Week 18: College Hockey Rankings, Betting Lines, & Weekend Preview

Gambling Gophers Hockey NCAA

The top seven teams in the College Hockey Rankings have locked up playoff spots as far as I’m concerned. Eight to twenty are all fighting to either keep their seat or steal one away. Outside of that, there’s some false hope and a lot of teams playing for pride. It’s important to remember, though, that those aren’t the only playoff spots handed out.

The Conference tournament champions are also guaranteed a playoff spot. For every one of those that is handed out, one of the top sixteen pairwise teams is eliminated. Last year, we saw the impact of Canisius and Colgate winning their respective tournaments in addition to Merrimack climbing the rankings with a deep run in Hockey East. Alaska went into the post-season without a conference tournament to play in as the #12 team in the nation and fell out of the playoffs after the dust settled. If you think anyone has forgotten about that, you’d be sorely mistaken. It’s go-time and the boys know it.

Updated Weekly Picks

Life should be good after going 4-1-0 last week. Unfortunately, I think Cage the Elephant said it best with, “There ain’t no rest for the wicked. Money don’t grow on trees. I got bills to pay. I got mouths to feed.” Because of that, we’re back with another set of hard-up picks on a tough weekend. Sure, I could pad the stats with BC and BU money-line plays, but those don’t have odds worth betting on. We’re here to fund our beer, and I’d like to keep drinking my Castle Danger, Bent Paddle, and Hoops brews.

As stated below, the maximum bets I’d personally put on any of these plays is a single unit across the board. Confidence level is at an all-time low because every one of these games means something big to the teams playing in it. UNH wants to stay relevant. Penn State wants to prove they can beat teams outside of their cupcake non-con schedule. Omaha is knocking on the door of the playoffs and Western is on the other side trying to keep them out. Sparty wants to prove they’re THE team in Michigan again and the Goalies in Madison are battling for Mike Richter Award stats.

If you think you’re smarter than me, prove it. You can go on BettorEdge and either set your own lines or pick up one that someone else (me) has already thrown out there. I’ll be putting affordable lines out there on each of these if you’re just looking to “dabble” a bit. Just make sure to use β€œ10K” at sign-up.

National College Hockey Rankings Roundup

Some years, compiling the College Hockey Rankings Roundup is a pain in the ass. This year is not one of those years. I couldn’t even tell you the last time I had to add a new line to the excel table. All I’ve had to do is shift teams around based on their weighted average. As nice as that’s been, I kind of miss the chaos.

I yearn for the days when we had new teams at 20-22. They’d be clawing for the recognition they deserve while looking up at some Atlantic Hockey school (usually RIT or AIC) with a strength of schedule that Minnetonka or Edina could rival. Now we’ve got an established group of quality teams that just trade blows and spots on the existing roster. For as much parity as there is in today’s game, I want more. I always will.

Feb 5th College Hockey Rankings Roundup

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 the source, potential committee influence, what data they utilize, evident bias, and amount of teams ranked. USCHO and USA Hockey still remain the drivers.

Minnesota College Hockey Games

Penn State @ #8/9 Minnesota – Fri & Sat, Feb. 2/3

Nittany Lions vs Gophers

Stats:

21.8 β€“ PP% – 25.0
75.0 – PK% – 79.7
49.7 – FO% – 49.6
0.969 – GF/GA – 1.394
.862 – SV% – .916

Vibes: If Minnesota were able to sweep the series this weekend, they’d almost certainly have a playoff spot locked up. They’d be a top eight team and only have two regular season series remaining, both against respectable teams. However, if they were to lose even one game here, it makes the next two weekends MUST split at the worst to stay above last year’s cut-line. Penn State knows the stakes and is looking to play spoiler. Hell, they’ve already beaten the Gophs this year. The Nittany Lions take more shots than anybody in the country and, despite having played two fewer games, have almost 100 more than the Gophers this season. Surviving that barrage requires guys to sacrifice the body in shooting lanes while finding a way to keep Close’s vision clear.

Prediction: Gophers win outright on Friday, but require OT on Saturday to win both.

#16 St Cloud State @ Miami, Ohio – Fri & Sat, Feb. 2/3

Huskies vs RedHawks

Stats:

21.3 β€“ PP% – 12.6
79.8 – PK% – 81.3
50.3 – FO% – 46.4
1.157 – GF/GA – 0.697
.902 – SV% – .889

Vibes: The first game of this series will be played on February 9th, 2024. The Huskies have not won a game in regulation since December 31st, 2023. Whether they’re clawing their way back into games late or letting wins slip through their fingers, the Huskies always seem to find a way to take games to overtime lately. TECHNICALLY they’re still a bubble-team since they’re within the top 16 of the pairwise, but unless all the favorites win their respective conference tournaments, they’ll be the second team knocked out of the playoffs. They need to win and they need to do it now.

Prediction: Huskies sweep.

St Thomas @ Augustana – Fri & Sat, Feb. 2/3

Tommies vs Vikings

Stats:

16.2 β€“ PP% – 19.4
76.7 – PK% – 81.7
49.4 – FO% – 44.2
1.087 – GF/GA – 0.758
.910 – SV% – .901

Vibes: In just their third season, St Thomas is the best team in all of the CCHA. That is INSANE. What’s even more insane is that they’re still ineligible for post-season play, regardless of whether they win the MacNaughton Cup and CCHA tournament or not. Somebody needs to look at them as a case study for future petitions to the NCAA for eligibility because they are actually a decent opponent already. Hell, they’re one of only two teams in the CCHA with a winning record!

Augustana is actually on track to surpass St Thomas’ meteoric rise if they can find a way to keep up their current pace. They may be 8-15-3 on the season, but they have wins against ranked teams like Colorado College and Arizona State and a shootout victory against Denver on their resume. A new arena, a winning culture, and an open depth chart will be attractive for any D1 level players looking to commit.

