Monday, March 03, 2014

College Hockey Round-Up, Week 16

Minnesota ascended to the top of the national rankings, in the new poll released on Monday afternoon. The Big Ten stalwart took the reins back from Boston College after a two-week respite for the surging Eagles to sit atop the best in the nation.

The Golden Gophers regained equilibrium by setting down new conference rival Penn State with a pair of victories at Mariucci Arena, 5-1 on Friday and 2-1 on Saturday. It earned them a swing of more than 30 first-place votes.

Don Lucia's club has lost just twice in their last 20 games, and kept their momentum going in the series opener, as Sam Warning, Hudson Fasching and Kyle Rau beat PSU's Matt Skoff by the end of the first period after Kenny Brooks opened the scoring just 3:12 into the contest. Taylor Cammaratta  and Nate Condon both lit the lamp in the second period, while Adam Wilcox was perfect for the rest of the night, making 30 saves in all.

The hosts put together a narrow victory on Senior Night, closing out the Gophers' home schedule with a 15-1-3 record -- the single loss was the fewest in one season since the program moved to the venue 20 years ago. Tom Serratore measured P.J. Musico with 6:45 left in regulation for the game winner. Travis Boyd also tallied for Minny, while Curtis Loik evened things with a late second-period marker.

Minnesota looks to solidify its spot atop the Big Ten with four road games to conclude the season, at Ohio State and Michigan.

Penn State, on the other hand, completes its schedule with four at the 'Peg, against Wisconsin and Ohio State. The Nittany Lions are just 2-11-0 away from home, 2-13-1 in conference and 6-22-1 overall.

BC, which has already locked up the Hockey East regular-season title, saw its 19-game unbeaten streak ended by a budding hockey rival. Now No. 11 Notre Dame came into Conte Forum for the first time as a conference foe and slid away with a 2-1 overtime victory. Vince Hinostroza provided the winning margin at 1:56 of the extra session. Johnny Gaudreau extended his national-best string to 29 straight games with a point, accounting for his team's lone score.

Union (24-6-4, 18-3-1) remained entrenched at #3, but finished its schedule strongly, going unbeaten in its last eight (7-0-1), and having blanked three of its final four opponents on the way to shoring up the No. 1 seed in the ECAC playoffs. The Schenectady, NY program will have the next weekend off as the eight lower seeds battle in the quarterfinals, then take on the lowest seed remaining. The dark horse even earned a first-place vote for the first time all season, from Daily Gazette writer Ken Schott, who justifies that selection here.

Flyers defensive prospect Shayne Gostisbehere ended the year with eight goals and 18 assists, having squeezed off a team-high 130 shots and accumulated a team-best plus-19 rating.

The Dutchmen slammed the door on defending champions (#16) Yale, 2-0, in New Haven, then waltzed out of Providence with a 3-0 decision against Brown. In the first contest last weekend, Colin Stevens stopped a career-best 49 shots, while Alex Sakellaropoulos made 26 saves to take down the Bears in the closer. It marked the first time since February 26-27, 1998 that the Dutchmen blanked consecutive opponents.

Nothing was resolved in the battle for NCHC supremacy. St. Cloud State moved up to No. 4, while North Dakota inched up further to No. 9 after the programs split two games at Ralph Englestad Arena. The hosts took a 5-2 result on Friday and the visitors struck back with a 3-1 decision on Saturday, meaning the Huskies and Fighting Sioux are still tied atop the conference with two games remaining for each.

UND's Michael Parks picked up an assist in the opener, but was held off the board with a minus-2 in the series closer.

Up to #5 this week are the Wisconsin Badgers, who toppled Michigan State on home ice with 5-2 and 2-0 wins. National runners-up Quinnipiac came in at sixth spot, having ended a three-game losing skid its season-ending road series against St. Lawrence (8-0) and Clarkson (1-1). The Bobcats have a one week bye as the ECAC's #3 seed, with No. 13 Colgate the #2.

Ferris State took the largest tumble in the top 10, falling from No. 4 to No. 7 after losing a pair of contests to the University of Alaska up in Fairbanks, while UMass-Lowell crept up to eighth position despite only earning two points in a weekend set against conference rival Vermont.

Rounding out the best 10 in the country, Providence rose two slots thanks to extending its win streak to four consecutive games after taking down Maine (4-2, 3-2) on the road at Alfond Arena.

Checking in with the only other local program... 

Princeton ended its regular season in a 1-10-1 skid which included five consecutive losses, but it will make the postseason as the ECAC permits all of its 12 member institutions a crack at the crown.

The Tigers lost both ends of their New York doubleheader, falling 3-1 at Clarkson and 5-0 against St. Lawrence. Andrew Calof provided the Orange and Black its lone offense of the entire weekend, scoring with 1:13 remaining in the first period in Potsdam. Canton was even less kind, as Sean Bonar's 36 saves was wiped out by a Saints' offensive explosion. Jeremy Wick paced the hosts with a hat trick, while Matt Weninger was only tested 14 times in the whitewash.

Andrew Ammon ended the season atop the scoring list with 10 goals and 20 points, while Calof collected a team-high 15 assists and finished second with 18 points. The Tigers scored the fewest goals in the conference, with a paltry 55. 

A 5-24-0 season and 4-18-0 campaign netted Princeton the lowest ranking possible at #12, and a first-round matchup with Clarkson this weekend.

No excuses

It didn't happen in the United States, but so what?

The University of Ottawa has suspended the operation of its men's hockey team to investigate allegations of a gang assault on a female during a recent road trip.  

Reading on brought to mind two events, one recent and one distant. The first one, most recent, was of the sexual assault allegations brought against Flyers prospect Nick Cousins and two of his teammates in Sault Ste. Marie from August of 2012. The latter, seemingly disappeared below the horizon, was the hazing scandal which rocked the University of Vermont and caused the cancellation of the remainder of its 1999-2000 season when those allegations were proved true.

Both involved unwanted physical contact, questionable morals and behavior, and once given the harsh light of day, opened eyes and turned heads as if the innocence of that particular universe hadn't already been lost.

But nothing, in general changes. There are still incidents of this type that will crop up from time to time, no matter where testosterone and secrecy and youth abide. It seems the best anyone can do is take the lessons of what immediately transpired and apply them to prevent future incidents of similar type. It never seems to account for the unaccountable, things that have not happened yet in the realm of illegality and performed under cover which haven't been publicized, dissected and demonized. 

Cancellation of an entire season is as close to the death penalty that a non-football entity suffered in Division I hockey. Vermont took years, and a switch in conferences, to recover. In a country which reveres hockey as America does football, can the University make the right decisions and exercise the proper foresight no matter what the outcome of the investigation?
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