Week 16 – College Hockey Preview: Time to Grind

Gophers Hockey NCAA

College Hockey teams are starting to feel the pressure. It’s become harder to climb in the pairwise if you’re currently on the outside looking in. With that being said, there’s no guarantee of a spot to any team that’s currently safe as a loss to an un-ranked team can drop you as many as four spots. With less certainty than ever on who’s winning their conference tournaments, there are fewer and fewer at-large bids becoming available every single week. The Coaches know. The boys know. The Fans know…it’s time to grind.

Explaining the Minnesota Rankings:

1. University of Minnesota – Gophers

The Gophers (and stop me if you’ve heard this one) came out slow on Friday, before dominating on Saturday. It’s a story you can absolutely bank on this season.

2. St. Cloud State – Huskies

Despite Colorado College having their starting goalie get injured in the matchup, the Tigers managed to sneak out a win on the weekend to split with the Huskies. St Cloud has the talent, size, and experience to beat anyone…but do they have the drive to execute?

3. Minnesota State – Mavericks

Two series sweeps in a row against Northern Michigan and Arizona State, heading into a weekend against one of the NCAA worst, Lake Superior State. The Mavericks are flying high right now and are ready to make a run.

4. University of Minnesota, Duluth – Bulldogs

Brutal loss on Friday only to be outdone on Saturday by giving up 4 goals in the final two and a half minutes of game play. The turnovers and inability to generate any sort of reliable offense continue to plague the Bulldogs.

5. Bemidji State – Beavers

Beavs haven’t won in over a month with four losses and a tie over that timeframe. They’ve got a home playoff spot in the CCHA playoffs, but they’ll have to cling to it with two hands and all their might to keep it. Pesky as always.

6. St. Thomas University – Tommies

Maybe the greatest week any second year program in D1 College Hockey history has ever had. Wins against Michigan Tech and Bowling Green with a brand new arena announced in the middle. The (ultra) rich continue to get richer.

National Rankings Roundup

Not much to discuss at the top as the familiar four remain the only ones in the conversation. The bottom of the pack is where things get dicey. The bias based on source(s) and location plays a large part in who is placed where. The fun part? Plenty of newcomers and space for teams on the bubble to make moves in the remaining games.

As always, rankings that deviate from the average (high or low) are highlighted. 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.

Jan 16 – College Hockey – Rankings Roundup

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

#3 Denver @ #4 St Cloud State – Fri & Sat, Jan 20/21

Pioneers vs Huskies


24.1 – PP% – 22.4
78.8 – PK% – 79.8
49.5 – FO% – 52.0
1.860 – GF/GA – 1.767
0.915 – SV% – 0.924

Vibes: This will be a heavyweight bout between two teams that are expecting to make long playoff runs this spring. For all the scoring power and lethality that Denver has on their roster, St Cloud has stout defenders and goaltending to match. That goes vice-versa as well. We’ve already seen this matchup play out to one-goal wins for each team (St Cloud’s coming in OT) at the beginning of November. They are the most pro-ready and deep teams from top-to-bottom in all of College Hockey. For as tough of a year as the NCHC is having, these two are still at the top of their games.

Prediction: The Pios are better than Miami and CC who have found ways to win against the Huskies recently. They give St. Cloud their first two-loss weekend of the year in their own barn.

#7/8 Michigan @ #2 Minnesota – Fri & Sat, Jan 20/21

Wolverines vs Gophers


24.7 – PP% – 25.0
79.8 – PK% – 81.0
48.7 – FO% – 52.6
1.206 – GF/GA – 1.661
0.906 – SV% – 0.915

Vibes: It’s rare to find such a mis-match on paper in college hockey. The Gophers lead the Wolverines in every single meaningful stat-line heading into this game. Neither one of these schools can fall back on claiming records or stats are unfairly altered because stars were gone at world Juniors because BOTH had to find ways to play (and win) without them. For all the hype that each of these teams had come into the season with, Minnesota has lived up to it more. That’s not to take anything away from Fantilli or the incredible season he’s had at Michigan, but he doesn’t have the same supporting staff that can be found in Dinkytown. Both of these schools will make the national tournament, but only one of them is going to call the season a failure if they don’t make the Frozen Four in Tampa.

