Dan DeSalvo

Back to Class: Conference tourneys can’t keep Cinderella away

We’re taking you “Back To Class” for our roundup of the weekend’s action in college hockey. Look for more college hockey on NBCSN this Friday at 5 and 8 p.m. ET for the Hockey East tournament semifinals. 

While you’re all busy this week analyzing your basketball brackets, college hockey is busy whittling their field down to see who makes it to the NCAA tournament. While you’re checking out to see which 12-seeds can be the darlings of the tournament, a pair of college teams are making their push to wear Cinderella’s glass slipper.

Bowling Green headed into the CCHA tournament as the bottom seed, 11th overall in the conference. While being the bottom seed usually makes you cannon fodder for the big boys, the Falcons have shocked six-seed Northern Michigan and top-seeded Ferris State in back-to-back weekends to reach the conference semifinals at Joe Louis Arena. Bowling Green’s hockey program was near death three years ago and now they’re two wins away from pulling off an incredible run to the NCAA tournament.

It won’t be simple for Bowling Green though. They needed all three games of the best-of-three series to get past both NMU and Ferris State, now it’s single elimination in the semis and finals and they’ve got a date with Michigan in the semis. Since you’re wondering, yes, the Falcons already have a win over the Wolverines this season.

In the WCHA, eighth seeded Michigan Tech stunned everyone this weekend by going to Colorado College and sweeping the Tigers out of the tournament and punching their ticket to the Final Five in St. Paul. If the Huskies are to create some magic of their own, their road is a bit tougher.

The deck is seemingly stacked against Michigan Tech, but if there’s a team and a fan base that can play the part of Maximus in “Gladiator” and win the crowd, it’s MTU. From their rabid fans to their iconic band, they’re a program that exemplifies what it is to be a part of college hockey. If college hockey were re-enacting “Revenge of the Nerds,” MTU would be Lambda Lambda Lambda and not just because their SAT scores are gigantic, they’re a lot of fun too.

Elsewhere in college hockey:

For all the fun and surprises the CCHA and WCHA tournaments provided, both the ECAC and Atlantic Hockey tournaments saw all their top seeded teams hold serve. In the ECAC semis, Union faces Colgate while Cornell faces arch-rival Harvard. The AHA semis see Air Force take on Mercyhurst while R.I.T. meets up with Niagara.

Hockey East, meanwhile, had a thrilling weekend that saw BU and New Hampshire as well as Merrimack and Maine go to three games, with BU and Maine coming out on top. Boston University did so by coming back from being down 4-1 to win in double-overtime 5-4. (Boston Hockey Blog, The Mack Report)

If you want to play the part of the NCAA committee and play with the different ways things could shake out over championship weekend, both USCHO and College Hockey News have Pairwise tools to mess with so you can play with fate.

The Division-III final four is set and this Oswego State alum is on pins and needles for the third year in a row. (NCAA)

Finally, congratulations to St. Lawrence coach Joe Marsh on his retirement from hockey after 26 seasons. College hockey loses a man with great class, dignity, and a much-respected tenure in the game. (INCH)

(Photo: Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune)

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
Leave a comment

The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”