Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Army at Princeton Rescheduled for Today

Princeton’s non-conference contest against Army last night at Baker Rink was postponed following a semi-persistent snowfall from Sunday through Monday in New Jersey.

The game, which would have been Princeton’s first following its annual winter exam break, will instead be made up tonight at 5:30 p.m. The Tigers last played the Black Knights almost 16 years to the day, a 4-1 Princeton win at Army’s Tate Rink on Jan. 26, 1999. Princeton also leads the all-time series, 43-18-2.

The Tigers (2-14-1 overall, 1-11-0 ECAC) will return to league action on Friday at Yale and on Saturday at Brown. Army (5-16-2 overall, 5-13-2 Atlantic Hockey) will spend the weekend playing a pair at league opponent RIT.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Spartans Sweep Buckeyes at Munn

For the first time in more than a year, Michigan State managed to sweep an opponent.

The Spartans recorded a two-step sweep of Big Ten opponent Ohio State on Friday and Saturday at Munn Ice Arena, besting the visiting Buckeyes by 4-1 and 2-0 scores, respectively. The last time MSU swept an opponent was Jan. 17-18, 2014 against visiting Penn State by 3-0 and 3-2 scores.

Brett Darnell scored the game-winning goal and also had two assists for MSU in Friday’s win, while Jake Hildebrand made 33 saves for the Spartans.  The next night, Darnell scored an insurance marker on a power play after Ryan Keller had put MSU ahead late in the second period. Hildebrand made 22 stops on Saturday as MSU finished the weekend 2-for-6 overall with a man advantage.

MSU now sits at 9-11-2 overall (3-3-2 Big Ten) and has also moved up to third place in the conference, while OSU fell to 7-13-2 (2-6-0). The Spartans return to action against archrival Michigan on Friday at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, where the Wolverines posted a 2-1 win on Dec. 29 in the 2014 Great Lakes Invitational championship game.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fitzgerald Hat Trick Lifts Eagles Over Huskies

Sophomore forward Ryan Fitzgerald scored all three goals, including two on the power play and the game-winner, as No. 19 Boston College defeated Connecticut, 3-2, on Saturday night before 6,815 at Conte Forum in a Hockey East conference matchup.

The win improved the Eagles, who were 16th in the Pairwise Rankings prior to faceoff, to 15-8-2 overall (8-5-2 Hockey East), while the visiting Huskies fell to 7-12-5 (4-6-2 HEA). BC, which avenged a 1-0 loss to UConn in Hartford in November, is 8-1-1 in its last 11 outings overall, while UConn has lost two straight games after a three-game unbeaten string.

Fitzgerald, who now has a team-high 12 goals in 25 contests, scored twice in the second period, pulling BC into 1-1 and 2-2 ties before notching the winning goal with 7:40 remaining in regulation with a man advantage to complete his first career collegiate hat trick. BC outshot UConn, 37-21, and was 2-for-4 on the power play. Junior defenseman Michael Matheson had two assists, and sophomore goaltender Thatcher Demko made 19 saves in the victory.

UConn will host No. 14 Merrimack on Tuesday, while BC will entertain No. 18 Providence on Friday.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Controversy Over Penn State 409 Decals

Looks like some more trouble is emanating from Happy Valley.

The Penn State University men's hockey team wore “409” decals on their white helmets (as shown) last Friday for its game against visiting Big Ten rival Michigan State, after the NCAA ruled that it was restoring 111 wins to late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. Those wins had been taken away following the NCAA's investigation into the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse incidents on campus that came to light in recent years.

Penn State was also stripped of a number of football scholarships, and was not permitted to participate in bowl games for four years. The latter stricture was lifted this season, as the Nittany Lions triumphed, 31-30, over Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.

Paterno again ranks first among NCAA Division I football coaches with a total of 409 career victories. Some have taken Penn State hockey coach Guy Gadowsky to task for the 409 decals, however, saying that wearing them was an affront to Sandusky's victims, and perhaps ignored any possible role that Paterno may have played in covering up his former assistant coach's crimes before he himself was fired from his longtime position.

Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour apparently wasn’t happy with the decals, either, as she expressed on Twitter. The next night, Penn State claimed a 5-2 win over MSU at Pegula Arena in which the Nittany Lions wore gray third jerseys and non-standard blue helmets, apparently without any “409” decals.

Having known Gadowsky, and having also covered Princeton University for several years when he was coaching there, I find it hard to believe that he would have done such a thing with complete disregard for the Sandusky victims. If anything, it was a show of solidarity with the rest of the Penn State community.

Could the decal gesture have been taken the wrong way? Sure it could have. Despite the NCAA lessening the sanctions it imposed on the football program, rightly or wrongly, there are still deep wounds running through the campus. Some people may take a long time to heal regarding what happened, and others may never be fully whole.

Taking away or restoring wins to the football program isn’t the key issue, it’s helping those people who were hurt. Wins in the end are intangible, just something marked down on paper or kept track of on a computer. The real question is, is Penn State truly working to ensure that incidents like Sandusky’s never happen again? 

I don't think that Gadowsky, a husband and father as well as a coach, did this with malicious intent. Whether or not Paterno knew what was going on or covered things up—and it's hard to believe he didn't—he’s always going to be associated with Penn State, for good or bad. I wouldn’t put his statue up again, but he will always be associated with the school due to his longevity, if nothing else. Some supporters will still defend him and his record to the death, especially against perceived outsiders.

