What to Watch: Changing Rivalries

We start with three matchups that once would have been marquee games for not only the week, but the whole season. Teams rise, others fall, and on paper, these pairings aren’t what they used to be. But it doesn’t mean they still can’t surprise us and produce some drama.

New Hampshire at No. 2 Boston College, Friday, 2 p.m. EST, and Boston College at New Hampshire, Saturday, 3 p.m. EST
For years, New Hampshire was the established power and Boston College was just another punching bag. In the early years of Hockey East, UNH was the team to beat, while BC vied with teams like Providence to be the best of the rest. UNH peaked in the 2007-08 season, Boston College rose to fill the void, but as their roles were reversing, they played some pivotal games along the way. Then the Wildcats were reduced to getting one upset of BC a year; now, they’d be very happy with that. They still dominate the all-time series with a record of 38-16-5. The Eagles won by six goals last month.

No. 1 Wisconsin at Minnesota-Duluth, Friday and Saturday, 3:07 p.m. CST
Wisconsin and Minnesota-Duluth met in the Frozen Four Championship game in back-to-back seasons in 2007 and 2008, each winning once. They’ve also faced off in an NCAA semifinal (2009) and quarterfinal (2011), with the Badgers coming out on top both times. They lead the all-time series with a 29-33-12 mark. That didn’t used to be the case; the Bulldogs have gone winless in the last 10 meetings and saw their head-to-head advantage slip away. As recently as three years ago, UW traveled to Duluth and went scoreless on the weekend. These days, it’s the Badgers’ opponents who never score.

New Hampshire at No. 9 Harvard, Wednesday, 7 p.m. EST
Here’s another trip that the Wildcats used to take with more confidence, or at least more reason to be confident. Perhaps in this case, the Crimson haven’t yet hit their top stride despite sitting atop the ECAC. This duo met for a national championship in 1999, and Harvard took a 6-5 decision in overtime. UNH earned the victory in their only NCAA tournament clash in a 2006 quarterfinal. In 2007-08, the Wildcats handed Harvard its only regular-season loss. Although the teams have played every year since then, New Hampshire’s last win in the series came in February 2009 in OT at Harvard.

Those rivalries appear to be on a downswing, but luckily, there are others where interest looks to be on the rise.

No. 10 Princeton at No. 8 Quinnipiac, Friday, 3 p.m. EST, and Quinnipiac at Princeton, Saturday, 3 p.m. EST
Being ECAC travel partners seems to up the ante in many cases. Here, the standings are a bigger factor. Both have winning records four games into the league campaign, and a sweep, or at least a series win, would go a long way toward establishing either as a major player in the weeks ahead. The Bobcats took all four meetings last year, including shutting Princeton out in both games of an ECAC quarterfinal.

No. 5 Bemidji State at No. 3 Minnesota, Friday, 7:07 p.m. CST, and Saturday, 4:07 p.m. CST
Normally, one wouldn’t expect much from a series where one team wins 10 times as often as the other. The Gophers are 60-6-7 against the team from the northern part of the state. Given two of those Bemidji State wins came last year and four were in the last four years, fortunes appear to be shifting. Of course, the Beavers wear green, just like the last seven opponents to defeat Minnesota.

Colgate at Cornell, Tuesday, 7 p.m. EST
More ECAC travel partner action, this time for a couple of New York teams. It could ultimately prove to be nothing more than that, but right now these two are part of a three-way tie for eighth place in a league where only eight teams make the postseason. Colgate’s only forays into the playoffs in this decade have ended in sweeps at the hands of the Big Red.

Syracuse at RIT, Wednesday, 7 p.m. EST
Another all New York, in-conference rivalry. This one got a little spice added to it a year ago when the Tigers took the league’s first-ever automatic bid to the national tournament in overtime at the expense of the Orange. Syracuse got a small measure of payback with a 7-1 win last month.