I normally write these on Wednesday for a reason I have still yet to determine, but I’m writing this on Monday (and posting it on Tuesday because the concept of time is irrelevant to me) because it’s a light day for myself and something has been on my mind/bugging me since this weekend.
Stick tap to Marta Crow for bringing this to my attention (well, putting it into the Twittershpere, henceforth allowing me to see it), but our favorite rival down south (Miami, not Ohio State) is not having a great first season in their its league. Ohio State is actually doing well, granted it’s against a schedule that might actually be worse than BG’s. The Bucks are 1-2-1 in Big Ten play.
Anyway, back to Miami. The RedHawks are an OK 9-9-2 on the season, overall, thanks to a non-conference schedule that features world beaters Bemidji State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Canisius and Providence. Of those teams, only Providence (No. 7) and Wisconsin (No. 9, against a similarly weak schedule to Ohio State) are ranked. In those two weekend sets, Miami is 1-2-1.
Looking at league play, the RedHawks are an abysmal 3-7-0. That is last in the NCHC, behind a Colorado College team who you would think was stealing food from homeless children with how much everyone around her rips them (they’re 2-15-3 overall, but have one more point than Miami in league play).
Now, the NCHC was expected to be the premier league in college hockey this season. With Miami, Denver, CC, North Dakota, St. Cloud, Nebraska-Omaha, Minnesota-Duluth and Western Michigan, it’s a who’s who of recent NCAA Tournament teams. However, of those teams, only St. Cloud (No. 3), Denver (No. 16) and North Dakota (No. 20) are ranked in the USCHO poll that I don’t like. Why don’t I like it? I’ve made that know in the past, but most recently, Miami is the first team outside of the top-20 in that poll. They’re NUMBER THIRTEEN in the USA Hockey Magazine poll.
If you had any positive thoughts about college hockey polls, that little tidbit should smash those to pieces.
Seriously. How can a team that is last in it’s conference, with a .300 conference winning percent, be ranked? That’d be if like college football coaches all said, “Oh let’s vote for Tennessee because they used to be a really good team.” It’s stupid and it’s why college polls aren’t used to determine anything important.
The fact that they aren’t important isn’t enough. This is my crusade to get everyone to stop paying attention to polls because they’re dumb and give people a false representation of how good teams are. Instead, you should look at the Pairwise rankings (readily available on USCHO), because THAT is a formula that attempts to mimic the methods used by the NCAA Tournament selection committee. In Pairwise, Miami is 27th. BG, for comparison sake, is 22nd. TAKE THAT, Miami.
Let this also be a forewarning, whenever I write from now on I’m not using polls as a reference, I will use Pairwise. I hope that doesn’t confuse you, but if I’m declaring a crusade against the polls, I should probably not use them ever. Feel free to point out the irony of myself using poll rankings at the start of this article.
Back to the NCHC, it’s still a good league, but with only eight members you kind of have to get creative with scheduling. The Big Ten falls into this as well, with only six teams. But it’s been a matter of teams beating up on each other.
But my vote for the SEC of college hockey? Hockey East. Eight of the 11 teams have an overall winning percent of .562 or better. Six of those teams are in the Pairwise top-16. That means there legitimately could be five, or even that sixth if things fall right with conference champions — meaning no one upsets Ferris in the WCHA playoffs, because then the WCHA would, in all likelihood get two NCAA Tournament berths — Hockey East squad in the NCAA Tournament.
Now that I got that out of my system, let’s get back to the WCHA we know and love, shall we?
1. Ferris State (LW: 1): As stated last week, they’re here until someone (and by someone I mean multiple people) in the WCHA takes them down. They’ll face their toughest test of the remaining regular season games this weekend, traveling to Mankato to take on Minnesota State. However, the team they meet there could be sleepwalking. No, not because they think lightly of Ferris, but because they spent the last week and a half living in Alaska. Jet lag is not your friend.
2. Bowling Green (LW: 3): BG still hasn’t lost in 2014, winning and tying against Alaska. After the tie, coach Chris Bergeron said some of the guys weren’t happy they tied. That’s a really good sign. They know, especially with Ryan Carpenter back and Tommy Burke playing the way he’s been playing, they should win much more often than not. The team is talented, they just need to keep fostering that hatred for anything but winning. The more they win, the more they’ll crave it. With upcoming home games against a struggling Lake Superior and a Michigan Tech they’ve already taken three out of four points from, they could be on a nice little run heading into their series at Anchorage.
