INCH Podcast: Week of INCH 2017

INCH PodcastIt wouldn’t be a Week of INCH without the INCH Podcast. Mike Eidelbes and Joe Gladziszewski got together to chat about the landscape of college hockey as the stretch run approaches. We evaluate the defining characteristics of the top contenders this season, what makes them likely to make the Frozen Four, and offer our predictions on which teams will make it to Chicago. Of course, Podcast Deterioration includes answering some reader questions, sending birthday greetings to Wayne Gretzky, and out-of-town scores.

Click to download the INCH Podcast below and send it to your preferred device, or listen right here in your browser.

INCH Podcast – Week of INCH 2017 (1 hr, 46 min; 49.5 MB, .mp3)

 

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Found on a Cocktail Napkin

Every sports-related website makes predictions. People love ’em. And when Inside College Hockey was up and running on both cylinders, we made predictions, too. As we prepared for the second annual Week of INCH, we pored through the archives to see how accurate we were with our predictions. Turns out, we were surprisingly good. Just take a look …

INCH Found on a Cocktail Napkin

TEN INCH PREDICTIONS FROM THE PAST THAT CAME TRUE

  • An average-sized defenseman from Florida will lead Union to a national title.
  • Penn State will show it’s for real when their Russian kid gets a hat trick against Arizona State.
  • The road to the MacNaughton Cup will go through Bemidji.
  • Mark Morris will be back in college hockey … coaching St. Lawrence.
  • This Michigan-Michigan State series will go along way in determining who finishes last in the Big Ten.
  • North Dakota will never get over the hump with Dave Hakstol behind the bench.
  • It will make complete sense for UMass, Quinnipiac, St. Lawrence, and Vermont to play in Belfast.
  • Jerry York will wear an eye patch.
  • There will be so many games on TV you won’t be able to choose which one to watch.
  • You’ll miss Inside College Hockey when it’s gone.

Hobey Tracker: Week of INCH 2017

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. Mike Vecchione
Union | Senior | Forward
To Date: 24 GP, 18-23—41, 4 PPG, 3 SHG, 4 GWG, +24 rating

The dilemma here is separating Vecchione’s achievements from those of high-scoring linemates Spencer Foo and Sebastian Vidmar. A few factors help Vecchione in this regard. First, he’s no stranger to voters, who’ve known about him since he helped Union win the 2014 NCAA title. Second, he produces not only in quantity—he’s tied for the NCAA lead in points and second in goals—but also quality. No one in the country has more non-power play goals (14, including an NCAA-best three short-handed goals) or points (28). Finally, he’s got a well-rounded resume—Union’s captain ranks fourth nationally with a 62.2% winning percentage at the faceoff dot and only one player in the country has won more draws.

2. Neal Pionk
Minnesota Duluth | Sophomore | Defenseman
To Date: 24 GP, 5-13—18, 3 PPG, +16 rating

Including Pionk is like putting a deep cut on a greatest hits album, but he’s earned the right to be on this list. The Bulldogs boast exceptional balance and have been the nation’s most consistent team since the season started. In our view, Pionk is their best player and catalyst. Does he have gaudy numbers? No, but they’re solid. He helped propel UMD to a terrific start against a tough opening schedule with 4-6—10 in his first eight games. And while the merits of plus-minus rating have been debated, it’s worth noting Pionk has been a minus player in only three games—the Bulldogs lost by one goal in each of them.

3. Justin Kloos
Minnesota | Senior | Forward
To Date: 22 GP, 11-16—27, 3 PPG, 3 SHG, 4 GWG, +2 rating

We’ll do a deeper dive into the Gophers as part of the INCH Podcast later this week (preview: we like where this team is headed) and Kloos has led Minnesota’s recent charge to the top of the Big Ten standings and a climb in the national polls. The Gophers are 9-3-0 in their last 12 games and Kloos has 8-12—20 during that span, but he’s more than just a scorer. A terrific penalty-killer (like Vecchione, Kloos has three short-handed goals to date) and an adequate faceoff man, he’s always going to be on the ice in key situations for the Gophers. Kloos is a player you may not appreciate enough when you have him, but you miss him like crazy when you don’t.

BULL MARKET

We won’t identify a specific player here, but rather a trend that’s worth mentioning. Over the history of the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, recipients were most often seniors. And specifically four-year players that built their names and notoriety over improving college careers. Then along came a young wave of star players. Johnny Gaudreau won as a junior. Jack Eichel won as a freshman. Michigan freshman Kyle Connor had a strong case last year but the award went to senior Jimmy Vesey. This year’s class of finalists might be senior-laden as well. While they didn’t make this Hobey Tracker’s Big Board, the likes of Zach Aston-Reese (Northeastern), Alex Kerfoot (Harvard), Joe Gambardella (UMass Lowell), and Austin Ortega (Omaha) will get strong consideration from Hobey voters.

