that Minnesota State is once again going to be very good. Both the media and coaches polls have overwhelmingly backed the Mavericks to four-peat the MacNaughton Cup. Beyond that, though, it’s wide open. There are a number of teams that should compete for home ice, including Bemidji State, Bowling Green, Northern Michigan and Alaska.
But due to the strange nature of this season, perhaps the standings won’t matter as much at the end when all is said and done.
“Success has always been graded on wins and losses but in a year like this, I think success is being graded in a different way,” Ferris State coach Bob Daniels said. The idea that we’re going to be able to get on the ice and compete, that’s a success right there. I’m sure once the puck drops, if there’s two nets, a scoreboard, and a puck, winning is going to be important, but this whole situation has been a great lesson for everyone on collegiality. I’ve been excited to be a part of it.”
WCHA TEAM CAPSULES
Head coach: Lance West, entering his first season at UAH
2019-20 overall record: 2-26-6 (2-20-6 WCHA, tenth)
Key returning players: Junior forward Tyr Thompson (6-2-8), senior forward Connor Merkley (3-5-9), senior forward Connor Wood (4-3-7), junior defenseman Dayne Finnson (1-6-7), sophomore goaltender David Fessenden (0-4-0, .869 SV%, 4.44 GAA), junior forward Bauer Neudecker (0-6-6)
Key losses: Goaltender Mark Sinclair (2-22-6, .869, 3.86), forward Josh Latta (7-11-18), forward Christian Rajic (6-9-15), forward Austin Beaulieu (6-7-13), forward Jack Jeffers (6-6-12), forward Liam Izyk (3-8-11), defenseman Tanner Hickey (3-7-10)
Key additions: Defenseman Ayodele Adeniye (Carleton Place Canadians, CCHL), defenseman Brian Scoville (Langley Rivermen, BCHL), forward Tyrone Bronte (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights, NAHL), forward Frank Vittuci (Wellington Dukes, OJHL), forward Jonah Alexander (St. Michael’s Buzzers, OJHL), goaltender Derek Krall (Powell River Kings, BCHL)
2020-21 predictions: The Chargers program died this summer, only to be resuscitated by an outpouring of donations from around the hockey world to save them for at least a season. The university eventually announced an even greater commitment to the hockey program earlier this month, ensuring its survival for at least a few more years, but the damage had already been done. The Chargers lost nearly every significant contributor to their 2019-20 campaign, including goaltender Sinclair, who transferred to Michigan Tech, and leading scorer Latta, who went to UMass-Lowell. That leaves just two seniors and six juniors on the team, along with 13 freshmen. Head coach West said he knows the situation will be tough this year with so many newcomers to college hockey. It’s going to be tough for them to not finish last in the standings this year, but that’s not really important for UAH this year. Gaining valuable experience for all those newcomers is going to be the Chargers’ main focus, and any added victories will be a big bonus.
Jack’s prediction: 9th
Daver’s prediction: 9th
Head coach: Erik Largen, entering his third season at Alaska
2019-20 overall record: 15-15-5 (14-9-5 WCHA, fourth)
Key returning players: Junior defenseman Chris Jandric (5-17-22), junior goaltender Gustavs Grigals (7-5-3, .906 SV%, 2.34 GAA), senior forward Max Newton (9-28-27), senior forward Justin Young (9-12-21)
Key losses: Forward Steven Jandric (13-20-33), goaltender Anton Martinsson (9-10-2, .919 SV%, 2.51 GAA), forward Kylar Hope (10-10-20), forward Tyler Kline (8-11-19), forward Colton Leitner (6-10-16)
Key additions: Forward Harrison Israels (Oakville Blades, OJHL), forward Jakob Breault (Aberdeen Wings, NAHL), Matt Koethe (Fairbanks Ice Dogs, NAHL), forward Brayden Nicholetts (Spruce Grove Saints, AJHL)
2020-21 predictions: The Nanooks surprised just about everybody last year, with their first winning record since 2014-15. They even got to host a home playoff series. Whether the Nanooks can improve on that and possibly win a playoff series this year depends largely on who steps up to replace goaltender Martinsson (who transferred to Providence) and leading scorer Jandric (who went to Denver). Those are two huge losses, but the good news is the Nanooks return plenty of scoring in Chris Jandric, Max Newtron and Justin Young. I don’t think they’re going to be battling for the title or anything, but expect Alaska to continue pushing for home ice in the playoffs.
Jack’s prediction: 5th
Daver’s prediction: 6th
Head coach: Tom Serratore, entering his 20th season at BSU
2019-20 overall record: 22-10-5 (20-5-3 WCHA, second)
Key returning players: Senior goaltender Zach Driscoll (21-8-4, .937 SV%, 1.63 GAA), junior forward Owen Sillinger (14-20-34), senior forward Aaron Miller (12-17-29), sophomore defensemen Elias Rosén (5-19-24), junior forward Alex Ierullo (7-14-21)
Key losses: Forward Adam Brady (19-15-34), defenseman Tommy Muck (4-16-20), forward Charlie Combs (12-6-18), forward Hampus Sjödahl (3-9-12)
Key additions: Forward Lukas Sillinger (Penticton Vees, BCHL), defenseman Jack Powell (Aberdeen Wings, NAHL), forward Austin Jouppi (Bismarck Bobcats, NAHL)
2020-21 predictions: Before the pandemic shut everything down, Beavers were so close to returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 10 years. This year, they return just about everybody from that team, including Driscoll, who was one of the best goaltenders and would have won the WCHA goaltending title in any season that Dryden McKay of MSU Mankato wasn’t playing. BSU will miss the scoring prowess of Adam Brady, who netted 19 last season, but do return a pair of double-digit scorers in Miller and Sillinger. It wouldn’t be surprising for them to be challenging for the MacNaughton Cup again and they will almost certainly be in the running for home ice in the WCHA playoffs.
