COVID Changes: D1 Hockey Loses One Program, Gains Another

According to reports out of Long Island University and University of Alabama-Huntsville, there are two major Division 1 Hockey program changes coming next season. 

As of the premature end of the 2020 season, the NCAA had 60 registered teams competing in Division 1, consisting of six conferences and one independent team (Arizona State). That number looks to be remaining the same, but with a twist. The Long Island University announced that they are adding a Division one hockey program in the fall, starting with an immediate recruiting. The shocking news comes out of University of Alabama-Huntsville, as they have announced they will be cutting their program, along with men’s and women’s tennis, due to budget constraints from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Long Island University’s announcement will throw a wrinkle into many proceedings. It is unclear whether they will join a conference or remain independent, but it is presumed that they will remain independent with a shortened schedule for the year, as it will be very difficult for them to find a fitting conference out of the gate. The Hockey East and ECAC are already out of the picture as perennial powerhouses and not in need of new teams; also, the Hockey East requires a facility that seats 4,000 – minimum – for expansion teams. Games will also be hard to come by on a limited time basis – it will be hard to schedule games for 2021-22, let alone this coming season. It is difficult to see how they will have success when forming a team this late and dealing with fast-approaching deadlines. Their one golden opportunity might be to steal some games from teams that were to play the now-cut UAH program. 

University of Alabama-Huntsville (2-26-6 in 2019-20)  leaves the WCHA down a team, as they announced they will be cutting their program. The first D1 hockey team to cut its program in 12 years, UAH has been receiving support from alumni, including Cam Talbot, a goalie in the Calgary Flames organization who played and attended UAH from 2007-10. The administration made the announcement, claiming budget constraints inflicted by the pandemic to be the reason. However, the door has stayed open because $1 million could save the program, if raised in time, but it will likely do little to no good, as many players have already begun transferring. If they are unable to come up with the funds, it will leave Alabama State as the lone team in the Sunbelt.

Ultimately, it is sad to see a program go, especially at the D1 level, as it potentially could contain some future pro level talent, but change is necessary. It’s bittersweet to be losing a program but also exciting to get to watch the beginnings of a new one. I look forward to seeing what else the 2020-21 season will bring us, assuming we get one.

NCAA HOCKEY BEST POSTSEASON MOMENTS COUNTDOWN – #4: Jon Muse, BC, and a wildly dominant Frozen Four

Earlier in this countdown, we featured the team we declared the most dominant college hockey team to ever play as the 1992-1993 UMaine squad. But that team, as most teams do had to deal with adversity down the stretch, winning an overtime game in the Final Four and needing to overcome a two-goal deficit in the championship game. That’s how it’s supposed to be – the games get harder as the number of teams dwindle. That’s why with our #4 moment, we will be honoring the 2010 BC hockey team, which had possibly the most dominant Final Four in history. Along with the 2010 title, a notable achievement included in this #4 slot is the postseason acumen of goaltender Jon Muse, who improved his career NCAA Tournament record to 8-0. For their ridiculous postseason dominance, BC’s 2010 title team is our #4 moment in our NCAA Hockey postseason moments countdown.

BC entered the 2010 season coming off a rare disappointing campaign in 2009, but they were just one year removed from a title. In ten of eleven seasons from 1997 to 2008, the Eagles appeared in the NCAA quarterfinals, making the Frozen Four in eight of those years. They made six national championship games, and they took home the hardware twice. However, 2009 was a rarity, as the Eagles struggled an 11-11-5 record in Hockey East play. To add insult to injury, their season ended in the Hockey East semifinals with a 3-2 loss to archrival Boston University. The Eagles started the 2010 season looking to reclaim their usual perch around or at the top of the college hockey world. 

BC welcomed in a heralded freshman class which featured four players selected in the 2009 NHL draft, headlined by forward Chris Kreider (19th overall), and defensemen Brian Dumoulin, Philip Samuelson, and Patrick Wey. The talented freshman class made up for some graduation losses, and after a slow 2-2-1 start to the year, the Eagles turned on the gas. They went 8-1-1 in their next ten contests, including rivalry wins at BU and Harvard. After their only real rough stretch of the year, where they went 2-5, BC picked up steam once more and hardly looked back, finishing the year with nine wins and a tie in their final twelve games. All-in-all, BC finished 29-10-3 and, despite being higher ranked, they were second in the Hockey East standings to UNH. 

BC had a strong regular season, but it was their postseason that made their season remarkable. BC showed they had the offense to outduel teams in slugfests, beating UMass in game 1 of the playoffs 6-5, before flashing their spectacular defense with 5-2 and 3-0 wins to push into the championship against the fourth-seeded Maine Black Bears. In one of the most classic Hockey East title games, BC battled back and forth with a desperate Maine team that needed the Hockey East auto-bid to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. After a high-scoring game was not decided in regulation, BC shut the door on the Black Bears in overtime, claiming a 7-6 victory. The conference championship earned BC a #1 seed and the fourth overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. 

Behind a strong defensive performance, BC survived a mini-upset bid from Alaska in the regional semifinals. Alaska tied the game 1-1 on a power-play goal, but the Eagles took the lead back early in the third period, and behind Muse’s 28 saves and a late empty-netter, they pushed into the regional final against Yale. There, BC needed every ounce of offense they could get to survive an instant classic with the Bulldogs. 

BC looked to have the game very much in hand at various times, but Yale put up a fight to the very end, keeping the result in doubt. Maintaining a 3-2 edge, the Eagles snapped off three straight goals, two from Cam Atkinson, to seemingly put the Bulldogs away, leading 6-2 with under five minutes to play in the second. However, Yale stunned BC and the crowd by beating Muse twice in 1 minute and 17 seconds of game time to trim the deficit to two goals after two periods. In five prior NCAA Tournament games, Muse had given up a total of five goals, yet Yale had put up four on him in two periods, and they weren’t done. BC answered Yale’s surge in kind, with three consecutive goals, starting with Atkinson securing his hat trick and then two by Jimmy Hayes to give BC a comfortable 9-4 lead. They maintained that lead with seven minutes to play, but suddenly Yale made another run, striking three times in just over five minutes. While still trailing 9-7, the Bulldogs were within striking distance with 90 seconds to play, and they had put up 7 goals on a goalie giving up a goal per game in his NCAA tournament career. Muse stiffened and made a few saves to put away Yale, but it was a strange and very exciting contest with the result in doubt until the final minute. 

