North Dakota Stopped Being a Hockey School When it Cut Hockey Instead of Footballq

On all my spreadsheets for the 2017-2018 season I still have North Dakota listed, mostly because it makes me sad that they cut a program that has produced so many Olympians, partially because the WCHA just looks weird without them, and perhaps hopelessly because I think they will eventually return, and I don’t want to remove them just to add them again.

The fact of the matter is that North Dakota isn’t a hockey school.  They stopped being a hockey school when they could have cut a football team that loses more money than any other athletics program and instead chose to cut women’s hockey.  And when UND president Mark Kennedy called it a “boutique sport,” something that should have sparked wholesale outrage from this so-called “hockey school,” but seemed to inspire a collective meh among the student body.

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All the Rankings 12-11: Big Movers

Instead of doing a Power Rankings post, each week I am going to go over all the rankings.  (Note: All the rankings includes the USCHO PollSB Nation PollPairWise Rankings, my Power Rankings, and my ballot for the SB Nation Poll.)

Some thoughts on each of the ranking mechanisms:

  • USCHO Poll – Garbage.  Voters are lazy and (I suspect) don’t actually watch the games.
  • SB Nation Poll – We generally get it as right as biased humans can.
  • PairWise Rankings – Limited, but functional.
  • My Power Rankings – My rankings are built on ranking teams across 10 categories and then summing those categorical rankings.  Those categories are Winning Percentage, Goal Differential, Shooting Percentage, Save Percentage, Power Play, Penalty Kill (both *.333 as teams spend on average 1/3 of a game on special teams), Percentage of Shots Taken in Games, Percentage of Shots taken Relative to Opponent Quality, and the last two against teams that take more than 50% of shots in a game.  This is also limited, but is more well-rounded than the PairWise, which is based solely on wins and losses.  If Team A gets outshot 100-1 by Team B, but wins 1-0, I am more apt to reward Team B and think of them as a better team than Team A.  My rankings attempt to account for this with the limited data available.
  • My Ballot – The best, obviously.

The USCHO.com Poll, SB Nation Poll, and My Ballot:

It’s interesting that this week had some of the least movement in any of the polls, but big movers in both the PairWise and my rankings.  Some of that is due to the quality teams continually shifting, thus causing any metric to shift.  On my rankings, Syracuse is no longer a quality team due to being outshot by Clarkson and Mercyhurst twice, and Bemidji State and New Hampshire now are thanks to outshooting RIT and Yale respectively.  (Yes, I update this every week, and yes, it sucks.  Good teams should be good and bad teams should be bad and never change over the course of the season.)

It’s pretty clear that the polls think they have the teams mostly pegged, and they probably do.  To me, anyone beyond the top three is a question mark now, so I’m probably going to continue to tinker week to week.

The PairWise Rankings:

The big movers were Mercyhurst, up six spots to #19 and Syracuse, down five to #26.  Amusingly, Syracuse didn’t move at all in my rankings, sticking at #24.  I had thought the Orange were better than that, but I guess the numbers were right all along as Mercyhurst swept them this past weekend.

Power Rankings:

At some point I usually double the impact of winning percentage as I feel that over the course of the season, the wins and losses are more and more a true indication of a team, and the additional statistics less and less.  It makes sense, and is also extremely arbitrary so I don’t know if I will continue to do so.  That said, who is out of place in the Power Rankings?

Overrated

Robert Morris???

I mean, I kind of have no idea at this point.  I thought Colgate was going to house them and instead the Raiders were lucky to escape with a draw.  I still think fourth and definitely think above Boston College is a little high.

Where I’d have them: #7

Minnesota

If UND hadn’t folded and UMD didn’t drop off so far, Minnesota wouldn’t even have a home playoff series in the WCHA.  This is a team that would probably be right around .500 if anyone else in the WCHA besides Wisconsin and Ohio State were good.

Where I’d have them: #10

Harvard

Harvard lost to Holy Cross.

Where I’d have them: #20

Underrated

Cornell

The Big Red have played one of the most difficult schedules and actually done alright with it, minus a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Clarkson.  I expect to see them rise a few spots above Providence and Minnesota by season’s end.

Where I’d have them: #6

St. Lawrence

The Saints are low largely because they’ve played a difficult schedule.  They are better than their 9-6-3 record and +2 goal differential and will likely bear that out in the second half of the season when they see Harvard and Dartmouth twice.