Jack’s prediction: 3rd
Daver’s prediction: 2nd
Head coach: Ty Eigner, entering his second season at BGSU
2019-20 overall record: 21-13-4 (14-10-4 WCHA, fifth)
Key returning players: Senior forward Connor Ford (12-22-34), senior forward Brandon Kruse (9-25-34), senior forward Cameron Wright (20-7-27), senior goaltender Eric Dop (19-11-3, .902 SV%, 2.36 GAA), junior defenseman Will Cullen (7-9-16)
Key losses: Defenseman Alec Rauhauser (11-24-35), forward Frédéric Létourneau (6-15-21), forward Casey Linkenheld (5-5-10)
Key additions: Forward Gavin Gould (Michigan Tech, WCHA), forward Seth Fyten (Spruce Grove Saints, AJHL), forward Chrystopher Collin (Edmundston Blizzard, MJAHL), forward Ethan Scardina (Nanaimo Clippers, BCHL)
2020-21 predictions: Missing All-American Rauhauser is going to be a huge blow for BG, but perhaps the most surprising thing about the Falcons is who they didn’t lose this season. Highly-touted Vegas draft pick Kruse decided to return to school for his senior season, as did Ford and Wright. Dop remains a stalwart force in the nets for the Falcons, who still have a solid defensive corps returning despite the loss of Rauhauser. Expect this deep team to improve greatly on their fifth-place finish from a season ago and challenge Minnesota State for the title.
Jack’s prediction: 2nd
Daver’s prediction: 3rd
Head coach: Bob Daniels, entering his 29th season at Ferris State
2019-20 overall record: 7-26-2 (5-21-2-0 WCHA)
Key returning players: Sophomore defenseman Jake Willets (4-17-21), senior forward Marshall Moise (10-5-15), sophomore defenseman Blake Evennou (1-12-13), senior forward Liam MacDougall (2-11-13)
Key losses: Defenseman Nate Kallen (6-10-16), forward Jason Tackett (4-9-13), defenseman Joe Rutkowski (1-9-10)
Key additions: Goaltender Logan Stein (Waterloo, USHL), forward Antonio Venuto (Dubuque, USHL), forward Stepan Pokorny (Madison, USHL)
2020-21 predictions: The Bulldogs were picked to finish eighth in both the coaches and media polls this season. They suffered through a tough 2019-20 season with a bright spot being the growth of a pair of then-freshmen defenders in Willets and Evennou. Both are expected to continue to grow this season. The question remains where the offense will come from. The continued growth of Moise would certainly help as the Bulldogs look to climb into contention.
Jack’s prediction: 8th
Daver’s prediction: 8th
LAKE SUPERIOR STATE
Head coach: Damon Whitten, entering his seventh season at Lake Superior
2019-20 overall record: 14-23-4 (11-13-4-4 WCHA)
Key returning players: Senior goaltender Mareks Mitens (13-21-4, .911 SV%, 2.57 GAA), junior forward Ashton Calder (12-16-28), sophomore forward Louis Boudon (6-21-27)
Key losses: Forward Max Humitz (22-13-35), defenseman Collin Saccoman (6-3-9), forward Braden Gelsinger (3-5-8)
Key additions: Forward Joshua Wildauer (Coquitlam, BCHL), forward Benito Posa (Des Moines, USHL), defenseman Jeremy Gervais (Salmon Arm, BCHL)
2020-21 predictions: The Lakers will go as far as Mitens carries them. Staring down the barrel of a more forgiving schedule than they started with in 2019-20, the Lakers have a chance to build some confidence early and then work their way towards a home playoff berth. Add to Mitens’ strong play the continued development of Calder, and the Lakers have the makings of a better finish than the sixth-place predictions they have in the coaches’ and media polls.
Jack’s prediction: 7th
Daver’s prediction: 7th
Head coach: Joe Shawhan, entering his fourth season at Michigan Tech
2019-20 overall record: 21-15-3 (14-12-2-0 WCHA)
Key returning players: Junior forward Alec Broetzman (16-11-27), junior forward Trenton Bliss (12-15-27), junior forward Brian Halonen (12-10-22)
Key losses: Forward Alex Smith (7-16-23), defenseman Seamus Donohue (3-14-17), goaltender Matt Jurusik (19-10-3, .924 SV%, 2.07 GAA)
Key additions: Goaltender Matt Sinclair (Alabama Huntsville), forward Carson Bantle (Madison, USHL), defenseman Brett Thorne (Carleton Place, CCHL)
2020-21 predictions: The Huskies replaced one transfer goaltender, Jurusik, with another in Sinclair, and should not miss a beat in their own end as the senior has been strong for three seasons in Huntsville. Losing Donohue will hurt in the short term, as he had become a key piece of their blue line over the last few seasons. Up front, many eyes will be pulled to Bantle, the 6-foot-5 goal scorer who will likely draw a lot of attention from defenders. Alongside him, the trio of juniors (Broetzman, Halonen, and Bliss) are all one year older and wiser as they take over the leadership mantle. The Huskies are a dark horse to win the WCHA title, should they get hot in the second half.