Prediction: The Tommies are still playing banged up, split.

Minnesota State @ Michigan Tech – Fri & Sat, Feb. 2/3

Mavericks vs Huskies

Stats:

19.8 β€“ PP% – 22.0
80.0 – PK% – 76.1
50.8 – FO% – 49.7
1.257 – GF/GA – 0.875
.910 – SV% – .907

Vibes: MSU currently sits just two points behind St Thomas for first place in the conference with the Tommies facing Augustana this weekend. If that’s not motivation to win in a season where your coach abandoned you and took “all your talent” with him, I don’t know what is. Michigan Tech, on the other hand, has squandered an incredible opportunity this season and given up crucial games at every step along the way. The Pietila clan (there are 4 of them on the team) have all been playing below the standards they’ve set for themselves and second half addition, Austen Swankler has largely been a non-factor for the pups. You’ve got to think they’ll figure it out in crunch time, but only time will tell.

Prediction: The CCHA continues to be nonsensical with a weekend split.

Bemidji State vs Northern Michigan – Fri & Sat, Feb. 2/3

Beavers vs Wildcats

Stats:

15.5 β€“ PP% – 21.6
76.5 – PK% – 74.1
46.1 – FO% – 52.1
0.800 – GF/GA – 0.779
.875 – SV% – .890

Vibes: These two could not be more in the middle of the most under-achieving conference in College Hockey. They’re not playing for much more than pride and final CCHA position at this point in the season. It sounds crazy to say that with Bemidji only 7 points out of 1st place in the conference when St. Thomas can’t gain any ground this season, but until one of these teams decides to take the reigns and run with an ounce of sustained success, that’s the hill I’m dying on. Let’s see a show in Marquette this weekend!

Prediction: The Beavs are playing? That’s a split.

Other College Hockey Games to Watch

#8/9 Michigan State vs #11 Michigan – Fri & Sat, Feb. 9/10

Vikings vs Beavers

Stats:

26.5 β€“ PP% – 34.5
82.8 – PK% – 78.1
49.3 – FO% – 53.6
1.302 – GF/GA – 1.592
.910 – SV% – .904

Vibes: The last time these two teams faced off, they split with the winner scoring 7 on the road in each game. There are big name scorers on each side and they both love to get into a boat race to show off. Michigan is coming off of a sweep of Ohio State which was the first time they took all 6 points in a conference series all year. Sparty has four Big Ten sweeps on the season, but has split each of their last three series. Expect more of the same.

Prediction: Splittsville, Michigan – Population: These two.

#20 Notre Dame vs #4 Wisconsin – Fri & Sat, Feb. 9/10

Fighting Irish vs Badgers

Stats:

17.5 β€“ PP% – 18.4
83.0 – PK% – 88.3
54.9 – FO% – 54.7
1.125 – GF/GA – 1.827
.925 – SV% – .934

Vibes: This one is going to be a goalie battle…on paper. Ryan Bischel (Notre Dame) and Kyle McClellan (Wisconsin) are both prominent tendies on the Mike Richter Award ‘Watch List’ and I wouldn’t be surprised to see both in contention when it gets whittled down again. With that being said, I’ve already said I expect this to hit the over on Friday. If it does turn into a scoring contest, the edge most certainly goes to Wisconsin.

Prediction: Wisconsin sweeps at home.

Alaska vs #18 Arizona State – Fri & Sat, Feb. 9/10

Nanooks vs Sun Devils

Stats:

20.7 β€“ PP% – 25.2
79.2 – PK% – 81.4
53.9 – FO% – 50.9
1.209 – GF/GA – 1.360
.891 – SV% – .910

Vibes: The Sun Devils are right on the verge of becoming a playoff team. As mentioned last week, they have zero remaining games against opponents in the top 20 of any College Hockey Rankings on the schedule, so climbing will have to be slow and steady while losses will likely result in a hefty drop. This weekend kicks off a four-game stretch against their closest independent competitor in Alaska. The Sun Devils absolutely NEED to win three of four if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive, so getting off to a hot start in their own barn would go a long way.

Prediction: AZ State comes away with a weekend sweep.

THE BEANPOT CHAMPIONSHIP – Mon, Feb. 12th

Huskies vs Terriers

Stats:

23.6 β€“ PP% – 25.4
81.3 – PK% – 82.0
55.4 – FO% – 51.1
1.139 – GF/GA – 1.507
.908 – SV% – .910

Vibes: This is the biggest regular season game of the year. Love it or hate it…its a fact. The coverage of college hockey as a whole is still WILDLY weighted to the eastern schools. That being said, what this annual tournament does for the sport as a whole is great. People who don’t watch a minute of College Hockey all year will tune in for the Beanpot and the champion (in addition to their highlights) will be announced on ESPN. Because it’s the most televised regular season game of the year, both of these teams want to win BADLY.

Despite the ranking disparity between these two teams, they play one another full of hatred and animosity. It’s like the old adage(s) used when the Ravens and Steelers face off: “Throw out the record books” and “no love lost between these two”. Each of these teams has one 4-3 overtime win over the other to this point in the season. BU has got Macklin Celebrini, Lane Hutson, and all sorts of national backing. Northeastern, however, is HOT. They’re riding a 5-game win streak and this will be the team’s SIXTH STRAIGHT appearance in the Beanpot championship game, having won 4 of the last 5.

Prediction: BU reigns supreme and wins the Beanpot.

Previous Rankings/Reviews

Week 17: College Hockey Rankings, Betting Lines, & Weekend Preview

Week 16: College Hockey Rankings, Betting Lines, & Weekend Preview