College Hockey:
TMQ: Volatile weekend at top of poll leaves another new No. 1

Todd: Another week, another new team atop the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll. But before we get to Minnesota-Duluth’s ascent to the top for the first time since the end of last season, what exactly happened to get us to this point? Previously unbeaten and previously No. 1 Merrimack lost twice to Providence. Boston College looked pretty average in a loss to Boston University on Friday before rebounding for the split. And Notre Dame got shelled on Friday by Northeastern, which completed the sweep a day later. Wasn’t the Thanksgiving letdown supposed to happen last weekend, Jim?

Jim: Positive proof that it isn’t turkey that makes teams sleep. Merrimack got spotty goaltending on Friday and lost in OT then completely lost composure on Saturday in an ugly 6-1 loss. BC looked better on Friday than Saturday but goaltending was a problem. Don’t be surprised to see rookie Brian Billett see more action going forward. And Notre Dame, I can’t explain that, nor can I explain the sole No. 1 vote the Irish received in Monday’s poll.

Todd: People have asked who that voter was. USCHO’s policy is to not identify voters nor their ballots, but voters are able to publicize their votes if they wish. I’ll do so right here: I picked Ohio State for No. 1 because things seemed to add up. First in the Ratings Percentage Index. Second in winning percentage. And, perhaps most importantly to determine whether the Buckeyes’ 12-3-1 start is legit, second in strength of schedule. But UMD is the No. 1 team, getting half of the 50 first-place votes, and it’s hard to find too much fault in that, either. Thoughts?

Jim: I will disclose as well as a voter: I voted for Ohio State No. 1 as well. To me, its strength of schedule was the selling point. Being 10-3-1 against teams “under consideration” (which we all know is a very relative term) is a very impressive record, not to mention the nine-game winning streak. I think sometimes voters vote on where the team was in the poll the weekend prior when deciding a team’s ranking and that was definitely the case this week.

Todd: I don’t want to take anything away from Minnesota-Duluth. Going 12 games without a loss (10-0-2) is certainly worthy of the top spot at this point in the season. The Bulldogs have just started in on an eight-game road stretch that gets cut in half by the holiday break, so they won’t play again at home until Jan. 20. With the way the top of the poll has gone so far this season, UMD could have lost the top spot and gained it back by then without batting an eye.

Jim: You know, that road trip stood out to my eye when scanning though today. That is a very tough row to hoe moving forward.

Scanning away from the poll, a couple of teams in Hockey East made big statements last weekend with Massachusetts-Lowell and Northeastern sweeping New Hampshire and Notre Dame, respectively. Both pretty impressive for first-year head coaches, no?

Todd: Lowell continues to impress under Norm Bazin, and I’d say this is the most impressed I’ve been with Northeastern under Jim Madigan. When you force the nation’s No. 2 team to go through all three goalies in one game, you’ve made a statement. Now, the Huskies just have to do that in a Hockey East game, and, coincidentally, they get the chance against Lowell on Saturday. A win there would be another big boost going into the break.

How much of that game do you expect to be impacted by the fact that Lowell has to play Boston College on Friday?

Jim: I think that Lowell is solely focused on the Eagles, a team it should have beat at home back a few weeks ago. It’s quite possible that there will be a loss of focus and the River Hawks will be vulnerable against Northeastern, but at this point I feel like it is all such a wild dart throw after last weekend you never know what will happen. Truth is that most Hockey East fans would have looked at series between BC, Boston University, Maine and New Hampshire to determine the top earlier in the season. Now we’re looking at December Lowell-Northeastern games as key. My, how things changed.

Todd: Indeed. Before we look at what’s coming up, and now that we’re just about two months into the season, it’s probably time to start looking at some individual statistics. I think you have to impressed by what Austin Smith is doing at Colgate. He leads the nation with 27 points, 18 goals and five short-handed goals. Through 16 games, he’s halfway to matching the 36 goals scored by last year’s goal-scoring leader, North Dakota’s Matt Frattin. Do we have a chance of seeing a 40-goal scorer in college hockey?

Jim: I do think we’ll see a 40-goal scorer this season and it’s not just Smith that has a chance. Look at guys like Brock Nelson at North Dakota and Teddy Broadhurst at Nebraska-Omaha. Even Chris Kreider at Boston College. Any of the guys could be poised to eclipse the 40-goal barrier. Don’t forget, some teams haven’t played a third of their games at this point and, even if they have, there’s plenty of hockey to play!

Todd: Let’s turn our attention to the coming week. Minnesota-Duluth puts its No. 1 ranking on the line in a series at Wisconsin. The Badgers have already knocked off one top-ranked team at home this season, that being Minnesota. And Michigan and Michigan State square off in a home-and-home series. Elsewhere in the CCHA, I’ll be interested to see how the Ferris State-Notre Dame series turns out. That’s two teams that were just swept, so there’s plenty at stake. What’s up out East?

Jim: This is easily the strangest weekend for the east. New Hampshire plays BU on Thursday in what could be a very strange mid-week game. BC also plays Lowell on Friday, which I personally see as interesting but many may not. Until next week …

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  • Wheatenwade

    “And Notre Dame, I can’t explain that, nor can I explain the sole No. 1 vote the Irish received in Monday’s poll.”- Amen to that, Jim. The voter who cast that ballot should have their voting privileges revoked, forthwith (and I am a Notre Dame fan).

    • Scott Reed

      I couldn’t agree more, did CBS pay off somebody?  

      I’m very happy for the bulldogs though (my second favorite team), at least #1 didn’t go back to the gophers 

    • collegehockeyfan

       They’ve got to look better ranked when they play on the NBC Sports Network.

  • ECACFan

    Don’t forget that #5 Merrimack is playing at #12 Colgate. That’s gotta be an attention-grabbing game.

