Sunday, November 22, 2009

NCAA Update - November 22

There were big wins and even bigger losses this week in NCAA hockey but all eyes were on Magness Arena in Denver for the marquee match up between the #2 and #3 ranked teams in the nation. There will be movement again on the top 20 rankings, as there naturally is every week, but I found it interesting that on last week's poll, 5 of the top 6 teams received 1st place votes. I don't think that will happen again after what happened over the last couple of days.

Here is a reminder of how the Top 20 looked before the games of the week, the number of first place votes in brackets followed by the results from this weekend.

1 Miami (42) 1-0-1
2 North Dakota (2) 0-2
3 Denver (2) 2-0
4 Mass.-Lowell (3) 1-0
5 Cornell 1-1
6 Michigan State (1) 0-1-1
7 Colorado College 2-0
8 Bemidji State 2-0
9 Yale 1-1
10 Alaska 1-1
11 Massachusetts 1-0
12 Nebraska-Omaha 0-2
13 Quinnipiac 2-0
14 Notre Dame 1-0-1
15 Wisconsin 1-1
16 Michigan 1-1
17 Vermont (week off)
17 Boston College 1-0-1
19 Princeton 0-2
20 Minnesota-Duluth 2-0

Miami has been the #1 ranked program since the results of the opening weekend of the season. The RedHawks have now played 6 of their last 8 games on the road and haven't lost any of them going 5-0-1 in that stretch of roadies. This weekend it was to Kalamazoo the home of the Western Michigan Broncos where Miami rattled off a 3-0 win on Friday and escaped with a 1-1 tie on Saturday. Goalie Cody Reichard had a fairly easy time of it having to stop just 15 shots for the shutout in the opener. Connor Knapp (BUF) had 30 come his way on Saturday and he stopped all but one of them. Saturday's affair saw much more shooting as the two teams combined for 73 shots compared to a total of 39 the night before. Andy Miele scored twice for the RedHawks on Friday and Saturday's lone Miami scorer was Carter Camper who ended a 4-game pointless slump but still has only hit the score sheet for 3 points in the last 9 games.

Will Miami retain the #1 ranking? I think it will be a close vote but mine (if they let guys in Edmonton, AB Canada vote) would go to #3 Denver this week after they swept the #2 ranked Sioux of North Dakota. Last week I suggested UND would be my pick for top spot on the poll but they only received 2 votes (as did Denver). The Pioneers and Sioux have built up a pretty heated rivalry and there was no doubt that their meeting this weekend was the headlining tilt on the schedule.

Denver came away with 1-goal victories on both nights, the first featuring a Marc Cheverie (FLA) 34-save shutout and the second ending on a last minute disallowed UND goal. Both teams recorded 34 shots in the first game with the only goal scorer being DU freshman Drew Shore (FLA). Shore's GWG came in the second period while on the power play, a theme for the rest of the weekend as every goal scored between the two clubs came with the man advantage. Saturday the Sioux broke out to a 2-goal lead as Danny Kristo (MTL) and Chris Vande Velde (EDM) scored first period goals. Denver answered back in the second frame with three of their own, Joe Colborne (BOS) scoring the first two and setting up the eventual game winner. North Dakota thought they had tied the game at the end while on the power play but the goal was called back after video review clearly showed that Brad Malone had kicked it in. Game 2 was filled with penalties, 20 combined for a total of 18 power plays.

UMass-Lowell kept pace as best they could with only one game on their schedule. They doubled up on Merrimack 6-3 as the Warriors' Jeckyl and Hyde season continued; Merrimack is a perfect 6-0 at home and a perfect 0-5 on the road. The River Hawks went 3-7 on the power play and got a pair of goals from both Scott Campbell and Paul Worthington in the lopsided victory.

Cornell will surely drop out of the top 5 after splitting their games on the weekend. The Big Red beat Princeton 5-2 on Friday but couldn't complete a comeback against Quinnipiac so lost 3-2 on Saturday. Blake Gallagher and Joe Devin each had 3 points against the Tigers who received both of their goals from senior Cam MacIntyre. #13-ranked Quinnipiac got out to a 3-0 lead midway through the game and held on for the win after Cornell scored twice in the final five minutes of regulation time. Cornell goalie Ben Scrivens allowed 3 goals on 19 shots. I would expect the Big Red and the Bobcats to be ranked much closer together as a result of Quinnipiac's road win.

