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TMQ: Quinnipiac goes streakless, the next outdoor venue and a Rensselaer resurgence

Todd: I guess it just had to happen this way. Riding a 21-game unbeaten streak, Quinnipiac took over as the No. 1 team in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll last week. It brought out fanfare from many circles but then the Bobcats got back on the ice and — poof — there went the streak.

They lost to St. Lawrence at home last Friday and scraped out a one-goal victory over Clarkson a night later. Does it change your opinion on Quinnipiac at all?

Jim: In a way, it does. I loved Quinnipiac’s unbeaten streak but also felt like Quinnipiac was winning too many borderline games by slim margins. I think the Bobcats are a good team but also wonder what type of NCAA tournament team this is. Will it be like many ECAC teams in years past (remember, before Union, the ECAC was an NCAA bust for more than a decade).

Part of me feels, particularly given the Bobcats’ NCAA inexperience, that they could easily be a one-and-done team in late March. Friday did little to dispel this notion.

Todd: To be fair, I also feel that Boston College could be a one-and-done team right now, and there was a time not too long ago when I wouldn’t have said that. So much depends on the matchup a team is given, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

The Bobcats have games against Yale, Brown, Harvard and Dartmouth left before they get a first-round bye in the ECAC playoffs, so they’ll get tested again.

Looking west, I was at Soldier Field on Sunday for the Hockey City Classic, which gave us two entertaining games even if the ice conditions weren’t exactly cooperative. Notre Dame and Wisconsin claimed one-goal victories, holding off late charges by Miami and Minnesota, respectively. Minnesota’s loss kept it three points behind first-place St. Cloud State in the WCHA. Miami missed a chance to go up by five points in the CCHA. I still would rather have seen these important games played on better ice inside but I’m glad the fans got their money’s worth out of the experience.

We got to talking in the press box about where the outdoor phenomenon will turn next. Where would you like to see outdoor college hockey?

Jim: I think you know my opinion that it is time to end these outdoor games. They’re cliché and passé and, as you mention, provide less than optimal conditions for critical games.

That said, this isn’t going away soon. I’m sure Fenway Park will see another series of games next winter and there are certainly others in the works. In terms of venues I would like to see, the new Yankee Stadium would be a cool place. Pittsburgh is a city that certainly embraces hockey so PNC Park might be a nice venue as well. How about you?

Todd: I’ll echo what you said about not doing them, but since that’s not a popular opinion with the people that actually stage the games, it seems like it’s probably time to do some sort of large-scale event in Minnesota. Our list of outdoor games shows one in Minnesota, the Concordia (Minn.) women beating St. Benedict 9-1 in front of 100 fans in 2011. Minnesota’s on-campus football stadium has been mentioned as a possible host for an outdoor event, and you have to think it’s only a matter of time before the NHL heads to Minnesota with a Winter Classic.

Circling back to unbeaten streaks, the schools now tied for the longest in the country at six games are Rensselaer and American International. The Yellow Jackets are still well below .500 but with six straight wins the Engineers are knocking on the NCAA tournament door, sitting tied for 17th in the PairWise Rankings. They’re also up to second place in ECAC Hockey. Not bad for a team that was 1-6-3 in the league a little more than a month ago, don’t you think?

Jim: As I was filling out my poll ballot and looking for a possible 18th, 19th or 20th team, I came upon RPI. I knew the Engineers had been playing well of late but had to check that winning streak out for myself. Wins over Harvard, Clarkson and Brown may not open too many eyes (though I think with the way Brown is capable of playing, that’s a decent victory). But certainly wins over St. Lawrence (see: beating Quinnipiac), Yale and Dartmouth all need to be looked at as quality.

It will be difficult but there is no reason that RPI can’t enter the playoffs on a 10-game winning streak with remaining games against lowly Cornell, a Colgate team that lost to Harvard and St. Lawrence and Clarkson, two teams RPI recently beat.

Todd: In looking up who else is hovering around the PairWise bubble you find Merrimack, in first place in Hockey East with three weeks to play yet on the outside of the NCAA tournament picture in a tie for 17th with Rensselaer (and actually occupying the 18th spot).

My guess is that if the Warriors actually do win the regular season title they’ll have gained enough meaningful victories to improve their PairWise situation, but what an unusual situation for Merrimack to find itself in.

Jim: Right now for Merrimack, it mostly comes down to the Ratings Percentage Index. Losses earlier in the season to Connecticut, Alaska-Anchorage and Northeastern hurt Merrimack’s RPI. Add in a loss against Alaska, a CCHA team, that negatively impacts Merrimack’s common opponent mark with CCHA teams.

