Saturday, February 27, 2021

Colton, Ducharme Represent UVM in NHL

The University of Vermont was well-repped in the NHL earlier this week.

First, former Catamounts forward Ross Colton scored his first career NHL goal in the Tampa Bay Lightning's 3-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday. The goal also stood up as the game-winner for the New Jersey native, who skated at UVM from 2016 to 2018 and put up 28 goals and 50 points in two seasons in Hockey East. Colton, 24, was drafted 118th overall by Tampa Bay in 2016 following his second junior campaign with Cedar Rapids (USHL), and has spent the last two years skating with the Lightning's top minor-league affiliate in Syracuse (AHL).

Also on Wednesday, former UVM forward Dominque Ducharme was elevated from assistant to head coach of the Montreal Canadiens. Ducharme, who previously served as head coach with both Halifax and Drummondville in the QMJHL, played at Vermont from 1991 to 1995 when the Catamounts were still a member of the ECAC. In 129 career outings, the Quebec native tallied 54 goals and 148 points in NCAA play. He went to play professionally in both the ECHL and AHL, and also in France before entering the coaching ranks in 2002-03 as an assistant with the University of Québec-Trois-Rivières.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

2021 NCAA Men's Hockey Conference Tournament Formats Finalized

With the NCAA tournament fast approaching, the six NCAA Division I men's hockey conferences have revealed their respective individual tournament plans.

Atlantic Hockey will feature all 11 of its schools in its postseason, with some modifications to the tournament itself, which will take place from March 12-20. The first round will now be single-elimination, followed by a best-of-three championship weekend with the four remaining schools.

The Big Ten Conference will invite its seven schools to a single-elimination tournament from March 14-16 at the Compton Family Ice Arena on the University of Notre Dame campus.

All four schools participating in ECAC Hockey this season will qualify for its single-elimination playoffs, to be held March 18-20.

Hockey East will also utilize a single-game elimination tournament with its top 10 schools, with seedings determined by the newfound Hockey East Power Index formula. The tournament will take place from March 10-20.

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference will host its eight-team, single-elimination postseason tournament entirely at Ralph Engelstad Arena, on the campus of the University of North Dakota, from March 12-16.

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association will allow all eight schools competing this season into its playoffs on March 12-20, starting with a best-of-three round-robin quarterfinal round. The winners will advance to a four-team semifinal round.

Except as noted above, each conference tournament will be contested solely on campus sites. The winner of each of the six conference tournament will receive their respective conference's automatic bid to the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

Also, it was revealed on Monday that Albany, New York and the Times Union Center has been chosen to replace Manchester, New Hampshire and SNHU Arena as host of the 2021 NCAA Northeast Regional. Manchester had earlier opted out due to COVID-19 concerns.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

BU's Zegras Makes NHL Debut

On the day that America celebrated the 41st anniversary of the "Miracle on Ice" and the third anniversary of "The Deke", a recent World Junior Championship gold medalist and tournament leading scorer from the U.S. made his NHL debut.

Former NCAA forward Trevor Zegras (Boston University) suited up for the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night and finished with two shots on goal and a plus-one rating in just over 13 minutes of ice time in a 4-3 loss to the host Arizona Coyotes. The Ducks squandered a 3-0 lead they had built into the second period.

Zegras, 19, led all players in the 2021 World Juniors in scoring with seven goals and 11 assists for 18 points in seven games, as the U.S. won the gold medal. He had four goals and nine points in eight outings for San Diego (AHL) in his first professional action following the WJC, before being summoned to Anaheim.

Zegras, from Bedford, N.Y., spent the 2019-20 season with BU, notching 11-2536 points and a team-high 43 penalty minutes in 33 contests in his lone collegiate campaign,  He was selected ninth overall by Anaheim in the 2019 NHL Draft after prepping with the U.S. National Team Development Program in Michigan.

Monday, February 22, 2021

NCAA Players Shine at NHL's Lake Tahoe Weekend

The 2021 NHL Outdoors weekend at Lake Tahoe in Stateline, Nevada has come and gone, with more than a few former NCAA players making their marks both nights.

On Saturday, the Colorado Avalanche edged the Vegas Golden Knights, 3-2. The game was postponed for nearly 10 hours following the daytime first period, due to the sun adversely affecting ice conditions. A shot by Devon Toews (Quinnipiac) from the left point with less then seven minutes remaining in regulation after the restart stood up as the game-winner for the Avalanche, who wore retro reverse jerseys that honored the franchise's previous incarnation as the Quebec Nordiques. Toews also had the lone assist on Colorado's second goal of the game.

Alex Tuch (Boston College) got Vegas back within a goal on his backhand shot in close with 5:35 left, but the Golden Knights couldn't garner the equalizer in the time left. Alec Martinez (Miami) also scored for Vegas.

