Wednesday, February 29, 2012

ESPN Shuffling NCAA Tournament Telecasts

As if there isn't enough basketball on television already.

It's been written that ESPN will no longer be the TV home of the NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Championship starting this year. The title game in Tampa on April 7 will now be shown on ESPN2 instead. The semifinal games two days prior will be telecast on ESPNU, as will the regionals on March 23-25 and the selection show on March 18. The semifinals and selection show used to be staples of ESPN2, but no more.

Most U.S. households get both ESPN and ESPN2, but not nearly as many pick up ESPNU. Who knows exactly why ESPN is doing this; but the contract is also supposed to run for another decade or so, so it looks like there's little hope that NBC or its major cable affiliate, NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus), which seem to want to show hockey, will get the chance to show the biggest games of the college hockey season anytime soon.

At least they won't be cutting away early from the conclusion of the NCAA championship game for "Baseball Tonight" anymore. Because, you know, MLB games in early April are just so critical.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Puck to Finally Drop on 2012 Playoff Season

At long last, it’s finally playoff season in college hockey, at least in three of the five Division I men’s conferences. Both Hockey East and the WCHA still have one last weekend of regular-season play to go; but for most of the schools in the other three circuits, win-or-go-home time starts now.

2012 First-Round Playoff Matchups (Campus Sites)

Atlantic Hockey
Sacred Heart@Bentley
Army@Holy Cross
AIC@Robert Morris

Alaska@Lake Superior State
Ohio State@Notre Dame
Bowling Green@Northern Michigan

Dartmouth@St. Lawrence

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Nanooks Win Governors Cup Once More

The annual trophy emblematic of Alaska college hockey supremacy will remain in Fairbanks for another year.

Nic Yaremchuk's deciding goal in a tie-breaking shootout on Saturday night before a sold-out crowd at the Carlson Center lifted Alaska (Fairbanks) to its third consecutive Governors Cup over archrival Alaska Anchorage. The shootout, won by a 3-2 count by UAF, was needed after the two 49th state rivals split back-to-back, home-and-home meetings this weekend.

The Seawolves won at home by a 3-2 score on Friday at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, before the Nanooks responded with a 3-1 victory on Saturday in Fairbanks that forced the shootout immediately after. Andy Taranto kept the Nanooks alive after they fell behind by a 2-1 margin, and Yaremchuk then put it away to close out a successful Senior Night for UAF's seven seniors, including goaltender Scott Greenham. Two years ago, as a sophomore, Greenham backstopped the Nanooks to their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament, where they were edged by eventual national champion Boston College.

UAF (sorry, can't just call it Alaska) won the very first Governors Cup back in 1994 at Sullivan Arena, also in a shootout. The Nanooks have now won 11 of the 19 Governors Cups to date, including a record five titles in a row from 2002 to 2006.

This weekend marked the only meetings of the 2011-12 regular season between the Nanooks and Seawolves, although they will face each other far more often beginning in 2013-14 when UAF joins the revamped Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

Both schools now head to their respective conference playoff tournaments next weekend, with UAF visiting Lake Superior State in the first round of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association championship, and UAA heading off to Bemidji State for the first round of the WCHA championship.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ferris State Set to Clinch CCHA Crown

There's something to be said for starting off strong. That, and for laying low.

With all the annual talk of Michigan, Miami, Notre Dame, and even an improved Michigan State, it's Ferris State that now stands at 16-6-4 in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, six points ahead of second-place Michigan. The Bulldogs need just one point against Western Michigan this weekend to clinch the CCHA regular-season title outright, having already copped at least a share of this year's crown.

It's FSU's first CCHA title since 2002-03, when it also made the NCAA Tournament for the first and only time to date. The Bulldogs swept Lake Superior State in the CCHA Tournament's first round and topped Northern Michigan in the semifinals that spring, only to fall to Michigan in the championship contest. FSU then defeated North Dakota and fell to defending national champion Minnesota in the NCAA West Regional in Minneapolis to finish the campaign with a best-ever 31-10-4 overall mark.

The Bulldog names back then featured Chris Kunitz up front and Mike Brown in goal. Now it's Jordie Johnston (16 goals, 31 points) and Taylor Nelson (17-4-2, 2.07 GAA) leading the way for Ferris (22-8-4), which is also fourth in the current Pairwise Rankings. FSU won nine of its first 11 games overall this season, and five of its first seven conference outings, en route to winding up where it is now.

The one constant nine years later is head coach Bob Daniels, now in his 20th season behind the bench in Big Rapids, Mich., with 330 wins and counting to his credit at helm of the Bulldogs. No. 331 would be particularly sweet if it came this weekend.

