The Good News — It’s Not Like BCS
Recently released and constantly updated for the 2001-2002 season, they’re handy tools to compare and contrast teams. The Pairwise mimics the criteria used by the Division I selection committee. The D-III committee uses similar criteria, but they’re not the same. I’ll explain the differences in a future column, as we get close to selection time. Still, it’s fun to look at.
The RPI is my favorite comparison tool. It’s a component of the Pairwise, but stands alone nicely as well. It rates teams based not just on their record, but on the strength of their schedule.
Who’s played the toughest schedules so far?
1. Skidmore .698 (Opponent's Winning Percentage)
2. Salem State .647
3. Wis.-Eau Claire .634
4. Plattsburgh .623
5. St. John's .620
6. Tufts .617
7. Conn College .607
8. Johnson & Wales .597
9. Worcester State .589
10. Wis.-Stevens Point .586
Only one Top 10 team (Plattsburgh) is on the list. Where do the rest wind up?
1. Norwich .574 (12th hardest schedule)
2. RIT .521 (30th)
3. Middlebury .512 (33rd)
4. St. Norbert .521 (31st)
5. Wis.-River Falls .554 (17th)
6. Wis.-Superior .555 (15th)
7. Plattsburgh .623 (4th)
8. St. Thomas .554 (18th)
9. Colby .392 (59th)
10. Bowdoin .421 (53rd)
Colby and Bowdoin are both undefeated, but they haven’t played as hard a schedule yet. Things change beginning this weekend (see below).
California, Here They Come
Lake Forest, Curry, Salve Regina and Stonehill will play in Lakewood, Calif. this weekend in the inaugural California Amateur Hockey Association Tournament. The last time college hockey was played in Southern California, or anywhere in the Golden State, was at the 1999 Frozen Four in Anaheim.
“We’re pretty excited,” said Lake Forest head coach Tony Fritz. “It’s a thrill for our kids to bring college hockey to that area.
“People there want to expose their kids to this level of hockey, to see what options exist.”
How did Lake Forest and the other teams get invited?
“Believe it or not, we got contacted because we have some players from California,” Fritz said. “They went out and looked at rosters of the various schools and contacted those with Californians on the roster.”
The tournament will be held at Lakewood Glacial Gardens this Friday and Saturday. Organizers from the CAHA, the governing body for youth hockey in California, are picking up hotel tab for the teams, as well as providing tickets for family members that want to attend.
If it’s a success, expect another four teams to head west in 2003.
— Colby head coach Jim Tortorella
A pair of big series occurs this weekend, one in the East, where unbeaten Bowdoin (8-0-2) and Colby (7-0-2) travel to Williams (6-3-1) and third-ranked Middlebury (9-1), respectively. The Polar Bears and White Mules are tied for first with the Panthers, who have a game in hand on the other two.
These games will go a long way in determining the regular season champion in the NESCAC, as well as establishing a front-runner for one of the Pool “C” slots in the NCAA tournament.
“Two undefeated teams playing against one of the top-ranked teams in the country, as well as against a traditional NESCAC powerhouse. I expect the intensity level to be high,” said Colby head coach Jim Tortorella.
The White Mules are led in scoring by freshman Nick Bayley (17 points) and another rookie, Patrick Walsh, is fifth (10 points).
“Our freshmen are playing well,” said Tortorella. “They’ve really stepped up and complemented our veterans.”
Bowdoin’s main weapon is senior Mike Carosi, who leads his team and conference in scoring with 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists). Carosi was named USCHO Offensive Player of the Week for his 10-point performance in four games for the Polar Bears.
Middlebury will counter this weekend with netminder Christian Carlsson. The junior from Linkoping, Sweden, leads the nation in goals against average (1.41).
The Panthers will be favored on home ice, but it will be a tall order to knock off two undefeated teams in a single weekend.
Meanwhile, the big Western showdown is a two-game set between Wisconsin-Superior and St. Norbert. The Green Knights host the Yellowjackets for a pair of games, with the one on Friday night counted as an NCHA league game. The teams have already played one non-conference game back on Nov. 2 (6-2 St. Norbert win) and will play their second and final conference game on Jan. 26.
Like the NESCAC games, this series will help determine the NCHA frontunner, as well as the leading contender for an at-large bid. That’s important, because there are several teams that have the capability of winning the NCHA title.
“Things are wide open,” said Lake Forest head coach Tony Fritz. “Obviously you have to look at St. Norbert and UWS as the front runners, and River Falls is up there too.
“But I think anyone in the league is capable of beating anyone else”, he said. “The way things are going this season, anything can happen.”
RIT leads Division III (and all of college hockey for that matter) in power play percentage (45.9%) as well as penalty kill (8.5%). Special teams are a major reason the Tigers have lost just two NCAA games since the start of the 2000-2001 season.
Best of Both Worlds
Top-ranked and undefeated Norwich leads the nation in both team defense (1.5 goals allowed per game) and team offense (7.17 goals scored per game). Coming off a big 5-3 win over Plattsburgh on Tuesday, the Cadets have a realistic shot of running the table. Ahead by a huge eight point margin in the ECAC East standings, Norwich’s largest challenges will come from the NESCAC, where they still have to play Bowdoin, Colby and Middlebury, all on the road.
Maybe Foot Locker is Hiring
This week’s rant is picking on an easy target — officiating. I don’t mean to come off like Mark Cuban, but I witnessed a truly dismal job by the men in stripes while broadcasting the RIT at Cortland game on Tuesday.
Besides the usual things that make up a poorly officiated game — inconsistency in calls, “make-up” calls, “message” calls, etc…, there were three blown goal calls in a span of less than a minute late in the third period.
With RIT leading 6-3, Cortland head coach Tom Cranfield elected to gamble and pull his goaltender with more than four minutes to play. Shortly after, a Red Dragon player threw his stick at a puck headed toward the empty net. That’s an automatic goal with the goaltender pulled.
Nope. Play continued.
A few seconds later, a Cortland player dislodged his team’s net just as a puck was about to cross the goal line. That’s an automatic goal.
Nope. Whistle and face-off.
With goaltender John Larnerd back in goal, the Tigers scored; at least they put the puck in the net a good six inches past the goal line. With the referee out of position, Larnerd alertly swiped the puck out of the net.
Play on. Are you kidding me?
Don’t get me wrong. Officials often get an unfair rap. After all, nobody’s perfect, yet we expect refs to be. More often than not, hockey officials at this level do an outstanding job.
Just not this time.