Week 6 – College Hockey Preview: Kickoff of Conference Play

Gambling Gophers Hockey NCAA

College Hockey has had it’s fun to start the season. Now it’s time to get down to business. That means it’s time for the conference schedules to kick off. With that, a lot of old rivalries will be taking place every week while a few new rivalries will continue forming. The teams matching up for the next three months will know each other intimately and they always play one another THAT MUCH tougher. As fans of College Hockey, we’ve had our appetizer and now it’s time for the main course.

Speaking of fans of College Hockey, if you’re new to the sport and not sure where you land as a fan, I’m here to help. Last week, I took the time to Assign a Barstool Sports Personality to Every College Hockey Team. Don’t like Barstool? That’s fine, you don’t have to. There’s plenty of other reasons to root for the teams and connections listed for each of them to find the best one for you.

College Hockey X Barstool Sports

Explaining the Minnesota College Hockey Rankings

1. University of Minnesota – Gophers

The Gophers didn’t just look bad on Friday, they looked AWFUL. Lazy, slow, un-motivated, and whatever other adjectives you wanted to throw fit the bill. They came back in a big way on Saturday, but would be tough to see a similar performance this weekend.

2. St. Cloud State – Huskies

Had St. Cloud played up to their potential on both nights, they could easily be the top team in the state and a top-three team in the country. They didn’t. Instead, they followed Minny’s lead with a bad showing on Friday after a long bus trip.

3. Minnesota State – Mavericks

MSU welcomed in the Falcons of Bowling Green and took care of their business both nights. The only reason they didn’t climb higher is because of how they looked in both wins. Two close games against an inferior opponent made a few people in Mankato nervous for when the Mavericks will have to face-off against quality teams in the future.

4. University of Minnesota, Duluth – Bulldogs

The Bulldogs bounced back from an awful weekend against Wisconsin by getting a sweep over a ranked Cornell team. You’d think getting a sweep against a ranked opponent would earn a couple of spots in the national rankings and pairwise, but you’d be wrong. I think Bruce Ciskie said it best:

5. Bemidji State University – Beavers

Beavers came out with a strong showing and earned a win against a good St. Cloud State team. It was impressive enough to earn them a #20 ranking. If they keep this type of play up with their CCHA schedule, we could see them climb pretty steadily as they don’t play another ranked team until the middle of December.

6. St. Thomas University – Tommies

THE TOMMIES GOT A WIN!! It feels wrong to capitalize and double-punctuate that after remembering it was against Ferris State, but we’re fans of the Tommies here. At least until they become a real threat to the rest of College Hockey. Until then, we’ll always celebrate them putting Ferris State in the doghouse.

National College Hockey Rankings Roundup

Michigan’s revolving door of unreal NHL-level talent continues to shine as they have regained the #1 spot in the nation. Adam Fantilli is quickly making an even bigger name for himself and turning the Bomb for Bedard campaign into a little bit of a question for the team that winds up with the #1 overall pick in the NHL draft. Penn State finally cracks the top ten…but don’t expect it to last as they’ll have to deal with Fantilli this weekend. As usual, this is your reminder that the Pairwise has been nerfed until at least Thanksgiving. After that, we’ll work our way up to make it the most important factor as it’s the only one that will matter at the end of the year.

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

#4 St. Cloud State @ #2 Denver – Fri & Sat, Nov 4/5

Huskies vs Pioneers

Nobody beats Denver IN Denver. At least that’s how it was last year…with the exception of the UMD Bulldogs, but not everyone can be an elite, giant-killer program. The fact of the matter is that Denver is just a different animal in their own barn. A trend we’re (I’m) tracking this year will be their win percentage and efficiency compared to elevation of where their games are played. The closer you put the Pio’s to sea-level, the more bogged down the boys seem to get.

St. Cloud has been a massive surprise this season…at least to me. I wasn’t necessarily expecting any sort of “step back” for the Huskies, but they seem to be playing as a much more cohesive unit than what we saw last year. There isn’t as much of a solo star or two being relied on to win them games. The puck is getting spread around and they’re finding ways to win big-impact games. Sure, they had a bad Friday last weekend, but the bounce-back on Saturday was noticeable. If they’re able to wrangle Mazur and Dornbach from Denver, they’ll be in both of these games.

Prediction: Denver earns two tough games at their home rink, taking advantage of the elevation in the 3rd periods. If I’m betting either of these games, not more than a single unit.

#12 Notre Dame @ #3 Minnesota – Fri & Sat, Nov 4/5

Fighting Irish vs Golden Gophers

This series comes down to one thing and one thing only. That’s whether or not the Fighting Irish hold the Gophers to 4 or fewer goals. That sounds obvious because if you score 5 goals, there’s a good chance you’re blowing the other team out…which is true, but it’s more indicative of how they play in low-scoring battles. Minnesota is running around a .500 clip when they tally 4 or less in their games. The play-makers seem to be gripping the twigs a little tighter and hesitating on whether to pull the trigger or snap a pass across the crease.

Unfortunately for Notre Dame, they seem to be in the same type of headspace as the Gophers. They’ve blown bad teams out, and been completely shut down by good teams as well. They my early pick for the “Jekyll and Hyde Team of the Year” award. You could tell me that they miss the playoffs by one game, in the same fashion that Ohio State did last year and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least. You could also tell me that they make it to the frozen four and I wouldn’t think twice about it. Their range of outcomes is as wide as anyone I’ve seen in College Hockey in a long time.