Jack’s prediction: 6th
Daver’s prediction: 4th
Head coach: Mike Hastings, entering his ninth season at MSU
2019-20 overall record: 31-5-2 (23-4-1 WCHA, first)
Key returning players: Junior goaltender Dryden McKay (30-4-2, .942 SV%, 1.31 GAA), sophomore forward Lucas Sowder (6-25-31), sophomore forward Nathan Smith (9-18-27), senior forward Dallas Gerads (8-17-25)
Key losses: Forward Marc Michaelis (20-24-44), defenseman Connor Mackey (7-17-24), forward Parker Tuomie (14-23-37), forward Charlie Gerard (13-17-30), defenseman Ian Scheid (3-19-22), forward Nick Rivera (10-3-13)
Key additions: Forward Todd Burgess (RPI, ECAC), goaltender Ryan Edquist (Boston College, Hockey East), forward Brendan Furry (Tri-City/Omaha, USHL), defenseman Akito Hirose (Salmon Arm Silverbacks, BCHL), defenseman Jake Livingstone (Langley Rivermen, BCHL)
2020-21 predictions: It’s not very controversial to say that the Mavericks are still the team to beat in the WCHA. This is even true despite losing three of their four top scorers. But when you still have five 20-plus point-scorers coming back AND return arguably the top goaltender in the nation in McKay, the MacNaughton Cup is going to be yours to lose. The caveat here is for this season always that nobody knows what kind of effect COVD-19 is going to have on the roster, so it’s still possible for the Mavericks to lose some key players at inopportune times, but they have the best depth in the WCHA and should be able to fend off any challenges no matter what the pandemic throws at them.
Jack’s prediction: 1st
Daver’s prediction: 1st
Head coach: Grant Potulny, entering his fourth season at Northern Michigan
2019-20 overall record: 18-16-4 (16-11-1-1 WCHA)
Key returning players: Junior forward Griffin Loughran (23-16-39), junior forward Vincent de Mey (15-13-28), senior forward Joseph Nardi (8-19-27)
Key losses: Forward Darien Craighead (15-16-31), defenseman Philip Beaulieu (6-19-25), defenseman Ben Newhouse (3-12-15)
Key additions: Forward Brett Willits (Chilliwack, BCHL), defenseman Noah Ganske (Green Bay, USHL), forward Connor Marritt (Vernon, BCHL)
2020-21 predictions: Junior goaltender Nolan Kent grew by leaps and bounds over the course of the 2019-20 season, earning the starting role in the process. He will be a big part of the Wildcats’ success this season as they lost two key defenders in Beaulieu and Newhouse to graduation. Fortunately, he has help in front of him thanks to the continued growth of Loughran, who fell just short of the 40-point mark courtesy of a hard-fought series with the Huskies in the WCHA playoffs. Loughran provides the spark the Wildcats need up front. He will drive the Wildcats again this season and have them in the hunt for a home playoff spot.
Jack’s prediction: 4th
Daver’s prediction: 5th
NOT PLAYING IN 2020-21
Head coach: Matt Curley, entering his third season at Alaska Anchorage
2019-20 overall record: 4-25-7 (4-18-6-3 WCHA)
Key returning players: Sophomore forward Rylee St. Onge (8-9-17), sophomore forward Nick Wicks (7-9-16), sophomore forward Alex Frye (9-5-14)
Key losses: Forward Luc Brown (8-12-20), defenseman Tommy Hiekkavirta (2-13-15)
Key additions: Forward Daniel Rybarik (Salmon Arm, BCHL), forward Zach Krajnik (Kenai River, NAHL)
2020-21 predictions: The Seawolves have chosen to sit out the 2020-21 season, which was planned to be their final season competing at the NCAA Division I level, effectively ending the program before its final season could begin.
Hockey East 2020-21 Season Preview: ‘Still a great uncertainty’ as conference struggles to get to starting line
Nothing about this year’s Hockey East season will feel normal, so neither then will be this year’s season preview.
Yes, all 11 men’s team, as of the date of publication, are still planning on playing their seasons. At publication time, six teams were already supposed to have begun their seasons. Yet, only two have.
COVID-19 canceled last year’s Hockey East tournament, as well as the NCAA tournament immediately thereafter. It already forced postponement of six league games with more on the horizon as both Maine and Vermont are currently not allowing visiting teams to the respective campuses.
So there, we have the negative news out of the way.
Is there a positive? Sure.
We still have 11 Hockey East men’s teams attempting to play hockey. Coaches want to return to competition sooner rather than later. And the league has worked diligently with the member institutions to make sure that safety precautions – including a robust testing and contact tracing program – reduce the risks of contracting COVID for all involved.
“It’s been a long progression that’s gone well,” said UMass Lowell coach Norm Bazin about returning to play after eight months. “We’re not taking anything for granted to anticipating too far in advance. The world has bene moving in two-to-three-day increments. We [were] scheduled to play [on Friday, November 27] but we have to concentrate on just getting to the next practice before we focus on games.”
