Puck drops outdoors at Soldier Field
Also: DI baseball begins; Akron looks to stretch streak to 17
If you’re a college hockey fan, the Windy City will be the place to be this weekend.
A pair of top-20 matchups will be on display at historic Soldier Field for the first time when the home of the Chicago Bears hosts the Hockey City Classic on Sunday.
No. 3 Miami (Ohio) and No. 12 Notre Dame face off in a Central Collegiate Hockey Association showdown at 1 p.m., while No. 2 Minnesota and No. 18 Wisconsin conclude their annual Border Battle in the second game of the doubleheader at approximately 4:30 p.m. The first game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Detroit, while the second contest will air nationally on the Big Ten Network.
The Hockey City Classic features four teams that have combined for 36 Frozen Four appearances and 11 national championship titles.
|Hockey City Classic|
The Irish will be trying to knock the RedHawks out of first place in the CCHA. Notre Dame trails Miami by three points in the standings, and is hoping for some success after going 5-7-1 in its last 13 games. The RedHawks have won six of their last seven contests.
In the Border Battle, the Gophers and Badgers will be jockeying for position in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings this weekend. Wisconsin trails Minnesota by just one point in the standings as both look to gain some ground on first-place St. Cloud State. The two squads also met in November with Minnesota going 1-0-1 on the weekend.
While the outdoor atmosphere is certainly a draw for some fans, if you brave the weather, don’t forget to bundle up. The weather forecast for Chicago is 26 degrees with partly cloudy skies. Hand-warmers and ear muffs are highly suggested.
Wisconsin is the only one of the four teams to have played in an outdoor game, defeating Ohio State at Lambeau Field in 2006, and nipping Michigan at Camp Randall Stadium in 2010. Before this weekend, a total of 13 outdoor hockey games have been played in NCAA Division I men’s hockey since 2000.
“[The weather is] always iffy,” Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said. “If you go back and look at the history of [our other] two games, we were in the same boat as we are now, wondering, projecting what it’s going to be. It turned out fine. It’s always a factor in this, but we’re going to control what we can.”
Another novelty to Sunday’s event will be each team will be wearing special jerseys for one game only. Wisconsin will be wearing replica sweaters from the 1931-32 season, while Minnesota will be sporting throwback uniforms from the 1960-61 season. Notre Dame will be donning jerseys from the team’s club era (1963-68), when the Irish played all of its games outdoors before becoming a Division I program.
"It's a throwback kind of game this Sunday, so we wanted to go with a throwback jersey to commemorate the event," Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said. "We're looking forward to playing at a historic venue like Soldier Field and playing a competitive series against Wisconsin."
If you’re looking for a warmer venue, the teams will play the first games of their respective series on Friday in Oxford, Ohio, and Madison, Wis. And, you can catch Friday’s contests on television. Miami-Notre Dame will air on CBS Sports Network at 7:30 p.m., while the Minnesota-Wisconsin series will be broadcast on Fox Sports North at 8 p.m.
• While “hockey weather” isn’t exactly ideal for baseball, action on the diamond will be in full force this weekend when Division I’s schedule begins on Friday. Highlighting the weekend will be a three-game series between No. 7 Stanford and No. 18 Rice at Reckling Park in Houston. Stanford right-hander Mark Appel, a consensus preseason All-American, will surely be the talk of the series. Appel, the eighth overall pick in the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates, was the only unsigned player among 31 first-round picks last year. Appel compiled a 10-2 record and 2.56 ERA with 130 strikeouts in 123.0 innings pitched as a junior.
• The No. 5 Gonzaga men’s basketball team will look to extend a narrow lead in the West Coast Conference standings in a Valentine’s Day match-up against second-place Saint Mary’s on Thursday.
The Bulldogs snapped the Zags’ 11-game winning streak last season, but Gonzaga got the best of SMC in the first match-up this year, winning 83-78 on Jan. 10. Since the loss, the Bulldogs have reeled off nine consecutive victories and at 10-1 are a half-game behind the 10-0 Zags. Gonzaga is 9-4 against SMC since 2009, but the two teams have split in four WCC Tournament championship game meetings.
• The Akron men’s basketball team – the owners of the nation’s longest active winning streak at 16 games – will be going for win No. 17 when the Zips host Bowling Green for a Mid-American Conference matchup on Saturday. Akron is 11-0 in MAC action – the program’s best start in league play since joining in 1992-93.
The Zips are riding the program’s longest winning streak since the 1958-59 season, and have outscored foes by 14.1 points per game and outrebounded opponents by 9.5 per game during the 16-game stretch. With Wednesday’s 70-62 victory against Eastern Michigan, Akron reached the 20-win plateau for the eighth consecutive season. Only Butler, Duke, Florida, Gonzaga, Kansas, Pittsburgh and Syracuse have accomplished that feat.
• The No. 15 UCLA women’s basketball team will look to knock off Pac-12 Conference leaders California and Stanford and make a run at the league title when the Bruins host the No. 6 Golden Bears on Friday and No. 4 Cardinal on Sunday. The Bruins currently sit in third place with a 10-2 mark in the Pac-12 standings, while Cal and Stanford are tied for first place at 11-1. Sunday’s UCLA-Stanford contest will be broadcast nationally on ESPNU at 3:30 p.m.
