Black Bears New No. 1 Team

While Maine captured the top spot in this week’s Division I Men’s Poll by a comfortable margin, earning nearly 40 points over the nearest competitor and getting 25 first-place nods, voting was extremely close for many of the remaining spots.

At the top of the poll, No. 2 Colorado College and No. 3 North Dakota finished separated by just two points, 544 to 542. In addition, just four points lay between No. 8 Boston College, with 304 points, and No. 9 Ohio State, with 300. No. 14 St. Cloud State pursued No. 13 Harvard by only seven points, and No. 15 Massachusetts (51 points) squeezed in this week’s poll just two points ahead of Miami (49), which was the first and most notable among the teams in the receiving votes category.

Top rated Maine enjoyed a two game sweep over conference foe Northeastern and second-place Colorado College was idle, but possibly the closest watched series took place in Minneapolis, as Minnesota hosted North Dakota in a battle of Midwest rivals as well as a barometer of things to come in the second half of the college hockey season. North Dakota managed a 4-2 win on Friday before dropping a 6-3 decision in the follow-up on Saturday. It was just the second loss for North Dakota this season, and snapped a school-record 16 game undefeated streak. Minnesota correspondingly climbed one place in the poll from last week, and North Dakota fell two spots to No. 3.

Appearing in the poll this week is St. Cloud State, which split a weekend series with No. 7 Denver. Despite a mediocre 9-8-3 record, the Huskies sport an impressive three wins and two ties in their last six games, all against teams in the top seven in this week’s poll.

Next week is dominated by premiere match-ups in Hockey East, as Beantown rivals No. 8 Boston College and No. 12 Boston University play a home-and-home series on Thursday and Friday, and renew what is one of the most spirited rivalries in college sports. But a series not to be overlooked features upstart Massachusetts, ranked No. 15 the last two weeks, and consistent No. 5 New Hampshire. The Minutemen are enjoying a surprising season that has already seen wins over both the traditional Boston powerhouse schools, and are hungry for more.

In one of the only east vs. west match-ups of the weekend, Providence travels to St. Cloud for a pair of games. Providence has two wins over ranked teams, No. 1 Maine and No. 12 Boston University, since January 1st and has started receiving votes this week, while St. Cloud will be looking to solidify its position in the poll, its first appearance since November 11, 2002.

The Poll is compiled by U.S. College Hockey Online, and consists of 40 voters, including 28 coaches from the Division I conferences and 12 beat writers from across the country. The poll is published weekly by the Associated Press.