Monday, November 30, 2009

Disappointing Tie for Cornell; Trivino Makes a Point

In a Red-Hot contest before a (legitimate) sold-out crowd of 18,200 at Madison Square Garden, Cornell and BU played to an exciting 3-3 draw Saturday night.

For the 10,000+ members of the Lynah Faithful in attendance, it was hard not to walk away feeling that their team came out on the short end of the tie. This was a great opportunity for Cornell—to avenge the 6-3 loss to BU at this event two years ago, and to earn a feather in their beanies for taking down the defending national champion, even if this year's version of the Terriers struggled out of the gate and must come from behind to get back in both the Hockey East and Frozen Four races.

Cornell, despite its storied history and a recent decade of strong results, always seems to be standing just outside the velvet rope of the NCAA Elite Hockey Club. A win over BU certainly could have helped mitigate that perception.

When Cornell jumped out to a 2-0 lead inside five and a half minutes on goals by Sean Whitney (Ryan's brother) and Locke Jillson (not Jeff's brother) and BU appeared a little sluggish, thoughts of a blowout even bubbled up in the Big Red end of the arena.

But midway through the game, the Cornell offense slipped into a state of satisfaction and its effective cycle mostly sputtered and then disappeared. The open shots the Big Red did get were harmless snap shots from outside the dots. Meanwhile, BU came alive and showed that with Kevin Shattenkirk, Chris Connolly, and Nick Bonino, there's still plenty of talent left at BU.

By the end of the second period, Cornell still held a 3-1 lead thanks to a Blake Gallagher tally despite being outshot 19-11. Goaltender Ben Scrivens probably should have stopped the BU goal, but overall was far more composed and effective than in his Garden start two years ago.

In the third, the ice continued to tilt the wrong way for the Big Red. The Terriers made it 3-2 at the 4:03 mark when Bonino looked for Connolly on a 2-on-1 and saw his pass deflect past Scrivens off Cornell defenseman Brendan Nash's stick.

In an ending that only an Islanders fan could appreciate, Cornell found itself down two men with 1:58 remaining and a one-goal lead. To up the ante, BU head coach Jack Parker pulled goalie Grant Rollheiser, giving his team a 6-on-3 advantage for 38 seconds. Cornell actually survived that onslaught.

But with Brandon Nash just out of the box, the Terriers converted the 6-on-4. Connolly followed up a Vinny Saponari shot that Scrivens appeared to have stopped. If Scrivens did squeeze the puck at some point, he didn't get it long enough to satisfy the referee. Connolly found the loose puck and poked it home with the ref pointing emphatically the whole way. The play was followed by a discussion amongst the officials, but the goal stood.

In overtime, the Cornell offense re-ignited, generating numerous good scoring chances. But nothing got by Rollheiser or Scrivens. Final shot totals: BU 35, Cornell 17.

For the record, no riots followed the game ending in a tie.

Ah, yes, there is more to this story. Do you think it's good or bad that I did that entire recap without mentioning 2008 Islanders 2nd Round Draft Pick, #10, Corey Trivino? It's neither, really—just building the suspense. Here, then, are my impressions of Trivino...

For a while, it was looking as though the theme of this report was shaping up to be that Trivino didn't strike me as particularly special. To be honest, that never changed. But leaving it at that would be seriously shortchanging his play.

Early on, the best thing I could say about Trivino was that he wasn't afraid to play physical hockey. At 6-1, 180 lbs, he looks lanky out there. But his lack of a large frame didn't stop him from going shoulder to shoulder along the boards. Other than that, there just wasn't much to say.

On the skill side, Trivino, made a nice rush up the middle from the blue line in the first period and got off a good, hard wrister that Scrivens stopped. Unfortunately, the play led to the breakaway on which Jillson scored Cornell's second goal.

Trivino saw time on BU's second power play unit, but didn't get appear on the penalty kill.

