Jim: Another weekend in the books, Todd, and for the first time this season the top team in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll escapes without a blemish. Boston College knocked off Massachusetts-Lowell 4-2 and 6-3. I was at both games and have to say that BC faced a stiff test on Friday night, getting outshot in the first period 13-5. But the Eagles proved they can withstand a little pressure and were very opportunistic throughout the weekend, another trademark sign of the best teams around.
Todd: If memory serves, the early part of this season is going along as many in the past have. The top teams experience some rough waters before we see one team start to settle in as the No. 1 team for a good stretch. It’s obviously a little premature to say the Eagles are going to be in the top spot for a while, but they’ve been tested since losing to Denver and they’ve won five straight.
Jim: I believe you are correct. A No. 1 team doesn’t always jump right out from season’s start. And while BC is excellent, there are still a number of teams that are unbeaten at this point. One that sticks out here in the East is Merrimack. Many felt this could be a down year for the Warriors, but a 6-0-0 start might say differently. Last weekend may have been their first solid test, a two-game road trip to always-difficult Vermont. Merrimack passed with flying colors. I feel that if the Warriors can keep up the winning ways, they’ll be barking at the door for No. 1.
Todd: It looks like Merrimack has a good balance going on offense — 12 players have scored, with no one having more than Ryan Flanigan’s four — and is getting the kind of goaltending expected out of Joe Cannata. I know some made a big deal out of the Warriors losing Stephane Da Costa from last year’s team, but I think they proved down the stretch last year that they didn’t need him to score to be a good team, and maybe it’s carrying over.
I’d also say watch out for Colorado College as a team that could find that No. 1 spot if BC falters. The Schwartz brothers, Rylan and Jaden, have combined for nine goals in four games and there’s enough experience there to make the Tigers an intriguing team.
Jim: While most people were concerned about Da Costa’s departure, I felt a lot of offense was lost in their senior class. Obviously, the balanced scoring and Cannata’s performance has helped.
I agree about CC and its start. Another team we talked about last week was Michigan. The Wolverines proved they can perform with their sweep of Ferris State. Western Michigan also is off to a fast start after sweeping Northern Michigan. Those are some decent surprises to me. Any others raise your eyebrows?
Todd: I think the Upper Peninsula teams continue to surprise a lot of people. Lake Superior State just swept Miami in Oxford, which no team has done since the 2006-07 season. The Lakers are 7-1 and looking like a team that could crack the upper levels of the CCHA standings.
And I’d be surprised if there weren’t a few double-takes at the result of last Friday’s Michigan Tech-Denver game. Sure, the Huskies scored three empty-net goals (in 31 seconds, no less), but the 7-2 victory sure made it seem like Tech is going to be trouble for a lot of teams in Houghton this season.
Jim: The West definitely has its share of surprise teams this season, something the East is lacking at this point. Hockey East continues to play according to plans and, if anything, Mercyhurst’s upset of Cornell is a surprise for the wrong reasons.
I should take that back when talking about one team, Clarkson. This has been a solid start for the Golden Knights. Granted, it is all non-league play and some will say their schedule hasn’t been the toughest. But 5-1-2 is a good start no matter who you play.
Todd: You’ve got to think that a 5-1-2 start is a great confidence boost for a team under a new head coach. But then again, there are a couple of teams under first-year coaches having solid starts. Michigan Tech’s 5-2-1 record with Mel Pearson and Western Michigan’s 5-0-3 mark with Andy Murray also fall into that category.
Jim: Let’s finish up by looking at some of the big games this weekend. Maine jumped back into the rankings this week, and it has to go on the road, first at No. 1 Boston College on Friday and then at New Hampshire on Saturday. And the ECAC has its first full weekend of the season, with Yale playing at Cornell on Friday. What’s on the docket out West?
Todd: I think you have to start with the old rivals, Minnesota and North Dakota, squaring off at Mariucci Arena. And we’ll see how Western Michigan does on the road at Michigan.