But as you said, if Merrimack is to hang on and win the Hockey East regular season title, it will likely have to post some quality wins which will raise the Warriors’ RPI and also improve its record against teams under consideration (Merrimack has just two games left against Massachusetts that won’t qualify as TUCs). That said, if the Warriors lose against BC, Boston University or Massachusetts-Lowell, that could negatively impact their record against TUCs to the point of no return.

Todd: That No. 17 Merrimack game against No. 4 Boston College on Sunday is one of eight games between ranked teams on this week’s schedule. On Friday, No. 1 Quinnipiac hosts No. 13 Yale, which has lost four in a row and five of its last six.

No. 6 North Dakota plays a series at No. 10 Denver on Friday and Saturday, the same days that No. 8 Western Michigan hosts No. 11 Notre Dame. No. 12 Massachusetts-Lowell and No. 15 Boston University play a home-and-home series, with the Terriers hosting Friday before the series shifts to Lowell. Anything stand out to you?

Jim: I think you can’t overlook the St. Cloud State-Colorado College series in the Springs given how tight the top of the WCHA standings are. The same goes for any Hockey East game this weekend. If you’re a top-six team in the league, you’re in the battle for first place (that’s just crazy, by the way). If you’re not, you’re battling for the final two playoff spots.

This is the time of year we love, right? Drop the puck!


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  • LynahFaithful

    The dearth of research in this weekly self-indulgent and self-congratulatory commentary becomes more and more apparent with each passing week. The praise of Rensselaer is well earned and the Engineers have gone far too long without notice. I would even go so far as to claim that they deserve to be ranked. However, the lack of investment in understanding the college hockey landscape is apparent in claims like these:
    “It will be difficult but there is no reason that RPI can’t enter the playoffs on a 10-game winning streak with remaining games against lowly Cornell…”

    Why is Cornell “lowly” when in the preceding paragraphs you establish the legitimacy of Rensselear’s national resume with citation of series against Dartmouth and Yale? Were Cornell lowly, would it have outperformed the Engineers against much-lauded Dartmouth? Cornell earned a 1-0-1 record against Dartmouth while it was Rensselaer’s win over Dartmouth in Freakout! that drew attention to Troy. The Engineers salvaged only a split for the regular season.

    Yale is a much changed team since Malcolm was injured. Cornell confronted the Bulldogs when Malcolm was between the pipes. Yale has been on a near-precipitous decline since his injury. Rensselaer’s win over the weekend came against a Bulldog squad that was playing lacking a difference-making player.

    If the transitive property is your thing, as it appears that it may be when boosting Rensselaer by its record against common, in-conference opponents, then why not consider Rensselaer’s record against Union? Cornell has tallied a 2-0-1 record against Union over the last two seasons to date. Rensselaer has gone 0-8-0 over that same span included three losses this season already. Rensselaer has not beaten Union since the beginning of the 2010-11 season. Cornell’s win over Union would correlate to a win over Rensselaer by the logic invoked in this post.

    Finally, this last comment is as foolhardy as the last:
    “Will it be like many ECAC teams in years past (remember, before Union, the ECAC was an NCAA bust for more than a decade).”

    Over the last 16 national tournaments, Cornell has been invited nine times. In seven of those appearances, Cornell has won the regional semifinal and advanced to the regional final. Those seven victories include wins over first-seeded Michigan last season, Boston College, and Colorado College. Cornell appeared in the Frozen Four in 2003. Cornell played eventual national champion Wisconsin to three overtimes in the 2006 midwest regional final. Cornell lost to eventual national champion North Dakota in 1997 in a regional final.

    Yale’s record over a more recent span is similarly impressive. Yale toppled North Dakota in 2010 and lost only to eventual national champion Minnesota-Duluth in 2011 in two of its most recent three appearances in the national tournament.

    I guess expecting accuracy may be too much for a post that is little more than two people “chewing the fat” relying upon hackneyed oversimplifications.

    • http://www.facebook.com/matthew5168 Matt Forget

      “Why is Cornell “lowly” when in the preceding paragraphs you establish
      the legitimacy of Rensselear’s national resume with citation of series
      against Dartmouth and Yale? Were Cornell lowly, would it have
      outperformed the Engineers against much-lauded Dartmouth? Cornell earned
      a 1-0-1 record against Dartmouth while it was Rensselaer’s win over
      Dartmouth in Freakout! that drew attention to Troy. The Engineers
      salvaged only a split for the regular season.”

