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College Hockey:
TMQ: Teams standing out, players stepping up

Jim: We are just about a month into the season and a few teams are certainly making solid impressions. No. 1 Boston College handled its first major test, sweeping No. 11 Massachusetts-Lowell. Denver remained perfect with a sweep over Michigan Tech. And New Hampshire continues to impress me, sitting at 4-0-1. Those are three teams that currently stand out in my mind. How about you?

Todd: I’ve thought that Denver is going to be a really good team this season despite its offensive losses from a year ago, and the first few weeks of the season seem to confirm that. If you lose Jason Zucker, Drew Shore and Luke Salazar, you just start plugging in goals wherever you can, and the Pioneers have done that with a good blend of scoring. Ten players have scored through four games, and that combined with strong goaltending could be a pretty successful formula.

Lowell has been through a tough start to the season, with the losses to Boston College that you mentioned and a loss at Denver to go with a win at Colorado College and a tie against Vermont. Anything going wrong there or is it just a really tough schedule?

Jim: I don’t think it is time to panic for Lowell. It made some mistakes on Sunday against BC, a team that makes you pay as we all know. The River Hawks’ biggest concern is scoring goals so putting three on Parker Milner should give the offense some confidence. But everyone knows this team is capable of being a national contender, thus I wasn’t surprised to see it remain in the top 15 in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll.

The team that made a major jump in the poll that surprised me was Harvard. Sure, the Crimson won their first game but they were playing Bentley. I will be interested to see how long Harvard can remain a top 15 team this season.

Todd: I will say that a lot of mid-range teams in our poll didn’t do too well last week, so Harvard may have been helped by voters looking for a team to move up. That said, the Crimson open the season with five straight home games so they have a chance to get on some solid footing early.

ECAC Hockey is an interesting territory so far this season in our poll. Union is ranked 10th but is getting one first-place vote. Cornell is sixth with no first-place votes. That’ll shake out eventually but for now it leaves you wondering.

Jim: I’ve always been amazed with the amount of parity that occurs in the ECAC once the season begins. As well as Union played last year, it lost twice to Brown. Similar situations happened to Yale and Cornell in seasons prior. I guess that happens in all leagues but more so in my mind in the ECAC.

Changing the subject a bit, an interesting story line out of Northeastern. Junior goaltender Bryan Mountain has basically been a practice goalie his entire career. With all expectations on Chris Rawlings entering the season, Mountain stepped in after Rawlings struggled on Friday and then posted a 44-save shutout in a scoreless tie. We don’t see many stories like this one but when we do, I always cheer for the underdog.

Todd: I guess you never know when another Shawn Hunwick is going to come around. Hunwick was a backup at Michigan until he got his chance through injury and then made a remarkable career out of it. It’ll be interesting to see who comes onto the ice first Friday against Merrimack.

On yet another note, we hope everyone is staying safe in Hurricane Sandy. There have been a couple of direct impacts on college hockey — Tuesday night’s Fredonia-Penn State has been postponed and the St. Cloud State women’s team couldn’t get home from Providence, R.I. — and surely a lot of other implications, but the real concern is for everyone’s well-being.

Jim: Being right outside of Boston, I feel pretty fortunate to have survived this storm. I don’t recall ever feeling this type of wind in my lifetime, though it came close a few times in hurricanes past. But I do know that I’m thinking about many in the college hockey world right now, particularly those at Princeton, which was pretty close to the eye as it passed through New Jersey.

I guess that’s the benefit to being around Wisconsin and Minnesota: very few hurricanes. Can’t certainly know that there will be hockey played uninterrupted by weather in those reaches this weekend.

Todd: There are a bunch of good matchups on the schedule this weekend, including five series between ranked teams. No. 5 North Dakota hosts No. 12 Boston University in an East-West matchup. In the WCHA, No. 3 Denver hosts No. 18 St. Cloud State. And in the CCHA, No. 4 Miami is at No. 19 Ferris State, No. 7 Notre Dame hosts No. 11 Western Michigan and No. 8 Michigan is at No. 20 Northern Michigan.


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