All posts by Jordan Dettrow

NHL Power Rankings: “Better Late Than Never” Edition

Apologies for being a day late with our NHL Power Rankings this week, as I’m sure so many people were looking forward to it… *Crickets*

Ok, moving on!

Things get a little tricky with bye weeks in play, but we still gave you the latest and greatest in terms of games played this past week. We’re rolling with the theme of this week’s edition because many of these teams were not in this position earlier in the season. As one might say, it’s better late than never, someone just be sure to remind them that the NHL season starts in October. With that said, let’s take a look at who made our top ten this week:

#1 Calgary Flames (59)

Current Record – 25-16-4

Last Ten Games – 7-2-1; Streak – W7

Don’t look now, but the Flames are on some kind of run. We’re a bit afraid to talk about it because that usually means it will come to a screeching halt. Jokes aside, Calgary is our top team for a reason. They are 7-2-1 in their last ten, with all of those wins coming in a row. Mike Smith is in pure beast-mode, which has helped his team crawl into the final playoff spot in the Pacific Division. Maybe scratching the ageless wonder was the answer after all.

#2 Pittsburgh Penguins (47)

Current Record – 24-19-3

Last Ten Games – 6-4-0; Streak – W4

A few weeks ago, the Penguins seemed in really bad shape. It was almost as if they had lost their identity because they really didn’t look like the back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions. As of late, they have picked up their play and are now back in playoff position. They were never really that far out, as the Metropolitan Division may very well be the tightest race in the NHL. Although just 6-4-0 in their last ten, Sidney Crosby and his crew seems to have turned the corner to get out of their slump.

#3 Colorado Avalanche (46)

Current Record – 24-16-3

Last Ten Games – 8-1-1; Streak – W7

The phrase “better late than never” could not be truer for the Avalanche. They started playing great hockey a few weeks ago and haven’t looked back. Winning seven games in a row, they are within striking distance of a playoff position. Colorado will look to make it eight-straight when they take on the Sharks tomorrow night.

#4 Minnesota Wild (45)

Current Record – 24-17-5

Last Ten Games – 6-2-2; Streak – OT1

The Minnesota Wild are back in the conversation, as they ride the shoulders of Devan Dubnyk. They downed the Blackhawks and the Jets, but came up short in overtime against the Canucks. It doesn’t get any easier for them, as they take on the Lightning and Penguins in two of their next three games. They are currently just a point shy of a Wild Card position in the Western Conference.

#5 New York Islanders (27)

Current Record – 23-19-4

Last Ten Games – 4-6-0; Steak – L1

You may be reading this thinking, really, Islanders in the top five? Keep in mind before a weak performance against the Devils, they were riding a string of three wins. What is more impressive is their stellar offense. During those three games, they scored 17 goals. For John Tavares and his teammates, when it rains, it pours. If the Islanders can rebound during this next stretch, they should be able to propel themselves to a playoff spot, at least for now.

#6 Nashville Predators (25)

Current Record – 26-11-6

Last Ten Games – 5-3-2; Streak – W3

The Predators are right back on track, winning key games against the Kings, Oilers, and Golden Knights. Although offense is usually the story for this squad, they are playing well at the other end of the ice. They were able to hold Edmonton to just one score, while shutting out Vegas (albeit a 1-0 barn-burner). The Coyotes and Panthers are up next, before a marquee matchup with the Lightning.

#7 Washington Capitals (20)

Current Record – 28-14-3

Last Ten Games – 6-2-2; Streak – W1

More of the same this week for the Capitals, as they continue to skate through their schedule. Although not making up much ground in the Presidents’ Trophy race, they are still sitting atop the Metropolitan Division. A loss to the Hurricanes is their only blemish in the last five games.

#8 Edmonton Oilers (20)

Current Record – 20-23-3

Last Ten Games – 3-6-1; Streak – W2

The Edmonton Oilers may be among the bottom ten teams of the league, but don’t tell them that. As of late, they have picked up their play a bit. The offense led by Connor McDavid is improving, but they need to do something about that defense. Before winning their last two games, they allowed 15 goals in their last five games, with nine of those coming in back-to-back contests. They will need a big run to make up ground in the Wild Card race.

#9 Vegas Golden Knights (11)

Current Record – 29-11-3

Last Ten Games – 7-2-1; Streak – L1

Isn’t it more fun when the Golden Knights win? They have been up and down as of late, winning just two of their last five games. Two of those are one-goal losses to the Blues and Predators, which is obviously nothing to be ashamed of. They need a big rebound against a strong Tampa Bay team, or they could fall into a bit of a slump. They might not want to do that, as everyone would immediately jump off the bandwagon.

#10 San Jose Sharks (11)

Current Record – 24-13-6

Last Ten Games – 6-2-2; Streak – W3

The Sharks are wedged between the Flames and the Golden Knights (honestly, didn’t think I would be saying that one this season), as they continue to push toward the playoffs. With only two regulation losses in their last ten games, including winning their last three contests, they are fairly safe moving forward.

