Shayne Gostisbehere

Back to Class: Is the ECAC actually strong this year?

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 Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. ET as No. 11 Dartmouth takes on Vermont. 

When it comes to picking out potential NCAA tournament teams, most eyes go right to the WCHA, CCHA, and Hockey East. The early part of this season has made some eyes start taking a look at the ECAC.

Last week’s poll saw four teams in the USA Hockey/USA Today Top 15: Union (7), Dartmouth (11), Cornell (12), and Yale (13). The Top 20 also had Quinnipiac and Harvard in the mix. Is the conference sometimes referred to as the “EZAC” actually underrated this year?’s Brian Sullivan thinks so.

Sullivan points out the number of NHL-drafted players at the top of the goal scoring leaderboard as well as the current (and very, very, very early Pairwise Rankings) would place all six teams in the field of 16 with two No. 1 seeds.

It’s way too early to start dusting off the Pairwise crystal ball, but things are off to a good start for the ECAC. Then again, it’s a conference known for tearing each other down through the year and dashing each other’s NCAA hopes in the conference tournament.

Like Sullivan says, however, if the league can land four teams in the NCAA’s, call it a win for a conference that has sent just two teams to the Frozen Four since 2003.


Jerry York watch: Kudos to Boston College coach Jerry York for taking one out of two against BU this weekend and tying Ron Mason’s NCAA coaching wins record. They’ll go to Providence to take on the Friars on Friday night to possibly break the record then. USCHO has a nice look back on York through the years.

Frozen Fenway coming back?: It looks like another outdoor college hockey festival at Fenway Park in Boston will be back in 2014. CHN says they’re looking for final approval and a BC vs. Notre Dame match-up seems likely.

Kerdiles back: Nic Kerdiles’ first two games back for Wisconsin went well. He finished the weekend against Denver with two assists and missed out on a goal thanks to a shot being tipped in. More importantly? Two upset wins for the Badgers over the soon-to-be former No. 5 Pioneers.

Hockey Humanitarian Award: Nominations are out for the Hockey Humanitarian Award and you can put your favorite college hockey player worthy of recognition in for consideration until December 14. Get on that.

Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

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The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer

Johansen calls trade rumblings ‘weird,’ says relationship with Torts is ‘great’

Ryan Johansen
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One day after reports surfaced of Ryan Johansen being at the center of trade talks, all parties involved from Columbus did what they’re supposed to do — downplay the situation.

You can read the denials in full over at the Dispatch, but here’s the gist:

— Johansen said the rumors were “weird” and that he’s “never seen it before.” He also said there were no issues between him and head coach John Tortorella, calling the relationship “great.”

— GM Jarmo Kekalainen wouldn’t address the report, nor would Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt.

— Johansen added he hasn’t spoken to any of Columbus’ management about the trade rumblings.

So there’s that. What’s next?

At this stage of the game, it’s hard not to think about another Overhardt client, Kyle Turris.

Turris, you’ll recall, spent four (mostly) stormy years with the Coyotes before his trade out to Ottawa was orchestrated. Turris eventually told GM Don Maloney “this is not going to work out” with the club, and he was gone.

So, consider the similarities now:

— Turris was 22 at the time of the trade, with four years and 137 games under his belt.

— Johansen is 23, with five years and 291 games.

— Both had contentious contract holdouts with their respective clubs.

— Both are Overhardt guys.

— The Turris trade happened after the Coyotes went from Wayne Gretzky to Dave Tippett as head coach.

— Johansen is already on his third head coach (Scott Arniel, Todd Richards, Tortorella).

For now, these are all coincidences (or a forced narrative, depending what you think of the author).

And, of course, the one big — big — difference between the two is that, at the time of his trade, Turris wasn’t as good or established a player as Johansen currently is. Therefore, logic suggests any Johansen trade would be a lot more blockbuster-y and, therefore, probably more complex.

And as we know, complex deals aren’t easy to pull off.

Flyers’ Gagner to miss another week after Malone hit

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The nasty blow Sam Gagner took in Monday’s game against Carolina will keep him on the shelf for a little bit.

On Wednesday, Flyers GM Ron Hextall said the club expected Gagner to be out around a week with injuries suffered on the hit, delivered by ‘Canes forward Brad Malone (per the Inquirer).

Gagner suffered a fairly significant facial laceration, which forced him from the game entirely. He didn’t practice on Tuesday and, in a corresponding move, the Flyers called up Colin McDonald from the AHL to fill Gagner’s spot on the roster.

This is the second facial injury Gagner’s suffered in recent years. He’d previously had his jaw broken by an errant Zack Kassian high stick, while he was with the Oilers and Kassian the Canucks.

Prior to getting hurt, Gagner had two goals and five points in 18 games, averaging just under 12 minutes per night.

‘It’s absolutely not true’ — Lemieux denies report of ‘big falling out’ with Crosby

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 5:  Sidney Crosby #87 and Mario Lemieux #66 of the Pittsburgh Penguins share a few words during a break in action against the New Jersey Devils in their NHL opening night game at the Continental Airlines Arena on October 5, 2005 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  The Devils won 5-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Well, that didn’t take long.

Just hours after Matthew Barnaby went on the radio and said he’d heard that Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux had had a “big falling out,” Lemieux came out and denied it.

“It’s absolutely not true,” said Lemieux, per the club’s Twitter account. “It’s silly.”

Today marked the second time in less than two weeks that the Penguins have been forced do some damage control.

Last week, the Penguins insisted that they weren’t actually “mad at each other,” as Evgeni Malkin had put it after a bad loss to New Jersey.

“He did not mean we are mad at each other,” said Crosby. “He meant we are frustrated.”