Tuesday @ The Rink

CHAT LIVE With The Writers' Round Table

Welcome to the CSTV.com moderated chat room!

On Tuesday, December 18 at 2:00 p.m. ET, "Tuesday @ The Rink", presented by CSTV.com and USCHO.com, will host a Writers' Round Table featuring college hockey writers from across the country offering their take on the first half of the 2007-08 season.

The Writers' Round Table is a new recurring feature as part of "Tuesday @ the Rink." College hockey beat writers from across the country will join CSTV.com's Elliot Olshansky to discuss the weekend that was, the weekend ahead, and national issues in college hockey.

Confirmed for Tuesday's Writers Round Table are Antoine Pitts of the Ann Arbor News, Todd D. Milewski of the Captial Times and CSTV.com Rink Rat Elliot Olshansky, who will moderate the panel.

** GET YOUR QUESTIONS IN NOW!!: Our panel members won't be stopping by until 2:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, December 18th, but feel free to submit your questions now and we'll save them for their arrival!
Elliot Olshansky: Welcome back to "Tuesday @ the Rink," for our special First Half Wrap-Up Edition of the Writers' Round Table.
Elliot Olshansky: With us this afternoon, we have Todd D. Milewski of the Capital Times...
Todd D. Milewski: Happy holidays to everyone and thanks for having me here!
Elliot Olshansky: Our own Dave Starman, CSTV commentator and national columnist for U.S. College Hockey Online...
Dave Starman: Just sitting here listening to Jimmy Buffett's "Live from Fenway Park" and ready to talk college pucks. Happy Holidays everyone from Long island.
Elliot Olshansky: And we should be joined soon by Antoine Pitts of the Ann Arbor News.
Elliot Olshansky: In the meantime, let's get started with our first question.

Shad, Alexandria (MN): What is with my gophers? Are they going to have a second half push or do you think they will remain mediocre and inconsistant?
Dave Starman: I think from what i have seen in their games that they lack poise. They don't have that one or two guys that can settle the team down in an adverse moment. Therefore, they'll win games they should win, and lose the ones that they won in the past five years.
Todd D. Milewski: I'm tempted to say they'll be able to pick it up in the second half, but then I take a look at their schedule. They might be able to get some wins early in the second half, but there are some tough stretches. You have to think Okposo will turn it on at some point, but he's not the only one that needs to do so.
Dave Starman: Savvy, moxie, chutzpa, whatever you want to call it, they don't have it like they have had in the past.
Elliot Olshansky: For starters, I think Mike Carman's return is going to be a real X-factor for the team. He looked great at the Junior Evaluation Camp in August, and I said then that it was a shame he'd be ineligible for the first half, although he got valuable experience at the Deutschland Cup. I think Carman's return will be a big boost for them. He's a guy who can turn it on - although finishing was a problem for him when I saw him last - and a guy who can bring some of that moxie Dave's talking about.
Todd D. Milewski: I think it's just another sign of the youth of the WCHA this season, and, taking off from what Dave wrote, the poise is a big issue. They need the veteran players who have been good in big games to set the tone.
Dave Starman: It's like Red Berenson says...to be an elite team, you need good seniors.
Elliot Olshansky: Speaking of teams that have good seniors...

Ryan (Oxford): If Miami handles St. Cloud State in the Ohio Hockey Classic, will they finally get the WCHA fans off their back...or will the WCHA continue to pretend they are "unquestionably" better than everyone else?
Dave Starman: The WCHA is allowed to stick its chest out, they have set the bar pretty high in terms of recruiting elite players, developing pros, and winning national titles...
Todd D. Milewski: Maybe in a head-to-head sense, but part of that attitude (for lack of a better term) is based in the league as a whole.
Dave Starman: HOWEVER.....to say they are the best conference in college hockey right now would be wrong. The CCHA is pretty impressive.
Todd D. Milewski: Even though the CCHA's best is better than the WCHA's best right now, the dropoff point in the WCHA is a lot farther down the table than it seems to be in the CCHA.
Dave Starman: WCHA fans need to realize that you can't live in the was, you have to live in the is, and the CCHA IS probably stronger top to bottom.
Dave Starman: That being said, CC, Denver, North Dakota could all win the national title and Denver's home.
Elliot Olshansky: I think that St. Cloud State's tailspin toward the end of the first half hurt the value of that game for Miami, although I think SCSU is better on the whole than expected.
Dave Starman: You know what would be an interesting exercise? Take the coaches in those two conferences and rank decide if you were starting a new program, who would be your choice...rank them 1-21.
Todd D. Milewski: Good exercise, Dave. I might pick Rico Blasi first.
Dave Starman: Who is your choice? Berenson, Blasi, Comley, Gwoz, Hakstol, Lucia, Owens, Jackson, Kemp, DelCastillo? Tough choices!
Elliot Olshansky: Blasi and Hakstol would be first on my list because they're young and excellent
Todd D. Milewski: It might depend on what kind of setting you're going into. An area that already knows about hockey might not need a lot of selling.
Dave Starman: That's for a later forum.....but a good topic for a future chat fans.
Elliot Olshansky: Back to the question at hand, which was whether Miami will get respect in WCHA circles by beating SCSU.
Dave Starman: They will, but fan is short for fanatic, and the WCHA faithful will still back their own. The CCHA will as well.
Todd D. Milewski: I think Miami should already have some respect, but there are those dedicated WCHA types that have their own opinions.
Elliot Olshansky: I think if you're looking for an endorsement of Miami that will play with the WCHA, ask Seth Appert, who certainly knows plenty about it as a longtime assistant at Denver. Saturday, he called Miami the physically strongest team he'd seen in college hockey in some years.
Todd D. Milewski: And there's still Blasi's ties to Denver that make him (and his team) popular there, I'm sure.
Dave Starman: RPI might be the best 40 minute team in hockey, but they will continue to improve and start winning some of those games that are decided in the last 20.
Elliot Olshansky: I think that'll happen with the development of some of their younger players from a physical standpoint, guys like Helfrich and Polacek and Foss.
Dave Starman: Miami doesn't need WCHA respect, that's a program that cares about itself and is much more concerened about what's said in the room as opposed to outside it.
Dave Starman: That's why they win, they are very much keyed in on taking care of their own business.
Elliot Olshansky: Very true.
Elliot Olshansky: OK, we're joined now by Antoine Pitts, having sorted out some technical issues.
Elliot Olshansky: Antoine, you're here just in time for this question...