      They’re “lowly” because Cornell is currently in the dregs of the ECAC. This logic doesn’t follow because you are cherry picking one example, as if the rest of the team’s season performance doesn’t count, which Cornell’s is currently at its worst in many, many years, nearly 1.5 decades. Would Brown be considered an awesome team compared to Union because they have gone 3-1-0 against Union over the last two seasons? The reason it drew so much attention in Troy is because that was a major turning point for the RPI team record and performance-wise.

      “If the transitive property is your thing, as it appears that it may be
      when boosting Rensselaer by its record against common, in-conference
      opponents, then why not consider Rensselaer’s record against Union?
      Cornell has tallied a 2-0-1 record against Union over the last two
      seasons to date. Rensselaer has gone 0-8-0 over that same span included
      three losses this season already. Rensselaer has not beaten Union since
      the beginning of the 2010-11 season. Cornell’s win over Union would
      correlate to a win over Rensselaer by the logic invoked in this post.”

      I’m pretty sure Cornell has probably played Union more than three times over the last two seasons, and RPI has played them more because we have met them in the ECAC playoffs and play OOC games against them. Every team seems to have their vice team; Union tends to lose to Brown, Brown tends to lose to RPI. This point is somewhat invalidated.

      That all being said, I mostly agree with the rest of what you said about the jabs at the ECAC. If they had stated the ECAC has been an NCAA bust in terms of Frozen Four appearances and titles won in recent years, I would be inclined to agree, but for them being an overall tournament bust, I would have to disagree with this writeup and agree with most of your post.

      In before the replies of “WELL YOU HAVEN’T WON TITLES, IT DOESN’T COUNT, THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS IS WHO IS #1″, etc.

  • Jason

    “remember, before Union, the ECAC was an NCAA bust for more than a decade”

    So Cornell making the frozen four in 2003 counts as a “bust”? They also won tournament games in 2002, 2005, 2006, 2009, and 2012.

  • stod_2

    I find it amusing to watch the fans of the ECAC talk about the conference. Look if you go in as a number one seed year in and year out because you have a fairly easy schedule and put up a great overall record and you only win one game and don’t make the Frozen Four then yes that is pretty much a bust.

    It isn’t the fault of the ECAC teams, they have limitations that other conferences don’t, but please don’t get on here and try to rationalize it as anything other than what it is—a bit of a bust. Maybe the language they used was a bit harsh but it is pretty fair if you think about it. People were talking about Minnesota being a bust a few years back having not made the NCAA tourney for a few years in a row. Not sure that was fair given they were playing in the WCHA with some of the best competition in the nation.

    If the ECAC wants to get rid of this perception of being a bit of a soft league then one of the teams needs to step up and get a national title. That would help in my eyes. But right now if my team makes the tourney and isn’t a 1 seed, I want them to be in the Quinnipiac bracket, as I don’t think “Q” can win two games, in a weekend, against the other top 15 teams in the nation.

    • Joseph Crowley

      I consider North Dakota a strong program despite many years since it last title. I think the same for Minnesota. I consider Yale’s run impressive even if BC kept winning. I think UNH has been a power despite not winning a title, as they reached an all Hockey East final. I think Union and Merrimack deserve respect.

      Every other week, it seems Quinnipiac plays BU in Providence for bracketology. I do not think this is a “win” for my Terriers. Rather, it looks like a short tournament for the Scarlet and White.

      • stod_2

        The problem with your argument is that North Dakota, Minnesota and many of the other teams you listed above win in the NCAA tourney and make it to the frozen four pretty regularly (ND like 5 or 6 times in the last 8 years I think) so that isn’t the best argument. I would love to see the ECAC become a higher profile, better conference because this is just better for college hockey. But that isn’t going to happen until they start to win consistenly on the national level and that means playing a higher profile non conference schedule and then winning more games in the ncaa’s.

        • Joseph Crowley

          2011 Tournament. ECAC 1-3, just like Hockey East.
          2010. ECAC 1-2, Yale defeats North Dakota.
          2009. ECAC 1-3, just like WCHA.
          2008. ECAC 1-3, same winning % as WCHA at 2-6.

          • stod_2

            You are just picking one conference for each year. How many teams from wcha or he made the FF in those years. Pretty much at least one if not two for one or the other right? Again until the ECAC starts to make the FF regularly you can’t count them as an elite league but that is just my opinion.

            This looks like it took a while to pull together so you get top marks for your research but if you are honest with yourself can you really say they are a top league?

