Feb. 13, 2009

By Bo Rottenborn

A Look Back at Last Week's Highlights
The top-ranked combined special-teams units for No. 1 Boston University were the keys to victory, as the Terriers defeated No. 3 Northeastern 5-2 on Monday in the Beanpot championship game. The Terriers opened the scoring with a goal from their top-ranked power play and went on to score three shorthanded markers - including a pair in the third period with the Huskies on a power play and down by just a goal. BU claimed its 29th Beanpot title in the 57-year history of the tourney.

No. 16 Wisconsin was outshot in both games, but that didn't stop the Badgers from turning in the most impressive sweep of the weekend. UW defeated then-No. 9 Minnesota on back-to-back nights in Minneapolis by scores of 3-2 and 5-4. Senior Shane Connelly made 76 saves for Wisconsin, and junior Jamie McBain - who leads the nation in defenseman scoring - had two goals and two assists. Elsewhere in the WCHA, No. 6 Denver and No. 17 Minnesota Duluth split their series in Duluth despite the Bulldogs holding a 15-shot edge in both games. The Pioneers scored all of their goals with the man advantage in taking a 4-3 decision on Friday, while UMD won a 4-2 game the following night.

No. 2 Notre Dame had its hands full on the road against No. 15 Ohio State and was fortunate to escape with a split. The Buckeyes took a 3-2 lead with just three minutes remaining in regulation on Friday night, but the Fighting Irish were able to use a late spearing major to first tie the game (a goal by senior Erik Condra with one second remaining in regulation) and then win it in overtime by a 4-3 score. OSU bounced back on Sunday with a 4-1 victory.

There was a thriller in Ithaca on Friday, as well, as No. 10 Princeton scored twice in the final minute to register a 2-1 road upset of No. 5 Cornell. The Tigers, playing with an extra attacker, got the game-tying goal from junior Dan Bartlett at the 19:24 mark and then saw sophomore defenseman Taylor Fedun net the game-winner just 18 seconds later.

In other action, Clarkson got three points (3-3, 3-1) at home against No. 20 St. Lawrence, while Maine earned a road split (1-4, 1-0) with No. 11 New Hampshire.

The big showdown in women's hockey saw No. 2 Minnesota beat then-No. 1 Wisconsin 4-2 on Saturday before the teams tied 3-3 on Sunday (the Badgers took the shootout).

This Week's Top Matchups
The last few weeks have featured an abundance of big matchups pitting the nation's elite teams against each other. This weekend brings a different challenge for the nation's top squads, as they will mostly be trying to take care of business against opponents looking up at them in the standings. In fact, there are just two games all weekend that pit nationally-ranked teams against each other.

One of those will see No. 6 Cornell (15-4-4/10-3-3) head to No. 19 Dartmouth (12-8-3/9-5-2) for a 7 p.m. ET game on Friday. Both teams are trying to get back to consistent winning form, having struggled through difficult stretches of late. The Big Red was riding a 10-game unbeaten streak a month ago, but is just 2-3-1 since that was ended. Meanwhile, the Big Green holds a 4-4-3 record in 2009. Cornell prevailed 3-1 over Dartmouth in Ithaca in November.

Friday will also see two of the top teams in the WCHA face off, as league co-leader No. 8 Denver (17-9-3/13-7-2) heads to No. 18 Colorado College (14-9-7/10-8-4) for a 7:30 p.m. MT contest televised by FSN Rocky Mountain. Both of these squads also have had a tough time of late, as the Pioneers are 4-4-2 since the calendar flipped to 2009, while the Tigers are 2-3-2 in their last seven. In order to reclaim the Gold Pan Trophy - which CC has held for the past two years - DU will need to win this game and the regular-season finale between the squads. The Pioneers held a combined 88-49 shot advantage in the home-and-home set on Halloween weekend, but earned just one point - thanks mostly to outstanding goaltending by CC's Richard Bachman, who had a .955 save percentage in the series. DU rallied from a two-goal deficit for a 2-2 draw at home, but CC took a 3-2 decision the following night in Colorado Springs.

Top-ranked Boston University (22-5-1/13-5-1) has won eight in a row, but is still two points out of first place in Hockey East. The Terriers will play a pair at Maine (12-13-3/7-10-2) this weekend (Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on WABI). The BU power-play unit - which is tops in the nation with a 24.4% conversion rate - will face a stiff test, as Maine's penalty kill leads Hockey East (and is tied for fourth in DI) at 89.8%. BU won 4-1 against the Black Bears at home last month.

No. 2 Notre Dame (21-5-3/15-4-3-3) - which has lost twice in its last four on the heels of a 20-game unbeaten streak - will face one of the nation's hottest teams: Northern Michigan (11-13-4/8-10-4-3). The Wildcats are 6-0-1 in their last seven games (which is tied for the second-longest current unbeaten streak in the country) after holding a 5-13-3 record prior to this stretch. The Fighting Irish began their long streak of success when the teams last met, getting two wins (3-2, 4-2) on the road over Halloween.

