We’re only three weeks into the season and the College Hockey Rankings are already in disarray. While the top teams in the nation are largely what we thought they’d be to start the year, teams like BU have their fans screaming more than Haunted Houses this time of year. On the flip side of that coin there are also team masquerading as competent programs, who will inevitably take their masks off for the year after Halloween when conference play heats up.
One thing we can all agree on is that it’s nice to see the Ivy Leagues finally join the party. After some schools have been on the ice for a month, these programs have made the long trek down from their ivory towers and taken the leap from way up on their high horses to participate. All joking aside, the ECAC’s absence (largely) has left a lot of question marks about parity of the sport. Assuming that Harvard and Cornell pick up where they left off last year, this season could be the tightest race and most competitive in a long time.
Updated Weekly Picks
This week’s picks have left me feeling so much more confident than what we had to deal with 7 days ago. While we’re still limited on “official” lines put out, you can always go on BettorEdge and either set your own lines or pick up one that someone else has already thrown out there, just make sure to use “10K” at sign-up.
Explaining the Minnesota Rankings:
1. University of Minnesota – Gophers
Until the Gophers have 4 losses, I don’t see how they relinquish this spot in my brain. That being said, they are currently losing to Wisconsin in their Thursday matchup at the time of this writing, so it could come sooner than we think.
2. University of Minnesota, Duluth – Bulldogs
UMD is coming off of a sweep of Bemidji and still has yet to lose a game this season. Their PP is LETHAL, but much like a horny teenager there are a lot of questions about their discipline and ability to close.
3. Minnesota State – Mavericks
Getting swept at home is tough. Getting swept at home against a (then) unranked UMass team after talking A LOT of shit to Huskies fans is tougher. Just when you thought the Mavs might have found their footing, they step in a steaming pile and fall more comically than Charlie Brown.
4. St. Cloud State – Huskies
Another week gone by, another week where the Huskies failed to meet expectations. Look, Alaska is a tough team. They don’t get the respect that they deserve. The Huskies still should have swept them at home if they wanted to be taken seriously this season.
5. St. Thomas University – Tommies
St Thomas is simply out-playing all expectations this year. I’m not sure if they’re so impressive because the bar was so low to start the season, because all the new commitments are adding fuel to the excitement, or because they’re actually as good as their resume says they are. They’re out-playing their record, but it’s going to be tough to sell people on that if they aren’t watching the games.
6. Bemidji State – Beavers
The Beavs were just swept by Duluth. That included getting shut out on Friday and giving up a two-goal head start on Saturday. There’s not a lot of topography in Bemidji so you can see for miles, but there’s still no clutch gene in sight.
National Rankings Roundup
Minnesota is still the unanimous number one team in the nation. At least they were going into this weekend. Hell, the top three would all be unanimously agreed upon if I weren’t so stubborn, but that BC program is just playing with too much piss and vinegar to ignore the potential. There’s plenty of time to be proven wrong, but they look GOOD.
North Dakota has seemingly returned to form despite a roster turnover that was approaching 50% and the nation is taking notice. Providence. I don’t know what to say about them right now, but it would be criminal to not mention them by name with what they’re doing. Seven through eleven are largely agreed on, but it gets convoluted after that.
Arizona State, Wisconsin, and UMass are as high as 11 and as low as 19, collectively. Until there are some more ranked matchups under their belt(s) it’s going to be tough to see who’s for real and who’s a fraud. Ohio State and Penn State can be lumped in with them, but their ceilings aren’t as high and their floors aren’t as low. The one team that is not getting the credit they rightfully deserve: New Hampshire. They’re playing David vs Goliath hockey and just stacking wins against ranked teams.
What Are You Looking At?
As always, college hockey rankings that deviate from the average (high or low) are highlighted for transparency. We’re still valuing the USCHO and USA Hockey College Hockey Rankings significantly more than the Pairwise…and for good reason. Just look at some of these absurd numbers.
Note: The National Rankings Roundup weighs each of the ranking sources instead of treating them all as equal. This takes into account the credibility of source, potential committee influence, what data they utilize, evident bias, and amount of teams ranked.
