College Hockey Recap: Week Two
By Andrew Weiss (@WeissFC)
Heading into the 2012-13 college hockey season, most followers believed it was apparent there were two programs head and shoulders above everyone else with Boston College and Minnesota atop all polls. After just two weeks of the season, it is apparent there are more than just two elite programs in college hockey. Miami, North Dakota, and Michigan all have made a case for attention amongst college hockey’s elite.
Below is a look at some of the story lines from the second week of the college hockey season, power rankings, and matchups to watch next weekend.
WCHA Elites Struggle
Last weekend saw Minnesota pick up two convincing wins and appear to be the clear cut top team in the nation. What a difference a week makes as the Gophers looked young and vulnerable splitting with a mediocre Michigan Tech team.
While this weekend was a disappointment for Gopher fans, at least it reinforced the team’s depth upfront. Seth Ambroz (Columbus 5th 2011) and the third line combined for three goals while captain Zach Budish (Nashville 2nd 2009) and the second line combined for another. The first line did have numerous chances to score, but Nick Bjugstad (Florida 1st 2011) was the only one to score.
Facing suspensions stemming from an off campus party, coach Dave Hakstol’s team opened their season with a split in the Alaska Gold Rush tournament. The team was able to beat WCHA foe Alaska Anchorage 5-0 on Friday, but lost to Alaska 1-2 to end the tournament Saturday. While the team missed top returning scorer Danny Kristo (Montreal 2nd 2008) for the entire weekend, Corban Knight (Florida 5th 2009) and Carter Rowney played in the loss against Alaska after serving a one game suspension in the team’s win Friday.
The team may get a pass by voters in the poll this weekend, but there will be no excuses as the team faces Alaska-Anchorage in a home rematch next weekend.
The Rise of the RedHawks
After their opening weekend sweep of Colgate, the RedHawks saw a jump up in the national polls up four spots to fourth in the USA TODAY/USA Hockey poll and USCHO’s poll. I had them up to sixth, but was reluctant to be sold on two wins over a middle-of-the-pack ECAC school. After watching the ‘Hawks closer this weekend against an underrated Providence team, I am sold they are one of the top teams in the nation.
Coach Rico Blasi’s team is off to the start they had hoped they were looking for last season and has had younger players fill the voids by summer departures. Sophomores Blake Coleman (New Jersey 2011 3rd) and Austin Czarnik have combined for more than half of the team’s goals through four games. Freshman Riley Barber (Washington 2012 6th) has made the transition to college hockey quite nicely and is tied with Coleman with a team best five points.
Barber is not the only freshman of note with the goaltending duo of Ryan McKay and Jay Williams replacing senior goaltenders Connor Knapp and Cody Reichard quite nicely. The two have a combined 1.21 goals against average and a .954 save percentage while each playing a game a weekend.
Weiss’ Top 10 Rankings
With more teams in action, my rankings have been expanded from a top five to a top 10 poll.
1. Boston College (Last Poll: 2)-The Eagles’ top line of Pat Mullane, Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary 2011 4th), and Steven Whitney looks to be the best line in all of college hockey. The Eagles are going to be tough to beat, but do have a tough schedule.
2. Minnesota (1)-With a young team there is bound to be growing pains. The nation will have to wait and see what this Gopher team is really about with an exhibition against the National Team Development Program’s U18 team and a game against Canisius next weekend.
3. Michigan (3)-After playing two soft opponents to open their season, we will see how good the Jon Merrill-less Wolverines are next weekend as they take on #5 Miami
4. North Dakota (4)-North Dakota will look to put rough opening weekend behind them as they face off with Alaska Anchorage for the second and third time in two weeks at home.
5. Miami (NR)-Redhawks look good as they head up to play #3 Michigan next weekend. Freshman goaltending duo will be tested.
6. Cornell (5)-Big Red continued their exhibitions with a win over the NTDP U18 team, but a tie against Canadian Brock University. Keep an eye on Cornell as Colorado College visits to open the season next weekend.
7. Denver (NR)-The Pioneers opened their season with a convincing 5-1 win over UMass-Lowell. Michigan Tech comes to visit next weekend.
8. Union (NR)-The Dutchmen were off this weekend and face two bottom feeder Atlantic Hockey schools with American International and Connecticut on the road.
9. Notre Dame (NR)-The Irish looked like two different teams on Thursday and Friday against Minnesota-Duluth. The team needs to find their identity as a tough schedule awaits them.
10. UMass-Lowell (NR)-After sputtering against #7 Denver, the River Hawks have a chance to make up lost ground with a good showing against #1 Boston College next weekend.
Week Three’s Top Matchups
#5 Miami @ #3 Michigan
Michigan’s top scoring offense will be tested against a very good defensive team in Miami. Miami has been getting the job done, but with only six players recording a goal through four games. This would be a good weekend for Sean Kuraly (San Jose 2011 5th) and Jimmy Mullin (Tampa Bay 2010 4th) to find the back of the net. Prediction: Michigan sweep
#1 Boston College v. #10 UMass-Lowell
This is a big weekend for UMass-Lowell as the team has not gotten off to the start they were looking for. The home-and-home is not just big Boston College as well with the team looking to prove they deserve the attention they are getting. The battle between Massachusetts’ top two teams will likely come down to UMass-Lowell’s ability to shut down the top line in the nation. Prediction: Weekend Split