INCH College Hockey Extra
Boston College vs. Boston University, Colorado College vs. Denver and Minnesota vs. Wisconsin. In other words, welcome to Rivalry Week.
North Dakota native Danny Irmen actually returned to the Gophers' roster two weeks ago for their win and tie at Denver, after missing nine games. Irmen broke a finger in the Gophers' season-opening home loss to Alaska Fairbanks, but has averaged a point per game since returning to the lineup. In last weekend's 2-2 tie at Michigan State, Irmen scored both Gopher goals in the first period, his first two of the season.
"He's such a good two-way player," said Gopher coach Don Lucia, who added that he doesn't think Irmen will be fully recovered from the injury until after Christmas.
Irmen is skating with a cast for a few more weeks and admits that he isn't close to being able to make a fist, but finding the net in East Lansing was a good, and fortunate, thing.
"Those goals were pretty lucky; I'm not going to kid myself," said Irmen, whose offense could be even more important against the defensive-minded Badgers. "But it was definitely nice to get the first one out of the way, and to have that second one come so quickly after was even better."
-- Jess Myers
McKee finished the year with a .947 save percentage and 1.24 goals-against average. The only thing more startling than those numbers is that he hasn't come close to matching it this season. Through 10 games he has only stopped 87 percent of the shots he has faced and is allowing 2.95 goals-per-game. It hasn't affected the mind-set of the junior netminder from Irving, Texas, one bit, however.
"I feel really good about myself. I'm doing my job," McKee said. "My job as a goalie is to come in and give the team the best chance to win and make some key saves. That's what I'm focusing on. Last year is gone and you really have to put that in the past and focus on this year."
Cornell has a 6-3-1 record entering this weekend's Quinnipiac-Princeton games, but a few of the wins have come in the stifling manner that the Lynah Rink Faithful have come to expect and appreciate. The Red blew two leads against Niagara last weekend before eventually rallying for victories. McKee thinks it's just a matter of time before Cornell turns things around.
"We've got a great group of guys here and we know how to win. We've been there and we know what it takes," he said. "I can't stress enough that it's a young season. You're going to lose some games here and there."
-- Joe Gladziszewski
New Hampshire at Vermont (Fri.) and at St. Lawrence (Sat.)
The Wildcats are winless in three straight (all against teams under .500) headed into a challenging trip through Northern Vermont and New York. The Catamounts and Saints have been two of the nation's pleasant surprises through the first two months, and provide stiff challenges for a UNH team that 10 days ago looked like the class of Hockey East.
Wisconsin at Minnesota
This rivalry series has plenty of storylines, but we're limiting ourselves to on-ice analysis, so it breaks down like this: Can Minnesota's powerful offense break through Bucky's D and goaltender Brian Elliott? And does Wisconsin have offense of its own beyond elite first-liners Joe Pavelski and Robbie Earl?
|There's very little that validates a player's NHL prospects more than hearing his name after the words, "The New Jersey Devils select " That's one reason many people had a hunch Sacred Heart had found a good one in goaltender Jason Smith, who currently leads all Atlantic Hockey goalies with a 2.24 GAA and is second with a .919 save percentage. The Devils' pick saw limited action behind Kevin LaPointe his first two years in Fairfield, but as a junior he has Sacred Heart atop the conference with a 6-2-1 record (7-3-1 overall).|
• One interesting subplot in the Michigan-Miami series: Michigan freshman Billy Sauer and Miami freshman Jeff Zatkoff are the top two draft-eligible goalies in the NCAA, according to the NHL's Central Scouting Service. Zatkoff will play Saturday as he continues to share time with sophomore Charlie Effinger. Sauer is expected to play, too, although senior Noah Ruden started against Wisconsin last week after Sauer struggled against Minnesota.
• Starting this weekend with the Carolina Hurricanes' Kevyn Adams, Miami is auctioning off "legends jerseys," commemorating the school's start of hockey in 1978. Goggin Ice Arena, home of the RedHawks (nee Redskins) will close at the end of the season to make way for the new Goggin Ice Center.
• Brown visits Providence Sunday for the Mayor's Cup, the annual battle between the city's two colleges. For PC, which leads Hockey East, it's the second of five straight home games. The Friars play seven of their next eight at Schneider Arena.
• Heading into a home-and-home against Bowling Green, Michigan State's winless skid has reached eight (0-5-3), the school's longest stretch without a victory since the 1980-'81 season. No current Spartan was alive then, and from the sound of things, the players are disgusted that this is happening on their watch. Forward Chris Lawrence reportedly had some things to say in a somber locker room after Friday's loss to Wisconsin. "Everybody's had enough, I think," an emotional Chris Mueller said afterward. "This is getting ridiculous. This isn't Michigan State hockey. Enough is enough."
• The crowded ECAC Hockey League standings feature seven teams within five points of first place. Colgate (4-1-1 in the league) might be in the best position, and could surpass coleaders St. Lawrence this weekend. The Raiders host Princeton and Quinnipiac, while the Saints play out of conference. The other coleader, Harvard, has a great chance to move into first on its own when it hosts Yale (0-6-0 in the league) Sunday.
• This Friday, Michigan Tech will be looking for its first home win over North Dakota since Jan. 7, 1995. The Huskies might have picked a bad time to try to break that string, as the Fighting Sioux are well rested, having not played on Thanksgiving weekend. The last seven times that North Dakota has had an idle weekend, the Sioux have a 6-0-1 mark in their first games coming out of a bye.
• Minnesota Duluth's win over Yale Friday briefly featured a two-referee system, thanks to an errant puck. Five minutes into the game, referee Derek Shepherd was struck in the nose by a puck and had to leave the ice, bleeding profusely. His brother, Brad, was watching from the stands, having officiated the UMD women's team's 6-1 win over Harvard earlier in the day. With the approval of the Shepherd boys' father, Greg, who is the WCHA's supervisor of officials and who was also in attendance, the game's two assistant referees worked a two-official system for a few minutes, giving Brad time to strap the blades back on and finish the game.
• Merrimack had been shut out in back-to-back Hockey East games before blanking New Hampshire, 1-0, Tuesday night for the Warriors' first league win of the year.
• Niagara will be without forward Sean Bentivoglio this weekend. The junior, who has 13 points in 12 games, bruised his sternum in last weekend's series against Cornell and is out indefinitely.