With apologies to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman for ripping off his column format, here are 23 thoughts on the last weekend of college hockey...
1. USA Hockey did officially announce the 2018 World Juniors in Buffalo with the outdoor games included. Still feels meh to me. If the best thing you can say about the outdoor game is " Eh, at least those round robin games don't mean much," that's not a great sign. But already having an outdoor rink set up in late-December gives Buffalo a huge edge in potentially hosting the 2018 NHL Winter Classic, which appears to have been their end game. Good for them for working the system, I guess.
2. Penn State's Guy Gadowsky brought up half-shields again, and a week after nefarious stupidity from coaches, it was almost refreshing to get back to generic stupidity. To be clear, there is absolutely zero evidence that half-shields would reduce concussions, both anecdotally and scientifically. The only reason concussions are even part of the discussion is that coaches failed for so many years to get that extra protection taken away from players, that their last hope was to try and attach it to a hot button issue.
3. Omaha's Dean Blais plans to spend time at next year's coaching convention proposing that all NCAA rinks be a standard 200x85. My first reaction: That'll fix it. I mean, I understand that coaching at this level requires a certain type of monomania, but these guys can't possibly be this out of touch, right? Everyone had a good laugh at the fully visible 'M' of yellow seats at puck drop Friday night at Mariucci Arena, but attendance at St. Cloud State was announced at 71.7% capacity on Friday night, and they definitely weren't the only two places that had trouble selling tickets. I promise it had nothing to do with the size of the rink either. This is like the passengers on the Titanic bickering over the song choice of the orchestra while the ship goes down.
4. If you missed the story of why Omaha's Austin Ortega didn't play Saturday night, it's a good one.
5. I really thought Alex Lyon and Yale would be the first to crack Quinnipiac this season, but the Bobcats shutout Yale 3-0 on Friday then beat Brown by the same score Saturday. The next test for the undefeated Bobcats comes next Saturday when they host Boston University. Get past that one and the Bobcats will head into Christmas with an undefeated record and a schedule that gets a little easier.
6. I'd still keep an eye on Yale. The Bulldogs are only 5-4-2 on the season, but currently sit inside the NCAA Tournament bubble at 14th in the PWR. Offense is a major question mark, but with one of the country's best defenses, they can keep any game close enough that it will come down to a bounce or two, which is a scary proposition to face in a one-and-done tournament.
7. Providence stayed undefeated too, but their win on Saturday night came at a big cost when they lost Jake Walman to injury. There hasn't been a defenseman to win the Hobey Baker, or even make the final three, since Matt Gilroy won it in 2009, but there was a compelling case to be made for Walman prior to his injury. Hopefully he's back sooner rather than later.
8. If you had to pick one college hockey team to watch that wasn't your favorite team, the easy choice is Michigan. The Wolverines trailed by two goals in the second half of the game of both games against Wisconsin last weekend and came back to win 6-4 on Friday and tie 6-6 on Saturday. While the rest of college hockey hovers around five goals per game, those were the fourth and fifth games Michigan played this season(out of only 13) in which the two teams combined for 10 or more goals. Michigan is playing a completely different, but much more entertaining, sport than every other team in the country.
9. New Hampshire's Andrew Poturalski currently leads the country in scoring with 30 points. More significantly, he's done that in just 15 games. The list of players to average 2.00 points per game for an NCAA season over the last decade is a short one--and I mean that literally: Johnny Gaudreau.
10. Minnesota had two dramatic overtime wins at home this past weekend(we'll ignore who they were playing). I credit the wins to the return of their "Let's Get Weird" videos, which is currently one of the most fun things going in college hockey.
11. Now let's not ignore the Buckeyes. The two losses at Minnesota dropped the Buckeyes to 58th in the RPI, which is Wisconsin-last-year-level bad. The Buckeyes have three wins--though they came at home against weak Atlantic Hockey opponents--and eight of their 10 losses have come on the road, including a pair of road losses at #2 Providence and #3 Nebraska Omaha. The Buckeyes aren't good, but maybe their schedule is making them look worse than they are?
