Here’s my ranked “Performers” and “Underperformers” for the weekend of January 4/5:
- Colgate University Raiders: The ECAC’s Raiders travelled to Minneapolis to participate in the Mariucci Classic and were given little chance of defeating #1 Minnesota. As a matter of fact, the Twin Cities sports media naturally assumed it would be #1 Minnesota vs #2 Ferris State in the title game. I guess someone forgot to tell the feisty Raiders. In a hardworking, grind it out manner Colgate skated to an overtime 2-2 draw on Friday on the heels of goals by Joe Wilson and Darcy Murphy and stellar goaltending by Charlie Finn who turned away 36/38 SOG. In the obligatory shootout to decide who would advance to the title game, Ryan Johnston scored the winning goal after three rounds to advance the Raiders to the title game. After facing #1 ranked Minnesota, certainly Colgate had no chance in upending #2 Ferris right? Wrong. Colgate once again put together another spirited effort and dominated from a statistical standpoint out shooting Ferris 29-19 and going 2/6 on the power play. Spiro Goulakos scored the GWG on the PP at 14:26 of the second and Darcy Murphy netted his second goal of the weekend and 10th of the season. Charlie Finn got the shutout and was the weekends MVP. A solid, solid weekend for Colgate. They are without doubt, this weeks “Performer of the Week”. Congrats to the Raiders.
- Northern Michigan University Wildcats: After going winless in December, the Wildcats were on the verge of becoming irrelevant heading into this series at Bemidji. Entering this series 5 points behind Bemidji in the WCHA standings, the Wildcats needed a successful weekend – period. After falling behind 1-0 early in Friday’s game, NMU scored the next 4 goals including the GWG by Shane Sooth on the PP in the 4-1 win. SOG were dead even at 29-29 and the Wildcats were 2/5 on the power play. On Saturday, the teams traded goals in the first period but again, NMU responded with single goals in the next two periods for the 3-1 win. After a nine game hiatus, Stephen Vigier hit the scoreboard with his 11th goal of the season. Mathius Dahlstrom won both nights in goal leading Northern Michigan to two crucial wins in the tight WCHA.
- University of New Hampshire Wildcats: Entering this non-conference series, the .500 Wildcats have been a Jeckyll and Hyde team notching 8 wins in November but losing 3 of 4 in December. So it was anyone’s guess (sans the home ice advantage) how they’d fare vs the NCHC’s second place squad, UNO . On Friday, the Wildcats outshot the Mavericks 35-24 and went 2/6 on the PP to polish off a convincing 6-3 win. The ‘Cats scored in bunches – 2 power play goals to end period one and 3 consecutive goals in the final 8 minutes of period three in the win. Erik Knodel netted two goals. On Saturday, more of the same despite an early 1 goal lead via Josh Archibald’s 14th goal of the season. UNH picked up a lone goal in the second and 4 goals in the third period in the 5-2 win. Casey DeSmith finally improved his record above .500 after two wins improving his record to 10-8-0. Nice weekend for the Wildcats and more credibility for the East vs the West.
- Brown University: The Bears carried a marginal 5-6-1 record and a 1-6-1 record in November to the state of Colorado to face #16 Denver University and Colorado College. In another ego booster for the east, the Bears put it all together vs the Colorado’s with a 3-3 OT tie on Friday and 4-2 win vs CC on Saturday. On Friday, the Bears outshot Denver 43-27 and went .40 percent on the PP however, Brown needed a goal by Mark Naclerio at 11:11 of the third to preserve the tie. On Saturday, it was a much tougher task getting outshot 33-22 by the Tigers but still prevailing 4-2 on second period goals by Mark Naclerio, his 8th of the season and the GWG by Nick Lappin at 7:53 of the second. An outstanding road weekend for Brown and it makes one wonder where the balance of power is in college hockey.
- UMass-Lowell River Hawks: The #9 River Hawks faced #11 Clarkson for the 2nd and third time in a week after defeating the Knights 3-1 in the Catamount Cup on December 29th. The two squads battled to a 1-1 OT tie on Friday after Clarkson’s Sam Labrecque scored he GTG at 14:19 of the third period. Lowell outshot Clarkson 39-28 in the game. On Saturday, Clarkson reversed things and dominated in the shots department 32-14 and jumped out to a 2-0 lead before Lowell scored three straight for a 3-2 lead. Once again, a key goal by the Knights Sam Labrecque knotted the game at 3-3 until the River Hawks Joseph Pendenzo scored the GWG at 9:55 of the third. But, let’s give credit to the River Hawks goaltender Doug Carr who turned away 30 of 32 SOG in the win. Good teams find a way to win and the River Hawks did so vs the Knights.
- Niagara University Purple Eagles: So, the 4-9-3 Purple Eagles visited Bentley, a team with a 8 game undefeated stretch including a sweep of Air Force and a win over Boston University. Welcome to the world of college hockey unpredictability. In a back and forth game Friday, the two squads matched shots 36-36 and Niagara scored last at 9:22 of the third period with a goal by Brock Edwards for a 2-2 OT tie. On Saturday, the squads matched SOG again at 33-33 and power play goals (two apiece) but the Purple Eagles prevailed albeit in an unlikely way. Behind 3-2 the Eagles scored an extra attacker goal at 18:48 and a game winning PP goal at 19:15 of the second by Mike Conderman. An additional third period goal by Isaac Kohls sealed the 5-3 win for Niagara. Nice weekend for a previously struggling Niagara squad.
