Todd: Let’s start this week with a question: Is there any good way to separate New Hampshire and Boston College right now? The Wildcats took over the top spot in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll this week after the Eagles’ split with Boston University, but I’m thinking some of the voters had as much trouble pulling the trigger on that move as I did.
The teams both have 11 wins. New Hampshire has only one loss (to BC’s two) but also has two ties (to BC’s none), including the loss of a four-goal lead against Colorado College. The Eagles have played the second-toughest schedule in the nation; the Wildcats have the sixth-toughest set of opponents to date. BC leads the RPI and PairWise Rankings, for what they’re worth. It really looks like a 1-and-1A situation, doesn’t it?
Jim: This is one of those weeks where it would have made sense to see a perfect split of the voting and anoint both teams No. 1. Personally, I still tilt toward the Eagles as the current BC team is playing, in my mind, better than the current UNH team. But it is a matter of splitting hairs.
Hockey East fans can anticipate a heck of a series between the two, but will have to wait a while.
Todd: The teams are scheduled for a home-and-home series on Jan. 11-12 and finish their three-game Hockey East season series at Boston College on Feb. 17. It seems like there will be a lot on the line in connection with the league title in those meetings, too. The Eagles hold a one-point lead but the Wildcats have a game in hand as we start talking about winding down for winter break.
There are only two weekends of full play left before college hockey goes on hiatus for the holidays. Who needs to make a jump now to launch a second-half run? I’ll be interested to see whether Wisconsin can build on a three-point weekend at Denver in home series against Michigan Tech and Alabama-Huntsville. The Badgers will be under .500 at the break even with four wins from those four games, but a good deal of confidence could be built there.
Jim: I would add to that list Massachusetts-Lowell, Michigan and, after last weekend, maybe Union. All three are headed in the wrong direction and must make a major move if they want to be in the postseason picture.
I know each week we talk about that it is early, but very soon early turns to too late, no?
Todd: I think when the calendar flips to December, we can stop calling it early. And we can add perennial Atlantic Hockey favorites Air Force and Rochester Institute of Technology to that list, too. We keep hearing that they’re both better than the records they’ve made for themselves (4-7-3 for the Falcons, 2-8-3 for the Tigers) but it’s getting to put-up-or-shut-up time.
Let’s talk NCAA tournament now. Not in terms of who’ll be in and out of the field this season but rather how the format may work down the road. Our friend Mark Bedics wrote on ncaa.com last week about talk of changing to campus sites and a best-of-three series for the first round. Hockey committee chair Tom Nevala of Notre Dame said he’s in favor of that move but admitted that the idea isn’t universally endorsed. Do you see a time when the tournament goes back to campus sites?
Jim: I personally feel like we have moved well beyond a time where best-of-three campus series are the right move for first-round games. I like the single-elimination games and the vulnerability it provides.
All that said, I think that attendance would be much better at campus sites, but I also wonder how it would impact TV coverage. How do you think the Worldwide Leader would deal with on-campus games?
Todd: I can imagine there would be some logistical challenges with some potential host sites for television. I remember seeing a St. Lawrence home NCAA series back in the 1980s where it looked like the center-ice camera position was halfway into the roof. Most buildings have come a long way from that, but you’re talking about doubling the number of sites for the first round, and that’s a big impact.
It’s good to see the committee recognize that there are issues with attendance at NCAA regionals because things don’t seem to be getting better.
Turning toward this week, we have four series and two single games between ranked teams on the schedule. Three of those series are in the WCHA: No. 4 Minnesota at No. 19 Colorado College, No. 6 Denver at No. 9 North Dakota and No. 14 Nebraska-Omaha at No. 17 St. Cloud State.
No. 7 Western Michigan hosts No. 16 Ferris State for two in the CCHA. Fellow No. 7 Boston University goes for another win over a No. 1 team when it plays at new rankings leader New Hampshire on Thursday. And No. 15 Yale hosts No. 12 Union on Saturday in ECAC Hockey.