Minnesota College Hockey Games
#1 Minnesota @ #14/18 Wisconsin – Thurs & Fri, Oct 26/27
25.0 – PP% – 13.8
94.7 – PK% – 86.7
52.2 – FO% – 51.8
1.333 – GF/GA – 2.272
.922 – SV% – .932
Vibes: Make no mistake about it, Mike Hastings has had one of the easiest transitions for any coach moving to a new program of all time. Not only did he take the best players from a program that was making deep runs in the national tournament, but he brought them to a program that has some of the best existing recruits and commitments in the nation. Don’t take that as a dig against him though. He’s certainly made the most of the opportunity and brought the Badgers hockey program back from the dead. They’re a force to be reckoned with and making a lot of noise early.
Minnesota and Bob Motzko are on the opposite side of the spectrum. They came into the season as a top three team that was just in the title game, but lost three of the biggest names in all of college hockey. They’ve played well so far and shown flashes of brilliance, but seem to be misfiring when the pedal is down. Justen Close has been the best version of himself and the combination of Jimmy Snuggerud and Oliver Moore has been fun to watch, but the defensive effort is leaving a lot to be desired.
Prediction: The Gophers have both started slow AND taken their foot off the gas this season. You can’t do that against a revamped team like the Badgers and expect to win two games. A series split to wake up the Gophers.
*NOTE: This prediction was made during the Thursday contest
#11/12 Minnesota, Duluth vs #11/12 Cornell – Fri & Sat, Oct 27/28
44.0 – PP% – N/A
77.1 – PK% – N/A
50.2 – FO% – N/A
1.500 – GF/GA – N/A
.900 – SV% – N/A
Vibes: For the second year in a row, Cornell is starting their season with a matchup against the Bulldogs. This time they get to host at Lynah Rink in Ithaca, NY. It’s the first time that UMD has ever made the trek to play there. That means getting used to a new atmosphere for the team and having to do it after two separate travel days.
Cornell lost a lot of upper-classmen to graduation and the NHL, but has replaced them with a highly touted freshmen class including FIVE players with rights owned by NHL clubs. While the experience has gone way down for Big Red, they still want to play bully-ball and have the size to do it with their average height around 6’2″ for the team. They’ll be trying to shake the rust off against a UMD team that SHOULD be rounding into form. That said, UMD is already dealing with a number of critical injuries and question marks on their roster.
Prediction: The Bulldogs have left the door open in a lot of games, but nobody’s taken the step through yet. This is the weekend it happens as they come home with a road split.
Minnesota State @ #4 North Dakota – Fri & Sat, Oct 27/28
5.3 – PP% – 5.6
80.0 – PK% – 85.7
53.2 – FO% – 52.9
1.100 – GF/GA – 1.571
.899 – SV% – .927
Vibes: This weekend, the Mavericks will be trying to re-bound from getting swept at home by earning road wins at the toughest barn in the nation. The Ralph in Grand Forks, ND sells out for every game, regardless of how well the team is doing. While I don’t expect the same raucous crowd as last weekend’s rivalry series brought, the people will still show up and make noise for their school. You’ve also got to factor in that this will be the end of their long home-stand paired with shooting up the college hockey rankings early. The Mavericks aren’t immune to playing spoiler, but playing from behind is not an option against this NoDak squad.
Prediction: North Dakota is on a mission to re-gain their place atop the college hockey world and no un-ranked team is going to stop them. NoDak sweeps.
St. Thomas @ Bemidji – Fri & Sat, Oct 27/28
11.1 – PP% – 13.0
70.8 – PK% – 62.5
50.6 – FO% – 45.1
0.895 – GF/GA – 0.667
.881 – SV% – .900
Vibes: Neither of these programs will finish atop the CCHA. Neither of them will be at the bottom either. They’re both middle-of-the-road programs, and largely for the same reason. They’re both talented. More talented than they get credit for, even. That being said, neither one of them has the ability to step on the throat of their opponent when they have the chance to do it. They’ve both had leads in important games this season and let those leads slip out of their grasp. Personally, I’ll be live-betting whoever gets scored on first to win the game. It’s nothing personal. I actually LIKE both of these schools, but that’s just how the season has gone for these boys.
