MINNEAPOLIS — With every passing week, the upper echelon begins to elevate away from the rest of Division III’s college hockey teams. For the second straight poll, Plattsburgh and St. Scholastica split the first place votes, with the Saints pulling one more top tally away from the Cardinals, who now register a 17-3 advantage in topping the poll for the ninth straight time.
The third of the elite teams remains the University of Wisconsin-Superior. After tying then-fifth ranked St. Norbert on the road and besting Lake Forest, 5-2, the Yellowjackets are now 17-2-3 on the season.
Below third is where things start to get interesting as teams scramble to finish strong in their leagues and maximize the NCAA match-ups. The Elmira Soaring Eagles, after a win and a tie (4-1, 1-1) on the road at
Manhattanville, moved up two spots to fourth, followed closely by previously seventh ranked UW-Stout, who defeated two ranked in-state rivals–Eau Claire, 3-1, on the road; Stevens Point, 6-3, at home–to move into third place in the ridiculously good NCHA.
Moving in the other direction is Middlebury. Losses to top-ranked Plattsburgh and unranked Trinity sandwiched around a win over Wesleyan, caused the Panthers to fall from fourth to sixth in the rankings.
The Statesmen from Hobart, however, jumped up two spots after shutting out host Utica (4-0, 6-0) in back-to-back contests.
Defending national champion St. Norbert has fallen on tough times as of late. After beginning the season as college hockey’s top team with eight straight wins, the Green Knights have posted just a 7-6-1 record since Nov. 22. Like every NCHA team, their schedule is brutal, but for a squad so talented and that has accomplished so much, their struggles this season are surprising. To wit: in home games against the third and second ranked teams in the country, they tied Superior (2-2) and fell to St. Scholastica, 3-0.
Despite outscoring Marian 13-2 in a home sweep, Adrian fell a spot to ninth.
Oswego and Manhattanville switch positions 10 and 11 after the Lakers won games against Fredonia and Buffalo State and the Valiants struggled with Elmira. After defeating St. Anselm, 8-3, and tying New England College, 2-2, Norwich moved up slot to No. 12.
University of Wisconsin schools Stevens Point and Eau Claire along with Curry combined for a 1-5 mark–though two of those losses came to new-No. 5 Stout.
Replacing last week’s Nos. 12, 14, and 15 in the poll are the refreshing trio of Amherst, Nichols, and St. Olaf, who earned their ascensions thanks to an unblemished 3-0 week (St. Olaf had a buy). Their combined records of 42-12-2, however, more than speak to their belonging among the nation’s top teams.