This Week in College Hockey, Nov. 21, 2007
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
This week is a bit haphazard, with mid-week games, and the Thanksgiving holiday to contend with. So let's simply look inside some teams of note.
Boston University lost again Tuesday night. Harvard is shaping up to have a pretty decent team (5-2), but the Terriers' loss dropped them to 3-7-2 and 30th in the KRACH ratings. The record includes 0-4-1 in non-league games, including a loss to giant killer Robert Morris.
The thing that is frustrating about BU is its continued tendency to look like world beaters of the highest order for an entire period, and then look like absolute dog meat for other long stretches — within the same game. I witnessed this first hand against Northeastern a couple weeks ago, where it was clear the kind of top-notch talent BU had. It put it together for most of the game, but BU was completely asleep for the game's first 10 minutes, when Northeastern took a 2-0 lead. It led to a 2-2 tie.
Now, there are many teams that have lulls within games or seasons, but the drastic gap between BU's highs and lows is what's so striking. Something is afoul on Commonwealth Avenue, and the Terriers haven't made the Frozen Four since 1997.
Granted, the goaltending took a big hit this season, and it's still working itself out. But there is so much talent on that roster, the team should be better than 3-7-2.
Speaking of teams that have lost to Robert Morris, and are underachieving, check out the Buckeyes. John Markell has long been on our coaching "hot seat," though the administration has recently extended his contract.
This is a program that has made the NCAAs multiple times under this regime, and even a Frozen Four in 1998. It has reached new heights. But the last couple of years, things have begun to fade, after OSU was never able to "get over the hump," so to speak. This year, started out with a win over Mercyhurst and Wisconsin, and tough games followed. But then the Buckeyes went in the tank. There's no other way to say it. They are winless in the CCHA, and are coming off a loss-tie weekend with Robert Morris. In the time, OSU blew a 5-2 lead. After that weekend, Markell spoke like a coach who had lost the ear of his team.
It hasn't helped that highly-touted recruit Joe Palmer has gone south again, after a rough season a year ago. And Zach Pelletier was lost for the season with a broken leg and took a medical redshirt. But things shouldn't have gotten this lousy in Columbus. A trickle-down effect is that assistant Casey Jones, once highly-regarded and close to getting head coaching spots, may be entangled in the mess.
Madison Square Garden
On the plus side of college hockey, there's the game at Madison Square Garden — the self-proclaimed, though hard to argue, "World's Most Famous Arena" — this weekend between BU and Cornell.
BU coach Jack Parker said he'd be happy with 7,000. Cornell coach Mike Schafer, knowing the strong Cornell alumni presence, said he wanted 11,000-12,000.
The game has exceeded all expectations, with a sell out announced this week. That's over 18,000 people. That is very exciting for college hockey, and those in the game, all around the country, have taken notice.
BU-Cornell was probably the rare pairing of teams where this would be possible, but nevertheless, it's going to be fun as heck in Midtown Manhattan on Saturday.
In addition to being ranked No. 1, Miami is also a national leader in penalty minutes, with 13 players in double digits and two with 20 or more.
Coach Enrico Blasi is quick to point out that, in their games, the RedHawks' opponents are getting just as many minutes.
It reminds me of Clarkson back in its heyday of the '80s and '90s, when it played an aggressive, in-your-face game, that also included a lot of skill, and the Knights were happy with each team taking a lot of penalties, because it knew its special teams were so superior to everyone else's.
"That's probably a good comparison," Blasi said.
More plusses and minuses: I've gotten to see Northeastern up close a few times recently, and really like what I see out of that team. They play hard all the time, the skill level is increasing quickly thanks to the coaching staff's recruiting efforts, and goaltender Brad Thiessen covers the mistakes. It's a little disconcerting seeing Northeastern atop Hockey East while Maine is at the bottom, but it's fun, too.
On the flip side, perhaps the most disappointing team so far this season is St. Lawrence, which made a surprise NCAA appearance last year, and were seemingly set up for a better run this year. But the Saints, after opening the season with a win against Clarkson, are 3-6-2 since. Perhaps the answer lies looking no further than the goaltending situation, where, thanks to the dreadful start of Alex Petizian, a freshman sensation last year, four different goaltenders have played at least two games this season. Petizian's stats are the worst of the four. John Hallas, a senior from Florida who played six total games the last three years, has three starts this season and is 2-1.
CCHA vs. rest
The CCHA has received a lot of publicity for having the defending national champion, the two top-ranked teams in the nation, and Notre Dame to boot. But it's debatable how that will play out in the long run, and the league's top-to-bottom strength is still a ways behind Hockey East and, more so, the WCHA. The CCHA has three times that haven't collected a single point in league play, the only league to have any teams like that. And Western Michigan has just two points in six games.
Best wishes to Sigalet, the former Bowling Green goaltender, who plays despite battling multiple sclerosis. Last Saturday, he passed out in the middle of the game, and was led off on a stretcher. It is said that he's OK, and will return to the team, but it's scary nonetheless. It's a courageous battle he wages.
NCAA TOP 10
Listed by order of KRACH. ("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 (11-1-0)
CHN's Team of the Week.
2 Denver (8-2-0)
Big home-and-home with CC this weekend. Hobey candidate Peter Mannino hasn't allowed more than one goal in any of the eight wins.
3 Colorado College (7-3-0)
Coming off a home sweep of Wisconsin, and playing with a lot of confidence with freshman Richard Bachman in net.
4 Michigan (11-1-0)
Piling up numbers against the nation's 25th-best schedule to date, but have been strong defensively, too, which is the biggest reason for optimism.
5 New Hampshire (6-2-1)
Only losses this season have been to Northeastern, which swept two games in Durham for the first time since 1992-93.
6 Notre Dame (10-4-0)
The schedule doesn't really toughen up for the Irish until mid-January.
7 Minnesota-Duluth (5-3-2)
A surprise here, but getting a huge boost from one of the nation's toughest schedules, and it doesn't get any easier with two games against North Dakota this weekend.
8 North Dakota (5-3-1)
Splits with Wisconsin, CC and Michigan Tech, nothing to be too ashamed of. Still expected to be near the top when things are said and done.
9 Minnesota (7-5-0)
Recovering from early struggles, hit a blip when it lost to Alaska-Anchorage on Saturday.
10 Michigan State (8-3-0)
Hangs in despite two home losses to Miami.
GAMES TO WATCH
Wisconsin/Minnesota at Michigan/Michigan State
College Hockey Showcase has been dominated recently by WCHA teams. Michigan will look to avenge its only loss of the season, to Minnesota at the Icebreaker.
Cornell vs. Boston University
8 p.m. start at Madison Square Garden, should be a dang load of fun, despite BU's struggles. Game may mean more to Cornell alums, since BU was once a storied rival. That vacuum has not been completely filled for the Big Red, yet BU has plenty of other heated rivals these days.
CC vs. Denver
Home and home. 'Nuff said.