As I write this, it is Monday night and I’m half concerned my roof is about to blown into the stratosphere. This is as close to a tornado as I have ever experienced. And it’s as close to a tornado as I ever want to experience.
Why do I lead with this? I don’t know. Last night I had something all thought up, then I went to work today and forgot what it was. So I guess we can take this time to look at the (real) WCHA standings.
Right now, Michigan Tech (16 points), BG (14) and Minnesota State (14) have a comfortable lead on everyone else (it’s not as comfortable on Northern’s eight points since it’s only played six league games, but you get what I’m saying). After the top three, though, it’s utter chaos.
Right now, Alaska (the one with the postseason ban, in case you needed distinction) is sitting 10th with only two points, but in only six games. But places four to nine are all separated by four points. And the order these teams are in is so backwards from what I think most everyone thought it would be.
Before the season, most everyone had Lake Superior and Huntsville sitting nine and 10, respectively, in their polls. Right now, Lake is sixth and Huntsville is in a three-way tie for seventh. On the other side, a lot of people had Ferris up higher. I had them No. 1 in my WCHA ballot (oops).
Right now, they sit fifth after splitting with Huntsville (at home!) last weekend. I’m no longer confident the Bulldogs are a top four team. After this weekend, I’m not as convinced Northern is either. But the problem is, I don’t know who else fits that bill.
Like, for example, Bemidji at 3-9-0 and 2-6-0 in the WCHA has the record of a pretty bad team. But then you realize, oh hey every team the Beavers have lost to this year has been ranked. According to the KRACH rankings, they’ve played the fourth toughest schedule in the nation this year. So you’re looking at a team there that has already played Tech, Minnesota State and BG once (but unfortunately for them still has to play each one again). They could end up making noise by the end of the year.
Yeah, at only 14 (or so) games into the season, it’s still pretty early. That’s what I hate about college hockey. Playing 14 games really isn’t enough to make snap judgements about teams, but that’s almost the halfway point of the season. So making any long-term judgements is really an exercise in futility.
Before we dig into the rankings this week, I’d like to wish all of you beautiful people a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you all have a wonderful day and get to spend it with the people you love. And eat lots of turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and stuff. And if anyone wants to cook for me and bring it to my apartment, I’ll probably be here so yeah. You should do that.
1. Minnesota State (LW: 3): This was, hands down, the most impressive weekend of the Mavericks’ season so far. No, they didn’t offensively dominated Tech like they have other teams, and they really weren’t really running away with the games. But the performance of Stephon Williams gives me a newfound confidence in them, and every Mavs fan should be feeling pretty good about this team right now.
Williams stopped 55 of 58 shots this weekend as the Mavs swept Tech. Up to this point, he hadn’t really been tested a ton and I was skeptical of what he would do once he was tested. Obviously he responded very well.
I don’t think they keeps scoring at more than a 3.5 goal per game pace, and I don’t think they continue to have five guys producing at nearly a point per game pace, but if Williams keeps playing like he did this weekend, they will be OK going forward.
2. Bowling Green (LW: 2): Not an overly impressive weekend for BG, but as we touched on Monday, four-point weekends are huge and gettings those is whata matters. Even at 10-3-1 head coach Chris Bergeron is still finding areas where BG needs improvement, so that’s good. Keep harping on improvement and not getting complacent is a good way of not letting the team get comfortable and lax. It’s still early enough in the year where a lot can happen. Like, get swept by Northern in two weeks and then come out of the gate in the second half slow and go 1-2-1 or whatever the first two weeks, and all of the sudden you’re 11-7-2, which is decidedly not as impressive. It’s a delicate balance, college hockey.
3. Michigan Tech (LW: 1): So apparently Jamie Phillips is human. He was great even in a loss Friday, stopping 32 of 34 shots, but was decidedly less so on Saturday, stopping only 20 of 23. His numbers for this year (1.42 GAA, .950 save percent) are still quite OK. But as we touched on last week, he did have some rough spells last year. You gotta wonder if maybe this is the start of one of those (which might be an overreaction on my part because you know, Minnesota State isn’t too bad at putting the puck in the net). I will be interesting to see how he and the Huskies respond as the travel to take on an upstart Huntsville team this weekend.
