Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Former College Skaters Coming Through in NHL Playoffs

Former NCAA players abounded last week in settling first-round Stanley Cup playoff series.

Kevin Hayes (Boston College) and Carl Hagelin (Michigan) scored overtime goals back-to-back in the final two contests as the New York Rangers eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games. The Rangers will now face the Washington Capitals in the second round.

Farther west, Zach Parise (North Dakota) scored two goals in the clinching Game Six as the Minnesota Wild ousted the higher-seeded St. Louis Blues. The Wild will now meet the Chicago Blackhawks, who got the series-winning goal late in Game Six of their series against the Nashville Predators on a seeing-eye shot from defenseman Duncan Keith (Michigan State).

Up north, Ryan Kesler (Ohio State) scored twice in Game Four as the Anaheim Ducks completed a four-step sweep of the Winnipeg Jets. The Ducks will encounter the Calgary Flames, who got a goal and an assist from rookie Johnny Gaudreau (Boston College) in Game Six in knocking out the Vancouver Canucks.

The NHL's opening postseason round will conclude with Game 7 tomorrow night between the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning. The winner will meet the Montreal Canadiens in Round Two.

ADDENDUM: Ben Bishop (Maine) made 31 saves on Wednesday night as the Lightning blanked the Red Wings, 2-0, in Florida and moved on to the next round against Montreal, starting Friday.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Early Signing Season Has Begun

Silly season has begun in college hockey, with a number of undergraduates having already relinquished their remaining NCAA eligibility to sign professional contracts. 

Here's a look at some of the more prominent signings so far, via USCHO.com:

Player            Pos   Year   School         NHL Club 
Riley Barber       F    Jr.    Miami          Washington
Kyle Baun          F    Jr.    Colgate        Chicago
Jonny Brodzinski   F    Jr.    St. Cloud      Los Angeles
Andrew Copp        F    Jr.    Michigan       Winnipeg
John Gillies       G    Jr.    Providence     Calgary
Brody Hoffman      G    Jr.    Vermont        Minnesota
Ben Hutton         D    Jr.    Maine          Vancouver
Mike Matheson      D    Jr.    Boston College Florida
Colton Parayko     D    Jr.    Alaska         St. Louis
Devin Shore        F    Jr.    Maine          Dallas
Brady Skjei        D    Jr.    Minnesota      NY Rangers
Adam Wilcox        G    Jr.    Minnesota      Tampa Bay
Stephon Williams   G    Jr.    Minn. State    NY Islanders

More to come, of course, in the weeks and months to come.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Providence's Gillies Signs with Flames

Jon Gillies went out on top in the college game. Now he’ll try his hand in the NHL starting next season.

The Providence College junior goaltender, who backstopped the Friars to their first-ever national championship this season, has apparently signed with the Calgary Flames, who drafted him in the third round (75th overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, according to the Calgary Sun.

Gillies made 49 saves in Providence’s 4-3 NCAA title game victory over Hockey East rival Boston University at TD Garden in Boston on April 11. It was the first national title game the Friars had appeared in since 1985, when they fell to Rensselaer in Detroit. Gillies had earlier guided the Friars to NCAA Tournament wins this spring over Miami (Ohio), Denver and (Nebraska) Omaha, and was ultimately named the NCAA’s Frozen Four Most Outstanding Player following the championship game win over BU.

A three-year starter at Providence, Gillies had originally committed to Northeastern University while playing for the Indiana Ice of the United States Hockey League. He compiled a record of 46-17-11 with six shutouts in two junior ‘A’ seasons with the Ice, according to hockeydb.com.

A 6-foot-5, 215-pound native of South Portland, Maine, Gillies, 21, spent the last three seasons backstopping the Friars, with whom he went 24-13-2 with a 2.01 goals-against average and .930 save percentage and five shutouts in 39 appearances. He finished in the top 10 in the nation in both GAA and save percentage this year, according to USCHO.com, and completed his college career with a 60-34-13 record in 108 outings (2.01, .938, 15 SO).

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Providence Wins First National Title

For the first time in its long history, Providence College is the national champion of NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey.

The 15th-ranked Friars defeated the favored No. 2 Boston University Terriers, 4-3, in the NCAA title game before 18,022 at TD Garden in Boston.  Brandon Tanev scored the game-winning goal with 6:17 remaining in regulation, picking up a loose puck after a faceoff win by Kevin Rooney and stepping to his left before roofing a shot over the glove of BU netminder Matt O’Connor.
Tanev’s goal came less than two minutes after Friars defenseman Kyle McKenzie flipped the puck in from center ice.  O’Connor (39 saves) gloved it, but somehow lost control, dropped the puck, and kicked it into the Terriers’ net to tie the game, 3-3. It was his second major puckhandling gaffe of the Frozen Four, and helped to end BU’s 17-0-0 season streak when taking a lead into the third period.

