At seven weeks into the College Hockey season (for most schools), we may be seeing more parity than any other year in recent memory. A constant cycle of teams getting kicked off the top of the pyramid. Recent powerhouses getting swept by surprising opponents. Inconsistent play week-in and week-out from the best programs in the nation. Some may find that level of parity exhausting, while others choose to revel in the excitement of every weekend.At the beginning of the year, everyone expected there to be a few runaways in every conference. That has not been the case. Denver, North Dakota, and UMD have all left weekends with fewer points than their opponent from the NCHC. Minnesota and Michigan have both been upset at least twice on the season in the Big 10. Minnesota State was even on the wrong end of a regular season sweep for the first time since the 2018-2019 season. Most of the players on their team were only 20 at that time! All this to say that nothing is guaranteed and the door is wide open for anyone to make a run this year.
Explaining the Minnesota Rankings:
1. University of Minnesota – Gophers
The Gophs swept a pretty decent Notre Dame team in fairly convincing fashion. Big bounce back after a shaky road trip, so we’ll see how they do with another ranked opponent. (Note: Rough start with a 4-2 loss on Thursday)
2. St. Cloud State – HuskiesHuskies get a rare sweep of the Pios IN Denver? Yeah, that’s impressive. They can play with ANYONE in the country if they keep getting this kind of production out of the entire team.
3. Minnesota State – Mavericks
Why do the Mavs seem to struggle so mightily with St Thomas lately? Are they confused because they’re both purple and white? Do they not take it seriously? I’m not sure what it was, and they ended up getting the two wins…but it caught a lot of attention.
4. University of Minnesota, Duluth – BulldogsThe Dogs got absolutely worked 4-rip in the first period on Friday, eventually losing that game 5-0. Then struggled to pull away on Saturday as well. Officiating (as usual) was questionable and resulted in a lot of frustration, but this team’s got to figure out their consistency and composure…quickly.
5. Bemidji State – Beavers
The Beavs should not have struggled with Ferris as much as they did last weekend. The fact that BOTH games went into OT made it REAL tough for voters to keep them in the rankings.
6. St. Thomas University – Tommies
They lost both, as expected. What was not expected was the amount of fight they showed in each. Scrappy teams like this will find ways to win games. Count the Tommies as “frisky” for the rest of the year, especially in CCHA play.
National Rankings Roundup
Sing it with me now, “Another (number) one bites the dust”. It’s become an ongoing curse for whoever tops the polls as of late. With that being the case, the Minnesota Golden Gophers found there way on top of the College Hockey standings to start the week yet again. Unfortunately, they lost their opening game against Penn State in an early Thursday matchup already. All signs are pointing to another mix-up atop the board next week.Obviously there are some biases in rankings sources, so those that have put less effort into hiding those *cough* Bucci *cough* have had their weighted percentage reduced. Rankings that deviate more than 5 spots from the average are highlighted. The Pairwise still sits at 5% right now. As I’ve stated before, that will change come December to be the most important factor, but as it stands today, it’s nearly irrelevant.
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
#7/8 Penn State @ #1 Minnesota @ – Thurs & Fri, Nov 10/11
The Golden Gophers have STRUGGLED to start a series hot lately. The trip to Ohio State was a nightmare and although they were able to win against Notre Dame, they didn’t bury a puck until halfway through the 2nd period last Friday. There’s a lot of talent on the roster, but if they’re not finding ways to get up for the games without five thousand people in the stands, it could be a long season. I have no doubt that Motzko will get the boys in line eventually, but everyone’s wondering WHEN that’ll be.
Penn State was criticized earlier this year for having a “cupcake schedule” while boasting about being undefeated amongst the College Hockey ranks. While they may have dropped a game since thier 8-0 start, they’ve also beaten the #1 team in the country to start a series two weekends in a row. Everyone who was calling the Nittany Lions frauds early on in the season *looks around nervously* is biting their tongue now. Happy Valley is Hockey Valley.
Prediction: Gophs pull out a win to secure the split on Friday Night.
#17 Western Michigan @ #4 St. Cloud State – Fri & Sat, Nov 11/12
Outside of Western dropping their opening night game to Alaska Anchorage, neither of these teams has a “bad” loss on their record. Michigan, Denver, Notre Dame, and a scrappy Bemidji team make up all of the other lost games between the two teams. All are currently ranked in the top 20 by USA Hockey.
For years, Western has been running with the label as being one of the most physical teams in the country and tagged with a “grind it out” style. Despite that, they’ve currently got three players inside the top six of the nation for total points. Pair that with a pissed off mentality given the level of disrespect they put up with and you’ve got yourself a dangerous hockey team. Nobody wants to see either of these teams on their schedule right now, but you can bet your ass that they’d both love to beat one another.
Prediction: Huskies split with a physical opponent in their barn.
Nebraska Omaha @ #20 Minnesota Duluth – Fri & Sat, Nov 11/12
Omaha started the season pretty rough by all accounts. Getting swept by Niagra and following that up a few weeks later with 2 OT games against (including a loss to) Alaska-Fairbanks left some people wondering about the direction this team was heading. They’re coming off of a loss and a tie to divisional foe North Dakota last weekend, so the question is still lingering out there. College Hockey fans that have been around for a while know that Omaha has a funny habit of sticking around, no matter what.
