Week In Review
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
The big games of the week were the 14th annual College Hockey Showcase, which pits the two Big Ten schools from the WCHA, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and against two of them from the CCHA, Michigan and Michigan State. This year, Minnesota and Wisconsin played host, playing Friday and Saturday home games on campus, rotating between the two opponents on each day.
Minnesota came out of it looking like the No. 1 team that it currently is, winning both games, including Saturday's rout of Michigan. Wisconsin and Michigan got the splits, while Michigan State went home licking its wounds.
Michigan defeated Wisconsin, 4-3, on Friday. Red Berenson said his team got "lucky" to defeat the Badgers, but nonetheless, Michigan won behind a 15-save third period from Billy Sauer. The Wolverines broke a six-game losing streak in the Showcase, and it was Michigan's seventh win in a row. For Wisconsin, it was a sixth straight loss, including five at home. The positive news for Wisconsin was the return of Jack Skille, who scored (shorthanded) in his first game since Oct. 13 after being out with a hyper-extended elbow. It was frustrating for the Badgers, who came in as the third-worst scoring team in the country, to finally get three goals, yet lose as Hobey candidate Brian Elliott allows four.
Minnesota knocked off MSU, 5-4, on Friday as Alex Goligoski scored on the power play in the third. Minnesota played without freshman phenom Kyle Okposo, who strained a hip muscle in practice this week. But it did get back Tyler Hirsch, the team's top playmaker. He was sat out for academic reasons, but head coach Don Lucia was satisfied by Wednesday that Hirsch had made up enough class work. Minnesota goalie Jeff Frazee made only 13 saves in getting the win.
Saturday, Wisconsin broke the losing skid with a 2-0 win over the Spartans. Despite the importance of such a game, coach Mike Eaves gave Elliott the night off. Thus, Shane Connelly picked up the shutout, saving 19 shots, a big boost to the sophomore's confidence; he has struggled at times in his cameos. Michigan State has lost four of five, losing to big-name teams Notre Dame, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin over an eight-day stretch. ... Jeff Likens picked up an assist on Ben Street's goal, breaking a 12-game point-scoring drought. Wisconsin is now 6-2-0 in its last eight games in the College Hockey Showcase after going 2-17-1 in the first 10 years of the event.
Last but definitely not least was Saturday's 8-2 trouncing by Minnesota over Michigan. If it's possible, this final score does not indicate just how lopsided this game was. Taking nothing away from Minnesota, which is clearly a juggernaut and is unbeaten in 14 games since losing the season opener (17 straight at home) — but this was a putrid performance by Michigan, and the sound you hear might be Red Berenson still yelling at his team, unless he just decided he was so fed up he'd ignore them. Sauer was hung out to dry in the Michigan net, but he wasn't all that great either. The defensive zone coverage was horrible, nobody seemed to make any effort to win a one-on-one battle, and there was a whole lot of standing around and lifeless play. Other than that, it was a swell performance by the Wolverines. Michigan allowed two shorthanded goals on one penalty in the third period, and three in the game overall. Mike Carman had two of them. Jimmy O'Brien got his first two career goals for the Gophers. It said a lot that Don Lucia started Kellen Briggs in this game, and Jeff Frazee against Michigan State on Friday. But it apparently didn't matter. Lucia could hardly contain his glee when son Tony Lucia scored the team's third shorthanded goal on the night, stifling a chuckle. ... If Berenson wanted to give his team a pass, to an extent, he could point out that it had to travel overnight from Wisconsin, a setup that is rare and gives the home team an advantage in this situation. And also, it was Michigan's first game this season on Olympic-sized ice. But it's doubtful Berenson will afford his team that pass.
Elsewhere in the WCHA, there was an important weekend between Colorado College and North Dakota, with the teams splitting the pair. The return of goalie Philippe Lamoureux to the lineup wasn't enough to stop North Dakota from losing its fourth straight game, Friday. T.J. Oshie scored with 2:36 remaining to tie it, but then Brian Lee took a slashing call with 1:10 left in regulation to give CC a power play, and the Tigers converted just 11 seconds later on Scott McCulloch's 11th goal of the season. ... Oshie's goal was just his second in the last 12 games. Saturday, after falling behind 1-0, North Dakota finally woke up, and snapped a four-game losing streak, going on to dominate the game. The Sioux had five different goal scorers, though none were Jonathan Toews or Oshie.
And St. Cloud State pulled off a two-game road sweep of Minnesota-Duluth, winning 4-0 and 4-2. Bobby Goepfert looks like he's all the way out of an early-season funk, getting 31 saves for the shutout for the Huskies.
Vermont is officially back, its win streak now at five after defeating Maine 3-2. Maine has lost three straight, all afternoon weekend games. Hmmmm .... This was 2-0 Vermont — with Dan Owens getting his first career goal — until some wackiness with the extra attacker at the end of the game (three total goals in the final 31 seconds). Maine is 8-3-1, but just 3-3-1 in the league, and in the middle of the pack. Vermont stayed within two points of UNH for first, and now in second place ahead of BC. ... Of note, too: Michel Leveille, Maine's stellar captain, may miss the next few games after going head first into the boards following a nasty hit from behind.
Enigmatic Boston University pulled out a 2-1 OT win over feisty Yale, getting a goal from Matt Gilroy nine seconds into the extra period. It was just Yale's second loss of the season. It was a classic battle of strong and sometimes very lucky goaltenders. Yale's Alec Richards made 20 saves and stopped eight of nine BU power-play chances. Junior Terriers goalie Karson Gillespie, who earned his first win this year, had 23 saves. Both heard opponent shots clang off posts and crossbars numerous times.
