Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Stars Off to Final for First Time in 20 Years

The Dallas Stars are returning to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years. The Stars ousted Vegas on Tuesday night, 3-2, in overtime of the fifth game of their best-of-seven NHL Western Conference Final series in Edmonton.

It will be the first trip to the league final for the Stars since 2000, when they lost to the New Jersey Devils in six games, one year after winning the Cup for the only time in franchise history. The organization, which was born as the Minnesota North Stars in 1967, played in two Stanley Cup finals (1981, 1991) in that incarnation before moving their operations to Texas in 1993.

Leading the Stars from the collegiate ranks is forward Joe Pavelski (Wisconsin), who has a team-leading  nine goals so far this postseason. Pavelski helped Wisconsin to the 2006 NCAA title, and first made the Stanley Cup final in 2016 with San Jose.

Other former collegians who have played for Dallas this season include Ben Bishop (Maine), Andrew Cogliano (Michigan), Taylor Fedun (Princeton), Rhett Garner (North Dakota), Joel Hanley (Massachusetts), Stephen Johns (Notre Dame) and Jamie Oleksiak (Northeastern). Bishop backstopped Tampa Bay to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Remember the 11th of September

 He would have turned 50 this year. Rest in peace, Mark #NineEleven

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

BC's Demko Saves Canucks' Campaign

Thatcher Demko (Boston College) certainly made his Stanley Cup Playoff debut a memorable one. Demko, 24, stopped 42 shots on Tuesday night to backstop the Vancouver Canucks to a season-saving 2-1 win over the Vegas Golden Knights at Rogers Place in Edmonton. The best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series now stands at three games to two for Vegas, with Game 6 scheduled for Thursday.

Starting in place of injured regular netminder Jacob Markstrom, Demko stopped 38 of 39 shots at even strength, and all four attempts he faced while Vancouver was shorthanded, as the Canucks were outshot, 43-17, overall on the evening. The only goal Demko surrendered came late in the second period, although Vancouver tied the game just 24 seconds later on a goal by Brock Boeser (North Dakota), who then assisted on the game-winning goal in the third period.

A fourth-year pro out of San Diego and the U.S. National Team Development Program in Michigan, the 6-foot-4 Demko played in an NHL career-high 27 games during a COVID-19 abbreviated regular season for the Canucks, going 13-10-2 with a 3.06 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage. He appeared in nine games for Vancouver during the 2018-19 season, after making his league debut in 2017-18 and posting a victory in his first-ever start, his only appearance at the NHL level that year. In 39 career NHL regular season games, he has registered a 18-13-3 mark (2.96, .909). He spent the bulk of his pro career with Utica (AHL) from 2016 to 2019, fashioning a 55-36-5 record (2.56, .915) with three shutouts in 107 regular-season appearances with the Comets.

Selected by Vancouver in the second round (36th overall) of the 2014 NHL Draft following his freshman campaign at BC, when he was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team, Demko backstopped the Eagles to Beanpot Tournament titles and NCAA Frozen Four berths in both 2014 and 2016. He went 62-26-10 (2.08, .928) with 13 shutouts in 98 career appearances at the Heights, including 10 shutouts as a junior as he earned Hockey East first team accolades and second team All-America status that winter. He also won the Mike Richter Award as the nation's top goaltender that season, and was also tabbed as the Hockey East Player of the Year before turning pro shortly afterwards. 

ADDENDUM: Demko made 48 saves in a 4-0 shutout in Game 6, but the Vancouver bubble finally burst in Game 7 , a 3-0 Vegas win. He stopped 33 of 34 shots in the finale, but the Canucks surrendered two late empty-net goals after Demko was pulled for an extra attacker.

Monday, August 24, 2020

BGSU's Reirden Out as Capitals Head Coach

Todd Reirden (Bowling Green) is looking for a new job. The head coach of the Washington Capitals the last two years, the former NCAA and NHL defenseman was relieved of those duties on Sunday by the Capitals’ organization following another first-round postseason loss.

