NCAA hockey top 20: Hockey East trifecta

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December 12, 2012 by Casey Hart

Sure, I stuck with New Hampshire at No. 1 despite a loss, but the real story here is the team that beat the Wildcats. Boston University, fresh off a weekend split with then-No. 1 Boston College, went to Durham, N.H., and tamed the Wildcats 3-2. That result was the catalyst for the Terriers’ leap to No. 3 on this list, giving Hockey East the top three teams in the nation, you know, according to me.

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. New HampshireWildcats
11-2-2 overall • 4-1-2 vs. my ranked teams • 0-1-0 last week
Last week: 1 • USCHO: 1 • USA Today: 2

The loss to BU doesn’t really cause much change to the Wildcats’ profile compared to BC, especially with the Eagles’ tie Friday at Providence. BC owns a slightly better winning percentage, by one tie, and each lost once to BU and on the road against another competent conference opponent. The Eagles defeated Notre Dame, but UNH owns the more impressive overall non-conference record and has been more convincing than BC in its 11 wins.

2. Boston College
11-2-1 overall • 5-1-0 vs. my ranked teams • 0-0-1 last week
Last week: 2 • USCHO: 2 • USA Today: 1

In the game at Providence, the Eagles appeared poised to lift Jerry York into sole possession of the all-time NCAA coaching wins record. But just 12 seconds after BC took a 3-1 lead two minutes into the third period, the Friars answered. Providence went on to tie the game with its goaltender pulled and 11 seconds left in regulation. The next candidate for an invitation to the York coronation is Alabama-Huntsville Dec. 29 at Minnesota’s Mariucci Classic.

3. Boston University
10-5-0 overall • 6-5-0 vs. my ranked teams • 2-0-0 last week
Last week: 6 • USCHO: 6 • USA Today: 6

There is nowhere else to put a team that has beaten both the Nos. 1 and 2 teams—and lost to each twice.

4. Notre Dame
13-4-0 overall • 5-4-0 vs. my ranked teams • 2-0-0 last week
Last week: 3 • USCHO: 3 • USA Today: 3

This list would have to look pretty good to Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna, who welcomes the Fighting Irish to his league next season. Notre Dame, for its part, has the unfortunate distinction of falling a spot in this ranking despite having won five straight games and received first-place votes in both national polls.

5. Miami
10-3-3 overall • 2-1-1 vs. my ranked teams • 1-1-0 last week
Last week: 4 • USCHO: 5 • USA Today: 5
6. Minnesota
11-3-3 overall • 2-1-1 vs. my ranked teams  • 1-0-1 last week
Last week: 7 • USCHO: 4 • USA Today: 4

The Golden Gophers are off to a great start and were the fourth team to earn first-place votes this week. This team is certainly worthy of top-five consideration, but it has yet to sweep a conference weekend and doesn’t have the marquee wins that my top three squads have already notched.

7. North Dakota
8-5-3 overall • 5-4-1 vs. my ranked teams • 1-0-1 last week
Last week: 8 • USCHO: 8 • USA Today: 8
8. Western Michigan
10-3-1 overall • 3-1-0 vs. my ranked teams • 2-0-0 last week
Last week: 10 • USCHO: 7 • USA Today: 7

The Broncos have slowly climbed up my ranking since opening with a split at St. Lawrence. Next up is a visit to Michigan this weekend before the Broncos finish the calendar year with a rare trip to join their in-state rivals in the Great Lakes Invitational.

9. Quinnipiac
12-3-2 overall • 2-0-0 vs. my ranked teams • 2-0-0 last week
Last week: 9 • USCHO: 9 • USA Today: 9

Two more ECAC games—a home-and-home series with travel-partner Princeton—and two more wins for the Bobcats, now 8-0-0 in conference play. They have surrendered just nine goals in those eight games and also pace ECAC Hockey with 31 goals scored in league action.

10. Denver
9-5-2 overall • 6-4-1 vs. my ranked teams • 0-1-1 last week
Last week: 5 • USCHO: 11 • USA Today: 10

You know you got off to a good start when you go six games without a win and are still holding down first place in the WCHA.

11. Dartmouth
7-2-2 overall • 1-1-1 vs. my ranked teams • 1-0-0 last week
Last week: 11 • USCHO: 10 • USA Today: 11
12. Nebraska-Omaha
10-5-1 overall • 3-4-0 vs. my ranked teams • 1-1-0 last week
Last week: 15 • USCHO: 13 • USA Today: 14
13. St. Cloud State
9-7-0 overall • 5-5-0 vs. my ranked teams • 1-1-0 last week
Last week: 13 • USCHO: 17 • USA Today: Receiving votes

I suggested last week that a pair of matchups between Nebraska-Omaha could bring some clarity in separating the two teams. Well, they played two one-goal games with each team winning once in what looks to have been an amazing weekend of games. The Mavericks, the road team in that series, get the slight edge here.

14. Minnesota State
9-5-2 overall • 2-3-1 vs. my ranked teams • 2-0-0 last week
Last week: Not ranked • USCHO: 20 • USA Today: RV

The WCHA’s other set of Mavericks jump into the ranking at No. 14 not for their weekend sweep at Alaska-Anchorage but for their overall body of work. Minnesota State had a losing record three weeks ago but has since swept three league series. The Mavericks also own a win against Minnesota, and their only losses have come to the Gophers and twice each to St. Cloud and Denver.

15. Union
8-3-4 overall • 1-2-1 vs. my ranked teams • 0-0-2 last week
Last week: 12 • USCHO: 14 • USA Today: 13
16. Yale
6-3-2 overall (now 7-3-2) • 4-0-1 vs. my ranked teams • 0-1-1 last week
Last week: 14 • USCHO: 15 • USA Today: 15

The Bulldogs have performed at a consistently high level over the last few seasons, but on some of the occasions when things have gone wrong, they have gone very wrong. Case in point: Friday’s 6-1 home loss to Rensselaer. Yale trailed Union Saturday but rallied for a 2-2 tie and erased any worry of a slump with a 4-2 dispatching of Massachusetts Tuesday.

17. Cornell
6-3-2 overall • 2-1-1 vs. my ranked teams • 0-0-0 last week
Last week: 18 • USCHO: 12 • USA Today: 12
18. Colgate
9-7-2 overall • 2-3-1 vs. my ranked teams • 1-1-0 last week
Last week: NR • USCHO: RV • USA Today: NR

The Raiders have often played like a ranked team this season but didn’t have the winning record to prove it until sweeping two games from UMass last weekend. The Minutemen have likely seen enough of ECAC Hockey, having lost three straight against ECAC teams.

19. Niagara
10-2-3 overall • 0-0-0 vs. my ranked teams • 0-0-0 last week
Last week: 20 • USCHO: 16 • USA Today: RV
20. Harvard
4-3-1 overall (now 4-4-1) • 1-1-0 vs. my ranked teams • 0-0-1 last week
Last week: 17 • USCHO: 18 • USA Today: RV

A day after I sent in this ranking, the Crimson fell to .500 Monday, allowing three goals in the final six minutes to lose 5-0 to UMass Lowell. Harvard is now in the midst of a 19-day layoff and looks to its standout senior class to lead a turnaround against a tough schedule. The Crimson hosts Northeastern Dec. 29 and opens 2013 with seven straight road games, including five against teams that are ranked in both national polls this week.

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