"We’re excited that we have a share of the title, but at the same time we don’t want to share it. We want to have this thing out­right,” said Nelson to the Ferris State Torch. “We’re really excited for this upcom­ing week­end, and we want to win it all.”

Monday, February 20, 2012

Another BU Terrier Arrested

Twice in a decade, or ever, for something like this to transpire would be a lot for any college hockey program to deal with. But twice in the same season, and less than a dozen weeks apart?

Something is definitely wrong down that end of Commonwealth Avenue.

Just over two months after Corey Trivino was arrested for sexual assault and subsequently dismissed from the Boston University men's hockey team, the BU program was dealt another serious blow when Max Nicastro was arrested on Sunday and charged with sexual assault, according to College Hockey News.

Nicastro, 21, a junior defenseman from Thousand Oaks, Calif., and a 2008 draft choice of the Detroit Red Wings, was held on $25,000 cash bail and was due to be arraigned on Tuesday. He has been suspended indefinitely from playing with the Terriers, for whom he had tallied three goals and nine points along with 32 penalty minutes in 27 games so far this season. In 102 career collegiate outings, the former blueliner from Chicago (USHL) has collected 11-22—33 points and 115 PIM.

What's going on at BU is past the point of shocking or ridiculous. It's no longer a hockey issue, either, for head coach Jack Parker to take care of on his own. No, it's time for the university administration to step in. They won't kill the program—and they shouldn't—but things have to change with the entire culture of men's hockey at BU.

Two alleged sexual assaults from the same team in matter of months is frightening, and not just for the victims, although they should rightly be thought of first. Such heinous acts also paint other BU players, most of whom are probably law-abiding citizens, with a broad and unfair brush of guilt, just because they happen to suit up on the same squad as the alleged perpetrators. A number of college/pro athletes in general may carry enormous egos, but a sense of entitlement is a far cry from felony.

Even if the charges against Nicastro are ultimately unfounded, as was discovered with the Duke men's lacrosse team a few years ago after those players were publicly vilified before being exonerated of rape charges, the damage to BU Hockey has already been done—again. It's going to take a while for it to recover from another black eye, and hopefully there isn't a third such ugly incident just waiting in the wings.

Not now. Not ever again.

ADDENDUM: Nicastro was arraigned on two counts of rape on Feb. 21, with an automatic plea of not guilty, according to

Friday, February 17, 2012

Jerry York Wins No. 900

No. 3 Boston College registered a 4-2 win over No. 9 Merrimack on Friday night at Kelley Rink in a battle of two Hockey East rivals. The bigger story was that BC head coach Jerry York earned the 900th victory of his career with the win, making him just the second college hockey coach ever to attain that milestone.

Now in his 40th season of coaching, all in the collegiate ranks, York sports a record of 900-557-94 (.611) with Clarkson, Bowling Green and Boston College in a career that began back in 1972. A 1967 BC alumnus, he has gone 433-222-60 in 17 seasons and counting at his alma mater, whom he has led to national titles in 2001, 2008 and 2010 since taking over the program in 1994. He also won an NCAA crown with Bowling Green in 1984, and earned the Lester Patrick Trophy two years ago for service to American hockey.

“Holy smokes, 900 wins,” said Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy, a 1991 BC alumnus, at “At the rate I’m going, I’ll be 275 years old by the time I get 900 wins.”

York is now just 24 wins away from tying all-time college coaching wins leader Ron Mason, who amassed a 924-380-83 mark (.696) with Lake Superior State, Bowling Green and Michigan State from 1966 until 2002. He also won an NCAA title with the Spartans in 1986.

York, a native of Watertown, Mass., has also sent numerous players on to the NHL in his coaching tenure. His current NHLers from BC include Brian Boyle (NY Rangers), Scott Clemmensen (Florida), Nathan Gerbe (Buffalo), Brian Gionta (Montreal), Brooks Orpik (Pittsburgh), Cory Schneider (Vancouver) and Rob Scuderi (Los Angeles).

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Boston College Wins Its 17th Beanpot Title

A Boston boy made it BC’s night. Well, a kid from Needham, Mass. anyway.

Bill Arnold’s goal with 6.4 seconds remaining in overtime lifted No. 3 Boston College to a 3-2 win over No. 2 Boston University and its third consecutive Beanpot crown on Monday night. Arnold, a sophomore forward and a Calgary Flames draft choice, took a cross-ice pass from Stephen Whitney and let go with a wrist shot from the right circle that eluded the glove of BU netminder Kieran Millan (44 saves) to give the Eagles the 60th Beanpot title, and their fourth Beanpot championship in five years.