3. Minnesota State (LW: 2): It’s hard to be too harsh on the Mavs for getting swept in Alaska. They had already been there for a week, on the road, in a vastly different time zone. That will weigh on anyone. Plus, Anchorage is good at home. The concern for the Mavs has to be, after that nice little run they went on, they’re now 1-3-0 their last four, and face Ferris State this weekend. With 20 points in the standings, they’re still in a pretty good position compared to the teams behind them. But if they’re swept this weekend, a 1-5-0 run is not the best way to start off 2014.
4. Alaska Anchorage (LW: 7): Love where love is due this week. Also, two of the three teams in front of them were swept and one didn’t play. A sweep of Minnesota State, even if it was at home, is a huge accomplishment, and puts Anchorage right in the thick of things for hosting a first-round playoff series. They play at Huntsville this weekend, which will put a major test to the theory that they can’t win outside of Alaska. Playing hypothetical here, but if Anchorage sweeps and Mankato is swept by Ferris, the Seawolves be tied for third in the league, with the same number of conference games played, as Minnesota State. You don’t want to have to face them on the road in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.
5. Michigan Tech (LW: 5): Less hate for their getting swept, because it was against Ferris and both were one-goal losses. They out-shot Ferris 46-20 in game two, and still only got two goals, which kind of shows how, despite all the talk about their top-ranked offense, Ferris still has a great defense. For Tech, it was a bit of a setback. They’re still tied with Lake for sixth in the league. However, Northern, who is seventh, is only one game behind and has four games in hand. They’ll jump them at some point. Alaska, who is in that ninth place just outside of the playoffs, is only two points behind and is on a respectable 2-2-2 run.
6. Bemidji State (LW: 8): Much better week for Bemidji, which responded to their sweep at the hands of Northern Michigan by sweeping Lake. That puts them back in the top four of the WCHA, a spot they could relinquish depending on what Anchorage does this weekend. The Beavers play this weekend, but take a break from league play to take on North Dakota.
7. Lake Superior (LW: 4): The Lakers are struggling. Getting swept by Bemidji, at home no less, is a bit of a bigger setback than Tech’s loss. They’re now 2-6-0 their last eight games, all in conference play and their 4-0-1 start seems like a distant memory. They take a break from conference play this weekend to play at Notre Dame, before taking on BG in BG next weekend. The Falcons will undoubtedly be looking for revenge for Lake’s sweep in November.
8. Northern Michigan (LW: 6): Whoever made Northern’s schedule must not like them. They were off again this weekend, and with 12 conference games played, have played at least four fewer than everyone except Ferris and Huntsville, which is two fewer. From this point forward, they will have no bye weeks, which could be a little exhausting, especially since it includes trips to Anchorage and to Huntsville.
9. Alaska (LW: 9): Any time you can travel and get a positive result, that’s a good thing. But as I mentioned last week, the Nanooks need sweeps; splits (or in this case, ties) aren’t going to help them a ton. They’re two behind Michigan Tech and Lake for sixth in the league (they’re only one point behind Northern for eighth, but have four fewer games played so that’s not really a comparable situation). They need to make up ground quick if they want to make up that ground.
10. Alabama Huntsville (LW: 10): They had a difficult task of taking on Notre Dame this weekend, and lost both games, 7-1 and 5-0. Friday’s game was actually on TV and I watched a little bit of it and caused me to ponder the question that one of my friends (hi Sean!) posed on Twitter: why was this game televised? I understand Notre Dame has a contract with NBCSN to televise games, but what executive thought this game would be a good one to pick to honor the required games shown? Was it the only one that jived with the rest of NBCSN programming? I mean, when you’re flipping through the channels on a Friday night, you’re rarely going to stop on college hockey. Even if you do, you’re even more rarely going to stick with it when it’s 3-0 in the first, or 6-0 in the second. Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome exposure for Huntsville’s program and the WCHA as a whole to play a game on national TV, and I thought the announcers did a really good job of explaining the situation Huntsville went through to lead to them being in that overmatched situation. But they had to know that there was going to be a very strong likelihood that the game was not going to be close.