Todd: Members of the 1970 Cornell team can pop open the champagne; their claim to fame is safe for another season. OK, they’re probably not as vain as the 1972 Miami Dolphins. But that 1970 Big Red team is the only one in NCAA Division I men’s hockey history to finish a season with a perfect record, and last weekend’s results eliminated the last possibilities for this season. Trivial, yes, but worth noting.
My main interest coming out of last weekend was a couple of the teams that are sitting with only one victory on the season — Maine and Wisconsin. The Black Bears are 1-8 and face a trip to another one-win team, 1-3-1 Massachusetts-Lowell, this weekend. We said a couple of weeks ago it wasn’t time to push the panic button in Orono. It has to be pretty tempting now, doesn’t it?
Jim: I think it may finally be time for Maine fans to panic. Yes, Maine played a great game on Friday, losing late to Boston College. But dropping another lopsided decision to New Hampshire on Sunday really worries me. When the Black Bears face off against Lowell this weekend, you will have two one-win teams desperate for a victory. But, for Maine at least, I have unfortunately lowered my expectations.
Todd: Wisconsin, meanwhile, is 0-4 inside the border of its state and 1-0-1 outside of it (just barely, though — those results were just over the border in Duluth, Minn.). The Badgers were swept by Colorado College last weekend and were shut out in the finale. The biggest loss, however, may have been from an injury.
Top-line center Mark Zengerle is out for four to six weeks, the Wisconsin State Journal reported, with a broken finger. Already without freshman Nic Kerdiles because of his NCAA amateurism rule violation, Wisconsin will have to dig deep to find the offense it needs to get out of its early hole.
These two teams were both in the top 20 to start the season but not being there has to be the least of their concerns right now.
Jim: That’s a tough early season blow to the Badgers, who I think many had high expectations for prior to the season. You also have a team like Minnesota-Duluth, two years removed from a national title, struggling out of the gate. And Nebraska-Omaha, after a weekend sweep of Michigan Tech, is now beginning to open eyes. I think the WCHA has provided a few surprises early on. Which one is the biggest to you?
Todd: I guess I don’t know that anything has been what I’d consider a surprise so far. I guess you could say that it’s surprising that Minnesota is just 2-2 in conference play with losses to Michigan Tech and Minnesota State, both on the road.
But here’s what was surprising to me last weekend: Of the top 10 teams in last week’s USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll, only two — Boston College and Union — exited the weekend with a pair of wins. Only Michigan, though, failed to earn a regulation win out of the teams in the top 10. It makes it hard to pinpoint which team is leading the pack behind BC, doesn’t it?
Jim: That I agree with. I had a very difficult time picking the top of my ballot. Obviously, BC stayed No. 1 and Union moved up in my ballot (though I still don’t see how it keeps getting a first-place vote). Everything else was a hodgepodge.
Maybe we should look at the early season PairWise Rankings when picking our teams, as Dartmouth is currently tops in that ranking (can anyone hear the sarcasm in that sentence?).
Todd: By the Ratings Percentage Index, Minnesota and Michigan aren’t even in the top 20 so I think we’re best off just putting aside the computer numbers for now.
One other topic before we look at the coming weekend: Last week, Atlantic Hockey issued a seven-game suspension to Canisius’ Matthew Grazen for a checking-from-behind penalty that injured Air Force’s George Michalke. It’s obviously a significant suspension — about one-fifth of the regular season — but the strange part to me was how it was divided up.
Grazen also had to serve a one-game suspension for the game disqualification that came with the penalty, but the punishment is then broken up into five games now and two later in the season when Canisius travels to Air Force. I know what league commissioner Bob DeGregorio is trying to do in keeping Grazen out for that series but it seems strange to pick and choose which games will be part of a suspension.
Jim: Agreed on the computer rankings. As for the suspension, a few thoughts. First, the seven-game suspension may seem a little excessive. But a quote I read from DeGregorio said that he took into account the extent of the injury to the Air Force player. That is the first time I have ever heard a college commissioner equate a suspension to an injury, similar to how the NHL deals with supplemental discipline.
Breaking the suspension up is also unorthodox. But I personally am not bothered by either. I wish more college commissioners would look at the severity of the injury caused by illegal checks. And I also think ensuring that there will not be direct retaliation next time these two teams play makes sense. I think I may be in the minority on both but also believe that DeGregorio is a commissioner who doesn’t do things conventionally and that’s something I like.
Todd: Let’s close it out this week by looking at some of the big games on the upcoming schedule. No. 1 Boston College gets a pair of good tests, hosting No. 7 Notre Dame on Friday before playing at No. 11 Boston University on Sunday.
No. 5 Miami hosts No. 16 Northern Michigan in a two-game, CCHA series while No. 6 North Dakota is at No. 15 St. Cloud State for two games in the WCHA. And in ECAC Hockey, No. 8 Union plays at No. 14 Harvard on Friday.