Sunday, March 31, 2013

Quinnipiac on its way to Frozen Four

If there were any doubters before this weekend that wondered how a struggling Quinnipiac team won as many games as it did, just watch tape of the last four periods. The Bobcats showed their stuff, starting with a third-period comeback against Canisius and continued tonight in blasting Union out of the arena.

Quinnipiac, like Yale, is headed to the Frozen Four. Still having a hard time wrapping my head around this one.

Goalie Eric Hartzell set the early tone, a save 2 minutes in on a Union break. Matthew Peca took it from there, scoring three times in three minutes. Union coach Rick Bennett said the game was over then.

Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said he sensed the spark lit in his team on Saturday, when Peca scored to bring the Bobcats within 3-2, a game that resulted in a win over Canisius.

"When he scored that goal, I knew we were going to win," Pecknold said. "It's been one of those seasons. This has been a magical year."

Pecknold spoke of his team's character. When pressed on his definition of character, he quoted former Yale coach Tim Taylor. "Doing the right things when no one is watching. That's character," Pecknold said. "There are a lot of kids that will do the right thing when the coach is hovering over them. But will they do the right thing when we're not there? Character is an important part of having a successful program."

A few quick stats that puts things in perspective:
  • The last time the Frozen Four had two teams from the same state was in 2005, when Denver and Colorado College got there. Before that, it was in 2001 with Michigan and Michigan State.
  • Should Yale and Quinnipiac reach the national finals, it would be the first time two schools from the same state played for a title since 1978 when it was Boston University vs. Boston College. Yale and Quinnipiac may be from neighboring cities, but it would be the same feel.
  • Matthew Peca set an NCAA tournament record for fastest natural hat trick. He wound up with four goals in a span of 24 minutes (counting his Saturday third period goal) and nearly had another when he shot wide.
Playing with the albatross of being the No. 1 team in the national polls isn't easy even for established programs that have been there before. Quinnipiac is new to the big stage. It's loving every minute.

"We're happy to be the No.1 team in the country," Connor Jones said. "We earned it. We have that confidence."

Live updates: Quinnipiac vs. Union

The game live is on ESPNU, but you can follow along here, too.

Video: Matthew Peca's goal vs. Canisius

From SportsCenter's top 10 plays on Saturday. Matthew Peca goes high in a hurry...

Pat Mullane's quest for a third ring is over

Wallingford's Pat Mullane was aiming for a third national championship in his Boston College career. But Union ended the Eagles season prematurely, and convincingly, with a 5-1 victory last night at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence.

"The loss hurts in not being able to win another championship and become the first class to win three," Mullane said. "The pain for me is knowing I won’t be able to wear the BC jersey anymore, because it’s been a lifelong dream. Once an Eagle, always an Eagle.”

Mullane said he plans to return to Connecticut this summer -- he expects to train in Wallingford with lifelong friend Lee Moffie, whose career at Michigan ended last weekend -- as the two prepare for their professional careers. Moffie is a draft pick of the San Jose Sharks. Mullane is a free agent. Now that his career at BC is over, he could sign a deal as soon as this week.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Yale is Frozen Four bound; Quinnipiac one win away

Yale used a third-period outburst to stun North Dakota for the second time in three years, earning a coveted trip to the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh on April 11.

Quinnipiac used a third-period outburst to stave off upset-minded Canisius for its first-ever NCAA win, earning a spot in Sunday night's East Regional final (6:30 p.m., ESPNU).

Yale AND Quinnipiac at the Frozen Four? Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. But the fact that it's a very real possibility was unthinkable as recently as 10 years ago.

Most remarkable on Yale's end is that it nearly missed the NCAA tournament all-together after a disastrous weekend in Atlantic City. Shutout losses to Union and Quinnipiac put the Bulldogs' fate in the hands of Notre Dame, which came through with a win that eliminated Michigan and clinched Yale's spot.

Those losses don't look so bad now, especially since either Quinnipiac or Union will join Yale in Pittsburgh. But the Bulldogs stunning overtime win over No. 2 Minnesota and 4-1 romp of North Dakota -- with a combined 12 national championships between them -- proves they belong on the ice with  anyone. They'll face UMass-Lowell, another dangerous foe, on April 11 at a time to be determined.

Quinnipiac overcame a rocky third period Saturday, earning its 4-3 victory by outskating Canisius for most of the night. Kevin Bui added to his legend with the game-winning goal, while Eric Hartzell made a save at the buzzer.

Miami-Ohio and St. Cloud State play in the Midwest Regional final Sunday at 4.

