Week 7 – College Hockey Preview: Clean Sweep Weekend

Gophers Hockey NCAA

This week in College Hockey, I’m calling my shot. Every hockey team in the state (that’s playing) is going to win on the same night. It has to happen and this week if it’s going to. The Wild play the Seattle Kraken in a revenge game for one of their four losses on the season while all of the College programs are deadlocked in conference play against beatable opponents. The reason why this week is so important? St. Thomas is on a bye and can’t muck things up like they did last week. Mark your calendars, because Saturday Night is the night. Do like the youths do and *manifest* it!

Explaining My Rankings:

Last week was an emotional roller coaster for the State of Hockey. Aside from the Huskies, every team lost on Friday night. Some ended in blowouts and others were taken to overtime, but losses all the same. Once Saturday came around, the tone changed. Every team in the state won, including the Wild in an improbable comeback, with the exception of St. Thomas. Unfortunately, that missed sweep wasn’t the biggest disappointment of the weekend for the fans in Mankato.

  1. St. Cloud State – Huskies
    • There was a brief period of time where I thought I’d be moving St. Cloud out of the number one spot last weekend. That lasted all of 8:38 seconds, which is “coincidentally” the total amount of time that Colorado College held a lead against St. Cloud. The Huskies went on the road and earned two wins, as expected.
  2. University of Minnesota, Duluth – Bulldogs
    • I’ve been told that this is surprising or confusing to some, so let me spell it out for you as simply as I can. The Bulldogs were faced with yet another ranked (let alone top 10) matchup last weekend. Yes, they did split the series, but if that’s your only argument to try and keep them down, that’s how I know you don’t watch College Hockey. UMD Controlled the puck for way more time and gave up a couple of quick strikes to a talented Western Michigan team on Friday. The killer of which was the final goal with under 1:30 left to play. On Saturday, the same style of play was evident, but with UMD playing more disciplined, and the score was 3-0 good guys. I picked a tight split, we got a tight split. If you were surprised, I’m sorry. Sorry you’re not as smart as I am.
  3. Minnesota State – Mavericks
    • Cutting right to the chase, you absolutely cannot lose to Ferris State. Not if you want to be thought of as a top team in the nation. At the very least, not the same Ferris State team that handed St. Thomas it’s first program win after a very rough start to their season. I’m not often one to scold, but you can’t do it. I didn’t want to drop them in the rankings, but my hand was forced.
  4. University of Minnesota – Gophers
    • On Friday night, Wisconsin tried handing Minnesota a win, but the Gophers played the “Minnesota Nice” card and declined. Hell, the Badgers scored an own-goal from the opposite end of the ice and the Gophers couldn’t pull out a victory! They bounced back well on Saturday with an “easy” 4-1 win, proving that they’re the better team. I just wish they played like the better team all weekend. Saying they’re “good not great” doesn’t fit the talent of this team, but they’re definitely under-performing to this point in the year.
  5. Bemidji State – Beavers
    • The Beavers had a head start on the nation, kicking off their conference play in the 3rd week of October. Last week, they took a much needed bye. They’ve got a good opportunity to climb with some winnable games coming up, but they’ll have to maintain for a while before they get the recognition they probably deserve.
  6. St. Thomas University – Tommies
    • As expected and written about last week, the Tommies lost both on the road…again. They scored early in the first on Friday and held that all the way through the rest of the period, but you could tell it was only a matter of time before Bowling Green broke through. The NCAA’s equivalent of the Phoenix Arizona Coyotes gets put in time out this week, with plenty of time to think about their actions while on a bye.

CCHA Games

St. Thomas @ Bye Week – Fri & Sat Nov 12-13

This is a mean graphic, but I will not apologize

This was a cheap-shot joke, but I will not apologize for it. If they’re smart, the Tommies will try to take advantage of the transfer portal and “new” rules surrounding it. They’ll be one of the few places that can offer kids in other programs more ice time, almost guaranteed. Their current problem is that competitors still want to win SOMETIMES. A huge matchup against the Mavericks is waiting for them when they get back next weekend.

Bowling Green @ #3 Minnesota State – Fri & Sat Nov 12-13

Falcons @ Mavericks

Bowling Green is going to go from playing the worst team in College Hockey (St. Thomas) to one of the best in Minnesota State. It’s not a task that anybody should take lightly and I’m sure they’re aware of the situation they’re in. It’s funny that you’ve got both ends of the spectrum all in CCHA conference play. I don’t like comparing Hockey to Football, but the CCHA in hockey is the equivalent of the Big10 in college football. Outside of the top and bottom of the NCAA, there’s a massive pile-up of teams in the middle of the conference. That train-wreck is where Bowling Green currently sits. They need a quality win like this to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.

I’ve written about it a number of times now, but Minnesota State is going to have to learn from last weekend and really limit these dropped conference games to stay atop the polls. The Mavericks are currently the ONLY ranked team in both polls (USCHO and USA Hockey). Let’s be abundantly clear, there is talent in the other schools because Bowling Green, Bemidji, Michigan Tech, and Lake Superior State are all JUST outside, looking in right now. With that being said, a loss to any one of these schools is still a loss to an “unranked” team which is always a tough look to the committee.

Prediction: Mavs go full “scorched earth” after dropping an embarrassing game last weekend, going 2-0 on the weekend. Don’t expect it to be easy against Bowling Green, but I expect the Mavs play “stubborn” hockey and pull it off.

Bemidji State @ Lake Superior State – Fri & Sat Nov 12-13

We just got done talking about the fist-fight for relevancy in the CCHA and this series is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. This matchup features two teams that were in the NCAA tournament at the end of last season. Two teams that don’t get nearly enough national recognition. Two teams that, sometimes, can’t get out of their own way.

