INCH Podcast: 2016 Frozen Four Recap

INCH PodcastNorth Dakota is a deserving national champion, Tampa is a deserving Frozen Four host city and Jimmy Vesey is a deserving Hobey Baker winner. Those are the themes for the latest edition of the INCH Podcast. Joe Gladziszewski, Mike Eidelbes, Jess Myers, Kevin Zeise, and James V. Dowd have the 2016 Frozen Four recap with more than two hours of discussion on the topics mentioned above and also some NHL chatter ahead of the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs. Our apologies for the file size, but take a minute to download and listen or import to your audio devices. It’s worth it.

INCH Podcast – 2016 Frozen Four Recap (2 hr 10 min; .mp3, ~120 MB)

INCH PODCAST: 2016 NCAA Tournament

INCH PodcastIt’s an annual-ish tradition, and we didn’t want to miss out on one of the best times of the year to talk college hockey. Joe Gladziszewski, Mike Eidelbes, Kevin Zeise, and James V. Dowd have the 2016 NCAA Tournament edition of the INCH Podcast. We go region-by-region to discuss the matchups ahead of this weekend’s schedule. We also debate tournament selection criteria, coaching changes, and make predictions of winners at each regional.

INCH Podcast – 2016 NCAA Tournament (1 hr 44 min; .mp3)

INCH Power Rankings: The Top Whatever

When the full-out publication of Inside College Hockey transitioned here to INCHwriters.com, the policy on rankings became biased … against round numbers. Just because one can create a top 15 or top 20 doesn’t mean that many teams are worthy of mention. The end result, therefore, is the INCH Writers Top Whatever Power Rankings. We rank the teams until we feel like no one else deserves to be rated.

Here’s how the Inside College Hockey editors and staff rank the nation’s top teams (along with a note for each team).

1. Quinnipiac (21-1-6, 12-0-4 ECAC Hockey)
LAST WEEK: T vs. Cornell 2-2 ot, W vs. Colgate 6-3. THIS WEEK: at St. Lawrence, at Clarkson

Sam Anas scored twice against Colgate on Saturday and has at least one goal in six straight games. Anas now has 20 goals on the year, the third-straight season that the junior has hit the 20-goal mark.

2. North Dakota (22-3-3, 13-2-1 NCHC)
LAST WEEK: Off. THIS WEEK: at Denver, at Denver

It’s easier to win when playing with a lead: North Dakota has outscored its foes by a 31-14 margin in the first period, including an 18-5 edge in NCHC play.

3. Boston College (19-4-4, 11-1-4 Hockey East)
LAST WEEK: W vs. Harvard 3-2 (Beanpot), W vs. New Hampshire 4-3. THIS WEEK: vs. Boston University (Beanpot Championship), vs. Merrimack, at Merrimack

A belated congratulations from INCH to head coach Jerry York on leading 1,000 career college hockey victories as head coach. The Eagles will play Monday night for their 20th all-time Beanpot championship and sixth in the last five seven years.

4. Providence (19-5-4, 10-3-3 Hockey East)
LAST WEEK: W at Maine 1-0 ot, W at Maine 4-2. THIS WEEK: vs. Connecticut, at Connecticut

After starting the season unbeaten in 15 games, a mid-season slump coincided with star defenseman Jake Walman being out of the lineup. The Friars have won six of their last eight games and Trevor Mingoia has five goals, six assists and a plus-6 rating in that stretch.

5. St. Cloud State (23-6-1, 13-4-1 NCHC)
LAST WEEK: W at Miami 5-1, L at Miami 3-2. THIS WEEK: Off

The Huskies average 4.33 goals per game and they get the production from different sources. Six different players have 10 goals or more on the season. No other team in the country can claim that distinction.

6. Notre Dame (16-5-7, 12-2-2 Hockey East)
LAST WEEK: W at Vermont 2-1, W at Vermont 3-1. THIS WEEK: vs. Maine, vs. Maine

After starting the year with a 5-4-4 mark, the Fighting Irish have gone 11-1-3 in their last 15 games. During that span, junior goalie Cal Peterson has posted a 1.67 GAA and a .946 save percentage.

7. Yale (14-5-4, 9-4-3 ECAC Hockey)
LAST WEEK: W vs. Dartmouth 5-1, W vs. Harvard 2-1. THIS WEEK: at Colgate, at Cornell

After three-straight losses left Yale with a 5-4-2 record in early December, the Bulldogs have gone 9-1-2 since. Goalie Alex Lyon has played all 12 of those games, and allowed just 16 goals (1.31 GAA) with a .949 save percentage and two shutouts.

