Monday 10: Taking a look back on top moments from first half of 2019-20 season

AMHERST, MA - NOVEMBER 22: Mitchell Chaffee #21 of the Massachusetts Minutemen. The UMass Minutemen play the Merrimack College Warriors during NCAA men's hockey at the Mullins Center on November 22, 2019 in Amherst, Massachusetts. The game ended in a 2-2 tie. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/USCHO) (Rich Gagnon)
Mitchell Chaffee has recorded 12 goals among 22 points this season for UMass (photo: Rich Gagnon).

Not as much happens in college hockey over the holidays, or at least that’s the general idea.

With that in mind, whereas the Monday 10 typically addresses the top talking points from the weekend just gone, I’d like to point out some of the things that have stood out to me from the first half of the season.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and it’s no particular order, so feel free to add your favorite moments from the first half in the comments section below.

1. North Dakota’s return to prominence

It’s fair to say a lot of eyes were on North Dakota in the first half of the season after the Fighting Hawks missed out on the last two NCAA tournaments, but boy, have the Hawks figured it out.

UND (14-1-2) is first in the PairWise Rankings, and the Hawks’ only blemishes, if you can call them that, were a loss and tie in mid-October at Minnesota State, which almost never loses at home (more on the Mavericks in a bit).

Junior forward Jordan Kawaguchi is a legitimate Hobey Baker contender, and sophomore goalie Adam Scheel has a .927 save percentage through 17 games. Those and several others are names to watch from UND as we move into 2020.

2. Cornell starts out hot

You should never be surprised to see Cornell do well, and the Big Red are riding high again this season.

Second in the PairWise, Cornell (10-1) is fresh off its only loss of the season to date on Dec. 7 at Dartmouth, but the Big Red opened on a 12-game winning streak, if you include their two exhibition games.

What I like most about Cornell so far is how the Big Red have spread out their scoring. Only two players in Morgan Barron and Brenden Locke have double-digit points, but none have reached 10 goals yet and all but five Cornell players who have seen playing time thus far have scored. Somewhere in the cookbook of recipes for success is an ability to get scoring from all over the lineup.

3. Minnesota State carrying the WCHA flag again

Mike Hastings’ Mavericks (15-2-1) have spent some time at No. 1 so far this season, but don’t worry about them being third in the PairWise.

MSU is dynamite at home (8-1-1 so far), and while only seven points separate the Mavericks from fifth-place Bowling Green in the WCHA standings, MSU will be expected by many to stay at the top of that tree.

The Mavs aren’t far removed from reeling off 10 consecutive wins, and they have players like Marc Michaelis (10 goals, 12 assists in 18 games) who are very fun to watch. I like them to grab a No. 1 regional seed for the NCAAs, but there’s a lot of hockey left to be played before then.

4. UMass stays strong

Now without last year’s Hobey Baker winner in Cole Makar, Massachusetts remains a force to be reckoned with in Hockey East.

The Minutemen (12-4-1) are 6-1-1 in their last eight, and junior forward Mitchell Chaffee is enjoying a particularly good season with 12 goals and 10 assists. Goalies Filip Lindberg and Matt Murray have largely split time, and both have save percentages above .925.

UMass was terrific last season in going 31-10 and reaching the national title game. Could the Minutemen do it again? Really, would you put it past them?

5. Providence leads Hockey East but has work to do

It’s odd that while Providence leads Hockey East, albeit by one point over Massachusetts, UMass Lowell and Northeastern, the Friars are 13th in the PairWise.

It does make sense, though. Providence (9-5-3) had a somewhat stop-start first half of the season, and the Friars are yet to go on a winning streak longer than three games.

They have won three of their last four, though, and they don’t play a ranked opponent again until Jan. 31 when the Friars visit Northeastern. Of course, the Hockey East table could look quite different by then, too.

6. Big Ten’s big eastern presence

Two Big Ten schools are in the top 10 of the PairWise, and both are well within the Eastern time zone.

No. 6 Penn State and No. 8 Ohio State both enjoyed very respectable starts to the first half of the season. Penn State (13-6) has lost three of its last five games but played UMass Lowell, Michigan and Notre Dame in that stretch. Ohio State (10-4-2) is officially unbeaten in its last five, discounting a 3-on-3 overtime goal for Minnesota last time out on Dec. 7.

Keep an eye out for the logjam near the top of the Big Ten standings, though. Penn State is six points clear, but Ohio State is tied on points with Michigan State (19) and Notre Dame is only one point behind those two. Yet, if the NCAA tournament started today, Notre Dame and Michigan State would be just barely on the outside looking in.

7. Clarkson making its presence known

Back to ECAC Hockey we go, and check out Clarkson, which could well be on its way to a third straight NCAA tournament appearance.

It’s tight at the top of the ECAC, with three points separating first-place Cornell from Colgate in fourth, but second-place Clarkson (12-3-2) is handling its business well. The Golden Knights are unbeaten in six, and they already have two 20-point producers in senior forwards Devin Brosseau and Haralds Egle.

Another senior, Frank Marotte, is giving Clarkson very good goaltending with a .939 save percentage and 1.74 goals-against average. It’ll be exciting to see if he and his teammates keep their form up.

8. Tight at the top in Atlantic Hockey

Fair or not, what generally happens come the postseason is that the Atlantic Hockey playoff champion becomes the de facto No. 16 seed for the NCAA tournament. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing – you may remember American International’s run from last season – but who will get that spot this time?

Right now, who knows?

Army, Sacred Heart are tightly bunched up at the top of the AHA standings, with two points separating Sacred Heart from first-place Army. AIC isn’t out the picture, and while the Jackets are seven points back from Army, after AIC upset the national No. 1 seed last year, we know better than to overlook the Jackets or whoever represents that conference at the NCAAs.

9. Arizona State as the Energizer Bunny

OK, I kinda lied when I said I wouldn’t talk about last weekend. Kinda. Arizona State played a Saturday-Sunday series at Omaha, but it was the only action going on in Division I men’s college hockey last week.

What Arizona State is doing right now is pretty ambitious. The No. 16 Sun Devils were off on the third weekend of November, but that’s their last break of the season. They play Harvard later this week in California to close the 2019 portion of their schedule and then get right back to it Jan. 4-5 at home against Michigan Tech.

This has been a solid season thus far for ASU (11-6-2), 11th in the PairWise. The Sun Devils have a favorable schedule the rest of the way, too, but will going so long without another bye week come back to haunt them? We’ll see.

10. Humboldt crash survivor thriving in Anchorage

Not wanting to steal anyone’s thunder, I’ll make this one short. I highly recommend that you check out Daver Karnosky’s column from a few weeks ago focusing on Alaska Anchorage freshman forward Brayden Camrud, a survivor of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team’s bus crash in April of 2018.

Sixteen people died in a crash involving the team’s bus and a semi-truck. Thirteen more were injured in the incident.

It’s a heartbreaking story, but you root for families of the victims as well as the survivors. Camrud is one of the fortunate ones, but he’s making the most of his time these days.