Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Big Ten Proposal Could Change College Hockey

Interesting read at collegehockeynews.com on a proposal introduced by the Big Ten, independent of the other NCAA Division I men's ice hockey leagues.

Essentially if not exactly, it wants to make the college hockey world a bit younger by retracting a year of eligibility for players who don't enroll in school until after they are 20 years old, down from 21 years old.

Older players from junior A/B hockey have almost always been a staple of the college ranks. My roommate my sole season at Alaska Fairbanks turned 21 as a freshman because he played in both the USHL and NAHL after graduating high school, and prior to enrolling at UAF. Unless you're a Thatcher Demko, the days of 18 years old jumping directly from high/prep school to NCAA Division I are pretty much long over with.

Despite spending two years at Michigan State (1994-1996), I've never been enamored of the six-team Big Ten hockey conference. I've always felt they should have played a schedule within a schedule like the Ivy League schools in the ECAC do, while maintaining membership in the old Central and Western Collegiate Hockey Associations—but that wasn't going to happen with the Big Ten Network.

I'm also still waiting for the CCHA to come back. One of these days.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Princeton Garners Split

Princeton earned an ECAC split this past weekend at home.

The Tigers suffered their worst loss of the season on Friday night, a 5-1 defeat to No. 14 St. Lawrence at Hobey Baker Rink. Brian Ward had a goal and an assist for the visiting Saints, while Mike Marnell and Ben Masella had two assists apiece and Kyle Hayton made 41 saves. The Tigers fell behind, 3-0, by the middle of the second period before sophomore forward Max Becker got the home side on the board with his first career collegiate goal. Colton Phinney stopped 29 shots before giving way in the third period to Ben Halford, who made five saves on six shots.

The next night, Princeton recorded its first victory since Halloween with a 3-0 blanking of No. 20 Clarkson. Phinney made 31 stops as Eric Robinson, Kyle Rankin and Max Veronneau (PPG) scored for Princeton. Steve Perry had 21 stops for the visiting Golden Knights.

The Tigers (2-6-0 overall, 1-5-0 ECAC) head north for two non-conference contests this weekend at Maine (2-8-3 overall), whom Princeton defeated by a 3-1 count on Oct. 31 in Trenton. The Black Bears earned their first wins of the 2015-16 campaign on Friday and Saturday with a two-step sweep of visiting Hockey East opponent Vermont (3-2, 4-1).

Friday, November 20, 2015

North Dakota Fighting Hawks

It was announced on Wednesday  that the University of North Dakota's athletic teams will hereafter be known as the Fighting Hawks. The name emerged from a third round of recent voting, edging the second-place choice of Roughriders.

UND was formerly known as the Fighting Sioux until 2012, the last holdout as the NCAA cracked down on Native American nicknames. The university is in the process of developing a new athletics logo, although the interlocking UND will likely also remain in use.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Harvard Wins for Fourth Time in Five Games

Harvard rebounded from a 4-1 loss to Quinnipiac on Friday night with a 3-0 victory at Princeton on Saturday. The seventh-ranked Crimson  improved to 4-1-0 both overall and in the Eastern College Athletic Conference, while the host Tigers fell to 1-5-0 (1-4-0 ECAC).

Hobey Baker Award candidate Jimmy Vesey scored the first goal of the game at Hobey Baker Rink on a deflection in the opening period, and the 1-0 lead lasted until the Crimson were able to pot empty-net goals in the final minute of regulation from Clayton Anderson and Alexander Kerfoot. Merrick Madsen made 38 saves in earning the shutout. Vesey leads all ECAC players in league scoring with five goals and six assists for 11 points in six games.

Colton Phinney finished with 39 saves for Princeton, which essentially lost its fourth straight one-goal game after single-score setbacks to Cornell, Colgate and Dartmouth. He is now 1-5-0 overall on the season with a 2.21 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage.

The two Ivy League opponents will meet again on Jan. 29 in Cambridge, Mass.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Friars Still Ranked First Nationally

Two conference ties are better one non-league win, at least in this week's USCHO.com Division I men's rankings.

No. 1 Providence skated to 1-1 and 3-3 overtime ties last week in a home-and-home Hockey East series with No. 11 Boston University, and received 17 first-place votes in the Nov. 16 poll. It marks the second straight week the Friars (6-0-3 overall)  are in first place nationally.

