Feb. 27, 2009

For the NCAA.com weekend preview podcast, click here!

By Bo Rottenborn

A Look Back at Last Week's Highlights
Two heavyweights met twice in Boston and little was determined, as top-ranked Boston University and No. 4 Northeastern skated to a pair of draws, 2-2 on Friday and 1-1 on Saturday. The Terriers - who had won five in a row against the Huskies - jumped out to a two-goal advantage in the first period of the opening game, but NU rallied for the tie. The second game saw a pair of scoreless periods before BU scored the game's first goal, but Northeastern freshman Steve Quailer scored at 17:38 to secure another draw.

No. 2 Notre Dame became the first school to clinch a regular-season conference title. The Fighting Irish earned a road sweep against Nebraska Omaha, winning 4-3 in overtime on Friday and then registering a 1-0 shutout to clinch their second CCHA regular-season crown in the last three seasons. Bemidji State has yet to clinch its second CHA regular-season title in a row, but the Beavers have moved into a commanding position in the standings following a road sweep of their own. BSU won 3-1 and 4-1 against Niagara and now leads the Purple Eagles by six points. Bemidji State has two league games remaining, while Niagara still has four to play. The ECAC also saw its top two squads hook up, and No. 10 Princeton came away with a 2-0 home victory against No. 7 Yale, thanks to a shutout from junior Zane Kalemba.

WCHA co-leader Denver used some late-game heroics on Friday for an unlikely victory and then got a shutout from sophomore Marc Cheverie the next day to complete a sweep of No. 13 Wisconsin and improve to 13-2-2 in the Kohl Center since becoming a conference member. On Friday, the Badgers scored the game's first two goals and held a lead late, but freshman Joe Colborne netted an extra-attacker goal with 15 seconds left to force overtime. It then took junior Brian Gifford less than a minute to deliver a 4-3 victory. DU then dominated in a 5-0 decision the next night. Elsewhere in the WCHA, No. 18 Colorado College surrendered a two-goal lead in the final period, but then got the late game-winner from junior Mike Testwuide for a 4-3 win over No. 14 Minnesota. CC then broke a third-period tie and added an empty-netter for a 5-3 win on Saturday.

In other matchups between ranked teams, No. 3 Michigan beat No. 16 Ohio State 4-1 on Friday and went up 2-0 on Saturday in Columbus. But the Buckeyes would rally and eventually get a late game-winning tally from sophomore C.J. Severyn to salvage a split. No. 12 New Hampshire registered a sweep of No. 17 Boston College with 3-2 and 4-2 decisions. The defending NCAA champions are now winless in their last four (0-3-1) and hold a 5-9-4 mark since the start of December.

A pair of top-10 teams were able to pick up just a tie in two home games. No. 6 Vermont scored twice in the third period on Friday to take the lead, but freshman Michael Scheu scored in the final minute to give UMass Lowell a 3-3 tie. The next night, it was junior Carter Hutton who posted the shutout in a 1-0 win for the River Hawks. No. 5 Miami lost 2-1 to Northern Michigan on Friday and then managed a 1-1 draw in the series finale (MU did win the shootout).

This Week's Top Matchups
Three conferences - the CCHA, ECAC and AHA - wrap up regular-season action this weekend, while the other three have two weeks of competition remaining. Across the board, though, big matchups with league - and NCAA - tournament implications litter the landscape this weekend.

With just two games remaining, three teams still have a shot to win the ECAC regular-season championship. No. 11 Yale (19-6-2/14-4-2) is in the driver's seat with 30 points, while No. 6 Princeton (20-7-0/14-6-0) is two points back, and No. 10 Cornell (17-6-4/12-5-3) has 27. The Bulldogs will play host to the Big Red on Friday at 7 p.m. ET, while the Tigers travel to Dartmouth (13-11-3/10-8-2). On Saturday, Cornell will be at Brown (3-20-4/3-14-3) at 7 p.m. ET, while Princeton heads to Harvard (7-14-6/7-7-6) for a contest at the same time. The ECAC regular season wraps up on Sunday, when Yale plays host to Colgate (10-16-6/5-11-4) at 4 p.m. ET on ESPNU.

The AHA regular-season champion will be decided this weekend in Rochester, as RIT (20-10-2/19-5-2) plays host to Air Force (22-8-2/19-5-2) on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. ET. The teams enter their final two league games with identical conference records. If they finish the weekend the same way, the tiebreaker will be goal differential in teams against each other. In December, the Falcons won 2-0 before the Tigers earned a 3-2 victory in overtime the following evening. RIT is seeking its second regular-season league championship in the last three seasons, while Air Force is aiming for its first AHA title.

The WCHA has three huge series on the docket this weekend. Both conference co-leaders - No. 5 Denver (19-9-4/15-7-3) and No. 8 North Dakota (20-11-3/15-6-3) - are set for tough home series. The Pioneers will play host to No. 19 St. Cloud State (17-13-2/12-11-1) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. MT and Saturday at 7 p.m. MT on FSN Rocky Mountain. The Huskies posted a home sweep of DU (4-2, 2-1) in November. The Fighting Sioux welcomes No. 13 Colorado College (16-9-8/12-8-5) for 3:30 p.m. CT games on both Saturday and Sunday on the Fighting Sioux Sports Network. UND has the nation's longest current winning streak (five games) and is 11-1-2 in 2009. Elsewhere, No. 14 Minnesota Duluth (16-9-7/10-8-6) heads to No. 18 Minnesota (13-11-6/10-10-4) for games on Friday at 7 p.m. CT and Saturday at 6 p.m. CT (both on FSN North).

