Jan. 22, 2009

By Bo Rottenborn

A Look Back at Last Week's Highlights
Northeastern and Vermont split a weekend series in Boston, with the Huskies prevailing 3-1 on Friday and the Catamounts winning 4-2 the following day. Elsewhere in Hockey East, No. 2 Boston University rebounded from its midweek loss to first down Merrimack 4-1 and then post a 5-2 win over rival Boston College. The Eagles - who lost 4-3 in overtime on Friday against UMass Lowell - are now winless in their last four and 1-5-2 in their last eight contests.

New Hampshire, on the other hand, earned a 6-4 non-conference victory against intrastate rival Dartmouth in the Battle for the Riverstone Cup to stay unbeaten since November (6-0-1). In the marquee WCHA series, Wisconsin pounded Colorado College by a 6-1 score on Friday, but the Tigers rebounded to salvage a split with a 4-3 decision on Saturday. Air Force continued to slide, dropping a pair against Canisius (5-4, 4-2). The Falcons are now 2-6-1 since their 13-game winning streak to open the season.

No. 1 Notre Dame kept its unbeaten streak alive but saw its nine-game winning streak in true road games end, as it won 3-2 and then tied 3-3 (taking a shootout victory) in a series at Lake Superior State. In other CCHA activity, Bowling Green got a shutout (3-0) victory at Michigan, before the Wolverines bounced back for a road shutout of their own (1-0). Michigan State earned a 4-1 road triumph against Miami on Friday, but the RedHawks came back to emphatically snap their five-game losing skid in a 6-1 decision the following evening. Ohio State got a win (6-2) and a tie (2-2; won shootout) at Ferris State, and is still unbeaten in its last 12 (11-0-1).

This Week's Top Matchups
A pair of top-five teams that have been playing well - one out East and the other in the West - will face big challenges this weekend from quality opponents also on hot streaks. No. 2 Boston University (16-5-1/9-5-1) - which has seven wins in its last eight games - has a home-and-home (Friday at 7:30 in Boston; Saturday at 7 in Durham; both games on NESN) against No. 11 New Hampshire (11-6-4/7-4-3), which is unbeaten in its last seven (6-0-1). The Wildcats have won four straight against the Terriers, including a 2-1 decision at home in October. A key in that game was UNH's penalty kill, which allowed just one goal in nine opportunities for the BU power play - which currently ranks second in the country (24.6%).

Meanwhile, WCHA leader No. 4 Denver (15-6-2/11-4-1) heads to No. 15 North Dakota (14-10-2/9-5-2) for the teams' only series of the season (Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET and Saturday at 8 p.m. ET; both games on FSN Rocky Mountain, FCS Central and Fighting Sioux Sports Network). The Pioneers are 9-1-1 in their last 11, but the Fighting Sioux come in riding a six-game unbeaten streak (5-0-1). DU sophomore goaltender Marc Cheverie - a Florida Panthers draftee - currently leads the WCHA in all three major statistical categories, with a 15-6-2 record, 2.19 goals-against average and .925 save percentage. He will face a Fighting Sioux attack that is powered by two of the nation's top offensive defensemen. Junior Chay Genoway is third nationally among blueliners in points (25), while senior Brad Miller is seventh (23).

This Week's Televised Games
Friday, January 23
Brown at Colgate, 7:30 p.m. - NHL Network/Time Warner Syracuse
No. 11 New Hampshire at No. 2 Boston University, 7:30 p.m. - NESN
No. 8 Michigan vs. Michigan State, 7:30 p.m. - FSN Detroit Plus/FCS Atlantic
No. 10 Miami at Nebraska-Omaha, 8 p.m - CBS College Sports
Minnesota State at No. 17 Minnesota Duluth, 8 p.m. - Charter Main Street
No. 4 Denver at No. 15 North Dakota, 8:30 p.m. - FSN Rocky Mountain/FCS Central/Fighting Sioux Sports Network/WDAZ-TV
Niagara at Bemidji State, 8:30 p.m. - Charter
Michigan Tech at Alaska Anchorage, 11 p.m. - GCICable
Saturday, January 24
No. 2 Boston University at No. 11 New Hampshire, 7 p.m. - NESN
Yale at Colgate, 7 p.m. - Time Warner Syracuse
Lake Superior State at Bowling Green, 7 p.m. - Comcast TV
Michigan State at No. 8 Michigan, 7:30 p.m. - FSN Detroit/FCS Atlantic
No. 10 Miami at Nebraska-Omaha, 8 p.m - CBS College Sports
No. 4 Denver at No. 15 North Dakota, 8 p.m. - FSN Rocky Mountain/FCS Central/Fighting Sioux Sports Network
Minnesota State at No. 17 Minnesota Duluth, 8 p.m. - Charter Main Street
Niagara at Bemidji State, 8 p.m. - Charter
Michigan Tech at Alaska Anchorage, 11 p.m. - GCICable
Sunday, January 25
Harvard at No. 18 Dartmouth, 4 p.m. - ESPNU
(Times are Eastern)

