No long, drawn-out intro to the blog this week. In fact, no “State of Hockey” rankings either. We all know who’s good and who’s just…not. Instead, we’re getting straight into the nitty-gritty and previewing all of the best matchups. There’s one big one happening between in-state rivals and six other ranked x ranked tilts to get excited about this weekend!
Updated Weekly Picks
Since starting FIRE FLAMES red hot this year, we’ve been hit with a few red shells and banana peels. This is the week we grab some mushrooms and get back to the front of the pack. While we’re still limited on “official” lines put out, you can always go on BettorEdge and either set your own lines or pick up one that someone else has already thrown out there, just make sure to use “10K” at sign-up.
National College Hockey Rankings Roundup
Heavy is the head that wears the crown. Minnesota found that out last week when they were swept by Wisconsin. That resulted in a five spot tumble for the Gophs while the Badgers hopped on a ROCKETSHIP and jumped THIRTEEN spots, into the top five. Boston College takes over the top spot with a frisky matchup against UMass Lowell where they need to win both to keep the spot.
Denver, North Dakota, and Michigan have more national championships than anyone in the country with 9, 8, and 9 respectively. Those three teams are back at the top of the class this year and are looking to extend that championship lead.
New Hampshire continues to roll as they pick off highly ranked opponents early in the season. Arizona State is the highest independent team, by far, but remains in the dangerous playoff bubble range for rankings. They have MONTHS to do it, but they’ll want to climb if they have any thoughts about being comfortable in their spot.
Welcome back College Hockey News! After a few weeks to get the algorithm plugged in, they’ve made their return to the rankings roundup! You can see it’s going to take a little bit to work the kinks out, so their weighted average has been nerfed. We’ll check back in around thanksgiving and re-distribute the weights. The Pairwise will make a similar jump in value somewhere around Christmas.
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 source, potential committee influence, what data they utilize, evident bias, and amount of teams ranked.
Minnesota College Hockey Games
#14 Minnesota, Duluth vs #6 Minnesota – Fri & Sat, Nov. 3/4 (Home & Home)
43.0 – PP% – 20.0
74.4 – PK% – 90.5
51.0 – FO% – 52.3
1.087 – GF/GA – 1.200
.887 – SV% – .914
Vibes: This rivalry has been nerfed in recent years due to conference realignment. It has never been as hostile as North Dakota, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t emotion going into it. For years, the Gophers bullied “little brother” UMD every time they met. The last decade, however, has belonged to the Bulldogs. The boys from up north are 13-3-1 in that timeframe and are on a 4-game winning streak against Minnesota. Both schools are coming off of getting swept by good teams last weekend and are in desperate need of a win to right the ship. Expect two hard-fought games.
Speaking of emotion in this series, there’s obviously something that cannot be overlooked. The Hockey world had their hearts broken last weekend when Adam Johnson lost his life in a contest in the UK as a member of the Nottingham Panthers. Adam was a Bulldog from the minute he started skating in Hibbing, MN. His dad and uncle both played for the Dogs and it was always a dream of his growing up.
He was a critical piece of building some of the best UMD teams assembled and sent the Bulldogs to the Frozen Four when he scored the OT game winner against BU in 2017. He has been honored and remembered by so many organizations and people around the sport, and this weekend will be no different. I expect that both arenas will have memorials of some sort and would encourage anyone who has the ability to support his family to do so through one of the approved and verified donation platforms.
Prediction: The Gophs and Dogs split the series, with each winning a home game.
Northern Michigan vs St Thomas – Fri & Sat, Nov 3/4
30.3 – PP% – 08.8
62.5 – PK% – 70.0
55.0 – FO% – 50.7
0.750 – GF/GA – 0.792
.889 – SV% – .889
Vibes: Jake Sibell (1-2-0, .941) and Aaron Trotter (1-3-1, .878) have been sharing goaltending duties for the Tommies as they look to find a difference maker between the posts. Northern Michigan also has goalies “splitting” time, rotating between Beni Halasz and Charlie Glockner at points this season. The result is the same with a sub-.900 save percentage and more goals against than they’ve scored.
These two teams have both been playing well, but they’ve lost a lot of close games. The difference is in how they’re losing them. The Wildcats started the season by getting into scoring battles and simply trying to put up more points than their opponents (duh) in every contest. They’ve since dialed it back and started to focus on both ends of the ice. The Tommies have been trying to limit opportunities and capitalize on their own. Unfortunately the capitalizing on their opportunities has been the issue. With one of the worst PP units in the country, they’ll have to find creative ways to get the puck in the net.
Prediction: Northern Michigan takes both games from St Thomas in a throwback to 2021 and puts a halt to the Tommies wagon.