12. Who would have guessed coming into the season that terrible goaltending would be Michigan State's Achilles' heel? Jake Hildebrand is struggling at .900 SV% and back-up Edwin Minney isn't much better at .907. The Spartans haven't won since sweeping New Hampshire in the first week of November, despite probably deserving a better fate against Boston College and Michigan Tech. Last weekend, the Spartans were dominated in two games at Penn State. This year is probably the end of the road for Spartan coach Tom Anastos as head coach at MSU.
13. Bowling Green scored a short-handed game-tying goal with seven seconds remaining in regulation to force a tie with Minnesota State on Friday night. That would have been more exciting if the Falcons hadn't won their previous game on a short-handed goal with six seconds remaining in overtime.
14. In Saturday's Bowling Green/Minnesota State, the two teams combined to dress a total of nine regular defensemen. The Falcons have been short-handed on defense all year, and a few injuries left them with only five healthy defensemen. The Mavericks had to move two forwards back to the blue line due to a string of injuries. Next weekend will be Minnesota State's tenth consecutive two-game weekend series since the beginning of the season, and they could desperately use the upcoming holiday break.
15. It was perhaps hitting the Mavericks and Falcons played to a pair of 2-2 ties last weekend. They are two of only three teams(RPI is the other) that have a winning record despite scoring less than 2.50 goals per game.
16. Northeastern looked to be on the verge of pulling off a huge upset on Sunday afternoon when they took a 3-1 lead into the third period against Boston College. It took less than nine minutes for that to evaporate into a 4-3 Boston College lead and another loss for the Huskies, who are still winless in 11 tries in Hockey East play. The talent on their roster looks better than their record, but goaltending has been a disaster all year.
17. Kevin Roy hasn't played for the Huskies since November due to injury and hadn't scored a goal prior to that. For a kid that came back for his senior year and looked like a guarantee to be part of the Hobey discussion pre-season, it's been sad to watch. The next time someone breaks out the "nobody ever regretted coming back to school for an extra year" chestnut...
18. North Dakota dominated Denver last weekend with 5-1 and 4-0 wins. But of those nine goals, six of them came from the Caggiula-Schmaltz-Boeser line. How far can a team ride one line that does all of their scoring? I suppose the 13-14 Boston College team proved pretty far, but I still North Dakota is going to need more contributions from their lower lines as the season progresses if they're going to at this pace.
19. It was expected that Miami would take a step back this year without Austin Czarnik and Riley Barber. I don't think anyone expected it to be this bad though. The RedHawks are 2-7-1 in conference play after being swept at Colorado College last weekend. It may be to reclassify them into the lower tier of the NCHC with Western Michigan and Colorado College.
20. Western Michigan falling into that category is another one that surprises and confuses me. Western Michigan's only two wins after the first week of the season came when they swept Omaha of all teams. They're at eight straight losses, and four of those were NCHC conference games in which they didn't even seem competitive. Part of is I would have expected more than three combined goals from Colt Conrad, Mat Iacopelli and Aidan Muir, who are all good players, but currently have shooting percentages under 5%. But that doesn't explain how porous their defense has been.
21. Meanwhile, Colorado College, who lost their first 13 games of the season is now on a three-game winning streak. To give some idea of how bad their start was, their unbeaten streak would have continue into February for the Tigers to have a winning record. They'll close out their first half with road series against Western Michigan and Alabamaa-Huntsville, which they'll at least have an opportunity at pulling in a few more positive results.
22. Also on a three-game winning streak is Lake Superior after a sweep in Fairbanks last weekend. The Lakers are now five league points ahead with two games in hand of Alabama-Huntsville and Alaska-Fairbanks, who are currently in the not-making-the-playoffs spots. The Lakers are taking a step forward this year, and with only three goals so far coming from their senior class, they should only get better in the future.
23. Minnesota Duluth is riding a four-game win streak where they've outscored their opponents 24-2 in that stretch. Of course, their opponents in those four games were Colorado College and Western Michigan, who are not good. But any taste of success might be enough to spark the Bulldogs and get them playing closer to what was expected from them before the season. They'll get the opportunity to show if they've righted the ship or just beat on awful opponents next weekend when they host North Dakota.