Mid-season Top 10 Report Card
by Joseph Edwards/CHN Writer
A look at CHN's Top 10 at the mid-season mark.
1. Yale (14-1-0, 8-0-0 ECAC)
Everyone knows the arguments at this point; the Bulldogs play in what is widely accepted as an ‘easy’ league, causing inflated numbers. At tournament time, Yale doesn’t quite stack up against the rest of the country. What everyone forgets, however, is that the rankings aren’t about second-half schedules or postseason chances. Rather, Yale gets the top-notch nod because of how they’ve played so far.
Having the nation’s top-ranked offense (5.31 goals/game) and sixth-best defense (2.15) is nothing to scoff at, especially in context. Eleven wins, and one loss, including a perfect 8-0-0 in the ECAC, and they aren’t putting up big numbers against bottom-of-the-barrel teams. Witness mutliple-goal wins over Princeton, Quinnipiac, Union, at Cornell, at Colorado College. Led by Broc Little, Denny Kearney, Andrew Miller, Brian O’Neill, and Chris Cahill on offense, they’ve finally received consistent goaltending in the form of a healthy Ryan Rondeau, whose gone 13-0-0 with two shutouts, and ranks among the nation’s top goalies. Goaltending was the only thing preventing Yale from the Frozen Four last year, and if that holds up, the sky's the limit.
Expect a vicious second half from a team with a chip on their shoulder, and a lot to prove to the waves of doubters.
2. North Dakota (16-5-2, 11-3-0 WCHA)
Have there ever been questions about North Dakota’s legitimacy? The team is not flashy on offense, nor defense, but the returns of seniors Matt Frattin and Chay Genoway have given way for the Sioux’s younger stars, such as Danny Kristo, to have off-nights once in a while without having to worry about the offense suffering. And for the most part, goalie Aaron Dell has been sturdy when it has. They’ve split weekends with league foes Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, and Nebraska-Omaha, but have edged all three in the standings. In those three losses, they’ve been outscored 7-2, which is a cause for concern heading forward, but the Sioux are atop the WCHA standings, and with a history of second-half domination, there’s little reason to believe that will change.
3. New Hampshire (12-3-4, 10-1-2 HE)
When the original polls came out, most of the noise in Hockey East was about the returning depth at Boston College, and the rediscovered firepower at Maine. While UNH was recognized as having a consistent set of returners, the question remained in net, and junior Matt DiGiralomo has answered the bell for the Wildcats. He’s factored into every decision thus far this season, taking wins at Miami, Cornell, BC, and including a thirlling come-from-behind OT win at Maine. DiGiralomo has a knack for keeping his team in it late, and the usual suspects (Paul Thompson, Phil DeSimone, Mike Sislo, Blake Kessel) on the 16th-ranked offense in the country are getting a boost from some of their newer cohorts in Brett Kostolansky, John Henrion, and Dalton Speelman.
4. Minnesota-Duluth (14-4-3, 9-3-2 WCHA)
It’s a difficult year to establish ones self as a front-runner in the jam-packed WCHA, but the Bulldogs are giving it their best shot. A wealth of offensive firepower from Jack Connolly, Mike Connolly, Justin Fontaine and Travis Oleksuk has led UMD to 14 wins, including victories at Bemidji State, at North Dakota, over Michigan Tech, at Wisconsin, and against Denver. They’ve had two win streaks of five-plus games, and have yet to drop back-to-back losses this season.
The only element keeping this team from sky-rocketing to the top is that 10 of their wins have been by two goals or less, which will serve them well as the season goes on, but indicates that the eighth-ranked offense has some issues putting teams away as games go on. The Bulldogs will also have to adjust to losing standout defenseman Dylan Olsen to the pros midseason — a tough blow.
5. Boston College (15-5-0, 11-4-0 HE)
A preseason favorite to run the table, the Eagles have faltered a bit with five losses already piled up against them. A closer look reveals that four of those have come on the road, and two of those in separate visits against Hockey East upstart Merrimack. They’ve scored five-plus goals six times, including a 6-2 win in a weekend sweep at Denver, and a very notable 9-5 romp over archrival BU — which may go down as a signature win on the season.