Michigan State and Notre Dame tied 1-1 on Thursday night and then waited two days for the rematch on Sunday. The Irish took it to the Spartans on Sunday, at least on the score board. MSU held a 28-16 lead in shots but could only put one past Brad Philips in the Notre Dame net. Calle Riddewall, Bill Maday, Kevin Deeth and Kyle Lawson all had two points for the Irish. Thursday's tilt ended in a shootout "win" for Notre Dame - an extra point in the standings but still called a tie.

Colorado College should move into the conversation for top-5 status after a pair of wins over a challenging Robert Morris. The Colonials may be just 1-8-2 this year but they gave CC all they could but still suffered 4-3 and 4-1 losses. Colorado College recorded 90 shots over the two games and got 6 different shooters with Billy Sweatt (CHI) and Mike Testwuide potting a pair each.

The top club from the 4-team CHA Conference is the Bemidji State Beavers and they continued to roll after sweeping Alabama-Huntsville scoring 12 goals in the process. The Beavers hammered the Chargers 6-1 and 6-3.

I expect the #9 Yale Bulldogs to slip some more in the poll after losing to #11 Massachusetts 4-3 in overtime on Thursday night. James Marcou's winner came at the 3:59 mark of the extra period and completed the comeback after the Bulldogs blew a pair of leads in the game. It was the only game of the weekend for the Minutemen but Yale was able to bounce back with an overtime win of their own over cellar dwelling Brown. The last place Bears were down 4-1 after the first period but clawed their way to extra time where Broc Little came up big for the Bulldogs.

Alaska-Fairbanks had a tough time with another middle of the pack CCHA team as they split against Lake Superior. The Lakers took away the win on Friday in part because of a pair of goals from Canadian born co-captain, Rich Schofield. The Nanooks barely avoided the upset sweep by staging a comeback from 2-0 to steal Saturday's rematch by a 3-2 final. Former AJHLer Dion Knelson scored twice in Alaska's win.

The Michigan Wolverines were upset at home by Bowling Green on Friday, their 5th consecutive loss, but were able to stop the free fall with a 4-1 road win in on Saturday against the Falcons. Bowling Green went 2-3 on the power play and scored 3 times in the final period to stun the faithful at Yost Ice Arena. The three strikes came less than three minutes apart, the first during a 5-on-3 man advantage. Michigan replied though on Saturday holding BG to a total of 12 shots (despite 5 power plays). The Wolverines got 3 points on the weekend from Louie Caporusso (OTT), who had been held off the score sheet in 7 of Michigan's 10 games prior to the weekend.

#17 Boston College beat and tied Maine which should be enough to move out of their poll ranking tie with idle Vermont. The Eagles downed the Black Bears by a 4-3 score on Friday and came away with a 3-3 tie on Saturday.

Another heated WCHA rivalry was featured this week as State foes Minnesota-Duluth took on the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Bulldogs escaped Mariucci Arena with a pair of road wins and will surely improve on their #20 ranking as a result. Travis Oleksuk's overtime marker sealed the game on Friday for Duluth while Saturday's 3-2 win featured a pair of assists from freshman Dylan Olsen. Both games saw the Gophers break out to 2-0 leads only to gas them in the end.

The team with some serous momentum right now is Ferris State who are a perfect 8-0 at home and have only dropped 2 of their last 12 games. The CCHA Bulldogs embarrassed Ohio State 8-1 on Friday night, 24-year-old senior Blair Riley scored three times for the home side. The Buckeyes blew 3-0 and 4-1 leads on Saturday and eventually coughed up 6 goals to the Bulldogs who preserved their unblemished home record with a 6-5 overtime win.

My Top 20 for next week: (1) Denver, (2), (3) North Dakota, (4) UMass-Lowell, (5) Colorado College, (6) Bemidji State, (7) Michigan State, (8) Quinnipiac, (9) Cornell, (10) Alaska, (11) Notre Dame, (12) Massachusetts, (13) Yale, (14) Wisconsin, (15) Minnesota-Duluth, (16) Nebraska-Omaha, (17) Boston College, (18)Michigan, (19) Ferris State, (20) Vermont.

Feature games next Saturday: Miami VS Bemidji State, Minnesota @ Michigan, Wisconsin @ Michigan State

Sunday: Miami vs North Dakota, Minnesota @ Michigan State, Wisconsin @ Michigan

(Photos Courtesy: Denver University, Minnesota-Duluth)

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