Todd: So we’re two full weeks into the 2012-13 college hockey season and what do we know? I’d put forth that we actually know little about where this season is headed with this small a sample size, but here’s one thing that has jumped out at me: The stories are going to be changing quickly. Minnesota looked out of this world in sweeping Michigan State at home two weekends ago, then had to scrape out a road series split against a tough Michigan Tech team last weekend.
Our Chris Lerch pointed out that Michigan lost to Rochester Institute of Technology, which lost to Penn State, which lost to Division III Buffalo State. Is it the typical start-of-the-season craziness?
Jim: I think we are pretty much status quo for the beginning of a season. It is difficult, if not impossible, for teams that are integrating new players into their lineups to be consistent night in and night out. And I also think we are at a level of unprecedented parity in the game. Thus you’re going to have teams like Michigan Tech and RIT grabbing a few early-season upsets.
Personally, I get more concerned about teams that have high expectations and don’t do well out of the gate. Maine leads that list for me, followed by Michigan State and Merrimack. Defending national champion Boston College could have been atop that list until the third period of last Friday’s game against Massachusetts, when it scored four goals to force overtime before winning in the extra session.
There certainly have been some eye-opening games and the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll seems to follow suit.
Todd: I hate to try to read too much into the voters’ minds, but with Boston College starting off at No. 1 and then retaking the lead after Minnesota had it last week, I’m guessing that most people consider the Eagles and the Gophers to be in the elite level to start this season, with others working their way up. Now, when you see eight teams get first-place votes as we did this week, maybe that gap is smaller than I think.
New Hampshire got one first-place vote yet still ranked 12th. How critical is a good start to the season for the Wildcats after they missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in 11 seasons a year ago?
Jim: I think getting off to a fast start is paramount to UNH’s success. Last season was an anomaly for the Wildcats but that doesn’t mean the team’s confidence wasn’t damaged a little bit. Another slow start could have perpetrated a negative attitude and psyche. Personally, I am very impressed with the Wildcats’ start, even though they have yet to go on the road.
One Hockey East team that might want to start to worry, though, is Maine. The Black Bears are now 1-4 and were outscored by an obviously improved St. Lawrence team 10-1 in a two-game series at home last weekend. It is early but Maine fans are already likely to be pressing the panic button.
Todd: Panicking before Halloween is a bit of a stretch but it has to be painful for Maine fans to see their team’s offense struggle. This is a team that was used to putting up fives and sixes and sevens on the scoreboard last season with Spencer Abbott and Brian Flynn on the roster. This year, other than the 4-3 win over Army, it has been zeroes and ones.
You mentioned St. Lawrence, and the Saints are off to a nice start under Greg Carvel thanks in part to Kyle Flanagan, who, in his first four games against Western Michigan and Maine has a pair of two-goal outings and a four-assist effort. He could be headed for a nationally recognized season.
Jim: On a totally different subject, I’m happy to see that Wisconsin freshman Nic Kerdiles has decided to stay at Wisconsin after being suspended by the NCAA for violating the rules of amateurism. I think the NCAA was a little overboard in suspending Kerdiles for the season, even though it has since reduced that suspension to 10 games.
Kerdiles seemingly made some innocent mistakes in mentioning the word “agent” on Twitter, being seen in a photo that made it look like he is endorsing a product and reportedly having his family advisor front the money to pay for a hotel room at the NHL scouting combine. The suspension could have easily sent Kerdiles packing to major junior, but this kid showed me that he has the integrity to honor his commitment to the Badgers.
Todd: There’s a lot of blame to go around here, in my eyes. The NCAA shouldn’t have been so inflexible to begin with. Kerdiles should have known better than to put himself in a position that could compromise his eligibility, and his “family advisor” definitely should know better than to jeopardize his client. But it is good to see Kerdiles stick around and I think the experience will make him a better person.
Before we go, I wanted to make note of a sad bit of news this week in college hockey. Our friends at Inside College Hockey have decided to shut down most of their operations, and I wanted to send best wishes to Mike Eidelbes, Joe Gladziszewski and the crew at INCH. They added a lot of wit and insight to the college hockey landscape and not having it on a regular basis will be the game’s loss.
Jim: I agree, Todd. Very sad to see INCH go. They added a different element to college hockey journalism and made all of us better journalists. Until next week …