If you’re Commissioner Don Lucia, you’re probably sleeping well at night knowing the CCHA has hit the ground running.
There’s been a few hiccups along the way, but the league has displayed a pretty good product both on and off the ice in its first “reconstituted” month.
The streaming/video product has been executed well with its graphics package giving the product professionalism that hadn’t existed in the teams’ previous league. As an example: highlights from Bowling Green’s 6-4 win over Miami were posted on social media less than an hour after the final buzzer. This used to be around a 12 hour turnaround in the past.
Admittedly there’s still valid concerns about the high price tag of FloHockey, but a better visual product certainly takes some of the sting out of parting with one’s hard-earned dollars.
Perhaps the most beneficial boost the CCHA has seen has been its out of conference performance.
The CCHA currently has a winning record over every league except the NCHC and Big Ten. There’s still a long slate of games to play, but during the 2019-2020 season the WCHA was next to last in winning record in out of conference games.
An improved nonleague record for teams is supremely beneficial as the tournament field starts taking shape in February. I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibilities that the CCHA could see itself earning three bids for the NCAA tournament in the spring.
Let’s take a look at the “way too early in the season” power rankings:
- Minnesota State (4-2-0): The Mavericks continue to be the measuring stick for how other programs are compared. MSU opened their season at defending National Champion UMass, sweeping and outscoring the Minutemen 8-3. They’ll welcome NMU to the…I have no idea what their arena is called because its name keeps changing.
- Bemidji State (3-3-0): At first look the Beavers’ resume probably isn’t that flashy. A .500 record isn’t typically flashed on the marquee, but BSU already has a quality OOC win against North Dakota and swept a solid Northern Michigan squad on the road. The Falcons will have a challenging weekend in the shadow of Paul Bunyon.
- Lake Superior (5-3-0): After a lengthy rebuild I think we can safely say the Lakers are “back.” LSSU has nonleague wins over Omaha and a sweep of Union. If there’s an achilles heel for Lake Superior, it’s probably their goaltending. They still haven’t found their #1 after losing Mareks Mitens to graduation. LSSU has a nonleague matchup at home against St. Lawrence this weekend.
- Michigan Tech (2-1-0): Four and five are pretty much interchangeable here. The Huskies swept Wisconsin to start the season, but the Badgers have stumbled to a 2-4-0 start and are only averaging 1.67 goals scored per game. Tech is making the long drive to Clarkson this weekend in a series that should give us more of an idea about how good this Michigan Tech team is.
- Bowling Green (2-0-2): The Falcons are the only undefeated team in the country right now (amongst teams who have actually played a game). But their wins have come against an RPI team that didn’t play last season and a Miami squad that’s still in the early stages of a rebuild. A weekend series in Bemidji will serve as an excellent barometer for how good this Falcon team is.
- Northern Michigan (2-3-0): The Wildcats only have two wins thus far and they came against our #8 team this week. NMU is a team that can score in bunches but struggles to keep the puck out of their own net. That task doesn’t get any easier this weekend as they travel to Mankato.
- Ferris State (2-4-0): The Bulldogs started their season with a weekend split with Miami. Their only other win came against St. Thomas, but they played blow-for-blow with a Western Michigan team that has a win against the Wolverines. They travel to Buffalo this weekend to face Canisius.
- St. Thomas (1-7-0): First off: congratulations to the Tommies on their first division one win. With that said STU is still off to the kind of start you’d expect from a first-year program. Enrico Blasi built up Miami into a powerhouse and St. Thomas isn’t hurting for money, but it takes time to build a good foundation. At least the Tommies will get to escape to sunny Tempe this weekend as they face Arizona State.