Todd: Jim, as we head into the holiday break, it’s probably not a bad time to look back at the first half and try to pick out some of the best individual performances. I wonder how many people would be able to name the players tied for the national lead in goals and points without looking it up. I’ll admit I had to look it up.
Jim: I think I can confidently say that Kevin Goumas and Johnny Gaudreau from Hockey East are near the top. Besides that, the only other player I can think of is Brett Gensler from Bentley, who may be the leading scorer. I did this all from memory so you can tell me how close I am and who I forgot.
Todd: That’s pretty good. Gensler is indeed tied for the national scoring lead at 26 points, where he’s joined by Ryan Walters of Nebraska-Omaha — a player and a team that have enjoyed a good first half with a lot of promise when they return from the break. Goumas is tied for fourth at 24 points and Gaudreau is tied for seventh at 23.
On the goals side, there are 17 players who have already reached double digits, led by the 12 goals of St. Lawrence’s Greg Carey and Niagara’s Giancarlo Iuorio. At some point we’ll start talking about the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, and I suspect these names will be in that discussion, don’t you think?
Jim: I do believe that goal scoring is very appealing to the coaches, all of whom chose the 10 finalists. At the same time, goaltenders tend to creep into the top 10 very often, though it takes unthinkable stats to win as a goaltender.
There are only two goaltenders in the country with a goals against average under 1.50 and a save percentage above .950. Niagara’s Carsen Chubak is at 1.25 and .959, while Ohio State’s Brady Hjelle is at 1.46 and .951.
Todd: Goalies and defensemen really are at a disadvantage there, especially for the netminders. One or two bad games doesn’t look too bad on a forward’s stat sheet, but it can make a goals against average or save percentage change from remarkable to just really good, and that hasn’t been good enough for the Hobey.
Let’s turn to the league races at the break. Granted, there are games to be played in Atlantic Hockey (Canisius at Mercyhurst on Tuesday) and Hockey East (Vermont at Providence on Thursday) before the break, but neither will affect this question: Which current league leader based on winning percentage do you think has the best chance of being in first at the end of the season, too? Niagara, Notre Dame, Quinnipiac and Boston College all lead their leagues in points (or are tied) and winning percentage, while North Dakota is second to St. Cloud State in the WCHA on points but has played fewer games.
Jim: I think if one team seems to be completely separating itself, I’d vote for Niagara. I think at the end of the season, Boston College likely will win the Hockey East regular season title but I still feel like Niagara is that much ahead of any team in Atlantic Hockey. Every other league, to me, is a basic coin flip. And the teams that we’re talking about today might be out of the picture by March.
Todd: I’m a little hesitant to put a lot into the ECAC Hockey standings because the teams have played only around a third of the league schedule and because there’s a handful of high-quality teams there this season. When you look at Quinnipiac’s 8-0 start, however, you get the impression that the Bobcats have a good shot at the regular season title. They still have to play Dartmouth twice, though, and open with four straight games against ranked teams to open the second half.
And that’s where we’ll pick things up. On behalf of Jim and everyone here at USCHO, our best wishes to everyone this holiday season and thanks for your support as we follow the best game around.