Every person outside of the state has once made the same snarky comment, “How can you be the State of Hockey without any Stanley Cups” before remembering College Hockey exists. As it stands right now, the land of 10,000 lakes is home to the top two programs in the nation according to both the Polls and the Pairwise metrics. Minnesota has been represented by one of their SIX D1 College Hockey programs in every national championship game that’s happened over the last six years. Sure, UMD is the only one to have won it all recently (three times since 2011, not a big deal) but that’s besides the point. If you won’t listen to my biased takes, listen to an East-coast elitist do the bragging for us:Some wonder how it’s possible for one state to be that far ahead of the rest of the country. Those that grew up here already know the answer. It’s the same reason that Texas (and Florida, if you don’t know) produce more high-level Football players than any other state; they make it a priority. Even at the high-school level, Hockey is treated and covered like most professional athletics. Every hockey fan has heard about and seen images from the State Hockey tournament, but that’s not the only time it’s at the center of the sports world in the state. This weekend, Hockey Day Minnesota will captivate people with their annual outdoor slate of games, celebrating the rich history of pond hockey that even the best players grew up with. If you can make it to White Bear Lake, I’m PROMISING you that it will be worth the trip and cost to get there. If you can’t, I’m telling you to find any way that you can to tune in.
Explaining the Minnesota Rankings:
1. University of Minnesota – Gophers
Two overtime decisions resulting in a split between (arguably) the most storied programs in all of college hockey. I don’t want to count out Penn State, but I’m REALLY looking forward to the possibility of these two meeting again in the championship game of the Big10 tournament.
2. St. Cloud State – HuskiesFor a team that just swept Denver in a top-four matchup, St Cloud State is seeing a criminally low amount of publicity. The Huskies may very well be the best team from top-to bottom. They don’t have the scoring power of a Minnesota, but they do have incredible defense and two of the top five goaltenders in College Hockey.
3. Minnesota State – Mavericks
It took OT for the Mavericks to find a win against Lake State on Friday, which had every Minnesota State fan MORE than nervous. After the Saturday win, they realized that their team hasn’t lost since Dec. 16th and went right back to delusions of grandeur.
4. University of Minnesota, Duluth – BulldogsThe Bulldogs outplayed the Sioux Fighting Hawks all weekend. More shots, good puck possession, and a higher effort level than most weekends to date. Unfortunately for the Dogs, penalties, bounces, and turnovers matter in hockey. They were bested on Friday night before taking advantage of opportunities to win on Saturday for another split with their biggest NCHC rival.
5. Bemidji State – Beavers
Beavs FINALLY got a (dominant) win on Friday after an insane slump. The boys played their scheme to perfection and capitalized when it mattered most. The high didn’t last long because they found new ways to lose on Saturday, despite another high-quality game. Bemidji will have to win the CCHA tourney in order to play this spring.
6. St. Thomas University – Tommies
The hot streak for the Tommies continues. The boys from St Paul found a way to win and tie against the top program in the CCHA last weekend, taking four of six points on the weekend. Don’t look now, but the Toms are 5-3-2 in their last 10.
National Rankings Roundup
The top four…remain the top four once again. The biggest difference is the jump to the top of the polls for St Cloud State after sweeping Denver and pushing the Pios down to the four spot. Quinnipiac had a nice little stint at the top for a few days before promptly dropping two games in a row for the first time all season. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Northeastern is on a four game winning streak against top-eleven teams (UConn and Merrimack) which has CATAPULTED them back into the national conversation as they sit atop Hockey East. Grab the Old Bay, cause that conference is officially tighter than a crab’s ass.As always, rankings that deviate from the average (high or low) are highlighted for transparency. The Pairwise impact on polls is becoming more and more evident as the deviations are harder to find. While there’s still some flaws in the system, it’s gotten just about everything right and is the best system used in all of college athletics. 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
#1 St Cloud State @ Minnesota Duluth – Fri & Sat, Jan 27/28
25.0 – PP% – 22.1
79.6 – PK% – 78.9
52.7 – FO% – 48.0
1.848 – GF/GA – 0.786
.926 – SV% – .896
Vibes: Once again, the Bulldogs are finding themselves on the wrong side of ALL the stats. The biggest discrepancy between the two is goal differential and that’s by a country mile. While this matchup has been a dog fight (pun absolutely intended) in recent memory, there is little pointing to that being the case in 2023. St Cloud has looked dominant at one point or another in every single series they’ve been in this season. The Bulldogs…have not.
