Preview Review: Midseason Top-10
by Joseph Edwards/CHN Writer
by Joseph Edwards/CHN Writer
No one is perfect.
That's especially true, both in college hockey, and preseason Top 10 lists. For instance, compare the preseason and midseason CHN rankings; they're hardly spot-on, and there's no guarantees these will remain true, either:
(Current rank | preseason rank)
They could have suffered a hangover from the horrific end of last season, but instead, the RedHawks picked up right where they left off. Cody Reichard and Connor Knapp remain an unflappable tandem in net, and four Miami skaters (Tommy Wingels, Andy Miele, Carter Camper, and Jarrod Palmer) rank in the top 50 scorers in the country and the defense is tops in college hockey.
The Pioneers very well could be ranked as 1A. Denver was unbeatable early on, but Marc Cheverie's leg injury proved his importance to the team. Good for them that he's a quick healer, and missed only three games. Their have considerable offensive depth, too, as seven players have double-digit point totals, including defenseman Patrick Wiercioch, who has something to prove after being denied from Team Canada's WJC entry.
Unlike the team that was in this preseason spot, BU (which has gone the complete other direction), Colorado College has been the biggest plus-side surprise of the season. Mike Testwuide has already passed his career-high in goals with 12, and Bill Sweatt is on pace to smash every one of his career numbers, a big reason the offense ranks second in the WCHA, and the defense, led by freshman Joe Howe, is holding up in their end as well, with the third-best goals agasint in league play. Both rank in the top-10 nationally, and they'll need to keep that strong play up, with multiple games against Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Denver.
The offense, led by Blake Geoffrion, Brendan Smith, and Derek Stepan, having the second-best goals-per-game average in the country? Check. Brett Bennett and Scott Gudmandson solidifying a tenuous goaltending spot by ranking sixth nationally in GAA? Check. Wisconsin's return as WCHA power to be reckoned with? Check.
Five Big Red players are averaging at least a point per game, led by seniors Blake Gallagher and Colin Greening. Ben Scrivens is following up his Hobey candidacy from last season with similar numbers. Their stretch run is no cakewalk — Cornell has pivotal upcoming games against Colorado College, New Hampshire, North Dakota (2) and possibly Maine — but their experience playing to big crowds (see: Madison Square Garden) will give them a big edge, come the postseason. Meanwhile, Michigan, slotted here in the midseason, has struggled mightily with defections and sluggish play, and none of its players made the World Junior team.
This is not the Boston-based school that everyone expected to be here. While a number of Hockey East teams are struggling to find their identities after the conference lost a boatload of talent, BC is taking advantage. John Muse is healthy between the pipes, and is being aided by a balanced offensive attack. The Eagles have yet to lose a game in which they've scored three goals or more, and that will help them down the stretch, as they seek to distance themselves in tightly-packed conference standings. Minnesota, the team originally slotted here, has been a well-chronicled mess so far, but the Gophers' KRACH rating is not bad. They could still make a run.
After a 7-1-1 start in which the Sioux reached the No. 3 ranking in the country, North Dakota was cooled off by the loss of senior captain Chay Genoway, whom coach Dave Hakstol referred to as one of the "top five players in the country." Since he suffered his undisclosed injury (thought to be a concussion, akin to Jeff Finley's from a couple of seasons ago) — from which there is no timetable for his return — the Sioux have done 2-5-2. They'll get a boost when Darcy Zajac returns in a few weeks from an injury of his own; until then, the team will have to rely on 17 freshmen and sophomores, including leading scorer Danny Kristo, to mature quickly. Original No. 7, Princeton, has struggled defensively and in net, which is shocking, considering it returned all of its defensemen and a Hobey finalist goalie to a team that went to the NCAAs at-large last season.
The Elis have scored less than three goals once this season - a 5-2 loss to Rensselaer. Their offense has all their pistons pumping, and at times has been able to make up for their revolving door of goalies. Not one of the four netminders to suit up for Yale this season has played more than five games, and that situation could come to a head soon, as January starts off with the Badger Showdown, where they'll see surging Ferris State and Wisconsin or re-tooled Merrimack.
One of Rand Pecknold's squads finally broke into the Top 10, but he hasn't let it go to their heads. The Bobcats, led by resurgent senior Brandon Wong ran off four straight wins to start the season, and their first loss — an 8-5 shootout with Robert Morris — didn't seem to affect them, as they followed up with another eight straight wins. At the moment, they're serious contenders in the ECAC, but still have some all-important matches with Yale, Princeton and Cornell before all is said and done.
The Bulldogs get the nod over Bemidji due to playing in a deeper CCHA conference. They're off to the best start in team history, including an 11-0-0 mark at home. The real test for leading scorers Blair Riley and Cody Chupp, along with netminder Taylor Nelson, will come in the second half, when Ferris State will be on the road for 11 of their final 18 matches.
* Bemidji State is proving that last season's Frozen Four run was no fluke. Their ascent has been well-chronicled, and largely due to junior forward Matt Read, who has found another scoring mate in freshman Jordan George after losing parter-in-crime Tyler Scofield to graduation last season. Sophomore Dan Bakala has been a more-than-capable replacement in net for the Beavers, after Matt Dalton bolted to the pros last season.
* What happened to perennial top-10 teams Michigan and BU? Despite losing a lot of top-tier talent after last season, there were high hopes for both squads, though neither has played to their potential. It was pretty telling when Wolverines coach Red Berensen told the media, "We played like a bunch of spoiled brats," after a loss to Miami, and Jack Parker has been no less forgiving of his Terriers. "We have a lot of guys who are underachieving now, or who overachieved last year," he told the Boston Herald.
* The ECAC has the makings to be recognized as a serious contender this year. Four teams (Cornell, Yale, Union, and Quinnipiac) are currently ranked in the top 16 in the Pairwise rankings (It does bear noting that the highest ranked of the four, KRACH-wise is Quinnipiac, at 17, due to a low Strength of Schedule rating). The conference has a shot to be this year's version of Hockey East, perhaps a little more under the radar, though, and that could work in their favor.
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