With as much turnover and as many surprises as we’ve seen in the College Hockey landscape this year, there are a lot of traditional blue-blood teams that are now fighting to remain relevant. Denver, Minnesota, and Michigan remain at the top of the pack, as correctly predicted by everyone at the beginning of the year. Quinnipiac, Minnesota State, and St Cloud State are more of a roller-coaster than some would have thought. After that…it’s been chaos. Penn State came out of nowhere and only has two losses through twelve games, both of which are in the top 3 of the nation currently and both were ranked number one at the time they were beaten.What does this mean for College Hockey as a whole? It means that nearly every conference is wide open for the taking. Harvard and Q-Pac have a stranglehold on the ECAC and Minnesota State is easily the cream of the crop in the CCHA. None of that will change before the end of the year. Outside of that, it’s a sprint to the finish everywhere else. The Atlantic is NEVER decided until the last week, although as it stands today, RIT is the frontrunner. Everybody but St Cloud has been swept in the NCHC and Hockey East is a roll of the dice every single night. As viewers and fans of College Hockey, we’re all winners this year.
Explaining the Minnesota Rankings:
1. University of Minnesota – Gophers
The Gophs have struggled out of the gate recently, but looked solid in their weekend performances overall. If this team can put a full weekend together, they’ll be the most dangerous team in the country. (Note: Hell of a start with a 5-2 win on Thursday)
2. St. Cloud State – HuskiesGot a big split with a good Western Michigan team after a heavy series. Friday was pretty doom and gloom for a lot of the game despite only being two-goals by the end of it, but Saturday was never really in doubt after a goal a minute into the game.
3. Minnesota State – Mavericks
Bye week for the Mavericks after an eye-opening matchup vs St. Thomas where they let the little guys hang around far too long. Should be fresh.
4. University of Minnesota, Duluth – BulldogsBulldogs came out of last weekend with a split against an Omaha team who’s regressed, and only got two points to show for it. Their Friday game was stolen from them by the Zebras, but I still put some of the blame on the boys from Duluth for being in that position to begin with.
5. Bemidji State – Beavers
Combination of a tough loss and a big win yet again for the Beavs. It’s like groundhog day with this team and their inconsistent play. They’ve got a bye week before a Highway 2 home-and-home with North Dakota.
6. St. Thomas University – Tommies
They lost both, in brutal fashion…yet again. As has been the case most weekends, the Tommies hung in both games and played well, but found a way to lose anyways. They were up on Bowling Green with 7:30 left on Friday. At that point I was looking for pictures and highlights from the game, at which point they promptly let in two goals to make that effort worthless. I take the blame.
National Rankings Roundup
If I were even close to being the best team in the nation, I would be asking for the number two ranking instead. Based on what’s happened to the number one team every weekend, it’s simply the smart thing to do. The top three teams have just been on a rotating carousel, with none having a long-standing presence at the very top.Obviously there are some biases in rankings sources, so those that have put less effort into hiding those have had their weighted percentage reduced. Rankings that deviate from the average (high or low) are highlighted. The Pairwise still sits at 5% right now.
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
#2 Minnesota @ #3 Michigan – Thurs & Fri, Nov 17/18
After another tumble from the number one spot in the nation (all the way down to number two) the Gophs find themselves matched up against number three Michigan. While the entire hockey community is excited to watch a top three matchup in the nation, the BIG10 decided to put baby in the corner. As always, they chose to ignore their promise to “grow the game” of hockey and prioritize Football. This meant pushing what may be the biggest series of the year to Thursday and Friday instead of Friday and Saturday. Because of that, the first game was already complete before the release of this blog.
Minnesota jumped out to a 5-2 victory in which the first two periods were a back-and-forth battle, before Minnesota’s bench depth won out. With Michigan in the middle of battling illness and other injuries throughout their roster, they ended up dressing anyone. One would have to think that all the hate this team got for dodging Western Michigan last year had something to do with that
Prediction: Gophs win-out to secure the sweep on Friday Night. NOTE: The entire Michigan team being decimated by illnesses and other factors was not available while making predictions other areas this week.
#4/5 St. Cloud State @ Colorado College – Fri & Sat, Nov 18/19
St. Cloud State boasts an 84.3% penalty kill rate, which is good enough for 12th in the nation, and second in the NCHC. While that’s certainly respectable, Colorado College currently sits at 7th in the nation and 2nd in the NCHC in power play efficiency at 27 percent. With prominent special teams on both sides, this could come down to a goalie battle if it gets chippy, where St Cloud holds the advantage with Basse over Mbereko. If it’s a 5-on-5, St. Cloud holds the heavy advantage with more prominent scoreres on their roster as well. Long-story-short, CC will need a little help and a few bounces to go their way.
Prediction: Huskies sweep the Tigers on the road and jump into the top 3.
