The College Hockey rankings have been a bit chaotic to start the season. The turnover at the top has been impressive to say the least. Despite having a lot of guys return from their championship last season, Quinnipiac has not been close to the same team to this point. Who would have ever thought that could happen? *Smirks*
On the flip side of that coin, we’re seeing meteoric rises out of programs who were left for dead a year ago. BC is obviously the first one to come to mind as they’re currently in the top spot, but they’re not the only ones. Wisconsin was a free-space on Big10 schedules last season, but they’ve dominated the conference so far. Sparty’s following a similar path after their coaching staff was able to pick up a healthy set of players via the transfer portal and build off of where they already were too.
Out east, Maine and New Hampshire have both made triumphant returns to relevancy as well. While it’s great and important for the sport to have the Boston schools producing, there’s just something special about having the Black Bears making headlines. Maybe it’s the top five sweaters, maybe it’s not. Who’s to say, really.
All this to say that College Hockey really is the best sport on the planet. You do have your true blue-bloods to the sport, but the turnover from one season to the next can shake conferences up WILDLY. With ~80% of the non-conference games wrapped up for the season, we get to see more rivalries renewed and the best hockey on display. Just one more reason to love and respect the fall in this country.
Updated Weekly Picks
We’re back on track after going 4-1-0 last weekend and WELL into the black on the season. 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 “10K” at sign-up.
Explaining the Minnesota Rankings:
1. University of Minnesota – Gophers
Close narrowly missed the shutout, but left Friday without having to stretch for a single save. The defense in front of him kept the shots in their ankles and directed all the traffic to the corners. On the other end of the ice, the offense capitalized on juicy rebounds and UMD players falling all over themselves (literally) while gifting solo or odd-man opportunities.
The Gophers came out of the weekend with a series win, but still haven’t left Duluth with a victory since 2011. As a Bulldogs fan, it pains me to say it, but they were the better team in both games. Shots aren’t everything, but when you dominate the differential like they did this weekend, it’s a pretty good indication of the play on the ice.
2. University of Minnesota, Duluth – Bulldogs
The Bulldogs have zero wins in their last four games. Saturday’s tie and exhibition shootout win sure felt like it should earn them more than one point, but it doesn’t. What it DOES do is set an example of how they’ll need to play when they’re outmatched in talent depth.
Thiessen had his best game in a bulldogs sweater with 47 regulation & OT saves plus two more in the shootout. The boys were laying out to block shots and tying guys up in front of the net. They had good zone entries and some semblance of poise with the puck on their stick. It’s crazy to say it in what ended as a tie, but that game was probably their blueprint for success against teams like Minnesota this season.
3. St. Cloud State – Huskies
The Huskies have restored order to the NCHC. Sweeping Miami looked easy before the year but seemed impossible at the beginning of last week before coming to fruition this past weekend. Ron Burgundy may be the tv personality that popularized the “roller coaster of emotion” phrase, but every broadcaster in St Cloud has felt the same way this season. The Huskies finally put two full games together and looked like everybody expected them to coming into this season. All that just in time for conference play.
4. Minnesota State – Mavericks
Minnesota State survived the bye week. They had a great start to the season but it went downhill pretty quick. A week off was the hard reset that St. Cloud needed to get back on track. We’ll see if it has the same effect on the Mavericks.
5. St. Thomas University – Tommies
Hand up. I got the St Thomas series totally wrong. I thought they were due for a bit of regression and that was obviously not the case. The Tommies left with a conference weekend sweep over what should be a competitor for the top spot. The only cause for concern coming out of the weekend is their inability to hold onto leads almost biting them again.
6. Bemidji State – Beavers
Bemidji is the worst team in the state. It’s no longer a conversation that can be argued. The Beavers have some internal reflection to do before they can figure out who they want to be and how they want to play. Rolling the dice with seemingly no plan or structure every weekend is just not working. I’m not saying they have to go back to the trap defense…but they do need to pick a lane and stay in it. Missing two of your best players doesn’t help things, but there was no fight in the boys last weekend. More showings like that and the Beavs are gonna lose their “pesky” title.
National College Hockey Rankings Roundup
There weren’t many doubters left, but every one of them has now accepted that Wisconsin is indeed BACK. The Badgers swept the last three weeks, including series against both Minnesota and Michigan. If BC and Denver weren’t already ranked ahead of them, I’m not sure there would be a conversation about who should be ranked number 1 in the nation. Mike Hastings squad has the best resume in the country and it’s quite possibly the most impressive program turnaround in College Hockey History.
There has never been more parity in the sport. Every single weekend we’ve been seeing multiple upsets happen and a good chunk of those upsets have been blowouts too. That being said, there is a HUGE divide in production when comparing the powerhouse conferences with the other three.
