I want to begin this rendition of power rankings the same way I began the last two: bagging on Wisconsin hockey.
Why? Because it’s funny. And this is a story that probably none of you know about.
Background: I grew up playing hockey in Las Vegas. I think I first started getting into it because one of the doctors my dad worked with was from Wisconsin or Minnesota or something, but his kids played. So they got me on the travel team they were on.
Well when I first started playing, I was bad. Like, really bad. When everyone was doing drills, one of the assistants had to pull me aside to teach me how to stop. I eventually got pretty good, but that’s not the point of this story.
This doctor, all three of his sons were really good. The oldest, Ross, was one of my good friends at that age. And he was quite good. Well, when I was 10 or 11, they moved back to Wisconsin, because the dad got a job offer there and they could be in a better hockey climate or something like that.
Well it worked. Ross ended up playing in the NAHL and now plays Division III at St. Norbert College.
Why is this backstory relevant? Well, last weekend, St. Norbert College played Wisconsin in a “closed-door” scrimmage. The teams tied 3-3. Yes, we’re at the point where Wisconsin can’t even beat a DIII team.
Granted, St. Norbert won the DIII National Title last year, so they’d honestly probably be the seventh or eighth best team in the WCHA. But still, that’s funny. Now that you’ve learned this about me and my past, let’s get into what you all came here for.
1. Michigan Tech (LW: 2): Mark your calendars: Oct. 29, 2014 is the first time in the year-plus of these rankings that a team other than Ferris State or Minnesota State ranked first. And it’s well-deserved too.
I ragged on Tech a lot last year because they didn’t have much offense outside of Alex Petan. Well, they only scored three times this weekend (because C.J. Motte is a cyborg or something, but we’ll get to that in a minute). As it turns out, Jamie Phillips is a pretty good goalie too. The Winnipeg draft pick stopped 67 of 68 shots this weekend, and through four games has a 1.25 goals-against average and a .954 save percent. Yeah, that’s a small sample size but man is that impressive.
And ya know, to this point they have five guys averaging a point per game (only four games, since they’ve yet to venture into nonconference play). It’s still early, yeah. But don’t sleep on these guys.
2. Ferris State (LW: 1): It might be a bit erroneous for me to say “holy crap Ferris is kind of in trouble,” but that’s not an entirely inaccurate statement.
So the Bulldogs started the year with a good win against Michigan. That’s good right? Well since then it hasn’t been. They beat Wilfred-Laurier in an exhibition, but only 4-1, beat St. Lawrence 3-2 and now have lost three straight games. You see, at minus two, their goal differential isn’t terrible for a 2-3 squad, but if Motte wasn’t the next rendition of the Terminator sent here to decimate mankind, they’d be up the creek without a paddle. Motte, by the way, has a 2.02 GAA and .943 save percent in five games.
But remember how I just pointed out Tech has five guys with a point per game? Ferris has five guys … with multiple points. That’s it. Only five players on this Bulldogs team have more than one point in five games. That’s not good. If they don’t get that figured out fast they are going to be in trouble.
3. Bowling Green (LW: 3): We kind of digested BG against Clarkson on Monday, so no need to do so again here. Bergeron said today that Tomas Sholl will start Friday, but Saturday’s starter is still TBD. They’ll get a good test against the next team in the rankings coming up this weekend.
4. Minnesota State (LW: 4): See, I said last week “don’t be surprised if UAH steals one,” and naturally, UAH scored two goals on the weekend.
Offensively, the Mavs are fine. At 21 goals for in six games, they’re better than fine. But at 19 goals against, they’re not. And that number comes after the weekend where they allowed two goals in two games. Cole Huggins found himself parked for both games this weekend. Whether or not we see him this weekend probably depends how Stephon Williams plays in game one. Williams started both last weekend against UAH, but pardon me if I don’t put a ton of stock into those performances.
Now that I think about it, unless Williams either, A). Suffers an injury Friday or, B). Completely chokes on himself Friday, I doubt we see Huggins at all. A series against UAH and their noted offensive struggles would be the perfect remedy for a struggling goaltender (I mean, they had 9 shots Saturday). Not playing him and trying to get him on track kind of suggests, to me at least, that they don’t have confidence in him or he’s struggling to find confidence in himself. Yes, I’m now an amateur psychologist. Deal with it.
Oh by the way, defenseman Zach Palmquist had eight points in six games. He’s a freak.
