With a full month left in the College Hockey season, many teams are already beginning their postseason push. You’ve got teams like Minnesota and Quinnipiac trying to put a bow on largely dominant seasons. The next tier of teams like Denver, St Cloud, Penn State, and Ohio State trying to prove that they’re still to be feared, despite some bad losses. Things get really interesting and fun when you hit the teens in the pairwise ranks. Teams like Michigan State and Minnesota State have played good hockey this year, but stumbled a number of times and have to close out the season strong for any hope of at at-large bid. A bad weekend makes you incredibly nervous and getting swept is out of the question. Those of us already looking ahead at the postseason possibilities are all feeling some type of way.
Explaining the Minnesota Rankings:
1. University of Minnesota – GophersA well deserved week off for the best team in the country and they’re STILL the unanimous number one team overall. This team has had the most pressure on them all year long, and they’ve lived up to the hype almost every single weekend. When they’re playing to the best of their abilities, there’s no contest with anyone else in the country.
2. St. Cloud State – Huskies
Huskies…woof. Zero wins logged in their last four games. Sure, two of them were *technically* shootout wins, but if you ask any Husky fan, they’ll tell you that they might not have deserved the extra point or any more recognition than a true tie. Dylan Anhorn’s absence may be more of a factor than originally expected.
3. Minnesota State – MavericksThe Mavs stumbled out of the gates on Friday night, dropping a game to the Tommies before playing up to their potential in Saturday’s 5-2 victory. This team is proving they’re good enough and big enough to bully mediocre teams, but undisciplined and vulnerable at the same time.
4. University of Minnesota, Duluth – Bulldogs
After one of the biggest weekend wins in UMD history, they were unable to come away with more than a single point against Western Michigan. The Bulldogs played well and took the Broncos to OT on Friday night after scoring with their own net empty, but fell to the firepower and depth that Western Michigan boasts.
5. Bemidji State – BeaversBeavers welcomed Michigan Tech into their barn for a weekend series hoping to earn a big win against a ranked conference opponent. Despite good efforts in both games, they came up empty handed and were swept back to the shores of Lake Bemidji and the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi.
6. St. Thomas University – Tommies
After giving the Mavericks a couple of scares earlier in the season, the Tommies were finally able to finish the job and earn a win against them in OT. There are a lot of teams in College Hockey who haven’t beaten two teams ranked in the top 15, but St Thomas has in just their second season at the D1 level. They may not be the most consistent team in the world, but they’re officially competitive every weekend.
National Rankings Roundup
No changes on the podium atop College Hockey despite the fact that Minnesota had a week off and BU will NOT be playing in the Beanpot championship game after losing to Northeastern. A lot of that can be attributed to St Cloud’s struggles with Miami dropping them even further in the rankings for the second weekend in a row. We saw more splits in the middle of the pack, but Michigan State is making another push for an at-large bid after Dylan St-Cyr’s massive weekend between the pipes. At the bottom of the rankings, some people still feel the need to give Merrimack undeserved credit after two losses to New Hampshire and Maine while simultaneously ignoring two huge wins over Arizona State for the Nanooks of Alaska.
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
#1Minnesota @ Wisconsin – Fri & Sat, Feb 10/11
25.3 – PP% – 21.4
82.4 – PK% – 78.0
53.4 – FO% – 53.3
1.716 – GF/GA – 0.753
.913 – SV% – .893
Vibes: The Badgers are coming off of a rough weekend where they were pushed around by Michigan for a full 120 minutes. This weekend will not be any sort of reprieve as they welcome the top ranked Gophers into Madison. The last time these two met, the Gophs outscored Wisconsin 13-5 on the weekend. With even more time to polish their skills, there’s no reason to doubt Minnesota is capable of putting up similar stat lines. After high hopes to start the year, the entire Wisconsin fanbase has resigned to playing spoiler this season. They’ll have an opportunity against their biggest rival, but it’s resting on little more than a hope and a prayer.
Prediction: Gophers prove the critics right and take two games before the puck is dropped in the 3rd.
Northern Michigan @ St Thomas – Fri & Sat, Feb 10/11
22.6 – PP% – 18.7
82.4 – PK% – 78.4
54.8 – FO% – 47.5
0.939 – GF/GA – 0.737
.896 – SV% – .896
Vibes: The Wildcats are coming off of a weekend split with five-win Lake Superior State, so you know they can’t be feeling confident. After a breakout junior season where he was among the nations scoring leaders, AJ Vanderbeck has had a tough go of things. He’s still sitting at 12 goals and 15 assists on the season, but currently holds a -7 rating while on the ice. St Thomas, on the other hand, is having a better year than many people thought possible. The Tommies have collected points against the CCHA’s top three teams over the last month. To think that they are incapable of doing the same against Northern would be downright foolish.
