Wednesday, November 29, 2006

News and Notes

Two pieces of news before we get to the Denver series this weekend.

The first, Scott Owens appeared yesterday on CSTV's Tuesdays at the Rink. You can read the interview here.

The second is an unfortunate bit of recruiting news. Wahs Stacey, last year's SJHL rookie of the year, has committed to Vermont. He had been a target for CC, as well as St. Cloud State. Stacey lives in Quebec, apparently fairly close to Vermont, and opted to remain close to home to play his college hockey.

Also, Let's Go DU reports that CC-DU trash talking is getting "too hot" for many in anticipation of Friday's game.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

It's Official: Tigers Back on the Right Track

Before I get to the substance of this post I'd like to address a couple things. It's obvious that my posting has slowed down this year, and I'm sure most readers have noticed. I hate to make excuses, but I have had an awful lot going on lately, which always makes it harder to keep up with side interests such as this one. Please keep in mind that this blog is a hobby of mine, it's not a job - I write here for two reasons: 1. I like to write, and 2. I love college hockey. At the same time, like everyone else who runs blogs around the league, I have a personal life that I have to attend to. There will always be periods of time where I miss an update or two. I would love to have more time and energy to commit to this blog, but sometimes circumstances dictate otherwise. So, in terms of things that I want to make clear:

Will I try to update more frequently?
Absolutely. The last month has been one of the busiest and most stressful for me in recent memory, and moving forward I anticipate having more free time to update.

Do I plan on "hanging it up?"
This question refers to a comment made in response to a post of mine a few weeks ago. The answer is certainly not. Like I said, this blog is a hobby of mine, and I do it because I enjoy it. I don't plan on quitting any time soon. For the foreseeable future, I plan to continue with this whether I'm posting once every three days or once every month.

With that said, I want to add one more thing. I'd like to extend an invitation to anyone who might want to contribute to this blog. With more people contributing, there will always be more, and better, content. So if any followers of CC hockey are interested in helping me post more updates, feel free to email me (link on the right), and I'd be glad to have you on the team. With that said, let's move on to the update.

After a four game losing streak that had many questioning whether the Tigers could contend this season, Colorado College extended its season-high winning streak to five games with a 4-3 win before falling to North Dakota 5-2 in the Saturday night contest. While a sweep would have been tremendous, stealing a single win at the hostile and abusive Ralph Engelstad arena against a very good North Dakota team shows how far this CC team has come in the past few weeks. Friday night's win over the Fighting Sioux also marked what could be the Tigers' first "TUC" win of the season.

The usual suspects once again accounted for most of CC's scoring; Jimmy Kilpatrick, Scott McCulloch, Jack Hillen, Billy Sweatt, and Chad Rau all had nice weekends points-wise. Derek Patrosso had some solid production as well. The Friday night win is important because it keeps CC right in the thick of things in the WCHA standings. The Tigers now sit at 5th in the conference standings behind Minnesota (1st), and Denver, North Dakota, and St. Cloud State, all tied for second. The Tigers have two games in hand on North Dakota and St. Cloud State, and face Denver this coming weekend.

As for other WCHA teams, what is there to say? Minnesota is just sick - that's a given. They're sitting at 12-1-2 on the season and are riding a 14 game unbeaten streak. After that, however, things get murky. Last year's champ Wisconsin still has time to turn things around, but things are looking pretty ugly in Madison. The Badgers recently endured a six game losing streak before finally notching a 2-0 win over Michigan State at the College Hockey Showcase. Regardless, they have two non-conference wins (Northern Michigan and Michigan State) that could potentially help them come tournament time - if they can start winning some games. Denver has racked up an impressive 9-4-1 record thus far, but with very few quality wins. St. Cloud State, like Denver, has a solid record - but the Huskies also are lacking in quality wins. So two things seem clear at this point in the WCHA - 1. Minnesota is the class of the league thus far in the season, and 2. CC, DU, UND, and SCSU are the remaining top teams at this point, although each team needs to prove themselves with some quality wins. Who's the best out of those four? Right now, I'd probably go with St. Cloud - they're a solid all around team with a top-tier goaltender, and they managed two ties against Minnesota - that's better than just about anyone else has done. There are still teams in the bottom half of the WCHA that could challenge, as well. While it's unlikely, Alaska-Anchorage's recent sweep of UND has left them at 4-4-0 and just outside the top five - if they can keep winning, don't count them out. Michigan Tech also had been off to an impressive start, but has fallen to 3-3-2 in the league. They could still be considered a sleeper. One team that has underperformed drastically is Minnesota-Duluth, who many thought would be a top five team this year, but so far has accumulated a dismal 1-7-2 record in WCHA play.