“There’s still a great uncertainty,” added New Hampshire coach Michael Souza, whose team had both of its games against Boston College this past weekend postponed because of a positive test and related contract tracing on the UNH team. “Anyone who follows college sports knows, the ups, the downs, the uncertainly has been interesting.”
For Hockey East commissioner Steve Metcalf, in his first season after taking over for Joe Bertagna over the summer, it’s been a lot of work just to get to a point that a schedule could be developed.
“There’s been a tremendous amount of work just getting to this point,” said Metcalf. “We spent a lot of time to ensure we can do this safely.”
The goal isn’t to play the season as normal. Instead, it’s to play “as full and complete as season as possible,” Metcalf said.
Hockey East members will only play other Hockey East teams. Though each team has scheduled six nonconference games, they are only against other nonconference teams and will be eliminated if league games need to be postponed.
In addition to placing a wrinkle in the standings by adding 3-on-3 overtime and shootouts in league games, it’s so unlikely that all of the league games get played that standings will likely be determined by percentage of overall points earned (3 points for a regulation win, 2 for OT/shootout win, 1 for OT/shootout loss and 0 for a regulation loss).
Yes, this will be a strange season.
Though fans won’t be allowed in the buildings at the start (and likely for the entire season), fans will still have the chance to follow the league better than ever. NESN will be showing more league games than ever and, those that aren’t broadcast on the regional sports network will be available 100 percent free-of-charge on collegesportslive.com.
Watching certainly will be worth it. Once again, Hockey East possesses a tremendous amount of talent, and preseason favorite Boston College likely leads the way in the depth of talent overall.
Sophomore forward Alex Newhook has to be a strong candidate for player of the year and is already being mentioned as a potential Hobey Baker candidate. That, though, will be impacted by the fact that he could miss upwards of 60 days to begin the season while participating in Team Canada’s World Junior selection camp and the subsequent tournament. Newhook left for camp more than a week ago.
That’s hardly where talent stops in the league. Goaltenders Matt Murray and Filip Lindberg at UMass are easily the best netminding duo in the nation. Tyce Thompson at Providence has been electric through his first two seasons.
Boston University returns one of the best all-around defensemen in David Farrance, though Michael Callahan at Providence and Jordan Harris at Northeastern might make arguments to dispute that.
And while newcomers will likely have an impact on multiple teams, there is another fresh face who will also give Hockey East a new look.
Brian Murphy, a veteran National Hockey League referee, will take over as the Supervisor of Officials. Murphy, himself, was a member of the Hockey East officiating staff from 1986 to 1988 before beginning his career at the game’s top level. He went onto officiate more than 2,000 NHL games, joining outgoing Hockey East supervisor Dan Schachte as the only two American officials to crack the 2,000-game milestone.
One other change that hasn’t been made yet, but one might anticipate in this strange season may be the league championship.
Should we successfully get to the end of the regular season, expect that the league tournament won’t look the same as normal.
If fans aren’t allowed into the building, don’t expect TD Garden, the tournament’s typical home, to be the venue. It is more likely to be moved to a smaller arena where the cost to turn on the lights isn’t as high.
There also, then, becomes the possibility of reducing the scope of the tournament in general. It’s quite possible that the two-weekend format with best-of-three quarterfinals played the first and the semifinals and finals played on the second weekend could be traded in for a more compressed, single-elimination event played at one site over three or four days.
That, though, is speculation and so far down the road. Right now, let’s hope that teams get on the ice, play safely and stay healthy so that we can be considering a postseason come March.
Until then, sit back and enjoy as we preview the 11 men’s teams, following, in alphabetical order:
HOCKEY EAST TEAM CAPSULES
Head coach: Jerry York (27th season)
2019-20 overall record: 24-8-2 (17-6-1 Hockey East, first)
Key returning players: Sophomore forward Alex Newhook (19-23-42), Senior forward Logan Hutsko (19-14-33), Sophomore defenseman Matt Boldy (9-17-26), Sophomore goaltender Spencer Knight (23-8-2, 1.97 GAA, .931 SV%)
Key losses: Forward Julius Mattila (10-32-42), forward David Cotton (15-24-39), forward Aapeli Rasanen (11-13-24)
Key additions: Defenseman Eamon Powell (USNTDP), forward Danny Weight (Penticton, BCHL), Nikita Nesterenko (Chilliwack, BCHL)
2020-21 predictions: Boston College returns a significant part of its core to the 2020-21 team and was not hit by NHL departures (Rasanen was the only loss, returning to Finland to play professionally). Look for players like Newhook and Boldy to take some major steps forward and be the leaders of this team’s offense. There is no surprise that coaches picked the Eagles as the top team in Hockey East as this BC team might have some of the highest preseason expectations in the last few years.