With that brief comeback scare in their rearview mirror, BC was never to be challenged again. Facing the top overall seed, Miami of Ohio, in the Frozen Four semifinals, the Eagles breezed past the Redhawks with remarkable ease. BC notched a goal late in the first period, and then tacked on two more in a 62-second span at the start of the second period for a commanding 3-0 lead. Unlike the Yale game, there would be no late surge, as Miami scratched out one goal, only to see BC respond with four more in the third period to take a massive 7-1 semifinal victory. 

In the national title game, BC faced another higher seed and Frozen Four veteran in Wisconsin. The Badgers were making their ninth title game appearance, and they were also coming off a dominating semifinal victory, an 8-1 destruction of RIT. Yet, even they could not slow down the avalanche that was the Boston College hockey team. To wrap up their run to the national championship, BC turned to defense first to hold onto a slim lead, before leaning on their explosive offense to finish off the Badgers. Ben Smith slotted one in for the Eagles in the first period for a 1-0 advantage they would hold through two periods. In that stretch, BC killed off two penalties, and Muse racked up fourteen saves. Then, in the third period, much like they had all year, the Eagles simply outskated their opponent in the final stages. Atkinson found the back of net less than two minutes into the period for a 2-0 lead, and the BC onslaught commenced. Just two more minutes of game time expired off the clock before Kreider tacked on another for the Eagles, and when Atkinson put away his second of the game, BC led 4-0 with 12:40 left to play. Wisconsin managed just six shots on Muse all period, all of which he turned away. The Badgers pulled their goalie with five minutes to play, but Matt Price fired one into the vacant net with 4:40 to play, icing the dominant 5-0 performance. Over four NCAA Tournament games, BC outscored their opponents 14-3 in the third period, and 24-9 overall. 

The Aftermath

Outside of the Yale game, Muse allowed just two goals in three games, and even with the Yale game, Muse’s career record in the NCAA Tournament improved to 8-0 with a 1.63 GAA. Including the Hockey East tournament, BC’s offense averaged 5.63 goals per playoff game, only falling short of five goals twice in the eight-game playoff run. 

BC’s run of dominance was not over, as they qualified for the next six NCAA tournaments. They made it to three Frozen Fours and won another title in 2012, making it three championships in five years. In that NCAA Tournament run, BC outscored their postseason opponents 16-2. BC has struggled in recent years, not making the tournament from 2017-2019, but the Eagles were back in full force this year, ranked fifth in the country before the unfortunate cancellation of the season. Despite his dominant playing career at BC, Muse went undrafted, but he has bounced around at various levels of professional hockey. He’s spent 9 seasons in the AHL, six in the ECHL, and spent the past season playing overseas.

NCAA HOCKEY BEST POSTSEASON MOMENTS COUNTDOWN – #5: The Longest Game in Frozen Four History

Postseason hockey is one of the most exciting events sports has to offer. Many say that the ramp-up in intensity from regular season to playoffs is the greater in hockey than in any other sport. This is especially true in college hockey, one of the few NCAA postseason tournaments that turns a profit due to its rabid following and popularity. One part of what makes postseason hockey so thrilling is the sudden-death overtime, which is almost undoubtedly the most exciting overtime format in sports. Watching two teams battle it out, with their season on the line, in a situation where just one goal will send one team packing and the other to the next round or to a title is breathtakingly exciting. That’s why, coming in at #5 on our top NCAA hockey moments countdown is one of the most thrilling Frozen Four games to ever occur, and, to this point, the longest. At 100 minutes and 28 seconds of game time, the 1995 semifinal between Maine and Michigan took regulation plus three overtime periods to decide, making for an instant classic between the Black Bears and Wolverines. 

The ‘94-95 Michigan hockey team was a powerhouse team, winning 30 games and throttling their opponents by large margins. Throughout the course of the season, the Wolverines averaged 5.6 goals per game and allowed just 2.8. Defensively, it was national Rookie of the Year and freshman Marty Turco leading the way between the pipes. Turco won 27 games his freshman year, posting a 2.76 Goals-Against-Average along the way. His stellar performance in net was more than enough of a cushion for a powerful Michigan offense led by 38 goals from winger Mike Knuble and 76 points by center Brendan Morrison. Michigan’s season was marked by some dominant performances, particularly in rivalry games. The Wolverines played Notre Dame three times, winning twice and posting 20 goals in those two games. Including the postseason, Michigan was able to play Ohio State five times, and they stomped all over the Buckeyes, sweeping those five contests by a combined score of 38-6. They also put up a season-high 13 goals in a shutout victory over Michigan Tech. The slip-ups were few and far between, and although they lost in the semifinals of the CCHA tournament, the Wolverines were still granted the #1 overall seed in the tournament. 

Maine was one season removed from their national championship season – featured in our #6 moment on this countdown -, but they were also coming off a rebuilding season that saw them go just 3-20-1 in Hockey East play. However, under legendary head coach Shawn Walsh, the Black Bears didn’t stay down for long, and they posted another stellar campaign in the ‘94-95 season. They were led largely by an elite defense, powered by All-Americans Chris Imes – a holdover from the ‘93 championship team – and goaltender Blair Allison. Allison led the nation with a 2.68 GAA, and Imes was named the Hockey East Player of the Year. Offensively, Maine saw three centers exceed 20 goals, with Brad Purdie, Dan Shermerhorn, and Tim Lovell all doing the deed for the Black Bears. Defenseman Jeff Tory led the team with 55 points. Maine got off to a very strong start, going 15-0-5 in their first twenty contests. They would only lose four times in the regular season, and, much like the Wolverines, the Black Bears also experienced success against their rivals, going 2-0-2 versus Boston University, taking three of four from New Hampshire, and posting a 2-0-1 mark against Boston College. Maine’s conference tournament run was cut short by Providence in the Hockey East Semifinals, and Maine got a 2-seed in Michigan’s region, setting the two teams up for their Frozen Four clash, after both teams won their quarterfinal match-ups. 

Michigan looked like the top seed in the early stages of the game, dominating the flow of play and beating Allison twice in the opening five minutes for an early advantage. Kevin Hilton and Matt Herr scored for the Wolverines. Maine crawled their way back into the game, and after finally getting their legs under them, the Black Bears got a goal from Tory to halve their deficit at the first intermission. 