5. Alaska (LW: 5): The Nanooks finally traveled to the continental U.S. for a series, and split with an OK Western Michigan team.
The big story from the weekend is goalie Sean Cahill appears to be their guy in net going forward. He had a 34-save shutout Friday, and stopped 33 of 36 shots Saturday. For the season, he has a 2.01 GAA and .947 save percent. He’s started three straight games. Davis Jones started the first three, and his 1.67 GAA is great. But, his save percent is only .902. Why? He’s faced 51 shots in three games. Cahill has faced 113. That’s an obnoxious split. Maybe the team doesn’t like Cahill and is hoping the shots leave him bruised. Haha good joke Ryan. I don’t really know how to explain that, but Cahill has been superb in his three starts. We’ll see where that goalie battle goes.
6. Northern Michigan: (LW: 7): The Wildcats are getting credit for beating up on league punching bag Lake Superior, but they once against continue to impress, especially on defense.
Mathias Dahlstrom has been arguably the most impressive WCHA netminder this season (which says a lot considering there have been a number of impressive goalies in the league so far). Through four games, he’s 4-0-0. OK, yeah, win/loss isn’t totally a goalie stat. What about his other numbers. Oh, a 0.75 GAA and .968 save percent? Both league highs? OK. We have a winner. He wasn’t super busy this weekend, stopping 27 of 29 on Friday, and stopping all 23 Saturday, but that’s a credit to the team in front of him. That team in front of him, by the way, is scoring a little more than 3 goals per game, led by forwards Darren Nowick (4 goals, 1 assist) and John Siemer (2 goals, 3 assists). Siemer nearly posted a point-per-game in 21 games last year. He looks ready to show college hockey what he can do with a full year.
7. Bemidji State (LW: 6): Hate to move a team for losing to the No. 1 in the nation, but the Beavers did that twice this weekend.
Granted, neither game was really a blowout. But Bemidji did allow five goals in each game. The Beavers seem committed to getting freshman goalie Michael Blitzer some starts. He’s platooned both weekend with senior Andrew Walsh. So that’s been a thing so far. Their numbers have been almost identical (3.06/.902 for Walsh, 3.00/.897 for Blitzer) against North Dakota and Minnesota. So this will be another interesting goaltending battle as the season progresses.
8. Alaska-Anchorage (LW: 8): The Seawolves, like the Nanooks, finally ventured outside of Alaska. Unlike the Nanooks, they went from one extreme to the other, flying all the way to Maine. Maine won the first game and the two teams tied the second.
Speaking of insane goaltending performances, Olivier Mantha has taken Anchorage’s starting job and run with it. He stopped 37 of 39 shots Friday, and 46 of 49 Saturday. For the season, he has a 1.96 GAA and a .943 save percent. Those are both significantly better than Anchorage received last year, and if he keeps it up, the Seawolves could challenge for a top-four spot. You know, if they figure out how to win on the road.
9. Lake Superior (LW: 9): Well the good news for the eight teams about the Lakers in these power rankings is they can pretty much pencil themselves into the postseason, because I doubt either Lake or Huntsville give them any sort of trouble, aside from playing second-half point-stealing spoiler.
At this point I might as well start calling these spots “a tie among the two teams that won’t make the playoffs this year.” The Lakers are 0-8, including an 0-4 mark in WCHA play, and have been outscored 33-11. My preseason pick of Alex Globke for the All-WCHA team is pretty much shot, with him posting just a goal and two assists thus far. It’s their first year under a new coach, so that deserves some slack to be cut. But man, did they fall off the wagon fast.
10. Alabama-Huntsville (LW: 10): I batted this around with Drew on Twitter on Friday, but I feel kind of bad for Carmine Guerriero (which should definitely be the name of the main character when they make a “Sopranos: Quebec”).
He made 54 saves on 56 shots Friday. That’s utterly ridiculous in a playoff games that reaches late first or early second overtime. That was in a 60-minute game. If he did that playing for Minnesota or Boston College, that would’ve made ESPN. He has a .927 save percent this year, which is really good for a goalie with a 2-ish goals-against average. He has a 3.36 GAA, which speaks more to Huntsville simply not being able to limit shot attempts. Could you imagine if he did play for BC or Minnesota (or any team that didn’t allow 800 shots a game)? I don’t know how that would translate, but it sure would be interesting to see.