Jim’s prediction: First
Marisa’s prediction: First
Head coach: Albie O’Connell (third season)
2019-20 overall record: 13-13-8 (10-9-5 Hockey East, sixth)
Key returning players: Junior defenseman David Farrance (14-29-43), sophomore forward Robert Mastrosimone (7-10-17), sophomore defenseman Domenick Fensore (3-13-16), junior forward Jake Wise (2-11-13)
Key losses: Forward Patrick Harper (14-23-37), forward Trevor Zegras (11-25-36), forward Patrick Curry (19-13-32)
Key additions: Defenseman Cade Webber (Penticton, WHL), forward Nick Zabaneh (Green Bay, USHL), forward Luke Tuch (USNTDP), forward Dylan Peterson (USNTDP), forward Max Kaufman (Vermont)
2020-21 predictions: The Terriers were preparing for a series with UMass Lowell in the Hockey East quarterfinals when the season came to a screeching halt. Instead, the next time they take the ice in Vermont at the start of December, they’ll be without much of the star power that composed their roster. Patrick Harper is NHL bound after four seasons, Trevor Zegras is moving on after just one, and captain Patrick Curry will be playing in the AHL. In many ways, this is a fresh start for the Terriers. David Farrance is the key carryover player, entering his junior season, as a leader among a young group. Luke Tuch has the potential to make some noise as a freshman, and Robert Mastrosimone is sure to make a leap as a sophomore. Despite shortcomings, the Terriers still received votes in the USCHO preseason poll and landed just outside the top 20. With five other Hockey East teams inside the top 20, though, BU still has a lot of work to do.
Jim’s prediction: Seventh
Marisa’s prediction: Fifth
Head coach: Mike Cavanaugh (eighth season)
2019-20 overall record: 15-15-4 (12-10-2 Hockey East, fifth)
Key returning players: Junior forward Carter Turnbull (12-12-24), sophomore forward Vladislav Firstov (11-12-23), junior forward Jachym Kondelik (8-15-23), sophomore defenseman Yan Kuznetsov (2-9-11), goaltender Tomas Vomacka (15-15-3, 3.13 GAA, .898 SV%)
Key losses: Forward Benjamin Freeman (7-21-28), forward Alexander Payusov (12-10-22), defenseman Wyatt Newpower (3-19-22)
Key additions: Forward Nick Capone (Tri-City, USHL), forward Artem Shlaine (Shattuck St. Mary’s, Prep), defenseman John Spetz (Chicago, USHL)
2020-21 predictions: The COVID-shortened 2019-20 campaign was UConn’s best since joining Hockey East in 2014, posting a .500 overall winning percentage and tying their best finish in Hockey East (2017-18). Though graduating players like Freeman and Payusov, both high-end forwards, the Huskies return a significant portion of their offense. If there is room for improvement it comes on the back end, where UConn allowed the third-most goals in Hockey East a season ago.
Jim’s prediction: Fourth
Marisa’s prediction: Seventh
Head coach: Red Gendron (eighth season)
2019-20 overall record: 18-11-5 (12-9-3 Hockey East, fourth)
Key returning players: Senior forward Eduards Tralmaks (14-16-30), junior forward Adam Dawe (9-11-20), junior forward Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup (9-9-18), senior defenseman Veli-Matti Tiuraniemi (2-8-10)
Key losses: Forward Mitchell Fossier (10-32-42), goalie Jeremy Swayman (18-11-5, 2.07, .939), forward Tim Doherty (14-23-37)
Key additions: Forward Keenan Suthers (St. Lawrence), defenseman Kabore Dunn (Fort McMurray, AJHL), forward Tristan Poissant (Johnstown, NAHL), forward Donavan Villeneuve-Houle (Flin Flon, SJHL), forward Zachary Aughe (Aberdeen, NAHL)
2020-21 predictions: Of all the teams that got a raw deal from last season being canceled before the Hockey East tournament, Maine might be at the top of the list. The Black Bears were on a roll and Jeremy Swayman was playing like one of the best goalies in the country. Now he’s moved on to the pros, and the Black Bears lost their leading scorer, to boot. There’s still a lot of returners, but it feels like Maine will be dealing with “what if” fever if things don’t start off well out of the gate.
Jim’s prediction: Ninth
Marisa’s prediction: Ninth
Head coach: Greg Carvel (fifth season)
2019-20 overall record: 21-11-2 (14-8-2 Hockey East, second)
Key returning players: Sophomore defenseman Zac Jones (3-20-23), junior forward Bobby Trivigno (9-11-20), junior defenseman Marc Del Gaizo (4-11-15), senior goaltender Matt Murray (13-6-0, 1.86 GAA, .919 SV%), junior goaltender Filip Lindberg (8-5-2, 1.91 GAA, .927 SV%)
Key losses: Forward John Leonard (27-10-37), forward Mitchell Chaffee (16-13-39), defenseman Jack Suter (4-16-20)
Key additions: Defenseman Lindon Alger (Youngstown, USHL), forward Jerry Harding (Providence), forward Ryan Sullivan (Sioux Falls, USHL), forward Oliver MacDonald (Fargo, USHL)
2020-21 predictions: If not for early departures, there is no doubt that UMass would be considered a favorite to win Hockey East. But with Leonard and Chaffee signing early, forgoing their senior season, the Minutemen lose 43 of their 107 goals (40.1%) from a season ago. The good news is that UMass does return two of the best goaltenders in the nation in the tandem of Murray and Lindberg, two goaltenders with Frozen Four experience (2019). In a shortened campaign, it will be important for UMass to get off to a strong start. But there is certainly plenty of potential in this lineup once again.