NHL Power Rankings: “I’m Already Halfway There” Edition

Well hockey fans, we’re at the midway point of the NHL season. This is the time when teams either get geared up for a playoff run, prepare for an early exit, or get really nervous because they are somewhere in-between. There is plenty of hockey left to be played and a lot can happen. As for now, here is the current edition of Down the Frozen River’s NHL Power Rankings:

1. Boston Bruins (55)Unknown-7

Current Record – 23-10-7

Last Ten Games – 8-0-2; Streak – OT1

The B’s are really heating up, winning eight of their last ten. As a matter of fact, they haven’t lost a game in regulation since the middle of December. The offense is finally firing on all cylinders, with Patrice Bergeron leading the charge. They currently only trail the Tampa Bay Lighting (shocker… pun intended) in the Atlantic Division. They don’t play again until January 13th, when they take on Montreal.

2. Colorado Avalanche (55)

Current Record – 22-16-3

Last Ten Games – 7-2-1; Streak – W5Unknown-1

How does trading away a quality player make you better? Hard to understand, but since sending Matt Duchene to the Ottawa Senators, the Avalanche have looked like a completely different team. Their young players are finally taking leadership roles and producing great numbers. Semyon Varlamov and the defensive corps are getting on the same page, shutting down their opponents. They are on a five-game winning streak and are looking to solidify a playoff position in the second half of the season.

3. Vegas Golden Knights (40)

Current Record – 29-10-2vegas_golden_knights_logo

Last Ten Games – 9-1-0; Streak – W2

Not much to say here. The Golden Knights have lost one game in their last ten, which was a great effort against the St. Louis Blues. Head Coach Gerard Gallant will lead the Pacific Division in the 2018 All-Star Game, yet another honor to add to this team’s resume. Speaking of leading the Pacific Division, Vegas is now seven points above the L.A. Kings and an astounding 12 points above the San Jose Sharks. This team is making the playoffs and their fantastic play has them more than halfway there.

4. Washington Capitals (31)

Current Record – 26-13-3

Last Ten Games – 7-1-2; Streak – W4Washington Capitals Logo

Don’t look now, but the Capitals could be gearing up for another Presidents’ Trophy run. Alex Ovechkin is proving why you should never doubt Alex Ovechkin, while the rest of the team is chipping in their share. Although Washington seemed a little slow out of the gate, this team has shaken off the rust and currently sits atop the stacked Metropolitan Division.

5. Dallas Stars (30)

Current Record – 24-16-3CJhyiLmK

Last Ten Games – 6-2-2; Streak – W2

The Stars are looking solid entering the next stretch of the season. Ben Bishop is among the top goalies in the league, winning 19 games on the season. If he can continue being a brick wall, while the offense remains productive, there is no reason to think they won’t be able to move up and grab the final spot in the Central Division. They will have a tough test, playing three games in four nights once they return to action.

6. Philadelphia Flyers (26)

Current Record – 19-15-8

Last Ten Games – 5-4-1; Streak – W3Philadelphia Flyers Logo

The Flyers continue to make up for their winless blunder earlier in the season, as they ride through a three-game winning streak. With the up-and-down play of the Penguins, Islanders and Hurricanes, Philadelphia somewhat controls their own fate in the second half of the season. If they play well, they are more than capable of clinching a Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. They still have some work to do, but they are currently playing well enough to get the job done.

7. Calgary Flames (20)

Current Record – 21-16-4Calgary Flames Logo

Last Ten Games – 5-4-1; Streak – W3

The biggest story out of Calgary is their relationship with Jaromir Jagr. There are many eyes glued to this situation, curious to see if Jagr has played his last game in the National Hockey League. The team has played well despite the drama, winning their last three games. Somewhat of a “dark horse” situation, the Flames are in a good position to make a run at a playoff spot.

8. Winnipeg Jets (18)

Current Record – 25-11-7jetslogo

Last Ten Games – 7-1-2; Streak – W2

The Jets are quietly taking care of their business as they move past the midway point on the season. They haven’t done anything too flashy as of late, but are skating well on both ends of the ice. Although quality opponents still lurk below, Winnipeg is leading the Central Division and looks to keep it that way.

9. Chicago Blackhawks (16)

Current Record – 20-15-6

Last Ten Games – 5-4-1; Streak – W1Unknown-2

The Blackhawks are in an unusual position this season. They are used to dominating the field and skating into a playoff spot without much opposition, but the “Dynasty” could be in a bit of trouble this season. Just 5-4-1 in their last ten games, they are currently dead last in the Central Division. Although not ideal, there is plenty of hockey to be played and this is not a team to ever count out.

10. Anaheim Ducks (14)

Current Record – 19-15-9Unknown-1

Last Ten Games – 5-4-1; Streak – L1

The Ducks need to make up some ground, but they might be able to do so with a healthy roster. Their last game was a 3-2 loss to Calgary, but prior to that, they earned points in four straight games. Anaheim always seems to be that bubble team in the Pacific Division. They are currently just one point out of the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference, so look for a big battle in the second half of the season. They face a difficult stretch of games, with two against the L.A. Kings, one with the upbeat Avalanche, and a bout with the Penguins.

