As I stared at the legal pad on which I detail how the teams in last week’s USCHO.com/CBS College Sports poll fared last week, the debate in my head went something like this:
Point: Air Force has the best record in the country.
Counterpoint: Who have the Falcons played?
Point: They’re leading all the number-driven rankings like RPI and PairWise.
Counterpoint: Do those rankings matter in November and early December?
Point: They beat Colorado College, fairly convincingly.
Counterpoint: They then lost to Denver and only got a split of their first two games against those who probably will be considered teams under consideration.
Point: They had a 39-29 shots on goal advantage on Denver.
Counterpoint: That happens all the time.
Point: Air Force is a top-five team and should be ranked there.
Counterpoint: Air Force showed it’s a top-10 team, and let’s stop before we get ahead of ourselves.
So as I typed the e-mail that sent in my rankings, I put the Falcons at No. 10. I felt bad about not giving them enough credit for beating Colorado College, but then I didn’t feel bad because they could have made an even bigger statement by following it up with a win at Denver.
This is how the poll usually works, at least the way I see it. You move up for good wins. You move down for losses — maybe a little less for losses to good teams.
I am convinced that Air Force is one of the best teams in the country. I am not convinced, however, that we’ll ever get an answer to one of the biggest questions that exists in my mind: How would the Falcons do playing a WCHA, Hockey East or CCHA schedule?
You play the hand that you’re dealt, so there is no fault assigned to Frank Serratore or his players. From all appearances, it looks like they’re a skilled group with the kind of moxie it takes to win a bunch of games.
But we’ve seen that mostly against a collection of teams that won’t come close to sniffing the teams under consideration criteria. My guess — the best that I’m able to offer — is that they wouldn’t be 13-1 if their schedule had a few more games against Miami, Notre Dame, Michigan, Boston College, Boston University, Minnesota and the like.
The Falcons have, for the most part, hammered their Atlantic Hockey foes. A good team should.
Atlantic Hockey has the worst record against the other five conferences. It’s 2-2 against the CHA, 5-8-1 against the ECACHL, 2-9 against the CCHA, 1-5 against the WCHA and 0-5-1 against Hockey East for a 10-29-2 non-conference record.
Maybe it’s unfair for Air Force to pay for the rest of the league’s shortcomings. But in the world of subjective rankings, that’s one of the factors.