Jim: Well, Todd, when people talk about the biblical tale of David and Goliath, there often comes a time when the David character can no longer be referred to as David. In the case of Bemidji State, might we be getting to that point? The Beavers aptly played the David role during last year’s NCAA tournament, becoming the first “mid-major” to reach the Frozen Four. Now the Beavers’ hot start to their season was capped last Friday when they defeated No. 1 Miami. You have to think that if it wasn’t for Bemidji State dropping Saturday’s overtime game against Ohio State (one that doesn’t surprise me given the ultimate high the team likely had a night earlier), it would be No. 1 in the country right now.
Todd: I, for one, was kicking around the possibility of putting Bemidji State at No. 1 on my ballot after Friday’s result, so I think that’s a valid argument. And I also think it’s fair to start moving the Beavers out of the underdog role, at least for this season. I’m not sure we’ll ever get to the point where we’re putting Bemidji State’s program in with Division I’s blue bloods because others have so much more Division I history behind them. But there’s a place in the elite class for smaller, less-recognized-outside-college-hockey circles, and I think Tom Serratore’s program is on the brink of that kind of recognition.
Jim: Another program certainly inspiring to be mentioned in the same breath as Bemidji is Quinnipiac. The Bobcats remained white hot last week with wins over Princeton and nationally ranked Massachusetts. The UMass win required a dramatic rally and overtime game-winner but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Quinnipiac now sports the best record in the country at 12-1-0. We’ve talked a bit about the “Q” in this column already this season, but as we get toward the winter exam break, it’s pretty realistic this club could be sporting a perfect league record of 9-0-0 and an overall mark of 16-1-0 when Santa comes down the chimney. Maybe the Bobcats deserve some consideration for No. 1?
Todd: It’s not like they haven’t been tested, that’s for sure. I think holding off a late Cornell charge at Lynah a couple of weeks ago was an honest challenge at the highest level for Quinnipiac, and it appears that right now, the Bobcats are for real. For a team that had only nine conference victories last season, this is quite a dramatic improvement. I’ve been impressed by the fact that they’ve been able to score big consistently this season. They’ve scored at least three goals in every game, and only three times in those 13 outings have they managed only three. There are a lot of teams that would love to have three goals a game be the low-water mark. In this era of defense and goaltending, it’s nice every once in a while to see a team be able to win by lighting up the scoreboard.
Jim: Now the test Quinnipiac will have is not getting too caught up in their own headlines. Many of the top teams this season, including Miami, Massachusetts-Lowell and Michigan State last weekend, had difficulty keeping the winning going once the national-ranking number got extremely low. Moving our attention elsewhere, let’s look at a team at the other end of the spectrum that’s played better than expected in recent weeks: Bowling Green. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in being concerned that the Falcons might reach the holiday break without a win, having started 0-7-1 and having some daunting league opponents waiting in the wings. But as the competition has elevated, so too has BGSU’s efforts — and results — as the Falcons have posted two wins and a shootout victory in three weekend series against Alaska (series split), Michigan (series split) and Notre Dame (loss and shootout win).
Todd: Obviously, Dennis Williams entered into a difficult situation at Bowling Green after Scott Paluch left in the offseason. So it wasn’t too much of a surprise that the Falcons had trouble out of the gate. If this season is a bit of an audition for Williams in the head coaching role, I think the past few weeks have set his team up for a possible uptick in the second half. Whether that will be enough to keep the Falcons from looking elsewhere, I’m not so sure. On the topic of new coaches, one of the most interesting shake-ups of the offseason came late, when Shaun Hannah left Sacred Heart without a head coach in the second week of September. The Pioneers hired Yale assistant C.J. Marottolo in early October, but you knew it was going to be an interesting season there. So far, they’re 3-7-2 — one game better than at the same point last year. Those are two situations that deserve some time to shake out this season, don’t you think?
Jim: I think new coaching situations can often be interesting for schools. Sometimes the can be a shake-up and the new coach can inject life into a down program. Other times a coach can take over a program where the predecessor left for greener pastures and thus left behind a pretty good team that rallies in the wake of their past coach and performs above and beyond expectations. And then there are the cases of Bowling Green and Sacred Heart. Neither program was coming off successful campaigns and both coaches departed mid (or in SHU’s case, late) summer. Thus the replacements are in a precarious situation of taking over a program without the opportunity to put much planning into the mix. With Marottolo and Williams, both are rookie college head coaches, so this has become trial by fire. But I think both schools still have high hopes. As you mentioned, Bowling Green is displaying reasons for such hope while I think C.J. needs more time at Sacred Heart. He’s only been on the job for a few weeks, right? Anyway, what has your attention heading into this weekend?
Todd: It’s Gold Pan time in Colorado, with Denver and Colorado College starting their four-game season series. The Pioneers haven’t won the Gold Pan since 2006, and that gets noticed around the Denver program, considering how intense the rivalry with CC is. Denver is second in this week’s poll; the Tigers are sixth. I don’t think a lot of people expected to see the teams tied for first place in the WCHA standings with identical 7-2-1 records at their first meeting of the season, but there they are. Miami hosts Notre Dame, with the Irish just four points behind the first-place RedHawks in the new three-point CCHA system.
Jim: Out East, there’s another rivalry a-brewin’ as Boston University will host Boston College in the first of three meetings. The second of these contests, of course, will be played at the famed Fenway Park as the league takes advantage of the NHL’s Winter Classic coming to town. I think this year’s BC-BU series is a bit different than years past. Both teams will look to use this weekend’s game on Saturday as a jump start to the second half. Despite being the two most recent national champions, we’ve documented it many times here that both BC and BU would like to be a bit better than their current records reflect.
Todd: It seems weird to me to already be talking about the second half, but we really have only two more full weekends of play before the holiday break. Then we’re talking holiday tournaments, then the race for conference championships and before you know it, we’ll be down to 16 teams. Until next week …