Conference play is in full swing, even though some teams still have some great non-conference tilts slated for the schedule. Teams are emerging, and some are dropping. Minnesota-State takes over the number one spot in the USCHO poll, Michigan re-emerges in the 19th slot, Minnesota drops to 16, and the WCHA is looking like a power conference. Here are the fantastic five:
1.) Minnesota-State (16-4-1):
The Mavericks are playing great hockey. They are coming off of a sweep of lowly Lake Superior State, and travel to Big Rapids, MI to take on Ferris State. The leader of the WCHA, and the number one team in the nation, is led by Hobey Baker Nominees Bryce Gervais (13 goals, 7 assists), Jean-Paul Lafontaine (4 goals, 13 assists), and Matt Leitner (5 goals, 18 assists). Stephon Williams is having a stellar year in the crease, posting 12 wins, a 1.80 goals against average, and a 0.917 save percentage. This team still has to play Minnesota in the North Star College Cup, travel to Alaska, and host Michigan Tech. The road is not easy, but this team is well coached and is getting great leadership.
2.) Harvard (10-2-2):
Harvard is four points behind Quinnipiac for first in the ECAC, but only has one loss in conference play. They have only lost to Yale twice, and Yale is coming on strong agains this season. They still have to play Colgate, Union, Boston University, Yale, and Quinnipiac. Patrick McNally (4 goals, 12 assists) and Jimmy Vesey (11 goals, 10 assists) are leading the Crimson and are nominated for the Hobey Baker. Goalie Steve Michalek has started every game, posting a 1.90 goals against average, and 0.940 save percentage. The Crimson have been a surprise team, and many people wonder if they can keep it going.
3.) Nebraska-Omaha (14-5-3):
The other Mavericks are two points ahead of Minnesota-Duluth for first in the NCHC. Renowned coach Dean Blais has this team playing at a high level. They split with Minnesota-State, swept Western Michigan, split with Minnesota-Duluth, swept Miami-Ohio, and swept Denver. They still host North Dakota, host Western Michigan, travel to St. Cloud State, and travel to Duluth. That Minnesota-Duluth series, late in the season, could end up deciding who wins the regular season title. Goalie Ryan Massa has nine wins, a 2.07 goals against average, and 0.934 save percentage, and is the lone Maverick nominated for the Hobey. Austin Ortega (13 goals, 11 assists), Jake Guentzel (7 goals, 15 assists), and Jake Randolph (4 goals, 14 assists) are leading the Mavs offensively. They are a fast and skilled team, and one that has the benefit of one of the best coaches.
4.) Minnesota-Duluth (13-7-0):
The Bulldogs beat Minnesota in their first game of the year, split with Minnesota-State, split with Denver, split with Minnesota in a home-and-home, split with UNO, and split with Michigan Tech and North Dakota. They are going to need some sweeps if they want to still keep their number three ranking in the PairWise. Hobey Baker Noms: Alex Iafallo (4 goals, 10 assists), Dominic Toninato (13 goals, 6 assists), and Andy Welinski (6 goals, 8 assists) are leading the team. Goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo has 12 of the 13 wins, a 2.22 goals against average, and a 0.917 save percentage. The Bulldogs have a great coach, and have a solid tradition. They still have to play Western Michigan, travel to Denver, host Northern Michigan and St. Cloud State, travel to Miami-Ohio, host Nebraska-Omaha, and travel to Western Michigan. That is a tough slate, but they do not have North Dakota any more.
5.) Bowling Green (13-3-4):
Another surprise has been the BGSU Falcons. They are one point behind Michigan Tech for second in the WCHA, an sit fifth in the PairWise. They swept Miami-Ohio to open the season, and have beaten Minnesota-State, Alaska, Ohio State, Bemidji State, Northern Michigan, and Robert Morris at least once. They still have to play Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan, and travel to UA-Anchorage. The Michigan Tech series, this weekend, will go a long way to seeding in the WCHA Tournament. Amazingly, they do not have a Hobey Baker nominee. They are a team oriented team that even plays three goalies.
Just Missed: North Dakota, Michigan, Miami-OH, Boston University, Vermont, UMass-Lowell, Providence, Yale, Colgate, Michigan Tech, Quinnipiac, and Minnesota