College Hockey Round-Up-Winners and Losers
Connor Hellebuyck has been the key to UMass Lowell’s success (Photo/Justin Soderberg)
By Pat White (@patwhite9126)
There was some slight movement in the USCHO.com polls this week. Despite losing 6-2 against Minnesota-Duluth on Sunday, Minnesota remains on top of the polls.
There might have been a new team atop the polls this week, but four of the top six teams suffered losses this week and didn’t take advantage of the Gophers loss to the Bulldogs.
So in this week’s installment of my College Hockey Round-Up, I examine which teams were winners and losers of the week.
In last week’s Round-Up, I noted that Cornell relied too heavily on its power play and that the Big Red sorely missed the presence of forward Cole Bardreau.
After a three week absence, Bardreau returned and in a big way. He scored a goal and dished out two assists (one on the power play) in Cornell’s 5-1 home win against Brown. Bardreau was also 12 for 18 at the faceoff dot. He now has three goals and three assists in just four games this season. Eric Freschi netted two goals as well for Cornell, giving the Big Red some much needed scoring depth.
For a top-20 team, Cornell has lacked a signature win against a ranked opponent. On Saturday, Cornell defated defending national champion and ninth-ranked Yale 2-1 to hand the Bulldogs their first loss in the ECAC this season. The win extended Cornell’s winning streak to three games while snapping Yales seven game winning streak. Andy Iles started his 10th straight game for Cornell and has not allowed more than three goals in any contest this season.
If Iles continues his steady play in goal, Bardreau stays healthy and Cornell can continue scoring at even strength, watch out for the Big Red.
Boston University (6-6-1)
Photo by Steve McLaughlin/BU
It hasn’t been all peaches and cream for the Terriers in their first season without legendary coach Jack Parker behind the bench. They have seen the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
One consistent trait about the Terriers is that they are tough to beat at home (6-2-1). They hosted No. 15 North Dakota who has followed a similarly inconsistent path this season. Boston turned in a 1-0-1 record on the weekend against North Dakota.
In BU’s 3-1 win in the first game, goaltender Matt O’Connor was stellar making 37 saves. Defenceman Matt Grzelcyk tallied an assist, but was much more important in limiting North Dakota’s leading scorer Rocco Grimaldi to just one goal.
North Dakota and Boston skated to a 3-3 tie on Saturday. Once again, it was O’Connor who stole the show for BU, making a career-high 55 saves.
The Terriers are a winner because they are now undefeated in their last three games. It’s been difficult to string together solid performances and get results for this team. They take on Cornell next at Madison Square Garden which will be a real test.
No. 8 UMass Lowell (10-4)
If you read my Round-Ups enough, you know my love affair with UMass Lowell. This week, they jumped five spots up to No. 8 in the polls by sweeping now-No. 11 Notre Dame. Yeah, that early loss to Sacred Heart hurts, but winning nine out of their last 10 games helps heal that wound.
Connor Hellebuyck notched his second whitewash of the season in the first game while making 40 saves. That is his second 37-plus save shutout in as many weeks. Hellebuyck followed that performance with a 34-save output the next night in a 3-1 victory over the Irish.
The Riverhawks are one of the hottest teams in the country right now. They were the top ranked team in the preseason, and after a rocky start, have regained their Frozen Four form. Gillies in Providence and Zach Nagelvoort for Michigan are both having incredible seasons in net so far. But for my money, Hellebuyck is the best goaltender in college hockey. Splitting time with Doug Carr may have taken some his hype away, but his 1.57 GAA and .951 save percentage speak for themselves. UMass Lowell is 40th in the country, scoring 2.65 goals per game while playing a defense-first system. You can credit Hellebuyck for a large part of the Riverhawks success.
No. 17 Nebraska-Omaha (8-6-0)
The Mavericks have slowly been climbing their way back in to top-20 contention with some big wins over Denver, Michigan and North Dakota. This week, they hosted N0. 8 Miami for a big test against one of the NCHC’s best teams.
The series was sure to feature some barn burners with two of college hockey’s offensive dynamos taking the ice. Miami got on the board first, which is always a bad sign because Miami was 7-1-0 when scoring the first goal. But UNO fired back with five goals in the second period to establish a four goal lead. Miami battled back with two goals in the second, but UNO held on for 6-3 victory behind two goals from Austin Ortega and 29 saves from goaltender Ryan Massa.
The second game was decided by the special teams. The Mavericks scored two power play goals and Tanner Lane netted the shorthanded game-winner in the second period. Massa was impressive once again stopping 25 shots.
