Week In Review
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
The postseason is here for three of the six Division I conferences, and one week to go for the other three. Lots of playoff jockeying, and positioning for possible NCAA bids makes this the most exciting time of year. Only one league — Hockey East — eliminates teams from its postseason, sending 8 of 10. So the other 56 teams (minus RIT, which is not yet eligible for postseason play) will be involved in the postseason. Nine will get eliminated this coming weekend.
Michigan Tech kept up its strong play, and took advantage of a Wisconsin team that has never really found itself this season, sweeping the Badgers. Saturday, Tech received points from 12 different players, including contributions from all four lines. That catapulted the Huskies into sixth in the league, one point behind CC for the final home ice spot. Tech has a tough chore next week, finishing with two games at Minnesota — but CC has a home-and-home with Denver. Michael-Lee Teslak turned aside 24-of-26 shots to help the Huskies extend their home unbeaten streak to eight games and vault their season record above .500 at 15-14-5. Tech is now 10-4-2 at home this season, which equals its best home mark since 1997-98 when the Huskies went 10-4-5. MTU's eight-game home unbeaten streak is its longest since 1995-96 when it put together a 10-game unbeaten stretch. The Badgers’ NCAA hopes are pretty much gone. Tech was the hungrier, more physical, grittier team all weekend.
St. Cloud State also nailed a sweep of a home-and-home with Minnesota. Admittedly, I thought St. Cloud State’s window of opportunity may have passed a few years ago, when it sent highly-ranked teams to the NCAAs but never made the Frozen Four. With the “Big Ten” schools, Minnesota and Wisconsin, getting younger coaches and turning into dominant programs with all their resources, and North Dakota with its opulent building, it appeared maybe a Division II school like St. Cloud State would not be able to keep up anymore, through no fault of its own. But Bob Motzko took over and has re-energized the program and proved it can keep up.
Saturday, SCSU was outshot 42-27, but senior netminder Bobby Goepfert withstood the attack with 39 saves on the night. A highlight for Goepfert was his 17 saves in the second period that helped the Huskies stay close at the time. Goepfert is being seriously overlooked in Hobey consideration.
In other big series, CC is really hurting itself in the NCAA picture, getting swept by Minnesota State. And North Dakota and Denver had a split in a pair of exciting games. Look out, here comes Ryan Duncan in the Hobey watch. While fellow sophomores, and linemates, T.J. Oshie and Jonathan Toews are first-round picks, it's Duncan that's made most of the noise this season, and he had two more goals Saturday at the Sioux topped Denver. The night before, Denver won 4-3, but that top line each had a goal for the Sioux. Denver had the OT win when, after missing the last 30 games due to injury, J.D. Corbin scored.
The CCHA heads into its postseason, with four teams getting byes, and the other eight playing next weekend.
Michigan lost a barnburner Saturday to Ohio State, 6-5, but managed to keep second place because Miami hit a divot against Northern Michigan. Still, Michigan’s inconsistency, even within this game, has it looking a lot like last year’s situation, and has put the Wolverines in a precarious NCAA position again. Mathieu Beaudoin scored his second goal of the game, late in the third, to give OSU a come-from-behind win. The Buckeyes then killed off a penalty for too many men in the closing minute, and things got testy once the final horn sounded.
Notre Dame, with the league already locked up, didn't allow themselves to fall too far into a trap like Miami last year, coming back from Friday’s loss — a game where they admittedly got too full of themselves after an early lead — with a perfect response. Hobey hopeful David Brown got another shutout, albeit with only 15 saves needed. This kind of response, outshooting Ferris 35-15 and being so thorough, is another reason to feel confident about Notre Dame going into the NCAAs.
Michigan State’s 2-1 loss to last-place Bowling Green puts it on the NCAA bubble. The Spartans already were locked into the No. 4 spot in the CCHA, so maybe that explains something, but they had too much else to play for to get complacent.
Miami did win Friday’s game, behind Ryan Jones’ 26th goal of the season.
Vermont kept itself in position to get the final home-ice slot in Hockey East, splitting the weekend with BU. Saturday, the Cats won on the road, 3-2, as freshman Colin Vock scored twice and ended BU's eight-game unbeaten streak. The Catamounts currently trail fourth-place Maine by one point for the final home ice spot going into the final weekend of the regular season. Coach Kevin Sneddon thought his team played its best 120 minutes of the season over the weekend. "Obviously when we get some puck luck things are a lot different than what you saw (Friday)," said Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon. "I thought we had a real tough time getting the puck to the net in the first period because BU's defense was pretty stifling. But in the second period we really came alive and really kept it simple."
BU remained in strong NCAA position. It seems almost locked into a No. 2 seed at this point. Despite Saturday’s loss, it may be playing its best hockey, and consistently, now.
