Mass. College Hockey: Talking Bentley Hockey With Dan Rubin (Excalibur Sports)

Logo courtesy of Excalibur Sports
Logo courtesy of Excalibur Sports

By NoontimeSports.com 

In honor of Bentley University’s men’s ice hockey team’s first round Atlantic Hockey Association playoff series, which starts tomorrow against Canisius College, we thought we’d check in with the team’s play-by-play announcer Dan Rubin, who provided some insight on the team, as well as their chances this weekend.

Make sure to follow Rubin for updates on the team this weekend on Twitter (@DanRubin12) and visit his sports blog Excalibur Sports, too.

Noontime Sports: You’ve been the voice of the Bentley Falcons men’s ice hockey team for the past few seasons. What’s been one of your fondest memories in the booth? Also, what do you enjoy most about calling games?

Dan Rubin: This is a great brand of hockey and I’m right in the middle of it. The hockey is up-tempo, fast, and skilled. There’s a good amount of hitting, a good amount of chirping, and the teams really play each other hard every single night and it’s just as entertaining as any other league. Their rink is small, but reflects something grittier about the game. I’ve been able to immerse in the whole experience from setting up equipment to interacting with players, coaches, and fans, too.

In terms of my fondest memories, though, it would have to be the games that I broadcasted with others. Rory Duyon and I developed great chemistry over the last four or five years that is really hard to find in a ‘broadcast team,’ and the back and fourth banter is something I miss. We really balanced each other out on the air, and people still ask me about when will we broadcasting again, but this year I’ve worked with a new partner, Steve Brouillard, who brought a wealth of knowledge and identical humor and banter to the air. After a long workday it’s the perfect release to call a game that I genuinely love with someone who can have fun with me.

NS: What particular games or moments from this year stick out to you most? How have those games/moments defined the Falcons season?

DR: There are a couple of games that really stuck out. The first game of the year against Sacred Heart was an extremely emotional night for all the right reasons. After a successful 2011-12 campaign, Bentley commenced their season by honoring Mike Eden, who was a teenager from Framingham that suffered from a certain form of cancer. He was tied to the Bentley team through Team IMPACT, which is a local organization that links children with illness with collegiate sports teams. Mike passed away after their previous season, and the team had his family on the ice for the ceremonial puck drop. They displayed ‘EDEN’ nameplates on their sweaters prior to their 7-1 victory. That was just one of those nights that felt so different and special, but it certainly gave the impression that this season could be different.

The second game would be earlier this winter in January against Northeastern University. It was a really intense game and Bentley beat the Huskies, 6-3. They shut down Kevin Roy for most of the game, too, but this game proved that Bentley could hang with skilled Hockey East teams.

NS: What player or players have improved from last season?  

DR: I’d say Brett Gensler, who won the conference’s scoring title for the second consecutive year. He’s the first guy in Bentley’s history to post back-to-back 40-point seasons, which hadn’t happened since the team’s coach Ryan Soderquist did it during the club’s Division II era. When Gensler’s on he’s probably one of the six or seven best forwards in the nation. But the guy that’s really standing out to me is Steve Weinstein. The defensive unit was completely ravaged by graduation departures and Weinstein stepped into the top defender’s role. He can play a great two-way style and he’s got major skills. This year he added a little bit of physicality to his game while still recording 25 points (six goals, 19 assists). The entire defensive unit has continually been a work-in-progress, but he’s the centerpiece, as well as the only sophomore, so to think what might happen with him over the next two years has me really excited.

Some other players include Alex Grieve, who posted a 30-point season with seven power play goals and Brett Switzer, who recorded 20 points after struggling to score in the first half of the year. Grieve is destined to wear a letter on his jersey based off his attitude, but when you add the skill of Switzer and guys like Justin Breton and Andrew Gladiuk, this is a team that can make things happen. Gladiuk, who won the freshman scoring title, should also win Rookie of the Year, too.

NS: Looking ahead to this weekend’s first round series, what are three things Bentley needs to do to win their series?

DR: First, they need to forget how the regular season ended. The team lost some of their key players to injuries down the stretch and couldn’t recover. And after beating Holy Cross in the front end of a home-and-home series, they limped down the stretch with only one win. They left points on the board despite rallying against Sacred Heart two weeks ago for a 6-6 tie, and against AIC they led 3-1, but would up losing in overtime, 4-3.

The second thing they need to do is commit to playing two-way hockey. This team proved that when they’re clicking nobody can stop their offense. They never won a game this year where they didn’t score three goals, so they have to commit themselves to that physical defensive style. They have to get ‘nasty’ in the playoffs and play a Bentley-style game. That means sacrificing into the dirty areas, sacrificing to block shots, and relishing the roles of picking up defensive assignments. Branden Komm has game-breaking ability in net, and he’s a returning all-conference goalie, but that doesn’t mean the defense can simply rely on him to win tournament contests.