Senior John Muse has to be in the Hobey Baker candidacy short-list, ranking among the top-10 in every big goaltending category, and anchoring the fourth-best team defense in the country. He figures to be flanked by junior Cam Atkinson, whose 15 tallies are good for third in the country. His special-teams prowess (6 PPG) has helped to lead the Eagles to the second-ranked offense in the nation. They can hardly be written off for their early-season miscues, but it could provide for a ‘sneak-attack’ second half.
6. Notre Dame (14-7-3, 11-4-1 CCHA)
The Irish are having plenty of success this season, having scored the most goals out of any Division I team. Their high-powered offense, the third-best per game in the country, is being led by freshman T.J. Tynan, whose 14 goals and and 29 points are pacing the team and rank among the nation’s best. Fellow first-year scorer Anders Lee (22 points) has combined with seniors Ryan Guentzel, Calle Ribberwall, and Ben Ryan to give Notre Dame scoring depth that few other teams can match.
7. Nebraska-Omaha (12-7-1, 9-4-1 WCHA)
In their first season in the WCHA, the Mavericks have already started to assert themselves against some of the old faithful in the league. Already, the’ve split weekends at Michigan and Colorado College, as well as at home against North Dakota. They’re a well-balanced team, with eight players with double-digit point totals, and play a rough-and-tumble game, averaging 17 penalty minutes per game. They’ve found a stalwart between the pipes in junior John Faulkner, who ranks second among netminders in minutes played (1134:57), and leads all goalies in shutouts, with four on the season. A cause for concern is their play away from the confines of the Qwest Center Omaha, as the Mavs have dropped four of their last five on the road, and will travel to see the Sioux, as well as Alaska-Anchorage and Minnesota-Duluth before the season is over.
8. Michigan (13-6-4, 10-4-1 CCHA)
The good news for the Wolverines is that everyone is doing what they’re supposed to. Carl Hagelin, Louie Caporusso, and Matt Rust are scoring, Jon Merrill is providing offense from the blueline, and Shawn Hunwick and Bryan Hogan are pushing one another in goal. The better news is that they’re beating the teams they’re supposed to this season; including taking the Great Lake Invitational with wins over WCHA foes Michigan Tech and Colorado College, which brought their non-conference record to a more-than-respectable 3-2-4, and should help them out as the season winds down with an all-CCHA slate that could determine just how high they climb.
9. Denver (13-5-4, 9-3-2 WCHA)
Early on, Denver looked to have some issues during the team’s East Coast swing, going 1-2-1 and dropping a weekend set to BC. Since heading West, its fortunes have turned around, with wins against Wisconsin, at North Dakota, against Colorado College, and a streak of six straight wins that included a Denver Cup title. Eight players have at least 10 points, and Drew Shore, Jason Zucker, and Luke Salazar all have reached double-digit goal totals and sit among the top-20 goal scorers. Freshman Sam Brittain has solidified the Pioneers’ goaltending situation, ranking just outside the top-10 nationally in GAA (2.05) and save percentage (.926), anchoring the 17th-best defense in the country.
10. Miami (11-8-3, 8-6-2-1 CCHA)
Despite this past weekend's slip up against Ohio State, the bet is still on Miami for the Top 10. Is there a better trio in the country than seniors Carter Camper, Andy Miele, and Pat Cannone? The threesome form quite possibly the most dangerous tandem in the country, having over 90 total points to their credit. Add in sophomore Reilly Smith’s 26 points and you start to get the feeling that there’s more than one line in the RedHawks’ armory. Overall, they rank second offensively in the NCAA, but when seem to run into trouble when they rely too much on that part of their game. Cody Reichard and Connor Knapp — a duo that’s shown their capable of handling big game — have been hung out to dry in six losses on the season, allowing 26 goals against, including six in an early-season loss to UNH, and five each in defeats to Notre Dame and Western Michigan. When on the winning side, however, they’ve let up just 16 opposing tallies in 11 games.