Just 1:06 into the second period, Maine made it a brand new hockey game, as Purdie beat Turco to tie the score at two goals apiece. The two defenses settled in from there, with both goalies coming up huge for their teams. Turco ended up finishing the night with 52 saves, while Allison was just as impressive with 47. The rest of the second period went scoreless, as did the majority of the third. Both teams struck in lightning-quick fashion, as Dan Shermerhorn gave the Black Bears their first lead on a power-play tally with 5:58 to play, but Knuble tied it for Michigan, just 49 seconds later.

The game went into overtime, where the defenses continued to dominate. 

Michigan had the better of the chances in the first overtime, none greater than Morrison received a cross-ice pass but saw his bid for the open right side of the goal ring off the post. That was just 3:48 into overtime, but the fate of this game was not to end so quickly. The teams battled on, but neither squad was able to put the game away after twenty minutes of extra hockey. Although the teams pushed back and forth, the Black Bears had the best chance of the second overtime, as Jamie Thompson broke in alone on Turco, but the freshman stonewalled the Maine forward, smothering any potential rebound with 4:40 to go. Neither squad was able to seriously challenge the opposing netminder for the remainder, and the game rolled into the third overtime. 

However, it would not be another 20 minutes of scoreless hockey; rather, only 28 seconds had elapsed when Maine slipped the winner past Turco. Earning a faceoff victory in the offensive zone, Shermerhorn flipped the puck backwards and crashed the net. Reg Cardinal collected the puck and sizzled a pass towards Shermhorn, who shoveled it past Turco on his backhand to send Maine to the national championship, ending one of the greatest college hockey games ever. It went down as the longest game in NCAA Tournament history, and the second longest game in Division I history. 

The Aftermath

The thrilling win was the peak of Maine’s season, as they had absolutely nothing left in the tank to face Boston University two days later in the national championship. They lost 6-2 to the Terriers, unable to close the book on a second title in three years. Both Maine and Michigan would win titles in the near future, however, as the Wolverines, whose triple-overtime loss cost them their first championship-game berth in 18 years, would rally to win it all the next year. The Wolverines handled Boston University, 4-0, in the semifinals, before escaping Colorado College in a mere single-overtime victory to take the title. Michigan won again in 1998 for their second title in three years. Maine had a two-season postseason ban due to NCAA sanctions regarding ineligible players. In ‘98, Maine almost stole an automatic bid, but they came up one goal short in the Hockey East final, missing the NCAA Tournament. They returned with an upset run in 1999, winning two overtime contests in the Frozen Four against Boston College and New Hampshire to win their second, and as of now, latest championship. Maine and Michigan have met twice in the NCAA Tournament since their record-holding game in ‘95, splitting the contests in 2000 and 2003.

NCAA HOCKEY BEST POSTSEASON MOMENTS COUNTDOWN – #6: The Greatest College Hockey Team To Ever Play

The 1992-1993 University of Maine Black Bears hockey team was the greatest college hockey team ever assembled. But that’s not the only reason why they’re making this list. It was the culmination of a great team, a redemption tour, a preseason underdog, and two classic victories in the Frozen Four, that landed the Black Bears in our #6 slot.

The ‘92-93 Maine hockey team was coming off a disappointing finish to a spectacular regular season. They went 31-3-2, but they lost in the regional semifinals as the #1 overall seed, ending what many thought was their best chance at a title. That team came after a steady rebuilding process by head coach Shawn Walsh, who took over in 1984. Maine was just in their sixth season of D1 hockey, and they had not made the NCAA Tournament yet, having won just eleven games in three seasons prior to Walsh coming to the helm. However, by his third season, the Black Bears were in the NCAA Tournament, and they reached the Frozen Four in the two seasons after that. In 1991, Maine lost in the semifinals for the third time under Walsh, leading to their spectacular season that ended in shockingly early heartbreak, 

Entering the 1992-1993 season, college hockey pundits had muted expectations for the Black Bears, given their hefty graduation losses from the year before. However, Maine’s relatively unknown freshman class turned out to be a star-studded one, headed by Paul Kariya, and twins Peter and Chris Ferraro. Combined with Maine’s all-time leading scorer Jim Montgomery and Cal Ingraham, UMaine featured a historically lethal offense, but they were also dynamic defensively. Defensive stalwart Chris Imes anchored the blue line, but the main source of their success was quite possibly the best goaltending tandem to ever grace a college hockey team. Mike Dunham (25 games) and Garth Snow (23 games) were both future professional players who stood between the pipes for the Black Bears that season. Snow posted a 2.08 Goals-Against Average, while Dunham was not far behind with a 2.65 mark. 

Maine made an early statement in their season opener, throttling Providence 9-3 in the opening game. After tying the Friars, the Black Bears outscored New Brunswick 20-3 in a two-game set, and they were off to the races. That series win sparked a 19-game winning streak that lasted into January, by which point everyone knew about the Black Bears and their star rookies. After tying Clarkson, Maine broke off another nine consecutive wins, bringing their record to 30-0-2. They finally met their match, for at least one game, in Boston University, losing 7 to 6 in overtime. Maine ripped off twelve more wins to finish with a near-perfect 42-1-2 record. 

Leading the Black Bears was their variety of attacking weapons, as Kariya led everyone with 100 points on 25 goals and 75 assists, Ingraham led the team in goals with 46 goals to go with 39 assists, Chris Ferraro put up 51 points and his twin brother put up 50. Montgomery tickled the twine 32 times, pairing his scoring total with 63 assists to bring his career points total to a program-record 301. The Black Bears averaged a whopping 6.5 goals per game, cruising past most opponents with relative ease. Maine then cruised through the Hockey East Tournament as the #1 overall seed, finding the back of the net 26 times in four games and avenging their only loss by beating BU 5-2 in the title game. 

The top overall seed once more in the 12-team field, Maine wasn’t about to crash out of the tournament early in consecutive seasons. They received a bye into the regional semifinals and unleashed the dogs on Minnesota, skating all over the Golden Gophers en route to a 6-2 victory and Frozen Four berth. Maine’s road to redemption was almost thwarted by Michigan there, as the Wolverines stayed right with the Black Bears, keeping their high-powered offense at bay. Tied 3-3, Maine saw their game-winning goal mistakenly disallowed due to what the referees thought was a displaced net, forcing the game into a sudden-death overtime. However, Maine’s offense couldn’t be denied for long, as Lee Saunders slotted in the winner in overtime, sending the Black Bears to their first ever national championship game. 