Our GLI Experience

College hockey is an amazing thing. I would go as far as describing it as the heart of the sport. The players aren’t out on the ice competing for a paycheck, but rather to support their teammates and represent the name on their sweaters. This past Monday and Tuesday, I was fortunate to attend the Great Lakes Invitational. I was reminded why I love college hockey and how it truly has a strong impact on higher levels of the game. Here is a quick recap of the two-day tournament:

Falcons Crash the Party

The Bowling Green Falcons were this year’s Great Lakes Invitational Champions. They achieved this by defeating Michigan in a close matchup Monday night, then by downing Michigan Tech 4-1 the following evening. Goals in the second game for the Falcons were provided by Brett D’Andrea, Connor Ford, John Schilling, and Tyler Spezia. Freshman goaltender Eric Dop played very well between the pipes in the final game, stopping 29-of-30 shots.

Tournament Team

The all-tournament team consisted of players from each of the four participants. Forwards included Lukas Craggs of Bowling Green, Cooper Marody from Michigan, and Patrick Khodorenko out of Michigan State. The defense corps were represented by Bowling Green’s Alec Rauhauser and Michigan Tech’s Mitch Reinke. Bowling Green goaltender Eric Dop rounded out the all-tournament team. Craggs was also slated as the tournament MVP, with two goals and three assists during that span.

Hockey in Michigan

Three of the four teams that participated in the invitational were from the Mitten State. Minnesota may proclaim themselves as the “State of Hockey,” but Michigan sure does have their own argument. All of these programs performed well and had bright spots in each of their games. The rosters themselves were made up of many players from Michigan, including eight on the roster of Bowling Green, the only out-of-state team in the tournament.

Little Caesars Arena

If you haven’t had the opportunity to see the NHL’s newest venue, you’re missing out. The design of the perimeter and concourse area make for a modern and clean look. There are several restaurants connected directly to the arena, which make for a great game day experience. At different points, we sat clear at the top, as well as right by the glass, and I don’t think there was a bad seat in the place. The décor was spot-on, filling the venue with rich history and tradition.

Michigan v. Michigan State

Ohio State may be Michigan’s rival in most sports, but in hockey, it’s their inter-state foMich-Ste, Michigan State. These two teams met in the consolation game, with the Wolverines taking a 6-4 decision. There was plenty of exciting action, including some pushing and shoving after the whistle. These two teams will meet again in the same location for a “Duel in the D” on Saturday, February 10th.

Falcon Momentum

After the New Year, the season has resumed for NCAA Hockey teams around the country. This is the most intriguing point in the season, where teams either stumble and miss the postseason, or they get a massive load of steam rolling forward. Momentum can be a crazing thing in sports. At the moment, the team that represents that is Bowling Green. Their players have a ton of confidence after winning this tournament as the “special invite” team. They face Ferris State in WCHA play this weekend.

Island of Misfit Toys

The second-place Michigan Tech Huskies might have lost the tournament they were hosting, but their supportive fan base surely liftMichiganTeched their spirits. Shout-out to Mitch’s Misfits and their pep band for a great tournament. Even in an NHL facility, they could be heard. At one point, it’s almost certain they were shouting “Go Tech” for two or three minutes straight. Keep those lungs rested and best of luck the rest of the year.

Jeopardy Question

Who raised the first banner in Little Caesars Arena? Well, that would be the Bowling Green Falcons. It was joke on the car ride home that in technicality, the Red Wings won’t be able to say they raised the first banner in their own area. The Great Lakes Invitational banner was lowered after the game and raised following the ceremonies.

Dreams Come True

Although the NCAA is a great pool for the NHL to pick through, not all players have the talent to make it at the next level. This event was an opportunity for some lower-tier players to skate in a game on NHL ice and live out their dreams. One thing that makes the GLI so special is the relationship with the Detroit Red Wings, who have loaned out their home ice since the beginning of the tournament. Seeing the smiles on players’ faces was like watching kids in a candy store, as they scratched an item off their bucket lists.

GLI Day 1: WCHA Bests the Big Ten

In the opening round of the Great Lakes Invitational, two WCHA teams took on two squads from the Big Ten. As is traditional, Michigan Tech, Michigan State, and Michigan were all participants in the tournament, while Bowling Green was the final team invited to compete at Little Caesars Arena.

In game one, the Huskies of Houghton squared off against Michigan State. Michigan Tech entered the competition with a 9-7-5 record, while the opposition maintained an 8-9-1 mark on the season.

First Period –

After the drop of the puck, action was fairly evenly matched. Entering into a Michigan State man advantage towards the end of the period, the score was 0-0. As the final seconds of the penalty ticked away, Zach Osburn made a heads-up play and threw a quick shot on net. Robbie Beydoun got a piece of the puck, but it skipped by him for the first goal of the game.

Second Period –

The middle frame of the game was a lot more offensive-minded. Alex Smith evened the score at 2:04 after a shot deflected off of his skate. Referees reviewed the play, but determined there was no kicking motion. Moments later, Jake Lucchini earned the lead for the Huskies. He took a pass from Alex Gillies and ripped a shot past John Lethemon for his 6th goal of the season. Michigan Tech wasn’t done yet, as Gillies would earn a goal of his own to extend the lead. He found himself alone in front of the net and backhanded a shot that found twine. During the closing minutes of the period, Michigan State’s Patrick Khodorenko made a nice play to make it a one-goal game entering the final frame.