Looking at this doesn’t really surprise anyone who’s been following the sport for the last 5 seasons. Where the interest creeps in is comparing it to the national rankings. There are six Big10 teams in the top 20. Nobody got SIGNIFICANTLY worse from the conference, but the bottom teams from last season stepped up massively. It’s a similar story for Hockey East with BC holding the #1 spot in the country after missing the tournament last year. The NCHC however only has four teams ranked inside the top 20. St Cloud State and Omaha are knocking on the door, but with UMD sliding and conference play upon us, you wonder how much cannibalization is going to take place there.
With Harvard’s surprisingly slow start, the ECAC is relying on Cornell and Quinnipiac to represent for the foreseeable future. The biggest surprise is that you won’t find a single CCHA team in the top 3rd of the country. That place is a MESS. Bemidji is technically on top of the conference with just three wins on the season and Lake State is the only team in the conference with a .500 record. Everybody expected Minnesota State to take a step back, but it seems like the whole conference went with them.
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
#5/6 Minnesota @ #8/9 Michigan – Fri & Sat, Nov. 10/11
17.4 – PP% – 37.0
85.7 – PK% – 73.3
51.1 – FO% – 54.6
1.368 – GF/GA – 1.786
.913 – SV% – .902
Vibes: The Gophers and Michigan have had an eye on this matchup from the day the Big10 schedule was released. I’m not one to spread rumors, but some people are saying that’s why they both got waxed by Wisconsin two weeks in a row. If you put both of these fanbases on a lie detector, you’d find that neither one truly believes they’re as good as they were last season. That being said, it’s hard to be when you lose so many to NHL starting rosters.
Even with expectations down overall, both of these teams are among the best in the country. The insane jump that Wisconsin (and Michigan State) has made this season adds a wrinkle to the big ten, but you can bet that we’ll be seeing both in the national tournament still.
Justen Close has been rock solid in the net. A lot of that production can be attributed to the Gophers ability to keep pressure and chances to the outside. Conversely, Michigan has had success in getting people to the slot this year for high percentage shots. They’ll have to find a way to that again to win the series. After two losses, they’re hungry.
Prediction: Split series, as usual.
#4 North Dakota @ #18 Minnesota, Duluth – Fri & Sat, Nov 10/11
15.2 – PP% – 36.8
85.7 – PK% – 76.5
54.2– FO% – 51.2
1.444 – GF/GA – 0.935
.912 – SV% – .891
Vibes: It’s rivalry weekend 2.0 for the Bulldogs. They had a Home-and-Home series with in-state rival Minnesota last weekend. Friday and Saturday’s Tilly’s are with NCHC rival, North Dakota. Not to look ahead, but they’ve got Rivalry series 3.0 coming against St Cloud too. Points are currently at a premium for the Dogs, especially if they aim to remain ranked nationally.
A lot of people are asking which if those three opponents are the Bulldogs “TRUE” rival. The “Little Brother” and “Gopher Rejects” chants from Minnesota are a tough pill to swallow for some. The unbearable online presence from the St Cloud school of broadcasting makes it impossible to escape their (terrible) insults. Good thing the “championship” and “choke artist” retorts are always holstered and remain effective.
For me, the biggest rivalry has been and always will be with North Dakota. Nearly all the games are knock-down and drag-out dog fights. Holding the record for the longest NCAA playoff game adds to the lore for sure, but there’s plenty more that goes into it.
Underrated National Rivalry
Sandelin and Berry have a long history including being former teammates for the Sioux. They also have similar styles as bench bosses after coming out of the same coaching tree. The current connection doesn’t stop with the coaches either. Luke Bast transferred from UND to UMD in the off-season and this will be the first game against his former teammates. Anyone who’s played organized sports knows how much better it is to beat your friends than someone you don’t know. The group chats always pop off and the bragging rights are priceless. We’ll see if that’s enough to get him (and the rest of the boys) going this weekend.
Prediction: North Dakota not sweeping this series would be a HUGE win for UMD. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs fans, the sweep seems imminent.
St Cloud State @ #12 Western Michigan – Fri & Sat, Nov 10/11
22.2 – PP% – 31.3
82.8 – PK% – 83.3
55.5 – FO% – 53.9
1.095 – GF/GA – 1.625
.893 – SV% – .904
Vibes: St Cloud announced their re-arrival to the hockey community and this season with a dominant sweep of Miami last weekend. At least on Saturday. If they can even split against number twelve Western Michigan in Kalamazoo this weekend, we’re talking about a potential return to the rankings. The Broncos have been the epitome of consistency with their only loss coming in OT to Omaha last weekend. Sure, they’ve had an easier schedule to start the season, but they’ve taken advantage of it and that’s how you earn college hockey rankings inside the playoff bubble.
Prediction: Broncos drop the Friday matchup, before dominating in a 3-goal in Saturday.
Michigan Tech @ Bemidji – Fri & Sat, Nov 10/11
20.6 – PP% – 13.5
70.0 – PK% – 69.2
51.4 – FO% – 46.1
0.759 – GF/GA – 0.731
0.892 – SV% – .895
Vibes: The Huskies are in full on panic-scramble-mode. They started the season as the HEAVY favorite to win the CCHA and make the tournament. Unfortunately, they have not lived up to a fraction of those expectations so far. The Beavers are TECHNICALLY the top of the CCHA right now. I don’t expect that to last long. That’s all this matchup deserves right now. Be better.
