This Week in College Hockey: Oct. 17, 2007
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
A look at the week that was in college hockey, what interesting trends are going on, and what lies ahead.
Week in Review
There were the requisite amount of intriguing early-season tournaments and non-conference games last weekend.
• In Alaska, Boston University tied UAA, 4-4. Josh Lunden scored the tying goal for UAA with two minutes left in regulation. Bryan Ewing's two goals for BU were not enough, as the Terriers come away from the weekend with a loss and tie, following Friday's defeat to Robert Morris. In an alarming sign in the goaltending battle to replace John Curry, it was a rough weekend for the BU netminders. Friday, Karson Gillespie made just 12 saves in the 3-2 loss. Saturday, Brett Bennett made just 19 stops on 23 shots.
• Dan Tuttle's OT goal Friday gave Clarkson a win over UMass, and gave the Knights a tiny measure of revenge for last season's 1-0 OT loss to the Minutement in the NCAA First Round. And Clarkson, which had lost its opener to St. Lawrence the weekend prior, finished off a nice bouceback weekend with this impressive follow-up over Providence. In this case, a pair of first-period goals held up and David Leggio recorded a 28-save shutout.
• Brock Trotter scored six seconds into the game, and Peter Mannino made 29 saves as Denver finished a two-game sweep of Maine to open both teams' seasons. "I am happy with where we are as a team," Denver coach George Gwozdecky said. "We have a lot to build from this series. I thought Peter was terrific and our freshmen made strong contributions in both games." Denver was named CHN Team of the Week.
• North Dakota 6, Michigan State 0. This was built up as a game between the defending champs and the team being predicted as the 2008 national champ frontrunners. When it was over, the Sioux made a statement about this season, backing up the prognosticators by pummeling the Spartans. The debate over who is better on his own line — defending Hobey champ Ryan Duncan or previously-more-highly-touted T.J. Oshie — will have to live for another day; both players scored first-period goals to jumpstart the Sioux's season. Oshie was tossed out of the game in the first period, but still managed to get the game winner.
• It was a dubious start to this season for Minnesota, as it sleep-walked through the first half of Friday's game with RPI. The Gophers fell behind 3-0 before rallying for a 4-3 win. ... So Saturday, although the same final score, was a more impressive victory for the Gophers, as they captured the Icebreaker Tournament title over Michigan. Yes, the Minnesota defense showed how it might struggle this year, as predicted, allowing 47 shots to the high-powered Wolverines. But it was a very good sign for Minnesota that Jeff Frazee was equal to it, and kept Minnesota in the game while the likes of Blake Wheeler and Patrick White built a 4-2 edge. On the down side, Minnesota forward Ryan Stoa suffered an injury and was lost for the season.
• Ohio State 5, Wisconsin 3, Lefty McFadden tournament title. Kyle Turris is living up to the hype so far. His second goal of the season tied the game for the Badgers, 3-3. But Ohio State pulled ahead on John Dingle's power-play goal then held on in the third for the Lefty McFadden tournament title. Joe Palmer outdueled Shane Connelly in a matchup of goaltenders with a lot to prove this season. If Palmer keeps proving himself this way, OSU could have a surprisingly-good season.
AROUND THE NATION
• Congratulations to Don Lucia, for earning his 500th career win in Minnesota's season-opener against Rensselaer.
• Massachusetts-Lowell has hired a "hockey development liaison." The team has been trying to recover from image issues in the community — never mind the recruiting situation — after the program was nearly disbanded and coach Blaise MacDonald was nearly fired following a DUI incident this summer. So coming abord is former Boston Bruins winger Johnny "Pie" McKenzie. His job is to help reenergize the community towards Lowell hockey.
• The wars between Canadian Major Junior and U.S. Colleges continues with another salvo this week. It appears as though the Ontario Hockey League is looking to create a "super midget" league for outstanding 15- and 16-year olds. This, critics charge — even those within Canada — will kill the Jr. B leagues, which feed many U.S. colleges. They say the OHL is just looking to "indoctrinate" players at a younger and younger age, so they feed into the major junior system, where they then become ineligible for U.S. college hockey. Often, players that age go to Jr. B and then perhaps to Jr. A before making a decision on college vs. Major Junior.