            Also to say it is a “slow period” for national titles is a bit of an understatement. How many of the teams in the current ECAC have a national title and when was the last one they won? Looks like it was Harvard in ’89. That is not a slow period that is really bad if you want to talk about them being an elite league. Plus only five for the entire league full of teams. I make fun of the gopher fans all the time because they only have 5 total as a program.

            There is nothing wrong with the ECAC it is a fine conference just not up to par with the current wcha, he, ccha in terms of national titles, etc.

          • Joseph Crowley

            As implied above, I excluded the league that WON the NCAA title, since that is a statistic skewing four wins. As stated elsewhere, focusing just on Frozen Fours and NCAA titles limits a lot of teams in all leagues, outside of North Dakota and BC recently. If your focus is solely on titles, then your point is valid. But winning it all should not be the sole measure. The tournament is a very tough enterprise, indeed. Many times, a great team loses its only game by a single goal, often scored in overtime or after multiple overtimes. I do not consider those to be “failed” years, just disappointing results. If you play a great game in the tournament, are we naive enough to only focus on the final score?

            The point of the years above is to show they look EXACTLY like one of the elite conferences that same year. Each year, an “elite” conference goes 1-2 or 1-3 in the NCAA tournament. The difference is that the ECAC has not had a dominant team in the tournament, with perhaps Cornell long-term and Union short-term being the closest thing. Two dominant teams, usually the winner/loser of the National Championship game, has enough wins and prestige to skew the results against the remaining 14 teams in the tournament. That is 7 of the 15 possible wins. Of course their league looks great. They won it all. Years like 2009, with BU and Vermont playing in the semifinals or 2005 with the all WCHA make those leagues look dominant. How many games did those six teams play in the tournament where their opponents looked like the 10th place team from their own league?

            A couple of CCHA/WCHA teams won it all despite not being the best team in their conference. Union nearly got the final last year as they outplayed BC but got stoned by Muse, who had the best goaltending season on a great team since maybe Ken Dryden at Cornell. I am not sure who could have defeated BC last year. The point is that getting to the tournament and playing good games is the only true measure for a league. Titles are for teams. I know, because I take absolutely zero pride in BC winning any of its deserved championships. BU was better overall in the 1980s than it was in the 2000s, and yet the only title came from its best TEAM, the 2008-2009 Champions. Hockey East had a dry spell of championships until Maine finally won its first two, then Hockey East went on a tear.

            Finally, if you did not count the first BC title and the first three BU titles in your ECAC title count, then you need to be better informed. Those teams are in Hockey East, but they won those titles playing for ECAC. Perhaps the future teams of NCHC and BTHC would be wise to remember that. The fans of Hockey East know our first NCAA title as a league was won by Maine.

  • reardensteel

    Fact is, half of the teams in the NCAA will be “one-and-done” and it doesn’t mean any of them don’t deserve to be there.

    Top-seeded teams fall in the first and second round almost every year, and not always to the second-seeded team.

    The key to advancing is playing up to your potential (i.e. consistency).

    Looking at the highly-talented, highly-ranked teams this year (pretty much the entire top 10), I think inconsistent play has been a problem.

    So, Quinny aside, I think the brackets this year are going to look very messy after the regionals.

    I wouldn’t be surprised at all if 2 or more top seeds miss the FrozenFour (which is very worrisome for my beloved Gophers).

    • Joseph Crowley

      The sixteen teams in the tournament all played well enough at some point in their season to be there. Judging just by tournament results for number one seeds is a narrow data set. For every BU 2008-2009 season (or BC championship), there is a BC getting trounced by a Colorado College or another number one seed losing 2-1 in double overtime to a goalie stealing a game.

      There would be a lot more “chalk” if the tournament was best 2-of-3 or 4-of-7. Instead, one and done means the one bad game you play might be at a weird time in front of a weird crowd on possibly bad ice after the rink was repainted.

      Counting only the NCAA title limits the data even more. Counting only what number seeds ignores the strength of many leagues. Perhaps a better count might be overall Frozen Four appearances, since UNION made it last year.

      Perhaps the problem with ECAC is Yale not playing well in the NCAA, usually being at “home”.

  • John

    If you all want to really definitively say that ECAC doesn’t match up to the rest of the league, I would suggest using an argument that isn’t as empty as championships in a single elimination tournament.

    I don’t know what the records are, but I would say a good measuring stick for how conferences match up to one another would be their regular season inter-conference records over a long enough period of time (say the last decade since that’s the argument already made).

    Break it down by record against specific conferences. This will show how each conference matches up with each other rather than just an overall record which wouldn’t show if they do well against certain conferences and not so well against others.

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