Prediction: Gophs finally come out hot on a Friday and take two against their biggest conference rival.

Bowling Green @ St Thomas – Thurs & Fri, Jan 19/20

Falcons vs Tommies


25.0 – PP% – 19.1
82.1 – PK% – 77.3
47.0 – FO% – 48.0
1.071 – GF/GA – 0.766
.907 – SV% – 0.892

Vibes: The vibes could not possibly be higher for St. Thomas hockey program right now. They got thier first ranked D1 victory on Saturday last week against Michigan Tech. That was followed by an announcement that they’re getting a brand new arena on campus thanks to a SEVENTY FIVE MILLION DOLLAR DONATION from Lee and Penny Anderson. The news had the boys so jazzed that they came out HUMMING on thursday and took down the Falcons who were ranked number one in the CCHA. Hard to think of a better week in January for any program. Bowling Green, on the other hand, continues to be an insane roller coaster ride. They made a lot of noise in the pre-season about how improved their team was, only to go on a 6-game losing streak, then came back to win 6 in a row before this Tommies matchup, only to lose the first game. They’re a team that makes no sense with no consistency.

Prediction: Bowling Green takes a Friday win to split points for the series, but St Thomas has already won the weekend.

Lake Superior State @ #17 Minnesota State – Fri & Sat, Jan 20/21

Lakers vs Mavericks


15.5 – PP% – 25.5
73.1 – PK% – 81.6
48.4 – FO% – 59.0
0.535 – GF/GA – 1.444
0.893 – SV% – 0.897

Vibes: A year ago, I’m not even sure I would have covered this as a “series” based on how lopsided the matchup is. The Mavs should absolutely DOMINATE this series from the moment the puck is dropped. Unfortunately, the Mavs have dropped more than a couple games like this already in 2023. While all the metrics shown have the boys from Mankato ahead of Lake State, there is ONE that the Lakers can hold their heads high when discussing. They’ve only allowed one short handed goal this year compared to Minnesota State’s NCAA-leading SIX. Do I see that stat, specifically mattering even a little bit? No. But it does show the lack of discipline and puck control paired with less than stellar goaltending that has cost the Mavericks games this year. Sure, Lake State only has four wins on the season, but they’ve also beaten Michigan Tech and Bemidji state in the last month. It’s college hockey…anything can happen. At least that’s what they’ll be saying in the LSSU locker room.

Prediction: Mavs win both, HANDILY. If they don’t…it’s CaTaStRoPhIc.

Minnesota Duluth @ North Dakota – Fri & Sat, Jan 20/21

Bulldogs vs Fighting Hawks


23.3 – PP% – 30.9
78.7 – PK% – 82.4
48.5 – FO% – 52.6
0.785 – GF/GA – 1.039
0.897 – SV% – 0.867

Vibes: Woof. In fact, double woof. Both of these schools were among the top five in the nation to start the year. Now they’re a combined 18-22-5 and currently sit at 6th and 7th in the NCHC standings. Both of these teams have found ways to remain in games while getting completely outplayed. That is not uncommon for either one of them though. What is uncommon is that neither has been able to close those games out for the first year in a long time. NoDak has had trouble stopping scorers on other teams which has been their problem this year…fortunately for the green and black, UMD’s only got one natural scoring threat this year and it’s freshman Ben Steeves. This series has been tightly contested for over a decade now, and while both teams are currently struggling, I don’t expect that to change this weekend.

Prediction: Dogs get swept. Can’t see it any other way, unfortunately for myself and the rest of #BulldogCountry.