Quinnipiac-Canisius pre-game lines

The lines for Quinnipiac today:

Harvey-Langlois-St. Denis
Van Brabant-Arnt-JST



And for Canisius:




Friday, March 29, 2013

Video: Jesse Root game-winner vs. Minnesota

Here's video of Jesse Root scoring the winner just seconds into overtime -- the fastest overtime goal in NCAA tournament history.

Big day for New Haven hockey

Been a long day covering the East Regional media day. Have stories on Quinnipiac and Boston College captain Pat Mullane, a Wallingford resident, for tomorrow's paper.

So I've yet to catch the highlight's from Yale's huge upset of Minnesota. Evan Frondorf, a Yale student, covered the game for us. He also had the call for WYBC-1340, which will be replayed on the NHL Network tonight at 11:30 p.m.

So, it's Yale and North Dakota all over again. The Bulldogs scored a huge upset over the Fighting Sioux in 2010 at the Northeast Regional in Worcester, Mass. This time, it'll be for a spot in the Frozen Four. And with Quinnipiac opening the East Regional in Providence against Canisius, it's a huge day for, make that New Haven-area hockey.

Here's a recent series history for Yale and North Dakota (meaning, games I personally covered since taking over the college hockey beat in 1999-2000)

Nov. 2, 2002: North Dakota 7, Yale 3 -- Season opener at Ingalls Rink was going well enough for Yale's strongest team since 1998. It was 2-1 North Dakota in the second period when all hell broke loose. A North Dakota skater lost his edge coming around the boards. It appeared Chris Higgins, Yale's star and a first-round pick of the Canadiens, boarded him. Video replays showed no misdoing by Higgins, but, it looked bad in real speed. The falling North Dakota players' head was wedged between the boards and Higgins. Fighting Sioux players took exception, and an all-out donnybrook ensued. Punches, sticks, the whole nine. Each team lost four players to fighting majors and game DQs. But it was Yale's top line and North Dakota's fourth line. The rout was on. Both schools appealed the DQs, saying some of the players penalized did not throw punches, but to no avail. One of the craziest scenes I've ever witnessed at a college game. Hands down.

Oct. 31-Nov. 1, 2003: North Dakota 8-10, Yale 4-0 -- Brutal weekend for the Bulldogs. Higgins left school to sign with the Canadiens, and Yale's defense began what turned out to be a 3-year funk. Memorable for me only because I made the trip to Grand Forks to cover the series, and was awed by the Engelstad Arena experience. Incredible rink. I also recall the heavy snowfall on Halloween and taking in a Fighting Sioux football game against Nebraska-Omaha at North Dakota's indoor stadium.

March 27, 2010, NCAA Northeast Regional: Yale 3, North Dakota 2 -- Probably the biggest win in 117-years of Yale least until today's win over Minnesota. The Bulldogs boasted a major-league offensive attack with major issues at goaltender. Keith Allain took a gamble and played little used goalie Ryan Rondeau. It paid off. Denny Kearney had two goals as Yale took a 3-0 lead and held off a late Siox charge. The first Yale NCAA tournament win that meant something (Bulldogs only previous win came in the consolation game of the Frozen Four, when the NCAA field consisted of exactly four teams.)

Quinnipiac has lots to prove

One of the first questions asked of Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold today came from the Buffalo News, who referred to Canisius as "the new kid on the block here."

"I thought we were the new kid on the block here," Pecknold said with a laugh.

Technically, the Buffalo writer was right. Quinnipiac made an NCAA appearance 11 years ago; Canisius is here for the first ime.

Both may be in unchartered waters, but the pressure is all on the Bobcats. As the No. 1 seed in the tournament and in the polls, a loss to Canisius would be devastating.

"A big part of it is we're new to this stage compared to a lot of teams in the tournament,"  "We want to prove we're a legit team and we have what it takes to go the whole way. If anything, it's exciting to have doubters. If they want to doubt, we're fine with that."

Atlantic Hockey teams have proven to be anything but an easy out over the years. Holy Cross knocked off No. 1 seed Minnesota a few years back, Yale, as the top overall seed, needed overtime to beat Air Force in 2011 while RIT reached the Frozen Four.

Canisius was 19-18-5 overall and 12-13-2 in the country's weakest conference. But its on quite the roll.

"I've watched a number of their games and highlight clips from the 8-0 run they've been on. They look outstanding," Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said. "Watching their power play and how good their goalie is, I can't understand how they lost games earlier in the year. Obviously, something happened. Coach Smith did a nice job righting the ship and getting them firing on all cylinders because they look excellent. For us, we need to be ready to play. This is a great hockey team and anything can happen in the NCAAs."