Third Period –

MichiganTechThe last twenty minutes of the game was all Michigan Tech, as they skated to a victory. The Huskies earned a penalty shot taken by Dylan Steman, but the shot was turned aside by Lethemon. Although the Spartans gained some momentum from the big stop, they were deflated by a goal from Gavin Gould that extended their deficit to 4-2. Late in the period, Jake Jackson buried the empty-netter, solidifying a 5-2 win for Michigan Tech. The final shot count was 32-31 in favor of the Spartans.

During the evening contest, Bowling Green battled against Michigan. The Falcons entered the contest at 8-6-6, while the Wolverines were 7-7-2.

First Period –

The opening frame was controlled by Bowling Green, as they tallied two makers for the lead. Tyler Spezia grabbed a lose puck and sent a back-door shot past Jack LaFontaine for the game’s opening goal. Moment later, Justin Wells sent a harmless wrister on net that found its way past LaFontaine for the 2-0 lead.

Second Period –

Bowling Green continued to keep up the pressure right out of the gate. Just fifteen seconds into the period, Lukas Craggs extended the lead to 3-0. At 3:39 of the second stanza, Connor McDonald found a rebound and slid it past LaFontaine to grow the Falcon’s lead. Craggs earned his second point of the night on that play. Michigan’s Jake Slaker was able to stop the bleeding, as he got the Wolverine’s on the board on his breakaway opportunity.

Third Period –

The final frame of the game is where things got a bit interesting. Slaker gets his second of the night to make it a 4-2 game. The Wolverines used that momentum to carry the play for much of the third period, but that ended when facing a crucial penalty kill. BGSUMax Johnson placed a perfect shot over the shoulder of LaFontaine to regain the three-goal lead. Just 25 seconds later, Tony Calderone crashed the Falcon’s crease to make it a 5-3 game. Then, Jack Becker earned his first career goal to make it a one-goal affair. Bednard took Becker’s shot up high, but it floated over his shoulder and rolled into the net. Play would remain back-and-forth for the final few minutes until Michigan pulled their netminder. Craggs shot one into the empty net to end the game 6-4.

In day two of the invitational, Michigan State will take on Michigan, while Bowling Green and Michigan Tech faceoff for the GLI title.

2018 Great Lakes Invitational

Well Down the Frozen River fans, it’s time to turn the page to 2018. We will be ringing in the new year with full coverage of the 53rd edition of the Great Lakes Invitational

The four-team college hockey tournament will see Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech, and Bowling Green battle it out for the mid-season honor. Although the Huskies are the hosting party, Little Caesars Arena will act as the neutral location for all participants.

The tournament was created in 1965 and first played in Olympia Stadium. Over the years, the venue has changed, but has remained located in Detroit, Michigan. The event is intended to portray the talents of college hockey in Michigan and the surrounding area.

As we prepare for the opening of the two-day event, we wanted to tell you how you can follow along. Be sure to check us out on Twitter (@DTFrozenRiver), where we will bring you live, in-game coverage of all the action. Game recaps and other updates will posted over the next couple days. You can also expect a complete photo gallery, including Little Caesars Arena, for fans who have not experienced the NHL’s newest facility.

Puck Drop-

Michigan Tech v. Michigan State (1/1, 2:30 p.m.)

Michigan v. Bowling Green (1/1, 6:00 p.m.)

*Games 3 and 4 will be played on 1/2 at 2:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

NHL Power Rankings: Christmas Edition

The Holiday Break has come and gone, which brings us closer to the midway point of the season. Last week’s action was exciting to say the least, with many hot teams continuing their success. In this week’s Down the Frozen River Power Rankings, we’re bringing you a Christmas Edition. Just as Santa would do this time of year, we have divided our top (and bottom) teams into two categories. So, who got coal this year and who hit the jackpot?

Nice List

  1. New Jersey Devils (51)

The Devils are definitely at the top of the “Nice List,” as they have won seven of their last 10, while streaking through their past five games. Many questioned the early success of New Jersey, but they are proving they can sustain success with a more than capable offense. Their next game is tomorrow night against Buffalo.

  1. Vegas Golden Knights (44)

The Golden Knights are right with the Devils, as they have also won their last five games. The mysterious wonders continues to tear through their schedule, as they push closer to the playoffs. Last night, they defeated Anaheim 4-1, with a great performance from Malcolm Subban. It sure won’t be a Silent Night in Los Angeles tonight, as the Golden Knights look to continue their winning ways.

  1. Boston Bruins (44)

This week’s Power Rankings might just consist of teams that have won five straight games. Jokes aside, the Bruins are deserving of this accolade. They have gone 8-1-1 in their last 10 games, making up a lot of ground in the Atlantic Division. They are currently tied with Toronto for second place in the division. Boston will take on the Washington Capitals this evening. 

