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Marchand’s hat trick lifts Bruins over Penguins, 7-5

Brad Marchand had a hat trick to go along with his four-point afternoon in the Boston Bruins’, 7-5, victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden on Saturday.

David Pastrnak had a pair of goals and David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron set career milestones in the process, while Jaroslav Halak (9-5-3, 2.44 goals-against average, .910 save percentage in 17 games played) made 23 saves on 28 shots against in the win for Boston.

Pittsburgh netminder, Casey DeSmith (9-4-0, 2.13 goals-against average, .922 save percentage in 15 games played), stopped 21 out of 27 shots faced in the loss.

The Bruins improved to 19-10-5 (43 points) on the season and remain in 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while the Penguins dropped to 24-12-2 (50 points) overall and remained in command of 3rd place in the same division.

The B’s improved to 4-2-0 against the Pens this season with the win.

The Bruins were without Ondrej Kase (upper body), Kevan Miller (lower body), Tuukka Rask (upper body), John Moore (hip), Brandon Carlo (upper body) and Jake DeBrusk (COVID protocol) on Saturday afternoon.

As a result, head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made several changes to his lineup from Thursday night’s, 4-1, loss against Pittsburgh.

Cassidy swapped his first and second line right wings, placing Craig Smith alongside Marchand and Bergeron, while uniting Pastrnak with Nick Ritchie and Krejci.

Sean Kuraly was back in the lineup for the first time since being placed in COVID protocol on March 18th. He was taken off the league’s COVID protocol list prior to Thursday night’s loss, but did not suit up against the Penguins until Saturday.

Kuraly centered the third line with Anders Bjork at left wing and Charlie Coyle at right wing.

Jack Studnicka, meanwhile, centered the fourth line with Trent Frederic to his left and Zach Senyshyn to his right.

On defense, Cassidy paired former Boston University teammates, Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy on the first defensive pairing.

Jakub Zboril suited up alongside Steven Kampfer and Jarred Tinordi was back in the lineup with Connor Clifton after Tinordi was as a healthy scratch since March 25th.

Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players on Saturday afternoon included Chris Wagner, Carlo, Moore, Kase, Rask, Lauzon, DeBrusk, Anton Blidh, Karson Kuhlman, Miller and Callum Booth.

Mike Matheson sent a shot towards the goal off of an attacking zone faceoff that tipped off of Coyle’s stick, then Mark Jankowski’s, over Halak’s shoulder, off the crossbar and under into the back of the twine.

As Jankowski (3) was the last to touch the rubber biscuit, the goal was his and the Penguins led, 1-0, at 3:24 of the first period.

Matheson (6) had the only assist on the goal.

Shortly after the midpoint in the opening frame until late in the first period, the two clubs engaged in a span of 8:05 of consecutive action.

Heading into the first intermission, Pittsburgh led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 9-6, in shots on goal.

The Pens held the advantage in giveaways (5-1), hits (13-12) and faceoff win percentage (53-47), while both teams had four takeaways each.

Neither team had seen any time on the power play entering the middle frame.

Just 11 seconds into the second period, Bergeron (11) capitalized on a rebound from his usual spot in the bumper to tie the game, 1-1, on an unassisted effort.

Bergeron tied Rick Middleton for the fourth most points (898) in a Bruins uniform in franchise history as a result of his goal. In 1,123 career games, Bergeron has 363-535–898 totals– all with Boston– while Middleton recorded 402-496–898 totals in 881 games as a Bruin from 1976-88.

34 seconds later, Pastrnak (15) buried a shot from the slot after the puck bounced off of Ritchie due to an initial shot by Krejci from the point to give the B’s their first lead of the afternoon, 2-1.

Ritchie (9) and Krejci (21) tallied the assists on Pastrnak’s goal 45 seconds into the second period.

As a result of his secondary assist on the goal, Krejci reached 500 career NHL assists in his 941st game (all with Boston). Pastrnak made sure the puck was delivered to the Bruins’ bench for future display purposes in the Krejci household.

The Bruins did not hold the lead for long, however, as Jake Guentzel (16) scored on a close-range one-timer as he was fed by a backhand pass from Sidney Crosby while the Penguins captain was skating behind the net in “Gretzky’s office”.

Crosby (27) and Brian Dumoulin (5) tabbed assists on Guentzel’s goal as the score was evened, 2-2, at 2:45 of the second period.

On an ensuing play in Boston’s defensive zone, McAvoy closed his hand on the puck in the crease and received an automatic delay of game minor infraction for (you guessed it) closing his hand on the puck at 4:45.

Pittsburgh’s first power play of the afternoon went right to work as Crosby setup Guentzel into the slot who then passed the puck to Jared McCann (9) for the one-timer past Halak’s blocker side as the Bruins goaltender dove from left to right in the crease.

Guentzel (21) and Crosby (28) had the assists on McCann’s power-play goal at 5:11 and the Pens grabbed a, 3-2, lead in the action.

Midway through the period, Pittsburgh and Boston swapped penalties when Sam Lafferty caught Clifton with an elbow at 9:59 and Grzelcyk tripped Cody Ceci at 10:20, resulting in 1:40 of 4-on-4 action before the Penguins had an abbreviated 5-on-4 advantage.

Neither team scored on the special teams play.

