Two teams, Clarkson and Northeastern, who were picked to finish last in their respective conferences, have far exceeded expectations in the first few months of the college hockey season.
Clarkson, picked to finish last in the ECAC by both the coaches and media in the preseason, is off to a 12-3-1 start. The Golden Knights are 6-2-0 in league play following a weekend sweep of archrival St. Lawrence. Casey Jones' team is allowing almost a full goal per game less than it did last season.
Boston Bruins draft pick Ben Sexton, Allan McPherson, Joe Zarbo and Jeff DiNallo are the offensive catalysts. A group of seven seniors has helped lead a team that has also seen a positive impact from its freshmen, according to senior Matt Zarbo.
Northeastern is 9-5-2 after being predicted to finish in the cellar of Hockey East by both the coaches and the media. The Huskies have been an exciting club to watch the first few months of the season with a tremendous rookie class. Talented freshmen forwards Mike Szmatula, John Stevens, Dalen Hedges and Zach Aston-Reese have joined forces with the already sensational sophomore Kevin Roy to score 3.38 goals per game.
A weak schedule kept naysayers criticizing Northeastern's undefeated start through five games, but that argument no longer holds true. Jim Madigan's team now has road victories at UMass-Lowell and Notre Dame. The Huskies even jumped out to a 3-0 lead over Providence before settling for a 3-3 draw on Friday night.
This writer was high on Bentley in his preseason picks, but others doubted the team's ability to defend and keep it together for a full season. The Falcons got off to a slow start after an opening night win at Nebraska-Omaha, but have gone 5-0-1 over their last six contests.
Picked ninth by the Atlantic Hockey coaches, Bentley is in second place with a 6-2-1 conference record. Senior Brett Gensler, a former Walter Brown Award winner, had a goal and three assists as his team swept Robert Morris to become the program's all-time scoring leader at the Division I level.
Junior Alex Grieve has 12 goals and eight assists, including a hat trick this past Friday night. Andrew Gladiuk, Steve Weinstein and Max French are other names that college hockey fans should get used to hearing.
Branden Komm has a .924 save percentage to help offset the team's weakness of its overall team defense.
Michigan was picked third in the Big Ten, and most people felt the Wolverines would be good, but thus far, Red Berenson's team has exceeded even those expectations. Freshman goaltender Zach Nagelvoort has been phenomenal in net with a .945 save percentage and a 1.65 goals against average. Winnipeg Jets draft pick Andrew Copp leads the team with eight goals.
One of Michigan's only two blemishes came against Nebraska-Omaha, a team picked to finish last in the newly formed NCHC. The Mavericks laid an egg this weekend in Colorado Springs, but Dean Blais' team has a 5-2-1 record in league play despite some preseason adversity.
Ferris State was picked to finish second in the new WCHA so the hot start isn't all that surprising. However, no one thought the Bulldogs would be this good or this dominant. After a 2-2 start, Bob Daniels' team is 11-0-2 since, and has outscored its opponents 64-39. The Bulldogs have the sixth best scoring margin in the country at 1.47.
Maine, under the direction of first year head coach Red Gendron, has been solid on home ice with a record of 7-1 at Alfond Arena, but the Black Bears have yet to win on the road. Despite that, the team sits in fourth place in Hockey East. Forward Devin Shore, defenseman Ben Hutton and goaltender Martin Ouellette could be some of the most under appreciated players in college hockey. The freshman class has been solid as well, an interesting tidbit considering the turmoil surrounding the program in the offseason.
Colgate was picked to finish ninth in the ECAC, but the Raiders are 5-3-1 in conference action. Don Vaughn's team was able to trip up Ferris State earlier in the season and also has a win over first place Union. The trouble for Colgate has been maintaining consistency.
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- Hockey East: Three Power Play Tallies Lift Maine Over UMass-Lowell
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- Minnesota State Sweeps Northern Michigan with 3-0 Win: Final Scoring and Notes
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Jeff Cox covers college and junior hockey, NCAA recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.