  1. Edmonton Oilers (37)

The Oilers have been playing a roller-coaster of a season to this point. While last night’s game against Winnipeg didn’t go according to plan, they still earn themselves a free pass. 6-4-0 in their last 10 games isn’t too shabby for a team that looked completely out of the playoff picture just a short while ago. Edmonton has given themselves a better opportunity, but they need to go out and earn it.

  1. Tampa Bay Lightning (25)

It’s odd to see a team that is 9-1-0 in their last 10 being at the bottom of our Power Rankings, but that just goes to show how well other teams have performed. The Lightning are still ahead of the competition, as they lead the Presidents’ Trophy race by four points.

Naughty List

  1. Arizona Coyotes (55)

You hate to kick a team while they’re down, but let’s just get on with it. The Coyotes are at the top of our “Naughty List” for fairly obvious reasons. Nearing the end of December, Arizona has just 23 points and are clearly out of the postseason mix. You hope that this organization will eventually turn the corner, but it won’t be this season.

  1. Ottawa Senators (48)

Losing the biggest trade of the year, rumors of relocating the club, only two wins in their last 10 games; what else could possible bring down the Senators? Ottawa appeared to be loading up for a big run after acquiring Matt Duchene from Colorado, but they have gone completely downhill. They continued their slump yesterday evening, as they were downed 5-1 by Boston. This team should be better, but with lackluster offense and an aging starting goaltender, Ottawa may need to rethink their approach to the future.

  1. Buffalo Sabres (37)

On paper, the Sabres should be a solid team. On ice, it is a different story. Last night, Buffalo was able to slow the red-hot offense of the Islanders, but they still lost 3-2 in overtime. That drops them to 3-3-4 in their last 10. Although not mathematically eliminated, Buffalo is way out of the playoff race. You may see this club make a few key deals closer to the trade deadline.

  1. Vancouver Canucks (35)

The Canucks appeared much improved from just a season ago, but their past has reared its ugly head. Brock Boeser has been a big success, but there are many other flaws in their armor. Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin can’t put up points like they used to and the rest of their offense hasn’t been executing. Although Vancouver is just six points out of a Wild Card position, they would need a huge boost to get there. 

  1. Detroit Red Wings (29)

Last, but certainly not least, the Detroit Red Wings. Honestly, Ken Holland is the last person I would want to be right now. The team isn’t good enough to do anything substantial, but they also aren’t bad enough to tank. Do you trade away a few members of the old guard and rebuild? Maybe wait it out and hope the ship gets turned around? Some tough calls to be made by Detroit’s management.

NCAA Contenders, Part 1

If you have taken a look at the NCAA Hockey schedule, you might notice that there are no games slated for this weekend, which one might assume as the holiday season is upon us. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how things have shaped up so far this year. The Christmas Break is an interesting time for college hockey because it acts as a half-way mark for the season, as well as a one or two-week break for most teams. This time allows for rest, refocus, and can even throw slumping teams right back on track. As for writers, this is the perfect time to make some bold predictions on the NCAA Hockey Tournament, so let’s get to it! Who’s in, who’s out, and who’s on the bubble?

NCHC

Who’s in? – St. Cloud State

The Huskies have played extremely well this season, earning themselves a top ranking in the NCHC, but most importantly, the top position in the Pairwise rankings. Sitting at 12-2-1 overall, there isn’t much this team has done wrong. Considering their two losses came against #2 Denver, as well as one tie with #6 North Dakota, they don’t really have any blemishes. As both of these teams are conference foes, they will need to step up if they want to capture the NCHC crown. At the very least, an at-large bid seems definite at this point.

Runner-Up – Denver

Who’s out? – Nebraska-Omaha

I will probably eat my own words later in the season, but I’m calling the Mavericks to miss the NCAA Tournament. As of this moment in time, they are the definition of a bubble team, sitting 15th in the Pairwise rankings. Unfortunately, they have a very tough road ahead of them on the back half of the schedule. They face North Dakota a total of four times, as well as a series with St. Cloud State and Denver. They could rise to the occasion, but their current conference record of 2-6-0 doesn’t give me much confidence that they will.

Runner Up – Minnesota-Duluth

Who’s on the bubble? – Western Michigan
Western Michigan is looking good right now, with a 10-8-1 overall record. As a result of competing in the NCHC, their wins typically give them a big boost, while losses usually come against ranked teams and don’t bump them down too far. They need to take care of business in the second half, in which they play ten games against opponents in the bottom half of the NCHC. Unfortunately, they also have to deal with four games against St. Cloud State, which could be an issue.

Runner-Up – Miami

WCHA

Who’s in – Minnesota State

The Mavericks are the team to beat in the WCHA. This program has been ahead of the competition for the past several years and continues to show it this season. Their only losses came against #1 St. Cloud State, a talented Bowling Green team, and capable Northern Michigan and Minnesota-Duluth squads. This offense is very deadly, only being shutout once, while posting five or more goals on eight occasions. Even if another WCHA squad rises to the occasion and defeats them in the conference tournament, the Mavericks currently come in at 6th in the Pairwise rankings.

