Jim: So, Todd, do we have some stability returned to the top of the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll with Ferris State spending two straight weeks as No. 1? My thought is probably not, though it’s hard not to be impressed by this Bulldogs team. And, obviously, not all the voters are impressed as the Bulldogs split the vote once again with new No. 2 Boston College and new No. 3 Michigan.
This week, though, voters provided the Bulldogs with more significant support, giving them 36 of the 50 first-place votes. This week, in fact, the top 10 was significantly more stable with only Merrimack dropping out after being swept by BC; Denver took the Warriors’ place. So is this a product of the time of year or just last week’s results?
Todd: I guess instability is only a bad night away for some teams, so I’m not sure how stable I’d consider things right now. I do like what I see out of Ferris State, though. Those could have been trap games last weekend for the Bulldogs with last-place Bowling Green coming to Big Rapids and the No. 1 moniker fresh in their minds. But they took care of the Falcons handily twice and earned at least a share of the CCHA regular season title.
It’s hard to fault anyone who voted for Boston College, though, given the week it had. Win the Beanpot and sweep Merrimack? That’s impressive.
Jim: That was a very impressive week for Boston College. Monday’s Beanpot final was dramatic and emotional and it would’ve been very simple to let up against Merrimack. It may have been convenient that the Eagles had further motivation — BC coach Jerry York going for win No. 900 — on Friday. But there’s no explaining Saturday and a tough road atmosphere in Merrimack’s Lawler Arena. That win took the determination of a champion. Man, where have we seen this before?
Now, down Commonwealth Avenue, things may not be as nice where, for the second time this year, the Boston University Terriers have had a player arrested for alleged sexual assault. This time it was defenseman Max Nicastro, just two months Corey Trivino was booted from the team. It’s impossible to know exactly what happened in either case, but at this point it seems like the Terriers are developing a bit of a bad reputation. Being in Boston, I can tell you it was one of the top stories on all the newscasts all day on Monday. Regardless of the outcome, you have to think head coach Jack Parker is anything but pleased with his team’s reputation right now.
Todd: It’s really a scary situation there, to be honest, and you have to think there’s going to be a lot of scrutiny on that program, not only from the media but also from the school itself. And there should be. These are serious accusations that have been made, and at some point, fairly or not, people are going to have to ask some tough questions of people in the program.
Are these charges indicative of the culture of the team? It’s impossible to say from my chair, and I wouldn’t even want to go down that road with what we know now.
Jim: I actually will say straight out that this is not indicative of the culture of BU’s team. But perception is reality far too often and it takes just a few small instances as such to damage a reputation.
BU wasn’t the only big news this week. Late on Monday, the Hockey Commissioners Association announced that Paul Kelly has resigned. As USCHO.com’s story said, though, Kelly’s resignation may have been a bit of face saving. Now, I’ve met Paul a number of times and like him very much. But we all know he comes from a position of power at the NHLPA and, without knowing all the facts, we could speculate that Kelly wanted more power in the college hockey world.
Todd: I still hope we hear from Kelly on this story because I think he can fill in some gaps. We’ve tried reaching out to him but haven’t heard back. The news was surprising when it first came out, but after hearing what sources had to say, it sounds like this has been brewing for a while.
Let’s be honest here: The Division I men’s commissioners, it seems both individually and collectively, have ways that they like things to be done. So does Paul Kelly. Maybe it wasn’t exactly destined to come to this from the start, but there were strong forces on each side, and in the end the commissioners had the last say.
It does bring up some important questions about the future of College Hockey Inc., and what kind of replacement the commissioners will seek.
Jim: My thought is that the commissioners will look to take the solid roots that Kelly has put in place but get someone more in line with their thought processes to take the top role. And that’s not to suggest that Kelly wasn’t aligned with the commissioners in many ways. But I do believe that his past made him someone who could see himself as the overall spokesperson for all things college hockey. And the individual — and, as you mention, the collective — personalities of the five commissioners doesn’t seem to jell with that.
I will say, though, what Kelly did in his two-plus years was a major positive for college hockey. He stirred debate, brought together college hockey and the NHL, created tremendous structure to the marketing of college hockey in general and served as a face that college hockey has never had.
Todd: It would be a shame to go backward on the outreach that Kelly helped get going with CHI. The idea of the group is still much needed — in part, to get into places where individual college hockey teams can’t get because of NCAA rules — so let’s hope the overall message doesn’t get lost.
Jim: Back to the ice, standings for some leagues are beginning to shake themselves out. As you mentioned, Ferris State has clinched at least a tie of the CCHA title, needing just a shootout loss this weekend to clinch. In the ECAC, it’s a two-horse race with Cornell two points behind Union and the two teams facing off on Friday. And in Atlantic Hockey, five teams are within three points of first-place Air Force and all 12 AHA teams are in action this weekend. This is the first of two weekends of league title excitement and, personally, I can’t wait.
Todd: I don’t know if I’d be able to handle all five leagues wrapping up on one weekend, given the way things stand right now. The Atlantic Hockey race is remarkable, especially when you consider that teams like Bentley, Mercyhurst, Niagara and Holy Cross that are still within range of the league championship are also in danger of missing out on a first-round bye. Tough swing for some teams there.
Jim: I think that it is so strange to play for so much in one weekend as the 12 AHA teams will this weekend. It does seems like, for now, AHA has taken the role Hockey East played in weekends previous. It seems likely only three teams have a shot at the Hockey East title — BC, Massachusetts-Lowell and BU. Maine and Merrimack have the mathematical chance of getting into first but Merrimack has to make up five points and Maine gives up a game in hand to the rest of the league.
Plenty of major games ahead out here in the East. I feel like every single Hockey East game will have major ramifications on the standings. Same goes for Atlantic Hockey. Same can be said for the ECAC, but it’s hard to not pay particular attention to the Union-Cornell game on Friday that could decide the league title.
What about out West? Are we in a similar place where every game is a big game?
Todd: The CCHA wraps up this weekend, and every series in league play has something on the line, be it a possibility at a share of the title (Michigan against Bowling Green, with help needed from Western Michigan against Ferris State) or a shot at a first-round bye or a shot at home ice in the first round. I can’t help but keep an eye on Notre Dame, which has really fallen on hard times. The Irish haven’t scored an even-strength goal in their last five games, and they’re 0-5 in that stretch. Can they pull out of the tailspin against Michigan State?
The WCHA still has a week to go after this one, but Minnesota can take a step toward the MacNaughton Cup when it plays at Nebraska-Omaha, while second-place Minnesota-Duluth hosts Colorado College. The North Dakota-Denver series could mean a lot in the PairWise Rankings. There’s almost too much to keep track of, so it’ll be fun to watch it all go down.