- Canisius College Griffins: After losing twice last weekend in the Catamount Cup, the Griffs had the luxury of facing 4-11-2 Holy Cross even though it was on the road. They won both games by scores of 4-2 and 3-0 despite being outshot 66-57. Holy Cross scored one 5×5 goal all weekend. A conference road sweep is being a “performer” so here they are.
- Quinnipiac University: The Bobcats had a single home non-conference game with the Maine Black Bears on Friday. In a classic battle, the #8 Bobcats outlasted Maine getting a 2-1 win on a GWG by Jordan Samuels-Thomas, his 9th of the season. Maine’s lone goal was a shortie by Devin Shore who’s quietly putting up a very nice offensive year for Maine. QU faces Union in a highly anticipated battle next weekend.
- University of Connecticut Huskies: UConn has been muddling along typically losing games of consequence and beating up on weaker Atlantic opponents, the only exception being the 2-1 win over another typically unpredictable squad in UMass. However, this past weekend the Huskies earned a tough 2-1 win on Friday and a 6-2 laugher on Saturday. On Saturday, the Huskies piled on 5 goals before RIT was able to get on the board. This was a nice conference home sweep for Connecticut and a poor road weekend for RIT.
- Bowling Green State University: The weekend series between Bowling Green and Huntsville carried some intrigue as the Falcons were the lone win for the Chargers thus far this season. Could they leverage the home ice advantage into another win? Nope. Entering the series tied with Bemidji for third place in the WCHA these points were key, attainable points and badly needed to keep pace with Ferris and Mankato. Predictably, the Falcons won 7-0 on Friday after laying 45 SOG on Charger goalie Matt Larose. Ben Murphy scored twice for the Falcons. Also predictably, the Chargers are a better Saturday night squad and they were on this night as well out shooting BGSU 27-26 yet still falling 4-1. Ben Tate got the second period GWG for the Falcons. The road sweep places Bowling Green solidly in third place in the WCHA.
- Mercyhurst College Lakers: What does it say about your conference when the Lakers are 9-1-1 and in first place yet have a 11-9-2 overall record. No need to answer. Also, what’s the predicted result of first place Mercyhurst entertaining last place Army. Correct, two wins. Both by 3-1 scores.
- Bemidji State University Beavers: Ouch, the Bemidji State Beavers are swept by Northern Michigan on their home ice in a key conference series. And, it’s by a Northern Michigan team that had not been lighting things up thus far this season. You’ve got to find a way to salvage 2 points at a minimum at home. Particularly frustrating was the lack of offense by the Beavers scoring two goals all weekend. The losses place Bemidji 8 points behind league leader Ferris who was idle in conference play. Not the type of weekend you’d expect out of a Tom Serratore squad… and, he’d be the first to tell you that.
- University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks: This was a very disappointing weekend road trip for the Mavericks. I seem to recall this was this was the series without coach Dean Blais behind the bench- due to school imposed suspension. It was a convincing sweep for UNH (6-3/5-2) over the NCHC’s second place team. The only good thing about the weekend was the play of UNO’s Josh Archibald, one of college hockey’s top forwards. The Mavs need to recover as they return to conference action the second half of the season.
- Rensselear Polytechnic University Engineers: RPI made the trip to Minneapolis for the Mariucci Classic and was thumped both games by identical 6-2 scores. Their record falls to 8-8-4 and they’ve now lost 6 of their past 11 games. They didn’t impress much this past weekend.
- Clarkson University Knights: It’s been a tough road for Clarkson lately. They lost to Vermont and Lowell last weekend in the Catamount Cup and salvaged a 1-1 tie Friday and lost 4-3 Saturday to Lowell. All of the games have been closely contested. However, it’s got to be frustrating to be on the losing end of these games against quality competition. It should be welcome relief to face Merrimack at home this weekend.
- Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers: Whether it’s Colorado College, Princeton or RIT it’s a lousy year to be a “Tiger”. RIT was swept by Connecticut tis past weekend. It won’t get any easier vs conference rival Bentley next weekend.
- Colorado College Tigers: This has been a year to forget for the Tigers. The 4-2 loss to Brown University last Saturday just adds to their misery. It’s hard to believe but they’ve won one game since October 19 and their record now stands at 2-13-3. On the positive side they are absolutely the best two-win team in the country….
- Holy Cross Knights: Holy Cross was swept at home by Canisius – not what you would call a hockey thoroughbred. Their record falls to 4-13-2 and they remain tied for 9th in the Atlantic with Sacred Heart and American International. It’s still hard to believe they defeated Boston College on November 29.
- University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers: Sad to say but the Chargers have pretty much been a certain 4 points for any of their WCHA opponents. Typically blown out on Fridays they seem to respond Saturday’s with better results. This weekend, 4 points were handed to Bowling Green being dismantled 7-0 on Friday and losing 4-1 Saturday. Things will get better but not this season.
- Army Black Knights: Army is swept again- at home by Mercyhurst. Simply a tough season for this squad. No end to futility in sight here.
Congrats to the Colgate Raiders for being named this weeks “Performer of the Week. They certainly stepped up to the plate and had a solid weekend in the Mariucci Cup.