Jim’s prediction: Third
Marisa’s prediction: Third
Head coach: Norm Bazin (10th season)
2019-20 overall record: 18-10-6 (12-7-5 Hockey East, third)
Key returning players: Sophomore forward Carl Berglund (12-11-23), sophomore forward Matt Brown (6-18-24), sophomore forward Andre Lee (8-12-20), junior defenseman Chase Blackmun (5-12-17), junior defenseman Jon McDonald (4-11-15)
Key losses: Goaltender Tyler Wall (18-8-6, 2.10 GAA, .931 SV%), forward Kenny Hausinger (7-12-19)
Key additions: Defenseman Ben Meehan (Cedar Rapids, USHL), goaltender Henry Welsch (Aberdeen, NAHL), defenseman Brehdan Engum (Waterloo, USHL), forward Matt Kinash (Drayton Valley, AJHL)
2020-21 predictions: The River Hawks were playing their best and most consistent hockey of the season when COVID-19 forced the season to be canceled last March. They’ll hope to pick back up on that this season but will have to do so without all-star goaltender Tyler Wall, who graduated. Logan Neaton returns, though with just two career starts under his belt, while the River Hawks add Welsch and are reported to also be bringing in junior transfer Owen Savory, who will be available in the second semester after his former team, Rensselaer recently canceled its season. With sufficient fire power up front and a solid corps of defensemen, goaltending becomes the biggest question for this team.
Jim’s prediction: Second
Marisa’s prediction: Fourth
Head coach: Scott Borek (third season)
2019-20 overall record: 9-22-3 (7-14-3 Hockey East, tenth)
Key returning players: Senior defenseman Patrick Holway (3-7-10), sophomore defenseman Zach Uens (4-14-18), sophomore defenseman Declan Carlile (4-18-22), junior forward Logan Drevitch (7-11-18)
Key losses: Forward Tyler Irvine (13-14-27), forward Sami Tavernier (6-15-21)
Key additions: Forward Conor Lovett (Lawrence Academy, NEPSAC), forward Alex Jefferies (The Gunnery, NEPSAC), forward Jakob Lee (Brooks, AJHL), forward Filip Karlsson-Tagtstrom (Sioux Falls, USHL), forward Filip Forsmark (Tri-City, USHL)
2020-21 predictions: As ugly as the numbers work, last season was one of progress for Merrimack. Patrick Holway fit in well and Zach Uens broke out on the blue line. Alex Jefferies is a big addition after starring as one of the leading prospects in prep hockey last season, and he should give the offense a boost, something the Warriors severely need. Filip Forsmark jumps in a year late as well after having to sit out last season. There’s some promise there, especially with a weird schedule for everyone, for the Warriors to sneak up on some unexpecting opponents.
Jim’s prediction: 11th
Marisa’s prediction: 10th
Head coach: Michael Souza (third season)
2019-20 overall record: 15-15-4 (9-12-3 Hockey East, ninth)
Key returning players: Senior forward Patrick Grasso (13-11-24), senior forward Charlie Kelleher (6-17-23), junior forward Angus Crookshank (16-6-22), junior forward Filip Engaras (8-7-15)
Key losses: Defenseman Max Gildon (7-22-29), forward Liam Blackburn (5-13-18)
Key additions: Defenseman Luke Reid (Chicago, USHL), Carsen Richels (Blaine HS, USHS), defenseman Nikolai Jenson (Youngstown, USHL)
2020-21 predictions: Though the 2019-20 campaign had ended with New Hampshire missing the playoffs prior to the COVID stoppage, the Wildcats showed signs of brilliance at times last season, including wins over nationally-ranked Boston College, Massachusetts, Providence and Northeastern. Though UNH lost Hockey East third-team all-star Max Gildon to the NHL, it brings in a recruiting class that features plenty of size including two 6-foot-3 forwards in Richels and Cam Gendron.
Jim’s prediction: Eighth
Marisa’s prediction: Eighth
Head coach: Jim Madigan (10th season)
2019-20 overall record: 18-13-3 (11-12-1 Hockey East, seventh)
Key returning players: Senior forward Zach Solow (13-18-31), sophomore forward Aidan McDonough (11-16-27), junior defenseman Jordan Harris (3-18-21), redshirt senior forward Grant Jozefek (8-10-18)
Key losses: Forward Tyler Madden (19-18-37), defenseman Ryan Shea (5-26-31), forward Matt Filipe (9-13-22)
Key additions: Forward Michael Outzen (New Jersey, USHL), forward Sam Colangelo (Chicago, USHL), defenseman Johnny DeRoche (Vermont), forward Dylan Jackson (Dubuque, USHL), forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine (Chicago, USHL), forward Marco Bozzo (UMass), goalie Devon Levi (Carleton Place, CCHL)
2020-21 predictions: Devon Levi has big skates to fill in the crease after years of a dominant Northeastern goalie group, and he’s being hyped as such. Goalies take on the heaviest load of expectations, so that’ll likely be the case again. The Huskies lost a lot upfront with Tyler Madden and Matt Filipe gone, so this feels like a season Northeastern could lock in on developing an identity for years to come.
Jim’s prediction: Fifth
Marisa’s prediction: Sixth
Head coach: Nate Leaman (10th season)
2019-20 overall record: 16-12-6 (10-11-3 Hockey East, seventh)
Key returning players: Junior forward Tyce Thompson (19-25-44), junior defenseman Michael Callahan (5-23-28), senior forward Greg Printz (15-12-27), sophomore forward Parker Ford (9-13-22)
Key losses: Forward Jack Dugan (10-42-52), goalie Michael Lackey (16-12-6, 2.25, .932), forward Vimal Sukumaran (4-2-6)
Key additions: Forward Nick Poisson (Prince George, BCHL), forward Chase Yoder (USNDTP), forward Brett Berard (USNDTP), defenseman Uula Ruikka (Chicago, USHL), forward Jaxson Stauber (Minnesota State)
2020-21 predictions: Tyce Thompson is one of the best players in the conference and the Friars are bringing back 21 players from last season’s roster. There are high expectations for Providence, projected to finish third in the coaches’ poll. Chase Yoder and Brett Berard are going to have big roles even with so much of the roster intact. It feels like the Friars are one of the few teams that made definite improvements since a year ago, and that can be dangerous with a condensed schedule.