Canisius hopes to stay hot

On March 1, Canisius was in ninth place in Atlantic Hockey. The goal was simply to get enough points to move up in the standings and secure home ice for the league playoffs.

The Golden Griffins swept RIT, earning home ice for a first-round series with Bentley. Then came a sweep of Bentley. Another sweep at Air Force to reach the AHA semis. An upset of No. 15 Niagara and finally a crushing 7-2 victory over Mercyhurst to capture their first NCAA bid.

"No one's picked us to win all season," Canisius junior Kyle Gibbons said Friday morning following practice at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence. "That's fine with us. It's not something we're striving for, to have people pick us to win games. We're fine being an underdog."

Canisius, in ninth on March 1, is now ranked 20th in the nation. It will take the ice tomorrow with a chance to upset the No. 1 team in the country, Quinnipiac.

Offense has been the key for the Griffs. They've doubled their offensive output from the first five months of the season, averaging 4.5 goals during the current 8-game win streak.

Goaltender Tony Capobianco has been outstanding all season, and tends to rise to the occasion. Among his season highlights: A 1-0 loss at No. 1 Minnesota, a 2-0 shutout of No. 15 Niagara and just five goals allowed last weekend.

"We certainly don't overlook Tony in our locker room," Canisius coach Dave Smith said. "We know how important he is. He is calm, with a quiet demeanor, and gets the job done."

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Today's links

I'll be in Providence tomorrow to cover the East Regional practices and media sessions.

Yale had its practice skate in Grand Rapids today. A few links to share. The first two are stories I wrote for the Register, including Kenny Agostino's reaction to his trade.

Struggling Bulldogs look to take a bite out of Minnesota (New Haven Register)

Kenny Agostino on his trade to Calgary (New Haven Register)

NCAA draw begins with speedy Yale (Minnesota Daily)

Yale's Kenny Agostino traded for Jarome Iginla

Yale junior forward Kenny Agostino very likely woke up in Grand Rapids this morning to find out he's been traded...for an NHL icon. Agostino, an unsigned draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins, was sent to Calgary along with St. Cloud State's Ben Hanowski for six-time all-star Jarome Iginla.

The deal happened at 1:30 a.m.

Agostino, Yale's leading scorer, was a fifth-round pick of the Penguins in 2010. The Bulldogs play Minnesota in the NCAA tournament Friday. Hanowski, a senior, was a third-round pick in 2009. St. Cloud State plays Notre Dame on Saturday.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

After dinner links

A few links to keep up with the opposition at the West and East Regionals:

Yale's Tommy Fallen set to face familiar foe (New Haven Register)

Minnesota ready for Yale (Minneapolis Star blog)

North Dakota game notes (

Canisius' Kyle Gibbons talks about Quinnipiac (Buffalo News video)

Niagara coach Dave Burkholder talks about North Dakota (Buffalo News video)

Dusting off old records: a look at series history of first-round matchups (USCHO)

Yale notes: Forgetting Atlantic City, ready for Grand Rapids

Yale had a morning skate before its flight to Detroit. Once they get to the Motor City, they'll bus the two hours or so to Grand Rapids and practice there Thursday. A few notes to peruse:

  • Nick Weberg is finished for the season after suffering a head injury against Cornell on the final weekend of the regular season. Everyone else, as of now, is healthy.
  • Keith Allain was dismayed with how his team played Friday against Union, but felt the Bulldogs were much better the next day against Quinnipiac. Two goals were reviewed and disallowed, and another puck that went in during the third period was never reviewed. "Friday was an aberration," Allain said.
  • The ECAC continues to play a consolation game, it's line of thinking that the extra game is advantageous for teams on the bubble in the Pairwise. Yale wasn't hurt by its loss to Quinnipiac, but it was close. Allain doesn't agree with the league. "Useless," he said. "I would certainly vote against it. There are situations where it will help a team get into the tournament. Depending on your situation, playing that game may be your only chance to get into the tournament, so it could be healthy. We've talked about it (at the league meetings), but it's not a debate we have every year."
  • Sunday was an anxious time. Yale needed Notre Dame to beat Michigan in the CCHA championship. Allain followed the score online while most of the players headed to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the game on TV. All were eager for another opportunity to play. "I think the team's closer than ever. We're ready for this game, and everyone's excited," said defenseman Tommy Fallen. "We need to get the bad taste out of our mouth from last weekend.
  • It's rare Yale is shutout two games in a row. Minnesota is a fast team that plays an open style, which suits the Bulldogs, but they'll also be facing one of the best goalies in the nation, Adam Wilcox. "We need to find offense in different places," Allain said. "Even when we've gotten it the last few games it's been one line that's produced for us. When you play other teams, and they can key in on certain guys, it makes it tougher. What we really have to do is get other guys going."
  • Yale's line of Andrew Miller, Jesse Root and Kenny Agostino has been its most productive. When Antoine Laganiere is on his game, things tend to go much better for the Bulldogs. But Lags has been lagging. Since Jan. 18-19, when he dominated a sweep of Harvard and Dartmouth, he has been held pointless in 12 of 15 games, his lone goals in that span coming in each victory over St. Lawrence in the ECAC quarterfinals. 
  • Friday's game will be televised on ESPNU. But for those who can't watch the broadcast, Yale students Konrad Coutinho and Evan Frondorf will be in Grand Rapids to call the game for WYBC-1340.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