Moments later, however, the Bruins rallied when Marchand (15) sent a catch and release shot while cutting a quick turn in front of DeSmith in the low slot– elevating the puck top-shelf in the process– to tie the game, 3-3, at 14:56.

Grzelcyk (9) and Smith (9) had the assists on Marchand’s first goal of the afternoon.

After a stoppage in play resulted in a slashing minor for Marchand against Kris Letang and a roughing infraction for Letang against Marchand at 15:10, the two clubs resumed 4-on-4 action for a pair of minutes, though that didn’t last long.

Boston went on the 4-on-3 advantage when Evan Rodrigues hooked Pastrnak at 16:53.

The Bruins then had 18 seconds on the unconventional 4-on-3 power play before yielding an abbreviated 5-on-4 advantage.

While on the ensuing power play, Boston whipped the puck around the zone before Pastrnak sent it to Marchand who whizzed a shot pass through the slot to Krejci (2) for the redirection from the edge of the crease to the left of DeSmith.

The Bruins re-took the lead, 4-3, as Marchand (24) and Pastrnak (14) were credited with assists on Krejci’s power-play goal at 18:29.

Boston was not done scoring, however, as Marchand (16) received an indirect pass from McAvoy from the slot off of a faceoff win in the attacking zone that bounced from Smith to No. 63 in black and gold (or, gold and black, as it were, since the Bruins donned their Reverse Retro jerseys on Saturday), before sending another catch and release shot past DeSmith.

Smith (10) and McAvoy (18) tallied the assists on Marchand’s second goal of the afternoon and the Bruins led, 5-3, at 19:40– marking three unanswered goals for Boston to finish off the second period.

Entering the second intermission, the Bruins led, 5-3, on the scoreboard, but trailed the Penguins, 18-17, in shots on goal, despite holding an, 11-9, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone.

Boston also led in takeaways (9-7), hits (23-17) and faceoff win% (53-47), while Pittsburgh held the advantage in blocked shots (7-2) and giveaways (10-2) through 40 minutes of action.

Both teams were 1/2 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Ceci (3) opened the scoring in the third period after Boston failed to clear their own zone and Jankowski sent a pass to the wide-open Penguins defender to bring Pittsburgh to within one at 4:38.

Jankowski (4) and Lafferty (5) had the assists as the Pens trailed, 5-4.

Midway through the final frame, Ritchie made a hit at the attacking zone blue line to take possession of the puck and generate a 2-on-1 advantage for the Bruins on the break-in.

Ritchie fed Pastrnak (16) a pass across the slot for another catch and release goal– this time over DeSmith’s glove side to make it, 6-4, for Boston.

Ritchie (10) had the only assist on Pastrnak’s second goal of the game at 13:28 of the third period.

With 2:25 remaining in the action, Penguins head coach, Mike Sullivan, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker.

Letang, in the meantime, had other ideas and hooked Pastrnak and cut a rut to the penalty box at 17:49.

After clearing their own zone, Pittsburgh once again pulled DeSmith for an extra skater, whereby Crosby (15) mustered a soft goal through Halak to pull the Penguins to within one goal once more at 18:45.

Guentzel (22) had the only assist on Crosby’s shorthanded goal and the Pens trailed, 6-5.

Sullivan used his timeout on the ensuing stoppage with 1:15 remaining in the action to drum up a plan.

On the resulting center-ice faceoff, Bergeron may have caught Crosby in the sternum with an inadvertent butt-end while pulling the puck back from the dot as Crosby brushed Bergeron’s visor before Bergeron made the turn.

Crosby whipped his head back and fell to the ice, perhaps embellishing (depending on which team you cheer for) what resulted in a four-minute double minor for high sticking for Bergeron, despite no evidence of an injury or blood drawn, while nobody seemed to notice Krejci’s errant stick to McCann’s face that was quite evident in the replay and review of whether or not Bergeron touched Crosby.

Regardless, Bergeron skated to the box at 18:49 and the Penguins went on the power play.

This time, however, Pittsburgh’s power play was powerless as they once again pulled DeSmith for a de facto two-skater advantage, but Marchand (17) sealed the deal on the game’s fate with an empty net goal– scoring a hat trick in the process.

Coyle (5) had the only assist on Marchand’s third goal of the afternooon– marking his first hat trick of the season and his fourth overall in his NHL career– at 18:59 and the B’s led, 7-5.

At the final horn, Boston had won, 7-5, and finished even in total shots on goal, 28-28, despite leading, 11-10, in shots on goal in the third period alone.

The Bruins wrapped up the afternoon leading in blocked shots (8-7), hits (28-25) and faceoff win% (60-40), while the Penguins finished Saturday’s effort leading in giveaways (12-3).

Both teams finished 1/3 on the power play in the matinée action.

The Bruins improved to 7-7-2 (4-5-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal this season, while the Penguins fell to 13-4-1 (5-3-0 on the road) when scoring first in 2020-21.

Boston also improved to 5-6-2 (3-2-0 at home) when trailing after one and 11-0-1 (7-0-1 at home) when leading after two periods this season.

Pittsburgh dropped to 12-3-1 (2-2-0 on the road) when leading after the first period and 4-8-1 (2-7-1 on the road) when trailing after the second period this season.

The Bruins wrap up their seven-game homestand (3-2-1) next Monday (April 5th) against the Philadelphia Flyers before hitting the road for a three-game road trip through Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia again.