An Accomplishment or Milestone
Top-ranked Notre Dame traveled to Lake Superior State last weekend and posted a 3-2 victory before winning a shootout following a 3-3 tie on Saturday. The Irish now stand 19-3-3 on the season and have put together a 20-game unbeaten streak (17-0-3-3). Notre Dame - last year's NCAA runner-up - did not get off to a good start to the season, opening 2-3-0. But since a 3-2 home loss to Miami on Oct. 25, the Irish have been nearly perfect, winning all but three games in regulation - and then going on to take shootout victories in each of their three ties. Notre Dame - which surpassed the previous program-best unbeaten streak of 15 - has outscored its opponents 72-29 (3.60 to 1.45) during the stretch. Among the highlights have been prevailing in a rematch of last year's NCAA title game (a 4-1 victory at Boston College), putting together a 171:26 shutout streak and winning 11 in a row away from home prior to Saturday's tie. The Irish are unbeaten in their last 16 games against CCHA opponents - which is currently tied for the eighth-longest streak ever by a Division I team against squads from its own league. After an off weekend, Notre Dame will play a home-and-home series with No. 8 Michigan from Jan. 30-31 with an opportunity to add its streak on to the list of the longest in Division I history. The NCAA Records Book currently lists 15 all-time unbeaten streaks of 22 or more games, with the most-recent being a 23-game streak by Michigan State from Oct. 21, 2000-Jan. 23, 2001.

Statistics Worth Noting
Junior goaltender Ben Scrivens and the rest of the Cornell defense have been spectacular this season and are currently on pace to challenge several NCAA Division I records. The Big Red - ranked third with a 13-1-3 mark - has allowed just 22 goals in 17 games (1.29 per game) this season and currently holds a sizable lead among all DI teams in scoring defense (Alaska is next at 1.46 per game). The NCAA record for scoring defense in a season is 1.29, which was set by the 2004-05 Cornell squad. In fact, there have been just four previous times in NCAA Division I history that a team has allowed fewer than 1.50 goals per game - and three of those were accomplished by Big Red teams. Scrivens has earned the decision in every game and leads the country in both goals-against average (1.18; Nick Pisellini of Quinnipiac is second at 1.38) and save percentage (.956; Pisellini is next at .948). Former Maine goaltender Jimmy Howard holds both NCAA records, having posted a 1.19 GAA and .956 save percentage in 2003-04. The Big Red has been even more impressive in ECAC action, going 8-0-2 with a 24-7 goal differential. Scrivens boasts a 0.77 GAA in conference games, as well as a .973 save percentage (he is on pace to smash ECAC records with both of those marks). He also put together a school-record shutout streak of 206:44 earlier this season.

Spotlight on a Former College Player in the NHL
Boston's Tim Thomas (Vermont, 1993-97) has been one of the elite goaltenders in the National Hockey League this season and was selected to appear in the NHL All-Star Game (Sunday at 6 p.m. ET on Versus) for the second straight year. Thomas stands 20-5-4 for a Bruins squad that currently boasts the top record in the Eastern Conference (34-8-5, 73 points). He stands fourth in the NHL in goals-against average (2.09) and has a .934 save percentage that not only leads the league, but is on pace to be the best mark by any NHL goaltender since Dominik Hasek's .937 figure in 1998-99. Thomas played four seasons at Vermont, posting an 81-43-15 record to go with a 2.70 GAA and .924 save percentage and remains second in the NCAA Division I record book in career saves (3,950; Michigan's Robbie Moore is first at 4,434). He led the nation in save percentage in 1996 (.924) and helped the Catamounts to their two most-recent NCAA tournament appearances, plus a berth in the 1996 NCAA Frozen Four (a program first). The Flint, Mich., native then spent several years in the minors and in Europe before breaking through with the Bruins. In 2007-08, Thomas helped Boston to its first playoff appearance in four years, finished fourth in the NHL in save percentage (.921) and was the winning goaltender for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star Game. He has a 93-67-24 career record in the NHL to go with a 2.69 GAA and .916 save percentage.