NCAA East Regional ticket info

Quinnipiac has all-session passes available at the TD Bank Sports Center box office available for $77 each. That includes tickets for all three games at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence -- the two Saturday games (QU vs. Canisius at 5:30 p.m. and the late game between Union and Boston College). The number for the box office is 203-582-3905.

Single-game passes are $57 each and must be purchased at the Dunkin' Donuts Center box office or Ticketmaster. Apparently, Wal-Mart is also a ticket broker and is selling tickets as well. Single-game tickets go on sale Wednesday.

There are rumblings about a bus or two from Quinnipiac to the games, but nothing set yet.

Flashback: Gophers thumped Yale in 2002

A decade ago, Yale thought it might have an NCAA tournament caliber team when it traveled to Minnesota for the Mariucci Classic during the Christmas break. The Bulldogs were 7-4, led by All-American Chris Higgins, and playing for coach Tim Taylor's 300th career win. Minnesota was 9-4-4 and the defending national champs.

"I think it's a known fact that if we expect to make the NCAA tournament we will have to prove ourselves against the best teams in the nation," Yale senior forward Evan Wax said at the time. "Thus tournament is a great chance for us to make a statement that we can beat the best teams in the country and deserve consideration for the NCAAs at the end of the year."

But Yale was without Higgins -- now in his 9th NHL season -- who was playing with Team USA at the World Junior Championships. It was a big reason Minnesota rolled to a 7-3 victory. Thomas Vanek, now in his 7th NHL season with Buffalo, had two goals. Yale managed to outshoot the Gophers 35-34, and got a goal and an assist from Joe Zappala.

It was a successful season for Yale -- at least by its standards back then -- an 18-14 record and top-4 finish in the ECAC standings. The team had finished with a winning record once (1997-98) in the previous 10 years. But its NCAA dream didn't come true. Brown upset the Bulldogs in the ECAC quarterfinals.

Minnesota? It went on to win its second straight NCAA championship that April.

A few fast facts for Yale and Minnesota

I'll be at Ingalls Rink for Yale practice later this afternoon. But here are a few fast facts about the Bulldogs and their first-round opponent, Minnesota.

Yale hasn't played the Gophers since Keith Allain took over as coach in 2006. The last meeting between the schools was a 7-3 Minnesota win on Dec. 27, 2002. Minnesota leads the all-time series 13-6. This is the first postseason meeting.

The Gophers, like Yale, were shutout in their last game, a 2-0 setback to Colorado College in the WCHA semifinal. But they are still the nation's highest-scoring team at 3.51 goals per game, and boast the third-best scoring defense at 1.97. Yale had been averaging 3.00 goals per game prior to the ECAC semifinal and consolation, but dropped to 2.82.

Minnesota hasn't lost two consecutive games all season.

The Gophers have 15 players who've been drafted by NHL teams, including Erik Haula, the nation's second-leading scorer. Freshman goaltender Eric Wilcox, a draft pick of Tampa Bay, has a 1.85 goals-against average and .922 save percentage.

Yale has four NHL-drafted players: Kenny Agostino (Penguins), Gus Young (Avalanche), Rob O'Gara (Bruins) and Matthew Beattie (Canucks). Senior Antoine Laganiere is considered one of the more desired college free agents.

Minnesota has won five national championships (`74, '76, '79, '02, '03) and made 20 Frozen Four appearances, the last coming in 2012. No team in the field of 16 has more NCAA tournament wins than Minnesota's 52.

Yale reached the 1952 Frozen Four, losing to Colorado College, and didn't appear in the NCAA field again until 1998, losing to Ohio State. Since 2009, the Bulldogs have been to four tournaments in five years. 2009: lost to Vermont; 2010: defeated North Dakota, lost to Boston College; 2011: defeated Air Force, lost to Minnesota-Duluth

Minnesota coach Don Lucia won his 600th career game earlier this season; 344 have come at Minnesota. He's also coached at Alaska-Fairbanks and Colorado College prior to being named at Minnesota in 2000. He was recently selected to coach the 2014 U.S. Junior national team at the World Junior Championships in December and January in Sweden. Yale assistant Dan Muse will serve as video coordinator on that club.


