2013-14 Preseason Top 16

September 12, 2013 Leave a comment

We are back! There probably won’t be as much day to day posting here (unless someone wants to buy up this blog of course hint hint) but definitely still more longer pieces. Here’s the first big one, the preseason rankings for the 2013-14 season. Feel free to yell at me for hating your team in the comments or via email. Here we go:

1. Miami

The RedHawks had a pair of Freshmen splitting time almost evenly in net last year, but Ryan McKay, who had a .946 save percentage last year, probably will emerge this year. They return Riley Barber and Austin Czarnik up front and add Freshman Anthony Louis from the NTDP up front. It’s a small recruiting class for Miami, but they won’t have to blend in a lot of new faces and should use their talent and experience to compete for the national title.

2. Massachusetts-Lowell

Lowell has the best 1-2 tandem in the country in net with Connor Hellebuyck and Doug Carr. They also bring back Scott Wilson, a legitimate Hobey candidate, up front. Lowell returns 4 of its top 5 scorers, but they’ll rely on goaltending to get them to the Frozen Four again. There is a bit of a chance of a drop off given that they neither put a lot of shots on goal nor suppressed them exceptionally well, but the talent is there. Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

College Hockey Guaranteed to Have a First Time National Champion

March 30, 2013 1 comment

The Union Dutchmen just defeated defending national champion Boston College 5-1 behind two goals from Josh Jooris. That result was significant not just in the fact that we will have a new national champion this year, but we will also have a first time national champion.

The six teams remaining (Union, Quinnipiac, Miami, St. Cloud State, Yale, UMass-Lowell) have never won a national championship. Even more remarkably, coming into the tournament the six teams had a combined 16 tournament wins, 7 of them belonging to Miami.
Even as a fan of an established program, adding another team to the list of national champions is only good news for college hockey. Miami is the most established power of the group, having made the title game in 2009 and the Frozen Four in 2010, and Union is off to their second Frozen Four in a row, but the rest of the schools have relatively little success, recent or otherwise, to speak of.
No matter what happens, some program is going to get a taste of what Boston College, Wisconsin, Denver, etc. have felt in recent years, and no matter who wins college hockey as a whole will be a big winner as well.
Categories: NCAA Tournament

Baby Geniuses Triplets Commit to Bemidji State

March 30, 2013 1 comment

Leo, Gerry and Myles Fitzgerald all play for Victoria of the BCHL, but they are perhaps known better for being the triplets who starred in the 1999 movie Baby Geniuses with Christopher Lloyd (a movie which has 1 whole star on IMDB I might add).

Now all three of them, all 1993 birthdates, have committed to play college hockey at Bemidji State. Gerry Fitzgerald has 23 goals and 41 points in 41 games, Leo Fitzgerald has 26 goals and 50 points in 54 games, and Myles outpaces both of them, scoring 30 goals (7th in the league) and 71 points in 52 games.

They’re all 19 and playing in the BCHL so take their numbers with a grain of salt, but they all pretty clearly look like D1 level players. I don’t think I have ever seen triplets in college hockey, and certainly haven’t seen triplets who were all actors, so that’s pretty cool. Hopefully their hockey careers earn them more praise than their movies did.

(s/t Chris Dilks)

Categories: Recruiting, WCHA

College Hockey National Awards

March 27, 2013 Leave a comment

More than any year I can remember, college hockey faces some tough choices when it comes to not only handing out the Hobey but the Penrose and All-American teams as well. Here is my attempt to take a look at who I think should win (not who I think will win):

 
Player of the Year – Corban Knight, Sr. F, North Dakota
 
Some bad news for Knight, a Hobey finalist: this is the 5th (I think) year I’ve done this awards post, and I haven’t correctly picked a Hobey winner yet. 
 
My thinking for Knight is this: there is no runaway points or goals leader this year: Johnny Gaudreau scores 1.47 ppg to lead the country and ranked 6th in goals per game. The nation’s leader in goals per game, St. Lawrence Junior Greg Carey, scored 14 of them with a man advantage. 
 
Knight meanwhile had 12 goals at even strength, just four fewer than Gaudreau and two fewer than Carey, and 80% of his goals (and Gaudreau’s) came at even strength compared to just 50% for Carey and with the national scoring leaders fairly bunched up (and the fact that goals are usually a bit easier to come by in ECAC Hockey and Hockey East, though I think that’s less true this year), we need to look a bit deeper.
 
