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NCAA Weekly Match-Up, 10/13/17

Don’t worry, be happy! It’s a hockey-filled weekend!

This week, we will be taking a look at another non-conference matchup, as the boys from Mankato head to Boston to take on the Terriers. Last week, we were stuck on Minnesota, but we left out one nationally respected team, the Minnesota State Mavericks. Boston University is a historic program in their own right, having produced some quality talent over the years (yes, Jack Eichel counts). These two squads are both top-tier teams of their respective conferences, so it will be interesting to see how the Mavericks out of the WCHA can stack up against one of the powerhouses of Hockey East. A two-game series will be played, so what can fans look for in this Friday/ Saturday heavyweight fight.

Minnesota State Mavericks v. Boston University Terriers

Game Details:

Friday (10/13) and Saturday (10/14)

7:30PM and 7:00PM

Agganis Arena (Boston, MA)

Game Preview:

Minnesota State opened up their season with a 4-0 loss to St. Cloud State. As their opposition was highly ranked in the national standings (currently sitting at number six in the NCAA), this is a “quality loss.” I use that term loosely because the Mavericks should be able to skate against any opponent. The Mavericks were hit with high expectations, being tabbed as the pre-season favorites of the WCHA. Another quality opponent in Boston University will surely reveal whether or not Minnesota State can live up to the hype.

Was their shutout loss to open the season just a fluke? This team looks poised to wreak havoc (at least in the WCHA) again this season. They really didn’t have any team-altering losses over the offseason. The graduation of four seniors does take a toll on their internal leadership, but only one of those skaters scored above 20 points in their final season. Collectively, the group only contributed 19 goals. One could argue Cole Huggins was a big loss, but he only started in 19 games. Although his 0.902 save percentage and 2.29 goals against average are respectable, these numbers seem replaceable, but maybe not as easily as one would think.

Jason Pawloski earned the start in the first game of the season. He gave up three goals in 56:57 of ice time, with the team’s fourth goal against being thrown into an empty net. Keep an eye on the coach’s decision to see who draws the start Friday night. Pawloski may get another shot, but we also could see new goaltender Connor LaCouvee in the crease. LaCouvee is a transfer student, formerly playing at Boston University. You can see how this may be in intriguing situation. He only played in five games last season at BU, but it surely isn’t a stretch of the imagination to see him playing either Friday or Saturday night.

Boston University has opened the season with two wins against ranked opponents. Their first win came against Union (ranked #16 at the time of play). Their second tilt was an exciting 3-2 overtime victory against Quinnipiac (currently ranked #17). If we are comparing resumes, the Terriers are definitely off to the better start. Both teams have faced quality competition; BU handled their opponents, while the Mavericks were shutout. It’s still a little early to make any bets based on one or two weeks of play, so let’s look at who has been leading the home team to victory.

After two games in the books, everyone is taking notice of Patrick Harper. Now this is nothing new for the Connecticut native, who was just one marker shy of a point-per-game pace last season. He was a force on the ice, ending with a +6 rating during his freshman campaign. With further development to grow stronger and faster, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him turn in an even better season this year. This Nashville Predators draft pick is doing all that he can to get noticed and convert his talents to professional hockey, but he will surely help the Terriers win many games in the process. Although it will not be sustainable, his 0.800 shooting percentage is impressive through two games.

Jake Oettinger, goaltender for BU, will be another player to watch, as he has started both of their games between the pipes. Oettinger had a very rewarding offseason, being drafted by the Dallas Stars in the first round (26th overall). This is a big confidence boost for the young goaltender, who appeared in 35 games last season for the Terriers. So far on the season, Oettinger has only allowed 3 goals, facing 31 and 22 shots respectively. At this point, Oettinger is “the guy” for Boston U. and will be a guaranteed start in 30+ games again this season.

Lastly, another critical aspect of the game will be the special teams units. BU is converting their power-play chances at a very respectable 30%. Their penalty killing has been quite successful as well, only allowing one goal of seven opportunities. If things get a little dicey, which is always possible between two quality teams, there may be quite a few shorthanded situations at both ends of the ice. If this ends up being the case, Minnesota State will be able to put their team to the test. They failed to convert on their one power-play so far this season, while also only allowing one shot during their first penalty kill.

Players to Watch:

Boston UniversitySophomore Goalie, Jake Oettinger; Sophomore Forward Patrick Harper; Sophomore Defense, Chad Krys (Drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks)

Minnesota State – Junior Defense, Daniel Brickley;  Freshman Forward, Jake Jaremko; Sophomore Forward, Marc Michaelis

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.

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