8. Michigan (17-4-4, 8-2-2 B1G)
LAST WEEK: L vs. Michigan State 3-2 ot (Joe Louis Arena); W at Michigan State 4-1. THIS WEEK: at Wisconsin, at Wisconsin

The Wolverines have scored 49 third-period goals this season. That’s the same number of goals Princeton has scored in 23 games.

9. UMass Lowell (17-6-5, 10-4-4 Hockey East)
LAST WEEK: T vs. Northeastern 2-2 ot, L vs. New Hampshire 3-2. THIS WEEK: at Boston University, vs. Boston University

There’s a big divide between the top-five teams in Hockey East and the rest of the pack. Only four of those leaders will get the first week of the league tournament off. The River Hawks have four league games remaining – home-and-home series with Boston University and Boston College.

10. Denver (13-8-5, 9-5-2 NCHC)
LAST WEEK: Off. THIS WEEK: vs. North Dakota, vs. North Dakota

Chalking up a pair of wins for North Dakota when the Fighting Hawks visit Denver this weekend? Guess again. NoDak hasn’t swept a road series from the Pioneers since Nov. 21-22, 2003. That was so long ago, DU bounced back from those losses by beating Findlay six days later. We’re not making this up.

11. Boston University (16-7-4, 9-4-3 Hockey East)
LAST WEEK: W vs. Northeastern 3-1 (Beanpot), W at Massachusetts 6-3. THIS WEEK: vs. Boston College (Beanpot Championship), vs. UMass Lowell, at UMass Lowell

Hey Cam Newton, now that you’ve got some free time in the offseason, we encourage you to learn about Matt O’Connor – an example of how to conduct yourself with respect and perspective in difficult situations.

12. Harvard (13-6-3, 9-4-3 ECAC Hockey)
LAST WEEK: L vs. Boston College 3-2 (Beanpot), W at Brown 3-2, L at Yale 2-1. THIS WEEK: vs. Northeastern (Beanpot Third Place), vs. Rensselaer, vs. Union

At times this season Harvard has looked like a Frozen Four contender. Digging a little deeper shows five of the Crimson’s six losses are against Quinnipiac, BU, BC and Yale. That big game record is why we slot this team here.

13. Michigan Tech (16-7-5, 13-6-3 WCHA)
LAST WEEK: W vs. Lake Superior State 3-0, W vs. Lake Superior State 3-1. THIS WEEK: Off

Getting swept by visiting Alaska Anchorage in early December was an eye-opener for the Huskies. They’ve gone 7-1-4 since, with the only loss coming to Michigan in the Great Lakes Invitational title game in Detroit.

14. Minnesota State (15-10-5, 13-4-5 WCHA)
LAST WEEK: W vs. Bowling Green 5-1, L vs. Bowling Green 3-1. THIS WEEK: at Alabama-Huntsville, at Alabama-Huntsville

Safe to say the Mavericks are comfortable on home ice, especially in league play. Minnesota State is 10-2-0 against WCHA rivals in Mankato this season and in two-plus years in the revamped conference, the Mavs’ home mark in the circuit is a sparkling 34-4-2.

15. Penn State (17-8-3, 7-5-0 B1G)
LAST WEEK: L at Minnesota 4-1, W at Minnesota 5-3. THIS WEEK: at Michigan State, at Michigan State

The Nittany Lions snapped a four-game losing streak by beating Minnesota Saturday. They’ll have a good chance to build momentum heading into a season-ending series at Michigan. Prior to that Penn State has six games lined up against the bottom three teams in the Big Ten between now and March 11-12.

16. Bowling Green (16-9-6, 12-5-5 WCHA)
LAST WEEK: L at Minnesota State 5-1, W at Minnesota State 3-1. THIS WEEK: vs. Miami

You might want to have flexible postgame plans if you’re heading to a Falcons game. Bowling Green has played nine overtime games this season, seven of them at home.

17. Robert Morris (17-7-4, 14-4-4 Atlantic Hockey)
LAST WEEK: W at Sacred Heart 2-1, W at Sacred Heart 2-1. THIS WEEK: vs. Army West Point, vs. Army West Point

Senior forward Zac Lynch enters the Colonials’ weekend series vs. Army West Point with a nine-game point streak. The Pittsburgh native has at least one point in 26 of RMU’s 28 games to date this season.

