The entire hockey world is absolutely BUZZING right now, and College Hockey is no different. The NHL trade deadline seems like it’s been going on for two weeks with all the movement. In Minnesota, section tournaments are coming to a close as communities get ready to ship off their schools for the State Hockey Tournament. The College game isn’t far behind, with a few of the conferences kicking off postseason play this weekend as well. For those that have an at-large bid in their grasp, it’s on cruise control. For those that aren’t, it might be time to panic. It’s the most glorious and exciting time to be a hockey fan!
College Hockey Bracket IntegrityUnlike last week, there was only one real problem with a “perfect” bracket in terms of integrity. Penn State at 8 and Ohio State at 9 is a first round inter-conference matchup that the NCAA won’t allow. While there are other options and solutions out there, I think the most obvious is simply swapping Penn State and Boston University. This ensures that Minnesota still gets the closest regional with Penn State (who’s guaranteed a spot in Bridgeport as the host) out of their conference. Some would say swapping them with St Cloud is the best since they’re in the same “tier” and would be even closer to Fargo, but something seems inherently wrong about swapping a 5 and 8 seed when a 6 makes plenty of sense.
Positives & Negatives
- (+)Bridgeport has TWO teams on opposite sides of the bracket, each being the higher seed from the ECAC, who is the host conference. This all but guarantees as high of an attendance rate as possible for that regional.
- (+)The potential to have a regional final between Minnesota and Boston University is enough to capture even casual fans’ interest. Two of the most historic College Hockey programs fighting for a spot in the frozen four? Yeah, that’s good for the sport.
- (+)Allentown is considered as a western regional, believe it or not. Because the host plays for the Big 10, it qualifies for that designation as stupid as that sounds. It only makes sense to have as many western teams in there as possible with that in mind.
- (-)Outside of Cornell (potentially) every other team will have to fly to this regional. It’s not great for attendance, but with Alaska still being included and knowing they’d have to fly anywhere, that leaves only two having to travel “long distance” to this regional.
Until the conference tournaments wrap up, this entire exercise is more “for funzies” than anything else. It drums up conversation and creates
arguments talking points online. If the NCAA had any brains whatsoever, they’d be collecting and considering the well thought out arguments and points that are brought up online and factor them into their decisions. After all, those points are being brought up by the fans that consume their product. But hey, that’s just one dolt’s opinion.
National Rankings RoundupThe top four has not changed. If we’re being honest, I don’t expect it to change before the tournament begins either. These teams have been the best all season long and outside of a couple of head-scratchers, the most consistent as well. As it stands, here’s what we would have for representatives from each conference making up the field of 16:
- Big 10: (5) Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, & Notre Dame
- ECAC: (3) Quinnipiac, Harvard, & Cornell
- NCHC: (3) Denver, St Cloud, & Western Michigan
- CCHA: (2) Michigan Tech & Minnesota State
- Hockey East: (1) Boston University
- Atlantic: (1) RIT
- Independent: (1) Alaska
As always, rankings that deviate from the average (high or low) are highlighted for transparency.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
Minnesota Duluth @ #6 St Cloud State – Fri & Sat, Mar 3/4
23.9 – PP% – 26.9
77.7 – PK% – 76.7
48.6 – FO% – 52.1
0.810 – GF/GA – 1.440
.891 – SV% – .912
Vibes: Depending on who you talk to in each fanbase, this game either means everything or nothing. UMD sits at 25th in the Pairwise while St Cloud is comfortably at 5th. UMD is absolutely not getting an at-large bid, while St Cloud State is all but guaranteed one. The biggest implication of this series is who each team will be playing a week from now. Should UMD take 4 or more points, we’ll almost certainly be looking at a rematch in the first round of the NCHC tournament to see who gets to go to the Frozen Faceoff. UMD fans know they’re playing spoiler against a conference rival while Huskies fans are having flashbacks from a similar scenario last season.
Prediction: St Cloud State dominates the weekend, but only comes away with one win in a split in a (wait for it)…dog fight.
Bemidji State @ Northern Michigan – Fri to Sun, Mar 3-5*
24.8 – PP% – 23.7
80.7 – PK% – 84.9
46.7 – FO% – 54.9
1.023 – GF/GA – 1.125
.898 – SV% – .900
Vibes: The Beavers and Wildcats are kicking off the CCHA tournament. Mark my words, this series will be the best one in that conference this weekend. These two have played 4 times this season, with each taking two games in regulation. Despite Northern Michigan boasting (slightly) better goaltending numbers, Bemidji holds a scoring advantage of 10-8 on the season. If you’ve watched the Wildcats this season, you know they’ve been known to rely on the long passes and fast break outs to generate offense, and it is incredibly hard to do that against this Bemidji defense.
Prediction: What’s great about a 3-game series is Bemidji CAN’T split. Flipped a coin for the extra game…Beavs come out on top.