Monday, March 25, 2013

NCAA Regional broadcast info

Yale's first-round game with Minnesota on Friday at the West Regional will be broadcast on ESPNU at 2 p.m. (EST). North Dakota and Canisius, the other West Regional game, is at 5:30 p.m. on ESPNU.

The West Regional final is Saturday at 4 p.m. (EST), also being shown on ESPNU.

Quinnipiac's opening game with Canisius on Saturday at the East Regional, a 5:30 p.m. start, will air on ESPN3 and be simulcast on NESN. At 11:30 p.m., ESPNU will re-air the game. Boston College and Union, the other game from Providence, is a 9 p.m. start on ESPNU.

The East Regional final is Sunday at 6:30 p.m. on ESPNU.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Yale's fate in Notre Dame's hands

UMass-Lowell beat Boston University 1-0 to win the Hockey East championship. That keeps the Terriers from bumping Yale out of the NCAA tournament. Now, the Bulldogs must hope Notre Dame can keep Michigan from stealing the final spot on Sunday in the CCHA title game. If Notre Dame wins, Yale is in; if Michigan wins, Yale is out. Simple as that.

Quinnipiac, the No. 1 seed, now knows it will play Atlantic Hockey champ Canisius in the first round on Saturday night at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, R.I. (to become official when the selection show airs on Sunday night at 9 on ESPNU.)

One final future scheduling note... looking ahead to next season (and the three after that), the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., officially announced this week that it will host the Liberty Invitational in October, 2013, with Princeton, Dartmouth, Brown and Yale competing in the two-day event. Over the next three years, the Bulldogs and Tigers will stay in the event and be joined by different Hockey East squads

Yale NCAA hopes fading fast

Not looking good for Yale after its 3-0 loss to Quinnipiac in the ECAC Hockey consolation. It pushed Yale back to 13th in the Pairwise Rankings, and the at-large hopes will be crushed with either a Boston University win tonight or a Michigan win on Sunday.

Rough end for Yale, which looked fabulous in sweeping St. Lawrence last weekend only to be shutout in consecutive games with its season on the line. More troubling...a win over Quinnipiac would have secured a No. 2 seed; now, it looks like Yale will be on the outside looking in at the field of 16.

Couple of quick notes:

Rand Pecknold told me Matthew Peca and Mike Dalhuisen, both scratches tonight, would have played if the game meant something. He said he considered sitting a couple of other guys as well.

Eric Hartzell said he was upset when Pecknold pulled him Friday night, telling Pecknold he wanted to go back in. The two spoke again Friday night, and Hartzell was at his best against Yale, posting his 10th career shutout.

Yale coach Keith Allain didn't show for his press conference. While it's not mandatory, I'm told, it's strongly encouraged by the ECAC. Regardless, it reflects poorly on Yale and the ECAC. He should have been there.

Pairwise: Saturday morning update

Quinnipiac is in, as we knew, and guaranteed the No. 1 seed. It will play at the Northeast Regional in Providence unless Brown beats Union. Then, the Bears, as hosts, will be in Providence and Quinnipiac will be moved to Manchester, N.H.

Yale is in the field with a win, likely as a No. 2 seed (5, 6 or 7 overall). A tie will also be enough to get them in the field. A loss makes it tricky -- it can either be a No. 4 seed or bumped out completely if there are enough upsets today and tomorrow.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Brutal nights for Quinnipiac, Yale

Two games. No goals.

The big stage can be tough to handle, but Quinnipiac and Yale combined to play two of their worst games of the season. Quinnipiac just didn't have anything against Brown, losing 4-0, and Yale struggled to create and defend against Union in a 5-0 loss.

Tough to get results.

Both coaches were extremely disappointed, so we'll spare you the quotes. Check out the stories at to hear what they had to say.

Instead, a quick look at the implications for the NCAA tournament.

Quinnipiac is in, it will be the No. 1 seed, it will play in Providence unless Brown beats Union Saturday. Then, it will be in Manchester.

Yale's situation is tougher to predict at this point. A win tomorrow against Quinnipiac guarantees a spot in the field of 16. A loss hurts, but doesn't eliminate them. Same with a tie. But instead of looking at a possible No. 1 seed, which Yale could have achieved with two wins this weekend, it's looking more and more like a No. 3 or 4 seed. We'll keep you updated.

