Todd: Well, Jim, there were a couple of eyebrow-raising results from the West last weekend. Minnesota made sure people aren’t forgetting the Gophers by taking three points from North Dakota, but I first want to get into Miami’s sweep at Ferris State. The RedHawks finally lost their grip on the No. 1 spot in the polls last week, but their response was to beat the Bulldogs 4-0 and 5-4, holding off a late comeback try in the Saturday game. The main impact is that Miami has a six-point lead on Ferris in the CCHA standings and the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bulldogs. A secondary impact is the RedHawks getting back on their skates. Which do you think matters most right now?
Jim: There’s no doubt that at this point the most important thing to Miami was beginning to play well again. A two-game road sweep of the upstart team of the year was just what the doctor ordered. You mentioned the Minnesota series against North Dakota. I can say I was surprised by the result, but when it comes to top-tier teams like Minnesota, even in down years you can expect weekends like this. One team that really shocked me this weekend, though, was Providence. I saw the Friars play Tuesday night when they put forth a miserable effort at Boston College. Somehow, though, the team rebounded to beat both Boston University and Maine and prove it’s too early to write the Friars’ obituary.
Todd: Providence is still in the bottom half of the RPI (34th), but I would think the intermediate goal for the Friars is to get out of ninth place and give themselves a shot at the Hockey East postseason. That, and get above .500 overall — they’re still one game below. Still, winning two in a row after a six-game losing streak has to give everyone there a little bit to build on. I’m guessing that Quinnipiac would love something to build on right now, eh?
Jim: I have to say that I’m absolutely shocked at the nose dive that Quinnipiac has taken. The fact that the Bobcats began at 12-1-0 and now sit at 13-9-1 is just dumbfounding. Two more losses last weekend to St. Cloud State at home extended QU’s losing streak to six games and dropped it to 28th in the RPI (it has long since dropped out of the PairWise Rankings). Another team from the East heading in a similar direction is Massachusetts-Lowell, which twice this weekend gave up game-winning goals to rival Massachusetts in the final minutes. Lowell is now 22nd in the PairWise with a 12-9-2 record. UMass, on the other hand, had three straight wins after back-to-back embarassing losses to Boston University and New Hampshire. Suddenly, the Minutemen are in third place in Hockey East and knocking on the door to the penthouse, sitting just three points behind first-place New Hampshire. I guess at this point, Hockey East is still a crazy league race.
Todd: That should make for an unpredictable last two months of the season in Hockey East. I, personally, was shocked to see that St. Cloud State didn’t crack the top 10 in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll this week. The Huskies took out Quinnipiac twice on the road last weekend to go to 9-1-1 in their last 11 games and surge to sixth in the PairWise, bolstered by having played the sixth-toughest schedule in the country. I know that a 14-7-3 record isn’t going to knock anyone off their feet, but it seems top-10 respectable when taken in context. Feel free to tell me that I’m making a mountain out of a molehill here, by the way.
Jim: I think you make a valid point here. St. Cloud State is one of the hottest teams in the nation right now. Personally, I placed the Huskies at 10th on my ballot, but using your reasoning, it might have been easier to move them up to around 7 or 8. That’s the challenge, though, with poll balloting. Most voters use week-to-week results rather than looking at a more collective body of work. I know I’m guilty of that myself. Because of that, it’s more difficult for a team to move from unranked (as St. Cloud was) to top 10 with any sort of speed. A couple more wins and the Huskies should be there.
Todd: The Huskies play Minnesota in a home-and-home series this weekend, so that could be a way for them to get more exposure. Ferris State tries to rebound from its pair of losses to Miami with a home-and-home series against Michigan, which has rebounded nicely itself, going unbeaten in its last five games. But, to me, the series to watch in the West is No. 1 Denver at No. 3 Wisconsin. The stat I love to trot out when the Pioneers play in Madison: They’re 13-2-2 at the Kohl Center. One of those losses, of course, was a thumping in the NCAA tournament two years ago, but still, that’s pretty impressive. What’s shaking out East this week?
Jim: 13-2-2 for any team at a road venue is just unheard of. Very impressive stat. Out East, one of the nation’s best rivalries renews yet again as Boston College and Boston University faceoff on Friday night. This is a critical series in that each team has one win head-to-head this year and this final game of the season series could prove important when tournament seedings are at stake. In the ECAC, Harvard, which has played well of late, will travel to first-place Union, which is still undefeated in league play. Harvard upset Quinnipiac and Yale and beat Dartmouth this past weekend to take its season off of life support. Could this solid play continue? I guess we’ll have to see how it plays out. Until next week …