It was around the time that BU started taking control of the play that I started noticing Trivino more and more. Midway through the second, he went into the corner in the defensive zone, did some dirty work, and came out with the puck. It was a gritty play that made me smile a little even though I was rooting for the other side.

Trivino almost got on the scoreboard with about four minutes left in the second. He came out of the corner to find the puck headed his way on a nice cross-ice feed to the right post and an open short side. But his backhand deflection went wide.

By the third period, it seemed like Trivino was on the ice every other shift. This was helped by the fact that BU had four of its seven power play opportunities in the third (box score says three of six—still trying to figure out the disparity). On those power plays, he was a focal point stationed in the right faceoff circle and being fed constantly.

What impressed me the most, however, was that Coach Parker leaned on Trivino heavily down the stretch in the faceoff circle. In the final ten minutes of regulation and in the overtime, Trivino took, and won, a number of key draws in both zones. For the game, he finished 11-6 on faceoffs while taking the second most after Bonino, who was 14-14. Trivino had three shots on goal and was -1.

Was Trivno a star in this game? No. Did he look like a special player? Not necessarily. But he's 19 years old and not John Tavares. He's a college sophomore and he definitely has the chance to develop into a solid prospect. He needs to get a little bigger. And I think he'll benefit from staying in school and becoming a team leader in a year or two.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Isles Impressive in 3-2 Win Over Pens: Live Blog DOA; Quick Hit with Moulson

Today's live blog is brought to you on tape delay. See why below. I decided to carry on as though I were live anyway because I needed the practice. As for the value of still posting it nine hours later? Well, I'll leave that to you to decide. I know I always appreciate the opportunity to go back and see the game through someone else's eyes whether or not I've already seen it myself.

In other news, I finally got the chance to talk to Matt Moulson this afternoon, although only under the chaotic circumstances of an open locker room with victory music blaring and players scrambling to pack their equipment for a quick turnaround tomorrow in New Jersey.

I had a more extensive interview planned out, and maybe I can get back to that one day because I'm really interested in hearing what he has to say about playing at an Ivy League school, playing in the ECAC, what the exact events were that brought him to the Islanders, and more. But given that we were just over 24 hours away from his alma mater, with his brother Chris on the roster, facing off at Madison Square Garden, I just went right for the most pressing issues:

Will he have a chance to get to the Garden Saturday night to see Cornell take on BU?
I'm not sure, I think so. As of now, yeah.

Does he talk to his brother about breaking into Cornell's starting lineup and what advice might he be giving him (Chris Moulson did see action in Cornell's 6-0 win over Brown on 11/14)?
Yeah, I talk to him. I try to talk almost every day to him. He's working hard. Hopefully he'll get a chance and I think he's probably a better player than me, so, hopefully he just needs a chance and he'll get in there and do well.

Is he (Matt) still in touch with his college coach, Mike Schafer?
Yeah, I talk to him every now and then. Talk to him and e-mail.

What kind of contributions did Coach Schafer make to his development as a player?
I learned how to play solid both ways when I was there and the importance of working hard and discipline. A lot of discipline.

What does he think about so many other Cornellians such as Byron Bitz, Ryan O'Byrne, Douglas Murray, Ryan Vesce and last year Mike Iggulden all contributing or better at the NHL level?
Yeah, I think it's good for the program. Guys have done well out there. Hopefully we can keep it going.

Moulson also shared with me that his mom made the trip into New York and said, "I'm sure I'll be over there (at the Garden)."

One thing that I forgot to mention to Matt Moulson was that Chris's bio page at still says that Matt plays for Manchester. Let's get someone on that!

I just want to thank Matt for taking the time to answer some slightly unusual questions--unusual, at least, for a post-game following a big win over the conference leader. And based on his scouting report, maybe Garth Snow, Ryan Jankowski, and the staff should keep an eye open for another Moulson.

And, now, for your time-traveling entertainment...

