by Mike McMahon/Staff Writer (@MikeMcMahonCHN)
Welcome to the start of college hockey’s second half … sort of.
This weekend’s slate has been ravaged by postponements and cancelations due to COVID-19. Here’s all the schedule movement for this weekend that we know about (so far):
– Omaha vs. Denver has been postponed until Feb. 4-5
– Minnesota Duluth vs. St. Cloud State has been postponed (makeup TBD, If the games are unable to be rescheduled, the games will be declared no contests)
– Union vs. Dartmouth has been postponed until Jan. 26
– RPI vs. Dartmouth has been postponed (makeup TBD)
– RPI vs. Harvard has been postponed (makeup TBD)
– St. Lawrence vs. New Hampshire has been canceled
– St. Lawrence vs. Merrimack has been canceled
– UMass Lowell vs. Bentley has been postponed
– Brown vs. Quinnipiac has been postponed
– Brown vs. Princeton has been postponed
– Clarkson vs. Merrimack has been canceled
Those are the ones that we know about. It’s still Thursday, so more can change between now and when the pucks are scheduled to drop around the country Friday night.
RPI’s program is back on a pause, according to the school. In a release, the school said that “the duration of the team’s pause has yet to be determined.” Hopefully, it’s not too long. The program was setback last year when the school canceled the season. Dave Smith, his staff, and his players have done a tremendous job getting back on the ice this season and being competitive in the ECAC despite the sudden halt to their momentum last year.
It’s not all bad.
Clarkson isn’t going to play Friday night at Merrimack but there is hope that they will be cleared to play on Saturday at UNH. In fact, UNH sent out a press release today announcing the official cancelation of its game against St. Lawrence, but they said that Saturday’s game at Clarkson will be played.
With Merrimack and Bentley both affected by cancelations, Merrimack will now host Bentley on Saturday night.
The NCAA updated hits COVID-19 policy, which is noteworthy given the number of postponements and cancelations for this weekend. Now, according to the NCAA, a player is not considered “fully vaccinated” unless they have received a booster shot.
The full update reads:
For purposes of the winter guidelines, the NCAA COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group has developed a definition of “fully vaccinated” that considers both vaccination status and other immunity factors that may impact risks for Tier 1 individuals, including student-athletes and coaches. Those considered fully vaccinated include people:
Within two months of having completed the primary series of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (one dose).
Within five months of having completed the primary series of the mRNA Pfizer vaccine, or within six months of having completed the primary series of the mRNA Moderna vaccine (two doses for both).
Who have received a booster vaccine if they are beyond two months of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or beyond five or six months of the mRNA Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, respectively.
A person who has had a documented COVID-19 infection in the past 90 days is considered the equivalent of fully vaccinated.
This has been a hectic couple of weeks for college hockey administrators, and I have a feeling that COVID postponements could continue to be an impact moving forward, especially if teams have players who were vaccinated but have not received booster shots. Essentially, this new NCAA guidance categorizes players who are not boosted as unvaccinated and subjects them to the same policies as last year, including having to sit out a quarantine period even if they are a close contact.
Truthfully, the “close contact” rule going away for vaccinated players and staff at the beginning of the season is what has allowed college hockey to get to this point with minimal interruption. A good portion of last season’s cancelations, postponements, or pauses had to do with contact tracing.
I checked in with Hockey East associate commissioner Brian Smith to see what policies Hockey East has on the books. The league did not re-institute the COVID protocols from last season at the start of the year because the league had nearly a 100 percent vaccination rate. But, there are “health and safety protocols” that have been on the league books for years, going back to the ’90s.
“We don’t actually have any COVID protocols that override our current process, which allows the executive committee’s broad authority to make a judgment on any given situation,” he said. “That said, we are obviously using the experience and process we had last year to guide how we’ve been handling this year.”
Last season, Hockey East recommended 15 skaters, 2 goaltenders and 1 coach as a minimum for each team.
“If a team falls below those minimums, they can still request to play the game anyway,” Smith said. “A few teams did that last year, playing with 14, 13, or 12 skaters or with only 1 goaltender, on both men’s and women’s teams. There are no position requirements. The ‘minimums’ are really just the trigger that allows us as the league to step in and mediate if a game can/should be played. If the minimums are met, we expect the game to continue as scheduled without disruption.”
|3||St. Cloud State||56||.5944|
|6||St. Cloud State||554.3||247.1|
The Week That Was
Wisconsin had something to celebrate last weekend when the Badgers won the KWIK Trip Holiday Face-Off Tournament. There hasn’t been much to celebrate this season in Madison.
“They deserved an opportunity to celebrate like they did,” said head coach Tony Granato.
The Badgers overcame a 2-0 deficit in the third period to tie Providence, 2-2, before they won the tournament in a shootout.
“To be able to answer when we fell behind the way we did, I think that just shows the kids understood the importance of this game and they wanted to play it like that, where you can win something special,” Granato said.
The Great Lakes Invitational was played as a showcase. Western Michigan beat Michigan State, 3-1, but as we all know, the Broncos didn’t get a chance to play Michigan on Thursday. The Wolverines tied Michigan Tech, 0-0 on Wednesday and then the Huskies lost to Michigan State, 3-2, in overtime on Thursday.
Boston College won the Ledyard Bank Classic at Dartmouth with a 6-1 win over the Big Green in the championship game. Dartmouth beat UNH, 3-1, in the first round and BC got past Mercyhurst, 4-2.
