Week In Review
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
Boston College bounced back from blowing a 2-0 lead to Northeastern on Friday, and sent reeling Providence to another loss Sunday. The Eagles won despite getting outshot 36-17. Kyle Kucharski and Carl Sneep each scored their first goal. Brian Boyle, who was recently stripped of his captaincy by BC coach Jerry York for missing too many classes, again was held off the scoreboard, except for the four minor penalties he took in the game.
Boyle is a very likable kid, and obviously very big and talented, and you have to give him a lot of credit for returning to school this year to try to win an NCAA title when he easily could've stepped into the NHL after his stellar junior campaign. But every now and then, York seems to need to kick Boyle in the rear. Let's see if Boyle responds as favorably as he has the other times. The fact that he has always responded favorably says something good about Boyle, but the fact that he keeps needing to be kicked, doesn't.
Northeastern followed up its stirring comeback win over BC, with a scoreless tie against BU in a game in which just 46 total shots were taken. But it was effective enough from the Huskies' perspective, although coach Greg Cronin admitted that it wasn't very much fun to watch. Brad Thiessen (NU) and John Curry (BU) got the shutouts. It was the first scoreless tie for BU in 13 years. From the Terriers' perspective, their problems are a recurring theme, and they're going on three years now — their play is erratic from one minute to the next, while clearly capable of brilliance only to get complacent too quickly. Jack Parker, who got his 750th win the night before, could do nothing to shake up his troops.
Vermont was swept at home by New Hampshire, which was coming off a less-than-stellar showing at the Florida College Classic, its only bump in the road in nearly two months. In Florida, the Wildcats also found out they lost leading goal scorer Mike Radja to a knee ligament injury. But UNH nevertheless pummeled Vermont, 7-1, on Friday, holding the Catamounts to an embarrassingly-low 11 shots. Saturday, it was only a 2-1 loss for Vermont, but it was still a loss. "We came into (Saturday's) game worried about the process," Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said. "We had to quickly mend some things in a short turnaround time. I'm just very proud of our guys. Obviously they are very disappointed right now but they played a heck of a hockey game against one of the best teams in the country. UNH is the best team we've seen so far and I thought we played a great college game tonight." Vermont goalie Joe Fallon bounced back from a rough game, which is important for the talented junior, because he's been known to get into funks.
UMass goalie Jon Quick has had a quietly strong season, and he added a little feather in his cap Saturday without really doing anything. Quick was credited with the game-winning goal in a 4-2 win over Merrimack, when Merrimack, with the puck on a delayed penalty, mistakenly shot it in their own net.
Minnesota returned five players from the World Junior tournament Sunday, but it did nothing to spark its offense. Instead, the Gophers were stuck in defensive mode, though it didn't really matter, since Kellen Briggs stopped all 28 shots he faced. The Gophers defeated Minnesota State, 1-0, and ran their unbeaten streak to 22. Alex Goligoski scored the only goal of the game, midway through the second. Friday, Minnesota won 5-1, without the five players, employing a more trapping, counter-attack style than usual.
North Dakota allowed one goal in each game to CC this weekend, but only won one of them. CC and Matt Zaba got the shutout on Friday. Saturday, CC managed just 18 shots, and Erik Fabian and Joe Finley each scored their first goals of the season to give the Sioux the win, 2-1. Jonathan Toews was still not back from winning gold for Team Canada at the World Juniors, and no one else picked up the offensive slack.
Wisconsin and Denver also split. The Badgers' Saturday win broke Denver's seven-game unbeaten streak. It also snapped Wisconsin's eight-game winless streak to Denver. Brian Elliott outdueled Glenn Fisher, stopping all 33 Denver shots. "I have to give Wisconsin credit, because their intensity gave us problems all weekend long," said Denver coach George Gwozdecky. "We created some scoring chances, but Brian Elliott was there to respond. We didn't have a lot of answers."
Ohio State went back over .500 with a sweep of Fairbanks, and moved into a three-way tie for the third in the tight CCHA. In an encouraging sign for the Buckeyes, Joe Palmer won both games on the weekend, and was very solid, though he only needed to make 17 saves in this one. Alaska has now lost five straight and seven of eight. Friday, the Buckeyes' Tom Fritsche scored his first goal of the season after returning from ulcerative colitis the previous weekend.
Michigan State was able to get a split with Miami on the road. Saturday's 4-1 win was an enormous gut check for the Spartans, who fell behind 1-0 after two periods, after losing Friday. They went on to score four unanswered in the third period, spurred by Daniel Vukovic's goal 56 seconds into the period. Friday, Ryan Jones scored his 16th for the RedHawks, and the Spartans' Jeff Lerg was pulled after two periods. Miami snapped a five-game losing streak to Michigan State.
Western Michigan split with Bowling Green. Saturday, Riley Gill stopped all 37 shots he faced as the Broncos snapped a five-game losing streak.
Bud Fisher stopped all 23 shots he faced, as Princeton lost for just the second time in the last nine games, to Quinnipiac, 2-0. Quinnipiac is almost set to move into its brand new arena.
