The bulk of non-conference play is over and done with for the year. Outside of matchups with the Independent schools, most teams will finish out the College Hockey year playing familiar opponents every weekend. That means going up against the same group of guys they’ve seen earlier this year, and multiple times a year for the upper-classmen. That’s where you think back to the chirps, hits, and tough losses of the past and use them for motivation. That’s especially where the intensity of conference play comes from. If you want to win, now’s the time you’ve got to battle. In the corners, in front of the net, in the neutral zone, it doesn’t matter where you are because every inch surrendered is momentum for the boys you’ve grown to despise on the rink. Win your battles, win the game.
Explaining the Minnesota Rankings:
1. University of Minnesota – GophersGophers were outworked, outplayed, and outscored by (then #4) St. Cloud State on Friday. While it took overtime to come to a decision on Saturday, the Gophers bounced back as the better team.
2. St. Cloud State – Huskies
See above…but in reverse. I said it last week, and I’ll say it again: The Huskies may not be the most talented from top to bottom, but they very well could be the most consistent team in the country.
3. Minnesota State – MavericksBIG conference sweep of Northern Michigan last weekend. It took a while to break away, but once the lead was 2 goals, the Mavs settled in to their traditional style of play.
4. University of Minnesota, Duluth – Bulldogs
UMD outplayed the Beavers both nights. Friday was settled in a
pointless super fun shootout where UMD took the tie win. Saturday was more of the same, but the scoreboard and bounces fell the way of the Bulldogs.
5. Bemidji State – BeaversThe Beavs went into the weekend as a top-20 team in the nation. They came out of the weekend without getting swept, but still losing a lot of good faith from the voters. It’s not their fault that the rest of the voters don’t understand UMD is back.
6. St. Thomas University – Tommies
Nothing good or bad from the Tommies. They’ve already taken a massive step this year, so everything else is just cherries on top for this season.
National Rankings Roundup
Quinnipiac has taken control of the *nearly* unanimous top spot in the country. Some are saying they’ve earned it after dominating a great Harvard squad while others are pointing out that it’s only their 6th game against a tournament-worthy team this season. While we’re talking about the ECAC, Cornell has been SHOT OUT OF A CANNON going 8-1-1 in their last 10 leading to a very quick rise up the rankings. Don’t look now, but Merrimack is crumbling…who could have ever seen that coming or called them overrated when the super intelligent polls had them as high as a top-six team. Weird. *Whispers* Keep an eye on Alaska making a push as an independent school.
Rankings that deviate from the average (high or low) are highlighted. Once again, the Pairwise weight has been increased from last week. I’ve stated ALL SEASON LONG that it will be the most important factor by the end of the year. We’re there folks. We can actually have legitimate conversations regarding the Pairwise rankings now and they’re appropriately weighted for the remainder of the season. If you don’t think so, DM me on IG or Twitter and I’d be happy to tell you why you’re an idiot.Note: The National Rankings RoundupTM 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
Bemidji State @ Bowling Green – Fri & Sat, Jan 13/14
21.9 – PP% – 26.8
76.7 – PK% – 82.8
48.4 – FO% – 45.9
1.10 – GF/GA – 1.04
.908 – SV% – .907
Vibes: Bemidji is coming off of a tough, hard fought weekend where they gave up crucial points in both games. Bowling Green is coming off of a cupcake weekend that was never really in doubt. On paper, the teams match up really well, but the style of play Bemidji plays will make it tough for Bowling Green to capitalize. If Austen Swankler is bottled up, Bemidji has the upper hand.
Prediction: Bemidji splits an important weekend series. Tell me if you’ve heard that one before.
St Thomas @ #13 Michigan Tech – Fri & Sat, Jan 13/14
20.7 – PP% – 16.1
75.3 – PK% – 86.0
47.2 – FO% – 45.2
0.73 – GF/GA – 1.26
.886 – SV% – .918
Vibes: The Tommies have stuck around with a lot of really good teams this year. This weekend won’t be one of the times that happens. The Huskies have solidified themselves as a tournament contender and last weekend’s Desert Classic victory only helped motivate and encourage the team. The Huskies are surprisingly AWFUL on the Powerplay this season, but more than make up for it on the Penalty Kill. Those defensive efforts will be enough to keep the Tommies at bay.
Prediction: Huskies walk away with both games before the start of the 3rd period.
Minnesota Duluth @ Omaha – Fri & Sat, Jan 13/14
24.6 – PP% – 27.8
79.0 – PK% – 76.1
49.0 – FO% – 52.9
0.86 – GF/GA – 1.11
.901 – SV% – .900
Vibes: Bulldogs are on the wrong side of a lot of these stats. That didn’t stop them from outplaying the Beavers in last weekend’s matchup. If they can stay out of the penalty box against the Mavericks during crucial parts of the game and not give up goals in the last minute of periods, the Bulldogs have a very good chance to leapfrog Omaha in the NCHC standings as early as Friday night.
Prediction: Bulldogs earn 4 points on the weekend with a regulation win and OT loss. That’s all it’d take to earn a home playoff spot in the NCHC.