Maine almost got another rematch with Boston University, but the Terriers lost horribly, 6-1, to Lake Superior State, the #2 overall seed, in the Frozen Four. When Maine scored 28 seconds into the national championship, and again seven minutes in, it appeared the worst was over for the Black Bears and they might be able to hit cruise control. However the experienced Lakers didn’t fold, and they stunned Maine with four consecutive goals, outscoring the Black Bears 3-0 in the second period. The Lakers scored with 1:18 remaining in the second to extend their lead to 4-2, and it looked like one of the greatest seasons in hockey history may end in relative anonymity with a championship loss. However, Montgomery was not going to let his stellar career end in such a fashion, and one, or technically three, more times, he formed a dynamic tandem with Kariya and led the Black Bears to victory. In 4 minutes and 45 seconds, Montgomery scored three times, taking feeds from Kariya on each occasion, to rescue Maine from the brink and push them past the Lakers and into the lead. The winner game with 11:06 to play on the clock, but Maine had substituted Snow for Dunham in goal, and the second half of their stellar goaltending combination made eight saves and stonewalled Lake Superior State in the final period to claim a 5-4 victory for their first national championship.

The Aftermath

Imes, Montgomery, Kariya and Snow were all named to the All-Tournament team, and Kariya was also named the first-ever freshman Hobey Baker Award winner. Montgomery was named a finalist but was not among the final three. With Montgomery, Snow, and Kariya off to the NHL, Maine entered the rebuilding year many thought they were due for the prior season. They went just 3-20-1 in Hockey East play and exited in the first round. However, the Black Bears were too consistent under Walsh to stay down for long, returning to the national championship game in 1995 but losing to Boston University. UMaine would reclaim the trophy in 1999, which remains the last national title they won. Shawn Walsh tragically lost his battle with cancer in 2001, ending his tenure with the Black Bears. He was succeeded by Tim Whitehead, who took Maine to the Frozen Four in four of his first six years, but they lost twice on the biggest stage. Since that surge of success under Whitehead, the Black Bears have made the NCAA Tournament only once since 2007. They were in the Top 15 this year and looked primed to crack the field until the season was cancelled. 

On an indvidual level, the ‘92-93 Maine hockey team was stacked with NHL talent, headlined by Kariya. Kariya was the fourth overall pick in that year’s draft, selected by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Over 15 seasons, Kariya played 989 games, averaging a point per game on 402 goals and 587 assists. He played 606 games with the Ducks. Jim Montgomery played 122 games in the NHL, appearing with five different teams. The majority of his time was spent with th St. Louis Blues (67 games). Twins Chris and Peter Ferraro each played from 1996-2002 in the NHL, with Peter Ferraro playing 92 games and Chris playing 74. They played togethering in the ‘97-98 season with the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was Chris’s best season, while Peter had one more solid campaign, playing 48 games with the Bruins the following year. Their dynamic goaltending tandem had plenty of professional success as well, as Snow collected 135 wins between the pipes, and Dunham edged past him with 141 career victories. Snow’s best years came in a three-year stretch with the Philadelphia Flyers, while Dunham spent a majority of his time with the Nashville Predators.

NCAA Hockey Best Postseason Moments Countdown – #7: Chris Terreri stops about a million shots in the 1985 playoffs

Starting off our countdown of the top 7 moments in NCAA hockey postseason history is the unbelievable goaltending hot streak of Chris Terreri in 1985 for the Providence Friars. A good goaltender can make or break a team and in ‘85, Terreri took a middling Providence hockey team, threw them on his shoulders, and carried the Friars all the way to the national championship game.

In the inaugural Hockey East season, Providence did not put forth a bad campaign, but their results were nothing spectacular, as they garnered a 15-14-5 conference record, tacking on to their 8-3 non-conference record. In conference play, the Friars scored 119 goals compared to allowing 127. Providence earned a 3-seed in the Hockey East tournament, largely due to the ineptitude of the bottom half of the conference, as the four teams below them in the standings all posted at least 21 losses. However, with a top-5 team in the country in BC leading the pack, the Friars were considered longshots to win the tournament. With only four at-large bids available in the 8-team field, Providence absolutely needed to win the tournament to sneak into the NCAA Tournament. 

Providence, and Terreri, got off to a relatively unassuming start to their postseason campaign, beating sixth-seeded Northeastern 3-2 in Game 1 of a best-of-three series. Even when Terreri shut out the Huskies in Game 2, 3-0, it was a relatively expected result, and Providence moved into the single elimination stage of the tournament. Providence took on second-seeded Boston University, who slaughtered UMaine in a two-game set, slapping eleven total goals on the scoreboard. However, Terreri, in his junior season, truly came into his own, largely shutting down the Terriers, while receiving an unexpected boost from the Providence offense. The Friars poured in five goals, which ended up being a postseason-high, and they upset BU, 5-2. That brought Providence into a David vs. Goliath championship game against Boston College, who had scored six goals in their semifinal victory. 

Despite the daunting task, the Friars didn’t flinch, or at least, Terreri didn’t. Although the Providence defense had played well through the tournament, they struggled to stop BC’s potent offense from breaking through, but Terreri was nearly always there. Over the course of three periods and then two overtimes, Terreri stopped a stunning 65 shots and allowed just a single goal. BC goalie Scott Gordon matched him, albeit with a much smaller workload to handle, and the game took two overtimes to decide, but Providence notched a game-winner to secure a shocking berth into the NCAA Tournament as the #8 overall seed. BC would also qualify with an at-large bid. 

The first round of the NCAA Tournament was played in a 2-game format, with aggregate score being used as the determining factor. As the lowest seed in the tournament, Providence drew #1 Michigan State in the opening round, and they were massive underdogs. The Spartans were 37-5 on the year and had been near or at the top of the rankings all year. However Terreri offered Providence an advantage with the aggregate score system, as with their goaltender playing the way he was, it was very difficult to blow out the Friars. 

