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College Hockey Recap: About Last Weekend....Looking at Stat Outliers

Matt Dewkett

College Hockey Inc's sortable stats page has always been a useful tool, but now that it is in entering its' fourth year of tracking stats, it's becoming even more useful because now we have three past seasons of data to use for sake of comparison.

One of the more instructive stats on that page is the shots on goal margin per game played stat. There are always a few exceptions, but as a general rule, teams that are outshooting opponents consistently tend to be very good, teams that are getting outshot frequently tend to be very bad.

It's still very early in the college hockey season, so the numbers are a bit inflated with the small sample size, but already that trend is emerging again. There are only three teams in the top-20 nationally in that stat with a losing record, and only two teams in the bottom-20 nationally in that statistic with a winning record. Those outliers are kind of interesting.

We'll start with the bottom half. UMass has started the season 3-0-0, but there is probably an argument to be made that they are one of the worst 3-0-0 teams ever. The Minutemen currently sit 50th out of the 54 teams that have played so far(six Ivy League teams haven't played yet) in shot margin/game at -14.33 per game. They've been outshot handily in all three games, twice against Colorado College, and once against Sacred Heart*, but are being carried right now by a 17.6% shooting percentage, which currently ranks second in the nation. The only team in the past three years to shoot higher than 11.5% for a season is the Gaudreau/Hayes/Arnold Boston College team at 12.8%.

So UMass is in a position where their schedule is going to become tougher, and they're pretty much guaranteed to regress in terms of shooting percentage. Now might be a good time to get a screen shot of the Minuteman in the top five of the Pairwise.

The other team is Omaha. The Mavericks have been outshot in all four of their games this season and stand at -8.25 SOGM/GM but have a perfect 4-0-0 record after sweeping Vermont last weekend. Over the past three seasons, only three teams have made the NCAA tournament with a SOGM/GM of -3.50 or more: 2012-2013 Canisius, who was not one of the 31 teams under consideration in the Pairwise that year, but won the Atlantic Hockey autobid, 2013-2014 Denver, who had to win the NCHC conference tournament to get an autobid into the NCAAs, and......Omaha last year.

A big part of it is that Omaha has jumped out to a first period lead in all four of their games, and with scoring so low in college hockey, getting a 1-0 lead is more important than a lot of other statistics. They've been able to sit back and muck things up enough that the other team can't erase the deficit late in games. For anybody else, I wouldn't say that giving up that volume of shots and succeeding is sustainable, but it's Omaha, so who knows.

On the other end of the spectrum with the three teams that have losing records despite solid shot margins you've got the two teams that have been Omaha'd: Vermont(18th nationally) and Minnesota State(17th nationally).

The third team is Northeastern who leads the nation by averaging 26.67 more shots on goal per game than their opponents, but has just a 1-2-0 record after being swept by Bentley last weekend. The Huskies played some Peak College Hockey last Friday night when they outshot Bentley 51-11, and somehow still lost 3-2. Their other two games have been similar, though not as unbelievably extreme. They needed a miracle goal from Nolan Stevens to eke out a 2-1 win over Colgate despite outshooting them 43-17, and outshot Bentley 41-27 in a 4-1 loss on Saturday.

As you'd expect from those shot totals, Northeastern has a dreadful shooting percentage of 3.7%. Surprisingly, that's only third worst in the NCAA so far this season. I tweeted out this stat Saturday night, but if you combined the shooting percentages of the two teams below them, Minnesota State at 1.7% and MInnesota at 1.4%, it still wouldn't match Northeastern's shooting percentage. I stressed the point of just how unlikely a shooting percentage like that is in my Saturday recap of the St. Cloud State/Minnesota State game:

Another 24 shots without a goal tonight dropped Minnesota State's shooting percentage to 1.7% on the season. Shockingly, that's not the worst number in the NCAA(Minnesota is at 1.4%), but it's more than twice as bad as the next highest ranked team(Northeastern at 3.7%). Which is to say, this team is probably bad offensively, but nobody is that bad offensively. It's just not possible. For comparison's sake,  the two-win 13-14 Alabama-Huntsville team shot 5.5%. John Hill's one-win Alaska-Anchorage team shot 6.6%. Minnesota State(and Minnesota) could be a historically bad team--which they likely aren't--and still have a heavy course correction coming their way.

*Note that Sacred Heart the only opponent out of five D-1 teams now that didn't outshoot Arizona State by double digits.

Other Stuff That Didn't Fit Into This Week's Narrative

-After surviving with a pair of ties at home against Northern Michigan last weekend, shit got real for Wisconsin on their trip to Boston. They lost games to Boston College and Boston University by a combined scored of 10-1. BC Interruption summed it up well: "Wisconsin is still a bad hockey team".

-The NCHC and Hockey East are both off to great starts in non-conference play. Those two conferences are already looking like they'll make up the majority of the NCAA tournament field. The ECAC has a non-conference winning percentage above .600 too, but most of that comes from dominating Atlantic Hockey schools, which likely won't be of much use in March.

-North Dakota goalie Cam Johnson got hurt and was unable to continue at the end of Friday's second period against Bemidji State. With projected starting goalie Matej Tomek still recovering from a lower body injury, North Dakota had to turn to walk-on Matt Hrynkiw. Hrynkiw gave up two goals on ten shots on Friday, turning a 4-2 UND lead into a 4-4 tie. In his first career start on Saturday, he got off to a shaky start, allowing two goals on four shots, but recovered after that for a 5-2 win.