Amateur Hour: How Harvard could (but probably won’t) win the Beanpot

One of these years it’s going to happen. Either Harvard or Northeastern is going to win the Beanpot.

The last 24 Beanpots have gone to either Boston University or Boston College, the silver chalice not leaving Commonwealth Avenue since 1993, the last time Harvard took home the trophy. Northeastern hasn’t won since 1988.

We were guaranteed at least a 50 percent chance of the title returning to Harvard Square or Huntington Avenue, as Harvard and Northeastern faced off in the Beanpot semifinal on Monday night. The Crimson won, 4-3, and will represent the two historic have-nots of the tournament, which combine for just 14 of the 64 titles and carry a collective 53-year Beanpot drought. Harvard will play for the title for the first time since 2008 against BU, which has an event-high 30 titles but has won just once since 2009. The Terriers punched their ticket with a 3-1 win over BC in Monday’s nightcap.

While neither Harvard or Northeastern have won in generations, the two schools have been knocking on the door for years. One of the two schools have appeared in the final in six of the last nine years, with three of those title games going to overtime. Both schools have been fairly competitive over that span, in and out of the national rankings, winning conference championships, and making appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

This Harvard squad has the goods to bring the Beanpot across the Charles River to Cambridge for the 11th time in the tournament’s history. The Crimson run four solid forward lines, with two exceptional top trios of Ryan Donato-Alex Kerfoot-Lewis Zerter-Gossage and Luke Esposito-Sean Malone-Tyler Moy. On the back end, Adam Fox has been one of the top rookies in the nation, his 26 points fourth among defensemen in the country.

The Crimson play a strong north-south game, with a good deal of speed and skill up and down the lineup. They’re strong on possession, with a 54 percent even strength Corsi-for, according to collegehockeynews.com, with the fourth-best powerplay nationally, at 26.5 percent.

Of course, it’s no secret what Harvard is up against. BU is the most talented team in the country. The Terriers are also the youngest, at 20.5. That’s a full year younger than the Crimson, whose roster averages out at 21.5.

The BU roster is highlighted by four players selected in the first round of the NHL Draft in Kieffer Bellows, Dante Fabbro, Clayton Keller, and Charlie McAvoy. Netminder Jake Oettinger could be a fifth this June, a favorite to be among the first 31 names called in the upcoming draft in Chicago. Eleven players of whom are property of NHL teams dot the roster.

This Terriers team isn’t unlike any other of years past. The team plays an up-tempo style. Defensemen like to hop into the rush. Up front, there’s plenty of playmakers, led by Keller, an Arizona prospect that might be the team’s best player. Oettinger has been among the standard bearers of goaltending – a position BU has always taken seriously – with a .937 save percentage, 1.75 GAA, and four shutouts in his rookie campaign.

BU has an upper-hand in the season series with Harvard this season, with a 5-3 win on November 22nd. The Crimson haven’t beaten BU since November 2014, the Terriers winning the last three of the meetings, including a double-overtime win in the Beanpot semifinal two years ago.

Three of the last four meetings have been decided by one goal, two have gone to overtime. Given the Beanpot’s history of one-goal games and extra sessions, there’s a good chance we’ll see another one of these affairs between the two teams.

And we might even witness something that hasn’t been done in nearly a quarter-century.

Other tidbits..

*Lacrosse numbers are being put up in Erie. Alex DeBrincat has 23 points in a nine-game points streak, in which he’s scored eight goals and 18 points over his last five. He has points in 39 of 45 games. Dylan Strome has points in 16 of 17 games. He has 17 points in his last five games, and 41 overall in 17 contests.

*Charlottetown Islander Filip Chlapik scored his 200th QMJHL point with a five-point weekend, including a hat trick in a 13-2 smackdown of Moncton.

*10 goals in 13 games out of the holiday break for Flint Firebird Nicholas Caamano, with four two-goal games in that span.