Michigan State, hosting the two-game set, found that out first-hand, as they hammered shots on net all night, but they rarely broke Terreri. The Spartans did win, 3-2 on a goal with 2:48 remaining in the game, but down just one in aggregate score, the door was open for Providence to stay alive. They did just that in Game 2, absolutely stunning the Spartans by racing out to a three-goal advantage in six minutes. The Friars led 4-1 into the third period, and they just needed to hold Michigan State to a goal or less to secure their spot in the semifinals. The Spartans notched one goal at the halfway point of the period, but they could not get another past Terreri, who made 83 saves over the two games to help Providence advance, including fifty in the clincher. 

Facing BC in a Hockey East championship rematch, this time with a chance to play for the national title on the line, Terreri unleashed his inner beast once more, putting on a goaltending clinic in what was probably the best Frozen Four performance by a goalie in NCAA Hockey history. Providence stunned the Eagles by jumping to a 3-0 lead by scoring three times in a 2 minute, 15 second span, but it was virtually the only offense that the Friars mustered. BC got one back near the end of the first period, but trailed 3-1 entering the third, as Terreri turned away shot after shot to bail out Providence. BC did manage to tie the game, however, as they pretty much were setting up camp in the offensive zone, and Terreri couldn’t hold them off forever. The Eagles finished off a pair of rushes to beat the Providence backstop twice from in close, knotting the score at 3 early in the third period. However, all the goals did was extend Terreri’s legendary performance. 

The two teams headed to overtime, and Terreri had made 49 saves, while Providence had mustered just 15 shots on net, but he wasn’t done yet. One overtime period passed, and Providence managed few offensive chances, but Terreri frustrated the Eagles multiple times. The second overtime elapsed, but BC still could not slip a game-winner past Chris Terreri. And finally, 33 seconds into the third overtime, Providence defender Paul Cavallini fired in a wrist shot from the left boards. Gordon made the save, but junior winger Art Yeomelakis buried the rebound, putting the exclamation mark on a 4-3, triple-overtime thriller. Terreri made 62 saves, many of them coming during the 4.5 period gap between Providence goals. Against many goalies, BC would have probably won by five or six goals. Against good goalies, the Eagles would still win virtually every time with the offensive onslaught they put on display. But against Terreri, it just wasn’t enough and the Cinderella-story Friars moved onto the title game. 

Providence’s miracle run came to an end in the national championship, which is the only reason this game didn’t make it higher onto our list. The title-game loss was not at all due to Terreri, who posted another 40-save performance and had to work against seven power-plays by the second overall seed, Rensselaer. Rennsselaer got goals early in the first and second period, but they were denied on their final twenty efforts on goal, as Providence attempted to engineer a rally. Cavallini scored with ten minutes remaining, but that was all the offense the Friars had, as their miracle journey fell just short of a fairytale ending. 

The Aftermath

Terreri’s 2.14 Goals-Against-Average and sparkling .949 save percentage were almost unheard of numbers in an era where most teams scored four goals per game or more. His effort earned him Tournament MVP, becoming the first player on the losing team to garner these honors since 1960. After playing his senior year, Terreri went on to play in the NHL for parts of 14 seasons, eleven of those coming with the New Jersey Devils. He played 406 career games, posting a 3.07 GAA. Behind New Jersey legend Martin Brodeur, Terreri became one of the best backups in the league and won two Stanley Cups. 

As for Providence, the Friars didn’t exactly use their ‘85 miracle run as a leapfrog into consistent contention, as head coach Steve Stirling left the program, and Providence struggled to recover. They didn’t post a winning record until 1989, and they appeared in only four tournaments from ‘85-2013. In 2014, Providence returned to the NCAA quarterfinals, and in 2015, the Friars finally achieved what they had nearly done in 1985, completing a miracle run as one of the lowest seeds in the tournament to win it all, beating Boston University in the championship. They have appeared in every NCAA Tournament since 2014, and they are 3-4 in the big dance since their national championship.

Scott Perunovich caps stellar career with Hobey Baker Award

Capping off a superb 3-year career with the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, defenseman Scott Perunovich was named the winner of the 2020 Hobey Baker Award, adding some final hardware to what was a decorated three seasons with the Bulldogs. 

Perunovich burst onto the college hockey scene as a freshman, after playing three years of high school and one year with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the United States Hockey League. In a sparkling debut campaign, Perunovich notched 11 goals and 25 assists – his 36 points tied him for fourth among all defenseman and third among all freshmen regardless of position. It set a UMD record for points by a freshman defenseman. Perunovich, named a first team All-American, continued his spectacular play in the postseason, selected to the Frozen Four all-tournament team, helping lead the Bulldogs to a national championship. Perunovich’s spectacular season put him on the NHL radar and after going undrafted in his first two years of eligibility, Perunovich skyrocketed into the second round, being selected 45th overall by the St. Louis Blues. 

Perunovich continued to rake in the awards and honors his sophomore season, as he posted another strong campaign with 3 goals and 26 assists. He was nominated for the Hobey Baker award, and he was named the NCHC Offensive Defenseman of the year. However, he was not only proficient on offense, as he was also named all-conference and second team All-American for his stellar defensive ability as well. Perunovich helped anchor a defensive unit that gave up just three goals in four NCAA Tournament games, leading the Bulldogs to a repeat title. 

Due to the unfortunate onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic, Perunovich did not get a chance to go for the 3-peat with UMD. After a slow start, the Bulldogs were 22-10-2 and ranked fourth in the country, gunning for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Despite the shortened season, Perunovich still put up impressive numbers, posting a career-high 40 points on 6 goals and 34 assists. Perunovich signed a two-year entry level contract with the Blues, which will start this year if the NHL season resumes. On Saturday night, Perunovich was named the Hobey Baker winner, beating out North Dakota forward Jordan Kawaguchi and University of Maine goalie Jeremy Swayman, who was attempting to become the second ever goaltender to win the award. He will certainly be named an All-American for the third consecutive season. 

Perunovich finishes his career with 105 points in 115 games, and he finishes his junior year second in the country in points by a defenseman. He will join the Blues when/if the season resumes, and many project him to be an immediate contributor for the defending Stanley Cup Champions.

January 29, 2020: NCAA Hockey Power Rankings

There were some unexpected results and turmoil within the NCAA hockey world, and a series of upsets resulted in some major changes within the second edition of our NCAA Hockey Power Rankings, including two new teams, and a new #1 team. Below is a quick summary of the biggest changes, with the full rankings following. 