Where I’d have them: #5

Boston University

I don’t think the Terriers are great, but with Victoria Bach, they’re in just about every game.  Also, #17 feels just a touch too low.

Where I’d have them: #14

 

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Free Streams 12-8 to 12-9

Friday, December 8th

6 PM ET

St. Lawrence at RPI (Link on schedule page)

The Engineers sit way back in 7th in the ECAC, but they have multiple games in hand against everyone except their traveling partners, Union.  Still, those games only matter if you win them, and that will be a tall task this weekend.  The Saints are actually tied with RPI in points, but hold the tiebreaker (record vs. the top 4).  They need a win to put some distance between them and the rest of the table, and to try and track down a top-four spot for the ECAC tournament and home quarterfinal series.

7 PM ET

Merrimack at Boston College (Link on schedule page, ESPN3 login required)

Mired in the muck, Merrimack mingles merely a tiebreaker (wins) up on Connecticut for the final Hockey East tournament spot.  They need to pick up some points, though this probably isn’t the place to do it.  Meanwhile, Boston College finds themselves in first by a hair, with one point on surprising Providence with an equal number of games played.

7 PM CT

Lindenwood at Minnesota State (Link on schedule page)

Both teams look to pad their records with a series out of conference with the 3-10-1 Lionesses traveling to meet the 2-13-1 Mavericks.  This should be an even pair of games as both teams struggle to both generate shots, and prevent them.  Lindenwood has a slight edge on special teams with the 21st and 17th ranked power play and penalty kill to Minnesota State’s 30th and 32nd ranked units.

Saturday, December 9th

2 PM ET

Maine at Vermont (Link on schedule page)

Maine is right in the thick of a crowded Hockey East middle, sitting one back of third and fourth place Northeastern and New Hampshire with three games in hand on the former and one on the latter.  A game against struggling Vermont could propel them into a home playoff spot.

3 PM ET

Clarkson at RPI (Link on schedule page)

Two or more points this weekend will have the Golden Knights in first place in the ECAC as none of the three other teams they’re tied with have conference games until after the New Year.  They should be aiming for a sweep against seventh-place RPI and ninth-place Union.

Robert Morris at Colgate (Link on schedule page)

This is Robert Morris’s chance to get a quality result against a top team, something they’ve failed to do this season.  It is the same for Colgate, who still have doubters despite amassing an impressive 15-3-0 record.

3 PM CT

Lindenwood at Minnesota State (Link on schedule page)

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All the Rankings 12-4: It’s Madness

Instead of doing a Power Rankings post, each week I am going to go over all the rankings.  (Note: All the rankings includes the USCHO PollSB Nation PollPairWise Rankings, my Power Rankings, and my ballot for the SB Nation Poll.)

Some thoughts on each of the ranking mechanisms:

  • USCHO Poll – Garbage.  Voters are lazy and (I suspect) don’t actually watch the games.
  • SB Nation Poll – We generally get it as right as biased humans can.
  • PairWise Rankings – Limited, but functional.
  • My Power Rankings – My rankings are built on ranking teams across 10 categories and then summing those categorical rankings.  Those categories are Winning Percentage, Goal Differential, Shooting Percentage, Save Percentage, Power Play, Penalty Kill (both *.333 as teams spend on average 1/3 of a game on special teams), Percentage of Shots Taken in Games, Percentage of Shots taken Relative to Opponent Quality, and the last two against teams that take more than 50% of shots in a game.  This is also limited, but is more well-rounded than the PairWise, which is based solely on wins and losses.  If Team A gets outshot 100-1 by Team B, but wins 1-0, I am more apt to reward Team B and think of them as a better team than Team A.  My rankings attempt to account for this with the limited data available.
  • My Ballot – The best, obviously.

The USCHO.com Poll, SB Nation Poll, and My Ballot:

Look, I get it.  You get through the top-five teams pretty easy and then you’re like uhhhh…  Sure Minnesota, Ohio State, and St. Lawrence belong there, but where exactly?  Then nine and ten are a complete dice roll.  Do I trust Providence who just lost to New Hampshire?  Northeastern who’s only a game above .500?  Robert Morris who can’t beat anyone good?  Maine?  Oh right, Quinnipiac is a thing…

That’s the nature of this season.  The good teams aren’t as wholly dominant as they usually are and there are more teams In the Hunt than ever before.  Fourth place could win every conference tournament and it probably wouldn’t be all that surprising.  (That would be Mercyhurst, Clarkson, New Hampshire, and Minnesota-Duluth right now.)  Four teams are .500 or better in conference play in the CHA.  The top four teams are all tied in points in the ECAC.  Boston College has tied the last-place WHEA team…twice.  The second to last place team in the WCHA just tied two games against the first place team.  It’s madness.

