Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Lucia Steps Down at Minnesota

The University of Minnesota will have a new men’s hockey head coach next season. Don Lucia stepped down Tuesday after 19 years at the helm of the Golden Gophers.

Lucia, 59, who previously coached at Alaska Fairbanks and Colorado College, had one year remaining on  a two-year contract, and will served as special assistant to the athletic director in 2018-19, according to published reports. 

A 1981 Notre Dame graduate, Lucia went 457-248-73 overall from 1999 to 2018 in the Twin Cities, and is 736-403-102 in 31 seasons as a head coach at the NCAA Division I level. He previously served as an assistant coach at both Alaska Fairbanks and Alaska Anchorage before taking the top job at UAF in 1987, and moved on to CC in 1993.

Lucia coached Minnesota to eight regular-season titles, four in the old WCHA and four in the Big Ten. He also guided the Golden Gophers to four conference tournament championships and 13 NCAA Tournament berths, including five Frozen Four appearances. Minnesota won national championships under Lucia's watch in 2002 and 2003, making it the first Division I school to win back-to-back men's NCAA hockey titles since 1971-72, and also advanced to the 2014 national title contest.

The Golden Gophers finished 19-17-2 overall during the 2017-18 season, and were swept in the best-of-three first round of the Big Ten Tournament by Penn State. Minnesota closed the campaign with four consecutive losses to the Nittany Lions, which made a 2-1 win over Ohio State on Feb. 16 the final victory of the Lucia era. He also served as head coach of the 2014 U.S. National Junior Team.

Minnesota will conduct a national search for the successor to Lucia, whose sons Tony (Minnesota 2010) and Mario (Notre Dame 2016) both played Division I college hockey. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Harvard's Donato Turns Pro with Boston

Harvard University junior forward Ryan Donato has gone pro.

The son of Harvard head coach and retired NHL player Ted Donato, the younger Donato signed an entry-level contract with the Boston Bruins on Sunday, according to multiple outlets. His signing came after three seasons with the Crimson, plus a memorable two weeks with the U.S. Olympic Team in February.

A product of Boston's Dexter School, and a second-round draft choice of the Bruins in 2014, Ryan Donato led Harvard in scoring this season with both a career-high 26 goals and 43 points. That was one year after he paced the Crimson with 21 goals and 19 assists for 40 points, en route to a pair of ECAC championships and an appearance in the NCAA Frozen Four in Chicago.

In 98 career collegiate games, Donato posted 60-44—104 points, including 13 power-play tallies. At the 2018 Olympic Winter Games last month, he led the U.S. in scoring with five goals and six points as the Americans finished seventh overall in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The 2018 ECAC Hockey Player of the Year, a Hobey Baker Memorial Award Top 10 finalist, and an All-ECAC Hockey First Team and All-Ivy First Team selection this season, Donato played his final game for the Crimson on Friday night. He recorded two assists in a 5-4 overtime loss to Clarkson in an ECAC Tournament semifinal contest in Lake Placid.

Donato made his NHL debut on Monday night, when the Bruins visited Columbus. Wearing No. 17, he led Boston with a goal and two assists for his first three career NHL points to go along with a team-high six shots on goal as the Bruins fell, 5-4, in overtime to the Bluejackets.

Clarkson Wins Women's D-I National Title

For the second straight season, and the third time in five years, Clarkson University is the NCAA Division I women's ice hockey champion.

The Golden Knights got an unassisted goal 7:55 into overtime from freshman forward Elizabeth Giguère to edge ECAC rival Colgate, 2-1, before nearly 3,000 fans at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis on Sunday. Clarkson had earlier defeated Colgate, 3-0, for the ECAC Championship on March 4.

Cassidy Vinkle opened the scoring for Clarkson late in the first period, before Malia Schneider tied it early in the second stanza for the Raiders. The game remained deadlocked until Giguère's sudden-death heroics, when she shook off a Colgate defender, fell to one knee, and then regained her skates before tucking a backhander past Raiders goaltender Julia Vandyk (35 saves). Shea Tiley made 27 stops for Clarkson, which remains the only eastern-based team to win a Division I women's ice hockey national title since the NCAA championship was inaugurated in 2001.

The Golden Knights advanced to this year's national title contest with a 1-0 overtime victory over Ohio State in a semifinal on Friday. First-time NCAA Tournament participant Colgate qualified for its first-ever national title game with a 4-3 double overtime win over Wisconsin.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

BC's Watts Wins Kazmaier Award

Boston College freshman forward Darryl Watts is the winner of the 2018 Patty Kazmaier Award as the top player in U.S. women's college hockey. She is the first underclassmen to earn the honor in its 21-year history.