*Second overall pick of the 2016 NHL Draft Pierre-Luc Dubois had four points on Saturday and has 21 points in 12 games since being traded to Blainville-Boisbriand.

*Atte Tolvanen stopped all 75 shots he faced in Northern Michigan’s weekend sweep of Bowling Green, upping his shutout streak to three games. He’s gone 215:49 without allowing a goal.

*Trent Frederic has 23 points in 18 games for surging Wisconsin, which is up to 17th in this week’s USCHO.com poll. He’s second on the Badgers in scoring behind Luke Kunin (26 points).

*As for the Badgers, they’ve won five in a row and are tied with Minnesota for first place in the Big Ten, with 8-2 record in conference play. Wisconsin hasn’t lost in regulation since December 11th.

*In the Nolan-Nico sweepstakes: Nolan Patrick had four assists on Friday night and has points in six of eight games since returning to the ice. He has 23 points in 14 games overall for Brandon. Hischier had five points in a 7-2 Halifax win over Moncton on Sunday. He has point in eight consecutive games and has 14 goals and 28 points in 12 games since returning from World Juniors.

*Minnesota-Duluth retained the top spot in the USCHO.com men’s poll while Denver and BU were second and third, respectively, for the second straight week. Minnesota moved up two spots to No. 5 while Penn State dropped from six to 10. Air Force broke into the poll at No. 20.

*On the women’s side, Wisconsin is the top-ranked team once again, while Minnesota-Duluth follows at No. 2.

Three Stars of the Weekend: Carter Hart Continues Strong Season in WHL

Carter Hart was the first goaltender taken in the 2016 NHL Draft, selected by Philadelphia with 48th overall pick.

If he’s a success, Hart will be the answer to the generations-long problem that is the Flyers goaltending; a large reason the Stanley Cup hasn’t paraded down Broad Street since 1975. If he’s the latest to come up short in the Philly crease, he’ll be further proof of why goalies aren’t worth the risk atop the draft (Ilya Samsonov, taken 22nd overall in 2015 by Washington, is the only goalie to go in the first round in the last four drafts).

Of course, the jury remains out on the type of netminder Hart will be, and will remain that way for a long time. But if his first year of hockey as property of an NHL organization is any indication, the Flyers have something to look forward to in net.

In 20 games for Everett, the 18-year-old is 13-3-3, with a 1.67 GAA and .937 save percentage, both WHL highs. He has a shutout streak of two-plus games, having not allowed a goal since a 2-1 loss to Lethbridge on November 19, when Tyler Wong beat Hart with 8:25 left in regulation.

He followed up the loss with a pair of shutouts; 37 saves in a 3-0 win over Seattle on Wednesday before stopping 26 of 26 in a 3-0 win over Prince George on Friday.

In 115 games since making his WHL debut in February 2014, the 6-2, 180-pound Hart has 66 wins, a 2.12 GAA and .920 save percentage. His clean sheet on Friday was his third of the season and 13th in major junior.

Other CHL Stars

Alexandre Goulet, Victoriaville: The 20-year-old had a pair of four-point games this weekend to extend his point streak to five games. His 38 points lead the Tigres, and is fourth in the Quebec League.

Keanu Yamamoto, Spokane: Yamamoto had six assists in the Chiefs 10-1 thrashing of Vancouver on Friday. He has 14 points in his last nine games and is third on Spokane with 26 overall. Keanu’s brother, Kailer, leads the team with 31.

AHL

Teemu Pulkkinen, Iowa: The right winger had three goals and five points over the weekend for the Wild. He has points in 10 of his last 11 games.

Kyle Wood, Tucson: The rookie had two goals and six points over the weekend. His 16 points leads all AHL rookie defensemen. Only Jake Guentzel (7-10=17) has more points among all rookies in the American League.

Dan DeSalvo, Manitoba: DeSalvo had four points on the weekend, including his third multi-point night of the season on Saturday, with three points in a 4-3 overtime win against Milwaukee. He has five goals and 10 points in the eight games.

