INCH College Hockey Extra
This weekend is chock-full of big-time college hockey, and tourney bids are on the line. The INCH notebook gets you prepared for Selection Sunday.
Things are different this time around. McKee was a Hobey Baker Hat Trick finalist in 2005 and he returns to Albany in this, his junior year, but his numbers haven't matched last year's record-setting campaign. Harvard's John Daigneau, a senior, and Colgate's Mark Dekanich, a sophomore, didn't have much experience backing up Grumet-Morris and Silverthorn, respectively. Dartmouth, the top overall seed, will have sophomore Mike Devine in net.
Daigneau and Dekanich had the biggest questions to answer. Coach Donato called his senior netminder "a steady rock." Dekanich led the league in goals-against average and save percentage and played one of his best games of the season in a series-clinching win over Quinnipiac on Sunday.
Devine, in the words of coach Bob Gaudet, "wrestled the starting job away," from Sean Samuel. Devine's emergence turned the Dartmouth season around and helped it capture its first conference title of any kind, a shared regular-season title with Colgate.
Regardless of the path it took to Albany, each team has confidence in its goaltender. McKee, Daigneau, Dekanich and Devine have responded to all questions thus far, and one will give the final answer Saturday night.
-- Joe Gladziszewski
Many saw Denver's Matt Carle as the favorite for college hockey's top individual honor, but his team's losses probably will eliminate his chances. By the time the ballots are cast after the NCAA Regionals, Carle will not have played for two weeks, giving a significant edge to players still in the NCAA field.
Among them should be two other WCHA candidates -- Wisconsin's Brian Elliott and Minnesota's Ryan Potulny. Elliott has missed a significant amount of time this season to injury, which coincided with Wisconsin's slump. That injury actually might help his chances, as it proved his value to the team.
Boston College's Chris Collins could make a strong push with a good playoff performance, as well. He ranks third in the nation in goals, and as he goes, so goes the Eagle offense.
Any of these three players could sneak ahead of the pack with an MVP-type performance and a team title this weekend.
Atlantic Hockey Championship
(Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, Worcester, Mass.)
Among the many results that could shake up the NCAA Tournament pairings is this: If home team Holy Cross doesn't win the Atlantic Hockey title, then you could see two clubs from that conference in the NCAAs for the first time. Could that be enough to inspire the Crusaders to lie down in the title game? It worked for Sweden in the last preliminary game of the Olympics
All of 'em
This is the best weekend of the season for the college hockey addict with a satellite dish. Anyone not at a venue will be able to flip through the semifinals and championships in the CCHA, ECACHL, Hockey East and WCHA on Friday and Saturday nights. Then, Sunday morning, comes the moment of truth -- the NCAA Tournament selection show (11 a.m. ET, ESPN2).
|Professional hockey fans might keep a close eye on the college hockey results to see whether a drafted player or two might land on an AHL roster sooner rather than later. A select few already have signed and reported to the NHL's top development league -- including David Backes (Minnesota State Mankato/St. Louis Blues), Alex Foster (Bowling Green/Toronto Maple Leafs) and Stephen Werner (Massachusetts/Washington Capitals). A player whose team doesn't get a bid Sunday might find himself playing for a paycheck by the end of the week.|
• Donato obviously respects Dartmouth's first-place finish and talented roster, but he also has his eyes on the calendar. "We're hesitant to play on St. Patrick's Day against a team called the Big Green," Donato said.
• The CCHA Championship celebrates 25 years at Joe Louis Arena this weekend. Four teams that participated in the old "Super 6" format are back for this year's semifinals: Miami, Michigan, Michigan State and Northern Michigan.
• Miami (Ohio) already has two of the best offensive defensemen in college hockey in Andy Greene and Mitch Ganzak. You might add Alec Martinez to the list eventually. Last weekend against Western Michigan, the freshman scored the first three goals of his college career.
• Michigan State hasn't lost to Michigan in seven outings, although five of those have been ties.
• Hockey East's semifinals feature the same four teams as last year, and the same matchups (Maine-Boston College, Boston University-New Hampshire). Boston College emerged victorious in 2005, with Cory Schneider leading the way in goal.
• The WCHA Final Five will include special appearances by the 1972 U.S. Olympic Team, which won a surprise silver medal, and former Michigan Tech goaltender Tony Esposito.
• With two wins this weekend, Minnesota would match Denver for the most WCHA playoff championships of all time at 14.