The Friars (26-13-2) took a 1-0 lead 9:25 into the contest after Anthony Florentino blasted the puck home from the right side after Providence had milled about the offensive zone for several moments. BU (28-8-5), though, which was seeking is first NCAA title since 2009 and sixth overall, took a 2-1 lead on goals a record four seconds apart by Ahti Oksanen and Danny O'Regan just over three minutes later.
Providence would tie the game 4:29 into the second stanza on a power-play one-timer from Mark Jankowski, the only power-play goal of the night in a game that featured only four penalties. BU regained the advantage on Mark Hohmann's rebound goal just over seven minutes later.

Former Northeastern recruit Jon Gillies made a career-high 49 saves for Providence, including 21 stops in the second period alone. He also made a diving save in the final minutes of the third session on an open Friar net as the Terriers pressed for the tying tally, and ultimately earned Most Outstanding Player accolades.
Providence, which has played regularly since 1952, had last made the national title game in 1985, when the Friars fell, 2-1, to Rensselaer at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena. Rooney’s uncle, Steve, who went on to win the Stanley Cup with Montreal a year later, was a member of that Providence squad.

The Friars became the fourth Hockey East school to win a national title, joining BU, Boston College, and Maine, and also gave Hockey East its ninth NCAA title since 1995.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

BU's Eichel Wins Hobey Baker Award

In what was no surprise to many, Boston University freshman forward Jack Eichel took home the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as the best player in college hockey this season.
The presentation was made on Friday afternoon at Northeastern University’s Matthews Arena in Boston. The other finalists this year included Harvard University junior forward Jimmy Vesey, who led the nation with 32 goals, and University of North Dakota junior goaltender Zane McIntyre, who won the Mike Richter Award as the nation’s top netminder.

The first rookie to win the Hobey Baker Award since Maine’s Paul Kariya in 1993, Eichel, 18, from North Chelmsford, Mass. is also the ninth player from Hockey East and the fourth Massachusetts native to win the award. It was first presented in 1981, and was named after the late Princeton University hockey star of the early 20th century.

Eichel also copped Hockey East Player of the Year accolades this season, was a First Team All-Hockey East and First Team All-America selection, and collected the Tim Taylor Award as the nation’s top rookie. He is also the second consecutive Hobey Baker Award winner from Hockey East, following last years’ winner, Johnny Gaudreau of Boston College, who led the nation with 80 points a year ago and this season helped the NHL’s Calgary Flames back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Eichel, who posted two goals and an assist in Thursday night’s 5-3 NCAA semifinal victory against North Dakota, leads the nation with 26 goals and 44 assists for 70 points in 39 outings. He also leads the Terriers into tonight’s national championship contest against Hockey East rival Providence College at TD Garden in Boston.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Hail Hockey East as BU, PC to Meet for NCAA Title

It'll be an all-Hockey East final on Saturday night in Beantown when Providence College and Boston University meet in the NCAA Division I men's hockey national championship game.

15th-ranked Providence advanced to its first NCAA title tilt in 30 years with a 4-1 victory over No. 9 (Nebraska) Omaha in the first Frozen four semifinal on Thursday at TD Garden in Boston. Jon Gillies made 25 saves for the Friars, who took a 2-0 second-period lead on goals by captain Noel Acciari and Mark Jankowksi before salting away matters with two third-period scores after Jake Guentzel had brought UNO within one goal. The Friars outshot the Mavericks, 48-26, as UNO senior goaltender Ryan Massa completed his collegiate career with a 44-save effort in defeat.

No. 2 Boston U. got two goals and an assist from fabulous freshman Jack Eichel, including the game's first and final goals, in the Terriers' 5-3 win over No. 3 North Dakota in the nightcap. BU took leads of 2-0 and 4-1 before of 40 minutes of play before North Dakota stormed back with two third-period goals. The former Fighting Sioux threatened to tie the contest late before Eichel scored into an empty UND net in the final minute of play. UND outshot BU, 39-28, including 14-7 in the final stanza, but couldn't come up with the equalizer in coming up empty again at the Frozen Four for the seventh time in the last 14 seasons.