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Bolts take 2-1 series lead with, 5-2, win in Game 3 over Stars

Steven Stamkos returned to the lineup for the Tampa Bay Lightning as the Bolts scored five goals in the first 40 minutes to take a 2-1 series lead with a, 5-2, victory over the Dallas Stars in Game 3 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Place in Edmonton.

Victor Hedman had the de facto game-winning goal early in the second period as the Lightning are now just two wins away from their second Stanley Cup championship in franchise history.

Tampa goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy (16-6, 1.89 goals against average, .928 save percentage in 22 games this postseason), made 22 saves on 24 shots faced for a .917 SV% in the win, while Dallas netminder, Anton Khudobin (13-8, 2.72 GAA, .918 SV% in 22 games this postseason), was chased after two periods and 24 saves on 29 shots against (.828 SV%).

Jake Oettinger (0-0, 0.00 GAA, 1.000 SV% in two games this postseason) made three saves on three shots in his relief appearance for the Stars– in just his second career National Hockey League game (both this postseason).

The series shifts to Game 4 inside the bubble on Friday night. Puck drop at Rogers Place is scheduled for a little after 8 p.m. ET. Viewers in the United States can tune to NBC, while those in Canada have their choice between CBC, SN or TVAS for the action.

Stamkos returned to the lineup for the first time since Feb. 25th for the Lightning after having core muscle surgery in mid-March, skating in June, then missing most of the postseason until Wednesday night.

He had a goal in the effort, but also briefly went down the tunnel before returning to the bench and only amassed 2:47 of ice time in Game 3.

Meanwhile, Stamkos replaced Carter Verhaeghe on Tampa’s fourth line as part of Jon Cooper’s only change to his game plan from Game 2 to Game 3.

Stars interim head coach, Rick Bowness, replaced Blake Comeau with Nick Caamano on his fourth line due to Comeau being forced out of the lineup with an injury.

Dallas scratches included Radek Faksa, Comeau, Jason Robertson, Stephen Johns, Ben Bishop, Justin Dowling, Landon Bow, Taylor Fedun, Gavin Bayreuther, Thomas Harley and Ty Dellandrea on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Tampa’s long list of scratches for Game 3 included Luke Schenn, Mathieu Joseph, Verhaeghe, Zach Bogosian, Scott Wedgewood, Braydon Coburn, Mitchell Stephens and Alexander Volkov.

Nikita Kucherov (7) kicked off the game’s scoring with a breakaway goal off of a Miro Heiskanen turnover to give the Lightning a, 1-0, lead at 5:33 of the first period.

About a minute later, Stamkos (1) settled a rolling puck while entering the zone and snapped a shot over Khudobin’s blocker side to give Tampa a pair of goals in a 1:25 span on consecutive shots.

Hedman (9) and Jan Rutta (1) tallied the assists on Stamkos’ goal as the Bolts jumped out to a, 2-0, lead 6:58 into the opening frame.

Less than a couple of minutes later, Erik Cernak tripped up Caamano and presented the Stars with the first power play of the night at 8:13.

Dallas’ skater advantage was short lived, however, as Joel Kiviranta interfered with Anthony Cirelli at 9:34.

After an abbreviated span of 4-on-4 action, Jason Dickinson (2) one-timed a shot past Vasilevskiy on the short side between the blocker and the post to give Dallas a shorthanded goal and cut Tampa’s lead in half, 2-1.

Roope Hintz (11) had the only assist on Dickinson’s goal at 11:19.

Late in the opening frame, Alexander Radulov hooked Blake Coleman and was sent to the sin bin at 19:37 of the first period.

Entering the first intermission, Tampa led, 2-1, on the scoreboard despite trailing Dallas, 16-8, in shots on goal.

The Lightning also held the advantage in blocked shots (3-2) and giveaways (7-6), while the Stars led in takeaways (2-0) and faceoff win percentage (71-29).

Both teams had 21 hits each after one period, while Tampa was 0/2 and Dallas was 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Hedman (10) sent a quick wrist shot past Khudobin on a rebound 54 seconds into the second period to put the Bolts ahead of the Stars by two goals once more, 3-1, as Cirelli (5) and Ondrej Palat (6) collected the assists.

Early in the middle frame, Radulov hooked Mikhail Sergachev at 4:31, but the Lightning weren’t able to convert on the ensuing power play.

Stamkos returned to the bench for the second period shortly thereafter, but he did not skate in any of the remaining action in the game.

Midway through the middle period, Brayden Point (11) scored on a 3-on-1 after Tampa caught Dallas on a line change with a forced turnover to make it, 4-1, Lightning at 12:02 of the second period.

Kucherov (23) and Hedman (10) tallied the assists on Point’s goal and the Bolts had a three-goal lead.

Tampa made it a four-goal lead late in the second period when Palat (10) backhanded a garbage goal from point blank on a rebound as Stars defender, Esa Lindell, hacked and missed at the loose puck.

Point (17) and Kevin Shattenkirk (9) notched the helpers on Palat’s goal and the Lightning led, 5-1, at 18:55.

Through 40 minutes of action on Wednesday, Tampa held a, 5-1, lead on the scoreboard and a, 29-20, advantage in shots on goal– including a, 21-4, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.

Tampa also led in blocked shots (8-6), while Dallas held the advantage in giveaways (15-8), hits (41-38) and faceoff win% (56-44) after two periods.

