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Tuesday @ The Rink With Billy Jaffe

Welcome to CollegeSports.com and USCHO's "Tuesday At The Rink" series of moderated chats.

This week's guests are USCHO National columnist Adam Wodon at 2:00 p.m. ET and CSTV analyst Billy Jaffe at 3:00 p.m. ET. Come for one, stay for both!

At The Rink

CSTV Analyst Billy Jaffe has been criss-crossing the country all season for CSTV, calling the best games in each conference.

Jaffe brings a unique national perspective to his analysis, having seen the top teams and talked to the top coaches each week in his preparation.

Each week, Jaffe breaks down the CSTV Game of the Week on CollegeSports.com, providing keys to victory and an outline for the viewer of what to be paying attention to. Billy also provides a unique look at the Hobey Baker Race with his "Baker's Half-Dozen."

While Billy will not be stopping by until 3:00 p.m. EST on Tuesday March 1, feel free to submit your questions now and we will save them for his arrival!

CollegeSports.com Moderator: Welcome back to Tuesday @ The Rink. It is time for the second half of today's twinbill. We are now joined by CSTV's Billy Jaffe.
Billy Jaffe: It's great to be here again, especially with the huge game I am getting ready for in Denver. College hockey is really getting some great exposure this year and I am excited to be a part of it. I will try my best to be as good as Wodon but some things are near impossible!

Owen, Wilmette IL: Michigan State and Duluth are 2 teams that in my view should not be .500 teams based on their personnel. In your opinion, why aren't they doing better?
Billy Jaffe: I agree (and so did all of the so-called experts to begin the year) that both teams have underachieved. It seems as if Duluth has had a long hangover from the success they enjoyed last year and haven't found a way to shake it. Lots of times it's as simple as work ethic and I don't know if they have worked hard enough this year. State was expected to do big things as well but a few of their go-to guys have not had years like last season. Also, there still seems to be some indecisive and inconsistent play in East Lansing.

Albert (Boulder): Billy - reports are flying that Phil Kessel is down to Minnesota and Wisconsin. Can you compare those two programs and what the differences might be for a top recruit?
Billy Jaffe: Ah, more Phil Kessel! This kid really has lit a fire in the college hockey recruiting sites. Both schools have incredible hockey tradition and expectations to succeed are equal as well. Both styles of play are pretty wide open and creative. Besides location I don't really know how different these schools truly are. Of course, the coaches will have a big influence on his decision and playing for a familiar guy like Mike Eaves might be very attractive for him.

Terry (Manchester, NH): The regular season is about over, who ranks as your biggest surprises/disappointments? Can anyone change their year with a win this weekend?
Billy Jaffe: Biggest surprises: (no order) Vermont, New Hampshire, Denver, Nebraska-Omaha Disappointments: Michigan State, Duluth I think most teams that need to win this weekend also need to do well in the conference tourney to really change their season.

George (Detroit): Is it really possible that more teams from the ECAC will make the Tournament than the CCHA? How did that happen?
Billy Jaffe: Absolutely. The CCHA has been the weakest conference of the "Big 4" all year long. When the top teams from the CCHA have played out of conference they have not fared very well (ie, Michigan lost to both Minnesota and Wisconsin). The ECACHL has some of the best goalies in the country and that is where good teams start - always in net and then build around them. Also, I think the ECACHL has some of the best young hockey minds in it (ie, Donato, Snedden) and that leads to solid game plans.

Steve (Dover, NH): I think that Cornell is getting too much respect with regards to this weeks poll. I understand that they are excellent defensively and have a 14 game win streak, but are they really on par with the top teams like Colorado College, Denver, Michigan and BC? I think that they would be a middle of the pack team in the WCHA or Hockey East, playing better teams night in and night out. Do you think they are deserving of a share at the top of the poll?

Jamie (Washington): Is Cornell the Rodney Dangerfield of NCAA Hockey (I get no respect, no respect) or is the ECAC such an inferior league to the western conferences?
Billy Jaffe: I was not a huge believer in Cornell earlier in the season after I watched them at the Florida Classic Tournament. Basically, they didn't overly impress me with their style of play and execution. However, after watching them at Lynah and following them more closely I have to admit that they are earning my respect with this streak they are on. Simply put, THEY WIN. No matter how they do it, they find a way to stifle the opposition and skate away with a victory. Now, I do not think they could get away with that in the WCHA as ice surfaces are often bigger but that's what makes college hockey so beautiful. It's like the argument that one player would hit more home runs at Fenway versus say, a bigger park like Safeco in Seattle. All that matters to me is that they are winning A LOT in their conference. Obviously the real test is the NCAAs and I - unlike Wodon - think they will go to the final 8 before losing.
Billy Jaffe: Cornell cannot be compared to Rodney because the whole college hockey world is talking about them. And so what if they aren't getting what some people think is "no respect". If they do go far (or win) it will make it that much sweeter.

Jim (Denver): In looking at this week's Denver/Colorado College series how would you evaluate each teams strengths/weaknesses? What do you see as the keys to victory? If you are CC what strategy would you employ to deal with DU's balanced attack and its two top end, offensive minded d-men, Matt Carle and Brett Skinner?
Billy Jaffe: Both teams can skate and create as well, if not better, than any other teams in the country. CC's strengths are dynamic talented forwards who are very slinky and make them hard to check. Also, they have a very good defense that is not afraid to step up on the big ice for huge hits. I love that kind of hockey! Lastly, the PP has been outstanding for CC all year and they can make things happen on both units. DU has the best offensive balance in the country. Along with UNH they have 6 players with 30+ points! Also, as you mentioned DU has presence from the blueline with Carle and Skinner. They join the play and make outstanding outlet passes. I would make sure to try and keep the puck away from them or as soon as they do get it attack them with speed. Don't give them time to create.

