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College Hockey:
Tuesday Morning Quarterback: Will this No. 1 last?

Todd: Here we are in the second week of November, and in the sixth USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll of the season, we have our third team leading the rankings. Boston University has taken over the No. 1 spot after Miami lost and tied at Ferris State last weekend. I have to admit that I am a little surprised that the Terriers are as good as they have been so far this season. But I guess it’s no surprise that there’s enough talent there and, obviously, enough skill in coaching from Jack Parker to make for a good recipe. Should we pencil BU in for a long stay atop the rankings?

Jim: I will get my first peek at the Terriers live this weekend, but I think this is a pretty legit team. They have enough returning talent (despite some significant losses last season) and an excellent recruiting class — possibly one of the best in the country — that they should remain competitive if they stay healthy. Saturday night, they proved resilient against a Maine team that is going to be lurking at the top of the Hockey East standings all year, I believe. While BU is having plenty of early success, the same can’t be said for Commonwealth Avenue rivals and defending national champion Boston College. After starting strong, BC has lost three of its last five. A couple of weeks ago you asked if they might be a little overconfident and I said no. Maybe I should change that answer.

Todd: Is there some kind of understanding that BU and BC can’t both be on top of their game at the same time? I don’t think it’s that the Eagles have gone off the track or anything, especially when you consider that they didn’t do that great at the start of last year, either. After eight games last year, they were 4-3-1, so 5-3 now is actually a little better. The interesting stat to me is that BC has scored a total of four goals in its three losses and 19 goals in its five wins. Not hard to see why they’re falling short when they are.

Jim: And I guess teams can get into offensive ruts, no matter how powerful said offense can be. How about the goings on out west? Minnesota-Duluth is fast out of the gates. Are we to believe this is definitely the real deal? We’re not too far removed fro that program’s Frozen Four bid but a lot has changed since. Should I start watching the Bulldogs as a team that will be in St. Paul come April?

Todd: I have been bullish on the Bulldogs from the start this season. Their top line of Justin Fontaine, Jack Connolly and Mike Connolly has the potential to be the nation’s best, and so far, they’ve lived up to expectations. They have combined for 16 goals through 10 games. Fontaine got the overtime winner at North Dakota last Saturday, helping UMD rebound from its first loss of the season a night before. The big question for me going into the season was goaltending, and Kenny Reiter and Aaron Crandall have done a decent job so far. I wouldn’t put a Frozen Four trip past this team; it wasn’t too far off two years ago. But a lot can happen between now and April, right?

Jim: Minnesota-Duluth isn’t the only Bulldogs we should be talking about. Yale has opened with four straight wins to open the season after being within a game of the team’s first Frozen Four berth a year ago. To me, it’s not that Yale is winning that is the shocker. It is how they are winning. Yale’s only close game was a 5-3 victory over Princeton last Friday. Other than that, everything has been a rout, and the Bulldogs are averaging a healthy six goals per game. A big test out at Colorado College this weekend may tell us about this club, but at this point, I’m inclined to believe this team is the real deal.

Todd: I don’t think we’ve seen anything to show otherwise. We know offense isn’t going to be the issue with Yale and the high-quality players it has up front. We’ll see if the goaltending can be more reliable last year, since that’s what the Bulldogs never were able to get squared away.

That game in the Springs on Saturday should be one of our highlights for the weekend. I’m seeing a couple of key series in the CCHA: Alaska at Miami and surprising Notre Dame at Michigan. Fresh off a rivalry series at Minnesota, Wisconsin hosts another rival, North Dakota in what is usually an entertaining series. What’s shaking out east this week?

Jim: In the ECAC, I’d say the Union-Rensselaer home-and-home series is one to really watch out for. Both teams are off to their best starts in years so it will be interesting to see if one club is able to walk away with four points. In Hockey East, I’ll be interested to see what comes out of the Merrimack-BU home-and-home. Merrimack is touted as improved and a win at home against Boston College two weeks ago proved that. But how will it handle a red-hot BU team? I think if Merrimack gets a split, we have to begin considering it as a team that could break the home-ice bubble.


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