Some random (and not-so-random) thoughts after the 15th week of the season:
* You’ve got to think there’s at least a bit of panic at Quinnipiac. A team that finished November with a 12-1 record has fallen on hard times — big time.
In December and so far in January, the Bobcats are 1-8-1. They started December ranked fourth in the country — gaining seven first-place votes in the Nov. 30 poll, even — and making talk of an at-large NCAA bid, premature as it was, seem reasonable.
Now they’re not even listed in the PairWise Rankings because they’ve fallen to 28th in the RPI.
A record like 13-9-1 is still decent, but not when you started 12-1 and not when your schedule is the 45th toughest in the country.
It’s not the whole picture, but the Quinnipiac offense is an easy target for finger-pointing. The Bobcats hadn’t scored fewer than three goals in any game through November. But since, they’ve scored only one goal in six of 10 games.
What’s worse, the Bobcats are just 7-6 in conference and in fourth place, with everyone else holding games in hand.
Crazy how fast an outlook turns from sunny to cloudy.
* There are less than 10 weeks until we know which 16 teams will make the NCAA tournament, and I don’t think it’s too late for Minnesota to make a run up the PairWise.
The Gophers have already pulled back six games from that awful start — going from four games under .500 at the start of play Dec. 5 to two games over today — and returned to .500 in the WCHA with a three-point weekend against North Dakota.
And with the PairWise-rich WCHA providing plenty of opportunities to beat quality teams — the Gophers have series remaining against St. Cloud State (sixth in the PWR), Denver (tied for first), Colorado College (tied for 10th), Minnesota-Duluth (third) and Wisconsin (tied for fourth) — there’s a pretty clear path here where Minnesota can improve not only its seventh-place standing but its 23rd spot in the PairWise.
I would be hesitant in saying that if not for the on-ice improvement the Gophers have shown lately. Going nine games with only one loss is a big step up for them, but it only begins to undo the mess they made themselves.
* Here’s how I voted in this week’s USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll:
5. Ferris State
6. St. Cloud State
7. Boston College
8. Colorado College
10. North Dakota
11. Michigan State
12. Bemidji State
17. New Hampshire
18, Lake Superior State