What I Think: Week 19

Some random (and not-so-random) thoughts after the 19th week of the college hockey season:

* I didn’t think I’d ever have to invest this much thought into Minnesota’s future; it always seemed fairly solid. But when the Gophers’ present is as muddy as it is now, you can’t help but think about what’s ahead.

After dropping a pair of games at WCHA-leading Denver this weekend, the Gophers are 13-15-2 overall, in seventh place in the league at 8-12-2 (and seven points out of a home-ice playoff spot) and barely in the upper half of the nation in the RPI (27th). Don’t bother trying to find them in the PairWise — and I’ve been wondering how long it has been since that was the case this late in a season. Even in the years they haven’t made the tournament, they’ve usually been hanging around, anyway.

So this is where it gets ugly, right?

Our colleague at Inside College Hockey, Jess Myers, reported early this month that Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi said coach Don Lucia will return next season “unless he chooses not to.” That should quiet things a little about Lucia’s future, but, really, who are we kidding? There’s no stopping to the questions and the speculation.

But let’s look ahead a little bit. Lucia’s contract expires after the 2012 season, but, given the nature of recruiting, it’s tough to imagine a coach actually working into the last season of his contract. That’s a big target for other schools in the negative recruiting game, and it’s tough to put a program in a position where it’s losing recruits because of valid questions about the coaching staff.

With that in mind, Minnesota and Lucia are looking at an action year in terms of the coach’s contract next season. It’s going to have to be a good 2010-11 season for the Gophers to have the administration’s hand not be forced.

* Is there a team this season having a good season in a quieter fashion than Colorado College?

Yeah, the Tigers got attention early because they were doing a lot better than expected, but there hasn’t been a whole lot of noise out of the Springs since. There they are, though, hanging onto a top-five spot in the WCHA and in position for a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.

* Not only is Minnesota not listed in the PairWise Rankings, now Michigan is out, too. That combination has to be incredibly rare.

* Notice who’s starting to make its way into the NCAA picture?

I knew it was a bad idea to put Boston University on the back burner.

The Terriers went into the break five games under .500 both overall and in Hockey East, flirting with missing the playoffs altogether. Now, they’re one game above in both categories and in decent shape to have home ice in the first round.

It looks like the defending champs will be a factor down the stretch after all.

* Here’s how I voted in this week’s poll:

1. Miami

2. Denver

3. Wisconsin

4. St. Cloud State

5. Colorado College

6. Boston College

7. Bemidji State

8. Minnesota-Duluth

9. New Hampshire

10. Yale

11. North Dakota

12. Ferris State

13. Michigan State

14. Maine

15. Cornell

16. Vermont

17. Northeastern

18. Union

19. Massachusetts

20. Northern Michigan