Boston University beat Brown with an ultra-shorthanded roster. BU won 5-1 despite dressing only four defensemen and nine forwards. I thought it was a win-win scenario for BU head coach Albie O’Connell. If he lost the game, no one would have given the Terriers grief for being willing to play the game shorthanded. If they won the game — which they did in convincing fashion — it’s a feather in BU’s cap.
Other notable non-conference games included Niagara eking out a 3-1 win over Notre Dame on the road at Compton Family Ice Arena (Notre Dame won the next night). Penn State and Army played on Saturday after both teams lost games due to COVID last week; the Nittany Lions won, 5-3.
One of the biggest games of the weekend was Minnesota State shutting out Minnesota Duluth, 3-0. Dryden McKay made 23 saves for Mankato.
|Hank Crone, F, Sr||7||22||29||42||0|
|Drew Worrad, F, Sr||5||22||27||28||7|
|Nathan Smith, F, Jr||11||16||27||60||16|
|Louis Boudon, F, Jr||11||16||27||55||2|
|Bobby Brink, F, Jr||7||19||26||62||15|
|Owen Sillinger, F, Sr||10||16||26||73||8|
|Matthew Kopperud, F, So||12||13||25||73||-10|
|Colin Theisen, F, Gr||13||12||25||61||4|
|Jack McBain, F, Sr||13||11||24||57||9|
|Ethen Frank, F, Sr||17||7||24||74||10|
Last Week’s Top Performers
|Brett Stapley, F, Sr||2||4||6||12||4|
|Filip Forsmark, F, Jr||3||2||5||6||4|
|Jack McBain, F, Sr||4||0||4||4||2|
|Ottoville Leppanen, F, Sr||2||2||4||6||4|
|Mark Cheremeta, F, Jr||1||3||4||3||5|
I’m not even sure we should preview games this week, because so many things can change between when I hit the “publish” button and when the puck is actually supposed to drop on Friday.
But, let’s look a few weeks ahead at the potential Olympics.
It was announced today that St. Cloud State head coach Brett Larson and Minnesota State head coach Mike Hastings will serve on David Quinn’s staff with Team USA. Additionally, former Dartmouth assistant David Lassonde and former BU assistant Scott Young will also be on the coaching staff.
It looks like the Olympics will have a big impact on college hockey in February. Chris Peters reported today a list of names who have received invitations from Team USA. In addition, it’s been widely reported that Owen Power has already received an invitation from Team Canada.
It should be noted that not all of these players have accepted those invitations, but the following college players have been invited, per the report:
D Drew Helleson (Boston College)
F Matty Beniers (Michigan)
F Matthew Knies (Minnesota)
F Ben Meyers (Minnesota)
D Brock Faber (Minnesota)
F Noah Cates (Minnesota Duluth)
F Nathan Smith (Minnesota State)
D Jake Sanderson (North Dakota)
And that won’t be all. Canada and the U.S. still have many more invitations to send out to fill out a roster. There could very well be more college players who get invited to Beijing.
Obviously, any player invited to the Olympics is an impact player, who they’ll leave holes on their rosters. But, as we’re seeing now, teams are postponing or canceling games due to COVID protocols. What will this do to teams? It will lower the number of available players, which could force more COVID postponements moving forward.
Several former college players were also reportedly invited to play for Team USA, including Ken Agostino (Yale), Brian O’Neill (Yale), Andy Miele (Miami), Steven Kampfer (Michigan), Aaron Ness (Minnesota), David Warsofsky (Boston University), and goaltender Strauss Mann (Michigan).
There will be even more college flavor on Team USA. Wisconsin equipment manager Nate LaPoint is on the staff, as is Penn State director of hockey operations Alex Dawes, who will serve as video coach.
Top Games This Weekend
January 7, 2022
January 8, 2022
Atlantic Hockey: Chris Howard, one of the people responsible for cutting Robert Morris’ program back in the spring, is leaving the school to take a job at Arizona State. Howard, who was RMU’s president, led the leadership team that cut the program in May. RMU head coach Derek Schooley and the Pittsburgh College Hockey Foundation then led a fundraising effort to bring the program back.
Big Ten: The Big Ten is home to five of the top seven teams in the country in average attendance this season. North Dakota leads the way with an average of more than 11,000.
CCHA: Northern Michigan enters this weekend with the best shooting percentage in the nation (14.1 percent), which is almost one full percentage point ahead of the second-place team, Miami (13.2 percent). On the flip side, Northern’s team save percentage is .876, which is sixth-worst in the nation.
ECAC: When is the last time a goalie had a goals-against average below one at this point in the season? I can’t think of anyone. Quinnipiac freshman Yaniv Perets is sporting a 0.87 GAA through 12 games along with a .944 save percentage. He has six shutouts and has allowed just one goal in his last four outings, a span of 283:37.
Hockey East: It’s believed that Merrimack defenseman Zach Uens tied an NCAA record after finishing Sunday’s game at Brown with a plus-7 rating. Merrimack defeated Brown, 7-1, in the game. It’s believed that Uens tied an NCAA record set by former Union defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere in the 2014 NCAA Championship game against Minnesota.
NCHC: Ethen Frank has scored the game-winning goal in more than a third of Western Michigan’s games this season. Frank has five game-winning goals, which represents 35.7 percent of the 14 games Western Michigan has won this season.