Bubble-licious: Cornell, Omaha, Clarkson

INCH Podcast: Reunion Concert

INCH PodcastWe got the band back together! It seems that the popularity of podcasts escalated, you know, as soon as ours went into retirement. But have no fear, we’re back with the INCH Podcast on this Week of INCH. Topics include new teams in college hockey, what’s going on in the Big Ten landscape and some Hobey Baker chatter, including a trivia question starring Scott Pellerin. Of course, it wouldn’t be an INCH Podcast without a little deterioration. Allow us to set the stage for your college hockey weekend.

INCH Podcast – Week of INCH (1 hr 27 min; .mp3)

Friday Four-cast: Week of INCH

Penn State at Minnesota (Fri.-Sat.): As explosive as Michigan has been this season, the Wolverines enter the weekend tied with Minnesota for first place in the Big Ten, six points ahead of third-place Penn State. For all intents and purposes, a Gophers sweep eliminates the Nittany Lions from the regular-season title chase and sets up a huge series in two weeks when Michigan visits Mariucci Arena. In Penn State’s four previous games in Minneapolis, they’ve been outscored by the Gophers by an 18-4 margin.

Bowling Green at Minnesota State (Fri.-Sat.): Two wins for the host Mavericks and Verizon Wireless Center staffers can think about scouting the arena’s rafters for a spot to hoist a second WCHA regular-season championship banner. These teams are trending in opposite directions—first-place Minnesota State is 14-5-5 after starting the season with four losses in as many games; second-place Bowling Green, meanwhile, got off to an 11-3-5 start but has a 4-5-1 mark since Dec. 30.

Dartmouth at Yale (Fri.); Harvard at Yale (Sat.): Quinnipiac has built a cushion atop the ECAC Hockey standings, but these three Ivy rivals are in the national polls and among a tightly-packed group of teams chasing top-four spots in the ECAC Hockey standings. When they played in the first week of November, Yale tied at Harvard and won at Dartmouth. This weekend, Ingalls Rink is the place to be for the biggest games in ECAC Hockey.

Beanpot Tournament (Mon.): It’s Harvard against Northeastern in the third-place game during happy hour, because it’s the second Monday of the Beanpot and that’s how things usually work. The championship game between Boston University and Boston College is the third meeting of the year between these rivals. In mid-January, BC won at home and tied at BU as Eagles defenseman Ian McCoshen had five points (2-3—5) on six BC goals that weekend.

Hobey Tracker: Week of INCH

hobeytracker

The Hobey Baker Memorial Award is presented to a deserving recipient on the day before the last college hockey game of the season. But that doesn’t mean that college hockey fans, players and media members don’t think about it all season. Inside College Hockey’s Hobey Tracker looks at the top three candidates for the award, those whose stock is rising or falling, and other players worthy of consideration.

BIG BOARD

1. Jimmy Vesey
Harvard | Senior | Forward
To Date: 20 GP, 16-16–32, 5 PPG, 1 SHG, 4 GWG, +10

As a returning Hobey Hat Trick finalist from last year, Vesey entered the season with the pre-established notoriety the helps attract attention when the season begins. He’s done nothing to discount his award candidacy for a Harvard team that has spent most of the season in the top-10 in the country. Vesey has had at least one point in 17 of Harvard’s 20 games and 12 multi-point nights. He scored all three goals in a 3-2 win over St. Lawrence. If there’s a concern, check the games against the big opponents. He had just two assists total in Harvard’s two losses to Quinnipiac and a Beanpot semifinal loss to Boston College.

2. Brock Boeser
North Dakota | Freshman | Forward
To Date: 26 GP, 18-13–31, 5 PPG, 3 GWG, +26

Boeser, a first-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks in the 2015 NHL Draft, has been on a tear over the past two-plus months with 13 goals and 24 points in his last 16 games. INCH values goals—it’s hard to score ’em—and Boeser is tied for fifth in the nation in that category with 18. If you saw any of North Dakota’s series with Western Michigan last weekend, you noticed Boeser stepping to the fore for the Fighting Hawks in the absence of linemate Drake Caggiula.

3. Joey Benik
St. Cloud State | Senior | Forward
To Date: 28 GP, 17-16–33, 5 PPG, 5 GWG, +23

As mentioned above, we value goal-scoring in considering this award, and Benik is the leading goal-scorer for the nation’s second-ranked team in total scoring. On a team that clicks at 31.7 percent on the power play, 12 of Benik’s 17 goals notably come at even strength. He’s also accounted for five game-winning goals on the season. Similarly to Boeser, the hardest part of selecting Benik for mention here is choosing him ahead of equally-talented and noteworthy teammates.