Prediction: This contest is starting in Bemidji, MN but will end in Splittsville, USA.
Other College Hockey Games to Watch
#19 UMass vs #9 Boston University – Fri & Sat, Oct 27/28 (Home & Home)
29.2 – PP% – 10.5
83.9 – PK% – 68.8
54.3 – FO% – 53.1
1.250 – GF/GA – 1.143
.900 – SV% – .877
Vibes: When putting together the stats for this matchup, I was SHOCKED to see just how much better UMass is in every category. Hell, I know it’s early but the Minutemen will be in a playoff team if these numbers hold all season. On the other side, it’s honestly impressive for a program to start in the top three and is STILL remain in the top ten with stats as bad as BU. The thing about that is…the boys on the bench know that too. They have to be reminded how they finished last season and get back to whatever that was. Getting back to where they had success last season in conference play should help. SHOULD being the key word.
Prediction: The Terriers HAVE TO wake up eventually. I think they remind everyone in the country why they were rated so highly to start the season on Friday and sneak out a 1-goal win Saturday…pending how Friday ends.
#15/16 Ohio State vs #20 Omaha – Fri & Sat, Oct 27/28
16.7 – PP% – 17.4
71.4 – PK% – 100.0
45.9 – FO% – 58.8
0.813 – GF/GA – 5.000
.897 – SV% – .939
Vibes: Neither of these teams can afford to lose momentum with all that’s happening in their respective conferences. The Big Ten has the number one school in the country and the NCHC has two in the top four. These two conferences are one and two when it comes to winning percentages against non-conference opponents so far. While that could change, what it means now is that they’ve got the best shot at having the most teams make it to the national tournament in one of the at-large positions.
With tight competition and a low likelihood that they’re able to win their respective conference tournaments, these schools NEED to rack up wins to remain relevant in the pairwise race. Omaha’s sample size is too small to take stats seriously right now, but if they can come out of this weekend with at least one more win, they’ll be in a good spot. Ohio State probably needs a win and a tie to feel good about themselves after roller coaster weekends against both Lindenwood and Michigan. A lot of their success last season was attributed to the nations best penalty kill, so if they can’t get back to that style of play, they may be in trouble against a team like Omaha.
Prediction: Split for the schools in two low-scoring affairs.
#7/8 Michigan State vs #3 Boston College – Thurs & Fri, Oct 26/27
25.0 – PP% – 17.4
87.2 – PK% – 87.5
51.4 – FO% – 51.7
1.320 – GF/GA – 1.750
.893 – SV% – .897
Vibes: There will not be two more teams that climb further in the College Hockey Rankings than these two compared to how they finished last year. The talent level on both rosters is absolutely insane. I hate releasing a Friday “preview” of a series that started on Thursday, but this one deserves all the eyes it can get.
Thursday’s contest ended in a 6-4 Boston College victory and I’d wager there’ll be just as many fireworks on Friday. The Eagles have been getting incredible play from Gauthier, as expected, but Will Smith (not that one) has been a critical player that’s fun to watch as well. Not to be outdone, Michigan State has FIVE players inside the nation’s top 10 for points leaders. Red Savage is leading the country with 11 points, closely followed by teammates Nicolas Muller and Joey Larson. There’s simply too many high-caliber players on both sides to stop goals from being scored, so you’ve just got to lean into the points race and try to come out on top.
Prediction: Boston College flashes it’s complete roster in another boat race.
*NOTE: This prediction was also made during the Thursday contest.
Previous Previews & Picks:
Don’t know whether you can trust the picks or input? I don’t blame you. I’m not anywhere near a “Big J”. In fact, I’m just some idiot with an outlet. An idiot who watches more college hockey than 99% of the nation, but an idiot nonetheless. Take that how you will.
I’ve been hit by cars three times, which is an indication of how stubborn I am.
I write about everything across the board, but focus on Hockey and the pain that is Minnesota sports.
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