NCAA hockey top 20: Getting interesting

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October 18, 2012 by Casey Hart

A little late posting this, but here is my top-20 vote for this week. It’s a little hairy trying to rank teams with a couple games under their belts alongside those that have played just once or are still practicing for their openers. In general, I punished teams harshly for going winless in two games against teams ranked behind them but was more lenient with those (coughBostonCollegecough) that managed less-than-ideal results in just one game.  I managed to keep all the teams that haven’t yet played in the same spots as last week.

My top 20 is below. Each team is listed with its overall record, record against my ranked teams, last week’s ranking and, for comparison’s sake, national rankings from the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey (top 15) polls. My ballot is submitted to USCHO by Monday at noon.

1. MinnesotaGolden Gophers
2-0-0 overall • 0-0-0 vs. my ranked teams
Last week: 2 • USCHO: 1 • USA Today: 1

Just ask Michigan State.

2. Boston College
0-1-0 overall • 0-0-0 vs. my ranked teams
Last week: 1 • USCHO: 3 • USA Today: 3

The Eagles suffered a 3-1 loss to a fast-starting Northeastern team that almost always plays them tough (three one-goal games last season) and had already knocked off a ranked Merrimack squad. One loss in 20 games isn’t enough to drop BC below North Dakota before UND has played a game, and none of my other top teams showed they are ready for the No. 2 spot. A rematch with the Huskies awaits BC Saturday, following a turn on the big ice at Massachusetts.

3. North Dakota
0-0-0 overall • 0-0-0 vs. my ranked teams
Last week: 3 • USCHO: 2 • USA Today: 2
4. Union
2-1-0 overall • 0-0-0 vs. my ranked teams
Last week: 5 • USCHO: 8 • USA Today: 7

The Dutchmen scored nine goals and went 5 for 11 on power plays in a weekend sweep at Bowling Green.

5. Northeastern
2-0-0 overall • 2-0-0 vs. my ranked teams
Last week: NR • USCHO: 14 • USA Today: Receiving votes

Is Northeastern the fifth-best team in the nation? Maybe not, but combine the Huskies’ great start with the potential showed in their run of big road wins last year, and they have the best resume for this spot. It won’t be easy to stay there. After making the short trip to BC, Northeastern has home-and-home sets the next two weekends with New Hampshire and Merrimack.

6. Notre Dame
2-0-0 overall • 0-0-0 vs. my ranked teams
Last week: 14 • USCHO: 9 • USA Today: 10

The Irish certainly beat two good teams to win the Ice Breaker, but Northeastern gets the edge since neither Maine nor Nebraska-Omaha finished last year on a 19-game win streak.

7. New Hampshire
2-0-0 overall • 0-0-0 vs. my ranked teams
Last week: 17 • USCHO: 15 • USA Today: RV

Like Notre Dame, the Wildcats took care of business against strong-but-unranked opposition in the form of St. Cloud State.

8. Miami
2-0-0 overall • 0-0-0 vs. my ranked teams
Last week: 19 • USCHO: 4 • USA Today: 4

Blake Coleman had a hand in half of the RedHawks’ eight goals against Colgate. I touched previously on the team’s defensive performance.

9. Denver
0-0-0 overall • 0-0-0 vs. my ranked teams
Last week: 9 • USCHO: 7 • USA Today: 8
10. Boston University
1-0-0 overall • 0-0-0 vs. my ranked teams
Last week: 13 • USCHO: 11 • USA Today: 11

Providence is a popular pick to make some noise in Hockey East this year and held a 2-1 lead on the Terriers in the second period of the teams’ opener Saturday, but BU bounced back to leave the Friars waiting for their first win.

11. Harvard
0-0-0 overall • 0-0-0 vs. my ranked teams
Last week: 11 • USCHO: 17 • USA Today: RV
12. Cornell
0-0-0 overall • 0-0-0 vs. my ranked teams
Last week: 12 • USCHO: 6 • USA Today: 5
13. Michigan
1-1-0 overall • 0-0-0 vs. my ranked teams
Last week: 7 • USCHO: 5 • USA Today: 6
14. UMass Lowell
0-0-1 overall • 0-0-0 vs. my ranked teams
Last week: 8 • USCHO: 10 • USA Today: 9

A tie against last season’s last-place team is far from the ideal way to start a season. It can be a little more troubling for a team whose next four games are at Denver, at Colorado College, Boston College and at Boston College. Let’s see how the River Hawks respond.

15. Rensselaer
1-0-1 overall • 1-0-1 vs. my ranked teams
Last week: NR • USCHO: RV • USA Today: Not ranked

The Engineers were markedly improved in the second half of last season and, if a win and a tie at Ferris State are any indication, took a big step over the offseason. Head coach Seth Appert told USCHO he liked the way his team got its results.

16. Western Michigan
1-1-0 overall • 0-0-0 vs. my ranked teams
Last week: 6 • USCHO: 12 • USA Today: 12
17. Northern Michigan
2-0-0 overall • 2-0-0 vs. my ranked teams
Last week: NR • USCHO: 17 • USA Today: 15

The Wildcats swept a neutral-site series from Wisconsin to leap into my ranking and got the nod from College Hockey News as the site’s Team of the Week.

18. Quinnipiac
2-1-0 overall • 0-0-0 vs. my ranked teams
Last week: 15 • USCHO: 20 • USA Today: RV
19. Merrimack
1-1-0 overall • 1-0-0 vs. my ranked teams
Last week: 18 • USCHO: RV • USA Today: NR
20. Minnesota Duluth
1-1-0 overall • 0-0-0 vs. my ranked teams
Last week: 20 • USCHO: 13 • USA Today: 13
Honorable mention: Colorado College
2-0-0 overall • 0-0-0 vs. my ranked teams
Last week: NR • USCHO: 19 • USA Today: RV

I normally operate with an if-you’re-out-you’re-out policy, but the Tigers get a mention here because I overlooked them when I submitted my vote. When looking at CC’s season-opening sweep of Clarkson, I thought more about the Golden Knights’ near misses than the Tigers’ two wins. After all, two wins is the best you can get from two games, and CC deserved a top-20 spot. My bad.

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