Providence embarrassed New Hampshire, 7-1, Saturday — though UNH had clinched a share of the regular-season crown with Friday’s win, and then clinched outright despite the loss, thanks to BU’s loss. Providence, meanwhile, really needed this, as it moved two points ahead of Mass.-Lowell for the final playoff spot. UNH might have had one of those nothing-to-play-for hangovers. The shots were 51-22 Providence, and at one point, UNH players took three minors in a three-minute span. "Absolutely we stunk," UNH coach Dick Umile told the Concord Monitor. "We played like jerks. Obviously the penalties just added to it. They put the puck in the net and that's what we deserved. I have nothing else to say other than we were horrendous." Friday, senior forward Jacob Micflikier netted his fourth-career hat trick in the win.
The ECAC wrapped up, and was interesting as always. It may not be the best league, but you can always count on the league for drama created by its parity and depth. There were three different ties to break after the last games were played, including a three-way tie for the all-important eight spot — the final home-ice spot in the first round. And there was a tie for fourth, which is the final bye spot. And, since ECAC tiebreaker rules come down to record vs. Top 4 and record vs. Top 8, those two sets of ties were contingent upon breaking the tie of the other, causing a weird situation.
When the dust settled, Cornell, despite getting swept on the weekend, held on to the fourth spot, because Quinnipiac was also swept.
Princeton ended the season with a sweep of the top two teams in the league, St. Lawrence and Clarkson, finished .500, and secured a home-ice spot in the first round. A nice step in the right direction for Guy Gadowsky's team, and something to hang their hat on after a start of the season that featured mostly close calls and frustration. Friday’s win was 7-1 over Clarkson, which didn’t show up. So much for the "revenge" factor. Princeton had gone to Clarkson earlier in the season and beat up the Golden Knights, at a time early in the season when Clarkson was feeling good about itself. The Knights eventually recovered from that weekend, and have been faring well, close to a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs. But this will all but end those hopes. Clarkson did recover to defeat Quinnipiac the next night.
St. Lawrence came in first for the first time since 2001. This is a team that just wins. If not for the Saints' loss earlier this season to Niagara, they would be well inside the NCAA tournament bubble. As it stands right now, they are at the window peering in.
RIT closed out with the regular-season title, a great accomplishment for the program in its first year in the league. Though it's still not eligible for postseason play, which is a shame because both the Atlantic Hockey final four and the NCAA East Regional are being held at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester.
WHO'S HOT/WHO'S NOT
1. Ryan Duncan, North Dakota — Three more goals this past weekend, he’s 10-9—19 in the last eight games, and is making a run for the Hobey.
2. Ryan Jones, Miami — Teammate Nathan Davis was getting the Hobey consideration earlier in the year, but now maybe it should be Jones, who has seven goals in the last four games and leads the Hawks with a plus-21.
3. Bobby Goepfert, St. Cloud State — A remarkably consistent college career, his save percentages are .924, .918, .924 and now .931 this season.
1. Tim Kennedy, Michigan — His goal drought reached seven games. He has 13 on the season, but just two in his last 20.
2. Ray Sawada, Cornell — After a strong start, the Dallas Stars third-round pick has scored in just one of his last 10 games.
3. Jimmy Kilpatrick, Colorado College — He had seven goals at New Year’s and none in the last 14 games, though he still leads CC in points.
NCAA TOP 10
1 Minnesota (25-7-3)
Despite losing twice to St. Cloud State, this is why the computer is often superior to humans, so long as you assume you’re taking the full season into account. Overall, for the season, Minnesota is still slightly more impressive than St. Cloud State, despite the head-to-head records and recent results. That doesn’t mean humans are wrong when it comes to evaluating who might win a future matchup.
2 St. Cloud State (20-6-6)
Still not quite at No. 1 in KRACH despite the sweep of the Gophers, but what’s the difference now?
3 New Hampshire (23-7-2)
A split with Providence, just like many of the teams right below.
4 Notre Dame (27-6-3)
A split with Ferris State with nothing left to play for in the regular season.
5 Denver (21-12-3)
A split with North Dakota was more impressive to the computer than BU’s split with Vermont.
6 Boston University (18-6-9)
Ran into a Vermont team playing well, and got the split. BU still playing its most consistent hockey of the season finally.
7 Maine (21-10-2)
A sweep of Merrimack. Not exciting, but up a spot.
8 North Dakota (18-12-4)
Split with Denver.
9 Clarkson (21-8-5)
Split with Princeton/Quinnipiac, but up a spot because of CC’s continued stumbling.
10 Boston College (20-11-1)
Back in the Top 10 with CC out.
GAMES TO WATCH
Maine at Massachusetts
The battle is on for the final home-ice spot in the Hockey East playoffs. Vermont, also in the mix, is home for two games against Mass.-Lowell.
Colorado College vs. Denver
A home-and-home series, with CC needing to get back on track to secure a home-ice spot in the playoffs, and Denver looking to solidify a top three slot. CC also is teetering on the NCAA bubble.
Michigan Tech at Minnesota
Can Tech follow through on this strong play and really make a statement, wrapping up the regular season in Minneapolis? It will take two losses by Minnesota, plus two St. Cloud State wins, for the Gophers to blow first place in the WCHA.