Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Last season, the University of Michigan was an overtime goal away from its 10th national hockey championship, and first since 1998. This fall, the Wolverines started off with four consecutive victories, including a 10-3 pasting of visiting St. Lawrence, and by Halloween they were ranked third in the nation.
Fast forward four weeks—and not only is Michigan barely ranked in the top 20 teams in NCAA Division I, but has lost four straight games and is just 7-7-2 overall.
The Wolverines suffered their first setback of the season with a 5-3 loss at Northern Michigan on Oct. 21, but rebounded the next weekend to sweep CCHA front-runner Ferris State. Then the bottom fell out for the Maize and Blue.
Following a split with Western Michigan in early November, the Wolverines have gone winless in six straight games, including a current streak of four consecutive losses. They haven't won a game since Nov. 5, and even suffered an ignominious home sweep to Ohio State.
This past weekend, Michigan suffered back-to-back home losses to a pair of Eastern squads from Northeastern (4-1) and Union (6-3). This upcoming weekend, the Wolverines will trek almost 3,700 miles one-way to the 49th State, to face-off with CCHA foe Alaska Fairbanks for two key conference games.
If there's a finger to point collectively, it could very well be at U-M's special teams units. The power play has converted just 12-of-66 opportunities (18.2 percent), putting it 29th in the nation. The penalty killing has been even worse, stopping just 61-of-76 attempts (80.3 percent) to rank 35th in Division I.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Fresh off its first NCAA Tournament appearance in nearly two decades, Merrimack College was ranked No. 1 in the USCHO.com poll this week. It's the first time the Warriors have held the top spot, and they may well retain that ranking following last night's 6-0 win over winless Alabama-Huntsville.
“You always worry about mentality coming into a game like tonight, but I thought the guys were very business-like tonight and they put their hard hats on,” said Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy at USCHO.com.
Merrimack (9-0-1 overall, 6-0-1 Hockey East) will return to action with a home-and-home series against Providence on Dec. 2-3.
ADDENDUM: The Warriors made it two weeks in a row at number one, as they were also ranked first in the nation in the USCHO.com poll for Nov. 28.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Six straight wins and a road sweep of arch-rival Michigan later, Ohio State is 10-3-1 overall and 7-2-1 in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, where the Buckeyes currently reside in first place.
OSU goaltender Cal Heeter keyed Friday night's 2-1 win at U-M's Yost Arena with 29 saves. Darik Angeli scored both goals for the Buckeyes, including the game-winner with just under 12 minutes remaining in regulation to break a 1-1 tie. Mac Bennett had Michigan's only goal, while Shawn Hunwick took the loss despite 31 saves.
The Buckeyes outlasted the host Wolverines, 6-5, on Saturday to complete the two-step sweep. Alex Lippincott and Ryan Dzingel each tallied two goals and two assists for the visitors, while Chris Crane scored one goal and set up two others. Heeter finished with 26 saves to improve to 9-1-1 on the season, and made Lipincott's goal early in the third period stand up as the game-winner when Michigan's Alex Guptill scored with 1:40 left.
Guptill scored twice for the Wolverines, while Mike Chiasson had a goal and two assists, and Hunwick (7-4-2) made 31 saves. Three of OSU's goals came on the power play, while Michigan struck twice with the man advantage, one night after the two teams went a combined 0-for-9 while skating a man up.
OSU's nine-game unbeaten streak began on Oct. 17 with a 2-2 tie against Alaska. Since then the Buckeyes have posted a win against Alaska, followed by sweeps of Alabama-Huntsville, Northern Michigan, and now U-M. Next up is Lake Superior on Dec. 2-3 in Columbus, where the Buckeyes are 4-1-1 so far this season.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Former North Dakota star Zach Parise, who has spent his entire NHL career with the New Jersey Devils, will be an unrestricted free agent in 2012. Over at Bleacher Report, I took a look at 10 reasons why he might not possibly be back in Newark after this season:
Parise, 27, played two seasons with the Fighting Sioux (2002-03, 2003-04). In 76 NCAA games, he tallied 49 goals and 67 assists for 116 points, and was a two-time Hobey Baker Award finalist.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
It was shocking, it was ugly, it was depressing.
Unless you're a Boston University fan, that is - then Sunday's 5-0 road win by the No. 16 Terriers at No. 2 Boston College probably made your weekend.
It was the first time BU has shut out BC in over 28 years, in an arena that no longer exists, back when both schools were members of the ECAC.
Wade Megan scored two goals for the visitors (4-4-1 overall, 3-3-1 Hockey East), including a power play tally and a shorthanded marker. Three other Terriers also posted two points apiece, while Kieran Millan made 21 saves for the shutout.
The Eagles (9-3-0, 7-2-0 HEA), who went scoreless in eight power plays, now have 19 days to get their act together before their home-and-home with the Terriers on Dec. 2-3. After today, there should certainly be no lack of incentive.
Friday, November 11, 2011
Only 16 of the 58 schools playing NCAA Division I men's ice hockey will make it to the NCAA Tournament. Here are 10 teams (okay, 11) that could be there when the selections are announced in March, while the 2012 NCAA Frozen Four will be contested in Tampa this April.
In short order, keep your eyes on Minnesota, Boston College, Michigan, Merrimack, Notre Dame, Western Michigan, Colorado College, Minnesota-Duluth, Yale, Ferris State and Lake Superior - plus seven other schools that could surprise. (And it wouldn't be surprising to see both Miami and North Dakota bounce back after slow starts so far this season.)
Only five months until it's all settled in Florida.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Just did a story/slideshow for BleacherReport.com on 15 free-agent NHL goalies for next year who could potentially replace Martin Brodeur with the New Jersey Devils. Former NCAA goaltenders who made my cut included Al Montoya (Michigan), Scott Clemmensen (Boston College), Dan Ellis (Nebraska-Omaha), Ty Conklin (New Hampshire), Brian Elliott (Wisconsin), and Cory Schneider (BC).
We'll see what happens - assuming Brodeur retires, goes to another team, or there's another NHL work stoppage in 2012, all of which would leave the New Jersey net vacant.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Looks like proponents of the Fighting Sioux nickname at the University of North Dakota aren't going away just yet. The Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe and Archie Fool Bear recently filed a federal lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which had previously ruled that North Dakota had to retire the Fighting Sioux logo and nickname if it wanted the ability to host any NCAA Championships.
Many people want the name to stay. Others want it gone. I'd personally like it to remain, although I can also see how some could be offended by it. The NCAA still looks hypocritical in chastising UND for its nickname and logo, when Florida State employs a white actor in war paint riding a horse into Doak Campbell Stadium before Seminole football home games, who then hurls a flaming spear into the turf in Tallahassee, Fla. Not that it has anything to do with FSU making (lots of) money for the NCAA, I'm sure.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
My profile story about current Merrimack College head coach, and former Boston College defenseman (and classmate) Mark Dennehy, is now up at USCHO.com:
Mark has done some great things so far with the Warrior program, including last season's trips to the Hockey East championship game and the NCAA Tournament, and the future definitely looks bright in North Andover, Mass.