Finally, they’ll have to capitalize on power plays. At one time, the power play unit was ranked first in the nation, but they recently fell to 27th, so if they’re going to get those opportunities they must convert. If they convert even on one out of every four chances, they should get a couple of extra goals over the weekend and be in a position to move onto the second round.

NS: What types of challenges does Canisius pose and how will Bentley defend them?

DR: Canisius is a good defensive team that doesn’t make mistakes. They’re a Top-20 defensive unit that kills power plays at a 90% rate. Bentley scored seven goals against that unit earlier this year, but that has to be considered an anomaly for a team that pitched shutouts against Connecticut, Holy Cross, and Niagara. Their goaltending has a ‘rock’ in Tony Capobianco, which means their offense is going to need to limit mistakes. Bentley’s going to have to use skill and speed and work their system to get quality breakouts into the Griffin third of the ice. The rink at Canisius has the same dimensions as the rink at home, but the ice will be a little bit faster with a little bit larger neutral zone, which will allow the team to get those wingers set up and get them broken out faster for odd-man rushes.

NS: Who is one or two players that’ll need to step up this weekend for Bentley?

DR: A team really hates to rely on freshmen, but one name that will play a huge role this weekend is Matt Blomquist. Blomquist and Weinstein emerged as a great defensive pairing before the first-year suffered an injury against Niagara, but he’ll return to the lineup this weekend, which means the defense can stabilize its pairings. That also means that Matt Maher won’t have to skate on the top unit and it’ll allow flexibility to push Michael Reardon to a fourth-line forward’s role if necessary. Blomquist’s return provides Bentley with a lockdown defensive pairing that seemed to energize their second unit. It might also allow Soderquist the opportunity to pair Zach Ledford and Zach Marginsky together again, which gives them a decent top four.

Another player to watch is Andrew Gladiuk, who was sidelined the last couple of games with an injury and like Blomquist, he could’ve skated against AIC last weekend, but was held out for the playoffs. Gladiuk was a dynamo in the British Columbia Hockey League and has experienced a great deal of success as a top line skaters for Bentley. Gladiuk’s return allows Soderquist the opportunity to create some interesting pairings and get the special teams cranking, too.

NS: Last season, they won their first round series, but fell in the quarterfinals. What do you think Bentley learned from that experience and how will it help them this weekend?

DR: Last season hurt and I know the guys left RIT feeling like they could’ve won that series, especially after they creamed the Tigers in the first game and rallied to force double overtime in the second. Last year’s pain is something that drove the Falcons this year, but things fell apart down the stretch and they lost the advantage of playing at home. But at the same time they were three points away from home ice, and they’ve beaten everyone in front of them at least once except for Air Force. Bentley can fight with these teams and will head into the playoffs with some big game experience under their belts.

NS: What’s your prediction for this first round series? Who wins and why?

DR: If Bentley doesn’t find their mojo that they had for most of this season, they could be in trouble. They’re playing a Canisius team that just swept RIT and this is a battle-hardened unit that’s had to play in the Western Division of the AHA, a schedule structure with more games against tougher teams. Bentley is getting back a full complement of skaters for the first time since they split with Holy Cross in late January, so if they can rediscover their magic, they’ll win in three.

NS: Finally, what’s one thing you’ll remember most about this season?

DR: Well, I’m excited for next year because the coaching staff has been phenomenal in opening the doors of the program to my work and to me personally. The guys on the team are a great group that come from excellent families. I’ve always said for people to come by the press box and stop by to say, ‘hello,’ and they’ve responded, but I’m very fortunate to have worked with a great group of young men and experience the highs and lows with them. The students have turned out in droves for games this year and their enthusiasm for the game is great. I always say that because of the people I’m a Bentley guy. However, I never took a single class on campus, but that doesn’t stop me from being a Bentley Falcon for life. They’ve really opened up and welcomed me in and each year brings the same excitement to me personally for every game. That said, we still got some hockey left, and I’m really hoping on a personal level to see these guys play one more time up in Rochester at Blue Cross Arena for the conference final four.

Rubin: Life after the NFL Lockout

The NFL Lockout is officially over and yes, it's time for some football!

By Dan Rubin 

Well it’s about time. The NFL Lockout is roughly over, done, yet, after a long few months of ongoing negotiations, as well as finger-pointing and name calling, America’s true pastime should be back in business as soon as later this week.

I can’t even begin to understand the legal speak of the new NFL collective bargaining agreement, but I can say this – there will be a $120 million salary cap this year, rookies won’t make nearly as much as they used to and the league is expected to sign the agreement for the next 10-years, meaning there won’t be another potential labor battle until most of today’s players are retired.