Despite intimidating MOUNTAIN in front of Duluth, there is a bright spot shining through. St Cloud has had weekends like the most recent where they swept one of the best teams in the nation handily. They have also had incredible losses to familiar opponents this season including the likes of Bemidji, Miami, and Colorado College. The biggest difference in each of those games was St Cloud giving up three or more goals. If UMD wants to find a way to surprise the Huskies, they’ll have to find a way to score against two of the top 5 goaltenders in the nation. Whether it’s 6’3″ Castor or 6’9″ (nice) Basse between the pipes, it’s going to be a tall task.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Huskies star defenseman Dylan Anhorn (5G, 20A) will have season-ending surgery and not be available for the first series all season.
Prediction: The Huskies are not leaving this series without a win, that’s the obvious answer. I think the Bulldogs win on Saturday as they fight for pride, but it takes OT to get it done.
#15 Michigan State @ #2 Minnesota – Fri & Sat, Jan 27/28
17.8 – PP% – 25.3
80.8 – PK% – 82.6
48.8 – FO% – 53.4
1.041 – GF/GA – 1.578
.915 – SV% – .912
Vibes: The Golden Gophers remain atop the Pairwise as well as #2 in the national polls. The boys battled back to force OT two games in a row last weekend. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion they won’t have to do that in this series. While Sparty is no slouch, this Gophers team has already man-handled them once this season. With 11 goals for and 3 goals against through two games, it’s evident that there’s a clear mismatch somewhere. My guess is that it’s with Knies. Or Faber. It could also be the Mittelstadt brothers. Could also be Brodzinski. Might be due to Snuggerud too. Cooley is another factor to consider. (I don’t know how this team ever loses)
Prediction: Gophers make their mark on the race for the Big Ten title with another statement sweep of a ranked team.
St Thomas @ Arizona State – Fri & Sat, Jan 27/28
17.9 – PP% – 18.3
78.5 – PK% – 85.0
48.5 – FO% – 47.4
0.775 – GF/GA – 0.877
.894 – SV% – .912
Vibes: St Thomas is honestly coming into their own as a legitimate D1 hockey program. In their second year, the Tommies are beating ranked teams, in the middle of their conference standings, and going on runs. With that being said, Arizona state is just a few steps ahead of them in the process. On one hand, St Thomas’ new rink will be ready in a few years…on the other Mullett Arena opened this year. Both schools will be attractive options for new commitments and transfer portal kids alike, but the influx of kids to Phoenix has already started.
Neither of these schools are particularly potent or dangerous on the powerplay. That fact aside, Arizona State is among the best in the nation on the penalty kill. 85 percent is comfortable enough to make you a little bit cocky having a guy head to the sin bin. Not only that but TJ Semptimphelter has stopped more shots this year than every goalie except Ryan Bischel. To think that St Thomas is going to get themselves into better scoring positions than the teams who have already matched up against Arizona State is a little hard to believe.
Prediction: I don’t like being this guy, but the run has got to end sometime. Arizona State wins two games at home against the Tommies.
#14 Minnesota State @ Ferris State – Fri & Sat, Jan 27/28
25.7 – PP% – 15.7
82.7 – PK% – 81.6
59.3 – FO% – 49.3
1.474 – GF/GA – 0.838
.898 – SV% – .909
Vibes: Looking at stats in this series alone, it would be clear that the Mavericks are a heavy favorite. Adding in that Minnesota State is #2 in the CCHA and a full TEN points ahead of Ferris State and it should be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, those don’t account for the fact that FERRIS STATE HAS ALREADY SWEPT THE MAVERICKS!
I’ve got no clue what the deal is with the guys in Mankato when they match up against Ferris State. They seem to have NO problem when they are facing the Bulldogs from Duluth, but for the last couple years, the guys from Ferris State have fared very well against the Mavericks. Chalk it up to the familiarity between conference opponents if you want to, but you can’t ignore it’s a real thing. Know what else you can’t ignore? Math. The Dogs have already won two games, which means the Mavs are due for theirs.
Prediction: Mavs get retribution for the earlier series and earn a series sweep to split the season.
