Kevin Goumas

Back to Class: The trouble with being No. 1

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 night, January 4 as Nebraska-Omaha takes on Colorado College. 

It’s never easy being the top dog. In college football, being the No. 1 team means always having to watch your back when the voters deem you to be the best team in the land and it’s no different in college hockey. A pair of Hockey East teams learned that in the last couple of weeks and it was the same team that taught them that lesson. Jim Connelly of USCHO.com examines things a bit closer.

Two weeks ago, Boston College’s run as the top team in the country came to an end thanks to a 4-1 loss to Boston University. When New Hampshire took over as the No. 1 team this week, again it would be BU teaching them a lesson on Thursday taking them out with a 3-2 victory.

Being the top dog is never easy. Ever. It puts an instant target on your back to have everyone come after you. Seeing how it was BU that managed to earn wins in two out of three games against top-ranked opponents, it makes you believe Jack Parker’s team has a little something extra to their game.

Considering Boston University was ranked No. 7 in the country last Monday, they’re due for a boost after beating UNH and Maine. They might want to avoid the top spot for the time being.

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So long, Cissé: Redshirt sophomore Yasin Cissé left Boston University to pick up and play for QMJHL Blainville-Broisbriand and BU coach Jack Parker was more than honest in his assessment of his game. “He’s really struggling in every phase of his life because hockey’s not going the way he wants it to go.” Uh… Ouch. For what it’s worth, Cissé scored a goal in his first game with Blainville-Broisbriand.

So about that “Yerdon Jinx”: Denver University has gone winless in six straight games after tying North Dakota on Friday night and losing 6-3 to the former Fighting Sioux on Saturday. When I highlighted the Pioneers a couple weeks ago, I thought their bad weekend losing to Yale and UNH was curious. I didn’t think it signaled a full-on early season meltdown.

Yale’s bad weekend: The Yale Bulldogs were starting to let their presence be known in the ECAC. That is until RPI and Union showed up at The Whale this weekend and took three of four points from them. An embarrassing 6-1 loss to Rensselaer and a 2-2 tie with the Dutchmen should take Yale down a notch after cracking the USA Hockey/USA Today polls at 15 last week.

Alabama-Huntsville’s plight: While things are rough this season for the UAH Chargers, they’re still plugging along in hopes of landing a spot in the WCHA for the future. Matt Semsich of USCHO.com has a good piece on what coach Kurt Kleinendorst has to deal with in a tough position there.

(Photo: UNH’s Kevin Goumas — Hockey East Online)

Penguins push Capitals to brink of elimination with OT win

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The Pittsburgh Penguins ended a long run of playoff overtime struggles on Wednesday … and are now one win away from ending the Washington Capitals’ season.

Many expected the Penguins to crater on defense without Kris Letang (they were 2-8-1 in the regular season without him). While there were shaky moments, Pittsburgh emphasized its speed and other strengths in taking a 3-2 overtime thriller against Washington.

With that, the Penguins’ series lead grows to 3-1.

It was a thrilling, sometimes nasty contest, from Sidney Crosby shaking off an Alex Ovechkin slash, to Evgeni Malkin delivering a hit some thought was over the line and plenty of typical playoff skirmishes.

Ultimately, Matt Murray played another strong game and Patric Hornqvist scored the overtime-winner to put the Capitals in a tough spot.

The Penguins lost their previous eight playoff overtime games, so maybe it was just a matter of time before such a game went their way?

Then again, the history between the two teams is a little different:

If the Capitals want to advance beyond the second round for the first time in the Ovechkin era, they’ll need to accomplish quite the feat against arguably the hottest team in the NHL.

Sidney Crosby looks hurt (and furious) after Alex Ovechkin slash

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NBCSN screen
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Sidney Crosby is known to get fiery, but even for his feisty standards, he was furious during the third period of Game 4.

An Alex Ovechkin slash caught Crosby on the hand, leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins star shaking his mitt and pleading for a call.

After that, Crosby left to get his hand looked at … but not before flipping out and destroying his stick.

You can watch it happen in the GIF and the videos above.

Crosby was able to return not that long after that moment, although we can only speculate regarding how his overall game will be affected if his hand isn’t 100 percent.

Dirty or not? Evgeni Malkin’s hit on Daniel Winnik

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Tensions seem to rise with every passing game in the playoffs, particularly in a series with bad blood like the one between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.

Kris Letang was suspended for his hit in Game 3, and some wonder if Evgeni Malkin should suffer a similar fate for his check on Daniel Winnik on Wednesday.

Winnik left the contest and has not yet returned during the third period.

Take a look at the hit in the video above and decide for yourself.

Blues aim to raise money for victims of Fort McMurray fires

An evacuee puts gas in his car on his way out of Fort McMurray, Alberta, as a wildfire burns in the background Wednesday, May 4, 2016. The raging wildfire emptied Canada's main oil sands city, destroying entire neighborhoods of Fort McMurray, where officials warned Wednesday that all efforts to suppress the fire have failed.  (Jason Franson /The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
AP
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Fires devastated the Canadian city of Fort McMurray, and the St. Louis Blues are doing their part to help those who were affected.

Here’s what the team is doing to raise money during Game 4 against the Dallas Stars:

Proceeds raised through the team’s 50/50 raffle and the Blues for Kids silent auction will benefit families who have been misplaced by the fires.

Blues forward Scottie Upshall shared his thoughts with the Associated Press regarding several family members being among those evacuated from the area.

“It’s been a great city, a city that’s survived for many years through some tough times and for me, growing up there doesn’t seem too long ago,” Upshall said. “Places that probably aren’t standing anymore will be really, really tough to take. But as long as everyone’s OK, that’s the main thing.”

Other people from around the hockey world weighed in on the scary scene, including Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips, who told the Ottawa Citizen that “it hurts a lot.”

People shared some scary sights from the evacuation.