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HAT TRICK | Winter's return forces Frozen Fenway delay

Since hockey has increasingly started to embrace the outdoor game, fans everywhere have been clamoring for more games in the snow.

Snow at an outdoor hockey game makes for some really good television. It makes the game look perfect. It’s winter in short summary.

However, for people actually playing the outdoor games, snow is a nuisance. It impacts the quality of play, because it impacts the quality of the ice itself, not to mention visibility. Not only does that hurt the hockey, it becomes dangerous on the players, as there is that much more chance of injury on the compromised ice. The reality is that outdoor games are best played in dry overcast conditions, where cloud cover minimizes glare off the ice and nothing falls that could lower the ice quality.

It was for those reasons, along with logistics, that delayed Saturday’s Frozen Fenway doubleheader to Sunday as the Boston area was hit with its first major snowfall of the season over the weekend. In some places in the area, people had to deal with more than a foot of snow, which in hockey terms would have meant supremely sloppy play and a game constantly stopped for ice maintenance. Good to see the wise decision.
BC, BU READY FOR 2017
Before going to Fenway over the weekend, Boston University had a showcase matchup last Thursday against Union College at Agganis Arena. Union came in as one of the hottest teams in the country, having finished 2016 in very strong fashion, winning six of their final seven games of the calendar year. The Terriers, meanwhile, had not played since December 13, one of the longest holiday breaks of anyone in the country.

The break paid off for BU. The Terriers overcame deficits of 3-2 and 4-3 en route to a hard fought 5-4 overtime win. Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson had a hat trick on the night, including the game-tying and game-winning goals. The equalizer came with under three minutes to play in the game, as well.

Boston University then went on to a comfortable victory over Massachusetts on Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park. Karlsson scored two more goals to make it five on the week, and the Terriers never trailed in the 5-3 win.

Commonwealth Avenue rivals Boston College came into Frozen Fenway this past weekend in need of a win. They did play some during the holiday break, but lost to Quinnipiac in the Three Rivers Classic and hadn’t won since the sixth of December.

The Eagles fell behind early in the second period to Providence College when Josh Wilkins put the Friars on the board. From there it would be all BC, as Jerry York’s squad tied the game later in the second and pulled away with two goals late in the third, earning the 3-1 win in front of a reported 19,547.

This coming weekend, BU and BC meet for a home-and-home installment of one of college hockey’s premier rivalries. Frozen Fenway also continues next week, with Maine taking on Connecticut and New Hampshire taking on Northeastern.
PENN STATE ADJUSTS TO LIFE AS A CONTENDER
Between the enormous university itself in State College and the quick rise of the Penn State hockey program, it is easy to forget that the Nittany Lions haven’t been playing college hockey very long. In fact, this is just their fifth season in the NCAA ranks, having been a club team for a very long time leading up to that.

Most athletic programs on their fifth year of competition of any level generally struggle to find their footing, often the afterthoughts in conferences. Penn State, however, begins 2017 as the second ranked team in the country, sporting an impressive record in their still-brand-new arena. They traveled to Ohio State this weekend in a test of high expectations.

On Friday night, Penn State came out shooting hard. The Nittany Lions took 46 shots on goal against Ohio State at Value City Arena, including 17 in the third period alone. All of them were stopped, as OSU goaltender Christian Frey had one of the most impressive performances of the college hockey season to date.

It might not be an easy blueprint to duplicate, but this is how to beat Penn State. They are a furious attacking team, so goaltending looms larger than even normal when trying to take down the team in the white helmets. Once they find a shooting rhythm, they are nearly impossible to beat as currently constructed.

This relentless offense came back on display on Saturday in Columbus, as Penn State scored four goals on 43 shots (an eye-popping total of 89 on the weekend), including two early in the third that kept the game comfortably in hand. The win proved a couple things about the young program: That their attacking mindset gives opponents little time to mount a comeback, and that one loss on the road isn’t enough to dull their momentum.

Penn State hosts Michigan State next weekend at Pegula Ice Arena for a pair of games, while Ohio State stays in Columbus to play Arizona State.
THE CHAMPS ARE BACK
Coming into the weekend, people might have expected North Dakota at Omaha to be one of the better series of the weekend. Both teams came in ranked, with both schools playing their best hockey in recent weeks.

Omaha is no stranger to big matchups, being one of the contenders for the conference crown last year and a Frozen Four participant in 2015.

That being said, North Dakota is the defending champion, and one of the juggernauts of college hockey. The Fighting Hawks went out of their way to prove this with a pair of extremely lopsided wins. On Friday, they rode the wave of a five goal first period to take a 9-1 runaway victory over the Mavericks. North Dakota added to their great weekend with a 7-3 victory on Saturday.

This means that Brad Berry’s squad took a weekend series on the road against a ranked conference opponent by a combined score of 16-4. Both Brock Boeser and Tyson Jost ended up with three goals on the weekend. The Fighting Hawks scored at least two goals in all six periods.

From here, North Dakota goes back home to take on Miami University for a weekend series. Omaha tries to rebound against Colorado College starting on Friday, with Friday night’s game being broadcast right here on American Sports Network.



Above: North Dakota goalie Cam Johnson fights off the shot during Friday's game against Omaha on ASN.

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