John (Columbus): Is the Michigan team for real? Their record is impressive, but their strength of schedule so far is definitely not. With players out, will this team win the GLI, and later on, get to the Frozen Four? Thanks!
Antoine Pitts: I think it will be very tough for Michigan to win the GLI missing what it will be missing. Four players is just too many guys to replace when none of the other teams are losing anybody. I'd pick MSU to win this year's GLI based on that.
Todd D. Milewski: They sure looked real when I saw them play Wisconsin. The one thing I'd be interested to see as the second half goes on is whether the young guys hit a wall.
Todd D. Milewski: As Dave mentioned earlier, Red puts a premium on seniors playing the part, and Porter and Kolarik were the best players on the ice when they played Wisconsin in November.
Dave Starman: From what I see and what my NHL scouting friends tell me, Michigan has a very balanced team, good on ice demeanor, strength on the wings, good down the middle. Most folks seem to think that they are going to be a very tough out come March. They might be light on the blue line in terms of defending, but I love Mitera...very solid.
Antoine Pitts: Porter and Kolarik have really owned up to their parts as seniors, doing everything including hanging out with the kids at their dorm rooms.
Dave Starman: Great point by Antoine. Its one of the things they talked to me about when I was there in October, how they are much more committed to the kids than other upperclassmen were in the past.
Elliot Olshansky: I think some of those young players may feel like they've been hit BY a wall when they play Miami. After the game on Saturday, Seth Appert was talking about physical development, and how much further along Miami is. Michigan's young players are obviously of a different caliber than what Seth can bring to RPI, but I think the same principle applies, albeit to a lesser degree. Seems Nystrom set the bar there in terms of looking after the young kids, his example wasn't followed well in recent years is the vibe I get.
Dave Starman: Seems Nystrom set the bar there in terms of looking after the young kids, his example wasn't followed well in recent years is the vibe I get. Porter and Kolarik are just great kids, great players, and give you intensity and a high competitive level every shift and every practice. LEADERS!
Elliot Olshansky: Interesting point, Dave. Here's my question on that: does that make a difference in some of the early departures? Obviously, Jack Johnson stayed as long as he could have, and loved Michigan. But are there kids who left Michigan in recent years who might have stayed if they'd been exposed to more leaders like Nystrom, and now Porter and Kolarik, earlier on?
Dave Starman: Can't comment in a specific situation, but remember that the core leadership group is usually intact for only a season.
Antoine Pitts: Another part of this team that seems to show through the younger guys is maybe they don't know any better...they didn't know that it's supposed to be tough on the road early in the year. They didn't know that previous Michigan teams have been run off the ice by Minnesota....they don't know that having so many freshmen in one year is supposed to be tough.
Todd D. Milewski: I still think the pull of the pros is too strong right now for a lot of players.
Dave Starman: Another good point by Antoine. Todd is also right on...those little green pieces of paper speak volumes to a young kid.
Antoine Pitts: There's definetly a different vibe on this team and a lot of it has to do with the seniors and two underclassmen that left. It's a more defensively responsible team and just a better team team all the way around.
Dave Starman: And Red seems happy, which always makes life better in Ann Arbor!
Dave Starman: With Lloyd Carr gone, he's now the Big Man on Campus!
Antoine Pitts: I bet he's even happier now that the school has finally found a football coach. Good thing for West Virginia it doesn't have a hockey program, eh?
Elliot Olshansky: OK, I think it's time to move on.

