MINNEAPOLIS — Make that an even dozen.
Twelve straight polls–stretching out nearly four months–have now had the Plattsburgh Cardinals atop Division III hockey. Yet despite convincing wins on the road over archrival (and then-ninth ranked Oswego) and Cortland, their first place vote total shrunk from 19 to 17.
The beneficiary of those defections? The University of Wisconsin-Superior Yellowjackets, who have buzzed their way to a 22-2-3 record, including stinging six opponents in a row (they swept Lake Forest in the NCHA quarterfinals) and are currently unbeaten in their last nine contests.
In a highly anticipated showdown, Superior faces off with defending national champion St. Norbert in the conference semifinals on Saturday. The Green Knights–still playing for a spot in the national tournament–tied the Yellowjackets, 2-2, on Jan. 30 in their barn.
After also sweeping their NCHA quarterfinal series, third ranked UW-Stout and No. 4 St. Scholastica will likewise meet on Saturday in the conference semis.
Hobart, after back-to-back 1-1 ties on the road in Manhattanville, moved up one spot to fifth.
The limelight in this final poll of February, however, belongs solely to Amherst. The Lord Jeffs rocketed up an astounding six spots after upsetting then-No. 7 Middlebury, 4-3, and blanking Williams, 6-0, at home in Orr Rink. No team has ascended so fast this season.
Impressive in their own right, the Manhattanville Valiants jumped up three spots to seventh after those two ties with new-No. 5 Hobart.
Landing in eighth after a tie and loss in a home-and-home with unranked Utica, the Elmira Soaring Eagles fell three spots.
Adrian, whose margin of victory was 15 goals this weekend, somehow dropped a spot to ninth.
Interestingly, Manhattanville and Middlebury–two teams often confused to those new to D-III college hockey–swapped spots, with the Panthers falling those three rungs after losing to the aforementioned Amherst and topping Hamilton.
Like all of their NCHA conference brethren, St. Norbert swept their quarterfinal series, defeating then-No. 15 UW-Stevens Point (8-3 and 4-3 in overtime) to advance to the loaded conference semis.
After losing to No. 1 Plattsburgh and unranked Potsdam, the Oswego Lakers–like Middlebury–fell three spots, landing at No. 12.
Rungs 13 and 14 remained the same with St. Olaf and Nichols perched there, respectively.
The Norwich Cadets, who bested Colby and Bowdoin to win the ECAC East regular season by a point over Castleton, vaulted back into the poll at No. 15.
After getting swept by St. Norbert, UW-Stevens Point fell out of the top 15, ending their successful season with a mark of 15-10-2.