Plausibly Live Blog 11/27/09: Islanders 3, Penguins 2

Good afternoon and welcome to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Today the 9-9-7 Islanders host the 17-8-0 (how pure) defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins for the second time this season. The first meeting was a 4-3 shootout loss for the Islander in their first game of the season on October 3rd.

It's very Pittsburghy here today at the Coliseum, but that's something we've grown accustomed to when a division/geographic rival comes calling and good seats are easy to come by.

Today's first jumpout stat of the day: John Tavares leads all rookies in points, goals, and power play goals. That's the way it was supposed to be, and it's so satisfying to see things play out that way. Tavares does need to watch out for James van Riemsdyk of the Flyers who sits only two points back while playing in six fewer games.

Rule #1 of live blogging: Never show up for a game with a laptop you're bringing the first time. You might have connectivity problems that prevent you from delivering on your promised first live blog of the season. Sigh.

From here, we'll be covering this one more traditionally, or as that most annoying of creatures, the "plausibly" live blog.

This one got off to a rousing start with Tim Jackman and Derek Engelland squaring off at center ice just 13 seconds into the game. This fight had legs with both combatants standing tall to the fight's conclusion. Jackman had the stronger reserve and the better leverage at the end, scoring the decision.

Post-fight, the Islanders opened up the game strong on offense with both the Bergenheim-Nielsen-Okposo and Moulson-Tavares-Hunter lines generating good scoring chances in the opening 90 seconds. Nice passing among the first threesome ending with an Okposo shot, but he was unable to cash in.

If you're going to face a 4-on-4 with the Penguins, do it with Malkin in the box. 2:55 in, the Pens star and Andy SUtton went off for coincidental minors: the Paul Stewart special, two for hooking, two for diving.

12:45 left in wide open first period, Sean Bergenheim sent a wrister just wide from the off-wing raising a chours of oohs from the crowd.

Dwayne Roloson has looked a split-second late on a couple of shots, but a post and some off-target shooting have kept this one scoreless. He did get a shoulder on a tough Sergei Gonchar shot earier in the period.

The Islanders opened the scoring with 10:55 left in the first. A Mark Streit slapper from the left point sat on the doorstep for Josh Bailey to slam home before Brent Johnson could close the open side. Freddy Meyer had the secondary assist.

The first Islanders power play went by the boards with only a post hit by Jon Sim raising the excitement level in the building. I'd like to see Matt Moulson back on that first unit.

6:31 the Islanders get their first test on the penalty kill against Malkin, Crosby, and Bill Guerin. The first good scoring chance, however, goes to Okposo who had plenty of time to set up a shot from the right circle but couldn't beat Johnson.

Roloson looking sharper during the kill, stopping a hard shot with traffic in front.

Okay, so far this has been kind of a hybrid live blog/notes for later entry. From here on, we're going full-bore delayed live blog...

3:12 Park looks short-side top corner from the bottom of the left circle and gets a piece of the iron. On an earlier shift, he and Thompson each went high and wide on shots from a similar spot.

2:36 Malkin rushes down the right wing and shovels a sharp-angle backhnd off of Roloson's body and into the net. Tied 1-1.


20:00 4th line starts the second period for the Isles.

18:50 Gritty work and strong moves by Okposo to keep the puck in the offensive zone.

18:05 Nearly a highlight reel goal by Tavares but his chip from in close after a nifty deke goes just over the top.

16:37 Isles to the power play.

16:32 Hooking call on Hunter evens up the man power.

16:01 Thompson goes hard to the net to follow up on a Park shot but can't knock the rebound past Johnson.

15:05 Good effort by Gervais to clean up in front of his own net, but he goes off the ice favoring one foot.

14:10 Tambellini throws his weight around with a nice hit along the end boards in the offensive zone.

12:48 Too much rebound left by Roloson + not enough defense covering the front of the net = easy goal for Matt Cooke. Pens lead 2-1.

10:15 The 4th line displays excellent puck control in the offensive zone, but their hard work is offset by an inability to get off anything close to a dangerous shot.

