Computers vs. Humans
Have you checked out USCHO’s Division III Pairwise Rankings? Here’s how they compare to our poll:
Team Poll PWR
RIT 1 1
Middlebury 2 2
Wis.-Superior 3 4
Wis.-River Falls 4 3
Plattsburgh 5 6
Wis.-Stevens Point 6 8
Trinity 7 7
Salem State 8 5
Oswego 9 9
Potsdam 10 11
Pretty close. The poll was taken before Plattsburgh beat Middlebury on Tuesday, while the PWR rating reflects that game — the loss wasn’t enough to knock the Panthers out of the number-two spot.
A significant input to the PWR is the Rating Percentage Index (RPI), which ranks teams based on winning percentage and schedule strength. One team you won’t find in the PWR (since it only lists teams at or over .500) is the Norwich Cadets, who are ranked 15th the RPI. Why so high even though the Cadets are just 5-6-1 against Division III teams? Norwich has played the toughest schedule in D-III. Here are the 10 toughest as of January 18:
Team Opponents' Win %
1. Norwich .660
2. Middlebury .655
3. Plattsburgh .635
4. Geneseo .604
5. RIT .596
6. Trinity .595
7. Elmira .588
8. Wentworth .582
9. Conn. College .573
10. Brockport .569
Norwich has 11 games left, including six with teams at or below .500, so things should improve for the Cadets, who are just two points out of first place in the ECAC East.
Around the Leagues
RIT (15-0) will be hard-pressed to remain college hockey’s only unbeaten team, as Tyler Euverman, who has started every game in net this season for the Tigers, dislocated his shoulder on Monday. He will certainly miss this weekend’s series with Oswego, and may be out longer.
Filling in will be backup Rob Boope, a sophomore from Palatine, Ill. He’s played just 85 minutes this season, with a GAA of 3.35 and a save percentage of .884. Boope played for the U.S. National Deaf Team, winning a goal medal at the World Deaf Games in 1995, and a silver in 1999.
“It will be a wakeup call for our team,” said RIT head coach Wayne Wilson. “I don’t think we played as well as we can last weekend, so maybe this will help us to focus and play disciplined hockey in front of ‘Boop.'”
Euverman is expected to try working out with a brace on Monday, and will be day-to-day after that.
RIT’s archrival Elmira is back in the game, winning eight straight including a convincing 3-1 win over Plattsburgh last Saturday. The Soaring Eagles (11-6), who finished just a point out of 10th place in the most recent USCHO.com poll, will host the Tigers on January 27. That game, as well as the rematch at RIT on February 17, will go a long way in deciding the ECAC West regular-season title.
The tiebreaking system was changed this season, eliminating conference goal differential as a criterion. This is a welcome change, since under the previous system teams were encouraged to run up scores to better their chances. The new system has the following criteria:
1. Head-to-head results (strictly W-L-T, no goal differential)
2. Conference wins
3. Record vs. common opponents
4. Overall winning percentage
Common opponents for RIT and Elmira include all the SUNY schools except Buffalo State and Potsdam, as well as Hamilton College. Keep an eye on those games.
Salem State fell from the ranks of the unbeaten last weekend, but still leads Norwich by two points in the standings. The Cadets have a game in hand, however. Both teams play Middlebury next week, and then square off against each other.
The Vikings (9-1-2) are led by goaltender Caleb Christensen, who is 6-0-2 so far. The sophomore from International Falls, Minn., a transfer from St. Scholastica after last season, has a .926 save percentage and a 2.33 GAA.
Norwich’s large freshman class is stepping up. Rookies have accounted for over half of the Cadet’s goals (37 of 61) to date. The diaper dandies are led by Ed Boudreau, who played four games for Maine last season before coming to Norwich. The forward from Weymouth, Mass., has eight goals and five assists so far, good for second on the team behind All-American Keith Aucoin (23 points).
Division III hockey will be in the spotlight on Tuesday, January 23, when Norwich hosts Middlebury at 7:00 PM EDT. NESN will carry the game live, so get your satellites ready.
Trinity has been the story so far, leading the NESCAC with a 6-0-1 record (9-2-2) overall. The weekend before last, Trinity accomplished what few teams have been able to do in recent memory — sweep Norwich and Middlebury. This puts the Jumbos in the driver’s seat, since they now hold the tiebreaker with the Panthers.
Trinity only has four seniors on the roster, so they may be a force next season as well, when they’ll have nine seniors, including goaltender Geoffrey Faulkner, who was USCHO’s defensive player of the week for his efforts in that weekend sweep (49 saves).
This week’s defensive POTW is another NESCAC goalie: Weslyean’s Jim Panczykowski. The freshman from Buffalo, NY, stopped 61 shots as the Cardinals defeated Southern Maine and previously unbeaten Salem State. Panczykowski will try to recreate his heroics when Wesleyan travels to Bowdoin and Colby this weekend.
Johnson & Wales (9-0) and Tufts (7-0) remain undefeated in conference and will square off on Sunday. The J&W Wildcats have already notched wins over traditional powers Fitchburg State and UMass-Dartmouth, as well as dark horse Lebanon Valley. Tufts has the harder route, still having to play all three in the coming weeks. Last year’s champion, the Wentworth Leopards, also lie in wait for both teams.
