Tuesday Morning Quarterback: Recapping the Big Chill

Jim: Well, Todd, another weekend and another outdoor game. Though I have to admit, though we said these outdoor games are wearing out their welcome, the Big Chill at the Big House seems like it was really something special. The crowd of 113,411 not only set a record for college hockey — or any hockey game for that matter — it also set a record for the largest crowd to ever witness an NCAA sporting event. Everyone involved had to be happy with every number (except maybe the 5-0 final, though Michigan fans aren’t complaining). So with all now said and done, was this event a success in your eyes?

Todd: I think you’d have to say it was a success in what it was. I’ll still say it’s a gimmick, and so in that respect, absolutely, it was a tremendous success. But for all the people who attended or watched on TV, I still have my doubts as to how many new college hockey fans we have this week. Maybe that shouldn’t be the end goal, but let’s not expect this game to move mountains.

Jim: I have to agree. I think an event like this one got the game of college hockey national exposure it would not have gotten otherwise, and for that I think it’s a positive. I know that Connecticut will be a playing an outdoor game later this season and with an event like that, I don’t see the point. It won’t garner anything like a game at the Big House or Fenway Park, from last season, did. And it’s an overall expense to the school. If these events came around once every four to five years, I think that’s fun and a positive. If they come around once every four to five months, they’re now a bit over the top.

Todd: And I can’t help but notice that Michigan has now played three outdoor games in 10 seasons. Michigan State has played in two. Wisconsin has played in two in the last six seasons. I hope I’ve seen the last mention of a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience.

Jim: Yes, agreed. Those words should never be uttered again in such a setting. Aside from the Big Chill, some other pretty meaningful college hockey games to talk about. Most notably was probably a game in my neck of the woods between Maine and New Hampshire. UNH pulled victory from the jaws of defeat, literally, scoring two third-period goals including one with the extra attacker to tie the game, and then won it in overtime. I have to admit, this is a team that get the “W” no matter what it takes. The Wildcats’ next game is against an ECAC team in St. Lawrence but, I must selfishly admit, I wish it could be against Yale so we could tell which team stands out as more legit.

Todd: That was a surprising result, given that Maine isn’t prone to losing too many third-period leads — that was their first of the season. But those are the kinds of games that teams can look back on as building blocks, and I think New Hampshire again showed that it’s not just a middle-of-the-pack team. A rally of that caliber on the road is something noteworthy.

I’d take that game against Yale, too. That brings me to a related topic. I can understand questioning the legitimacy of the human polls when it comes to which team is No. 1. But when a team like Yale is ranked first in the polls, the RPI, the PairWise Rankings and KRACH (for entertainment purposes only; it carries no actual value), don’t you think it’s time to give that team some credit? I’ve seen a lot of talk about Yale’s supposedly inferior schedule, but the numbers add up, especially when a team is 11-1.

Jim: I think now that USCHO.com has released all of its rankings, a stake has been aptly placed in the ground to defend the Bulldogs. Though any 11-1 team will rank high in any poll, the computerized rankings are what will be used come season’s end, so it’s a strong testament to be the top team in both PWR and RPI.

I’m a big fan of this team right now. Just because the Yale program doesn’t have a history of success doesn’t mean that it doesn’t deserve recognition when it actually achieves success.

Todd: While we’re talking about the polls, it’s noteworthy that North Dakota has climbed back up to No. 3 in the USCHO.com poll. In recent seasons, the Sioux have been pretty average at the holiday break — 9-6-3 last year, 9-8-1 in 2008, 8-6-1 in 2007, etc. — but this season has gone a little differently. They’re 13-5-2 overall, 11-3 in the WCHA and have played a pretty tough schedule (toughest in the nation by the RPI). Matt Frattin has been a big part of what North Dakota has done this season, and I think you have to consider him a Hobey Baker Award candidate.

I guess I’m a little surprised to be saying all that, considering both the Sioux’s first-half history and how average it looked in being swept at Maine early in the season.

Jim: I agree that the Sioux have fared well in the first half. Their weekend against Maine proved to be an aberration, something that is likely music to the ear of Dave Hakstol. North Dakota’s story is one that I think many thought that Minnesota-Duluth would be telling at this point. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they’ve hit a rut heading into break. Despite being outscored by just a single goal, Duluth is just 1-2-1 in its last four. Has the time come where being on the right side of the one-goal game has dissipated?

Todd: How fortunate for us that the Sioux and the Bulldogs return from the holiday break with a game against each other on Dec. 30, the opener of Amsoil Arena in Duluth. Maybe we’ll know more then. Things are winding down before the holiday break, but what stands out to you about this week’s schedule?

Jim: Well, this is a thin weekend of games, but the Canisius-Rochester Institute of Technology matchup resurrects a great upstate New York rivalry. With Canisius putting together a better-than-average campaign, this could be a great game to watch. How about you?

Todd: Back in the top 20, Colorado College hosts Nebraska-Omaha in the only conference series in either the WCHA or the CCHA this weekend. We’ll see if CC’s recent run holds, or if UNO can build on last week’s sweep of Michigan Tech.

Happy holidays to all from everyone at USCHO! We’ll be back with Tuesday Morning Quarterback in the new year, but we’ll have plenty of content in the meantime, including coverage from the holiday tournaments and the World Junior Championship.