We’re going to try something a little different while talking college hockey this week. Typically I like to have some game recaps woven in to the blogs because it’s hard to catch all the games when they’re on at the same time.Taking a deeper dive into the players on the ice rarely happens and you’re not going to hear about it anywhere else, let alone see it on TV. However, since the calendar switched to 2021, it has been anything but normal in college hockey. With that in mind, we’re doing a stream of consciousness this week. Buckle up, because following this brain is a roller-coaster ride and there’s no telling what the editor will have to fix. (editor’s note: Veech owes me a beer or six)
Let’s start at the top. More aptly put, lets start at what used to be the top. The Gophers are sliding, plain and simple. It’s nerve wracking for a season where they’re only playing Big10 competition during the regular season. They were undoubtedly the hottest team in college hockey to start the season and we’ve covered it from the jump. However, they’ve lost something since their Gold Medal winning defensive unit came back from the World Junior tournament. It’s been difficult to see where the problem is in their games, but it’s just…off. Maybe they got too used to playing with the lead and don’t know how to win from behind a la the Baltimore Ravens, but let’s hope they figure it out soon because they’re falling in the rankings rapidly. Getting swept by this year’s Notre Dame team? Not great.
Bulldogs/HuskiesThe Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs had their series “postponed” this weekend after a rough set of games against St. Cloud State. They lost 2 outright and 1 in OT against the Huskies out of back-to-back series. On that note, can I ask (and I mean this with all sincerity) what the fuck is that? The Bulldogs and Huskies have to play each other SIX TIMES in the second half of the season!?! Name another college hockey team that has that many games against top 10 opponents to close out the season. Spoiler alert, you can’t. The question has to be asked, does the NCAA competition committee hate dogs? There hasn’t been this many bouts between dogs since Michael Vick was was hot in the streets.
North Dakota lost to Denver…again. You don’t often see a team with the talent of North Dakota drop consecutive games to a sub .500 team like the Pioneers. Denver has been an absolute roller coaster to keep up with all year; the old janky wooden kind, not the smooth new ones. They have lost handily to teams that are outside of the top 20 rankings in a season where so many schools opted out of the season and then they play top-tier teams close and physical to pull out wins. The Fighting
Sioux Hawks, have got another matchup tonight (1/18) against the Pioneers with an opportunity to put the bad mojo to rest and reset.
Minnesota State – MankatoMankato is still hanging around and I don’t mean as the forgotten step-child of Minnesota hockey either. They’ve quietly amassed a record of 7-1-1 on the season and continue to slowly climb the ranks. Maybe this is because the NCHC and Big 10 teams are constantly beating up on one another. With a relatively light schedule for the remainder of the season, it will be fun to see what the team can end up at. Aside from a matchup against the surging Bowling Green Falcons, there isn’t another ranked team upcoming. If they can keep it up and maintain momentum into the playoffs, keep an eye on them to see if that winning confidence is a difference maker in out-of-conference play.
Bowling Green is…good?
Where the fuck did Bowling Green come from?!?! Maybe it’s because I’m an absolute idiot, but when I see this team on the ice, I think it’s a joke. For absolutely no reason other than the orange sweaters, they remind me of the South Central Louisiana State University Mud Dogs. I constantly expect to see some dopey combination of Bobby Boucher and Happy Gilmore skating on the 3rd line ripping clappers from the neutral zone and I’m always disappointed when it doesn’t happen. Listen, they’re 14-2 on the season which is tough to do in college no matter who you’re playing. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves with expectations here, though. They’ve beaten the likes of Adrian, Ferris State, and Northern Michigan (among a few others) to amass this record. To me, that sounds a lot like Coastal Carolina’s bid to be considered a real football team this year.
Boston College is…still good.
Is anyone going to challenge Boston College? This team had a player selected for the World Juniors at every level. This is including the likes of Wild prospect Matt Boldy and goalie sensation Spencer Knight. Unlike the Gophers, they have not slumped since these players returned from the WJC tournament. They’ve beaten traditional hockey schools like UMass and Providence handily and then held tight matchups against what some would consider “lesser” schools. There may not be a Beanpot Tourney this year, but it feels like we can just go ahead and give BC an honorary Beanpot.
As a Minnesota hockey fan, it pains me to see a Hockey East school continue to have this success. On the other hand, it seems like BC might not be able to get enough games in to be eligible for the playoffs. This is due to a late start to the season, COVID cancellations, and fewer teams to play. I hate to see any hockey cancelled, but if it has to be someone I’m (selfishly) glad it’s them.
College Hockey Playoff Prediction(s)As a 100%, truly and completely unbiased viewer of the game, it’s pretty obvious to me that it’s another season for the NCHC to shine in the playoffs. I’ll be surprised if anyone other than the Minnesota teams or Boston College makes it to the frozen four to challenge those teams at the end of the season. Let’s all just be happy that Arizona State is finally going through some growing pains. They’ve had a hot start to their program, new jerseys released, and a state-of-the-art arena approved in their young tenure. You just don’t get to have ALL the fun ALL the time.
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.
Argue with me on Twitter: @venividiveech