ECAC semifinals: Quinnipiac-Brown pregame

Smooth drive to AC this morning...a little over 3 hours with no delays at the George Washington Bridge. We're ready for some hockey! Quinnipiac and Brown just took the ice for pregame warmups. Aside from the QU band, there is absolutely no one in the stands. We're not expecting massive attendance numbers, a reason the ECAC is moving out of here back to Lake Placid next season. Brown has no following. Quinnipiac should bring fans, though its unclear how many. But we could be looking at 3,000 for today.

Here are Quinnipiac's lines for this afternoon
Harvey-Langlois-St. Denis
Van Brabant-Arnt-Samuels Thomas



Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Predicting the ECAC award winners

The ECAC will announce its all-league and all-rookie teams as well as its coach and player of the year awards at a banquet Thursday night in Atlantic City. Locally, Eric Hartzell should be a lock for the Ken Dryden Award as goaltender of the year. Rand Pecknold should also have coach of the year with ease.

The 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award will also be announced Thursday. Expect Hartzell and Greg Carey of St. Lawrence to be the ECAC reps.

Here's one man's predictions for awards night.

First team
F: Greg Carey, St. Lawrence
F: Andrew Miller, Yale
F: Kyle Flanagan, St. Lawrence
D: George Hughes, St. Lawrence
D: Nick Bailen, RPI
G: Eric Hartzell, Quinnipiac

Second team
F: Kenny Agostino, Yale
F: Andrew Calof, Princeton
F: Greg Miller, Cornell
D: Shayne Gostisbehere, Union
D: Greg Coburn, Union
G: Jason Kasdorf, RPI

Third team
F: Greg Miller, Cornell
F: Jeremy Langlois, Quinnipiac
F: Matt Lorito, Brown
D: Joakim Ryan, Cornell
D: Mike Dalhuisen, Quinnipiac
G: Anthony Borelli, Brown

All rookie
F: Jordan Samuels-Thomas, Quinnipiac
F: Jimmy Vescey, Harvard
F: Tylor Spink, Colgate
D: Ryan Obuchowski, Yale
D: Paul Geiger, Clarkson
G: Kasdorf

Tim Taylor Award (coach of the year): Rand Pecknold, Quinnipiac
Rookie of the year: Kasdorf
Ken Dryden Award (goalie of the year): Hartzell
Best defensive forward: Josh Balch, Yale -- a long shot, but one of my personal favorites. While we're at it, let's throw Stu Wilson of Yale in there, too.
Best defensive defenseman: Zach Davies and Zack Davies, Quinnipiac -- two is better than one
Player of the year: Carey, though Hartzell has a real chance

Monday, March 18, 2013

Quinnipiac still No. 1 according to USA Today poll

USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll
March 18, 2013
No. Team (First-place votes) Points Last Week
1. Quinnipiac (23) 494 1
2. Minnesota (11) 486 2
3. Miami 439 3
4. Boston College 389 5
5. UMass Lowell 371 6
6. North Dakota 350 4
7. St. Cloud State 273 8
8. Minnesota State 241 11
9. Notre Dame 229 12
10. Yale 205 13
11. New Hampshire 170 7
12. Denver 96 10
13. Western Michigan 91 9
14. Niagara 78 14
15. Wisconsin 73 15
Also receiving votes: Providence 54, Union 26, Boston University 11, Nebraska-Omaha 2, Brown 1, Michigan 1.

VIDEO: Kevin Bui's double-OT game winner

Here's the winner from Sunday night.

Quinnipiac drops to No. 2; Yale up to No. 11

Minnesota has overtaken Quinnipiac as the No. 1 team in the poll after a five-week stay at the top for the Bobcats. Yale moved up two slots to 11th.

Team             (First Place)   Record   Pts  Last Week
 1 Minnesota                 (22)   26- 7-5   967     2
 2 Quinnipiac                (27)   26- 6-5   958     1
 3 Miami                            24-10-5   893     3
 4 Boston College                   22-10-4   820     5
 5 Massachusetts-Lowell      ( 1)   24-10-2   785     6
 6 North Dakota                     21-11-7   751     4
 7 St. Cloud State                  23-14-1   670     8
 8 Minnesota State                  24-12-3   626    10
 9 Notre Dame                       23-12-3   578    12
10 New Hampshire                    19-11-7   519     7
11 Yale                             18-10-3   515    13
12 Western Michigan                 19-11-8   408     9
13 Denver                           20-13-5   382    11
14 Wisconsin                        19-12-7   375    14
15 Niagara                          23- 8-5   339    15
16 Providence                       17-13-7   269    17
17 Boston University                20-15-2   212    18
18 Union                            19-12-5   192    19
19 Rensselaer                       18-14-5    91    16
20 Michigan                         17-18-3    52    NR

Others receiving votes: Nebraska-Omaha 37, Colorado College
18, Brown 11, Merrimack 10, Alaska 9, Ohio State 9, Robert
Morris 2, Connecticut 1, St. Lawrence 1.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Kevin Bui beats Cornell in double-OT; Quinnipiac heading to AC

Impressive win by Quinnipiac, which really dominated Cornell in the third period and both overtimes before Kevin Bui's winner in the second OT. Shots were 14-1 in the second overtime, a credit to the Bobcats conditioning and talent.