Both teams had three takeaways each, while the Lightning were 1/3 on the skater advantage and the Stars were 0/2 on the power play entering the second intermission.

Bowness opted to change goaltenders ahead of the final frame of regulation– replacing Khudobin with Oettinger and making history in the process as Oettinger became the first goaltender from Boston University to ever appear in a Stanley Cup Final game.

Almost a few minutes into the third period, however, Palat and Mattias Janmark exchanged pleasantries and received roughing minors at 2:58, yielding two minutes of 4-on-4 action.

Less than a minute later, Jamie Benn and Rutta went at it and received roughing minors as well as ten-minute misconducts at 3:38 of the third period.

By that point it became clear that the officials were trying to keep the temperature of the game down– it didn’t last for long.

Prior to another eruption of emotions, however, Heiskanen (6) sent the puck on goal with eyes as the rubber biscuit bounced its way around the Lightning goaltender and into the twine to cut Tampa’s lead to three goals.

Joe Pavelski (6) and Andrew Cogliano (2) recorded the assists on Heiskanen’s goal and the Stars trailed, 5-2, at 6:49 of the third period.

Less than a few minutes later, Shatternkirk slashed Kiviranta, but the Stars weren’t able to convert on the ensuing power play.

Dallas got one more chance to muster anything on the skater advantage when Sergachev tripped Hintz at 12:41, but once more Dallas didn’t score on the power play.

In the closing minutes of the game with the final result all but assured, Pavelski, Cedric Paquette, Barclay Goodrow, Pat Maroon, Dickinson and seemingly just about everyone else on the ice at the time exchanged words and more.

Pavelski was assessed a roughing minor as well as a cross checking minor, Paquette, Goodrow and Dickinson each received a roughing minor, while Maroon was handed a misconduct– ending all of the aforementioned players’ nights early at 18:05 of the third period.

At the final horn, Tampa secured the 2-1 series lead with a, 5-2, win in Game 3 on Wednesday.

The Lightning finished the night leading in shots on goal, 32-24, despite trailing the Stars, 4-3, in the third period alone.

The Bolts also finished the game leading in blocked shots (12-9), while the Stars wrapped up the effort lead in giveaways (21-14), hits (59-54) and faceoff win% (55-45).

Tampa finished 1/4 and Dallas went 0/4 on the power play in the effort.

When leading a playoff series 2-1, the Lightning are 10-3 all time.

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Take Five: Five takeaways from Game 2 of the 2020 Western Conference Final

Paul Stastny opened the game’s scoring with the eventual game-winning goal as the Vegas Golden Knights shutout the Dallas Stars, 3-0, in Game 2 of the 2020 Western Conference Final to tie the series, 1-1.

William Karlsson and Tomas Nosek each had a goal in the win as the Golden Knights evened the series thanks to Robin Lehner’s second consecutive shutout– his fourth of the postseason overall.

So with Game 3 in mind on Thursday night (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS), let’s review some takeaways from Game 2 and where the series might go from here.

1. Now that we’ve seen Vegas respond, the obvious “will Dallas respond in Game 3?” must be asked.

Dallas came out flying in Game 1, despite only scoring one goal and winning, 1-0– Vegas looked flat to kick off the series.

Just like in 2018, however, the Golden Knights went full throttle in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final, nearly scored four goals (Shea Theodore had a goal disallowed due to incidental contact with the goaltender courtesy of Max Pacioretty on the doorstep of the crease) and notched the shutout to tie the series.

Now, of course, how will the Stars respond?

Especially since they were outshot, 8-5, in the first period and, 19-7, in the second period alone. After 40 minutes, the Stars trailed the Golden Knights, 3-0, on the scoreboard (all Vegas goals were scored in the second period– traditionally what has been a better period for Dallas since their comeback over the Calgary Flames in Game 6 back in the First Round) and, 27-12, in total shots on goal entering the second intermission.

To Dallas’ credit, however, the Stars outshot Vegas, 12-5, in the third period alone.

In fact, the Golden Knights didn’t even have a shot on goal through the midpoint of the final frame, despite finishing with the advantage in shots on net, 32-24, at the final horn.

How will Stars interim head coach, Rick Bowness, respond to Vegas bringing out the big guns?

Especially since Ryan Reaves returned from his one-game suspension and suited up alongside William Carrier and Nick Cousins, which has been an effective shutdown fourth line thus far in the postseason.

2. Never tip your hand on a good future goalie.

Stars goalie, Jake Oettinger, made his NHL debut after Anton Khudobin was pulled prior to the third period.

The Boston University Terriers men’s hockey team standout amassed a league-leading .917 SV% among first year American Hockey League goaltenders in 2019-20 with the Texas Stars (AHL affiliate of Dallas).

Oettinger was the second goalie to make his league debut this postseason, joining Dan Vladar of the Boston Bruins as the other goalie to do so in the 2020 playoffs and marking the first time since 1937, that two goalies made their NHL debuts in the same postseason.

Whereas Vladar was fed to the wolves (a.k.a. the Tampa Bay Lightning) without much help in both ends of the ice, the Stars played better in front of their backup goaltender after clearly getting the message from Bowness– that they had let Khudobin down.

Oettinger only faced five shots and made five saves in 17:09 time on ice.

Yes, you read that right.

