Happy hockey new year! Maybe happier for some than others.
If your team cruised to victory in an exhibition game over the weekend, congratulations. The NCAA went 27-5-3 against Canadian Interuniversity Sport teams between Friday and Sunday. (Don’t worry, we didn’t overlook the U.S. Under-18 team’s win over Miami.)
Last year, four teams lost their opening weekend exhibition games (the NCAA went 36-4-3 against the CIS last October and 29-6-5 in 2012). Three out of those four went on to have winning records at the end of the season:
• Michigan lost to Waterloo (the same CIS squad that upended Notre Dame on Sunday) and went on to finish 18-13-4 but crucially missed the NCAA tournament.
• Mercyhurst lost to Guelph but went on to its fourth 20-win season in the last decade, finishing 21-13-7.
• Denver lost to New Brunswick but like clockwork returned to the NCAA tournament at season’s end, ending the year with a 20-16-6 record under first-year coach Jim Montgomery.
• The only team to have a losing season was Rochester Institute of Technology, which began the year with a loss to Queens. The Tigers wound up 12-20-5.
Two other teams tied McGill: Merrimack and Massachusetts-Lowell. The River Hawks, of course, blazed through Hockey East, winning the regular season title and conference tournament with a 26-11-4 final record. Merrimack was the polar opposite, struggling to an 8-22-3 record.
The moral of the story? Don’t read too much into the preseason. It’s the preseason for a reason.