9:15 Bergenheim's low, hard wrister rebounds toward Nielsen but Johnson beats him to the loose puck.

6:41 Hillen takes a borderline interference call along the boards just inside the defensive zone.

6:00 Park comes in shorthanded with some room but his wrist shot goes well wide.

5:36 Potential game-changing moment as Andy Sutton takes a double minor for highsticking. Pittsburgh will start with 55 seconds of 5-on-3 time.

4:30 Hillen comes out of the box and gathers in the puck at the blue line to come in on a breakaway. He got Johnson to go down, but couldn't get the puck by him into the open net. Rebound to Nielsen who also misses the open net from a sharp angle.

1:36 Isles kill off the Sutton penalties to the delight of the home fans. Let's see if the Isles can use this as their own game-changing moment.

1:10 Okposo back on a line with Tavares with Moulson.

0:20 That puts Bergenheim, Nielsen, and Hunter together for the final shift.


20:00 4th line out again to defend against Dupuis-Malkin-Fedotenko.

19:30 Attempted wraparound and subsequent rebound attempt by the Pens comes much closer to being a goal than it should have.

18:57 New lines remain in effect here at the start of the second.

18:36 Bergenheim, probably the Isles best forward tonight, rips a wrister from the left dot past Johnson. Tied 2-2. Assists to Nielsen and Hunter.

17:50 Thompson gets called for boarding. Staal takes on Thompson, who takes his time before fully engaging. No clear winner except for the Isles as Staal picks up an Instigator penalty and is gone for virtually the rest of regulation. Both get fighting majors, so Thompson will sit for seven.

14:30 Good sustained pressure by the top line. Hard, low shot from the point by Gervais results in the desired rebound. No goal, but the shift results in a bench minor to Pittsburgh. Isles to the power play.

13:30 Nielsen, Bailey, and Hunter out first with Streit and Okposo at the points.

13:00 Now it's Tavares and Moulson up front with Sim parking himself in front of the net.

12:35 Hunter, Nielsen, and Tavares will get the last man-up shift. Bergenheim had been out there for the faceoff but was called back. If the Isles get another power play, maybe Bergenheim or Tambellini get a shift.

11:23 It seems like the Islanders are causing a lot of problems in front of Johnson but since Bailey's goal just haven't been able to capitalize.

6:12 The new (old) top line comes through. Meyer wrists one in from the point with Moulson screening. Tavares pounces on the rebound and Johnson has no chance to stop him. Isles lead 3-2. Okposo with the second assist.

5:07 Prediction: the Islanders will be shorthanded before this period ends.

4:05 Third line wants in...nearly increases the lead but Sim is stopped twice, once by Johnson sliding across the goal line to get back in position.

2:10 Isles doing a good job keeping pressure on the Pens and moving forward.

0:00 Impressive third period by the Isles and a really good win over a dangerous team. Isles win 3-2.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Watch This Space

Whoa, hey, there's a blog here.

First of all, a very happy, healthy, and safe Thanksgiving to everyone.

Now, here's what to come...

Friday: The long overdue first live blog of the season from Islanders Outsider. The Isles take on the Eastern Conference leading Pittsburgh Penguins featuring Matt Cooke, Mike Rupp, Chris Kunitz, and some other guys at 2 PM at the Coliseum. You bring the rubber, we'll bring the Roloson.

Saturday: Red Hot Hockey returns! Two years ago, this blog took you rinkside for a look at the renewal of the Cornell-BU hockey rivalry. Saturday night the Big Red and the Terriers meet again at Madison Square Garden in front of a packed house of current students and alumni. Cornell will seek to avenge a 6-3 loss in the last go-round. The matchup should be a little more even this year. Cornell has a more seasoned team and a top-ten ranking (#4, 6, or 7 depending on the poll—got polls? Yeah, we got'em.). Defending National Champion BU has struggled out of the gate with an overall 4-7-2 start (2-6-1 in Hockey East). But you can never count out a Jack Parker team, especially this early in the going.