BULL MARKET

Kyle Connor | Michigan | Freshman | Forward

Only two freshmen have won the Hobey Baker Award—Paul Kariya in 1993 and Jack Eichel last season. Are voters ready to give another rookie the nod? Newcomers like Boeser and Connor, the nation’s leading scorer with 42 points, may force their hand. In 12 games since Dec. 4, Connor has 15 goals and 15 assists; the Wolverines are 9-1-2 during that span. Separating Connor’s value from linemates J.T. Compher and Tyler Motte may be difficult, but averaging nearly two points per game is a good jumping-off point.

BEAR MARKET

Jake Walman | Providence | Sophomore | Defense

Prior to the holidays, Walman might’ve been the Hobey favorite—the defending national champions were 9-0-3, and Walman had 11 goals, more than all but three skaters in the country. But then he missed four December games with an injury (the Friars split those four games) and in eight games since returning to the lineup, he’s scored two goals and five assists as Providence has posted a 4-3-1 record. He should still be part of the conversation, but making a serious run at the top three will require an uptick in production.

HIDDEN HOBEY

Thatcher Demko | Boston College | Jr. | 24 GP, 17-4-3, .938 save pct., 1.65 GAA
Michael Garteig | Quinnipiac | Sr. | 26 GP, 20-1-5, .933 save pct., 1.62 GAA
Cam Johnson | North Dakota | So. | 18 GP, 13-1-1, .948 save pct., 1.31 GAA
Charlie Lindgren | St. Cloud State | Jr. | 27 GP, 21-5-1, .927 save pct., 2.04 GAA

Ask any college hockey follower what makes these four teams special and the first response might be their ability to score lots of goals. But this quartet is comprised of the starting goalies for the top-four teams in the national polls. Those teams stand in the top-nine in the country in scoring offense, but having a big-time goalie to rely upon is what separates them from fifth-ranked Michigan and other teams. You’ve got to play both ends of the ice if you want to be truly elite, and we know that once the postseason comes around the emphasis is on defense. These four goalies aren’t at the Hobey Baker Award-level of Robb Stauber and Ryan Miller, but they’re a big reason why these teams have legitimate Frozen Four and national championship hopes. They will be the difference-makers in March and April.

Postcard: St. Cloud State power play drones on

ST. PAUL, Minn.—If you binge-watch the National Geographic TV series “Aerial America,” plowing through six or seven states in one sitting (hey, we all have our issues) or if you groove on the current craze of drone camera footage, you would love watching hockey from the press box at Xcel Energy Center. The media is perched high, high above the ice, providing a bird’s-eye view of the action even when the Fighting Hawks aren’t playing there. (Sorry, NoDak fans. Too soon?)

Prior to last weekend’s North Star College Cup, the St. Cloud State Huskies—currently ranked among the top three in the nation—hadn’t played there in more than a year. The Huskies were the odd team out for last year’s “Minnesota Beanpot” so they hadn’t been on the ice of the X since the 2014 West Regional title game, where they fell 4-0 to Minnesota. Which is a shame, because when there’s an opposing player in the penalty box, the Huskies are amazing to watch, especially from high above.

The Huskies are a solid team top to bottom, backstopped by one of the nation’s better goalies in junior Charlie Lindgren. And they score goals by the handful. But the real fun begins when they go up a man.

More than a dozen years ago when he was an assistant coach at Minnesota, Bob Motzko’s power play was the most feared in the nation and a big reason why the Gophers won back-to-back national titles in 2002 and ’03. A few years later, Motzko went to coach his alma mater, taking that man-advantage sorcery with him, and in the decade-plus he’s been at SCSU, no opposing coach has figured a consistently effective way to counter what the Huskies do on the power play.

“Their timing is some of the best we’ve faced,” Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings said after his team fell to SCSU 5-4 in the opening game of the tournament. “Once they get it down by the goal line, they’ve got movement that is pretty precision-like. Their guy gets into a good position and if you don’t defend him, he’s going to shoot it quick. If he does hold it for a second, it’s going back door. So you have to have good coverage.”

The skycam view is enjoyable, watching the passes connect on the perimeter until a forward sneaks open on the back door, as freshman Mikey Eyssimont did twice versus the Mavericks. Invariably there’s a quick cross-ice pass and a tap in. The Huskies head into the meat of the NCHC schedule clipping at nearly 32 percent on the power play. And when you’re prepping to play the Huskies, it’s in your head, with coaches preaching the need to stay out of the penalty box.