Prediction: Huskies sweep the Beavs out of their own arena.
St Thomas @ Bowling Green – Fri & Sat, Nov 10/11
07.0 – PP% – 12.5
70.3 – PK% – 81.8
51.7 – FO% – 54.0
1.074 – GF/GA – 0.654
.899 – SV% – .903
Vibes: Bowling Green is dominating this matchup when you look at the stats alone. That’s why no need both eyeballs AND an analytics department. The Tommies are the better and more complete hockey team in this matchup. They’ve had a more robust schedule to start the season and that’s why the numbers are skewed.
Prediction: Tommies Win both. Still can’t believe I’m saying that.
Minnesota Sate @ Ferris State – Fri & Sat, Nov 10/11
04.0 – PP% – 16.0
75.0 – PK% – 72.0
49.4 – FO% – 49.3
0.833 – GF/GA – 0.724
.894 – SV% – .882
Vibes: Bad. Bad vibes all around. Nobody in this game is happy with where they’re at. They’ve both had VERY impressive wins on the season and they’ve both lost in CaTaStRoPhIc fashion to other people. The fact that the Mavericks are running at 4% efficiency on the Power Play is one of the more impressive feats I’ve seen. Only Yale and Vermont are worse with a man advantage. The Bulldogs have been playing the mavericks tight and giving them fits for the last few years and I fully expect that to continue.
Prediction: Split series. No further questions.
Other College Hockey Games to Watch
#1 Boston College @ #13 Maine – Fri & Sat, Nov 10/11
25.0 – PP% – 14.3
91.7 – PK% – 89.5
48.9 – FO% – 54.4
1.882 – GF/GA – 1.429
.923 – SV% – .891
Vibes: Boston College seems unstoppable on paper. Their Power Play, Penalty Kill, GF/GA ratio, and Save percentages are ALL inside the top ten nationally. The only reason they’re not winning faceoffs is because they’re young and getting bodied off the dot. That’s where Maine will HAVE TO capitalize if they want to remain in these games. They’ve got to own faceoffs and maintain possession of the puck to control the pace of play. That and get as many shots off as possible. BC is also middle of the pack when it comes to blocking shots this season. Attack that and exploit it or fall like everyone else. Look back to the Denver game for the blueprint.
Prediction: BC wins big on Friday but narrowly escapes on Saturday with an OT win.
#2 Denver @ #16/17 Arizona State – Fri & Sat, Nov 10/11
21.4 – PP% – 23.7
85.7 – PK% – 82.8
50.2 – FO% – 51.5
2.053 – GF/GA – 1.529
.902 – SV% – .922
Vibes: This is not yet a rivalry series, but it could be. With Denver DOMINATING the gold pan every year in recent memory, the Pios are hungry for someone to battle with in rivalry games. Arizona State is too new to College Hockey to have any sort of rivalry with anyone, let alone one of the most established teams in the country. That could all change when ASU officially becomes a member of the NCHC and can face off with Denver twice every year.
Prediction: Denver wins both, but ASU puts up a fight both nights.
#16/17 Penn State @ #11 Michigan State – Fri & Sat, Nov 10/11
20.6 – PP% – 25.0
79.2 – PK% – 82.7
49.8 – FO% – 49.8
1.200 – GF/GA – 1.353
.882 – SV% – .899
Vibes: Both of these teams can score. They’re both in the top ten teams for goals on the season and on a per game basis. I’m just not sure if either has figured out how to stop other teams from scoring yet. Michigan State proved that by putting in TWELVE goals in their sweep over Ohio State last weekend. While Sparty was doing that, Penn State settled for shootouts against Notre Dame both nights. After starting the season with one of the softer schedules in the nation, the real test for the Nittany Lions starts now.
Prediction: Split series with Penn State’s win coming in OT, but Michigan State dominates shots and possession both games.
#Army @ Air Force – Fri & Sat, Nov 10/11
24.2 – PP% – 17.9
76.0 – PK% – 82.9
43.7 – FO% – 55.0
0.323 – GF/GA – 0.784
.848 – SV% – .877
Vibes: This preview is here for one reason, and one reason only…a salute to Veterans day. Shoutout to all the military men and women for everything they do for the country. As a bonus, those that tune into this one get to see a brand new set of threads! Both of these teams released new sweater setups this season and they’re glorious. The best part is that they’ll (allegedly) be rocking them against one another in the debut. Just a couple of service schools showing the rest of the nation that’s it’s ok to be cool and it’s cool to have a third jersey. Get on board and get with the times.
Prediction: I need to see the full setups on the ice before I can make a final call, but whichever looks better is going to win. Look good, feel good. Feel good, play good. (Air Force is going to win both)
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.
Argue with me on Twitter: @venividiveech