Quinnipiac will face Brown in Atlantic City on Friday at 4 p.m. Yale will play Union in the late game.

A bit rushed in the post-game because of deadlines. But here's what Bui had to say.

"I was just trying to work my tail off in the overtime and Loren hit me with a nice pass. I made a move to the net and slid it 5-hole. I just didn't want to get hurt in the pile. I was so excited. We've worked so hard and our goal was to go to Atlantic City and win a championship. We're one step closer."

Cornell coach Mike Schafer had words for Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold after Saturday's 10-0 pasting, and he was livid tonight, too. Schafer had words for Pecknold, and continued to rant as Pecknold walked away while assistant Reid Cashman interceded and tried to calm Schafer down.

Cornell goalie Andy Iles was brilliant, making 60 saves, and had a warm moment with Eric Hartzell in the handshake line.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Yale sweeps St. Lawrence

Yale could do little wrong this weekend. A night after complete domination of St. Lawrence, the Bulldogs had a bit more of a challenge from their opponent. But a couple of crucial penalty kills ended any threat, and Yale continued to generate countless scoring chances.

Perhaps the lone blotch of the weekend was a 5-minute major and game misconduct issued to Clinton Bourbonais early in the second period. Yale led 1-0 at the time, but it was a chance for the Saints to get back in the game. The major was killed, as was an additional minor. For Yale, once through that hiccup, the game was there for the taking.

"Clearly, we're very pleased with the way our guys played (this weekend), all six periods," Keith Allain said. "Tonight, they had us under the gun a little more than last night. The game was closer and we had that huge penalty kill. Their power play is an absolute strength of their team so for us to keep them off the board was a real momentum swing for us."

The Bulldogs head to the ECAC semifinals for the third time in five years. They won championships at Albany in 2009 and Atlantic City in 2011. If this weekend is any indication, they are a threat to win another.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Quinnipiac's back is to the wall

Strange game for Quinnipiac. Not its best overall performance of the season, but it generated tons of chances, especially in the third, and was simply unable to beat an outstanding goalie in Cornell's Andy Iles.

Now, the Bobcats face the prospect of a premature exit from the ECAC tournament. A cushy NCAA seed is already sewn up, but the last thing Quinnipiac wants as the top team in the Pairwise and the polls is to enter its first NCAA tournament since 2002 having played only two (or three) games in three weeks.

Mike Schafer knows what it's like to be a heavy favorite and the pressure Quinnipiac is under.

"I know being in the position they're in, how much pressure there is to get to Atlantic City as a program right now," Schafer said. "We can kind of play with that carefree mentality. (Quinnipiac) carries an awful lot of burden and pressure. We need to use that to our advantage in tomorrow's game."

It's not necessarily an unfamiliar spot for Quinnipiac, which is 3-5 in Game 1 of the quarterfinals since joining ECAC Hockey in 2006. The Bobcats are 3-1 in Game 2s.

Special teams played a major role. Quinnipiac leads the nation in penalty killing and was 25 for its last 25 heading into tonight. Cornell was just 2 for its last 29 on the power play before Friday. That all changed with Brian Ferlin's two power-play goals in the second period.

The chances were there for Quinnipiac. Finishing was tough, mainly because of Iles.

"As a small goalie he challenges really well," Quinnipiac sophomore Matthew Peca said. "You've got to elevate the puck or get him moving. I think today we made his job pretty easy. We shot low a lot. Went post and tried to jam it a lot. To be successful against a small quick goalie you have to elevate the puck. And I think that's our focus on him from now on." 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Quinnipiac on the present and the future