Bemidji State @ Lake Superior State – Fri & Sat, Nov 3/4
17.2 – PP% – 13.6
73.9 – PK% – 78.9
46.4 – FO% – 40.7
0.882 – GF/GA – 1.111
.916 – SV% – .915
Vibes: I debated not even writing about this matchup. Every fiber of my being told me that it wasn’t worth the time or effort, but that’s just not right. Both of these programs have A LOT of history and pride to play for. Sure, Bemidji is missing some key pieces and Lake State hasn’t been the same for the last 4-5 seasons, but that doesn’t mean this series has any less impact. The CCHA is WIDE open this year and a win is a win. Way too early for either of these squads to give up.
Prediction: Bemidji leaves Michigan with a win and another (you guessed it) tie.
Miami (Ohio) @ St Cloud State – Fri & Sat, Nov 3/4
20.0 – PP% – 20.0
86.4 – PK% – 80.0
48.9 – FO% – 50.2
1.533 – GF/GA – 0.737
.920 – SV% – .881
Vibes: Numbers alone would tell you that St Cloud has no shot in this series. The only thing that they’re better at is winning faceoffs. The fact of the matter is that Miami has out-kicked their coverage this season and we’re due for a market correction. St Cloud’s roster has too many returning skill players from last year’s force to keep dropping easier contests. A week off to collect their thoughts and get healthier is sure to benefit the Huskies.
Prediction: St Cloud State gets back on track with a series sweep.
Other College Hockey Games to Watch
#3/4 North Dakota @ #8/9 Boston University – Fri & Sat, Nov 3/4
14.8 – PP% – 20.0
90.0 – PK% – 75.0
54.3 – FO% – 51.2
1.727 – GF/GA – 1.263
.927 – SV% – .891
Vibes: These two programs are probably flipped in the rankings from where everybody had expected to start the season. The question marks about North Dakota’s completely revamped back end are all but answered. The brand new blue line and goaltender have more than out-played expectations with Persson winning NCHC goaltender of the week three times in a row. BU is still putting up numbers on the man advantage, but they are significantly weaker where North Dakota is strong. Despite having one of the nation’s most impressive defenders in Lane Hutson, they’re lacking a physical presence to stop people from placing screens in-game.
Prediction: NoDak takes one on the chin Friday before dropping the hammer on Saturday.
#3/4 Michigan vs #5 Wisconsin – Fri & Sat, Nov 3/4
40.5 – PP% – 16.1
77.1 – PK% – 87.9
57.4 – FO% – 51.3
2.143 – GF/GA – 2.154
.907 – SV% – .933
Vibes: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the Michigan Wolverines have the top scorer in the nation. Not only do they hold the top spot, but they have the top three and FIVE OF THE TOP SIX. Rutger McGroarty, T.J. Hughes, Seamus Casey, Dylan Duke and Gavin Brindley. What an insane and preposterous stat. You can see why these boys are ROLLING with a 40.5% PP. Dominating at the faceoff dot and controlling possession has been the backbone of boosting those numbers.
Despite all the accolades that Michigan has, Wisconsin actually has a better GF/GA ratio on the season! Their stingy defense and willingness to lay out and block shots has been a difference maker. With 108 soaks, the Badgers are one of only two ranked teams to be in the top ten of the country in that category. When shots do find their way through, Kyle McClellan has been able to see the puck well to start the season with a top ten GAA of 1.62.
Prediction: Something’s gotta give between the unstoppable force and the immovable object. Split series where each team wins by two.
#7/9 Providence vs #15/16 New Hampshire – Fri & Sat, Nov 3/4 (Home & Home)
24.2 – PP% – 25.0
91.9 – PK% – 92.3
48.4 – FO% – 49.5
1.813 – GF/GA – 1.333
.905 – SV% – .885
Vibes: The Wildcats have been on an absolute TEAR this season. Of their first five games, they’ve won four and THREE of those wins have come against ranked opponents. Not only were they ranked, but they included Boston University (#1 at the time), Quinnipiac (#4), and Northeastern (#17). Providence may not have the same resume, but they also have ranked wins against both Michigan (#4) and Denver (#2). Given their relatively low expectations to start the season, either one of these teams could easily be called the most surprising in all of College Hockey.
The overall records and strength of schedule aren’t the only similarities that these two teams have. Their PP, PK, and Save percentages are all nearly indistinguishable from one another and on-par with recent national championship contenders. Neither one is particularly effective at the dot, but they recover well and play a complete team game. This isn’t a series I looked twice at to start the season, but it’s easily one of the best of the week.
Prediction: Split series with each team winning on the road.
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.
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.
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