• A couple of really unfortunate early-season injuries happened this past weekend. No one cries a lot of sympathy for the Minnesota Gophers, typically, but the loss of junior Ryan Stoa for the entire season was sad to see, if for no one else but the player himself. Stoa was a high NHL Draft pick a couple years ago, but was in the background to other blue chippers in recent years. This was expected to be a breakout year for the junior and it was looking good. ... Then, Mercyhurst goalie Matt Lundin was lost for up to three months. Lundin worked hard after leaving Maine to get back to Division I, and Mercyhurst was really counting on him. Plus, he was set to play against Maine this weekend.
• It was old news that four CC players were suspended for two weeks, but until recently, no one knew why. Those players have served their suspensions and are back and ready to go for this weekend's games. Turns out, they were at a team golf outing, and each foursome was to dress up in the theme of a TV show. This foursome dressed up as characters from "Family Matters," the old "comedy" where Jaleel White played the character "Urkel." Most of the characters were black, though that's essentially neither here nor there — the reason for mocking the show was because everyone mocks Urkel. But, part of the players' get up was wearing "blackface." ... Frankly, this seems rather innocent, though the sensitivity people feel towards the blackface idea is understandable, given its rather incendiary and insensitive history. It's not wrong of the media to report as news the reason for the players' suspension, now that it came to light. But, by the same token, it's our responsibility not to blow it out of proportion. And, thankfully, black leaders have not blown it out of proportion either. Considering other recent incidents, this was relatively harmless. There was recently an incident at Salve Regina University where soccer players had a party, and got the freshmen liquored up and put t-shirts with the 'N-word' on their back, unbeknownst to the freshmen. They then had to walk through a black neighborhood, where they proceeded to get beat to a pulp. ... So there was the requisite amount of calm here. "I'm really pleased with the way the guys have handled themselves," said CC athletic director Ken Ralph. "I feel they've learned a great deal, and they have really made some relationships in the community. ... They dressed up as Erkel. They weren't thinking. They understand the sensitivity of it, but the guys have been terrific. ... (And) the folks at the NAACP and Urban League were just terrific. They were supportive, educational and non-judgmental."
• It looks like we're going to have to start getting used to the two-ref system, and coaches like Tim Whitehead of Maine is a big fan. They are using it in select games now, and it was employed in the recent weekend series at Denver. "I thought the officials did a great job this weekend. I like the 2-2 system; it puts them in a position to succeed at both ends of the ice," Whitehead said. Of course, Whitehead also likes shootouts. I love Tim Whitehead, but I hate both ideas. Sure, the two-ref system has become successful in the NHL, and maybe its time has come here. But when it was used in the past in college hockey, where they are fewer high-end officials to use, it was a disaster. The refs stumbled over each other trying to assert their authority in the game. And when two refs have different styles, these often clashed and no one knew what was up. Now that it's 2-2 and not two-ref-one-linesman, hopefully it's better. But we'll see.
NCAA TOP 10
Until the KRACH rankings take hold, these are listed by order of subjective opinion. ("KRACH" is a sophisticated mathematical ranking tool that is endorsed by College Hockey News. College hockey already uses a system that completely removes the human element from selecting teams to the NCAA tournament (known as The Pairwise), so our opinion is that College Hockey should therefore use the best ranking system. KRACH is best because it eliminates many of the flaws in the current system.)
1 North Dakota (1-0-0)
Off and running
2 Miami (2-0-0)
Strong sweep of Vermont
3 Denver (2-0-0)
4 Minnesota (2-0-0)
Won the Icebreaker
5 Michigan (1-1-0)
Lost the Icebreaker final to Minnesota, on the road. No shame there.
6 New Hampshire (0-0-0)
Ready to roll
7 Boston College (1-1-0)
More to prove, coming off loss to Michigan.
8 Ohio State (2-0-0)
9 Clarkson (2-1-0)
Nice bounceback from opening-weekend loss to St. Lawrence
10 St. Lawrence (2-1-0)
Couldn't quite pull off the 3-0 start, but expect a strong season from the Saints.
GAMES TO WATCH
Minnesota at Colorado College
The Tigers finally get onto the ice for a real game. Minnesota won the Icebreaker last weekend, but then lost Ryan Stoa for the season. We'll see how they react.
Miami at Ohio State
Two teams coming off strong weekends. More is expected of Miami this season.
North Dakota at Boston College
These "friends" renew acquaintances for the first time since the Frozen Four semifinal last season. Another chance for the Sioux to show who's boss this season.