Jim’s prediction: Sixth
Marisa’s prediction: Second
Head coach: Todd Woodcroft (first season)
2019-20 overall record: 5-23-6 (2-18-4 Hockey East, 11th)
Key returning players: Sophomore defenseman Andrew Lucas (5-10-15), sophomore forward Jacques Bouquot (3-11-14), senior forward Ace Cowans (7-6-13)
Key losses: Goaltender Stefanos Lekkas (5-21-6, 2.76 GAA, .916 SV%)
Key additions: (Sherwood Park, AJHL), defenseman Phip Waugh (Brooks, AJHL), goaltender Gabe Carriere (Waterloo, USHL)
2020-21 predictions: It is a new day in Burlington as former Winnipeg Jets assistant coach Todd Woodcroft takes the reins of the Catamounts team. Certainly, Woodcroft will have challenges right out of the gate, namely replacing Vermont’s best player by far last season, Stefanos Lekkas, who for four years gave an often overmatched UVM club a chance to win. But Woodcroft also has a great opportunity ahead. The chance to lead a program with a rabid fanbase like Vermont comes with both pressure but also satisfaction when successful. Woodcroft will tap his NHL background for advice as former NHL blueliner Mark Stuart will serve as a volunteer assistant and former Stanley Cup champion coach Mike Babcock will serve as an advisor.
Jim’s prediction: 10th
Marisa’s prediction: 11th
The Rochester Institute of Technology men’s hockey team will open the 2020-21 season this Friday and Sunday versus Clarkson in a pair of games just added to the schedule.
The Tigers will host the Golden Knights on Friday at 5 p.m. before traveling to Potsdam, N.Y., on Sunday for a 5 p.m. road game.
No fans will be admitted to the games. However, Friday’s game will be webcast live via FloHockey.tv while Sunday’s game will be available on ESPN+ and internationally on Stretch Internet.
RIT was originally scheduled to host Niagara in its season opener on Friday before playing Saturday on the road, but both games were put on hold due to COVID-19 protocol. The games have tentatively been rescheduled for Dec. 5-6 with locations and times still to be announced.
Hockey East announced schedule updates Wednesday afternoon.
The women’s series between Holy Cross and New Hampshire scheduled for November 27-28 will no longer be played. Holy Cross and New Hampshire remain scheduled to play February 19-20.
Following earlier announcements from Northeastern and Maine, rescheduled games for all postponed contests involving those schools’ men’s and women’s teams will be announced at a later date.
In addition, the men’s teams at UMass Lowell and Providence will play a single game on Saturday, November 28 at 4 p.m. at The Tsongas Center. The game will be streamed online via SportsLive.
The following games are all postponed:
Friday, November 27
Northeastern at UMass Lowell (men)
New Hampshire at Holy Cross (women)
UConn at Maine (women)
Saturday, November 28
UMass Lowell at Northeastern (men)
Maine at UConn (men)
Holy Cross at New Hampshire (women)
UConn at Maine (women)
Sunday, November 29
Maine at UConn (men)
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.
Jim: Paula, first off, it’s been too long since we’ve been able to sit down at our keyboard about 700 miles apart from one another and talk about college hockey.
For me, at least, March 17, our last Tuesday Morning Quarterback feature, seems like it was written 10 years ago. So let me bid you a fond welcome back and I sincerely hope you and all your family are safe and healthy at this very strange time in the world.
The somewhat good news is that 251 days later, there are some college hockey games played. I emphasize the word some, as to this point, there have been about as many games postponed, rescheduled or changed as there have been games played.
Since the Big Ten returned to play on Friday, November 13, a total of 21 Division I men’s games have been played, while 12 have been postponed. The reasons for postponement run from government regulations restricting teams from travel to a given campus to positive COVID tests among players and staffs.
Colorado College, Quinnipiac and New Hampshire all currently have positive cases among their team. Nine programs have entirely shutdown their programs for the season.
Our colleague, Candace Horgan, opened her NCHC season preview that ran yesterday asking, “Are we really going to do this?,” referring to whether or not playing Division I men’s college hockey at this time is the right decision.
So I’ll pose that question to you. Is playing college hockey right now the right thing to do?
Paula: Candace asked the question that needed to be asked and I commend her for it.
My short answer is that, no, I don’t think that playing college hockey – or any other sport – is the right thing to be doing now.
It is, of course, far more complicated than my simple, “Nope.” I am not a public health expert. I have no expertise in medicine. Also, there are seriously mixed messages coming from various state governments and a unified, “Open everything up!” coming from our government at the federal level, leaving people feeling everything from confusion to disbelief to anger.
There are people who say that sports and entertainment are rewards for a society that is functioning well, and people in that camp who argue against college hockey claim that we’re not a society that is functioning well at the moment. While I agree with the latter part – we are fragmented, going through more than just this pandemic – I am not thinking about the argument that we shouldn’t be rewarded.
