Sixty minutes not enough at the top of the rankings
Ten games went to overtime over the past week. Of the top 12 teams in the Ratings Percentage Index, the Teams Under Consideration, nine played a contest that stretched beyond regulation.
Wisconsin, the team at the top of the PairWise Rankings, needed an extra minute to finish off it’s season sweep of Minnesota-Duluth, presently tied for tenth on that list. It was the first time in its history that the Madison club has recorded a clean four-game slate versus the five-time NCAA champions.
The new No. 2 of the PWR after a road sweep of Harvard and Dartmouth, Cornell, didn’t exactly dominate on the weekend. The Big Red posted a meager 14 shots on goal in winning 2-0 at Harvard, and they ran the skein out nearly as far as possible before tallying the only goal in Hanover, needing all but 59 seconds of the five-minute overtime to score with just nine seconds of power-play time remaining to vanquish the Big Green, ninth in the PWR. For its part, Dartmouth needed bonus hockey in back-to-back outings; Colgate extended DC to OT on Friday before falling by a 4-3 score.
Minnesota slipped to third in the latest PWR, coming back from two goals down for the first time in nearly four years for an emotional 3-2 win over Bemidji Sate on Friday, and then failing to maintain its own two-goal margin or a last-minute lead on Saturday in a 3-3 tie with the Beavers, the squad clinging to the bottom of the 12 rungs.
No. 5 Boston College and Northeastern, in a tie for seventh, opened their weeks by playing each other to a 1-1 draw on Tuesday. Each then went on to record a pair of wins over conference opponents on the weekend.
St. Lawrence, the other team in the deadlock at No. 10, moved up on the basis of a late 3-2 win at home over Clarkson and an overtime tie in the Golden Knights’ barn.
A pair of TUC schools that avoided overtime, Mercyhurst and Harvard, each suffered a loss on the weekend. The only entrant in the top 12 that had things all its own way was North Dakota, enjoying 10-0 and 9-0 laughers over St. Cloud State.
Nine other teams currently outside the PWR field also played beyond 60 minutes. Maine, like Dartmouth, competed in extended games twice during the week. The Black Bears have now gone to overtime 11 times on the campaign, producing a 3-2-6 mark in those contests.
The mysteries of the PairWise Rankings
The week saw Mercyhurst swap places in the PWR with Boston College, with the Lakers moving up to No. 4 while the Eagles dropped to No. 5. At first glance, that switch makes little sense, as BC went 2-0-1 for the week, defeating Providence and Connecticut after tying Northeastern, while Mercyhurst split a series with Robert Morris. However, the Lakers profited from a good week for St. Lawrence that made the Saints a TUC, allowing MC to claim that category of the comparison from the Eagles, as SLU was a common opponent of both teams, losing twice to the Lakers while defeating BC. The difference between fourth or fifth is huge, because the top four teams at the end of the season host an NCAA quarterfinal.
The first hints of increased parity
Close contests were in short supply at the Under-18 World Championships earlier this month. Despite a large number of lopsided scores, such as any time Canada or the United States took the ice versus an opponent from outside North America, there were some reasons for optimism.
Said Boston College freshman Alex Carpenter, a three-year veteran of the event, “I think the most improved team was probably Germany this year; they played very well. Even though the scores didn’t show it, they were a really hard opponent. I think that all these teams are starting to get up there. Switzerland was playing very well, Sweden and Finland both stepped up their games from the previous two years I’ve been there. So, I think that’s a good sign in women’s hockey in general.”