Outside of the WCHA, things have gotten even stranger. Maine, who had been off to a fantastic start to the season, is sitting at 6th in the Hockey East standings, while New Hampshire, who indeed looked great out here in the Springs, is at 7-1-1 and 1st in the league. And in the ECAC, people who were expecting big things from Harvard this season have to be disapointed with their pathetic 2-7-0 start. Things are certainly a mess right now in college hockey, and other than Minnesota no team has proven themselves to be a contender, in my opinion. We'll see how things play out in the coming weeks and find out which teams can find their groove and separate themselves from the pack.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Tigers Take Care of Business, Earn Sweep of Mankato

After a lackluster few weeks that included a four game losing streak for CC, the Tigers seem to have found their stride once more, and are now riding a four game winning streak. I had the great misfortune of missing the two games this weekend, so I'll have to write this entry based only on box scores, recaps, and fan's impressions of the games.

It sounds to me like CC recovered after playing a horrendous first period on Friday night, and eventually went through a progression that had the boys playing great hockey by the end of the game on Saturday. The Saturday night game sounds like it was a doozy for CC - great defense, abundance of scoring, solid play in net - just good hockey all around.

Some notes:

Billy Sweatt Boy is it nice to have this guy back. Two goals and an assist on Satuday and all of a sudden "The Billy" is scoring at a point per game this season.

Matt Zaba and Drew O'Connell Matt Zaba seems to have stepped up his game to a whole new level in the last few weeks. I heard from some that he didn't have his best game on Friday, but he's still playing great. Drew played nicely in game two, as well.

Scott McCulloch and Jimmy Kilpatrick These guys are doing everything that we knew they would have to going into the season. The two both have 13 points so far this year and seem to have successfully stepped into their new offensive roles.

Cody Lampl Cody has been all over the ice recently, and in my opinion his play has vastly improved since last season. He's playing aggressive: skating hard and finishing his checks, and now looks like one of CC's top forwards.

Cody Lampl and Mike Testwuide Congrats to both on their first goals in the NCAA on Saturday.

The wins this weekend put CC in a three-way tie for fourth in the WCHA along with Alaska and Michigan Tech. The three squads are all one point behind North Dakota for third, with CC having two games in hand. One of the biggest surprises in this young season is the disapointing play of defending champ Wisconsin. Wisconsin has already played 10 WCHA games, and sits in 7th place with a 3-6-1 record. A few weeks ago they were swept at home by DU, and this weekend they were swept on the road by Minnesota. North Dakota, who the Tigers will take on next weekend, suffered a surprising sweep of their own, at the hands of Alaska. In the WCHA thus far, it seems like there is Minnesota, and then there's everyone else. North Dakota and Wisconsin were both supposed to be very good and both seem to have stumbled out of the gate.

Out East, things have been interesting as well. Maine finally lost, getting destroyed by New Hampshire at Alfond. Then, last night, they lost another home game, this time in overtime to Boston College, who is quickly being reduced to "pretender" status after an embarrassing loss to Harvard and a tie against Northeastern. The story of the season so far has come not from Hockey East but from the CCHA, where traditional bottom dweller Notre Dame seems to have improved by leaps and bounds. They sit at 5th in the USCHO poll and are coming off a split against Michigan State. The problem is the Fighting Irish haven't really played any good teams yet, and they did drop an early game to Minnesota State, so let's not declare them a Frozen Four team just yet.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Tigers Back On Track?

Gosh, it's been awhile. Sorry for the lack of posting lately, life's been busy. I'll try to get back to posting with more regularity.

If you haven't been keeping up, here's what's been going on the past two weeks:

Week 1: Tigers travel to Minnesota and get outplayed by an extraordinarily talented Gopher squad. Matt Zaba plays great in the Friday game, holding an impressive Gopher offense to two goals.

Week 2: Tigers keep up the almost annual tradition of beating up on Michigan Tech at the World Arena. Not a bad result considering that Tech is better than they have been in recent years and came in to the series ranked fairly highly.

It was nice to see the Tigers get back to their winning ways last weekend against Michigan Tech. A lot of people were thinking this was finally the year that the Huskies would win one in the Springs, so it was great to see CC prevail. Some notes from the series:

* Matt Zaba is playing spectacular. Not just in this series, but also in the game at Minnesota. If he keeps playing this well I would definitely expect to see him starting regularly.

* Good to see Chad Rau score some goals.

* Cody Lampl is all over the place, and is fitting right in on the offensive side of things.

* Addison DeBoer is looking great, and there's been a lot of improvement in general from the freshmen.

* The team in general is looking more confident and playing more smoothly. Each line has seemed to improve to a degree. I'm looking forward to seeing how the team looks with more players healthy.

Other notes in general:

* My God, Minnesota looked good in that series. I'm glad FSN carried those games because that Gopher team was a pleasure to watch.

* There seems to be a lot of parity in the WCHA so far this season. North Dakota and Minnesota right now look a step above the rest, but aside from that there is a big jumble for the middle spots in the league. Even Alaska-Anchorage, normally a bottom dweller the past few years, has a win over highly touted Wisconsin.

* Minnesota-Duluth, who I was expecting to improve a great deal this year, has gotten off to a disappointing 1-4-1 start in league play.