Prediction: Gophers come out flying for a win on Friday, but drop Saturday’s game after an early lead.

#19 Minnesota Duluth @ Colorado College – Fri & Sat, Nov 4/5

Bulldogs vs Tigers

Despite each team only having played a non-conference schedule to date, these two find themselves with a common opponent in Arizona State. UMD swept the sun Devils to start the season and CC got swept by ASU at the new Mullet Arena. The math and common sense says that means UMD is the better team. The fact that UMD also has a better record would add to that notion. Unfortunately, that’s not how hockey in the NCHC works.

The Bulldogs have been the vastly superior team in this matchup since they hit the ice together. Unfortunately (for me) they’re 1-2-1 in their last 4 against the Tigers. Isaac Howard is making his return to the ice after a little temper tantrum led to a cross-check and a 2-game sussy, holding him out of the Cornell Series. Some are saying that getting swept by Wisco and following it up by sweeping Cornell was the turning point in the Bulldog’s season, but we’ll have to see. This first conference series will be a good indication of where they’re at.

Prediction: Not going to catch me jinxing the Dogs by calling for a sweep again. Bulldogs win one and tie the other (SOW).

#6/7 Minnesota State vs St Thomas – Fri & Sat, Nov 4/5

Mavericks vs Tommies

Minnesota State uses St. Thomas as a get-right game again. Listen, I’d love to go into some long monologue about how St. Thomas is riding high after getting another win against Ferris State last weekend. I’d also love to talk about the parity of College Hockey and how any one team can win on any given night because of the nature of the sport. That’s just not the case in this series. The Tommies are younger, smaller, less talented, and (despite having fewer wins) want it less than the Mavericks.

Prediction: Minnesota State notches another two wins. Bank on it…responsibly.

Ferris State @ #20 Bemidji State – Fri & Sat, Nov 4/5

Bulldogs vs Beavers

There are a select few on the internet who are trying to call Ferris State “America’s College Hockey Team”. I refuse to accept that narrative, becasue nobody wants the entire country to be that sad. To lose to St. Thomas AND Canisius in back-to-back weeks is a TOUGH look. The (lesser) Bulldogs of Ferris State have their work cut out for them in a Bemidji team that has CLAWED their way into relevancy with a great series against St. Cloud State. If you’ve been reading for a while, you know the Beavs are pesky and play tough every week. Now that they’ve tasted blood, currently lead the CCHA, and are finding themselves in a position to jump a little higher…I think they find another gear.

Prediction: Beavs > Bulldogs [of Michigan] (X2)

Other College Hockey Games to Watch

#1 Michigan @ #10/13 Penn State – Fri & Sat, Nov 4/5

Wolverines vs Nittany Lions

If you’re only looking at the ranking number for each team and not a College Hockey fan, it would be easy to miss that a team in the middle of the pack is 8-0-0. That is exactly where the Nittany Lions of Penn State find themselves. While it might sound outrageous to have an undefeated team that low, you need only look at their scheduled non-conference opponents to figure out how they got there. Canisius, Mercyhurst, St. Thomas, and Wisconsin are the only teams they’ve played this year. Those opponents currently hold a combined 7-27-1 record

Michigan is a completely different story. They match the wins of those four teams combined with 7, except their wins have come against quality opponents too. Their only loss? a one-goal game against #9 Boston University where the terriers managed to keep the scoring low. That’s very obviously how you beat Michigan (and most other Big 10 teams) and that’s been the case for a while now. All but two of the Wolverines games have hit the over this season and I don’t see that changing this weekend.

Prediction: Michigan humbles the Nittany Lions in their own barn, winning both by 2+.

#14 Providence vs #5 UMass – Fri & Sat, Nov 4/5

Friars vs Minutemen

UMass continues to be a wild anomaly. They’ve swept Denver while simultaneously losing to Merrimack and settling for a tie with AIC. Providence, on the other hand has won all of the games that they should have by a healthy margin. They topped a highly-ranked Northeastern team in that timeframe as well. Unfortunately, they also lost both games to Denver. There’s a big gap in the rankings of both of these Hockey East schools, but the gap in skill is much smaller than some would lead you to believe.

Prediction: Each team takes a win on home ice for a split series.

#Yale @ #15 Harvard – Sat, Nov 5

Bulldogs vs The Crimson/John Harvard, The Pilgrim

Yale hasn’t been good in forever, but this game is always a fun watch. The nerds from both schools are caught in a weird place and seeing them navigate that pretzel is hilarious. They each pretend that the other school is bigger nerds while also never wanting to admit that they’re also smarter than them. It’s like a Facebook comment thread back in the day where you eventually see people arguing with themselves. For the record, Harvard will always be the smarter (and better) of these schools.

Prediction: Harvard is winning. The only thing preventing this from being true is the passing of time.

Previous Previews & Picks:

Week 5 – College Hockey Preview: One More Long Road Trip

Week 4 – College Hockey Preview: WCHA Rivalry Week

Week 3 – College Hockey Preview: Non-Conference Impact

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 two 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.

In the most recent episode, the boys talked with former UND star, Jackson Keane to recap his amateur career, time spent in College Hockey, and his professional career in Orlando.