The PairWise Rankings:

In terms of RPI, the big gaps between consecutive teams are 1st and 2nd, 5th and 6th, 7th and 8th, 13th and 14th, and then you don’t see another one until 28th and 29th, which is amazing.  Robert Morris dropping a game to Mercyhurst was killer as they now sit 9th in the PairWise.  They likely will need to win the CHA tournament or be left home come NCAA time.  Ohio State has a decent gap on Providence for the at-large bid, but that’s not going to continue if they keep dropping points to teams like St. Cloud State.

Power Rankings:

When you look at the sums of each team’s rankings in each category, my power rankings think the biggest gaps are between 16th and 17th (Harvard and Princeton), 24th and 25th (Syracuse and Merrimack), and 31st and 32nd (Lindenwood and Brown).

I think most people would agree that the top five of Wisconsin, Clarkson, Colgate, Boston College, and Cornell, in some order, are pretty solid.  After that I’m going to run down all the teams In the Hunt which will stretch from 6th down to Harvard in 16th, plus anyone below them that is within a game of .500 or better.  I’ll sum it up by telling you if you should buy or sell on each team.

#4 Robert Morris (11-3-2)

The Colonials slide in at number four, not only because they’ve put up good numbers against bad teams, but because those bad teams have also put up good numbers against other bad teams.  Thus their quality of competition metrics are higher than they should be.  Unfortunately I don’t have the time to go into another level of competition.

Robert Morris’s best wins are an overtime victory over Ohio State, who isn’t looking too good right now, and a 2-1 win over Maine, who no one seems to take seriously despite a decent record.  Unlike last season, the Colonials probably aren’t prohibitive favorites to win the CHA tournament as Syracuse, Mercyhurst, and even Penn State all look capable of taking a game from the Colonials.

SELL

#6 Providence

Providence is one on a long list of teams where my opinion is essentially ‘I feel like you should be more consistent, but you’re not and I don’t know why.’  They swept a ranked Northeastern team and were swept by a ranked Cornell team.  Their only other ranked opponent, Boston College, beat them handily.  Their other losses are to okay, but not great Quinnipiac and Syracuse (whom they defeated in the other series game).  I think people are just low on Providence because they haven’t really been here before.  Looking at that, there really isn’t much to complain about.

Buy, but with caution.

#7 Minnesota (14-5-1)

Is Minnesota floating by on reputation?  Yes.  Are they still decent?  Also yes.  One of the biggest struggles for the Gophers is (yet again), their goaltending.  After the departure of Amanda Leveille two seasons ago, they’ve struggled to find an answer in net.  Their team save percentage is .910, which is only a bit below league-average of .914, but it ranks them 24th among the 34 teams.

Also, no one seems to have noticed this, but the Gophers don’t have a single impressive win.  They swept Minnesota-Duluth, but that was when the Bulldogs were still ranked and hadn’t completely outed themselves as a non-contender.  Minnesota hasn’t actually defeated a team with a winning record, and the only one they’ve even played is Wisconsin.  The best team they’ve beaten is Merrimack, who is 6-10-3.  They’re floating by on the WCHA being pretty bad outside of Wisconsin.  If North Dakota was still around and Minnesota-Duluth hadn’t dropped off so far, the Gophers wouldn’t even secure a home date for the WCHA tournament.

Sell

#9 Ohio State (11-3-4)

Hey, why is Ohio State ranked lower than Minnesota?  Because they’re slightly statistically worse in pretty much every category.  Ohio State is basically Minnesota, except they beat Minnesota, and also one maybe okay team in Robert Morris (who also beat them).  They have played another team with a .500 record, but that’s RPI, who has played Yale and Brown a total of four times.  Given that they aren’t even a lock to defeat St. Cloud State at home, the six games against Robert Morris, Minnesota, and Wisconsin aren’t looking good.

Sell

#10 Northeastern (10-9-2)

Jesus, are we going to buy on anyone?  Yes.  As I detailed earlier in the week, Northeastern’s inconsistency has largely boiled down to goaltending.  The team looks pretty set to move forward with freshman Aerin Frankel and her gaudy .940 save percentage so the Huskies should start to be a little more reliable.