BEAR MARKET

Tyler Kelleher | New Hampshire | Senior | Forward

Another senior worth mentioning, Kelleher is among the nation’s leading scorers with 14 goals, 27 assists, and 41 points in 24 games for the Wildcats. The US NTDP product is having his best season as a senior at UNH under head coach Dick Umile. This year’s monster campaign is his third-straight 40-plus point season and backs up a 42-point sophomore season and 46-point junior campaign. All of that points to his deserved-place among Hobey Baker candidates, and if this Week of INCH took place a few weeks earlier, Kelleher likely would have been on our Big Board. But he’s got just one assist over New Hampshire’s last four games, and the Wildcats have a win, loss, and two ties in that stretch.

HIDDEN HOBEY

Jake Oettinger | Boston University | Freshman | Goalie

On a roster loaded with high-profile names and 11 NHL draft picks, Jake Oettinger stepped onto campus and claimed the starting goaltending job at BU. His numbers are staggering. A .938 save percentage and 1.70 goals-against average have allowed Oettinger to build a 13-5-2 record with four shutouts. Notoriety has come with four Hockey East weekly awards. The draft-eligible goalie was one of six Terriers on the gold-medal winning United States team at the World Juniors. While he didn’t start the medal-round games for that team, he’ll certainly be the backbone of Boston University’s Hockey East and NCAA playoff hopes later this spring.

INCH First Shift: Week of INCH 2017

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

RILEY TUFTE
MINNESOTA DULUTH
Fr. | F | Blaine, Minn.

umdchamp1In a college hockey season rife with the kind of parity Roger Goodell dreams about, the Bulldogs have been among the best teams in the country since day one. UMD can solidify its standing in the upper echelon if Tufte continues to flash the skills that prompted the Dallas Stars to take him in the first round of last year’s NHL Draft.

After being held scoreless in his first 20 games — Tufte missed the season’s first two weeks with an injury — he’s scored four goals and two assists in his last six contests, including three goals and an assist in first-place UMD’s sweep at North Dakota this past weekend. The Bulldogs became the first team to sweep the Fighting Hawks in Grand Forks since 2013.

STICK SALUTE

More than 2,700 fans packed West Point’s Tate Rink to watch the latest installment in college hockey’s most unique rivalry as Army hosted Royal Military College of Canada last Saturday. The Black Knights extended their winning streak in the series (which started in 1921) to six straight with a 5-3 win over the Paladins. Freshman forward Dominic Franco scored a pair of goals for Army, which improved its all-time record against RMC to 45-29-7.

BENCH MINOR

A State College, Pa. reporter posted this tweet with a photo of a broom on the ice surface at the Pegula Ice Arena. While it’s unclear whether the action of tossing the broom on the ice was taken by team members, staff, or a boisterous fan, a couple points need to be made. First, we’re all for enthusiasm and celebrating big wins, but that’s probably best left for the dressing room. Second, is it really a sweep when Friday’s game ended in a 3-3 tie, and Ohio State earned a bonus point via shootout? Maybe the team can take some time to “brush” up on its program’s Frozen Four history.

SAY WHAT?

A first-intermission promotion at Yost Ice Arena on Friday night ended up being more of a talking point than Michigan State’s 3-0 win over the Wolverines. When the Wiener Dog Races were announced, it was go time. Instead of, “Ready, set, go!” some of the participants opted for, “When you gotta go, you gotta go.” We can’t help but wonder if the dashing dachshunds were making an editorial statement the current standard of play from two legendary programs.

RANKINGS OUTRAGE

Stick tap to all of the voters in national polls. Outrage must be the descriptive word to illustrate their emotions when it’s time to compile their rankings at the end of the week. A revolving door at the top of both national polls, especially in recent weeks, and inconsistency in form from the nation’s top teams make the task especially difficult.

There is an upside to the week-to-week uncertainty. When fans head to their local rinks or tune into television broadcasts or webcasts, they can expect almost anything. It’s setting up for a wide-open conclusion to the year and a heck of a postseason.

TWEET O’ THE WEEK

Literally. It’s the tweet of the Week of INCH. Even though Inside College Hockey ceased regular publication prior to the 2012-13 season, we still closely follow the game we love. We realized last year that these end-of-January weeks are among the worst weeks of the year for sports, and it inspired us.

With that in mind, allow us to get the band back together. For the second year in a row, Week of INCH will include many of our old editorial features. We drop the puck on things with this First Shift. We’ll have a Hobey Tracker and Found On A Cocktail Napkin in the middle of the week and preview the weekend with our Friday Four-cast. Of course, the legendary INCH Podcast will be available for download Friday morning. We’ll wrap things up with the INCH Power Rankings on Sunday night, Jan. 29.

Suggestions? Feedback? Comments? Check in on Twitter at @INCH and @INCH_Gladdy.

There’s some spirit that needs capturing. Thanks for reading.