Both schools cashed in twice apiece on the power play. Matt O'Connor made 36 saves for the Terriers, despite a third-period puck-playing gaffe that resulted in a UND shorthanded goal. Zane McIntyre, who won the Mike Richter Award as the nation's top goaltender this season, finished with 23 stops for UND. McIntyre and Eichel are both finalists, along with Harvard's Jimmy Vesey, for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as the nation's best player, which will be presented later today at Northeastern University's Matthews Arena.

BU and PC split a home-and-home Hockey East series in the fall in their only meetings of the 2014-15 campaign. The Terriers won, 4-1, at Providence on Halloween night, while the Friars notched a 2-1 win the next night in Boston.

Saturday's final will be the first to feature two Hockey East squads since 1999, when Maine edged New Hampshire, 3-2, in overtime in Anaheim, Calif.. It will also be the third all-Hockey East matchup all-time, as BU topped Maine, 5-2, in 1995 in Providence, R.I.

BU is seeking its sixth national title overall, and first since 2009, while PC is gunning for its inaugural NCAA crown. The Friars fell to Rensselaer, 2-1, in the 1985 title game.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Frozen Four is Finally Here

We're down to the final three games of the 2014-15 NCAA Division I men's hockey campaign.

Here's my look and predictions for today's Frozen Four semifinals at TD Garden in Boston between (Nebraska) Omaha and Providence in the matinee, and North Dakota and Boston University in the night cap. Both games will be televised on ESPN2 starting at 5 p.m.

Today's winners advance to Saturday's national championship contest (7 p.m., ESPN).

Friday, April 3, 2015

Hobey Hat Trick Announced

The Hobey Hat Trick was announced on Thursday, and at least one of the three was no surprise.

Boston University freshman forward Jack Eichel, the leading scorer in the nation, was one of the final trio for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, which is presented to the top player in NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey. Projected as a top-two selection in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft, and also the frontrunner for the Hobey Baker honor, Eichel has tallied 24 goals and 43 assists for 67 points in 38 games.  

Eichel has also  has led the Terriers to a 27-7-5 overall record, a Beanpot Tournament title, the Hockey East Association regular season and playoff championships, and the NCAA Northeast Regional crown. The Terriers defeated Yale and Minnesota-Duluth last weekend in Manchester, N.H. to earn their first NCAA Frozen Four berth in five years.

The second finalist is junior goaltender Zane McIntyre of North Dakota, who backstopped UND to the NCAA West Regional title in Fargo, N.D. after cementing a National Collegiate Hockey Conference regular-season championship. UND defeated both Quinnipiac and St. Cloud State to advance to the national semifinals. A Boston Bruins draft choice, he has fashioned a 29-9-3 record in 41 outings  this winter, earning every one of UND’s decisions,  while also compiling a 1.99 goals-against average, a .931 save percentage, and one shutout. McIntyre is vying to become the first netminder to win the Hobey Baker Award since Michigan State and NHL star Ryan Miller did so in 2001.

The third finalist is Harvard junior forward Jimmy Vesey, who led the nation with 32 goals this season in guiding the Crimson to the ECAC Tournament championship. Vesey, who is property of the Nashville Predators, also won the Walter Brown award as the top college player in New England this season, and also had 26 assists and 58 points to rank among the top three scorers in NCAA Division I this year. Harvard fell to (Nebraska) Omaha in the first round of the NCAA West regional last Saturday to close out its campaign with a 21-13-3 mark.

The 2015 Hobey Baker Award will be presented on April 10 in Boston, the day between the Frozen Four semifinals and the NCAA national title game at TD Garden.  BU and UND will face off in the nightcap on Thursday following Omaha’s game against Providence.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

BC's Matheson Signs with Florida

Boston College rising junior defenseman Michael Matheson has given up his fourth year at the Heights to sign an entry-level contract with the NHL's Florida Panthers, who drafted the Quebec native 23rd overall in 2012. He is expected to report to San Antonio (AHL) to begin his professional career.

Matheson, who came to the Eagles from Dubuque (USHL), led BC blueliners in scoring in each of his three seasons in Chestnut Hill, Mass. He finished his career with 14 goals and 57 assists for 71 points in 122 games in Maroon and Gold.

This past season, Matheson served as team captain and tallied 3-2225 points in 38 contests. He scored his final goal in an Eagles uniform in a a 5-2 season-ending  loss to Denver in the first round of the 2015 NCAA East Regional in Providence on Saturday afternoon.

BC completed the 2014-15 campaign with a 21-14-3 overall record, and finished third in Hockey East during the regular season with a 12-7-3 league mark.