A New #1?

Though the USCHO.com poll is still a few hours away from being released, it seems apparent that a new number one is eminent. After Minnesota’s sweep at the hands of North Dakota, New Hampshire, which won its only game of the weekend against Providence on Saturday, is the likely candidate to take over the number one slot in the poll.

While that’s certainly good news for the Wildcat faithful in Durham, folks in the Twin Cities may be left scratching their heads this morning wondering what has happened to this Gophers team that just three weeks ago was in the midst of was in the midst of a 22-game unbeaten streak.

Since losing to Wisconsin on January 12 Minnesota is 2-4-0. The offense that was clicking at a 4.23 goals per game rate up until that point has managed just 13 goals over the six games (or 2.5 goals per game).

While some may be sounding the alarm in Minneapolis, head coach Don Lucia seems to think if his team’s luck turns around, so to will the results.

“When things are not going your way, your puck luck, unlucky things seem to multiply,” Lucia told USCHO.com after his team’s loss on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the about-to-be-number-one Wildcats seem to be steamrolling heading into this weekend’s all-important two-game series with Maine. UNH’s 2-1 win was only the third one-goal win this season for the Granite State’s club. UNH holds nearly a 2-1 scoring margin over their opponents this season (97 goals for to 47 goals against).

A Dream Come True

As thousands of fans in their yellow and blue t-shirts crowded their way into the new TD Banknorth Sports Complex on the campus of Quinnipiac University on Sunday afternoon for the Bobcats’ inaugural game in the new barn, athletic director Jack McDonald’s vision finally has become a reality.

McDonald, who also served as athletic director at the University of Denver as that program began its ascent back to prominence in the WCHA in the mid-90s, dreamed of building a successful program at the small private college in Hamden, Conn. After having relative success in the MAAC and Atlantic Hockey, including a trip to the NCAA tournament in 2002, the school’s move to the ECACHL last season signaled the first step towards becoming on par with many of the nation’s recognizable names like Cornell, Harvard and Boston College.

This year, Quinnipiac’s men’s team had shocked many and entering this past weekend were even sitting atop the ECACHL standings (because they didn’t play any league games, St. Lawrence was able to catapult the Bobcats).

But regardless of on ice success, the ultimate sign of “We’ve arrived” though still rested in Quinnipiac’s building. The Northford Ice Pavilion was a suitable venue for QU’s Atlantic Hockey says, but to move from the mid-major to national contender, Quinnipiac needed a new rink.

On Sunday that became a reality. An impressive sellout crowd of 3,286 fans packed the brand new facility and the Bobcats responded on the ice with a 7-0 victory.

So hats off to Quinnipiac, McDonald and head coach Rand Pecknold, who has been at the helm of the program since its elevation to Division I in 1998. There’s nothing like seeing a dream come true.

Seeing Green

Of the top of your head: Which two teams in the nation own the longest current winning streak? Here’s a hint, there colors are very similar.

Green, indeed, is the color of choice these days as North Dakota and Michigan State are both riding modest five-game winning streaks. The Sioux take things one step further and own a nation’s-best seven-game unbeaten streak (6-0-1).

In a way, the two clubs have had very similar seasons. The Sioux have three times put together losing streaks of three games or longer. Michigan State has its own three-game losing streak in November that was part of a bigger skid that saw just three wins in a ten-game span.

But both clubs seem to be heading in the right direction coming down the stretch, a good sign given the ground they both need to make up. Michigan State currently sits in fourth place in the CCHA standings, seven points behind first-place Notre Dame. North Dakota has a tougher road to hoe, residing in fifth place in the WCHA standings, nine whole points behind Minnesota (and that after sweeping the Gophers this past weekend).

It might be a better idea for each club to set their sights on moving up rather than winning the league title. North Dakota is six points behind second-place St. Cloud State, while Michigan State is in even better shape, four points behind second-place Miami.

Atlantic Hobey

Many college hockey purists have argued that college hockey’s two newest conferences – Atlantic Hockey and College Hockey America – don’t deserve automatic NCAA tournament berths. Last year, Holy Cross made many eat their words knocking off top-seeded Minnesota in the tournament’s opening round.

Imagine, though, how those same purists might feel come April when there’s a very solid chance that Atlantic Hockey might produce this year’s Hobey Baker Award winner.

Eric Ehn, the standout junior forward at Air Force, currently is tied for the national lead in scoring with 46 points. He may not have the flash of Hobey winners past but, as was discussed over email with many of my USCHO colleagues last week, Ehn – as does all of his Air Force teammates and those at fellow military academy Army - certainly possesses one of the key criteria for the Hobey Baker award: character.

From the hobeybaker.com Web site, below is the requisite criteria:

1. Candidates must exhibit strength of character both on and off the ice.   

2. Candidates must contribute to the integrity of the team and display outstanding skills in all phases of the game.  

3. Consideration should be given to scholastic achievement and sportsmanship.   

4. Candidates must comply with all NCAA rules: be full time students in an accredited NCAA college or university; and complete 50% or more of the season.

If these criteria are listed in any particular order and we can assume character is the number one criterion, it goes without saying that Ehn deserves the utmost in consideration for the award.

Now, it will once again be time for the hockey world to back its words with action. I’m sure we’ll hear gripes that Ehn doesn’t deserve the award because he plays in what many still consider a “sub-par” conference. But nowhere in the criteria does it say that the Hobey Baker award winner need play for a national powerhouse.

Between now and April, I’m sure there will be plenty of debate on this topic. The one thing I can tell you is that if I were a Hobey voter, Ehn would certainly get my vote!


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