The competitive NCHC boasts four top-20 teams and Nebraska-Omaha leads the conference with a 5-1 record. There is still a lot of hockey to play, but sweeping Miami is proof of the parity of the conference. The Mavericks have the scoring depth and it’s encouraging that they can create offense even when leading scorer Josh Archibald (PIT, 6th 2011) isn’t light the lamp.
No. 11 Notre Dame (8-5-1)
The newest member of Hockey East has fallen quite a bit from the number two spot they once held this season. The Irish are 2-3 in Hockey East play and being swept by UMass Lowell dropped them five spots down to number 11.
Goaltender Steven Summerhays has been stellar between the pipes and Notre Dame allows only 1.93 goals per game. The Irish’s sixth-ranked penalty kill has been stingy, but the power play has left a lot to be desired.
Yes, Hellebuyck’s unreal play between the nets was the biggest factor in the series loss to UMass Lowell, but for a top-10 team to muster just one goal in two games is a bit alarming. Stealing just one game against the Riverhawks might have held the Irish in the top 10, but the sweep has knocked them down a few notches. Notre Dame hosts the Shillelagh Tournament in South Bend that is part of a 10-game homestand for the Irish.
No. 5 Quinnipiac (12-2-1)
If there was a team that might have been considered for a top-two ranking this week, it was Quinnipiac. After handily blanking Princeton 3-0 on Friday, the Bobcats snapped a 13-game unbeaten streak, losing 4-3 to the Tigers.
The loss clearly doesn’t hurt Quinnipiac all that badly, but it was a missed opportunity with the likes of Providence, Minnesota and Notre Dame all losing. Princeton is 3-8 and 2-6 in the ECAC, and should have been an easy sweep for a Bobcats team that has some quality wins already this season. This loss could hurt more if they lose on Wednesday to No. 4 Providence.
No. 13 Miami (7-6-1)
The RedHawks have been as high as the number one spot this season in the polls. There has been a steady decline as the season has gone on and now they sit at 13th.
The series against Nebraska-Omaha would not have vaulted Miami into a top-five spot, but they probably would have jumped Boston College (who lost to Maine), Yale and Notre Dame into maybe the sixth or seventh spot. The “loser” tag is more an indication of how far they have fallen, while watching teams like North Dakota, No. 2 St. Cloud State and Nebraska-Omaha climb in the polls.
This team is too gifted offensively to keep falling and the rankings don’t mean much right now, but a 2-4 record in the NCHC could bite them later on in the season.
Michigan State (3-7-0)
It has been three weeks since Michigan State has last won a game. The Spartans are 3-7-0 so far this season, and that is before they start their treacherous schedule in the Big Ten.
The Spartans are 55th in scoring (1.90 goals per game) and 35th in goals allowed (2.90 goals allowed per game). There are 60 teams in college hockey. You do the math. Western Michigan doesn’t pose that threatening of an opponent, and the Spartans were swept in a home and home series in which they scored one goal. It is quite possible that Michigan State could be the worst team from the Great Lakes State this season.
Around College Hockey
No. 7 Boston College defeated Harvard last Wednesday 5-1 behind two goals and an assist from Johnny Gaudreau. Bill Arnold and Kevin Hayes added two assists each. Gaudreau tallied an assist on Boston College’s lone goal in a 5-1 loss to Maine on Saturday.
Gaudreau is now tied for first in the NCAA with 24 points (12 goals, 12 assists). Arnold and Hayes each have 18 points, good for ninth in the country.
Providence Suffers Scares against New Hampshire
It’s no secret that the key to Providence College’s blazing start is due in large part to the play of goaltender Jon Gillies (CAL, 3rd 2012), as indicated by his 8-1-1 record going into a home matchup with New Hampshire.
On Friday night, New Hampshire led Providence 2-0 after the second period. Heading into the third stanza, Nick Ellis took the crease for Providence after Gillies suffered a left leg injury and could not finish out the game. Gillies’ injury goes well beyond just one game against Hockey East foe, New Hampshire. Gillies is the favorite to man the crease for the United State at the 2014 World Junior Championships in Malmo, Sweden.
Providence battled back to send the game into overtime behind the play of Ellis. New Hampshire handed Providence its second loss of the season on a goal by Matt Willows just 15 seconds into the extra period.
The good news for Friars fans and Americans alike, is that Gillies returned on Saturday night in the second game against New Hampshire. He made 32 saves and Shane Luke scored the eventual game-winner in the second period as Providence came away with the 3-2 victory. Gillies is now 9-1-1 with a 1.70 GAA and a .946 save percentage.
The Friars travel to Quinnipiac on Wednesday in what will be a great matchup of two powerhouse, top-five teams.