Sunday, May 29, 2011

Wayne State Eliminates Women's Hockey

Sorry to see that Wayne State University in Detroit is dropping its women's hockey program, the only such Division I program in the state of Michigan, just three years after the death knell sounded for the Warrior's men's hockey program. Cost was cited as the overriding factor - and securing a consistent home arena was always a problem for both Warrior programs over the years - but this latest move is still a blow to college hockey, nonetheless.

An online petition has been inaugurated in an effort to save the program:

I was living in Michigan when both WSU hockey programs got their respective starts in the fall of 1999, and remember all the excitement and anticipation that surrounded their additions to the Division I ranks at the old Michigan Fairgrounds. Just a dozen years later and they're both gone, like the University of Findlay programs before them.

So long, Green and Gold.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rafalski and Weight Retire from NHL

Hail and farewell to former Wisconsin All-America defenseman Brian Rafalski, who retired on Wednesday after 11 NHL seasons and three Stanley Cup rings between the New Jersey Devils and the Detroit Red Wings. He registered 79 goals and 515 points in 833 regular-season outings, and added another 29-71--100 points in 165 post-season contests that included four trips to the Stanley Cup Final. He also made three appearances for the U.S. in the Olympic Winter Games, earning silver medals in both 2002 and 2010.

So long also to former Lake Superior State star Doug Weight, who hung up his own skates Thursday after 19 NHL campaigns with the New York Rangers, Edmonton Oilers, St. Louis Blues , Carolina Hurricanes, Anaheim Ducks and New York Islanders. He posted 278 goals and 1,033 points in 1,238 regular-season games, and collected another 23-49--72 points in 97 playoff contests while claiming a Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006. He also earned an Olympic silver medal with the U.S. in 2002 in Salt Lake City, plus he was a member of America's 1996 World Cup title team.

Rafalski wasn't drafted, and followed up four years at Wisconsin with four seasons in Europe before breaking into the NHL with New Jersey in 1999. Weight was claimed in the second round in 1990 by the Rangers, and made his NHL debut the following spring after two high-scoring NCAA seasons with the Lakers. Both were ultimately undone, at least partially, by injuries; but both also made their mark as American-born, college-trained players who competed - and competed well - at the highest levels of hockey.

Best of luck to them in their retirements, and to today's young guns who can hopefully achieve similar success in their own careers.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

College Players Keep Coming Up Big in NHL Playoffs

The stakes are getting bigger in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and it's more than a few former NCAA skaters who keep coming through for their respective teams.

Kevin Bieksa propelled Vancouver to its first Stanley Cup Final in 17 years with his double-overtime goal on Tuesday night that ousted San Jose in five games. The former Bowling Green blueliner (2000-2004) had four goals in the series, and five goals in the playoffs after scoring six times during the regular season. Ohio State's Ryan Kesler preceded Bieksa's bizarre game-winner with his own game-tying deflection in the last minute of regulation in Vancouver's 3-2 victory.

Yale product Chris Higgins had a chance to win it in OT for the Canucks in the clincher on a semi-breakaway that was stopped, although he did contribute a goal and two assists in a 7-3 triumph in Game Two against the Sharks. Dartmouth alumnus Tanner Glass has yet to pick up a point for Vancouver, but has skated in 16 playoff games, while Minnesota's Keith Ballard has seen action in nine postseason contests this spring.

San Jose again fell short of an appearance in the Final, but it wasn't for lack of trying on the parts of Miami's Dan Boyle (3-13--16 points in 18 games) or Wisconsin's Joe Pavelski (5-5--10 points in 18 games) or Cornell's Doug Murray. Other former collegians who suited up for the Sharks in this year's playoffs included Torrey Mitchell (Vermont), Kent Huskins (Clarkson), Jamal Mayers (Western Michigan) and Benn Ferriero (Boston College).

Tampa Bay's timeless Martin St. Louis showed he still has something left in the tank with his two-goal, three-point performance tonight in the Lightning's season-saving 5-4 win over Boston, even if it came at the expense of former Vermont teammate Tim Thomas, who made 21 saves for the visiting Bruins. Of course, it was equally ageless wonder Dwayne Roloson who helped make it possible down the other end, as the former UMass Lowell netminder shook off a pair of forgettable outings in Games Three and Four with 19 stops tonight to lift the Lightning to a Game Seven on Friday in Beantown.

Teddy Purcell (Maine) also contributed two goals for Tampa Bay tonight, and has four goals in the series so far, while also assisting the Lightning's effort this spring have been Ryan Malone (St. Cloud State), Dominic Moore (Harvard), Adam Hall (Michigan State) and Mike Lundin (Maine).

Besides Thomas, the Bruins, who are looking to get back into the Finals for the first time since I was a junior at BC, only boast Rich Peverley (St. Lawrence) from the college ranks. We’ll see on Friday night if that's enough to send them on to Vancouver.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Derek Boogaard 1982-2011

He didn't play in college, but the recent passing of New York Rangers forward Derek Boogaard has shaken up the entire hockey world. He touched a lot of people in his short time on earth, through his charity work as much as his on-ice contributions, fistic or otherwise; and 28 is much too young to go.

I'll always remember the lone goal he scored for the Rangers, when he slapped a puck past Michal Neuvirth of Washington back in November at Madison Square Garden. It was Boogaard's first goal in 234 games and the third of his NHL career. Sadly, there won't be any more.

My condolences and prayers go out to his family. Rest in peace, Boogeyman.