Tag Archives: Big Ten Hockey

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.

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

NCAA Weekly Match-Up, 11/10/17

Apologies for the brief hiatus, but the NCAA Weekly Match-Up is back!

The NCAA season is in full swing at this point and there have been some interesting results. Here’s a quick recap of the latest and greatest:

– Denver skated to a tie against Lake Superior State earlier in the season and was swept by Western Michigan just one week ago. The former number one team has been replaced by an impressive St. Cloud State squad that owns a 7-0-0 record.

– The Big Ten has been playing some great hockey lately. They have five teams ranked in the top 20, with Minnesota leading the pack. The addition of Notre Dame has been very helpful for their league profile.

– A few powerhouse programs could be in trouble early. There is plenty of hockey left to be played, but Boston University, Boston College, and Minnesota-Duluth are all currently outside the top 25 squads in the Pairwise rankings, which determine the at-large bids for the NCAA Tournament.

There are plenty of other topics I could mention, but it’s time to focus on the here and now. Let’s turn our attention to the Madhouse on Mercer.

Bowling Green Falcons v. Lake Superior Lakers

Game Details:

Friday (11/10/17) and Satuday (11/11/17)

7:07pm and 7:07pm

Slater Family Ice Arena (Bowling Green, Ohio)

Match-Up Preview:

The Falcons and Lakers both have quality hockey programs. Typically, these teams are not respected by the national polls or college hockey media, so they both have plenty to prove. They also have great history, which they use to fuel their return to the “glory days.”

Bowling Green is a program that has recently rebuilt and is seeing gradual success. After their 1984 NCAA Championship, they slowly crashed to a near extinction of the program. Since that point, they have developed under Head Coach Chris Bergeron and are relevant once again.

After nine games played this season, the Falcons are led by forward Cameron Wright, who has managed totals of 4-5-9. SeBGSUcond on the team is Alec Rauhauser, with six helpers on the season. In addition to offense, the goaltending department for Bowling Green has been stellar this season. The play of sophomore Ryan Bednard and freshman Eric Dop have lifted the Orange and Brown to a 4-3-2 overall record. Dop has recently earned back-to-back WCHA Rookie-of-the-Week honors

The Falcons are coming off a successful weekend against then #20 Michigan Tech, skating to a 1-0-1 series, but securing the additional conference point in the shootout. Bowling Green was great on the power play, which produced all four regulation goals. This squad looks to continue rolling along, as they have not lost in their last five outings.

Lake Superior desperately needs a big weekend, as a pair of wins would help reverse the direction of their season. Their 2-6-2 record out of the gate is not what Head Coach Damon Whitten had hoped for. The Lakers do have one quality win, coming over #20 Northern Michigan. They also had a great outing in a 3-3 tie with thenLSSU Logo #1 ranked Denver. The defending NCAA Champions expected a swift victory over the Blue and Gold, but they ran into a brick wall in Nick Kossoff. The junior goalie had 63 saves on the night… Let me break this down for you. A good team is going to get off 25-35 shots a game. This guy had to stop double that. There was obviously some overtime hockey involved, but regardless, a big pat on the back to you sir. With that said, Kossoff has since given up the net to Mareks Mitens (which gets an honorable mention for all-time great hockey name). Both goaltenders have a 1-3-1 record on the years. The play of this tandem could be a deciding factor in the series.

The Lakers’ last series was a split against Alaska Anchorage. They managed an overtime victory on Friday night, but Saturday evening was a much different story. Lake Superior struggled to get on the board and were outgunned 4-1. With that result, they now have four points in the WCHA, which is good for 7th in the league. Bowling Green is currently tied with Minnesota State for first in the league.

Down the Frozen River will be traveling to Bowling Green, OH to cover part two of the series. On Saturday, you can expect live updates from our Twitter account (@DTFrozenRiver), as well as a post-game recap.

Players to Watch:

Bowling Green – Senior Forward, Mitch McLain; Freshman Goalie, Eric Dop; Junior Forward, Stephen Baylis

Lake Superior – Senior Forward, J.T. Henke; Junior Forward, Anthony Nellis; Junior Goalie, Nick Kossoff

A Beginner’s Guide to NCAA Hockey; 2017-2018 Season Preview

The NCAA Hockey season is upon us once again. The cries of “Is it October yet?” have almost been answered. Many teams will begin playing exhibition games this weekend and their seasons will officially drop the puck one week later. College hockey, or #cawlidgehawkey if you want to be like John Buccigross, is becoming an increasingly deep source of professional prospects. Although playing in Major Juniors still seems to be the predominant route to the NHL, collegiate players are no joke. If you don’t believe me, let’s take a look at this quick list:

Nick Bonino, Matt Cullen, Brian Dumoulin, Jake Guentzel, Carl Hagelin, Phil Kessel, Chris Kunitz, Bryan Rust, Justin Schultz and Conor Sheary

If you haven’t figured this one out yet, these are all former NCAA Hockey players who have become Stanley Cup Champions with the Pittsburgh Penguins (many of them more than once).

Even if you don’t follow along with college-level puck, check your NHL squad’s roster and I would almost guarantee a few players have come out of the NCAA. The developmental AHL and ECHL are also filled with former college hockey players trying to work their way up the ladder.

If you’re not into NCAA Hockey, it’s totally understandable. There are six different leagues, 60 different teams and over 1,200 individual players (and that’s just at the D-1 level). It may be difficult to dive into at first, but I can assure you it is worth your while. If you want to see grit, speed, talent and passion for the game of hockey all wrapped into one, attend any NCAA game.

