Is it me or has most of the college hockey world been blindsided by the fact that New Hampshire has climbed to the number two spot in the PairWise Rankings? The Wildcats have quietly played well over the last couple of months and now are close to locking up a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
The UNH lineup is not filled with household names… at least not yet. The team’s most well-known player at this point might actually be rookie James van Riemsdyk, the number two overall pick in last summer’s NHL Entry Draft. He, though, has not been the cog behind this team.
In fact it’s difficult to point to any one player who has carried the Wildcat club. Senior goaltender Kevin Regan has posted a consistent 17-5-1 record with a solid .929 save percentage. Senior forwards Mike Radja and Matt Fornataro have both steady offensive players.
But the truth is that the entire UNH lineup, top-to-bottom, is dangerous. The club boasts 12 double-digit point scorers. it has two defenseman in Brad Flaishans and Crais Switzer who are solid defensively but can jump into the rush.
In essense, this is a pretty well-balanced team that could do well in the post-season. The only question lies in experience. The Wildcats have made the NCAA Tournament for the last three years but have posted just one win over that time, that coming over Harvard in 2005.
In other words, the current roster of Wildcat players have not proven they can take the next step. But experience means a lot and there are enough veteran players sprinkled with budding talent to be dangerous.
The first test comes this weekend against Boston College, which sits six points behind the Wildcats for the Hockey East top spot. A sweep could all but sew up the trophy for UNH. Being swept would turn that level of comfort upside down.
I have to tip the hat in a couple of directions this week for league that have stepped forward to state clearly that fighting will not have a place in the college game.
First off, Atlantic Hockey and its executive committee should be congratulated for upholding the suspensions issued to RIT in the wake of the massive line brawl the Tigers participated in against Canisius. The commissioner and director of officiating spent a signficant amount of time watching video to get the suspensions correct. And the executive committee’s ratification of the decision by denying RIT’s appeal sent a strong message of support for the league administration.
The WCHA also deserves recognition for issuing supplemental discipline after last Saturday’s North Dakota-Denver game. I have not seen tape of the fight that took place between J.P. Testwuide and Kyle Radke but I applaud the league for not simply sweeping the incident under the rug. It makes you wonder as a member of the media if all the complaining we (okay, I) do about fighting in college hockey is actually being heard. Likely it’s not, but at least I can think there’s a possibility.