“You discuss it because it’s a vital piece of their entire team,” Hastings said. “They draw energy from it. As soon as that arm goes in the air they get excited. And they’ve got guys that can play with poise.”

The Mavericks allowed four power plays in their game with SCSU. The Huskies scored on three of them, including the game-winner with less than five minutes to play.

“I thought it was a good hockey game, but when you take a penalty with five minutes left, you’re playing Russian roulette and they’ve got more than one bullet in that gun,” Hastings said.

When asked if his power play was in the opponents’ heads, Motzko took a jovial tone.

“They’ve never let me in on any of their team meetings, so I don’t know what they’re saying over there,” the coach said with a smile. “But we all know when the power play is going, it’s won us some games this year. Obviously people have to take notice. It’s dangerous. We have two units that can score and they’re taking turns right now.”

In the same conversation, Motzko acknowledged that it gets tougher to score late in the season, which might have been proven on Sunday when the Huskies won that “interesting” wooden cup given to the tournament champion by beating Bemidji State, 5-2, despite going 0-for-2 on the power play. The Huskies have four NCHC series left with which to try to make up their current three-point deficit with North Dakota, and three are on the road.

To counter those obstacles, the Huskies have a pair of power-play units that are clicking and fun to watch no matter where you sit And they have their sights set on a return trip to the X for this year’s NCAA West Regional.

“We’ve got a lot of talent and there’s a lot of confidence in these two units,” Motzko said, referring to four players with four or more power play goals. “It will have ebbs and flows and it gets harder in the second half of the year. But right now they’ve got good confidence.”

— Jess Myers

Found on a Cocktail Napkin

INCH Found on a Cocktail Napkin

NINE THINGS OVERHEARD AT NHL AND AHL ALL-STAR FESTIVITIES

  • “Phil Kessel is sitting in a meeting room at the Opryland Hotel waiting for the player draft. Somebody should tell him.”
  • “Who the hell is Leo Komarov? He’s on Toronto? I didn’t even realize they had an NHL team in Toronto.”
  • “If Danny Kristo isn’t here, it should be called the AHL Some-of-the-Stars Classic.”
  • This is just a little more open ice than there was when Pavelski beat Cornell in ’06.”
  • “The people who got John Scott voted into this thing – can we put them in charge of bringing a Frozen Four to Nashville?”
  • “They’re not booing Patrick Kane; they’re saying … no, wait, they’re booing. Lots and lots of booing.”
  • “Why do people keep throwing spare change at Brent Burns?”
  • “Shea Weber broke the record for hardest shot in Nashville, previously held by whatever Johnny Cash was drinking.”
  • “I spent the AHL all-star break in Utica last year and Syracuse this year. That’s my ultimate motivation for being ready for camp with the big club in September.”

The INCH First Shift

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

John Scott

St. John’s IceCaps (AHL)
Michigan Tech University ’06

Look, it wouldn’t be all that difficult to pull an honoree from last weekend’s college hockey action. But why not give it to Scott, a guy who had a string of days over the last week that have been nothing short of magical?

Scott’s never been a star. Not at Michigan Tech where, in four seasons, he racked up a total of seven goals and 19 points. Not in the American Hockey League, where he was unceremoniously dumped after being traded by the Arizona Coyotes to Montreal last month not long after winning the fan vote for Pacific Division All-Star captain. And certainly not in the NHL, where he’s scored a total of five goals in 285 career games scattered over eight seasons.

Based on the terrific first-person piece that appeared on The Players’ Tribune last week, it sure seemed like multiple entities conspired to keep Scott from participating in NHL All-Star festivities in Nashville in spite of the fans’ wishes.

Still, Scott showed up. And he stole the spotlight. Not only did he score two goals to help his Pacific team win the newfangled All-Star tournament, but the fans also voted him MVP. His teammates carried him off the ice on his shoulders. And he—along with the Canadiens’ P.K. Subban and the Sharks’ Brent Burns, most notably—made a historically dull event into the most entertaining, most talked-about All-Star Game since … well, who knows?

There’s no way the NHL lets a guy like Scott take part in the All-Star game again. Commissioner Gary Bettman will ensure the event’s honor and dignity (as he and the rest of the league’s suits see it) aren’t sullied in the future. That’s a shame, because Scott perfectly captured the spirit of hockey. He didn’t take himself too seriously, tried his best, and had a blast.

Besides, anything that makes Mike Milbury mad can’t be all bad, can it?

