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)

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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

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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

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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.

Return of the Macks

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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.

INCH WRITERS RANKINGS: THE PRESEASON TOP WHATEVER

Prior to just about every season at the old INCH site or here at INCH Writers, we’d roll out our rankings of every college team in the country called the Great 58 or the Great 58+1 depending on the number of programs. It was a fun, largely meaningless exercise. Oh, and people like lists.

As I was putting the list together for 2014-15, a problem arose. Slotting the first 10 or so teams was easy. So was ordering the bottom half dozen. The 40 in the middle, however, was a mess. I mean, I probably could’ve come up with a fairly reasonable ranking of all 59 teams, but I didn’t feel good about it.

Thankfully, INCH’s Joe Gladziszewski solved my problem. He said, “Do it like you do the regular-season rankings. Just list the ones you want and when you’re done, you’re done.”

Gladdy didn’t actually say that. He tweeted it to me. I’m embellishing to make the story a little better. This is not like Evgeni Malkin embellishing.

He’s right: 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 first INCH Writers Preseason Top Whatever, where I rank the teams until I feel like no one else deserves to be rated.

1. Minnesota (28-6-7 in 2013-14, NCAA runner-up): Here’s the production the Golden Gophers lost from last season: 15 goals, 40 assists and 83 saves. For a team that returns six skaters who scored 10 or more goals last season, making up for the departed shouldn’t be an issue.

action_pc_gillies2. Providence (22-11-6, NCAA Tournament participant): With all but one forward back from last season, the Friars should improve on the 115 goals they scored in 2013-14. With junior Jon Gillies (pictured, right) and his 2.12 career GAA in goal, it isn’t a necessity.

3. Colgate (20-14-5, NCAA Tournament participant): Another veteran-laden squad, the Raiders were a surprise second-place finisher in ECAC Hockey last season. Of the 10 players reached double digits in points a year ago, nine of them are back. So, too, is goalie Charlie Finn.

4. Boston College (28-8-4, NCAA Frozen Four participant): No one, even the great Jerry York, loses four forwards who combined for nearly 500 career points without skipping a beat. It may take a bit for the Eagles to get up to speed, but I expect they’ll be buzzing come March.

5. North Dakota (25-14-3, NCAA Frozen Four participant): There are 14 NHL draft picks on the roster. Freshman forward Nick Schmaltz, a first-round selection of Chicago Blackhawks this past summer, is the most highly touted. Junior goalie Zane McIntyre, property of the Bruins, is the most important, however.

6. Minnesota State (26-14-1, NCAA Tournament participant): If forwards Zach Stepan and Teddy Blueger can improve to Matt Leitner/John-Paul Lafontaine levels of offensive output—and I think they can—the Mavericks will score a lot of goals this season.

7. Miami (15-20-3): Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I’m giving the RedHawks a mulligan for last year’s train wreck because they’ve got too much talent and Enrico Blasi is too good of a coach to let it happen again.

action_scs_prochno8. St. Cloud State (22-11-5, NCAA Tournament participant): The defending Natty Ice regular-season champions have to replace goalie Ryan Faragher. Whomever nabs the no. 1 job gets the benefit of having two terrific defensemen (senior Andrew Prochno, pictured, and junior Ethan Prow) on their side.

9. Union (32-6-4, NCAA champion): No Daniel Carr, no Mat Bodie, no Shayne Gostisbehere. Still, forwards Daniel Ciampini, Mike Vecchione, Max Novak and Mike Pontarelli combined for 62 goals last season and all ECAC Hockey First Team goalie Colin Stevens is back, too.

10. Ferris State (29-11-3, NCAA Tournament participant): Speaking of goalies, C.J. Motte is a good one. He’s back for his senior season—and he’s the Bulldogs’ captain to boot. Keep an eye on sophomore forward Kyle Schempp, who scored 10 goals and 15 assists in a promising rookie campaign.