I’m thinking about the science. I’m thinking about the healthcare system strained beyond its limits. I’m thinking about how easy it has become to look at COVID victims as collateral damage for doing business in America.
All of that having been said, I am torn about hockey because I love it so. I relish this chance to participate in our hockey community. I admire the spirit of carrying on and attempting to attain some semblance of “normal” in a fragmented world.
I do think that the colleges that have cancelled their seasons have done the right thing. It pains me to say that.
And, yes, March feels like decades ago. Everything has changed.
Jim: I think I’m actually leaning the opposite way of you on this one.
Do we need college hockey. Likely no. Can it happen safely? My gut is yes.
College football, a sport that is much more complex to successfully make happen, has for the most part successfully been played among the Power 5 conferences, and some others. Hockey should be able to execute a season, but thus far we have seen so many hurdles. It is quite obvious to me thus far that teams that play in Power 5 conferences have a distinct advantage. Hence why we haven’t seen many problems in the Big Ten. But other conferences are facing larger hurdles.
For me, I’m highly impressed by the simple amount of effort that has been put forth by every conference and every institution. While sports is something that is often dealt with by athletic directors, commissioners and administrators have gone out of the way to talk about the involvement from the President and Trustee levels. That top-level decision making has been beneficial to helping teams get back on the ice.
On the other side, though, I feel for the programs that are not playing. Certainly the student-athletes and coaches are disappointed, but more so I feel like there is permanent damage being done to these programs. There have already been rumors of players transferring out of the Ivies, RPI, Union and Alaska Anchorage. And the NCAA’s transfer portal is also filled with players from these schools wanting to transfer. These typically aren’t fourth-line players, rather some of the top talent at these schools up and down the lineup.
Whether or not this season is completed and champions are crowned, it seems that there could be permanent damage done for programs that have decided not to play.
Paula: There is no question, Jimmy, that there may be enormous implications for programs that are not playing.
Losing that top talent is one of the ways that all of those teams will be affected. Another is how programs will be affected sort of systemically as they sit out and other teams in their conferences continue to play. That experience, that growth that can happen over the course of the season, and the ways in which the teams learn from each other while competing – all of that is lost for teams that are opting not to play.
I’m glad that you brought up the ways in which decisions are being made that include entire campuses. Playing devil’s advocate against my own argument, institutions of higher education are suffering in the same ways that businesses are suffering: financially. Higher ed as an industry has taken a huge hit because of the pandemic, and high-profile sports can help generate much-needed revenue and heighten the profile of schools during a really difficult time. I get why collegiate sports continues.
In my mind, the reason doesn’t justify playing the games. Again, it pains me to say that. All it will take for my heart to break in a million pieces is for someone associated with NCAA hockey to sicken and die, or for someone related to a player who tests COVID positive to sicken and die and for that player to have to live with that forever.
I hear everything that you’re saying on safety, too. Look at the NCHC and its bubble. What an amazing concept. What an interesting experiment.
To paraphrase Bobby Motzko, the programs – and conferences – that can deal with the pandemic the best will come out on top in the end, whatever shape or form that end takes, and whenever it happens.
Jim: Let’s look a little bit at what has taken place on the ice to date. The Big Ten has played the most games, and two teams that most thought could excel are Michigan and Minnesota.
Each team has succeeded differently.
Minnesota is riding the success of its veterans while Michigan, which obviously getting strong play from an upper-class goaltender Strauss Mann, has four freshman leading the team in scoring. Mel Pearson knew he returned a solid nucleus but when you get contributions from your freshman class, that seems like a major bonus.
How do you handicap the Big Ten based on what we have seen thus far?
Paula: Having so much B1G hockey right away – in fact, it’s the middle of the second period between Penn State and Wisconsin as I write Monday evening – is a gift I hadn’t anticipated to start the season, and from what I’ve seen, Minnesota and Michigan are the two teams to watch as the season progresses.
The preseason coaches’ poll has Minnesota finishing first based on the Gophers’ remarkable second-half performance last year and my B1G writing partner, Drew Claussen, agrees with that assessment. I was inclined to as well until I saw Michigan play its first game. I cannot believe how much talent the Wolverines have this season, and Mann has returned to form.
Through four games, the Wolverines have scored 18 goals and allowed four. In their first two games, the Golden Gophers scored seven and allowed three. Michigan’s defense was solid last season while Minnesota’s was average, and both teams had middling offenses. The missing ingredient for the Wolverines last season was offense; for the Gophers, it was balance. Both teams seem to have improved where they needed to. I think everyone will be chasing Michigan and Minnesota.
It’s always interesting to see how talented rookie classes play out. Last year, a big influx of highly talented freshman made Wisconsin fun to watch but didn’t translate into the kind of season the Badgers wanted. This year, team chemistry is complicated for everyone because of the restrictions on how teams can interact because of the pandemic.
I guess we’ll see how it all plays out more quickly for B1G Hockey, with 40 total games scheduled to be completed by Dec. 20, including games against Arizona State.
And we’ll see soon enough how it plays out for all of college hockey. For what it’s worth, Jimmy, I hope you are right about everything COVID-related and that my skepticism is unfounded.
It’s good to hockey with you again, my friend. I hope that you and yours are safe as well.