Cornell defeated Colgate 4-2 last night at Lynah Rink to move its overall record to 6-2, 5-2 in ECAC conference play. Leading the Big Red in scoring is senior forward Blake Gallagher with 8 goals and 6 assists in 8 games. Cornell, normally a low-scoring, defensive-minded squad, has been lighting it up this year to the tune of 4.12 goals per game. Backing up the offense, senior goaltender Ben Scrivens sports a .927 save percentage to go along with a 2.01 GAA.

An added bonus to this year's contest is the presence of Islanders 2008 2nd round draft pick Corey Trivino on the BU roster. The sophomore currently sits tied for 4th in scoring on the Terriers with 2 goals and 5 assists in 12 games. Trivino is +2 with no penalty minutes and a 96-95 record on faceoffs. He will be watched. He likely will not be interviewed.

And for further intrigue, we have the Moulson question. #23 in your program for the Big Red is freshman forward Chris Moulson. He may have a connection to an Islander. Or two. However, Chris has yet to see any ice time so far this season on a deep and talented Cornell team. So the big question is, will big brother Matt (a four-year star at Cornell) and pal John be making the trip to the Garden?

The Isles have a 1:00 game in NJ on Saturday, so the opportunity is certainly there. My intent was to do a piece on the elder Moulson, with the emphasis on his college career and what brought him to where he is today. Part of that was to include talking about his brother and this game in particular. Required, then, would be talking to Matt. Been working on that. Still working. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, have a great holiday and get ready for some great hockey this weekend.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Let's Give 'Em Something to Talk About

I don't know if there are any Bonnie Raitt fans in the Islander locker room, but it sure seems like they've been singing that refrain lately. Just over two weeks ago, I had nothing more to say about this team. (Okay, to be honest, I did have some things to say about breaking up the top line, burying Jeff Tambellini in the press box, and Bruno Gervais not playing with Mark Streit—but work craziness and a childcare crisis have buried me far away from the press box.)

But seemingly out of nowhere, the Islanders have won three in a row against three of the top teams in the conference. They are giving their fans and the rest of the league something to talk about.

At 4-4-5, the Islanders have reached the magical false .500 mark. Those 5 OT losses don't look nearly as bad when coupled with four regulation wins. The 13 points put the Isles on the cusp of the playoff picture.

What does this mean? It means that Scott Gordon and his coaching staff have demonstrated the ability to get something out of this team in its current constitution. It doesn't mean that the Isles will still be knocking on the door come March. But a season that was quickly slipping away into oblivion, for the time being, is interesting and fun again. And, furthermore, there is more reason
—at least an impressive three-game winning streak's worthto believe that with a deeper roster, Gordon and company can be serious players in this league.

And if you want something to talk about, look no further than Tambellini. Released from nosebleed purgatory seven games ago, the lost action hero has re-emerged with his scoring touch at the NHL level. With two multi-goal games, including a hat trick Saturday night against Buffalo, Tambellini is now tied for the team lead in goals. Bold for how unlikely it was that we would ever be able to say that, and how fun it is to say it now.

And to anyone who might minimize the hat trick due to the nature of the third goal, I would offer two suggestions:

  1. When there is a loose puck in front of a gaping net, you take no chances even if it the puck is most likely on its way in already.
  2. If it were up to Kyle Okposo, he would have done whatever was necessary to make that Tambellini's goal.
Also, count me in as one who was shocked that Tambellini wasn't named 1st star. Giving it to Martin Biron in recognition of the shutout and his 200th career win was nice, but the fans would have appreciated the opportunity to laud Tambellini more.

Several Islanders have emphasized how much they're enjoying coming to the rink this year due to the camaraderie that has built among the players. How much more fun are they having now that they're winning? They're certainly not a difficult team to root for.

And that's your fun hat trick for the evening.

As for me, I'm looking forward to talking more.