Reirden, 49, led Washington to an 89-46-16 overall regular-season record and two Metropolitan Division titles over the last two winters. The Capitals, however, were eliminated in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each year, including a five-game loss to the New York islanders in Toronto this month, as the league restarted playing operations during the COVID-19 pandemic that had originally suspended the season back in March.

Reirden won the Stanley Cup with the Capitals in 2018, in his second season with the team as associate coach, after two years as an assistant coach, and was named head coach after the Capitals won their first NHL championship. Prior to Washington, he served four seasons as an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins, after spending one year as an assistant and one-and-a-half-years as head coach with Pittsburgh’s top minor-league affiliate, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL).

Reirden, a 6-foot-5 native of Deerfield, Ill., skated on defense for Bowling Green from 1990 to 1994, after prepping with both Deerfield Academy and Tabor Academy in New England. In four NCAA seasons with the Falcons, he collected 24 goals and 52 assists for 76 points to go with 160 penalty minutes in 140 career contests.

Drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the 12th round of the 1990 NHL Entry Draft, Reirden went on to play professionally from 1994 to 2007. He collected 11-36—47 points and 181 PIM in 188 career NHL outings, including five Stanley Cup playoff games, while manning the blueline for Edmonton, St. Louis, Atlanta and Phoenix. He also played in the ECHL, AHL and IHL, and finished his playing career with one season apiece in Germany and Austria.

Following his retirement as an active player, Reirden joined BGSU as an assistant coach for the 2007-08 campaign before re-joining the professional ranks the following season as an assistant with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Alaska Anchorage Plans to Eliminate Men's Hockey Program

The University of Alaska Anchorage hockey program has soldiered on for 40 years—but next season might be the last one for the Seawolves.

UAA announced Wednesday that it was planning to restructure its athletic program, which would result in the elimination of four varsity programs: men’s ice hockey, women’s gymnastics, women’s skiing and men’s skiing, which would result in annual savings of about $2.5 million. The restructuring would also leave UAA with eight NCAA programs, all at the Division II level, following the 2020-21 academic year. Only men’s hockey and women’s gymnastics competed in NCAA Division I.

The Seawolf hockey program got its start in 1979-80 playing at the UAA Sports Center as a Division II independent under head coach and program founder Kelvin “Brush” Christiansen. UAA posted a winning record in each of its five seasons at that level, shifting home venues to the newly-built 6,200-seat Sullivan Arena in downtown Anchorage in 1983, before also moving up to the NCAA Division I ranks in 1984-85.

After one season as a Division I independent, UAA played three seasons in the short-lived Great West Hockey Conference before re-joining the independent ranks. The Seawolves enjoyed their greatest success over the next four seasons, winning at least 18 games in each campaign, and also earned three consecutive independent berths to the NCAA Division I tournament, including a trip to the quarterfinal round in 1991. The last of those teams registered a program-record 27 victories overall in 1991-92. 

UAA joined the Western Collegiate Hockey Association as an affiliate member in 1992-93, and finished 18-13-4 overall that winter. The next season it became a full-time member of the WCHA, with Christiansen stepping down as head coach following the 1995-96 season, having fashioned a 287–229–30 record over 17 years. He was subsequently replaced at the helm by Dean Talafous (1996-2001), former UAA player and assistant coach John Hill (2001-05), and Dave Shyiak (2005-2013).

The Seawolves made the WCHA Final Five three times (2004, 2011, 2014), although they have posted just one winning season overall from 1993 until the present. The 2013-14 squad finished 18-16-4 under former head coach Matt Thomas, who succeeded Shyiak beginning with that season. The program has recorded just 12 campaigns with double-digit wins since joining the WCHA on a full-time basis.

UAA moved its home games back on campus to its hockey practice home, now known as the Seawolf Sports Center, beginning with the 2019-20 season under current head coach Matt Curley, and finished 4-25-7 overall last year. The university had tentatively planned to expand the rink’s capacity from 800 spectators in the next few years, until Wednesday’s announcement. The Alaska Airlines Center, the newest UAA athletic facility that opened on campus in the fall of 2014, is not equipped with an ice-making apparatus.