This Week's Televised Games
Friday, February 13
#1 Boston University at Maine, 7 p.m. - WABI
#16 Ohio State at Michigan State, 7 p.m. - Big Ten Network
#10 Yale at Union, 7:30 p.m. - NHL Network/Time Warner Albany
Northern Michigan at #2 Notre Dame, 8 p.m. - CBS College Sports
Alaska Anchorage at #14 Minnesota, 8 p.m. - FSN North
Michigan Tech at St. Cloud State, 8 p.m. - Charter
Minnesota State at #11 North Dakota, 8:30 p.m. - Fighting Sioux Sports Network
#8 Denver at #18 Colorado College, 9:30 p.m. - FSN Rocky Mountain
Saturday, February 14
#16 Ohio State at Michigan State, 5 p.m. - FSN Detroit
#1 Boston University at Maine, 7 p.m. - WABI
#10 Yale at Rensselaer, 7 p.m. - Time Warner Albany
Ferris State at Bowling Green, 7 p.m. - Comcast TV
#6 Cornell at Harvard, 8 p.m. - CBS College Sports
Nebraska-Omaha at #4 Michigan, 8 p.m. - FSN Detroit
Minnesota State at #11 North Dakota, 8 p.m. - Fighting Sioux Sports Network
Alaska Anchorage at #14 Minnesota, 8 p.m. - FSN North
Michigan Tech at St. Cloud State, 8 p.m. - Charter
(Times are Eastern)

An Accomplishment or Milestone
A weekend sweep propelled Vermont up two spots to fifth - its highest ranking since Jan. 16, 2006 - in this week's edition of the USCHO/CBS College Sports Division I rankings, giving Hockey East three of the teams in the top five of that listing. Boston University was No. 1 for the second consecutive week even before claiming the Beanpot title on Monday, while Northeastern stayed at No. 3 for the third week in a row. It marks the second time this season that Hockey East has boasted 60 percent of the national top five. But the more impressive facet of the feat is that this instance featured two teams that weren't involved the last time. On Nov. 3, Boston College came in second in the poll, with BU right behind and New Hampshire at fifth. The WCHA also featured three teams in the top five on two occasions during the fall.

Statistics Worth Noting
Boston University is the near-unanimous No. 1 in this week's national rankings, but the Terriers also have been dominant statistically this season - as they currently stand first among all Division I squads in five different team statistical categories. Most importantly, BU has more victories than any other squad, and its 22-5-1 record (.804) translates into the top winning percentage in the country (Notre Dame is next in both categories at 21-5-3/.776). The Terriers also are tops in scoring margin, having outscored opponents by an average of 1.86 goals per game this season (just ahead of Air Force's +1.82 mark). BU's special teams have been truly special, as the Terriers not only boast the best power-play unit in the nation (24.4%; Air Force is second at 22.6%), but also have the best combined special teams mark - succeeding on 57.7% of all situations (Minnesota is second at 56.3%). To top it off, the Terriers boast both the longest current winning and unbeaten streaks after having been victorious in their last eight games (34-13 scoring margin).

Spotlight on a Former College Player in the NHL
Buffalo's Ryan Miller (Michigan State, 1999-2002) - one of the top goaltenders in NCAA history - is in the midst of his best season in the National Hockey League. Miller has a 26-14-5 record and currently holds career-best marks in both goals-against average (2.46) and save percentage (.919). He ranks fourth in the NHL in both victories and shutouts (a career-best five), and the Sabres have tallied 57 points in the games in which he has earned a decision - third-best among all goaltenders. The East Lansing, Mich., native is in his fourth season as the Sabres top goaltender, having compiled a career record of 138-82-1-26 to go with a 2.65 goals-against average and .910 save percentage. Miller, a 2007 all-star, has been even more effective in the postseason, boasting a 20-14 record with a 2.40 GAA and .915 save percentage after having led Buffalo to the Eastern Conference finals in both 2006 and '07. He also stands fifth among active NHL goaltenders in percentage of points scored in games in which he receives the decision (.614). Miller played three seasons at Michigan State and still holds the NCAA Division I records for both career save percentage (.941; NHL Hall of Famer Ken Dryden of Cornell is second at .939) and career shutouts (26; no other goaltender has ever registered more than 20). He also broke the NCAA record for career GAA (1.54), but he now stands second on that list. In 2001, he won the Hobey Baker Award and turned in perhaps the greatest goaltending season in college hockey history. He led the NCAA in five statistical categories, posting the second-best season save percentage ever (.950), as well as the fourth-best season GAA mark (1.32) and had 10 shutouts - which is tied for the second-most ever in a single campaign. He also piled up a 31-5-4 record and led the Spartans to the NCAA Frozen Four. A two-time CCHA Player of the Year, Miller had a 73-19-12 record as a collegian and helped MSU to a conference regular-season crown and two league tournament titles.