Despite Khudobin amassing 40 minutes played on Tuesday, Oettinger played less than a full period because Bowness pulled his netminder for an extra attacker with lots of time remaining in the game on the off-chance Dallas could score three quick goals and tie the game, at least.

They did not, but in the meantime, at least they didn’t rush Oettinger into any NHL action before it became absolutely necessary (though some watchful eyes of the minor leagues might wonder why Oettinger didn’t get a start earlier in the postseason to offset Khudobin’s workload while Ben Bishop is still injured and “unfit to play”).

Kudos to the Stars for not letting everyone else know about Oettinger’s impressive development thus far, though.

3. So… Robin Lehner the rest of the way?

This one should be obvious, but Lehner just had his fourth shutout this postseason (and second consecutive, if you didn’t read earlier).

Though Marc-Andre Fleury made 24 saves on 25 shots in Game 1, Lehner is the hotter goaltender right now– hands down.

Fleury’s 2.27 goals against average and .910 save percentage is fine. It pairs well with his 3-1 record in four games in the 2020 postseason.

But Lehner has a 1.84 GAA and a .924 SV% to go with the four shutouts, as well as a 9-4 record in 13 games played, which, if you’re wondering is better than Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Lightning in GAA and shutouts.

Vasilevskiy is 11-3 with Tampa so far in 14 games and has a 1.92 GAA, a .930 SV% and no shutouts in that span.

Yeah, this should be an easy decision for Golden Knights head coach, Peter DeBoer. It’s Lehner’s crease until the team advances or comes up short this year.

4. They scored a goal (at even strength)!

The Golden Knights entered Game 2 against Dallas without a goal from their forwards at even strength since the third period of Game 4 against the Vancouver Canucks in the Second Round.

Thankfully, Stastny put an end to Vegas’ misery at 5-on-5 (or 4-on-4) play with his third goal of the 2020 postseason at 4:53 of the second period.

Vegas added one more goal at even strength when Nosek scored his second playoff goal this year on a beautiful 3-on-1 rush to make it a three-goal game at 14:32 of the second period.

Prior to Stastny’s tally, however, the Golden Knights’ last four goals (dating back to Game 6 against Vancouver in the Second Round) included two empty net goals and a pair of goals from Theodore.

As long as the compete level from Game 2 doesn’t dissipate, Vegas looks to have snapped their even strength skid.

5. Shutouts galore!

Vegas’ last four games have all been shutouts.

The Canucks shutout the Golden Knights, 4-0, in Game 6 of their Second Round matchup as Thatcher Demko emerged as a playoff hero before the Golden Knights returned the favor with a, 3-0, shutout in Game 7– courtesy of Lehner.

To kick things off in the 2020 Western Conference Final, Khudobin had a, 1-0, shutout in Game 1 for the Stars, then Lehner returned the favor again with another, 3-0, shutout in Game 2 for Vegas.

Then there’s this to consider– Lehner is the first NHL goaltender to record four shutouts in a single postseason since Fleury did so in 2018 with the Golden Knights on their run to a Stanley Cup Final appearance in their inaugural season.

Only five goalies in league history have recorded more shutouts in a playoff year.

Lehner’s extended his shutout streak to 131:44 in the process, which is the second-longest postseason shutout streak by a Golden Knights goaltender since Fleury had a 144:04 shutout streak going in 2018.

And finally, with both teams earning a shutout through the first two games of the Western Conference Final, Dallas and Vegas joined the Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets this season as the only teams to record shutouts in their first two games in a series this year.

The Stars and Golden Knights also joined a longer list in the process since the NHL’s Modern Era (since 1943-44) that includes the Lightning and New York Islanders in the 2004 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, the Islanders and Ottawa Senators in the 2003 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, the Philadelphia Flyers and Senators in the 2002 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers in the 1997 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, the New Jersey Devils and Rangers in the 1997 Eastern Conference Semifinal and the Montreal Canadiens and Maple Leafs in the 1947 Stanley Cup Final.

Here’s to another shutout in Game 3 for either team to make more history, probably.

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Flyers fly away with, 3-2, shootout win in Boston

Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny each had a pair of points, while Joel Farabee scored the only shootout goal in the Philadelphia Flyers’, 3-2, shootout victory over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden Sunday night.

Carter Hart (6-3-1 record, 2.71 goals against average, .893 save percentage in 11 games played) made 26 saves on 28 shots against for a .929 SV% in the shootout win for the Flyers.

Bruins goaltender, Jaroslav Halak (4-1-2, 2.68 GAA, .918 SV% in seven games played) stopped 27 out of 29 shots faced for a .931 SV% in the shootout loss.

The B’s fell to 11-3-3 (25 points) on the season, but remain in control of 1st place in the Atlantic Division, while Philadelphia improved to 10-5-2 (22 points) and rose to 3rd place in the Metropolitan Division.

The Bruins are now 7-0-2 at home this season and are in the midst of a three-game losing streak.

Boston was without Kevan Miller (knee), John Moore (shoulder), Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia), David Backes (upper body), Jake DeBrusk (lower body) and Brett Ritchie (upper body) on Sunday, but Joakim Nordstrom (infection) and Par Lindholm (upper body) returned to the lineup against Philadelphia.

DeBrusk was ruled out for the upcoming week and not likely to return before next weekend by Bruce Cassidy hours before the game against the Flyers.