Biggest Riser: Denver (3 spots)

Biggest Fallers: UMass (4 spots)

Dropped Out: UMass, Ohio State, 

Joined The Rankings: Arizona State, Northern Michigan

Honorable Mention

  • Providence
  • Arizona State
  • Northern Michigan

The Rankings

#10 – Minnesota Duluth (Last Week: Honorable Mention)

  • UMD can hang their hats on one of the most impressive victories of the season – a 7-4 onslaught of a scorching hot North Dakota team. Unfortunately, they dropped a 3-2 decision the next day, still a solid result against one of the best offenses in the nation. Combined with the collapse of a few of our top-10 teams, it was enough for the Bulldogs to climb into the rankings. 

#9 – Bemidji State Beavers (Last Week: Honorable Mention)

  • I’m way higher on the Beavers than pretty much anyone else, as the latest polls have Bemidji State at just 19th, but this is a team that is 6-1-1 in their last eight, with their lone loss coming in a road series split with #3 Minnesota State. They still might be on the outside looking in on the NCAA tournament picture, but the Beavers are consistently impressing every weekend. 

#8 – Harvard Crimson (Last Week: 9)

  • Harvard played two games with a pair of bloodless results. Their tie against Colgate didn’t do much for their resume, but a road tie against #1 Cornell again showcased this squad’s ability to hang with the best, and, to me, justified them rising to #8 in this week’s power rankings. 

#7 – Boston College Eagles (Last Week: 4)

  • Although both games went to overtime, the Eagles were swept at home by an unranked UMaine squad. UMaine is close to cracking the Top 20, but this is a team that BC has historically dominated, so to enter the series red-hot and then drop both games was a severe disappointment that made the Eagles our biggest faller of the week. 

#6 – Clarkson Golden Knights (Last Week: 5)

  • Clarkson played a competitive series at home with Arizona State, but they ultimately split the result, managing an overtime victory in the opener before dropping a 3-2 decision in the second game. It wasn’t a horrific result by any means, but the Golden Knights failed to keep pace with most of their closest competitors and slid two spots as a consequence.

#5 – Penn State Nittany Lions (Last Week: 6) 

  • Penn State salvaged their weekend with a gutsy overtime victory at Michigan State to split the series after a loss in the opener. It was an impressive rebound performance from the Nittany Lions, and their ranked road win was enough to lock them in at #6 for the second straight week.

#4 – Denver Pioneers (Last Week: 7)

  • Denver went to Miami of Ohio and swept the Redhawks, squeaking out a 3-2 decision in the opener before cruising 5-2 in the second game. Denver has not lost since December 6 – although they have three ties in that span – and that justifies their three-spot jump in this week’s rankings. 

#3 – North Dakota Fighting Hawks(Last Week: 3)

  • North Dakota in my mind is still one of the elite three teams in the country, but they showed that defense could be a huge weakness by giving up seven to UMD. Their rebound win was needed, and it kept the Fighting Hawks at #3, but they’ll have to figure out their defense before March rolls around. 

#2 – Minnesota State Mavericks (Last Week: 1)

  • Minnesota State suffered a tough loss to Bemidji State and split the series overall. I’ve already discussed that I really like the Beavers, and I don’t regard this as any kind of disaster for the Mavericks; I just believe any slip up can be costly when your competition plays at an elite level. 

#1 Cornell Big Red (Last Week: 2)

  • Cornell posted another unbeaten effort this weekend, beating a quality Dartmouth team before escaping Harvard’s upset bid with a tie. Their 1-0-1 weekend keeps them at just one loss for the year, and, combined with losses from North Dakota and the Mavericks, propelled the Big Red to #1.

January 20, 2020: NCAA Hockey Power Rankings

It’s the first edition of the NCAA Hockey Power Rankings! Here are the College Kids Talking College Sports rankings for the college hockey season, with our Top 10 listed, as well as a couple of honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions

  • Ohio State
  • Minnesota Duluth
  • Bemidji State

#10 – Providence Friars 

  • The Friars have been difficult team to figure out, as they opened up their season impressively, with a 7-0 win versus the University of Maine, and then thumping BC on the road later that month, 6-2, before muddling through an 11-game stretch that saw them go 4-4-3. But the Friars are streaking again, with a 6-1-2 record since December 7, including an impressive tournament victory in the Fortress Invitational. Their next three games are against Northeastern and UMass (2 games) which should show where Providence stands. 

#9 – Harvard Crimson

  • I might be a little high on this Harvard team, but I really like what the Crimson are doing. The results aren’t always apparent, but statistically, this is a very good hockey team. After starting 6-0 on the year, Harvard has cooled off a little bit, but they recently took a series from #14 Arizona State and cracked the whip on Yale, throttling them 7-0. The Beanpot tournament in early February will give them a clearer idea of where they stand.

#8 – UMass Minutemen

  • Last year’s national runner-up, the Minutemen have shown the ability to beat elite teams, but they have not quite established consistency. At times, their defense has seemed a problem, but they seemed to handle it just fine in whipping Vermont in a two-game sweep this past weekend. They’ve beaten Boston College and Northeastern, but they were also swept by Denver. Consistency will be key for this team in unlocking the potential for a deep run. 
DENVER, CO – JANUARY 03: forward Brett Stapley (7) of the Denver Pioneers tries a wrap around shot on goaltender Filip Lindberg (35) of the Massachusetts Minutemen against the defense of defenseman Marc Del Gaizo (2) of the Massachusetts Minutemen in the first period at Magness Arena January 03, 2020. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

#7 – Denver Pioneers

  • Statistically, Denver should not be doing what they’re doing. They don’t rank in the top 10 in scoring offense, defense, or scoring margin. They are pretty solid on the penalty kill and powerplay, but it doesn’t really explain their stellar 15-4-5 record. However, this team did start 8-0, so maybe those statistics are starting to catch up to them. They just lost a series to Omaha, snapping a six-game winning streak. Denver is in the rankings largely due to record and national standing (#4 in the last poll), but I’m not too optimistic about them right now. 

#6 – Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Penn State has been impressive, and they may be the Big 10 favorite, but one has to wonder if they peaked too soon. The Nittany Lions are just 6-5-1 since a 10-2 start to their season. They just lost a home series to Michigan, including a demoralizing 6-0 loss. Their offense and defense have both been really good at times, but they ultimately haven’t put it all together in the same game very often. The pieces are there, the results are inconsistent. 

