Tuesday, December 31, 2013

U.S. Falls to Canada, 3-2, in WJC Play

The U.S. National Junior Team concluded the round robin portion of the 2014 IIHF Under-20 World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden today with a 3-2 loss to Canada. The Americans finished 3-1-0 in the preliminary round after recording earlier victories over the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Germany. The U.S. finished second in Group 'A', one point behind Canada, which took first place with today's win.

Team captain Riley Barber (Miami) put the U.S. ahead, 1-0, in the second period with a shorthanded goal, but Canada tallied the next three goals of the game for the win, including two in the third period. Stefan Matteau scored late in the final stanza for the U.S. for the final margin, but had also been in the penalty box for tripping when Canada scored the game-winning goal on a power play. Jon Gillies (Providence) finished with 21 saves for the Americans, who outshot their North American neighbors, 26-24.

Team USA will return to action on Thursday with a quarterfinal-round contest against Russia.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Western Michigan Wins GLI

The Western Michigan University Broncos claimed their first Great Lakes Invitational title since 1986 with a 1-0 overtime victory over the defending champion Michigan Tech Huskies, on Saturday evening at Comerica Park in Detroit.

Justin Kovacs scored the game's only goal 2:01 into the extra session when he jammed a puck past MTU netminder Pheonix Copley at the left post after Copley had deflected a shot away to his right. Copley had posted a 4-0 shutout in the GLI title game over WMU last year at Joe Louis Arena when the Huskies claimed their first GLI crown since 1980.

2013 Tournament MVP Lukas Hafner made 33 saves in his second straight appearance in the Broncos net, after stopping 30 shots against  No. 3 Michigan in a 3-2 OT triumph on Friday. MTU survived Michigan State, 3-2, that same day in a shootout, while MSU then blanked rival Michigan, 3-0, in yesterday's consolation contest as Jake Hildebrand made 29 saves for the Spartans.

The tournament returns to Joe Louis Arena next December, with Ferris State slated to join the regular field of MTU , MSU and Michigan.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

U.S. Begins WJC Play on Thursday in Sweden

The U.S. National Junior Team will attempt to defend its title when it begins the 2014 IIHF Under-20 World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden this week.

The U.S. opens WJC play on Thursday morning at 11:30 a.m. ET against the Czech Republic, in a game that will be televised on the NHL Network. The U.S. will also face Group 'A' opponents Slovakia, Germany and Canada in the preliminary round, which runs through Dec. 31. All of Team USA's games will be shown on the NHL Network, according to USAHockey.com.

Only three members of last year's gold-medal-winning squad in Russia return this time out for the Americans, including goaltender Jon Gillies (Providence) and captain Riley Barber (Miami). The only other returnee is Ryan Hartman of the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers.

The 24-man roster includes 23 NHL draft choices, and 18 players who are currently skating for NCAA Division I schools. The head coach this year is Don Lucia (Minnesota), a two-time NCAA national championship winner with the Golden Gophers who will attempt to guide the Americans to their second straight gold medal, and third in five years. The U.S. previously won gold in Saskatoon in 2010, and in Finland in 2004, both times by besting Canada in the title game.

Drop the puck, and Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Littman Story Up at USA Hockey Magazine Site

Spoke to former Boston College goaltender David Littman in August for USA Hockey Magazine, more than 20 years after I first interviewed him at Boston College for The Heights undergraduate student newspaper when he was a senior netminder for the Eagles.

After playing pro for a decade from Rochester (AHL) to Orlando (IHL), and in the NHL with Buffalo and Tampa Bay, he's now overseeing EA Sports NHL line of video games as a senior producer out in Vancouver.

The full story on B.C's former No. 35 and his current job can be found here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Haggerty Story Up at NYHJ

My latest NCAA Division I feature story, on Rensselaer junior forward Ryan Haggerty, is now available at New York Hockey Journal's web site.

Haggerty is still pacing the nation in goals, with 18 scores in 17 games so far this season. The Engineers are currently 8-6-4 overall (3-3-3 ECAC), not including 2-1 win over the U.S. Under-18 Team this past Sunday, a contest in which Haggerty assisted on the game-winning goal at RPI's Houston Field House.

RPI will return to action on Jan. 3-4 at the Mariucci Classic in Minneapolis.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

NCAA Chooses Upcoming Frozen Four Sites

The NCAA has announced the Division I Men's Ice Hockey Frozen Four sites for the years 2015 through 2018, according to collegehockeynews.com.

Following the 2014 championship at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, the 2015 semifinals and final will take place at TD Garden in Boston, and the 2016 championship will be contested at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Fla. The 2017 gathering will be held at the United Center in Chicago for the first time ever, and then 2018 will see the tournament return to St. Paul, Minn.

Boston last hosted the Frozen Four in 2004, when Denver scored its first NCAA title in more than 30 years. Tampa hosted for the first time in 2012, when Boston College won its third national championship in five seasons, and Minnesota-Duluth claimed its first NCAA crown in 2011 when the festivities were last held in St. Paul.

Yale won its first-ever national title last season, defeating ECAC rival Quinnipiac in the championship game in Pittsburgh.

Monday, December 9, 2013

St. Cloud Tops Current USCHO Division I Poll

For the first time since 2002, according to USCHO.com, St. Cloud State is atop the NCAA Division I men's ice hockey national rankings.

The Huskies, who swept former WCHA foe and current National Collegiate Hockey Conference rival Minnesota-Duluth over the weekend by 4-2 and 5-1 counts in Duluth, are 11-1-2 (6-1-1 NCHC) so far this season. SCSU also received 33 first-place votes to knock another instate rival and former WCHA opponent, Minnesota, out of the top spot.

Junior goaltender Ryan Faragher is 10-1-1 to date for SCSU, which also leads the nation in allowing just 1.79 goals per outing as a team. The Huskies are also unbeaten in their last seven outings (6-0-1) since a 2-0 conference loss to Miami on Nov. 8.

SCSU returns to action this weekend with pair of non-conference home games against No. 10 Union (ECAC).

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Holy Cross Holds on to Beat Boston College

The mighty fell on Friday afternoon when visiting Holy Cross held on to beat host Boston College, 5-4, at Kelley Rink. The Crusaders jumped out to 5-1second-period lead en route to defeating their in-state rival for just the second time in their history, and first since the 1940s.

Junior goaltender Matt Ginn made it all possible with 34 saves, including a breakaway stop on national leading scorer Johnny Gaudreau in the closing seconds of regulation. Mike Barrett scored twice and had an assist for the Crusaders, and Matt Vidal scored the game-winner and also set up two other Holy Cross scores.

It wasn't the signature win in Holy Cross hockey history—that would be its 4-3 overtime shocker over Minnesota in the first round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament—but it's still a big notch in the Crusaders' belt. It was also the first time a school from Atlantic Hockey topped the five-time national champion Eagles.

BC (8-4-2 overall), which fell from No. 7 to No. 9 in this week's USCHO.com Division I poll, has been on the receiving end of other programs' groundbreaking victories before, most notably Northeastern in the 1980 Beanpot championship, and Alaska Anchorage in the first round of the 1991 NCAA Tournament. The Eagles have also now lost two consecutive contests, and have a home-and-home twinbill with Hockey East rival New Hampshire looming this weekend.

If there's anything heartening about the loss to Holy Cross (4-9-0) for BC, which last won NCAA championships in 2008, 2010 and 2012, it's that the Crusaders beat Yale last season—and the Bulldogs ultimately went on to win the national championship.

It's a long way to the Frozen Four and Philadelphia in April, though.