Monday, November 11, 2013

College Hockey Round-up, Week 5

Despite a split over the weekend with Notre Dame, the Minnesota Golden Gophers have not been knocked from their #1 perch this week, according to the new rankings released on Monday.

However, for the first time in their three-week run at the top, they're not a unanimous pick.

The top four programs were static thanks to winning weekends.

Minnesota duked it out with the newest member of Hockey East, dropping Friday's opener at South Bend by a 4-1 count, then striking back Saturday with a 5-4 decision fueled by goals from five different freshmen.

The Gophers kick off a six-game homestand by welcoming in Minnesota State this weekend, while the Irish begin their home conference schedule with two dates against Merrimack.

No. 2 Michigan continued their roll through the early season, taking a pair of narrow victories against Michigan Tech (3-2 OT, 2-1), #3 St. Cloud State saw its five-game win streak stopped in a 2-0 loss to Miami-Ohio on Friday but rebounded Saturday for a split with a 2-1 decision. 

Early-season surprises Providence improved to 7-1-1 after taking two from the aforementioned Warriors, winning 1-0 in North Andover on Friday and then 4-2 back home at Schneider Arena one day later. Hockey East's second-place club heads to Gutterson Field House for a twinbill with Vermont this weekend.

Quinnipiac flipped with the Friars, going to sixth place despite a 10-game unbeaten streak which included a 3-0 win over Brown and a 3-3 tie against defending champion (and still #9 ranked) Yale in a national-title game rematch.

Boston College and the RedHawks exchanged places, with the Eagles moving up one slot thanks to a dominating weekend. South Jersey's own Johnny Gaudreau earned top offensive honors in Hockey East after totaling seven points (3G, 4A) across a 5-1 road win over rival Boston University and an 11-0 shellacking of Army at Conte Forum on Sunday. Gaudreau is now the second-leading scorer in the country with 18 points (9G, 9A) in nine games.

RPI was cemented as the final program in the top 10, tying Colgate and beating Cornell at Houston Field House.

As always, now the local scene...

Continuing its two-games in two-weeks respite, the Penn State Nittany Lions came up with their second straight win, evening their record at 3-3-1 for the season thanks to a narrow 2-1 victory over Sacred Heart on Friday night at the 'Peg.

Luke Juha and Ricky DeRosa scored within the first 8:04 of regulation against Alex Vazzano, and Matt Skoff made that advantage hold up with 20 stops.

The Nits continue their homestand with two against Hockey East regular-season and playoff champion UMass-Lowell beginning Thursday night.

Princeton continued its early season struggles, dropping a pair of games over the weekend to Ivy League foes.

Friday night at Baker Rink was a special contest, as Yale arrived, but walked away with a 5-2 victory. The Elis rolled to a 4-0 lead less than halfway through regulation time thanks to goals from Carson Cooper, Mike Doherty, Stu Wilson and Tommy Fallen. Fallen scored again before the end of the second, offsetting comeback efforts led by Alec Rush's second-period strike and Aaron Kesselman's first of the season in the third period.

One night later, senior Hobey hopeful Andrew Ammon awoke from his slumber to net a pair of goals, but it wasn't nearly enough as Brown skated away with a 6-3 victory. Dennis Robertson, Mark Naclerio and Matt Harlow struck in a 6 1/2 minute-span early in the second to give the Bears a four-goal edge and the visitors cruised from there.

The Tigers, now 1-5-0 thanks to a five-game losing streak, host the River Hawks on Tuesday, then Harvard Friday and Dartmouth on Saturday. 


Frozen Four hits the big time, permanently.

Last Monday, a writer connected closely with the ECAC scene talked about his picks for the future sites of the Frozen Four. If you'll notice, only two of the four are in what can be considered college hockey country. If you notice further, all four choices are major-market NHL arenas.

Since 2000, the NCAA Division I championship has drifted away from its origins and, like the rest of college sports, has taken up residence in cities with venues that can bring in the most people and generate top-notch revenue.

In 13 seasons, the Frozen Four has only played out in a non-NHL market twice (Albany 2001, Milwaukee 2006) while visiting St. Paul twice and Buffalo, Boston, Columbus, St. Louis, Denver, Tampa, Detroit, Washington, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia once each.

A move to larger spaces began in earnest with 1997's tournament at Bradley Center, then the following year at Fleet Center and in 1999 -- the first official year of the "Frozen Four" designation -- Honda Center in Anaheim.

It's not going to stop. Last year's final four schools an exception, the NCAA is banking on the fans from the big traditional powerhouse state schools (Michigan, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Maine, New Hampshire et al.) making the tournament and then making the investment en masse to generate near-sellout crowds as the programs advance.

Nonetheless, there are plenty of other arenas that have yet to be touched inside and outside the hockey world that can sustain a D-I level tournament with capacities well over 10,000: Cleveland, Nashville, Baltimore, Worcester, Kansas City and Atlanta to name a few.

Before heading back to NHL stalwarts, the NCAA should spread the wealth a little bit more in the near future to deserving cities. 
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