Who’s out? – Alaska-Anchorage

Who to choose from in the WCHA? In all honesty, there are probably five or six teams already theoretically out of the NCAA Tournament, unless they would manage to win the conference’s automatic bid. Let’s just go ahead and pick on Alaska-Anchorage. I hate to kick a team while they’re down, but the Seawolves are dead last in the Pairwise rankings, not to mention the WCHA standings. They will likely miss the WCHA Playoffs entirely, meaning an early end to their season. They have only won one game on the season, coming against Lake Superior State. Oddly enough, they battled to a 1-1 tie with North Dakota to open up the season, but it has gone downhill for them ever since. Unfortunately, there are always  to rumors about the Alaskan NCAA programs being eliminate due to their high travel costs. Hopefully this season doesn’t do any permanent damage to their longevity.

Runner-Up – Lake Superior State

Who’s on the bubble? – Bowling Green

I still don’t know what to make of this Falcon team. When they show up, they are good. The goalie tandem of Eric Dop and Ryan Bednard has been nearly unstoppable at times. The big question mark is their offensive ability. They have six ties on the season, which begs the question, are they capable of finishing off opponents late in the game? Outside of their one non-conference game with Western Michigan, they are unlikely to face a ranked opponent the rest of the regular season. They also have a great opportunity to ring in 2018 with some confidence, as they are participating in the Great Lakes Invitational. If they can take advantage of their strength of schedule and get a streak going, they have a chance of making the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1990. They are currently 18th in the Pairwise rankings.

Runner-Up – Northern Michigan

ECAC Hockey

Who’s in? – Clarkson

The Golden Knights have been a bright surprise for this conference. In their previous campaign, they finished 18-16-5, which is fairly respectable. Turn the page to their current campaign and they are just three wins away from that mark, with fifteen games yet to be played. With just three losses on the season, all of those being in nonconference play, Clarkson is in great position to finish in the top sixteen teams in the nation, as well as win the ECAC Hockey Championship(s).

Runner-Up – Cornell

Who’s out? – Quinnipiac

As with the WCHA, there are several teams that fit into this category, but let’s go with a team that technically still has a chance, but one I think won’t be invited to the big dance. If you read my Beginners Guide to NCAA Hockey, you know that I actually chose the Bobcats as my pre-season favorites, but boy I was wrong. Then again, most writers picked Harvard and they were wrong too, but I digress. Quinnipiac has struggled so far this season, early just a 6-10-2 record overall, with only three conference wins. Now other ECAC Hockey teams have had it tough, including RPI and Dartmouth, but the Bobcats had so much potential. For them to be 47th in Pairwise rankings is pretty deflating, and I don’t think they find the momentum they need after the break.

Runner-Up – Dartmouth

Who’s on the bubble? – Harvard

Alright, time to talk about Harvard again. The team that was once ranked in the top ten has now found themselves fallen from good graces. The Crimson have started the season 4-5-1 and need a big rebound heading into the second stretch of their schedule. The reason why I consider them a bubble team is because this is something that they are capable of. They are on a two-game winning streak, but they need to continue this momentum if they expect to be playing more hockey in March. While they do sit at 36th in the Pairwise rankings, I think the Crimson have an outside shot at getting hot at the right time and taking their conference’s automatic bid.

Runner-Up – Colgate

NHL Power Rankings: First Edition

Here at Down the Frozen River, we always try to keep things fresh. For your viewing pleasure, we will begin bringing you a weekly rendition of our staff’s NHL Power Rankings. Hockey is a funny game, in that winning streaks, slumps, and hot players are constantly changing. We will bring you our humble opinions on the top ten best teams in the league, based on the previous week’s performances. Sure the overall record is what matters most at the end of the season, but as sports writers, we like to pick at the details along the way. Without further ado, here is our first edition of Down the Frozen River’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Tampa Bay Lightning (52)

Current Record – 24-6-2

Last Ten Games – 8-2-0; Streak – W7

Well, it makes a lot of sense for the Lightning to be our top team this week. When you win seven in a row, it isn’t really a question. They could have cooled down after their fantastic start, but they continue to be one of the league’s top teams. They are four points ahead of the three teams tied for second in the NHL, including three games in hand on the Blues and Kings. It will be interesting to see if Steve Yzerman makes a move as the trade deadline draws closer. Either way, consider this team a lock for the playoffs.

2. Washington Capitals (48)

Current Record – 21-12-1

Last Ten Games – 8-2-0; Streak – W3

The only team as hot as Tampa Bay in the last ten games are the upbeat Capitals. For a couple weeks there, Washington seemed to be losing their identity, falling behind in the Metropolitan race. Riding off the backs of Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby, this team has won eight of their last ten and are tied with New Jersey for the division lead. It’s never a good idea to bet against the Capitals, at least during the regular season.

3. Philadelphia Flyers (47)

Current Record – 14-12-7

Last Ten Games – 6-3-1; Streak – L1

Keep in mind these rankings are based on the previous week’s play, in which the Flyers were riding a six-game winning streak. They did lose 1-4 to a the Kings last night, but we’ll let that one slide. After going ten games without a victory, the Flyers look like they have put their puzzle back together. They could have been the next team to be unofficially knocked out of the playoffs, but they kept themselves in the picture. Although they are still four points out of contention, there is plenty of hockey left to be played.