Harvard is trying to inch its way back up the ECAC standings, and took another step with a dominating performance on the road against RPI. It followed it up the next night by defeating Union.
It was either a great, gutty effort and the biggest win in the program's history; or a lackluster performance by a team taking an opponent for granted. It depends on your perspective. But either way, Robert Morris' 4-2 win at Notre Dame on Sunday was quite the upset, with RMU breaking the Irish's seven-game winning streak, scoring four unanswered goals after falling behind 2-0. The Colonials took just 15 shots, but got four past Notre Dame's backup Jordan Pearce, who you would expect to remain a backup for quite a while now. "Things probably started going wrong the minute we left Pittsburgh (on Friday night). We just weren't ready and I take full responsibility for that. It's the coaches job that the players are prepared to play," said UND coach Jeff Jackson. "Obviously I'm disappointed with the way we played. I think we thought we could turn it on at any time and I told them that they were putting themselves in jeopardy of letting something else take over. That's how these things happen. Robert Morris played hard so give them credit. Their goalie (Joe Tuset) played well, they blocked a lot of shots. It's a great victory for Robert Morris. ... They have to look within. I can only give them the guidelines. They have to look inside themselves to see if they want to be more than an average hockey team. Tonight was a good indication that we can be pretty average. I thought that all along. We've won a lot of games on the backs of effort and discipline and tonight the effort wasn't there and the discipline in executing our system wasn't there. I take credit for the loss."
Friday, Notre Dame won 6-2 at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, home of the Penguins. And with 3400 fans in attendance, it was a great atmosphere for Robert Morris, if not a great result. The question, of course, is whether the Penguins' own cloudy future will affect Robert Morris' progress, and the future of games in this arena. It would be a shame all around. Youth hockey in Pittsburgh has taken off since the Penguins won two Cups in the early '90s. Many college players come out of there. RMU coach Derek Schooley has talked about the great support he gets personally from Penguins people, with hockey schools and clinics.
There was another road upset, with Sacred Heart winning at Cornell, 2-1. Jason Smith stopped 28 shots and Alexandre Parent scored a power-play goal early in the third. Cornell played great in a win over No. 2-ranked New Hampshire last week in Florida, but coach Mike Schafer was not very happy with his team's play in a championship-game loss to Maine the next night. It appears to have carried over.
A pair of late power-play goals lifted Niagara over Colgate, 3-2, and gave Dave Burkholder his 100th career win. Sophomore Ted Cook upped his nation-high goal total to 20 with a pair of power-play scores.
WHO'S HOT/WHO'S NOT
1. Teddy Purcell, Maine — The freshman had four goals in a two-game sweep of Massachusetts-Lowell, and now has 12 on the season.
2. Ted Cook, Niagara — Has six goals in his last five games, as the "mid-major" Purple Eagles keep creeping up the rankings.
3. Nick Dodge, Clarkson — With 5-6—11 in his five games in December, was named National Player of the Month.
1. Brian Boyle, Boston College — Has just 2-0—2 in his last six games, had his captain's ‘C' taken away, and last game recorded nothing but four minors.
2. Peter MacArthur, Boston University — Just one goal in his last six games, and two in the last 15 for the junior, who was expected to be a big producer.
3. Peter Lenes, Vermont — After a quick start, this diminutive sophomore is just 2-2—4 in his last 16 games.
NCAA TOP 10
The Top 10 is by order of the KRACH Ranking.
1 Minnesota (19-1-3)
A 22-game unbeaten streak and everything going right.
2 St. Cloud State (14-3-3)
Two more wins and a 12-game winning streak, the longest active streak in the nation.
3 New Hampshire (16-3-1)
New Hampshire dominated Vermont and is pulling away from the Hockey East field.
4 Maine (14-3-2)
The Black Bears took care of business at Lowell, and stayed without shouting distance of UNH.
5 Notre Dame (17-4-1)
A bump in the road for the Irish, losing at home to Robert Morris.
6 CC (13-8-1)
Mustered just two goals in a weekend split with North Dakota.
7 Clarkson (12-5-1)
Coming off the first perfect month (5-0 in December) for the team in seven years.
8 Denver (15-7-2)
Still a little inconsistent, coming off a split with Wisconsin.
9 Miami (16-7-1)
Comes off a split with Michigan State, which wasn't as much as it needed
10 Bemidji State (12-5-3)
Charges into the rankings, both in KRACH, and in the NCAA's own Pairwise system for selecting at-large teams to the tournament. It looks legit for the Beavers.
GAMES TO WATCH
Cornell at St. Lawrence/Clarkson
A battle around the top of the ECAC against a trio of long-time rivals.
BU at Maine
A grudge match type affair, BU needs a strong showing in Orono — for its psyche if nothing else.
Minnesota at Wisconsin
And in the biggest rivalry pairing of the weekend, Minnesota will go into hostile territory and put its 22-game unbeaten streak on the line.
Mike Machnik contributed to this report.