STICK SALUTE

Arizona State wrapped up its inaugural go-round against NCAA Division I competition Sunday with a 3-22-0 mark after dropping a 10-0 decision to a Merrimack team that entered the day with a 10-game losing streak. There were rough patches, for sure—the Sun Devils lost their last 16 games against DI foes by a combined 79-11 margin—but there were bright spots including a sweep of Lake Superior State, a 2-1 win over Alaska on a goal with 34 seconds left in regulation, and one-goal losses at Wisconsin and Clarkson. The future looks bright for Arizona State, and we can’t wait to see what happens next.

BENCH MINOR

Watching from afar, the North Star College Cup in St. Paul seems like a great event. There’s one clumsy aspect to the proceedings however, as a four-team tournament that celebrates five Division I men’s ice hockey teams in the state means one team is left out of the event each year.

Minnesota holds a place in the tournament every year as the host institution, and one of the other four teams—Bemidji State, St. Cloud State, Minnesota Duluth or Minnesota State—takes its turn in a rotation to not participate in the annual event.

While watching the third-place game on Sunday afternoon, we wondered if a relegation format might spice things up in the annual proceedings. How about the fourth-place team in one year heads to the bench the following year? That would still ensure that no team sits out two years in a row, and it’s a model that the International Ice Hockey Federation uses in many of its championship tournaments.

We do understand that the nature of having a host school and the considerations for the excluded team’s ability to schedule that weekend would be affected by our proposal, but we’re about fun ideas and this is one.

SAY WHAT?

“I didn’t foresee a third period where it was going to be no-holds-barred. The hit on Barre was everything about the game that we’re trying to take out … I’ve never seen anything like it in my life, and I’ve been doing this for 30-odd years.”

Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet to Tris Wykes of the White River Junction (Vt.) Valley News after his team’s 7-5 loss Friday to Quinnipiac. A Bobcat player checked Big Green forward Jack Barre from behind into the boards in the third period with Dartmouth clinging to a 5-4 lead. No penalty was called on the play, and top-ranked Quinnipiac scored three goals in the final 9:11 of regulation—part of a six-goal third period.

RANKINGS OUTRAGE

Back in the days when we regularly published at Inside College Hockey, our weekly INCH Power Rankings usually showed some divergence from the weekly polls compiled by USCHO.com and the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine from coaches. We pushed teams that were on hot streaks a little further up and were quick to knock down those teams who were scuffling over a couple of weeks.

Taking a glance at this week’s national polls revealed almost no divergence. The top-13 teams in each ranking were listed in identical order. The 14th- and 15th-ranked teams in both polls were Rensselaer and Michigan Tech, with RPI ahead in the USCHO poll and MTU ahead by the coaches.

We’ll close the Week of INCH with an INCH Power Rankings on Sunday night and have our say on how we think these teams should be stacked.

TWEET O’ THE WEEK

Can we table this discussion until after the season? The Gophers still have six regular-season games at Mariucci.

Return of the Macks

abe_simpson

Previewing this week’s content.

Hello? Is this thing on? The internet still works, right? Even if we haven’t been!

Many sports fans say that the final week of January and first few weeks of February comprise the worst time of the year on the sports calendar. After all, several weeks have passed since college football crowned a national champion, the NFL is ready for its corporate showcase … err … championship game, and let’s face it, basketball kind of sucks.

We’re a month from baseball spring training taking full hold. Even the Daytona 500 is a couple of weeks away. It’s no coincidence that Sports Illustrated launched its annual swimsuit/model showcase publication at this time of the year and has maintained its place on the calendar after more than 50 years.

If this truly is the worst time of the year for sports, it sounds like just the right thing for us. When it comes to “worst of” and “sports” the staff of Inside College Hockey pretty much dominates. And besides, these weeks are the start of the best time of the calendar for college hockey. It’s the stretch run of the regular season as teams build toward conference and national playoffs.

With that in mind, allow us to get the band back together for a special engagement. A Week of INCH will include many of our old editorial features. We’ll drop the puck on things tonight with First Shift and Found On A Cocktail Napkin. We’ll have a Hobey Tracker in the middle of the week and preview the weekend with our Friday Four-cast.

But wait, there’s more! For separate processing and shipping and handling, we’ll include a reunion edition of the INCH Podcast. We’ll wrap things up with an INCH Power Rankings to be posted after the Super Bowl.

Thanks for checking out our coverage as the week goes along. It’s great to drop in on the sport we love, combat our boredom, and maybe help out if you’re doing the same.