Welcome to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Power Rankings. Three of us will be doing the weekly NCHC Power Rankings during the 2014-15 season.
Without further adieu, here’s this week’s power rankings.
1. North Dakota (16-5-2, 7-4-1 NCHC) USCHO: 2 Pairwise: 4
This past weekend, UND swept non-conference foe Niagara (7-1 W, 5-0 W). The results shouldn’t shock anyone; Niagara came into this weekend series as the worst team in division I college hockey and they showed me very little.
This weekend, UND plays another team that’s struggling. The Colorado College Tigers invade Ralph Engelstad Arena for a two-game conference series.
2 Nebraska-Omaha (15-6-3, 9-4-1 NCHC) USCHO: 8 Pairwise: 2
This past weekend, the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks split their conference series with the Colorado College Tigers (3-4 L, 4-1 W). The Mavericks have the dubious honor of being the first team in the NCHC to lose to the Tigers.
That loss has Mavericks fans asking questions. I also wonder if Ryan Lambert of Puck Daddy will finally be right for a change. Last week, Lambert predicted, “Omaha will fall off, but might have enough points banked that it doesn’t make a difference.”
This weekend, the Mavericks are idle.
3. Minnesota-Duluth (13-8-1, 8-5-1 NCHC) USCHO: 7 Pairwise: 5
This past weekend, the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs recorded a single point (2-2 T, 2-4 L) against the WMU Broncos. UMD lost the shootout to the Broncos on Friday night.
This weekend, UMD plays the Bemidji Beavers in the first round of the North Star College Cup. The two other teams participating in the NSCC are Minnesota, Minnesota State.
4. Miami (14-8-0, 7-5-0 NCHC) USCHO: 9 Pairwise 6
This past weekend, the RedHawks were idle.
This weekend, the RedHawks entertain the Denver Pioneers in an important two-game series. The RedHawks are looking to rebound after being swept by the Saint Cloud State Huskies two weeks ago.
5. Denver (13-7-1, 6-5-0 NCHC) USCHO: 11 Pairwise: 12
The University of Denver is a hard team to figure out. After getting swept by Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks the week before, the Pioneers get some redemption by sweeping (3-1 W, 4-1 W) the St. Cloud State Huskies at home.
This week, Denver travels to Oxford to play the Miami RedHawks. This should prove to be an interesting series. Last season, Miami lost to Denver in the championship game of the Frozen Faceoff.
6. Western Michigan (10-9-3, 3-6-3 NCHC) USCHO: N/R Pairwise: 21
The Western Michigan Broncos are a team on the rise. The Broncos are 7-1-2 in the last 10 games and took five-of-six points (2-2 T, 4-2 W) against the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs.
This weekend, the Broncos travel to St. Cloud State to play the Huskies.
7. St. Cloud (9-12-1, 4-7-1 NCHC) USCHO: N/R Pairwise: 24
The Huskies are the NCHC’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. A week after sweeping the Miami RedHawks in St. Cloud, the Huskies traveled to Denver and were swept (1-3 L, 1-4 L). What should concern Husky fans is their inability to score goals.
This weekend, the Huskies entertain the Western Michigan Broncos.
8. Colorado College (5-13-1, 1-9-1 NCHC) USCHO: N/R Pairwise: 41
Last week, I said that the Colorado College Tigers were a bad hockey team, I stand by those comments. Colorado College is ranked 45th in goal scoring and 56th in team defense. The Tigers are giving up an average of four goals per game and only scoring 2.26.
To beat the Tigers, you have to get to three.
The Colorado College Tigers split their weekend series with the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (4-3 W, 1-4L) at home. As I mention earlier, the UNO Mavericks had the dubious honor of being the first team in the NCHC to lose to the Tigers.
This weekend, the Tigers travel to Grand Forks, ND, to play the University of North Dakota in a two-game conference center.
1. North Dakota 16-5-2 USCHO: 2 Pairwise: 4
Although Omaha has the conference pole position right now, I just like the way UND is playing right now, and for the whole season for that matter. After an impressive final non-conference weekend against Niagara, well impressive that they scored goals on goals on goals, they will return to NCHC play next weekend at home against Colorado College, who beat Omaha in one game this past weekend. It is time to chip away the point differential for the chase to the Penrose and it starts this weekend for UND.
2. Nebraska- Omaha 15-6-3 USCHO: 8 Pairwise: 2
Still in first place in the conference, Omaha split with Colorado College last weekend and were lucky that Western Michigan took care of Duluth and North Dakota had a non-conference series this weekend, or they could have lost valuable ground as the front runners in the conference. It should be interesting to see how coach Dean Blais leads this team down the stretch run this season.
3. Minnesota-Duluth 13-8-1 USCHO: 7 Pairwise: 5
Well, this weekend was one the Dogs would want to throw away and hit the refresh button on. Western Michigan came in and worked the Bulldogs, only allowing them one point this weekend. 1-2-1 since the holiday break, Duluth has the North Star Cup at Xcel Energy Center next weekend in a key non-conference series with heavy pairwise implications.
4. Miami 14-8-0 USCHO: 9 Pairwise: 6
Off this weekend, and much needed week off to regroup after getting swept by St. Cloud State two weeks ago. Things do not get any easier this weekend for Miami as Denver rolls into town with six big points on the line. Can Miami get back to their winning ways with the advantage of being at home?