Both of these teams have won when they needed to, and lost when they were clearly outmatched. Both of them have a non-conference win against a (now) ranked NCHC team. There’s a lot of really good games this weekend, but this will be one to keep an eye on. All indications point to this being a single goal affair, two nights in a row. If one team IS able to sweep the series, look for them to be in that 18-19 range on the USCHO poll next week.

Prediction: Beavs split with the Lakers on the weekend 1-1. They’ve GOTTA win on Saturday for this blog’s whole schtick to work, so that’s my pick.

NCHC College Hockey Games

Colorado College @ #4 UMD – Fri & Sat Nov 12-13

Bulldogs vs. Tigers

Colorado College almost, kind of, sorta gave St. Cloud State a scare last weekend. As a Bulldogs fan and unapologetic homer, I hope the ‘Dogs learned something from that series as well as the “CaTaStRoPhIc” upset of Ferris State over the Mavericks. A conference opponent like Colorado College will always play tougher. They know they’re the underdog by a wide margin, and that tends to piss people off.

I swore to myself that I wasn’t going to write 800+ words about bad logos again this week, and I’ll keep that promise. What I’ll do instead is apologize…FOR NOT BRINGING UP HOW BAD OF A NICKNAME THIS DUMB COLLEGE GAVE TO THEIR NEW MASCOT! You’re going to tell me that they WILLINGLY dumped “Prowler” and chose “RoCCY” as the name!? Not only that, but second place was Roary!? What planet am I even living on? That’s almost as bad as North Dakota landing on Fighting Hawks with their US Postal Service logo. Gross.

Traditionally, in my life anyways, this is a scary weekend to be a Bulldogs fan. There’s early-season hype around a talented team with a “lesser” conference opponent coming in to town. Some people call it a trap game, others tell you not to look ahead, but no matter how you refer to it, this is a series the Bulldogs HAVE TO win both. You need these kinds of wins to maintain the confidence in the Locker room and gain a lead atop the ultra-competitive NCHC conference. Everyone in the nation knows the ‘Dogs can do it, they just need to execute.

On repeat, every weekend

Prediction: Bulldogs take advantage of home ice and play two complete games for the first time since the Minnesota series, taking a sweep and two wins.

#11 Nebraska Omaha @ #1 St Cloud State – Fri & Sat Nov 12-13

People who are unfamiliar with College Hockey will be surprised to see Omaha ranked this highly. Hell, some long-time college hockey fans may even be surprised if they don’t watch NCHC games. Those that have kept an eye on The Mavericks (did not know they were also The Mavericks) in the last two years, expect nothing less from the school. This team has quietly put three or more goals away in every contest this year. Not only that, but their two losses were only by one goal, with one of them coming in OT. Make no mistake, this team is for real.

The scoring that Omaha has been able to put up this season should be a concern for everyone, no two ways about it. However, through ten games, the Huskies currently have the highest save percentage in the nation at .947. They’re a big, experienced, physical team that make it hard to get high-yield chances against their goalies. If UNO wants a shot, no pun intended, they’ll have to spread the puck around and execute passing on a very high level. With Taylor Ward leading the nation in goals with 11, I think they’ve got that figured out.

Prediction: If these teams played ten games back to back, I’d set the O/U at Huskies winning seven of them. Unfortunately, they only play two…for now. With that in mind, I’m calling for a rare 1-1 split from the Huskies.

Big 10 College Hockey Games

#14/16 Ohio State @ #6/8 Minnesota – Fri & Sat Nov 12-13

OSU vs UofM

First things first, I hate the Buckeyes. Hate them. Vehemently, whole-heartedly, and passionately. I do not have a great reason for it, but I had to be honest before I slander the hell out of them. They’re a football and basketball school, plain and simple. Yes, they’re one of the biggest in the nation, with D1 athletics that are competitive across the board, but that does not translate to hockey. Through 57 seasons, they’re a .500 team with only two frozen four appearances. For the sake of the sport, I hope they continue their program and draw eyes to the sport, but for the sake of my mental stability, I hope they lose all their biggest games.

This year, the Buckeys are 6-2, which is respectable. However, those two losses have come to the likes of Bentley and Michigan State. Neither of those are program-shaking catastrophes in the College Hockey landscape, but they’re certainly not a great look. If they’re for real, they’ll need to amass some real wins this year. What has been for real is the photos this squad is getting all season long! I hope they’re paying their photographers in more than tattoos.

The Gophers have got to keep the train on the tracks. 6-4 looks bad, but it sounds a lot better when you know that three of those losses came to teams that are now ranked in the top 3-4 in the nation. Having said that, at some point in the season your record just is what it is. Now is as good of a time as any to prove your worth if you’re Motzko or the players on the ice. There wasn’t much news on it, but Jack LaFontaine had sustained an injury that temporarily pulled him out of the game last weekend. He was able to return and, for what it’s worth, I expect him to be back in full for this series.

Prediction: If I were a math and stats nerd, I’d say that the Gophers would split with another red & white team since that’s the trend. Okay, so maybe I am a nerd, but I’m also a vindictive one. Gophers HAVE TO come away from this with a 2-0 sweep. For my sanity at the very least.

Other Games to Watch

#6/10 Harvard vs Clarkson/St. Lawrence – ECAC – Fri & Sat Nov 12-13

Previously undefeated Harvard just lost to Northeastern on Monday. The low-scoring tilt was taken to overtime, but it puts a little chip in that crimson shield that’s looked better than expected this season. With two more ECAC matchups upcoming, they’ll have to win-out to keep their top-ten national status. Similar to all the Boston schools, you’ll see Harvard given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to rankings more often than not. Maybe it’s because everybody who went to Harvard includes that as part of how they introduce themselves.