Todd: Let’s start this week’s edition with a little quiz, Jim. Except it’s not really a quiz because I’m going to give the answer right away. Which two teams have been in the top 10 of the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll all season? The answer is Boston College and Notre Dame, who check in at Nos. 3 and 7 this week. I bring up those two teams because neither has exactly set the world ablaze recently, and I wonder whether you think it will impact them in the long run.
Jim: Well, I can tell you that Boston College is a good team but my ballot is still out on whether it’s great. The Eagles are inconsistent in scoring and now seem to be in a goalie dilemma, having played all three — Parker Milner, Brian Billett and Chris Venti — in recent weeks. BC has always had success with playing one goaltender, so I have concern that three goalies may create uncertainty in the lineup.
As for Notre Dame, I can’t seem to put my finger on this team in any way, shape or form. The Irish go from dominant to looking pedestrian. I know that Jeff Jackson is the guy I want behind the bench, though, in the postseason so that increases my confidence significantly.
In my opinion, the hottest team in the nation right now is one I was ready to write a eulogy for a few weeks back: Boston University. The Terriers have proven they can rally around the loss of two of their top scorers and have played extremely well over the last two weekends against decent competition. One of the most redeeming qualities of this team right now is the confidence in which it is playing. They never panic when behind and close teams out when they have the chance.
Todd: I think a lot of people were ready to write off the Terriers after the winter-break departure of Charlie Coyle and dismissal of Corey Trivino, but that now seems silly. I do wonder, however, whether the depth is there for a long run and whether we’ll see more of the team that can give up goals in bunches at times. Last week’s victories at Northeastern and Harvard pushed the Terriers into second in the RPI and third in the PairWise Rankings, so they’re in much better tournament shape than they were a few weeks ago.
Some news Monday that we should mention: North Dakota stripped defenseman Ben Blood of his assistant captaincy (I’ve always been told the A was for alternate, but I digress) after he put a hit on Minnesota’s Kyle Rau in the handshake line after last Saturday’s game. Rivalry games get heated, but I don’t think a handshake line is the right place to vent.
Jim: I will say first off that I haven’t seen the hit in question. But I can also say that in 20 years in college hockey only once have I seen a handshake line fight and that barely turned into light punches thrown. Certainly, this seems more drastic and obviously led to Hakstol removing the “A” from the sweater. But it certainly underscores just how heated the rivalry between Minnesota and North Dakota continues to be.
Being an East Coast boy, I have always been a proponent of BC and BU as college hockey’s top rivalry. But I believe Minnesota and UND certainly have the most heated rivalry.
Todd: The proximity of BC and BU gives that one a little extra oomph, but for my money, I’ll take a North Dakota-Minnesota WCHA game — preferably at the Final Five — any day. There are some things that should be on every college hockey fan’s bucket list, and I think that’s one. I know seeing the Beanpot is pretty high on mine. What’s on top of your list?
Jim: I have to say, my college hockey bucket list is pretty short given that over the last 20 years I feel like I have seen everything. Some day I would really like to see an event like the NCAA tried to pull off at Ford Field be successful. Imagine the Frozen Four becoming the spectacle that the basketball tourney is. I would also love to see an Atlantic Hockey team play in the national title game. But most of all, I want to see my alma mater, Massachusetts-Lowell, make a Frozen Four and win it at some point.
Oh yes, and one trip to the GLI is on my radar, but NOT if it is played outdoors.
Todd: And there’s the point we’ve been building to this week (I kid, I kid). Apparently, someone thinks it would be a good idea to play the Great Lakes Invitational, the oldest-running holiday tournament, outside in conjunction with the NHL’s Winter Classic. Let’s be clear that this isn’t a done deal. But that it’s even gotten to this point tells me that the whole outdoor game concept has become an industry unto itself.
If the most popular kid in the neighborhood got a new bike, chances are you wanted one, right? That’s kind of how I see outdoor games now. Michigan has been in four. Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin have been in two. Frozen Fenway has been done twice with the big schools (and, yes, some of the smaller ones) in the East. All the cool kids are doing it, right?
Jim: Well, as I joyfully editorialized last Saturday night, Frozen Fenway for this year is over. And if I had my druthers outdoor hockey at the college level would be over for a while. That said, I agree with your analogy about the new bike. It is extremely accurate. At this point, though, a bunch of teams have many bikes and there is a need to have these teams getting these bikes if anyone wants to watch them ride. That’s why outdoor hockey needs to stop. It is no longer a draw.
I am at best suspicious of the numbers reported from Fenway and Cleveland wasn’t near a sellout Sunday night for Ohio State and Michigan. At this point, outdoor hockey is about making people money, right? So if the fans stop showing up, isn’t that enough reason to end this fiasco?
Todd: The one thing I’ll say that has been good from outdoor games is that, with the exception of Frozen Fenway, they’ve been going to different places. Michigan has played those four games in four different stadiums in three different states. There’s talk of one next season at Soldier Field in Chicago, which is an area that really needs to be tapped by college hockey.
Jim: I will say if I ever support outdoor hockey it is in playing games in a potential emerging market. Chicago represents just that with Northwestern and other potential new Division I programs in that area. Even if it’s just emerging markets for prospects, I agree with putting college hockey on display. I was a very big fan of playing in Winnipeg two weeks ago as it further helps market the games to those Canadian players.
Todd: Before we finish, let’s take a look at what’s ahead this weekend. In what may be an unprecedented feat, the CCHA has four series between ranked teams on the docket: No. 19 Lake Superior State at No. 16 Michigan State; No. 8 Western Michigan at No. 20 Miami; No. 10 Michigan at No. 7 Notre Dame; and No. 13 Ferris State at No. 5 Ohio State. I’ll be keeping an eye on the performances by Notre Dame and Ohio State, who both got swept last weekend. What’s up out East?
Jim: Well, it may not be the most watched series but Air Force will travel to Army for the battle of the military schools. Boston College heads to Maine for two while Northeastern, the team that halted Lowell’s streak before Christmas, will face the River Hawks in a crucial home-and-home series beginning Friday in Lowell. Until next week …