When it's all said and done, the decals may have rubbed some people the wrong way, and it's probably good they’ve been removed so as not to keep potentially antagonizing those individuals who didn't agree with their placement in the first place. Penn State still has a long way to go.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

BC Tops BU in Hockey East Match

All three of Boston College’s freshmen lit the lamp in the No. 17 Eagles 4-2 triumph over archrival No. 2 Boston University on Friday night at Agganis Arena in a Hockey East matchup.  BC’s unbeaten streak has now reached eight games (6-0-2), while BU had a three-game unbeaten string (1-0-2) snapped in front of a crowd of 6,150 on Commonwealth Avenue.

Noah Hanifin and Alex Tuch (two goals) staked BC to a 3-0 lead midway through the game, with Tuch also setting up Hanifin’s first-period goal, before Danny O’Regan and Matt Lane countered for the host Terriers in the third period. Zach Sanford then closed the scoring for the Eagles with an empty-net goal with 33 seconds remaining in regulation.

Thatcher Demko made 31 saves for BC (13-7-2 overall, 6-4-2 HEA), while Matt O’Connor finished with 37 stops for BU (12-4-4, 7-2-2).  The Eagle also outshot the Terriers, 41-33, and went 2-for-7 on the power play while also killing off 4-of-5 BU man-advantages.

The two Green Line rivals may meet again in the second round of the Beanpot Tournament in Boston on Feb. 9. BC will now play at Maine on Sunday, while BU will host No. 6 UMass Lowell that same day.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Former Home of NHL's Devils May Close

Back from a bout with the flu, and just it time to see that the state wants to shut down the venerable Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey by the end of the month, ostensibly to save money.

The former Brendan Byrne Arena/Meadowlands Arena/Continental Airlines Arena, and the former home of the NHL's New Jersey Devils, it never saw a college hockey contest and hasn't hosted any hockey at all since the Devils left for Newark in 2007, although the dasher boards are still in place minus the glass. The Devils won two of their three Stanley Cups there, in 1995 and 2003, and haven't experienced that same kind of success in Essex County, albeit for the anomaly of 2012 when they lost to Los Angeles in six games in the final.

I saw close to 100 Devils games at the Meadowlands over the years, from 1982 to 2007. I still prefer the game experience there to Newark, even if the Prudential Center is a bit easier for me to get to. The seats in Bergen County were bigger, too, plus cheaper.

This is basically political grandstanding by the Christie administration, more than anything else, to funnel more business towards the Devils' current digs. Although the Izod Center doesn't entertain as many events as it once did, it does still host some three dozen high school and college graduations on an annual basis. Now those schools may all have to scramble to obtain new commencement venues on very short notice thanks to some short-sighted politicians.

The Meadowlands was a great place to watch an NHL game, even if it feels now like a house with all the children gone. It would probably would have been a neat place to host an NCAA Frozen Four as well. Hopefully the building will be saved, or at least re-purposed.

Friday, January 2, 2015

U.S. Eliminated from WJC in Canada

For the second year in a row, the United States is one and done in the elimination stage at the IIHF World Junior Championships.

The Americans fell, 3-2, to Russia on Friday afternoon in a quarterfinal-round match at the Bell Centre in Montreal. The U.S. fought back from a 2-0 deficit after 20 minutes of play when Anthony DeAngelo scored the first U.S. goal on a 5-on-3 power play in the second period.

After Russia, which scored two power-play goals on the day, took a 3-1 lead in the third stanza, Zach Werenski (Michigan) scored the final American goal of the tournament. Thatcher Demko (Boston College) finished with 22 saves for the Americans and was pulled for an extra attacker in the final 90 seconds of regulation, but the U.S. could not come up with the tying goal despite outshooting Russia, 41-25, overall.

It marks the second straight year that Team USA failed to medal at the WJC, and the second straight tournament that the Americans were eliminated by Russia. According to the IIHF web site, the U.S. has not beaten Russia in the WJC since Dec. 2007.

Two years ago, the U.S. rode the scoring of Johnny Gaudreau and the goaltending of John Gibson to gold in Ufa, Russia. Three years prior to that, it was current Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson scoring the gold-medal winner in overtime against Canada in Saskatchewan. The U.S also garnered a bronze medal in 2011 in Buffalo.

Russia will now play the winner of Sweden and Finland, a rematch of last year's gold medal game that was won by Finland in Malmo, Sweden.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

U.S. Falls to Canada at WJC

Dylan Larkin (Michgan) scored twice and Thatcher Demko (Boston College) made 40 saves, but Team USA fell to Canada, 5-3, to conclude round-robin play at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship on Wednesday in Montreal.

Canada, which scored two empty-net goals, finished four points ahead of the Americans, who suffered their first loss of the tournament, to claim Group A. The U.S. was outshot, 43-28, and never held a lead, while each team scored a power-play goal.Anthony DeAngelo scored Team USA's first goal of the afternoon, which came on a man advantage.

The U.S. will now face Russia in a WJC quarterfinal match at the Bell Centre on Friday at 1 p.m. (NHL Network, Russia is coming off of a 4-1 loss to the Czech Republic.

Happy New Year!