Knight has .85 assists per game, and leads the nation in primary assists with 24. Knight is one of UND’s best penalty killers, and as a team UND allows fewer shots than Boston College or St. Lawrence (this shouldn’t factor in very much obviously, because we can’t give one player credit for an entire team preventing shots, but I don’t exactly have Corsi with which to work). 
 
Knight plays in both zones either as well or better than the other finalists, and to top off his case he has won 57.7% of his faceoffs this year and has won 591 of them this year, 98 more than the next highest total. Too often people get enamored with who has the most goals or the most points, but if the Hobey Baker Award is supposed to go to the best player in the nation, we should give it to the player who has been the best this year.
 
Coach of the year
 
There were a ton of candidates for coach of the year this year, but I am going with Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold. I do think ECAC Hockey was a bit down this year, but the Bobcats dominated it, winning the league title by 10 points over RPI and reeling off a 21 game unbeaten streak this year. Quinnipiac finished tied for 4th in the league last year and won just 9 conference games, and all Pecknold did this year was help turn them into the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament. 
 
Freshman of the year
 
Again there were a lot of candidates here but I am going with Providence Freshman Jon Gillies. The Calgary draftee tied for second nationally in shutouts and finished with a .931 save percentage. Providence allowed 31.16 shots per game this year, 32nd nationally, and no disrespect to the players around him but without Gillies in net the Friars would have finished 7th instead of tying for 3rd. 
 
All Freshman team
 
F – Jonny Brodzinski, St. Cloud State
F – Kevin Roy, Northeastern
F – Riley Barber, Miami
D – Jacob Trouba, Michigan
D – Michael Matheson, Boston College
G – Jon Gillies, Providence
 
All Americans
 
1st team
 
F – Corban Knight, North Dakota
F – Johnny Gaudreau, Boston College
F – Greg Carey, St. Lawrence
D – Nick Bailen, RPI
D – Jacob Trouba, Michigan
G – Jon Gillies, Providence
 
2nd team
 
F – Erik Haula, Minnesota
F – Danny Kristo, North Dakota
F – Steven Whitney, Boston College
D – Nick Jensen, St. Cloud State
D – Dan DeKeyser, Western Michigan
G – Carsen Chubak, Niagara
 
3rd team
 
F – Ryan Walters, Nebraska Omaha
F – Kevin Roy, Northeastern
F – Kyle Flanagan, St. Lawrence
D – Nate Schmidt, Minnesota
D – Joey LaLeggia, Denver
G – Brady Hjelle, Ohio State
 
(note: Connor Hellebuyck probably would have been my first teamer, but he played only about half the season for Lowell. We’re dealing with small samples as it is, but 21 games isn’t a big enough sample for me to put a guy as a first teamer)

 

Categories: Uncategorized

NCAA Tournament Analysis

March 26, 2013 Leave a comment

The NCAA hockey tournament starts this Friday at neutral sites (which is gross, but more on that later) across the country, and thankfully all games will be broadcast on ESPN networks

Speaking of stupid things, the Pairwise ratings look like this, with Quinnipiac leading the way. Thanks to Canisius upsetting Niagara to win the Atlantic Hockey automatic bid, Western Michigan is the unlucky team left out of the field, pretty shocking for a team that once looked like a lock for the tournament and finished with fewer losses than #1 seed Notre Dame. 

The bracket in full looks like this:

East (Providence)

1. Quinnipiac v. 4. Canisius

2. Boston College v. 3. Union

It is perceived that because of the lack of other “power” conference teams that Boston College got an easy draw. While I do think ECAC Hockey was a bit down this year, Quinnipiac still reeled off a 21 game unbeaten streak and are a deserved top overall seed. They’re 4-0 this year against NCAA tournament teams, though it should be noted that all four of those were against ECAC Hockey’s other tournament reps.

Union comes in as the conference’s hottest team, having won the ECAC tournament, and along with the Bobcats are two of the only three teams in the country to outscore opponents by at least a goal per game. They’re 17th in scoring nationally, but generate the ninth most shots on goal in the nation, suggesting they could be due for some goals this weekend.