Sockrates (Thrasherville): Billy, thank you for answering my questions, and I wanted to brown nose a bit and say I enjoy your work down here with the Thrashers, as well as the skills camps you teach locally. As a Thrasher fan, I follow our college prospects closely. He's listed at 5'8" 170 (possibly inflated), is Brett Sterling going to be big enough to play forward at the NHL level? What type of player is Don Waddell hoping he will be?
Billy Jaffe: Always great to hear from a local ATL! I have talked with Don about Sterling and he expects/hopes he becomes a scorer at every level. Brett is not that big but I can tell you he does play much bigger than his size. He is not afraid to put his body in front of the net at all. I think the fact that a guy like Martin St. Louis has had so much NHL success really should make it possible for guys like Brett to make it to the NHL.

Adam (Iceforum, GA): Hi Billy, do you think the Atlanta Thrashers overestimated Jim Slater by drafting him in the first round?
Billy Jaffe: Truly, I don't. He is a throwback type of player that could turn out to be a solid 3rd or 4th line player. They got him late in the first (#30) and I think it was a good chance to take. Yes, he hasn't had a Slater-type of year, but I think it's been a tough overall season at State and, being the captain, it's been tough on him.

Justin (Harrisburg, PA): How will the NHL lockout effect juniors and sophomores who may previously have made a jump to the NHL? Will players like Al Montoya come back for another season?
Billy Jaffe: You know what? This might be one of the ONLY good things to come out of the lockout. Often times players leave too early but their agents and friends tell them to head for the dollars. Maybe this will help get things a bit back in balance. My guess is that Al will go back to Michigan one more year at least.

Mike (MPLS): Prior to the beginning of the year, an emphasis was put on rules being more tightly enforced and more penalties being called as a result. As we head toward the NCAAs, where our teams will see different styles of officiating, how do you see it affecting the style of play? CCHA seems to be calling more penalties than the others.
Billy Jaffe: Lots of talk about this subject lately. My thoughts are that the best officials from all conferences are selected (at least we hope so) and that they have a better handle on what should/shouldn't be called. I really don't see any teams altering their style of play due to officiating. If they do, as far as I am concerned, it is their own fault. Maybe early in the season, games were being called ultra tight and perhaps one conference was more strict, but after being in many different locations in the last month I really don't notice anything dramatically different.

Mike (Canoga Park, CA): Billy, I think you do a great job for CSTV and I appreciate you taking my question. Of the teams that not "locks" for the tournament, who do you see as having the best chance to win their conference tournament to get an automatic NCAA berth?
Billy Jaffe: There are a few teams that fall into that category... CCHA : NMU and OSU ECAC: UVM and Dartmouth HE: Lowell WCHA: North Dak

Bill, South Bend: Billy, what in the heck is going on with Notre Dame? They made the NCAA's for the first time last year but are one of the worst teams in all of college hockey this year. And that's in a weak CCHA. Is it lack of talent? Is it the coaching? For having such a big name in the college sports world, their success in hockey would help the enitre sport. So what's going on there?
Billy Jaffe: Yes, Notre Dame is having a very disappointing year. They lost three big (physically and emotionally) defensemen along with sniper Rob Globke to graduation, so that is a good place to start. But, many other teams lose stars and still do well the next year. I think they just got off to such a tough start that they have not been able to ever learn how to win regularly. According to coaches and all the players (and from what I have seen) they still have great attitudes and that is amazing.

Juney (Ann Arbor): Al Montoya has really struggled at times this year. Is is fatigue bringing him back to earth or has he been reading his own press clippings?
Billy Jaffe: I think fatigue played a huge part in his early season struggles. Also, Michigan can be a team that takes a lot of chances and leaves the front of the net area open a lot. that is one reason why they could struggle come NCAA time. But, in my opinion, when crunch time comes, I would still like Al as one of my goalies. I think he is a winner and is starting to regain his form from last year.

Matthew, Albany NY: If you had a vote in the rankings, what would your top 10 look like? Where would you have the Big Red?
Billy Jaffe: 1. Denver
2. CC
3. Cornell
4. Wisconsin
5. Michigan
6. BC
7. UNH
8. Minnesota
9. Maine
10. BU

Elvis (Moncton, ON): Billy, you have both better insight and eyebrows than Wodon. Now it is time to make some better predictions than him.... Who do you think has been the coach of the year? Who do you have going to the Frozen Four, and who gets your vote for the Hobey Baker Award?
Billy Jaffe: I have much BIGGER eyebrows than Wodon for sure!
Frozen 4 teams: Wisconsin, Michigan (truly believe it - not being a homer), Boston College and Denver.
My final 3 right now for Hobey: Sertich, Hensick, Murphy.
Coach: Umile, Sneddon or Kemp.
Sorry for being on the fence a little, but give me a few more weeks and I will make more definite picks. There is some important hockey coming up!
CollegeSports.com Moderator: Time to wrap things up with Billy. Sorry if we didn't have a chance to get to your questions. We had a ton of great ones that we just weren't able to hit, though.
Billy Jaffe: I had another great time talking college hockey with all of you out there in cyberland. And, please, if any of you are ever at a game that we are televising on CSTV make sure to stop by and say hi. I always like meeting hockey fans around the country...even if you don't like my predictions!
CollegeSports.com Moderator: Don't forget to join us next week at Tuesday @ The Rink. We will be starting a little earlier than usual (1:00 Eastern), but the guest is worth the change in starting times. We will be joined by Michigan Head Coach Red Berenson, followed by USCHO's John Connolly, so get your questions in early.
CollegeSports.com Moderator: See you again next week for Tuesday @ The Rink.

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