On Sunday evening, James van Riemsdyk (New Hampshire) tallied one goal and set up two others, but his Philadelphia Flyers fell, 7-3, to the Boston Bruins. It was Boston's fifth win over Philadelphia so far this season in five meetings.

Charlie McAvoy (Boston University) and Charlie Coyle (Boston University) both tallied goals for Boston, with Coyle's second-period score standing up as the game-winner. Trent Frederic (Wisconsin) scored his first career NHL goal for the Bruins, who also got two assists apiece from Connor Clifton (Quinnipiac) and Craig Smith (Wisconsin).

Joel Farabee (Boston University) scored Philadelphia's first goal, while Kevin Hayes (Boston College) notched two assists. Brian Elliott (Wisconsin) stopped 12 of 13 shots on goal in the final period for the Flyers, after entering the game in relief. Boston outshot Philadelphia, 35-19, overall for the night.

There were no spectators present at either Lake Tahoe contest due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The two games were the 32nd and 33rd, respectively, in the NHL's modern outdoor series of matches that dates back to the 2003 Heritage Classic in Edmonton.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

UND Alumni Star in Capitals/Devils Contest

It was a day for North Dakota alumni in Washington, D.C.

T.J. Oshie scored two goals for the host Washington Capitals, and also assisted on the game-winner, in a 4-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils. For the visitors, Aaron Dell made his Devils debut with a 37-save effort in net, while forward Travis Zajac played in his 1,000th NHL contest, all of them with New Jersey.

Oshie, 34, skated for UND from 2005 to 2008, notching 142 points in 129 games while also helping the then-Fighting Sioux to three consecutive NCAA Frozen Fours.

Zajac, 35, played two years at UND (2004-06), including one with Oshie, and helped the Sioux to two Frozen Fours while recording 86 points in 91 appearances.

Dell, 31, who was claimed off waivers from the San Jose Sharks last month, backstopped UND from 2009 to 2012. He compiled a 49-20-5 record with a 2.15 goals-against average and nine shutouts in three years, while also backstopping UND to a berth in the 2011 Frozen Four.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Butcher Scores for Devils in NHL Return

Will Butcher (Denver) hadn't played an NHL game in almost a year. On Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, he made his 2020-21 debut with a goal in the New Jersey Devils' 5-2 triumph over the host New York Rangers.

Butcher's second period goal, a shot from the left corner that deflected in off of New York defenseman Jacob Trouba (Michigan), gave the Devils a 2-1 lead at the time. After the Rangers rebounded to tie the game just before intermission, New Jersey tallied three unanswered goals in the third period for the win. 

It was the Devils' first game in nearly three weeks, after the organization was shut down by COVID-19 concerns. Butcher, who led DU to the 2017 NCAA title on defense while also winning the Hobey Baker Memorial Award himself that year, now has 14 goals in his NHL career. he had been out of the Devils lineup since February 2020 after injuring his thumb and requiring surgery.

In Buffalo, Anders Lee (Notre Dame), captain of the New York Islanders, scored two goals, the game-winner and also an empty-netter, in New York's 3-0 victory over the host Sabres. Lee, who skated for the Fighting Irish from 2010 to 2013, now has seven goals and 10 points in 15 outings so far this season for the Islanders.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Former DU Coach, NHL Forward Backstrom Passes

Former NCAA hockey coach and NHL forward Ralph Backstrom (Denver) has passed away at the age of 83.

Backstrom, a left-handed center from Kirkland Lake, Ontario, played in 1,032 career NHL regular-season outings with Montreal, Los Angeles and Chicago from 1957 to 1973, in which he tallied 278 goals and 361 assists for 639 points. He added 27-32—59 points in 116 Stanley Cup Playoff contests, and won the coveted Cup six times with Montreal. 

He finished his playing career with five seasons in the World Hockey Association with Chicago, Denver, Ottawa and New England from 1973 to 1977. He collected 100-153—253 points in 304 WHA regular-season games along with 10-18—28 points in 38 postseason appearances.

Backstrom went 182-174-14 at the DU helm from 1981 to 1990, including six winning seasons. His best campaign came in 1985-86 when the Pioneers finished 34-13-1 overall, won both the WCHA regular-season and tournament titles, and advanced to the NCAA Frozen Four in Providence.

He had previously served as an assistant coach for one year apiece with both Denver and the NHL's Kings prior to taking the top job at DU. He completed his coaching career by guiding the IHL's Phoenix Roadrunners for two seasons from 1990 to 1992, winning 67 regular-season games in that span.

Backstrom, who was also one of the founders and the first commissioner of Roller Hockey International, later served as a scout with the NHL's St. Louis Blues before founding the minor-league Colorado Eagles, who won several CHL titles before moving to the ECHL.