Minnesota-Duluth @ #12/14 Western Michigan – Fri & Sat, Nov 18/19
The UMD Bulldogs take their “show” on the road to Kalamazoo, MI for a road series against the Broncos. While Western Michigan was supposed to have taken a step back coming into this year, nobody seems to have told the boys suiting up for the games. The Broncos have got not one, not two, but THREE players in the top-six scorers in the nation. Minnesota Duluth? Their highest player is tied for 152nd. UMD will have to rely on defensive play and a quality showing from their goaltender(s) in order to get a win. Despite the Bulldog’s rocky start to the season, Matthew Thiessen is currently sitting at 8th in the nation. If he can maintain that pace and the Bulldogs Power Play starts to click, a turnaround may be in the works.
Prediction: Bulldogs find a way to split on the road in a hostile environment to remain at .500 on the season.
Northern Michigan @ #6/8 Minnesota State – Fri & Sat, Nov 18/19
Northern Michigan has got two players within the top 26 of the nation, while Minnesota State’s top player sits tied at 47. That sounds impressive and daunting for the Mavericks, but in all reality, two points separate 26 from 47. Just a reminder that numbers can skew things however you want them to look. The fact of the matter is the Mavs have a few members of their roster who had gone missing early on this season, but they’re hitting their stride now.
The Mavericks have had a nasty habit of letting their opponents hang around late into games before stepping on the pedal to put them away. If they let a talented offensive roster like Northern Michigan keep it tight, they may not be able to put them away as easily as the others they’ve faced. Unfortunately, the Wildcats have very few “big wins” on their schedule at this point in the season. Sounds like they’re due.
Prediction: Mavericks let them hang around and drop a shocking game to the Wildcats, keeping them tied in the CCHA standings.
Michigan Tech @ St. Thomas – Fri & Sat, Nov 18/19
Tech has taken a significant step backwards this season while St. Thomas has taken a small step forward. That being said, the Tommies are still finding gruesome ways to lose games that they battled through at the very end. Unfortunately for the Tommies, I don’t see that trend changing this weekend. I’m a sucker for a trend.
Prediction: St Thomas drops two more heartbreakers.
Other College Hockey Games to Watch
#17/18 Michigan State @ #6/7 Penn State – Fri & Sat, Nov 18/19
Two of the most interesting and surprising programs in all of College Hockey face off against one another in this series. Neither of these two teams were getting any love in the polls, blogs, or press at the beginning of the season. Outside of East Lansing and State College, PA you’d be hard to find ANYONE predicting either of these teams making their way into the postseason. Now that we’ve seen the impressive play from both of them…it wouldn’t surprise me to see either of them make a run.
Prediction: Penn State sweeps and continues to garner more national attention.
#20 Notre Dame vs #12/13 Ohio State – Fri & Sat, Nov 18/19
The Fighting Irish are now fighting for relevancy. After getting swept by Minnesota two weeks ago, Notre Dame was able to split with Michigan last weekend and hold on to the last ranked spot in the national polls. Ohio State has lost their last 3, but still remains at 12/13 in the national polls somehow. Despite there being a 7-8 place gape between these two teams, they’re much closer in terms of talent and expectations on the year. One of them will miss out on the playoffs based on how the Big 10 is looking this year, and this series could ultimately be the deciding factor.
Prediction: BIG 10 is having everything fall their way this year. The best thing for them (as a whole) is a series split to keep Notre Dame in the ranked teams, and that’s what’s going to happen.
#16/18 Northeastern vs #9/11 Boston University – Fri & Sat, Nov 18/19
I’ve been at war with Northeastern truthers for over a year. If you’re one of those people, listen to me very clearly. Devon Levi is a great goaltender. He’d thrive and perform well on any team in the nation. He should not have won the Mike Richter award last year. There, I said it…again. I’m mad at you and your east-coast elitist mentality. Just admit that your conference is not as good as it used to be, which elevates every goalie’s stats and I might start to treat you fairly in my “analysis”.
In reality, both of these teams are good. I just think the Terriers are better and have more than enough firepower to make it tough on the Huskies all weekend long.
Prediction: Terriers hear my cries for retribution and sweep the series.
#7/8 UConn vs #13/14 UMass Lowell – Fri & Sat, Nov 18/19
The Ice Bus (I don’t get it either) rolls into Lowell trying to continue their miraculous season. UConn isn’t QUITE as surprising of a story as Penn State, but it’s not far behind either. If I would have told anyone that they’d be atop Hockey East at this point in the season, I would have been called a lunatic. Splitting with BU earlier in the season and tying Providence in both games last weekend, they’ve proven that they belong in the conversation for the elites of East Coast hockey. UMass Lowell has got a similar resume, but they’ve got a richer hockey history and look to be hungrier because of the rankings as well. Look for them to come out FLYING at home on Friday.
Prediction: Home-and-home splits continue to be HOT this year. We’re running it back with one more here.
Recent 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.
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.
This week, I was lucky enough to join the program to go over a lot of fun stuff before diving into the actual college hockey talk from this year.
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