In keeping with the spirit of Thanksgiving meals, several teams teams loaded up their plates with an extra serving of hockey over the past week. Some proved that their appetite was up to the task, while others found themselves unable to digest all that they’d ordered.
The ECAC offered a prime example of each. Quinnipiac, failing to impress while winning but one of its first six, has surged back into contention by constructing an 8-2-1 ledger thereafter, including a perfect three-for-three during the week. After rallying in the final seconds to tie Boston College before winning in overtime, the Bobcats rode that impetus to wins over Connecticut and Robert Morris to claim the Nutmeg Classic Championship. Meanwhile, No. 9 Harvard lost three straight at home to Dartmouth and Minnesota twice in the span of five days to significantly darken its national prospects. The Crimson don’t have long to regroup, as a rematch with the Big Green in Hanover looms on Wednesday.
A much-awaited series fizzled as a less-than-healthy Boston University squad was outclassed on the scoreboard in Ithaca, suffering a sweep at the hands of Cornell by a 10-2 aggregate. Perhaps the best ECAC action of the week was provided by Dartmouth, as on the heels of their single-goal win over Harvard, the Big Green needed overtime to subdue Hockey East’s Northeastern.
While the WCHA has performed well in the human polls thus far, with four teams ranked throughout and even a fifth at times, that respect pales in comparison to the tribute afforded by the KRACH ratings available on USCHO. The current KRACH slots Wisconsin first, Minnesota second, North Dakota fourth, Bemidji State sixth, Ohio State seventh, and Minnesota-Duluth eighth. Cornell occupies the third spot, and the only other interloper in the top eight is Holy Cross, meaning six of KRACH’s top seven full-time D-I teams are from one conference. The WCHA’s standing drops a bit in the other computer rankings, but not drastically. The Rutter Ranking through November 26 has WCHA teams in positions one, two, four, five, six and nine. Excepting Holy Cross, RPI puts WCHA members first, second, fourth, seventh and eighth.
My estimate is that this weekend will prove to be the ranking summit for the WCHA. The league has nearly exhausted its nonconference slate, meaning future WCHA wins must be balanced by WCHA losses. The math strongly suggests that such a field is unsustainable for another three months, but the current PairWise Ranking has five of the conference’s members in a prospective NCAA field, ignoring automatic bids. The implied tournament bracket would have Ohio State at No. 1 Wisconsin, Bemidji State at No. 2 Minnesota, North Dakota at No. 3 Cornell, and Mercyhurst at No. 4 Boston College. While I’m sure we’ll never see such a field in practice, it at least provides fodder for conspiracy theorists to chew on regarding how the selection committee might force five WCHA representatives into a single half of the bracket.