5. Denver 13-7-1 USCHO: 11 Pairwise: 14
The Pioneers had a very impressive weekend at Magness with a sweep of St. Cloud State. Continuing to claw their way up the NCHC ladder and this weekend’s series at Miami couldn’t be any more important.
6. Western Michigan 10-9-3 USCHO: N/R Pairwise: 21
Once again another impressive weekend against another top team in the country. The Broncos are pushing towards a second half to remember right now. Let’s just see if the trend continues and they find themselves back at Target Center in March.
7. St. Cloud State 9-12-1 USCHO: N/R Pairwise 23
Even though the Huskies hold wins over Minnesota, who is slumping right now, the defending national champs, Union, who is having a season to forget, and a North Dakota squad who is making opponents work hard to beat them. I still wouldn’t count this St. Cloud team out, they may not be above 500 or consistently winning, but they are still a team with a lethal power play that can steal games.
8. Colorado College 5-14-1 USCHO: N/R Pairwise: 41
The only NCHC team that is substantially below the 500 mark for the season gained their first conference win against first-place Omaha last weekend, but this little ray of hope was exactly that, little. Things don’t get any easier for the Tigers as they travel to Grand Forks to play North Dakota next weekend, so the big guns will have to come out strong if they wish to compete with UND.
1. North Dakota (16-5-2, 7-4-1-0 NCHC) Pairwise Ranking: 4
North Dakota moves up to the #1 spot in my conference rankings this week, as the Sioux dominated Niagara. While the Purple Eagles are the lowest ranked team according to the Pairwise Rankings, North Dakota completely outclassed Niagara throughout the weekend. Perhaps more impressively, North Dakota got contribution from nearly everyone in the lineup, a sign of a great team. The Sioux host Colorado College this weekend before what appears to be a critical series in Omaha against the Mavs the following weekend.
2. Nebraska-Omaha (15-6-3, 9-4-1 NCHC) Pairwise Ranking: 2
Nebraska-Omaha jumps in my ranking largely due to the failure of Minnesota Duluth this past weekend. The Mavericks managed a split this weekend against Colorado College, although they mustered just 14 shots on goal in their Saturday victory. The three points vaulted UNO to the top of the NCHC standings. Dean Blais’ squad has the weekend off to prepare for a vital series the following weekend against North Dakota.
3. Miami (14-8-0, 7-5-0 NCHC) Pairwise Ranking: 6
The RedHawks were off this past weekend. Hopefully, Miami used the extra rest to recuperate following the sweep against St. Cloud State. Like almost every other team in the conference, the RedHawks face a tremendously difficult schedule down the stretch. Fortunately, for Miami, 7 of the last 12 are at home, starting with two in Oxford against Denver this weekend.
4. Minnesota Duluth (13-8-1, 8-5-1 NCHC) Pairwise Ranking: 5
Duluth struggled this past weekend, losing a shootout on Friday before dropping the Saturday contest in regulation against Western in Duluth. The results surprised most people around the conference, but perhaps they shouldn’t given the amazing quality of competition. After all, Duluth is still one-of-four NCHC teams ranked in the top 6 in the nation according to the Pairwise rankings. Duluth will look to rebound this weekend in non-conference play as the Bulldogs take part in the North Star College Cup where they will play Bemidji State on Friday and then either Minnesota or Minnesota State on Saturday.
5. Denver (13-7-1, 6-5-0 NCHC) Pairwise Ranking: 14
Oh, how a week can make a difference in college hockey. Denver limped home after getting swept by Omaha last weekend. Moreover, they were set to face a St. Cloud squad that was coming off a sweep of Miami. So what did the Pioneers do? They controlled much of the weekend’s action en route to a sweep of St. Cloud. While the top four teams in the conference have established themselves as the teams to beat for home ice, Denver has the talent and ability to push any of those four teams down the stretch. This weekend, the Pioneers travel to Miami to take on the RedHawks in a key series for both squads.
6. Western Michigan (10-9-3, 3-6-3 NCHC) Pairwise Ranking: 21
The Broncos shocked the NCHC landscape this weekend, earning 5 of the possible 6 points on the road against Duluth. The results prove once again just how strong the conference is, and also vaulted Western Michigan onto the bubble for consideration to be selected to the NCAA Tournament. To keep that momentum up, Western will need to keep up their road warrior status over the next month, as the Broncos have seven of their next 10 contests on the road. That starts this weekend with a trip to St. Cloud to take on the Huskies in conference action.
7. St. Cloud State (9-12-1, 4-7-1 NCHC) Pairwise Ranking: T-23
The Huskies had a difficult weekend up in the Mile High City, as St. Cloud dropped a pair of games to the Denver Pioneers. Bob Motzko will need to energize his offense if he has hopes of making a second-half surge as the Huskies managed just two goals on the entire weekend against the Pios. However, if the Huskies can make a run, they will have a chance at earning an at large bid to the NCAA Tournament, thanks in large part to the overall strength of the conference. That quest starts this weekend, as SCSU hosts Western.
8. Colorado College (5-14-1, 1-9-1 NCHC) Pairwise Ranking: 41
I stated last week that I thought CC would still struggle to break into double digits in conference points this season. I think I may have spoken a bit too quickly. The Tigers played well at home this past weekend against Nebraska Omaha, earning a split, and doing a great job of limiting one of the conference’s top scoring teams. Their task won’t be any easier this weekend as the Tigers travel up to Grand Forks to take on North Dakota, but with 8 more home games down the stretch, I think CC will manage to put up respectable results.