4. Nashville Predators (37)

Current Record – 21-7-4

Last Ten Games – 7-1-2; Streak – W3

Earlier in the season, the Predators seemed like an average hockey team. After a momentum swing and a big trade in their favor, they are streaking through the month of December. One guy doesn’t make a team, but he sure can make a big difference. Nashville is 13-2-2 after trading for Kyle Turris, who has 4 goals and 13 assists with his new team. Keep an eye on this team as they continue to perform well every night.

5. Vegas Golden Knights (35)

Current Record – 21-9-2

Last Ten Games – 6-3-1; Streak – W2

Everyone surely thought the Golden Knights would be here at this point in the season, right? Absolutely not. Vegas continues to silence the critics and shock the hockey world as they just keep finding ways to win. Last week, their 2-1 win over Pittsburgh was impressive, but they went on the thump Florida 5-2. With the return of Marc-Andre Fleury in net, the NHL’s newest team is cruising towards 90+ points, which would likely be enough for a playoff spot in the Pacific Division. They have two very tough contests against the Lightning and Capitals, which will really test the strength of this team.

6. Chicago Blackhawks (31)

Current Record – 17-11-5

Last Ten Games – 5-3-2; Streak – W5

The Blackhawks are in a similar situation to Washington. They start losing some games, fans begin to write them off, and then the team shifts into overdrive and rattles off five straight wins. Patrick Kane has played a big role in this resurgence, but he isn’t the only one. Since returning from injury, Corey Crawford is a prefect 5-0. Not to mention, he is 9-0-2 in his last 11 games played. In his recent streak, he hasn’t allowed more than two goals against. What we’re saying is, this dude is doing that hockey and doing it well. With Crawford in net, the Blackhawks are a winning team.

7. New Jersey Devils (25)

Current Record – 19-9-5

Last Ten Games – 5-4-1; Streak W2

The sneaky Devils continue to be a force in the Metropolitan Division. Currently, they are tied with Washington for the top position. They had two big wins over the Kings and Stars last week, as well as a 5-3 victory over the Ducks just last night. The gears in Ray Shero’s head have to be turning as the team pushes towards the post-season. Short of a complete breakdown, the Devils should have no issues heading into the new year. Their next game is an important divisional matchup against New York.

8. Winnipeg Jets (13)

Current Record – 19-10-5

Last Ten Games – 4-4-2; Streak- W1

What should you make of Winnipeg? They are currently sitting in the third and final playoff spot in the Central Division, but are being heavily pursued by the Blackhawks. They have slowed down a bit, only winning four in their last ten, but just had a huge 4-0 win against the Blues, a fellow divisional opponent. After their split of the two-game series, it doesn’t get any easier for the Jets. They head to Nashville to take on the Predators. Expect this team to recover, even if they have been up-and-down as of late.

9. Los Angeles Kings (12)

Current Record – 21-10-4

Last Ten Games – 7-2-1; Streak – W1

The Kings are quietly returning to their dominant form. They have lost three of their last four, but they still remain atop the Pacific Division. The Kings’ success really fall onto the shoulders of Jonathan Quick. If he performs well, they have a chance to win. They recently ended Philadelphia’s six-game winning streak, which also ended their own three-game skid. There should be nothing to worry about in Los Angeles, as the Kings face the Avalanche and Canucks in two of their next four games.

10. Carolina Hurricanes (10)

Current Record – 14-11-7

Last Ten Games – 4-3-3; Streak – W3

The Hurricanes have been all over the board, but have recently picked up the pace. Their three-game steak has them back in the playoff discussion and trending in the right direction. In their last game, they proved that great goaltending and solid defensive play can win hockey games, as they defeated Columbus 2-1. They look to take advantage of the struggling Maple Leafs in their next tilt.

How We Picked ‘Em

Jordan – #1 Tampa Bay Lightning, #2 Washington Capitals, #3 Chicago Blackhawks, #4 Philadelphia Flyers, #5 Nashville Predators, #6 Vegas Golden Knights, #7 Los Angeles Kings, #8 Pittsburgh Penguins, #9 New York Rangers, #10 St. Louis Blues

Cap’n – #1 Tampa Bay Lightning, #2 Washington Capitals, #3 Nashville Predators, #4 Vegas Golden Knights, #5 New Jersey Devils, #6 Chicago Blackhawks, #7 Philadelphia Flyers, #8 Winnipeg Jets, #9 Carolina Hurricanes, #10 San Jose Sharks

Nick – #1 Tampa Bay Lightning, #2 Philadelphia Flyers, #3 Nashville Predators, #4 Washington Capitals, #5 Vegas Golden Knights, #6 Los Angeles Kings, #7 New Jersey Devils, #8 New York Rangers, #9 Winnipeg Jets, #10 Chicago Blackhawks

Peter – #1 Philadelphia Flyers, #2 Tampa Bay Lightning, #3 Vegas Golden Knights, #4 Washington Capitals, #5 New Jersey Devils, #6 Nashville Predators, #7 Winnipeg Jets, #8 Chicago Blackhawks, #9 Anaheim Ducks, #10 Carolina Hurricanes