Meanwhile, Cassidy inserted Lindholm on the third line, centering Anders Bjork and Zach Senyshyn.

As a result, Peter Cehlarik, was assigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) and Charlie Coyle was bumped up to the second line right wing with Danton Heinen sliding over to the left of David Krejci.

Nordstrom returned to his usual spot on the left side of Sean Kuraly with Chris Wagner resuming his right wing duties on the fourth line.

Cassidy kept the Bruins defense the same from the last couple of games, leaving Connor Clifton on the first pairing with Zdeno Chara and Boston University alums, Matt Grzelcyk with Charlie McAvoy on the third defensive pairing.

Once more, Steven Kampfer was Boston’s only healthy scratch.

Midway through the opening period, after dominating the game flow, the Flyers finally struck first with a goal by Konecny (8).

Konecny’s goal was assisted by Couturier (7) and Oskar Lindblom (6) at 13:50 of the first period and was marked the first time this season that a visiting team had scored the game’s first goal at TD Garden.

It was also just the 13th shot on net for Philadelphia, while Boston was limited to three shots on goal at the time of Konecny’s goal.

Less than a minute after taking the, 1-0, lead, the Flyers went on the penalty kill thanks to Farabee’s minor infraction for high sticking against Brad Marchand at 14:14.

The Bruins did not convert on the ensuing power play.

Late in the period, Philippe Myers (3) sent a laser past Halak with heavy traffic in front of the net to give Philly a two-goal lead.

Konecny (11) and Travis Sanheim (5) notched the assists on Myers’ goal at 17:56 and the Flyers led, 2-0.

After one period, Philadelphia led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 14-5, in shots on goal. The Flyers also held the advantage in takeaways, 2-1.

Meanwhile, the B’s led in blocked shots (4-3), hits (12-11) and faceoff win percentage (75-25).

Both teams had three giveaways each and Boston was 0/1 on the skater advantage heading into the second period.

Early in the middle frame, the Bruins thought they had scored, but the officials on the ice made no clear indication as to what the call was until after video review in Toronto automatically reviewed something they couldn’t review.

See, the on-ice officials decided there was goaltender interference on the play, which, there had been something that happened in the crease– whether it was caused by Philly bumping a Boston forward into the Flyers goaltender or simply a Bruin colliding under his own volition into Hart– and thus, no goal was the call on the ice and it could not be reviewed.

Or something like that.

The fact of the matter is fans at the rink and casual viewers at home would simply like an explanation of what is believed to have happened (a.k.a. “the call on the ice”) and why or why not there was a review (a.k.a. “further review” or lack thereof).

Regardless, Boston trudged on with better possession in the second period than the first period, but committed the only penalty of the period when David Pastrnak hooked Ivan Provorov at 8:11 of the second period.

Philadelphia didn’t capitalize on their first power play of the night and play resumed even strength with no issue.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Flyers still led, 2-0, and held a, 20-10, advantage in shots on goal– including a, 6-5, advantage in the second period alone.

Philly also led in takeaways (10-4) and hits (21-20), while Boston led in blocked shots (11-8), giveaways (9-7) and faceoff win% (70-30).

Both teams were 0/1 on the power play.

Early in the final frame of regulation, Coyle worked the puck deep into Boston’s attacking zone, then sent a bouncing biscuit to the slot whereby Heinen (4) scooped up the loose puck, spun and wrapped it into the twine from point blank– cutting Philadelphia’s lead in half, 2-1.

Coyle (4) and Chara (4) had the assists on Heinen’s goal at 5:59 of the third period and the Bruins began to surge.

Midway through the third period, Brad Marchand (11) received a pass from Grzelcyk and fired a wrist shot top shelf over Hart’s glove from the faceoff dot to tie the game, 2-2, at 12:22.

Grzelcyk (3) had the only assist on the goal.

Less than a few minutes later, Provorov slashed Pastrnak as the Bruins forward was on a breakaway and yielding a penalty shot to the young Boston winger at 15:04.

Pastrnak was denied by Hart and play resumed as the score remained deadlocked, 2-2.

Almost two minutes later, Lindblom tripped up Marchand and was sent to the penalty box at 16:40.

The B’s did not convert on the resulting skater advantage, despite taking a timeout with 1:36 remaining in regulation to draw up a last ditch effort plan on the advantage.

At the horn, the Bruins and Flyers remained tied, 2-2, and headed for overtime.

Shots on goal were even, 27-27, despite Boston’s, 17-7, advantage in the third period alone. Blocked shots were also tied, 12-12, after regulation.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia held the advantage in takeaways (14-8) and hits (29-26) and Boston led in giveaways (13-9) and faceoff win% (65-35) heading into overtime.

The Flyers were 0/1 on the power play and the B’s were 0/2.

Philadelphia head coach, Alain Vigneault, started Claude Giroux, Lindblom and Provorov in overtime while Cassidy opted for Patrice Bergeron, Marchand and McAvoy.

The Flyers used their timeout after a stoppage with 1:15 remaining in overtime.

Shortly thereafter, in the final seconds of the extra frame, Boston had too many skaters on the ice and was assessed a bench minor penalty.

Krejci was selected to serve the infraction and Philadelphia didn’t capitalize on the skater advantage as overtime wrapped up.

