We all love the Cinderella story in sports. Heck, half the reason the NCAA men’s basketball tournament has such great ratings is due to upsets in the tournament’s opening rounds.
With that in mind, there seems to be an unusally high number of what I call “land mines” in college hockey this season. Land mines are “bottom of the barrel teams” that I believe can cause a major upset in the opening round of their league tournament. A good example of a land mine was the 2003-04 Boston University club that had a rough go of it in the regular season but managed to pull things together down the stretch, upset New Hampshire on the road on the final night of the season to make the playoffs and then knocked off top-seeded Boston College in the Hockey East tournament.
Looking around the nation, there seems to be a lot of these land mines ready to surprise:
Massachusetts-Lowell: Despite having a 20-game winless skid in the middle of the season, the River Hawks have rallied to go 4-0-1 in their last five games and sit on the doorstep of the Hockey East playoffs. Should the River Hawks be able to get into the post-season, consider them a very dangerous team.
Mercyhurst: Though a perrenial powerhouse, the Lakers are having an off year in Atlantic Hockey. Mercyhurst has won five of its last eight games after ending a 10-game winless streak. With Atlantic Hockey using a one-and-done playoff format, don’t be surprised to see a high seed bounced by the Lakers.
Ferris State: Another team having an uncharacteristcally off season, the Bulldogs have won five of six, including victory and overtime loss withÃ‚Â Michigan State and a two-game sweep of Ohio State.
Wisconsin: The fact that the Badgers are the defending national champs should say enough. Right now, though, Wisco could fall to as low as eighth in the league standings, despite being in the USCHO.com top 20. Imagine being a #3 seed who hosts the Badgers?
Brown: The Bears have just five conference wins all season but three of them came against top-four teams (Quinnipiac, Cornell, St. Lawrence). It would be a long shot seeing as the Bears would have to win two road playoff series to even make the final four, but with solid goaltending from rookie Dan Rosen (.925 save percentage this season), you never know.
The entire CHA: Seriously, in a five-team league, is there a such thing as an upset? At this point, as wide open as this league is, I wouldn’t be surprised to see last-place Wayne State win the championship.
So much of that thought…
The day before the Beanpot final, Boston Globe writer Jim McCabe wrote an excellent piece on the lack of scoring in college hockey. (Here’s the link if you want to read it)
Last weekend, it seemed that two eastern teams wanted to do everything in their power to prove false McCabe’s threories. BC and Maine combined for 18 goals in two games, including an absolutely wild 6-5 BC win on Friday night. If you like defense and goaltending, BC was not the place to be on Friday. Maine continuously rallied from deficits but evenutally fell a goal short.
What was most suprising was that the two goalies that played on Friday are thought of as some of the game’s best – Cory Schneider and Ben Bishop.
What was funny is that neither goaltender could be faulted for their performance. Actually, had both netminders had an off night you might have seen a 9-8 final score.
I guess when you ask the question, then, “Where have all the scorers gone?” you already have your answer.
To Notre Dame for clinching their first-ever CCHA title last weekend. I hope that I’m not the only one extremely impressed that the Irish not only won the title but did so in such a convincing way – clinching with two-plus weeks of regular season hockey still remaining. 20-win seasons are nice. 20 wins in conference play (particularly in the CCHA) is extremely impressive. Ã‚Â