First Shift: Atkinson bolsters BC
Player of the Week
So. | F | Greenwich, Conn.
His statistics: 2 GP, 3-2-5 in wins against Providence and Maine.
His impact: The Boston College Eagles returned home to Kelley Rink for the first time since Thanksgiving and gave their fans a lot to cheer about in a pair of victories last week, which broke a three-game losing streak for BC. It started with a midweek game against Providence, a 4-1 win in which Atkinson wasted little time in getting people out of their seats. He scored a minute into the first period and assisted on Brian Gibbons' goal later in the period. The Eagles hosted Maine Friday night and kept up the high-scoring spree. Atkinson scored back-to-back goals in the second period as BC stretched its lead to 4-0, and he assisted Joe Whitney's third-period tally in the eventual 6-1 win. Atkinson's three-goal week extended his team lead in goals (13). The sophomore product of Avon Old Farms was voted as the team's best freshman last season after finishing fourth on the team in scoring with seven goals and 19 points. He has already surpassed those totals with 22 points this year and ranks second overall in scoring. Atkinson was a sixth-round draft pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
Runners-up: Will Acton, Lake Superior State; Andrew Blazek, Robert Morris; Tommy Grant, Alaska Anchorage; Patrick Knowlton, Sacred Heart; Kain Tisi, St. Lawrence.
Obviously, college hockey is our first love here at INCH, but we're fans of the game at all levels. That includes the American Hockey League, one rung below the NHL on the professional hierarchy in North America and home to a terrific brand of hockey. A bevy of ex-collegians are on the rosters for Tuesday's AHL All-Star Game in Portland, Maine. Familiar names in the AHL Canada lineup include defenseman Tyler Eckford (Alaska) and forward Jon Matsumoto (Bowling Green). Among those playing for the PlanetUSA squad are forwards Patrick Rissmiller (Holy Cross), Nathan Gerbe (Boston College), and Christian Hanson (Notre Dame); defensemen Andy Wozniewski (Wisconsin) and Sean Sullivan (Boston University); and goaltender Alex Stalock (Minnesota Duluth). Former Clarkson coach Mark Morris, now with the AHL's Manchester Monarchs, will pilot the PlanetUSA team with help from former Maine standout Scott Pellerin, who also serves as assistant with the Monarchs. The AHL All-Star Game will air live on a number of regional sports networks including NESN, MSG, and Altitude.
Maybe it's just us, but didn't it seem like teams were blowing leads in epidemic proportions this past weekend? Most notable was Michigan State turning leads into a loss and tie against Notre Dame, but there were others. For example, Bemidji State surrendered a two-goal lead in a 6-4 loss at Niagara Friday. The following night, Army frittered away a two-goal lead in a tie with Canisius, Alaska did the same in a tie at Michigan, and so too did Bowling Green in a draw at Northern Michigan. Minnesota Duluth almost followed suit by losing a two-goal edge at Minnesota State, but Mike Connolly saved the Bulldogs' bacon by winning the game with a goal in overtime.
"I refuse to believe they are better than us. I believe in our guys. I have a lot of belief in that locker room. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Union. I think they are a top-10 hockey team and they have earned the position they are in. We have a lot of work to get our team in the position where we might get another chance at them. But I am not going to say they are better than us." That was the answer from Rensselaer head coach Seth Appert when asked by Albany Times-Union staff writer Tim Wilkin if he thought Union was a better team, following Union's 3-1 win over the Engineers Saturday at Union. It gave the Dutchmen a 3-1-0 advantage in the season series between New York's Capital District rivals. All four contests were contested to the final minute of regulation or in overtime. To a Union fan, it probably reads as sour grapes from a defiant, sore loser bulletin-board fodder for future meetings. To us, it's the absolutely correct response. What do you expect a coach to say in that situation? Saturday's game was the last regular-season game between the teams. If these teams eventually meet up in the ECAC Hockey playoffs, it's a near certainty that we'll read and hear about this statement again. Kudos to RPI's coach for standing up for his players in a public forum, and should that postseason meeting take place, it's likely that his team will remember those words and work especially hard to prove Appert right after expressing his belief in their ability.
The PairWise Rankings aren't a poll per se, but they're a recurring source of outrage for a few of us here at INCH. And it's not because it's an inadequate tool for choosing the NCAA Tournament field; the computers have done the right thing the vast majority of the time. The problem is that PairWise becomes a focal point for fans earlier and earlier every season, and we forget that its relevance is geared solely toward one day in March. Moreover, the PWR obsession minimizes aspects of college hockey that are incredibly enjoyable and intense regular-season conference races and battles for positions in the league standings and the league playoffs themselves. March will get here soon enough; until then, we should take just as much pleasure in the journey as in reaching the destination.
Tweet Of The Week
@paulrovnak Roller Hockey being played on Pennsylvania Ave. about 300 yards from White House. No sign of football or basketball games. This week we share a good news report from the nation's capital on some noteworthy activity this holiday afternoon. That's our idea of a good way to spend the day off. Our only regret is that we didn't know about this group prior to visiting for last spring's Frozen Four. Washington Post staff writer Katie Carrera featured the group of hockey nuts over the summer.
For more on college hockey, check out Inside College Hockey.
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