Teams I thought about including but ultimately didn’t: Denver (20-16-6), Northeastern (19-14-4), Yale (17-11-5), Michigan (18-13-4)

Hockey Night in Kandahar

In the grand scheme of things, hockey is not all that important. Sure, if you’re a coach or a general manager or a player at a high level and the game is your livelihood, it’s a big deal. But for most of us, it’s a pastime, a diversion.

Of course, some of us really need the diversion.

There’s a hockey rink on a NATO military base near Kandahar, Afghanistan. Canadian troops—that country’s military used to run the base—built the rink in their spare time. It’s an unlikely spot for hockey, what with daytime highs routinely approaching triple digits and, you know, the ongoing conflict that brought forces from a variety of nations to this mountainous land sandwiched between Iran and Pakistan.

Three nights a week, the concrete slab on the dusty base buzzes with activity as three teams—the United States Army, the U.S. Navy, and one comprised of Slovakian forces—play in what amounts to a ball hockey rec league.

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My cousin*, a Minnesota season ticket holder and an Army reservist, was dispatched to Afghanistan in August. His Army team, he said, isn’t very good, but they beat the Navy a couple times and upset the Slovaks once.

* I’m not sure if I’m allowed to mention his name—”I can’t tell you our mission here or what I’m doing,” he wrote in an e-mail shortly after he was deployed—so I’ll leave it out of this story.

“[The Slovaks] have one or two guys that did play in some league in Europe for a while,” he wrote.

“You guys need anything?” I wrote back, not sure how (or if) I could help.

He replied that the guys in Kandahar have one issue: Their equipment, primarily the sticks, take a severe beating. The Detroit Red Wings donated some sticks (including a few, reportedly, from coach Mike Babcock’s personal stash) a while back, but the cement rink quickly chews them to nubs. Gloves, repeatedly soaked with perspiration and then baked in the dry, 100-degree heat, don’t last too long, either. Surprisingly, the goaltending equipmentboth netminders are completely outfittedholds up pretty well, as do the shin pads.

My mission, therefore, is figuring out a way to collect a few branches and shipping them off to Kandahar. And I’m looking for your advice.

Finding the sticks and other gear is probably the easy part, but I’m certainly willing to track down leads you readers might have. Getting the stuff overseasI’ve never sent anything to Canada, let alone Afghanistanis a different story. Any insight folks out there might have is greatly appreciated. E-mail me here with your comments, and thanks in advance for your assistance.

While I’m certainly appreciative of the efforts of our armed forces at home and abroad, I’m not overly patriotic. When this opportunity presented itself, it seemed like a cool thing for me to do. It’s right in my wheelhouse. Reading the following in an e-mail from my cousin a few weeks ago sealed the deal.

“Who woulda thought that traveling over 5,000 miles from home,” he wrote, “and I would find myself assisting on the game winner versus the Navy?”

NCAA East Regional Preview

PROVIDENCE, R.I. | DUNKIN’ DONUTS CENTER
SATURDAY-SUNDAY, MARCH 30-31

Saturday: Quinnipiac vs. Canisius, 5:30 p.m. ET (TV: NESN, ESPN3)
Saturday: Boston College vs. Union, 9 p.m. ET (TV: ESPNU)
Sunday: Regional Final, 6:30 p.m. ET (TV: ESPNU)

quinnipiacNO. 1 SEED QUINNIPIAC BOBCATS
Location: Hamden, Conn.
Record: 27-7-5 overall (17-2-3 ECAC Hockey, first)
Qualified: At-large bid
NCAA Championships: None
NCAA Appearance: Second (most recent, 2002)
Head Coach: Rand Pecknold
Key Players: Jeremy Langlois, F, Sr. (38 GP, 12-18—30); Jordan Samuels-Thomas, F, Sr. (39 GP, 14-11—25); Loren Barron, D, Sr. (39 GP, 3-13—16); Eric Hartzell, G, Sr. (27-6-5, 1.52 GAA, .934 save pct.)
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