This Week in College Hockey: Oct. 31, 2007
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
WEEK IN REVIEW
• North Dakota and Michigan Tech split a pair. Friday, J.P. Lamoueaux's shutout streak was finally snapped at 185 minutes, 20 seconds. But Michigan Tech had to solve him again in the third period to snap a 1-1 tie and send the Houghton crowd into a frenzy. Jimmy Kerr sealed it with an empty netter, and Tech had itself an huge early-season win. Without making too much out of it, it sure is a great sign that Tech can play with the big boys, in a season where there is the highest expectation level in over a decade for the Huskies. Saturday, was about a top-flight team bearing down and showing an upstart who's boss, with North Dakota winning 6-0. This was the team's fourth shutout in five games. T.J. Oshie picked up the hat trick.
• BU may be in for another season of frustration, and Frozen Four-free the way things appear headed right now after getting swept at Michigan. Just not enough punch, too many question marks in goal, and little enthusiasm. Friday it was different, as the Terriers came out fired up. But Billy Sauer, who had a poor freshman campaign, relatively, played perhaps his best game in a Michigan uniform and stymied BU until Michigan got rolling. Perhaps frustrated by that, BU was completely out of sync on Saturday. The Michigan freshmen are blending in nicely. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of talent, but perhaps not as many superstars as in recent past, and it's creating a nice mix so far. Shades of 1997-98 perhaps.
• Alex Stalock, a highly-touted recruit and former USHL star, has not exactly set the world on first since coming the Duluth last year. But Saturday was all about him, topping Denver 3-0. He made many spectacular saves en route to the shutout, as the Bulldogs got the split on the road. "I thought we played better (Saturday) than we did (Friday)," Denver head coach George Gwozdecky said. "We had a couple of miscues in the second period that gave them the lead, but the last 30 minutes of the game we played very well. Stalock was the difference for them."
• Friday, Clarkson beat LSSU 4-0. But Saturday, the Lakers won, 5-1. This is not a game Clarkson should lose if it wants to be considered a top Frozen Four contender, as it has lined itself up to be.
• Something's not right with Notre Dame at this point of the season, no offense to Ferris State, which won 3-0 on Saturday. At least, the Irish are not playing with the same kind of thorough efficiency they displayed last season.
• Niagara put its long home winning streak to the test last weekend, but swept Western Michigan to up the streak to 20 straight games.
• Saturday's 4-1 loss to RIT may not bode well for Cornell's long-term goals for this season, but looking at it from RIT's perspective, what a rousing win for this program. Playing in front of over 5,000 fans at the downtown Blue Cross Arena (albeit with many of them Cornell fans), the Tigers announced their arrival in D-I in many senses, even though this is their third season in it. In that neck of the woods, playing Cornell is going to be a big deal, and RIT treated it that way. Cornell was 0-for-7 on the power play. For RIT goalie Louis Menard, it was a sweet bounceback from last season, when he lost 5-3 at Lynah Rink and was pulled from the game.
• New Hampshire topped CC in two games, winning the CHN Team of the Week award. See the article for more.
• Minnesota topped Ohio State twice, but the goal-scoring problems continue. Freshman goaltender Alex Kangas was the hero Saturday in a 2-1 win. It was Kangas' first career start, and he protected a two-goal lead in the third, allowing just one goal despite facing 22 Buckeyes shots. Several of his saves in the closing minutes were of the acrobatic variety, and another shot was stopped by a defender. Justin Bostrom and Jay Barriball scored for Minnesota, which is nevertheless having a surprising difficulty scoring goals. The book on the Gophers going into the season was that they would score a lot and allow a lot, with the defense decimated by graduation and defection. Minnesota is 4-2 even though players like Kyle Okposo and Barriball only have one goal each.
• More fog Friday at Michigan. Of course, BU knows about that, having been involved in last year's game at Boston College. But thankfully it was not foggy enough to cause a problem. Yost has air conditioning.
• Nils Backstrom thought he broke his leg ... but didn't. However, he still might be out a while. A rough injury. Backstrom got his skates pulled out from under him by Minnesota State's Zach Harrison last weekend, and crashed into the boards. Harrison received a major penalty for boarding.
• I am a voter in CSTV's Hobey Watch ballot. Might be a little early still, but it's fun to do. Here's my list: 1. T.J. Oshie (North Dakota); 2. Kevin Porter (Michigan); 3. Taylor Chorney (North Dakota); 4. Ryan Jones (Miami); 5. Ben Bishop (Maine). Obviously, it's tough leaving J.P. Lamoureux off there — the North Dakota goalie only has four shutouts in five games. But with two other North Dakota players on there, what do you do? I think Oshie is the best player in the country, and I've had him No. 1 since the start of the season. His hat trick last weekend did little to dispel that. And Chorney does everything for that team. Meanwhile, Ryan Jones is leading the way in the absence of Miami's Nathan Davis. Davis would get the slight nod a better all-around player if he were healthy, but Jones is just fine, thank you very much. On the radar: Matt Fornataro (New Hampshire).
• The New England Patriots are within their rights to keep running up the score — this is PRO football after all, if you can't stop them, tough on you — but they shouldn't be surprised, then, if teams with nothing to play for start going after their top players. Not saying that's right, just saying it will probably happen.
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 Miami (6-0-0)
No reason to keep the RedHawks out of this spot for now.
2 North Dakota (4-1-0)
No shame in losing Friday, but still drop a notch.
3 New Hampshire (3-0-0)
Impressive wins so far.
4 Michigan (5-1-0)
I'm keeping the Wolverines here until I see a little more. I'm discounting some of the BU wins, because I think the Terriers are lost at the moment.
5 Michigan State (4-1-0)
Still a lot to prove, but a good weekend.
6 Denver (4-2-0)
A home loss bumps the Pioneers down three notches.
7 Boston College (3-1-2)
Not much credit for winning two against Merrimack.
8 Colorado College (2-2-0)
A blip or a blast? Two losses at UNH, blowing first-period leads, could be a sign of things to come ... or just a sign the Tigers played a very good team in their building.
9 Minnesota (4-2-0)
Still looking for offense.
10 Michigan Tech (4-2-0)
Nice win against North Dakota, then steamrolled the next night. Still a lot to learn.
GAMES TO WATCH
Miami at Northern Michigan
Any weekend with Miami right now is interesting, and still without Nathan Davis, it's a good road test.
Colorado College at North Dakota
Was last weekend just a bump for the Tigers, or does it spell major issues? It's no picnic going to North Dakota anyway, but this will answer some questions.
Michigan Tech at Wisconsin
I picked Tech over Wisconsin in the poll, now it's time to see whether that's a good pick. Tech showed it could beat the big boys in its own barn, now let's see the Huskies in a hostile environment.