    • Scott Reed

      no it doesn’t… best possible scenario is two ties and they both drop down

      • SiouxFansWhineLikeNoOther

        Could whine about Eastern schools any more?

        • Scott Reed

          Only when they forget their place… behind the WCHA teams!

          • CommAve

            Even though my previous post was a full sentence (guess that shows WCHA’s educational benefit), I’ll go ahead and just ask where 3 of the past 4 national champions have come from?

          • Ridingtimes

            Who has more National Championships in it??? Collorado College was loaded with Freshman and Sophs last year and look what they did to Boston College last year.

          • Scott Reed

            Um, no, it wasn’t… but thats another argument.  3 of the last 4 and NONE EVER have come from Merrimack and Colgate.  They sound more like a girl scout troop and toothpaste than college hockey programs.   The east puts out a handful of decent teams every year, maybe even an elite team or two, but nothing like the WCHA does year in and year out.  It has been the toughest and best confrence for years.

          • Ryan D.

            Yeah your right man, we should just let all of these “lower class” teams drop off the map like UAH, that’s GREAT for the game. Especially when they don’t play up to the expectations of the GREAT SCOTT REED. Please bury your head deeper in the sand so we don’t have to listen to your garbage.

            Does every argument have to go back to the history of each conference? Why can’t we evaluate these teams for what is happening right in front of us? Why even watch the games if we are going to revert to past performance to evaluate a team’s chances?

          • Scott Reed

            People who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it…  When you just look at a snapshot of what is happening right now and forget everything else, stupid things happen.  like MC being ranked # 1 and me listening to you. 

            For the record, the “lower class” teams do play to my expectations… not as good as most in the WCHA!

          • Ryan D.

            I’m not saying look at just a week or two, maybe the season up til now? My point is more about this back and forth crap about who has won national titles in the past, blah blah blah. What does the 2008 BC title have to do with where teams stand this season? It just seems like it’s a no win argument.

            I still don’t see how MC being #1 was “stupid”. Were the voters supposed to put 3 loss teams ahead of a no loss team?

            I think the bigger conversation should be about what Ohio State has to do to jump up the polls in people’s minds? Statistically they make sense for #1, I just don’t know what the reasoning behind having them at #4 is.

          • Scott Reed

            They should have left #1 vacant and had a 3 way tie for second.  And OSU just doesn’t have the stregnth of schedule the other teams have. 

        • FightingSioux4Ever

          What is your point?  You’re sole purpose on this site is to weed out the Sioux posts and take shots at them?  What “whining”?  Scott Reed has a good point in that Merrimack and Colgate aren’t a national spotlight type of matchup.  You soud like a “whiner” everytime you post stupid comments that have nothing to do with content.  Hater.

          • Daroldk

            Point is the Sioux sux. Gophers will take them out in early january with that bad Sioux goalie.

          • Scott Reed

            Still talking as the gophers start their second half slide as usual… they just can’t get hot at the right time. 

        • Scott Reed

          The best part is I was right! hahaha

      • CommAve

        Um, no.

        • Scott Reed

          Thats almost a sentence… good try! I bet there is a half thought behind your half sentence.   Lets hear it…

      • UNHcatsFan

        Um.  What?

        My preference is always to see UNH prevail.  However, watching Lowell, Merrimack and Northeastern seriously challenge HEA’s usual top-four of BU, BC, UNH and Maine is making things very interesting to watch and is great for college hockey overall.  UNH is struggling this year but the season has still been enjoyable in many other ways so far.

    • Scott Reed

      My bad, I never looked to see they only play one game, but what a prediction!!!! USCHO needs to sign me up. 

  • Anonymous

    Two Minnesota teams at the Top of the rankings is nice to see… Bjugstad also has a legitimate shot at 40 goals, especially if the Gophers make a run in the NCAAs.

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

      the only problem is that Bjugstad is not a true goal scorer……he gets a lot of help and i dont see him at the top when the seasons over.

  • Ridingtimes

    No one can rule the WCHA..Does any league have more National Champions in it? There is not to many teams that can play with the top 6 in the WCHA.

  • Heyharrison22

    minnesota sweep duluth at duluth so that means that they should be #1 not duluth

    • Dapolsk

      duluth hasnt lost since that weekend. Minnesota has lost to unranked teams like Vermont, Wisconsin, and St. Cloud State. UMD took care of business UM did not.

      • Daroldk

        Duluth is fraudulant.  They CANNOT beat the Gophers. However, the Gophers cannot beat Mich or Mich St. Go figure.

    • Scott Reed

      here is one gopher that needs to dig his hole a little deeper to stay warm and thaw his brain out.

  • Wilma Dickfit

    UMD #1, when the Gophers SWEPT them in Duluth? Funny. Go ahead and take your #1 ranking in Dec. We all know what will happen when UMD has to face the Gophers again.

  • Keebs11

    History has a ton to do with it.  Until you make yourself relevant, you are irrelevant.  The reason WCHA fans are so arrogant is because they can be.  Year in and year out they put a consistent product on the ice, lose kids early to the NHL, and reload. I would call this a rebuilding year in the league.  That being said, I would expect to see at least 30 percent of the world junior roster taken up by WCHA players.  And thats a down year.

  • Keebs11

    And another thing, how do you just skip right over Nick Bjugstad as a forty goal scorer?  The guy is a monster who takes over games single handed.  Colgate sucks.  Beat Niagara then you can talk.

  • Keebs11

    Aaron G obviously has never seen Bjugstad play

  • ColSkate65

    There is no doubt the top game this weeekend is Merrimack at Colgate. Ask any college hockey fan…..Starr Rink will rock.

    • Scott Reed

      See mye erlier post on this topic, clairvoyant almost…

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