Notes: Joe Louis Sendoff
Conference championship weekend includes final NCAA games at Detroit arena

Tony Calderone had a two-goal game against Michigan State at Joe Louis Arena on Dec. 30.

By Nate Ewell

Michigan – which has won 16 Great Lakes Invitationals and nine conference tournament titles at Joe Louis Arena – is a darkhorse candidate to claim the Big Ten’s three-day tournament in the final NCAA games at Detroit’s iconic arena. The fifth-seeded Wolverines have won four of their last five entering the tournament, with junior Tony Calderone (Trenton, Mich./Sioux Falls-USHL) scoring five times in that span. Calderone – who grew up Downriver, just south of Joe Louis – has been a key spark for a Michigan team that has struggled to score at times, leading the team with 15 goals. The Wolverines are 8-4-0 when he has a goal, and just 5-14-3 when he doesn’t. | Berenson talks Joe Louis Arena, his future | Wisconsin has experience triumph, pain at Joe Louis | Watch all five games on BTN

Must Read/See/Hear Material

Providence Journal: McKenzie ‘the type of kid you win with’
Lowell Sun: Capt. Kapla: UMass Lowell’s Mr. Reliable
Wisconsin State Journal: Cavallini savors ‘a pretty special experience’ with Wisconsin
St. Cloud Times: Physical Schuldt adjusts to new role for SCSU
Boston Globe: Wall a cool customer in UMass Lowell goal
Duluth News Tribune: Thomas solidifies depth in ways other than goals
College Hockey News: Creating his own history
Grand Forks Herald: Wins and losses don’t tell complete story of Dean Blais

Listen to "Conference Championship Previews" on Spreaker.

Five More Storylines No One Should Be Without

Striking Gould in Houghton – A hat trick from freshman Gavin Gould (North Vancouver, B.C./Nanaimo-BCHL) – the fourth, fifth and sixth goals in the last six games for the rookie – lifted Michigan Tech into the WCHA championship game that the Huskies will host against Bowling Green Saturday night. Gould has witnessed the rise of MTU’s program, initially from afar while his brother, Malcolm, was a forward who graduated last spring. Now Gavin and the Huskies are one win away from returning to the NCAA Tournament, as Malcolm and the current juniors and seniors did in 2015. | Watch on

Army pursues firsts – Army West Point is within two wins of the program’s first NCAA Tournament bid entering the Atlantic Hockey semifinals in Rochester, N.Y. There are multiple new opportunities on the horizon for the Black Knights, as goaltender Parker Gahagen (Buffalo, N.Y./Buffalo-OJHL) leads the team in pursuit of the conference title. Gahagen could also be a candidate for an NHL free agent contract, an opportunity that only recently opened up for student-athletes at the service academies. He will lead his team against archrival Air Force in the conference semifinals. | Watch on Time Warner Cable,

Atlantic Hockey Starting Goalies, by National Save Percentage Rank
1. Charles Williams, Canisius .946
2. Parker Gahagen, Army West Point .933
3. Francis Marotte, Robert Morris .933
12. Shane Starrett, Air Force .924

Cornell continues upswing – Cornell heads to Lake Placid virtually assured of an NCAA Tournament bid, continuing the program’s upswing this season. Senior defenseman Patrick McCarron (Toronto, Ont./St. Michael’s-OJHL) leads the team in shots, ranks second in points and has doubled his previous career highs in goals (now 6) and points (24). McCarron’s growth has mirrored that of his team, which is enjoying its first 20-win season since 2010. That was also Cornell’s last ECAC Hockey title, a crown the Big Red will attempt to reclaim this weekend. | Watch on American Sports Network, TSN2,

Dries guides turnaround – Western Michigan senior Sheldon Dries (Macomb, Mich./Green Bay-USHL) is joined by six freshmen and sophomores atop the Broncos’ scoring list. Leadership is a familiar role for Dries, now in his third year as team captain. The criminal justice major has guided Western Michigan to the nation’s biggest turnaround in terms of win improvement and its first appearance in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff since 2014, his freshman year. | Watch on CBSSN

Biggest Win Increases Since 2015-16
+14 – Western Michigan
+12 – Union
+11 – Wisconsin
+10 – Princeton
+9 – Canisius

Battle of Comm. Ave. – Bitter rivals Boston College and Boston University meet Friday in the Hockey East semifinals for the fifth time on that stage and the fourth time this season. BU has won all three meetings this year, with freshman goaltender Jake Oettinger (Lakeville, Minn./U.S. NTDP) boasting a 3-0-0 record against his goaltending partner last season at USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, Joseph Woll (Dardenne Prairie, Mo./U.S. NTDP/TOR). Oettinger has a 0.67 goals-against average and .978 save percentage in those meetings. Rookie goaltenders will play a big role at TD Garden: Oettinger, Woll and UMass Lowell starter Tyler Wall (Leamington, Ont./Leamington-GOJHL/NYR) have a combined 84 games played between them. Notre Dame junior Cal Petersen (Waterloo, Iowa/Waterloo-USHL/BUF), meanwhile, has started 86 consecutive games and appeared in 106 games in his career. | Watch on NESN, ESPN3

NHL Note of the Week

Four of the top six NHL rookies in games played (and six of the top 12) are NCAA hockey alumni. Each of those except Zach Werenski (tied for seventh with 68 GP) played at least three years in college. | 2017 Pro Signings

Fries at the Bottom of the Bag

The semifinals in Atlantic Hockey, Hockey East and the NCHC all feature the top four finishers from the regular season, as did the WCHA last weekend. Entering Thursday’s Big Ten games, Quinnipiac (fifth place in ECAC Hockey) has been the lowest seed to reach the semifinals … The Hobey Baker Award announced its top 10 finalists … Find all conference postseason honors here … Providence is the lone team not in action this weekend that can earn an NCAA Tournament bid; while not guaranteed, the Friars are likely in … The NCAA Tournament selection show will air on ESPNU, Sunday at noon ET.