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College Hockey:
TMQ: Another new No. 1; strange start for Massachusetts; whither Cornell?

Todd: Well, Jim, I’ll have to eat my words from last week about Boston College settling in for a long run as the No. 1 team in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll. After a 4-2 loss at Massachusetts last Saturday, the Eagles are out of the top spot and Minnesota is in for the first time in nearly three years. Entering the season, I sure didn’t have the Gophers pegged as a team that would have been in the position they’re now in, did you?

Jim: Minnesota has really impressed me to date. The Gophers’ one loss was to Vermont — definitely a bad loss. But they have swept teams like Alaska-Anchorage, Minnesota-Duluth and now, most impressively, North Dakota. Personally, I left Boston College at No. 1 on my ballot, but Minnesota was an easily swappable second. Now, though, the Gophers have to do what few teams have done well this year: Sustain a No. 1 ranking. Wisconsin may seem like a pushover, but two road games could spell nightmares. Remember, no one expected BC to lose at Massachusetts on Saturday.

Todd: That loss to Vermont was definitely a bad one, and, as time goes on, a more and more curious one. Minnesota has seemed to have a good blend of solid goaltending from Kent Patterson, timely goals and good special teams, but on that Sunday afternoon things just didn’t come together. I do think, though, that if you’re starting to look for your players of the season after a month, Patterson has to be pretty high on the list. He has five shutouts in 10 games.

Jim: That is almost getting towards Miller-esque numbers, which, should he remain on that pace, will make him the first legitimate goaltending candidate for the Hobey Baker Award in quite some time.
 
The team that Minnesota unseated at the top of the poll, of course, is Boston College. The Eagles put forth a great performance on Friday and then lost on the road at Massachusetts on Saturday. I’m not as concerned about the UMass loss as I am curious at the UMass win. The Minutemen have had such a strange start to their season. Last weekend, they took multi-goal leads against Boston University only to blow both and take home a tie and loss. Now they beat the No. 1 team in the country one night after getting routed by New Hampshire (which has had its own struggles this season). I guess what I’m saying is Hockey East is one strange little league right now.

Todd: Looks like Hockey East will give us plenty to talk about this season. How important a season do you think this is for Don Cahoon at Massachusetts? The Minutemen haven’t had a winning record since 2006-07, and their 6-23-6 season a year ago was a big disappointment on the heels of a .500 season.

Jim: I actually think that Toot Cahoon is fine. He’s very well liked on the campus, has a proven track record and has taken that program from the lowest of lows and proven he can succeed. I’d be very surprised to see him on the hot seat, at least this season.
 
Speaking of hot seats, two coaches who replaced those who fell off hot seats — Providence’s Nate Leaman and Massachusetts-Lowell’s Norm Bazin — have both shown flashes of brilliance in their teams recently. I have seen each team play in the last two weekends and both are significantly different clubs under their current head coach. We’ve talked about other new coaches that have done similar, like Michigan Tech’s Mel Pearson. Don’t know what it is but it seems to happen often that a little new blood can go a long way for programs.

Todd: I think as much as anything, a new coaching staff often brings a new sense of belief out of players. Now, an early string of losses is going to shake that belief just as much as it would under any coach — old or new — but if a new coach can get a few good wins early, it goes a long way toward building the bonds needed for a quality season. Whether quality in that statement means merely a .500 record or an NCAA tournament spot depends on the situation. I’d guess Providence and Lowell are in the former category for this season, wouldn’t you?

Jim: Oh, there’s no doubt about that. Both Leaman and Bazin have told me that the team has a long way to go to be successful. But you’re so correct: A couple of big wins — particularly at home, where you can energize a fan base — go a long way.
 
Getting back to last weekend, there was one score in the ECAC that caught my eye: Cornell 6, Yale 2. The game was played in New Haven and it seems the Big Red felt they had something to prove after a disappointing performance in last year’s ECAC title game. I wondered if this would be a miserable season in Ithaca after they lost to Mercyhurst but last Friday’s convincing win was a positive (though a loss to Brown the next night makes me feel like we’re seeing yet another Jekyll and Hyde).