Whether this is your first rodeo with college hockey or if you have been around the block a few times, the 2017-2018 season is about to begin. Here is a season preview for the upcoming campaign, which highlights each of the six leagues, as well as lists my predictions for the regular season champions of each organization. Read, enjoy and drop that puck!

Atlantic Hockey

Teams – AIC, Air Force, Army, Bentley, Canisius, Holy Cross, Mercyhurst, Niagara, RIT and Robert Morris

Without putting it bluntly, Atlantic Hockey has struggled since its 2004 founding. They are largely undeveloped unlike many other NCAA Hockey leagues, and many of the teams in this league haven’t been able to find much success – especially against out-of-conference opponents.

That being said, there is typically one team every year that appears to be poised to make a good run. This year, that is likely to be either Robert Morris or Air Force. Both squads return quality players and will try to build upon the growth they showed during the previous season. The Colonials will return team leader Brady Ferguson, who put up an impressive stat line of 24-34-58 last year. Meanwhile, Air Force earned a spot in the preseason polls, coming in at 17th. Although this is a positive sign, they will have to prove their worth when the puck drops.

Preseason Favorite – Air Force Falcons

Big10

Teams – Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin

The Big Ten Conference is still very new to the NCAA Hockey scene, but it has already shown signs of success. After Penn State made the decision to form a D-1 hockey program, the Big Ten decided it was time to flex its muscles a bit and commit to creating a private league for its member universities. Although it was a shame to see the CCHA disband, it was seemingly bound to happen eventually.

This league boasts historic programs such as Michigan, Michigan State and Minnesota, but the past isn’t worth more than memories (we don’t need to talk about all of the championships they have won… it’s a lot). This year, the Big Ten Conference will attempt to prove they are a dominate group among the NCAA. With Notre Dame joining as an affiliate member, the league now has seven teams. Five of those seven teams earned preseason rankings in the top 20, with Minnesota coming in at number three. Could this be the year a National Champion is crowned out of the Big Ten?

Preseason Favorite – Penn State Nittany Lions

ECAC

Teams – Brown, Clarkson, Colgate, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, Quinnipiac, RPI, St. Lawrence, Union and Yale

ECAC Hockey (also referred to as the smarty-pants schools) has been able to stay in the spotlight over the past several years. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t too long ago that Union and Yale hoisted the NCAA Championship in back-to-back years. Cornell, Harvard and Quinnipiac are always strong contenders, while the other schools in the league are respectful in their own right.

It will be interesting to see how well Harvard recharges the batteries after facing key losses this offseason. Graduated seniors Tyler Moy and Alex Kerfoot both chipped in 45 points last season, with the remaining 2017 grads collectively contributing 41 goals, which is a lot of firepower to replace internally. With that said, Harvard should still compete well, but other conference opponents could take advantage of any offensive woes.

Preseason Favorite – Quinnipiac Bobcats

HockeyEast

Teams – Boston College, Boston University, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, UMass-Lowell, Merrimack, New Hampshire, Northeastern, Providence and Vermont 

Hockey East Association once again enters the season with very high expectations. They have two teams, Boston University and UMass-Lowell, ranked in the top-five of the preseason poll. Hockey East is a conference that has and will continue to put quality programs in the mix for an NCAA Championship. Many consider this to be the best conference in college hockey, but the emergence of the NCHC has provided some stiff competition.

Make no mistake, Hockey East is still an amazingly talented league. Boston College, Boston University and Providence alone have combined for five championships over the past ten years. The demographics of college hockey are simply changing and other parts of the country, such as Denver and North Dakota, are seeing great success. We will see how this impacts Hockey East teams down the road, but for now, they are still a force to be reckoned with.

Preseason Favorite – Boston University Terriers

NCHC

Teams – Colorado College, Denver, Miami, Minnesota-Duluth, North Dakota, Omaha, St. Cloud State and Western Michigan

As a college hockey fan, you either love the NCHC or you hate it. One way or the other, you must recognize the level of talent they acquired when they emerged as an NCAA Hockey league. They have five teams represented in the preseason poll, with Denver taking home top honors (if you consider a preseason ranking an honor). They have also brought home two NCAA Championships in as many years courtesy of Denver and North Dakota.

To put it simply, these teams are good.

No, they are great. There is no tip-toeing around the subject. The NCHC did exactly what they set out to do, which was create the most highly skilled, competitive and talented league in the NCAA. Are they the best? That is up for you as a fan to decide, but their early body of work speaks for itself. Keep an eye on the National Collegiate Hockey Conference to see if their master plan will continue to be a success or if they will take a step back this season.

Preseason Favorite – Denver Pioneers

WCHA_2

Teams – Alabama-Huntsville, Alaska, Alaska-Anchorage, Bemidji State, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State and Northern Michigan

Last, but certainly not least, the Western Collegiate Hockey Conference. As a graduate of Bowling Green State University, I can assure you I am very well-rounded in my knowledge of this league. The WCHA is probably one of the most divided leagues in the NCAA. Any given season, Ferris State, Michigan Tech and Minnesota State are prepared to make strong postseason runs. Other teams in the league, such as Bowling Green, have the potential, but have never taken a serious step forward. On the other side of the coin, both Alaskan schools continually struggle and Alabama-Huntsville is still trying to turn in a successful season after their move to the D-1 level.

The last time a current member of the WCHA won a national championship was Lake Superior back in 1994… I don’t want to upset Lake Superior fans, but they are not the team they once were. Then again, you could say the same for Bowling Green, Ferris State, or Northern Michigan. I have a soft spot for the WCHA and hopefully a few of the teams at the top can regain some national prominence for the entire league.

Preseason Favorite – Minnesota State Mavericks