UAA has sent dozens of players on to the professional hockey ranks, with at least nine former Seawolves having reached the National Hockey League to date. Mike Peluso became the first former Seawolf to hoist the Stanley Cup when he won it with the NHL’s New Jersey Devils in 1995, and Jay Beagle followed suit in 2018 with the Washington Capitals.

Members of the public who wish to comment on UAA's restructuring decision may send feedback to uaa_feedback@alaska.edu, or can attend a virtual town hall meeting and Board of Regents public testimony later this month, with information on both events available at uaa.alaska.edu/calendars/public.

UAA was set to be without a conference home following next season, along with Alaska (Fairbanks) and Alabama-Huntsville, as the WCHA men’s league is scheduled to break up. Bemidji State, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State, and Northern Michigan are all slated to withdraw from the WCHA following the 2020-21 season to reform the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, which itself originally disbanded in 2013.

Alabama-Huntsville announced earlier this year that it would be eliminating its men’s hockey program, only to have it at least temporarily saved by an aggressivefundraising campaign. Alaska (Fairbanks) announced Wednesday that it was not planning to eliminate ice hockey or any of its other nine NCAA athletic programs at present. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

NCAA Players Shine in 2020 Stanley Cup Start

Some notes on several former NCAA players from the qualifying round/round robin portion of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs contested in Edmonton and Toronto that began this month:

- Chicago captain Jonathan Toews (North Dakota) had four goals and seven points in four games in the Blackhawks' qualifying round victory over Edmonton.

- Quinn Hughes (Michigan) recorded five assists and six points for Vancouver as the Canucks outlasted Minnesota in four contests.

- Cam Atkinson scored twice and set up three other goals for Columbus as the Bluejackets rebounded to overcome Toronto in five games, the only series in the qualifying round that went the distance.

- Cam Talbot (Alabama-Huntsville) registered three victories in goal, and also posted a 1.51 goals-against average and a shutout for Calgary as the Flames eliminated Winnipeg in four games.

- Kevin Hayes (Boston College) assisted on all four Philadelphia goals in a 4-1 win over Tampa Bay that clinched the first seed in the Eastern Conference for the Flyers.

The NHL's usual Stanley Cup round of 16 began on Tuesday. Four series will be played in each city (Edmonton and Toronto), with each series a best-of-seven affair.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Three Ivy Leaguers Turn Pro

Several more Ivy League hockey players with NCAA eligibility remaining have instead signed professional contracts.

Morgan Barron (Cornell), who led the Big Red to the ECAC hockey title and a No. 1 national ranking in the COVID-abbreviated 2019-20 season, has signed with the NHL's New York Rangers after three winters in Ithaca, N.Y. A native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Barron, 21, was drafted 174th overall by the Rangers in 2017. In three seasons at Cornell, the 6-foot-3 center posted 34 goals and 50 assists for 84 points. He was a first team Division I All-America selection and a Hobey Baker Memorial Award finalist last season, and was also a two-time Ivy League First Team choice and two-time ECAC Hockey First Team pick.

Jack Drury (Harvard) has passed up his final two campaigns with the Crimson to join Vaxjo (Sweden). The son of former Harvard standout Ted Drury, and the nephew of 2001 Stanley Cup champion Chris Drury (Boston University), the youngest Drury collected 29-3463 points in two seasons in Cambridge, including a 20-goal campaign last year. A six-foot center from Winnetka, Ill., he was drafted 42nd overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2018, and was a second team selection in both the Ivy League and ECAC Hockey last year. He also skated for the United state sin teh last two World Junior Championships.

Henry Bowlby (Harvard) decided three years with the Crimson was enough, as he inked an entry-level contract with the Florida Panthers as a free agent. A 6-foot-1 center from Edina, Minn., the undrafted Bowlby, 23, registered a total of 21-2445 points in his tenure at Harvard,  which included a 2019 NCAA tournament berth.

The Ivy League has canceled all fall sports due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has pushed back the start of the 2020-21 hockey season to at least Jan. 1.