Jim: Well, Todd, the Thanksgiving holiday is now behind us. And it seemed like a couple of the top teams in the USCHO.com poll maybe had a little bit too much turkey on Thursday. While No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth sat idle, No. 2 Boston University struggled to earn a tie against an upstart Brown team Saturday night. Miami ended up splitting with Western Michigan and Michigan came out of the final installment of the College Hockey Showcase with a tie against Wisconsin and a loss at Wisconsin. Think some of these teams were still suffering from Turkey Coma?
Todd: That might be as good an explanation as any. Although in Miami’s case, it seems that playing at Western Michigan isn’t as simple as it used to be. That’s a credit to the players responding to the new regime of Jeff Blashill. Not every coach starts 7-4-3 with a group of players that, by and large, he didn’t recruit, so the players and Blashill must be getting on the same wavelength. I was surprised, though, that Michigan, the highest-ranked of the four teams playing in the Showcase, was the one that didn’t earn a victory.
Jim: That was a bit of a shock for me as well. Michigan entered a pretty battle-tested team, having faced Ferris State, Notre Dame, Alaska, Nebraska-Omaha and New Hampshire. But a quick look back at the results shows that the Wolverines didn’t sweep any of the two-game league series, so maybe at this point Red Berenson’s club is struggling to put together consistent efforts night in and night out. Sounds like a team out my way in Boston College. The Eagles played poor, undisciplined hockey against Merrimack on Friday (coming off an impressive sweep of Maine) but then rebounded with an explosive performance against Vermont on Sunday. BC and Michigan aren’t the only inconsistent teams. Of the top 20 teams playing two games last weekend, only Denver and Rensselaer walked away with two wins.
Todd: Denver has put together a six-game winning streak, albeit against teams that are in the bottom end of their league’s standings. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the Pioneers do at No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth this weekend for a little bit more of a read on where the team is at. Believe it or not, after those two games in Duluth, Denver is at the halfway point of its 36-game regular season schedule, and if it gets there with 11 or 12 wins, this is a team to keep in the mix for a top spot down the stretch.
Along the same lines, it should be interesting to see how Rensselaer does this weekend at Yale and at Brown, a team that done pretty well for itself and was a couple of minutes away from what would have been a big win at New Hampshire. Speaking of the Wildcats, what did that tie last Tuesday — and what they had to do to get it — tell you about UNH?
Jim: That tie — and Saturday’s 2-1 win against Merrimack — tell me that UNH is a pretty resilient bunch. Sure, Wildcats coach Dick Umile wasn’t overly pleased with how his team played against Brown, but to score twice when you’re down 5-3 to earn the tie is a pretty good point to take. Then, on Saturday against the upstart Warriors, UNH trailed 1-0 but responded with the game’s final two goals to grab the victory.
I think the Wildcats are definitely a legitimate team. They have an offense that buzzes and if their goaltending is solid they could be a team we’re talking about come March. Though once March arrives, they’ll have that annual “can’t get it done in the postseason” gorilla to battle.
Todd: I think gorilla might be shortchanging what’s on UNH’s shoulders there. And it’s easy to forget that the Wildcats have won three of the last four Hockey East regular season titles because of it. Fair or not, the postseason is what people remember.
Jim: Maybe dinosaur is more appropriate? Seriously, though, it has become something that everyone talks about in and around Hockey East. I have to believe, though, with all the talent that goes through the doors in Durham that eventually it will result in a national title. Remember, Boston College once had five decades of futility before winning in 2001. Then, suddenly, BC wins three in 10 years and is the team of the decade.
Speaking of the Eagles, they’ll lead the list of games to watch for me this weekend as the annual Boston College-Boston University rivalry renews itself. Both of these games will be broadcast on CBS College Sports. USCHO contributor and color analyst for these games Dave Starman was recently in Boston following around Jerry York and Jack Parker. Can’t wait to see how those feature segments turn out.
How about you? Besides the Denver-UMD series, what else is big on your radar?
Todd: The Notre Dame-Miami series in Oxford is shaping up to be a good one. The Irish sure don’t get a break in the schedule after losing and tying at North Dakota last weekend. And I’ll be interested to see whether St. Cloud State can start turning its season in a positive direction when it plays at North Dakota. At 5-7-2, the Huskies are nowhere near the level many thought they’d reach this season, so it’s coming closer to put-up-or-shut-up time. Until next week …