4. Northern Michigan (LW: 4): Northern really didn’t have too strong of a weekend, but like I said above, after those first three I really don’t know what to make of these teams.
Speaking of human, after posting his fourth shutout in nine games Friday, Mathias Dalhstrom gave up four goals on 29 shots Saturday. Just so you can appreciate how obnoxious his start was, he gave up six goals in his first nine games prior to allowing those four. Yeah, in one game his goals allowed for the season nearly doubled.
The concern here for Northern has to be offense, and it appears the answer to the question “Can Northern score enough to keep winning when the law of averages comes calling Dahlstrom’s name?” is a resounding “No.” The Huskies scored only once this weekend, and have scored only 21 goals in 10 games this year. That’s good for eighth in the WCHA. That phase “good for” is funny, because being eighth out of 10 teams in not really “good for” anything. Random thought. Moving on.
5. Ferris State (LW: 5): So C.J. Motte wasn’t very cyborg-like Friday, when he stopped only 15 of 18 shots in a 3-2 loss to Huntsville. Fortunately for Ferris, he got good Saturday, stopping 28 of 30 in a 5-2 win (sidenote: 30 shots has to be the most Huntsville has had in a game in like five years, no?). Also fortunately for Ferris, it looks like its finally found some offense.
In Saturday’s win, forward Matt Robertson had four assists, and forward Chad McDonald scored twice and added an assist. For the season, Robertson has 14 points, while McDonald has 11. Granted, the two of them each had seven points in their two highest scoring games of the season (Saturday plus the 10-2 win against Anchorage) so those numbers may be a tad inflated. But at least it’s something, right?
6. Alabama Huntsville (LW: 8): As I’ve said in the past, these rankings aren’t about where I think you’ll end up, it’s how you’re playing now. Right now, the Chargers are playing some pretty decent hockey.
The finally wised up and started Carmine Guerriero twice this weekend and he was once again really good. He stopped 36 of 38 Friday, and 30 of 34 Saturday. Huntsville was actually tied with Ferris heading into the third period Saturday. So yeah, don’t sleep on the Chargers. I don’t know how long their can continue this little successful run while giving up 35+ shots a night, but you never know. They’ll get a chance to prove themselves again this weekend when they host Tech.
7. Alaska-Anchorage (LW: 10): Full marks to the Seawolves, who responded to getting defensively thrashed by Ferris by allowing only one goal in two games to Northern. It was a nice rebound effort for Olivier Mantha, who stopped 24 of 25 Friday and all 28 Saturday. Currently sitting in a three-way tie for seventh, I’m not sure exactly how much better than that the Seawolves are. They’re currently tied with Huntsville and trail Lake, so you think maybe at some point Anchorage passes them, but then it has Bemidji behind it so maybe the Beavers jump too. I don’t know. The bottom of this league is a mess.
8. Bemidji State (LW: 6): I really don’t think Bemidji is as bad as 3-9-0 indicates, and I was quite impressed with its play this weekend. But you know, you can play strong teams tough, eventually you have to start winning though. Once the Beavers start playing teams not currently placed in the top three of the WCHA, it shall be interesting to see if their record begins to improve. I’m not ready to write them off yet.
9. Alaska (LW: 8): Not a bad weekend for the Nanooks, splitting on the road with Lake. They scored seven times Friday, and Tyler Morely is starting to get good with 10 points in 10 games. But defensively the Nanooks have not been too good. They have two goalies with save percentages at .860 or lower and the one who doesn’t, Sean Cahill, has a 2.59 GAA. So it doesn’t really appear as if they’ve gotten the goaltending completely figured out yet.
10. Lake Superior (LW: 9): Feels kind of crummy of me to move the Lakers down after splitting, but you know it happens. I need some of these teams to start separating themselves so doing these rankings gets simpler. Make my life easier, dang it!
I mean, for all the poor play the Lakers have had this year, they currently sit sixth in the WCHA, but with two more games played than the three teams immediately behind them. Plus their three wins have come in splits with Anchorage, Alaska and Huntsville, and the Lakers are 0-4 against Tech and Northern. So really, they’re just one of that pack right now. Anything can happen and it should be fun to watch going forward.
On a side note, I haven’t refreshed Twitter since starting this, and now have 252 new tweets. The more you know.