It's that time of the year again... when the snow begins to melt, the buds start to appear on the trees, and the various college conferences are starting their own internal playoffs while counting down to the Frozen Four.
Several Blues' prospects are involved in college playoffs this season, at every position and in each of the four major conferences -- the CCHA, ECAC, Hockey East, and WCHA. Four of those prospects, however, have already seen their schools eliminated from playoff competition.
Notre Dame and 2007 first-round pick (18th overall) Ian Cole saw a disappointing 2009-10 season come to an unhappy conclusion last weekend, as the Fighting Irish were swept by Ohio State in 3-1 and 8-2 decisions.
The losses meant that Notre Dame, which was a game over .500 in late January, limped down the stretch with a 2-7-1 record and were outscored 41-21 in their last ten games. Cole, for his part, missed eight games in mid-season due to concussion issues, and finished the season a disappointing minus-16.
The early end to Cole's season has fueled talk of him leaving Notre Dame and turning pro, as reported by Peoria Rivermen beat writer Dave Eminian in the Peoria Journal-Star. With Peoria fighting for their playoff lives, Cole's size and skill on the blueline would be of enormous help to them down the stretch.
In the ECAC, the Clarkson Golden Knights and goalie prospect Paul Karpowich were eliminated by St. Lawrence in a three-game series last weekend, as reported here at Game Time.
After suffering an 11-2 blowout at the hands of Union College (featuring 2009 Orientation Camp attendee Keith Kinkaid in goal) on Feb. 5, Karpowich picked up the Golden Knights and carried them on his back into the ECAC playoffs. Clarkson managed just a 4-5-1 record in their last ten games, but outscored their opponents 28-27 in that span, with Karpowich playing every minute in the net.
In Clarkson's last ten games, Karpowich played 623:46, and allowed 27 goals on 346 shots for a 2.60 GAA and a 92.2% save percentage down the stretch.
After the jump, get caught up with the other two prospects who have seen the 2009-10 season come to an end this weekend, as well as the three who are down to a winner-take-all game this evening.
Going from upstate New York to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, the Blues have a pair of prospects enrolled at the University of Minnesota, but only one is playing for a berth in the WCHA Final Five.
Senior center Jay Barriball has been out since Nov. 3 with a knee injury suffered in practice. He has undergone successful surgery on the injured knee, and is rehabilitating it now, but there has as yet been no official word as to whether Barriball would seek a medical redshirt and replay his senior season with the Gophers, or whether he will turn pro and sign with Peoria when Minnesota's season is done. There is little left for Barriball to prove at the NCAA level, and his feisty play and puckhandling abilities should translate well to the AHL level, where the Rivermen are engaged in a nifty playoff race at the moment.
The Prior Lake, Minnesota native came to the Blues in the Bill Guerin trade with San Jose at the trade deadline in 2007, and has been one of Minnesota's premier offensive threats in his three full seasons with the maroon and gold. His 39 goals and 102 points in 124 career games outstrips all other Minnesota seniors in scoring despite missing almost the entire 2009-10 season.
On the ice, the Gophers are knotted up with arch-rival North Dakota at a game apiece in the first round of the WCHA playoffs, and offense-minded Cade Fairchild has a ten-point lead over his fellow blueliners for the scoring lead among UM defensemen with four goals and 17 assists for 21 points.
On Friday night, the Gophers were trounced 6-0 by North Dakota at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, but came back with a vengeance on Saturday to take a 4-2 decision from the Fighting Sioux. Fairchild contributed on the scoresheet with an assist on junior forward Mike Hoffel's 13th goal of the season at 17:20 of the first period, but finished the game a minus-2. In the series, Fairchild is a total minus-4, dropping his season total in that category to a minus-5.
Shifting our focus to New England, the Harvard Crimson and sturdy winger Matthew McCollem have been eliminated from the ECAC playoffs by the Cornell Big Red.
McCollem. who missed almost all of the 2009-10 season due to injuries and recovery time, was held scoreless in the two-game ECAC Quarterfinal series as Cornell netminder Ben Scrivens (an unrestricted free agent rumored to be on the radar of several NHL clubs) slammed the door on the men from Cambridge.
Harvard managed only a single goal in the two games, a power-play tally by junior forward and economics major Pier-Olivier Michaud in game one.
Cornell took both games from Harvard on the storied ice of Lynah Rink in Ithaca, NY, winning Friday night's tilt by a 5-1 score, and shutting out the Crimson 3-0 on Saturday.
Returning again to the upper Midwest, a classic in-state rivalry did not end well for Trevor Nill and the Michigan State Spartans.
Nill, the son of ex-Blue and current Detroit assistant GM Jim Nill was held off the scoresheet in both games as the Michigan Wolverines -- led by another ex-Blue, Gordon "Red" Berenson -- swept the Spartans out of the CCHA playoffs by scores of 5-1 on Froday and 5-3 on Saturday.
Adding to the indignity for Michigan State is the fact that the sweep took place on their own campus at Munn Ice Arena, where the Spartans had been a glittering 11-3-4 before the start of the playoffs.
Returning to the WCHA, the alma mater of the unforgettable David "Chuck Norris" Backes, and the already-forgotten "Dancin' Stevie" Wagner, is down to an all-or-nothing Game Three tonight.
The Minnesota State (Mankato) Mavericks came from behind on Friday to knock off St. Cloud State on their home rink by a 5-4 score, with Blues' prospect Andrew Sackrison chipping in his third goal of an injury-shortened season to help lead the comeback.
On Saturday night, the Huskies turned the tables on MSU. Skating again at the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud, Sackrison and the Mavericks dropped a 3-2 decision to SCSU, with LA Kings' draftee Garret Roe scoring twice in 20 seconds midway through the third period to ice the game.
The deciding Game Three will be played tonight, Mar. 14 at the National Hockey Center. The puck drops at 7:07 PM Central Daylight Time.
And finally, out East, last year's NCAA champions will have to avoid making history if they are to defeat a tougher-than-expected foe and move on to the next round of the ECAC playoffs.
Defense prospect David Warsofsky started a comeback of his own on Friday night, breaking up a play and getting a fortunate bounce to move in alone on Merrimack goalie Joe Cannata and light the lamp.
That goal put BU on the board, and the Terriers went on to defeat the Warriors by a 3-2 score. Warsofsky also assisted on Vinny Saponari's game-tying goal at 12:05 of the second period, and was also a plus-1 on the night.
Saturday night, it was Merrimack's turn for heroics. Freshmen Stephane Da Costa and Brandon Brodhag tallied for the Warriors in regulation, and junior forward Joe Cucci tallied his 8th goals of the season at 2:16 of overtime to seal the win for Merrimack.
The loss was the first time BU had come up on the short end of an overtime decision since Nov. 20, 2007 against Harvard. The Terriers must now win Sunday's deciding game, scheduled for a 7:00 PM EDT start, in order to move on; in BU's favor is the fact that they have never in program history lost consecutive games to Merrimack, and that the Warriors have just one win -- Saturday's -- in their last 11 games at Agganis Arena.
Hockey East Game Highlights: Boston University 3, Merrimack 2 (03/12/2010) (via hockeyeastonline). Warsofsky breaks up the rush and goes the other way on a two-on-none for a goal at 1:30 of this video.
Here's the link to the box score of Friday night's game at the BU website (GoTerriers.com)...
...a link to Saturday's box score, again from the official BU website...
...and here's a link to a nice article on Warsofsky by the Boston Globe, published just before the annual Beanpot Tournament at the beginning of February (Boston.com).