The scoring machine that is Jason Boudreau continues to crank out the points. The junior forward from Somerville, Massachusetts scored fourteen points in three games last weekend to up his points-per-game average to 4.0. He’s averaging one and a half goals and two and a half assists per game to lead the nation. The Jumbos are averaging an even seven goals per game.
The nonconference portion of the schedule continues for all teams, with league games beginning again on January 26. First-place Plattsburgh has been schizophrenic since the holiday break, looking bad in losses to RIT (8-2) and Elmira (3-1) interspersed with quality wins over Norwich (4-3) and Middlebury (3-0). Which team will show up this Saturday against Williams? The Cardinal lineup has been depleted due to injuries and suspensions, but it looks like many key players will be back in the lineup this weekend.
The highest-powered offense in the SUNYAC belongs to Oswego, ranked fourth in the nation at an even six goals per game. The Lakers play RIT twice this weekend, and the Tigers have the highest-rated offense (7.67 goals per game), so expect the goal judges to be busy.
One team that was successful in holding down RIT’s offense is Fredonia State. Thanks to coach Jeff Meredith’s conservative, defensive-minded gameplan and the heroics of netminder Will Hamele, the Blue Devils had limited the Tigers to just two goals over the first 58:54 of their game last Saturday. The Tigers got the game winner with 1:06 to play and then added an empty-netter, but Hamele was stellar in net, making 51 saves.
Things are really heating up this weekend as the traditional powers square off in what is turning out to be a wild race to the finish for the league that has had, at one time or another, five of its eight teams ranked in the USCHO.com poll.
Right now, just four point separates the top five teams. Wis.-River Falls sits atop the standings at 5-1 (13-1-1 overall). The Falcons host second-place St. Norbert on Saturday.
“(River Falls) is very balanced from a scoring standpoint,” said St. Norbert head coach Tim Coghlin. “All their lines have similar stats, and they have one of the best defenses in the league.”
The Green Knights are coming off a series split with Wis.-Stevens Point, which trails St. Norbert by two points and River Falls by four with a game in hand. St. Norbert won a big game, 3-1 at Point on Friday, but returned the favor by losing to the Pointers 4-3 back in DePere on Saturday.
“We gave up a late power-play goal,” said Coghlin. “We had a chance to sweep, and now after last weekend we’re basically back to where we started.”
And let’s not forget Wis.-Superior, just 3-3 in conference but 13-3 overall, the YellowJackets are current tied for fourth, four points behind River Falls. They travel to Wis.-Eau Claire and Wis.-Stevens Point this weekend.
While most of the focus lately has been on the duel between Concordia and St. Thomas, watch out for Bethel. It’s the Royals who seem to be making a run at the first-place Concordia Cobbers, trailing them by three points in the standings.
Bethel is led by freshman Mike Marshall, who leads the MIAC in scoring with 12 points in eight league games, and 19 points overall. He’s ninth in the nation in goals, averaging one per game (16).
The Royals’ fortunes will most likely hinge on the final two weekends of the season, when they play two-game sets with St. Thomas and Concordia.
As was the case last season, the regular season title is clearly Minn.-Crookston’s to lose, as the Golden Eagles lead Marian by eight points in the standings. Crookston (10-3-1) visits Lawrence (1-9-2) this weekend for a pair of games worth four points each in the standings. A sweep will clinch the regular-season title.
Marian (7-7-3) scored a pair of impressive victories over Wis.-Stout last weekend, winning 4-3 on Friday and 3-2 on Saturday. Sabres goalie Terry Dunbar made 43 saves to win both games, and was named co-MCHA Player of the Week. He shares the award with Northland defensemen Darrin Voskuhl, who had six points in a weekend sweep of Lawrence.
Finally, congrats to Todd Poling, who emailed me with the information I was seeking in my last column: when was the last time a team swept Norwich and Middlebury? The answer, apparently, was in 1996, when Colby defeated Norwich 4-3 on February 9, and Middlebury 5-3 the next afternoon. And the White Mules did it the hard way — on the road. Todd’s recollection was backed up by Colby coach Jim Tortorella. “Norwich was not as strong that year,” he recalled. “But Middlebury had something like a 25-game home winning streak snapped by us. It was a big win.”
Well, I correctly picked splits between St. Thomas and Concordia, as well as Stevens Point and St. Norbert, but I picked the winners in the wrong order. That made for a 2-4 week, my worst ever.
Last Week: 2-4
On the Season: 30-15 (.667)
No. 1 RIT vs. No. 9 Oswego (1/19 and 1/20) — The Tigers are missing their workhorse goaltender, and Oswego is a tough place to play, so expect RIT’s streak to come to an end. You have the number-one and -four offenses in the nation squaring off, so look for some high-scoring games. RIT 7, Oswego 5, and Oswego 6, RIT 4.
No. 3 Wis.-Superior at No. 6 Wis.-Stevens Point (1/20) — The YellowJackets have won 10 of their last 11, but I’m going with the Pointers at home. UWSP 4, UWS 3.
St. Norbert at No. 4 Wis.-River Falls (1/20)- River Falls is the higher-ranked team and is at home, but this is my upset special. St. Norbert 5, UWRF 3.
Williams at No. 5 Plattsburgh (1/20) — Have the Cardinals righted the skip? I think so. Plattsburgh 6, Williams 3.
No. 10 Potsdam at Elmira (1/20) — The teams were separated by a single point in the latest USCHO.com poll, and I think Elmira is the better team right now. Elmira 6, Potsdam 4.