NCAA

Stefanos Lekkas, Vermont: The freshman goaltender stopped 73 of 76 shots over the weekend at the Friendship Four in Belfast, Ireland, including 40 of 41 in a 5-1 Catamounts win over Quinnipiac in the championship game. He’s ranked fourth in the nation in both save percentage (.940) and GAA (1.72). He’s allowed nine goals in his five games, stopping 165 of 174 shots that have come his way.

Dylan Sikura, Northeastern: The junior forward had three goals and an assist on Friday night as the Huskies beat 11th-ranked Minnesota, 6-4. He’s tied with teammate Zach Aston-Reese for fourth in the nation with 22 points. Northeastern has three players in the top 10 for points.

Alex Kerfoot, Harvard: The senior had four assists in the Crimson’s lone game this weekend, a 5-2 win over Bentley.

USHL

Gabriel Mollot-Hill, Bloomington: The Providence recruit stopped all 32 shots that came his way in Bloomington’s 2-0 win over Green Bay on Saturday. He has a .932 save percentage and 1.91 GAA for the Thunder this season.

Jacob Hamacher, Dubuque: The RIT recruit had three goals and five points on the weekend as the Fighting Saints picked up a pair of wins.

Reggie Lutz, Chicago: Lutz, committed to Minnesota State, had two goals and four points over the weekend. He’s 13th in the USHL with 18 points.

Women’s NCAA

Cassidy MacPherson, Providence: Had four assists for the Friars on Sunday, assisting on all three goals Blair Parent scored, as PC took the Mayor’s Cup against crosstown rival Brown.

Heather Schwarz, Syracuse: The junior had two goals and an assist on Friday as the Orange shutout seventh-ranked North Dakota.

Kelly Pannek, Minnesota: Pannek had two goals and four points on the weekend for the second-ranked Gophers. She leads the nation in points (32) and assists (24).

Three Stars from the Weekend: Colt Conrad leads Western Michigan past Minnesota-Duluth

It’s the best of times at Western Michigan University.

The Broncos are making its names known in the college football realm, ranked 14th in the nation amidst a 10-0 start, joining Alabama among the lone unbeatens in the FBS, albeit in a Mid-American Conference not nearly as strong as the SEC. Did you have Western Michigan on your BCS watch list on Labor Day weekend? Stop lying, no you didn’t.

But need not pay attention to just the gridiron.

The Broncos have a pretty good hockey team, coming off its biggest win in quite some time with a 4-3 win over top-ranked Minnesota-Duluth on Friday night. The Bulldogs came in riding high, with back-to-back weekend sweeps over top-10 ranked North Dakota and St. Cloud State. While Minnesota-Duluth returned the favor Saturday with 2-0 win, the Broncos were the first to blemish the Bulldogs record in the powerful NCHC.

The hero on Friday night? Look no further than sophomore Colt Conrad, a 5-10 forward from Manitoba.

Conrad, who entered the weekend with three points in eight games, he took things over on Friday night, scoring his first goal of the night in the first period to tie the game, 3-3, erasing a two-goal lead Minnesota-Duluth took early in the game. He ended things with 31 seconds to play in overtime with his second goal of the night to give the Broncos the two points.

Conrad has three goals and five points in 10 games this season, following up a freshman year in which he had 16 in 33.

Other NCAA stars of the weekend

Cam Brown, Maine: Brown factored in all five goals the Black Bears scored in Friday’s 5-2 upset win over fifth-ranked UMass-Lowell. He added an assist on Saturday, a 4-1 River Hawks win. The senior entered the weekend with four points in eight games, emerged a point-per-game player.

Brinson Pasichnuk, Arizona State: The freshman’s overtime goal on Saturday gave the Sun Devils arguably its biggest win in the history of its young program, a 5-4 win at New Hampshire.

AHL

Reto Berra, Springfield: The netminder not short on NHL experience stopped 51 of 52 shots that came his way in two games this weekend, both wins for the Thunderbirds. He stopped all 31 shots he faced in Saturday’s win over Binghamton. He’s 5-2 with a 1.72 GAA and .934 save percentage in AHL play this season.