St Thomas @ #11 Michigan Tech – Fri & Sat, Mar 3/4*
17.2 – PP% – 14.3
78.2 – PK% – 87.1
48.0 – FO% – 46.1
0.739 – GF/GA – 1.347
.897 – SV% – .926
Vibes: The Huskies have had enough. They NARROWLY missed out on yet another MacNaughton cup, falling to Minnesota State last weekend after a statement win on Friday. The boys are going to be coming into this game with a big chip on their shoulder(s) and the Tommies are the team that gets to play punching bag. While the offense isn’t all that intimidating, the STOUT defense and incredible goaltending will make the difference. Expect Tech to have possession whenever you tune in if you’re switching between games.
Prediction: Huskies have had trouble with St Thomas in the past. They won’t this weekend. 2-game sweep.
Lake Superior State @ #12/13 Minnesota State – Fri & Sat, Mar 3/4*
15.2 – PP% – 26.5
73.6 – PK% – 82.4
47.6 – FO% – 59.4
0.633 – GF/GA – 1.521
.902 – SV% – .901
Vibes: The best team in the CCHA facing off against the 5th worst team in all of College Hockey. You never want to look past a team in your conference tournament. That being said, this is about the best opportunity to look ahead as any. The Lakers put up little to no fight in the previous (and only) matchup this season, getting out-scored 6-3 over two losses. Minnesota State’s one weakness this season has been giving up a few soft goals, so if the Lakers want any chance at advancing, they’ve just got to rifle as many shots as possible and hope for the best.
Prediction: Mavericks make quick work of the Lakers taking both games by 2+ goals.
Other College Hockey Games to Watch
#20 Michigan State @ #17/19 Notre Dame – Fri to Sun, Mar 3-5*
18.5 – PP% – 19.2
80.3 – PK% – 75.6
47.9 – FO% – 49.5
0.933 – GF/GA – 0.899
.907 – SV% – .926
Vibes: The highlight and storyline of the Big 10 conference tournament opening round won’t be Minnesota or Michigan as the Gophers have a bye and the Wolverines are going to dominate Wisconsin. It won’t even be Penn State vs Ohio State to see who gets to stay inside the top 10 of the pairwise rankings. No, it’ll be between the Spartans and Fighting Irish as BOTH teams are on either side of the bubble, and neither are safe. If they want to secure their place in the tournament, they each HAVE TO win this series. In my opinion, it’s going to be decided in the battle between Michigan State’s Dylan St. Cyr and Notre Dame’s Ryan Bischel.
Prediction: This has the makings of a coinflip game for as long as the series goes. Something is screaming Sparty though. Michigan State in three.
Vermont @ #15/16 Merrimack – Sat, Mar 4th
13.1 – PP% – 14.2
82.7 – PK% – 80.9
51.0 – FO% – 46.3
0.678 – GF/GA – 1.228
.909 – SV% – .911
Vibes: The storyline is still alive. Merrimack has STILL got a shot at winning the Hockey East title, but they’ll need some help. Obviously, they’ll need to beat Vermont in their solo matchup on Saturday, but they also need Northeastern to split (at best) with UMass Lowell and Providence would need to take 5 of 6 points against BU. It’s a long shot, but as Kevin Garnett told us all, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!!!
Prediction: Merrimack does their part for the storyline and pulls out a win.
Mercyhurst @ RIT – Fri & Sat, Mar 3/4
11.6 – PP% – 20.5
82.6 – PK% – 87.2
46.0 – FO% – 50.7
0.814 – GF/GA – 1.329
.908 – SV% – .918
Vibes: RIT has to feel good about their showing over the regular season. They won the Atlantic Hockey Conference and go into playoffs with as the 1-seed in that tournament. unfortunately for them, they’ll be matched up against Mercyhurst in the first round. It doesn’t seem so bad on paper with RIT holding all the significant advantages, but Mercyhurst HAS forced them into OT this season and ended up winning in a shootout. You’ve got to wonder if that leaks into the subconscious of some of the boys going into this weekend.
Prediction: RIT keeps the train rolling for another week with a victory, but it takes 3 games.
Lindenwood @ #18/19 Alaska, Fairbanks – Fri & Sat, Mar 3/4
17.2 – PP% – 20.8
80.0 – PK% – 72.9
50.7 – FO% – 45.8
1.260 – GF/GA – 0.730
.909 – SV% – .896
Vibes: This weekend will be come to known as Alaska’s last stand. The last shot at reaching the NCAA tournament. Everyone knows by now that beating a “good” team helps you less than losing to a “bad” team hurts you. Alaska is currently at 12 in the pairwise rankings, and if they want ANY shot at making the tournament, they’ve got to stay above 15 since the 16-seed will be awarded to the champion of the Atlantic Hockey conference. Without a conference tournament of their own to play in, this is the last time Alaska will have an opportunity to prove they belong in the playoffs. At a MINIMUM they’ll need a regulation and an overtime win to feel like they’ve got a solid shot.
Prediction: The premonitions have not been kind to Alaska as of late, but they’ve found a way to survive…until now. They split with Lindenwood.
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, it’s just the fellas in a roundtable discussion about the Hockey World and previewing the upcoming slate of games.
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