October 17, 2012 by Casey Hart
Well, it was a fun weekend as the bulk of Division I college hockey teams began action. It only gets better from here.
I gave a previously shared my reaction to Friday’s results, but before I get to the top-20 ranking I submitted Sunday, here are a few final thoughts on the weekend’s action as a whole:
• Boston College was an obvious choice for preseason No. 1, and now that most teams have begun their seasons, Minnesota is an even easier pick at the top. The Golden Gophers opened with a 5-1 manhandling of Michigan State Friday, and in his pregame interview with Fox Sports North Saturday, Minnesota coach Don Lucia explained that he expected the Spartans to be more competitive after getting adjusted to the large ice sheet at Mariucci Arena. I guess the Gophers did some adjusting, too. They scored three goals in the first eight minutes, led 4-0 after a period, allowed 11 shots on goal and blew away Michigan State by a 7-1 margin.
• The Gophers did it with star power (two goals and an assist each from acclaimed centers Erik Haula and Nick Bjugstad and four helpers from Zach Budish) and depth (in two games: 17 players with at least a point, 12 with multiple points and nine with goals).
• Kudos to Fox Sports North for finding the best use I have seen for the QR code, often a technology-for-technology’s-sake marketing tool. Fans can scan the code on the screen to watch game highlights. Maybe someone else has done this, but I hadn’t noticed it.
• It turns out Northeastern’s venture to the top of the Hockey East standings was destined to last more than just one game. As they did earlier in the week against Merrimack, the Huskies jumped out to an early lead against top-ranked Boston College Saturday. In the end, they had goals from three different freshmen and 31 saves from senior Chris Rawlings in a 3-1 win.
• Maybe the Eagles should have stuck with the gold jerseys they wore nightly down the stretch last season. It was weird to see them wearing their normal maroon road jerseys, and the result was less favorable, their first loss in 20 games.
• There were other teams who put on performances worthy of attention. Eight teams swept two weekend games. Two Atlantic Hockey teams added season-opening wins Tuesday to bring the total of undefeated teams to 16. Optimism abounds.
• As I mentioned Friday, two teams from ECAC Hockey’s bottom half last season opened the new year with wins against last year’s best teams in the CCHA. Defending CCHA tournament champion Western Michigan bounced back from Friday’s loss to St. Lawrence with a 3-2 win in which the Broncos held a 49-12 shots advantage. The Saints, though, led by a goal with 12 minutes left and got four weekend points each from the dynamic duo of Kyle Flangan and Greg Carey. All in all, it was a pretty good weekend for SLU. Rensselaer, meanwhile, followed up Friday’s win against defending CCHA champion Ferris State with a 2-2 tie Saturday. Jacob Laliberte tied the game with his third goal of the weekend just 24 seconds after Brandon Anselmini gave the Bulldogs a third-period lead.
• Clarkson showed the same spirit as its ECAC rivals but could not translate that into results in a tough road environment. The Golden Knights lost back-to-back 5-4 games to Colorado College. They led three times on Saturday, but the Tigers came back each time, held Clarkson off the board for the final 26 minutes and doubled up the Knights in shots over the course of the game.
• One team that started 2-0 was Quinnipiac, but the Bobcats fell to Earth hard Sunday, losing to Robert Morris 4-0 a night after topping the Colonials by that same score. The Bobcats were undone by a 48-save effort from Eric Levine, but possibly more worrisome was the absence of senior Jeremy Langlois, Quinnipiac’s top goal-scorer last season. He has three points in the two games he has played but sat out Sunday’s game, and I haven’t seen a report on why.
• Miami went 2-0 over the weekend, thanks in part to a pair of goalies who combined to stop 44 of the 45 shots they faced. Sound familiar? The four-year era of Cody Reichard and Connor Knapp frustrating CCHA offenses on alternating nights for four years is over. It’s way too early to crown freshmen Jay Williams and Ryan McKay as Reichard-Knapp 2.0, but this weekend’s box scores looked like it. McKay shut out Colgate 3-0 Friday, and Williams followed by saving 20 of 21 shots in Saturday’s 5-1 win against the Raiders. Colgate lost more offense from last season’s squad than maybe anybody, but this is a group of Raiders that poured in 10 goals in its opener against Niagara, one of the nation’s top defensive teams last year.
• Notre Dame edged Maine and Nebraska-Omaha to win the Ice Breaker. Inside College Hockey honored Irish goaltender Steven Summerhays as its INCH National Player of the Week. The junior backstopped Notre Dame to a pair of one-goal wins. He needed only 22 saves to shut out the Black Bears, but one of them was a spectacular paddle stop on Maine star Joey Diamond.
• It’s certainly fair to give credit to Summerhays for the shutout, but it was Maine’s Dan Sullivan who made more tough saves in that tournament semifinal. Sullivan, who sat out Saturday’s 4-3 consolation win against Army, has stopped 49 of the 52 shots he has faced in his two starts, against formidable foes Quinnipiac and Notre Dame. The Black Bears, however, did not support him in either game, totaling just one goal and losing each game by a single tally. Maybe the game against the Black Knights, in which Maine logged 54 shots and rallied from two goals down with four different goal-scorers, will jumpstart the offense in Orono. It doesn’t hurt that Diamond, following Friday’s frustration, finally got going with a goal and an assist.
• It seems like some of the most exciting action of the weekend may have happened in Pennsylvania, where a program with four out-of-conference over the last eight years took on a program that had never dressed a squad for a varsity game. American International spoiled Penn State’s Division I debut in overtime Friday and scored twice to force overtime Saturday. The Nittany Lions, however, got their coveted first win on a David Glen goal in the opening minute of overtime in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
• Bonus from Tuesday: Brett Gensler is back. A 50-point scorer for Bentley last season, the junior notched a goal and three assists in the Falcons’ 7-1 win against Sacred Heart. Holy Cross, meanwhile, registered a 6-2 win at AIC in a game that featured 88 total shots on goal, including 42 in the third period.