What I Think: Week 10

Some random thoughts this week, while I read up on the Torpedo system:

* Bob Daniels for coach of the year? Sounds OK to me if we’re voting right now, which, of course, we’re not.

All credit to Tom Serratore at Bemidji State and Rand Pecknold at Quinnipiac, but Daniels, the Ferris State coach, has pulled the same number of wins out of his team (13) as those two other nontraditional candidates. And the Bulldogs finished seven games under .500 last season, compared to four games over for Bemidji and even .500 for the Bobcats.

Ferris State is emerging as one of the surprises of the first half of the college hockey season, even if the word is filtering out a little slower than with Bemidji and Quinnipiac. Some wondered whether, with its schedule, Ferris was worthy of a spot among the top teams in the country. But the Bulldogs just kept moving along, and getting a pair of ties at No. 1 Miami was an eye-opener for many.

I’m thinking we’ll get a pretty good read on the Bulldogs right after the break, when they play No. 8 Yale and either Merrimack or No. 11 Wisconsin in the Badger Hockey Showdown, then have series against Notre Dame, Miami and Michigan to open the second half of CCHA play.

* Of all the challenges that the Beavers faced in the first half of the season, it’s a home series against Minnesota State that puts them at least temporarily off the rails?

Maybe it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. The Mavericks now have won six straight against the Beavers.

But how would you like to chew on that pair of losses over the holiday break if you’re a Bemidji State player or coach? Talk about your lumps of coal.

* There were some built-in excuses at the ready for Wisconsin when it went to North Dakota last weekend. Goaltender Brett Bennett, who had been splitting time with Scott Gudmandson for most of the season, was out with a shoulder injury suffered in practice. Two skaters were out with injuries.

But the Badgers got out of Grand Forks with a win and a tie, and they’re going into their holiday break at No. 7 in the Ratings Percentage Index. I can’t say they’re the best team I’ve seen, but over the past few weeks, they’ve been pretty solid in all aspects of the game.

They should be right in the middle of things as we head into March, and if they’re not, that would be an extreme disappointment after what they’ve built so far.

* Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Notre Dame may have reached both levels this weekend.

Down four defensemen, Jeff Jackson turned to a style that appears to leave the defensive zone thinner but really just asks for more defensive coverage from forwards-turned-defensemen. It’s called the Tornado, a system popularized by Sweden in recent years, but one that may mean more to Notre Dame because of its potential for three-player defense and not the two “torpedo” forwards.

“When you have a chance to practice it, you get better,” Jackson said after Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Michigan, the Irish’s second game of the weekend with the system in place. “We only had two days to prepare because we thought (Ian) Cole might be back. It’s hard when you have kids playing back there that aren’t accustomed to being defensemen. It’s awkward on the breakout, awkward on the defensive zone coverage. I tried to move guys back there who are accustomed to playing down low in the defensive zone. I tried to use guys who could handle it.”

As long as the Irish get healthy, don’t expect to see a lot of it.

“I’m proud of the way we handled it,” Jackson said. “Hopefully we won’t see it again.”

Give Jackson and Notre Dame credit for thinking outside the box when things weren’t in their favor.

* I’m not real thrilled with how my ballot for the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll came out this week, but here it is:

1. Miami

2. Denver

3. Boston College

4. Colorado College

5. Ferris State

6. North Dakota

7. Quinnipiac

8. Bemidji State

9. Cornell

10. Wisconsin

11. Yale

12. Michigan State

13. Massachusetts-Lowell

14. Massachusetts

15. Minnesota-Duluth

16. New Hampshire

17. Vermont

18. Alaska

19. St. Cloud State

20. Notre Dame