Clarkson finally snapped out of a four-game losing streak, getting back to winning ways with a sweep of CCHA teams that came to the North Country – Miami and Bowling Green. The win over Miami, obviously, is most impressive. Clarkson blew a 2-0 lead, but came right back after the equalizer, getting a goal from Brodie Rutherglen 1:09 later, in the second period. Steve Zalewski added insurance later in the period.
Bowling Green went up there and didn't score a goal in two games. After St. Lawrence lost to Miami on Friday, it bounced back, taking 44 shots and getting a 24-save shutout from Kain Tisi, his first career win.
Quinnipiac, feeling great about itself atop the ECAC, made have started feeling a little too great after taking a 2-0 first-period lead Friday against Harvard. The struggling Crimson passed the gut check, and rallied at home to win, 4-2. Then Saturday, Harvard comes out with two goals, looking good, but somehow manages to lose to Princeton at home again – a long-time trend. Uncanny.
RPI didn't win a game at its own tournament, coming in third after winning the consolation game shootout. But Brown did win the annual Mayor's Cup game with Providence, 2-1 on Sunday.
John Markell was upset at the "Eastern" officiating after Friday's loss to Colgate at the RPI tournament, but he might want to spend more time chewing out his horrid goaltending. It took four straight goals in the third period for Ohio State to salvage a 5-5 tie in Saturday's consolation game against RPI, actually taking the lead before RPI tied it back up on Paul Kerins' goal with 1:08 remaining. Nick Filion was in goal this time, and allowed five goals on 21 shots. It's not a topic we take glee in pointing out, but unfortunately, it's hard to ignore — the Buckeyes are going nowhere this year with their major goaltending woes. Saturday, Joe Palmer allowed four goals on 17 shots as OSU lost to Colgate.
Fading Nebraska-Omaha, which had four players, including goalie Jerad Kaufmann, suspended last week, managed a split of previously red-hot Notre Dame. Third stringer Eric Aarnio started Friday and took the loss, as Notre Dame bounced right back from last Saturday's loss at Michigan State, which had stopped a lengthy unbeaten streak. Then 17-year old freshman Jeremie Dupont, who like Kaufmann had been struggling, got the win Saturday.
Cornell coach Mike Schafer lost to his one-time mentor, at Lynah Rink. Bill Wilkinson was head coach at Western Michigan when Schafer was an assistant, and he brought his current team, Wayne State, into the hostile environment, and pulled off the upset Friday. Cornell responded with a 2-0 win on Saturday.
Niagara won the RPI tournament with a 3-1 win over Colgate, after first beating the hosts on Friday. It's an important in-season championship for the program, and it put emphasis on doing so.
WHO'S HOT/WHO'S NOT
1. Blake Wheeler, Minnesota — It's finally starting to click for the big one-time fifth-overall pick of the Phoenix Coyotes. He has three goals and nine points in his last nine games.
2. Andreas Nodl, St. Cloud State — The Austrian freshman came out of the gate with three goals in his first three games, lulled, and now has 3-6—9 in his last four.
3. Trevor Smith, UNH — Still red shot despite being held scoreless against Northeastern on Saturday. He has 21 points this season, to lead the team, but NONE have come on the power play.
1. Jack Johnson, Michigan — Still having a darned good season, but after getting six goals early, he hasn't scored in six games, and he was a minus-4 on Saturday against the Gophers.
2. Geoff Paukovich, Denver — It's now zero goals in 14 games for the junior, a former US World Junior player.
3. Justin Abdelkader, Michigan State — Since his two-goal game against Michigan on Nov. 3, the promising sophomore has just one goal in his last eight.
NCAA TOP 10
1 Minnesota (12-1-2)
The Gophers look like an unstoppable juggernaut right now, but it's still only November.
2 Miami (11-5)
A split in the North Country is nothing to be ashamed of.
3 Maine (8-3-1)
Three straight losses, but still with enough capital to remain in this spot.
4. Notre Dame (10-3-1)
A split with UNO on the road is not too bad for a team that's been on a roll.
5 New Hampshire (9-2-1)
Two more wins for New Hampshire, which is the hottest team in the country next to Minnesota.
6 Michigan (11-4)
A split in the Showcase coming off seven straight wins is not so bad, but the way the Wolverines lost Saturday leaves a very sour taste.
7 Boston College (7-4-1)
Up and down, up and down.
8 Boston University (5-2-4)
A pair of 2-1 wins this week, over Harvard and Yale, are not enough to read this team yet. Bigger tests await this week, with games against Massachusetts and a home-and-home with BC.
9 Denver (9-4-1)
Have recovered nicely from a sluggish start, but not out of the woods yet.
10 Vermont (7-4-1)
There's a lot of WCHA teams on the heels of cracking the Top 10, but Vermont is playing well again and gets the nod.
GAMES TO WATCH
Boston University vs. Boston College
Last season, BU won five meetings — three regular-season, the Beanpot, and the Hockey East final — before losing the NCAA East Regional Final to BC.
Denver vs. Colorado College
Another home-and-home series, both teams still trying to prove itself this season.
Vermont at New Hampshire
Another border battle, this team with two hot teams jockeying for first place in Hockey East.
Mike Machnik contributed to this article.