Pat Mullane and Chris Kreider scored in regulation for BC, which held 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the contest at a sold-out TD Garden. Mullane’s goal was shorthanded, while Kreider’s power-play tally helped him hit the 20-goal mark for the first time in his college career.

Garrett Noonan had both goals for the Terriers, including the game-tying tally in the third period on a two-man power-play advantage. Parker Milner finished with 32 saves for the Eagles, while freshman forward Johnny Gaudreau was named Beanpot MVP for his two-goal, two-assist output in BC’s two games, including a 7-1 win over Northeastern last week. BU had topped Harvard, 3-1 in the first round, while Harvard edged Northeastern, 3-2, in the consolation game yesterday.

Millan, who had backstopped BU to a Beanpot title three years ago as a freshman, earned Eberly Trophy honors as this year’s top tournament goaltender. He stopped 29 shots in the win over Harvard, and finished with 73 saves on 77 shots against in all.

The win also evened the season series between the two MBTA Green Line rivals at two wins apiece. BU won both games at BC’s Kelley Rink in the fall, while BC later returned the favor in the lone game contested at Agannis Arena.

Monday, February 13, 2012

GLI Going Outdoors in 2012

The Detroit Red Wings facing off against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2013 NHL Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor isn't the only outdoor hockey news for next season.

The Great Lakes Invitational, which has always been held indoors since 1965 in Detroit, first at the now-demolished Olympia and now at its current home of Joe Louis Arena, will also move outdoors when it is contested at Comerica Park in Detroit in late December. The 2012 field at the home of MLB's Detroit Tigers will include regulars Michigan, winner of the last two GLIs, Michigan Tech, and Michigan State, along with Western Michigan.

Look for a host of ancillary hockey events to also be held at both Michigan venues, from mites to minor leagues, much like with Fenway Park in Boston this year. That, and pass the hot chocolate.

Monday, February 6, 2012

BC, BU to Face Off for All the Beans in 2012

Once again it'll be Boston College and Boston University for all the beans.

The Eagles and Terriers advanced to next Monday's 60th Beanpot tournament championship game with wins today, as BC bested Northeastern, 7-1, in the nightcap after BU edged Harvard, 3-1, in the early game at TD Garden. Johnny Gaudreau and Stephen Whitney had two goals apiece for BC, while Wade Megan scored twice for BU.

It will mark the 19th straight year that either BC or BU will hoist the trophy when all is said and done, with Northeastern last winning in 1998 and Harvard last finishing first in 1993. BU has more Beanpots than anyone else, with 29 titles to date, although BC is the two-time defending champion.

Friday, February 3, 2012

This One at Princeton Had It All

Princeton and visiting Dartmouth skated to a 3-3 tie in an ECAC matchup on Friday night at Hobey Baker Rink, and this one truly had it all.

There was end-to-end action, three lead changes, 71 shots on goal, several spectacular saves, a post-game youth-centered Skate with the Tigers—and to top it all off, an hour-long game delay after a Dartmouth shot broke the glass behind the Princeton net, just beneath the press box, with 12:36 remaining in the third period. The glass was replaced and the ice completely resurfaced before both teams resumed play after a five-minute warm-up session, but neither could get the go-ahead goal despite going to overtime.

The Tigers, who are now 2-1-4 in their last seven outings overall, got a goal and an assist from Rob Kleebaum, plus 29 saves from Mike Condon before 2,292 spectators at Baker Rink, where Princeton has gone 4-3-3 so far this season. Eric Neiley scored twice for the visiting Big Green, which also got 36 stops from Jody O'Neill.

Dartmouth improved to 9-9-4 overall and 6-6-3 in ECAC play, and is now sixth in the conference standings, while Princeton (7-10-6, 5-8-3 ECAC) ranks eighth. The Big Green, which is 2-1-2 in its last five games to date, plays at Quinnipiac on Saturday, while the Tigers will be idle until they visit Clarkson on Feb. 10.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wisconsin Women Still No. 1

The University of Wisconsin is ranked first again in this week's Women's Division I poll, released on Jan. 30.

The defending NCAA champion Badgers are 24-2-2 overall and received all 15 first-place votes. It's the third straight week that coach Mark Johnson's squad has been ranked first overall. Wisconsin has won its last four games, and earlier this season fashioned a 14-game winning streak.

Rounding out the top five this week are Minnesota, Cornell, Boston College and Mercyhurst.