Monday, February 03, 2014

College Hockey Round-up, Week 12

There's nothing new to report at the top of the national rankings, as Minnesota took the top spot for the 14th week out of 15 this season (St. Cloud State the lone outlier with one #1 ranking and one week with more votes), but the first Monday in February is when the parochialists all come out of the woodwork in celebration of the Beanpot. More on that in a bit.

Following the Gophers, Boston College, Quinnipiac and Union all stayed in place, while Ferris State and St. Cloud State switched places, as did UMass-Lowell and Providence. The Ivies cracked the Top 10 for the first time all season with Cornell slotting up to No. 9 and Michigan also climbing up two spots to #10.

Wisconsin was the biggest loser amongst the best of the best, falling from 9th to 12th thanks to losing and tying (3-1, 2-2) at Yost in Ann Arbor, while Notre Dame skidded from 14th to 18th after losing twice at New Hampshire (4-2, 5-2), which pulled the underachieving Wildcats back into the rankings at #20.

On the local scene...

You have to wonder if it's ever going to click for Guy Gadowsky and Penn State. Heading into the gauntlet of Big Ten action, the Nits have dropped eight straight games and 14 of their last 15 after losing a pair of games at Ohio State over the weekend.

Chalk it up to the inevitable letdown of having to give it their all against Minnesota and Boston College for the last several weeks, but in Columbus, the Lions played like teddy bears.

On Friday, David Goodwin recorded the sole offense for the visitors but could not solve OSU's Christian Frey with their other 46 shots on net in a 5-1 defeat. Max McCormick and Ryan Dzingel did the damage against Eamon McAdam, scoring two goals apiece. The following night at Value City Arena, Dylan Richard and Casey Bailey staked Matt Skoff to a 2-0 lead after one period of play, but the roof figuratively caved in as Tanner Fritz, Dzingel, Anthony Greco, McCormick and Darik Angeli lit the lamp unanswered to fuel a 5-2 decision.

Now 4-16-1, Penn State at least can look forward to David Glen's possible return when it comes back to the 'Peg this Friday and Saturday to welcome in the Wolverines.

A little bit closer to the Delaware Valley, and the Princeton Tigers are caught in a similar rut to the Blue and White.

New Jersey's Orange and Black have dropped three straight games, not counting exhibitions against Canadian universities, and have come up short in nine of their last 10 overall by dropping both contests of their Ivy road trip at Harvard and Dartmouth.

Friday night at Bright Center in Cambridge, the Crimson revved up for their Beanpot date with Northeastern with a 3-2 victory. Princeton's Alec Rush ended up recording his first career two-goal effort with outside-shot Hobey Baker hopeful Andrew Calof assisting on both, but the senior defenseman and forward couldn't do any more to help his club rebound from an early 3-0 deficit. Greg Gozzo, Alex Kerfoot and Jimmy Vesey all bested Colton Phinney in the opening 20 minutes.

The next night in frigid Hanover, NH, senior netminder Sean Bonar did his part to keep his club in the game by matching a career-best with 43 saves, but the Big Green dented him five times on 48 shots, including another three-goal outburst in the first segment of the contest. Dartmouth was already up 4-0 by the time Princeton's offense kicked in on markers from Rush, Calof and Tyler Maugeri, but the comeback effort ultimately exhausted their energy. Princeton was outshot 19-3 in the final stanza.

Up next for the struggling Tigers are back-to-back home dates against upstate New York rivals, with St. Lawrence and Clarkson arriving at Baker Rink.

Don't let the accent fool you

Every year since the 1950's, the four top hockey programs in and around the city of Boston take to the ice on the first two Mondays in February at TD Garden in a four-game, single-elimination tournament known as the Beanpot

What used to make it so special, is that it provided an athletic battleground for the four distinct classes of people in the immediate environs of the Hub, represented by Boston University, Boston College, Northeastern and Harvard, with bragging rights to the tournament winner. What makes it special now, is that each of the four schools can be considered a breeding ground for top-level talent in the National Hockey League over the last generation.

In the last five years, the 'Pot has brought together such talents as Tampa Bay Lightning forward Alex Killorn (Harvard), Dallas Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak (Northeastern), forward Alex Chiasson (Boston University), and Carolina Hurricanes winger Nathan Gerbe (Boston College) as the most recognized names on a list which could reach the floor if all of its famous participants were listed.

BC is riding a 12-game unbeaten streak (11-0-1) into its triennial, and largely anti-climactic first-round matchup against bitter rival BU. Like the Sixers-Celtics matchup in the 1981 Eastern Conference Finals, it's basically a game whose winner has a high probability of winning the whole thing next week.

The Eagles topped Team USA World Junior netminder Jon Gillies and his Providence Friars with a 2-0 decision at Schneider Arena on Friday night.  Just like attempting to find the Line of Demarcation in Connecticut between a majority of Yankees and Red Sox fans, the attempt to find the same within the city of Boston's Allston and Brighton neighborhoods is equally as arduous.

Coming out on the right side of the scoreboard will be a huge boost to first-yeear head coach David Quinn, whose Terriers are in a 1-8-2 tailspin since the beginning of December counting a 3-3 deadlock against UMass in Amherst on Friday.

"We have nine freshmen in the lineup every night, and they're young freshmen. They're not 20 years old, they're 18 years old," said Quinn to the Boston Globe earlier today. "I give the guys a lot of credit. It's not easy to stay upbeat during those times, but they've managed to do so."

Boston College is attempting to extend its recent run of dominance, having take four straight titles. No school has done so since BU won five straight from 1995-2000, which gave rise to the tourney's alternate moniker "The BU Invitational." 

Northeastern, which has remained steady in the lower half of the top 20 lately, will take on Harvard in the early evening matchup. The Huskies are coming off a bye week which followed a split at Notre Dame, while the Crimson's victory over Princeton put the brakes on a five game winless skid (0-4-1).
Both clubs are looking to overcome some long odds in their Beanpot journey, with the former having not won since the last of their four all-time titles in 1988 and the latter coming up short in every year since 1993.

"We're still learning how to win," said Harvard head coach Ted Donato. "It hasn't shown up in wins and losses. We've had a bunch of one-goal losses in our last few weeks. We've made some major mistakes that have cost us, but I do think that this team is capable of getting over the top in one-goal games."

Despite getting some good pub from a high source, Northeastern's best shot to win it all came three years ago, in an epic contest which saw the defending champion BC Eagles eventually triumph in overtime. That squad prominently featured Oleksiak, a hulking presence on the blue line.

For all other pertinent info on this little slice of college hockey heaven, head over here.

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