They’ll have to sneak them by Parker Millner, BC’s star goalie. He ranks 48th overall in save percentage this year with a .914 mark, but he was dominant in the NCAA tournament last year and has the ability to do so again. If BC advances though, it will likely be because of their offense. Johnny Gaudreau led Hockey East in points per game, and teammate Steven Whitney led the league in goals with 18, 5 more than the closest competitor. The Eagles might not be as strong as they were last year, but they’re the favorite until they advance

Projected Frozen Four team: BC

Midwest (Toledo)

1. Notre Dame v. 4. St. Cloud State

2. Miami v. 3. Minnesota State

I saw the Irish play at the IceBreaker tournament in Kansas City this year and even though they won, I wasn’t very impressed. They have really turned it on lately, with goalie Steven Summerhays allowing 6 goals in their last 5 playoff games. The Junior duo of Anders Lee and TJ Tynan combined for 30 goals and 36 points, and helped lead the Irish to the last CCHA tournament title.

But they are probably the third favorite in their own regional. St. Cloud State tied for the WCHA championship with Minnesota, but thanks to some unfortunate nonconference results (getting swept by New Hampshire and Northern Michigan) the pairwise didn’t really break in their favor. It underlines the stupidity of the pairwise that the #1 seed from the best conference in the country this year almost got left out of the tournament, but that’s for another day. St. Cloud is led by Drew LeBlanc, who had 50 points, and Freshman Johnny Brodzinski, who led the nation in goals at even strength with 20.

Miami won the CCHA by three points over Notre Dame, and did it in their typical defensive style, ranking 2nd nationally in goals allowed per game and 6th on the penalty kill. The Redhawks allowed just 26 shots on goal per game this year, 6th fewest in the country. They took at least 20 more penalties than the other teams in the top 10 in shots allowed, so I am assuming they were the best in the nation in terms of shot suppression at even strength.

Projected Frozen Four team: Miami

Northeast (Manchester)

1. UMass-Lowell v. 4 Wisconsin

2. New Hampshire v. 3. Denver

To me, this is the most wide open regional. Lowell has come on strong thanks to Freshman goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who led the nation with a .949 save percentage and had the second most shutouts in the country, but he has only played in 21 games this year and there is no telling how he will react to his first NCAA tournament action. Lowell doesn’t have a single point per game scorer, though they do have 5 double digit goal scorers.

Wisconsin snuck into the tournament thanks to winning the WCHA tournament, but while they have the hot hand, they aren’t a great hockey team this year. Nic Kerdiles has 4 goals in his last 5 games, but just 10 for the season. The Badgers have gotten a career year from Junior Michael Mersch, who had 22 career goals coming into this year, and has added 23 to that total just this season. The Badgers have gotten great goaltending from Joel Rumpel, who has a .933 save percentage, but were 10th in the WCHA in goals scored, scoring just 2.46 goals per conference game. They’ve scored 3 or more goals in their last 6 games, but I think Lowell is too much for the Badgers.
 
New Hampshire takes the 6th most shots in the nation per game, and Denver is 25th, but that is a difference of just three shots per contest. The biggest advantage in this one is in the faceoff circle: the Pioneers win 53.7% of their draws, while New Hampshire ranks 47th nationally, winning just 48%. The Pioneers have 6 double digit goal scorers, led by Shawn Ostrow’s 15, and have a nice mix of veterans and drafted talent. Watch for Sophomore defenseman Joey LaLeggia, who has 22 goals and 67 points in just two years on campus. For the Wildcats, Jon Henrion averages over 4 SOG per game, and has scored 14 goals to rank third on the team. The Wildcats also feature Trevor van Riemsdyk and Scott Pavelski, who each have last names that may be familiar to hockey fans. I don’t think they have enough to win this regional though.
 
Projected Frozen Four team: Denver
 

West (Grand Rapids)

1. Minnesota v. 4. Yale

2. North Dakota v. 3. Niagara
 
When North Dakota lost their opening game at the Final Five to Colorado College, hockey fans were robbed of one final WCHA meeting between the Gophers and the former Fighting Sioux. But the hockey gods had other ideas and decided to give the longtime rivals another shot to meet as WCHA representatives before Minnesota heads off to the Big 10 and UND to the NCHC. 
 