No. 2 Boston College held off unranked Michigan State, 6-4, on Friday night and received 14 first-place votes, but still came up short against the defending national champion Friars in the rankings. BC is 9-1-0 overall.

Quinnipiac, which remains perfect at 10-0-0 this season, was in third place, and also received 12 first-place votes, while North Dakota (9-1-2) was fourth, with the final seven first-place votes. Rounding out the top 10 are Massachusetts-Lowell, Nebraska-Omaha, St. Cloud State, Harvard, Denver and BU.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Eagles Outlast Spartans, 6-4, on Friday Night

Ryan Fitzgerald and Colin White scored two goals apiece, and Myles Wood redirected home the winning score on a late-game power play to lift second-ranked Boston College to a 6-4 NCAA victory over visiting Michigan State on Friday night at Conte Forum. The Eagles improve to 9-1-0 overall, while the Spartans fall to 4-4-1 on the year.

Following a scoreless first period in which BC outshot MSU, 17-6, White put the home side up by a goal when he stuffed a close-in shot past Spartan goaltender Jake Hildebrand (30 saves) just 4:30 into the second stanza. MSU responded 11 seconds later on a goal by Mackenzie MacEachern to tie the game, and also break BC's shutout streak that dated back to a 4-3 win over Denver on Oct. 30. Wood then scored on a backhand several minutes before the end of the period to restore BC's one-goal edge, his sixth goal of the season.

Fitzgerald, who also posted two assists on the night, made it a 3-1 game 91 seconds into the final frame with a sweeping forehand move, and Alex Tuch then put BC up by three goals just under 11 minutes later with an uncontested shot over Hildebrand's glove. Two minutes later, the game was tied, as MSU top goal scorers JT Stenglein, Brennan Sanford, and Mason Appleton scored in rapid-fire succession for the Spartans in a span of just 92 seconds to make it 4-4.

BC rebounded to go back on top for good with just under two minutes remaining in regulation when Austin Cangelosi's shot from the point deflected off of Woods' skate and into the MSU net. The goal, the only one power-play score in a combined 13 man-advantage attempts by both teams, was confirmed following a video review. Fitzgerald then closed out the scoring with just over a minute left, with his team-leading seventh goal of the season, as he wristed the puck into an empty net with Hildebrand having been pulled for an extra Spartan attacker. MSU outshot BC, 37-36, on the night, including 31-19 over the final 40 minutes, but went 0-for-7 on the power play. Michael Ferrantino set up two goals for the Spartans.

Thatcher Demko finished with 33 saves for the Eagles, who will play at Hockey East rival New Hampshire on Saturday evening in another single-game weekend. The Spartans saw their three-game winning string broken, including a two-step sweep of visiting UNH last weekend, and will head home to host Michigan Tech for two non-conference contests this weekend at Munn Arena. (uscho.com photo)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Spartans Meet Eagles Tonight in Beantown

No. 2 Boston College and Michigan State will meet tonight for the 27th time in NCAA hockey competition, and for just the fourth time ever at BC’s Kelley Rink. MSU leads the all-time series, 17-8-1, according to BC’s game notes, although the Eagles won, 3-2, last year in East Lansing in the first meeting between the two schools since 2011.

I won’t be making this trip, although I was tempted to point the car north today and keep going until I hit Chestnut Hill. I last saw BC and MSU meet live at the 1996 Great Western Freeze-Out in Inglewood, Calif. when I was the Spartans’ publicity contact. MSU won that game, 5-2, and also won, 5-3, in the first-ever meeting at Kelley Rink in 1989, the only other BC-MSU match-up I’ve attended in person, when I was just starting my junior year on the Heights.(Maybe it's better I stay home tonight, for BC's sake.)

Michigan State is 4-3-1 so far this season, has won three straight games, and is coming off a two-step sweep at home of New Hampshire (5-0, 7-4). Boston College has shut out its last two opponents (UMass, 7-0, and Maine, 3-0 and 2-0) as part of its current seven-game winning streak, and is 8-1-0 on the year.

The Spartans last played at BC in 1996, a 4-3 win by the Eagles. All-time, BC has faced MSU in NCAA Tournament competition in no less than 10 games, more times than any other opponent except Minnesota, with MSU defeating BC for the 2007 NCAA title in St. Louis. In addition, MSU coach Tom Anastos' daughter, Andie, is a forward on BC's women's hockey team.

We’ll see how it goes tonight in a venue where the series is all even at 1-1-1.