Back to Class: And a goalie shall lead New Hampshire

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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 Friday, November 30 with a monster doubleheader featuring BU vs. BC and Denver vs. Wisconsin.

Before the season began, New Hampshire wasn’t really on the national radar. When the USA Hockey/USA Today preseason poll came out, the Wildcats didn’t crack the Top 15. They got votes, but only enough to put them 21st in the country and three other Hockey East schools were ranked above them. With just 58 college hockey programs, that’s not too impressive.

A funny thing happened with Dick Umile’s program: They started shutting down everyone thanks to sophomore goalie Casey DeSmith.

DeSmith is the only guy New Hampshire has played in goal this year and he’s all they’ve needed. He’s 8-1-1 with a microscopic 1.19 goals against average and an astounding .961 save percentage.

Over the weekend he had his third straight shutout of the season, a 3-0 win over UMass-Lowell, something that hasn’t happened since 1928-29. He also set a new school record keeping teams off the board for 203:32 straight minutes, a mark that stood for over 40 years.

They’ve already beaten Boston University and St. Cloud State twice and BU head coach Jack Parker says UNH is “the other best team in Hockey East.” For a team that had low expectations, they’re proving the experts and coaches very wrong so far this year and have climbed to sixth (and possibly higher) in the nation.

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No peace in the mountains: No. 2 Denver and No. 14 Colorado College had a typical raucous weekend of games, but it would be the Pioneers who came away with the first weekend sweep of their bitter in-state rivals since 2005. Friday’s wild 6-5 game followed by a 6-2 Saturday win helped show that Denver is for real out west.

Kudos to the little guy: Give it up to little Alabama-Huntsville for finally getting off the schneid earning their first win of the year, a 2-1 road victory over Lake Superior State. The Chargers were the last school to get a win this season. Perhaps knocking off a future WCHA team will help convince them to open their doors to the unaffiliated school rather than leave them for dead on their own.

Naughty, naughty: Alaska will be losing two scholarships thanks to a mild spanking by the NCAA. The mild violations were self-reported by the school and the hockey team wasn’t the only one to get dinged because of the faux pas. Here’s to hoping you’ve now got the Danger Danger song “Naughty Naughty” stuck in your head.

Darcy leaves Northeastern: Freshman forward Cam Darcy left the Hockey East school and is off to the USHL. That kind of move allows him to keep his NCAA eligibility. He had two assists in nine games with the Huskies.

Yerdon jinx: After talking up Dartmouth last week, the Big Green got bounced by Colgate 5-4 on Friday and needed a Mike Keenan (yes, that’s his name – no, it’s not Iron Mike’s son) goal late to tie Cornell 1-1 on Saturday. My bad, guys. Beware, New Hampshire!

(Photo: UNHWildcats.com)

PHT’s second-round playoff predictions, featuring the red-hot Random Thing Picker

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It was a tough first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for many of the so-called experts of the world.

Upsets included the Predators over the Blackhawks and the Blues over the Wild. The Rangers over the Canadiens was a quasi-upset, too.

Here at PHT, it was a mixed bag. Mike Halford and Cam Tucker each went an impressive 6-2. And so too did the Random Thing Picker, which as its name suggests, picks random things. (And picks them rather well, apparently.)

Of note, the Random Thing Picker and James O’Brien were the only ones to pick the Preds over the ‘Hawks. So congratulations to both robotic lifeforms on that bit of soothsaying.

Rounding out the rest of the first-round results, Adam Gretz and Joey Alfieri went 4-4, while at 3-5, O’Brien and yours truly couldn’t even crack .500. (Stupid Jake Allen.)

On to the second round!

Washington versus Pittsburgh (Stream Capitals-Penguins)

Brough: Capitals in 7
Halford: Penguins in 6
O’Brien: Capitals in 7
Gretz: Capitals in 7
Tucker: Capitals in 6
Alfieri: Capitals in 7
Random Thing Picker: Capitals

New York versus Ottawa (Stream Rangers-Senators)

Brough: Senators in 6
Halford: Senators in 7
O’Brien: Rangers in 7
Gretz: Rangers in 6
Tucker: Rangers in 6
Alfieri: Senators in 6
Random Thing Picker: Senators

St. Louis versus Nashville (Stream Blues-Predators)

Brough: Predators in 6
Halford: Blues in 7
O’Brien: Predators in 6
Gretz: Predators in 6
Tucker: Predators in 7
Alfieri: Predators in 6
Random Thing Picker: Blues

Anaheim versus Edmonton (Stream Ducks-Oilers)

Brough: Ducks in 7
Halford: Ducks in 6
O’Brien: Ducks in 6
Gretz: Oilers in 7
Tucker: Oilers in 6
Alfieri: Ducks in 6
Random Thing Picker: Ducks

Feel free to add your picks below…

Auston Matthews to skip Worlds

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Auston Matthews is going to take some time off.

As such, the 19-year-old star forward won’t be heading overseas to represent the United States in the upcoming World Championship.

You can hardly blame him. Matthews just finished his rookie season in the NHL, playing all 82 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs, plus six more in the playoffs.

Oh, and he also played in the World Cup for Team North America.

Matthews did participate in last year’s Worlds. He had six goals and three assists in 10 games on the way to a fourth-place finish.

Related: Gaudreau, Eichel commit to USA Worlds roster

Blackhawks fire their AHL head coach

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Yesterday, the Chicago Blackhawks fired longtime assistant coach Mike Kitchen.

Today, it was longtime AHL coach Ted Dent who got the ax.

Dent has been the head coach of the Rockford IceHogs the past six seasons, and he was an assistant coach for Chicago’s AHL affiliate the previous five seasons.

“The Chicago Blackhawks thank Ted for all of his contributions throughout his tenure with the organization,” GM Stan Bowman said. “He played a major role in helping a number of players reach the NHL level with the Chicago Blackhawks, many of whom became Stanley Cup champions. We wish Ted and his family the best.”

The IceHogs missed the playoffs this season, finishing last in the AHL’s Central Division with a record of 25-39-12.

Related: A furious Bowman addressed the Blackhawks’ postseason failure

Report: Canucks close to naming Travis Green head coach

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The Vancouver Canucks are reportedly set to announce Travis Green as their next head coach.

According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the announcement will be made in the next couple of days.

Green, who played over 1,000 games in the NHL including the playoffs, has been the head coach of the Canucks’ AHL affiliate in Utica the past four seasons. Under his watch, the Comets have played mostly winning hockey in spite of some rather depleted lineups.

Ever since Willie Desjardins was fired at the end of the season, Green has been the leading candidate to take over in Vancouver. The only question, really, was whether he’d be a candidate for another NHL head-coaching vacancy, perhaps with the Florida Panthers.

Assuming no last-minute hiccups, Green will take over a transitioning Canucks team that has finished 28th and 29th overall in its last two seasons, respectively.

“We’re going to be young,” president of hockey ops Trevor Linden said. “Young players make mistakes. There’s going to be some growing pains. We need a coach that understands exactly where we are.”

Related: In farewell to Vancouver, Desjardins defends his approach to young players