Minnesota is probably the best team in the country: they rank third nationally in shots per game, they rank first in faceoff%, and first in goals per game. They also rank 2nd in shots on goal allowed per game, and though Quinnipiac is the top overall seed and Boston College is the defending champions, the Gophers should be the heavy favorites to win the national title. 
 
Still, anything can happen in a single elimination tournament, and the Bulldogs have been playing well, especially lately. They actually take more shots per game than Minnesota, ranking 2nd nationally, but they have been outscored 44-48 in away games and 5-12 in neutral site games this year. They obviously have to travel a lot farther than the Gophers as well, so an upset is unlikely.
 
UND is pretty much a two man show, with Danny Kristo and Corban Knight playing like Hobey finalists and the rest of the team following their lead. Kristo led the WCHA in goals and Knight tied for 4th in points per game. Knight has also won 58% of his faceoffs this year, and has won 591 of them this year, 98 more than the next highest total in the country. It is Kristo though who ranks 3rd nationally in goals and has 19 of those at even strength, ranking 2nd nationally. Their biggest problem comes in net, where Junior Clarke Saunders has just a .916 save percentage. Zane Gothberg is a bit better at .918, but he is just a Freshman. He does have the same amount of NCAA tournament experience as Saunders, an Alabama-Huntsville transfer. North Dakota outshoots their opponents only by about 2 per game and they allow about 4 more per game than the Gophers.
 
I don’t think either Niagara or Yale has enough to prevent a Minnesota-North Dakota final, but one note about Niagara worth touching on has been the play of Marc Zanette. He has just 10 goals this year, but takes the 6th most shots per game in the nation at just over 4 per contest. That equates to a shooting percentage of a comically low 6.5%, the lowest for a double digit goal scorer in the country. I don’t think Niagara will have enough to beat North Dakota, but they don’t really get their due as a good team because of the conference they play in.
 
Projected Frozen Four team: Minnesota
 
With a Frozen Four of BC, Miami, Denver and Minnesota I am going to go the boring route and pick the Gophers to knock off the defending champions in the title game. BC has a lot of talent and a lot of players who have been on this stage before, but Minnesota has size, speed, powerful forwards, puck moving defensemen and a stifling defense backended by a capable goalie. The knock on them is they don’t have the knack for scoring the gritty goal and perhaps that is true, but they outshoot their opponents by so much that I don’t think it will matter.
 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Lindsay Lohan’s Cousin Kevin Commits To Michigan

January 31, 2013 Leave a comment

I mostly don’t touch recruiting here, but when said recruit is the cousin of actress (or “actress”?) Lindsay Lohan, I’ll make an exception.

6’5″ Kevin Lohan currently plays for Merritt in the BCHL, and at 6’5″ his best tool is his size. He has 14 points, including two game winning goals, in 40 games for the Centennials this year. He’s also played from coast to coast over the last three seasons, playing for Shattuck two years ago and then New York Apple Core (EJHL) before joining the BCHL this year.

Lohan is a ’93 so he has another year of junior eligibility remaining, and in a phone interview with the Michigan Daily he said he was unsure whether he would join Michigan in 2013 or 2014.

For the record, Red Berenson has apparently heard of Lindsay Lohan, but would not be able to recognize her. Though to be fair, everyone who saw her in Mean Girls would say the same thing if they saw her now.

 

Categories: CCHA, Recruiting

WCHA Votes to Admit Alabama-Huntsville

January 17, 2013 Leave a comment

As reported by USCHO, the newfangled WCHA will be admitting Alabama-Huntsville for the 2013-14 season. Without the invite, the program would have been in danger of extinction after the dissolving of College Hockey America.

The Chargers are currently an independent and have already wrapped up their home schedule, a schedule which featured only two games against a D1 opponent (future WCHA foe Minnesota State) with the rest coming against club teams and D3 programs.

This brings the new look WCHA to 10 teams, and it will be interesting to see what happens with any future expansion not featuring a Big 10 team. The biggest immediate problem, though, will be travel. Huntsville is around 4,000 miles from Anchorage, and it is a little over 1,000 from Bemidji,the site of its biggest rival.

Still, this is a great day for college hockey, as realignment threatened to take away college hockey’s most successful foray into the south. Hopefully with Huntsville’s admission into the WCHA more southern programs will make the jump from club hockey to D1.

You can read the school’s release on the news here.

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