After 65 minutes of action in Boston, the score remained tied, 2-2, with the Flyers leading in shots on goal, 29-28 (2-1 in overtime alone).

Boston finished the night leading in blocked shots (14-13), giveaways (13-9) and faceoff win% (61-39), while Philadelphia finished the action leading in takeaways (16-8).

Both teams had 29 hits aside and went 0/2 on the power play as the shootout commenced.

Boston elected to shoot first in the shootout– leading off with Coyle, who deked backhand, pulled the puck back to his forehand in effort to sneak it around Hart, but was denied by Philadelphia’s netminder with the leg pad.

Farabee shot first for the Flyers and scored on Halak’s glove side while taking it nice and slow into the zone.

Marchand tried to go blocker side to lead off the second round of the shootout, but was stopped with the leg pad as he couldn’t elevate the puck enough.

Giroux shot next for Philly, but was stopped by Halak as the Flyers forward tried to fake a slap shot, then went glove side before catching Halak’s forearm.

Finally, Pastrnak worked his way in on Hart as Boston’s last chance to extend the shootout, but the Philly goaltender broke up the attempt before Pastrnak could complete his shot– winning the game in the process.

Philadelphia improved to 3-2 in shootouts on the season, while Boston fell to 0-2 after overtime this year.

The Flyers also improved to 6-0-0 when leading after the 1st period this season and the Bruins fell to 1-2-2 when trailing after one period, as well as when trailing after two periods thus far.

Boston finished their two-game homestand (0-0-1) Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers before traveling to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs on Friday (Nov. 15th).

Categories
Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #166- New New New York

Nick and Colby recap the headlines from the last month as well as take a look at all of the New York market teams and try to figure out if any of them are actually any good as Season Six of the podcast begins.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

Categories
Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #165- Where’s My Cottage Invite?

Nick takes a little time out of the summer to go over third line signings, jersey number controversy and Ron Francis’ hiring as General Manager of the Seattle expansion franchise.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

Categories
Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #152- One Week Left

The DTFR Duo talk a little college hockey, other stats from the week, the CWHL folding and NWHL expansion opportunities, as well as hand out more awards and a look at how things should sort out in the Atlantic Division for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show onPatreon.

Categories
Nick's Net

Rangers at Bruins Preview: 3/27/2019

The Boston Bruins (46-21-9, 101 points, 2nd in the Atlantic Division) return home after going 3-1-0 on a four-game road trip to host the New York Rangers (29-33-17, 71 points, 7th in the Metropolitan Division) Wednesday night at TD Garden.

Boston is in the midst of an 11-game win streak on home ice, but is 0-1-1 against New York this season, having suffered a, 4-3, shootout loss at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 6th and a, 3-2, loss in Boston on Jan. 19th.

It is the final meeting between these two clubs this season.

The Bruins have already clinched a playoff berth– thanks to their win in Florida on Saturday– and the Rangers were officially eliminated from postseason contention earlier this month.

Marcus Johansson (lung contusion) and Torey Krug (concussion) will likely return to the lineup for the B’s, while Kevan Miller (upper body), Matt Grzelcyk (upper body), Sean Kuraly (fractured right hand) and John Moore (upper body) all remain out the action.

Miller and Grzelcyk will return to full contact at practice on Friday, according to Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, hours before the game on Wednesday, while Moore is week-to-week.

Johansson will likely suit up on the second line right wing with Jake DeBrusk in his usual spot at left wing and David Krejci at center, while Krug should return to his spot on the second defensive pairing with Brandon Carlo on the blue line.

As a result of Johansson’s return to the lineup, Karson Kuhlman will likely be the only healthy scratch for Boston on Wednesday night.

Cassidy indicated to reporters that Jaroslav Halak (20-10-4 record, 2.31 goals against average, .924 save percentage in 37 games played) will get the start in the crease against the Rangers.

Boston is 4-1-0 in their last five games, while New York visits the Hub with a 1-5-1 record in their last seven outings.

Former Boston University Terriers men’s hockey head coach– and current Rangers head coach– David Quinn, told reporters that Henrik Lundqvist (18-20-10, 2.99 GAA, .909 SV% in 49 GP) will get the start for New York.

Quinn also informed the media members that Boo Nieves is out of the lineup in addition to Chris Kreider (day-to-day) and Marc Staal (day-to-day). Connor Brickley will play in Nieves’ place on the roster against the B’s.

Boston is coming off a, 5-4, loss on the road to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday, while New York enters TD Garden after a, 5-2, loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at home on Monday.

Categories
College Hour

NCAA Weekly Match-Up, 10/1/17

October is finally here! The puck has officially dropped on the 2017-18 season!

While it’s time for celebration, it’s also time for people like me to get busy. I’m rolling out a new weekly segment, where I will be choosing one game/series and give you a pre-game preview and post-game write-up(s). If you ever have any suggestions or want to see your team in the spotlight, let us know on Twitter (get ready for the shameless plug.) You can find us at @DTFrozenRiver.