Though they did not fare well in their 7-3 loss to Boston College, they do have a win over Wisconsin and a draw against Clarkson (Frankel played in the former).  The Huskies do have the Eagles three more times, one out of conference, and Providence to end the season, but after an underwhelming first half, they should be trending upward.

Buy

#11 Quinnipiac (10-7-2)

After they lost to Maine in the second game of the season, everyone has pretty much forgotten about the Bobcats, even though they are several games above .500.  But…looking at the results, things get pretty rough.  Losses to Maine, Providence, and Dartmouth among unranked teams, though the former two are above .500.  Quinnipiac has also played several ranked teams with games against BC, Cornell, Colgate, Clarkson, and St. Lawrence, all on the road, only beating Clarkson in overtime. The Bobcats will see the last four in the second half of the season, but all at home.

Buy

#12 Maine (11-6-3)

A surprise contender in Hockey East considering the coaches’ poll picked them to finish dead last.  Instead the Black Bears are fifth, three points ahead of the team behind them (with two games in hand) and one point behind the two teams in front of them, with one and three games in hand on them.  Notably, Maine has the tiebreaker on one of those teams (Northeastern) with two wins and one loss in their season series.

The Black Bears actually have three results against ranked teams, with wins over Robert Morris and Quinnipiac, and a tie against Providence.  None of those are terribly impressive, but in addition to their wins over Northeastern, the Black Bears look okay.  Unfortunately they’ll end the season with Providence and Boston College and play 6 of their other 10 Hockey East games on the road.  A few games above .500 feels about right for Maine.

Stay even or sell.

#13 St. Lawrence (7-6-3)

The Saints are a decent team that is struggling to execute in a few key areas.  Their team save percentage is just .898, good for 32nd.  Their power play is 22nd, and their penalty kill is 33rd.  A lot of that is because they’ve played one of the hardest schedules, seeing Clarkson four times, Boston College twice, and Colgate and Cornell.

Heading into the second half of the season they play just two ranked teams (Colgate and Cornell) and have a total of eight games against Yale, Brown, Dartmouth, and Harvard.

Buy, hard.

#14 Boston University (6-8-3)

BU started the season 0-4-0 in Hockey East play and has gone 3-2-3 since.  They are 3-3-2 against teams not named Boston College or Northeastern in the conference, which is just okay.  That describes their statistical rankings in just about every arena, just okay.  Outside of a 30th ranked penalty kill, they land between 7th (power play) and 20th (relative shots figures against all, and top teams) in everything else.  They’re done with BC in-conference, so their schedule is pretty light.

Buy, but not, like, a lot.

#15 Minnesota-Duluth (9-10-0)

The Bulldogs started off ranked, then lost six in a row and haven’t done anything meaningful enough to recover since.  The WCHA is bad, but 6 of their remaining 12 games are against Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ohio State.

I was wrong, this will not be a .500 team.  SELL

#16 Harvard (6-4-1)

Unlike Minnesota, everyone sees right through Harvard and isn’t ranking them based on the past.  It helps that they lost to Holy Cross.  They’re above .500 but their remaining schedule is brutal with eight games against Colgate, Cornell, Clarkson, and St. Lawrence.

Sell.

#18 New Hampshire (7-6-5)

The Wildcats are just above .500, largely on a pretty easy schedule which has had them play only one game against Providence (a loss) and none against Boston College.  They also have a non-conference road date with Quinnipiac so staying above .500 seems tenuous at best.

Sell

#21 RPI (7-7-4)

A surprise team on this list, the Engineers do indeed sport a .500 record, including a 7-3-4 run since losing the first four games of the season.  Unfortunately that’s largely because they haven’t yet played a single ranked opponent.  Despite their easy schedule, the Engineers rank far down the list, and that’s because they’re still statistically unimpressive.

What RPI can do is tend goal, with a .941 save percentage (3rd), and the nation’s top penalty kill.  That makes the Engineers dangerous.  And while they haven’t played the top of the ECAC, they also haven’t played the bottom, with series against Union and Dartmouth, as well as underwhelming Harvard, looming on the second-half schedule.  They hold the 6th seed in the ECAC based on tiebreakers, and that’s probably where they’ll end up.

Stand pat.