Taylor Beck, Bakersfield: Beck had two goals and an assist in the Condors 3-2 overtime win over Tucson on Saturday. He has 12 points in his last five games.

Blake Pietila, Albany: The AHL Devils leading scorer had five points in two games this weekend, the latter of which he recorded a hat trick in a 4-3 win over St. John’s.

CHL

Stephen Dhillon, Niagara: The IceDogs netminder stopped 85 of 87 shots that came his way over the weekend. He’s made 38 or more saves in seven of his last eight games.

Maxime Fortier, Halifax: Fortier had 10 points in two games this weekend, including six assists in Friday’s 9-5 win over Sherbrooke. He’s got 35 points in 21 games for the Mooseheads. The undrafted 18-year-old is bound to pop up on the radar of NHL teams.

Sam Steel, Regina: The Ducks first round pick from 2016 extended his scoring streak to six games this weekend, putting up six points in a pair of contests for the Pats. He leads the WHL with 34 points in 15 games.

USHL

Matiss Kivlenieks, Sioux City: The Minnesota State commit stopped 69 of 72 shots in two games, both wins, as the Musketeers upped their winning streak to six games.

Jaxson Castor, Dubuque: The Fighting Saints goalie, bound for Arizona State, made 30 saves in the Fighting Saints 1-0 win over Green Bay on Saturday night, in which they were outshot 30-17.

Bo Hanson, Muskegon: The Lumberjacks defenseman had five points on the weekend, and now has 15 points in 16 games. He remains uncommitted.

Women’s NCAA

Tereza Vanisova, Maine: The native of the Czech Republic had three goals and an assist in the Black Bears 4-1 win over BU on Saturday. She has 14 points in 13 games to lead Maine.

Kristyn Capizzano, BC: The Eagles freshman had four goals on the weekend, three of which came on Saturday.

Hanna Bunton, Cornell: Bunton had three goals and five points in a pair of wins for the Big Red.

 

Three Stars from the Weekend

CHL

Logan Brown, Windsor: The 11th overall pick of the 2016 draft is off to a blazing start for the Spitfires, with three goals and 14 points in six games. In three games this weekend, the Senators prospect had three goals and eight points. While he won just 39 of 84 faceoffs he took, he got off to a good start in the circle as he began the weekend with 19 wins in 28 draws in a 4-2 win over Mississauga on Thursday night. Brown looks to be well on his way to surpassing the 21-53–74 totals he put up in 2015-16, his second OHL season.

Taylor Raddysh, Erie: The latest playmaker to come through Erie, Raddysh scored twice and assisted on five other goals in three games, two of which were Otters wins. Alex DeBrincat, who made his return to Erie following his first camp with Chicago, which selected him in the second round of June’s draft, had all four of his goals from this weekend assisted by Raddysh. A second-round pick by Tampa Bay in the 2016 draft, the 18-year-old has 10 points in four games.

Dennis Yan, Shawnigan: Yan had five goals in two games over the weekend, both wins for the Cataractes. He scored four goals in the latter of the two wins, a 7-1 win over Val-d’Or. A left winger with good size at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, the Tampa Bay prospect has 30 goals in each of his last two QMJHL seasons. He had 32 goals and 69 points last season for Shawinigan.

NCAA

Max French, Bentley: The Falcons celebrated what may have very well been the biggest win in program history over the weekend with a 5-1 win over UNH. French was the best player on the ice, assisting on three goals while winning 17 of 25 faceoffs. A senior at Bentley, the 24-year-old had 47 points in 32 games as a junior last season. He has 107 career points.

Shane Starrett, Air Force: In a landmark weekend for another Atlantic Hockey school, Air Force knocked off Boston College on Friday night before tying Ohio State on Saturday. In the two games, Starrett stopped 83 of 87 pucks that came his way. Only three of the 49 pucks that came off the tape of Buckeye sticks eluded Starrett.

