Jim: Well, Todd, things seem to be sorting themselves out around college hockey. For the first time this season, Boston College finally takes all 50 first-place votes in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll. It’s not surprising at all after the Eagles beat No. 7 Notre Dame and No. 11 Boston University last week.
But as I look at this week’s poll, the team that sticks out is Dartmouth. The Big Green have jumped out to a 5-0-1 record and knocked off nationally ranked Union last Saturday. Dartmouth went from unranked to 12th in the poll, one of the biggest jumps I can remember, particularly six weeks into the season. It is still early but you have to believe Dartmouth is a pretty legitimate contender in ECAC Hockey.
Todd: I guess the one thing you could point to in the negative with Dartmouth’s start up until last Saturday was that it hadn’t faced a team picked for the top four in ECAC Hockey. But beating Union certainly adds to the legitimacy of what we’re seeing from the Big Green. I like that they didn’t collapse after allowing the Dutchmen to climb within 3-2 with a pair of goals in the first 2:10 of the final period; that shows some resolve.
But, to me, the next two weekends will say a lot more about Dartmouth’s viability as a national contender. It goes to Cornell this Saturday, then goes to Boston College a week later.
Jim: I actually never thought that the Dartmouth-Boston College game would be one that everyone is watching but if the Green beat Cornell that BC game looms pretty big on the horizon. Trust me, I’m not trying to sing the Dartmouth praises to the hilt, but I certainly believe this is a team that is better than most people expected.
Another interesting team in the poll this week was Denver. The Pioneers passed Minnesota and have jumped out to a 7-1 start, the only loss coming to nationally ranked St. Cloud State. It’s not too surprising that Denver is playing well, but as a westerner, did you see the Pioneers being this good?
Todd: I did think Denver was going to be good this season, even without the big names that drove the offense last season, but I wasn’t so sure the success would come this soon. I’m a big believer that goaltending is one of the biggest pieces of a team’s puzzle, and it seems the only issue the Pioneers are going to have in that area is which of three qualified players gets the most minutes.
And, other than that one shutout loss to St. Cloud State, the offense has been pretty consistent. The power play is clicking. A lot of things are going well for Denver right now and it’s great timing with a tough part of the schedule approaching.
Jim: A league that we don’t give too much attention, Atlantic Hockey, has two teams that are off to somewhat of a fast start. Niagara, which is a perfect 5-0 in the league and 6-2-3 overall, and Holy Cross, off to a 6-2 start overall, both are playing well out of the gate.
Even as a league, there have been a number of nonleague wins for AHA members. I feel like this league, though always improving, is currently taking a pretty major step forward. I don’t think AHA will get the same recognition as the other conferences, but does it seem to you like this is a breakthrough moment for the AHA?
Todd: As much as it might be a breakthrough for Atlantic Hockey, most people won’t see it unless it happens at the end of the season and not toward the beginning. And the league will have to do better than 11-24-9 in its nonconference games to make believers out of more people.
That being said, we may be witnessing the emergence of an All-American-caliber goaltender in Niagara’s Carsen Chubak, who has given up only two goals in his last five games and leads the nation in goals against average and save percentage.
Jim: I guess when you look at those nonconference numbers they bring you back to reality. But I also recall years where there were only a handful of nonconference wins for the AHA, so seeing 11 wins and nine ties is somewhat encouraging. But I get your point: There’s still a long way to go.
Chubak’s numbers are pretty incredible out of the gate. Three shutouts in nine games is impressive, but it seems that maybe the goaltending position was an audition process as Chubak wasn’t in net early in the season when Niagara fell 10-2 to Colgate. If there were auditions, it seems that Chubak has won the starting job. It will be interesting to see if he can maintain those numbers throughout the season.
Todd: Before we close, best wishes to Blake Geoffrion, the 2010 Hobey Baker Award winner out of Wisconsin who needed emergency surgery Friday night after his skull was fractured in a hit in an AHL game in Montreal. It’s encouraging that Geoffrion, who was known as one of the most comical guys in the locker room in his time with the Badgers, has felt well enough to be back tweeting @BlakeGeoffrion, but there’s a long way to go and we hope for a speedy recovery.
On the ice this weekend, we’ve got seven games between ranked teams on the schedule. No. 2 Denver and No. 14 Colorado College play a home-and-home series starting Friday in Colorado Springs. No. 13 Michigan hosts No. 8 Notre Dame in a Thursday-Friday series. New Hampshire, up to fifth in the poll this week, is at No. 11 Boston University on Sunday. And No. 10 Cornell hosts No. 17 Harvard on Friday and No. 12 Dartmouth on Saturday.