Steve (Boston): What are your thoughts on Hockey East? Is it the case that the bottom teams have moved up to the top or the top teams have regressed to the back and it's a league full of mediocrity? Do you see any of the "top" teams at the bottom of the standings such as BU, Maine, and UVM moving back to the top?
Dave Starman: Hockey East is in a unique spot because Eastern Mass hasn't cranked out an elite class of players in two years or so.
Elliot Olshansky: Well, that, and Maine - which has been one of the best national recruiting teams in the conference - is having an awful year. I think this is an ugly year for Maine all the way through, and everyone knew it going in - Tim Whitehead included - although I don't think anyone imagined it would be quite this ugly.
Antoine Pitts: I'm really surprised by what's gone on in that conference. At some point time runs out for the BUs, Maines and Vermonts to make a run at the thing. Who would have thought Northeastern what be tied for first at the break?
Todd D. Milewski: The great thing about the second half in Hockey East is that six points separates the top from the bottom right now. I'm sure there will be some separation eventually, but that's impressive. I'm not sure if it'll happen, but I wouldn't be surprised if Vermont made a run at a top spot.
Elliot Olshansky: I think BC will assert itself bigtime in the second half. They're playing great right now going into the break, they have a very favorable tournament setup at the Dodge Holiday Classic, and the return of Brock Bradford will be a huge lift.
Antoine Pitts: BC had a lot of turmoil in the first half but seems to have weathered it well. I would pick the Eagles to take control of things in the second half.
Antoine Pitts: Twice in the Twin Cities in one year for BC? Hopefully this is a happier trip. And perhaps they'll actually play Minnesota this time.
Elliot Olshansky: Antoine, personally, I'd kind of be amused to see BC wind up against RIT somehow out there: the Teacher vs. Student matchup between Jerry York and Wayne Wilson
Elliot Olshansky: Not to mention that would also mean an NCAA rematch between Air Force and Minnesota
Antoine Pitts: I liked what I saw out of Northeastern when it visited Ann Arbor last season. I'm surprised the team didn't go on to have a better year.
Elliot Olshansky: On the subject of Northeastern, I do wonder about them a bit, because there's no one thing they seem to do exceptionally well - except goaltending, where Brad Thiessen has been superb - but they have that moxie that Dave was talking about Minnesota missing, and they get it from Greg Cronin.
Todd D. Milewski: Northeastern has what should be a pretty good game against Bowling Green to open the Badger Showdown in Madison. I'm interested to see that one.
Antoine Pitts: How do you think we get to those matchups in Minnesota? Minnesota and Air Force losing or BC and RIT losing?
Elliot Olshansky: Minnesota and Air Force. Take a struggling Minnesota team, remove Okposo, Fairchild, etc...It could happen
Todd D. Milewski: If Minnesota loses to RIT, someone please check on the person who sent in our first question.
Dave Starman: Maine can't score but has a good GAA. However, they have a great work ethic and in my opinion have been the most fundamentally sound team in the country. If they can play disciplined, they will win games.
Elliot Olshansky: They do have a goaltender who can give them a chance to win every night in Big Ben Bishop.
Dave Starman: Ben still has to prove he's an elite stiopper, that he can do what Jimmy Howard did and win that 1-0 game...
Elliot Olshansky: OK, last question...

Jess (London, ON): Who is going to be the better pro, Nathan Davis or Ryan Jones???
Dave Starman: They'll both be very good pros. Who cares who is better as long as the team that has them gets the type of ganme at that level that Blasi has gotten at this level?
Elliot Olshansky: They're both excellent players, and I think they'll both be in the NHL for quite a while. I think Jones is more of a sure thing at this point. I think that he has that power forward feel to him combined with the speed and skill for "The New NHL."
Antoine Pitts: I'm really looking forward to Feb. 8-9 in Oxford. Hopefully it's with Michigan and Miami both at the top of the polls, though I believe Michigan's tough January schedule will knock them down a bit.
Antoine Pitts: Probably Davis. What's I've seen of him over the years, he's been the more dynamic player. He'll end up as their team MVP.
Elliot Olshansky: I think Jones' performance as a captain in addition to his numbers will make him the RedHawks MVP, but as I said, they both have tremendous futures.
Elliot Olshansky: OK, folks, I think it's time to wrap this one up.
Todd D. Milewski: Thanks for the questions and enjoy the holidays (and the tournaments!)
Antoine Pitts: Good to be with you again. Thanks for the questions. Enjoy the holidays and then the second half!
Dave Starman: Happy Holidays College Hockey Fans! We're back with CC @ Wisconsin on January 5th on CSTV.
Elliot Olshansky: Happy Holidays indeed. That will do it for the first half of the season on "Tuesday @ the Rink," presented by CSTV and USCHO. We'll be back on January 8. Until then, keep your eyes on Power Plays, the Rink Rat blog, and all of CSTV.com's hockey content. Have a great holiday season, and we'll see you in 2008!