With most teams having their first series in the books by now, the NCAA men’s ice hockey season is officially underway and four of the Hurricanes prospects were in action this weekend. Hurricanes fans should have invested interest in college hockey this year because not only do the Canes have five prospects playing in the college ranks, the majority of them are on teams that could be contenders this year. Since it doesn’t look like the NHL is going to start anytime soon, following the likes of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan should be more than enough to keep Canes fans busy during this down time since it looks like all of these teams are in for interesting seasons to say the least.
It’s going to be another couple of weeks before things start to really heat up but there is plenty of news to report on in regards to the Carolina players who were in action this weekend. The first of which is 2010 second rounder Mark Alt, who didn’t have the most flashy performance of the weekend but his No. 1 ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers absolutely routed Michigan State in their two-game series this weekend. The Gophers took the first game by a score of 5-1 and then beat them down even worse the next night 7-1, holding the Spartans to only 11 shots in the second game.
Alt had only one assist in those two games, but he was also on ice for seven total Minnesota goals, six of which were at even strength. Providing offense isn’t exactly Alt’s top priority so I’m not expecting huge numbers from him there and it sounds like he, along with the rest of the Gophers defense, did their jobs this weekend as Michigan State was held to a total of 37 shots over two games. The Gophers made it look easy against the Spartans this weekend but they will be in for a tougher test next week when they take on Michigan Tech on the road in their first WCHA matchup of the year.
Overall, Alt’s team had the best weekend of the Canes NCAA prospect pool but the player with the strongest individual performance was this year’s second round pick Phil Di Giuseppe. PdG created a lot of offense for the Wolverines in their weekend series against RIT as he recorded 10 shots on goal over two games, scored a goal and recorded an assist. His performance was a tad bipolar in both games, though as he was on-ice for three RIT goals in the first game and was held off the scoresheet completely. To add salt to the wound, Michigan also lost that game in overtime 5-4. The Wolverines would rebound the next game with a 7-2 victory and Di Giuseppe contributed with a goal and an assist. Michigan may have not started off the year on as high of a note as they wanted, but things are looking up for PdG if he can continue to create this much offense.
Another team that didn’t get off to as good of a start as they wanted were the Wisconsin Badgers, who dropped both of their games to Northern Michigan this weekend. The one silver lining for Canes fans here is that their fifth round pick Brendan Woods recorded a primary assist in the second game. That probably doesn’t mean a lot to Badger fans, though as they watched their team give up two third period leads, get outshot in both games and see their penalty kill get torched. Wisconsin has lost quite a bit of talent this year, so they are in for some tough sledding and it wont get any easier next week in their series against Minnesota-Duluth.
As for Woods, in addition to the assist he went 4/9 on faceoffs and recorded only two shots on goal over the two games. It isn’t a horrible start by any means but there’s definitely a lot of room to improve with him. He’s only a sophomore and I’m not sure what kind of minutes he’s playing but him getting on the scoresheet in his second game of the year is good enough for me right now. Here’s to hoping that brighter days are ahead for him and the rest of the Badgers.
Wisconsin will play Minnesota-Duluth next week, which is who the Ohio State Buckeyes and Carolina’s fifth round draft pick Collin Olson took on this past weekend. I said this earlier, but Olson is going to have to make the most of his starts while he is playing behind senior netminder Brady Hjelle. This is exactly what he did this weekend as he was given the start in the second game of the back-to-back and he help lead the Buckeyes to a 3-2 victory by stopping 26 of the 28 shots he faced. It’s worth mentioning that he was perfect at even strength as both of UMD’s goals came on the powerplay. I’m not sure if he will take the starting job away from Hjelle this year, but if allowing no even strength goals to the #13 team in the nation en route to an upset victory isn’t a good way to start your NCAA career then I don’t know what is.
There is a long season in store for these players but it’s good to hear that most of Carolina’s college prospects got things started on the right foot.