At this point in the early season, there weren’t many games to choose. I could have sided with one of Saturday’s matchups (Boston University defeats Union 4-1; Colgate wins over Niagara 5-1), but I find this Sunday tilt particularly interesting. Without further ado, here is the NCAA Weekly Match-Up:

Wisconsin Badgers v. Michigan Tech Huskies

Let’s start with the Badgers. The Big 10 preseason poll has them coming in at 3rd out of seven teams. In this particular position (if preseason rankings actually mean anything to you), they are a “bubble team.” What that means is if they perform particularly well, they could exceed expectations and be sitting atop the standings at the end of the season. Or, they could live-up to that 3rd place ranking, which will result in an acceptable season, but not a great one. Wisconsin will be a fun team to watch, as tWisconsinhey hope to crash Minnesota’s party. The Gophers are preseason favorites, but I think the Badgers may have something to say about that. Wisconsin will have to replace their leading scorer, Luke Kunin (22-16-38), as well as graduated senior and former Assistant Captain Grant Besse (9-19-28). They will need to see improved play from others, which they believe they will get. If they want to make a good run, they will look to start off on the right foot with this non-conference match-up.

Alright Techies, time to talk about you. I am really interested to see how the Huskies perform this season. What type of product will they be able to put on the ice? In the WCHA pre-season poll, they also received a 3rd place ranking. There problem is that they have a lot more going on behind the scenes in Houghton. Let’s start with the obvious. Mel Pearson was a machine. He helped lead Tech to many successful seasons, culminating in a Broadmoor Trophy. With the retiring of Red Berenson in Michigan (Pearson’s former home as an Assistant Coach), many people feared the worst. Their fears became reality with Pearson accepted the Head Coach position at Michigan. TMichiganTechhe hiring of new Head Coach Joe Shawhan will bring a new era. This new era will also begin with uncertainty on the back end. The goaltenders on their roster include a true freshman, a young transfer, and a junior who has only appeared in five games. With the surprise exit of Angus Redmond, the Huskies must find a way to protect their own net. While they do return many good quality players, graduating seniors made up a large bulk of their scoring last season. I think Michigan Tech will still have a good season, but they will need to overcome a lot of adversity to be back in the NCAA Tournament.

Players to Watch:

Wisconsin – F, Trent Frederic (Sophomore) and G, Jack Berry (Sophomore)

Michigan Tech – F, Joel L’Esperance (Senior) and D, Mark Auk (Senior)

 

Game Details:

Sunday (10/1/17) at 2:00pm

Kohl Center (Madison, WI)

_________________________________________________________________________

Post-Game Wrap-Up:

The Wisconsin Badgers and Michigan Tech Huskies faced off in an early season tilt and what a game it was.

The Cardinal and White got off to a great start, as they put up the only two goals of the first period. At 5:51 of the first period, junior Seamus Malone moved the puck behind the net. Although Tech goalie Patrick Munson was able to fend off the chance, junior forward Will Johnson capitalized on the rebound.

Later in the period, a new face to the Badgers would collect his first collegiate goal. As Michigan Tech’s Jake Jackson went off for a slashing call, Wisconsin’s power-play unit took the ice. Linus Weissbach regained control of the puck after it was blocked by a Husky and sent a wrist shot over the shoulder of Munson. Assists were credited to Johnson Trent Frederic.

Into the second period, Michigan Tech showed they were also capable of using the man advantage. Joel L’Esperance would score his first goal of the young season. Unfortunately for the Black and Gold, the Badgers would regain their two-goal lead shortly after. Senior forward Ryan Wagner entered the zone along the boards and placed a beautiful pass right onto the stick of Weissbach, who was camped near the front of the net. He one-timed the puck behind Munson for his second of the night. Frederic also earned a helper, which earned him his second point as well.

The Huskies would close the gap one more time late in the second period. Another goal on the power-play, scored by Jake Lucchini, put them within one. Gavin Gould and Mark Auk assisted on the play, with Auk earning a multi-point game. Neither team would find the back of the net in the third period, as both Munson and Wisconsin goaltender Kyle Hayton were dialed in.

 

Post-Game Notes:

Players to Watch – Well, we went three for four, which is probably about as good as it gets (we aren’t technically professionals at this). Wisconsin’s Trent Frederic had two assists; Michigan Tech’s Mark Auk also had two assists, while Joel L’Esperance put one point on the scoreboard.

Goalie Match-Up – The goaltending was very well played, regardless of the scoresheet. The Huskies started Patrick Munson, the transfer from the University of Denver. Although his game was not perfect, he showed flashes of brilliance. If he can polish his play, Tech may have found their new number one. Wisconsin countered with Kyle Hayton, a graduate transfer from St. Lawrence. If he continues his strong play that Badger fans witnessed tonight, Jack Berry may be finding himself on the bench more often than not.

First Collegiate Goal (…and Second) – There are many Badgers to keep eyes on this season, but you can surely add Linus Weissbach to the list. The Gothenburg, Sweden native may be a long way from home, but he seems right at home in a Wisconsin uniform. He scored two goals tonight, leading the way to a non-conference victory. Another unique first on the night came from Patrick Munson, who assisted on the first Husky goal (that’s right, goalie making plays). That was his first point as a member of the Black and Gold.

U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game – Regardless of the outcome, both teams were surely proud to partake in such a special game. Unfortunately for the Huskies, they will not have a shot at revenge this season, since this was not a two-game series.

Next Appearances – Wisconsin will take on Ohio State next weekend (10/6 and 10/7), as they open up Big Ten play. Michigan Tech will head to Duluth, Minnesota, as they are participating in the Ice Breaker Tournament. They will face off against Union on Friday and will drop the puck against either Minnesota or Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday.

Categories
College Hour

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