Prediction: Northern Michigan has lost a step this year. St Thomas has come leaps and bounds from last year. Calling for a split.
Bemidji State @ Ferris State – Fri & Sat, Feb 10/11
22.9 – PP% – 14.0
79.5 – PK% – 80.8
47.9 – FO% – 49.4
0.973 – GF/GA – 0.7955
.899 – SV% – .906
Vibes: Bemidji NEEDS to get the train back on the tracks. That’s tough to do against a conference opponent while you’re already on a bit of a skid. Losing three in a row and going 2-7-1 in your last ten is not a position anyone wants to be in, especially considering they were among the ranked programs before that implosion. When these two road bumps faced off against one another earlier in the season, both games needed OT to decide a winner, with one going to a shootout. I’d love to say Bemidji has the upper hand here, but the fact of the matter is that neither does. If these teams played ten times this season, I’d be shocked to see Bemidji come away with more than six.
Prediction: Bemidji split. You knew it was coming.
Other College Hockey Games to Watch
#5 Michigan @ #15 Michigan State – Fri & Sat, Feb 10/11 (Home + Home)
24.6 – PP% – 19.6
78.0 – PK% – 80.5
48.1 – FO% – 48.1
1.292 – GF/GA – 0.955
.906 – SV% – .910
Vibes: This is your classic battle of offense vs defense. A matchup as old as time. The scoring power of Adam Fantilli and the Wolverines attack going up against the defensive front of the Spartans, headlined by goaltender Dylan St-Cyr. The single key to this game will be the Spartans team discipline and ability to stay out of the box. Should they find a way to keep it largely 5-on-5 through both games, they’ll have a chance at winning. If they get ahead of themselves, allow the Wolverines to sneak behind them, or lose their cool, it’ll be over quick.
Prediction: Michigan tries to impose their will on little brother, but only comes away with one win after two tight games.
#10 Harvard vs #17/20 Northeastern– Mon, Feb 13 (Beanpot Championship)
23.2 – PP% – 16.9
84.4 – PK% – 85.8
52.2 – FO% – 52.2
1.482 – GF/GA – 1.273
.914 – SV% – .924
Vibes: If you’re a fan of College Hockey, you’ve surely heard that this is the first time in the history of the Beanpot tournament that these two teams have met in the championship game. That’s SEVENTY YEARS for a four-team tournament to come up with this matchup. That math is unbelievable but hey, that’s College Hockey. The same sentiment that was stated for the Michigan series above applies here as well. Harvard’s offense and 15 NHL draft picks are well documented. Northeastern’s superstar goaltender Devon Levi ability to steal games for his squad is certainly common knowledge too. He was the key to beating BU as the best player on the ice in that game…can he do it again?
Prediction: Harvard takes the Beanpot trophy home.
North Dakota @ #4 Denver – Fri & Sat, Feb 10/11
31.9 – PP% – 24.0
83.5 – PK% – 77.7
52.7 – FO% – 49.0
1.185 – GF/GA – 1.700
.880 – SV% – .913
Vibes: North Dakota trails only one team (Cornell) in terms of Power Play efficiency this season. They’re no slouches on the Penalty Kill at 83.5% either. Special teams is where the boys in black and green thrive, but they’re nothing special when it’s five-on-five…shoutout Dr. Seuss. Denver’s key is going to be what it has been for the last 3 seasons; winning the neutral zone battle. When they’re able to do that, the high-powered offense takes off and it relieves pressure from Magnus Chrona between the pipes. With a championship trophy still in their locker room and a guaranteed playoff spot locked up, Denver will have to find a way to keep the intensity up.
Prediction: Denver relaxes a bit too much and leaves a split on the table for NoDak to grab.
#20 Alaska @ LIU – Fri & Sat, Feb 10/11
16.7 – PP% – 24.2
82.0 – PK% – 76.7
51.1 – FO% – 52.4
1.189 – GF/GA – 1.102
.908 – SV% – .890
Vibes: You may be wondering why we’re highlighting a series between Alaska and LIU. While it’s normally something to avoid, there’s an at-large post season birth at stake for the Nanooks. They’re currently at #19 in the Pairwise and #20 in the polls with a relatively weak remaining schedule. That means they’ll probably need to win out AND get some help from the other conferences in order to make the final cut. That all starts with the series in front of them. A strong showing against the sharks combined with some poor play out of RIT and Notre Dame and we may be looking at a top 16 Alaska program.
Prediction: Alaska keeps their post season dreams alive and earns a sweep before their classmates are done with lunch.
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: Ella Motzko, daughter of Gopher’s head coach Bob Motzko.
I’ve been hit by cars three times, which is an indication of how stubborn I am.
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