The Bulldogs aren’t in a much different position. They’ve swept both Arizona State and Cornell, but been swept by Wisconsin and Minnesota State as well. After an UGLY split with Colorado College last weekend, this young Bulldogs team is still trying to figure out how to play with one another, especially on the defensive side of the puck. With Jack Randl (T-10, total points) coming to AmsOil, they’ll need to get it solved quickly. Omaha has 11 more goals on the season and boasts a more efficient PK and PP than the Bulldogs. As tough of a time as the Dogs have had finding the net in 5-on-5 play, it’ll be in their best interest to stay out of the box this weekend.
Prediction: I’ve been beaten down. Bulldogs split *sighs audibly*.
#20 Bemidji State @ Northern Michigan – Fri & Sat, Nov 11/12
Bemidji continues their annual tradition of refusing to climb up the national rankings when given the opportunity. They’ll perpetually be located between 17 and “others receiving votes” when the polls are released on Mondays. They’re not the most talented, the biggest, or the deepest program in the country. While their goaltenders aren’t “bad” by any means, they don’t have a Mike Richter award winner either. With all that, you need to be the hardest working and the most disciplined to win some games and you certainly need to be working harder and more disciplined than the team you’re playing that weekend. That’s where Bemidji’s struggled at times.
The Wildcats of Northern Michigan can fall into most of the same categories, except they’ve got AJ Vanderbeck on their roster. With eight goals and four assists this year, he’s sitting at 3rd in the nation for total points. He’s not the ONLY person putting up numbers for NMU, but he’s definitely the star. Add that firepower with their propensity for blocking shots and that’s a deadly combination.
Prediction: Beavs split…just that kind of weekend.
Bowling Green @ St. Thomas – Fri, Oct 14th
Bowling green was supposed to be good. What happened with that propaganda that was spread to start the year? St Thomas hasn’t racked up as many wins as I’d hope for given how well they’ve played in some of these games, but I think that changes this weekend. They’ve already proven they can play with the big dogs, they just need to prove that they can close some of those games out.
Prediction: St Thomas snags one at home.
Other College Hockey Games to Watch
#2 Denver @ #12/13 North Dakota – Fri & Sat, Nov 11/12
Denver almost wasn’t able to make the trip to North Dakota this weekend. Their private jet was told they wouldn’t be able to land in NoDak because of the severe winter storm in the area. That left the Pios booking a commercial flight to Minneapolis and bussing up, like everyone else in the country. Talk about champagne problems.
Denver’s sitting high and mighty, but they’ve been humbled on the road already this year. North Dakota came away from last weekend with the majority of the points, but after the expectations that they had going in, it felt like a letdown. When you’ve got those thoughts on both sides, there’s no way it doesn’t affect the outcome of the game…ESPECIALLY when it’s at The Ralph with the North Dakota faithful packing the barn.
Prediction: Everyone knows how dangerous it is to play in Denver. Everyone also knows that there’s no barn quite like The Ralph. North Dakota finds a way to split, despite being outmatched on paper.
#3 Michigan @ #18 Notre Dame – Fri & Sat, Nov 11/12
When’s the last time Notre Dame lost 4 games in a row? Don’t bother looking, it was the 2019-2020 season. In terms of hockey, that was an ETERNITY ago. Not only that, but Notre Dame was one of the few teams who had Michigan’s number last year pulling away more points than they gave up. Sometimes the history matters more than the stats and numbers do. That’s the feeling I’ve got about this series.
Prediction: Michigan splits but doesn’t drop more than one spot in the ranking, because why would they.
#7/8 UConn vs #9 Providence – Fri & Sun, Oct 14/16
These two teams have to be the sneakiest and least-talked about in the Top 10. The Friars are always a good team and I’m not necessarily surprised to see UConn take a step forward this year, but to see each of them this high at this point in the season is exciting for both programs! With how much of a hot mess Hockey East is right now, there’s a clear route to the top and if either of these teams can find a way to win-out, it’ll pay massive dividends.
Prediction: Home-and-home splits have been HOT this year. No need to stop the cycle.
#10/11 UMass vs #14 Boston University – Fri & Sat, Nov 11/12
This series breaks down to a new school vs old school College Hockey showdown for the Boston area. UMass has been near the top of the hockey world for the last 5+ seasons while BU has been fighting to remain in the conversation among the elite teams. Both have NHL-talent on their rosters, but neither appear to have a contender for the Hobey Baker through six weeks. Expect to witness two high-quality games that are played tight and fast-paced.
Prediction: “Oh, another close home-and-home, Max is predicting ANOTHER split.” — WRONG. UMass takes both in this series to put the terriers into panic mode.
#Alaska-Anchorage @ Arizona State – Fri & Sat, Nov 11/12
This series made it into the preview for one reason and one reason only. The Jerseys, OBVIOUSLY. This might be the most elite matchup of the year. Tune in. Support Alaskan hockey. Support a new and growing program. Do something good for once in your life.
Prediction: Arizona takes both…only because the Seawolves marred their perfect uniforms with text.
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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