Northern Michigan @ Bemidji – Fri & Sat, Jan 20/21

Wildcats vs Beavers


25.3 – PP% – 23.5
81.0 – PK% – 78.3
55.2 – FO% – 47.8
1.031 – GF/GA – 1.000
0.894 – SV% – 0.903

Vibes: Seeing that the Wildcats lead the Beavers in every stat with the exception of goaltending, you’d think that they’d hold the edge in CCHA standings, right? Wrong. Bemidji is hanging on to a seven-point advantage while in 4th place. While both can be deadly on any given night, they’re also susceptible to giving up a game should the flow not match what they’re trying to accomplish. In their last 5 times on the ice, these two teams have one combined win and that was Northern Michigan splitting with Ferris State. The pressure is mounting for each of them with backs against the wall, so it’s going to come down to whether or not the trap-scheme works this weekend at the Sanford Center.

Prediction: No clue what to make of this series. Beavs love to split and these teams have already split this year, so you just gotta ride that train.

Other College Hockey Games to Watch

#1 Quinnipiac @ #12/16 Cornell – Fri, Jan 20

Bobcats vs Big Red


25.5 – PP% – 24.1
82.5 – PK% – 85.1
56.7 – FO% – 53.7
2.395 – GF/GA – 1.595
0.921 – SV% – 0.898

Vibes: Other than facing off against one another earlier this year (Q-Pac won 2-0), Cornell has faced UConn, Harvard, and BU in terms of currently ranked opponents winning just one of those games. The Bobcats only have BC and Harvard that fit the criteria, but came away victorious in both matchups. Quinnipiac has been particularly deadly when it comes to finding ways to score, but Cornell has more size than most of the teams on the Bobcats’ resume to date.

Both have scored far more than they’ve given up and that can be attributed to the goaltending that each has been getting from Yaniv Perets and Ian Shane. THAT is what this series is going to come down to. While Perets is the frontrunner for the Mike Richter award, both of these goaltenders are certainly in the running to take home the hardware.

Prediction: If Harvard’s 15 NHL draft picks couldn’t break through Quinnipiac, I have a hard time believing Cornell can do it on their second attempt…but it’ll be close. Q-Pac by a single goal.

#13/16 UConn vs UMass – Fri & Sat, Jan 20/21

Huskies vs Minutemen


14.6 – PP% – 31.7
88.0 – PK% – 80.3
45.8 – FO% – 51.5
1.148 – GF/GA – 1.033
0.911 – SV% – 0.922

Vibes: This will be the first, and only, matchup between the Huskies and Minutemen for the 22-23 season. Both teams are coming off of multiple losses; two for the ‘skies and three for UMass. These teams are currently sitting just on either side of the Pairwise cutoff for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, so there’s more incentive than ever to win. Each one of them have an advantage in a different aspect of the game, but there’s no true “game-breakers” on either side of the ice. If you’re on the east-coast and want to watch a hockey game this weekend, this series is one to keep an eye on ’cause it’s sure to be close.

Prediction: Home and Home split with each taking one in their own barn.

#19/20 RIT @ Arizona State – Fri & Sat, Jan 20/21

Tigers vs Sun Devils


24.7 – PP% – 19.8
86.1 – PK% – 85.0
50.8 – FO% – 47.3
1.321 – GF/GA – 0.944
0.917 – SV% – 0.918

Vibes: On paper, RIT has a significant advantage over Arizona State in just about every meaningful metric. This is a perfect example of why watching TV is better for you than reading, so feel free to reference it whenever you get into that argument. The only ranked team RIT has faced this year was Penn State which resulted in two losses for the Tigers, getting outscored 9-2. Arizona State, on the other hand, has faced off against Minnesota, Denver, Michigan Tech, and Minnesota State among others who were actually ranked at the time they were matched up. Both of these schools are good teams, but in my opinion, only one of them has been truly battle-tested this season.

Prediction: East Coast hockey school learns what it’s like to play (pseudo) western-style hockey. Tell me if you’ve heard that one before. Arizona takes both.

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.

This week’s guest: Troy Stecher of the AZ Coyotes