Down the Frozen River is back with the NCAA Weekly Match-Up. Since it’s been a little while, let’s make this a two-part deal (please, hold your applause). There are simply too many big matchups to pick from, so why not double up? In a one-game tilt, Harvard takes on Quinnipiac at Frank Perrotti, Jr. Arena. This game is being broadcast on ESPN 3, with puck drop scheduled for 7:00pm. Our next matchup features Big Ten Hockey rivals Ohio State and Penn State. These two teams, currently placed 4th and 5th in their conference, will jockey for position as the season pushes closer to the midway point. Plenty of information coming at you, so let’s dig in!
Harvard Crimson v. Quinnipiac Bobcats
Friday, December 1st (7:00pm)
Frank Perrotti, Jr. Arena – Hamden, CT
Broadcast on ESPN 3
I have been wanting to discuss the Harvard Crimson for a while because they are a squad I find particularly interesting. This season, without even touching the ice for the first couple weeks, they were a ranked hockey team. There are many ECAC Hockey teams that don’t start their seasons until a few weeks after the rest of the NCAA. That is fine and dandy, but why should they be ranked when they have proved absolutely nothing? End rant…
Now that I have stepped down from my soap box, let’s talk about what I mean (using statistics instead of opinions because that’s what professionals do, right?). Harvard was expected to be a great hockey team this year, which is why voters ranked them within the top ten. Fast forward to December and they are 2-5-1 overall. While I am satisfied that I was right and they were wrong, this record is honestly an odd indication. On paper, Harvard should have been better than this. Fortunately, they still have plenty of time to turn their season around, especially only playing five conference games to this point. The Crimson will look to take advantage of a Quinnipiac team that has lost six of their last ten game. Harvard will have to go out and earn their ranking, which is how it should be done.
Quinnipiac is another tough case to crack. Just last season, they rounded out with a 23-15-2 record. Compared to their current mark of 6-7-1, something has clearly gone awry. The Bobcats have historically been a dominant team within the ECAC, but they are clearly showing some signs of struggle this season. Harvard will be a tough test for them, as important conference points are up for grabs this evening.
Players to Watch:
Harvard – Junior Forward, Ryan Donato (Boston Bruins, 56th Overall); Sophomore Defense, Adam Fox (Calgary Flames, 66th Overall); Senior Goalie, Merrick Madsen (Philadelphia Flyers, Overall 162nd Overall)
Quinnipiac – Freshman Forward, Odeen Tufto; Senior Forward, Tanner MacMaster; Sophomore Goalie, Andrew Shortridge
Penn State Nittany Lions v. Ohio State Buckeyes
Friday, December 1st (7:00pm) and Saturday, December 2nd (4:00pm)
Value City Arena – Columbus, OH
At the beginning of the season, I chose Penn State to win the Big Ten Hockey Conference. I may have overlooked Notre Dame just a bit. Currently, the Nittany Lions sit at 8-7-1 overall, but only 3-4-1 in conference play. They will need to improve (and will likely need some help) to get past a hot Notre Dame team. In terms of seeding, they are currently just one point ahead of the Buckeyes, which makes the weekend even more critical. Riding out a four-game unbeaten streak, these are points that Penn State could use to gain even further momentum.
The big story of this series will be the play of sophomore forward, Denis Smirnov. The Moscow, Russia native and Colorado Avalanche draft pick earned 47 points in 39 games played with the Nittany Lions last season. He has been battling through an undisclosed illness, but has still managed a stat line of 5-6-11 during the current campaign. Head Coach Rohlik of the Buckeyes referenced Smirnov as one of the best players in the nation, but also noted, “It’s not about one guy. We have to defend against their five guys on the ice.” Penn State is a very offensive-minded team, leading the nation in average shots on goal per game (41.69), as well as goals, assists, and points so far this season.
The Buckeyes are coming off a pair of great wins over their rival, Michigan. Head Coach Rohlik explain that those are the types of games that get the juices flowing, but their focus has turned to Penn State. “It doesn’t get easier. We’re playing a good hockey team this weekend.” In order to continue their success this weekend, Ohio State will need a good backstopper. They believe they have that in Sean Romeo, who is a transfer from Maine. The redshirt junior only allowed three goal against in their two wins up north. The number 11 Buckeyes look to stay in the national spotlight, as well as push for better position in their own conference, but they know it will be a tough test for them. As Rohlik explained, “Penn State doesn’t change… They bring it every time they’re on the ice.”
Players to Watch:
Penn State – Sophomore Forward, Denis Smirnov (Colorado Avalanche, 156th Overall); Freshman Defense, Cole Hults (Los Angeles Kings, 134th Overall); Junior Forward, Andrew Sturtz
Ohio State – Sophomore Forward, Tanner Laczynski (Philadelphia Flyers, 169th Overall); Junior Forward, Mason Jobst; Junior Goalie, Sean Romeo