Monday, March 10, 2014

College Hockey Round-Up, Week 17

No change atop the national rankings, in the latest poll issued on Monday afternoon.

However, for the first time all season, the top four programs listed received at least one first-place vote. 

Minnesota retained its crown for yet another week, and extended its unbeaten streak to six games (5-0-1) after winning their two-game set at Ohio State with a 5-1 victory and 2-2 tie.

The Gophers (who have enjoyed top billing in the country 16 times this year) have two more games on the docket, both within the Big Ten, at Michigan, before the playoffs begin.

Both Boston College (Hockey East regular-season champions) and Union (ECAC regular-season champs) enjoyed a bye week as the lower seeds in their respective conference tournaments played this past weekend.

#4 St. Cloud State earned the Penrose Cup as the first-ever regular-season titlists in the nascent NCHC, after taking down Colorado College twice in Colorado Springs by positive results of 7-4 and 4-1. The Huskies edged out No. 10 North Dakota by two points for the crown.

No. 5 Wisconsin swept a pair from Penn State at Pegula Ice Arena, to extend its win streak to five consecutive games. The Badgers finish up their regular season with two at Michigan State. More on the Nits' losses in the local section below. 

Ferris State and Quinnipiac both clocked in at No. 6 this week. The Bulldogs beat Lake Superior State by identical 2-1 scores to lock up the MacNaughton Cup as champions of the WCHA by one point over Minnesota State. The national runner-up Bobcats had the week off, but face a tough test this weekend in the ECAC quarterfinals against defending champions and neighbors Yale.

UMass-Lowell stayed firm at #8 and are gearing up after the bye week to take on Vermont in the Hockey East quarterfinals, while Providence inched up to ninth place on its bye, and are facing a matchup against Maine to begin the postseason.

North Dakota once again rounds out the top 10, sliding down one spot after a weekend series with Western Michigan that fell just short of glory. The Fighting Sioux needed to win twice and overtake St. Cloud State for the NCHC title, and after winning 2-0 on Friday, lost 2-1 on Saturday to fall into second place. Flyers forward prospect Michael Parks was blanked all weekend, and even a small contribution would have made a world of difference.

Parks completed the 2013-14 campaign having totaled 10 goals and 17 assists in 34 games.

The bottom 10 consisted of Notre Dame, Cornell, Michigan, Northeastern, Vermont, Yale Colgate, Minnesota State, Maine, and Minnesota-Duluth.

On the local scene

The first of our local D-I teams to participate in the postseason was the Princeton Tigers, who ended up being the lowest seed (#12) in the ECAC playoffs.

It took all possible games in the best-of-three series on the road at Clarkson, but the Green Knights eventually advanced two games to one.

On Friday night at Cheel Arena, Princeton snapped its five-game losing streak and shocked the hosts with a 3-2 victory in overtime. Freshman netminder Colton Phinney was the Star of the Game, making 39 stops -- including 10 in the extra sesssion -- long enough to hold back the deluge until Andrew Ammon ended the contest at the 12:02 mark. Andrew Calof tied the contest just after the six-minute mark of the third period and Kyle Rankin opened the scoring with a first-period marker.

"It was a real gutsy team effort," Princeton head coach Bob Prier said. "I thought the winning goal was outstanding and Ammon deserved it. We do have some things to clean up before tomorrow but I like our effort tonight. It was a good win and we needed it. Hopefully this builds some confidence in our players and they can use that moving forward."

The next two nights were less kind to the Orange and Black. On Saturday, Steve Perry made 24 saves and Jeff DiNallo scored 54 seconds into the contest and the hosts earned a 4-0 victory, then closed out the series Sunday with a 3-2 decision. Will Frederick netted the game-winning score on a power play with 7:11 left in the second period. Jonathan Liau and Kyle Rankin lit the lamp for the Tigers, while Ammon was blanked in his final collegiate contest and Calof added one assist in his university bow-out.

Princeton ended the 2013-14 campaign with a 6-26-0 record, its worst since the 2002-03 squad finished last in the ECAC at 3-26-2 under Lenny Quesnelle.

Upstate, the Nittany Lions continued to struggle with their late-season Big Ten schedule, losing by scores of 4-2 and 3-2 in OT to Wisconsin, as their losing skid reached five games.

On Friday night, the hosts fell behind by three goals, before late strikes from Casey Bailey and Taylor Holstrom made it a one-goal margin. Mark Zengerle hit the clincher into an empty net only 54 seconds after Holstrom's marker to give the Badgers a two-goal decision. One night later, Zengerle did it again, breaking the hearts of the 5,829 who gathered on campus with the OT winner coming just 21 seconds before the buzzer. It erased momentum gained when Kenny Brooks scored to tie with 2:44 left in regulation.

Guy Gadowsky's kids fell to 6-24-2 overall, 2-15-1 in conference and have two more games left in the regular season, on home ice against Ohio State this coming Friday and Saturday.
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