Happy 2014, people.
We’ll dispense with the pleasantries. Presumably, with students still being on break and the holidays being a busy time for everyone, you may not have kept up with too much non-BG-related college hockey the last few weeks. That’s a bummer because some weird stuff happened. Most notably:
Colgate — a team BG pretty thoroughly lobotomized earlier this year — ruined my dreams of seeing a Ferris State vs. Minnesota game by defeating the Gophers in game one of the Mariucci Classic. Then they ruined the Bulldogs’ unbeaten streak by shutting them out in game two. Yes, that actually happened.
Northern Michigan — a team that entered the weekend with nine points (granted, in only 10 conference games) — swept Bemidji — a team that was tied with BG for third in the league — on the road. Do you like all those em dashes?
Alaska-Anchorage actually played well outside of Alaska, defeating Wisconsin and losing by a goal in the second game. It was the Seawolves’ first road win of the season, and the first time they won a game in the continental U.S. since Feb. 8.
Also, in the not-weird-but-still-equally-cool category, Ralfs Freibergs was officially named to the Latvian Olympic roster. As a member of the Latvian team at the 2013 IIHF World Championship, I don’t think it was totally unexpected, but as the only NCAA player in the tournament his selection obviously wasn’t for sure. He’s reportedly eighth out of eight defensemen on Latvia’s depth chart, so hopefully once he gets over there he’ll climb up that and get to see some game action. Regardless of if he does or not, what an unbelievable honor that is for him.
From a horribly selfish standpoint, his departure won’t hurt BG too much, as he will miss only one WCHA weekend series (and a exhibition game).
With that, let’s get into the first power rankings of 2014:
1. Ferris State (LW: 1): Quite frankly, the ‘Dogs are going to stay here until a WCHA team unseats them. They have not yet lost in WCHA play (10 wins, two ties), and other than Minnesota State, I don’t really see who is going to be the team to beat them. Will it happen at some point? Probably. No matter what league you’re in, it’s really hard to go through a conference season unbeaten in college hockey. One night, the other guy brings his ‘A’ game, or your goalie is fighting the puck, or something along those lines. I’d bet it happens sooner or later, I just don’t know which team gets them.
2. Minnesota State (LW: 2): The Mavs survived a weekend trip to Alaska, splitting with the Nanooks. Alaska hasn’t been that good this year, but any time you can go to Alaska and get a split, you should probably chalk it up as a win and move on. The issue for Mankato is they can’t move on. With a weekend set at Anchorage, they’re still chilling in Alaska (which I can only assume is just miserable this time of year, not that Mankato would be a ton better). Next weekend, they get Ferris State. They can only hope they’re over the jet lag by then.
3. Bowling Green (LW: 4): Thanks to Bemidji’s incompetence this weekend, BG stands alone at third in the WCHA. Even with two more games played than fourth-place Lake and Tech, BG is still fairly clear, with a four-point advantage on both. Tommy Burke got both starts against Huntsville last weekend, though I imagine that had more to do with his 0.00 goals-against average in his first two starts against the Chargers than anything else.
4. Lake Superior (LW: 3): Lake and Tech dueled this weekend, and they split. Drew has outlined this in the past in different situations, but the fact that Lake is still ranked is kind of a joke and illustrates how dumb college hockey polls are. Not that Lake is bad, because at 11-8-1, they aren’t. But since a 4-0-1 start, they’re 7-8-0. Minnesota State has a better overall record and has been much better than them as of late, but still has 67 fewer points in the USCHO poll. Please explain to me how that makes sense.
5. Michigan Tech (LW: 6): At 14 points in 14 games, Tech is a little behind where I think most assumed they would be at this point in the season. That’s probably not going to improve too much this month. They have the great fortune of playing Ferris State this weekend, and then have next weekend off. Their first opponent out of that bye week? Ferris State. It’s OK, you’re allowed to laugh, because I chuckled when I saw that.
6. Northern Michigan (LW: 8): Major, major weekend for Northern Michigan, who went to Bemidji and took it to the Beavers, outscoring them 7-2 on the weekend. They’re actually the one team who can jump BG without getting any help from Falcons’ losses. At 12 WCHA games played and 13 points, they’re five points behind BG with four games in had. That means if both teams won out (obviously impossible since BG and Northern have two games against each other, but just follow along) Northern would finish with three more points than BG. Is that likely to happen? Probably not, but it is mathematically possible so you get to hear about it.
7. Alaska-Anchorage (LW: 7): I can’t tell if last weekend was a sign of things to come for the Seawolves or if it was just a fluky weekend against a team who took them too lightly. As mentioned above, it was Anchorage’s first win outside of Alaska in nearly a year, and came against a team that really isn’t that bad, despite quite a few poor performances this year. The trick for them will be building off that, as they host Mankato this weekend.
8. Bemidji State (LW: 5): I finally give the Beavers some love and they respond by having their worst weekend of the season. Like with Anchorage, I don’t know if this weekend was just a fluke or if it’s them reverting to where pretty much everyone thought they would be at the start of the season. I guess we’ll find out this weekend, as they have a tough test at Lake Superior.
9. Alaska (LW: 9): The Nanooks continue to sneakily toil toward the bottom of the league standings. A split against Mankato is good, even if it was at home. The problem for Alaska is they’re so deep in the hole right now that they need sweeps, not splits, if they even want to make the playoffs. They’re actually second in the league in overall goals per game (fall to fourth when you count only conference games). I did not know that. Almost makes you wonder why they’re so far down, and then you glance down the page and see they’re eight (ninth in WCHA games) in goals allowed per game. Makes sense again.
10. Alabama Huntsville (LW: 10): The Chargers could not catch lightning on a bottle for a second time against BG, losing 7-0 and 4-1. They’re at Notre Dame this weekend, where they will almost certainly hit 100 goals allowed for the season (they’re at 96 right now).