 

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Free Streams 12-2 to 12-3

Saturday, 12-2

12 PM ET

Vermont at Maine (Link on schedule page)

Though Vermont is four points clear of elimination from the WHEA tournament, Merrimack (three back) has one game in hand and last-place Connecticut has three.  They need to pile up wins.  Meanwhile Maine can move into a tie for third in Hockey East by gaining two points on New Hampshire.  A sweep could have them within striking distance of the top.

1 PM ET

Clarkson at St. Lawrence (Link on schedule page)

Clarkson scraped a 2-1 win at home on Thursday, now they head twelve minutes south to St. Lawrence University.  Clarkson is tied for the top spot in the ECAC, and second on tiebreakers, but Colgate and Cornell play each other this weekend so the Knights will likely stay where they are.  St. Lawrence isn’t facing any real threat of missing the ECAC tournament, but Quinnipiac and Harvard are just one and two points behind.  The Bobcats have played one more game, but the Crimson have two in hand.

3 PM ET

Cornell at Colgate (Link on schedule page)

The first and third place teams in the ECAC will square off this weekend in a home and home series, this the second of those games.  If one team can manage three or more points, they will find themselves alone in first place in the ECAC.

Boston College at Boston University (Link on schedule page)

Normally a marquee matchup between the conference’s top two teams, this year it’s number one versus number six.  Still, after a slow start, the Terriers are undefeated in their last four conference games (2-0-2).  They managed a 4-3 loss to BC in their only meeting and outshot the Eagles 46-18.  BU scored two late goals with the extra attacker so perhaps they should start with the goalie out?

Sunday, 12-3

2 PM ET

Vermont at Maine (Link on schedule page)

New Hampshire at Northeastern (Link on schedule page)

New Hampshire is in third in Hockey East, but largely on a weak schedule.  They’re 3-0-2 against the bottom three teams in the conference and 1-2-1 against the rest.  They need a quality win or two to show they’re for real.  On the other side, if Northeastern doesn’t get their act, and their 4-5-1 conference record together, they’re going to find themselves permanently mired in the middle muck of the conference.  They do have a win in their only meeting versus New Hampshire.

 

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The Route 11 Rivalry: Clarkson vs. St. Lawrence

Thursday, November 30th

7 PM ET: St. Lawrence at Clarkson (Link on Schedule Page)

Saturday, December 2nd

1 PM ET: Clarkson at St. Lawrence (Link on Schedule Page)

Both games will be free to stream

Eleven miles down New York State Route 11 – that’s all that separates Clarkson and St. Lawrence Universities.  The Golden Knights and Saints are inarguably the most successful non-Ivy league schools in the ECAC, having won all but two of the non-Ivy regular season titles (four total) and all but one of the ECAC tournament titles (two total).

The series is always hotly contested, and despite the Saints’ longer tenure towards the top of the table, Clarkson actually holds the all time advantage in all but postseason play.  The Golden Knights hold a 23-18-7 overall record versus their rivals, including an 11-10-5 conference record and 10-3-2 non-conference record.  St. Lawrence has a 5-2-0 advantage in ECAC tournament games though.

Clarkson hasn’t lost a conference game against the Saints since February 2nd, 2013, though they did lose one of the non-conference games to St. Lawrence last season.  In this season’s non-conference series, the Knights posted a 4-2 win at Appleton arena and a 6-1 shellacking at home in front of 2,679, which broke the attendance record for women’s hockey at Cheel Arena.

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What to Make of Northeastern

It’s been an up and down season for the Huskies, from playing then-number-one Clarkson to a draw, to getting swept by Providence and losing twice to Maine, to beating then-number-one Wisconsin.  Northeastern is a pretty pedestrian 5-5-1 in Hockey East play, currently good for fourth place, but the aforementioned Maine sits only two points back and has three games in hand.

It’s not an easy puzzle to figure out.  It isn’t like the Huskies are killing it at home.  They sit 4-3-1 in friendly confines, and 3-5-1 on the road which doesn’t raise any flags.  Nor do they go through long bouts where they struggle heavily to either score or prevent goals, they just don’t win a bunch of games that they perhaps should.

There is one fairly common theme to their losses though, the penalty kill.  Northeastern has surrendered a whopping 9 goals in 32 attempts to opponents with the skater advantage in their losses, good for a 71.9% penalty kill.  In their other 11 games they boast an 88.9% penalty kill rate.

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