So what does this mean for the players of today? Undrafted free agents can finally start readying their NFL prospects, free agents can start checking in with agents to determine interested teams, and, most importantly, contracted players will by Wednesday, appear at stadiums and training camps to get ready for the 2011 season.

Various thoughts have been heard and voiced about what life will be like after the lockout and here are some of those thoughts.

Continue reading “Rubin: Life after the NFL Lockout”

The Bursting Bubble of College Hockey – Part II

The Big Ten Hockey map could shake up the NCAA spectrum!

By Dan Rubin 

The dominoes are already beginning to fall in college hockey’s realignment and reshaping. Within the next three-years, the nation’s college hockey landscape will look absolutely nothing like it will in the upcoming season, as teams are shifting and changing conferences with the air of desperation that was expected when Big Ten Hockey formed.

Here’s a look at the second part of hockey’s realignment that no doubt will continue throughout the summer and into the next season.

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference was made official last Wednesday in a press conference in Colorado. The league, beginning in the 2013-2014 season will comprise, as expected, Denver, North Dakota, Nebraska-Omaha, Minnesota-Duluth, and Miami University. During the press conference, the league made it clear that they were open to further expansion. Notre Dame, (who we discussed at length in Part One and will discuss again later here in Part Two) is examining membership, and Western Michigan is also expressing interest. Recent reports are surfacing that both Boston College and Boston University were approached by the future NCHC about joining, which were denied by the new league.  BC and BU compete in Hockey East and are logistically nowhere near the NCHC schools.

In the immediate aftermath of the announcement, Northern Michigan announced it was seeking membership in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA). Two days after the announcement, the WCHA, which lost all of the NCHC schools except for Miami, (who was in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, or CCHA), accepted the Wildcats as its sixth member. The move will ensure the WCHA as a viable hockey conference with the six-school minimum guaranteed. As a side note, NMU has a history of shifting between the WCHA and CCHA, starting out in the central league in the 1970s before moving to the WCHA with Michigan Tech in the 1984. 13-years later, NMU rejoined the CCHA, making the NCAA tournament in 2010. Now, they’ll head back to the WCHA.

With the new conferences starting to create lower numbers, it became apparent that there now existed several new slots as they fight for survival.  Minnesota State-Moorhead became the first school to jump on the opportunity, announcing it was roughly 40% through a goal to endow a Division I program.  The chaos of the shifting conferences opened up some open slots for the conferences to fill, and the Dragons are securing their position to join the schools.  It’s possible both the CCHA and WCHA could add the school, which will play its home games over state borders in nearby Fargo, North Dakota.  The Minnesota State University system already sponsors hockey in Mankato, playing in the WCHA.  The state itself is at the heart of the realignment chaos, with the heralded Minnesota Golden Gophers in the Big Ten and Minnesota-Duluth leaving for the new conference.

Rumors continue to abound for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Irish are not staying in the CCHA, which is beginning to look more and more like the league that will be the biggest casualty.  The WCHA and the NCHC have made general overtures to Notre Dame, but it’s starting to become very apparent that Hockey East is the likely landing spot.  That potential move joins the school with Catholic rivals Boston College and Providence.

Expect Notre Dame hockey to play a significant role in the future of College Hockey!

Sources close to Noontime Sports are reporting that, if Notre Dame decides to explore Hockey East, they would be accepted by the conference.  That move brings the league to 11 teams, and while the reports say that the league doesn’t want to add a 12th team right away, they do want to keep the league at an even number.  But, after Notre Dame, there isn’t really the type of quality opponent that Hockey East is looking for.  The targets are boiling down to one of the six ECAC teams not considered Ivy League schools, a target from Atlantic Hockey or Bowling Green.

Bowling Green is a quirky, yet attractive offer that could be used to entice Notre Dame even more into looking east.  One of the Irish’s major hang-ups is travel, since the move would place the school in a conference with schools that are not within a bus drive.  But pulling Bowling Green into the league allows Notre Dame a “west coast” travel partner for Hockey East.  According to BC Interruption.com, this, along with the fact that BGSU doesn’t need to raise scholarship numbers, factor into this possible decision.  Furthermore, BGSU wouldn’t compete for a top slot in the league, which would keep the top slots secure for the traditional Hockey East powers, at least in the short term.