Robbie Payne, Northern Michigan: Payne had six points in two games this weekend, a split with Wisconsin. Payne had two goals and five points on Saturday night.

Women’s NCAA

Brooke Webster, St. Lawrence: In a win and a tie against Clarkson this weekend, Webster had a goal and three points for the Saints. Twenty-nine of her 44 draws were wins. Coming off two seasons in which she was nearly a point-per-game performer, Webster has eight points through four games to begin her senior season.

Kassidy Sauve, Ohio State: The Buckeyes emerged from a weekend with Wisconsin winless, as most teams do. But Sauve had a strong weekend, making 81 saves on 85 shots, 37 coming in a 1-1 tie in the latter of the two contests. In her first season as a starter for Ohio State, Sauve has a .967 save percentage and 1.23 GAA through four games. Her .967 save percentage ranks third nationally.

Annika Zalewski, St. Cloud State: In a weekend sweep of Merrimack, Zalewski had a goal and five points to go along with a plus-five rating. She won 38 of the 51 faceoffs she took.

US Junior A

Andrew McGlynn, Corpus Christi: In three games, the 19-year-old had five goals in three games, two of which were game-winners. He added two assists onto that tally.

Nathan Bryer, Corpus Christi: Bryer, bound for Mercyhurst next season, had nine points in three games over the weekend, while posting a plus-four. In his third season in the NAHL, Bryer needs just seven points to match his production from last season, in which he posted 17 points in 60 games for the Ice Rays.

David Keefer, Des Moines: The Michigan State commit had three goals and five points in two games for the Buccaneers over the weekend, coming back from a slow start in which he had just two assists over his first five contests.

 

 

We’re Back

So why am I doing this?

Here’s a brief history of PuckWatching. I started it up a couple years back, got caught up in school and other things and it fell by the wayside. Rinsed and repeated another year later.

Well, now I’m out of school. I’m still busy as hell, don’t get me wrong. But maybe now I guess I have more of a plan. Bigger goals. Better vision. I don’t know. The time is also right to get started again, given we’re at the commencement of the hockey season; the World Cup of Hockey already underway, the CHL set to kick off this week, and less than a month away from the start of the NHL, AHL, and college hockey. In other words, everyone’s got that preseason pucks fever.

My hope is that this can be a place where hockey fans can go to get anything and everything hockey. And I’m not just talking NHL. I’m talking anything that involves a sheet of ice, a rubber biscuit, and a stick. That means the international circuit. It means the minors. I’ll give you college hockey, some CHL. Maybe mix in some Junior A. And of course, there’s women’s hockey, which in my opinion is the most grossly overlooked sport in our current media landscape – especially when you factor in its coverage compared with other female sports.

The game has never been in a better place. Hockey has never had a bigger following than it has now. More kids are playing. More fans are watching. The talent pool has never been so deep. We’re seeing not just players, but in some cases legit superstars, coming out of places like Florida, California, and Arizona. The top-end talent – i.e. Gretzkys, Lemieuxs, Messiers, etc. – may not be where it was in the 1980s and ‘90s, but there’s never been more players worthy of NHL employment.

I won’t be breaking any news (at least not yet, that is), but there will be plenty to see. You’ll see things you couldn’t find elsewhere, you learn things you hadn’t previously known. There will be analytics thrown in there. I’ll throw some stories your way. I’ll give my opinion (trust me, I’ve got plenty of them). But it’ll all be in moderation. There’s enough places on the internet that corsi-out its visitors or numb their minds with hot takes. You won’t find that here (especially takes).

I love this game, have since I was a little kid. My first career aspiration was to be the next great Bruins defenseman, but this is the next-best thing. The game has everything a fan craves – drama, suspense, speed, skill, pace, camaraderie, physicality. That passion will come out through this site. And hopefully it will bring out the passion for the game in all of you – whether you’re a lifelong fan or just got hooked on the game a few days ago.

And that’s why I’m resuming my work on this website.