• The Princeton women’s basketball team will seek to stretch its 29-game Ivy League winning streak when the Tigers host Dartmouth and Harvard on Friday and Saturday. The Tigers are 5-0 in league play, while Dartmouth and Harvard follow at 4-1 in the standings. Princeton’s Ivy League winning streak is the second-longest active conference winning streak behind Baylor’s 35-game regular season Big 12 winning stretch.
• College wrestling fans will get a little taste of championship time when the NWCA National Duals Tournament gets under way with regional action on Sunday. The National Duals is an invitation-only tournament that crowns the nation’s top dual team. Four winners from the four-team regionals will advance to the eight-team tournament that will be held at Minnesota’s Williams Arena on Feb. 22-23.
Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Ohio State received automatic berths in the final tournament.
Cornell, Kent State, Oregon State and Missouri are hosting the one-day regionals. Seventeen of the 20 teams in the tournament are ranked in the latest NWCA/USA Today/AWN Division I Coaches’ Poll.
• The Albany women’s basketball team is cruising through America East Conference competition as the Great Danes ride a 12-game winning streak into a match-up against Hartford on Sunday. Albany is 11-0 in league play, and defeating league foes by an average of 29.2 points. The Great Danes rank second in the nation in field goal percentage defense (31.7 percent) and scoring defense (47.2 ppg) behind only Connecticut.
• After earning its highest indoor track and field ranking in school history, the No. 3 Oklahoma State men’s squad will head to Norman for the Sooner Invitational on Feb. 16 as the Cowboys gear up for the Big 12 Championships which will be held the following week. OSU’s distance runners put on a show at last week’s Husky Classic as Raul Botezan became the fifth Cowboy to run a sub-four minute mile in the NCAA this season and Shadrack Kipchirchir ran a school-record 13:38.57 to win the 5,000 meters.
• No. 3 Arizona State is looking to have another dominant weekend as the Sun Devils host the Littlewood Classic – the second of the squad’s four home tournaments -- beginning Friday. The Sun Devils posted a 7-0 mark last weekend – the program’s best start since 2007 when ASU won its first 15 games. Junior pitcher Dallas Escobedo started the season with a 4-0 record and 0.28 ERA in 24.2 innings pitched, while Cheyenne Coyle batted .474 with five homers and 10 RBI in seven games.
• The No. 4 Cal Poly Pomona men’s basketball team seeks to stretch its 10-game winning streak with home contests against Cal State East Bay on Thursday and Cal State Monterey Bay on Saturday. The Broncos, who have already clinched a spot in the California Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament and a first-round home game on March 5 with six league games remaining on the schedule. In the CCAA standings, CCP is two games ahead of Cal State San Bernardino, which was the lone team to beat the Broncos this season.
• When a star player goes down with injury, there are always questions as to whom will pick up the slack. The No. 1 Ashland women’s basketball squad was surely hoping someone would step up in the absence of All-American Kari Daugherty, who has missed the team’s last six games. Daugherty leads the nation with 15.0 rebounds per game, 17 double-doubles and ranks third in scoring with 22.5 average.
Fortunately for the No. 1 team in Division II women’s basketball, senior forward Daiva Gerbec has been outstanding during Daugherty’s absence. In the six-game stretch, she has averaged 16.3 points per game and 12.2 rebounds per game while shooting 61.2 percent from the field. Gerbec missed all of last season due to injuries, but two years ago was a first-team All-GLIAC choice and honorable mention All-American.
The unbeaten Eagles will face Findlay on Thursday for the second time this season. The Oilers are on a six-game winning streak and sit in second place in the GLIAC South Division standings behind Ashland.
• While New England is probably not in need of snow anytime soon, you never really know when the white powdery stuff will come again. When you are a skier, snow is a pretty important part of the equation, so Middlebury – the host of the 2013 NCAA Skiing Championships – is not taking any chances.
Middlebury has just completed the installation of snowmaking equipment on five kilometers of trails at the Rikert Nordic Center, a 50-kilometer cross-country skiing area in Ripton, Vt., owned and operated by Middlebury. The new, $850,000 snowmaking system will extend the cross-country skiing season and basically ensure snow on the ground when the college hosts the NCAA skiing championships in March. The snowmaking equipment gives Rikert the most extensive coverage in the Northeast.
Middlebury hosts its 90th annual winter carnival beginning Friday. The Nordic races will be contested at the Rikert Nordic center, while the alpine events will be held at the Middlebury College Snow Bowl. Vermont, the defending NCAA Champion, will also compete at the event.
• Remember last week when the Caltech baseball team finally broke a 228-game losing streak that dated back 10 years? Well, it turns out that third baseman Mason Freedman could be the good luck charm. Two years ago, Freedman also played for Caltech’s men’s basketball team when the Beavers snapped a 310-game conference losing streak with a victory against Occidental. That streak had stretched across 26 seasons.
Follow Amy Farnum on Twitter: @NCAA_Amy