Todd: It feels like the step forward from the win over Yale was negated by following it with a loss, especially a loss in which the Big Red had the lead with eight minutes to play. But it’s still early for Cornell — earlier than most other schools, of course, because of the late start to the season — and they have time to show whether the victory over Yale was the rule or the exception.

Let’s turn to this week’s slate of games. Minnesota puts its No. 1 ranking on the line in another rivalry series, at Wisconsin. That’s a tough couple of weeks for the Gophers, with North Dakota and the Badgers back to back. Colorado College and Denver open their season series with a single game Saturday in Denver. And the CCHA has a bunch of series to watch, including league-leading Lake Superior State going to Ferris State. What has your eye this week?

Jim: Well, the obvious game to watch out East is the renewal of arguably college hockey’s best rivalry: Boston College and Boston University. Though it’s being played on a Sunday afternoon in football season, the Patriots aren’t playing so the game is sure to attract a packed house. Another one to watch is Union and Yale on Saturday night. These are both teams that had incredible seasons last year. So it will be interesting to see what happens in their first meeting of the season. Until next week …


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  • Anonymous

    Your Gopher take is fair with one exception.  I was at the Vermont game and they did not have their number one roster playing.  I am a big fan of giving all players game time, especially in non-conference games.  These players are working hard in practice and giving them game experience in non-conference games makes sense.  They made some very stupid decisions causing a lot of short-handed playing time.

    I was more concerned with the way they played against MN-Duluth.  Both wins.
    Heavily out shot.  Patterson saved the day.

    Gophers played much better against UND.  Team wins both nights.

    Would love to see it but the Gophers won’t win every remaining game.  No team will.

    • Phoenixfyre1313

      I agree the Vermont game was a bad loss. I was at that game too and they just didn’t play all that well, especially the second half of the game.  Frankly, I am glad they lost that game.  I believe that they learned a lot from that loss.  Namely, that if you don’t play a full 60 minutes against any team, even a team you ran out of the rink the game before, you will likely not win.  Most of the goals were total defensive lapses where Patterson had no chance.  I think leaning that lesson in their home rink early in the season will keep them hungry in games till the end, down the road.

      Most top teams find different ways to win, sometimes they will rely on the goaltender, sometimes it will be the powerplay, sometimes they will get outplayed and still win, but they beat the teams they should and then win a majority of the close games especially at home.  That is a recipe for success in any league.   It is only November, but the Gophers have exhibited that so far.

  • Anonymous

    Cornell is going to get the D straightened out and if they can continue scoring like they are, the ECAC better watch out. As we are all saying on eLynah right now… Keep Calm and Beat Harvard. A 3 point + weekend will do a lot to assuage the worries of the Lynah faithful.

  • Gogofs

    Another reason for the U of MN loss is the Sunday schedule, they rarely play well on Sunday afternoons.  I think their routine is off, and they just don’t seem to get it together for a full 60 minutes…

  • Anonymous

    I’ll take the UND-Minnesota rivalry over any East Coast rivarly any day. I think most others would too.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IBX3ZLT5XKNZDOL2YZHPVX27VI STEVEN P

      Well,you’ll usually have 10,000 plus in the stands. That is more than double the attendance at most East Coast games,except for the Bean Pot. Plus,the Susans are so very easy to hate,even when they’re bad. Their incessant whining is almost like music :)

    • Anonymous

      It’s got one more year left.  Then it is over unless the Sioux change their name.  Frankly, I’d rather have the Sioux keep their name than every play the Gophers again. The Gophers administration have stated that once the Gophers move to the Big10 league, they won’t play any team with an Indian nickname.

      • Anonymous

        I’m a Gopher fan and I’d like to see the Sioux keep their nickname and I’d like to keep playing them as well, although that’s not going to happen at this point. I really just wish the Standing Rock tribe would allow a referendum vote. Then we’d actually know if the majority of the Sioux support it or not, no questions asked. 

  • http://twitter.com/Butterz07 Aaron G.

    the sioux have the best freshmen class in the nation.  a lot to be desired, but by the end of the year i see north dakota upsetting a few teams….if you want to let UND fall in that category.  a young team with incredible potential….then again im a sioux fan sooooo im rather biased.

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