Colby – #1 Tampa Bay Lightning, #2 Washington Capitals, #3 Nashville Predators, #4 Philadelphia Flyers, #5 Chicago Blackhawks, #6 Vegas Golden Knights, #7 Winnipeg Jets, #8 Los Angeles Kings, #9 Carolina Hurricanes, #10 New York Rangers

Connor – #1 Philadelphia Flyers, #2 New Jersey Devils, #3 Chicago Blackhawks, #4 Washington Capitals, #5 Anaheim Ducks, #6 Carolina Hurricanes, #7 Vegas Golden Knights, #8 Tampa Bay Lightning, #9 Nashville Predators, #10 Dallas Stars

NCAA Weekly Match-Up, 12/15/17

Well, it’s that time of year; the Holiday season is upon us! This is a great time to celebrate with friends and family, but not the best time for college hockey. As many teams release their players for a few days off, the schedule is usually pretty slim. There are only 13 games being played this weekend. Fortunately, there are still a few interesting match-ups to ramble on about. Since it’s their first meeting in NCAA history, let’s saddle up and head west, as Arizona State visits Colorado College.

Colorado College Tigers v. Arizona State Sun Devils

Game Details:

Saturday, 12/16/17 and Sunday, 12/17/17

Puck Drop- 6:00PM (ET) and 2:00PM (ET)

Broadmoor World Arena; Colorado Springs, CO

Let’s just start off by informing you that this series may not be “Game of the Year” quality. Colorado College is a good program that continues to produce positive results, but rarely has the capability to make a strong post-season run. Arizona State is competing in their third season as a Division-I hockey team, as they continue to transition from their former ACHA (club hockey) status. The Tigers are maintaining a record of 7-7-2, while the Sun Devils have managed just a 4-9-3 mark this season.

One would think sitting at 0.500 is nothing special, but it’s important to look at the big pictureColorado College. Colorado College battles it out with some of the best teams in the country, competing in the NCHC. Although they have only earned three conference victories, those wins came against #6 North Dakota, #23 Miami, and #25 Nebraska-Omaha. Last weekend, they skated to a pair of ties (4-4 and 1-1) against #2 Denver, which really shows their potential. The Tigers are one of those teams that can win on any given night and are capable of holding down the ice against any opponent. They have yet to really break out of their shell, but it could be coming before the end of the season.

The Black and Gold has been riding the hot hand of Nick Halloran, who has 22 points in 16 games played this year. He has been a bright spot, already doubling his production from last year’s campaign. Just a point behind, Mason Bergh is leading his team with 10 goals. Beyond that, the Tigers are lacking true depth. There are only two other skaters on the roster who have scored in the double-digits. Sophomore Alex Leclerc has been holding down their net, playing in all 16 games this season. His 452 saves on the season are good for a 0.913 SV%, as well as a 2.80 GAA.

At the beginning of the season, Arizona State had hoped for a better year. Their record indicates they still have some work to do. College hockey fans need to realize that building an NCAA program is extremely difficult. You have to hire the right staff, recruit the right players, and hope the local community supports the team. It took Penn State five years to build a quality program and now they are a tough competitor every time they take the ice. It may take the Sun Devils some more time, but their hard work should eventually pay off. Currently, they are an Independent team, meaning they do not belong to any major NCAA conference. They should be making this decision within the next year or two, which will provide them an opportunity to expand their brand and move forward.

University of Denver vs. Arizona State - NCAA Division I Ice Hockey
Image compliments of Daniel Petty, The Denver Post

In terms of scoring, Brett Gruber (3-8-11) and Tyler Busch (5-5-10) are leading the charge. Joey Daccord is their go-to netminder, playing in 15 of 16 games this season, including all four victories. He holds a 0.917 SV% and 3.04 GAA. Daccord has received high praise from scouts, who have compared his style to Cory Schneider of the New Jersey Devils.

The Sun Devils skated well in their last bout, earning a 4-3 OT win against Princeton. Late in the game and down by one goal, Arizona State earned a powerplay opportunity. Head coach Greg Powers pulled Daccord to give them a two-man advantage. Just under a minute on the clock, freshman Johnny Walker scored the game-tying goal with the primary helper coming from Gruber. At 1:47 of the OT period, David Norris ripped a shot that found twine, winning it for the Sun Devils. This type of win shows that this team can overcome adversity and that the players have a “no quite” attitude. They will bring their best effort to Colorado Springs this weekend as they face off against the Tigers.

Players to Watch:

Colorado College Tigers- Sophomore Forward, Nick Halloran; Junior Forward, Trey Bradley; Sophomore Goalie, Alex Leclerc

Fun fact of the day, Trey Bradley is the son of Brian Bradley, who played 10+ seasons in the NHL.

Arizona State Sun Devils- Sophomore Forward, Brett Gruber; Junior Defense, Jakob Stridsberg; Sophomore Goalie, Joey Daccord (Drafted 199th Overall in 2015 by the Ottawa Senators)

NCAA Weekly Match-Up, 12/1/17

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

Game Details:

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

Game Details:

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