In Hockey East, No. 4 Northeastern (20-8-4/15-5-3) still holds a one-point edge over top-ranked Boston University (23-5-4/14-5-4) in the standings, with four games left. The Huskies play a home-and-home series with UMass Lowell (15-13-2/12-9-2) this weekend (Friday in Boston, Saturday in Lowell; both at 7 p.m. ET). The Terriers will do the same against Massachusetts (14-15-3/9-11-3), playing in Amherst on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET on NESN and in Boston on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.

In the CCHA, No. 7 Miami (18-9-5/16-6-4-2) plays host to No. 15 Ohio State (19-11-4/12-10-4-3) in an important series for the Buckeyes, who are seeking a first-round bye in the CCHA playoffs and are in contention for an NCAA at-large selection. OSU needs at least three points - including at least one non-shootout victory - to wrestle an opening-round bye away from Alaska, but the Buckeyes are winless in their last nine games against the RedHawks. The teams play on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET in Oxford on NHL Network and on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET in Columbus.

Two other teams in contention for at-large bids to the NCAA Championship will hit the road for a pair this weekend. No. 16 Wisconsin (16-13-3/13-9-2) will play on Friday (7:30 p.m. CT) and Saturday (7 p.m. CT) at Minnesota State (13-15-4/9-13-2), with both games televised by Charter Communications. No. 17 St. Lawrence (17-11-4/9-7-4) will play at Union (15-14-3/8-10-2) on Friday and at Rensselaer (7-23-2/6-13-1) on Saturday (both at 7 p.m. ET).

This Week's Televised Games
Friday, February 27
Michigan State at #2 Notre Dame, 7 p.m. - CBS College Sports
Clarkson at Rensselaer, 7 p.m. - Time Warner Albany/SNY
#1 Boston University at Massachusetts, 7:30 p.m. - NESN
#15 Ohio State at #7 Miami, 7:30 p.m. - NHL Network
#14 Minnesota Duluth at #18 Minnesota, 8 p.m. - FSN North
#16 Wisconsin at Minnesota State, 8:30 p.m. - Charter
USA Under-18 Team at Bemidji State, 8:30 p.m. - Charter
#19 St. Cloud State at #5 Denver, 9:30 p.m. - FSN Rocky Mountain
Saturday, February 28
#13 Colorado College at #8 North Dakota, 4:30 p.m. - Fighting Sioux Sports Network
#2 Notre Dame at Michigan State, 5 p.m. - FSN Detroit
#9 Vermont at Maine, 7 p.m. - WABI
#14 Minnesota Duluth at #18 Minnesota, 7 p.m. - FSN North
Boston College at Providence, 7 p.m. - Cox
Clarkson at Union, 7 p.m. - Time Warner Albany
Merrimack at #12 New Hampshire, 7:30 p.m. - NESN
Bowling Green at Western Michigan, 7:30 p.m. - Comcast TV
#16 Wisconsin at Minnesota State, 8 p.m. - Charter
Ferris State at #3 Michigan, 8 p.m. - CBS College Sports
USA Under-18 Team at Bemidji State, 8 p.m. - Charter
#19 St. Cloud State at #5 Denver, 9 p.m. - FSN Rocky Mountain
Alaska at Alaska Anchorage, 11 p.m. - GCICable
Sunday, March 1
Colgate at #11 Yale, 4 p.m. - ESPNU
#13 Colorado College at #8 North Dakota, 4:30 p.m. - Fighting Sioux Sports Network
(Times are Eastern)

An Accomplishment or Milestone
There have only been five winning streaks of 20 or more games in NCAA Division III men's hockey history, but Adrian College has put together two of those over the past two seasons - its first two as an NCAA varsity program. The Bulldogs won 20 in a row to conclude last year, claiming the regular-season and tournament titles in the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association. The Bulldogs began this season with a 1-1-1 mark in their first three games, but have won 24 in a row since then to rise to ninth in this week's national rankings. It's the longest men's DIII winning streak since Wisconsin-Stevens Point won 24 in a row in 1988-89. Adrian will seek another MCHA tournament title this weekend, as it plays host to Marian University in Saturday's semifinals. The championship game will be on Sunday.

Statistics Worth Noting
Miami leads the nation in penalty killing this season, with a 90.9 percent conversion rate. The RedHawks led NCAA Division I in penalty killing in 2007-08, as well, with a 90.1 percent mark and have allowed just 18 goals in 198 power-play opportunities by their opponents this season. Not only is Miami the only squad to be above 90 percent in the category in 2008-09, but MU also is on pace to post the best penalty-killing mark by any DI team since the 2001 Michigan State unit that killed off penalties at a rate of 91.1%. The feat is even more impressive when you consider that Miami is doing it with two freshmen - Connor Knapp and Cody Reichard - between the pipes.

Spotlight on a Former College Player in the NHL
Boston right winger Blake Wheeler (Minnesota, 2005-08) made the jump directly from college hockey to the National Hockey League, and is one of the top candidates for this year's Calder Trophy. Wheeler ranks among the top three NHL rookies in points (36; 3rd), goals (17; 3rd), assists (19; 3rd) and Plus-Minus (+31; 1st). The Robbinsdale, Minn., native is actually tied for the NHL lead - among all players - in plus-minus this season and is +15 ahead of his nearest first-year competition. He also has been a key player for the Bruins, who currently hold the best record in the NHL (42-12-8, 92 points). Wheeler - the fifth overall pick in the 2004 draft - played three seasons at Minnesota, accumulating 42 goals and 54 assists (96 points) to go with 155 penalty minutes in 127 games. A team captain and the Gophers' leading scorer in 2007-08, he helped Minnesota to a pair of WCHA regular-season titles (2006 and '07), a conference tournament crown in 2007, as well as three NCAA tournament bids.