#5 – Clarkson Golden Knights

  • Clarkson is one of the hotter teams on this list, with a 9-2-1 record since mid-November. They boast a recent win at Harvard and a series victory over Michigan Tech. They made a statement by opening the year with a series victory at Michigan, and the Golden Knights have been a pinnacle of consistency, having not had a losing streak all year; only once have they followed a loss or tie with less than two wins in a row. 
Photo Courtesy of Boston College Athletics

#4 – Boston College Eagles

  • A four-game slide in late October and early November took the Eagles off the national radar, but BC is 12-1 since that slide, and they are absolutely cooking right now. They outscored Notre Dame in a home and home series 10-1, They split with UMass, and they have another road date with the Minutemen upcoming, as well as the Beanpot tournament. But ladies and gentlemen…BC hockey is back…and really scare to play right now. 

#3 – North Dakota Fighting Hawks

  • Although BC is fighting for their inclusion, the top 3 are remaining the same, as it has been for much of the year. Their ‘hot streak’ has basically been the whole season, as the Fighting Hawks have amazed to the tune of an 18-2-3 record. They are, 16-1-2 since October 19. They’ve scored 29 goals in their last 6 games and are in direct opposition to the two defensive stalwarts that top this week’s rankings. A road series against Minnesota-Duluth will test this team’s season-long hot streak. 

#2 – Cornell Big Red

  • Cornell has been muddled in a bit of a weird stretch. They’re not losing games…but they lack the killing stroke they had for the beginning portion of the year. After winning their first eleven, the Big Red finally stumbled at Dartmouth. They followed that up with a second-place finish in the Fortress Invitational, losing via shootout, and then a 2-0-2 record in four games. Overall, since their 11-0 start, the Big Red are 2-1-3. Again, that’s not bad, it’s just strange for a team that was so proficient at putting away opponents earlier in the year. The defense is still elite, having given up 3 goals in a game just once, so the offense may need to step it up so Cornell can keep recording victories. 

#1 – Minnesota State Mavericks

  • The Mavericks were my clear choice for #1. They lead the nation in power-play efficiency, goals allowed, scoring margin, and winning percentage. They are 6th in goals scored and 2nd in penalty kill percentage. All-in-all, I felt Minnesota State was the obvious pick for #1 this week. The Mavericks doubled down on this feeling by earning another impressive sweep this weekend, going on the road and taking down #18 Bowling Green twice. They’ve won seven straight games, outscoring their opponents 28-7 in the process. 

Powerhouses, Parity, and Darkhorses: Catching Up on NCAA Hockey Storylines

It’s been a wild year in college hockey, but with conference play in basketball ongoing, and a legendary title matchup between LSU and Clemson stealing many of the sports headlines, much of the college hockey season has been lost in the shadows. But, it’s never too late to catch up: Here, I’ll try to briefly summarize the major events and storylines from the first half of the season, as the field of contenders begins to make itself apparent. 

Minnesota-Duluth slumps early, but they’re back

The Bulldogs entered the season with their eyes on a historical achievement; having won the past two national titles, UMD – a preseason favorite – was looking to three-peat, a feat not done since Michigan did the trick in 1951, ‘52 and ‘53. However, at the beginning of the season, UMD barely looked like a tournament team. They started the year 1-3, and they were outscored 9-3 in a two-game sweep at the hands of #17 Wisconsin. After tying and beating top-ranked Denver, the Bulldogs looked to vault their way back to the top, but they promptly lost to Miami of Ohio and were swept at home by Minnesota State-Mankato, getting outscored 7-2 on the weekend. At 7-6-1, UMD found themselves nearly halfway through their season. Their talent was evident, but the results were inconsistent and frustrating. 

However, the calendar flipped to December, and the Bulldogs flipped a switch. After averaging 2.3 goals per road game to start the year, the Bulldogs slapped ten goals on the board in a two-game series at Omaha, followed by nine goals in two games at Merrimack. Moving to 2020, the Bulldogs haven’t lost a beat, beating Western Michigan 6-3, and tying them 3-3. This offense is unreal, and UMD back up to #8 in the nation and scorching hot. These Bulldogs still have their eyes on history. 

The Clear Top 3

For all the discussion about UMD, there has been a clear top three teams that have emerged at the halfway point of the season: Cornell, North Dakota, and Minnesota State. In a year where parity has reigned supreme (more on that later), these three squads have been absolutely dominant, with a combined 6 losses. 

Cornell leads the pack, at 12-1-2. The Big Red have been led by one of the best defenses in the country, surrendering 24 goals in 15 games. Their one loss was a 2-1 defeat to Dartmouth; which they responded to by absolutely thumping #9 Ohio State 5-2. The Big Red might be the best team in the country, but they’ve got close competition at the top. 

North Dakota has won 10 of 11, a span that has seen them take a series from Denver, score eight goals in one game, and also nine goals in another game. The Fighting Hawks’ offense against the Cornell defense? There’s a savory title game I wouldn’t mind watching. 

But before we put our money on a title matchup, it would be unfair if we didn’t mention the other elite team in the hockey world. Although a few points behind UND and Cornell in the latest poll, Minnesota State has been wildly impressive with a 20-3-1 record. They set the tone for the season by opening 6-0-1 with a dominant sweep over Arizona State and a series win over North Dakota. After an overtime loss, the Mavericks broke off a ten-game winning streak, a run that included convincing sweeps over Michigan Tech and Minnesota-Duluth. After a two-game skid to end 2019, the Mavericks have returned in full force, currently on a five game run, outscoring their opponents 19-2. They’ve given up 1.3 goals per game and score 3.6. They might have the most impressive resume to date, and have their eyes on a deep run in March. 

With a strong offense and absolutely elite defense, the Mavericks are cruising. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Athletics

Parity in the middle of the rankings makes conference championships extremely important

One notable feature of the college season so far has included the incredible parity in the Top-20. 15 teams in the rankings have at least five losses, and eight teams have at least seven losses. With only a 16 team national tournament, conference championships have always been pivotal, but they may be even more so this year, as at-large bids will be at a premium with several well qualified teams fighting for spots. Take for example Notre Dame; the Fighting Irish are the two-time defending Big 10 champions and are coming off a Final 8 appearance and back-to-back Frozen Four appearance the two years before. However, an at-large bid is anything but a certainty for the Irish who have struggled since the start of conference play. At just 10-9-3, Notre Dame sits 18th in the country. Heading into winter break, they were a four-seed in the college hockey bracketology, but a recent skid likely knocked them out. The Big 10 title might be a must-win for the Irish, who could find themselves watching the NCAA tournament at home for the first time since 2015. The same can be said in the Hockey East, where BC, UMass, Providence, Northeastern and UMass-Lowell all currently sit in the top 16 teams…however, those teams will continue to bludgeon each other in the regular season, and in all likelihood, at least one or two of those squads will fall out of a tournament spot. Winning the Hockey East championship will be a huge boost and a sigh of relief while the other four squads sweat it out on selection day. 