Made the rounds at Quinnipiac -- pretty chilly on the hill this morning. Here's a few notes as the Bobcats prepare to open the postseason.
  • The team is healthy. Rand Pecknold said if the team had to play last weekend, a couple of guys may have been out with injury. 
  • While beneficial to heal, Quinnipiac wouldn't have minded a chance to build on a strong all-around game against Dartmouth in the season finale. A rough overtime loss to Harvard the night before spurred a video session on Saturday morning with the defensive core. It made a big difference. "That's the one thing this team always does well," Pecknold said. "It has a short memory. They just move on. Our D core was awesome against Dartmouth, one of their better games of the season."
  • It hasn't been finalized yet, but Quinnipiac may have a new scoreboard next season. Pecknold said it will rival that of anything in the NHL. It'll be center-hung and rectangular in shape with cutting-edge video display technology that is better than most HD televisions. Most scoreboards have 10 MM video boards. Quinnipiac's will be 6 MM, which is new technology and top of the line. It will also have double ribbon board lighting display -- one below and one above the scoreboard. Ribbon boards will also be installed around the arena. "It's ridiculous," Pecknold said. "We're hoping it comes through. It looks good right now." It should be noted a new board would be installed for basketball, too.
  • Quinnipiac's non-league schedule is also nearly complete. The Bobcats have two extra-non league games to fill -- 14 all told -- because of an NCAA exemption for traveling to Alaska. I reported last month the Bobcats will open the season with games at Alaska-Anchorage and Alaska-Fairbanks the first weekend in October. Pecknold clarified that both of those games will be played in Anchorage -- Fairbanks is traveling South to play the Bobcats.
  • Quinnipiac will have eight games against Hockey East competition, five of them in Hamden. Maine, Providence and UMass will play at High Point Solutions Arena, and there are home-and-away series with UMass-Lowell and Merrimack. The Bobcats will play in the UConn Holiday Tournament, with UMass expected to be their first-round opponent. There's also a home-and-away series with Holy Cross. Pecknold is still working on securing the final non-league game.
  • There was a time when Pecknold would play anyone, anywhere. The early days of the program were dotted with big road games: at Minnesota, at North Dakota, at Michigan State, etc. Now, the Bobcats won't schedule an opponent unless they are willing to return the game in Hamden (holiday tournaments the exception.) Four year deals with Nebraska-Omaha and Ohio State ended this year (Quinnipiac will take a couple of years off from them and look to add them again down the road), and Pecknold is working on finding more similar contracts. "I want to get top 20 teams, as many as we can get, and it's hard to do," Pecknold said. "But I also want to keep our travel to a minimum from an academic standpoint. That's why the Hockey East games are great. But it's the hardest thing I do, the scheduling. Everyone wants to know why we don't play BC and BU. I would love to play BC and BU or North Dakota. But teams need to reciprocate. They want to buy their home games and if they don't want to come back here we're not going to play." The big boys usually only want to travel to play each other. That line of thinking might change with Quinnipiac's heightened national profile.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Nick Weberg out as Yale readies for St. Lawrence

I dropped by Ingalls Rink for Yale practice this afternoon. A couple of notes.

  • Yale used the week off to heal and rest. It practiced last Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday with a simulated game on Saturday night before picking up its normal game-week routine.
  • Nick Weberg suffered a concussion against Cornell, and will miss the weekend. As of now, everyone else is healthy.
  • St. Lawrence presents a real challenge as a skilled skating team with two of the top scorers in the country in Kyle Flanagan and Greg Carey. Yale coach Keith Allain said Yale's approach will essentially remain the same. "We're a team that believes if you play solid defense, it will turn into offense. That's something that will make a difference in this series against St. Lawrence. I believe if we do a good job defensively, that we'll get opportunities in transition."
  • I'll have more about Andrew Miller for my piece in the Register, but I asked Allain where he ranks Miller among all the play-makers he's had at Yale since arriving in 2006. "I think he's the best play-maker we've had here," Allain said. "Denny Kearney jumps to my mind. And Denny had the luxury of playing all four years with one of the best goal scorers we've ever had (Broc Little). Andrew has the ability to play a high tempo but also slow the game down when things are going too fast. He can control the tempo of the game. He can see the obvious pass but see beyond that and what might be available. He's as smart a player as I've ever coached here."
  • The players know the season likely rests on this weekend, given the current Pairwise Rankings. Yale will almost certainly need to advance to Atlantic City to keep its at-large bid chance alive.
  • Allain knows exactly what to expect this weekend: "You saw what separated teams in our league the final weekend. The margins are slim. Our guys are going to be ready because we respect St. Lawrence and we know how dangerous they are. It's going to be back-and-forth, it's going to be a one-goal game going into the third period Friday, Saturday and possible Sunday. That's the way it's supposed to be in the playoffs." 
  • Games will be broadcast locally in New Haven on AM radio: WYBC-1340. Tickets are available.
  •  I'll be at Quinnipiac practice bright and early tomorrow. Check back.