I heard a rumor about the CCHA.  Bear in mind that it’s only a rumor, and that it’s neither confirmed nor reported anywhere else, so please don’t give this anymore credence outside of being a rumor.  I heard that CCHA is looking at, specifically, Canisius, Mercyhurst, and Niagara from Atlantic Hockey.  Niagara left College Hockey America for Atlantic Hockey as a reactionary move to the conference falling apart, when CCHA didn’t want it two years ago. Canisius, in Buffalo, NY, and Mercyhurst, in Erie, PA, are possible landing spots because they want to raise their scholarship limit from the Atlantic Hockey-maximum of 12, a move the eastern schools in the league essentially blocked.  They could also bring a heated rivalry with one another developed over years spent in the MAAC, which became Atlantic Hockey.

Alabama-Huntsville is going somewhere. Nobody has any idea, but essentially, they’ll end up as a “stop-gap” for some conference that needs to fill a slot. The Chargers struggled last year to a [4-26-2] record, a year after they won the CHA Tournament. They would benefit from having guaranteed games against opponents, and it would ensure more home games for the team. Last year, they played only 12 home games compared with 18 road games, and the teams they played were predominantly power opponents such as Wisconsin, Ohio State, Cornell, Bemidji State, Colorado College, and Nebraska-Omaha. If they get any chance to join a conference, they’ll bite at the opportunity.

Noonan: Expect Game 7 between the Bruins and Canucks to be a Classic

Game 7 is Wednesday and yes, it should be a classic dog-fight!

By Matt Noonan 

This has been a magical ride.

The Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks have put on quite a show the past few weeks and now it comes down to one game, Game 7.

This is the one for all the marbles. This is the one that you’ll tell your grandchildren about. This is the game that will decide who is truly the better team.

For the past six games, it’s been a toss up, who’s better? Both Boston and Vancouver haven’t lost in front of their home fans, which makes me wonder, does that mean the Canucks are a shoe-in for Game 7? Well, I’d probably say yes, but do statistics really matter now?

Really, this particular Game 7 is more about, “who wants it more,” instead of statistics, numbers and home crowds. Who cares that the Bruins have struggled in Canada for the past few weeks because hey, it happened in Montreal two months ago, remember?

The Canucks might have the better record, but really, are they that good? Seriously, what makes them ever so different from the men dressed in Black and Gold?

Our good friend, Dan Rubin had some interesting commentary for Noontime Sports this past week in regards to why the Canucks don’t deserve Lord Stanley’s Cup and really, after their crude remarks and antics, I guess it’s safe to say, I agree with my colleague.

Seriously, do you think it’s necessary to have Roberto Luongo preach the importance of goaltending to the media? What exactly does that accomplish?

Of course, we can’t forget about Alexandre Burrows’s incident, which involved him chomping on Patrice Bergeron’s fingers in Game 1.

Does anyone forget what happened to Nathan Horton? I’m sure Bruins fans won’t forget that vicious hit by Aaron Rome, who apparently told the media he’d hit the Bruins forward like that again, which is totally unnecessary.   

Although, the Bruins have taken shots at the Canucks too, which is why this series has somewhat turned into a USA vs. Canada fight, but we know who won that one last year in the Olympics… sigh.

Game 7 will be exciting and yes, I bet this will be one heck of a grand finale. Don’t assume the Bruins or Canucks are a lock to win this series because really, this isn’t about past history, but instead, who wants it more.

Boston hasn’t hoisted a Stanley Cup since 1972, while Vancouver has yet to win a championship in their 40-year history, so really, this game should be an instant classic, right?

Gary Bettman: What exactly has this man done for the NHL?

Gary Bettman may have gotten a Stanley Cup that will boost NHL ratings, but other than, what has he done for the NHL?

By Dan Rubin 

Gary Bettman is not a popular man.

He knew he wouldn’t be a popular choice when the National Hockey League named him its first commissioner back in 1993.  He knew he was going to anger the “old guard” of hockey, one that kept sacred the game while also shutting a number of markets and people out of its virtual monopoly.  And he knew that his goal, the goal of the league, was to bring it to the levels that its main competitor, the National Basketball Association, had already achieved.

As a former employee of the NBA, Bettman knew what worked for the league.  He knew how to make the game popular and how to market it.  He can be credited by riding the crest of popularity brought on by the game’s superstar icons into new and previously-untapped areas.  And he can be credited with putting the league into more households than it previously thought possible.

Continue reading “Gary Bettman: What exactly has this man done for the NHL?”

Noontime Sports the Radio Show (4/30/11)

Noontime Sports closed out the month of April with Matt Noonan, Dan Libon and Dan Rubin talking about the Boston Bruins-Philadelphia Flyers NHL Stanley Cup playoff series, as well as sprinkled in some Boston Celtics and NFL Draft talk too. Also, the guys were joined by WEEI’s Sports Saturday Host, Matt Perrault to discuss college football and the New England Patriots draft selections. 

Hour 1: 

Hour 2 :