So, a quick message to pretty much every team outside the Top 5: Win your conference because there are very few guarantees this season.

The Fortress Invitational

College hockey began the new decade in style, with a mouthwatering slate of games at the Fortress Invitational. The lowest ranked team there was #20 Army West Point, and the field also included #11 Providence, #9 Ohio State, and #1 Cornell. The tournament was rated the highest in-season tournament by quality of competition. Cornell lived to the hype as the #1 team in the semifinals, dominating Ohio State 5-2. Providence survived a feisty Army team 3-1. Ohio State would claim a tight consolation final, while an extremely exciting title game ended with the Friars securing the title via shootout. With the best team in the country and three potentital tournament teams, the entire weekend was must-watch hockey in Vegas and set the tone for the year. 

Providence knocked Cornell out of the NCAA tournament last year and repeated the deed in the Fortress Invitational. Photo Courtesy of the Ithaca Journal

Teams you probably want to root for

Here, I’ll give you three teams to root for that have a viable chance at the national championship right now. If you don’t have a horse in the running, hop on the bandwagon of one of these squads. All three of them are seeking their first title, which could make their chase for glory well worth watching. 

Penn State 

The Nittany Lions exploded out of the gate last year, starting 7-0, but they fizzled in Big 10 play, sweeping just one series and slowly fading out of contention. When all was said and done, Penn State didn’t even make the NCAA tournament, but this year, they have their eyes on finishing the job. The Nittany Lions are 16-6, including an 8-4 mark in Big 10 play with sweeps of Minnesota and Wisconsin spurring on their hot streak. They’re ranked 6th in the country right now – the top ranked Big 10 team – and they look to have a legitimate shot at reaching the Frozen Four, where anything could happen. 

Minnesota State

I already talked about Minnesota State, but they’re a story well worth mentioning in this section as well. Their superb achievements this season have already been covered, but the Mavericks are truly doing something special in Minnesota. A long-time second fiddle to Minnesota-Duluth, the Mavericks might be the best team in the state this year. They looked really good last year, but they were cut down abruptly in the first round by Providence. This year, the Mavericks look even better. Ranked #3 right now, they are gunning for a title. 

Clarkson

Honorable mention here goes to Northeastern, who was a title favorite and possibly the most talented team in the country before being upset in the first round. But Clarkson gets the nod as our third team to root for, as they haven’t reached the Frozen Four since 1991. After a heartbreaking first round exit last year, the Golden Knights are hoping to take the next step this March. They allow the sixth-fewest goals in college hockey with an outstanding penalty kill and spectacular 7-1-2 away record. They’re ranked #7 right now, they’re an underdog well worth rooting fpr as we hit the halfway point of the season. 

Dark-horses to watch

This category is to list three teams who are currently outside the Top 16 who are darkhorse squads to make the tournament and make a run. To qualify you could not be a Top-16 team and you could not have made the tournament last year (sorry Notre Dame), as neither of those make for an appealing underdog story to root for. You also can not be currently leading your conference, as that means you are a favorite to make the tournament. 

Northern Michigan

Northern Michigan sits just outside the bracket right now, ranked #17 in the country. They’ve also fallen victim to being in the WCHA conference, home of the #3 Minnesota State Mavericks. This means that the Wildcats’ stellar 11-5 conference has kept them a steady three games off the pace in their own conference. A mid-season slump made a tournament berth look extremely unlikely, but the Wildcats are now streaking, winners of five straight, including a victory over the Mavericks and an impressive road sweep of #15 Bowling Green. They’ve got a legitimate shot at cracking the tournament field for the first time since 2010, and, given they’ve proven their ability to win versus elite opponents, they can earn their first tournament win since 1993. 

Michigan Tech

This team is not quite in the tournament drought that Northern Michigan has, but they haven’t had much success once they’ve made the field, and they’re probably the least likely of these three teams to make the tournament. The Huskies failed to qualify for the tournament last year, breaking a three-year streak, but they didn’t win a single NCAA tournament game in that span – losing two overtime heartbreakers, sandwiched around a blowout loss in 2017. Before that? Well it’s been a while for Michigan Tech, as they haven’t won a tournament game since 1981, when they claimed third place in the country. They currently sit at #19 in the country, but a lackluster performance in WCHA play has them in sixth, with an 8-7-1 conference mark. They’ve struggled against elite competition; outside of a sweep versus Northern Michigan, the Huskies are 3-7-2 against ranked opponents. Ultimately, their inconsistency throughout the season and inability to go on a long run may doom them. But given their nearly 40-year drought between tournament wins, it’s still worth rooting for this team to snap that streak. 

Michigan State

This section is centered around Michigan teams, as the Spartans take my final spot of dark horse teams to root for. Michigan State has not only not made the NCAA tournament since 2012, they haven’t won a single postseason game since 2013. Since joining the Big 10 for the 2013-2014 season, the Spartans are 0-6 in Big 10 playoff games. They haven’t won a NCAA tournament game since 2008, and this year, the Spartans are hoping a late surge and strong conference performance can lift them into the field. They may need a Big 10 title to do so, but they have a chance at that, currently sitting second with a 7-4-1 conference record. Their strong conference resume has undone some of the damage of a 4-6 non-conference record. To be fair, the Spartans have faced a brutal schedule, with 15 of their 22 games coming against opponents that are currently ranked or were ranked at the time of the matchup. The Spartans have tread water and given themselves a chance, but they’re only 5-5 since November 30. They’ll need to pick it up and get hot soon if they want a chance at ending their horrendous postseason streak. 
Hopefully this article was helpful in catching up on some college hockey storylines. If there’s a particular topic you’d like covered, contact us at collegetalking@gmail.com or message us on twitter @college_talking.