Watts led all NCAA Division I skaters with 42 goals and 82 points, which came in just 38 games. The Toronto native and Mississauga Jr. Chiefs alumnus was also tied for tops in the nation with 10 power-play goals in leading the Eagles to a 30-5-3 overall record, a Hockey East regular-season title, and an NCAA Tournament berth.

Watts join Alex Carpenter, who won the award in 2016, as the only Eagles to claim the Kazmaier, which is named for former Princeton University forward Patty Kazmaier.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Projected 2018 NCAA Hockey Tournament Bracket

My projection for the field for the 2018 NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Championship, which will be announced on Sunday (Noon ET, ESPNU):

March 23-24

East Regional (Bridgeport, Conn.)
Boston University vs. Cornell {3}
Providence vs. Clarkson

West Regional (Sioux Falls, S.D.)
Air Force vs. St. Cloud State {1}
Minnesota-Duluth vs. Minnesota State

March 24-25

Midwest Regional (Allentown, Penn.)
Michigan Tech vs. Notre Dame {2}
Penn State* vs. Denver

Northeast Regional (Worcester, Mass.)
Princeton vs. Ohio State {4}
Michigan vs. Northeastern

Overall seed numbers in { }
* Regional host institution

Of course, as always, the selection committee may decide on other match-ups, to maximize attendance and such. Other prognosticators have said Boston University will be headed to Worcester, due to proximity. The Terriers used to be the host team there, before Holy Cross took overbut hey, Northeastern is from Boston, too.

The winners of the four regionals will advance to the 2018 NCAA Frozen Four on April 5-7 in St. Paul, Minn., to decide the 2018 Division I men's national champion. Denver is the defending champion, having defeated Notre Dame and Minnesota-Duluth last year in Chicago.

ADDENDUM: The actual bracket can be found here. Both BU and Northeastern are headed to Worcester. along with Michigan,. Princeton and Ohio State will face off in Allentown, while Notre Dame and Michigan Tech will play in Bridgeport.

Princeton Wins 2018 ECAC Men's Hockey Championship

Every year that ends in a number eight is a good one for the Princeton Tigers. At least it’s been that way the last 20 seasons.

Now 2018 has joined 1998 and 2008 as years in which Princeton won the Whitelaw Cup as ECAC Hockey champions. The Tigers outlasted Clarkson, 2-1, in overtime at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid on Saturday evening to win their seventh straight game, and their first league title in a decade.

Max Becker, who wears No. 8 for Princeton, scored just in front of the Clarkson net in the third minute of the extra session to send the Tigers to their fourth NCAA Tournament ever, and their first since 2009. Princeton had held a 1-0 lead since the first period on a goal by Josh Teves, and made it stand up until Josh Dickinson deflected home a screened shot with seven seconds remaining in regulation to tie it for the Golden Knights, who had pulled goaltender Jake Kielly (21 saves) for an extra attacker.

Ryan Ferland, who was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, finished with 31 stops for Princeton, which was outshot, 32-23. The two teams combined to go 0-for-3 on the power play, while Clarkson won 28 of the game's 51 faceoffs.

Princeton need the victory on Saturday to qualify for the NCAA Division I Men’s Hockey Tournament, as its only road to the nationals was with the automatic NCAA bid awarded to the ECAC Tournament champion. Clarkson had already virtually locked up one of the 16 spots in the field due to its higher standing in the Pairwise Rankings (PWR), which mimics the NCAA selection process.

The 2018 NCAA Tournament bracket will be announced at 12 p.m. ET on Sunday on ESPNU.

Conference Championships Decided on Saturday

The conference championship game match-ups in NCAA Division I Men's Hockey are set for Saturday.

Atlantic Hockey
Robert Morris vs. Air Force

Big Ten
Ohio State vs. Notre Dame

Princeton vs. Clarkson

Hockey East
Boston University vs. Providence

Denver vs. St. Cloud State

Michigan Tech vs. Northern Michigan

The 16 bids to the NCAA Tournament will be announced on Sunday (12 p.m. ET, ESPN3). The five Saturday winners will all receive automatic berths. Teams such as Boston College, Minnesota and
North Dakota are on the bubble for at-large bids. North Dakota will face Minnesota-Duluth in Saturday's NCHC consolation game.