Jim: It’s the second week in February, which means a Beanpot champion has been crowned. But before we get to that, let’s talk about a wild weekend of hockey past.
First, a blizzard many are calling “Nemo” dumped so much snow throughout the Northeast that many hockey games were postponed. Quinnipiac and Yale seemed to have won the snow jackpot as New Haven, Conn., got 36 inches and Hamden, Conn., got a whopping 40 inches. The Boston schools got about 25 inches of snow, postponing the entire Hockey East slate for Friday night and limiting the weekend to just three league games. Lots of mess and lots of makeup dates.
All that aside, No. 2 Quinnipiac, playing at Cornell and Colgate, got both games in and won both. No. 1 Minnesota split with St. Cloud State, giving voters yet another chance to vote the Bobcats No. 1 for the first time in school history. Before we get to the poll’s results, though, how did you vote?
Todd: I didn’t have much to change up top; I had Quinnipiac atop my ballot last week and kept the Bobcats there this week, followed by Minnesota. I don’t know what more Quinnipiac can do to be the top team, although I will concede that it’s a matter of personal preference.
Some people obviously still aren’t convinced by the Bobcats and are ranking the Gophers higher, so it’s going to take more than a Minnesota road loss to a very good St. Cloud State team to move them. What does your ballot look like?
Jim: Well, unlike you, this was my first week voting Quinnipiac as No. 1. But as you mention, not everyone would agree that the Bobcats have done everything. Nine voters still voted for the Gophers this week but, with 41 first-place votes, Quinnipiac was far and away the top team in the poll.
Reflecting a bit, this is one impressive streak that Quinnipiac is on. Twenty-one games without a loss is one of the best streaks ANY team has put forward in a single season ever.
Not that it hasn’t been there for a while, but as the new No. 1 Quinnipiac definitely has a bull’s-eye on its back. With that said, the rest of the top ECAC Hockey teams are all struggling, which in pure logic says that the Bobcats shouldn’t lose again this season. I know, far too logical an argument but could you see the Bobcats on a massive unbeaten streak heading to the NCAA tournament?
Todd: I can certainly see it happening, but here we get into that old question of whether it’s better to be on that kind of run going into a one-and-done situation or to take a loss before the NCAAs and build back up.
Boston College certainly did well enough with a lengthy winning streak going into the tournament last season, and I don’t think there have been any signs of Quinnipiac needing a reality check during its unbeaten run.
The Bobcats need just four points from their last six games to clinch the outright ECAC Hockey title, and I think the only question now is whether they can go through the 22-game league schedule unbeaten.
Jim: You pose a good — and often-asked — question. I look at a team like Boston College and its experience playing in big games and don’t think there is any need for a reality check. But when you talk about Quinnipiac, as impressive as its run has been, those players have no clue what it’s like to play in an NCAA tournament.
I remember the last time Quinnipiac qualified, back when the team was in the MAAC, and coach Rand Pecknold knew he was in trouble when he came into the locker room 20 minutes before PRACTICE and every kid was in full uniform and helmet. It will be interesting if Pecknold can use his experience in that one NCAA tournament to keep his team calm and composed.
All that aside, one team that is beginning to really make waves in the WCHA is St. Cloud State. We’ve talked about their run toward a conference title earlier but a split with No. 1 Minnesota last weekend should have made clear this is a very good team. Still, voters kept them at No. 8 in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll. Was that simply a result of the play of teams in front of them?
Todd: I think that’s one of the things most people don’t consider when they wonder why a team didn’t move up or down in the rankings. No team exists in a vacuum, meaning the forces around it — teams winning and losing — impact movement.
Which team would get moved down for St. Cloud State to move up? That’s up to the individual voters, and while the Huskies gained more than 50 points in the balloting over last week, no one slipped far enough.
St. Cloud State is off this weekend but will still have at least a one-point lead in the WCHA standings when it gets back to action Feb. 22-23 at Colorado College. Two of the Huskies’ final three series are on the road so they still have their work cut out for them to win the MacNaughton Cup.
Jim: Back to the Beanpot, Boston College won its fourth straight, meaning its senior class graduates with a perfect 8-0 record in Beanpot games. This could be the start of a lot of history for these seniors, which would be the first class to win four straight Hockey East tournaments and the first since Michigan’s class of 1953 to win three NCAA titles. Not too far-fetched, right?
Todd: Not by any stretch of the imagination, no. The Eagles get right back at it this weekend with a pair of games against ranked opponents. First is a game at No. 19 Merrimack on Sunday, then a home game against No. 5 New Hampshire on Sunday.
The Hockey City Classic in Chicago on Sunday wraps up a weekend of big games for the teams. No. 3 Miami hosts No. 12 Notre Dame and No. 2 Minnesota is at No. 18 Wisconsin on Friday before those teams move to Soldier Field for the outdoor series finales. It should make for a pretty significant Sunday.