Bemidji State @ Lake Superior State – Fri & Sat, Jan 27/28
23.3 – PP% – 14.8
80.0 – PK% – 73.0
47.9 – FO% – 47.7
1.016 – GF/GA – 0.533
.901 – SV% – 0.895
Vibes: There’s not much to discuss here other than the Lakers 1-9-0 record in their last ten games. If we’re being completely honest though, the Beavers aren’t doing much better going 1-5-1 in their last seven. This series is less about climbing into any sort of meaningful position nationally and more so about changing the momentum of their seasons for each program. Bemidji has been on the wrong side of a few bad bounces and gotten out-scored even though they out worked opponents. That script has already played out once against Lake State this year, so I’m not sure it can happen again.
Prediction: Lose-Lose situation for Beavers as they either win, as expected or split with a bad team. I’m riding with the Northwoods and taking a Bemidji State sweep.
Other College Hockey Games to Watch
#11 Cornell vs #10 Harvard – Sat, Jan 28
28.3 – PP% – 21.9
84.7 – PK% – 85.2
53.5 – FO% – 52.5
1.692 – GF/GA – 1.545
.906 – SV% – .914
Vibes: It’s Big Red vs Crimson in the private school pantone proving ground. One singular point separates these two from second and third place in the ECAC standings and when you look at the teams, it’s easy to see why. Despite all the NHL talent at Harvard, Cornell holds an edge on the power play. Despite all the size and physicality of Cornell, Harvard’s got an advantage on the penalty kill. Both programs are among the best at the dot, they’ve got similar goal differentials, and stout goaltending. As much as I like to make fun of East-Coast hockey, these two programs are able to play with anyone in the country. The last game went into OT between these two and I don’t see how this one is any different.
Prediction: Big Red Bear bullies the Crimson on-ice, but lose in OT again.
#6 Penn State @ #7 Michigan – Fri & Sat, Jan 27/28
16.1 – PP% – 23.2
78.9 – PK% – 79.1
54.6 – FO% – 47.8
1.460 – GF/GA – 1.184
.914 – SV% – .905
Vibes: Much like the preview above, these two teams have A LOT in common. Both of these teams have (more or less) gone .500 against other ranked teams on the schedule. Even with that, Michigan is currently sitting in SIXTH place looking up at Penn State’s third place ranking in the Big 10. There’s no doubt that Michigan has the more talented single player in Fantilli. However, as a collective it would be easy to make the argument that Penn State has the better depth and cohesiveness overall. If Penn State is able to keep the game is kept to five-on-five for the majority of play, that’s where you see the Nittany Lions come out on top.
Prediction: The Big 10 has seen how beneficial it is to have all their ranked schools split and make it happen again.
Boston College @ #4/5 Boston University – Fri & Sat, Jan 27/28
23.8 – PP% – 22.9
77.9 – PK% – 80.4
53.2 – FO% – 50.6
1.034 – GF/GA – 1.524
.903 – SV% – .903
Vibes: Boston College vs Boston University is as big of a rivalry as exists in all of College Hockey. This series will be the 289th and 290th meetings between the two programs over the last ONE HUNDRED AND FIVE YEARS. Over that timeframe, the Terriers are clinging to a winning 137-130-21 record. While the Terriers are in a position to add to that lead, the Eagles are 4-2-3 since the beginning of December. The key to shutting them down is limiting space for Gauthier (12G, 8A) to operate and scoring three goals first.
Prediction: BC is fighting for a ranked spot, BU is fighting to earn a 1-seed. Each team wins at home.
US NTDP @ Bowling Green – Fri, Jan 27
29.0 – PP% – 23.9
85.4 – PK% – 83.0
?? – FO% – 46.8
1.672 – GF/GA – 1.068
.898 – SV% – .907
Vibes: This may very well be the best NTDP group of all time. I know that sounds insane to say when you look back on the names that have come out of that program, but I URGE you to take a look at this squad’s resume. They’ve got wins against ranked D1 programs Notre Dame, Michigan State, Michigan Tech, and Boston University. Sure, they’ve also got losses to D3 programs and some USHL teams, but if you’re telling me this squad is playing their best, I don’t see a way they lose to (now unranked) BGSU. The ONLY caveat to consider is the fact that the Falcon were just surprised two games in a row last weekend, so there’s going to be extra motivation for the boys to get back on track…that and Austen Swankler is an absolute machine that could put up 3 goals quick.
Prediction: NTDP continues their historic run and wins again.
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.
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 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 was none other than crowd favorite, Casey Purpur.
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