Colorado College @ #3/4 St Cloud State – Fri & Sat, Jan 13/14
22.8 – PP% – 23.5
81.4 – PK% – 80.7
50.7 – FO% – 52.1
1.02 – GF/GA – 1.79
.908 – SV% – .925
Vibes: Huskies have a pretty big advantage in all of the important stats and the only one they trail in is Penalty Kill by the smallest of margins. Colorado College has been able to attribute a lot of their success to their goaltender. St Cloud State can also attribute a lot of their success to a (former) Tiger goaltender. With that being said, I’d be hard pressed to bet the under in either of the games this weekend. If St Cloud gets on them quickly, we could easily see the Huskies enter the conversation for the #1 spot in the nation.
Prediction: Huskies take care of business and sweep the Tigers at home.
#2 Minnesota @ Notre Dame – Fri & Sat, Jan 13/14
25.3 – PP% – 13.9
81.0 – PK% – 75.6
52.1 – FO% – 49.8
1.63 – GF/GA – 0.87
.909 – SV% – .916
Vibes: It should be no shock to anyone that Minnesota leads Notre Dame (or any other school) in PP, PK, and Goal Differential this season. It’s also no shock to anyone (that’s been watching) to see Minnesota get to comfortable and show up flat to a series. After losing their stranglehold on the #1 spot last week, you’d imagine that would be enough ammunition to get the boys going…but I’ve seen worse things happen.
Prediction: Gophers take their foot off the gas AGAIN on Friday, before returning to form on Saturday for a series split. (For the good of the Big10 narrative)
#17/18 Minnesota State @ Arizona State – Fri & Sat, Jan 13/14
25.8 – PP% – 21.1
80.3 – PK% – 85.7
58.9 – FO% – 47.9
1.32 – GF/GA – 1.05
.887 – SV% – .921
Vibes: Sometimes, the stats are hard to read and interpret. This is not one of those times. Minnesota State uses their
age size to win a TON of faceoffs, and then has the ability and talent to outscore opponents when it comes down to it. Arizona State, on the other hand, gives up more shots on goal against per game than anyone outside of Lindenwood. TJ Semptimphelter has kept them in games, making more saves than anyone else in all of College Hockey. If Arizona can keep their cool in the heat, the games will be tight, just like every guy’s pants after their recruiting visit to that campus.
Prediction: Mavericks earn a tough win on Friday night, but fall to the energy of the crowd in the new arena with all the energy brought by the “snow” that ASU is so famous for.
Other College Hockey Games to Watch
#8 Ohio State @ #6 Michigan – Fri & Sat, Jan 13/14
20.8 – PP% – 24.4
90.9 – PK% – 81.3
49.2 – FO% – 48.4
1.57 – GF/GA – 1.29
.916 – SV% – .907
Vibes: Ohio State is back to riding high after putting the beatdown on Michigan State last weekend. They’ve had the nation’s best Penalty Kill for a long while now and based on recent games, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Hell, at this point, they might be better off playing a man down. The biggest threat to that impressive number? People like Adam Fantilli, who have proven time and again that they can score from just about anywhere on the rink. Michigan may hold the edge in the polls right now, but Ohio has quietly passed them up in the pairwise. Things are getting feisty in the Big10!
Prediction: Buckeyes shut down Fantilli for one game, but fall to the firepower in the other for another Big10 ranked matchup split. Betting (responsibly) on anything else would be silly.
#14/15 Providence @ #10 Merrimack – Fri & Sat, Jan 13/14
18.3 – PP% – 16.3
80.8 – PK% – 83.6
54.3 – FO% – 45.6
1.43 – GF/GA – 1.38
.903 – SV% – .910
Vibes: Providence is in the middle of a resurgence while Merrimack is sliding without any signs of slowing down. There’s a lot a familiarity between these two teams, including a couple of games already this season. That can lead to some bad blood and while neither team is particularly good on the Power Play, both are plenty capable on the Penalty Kill with the Warriors having the advantage. I said in an earlier matchup preview that Providence has more experience in this (ranked) position. My stance has not changed, however I feel that Merrimack is starting to feel the pressure of their backs against a wall and they need to win now if they want to have any hope of getting momentum back on their side.
Prediction: Providence and Merrimack have already split so far this season, so why would you expect anything different this time around?
#12 Western Michigan @ North Dakota – Fri & Sat, Jan 13/14
29.2 – PP% – 24.2
84.4 – PK% – 76.1
53.2 – FO% – 50.9
1.12 – GF/GA – 1.48
.873 – SV% – .885
Vibes: On paper, North Dakota should win this series. Unfortunately for the Fighting Hawks, that’s been the thought for the majority of the year and they’re still only 9-8-4 on the season. The Broncos don’t care that they’re trailing on the Power Play, Penalty Kill, and Faceoff Wins. If you had three of the top six scoring players in the nation, you probably wouldn’t care either. The firepower of that team is so daunting that it’s hard to imagine them losing in any other way than a boat race to the finish. Know what’s even harder to imagine? Earning a sweep at the Ralph with a packed barn.
Prediction: North Dakota gets right…as much as a split can get a team right.
Alternative College Hockey Media:
Hate my predictions or don’t fancy yourself as much of a “reader”? Lucky for you, there’s plenty more College Hockey information coming out of the 10K Takes family! You can listen to The Has Beens podcast (or follow them on social media) as two former College Hockey players/National Champions (Gage Ausmus and Trevor Olson) talk with guests about their path to College Hockey, how the sport impacted their life, and where it led them after.
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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