As the NCAA season progresses, I’m going to publish weekly rankings in conjunction with the USCHO poll. These rankings will be entirely statistics based with the explanation as to how those stats are developed here. As I prefer to do when compiling rankings, a team’s final ranking will be determined by a summation of their rankings in various statistical categories:
- Overall winning percentage (pct)
- Goal differential (+/-)
- Percentage of shots taken (S%) – (Editor’s Note – This is essentially the best imitator of Corsi %. I’m told that shot attempts (Shots on goal plus missed shots plus shots taken that get blocked) are recorded but that data is not available anywhere.)
- Percentage of shots taken relative to Opponents’ S% (Rel S%)
- S% versus teams with an S% of 50% or more
- Rel S% versus teams with an S% of 50 or more
- Shooting Percentage (Sht%)
- Save Percentage (Sv%)
The quality of competition statistics require all teams to have played multiple games so they will not be used this week. Also I have taken to making all of my spreadsheets available for download here.
It’s pretty clear Clarkson’s dominance early on in the season has turned some heads, although I’m surprised a similar high level of play from Wisconsin hasn’t moved them above Boston College. It seems that Cornell is going to linger in tenth until they play games and we can get a sense of how their losses have impacted the team.
I’ve added the previous weekend’s results along with each team’s movement from the previous week although it’s still early enough in the season to produce some weird results. Again, eight teams make the NCAA Tournament so let’s run down the top eight:
The Gophers have yet to concede a goal this season. They’re 4-0-0, have outscored opponents 25-0, and are averaging 35.8 shots for per game and 9.5 against. That is just about as dominant as you can be.
Their victims this weekend were St. Cloud State, who may very well be the worst team in the WCHA, notching 7-0 and 11-0 victories on Friday and Saturday. You’d think that would mean that Gophers are dominating the top of the stats leaderboards, and they certainly have names up there, but the most frightening thing about this team is how evenly they’re spreading the wealth. They have 10 skaters averaging a point or more per game and each member of their top two forward lines has six or more points.
While Minnesota was busy shutting out St. Cloud State, Wisconsin was doing the same to Ohio State with 7-0 and 8-0 victories. The Buckeyes are probably a better team than St. Cloud so early indications are that Badgers might be able to give Minnesota a fight for the WCHA crown.
Unlike the Gophers, Wisconsin does dominate the scoring leaderboard with Annie Pankowski leading all comers in goals (7) and points (11). Sarah Nurse, Emily Clark, and Sydney McKibbon all land in the top ten with 8 points apiece. They don’t hurt for depth either as every single Badger skater who’s touched the ice this season has notched at least one point already. Their first series with Minnesota, which unfortunately doesn’t come until the first weekend in December, is one to circle on the calendar.
Continuing with teams that didn’t concede a goal this weekend. Clarkson’s 5-0 and 3-0 victories over Vermont might not look as flashy as Minnesota’s or Wisconsin’s results, but that’s Clarkson’s game. They don’t often light up the scoreboard, but instead stifle teams with an immeasurably deep defensive corps and an entire roster of forwards that excel in all three zones. Unsurprisingly the Knights second leading scorer is one of their defenders, Savannah Harmon with two goals and four assists. And this is a team that hasn’t even iced their best defender yet, Erin Ambrose, who’s been kept out of action by a nagging injury.
There was a lot of noise made about this freshman class heading into the season and so far they’re as advertised with Rhyen McGill third on the team in scoring, Loren Gabel and Kelly Mariani with two goals and one assist each and Emma Keenan and Josiane Pozzebon making Ambrose’s absence a non-factor along the blueline. This is a Clarkson team that may have a bit of a different philosophy than their WCHA counterparts, but is every bit as dangerous.
4. Boston College
Boston College’s weekend isn’t quite over yet with the second half of their series versus St. Lawrence going on right now. Their 7-4 victory over the Saints is a quality result; St. Lawrence is a solid team and the Eagles handled them easily by jumping out to 3-0 and 6-2 leads owing largely to a 19-3 shot advantage in the first period. The Saints very un-Saintly seven minor penalties helped matters as well.
The Eagles are a bit more top-heavy than some of the other premiere teams with Alex Carpenter almost doubling the next closest eagle at nine points in three games. Fellow seniors Haley Skarupa and Meghan Grieves will probably be up there, but for the time being it looks like the Eagles might have trouble contending with teams that can match them on talent and surpass them on depth.
Colgate was idle this weekend.
6. North Dakota
For two straight weeks North Dakota has struggled with inferior opponents, heading to overtime against RPI a week ago and playing two close matchups against Minnesota State this past weekend. The Engineers and Mavericks are better than they were last year, but the 6th ranked team in the country should probably have an easier time dispatching them.
North Dakota played the Mavericks 2-1 on Friday then saw themselves tied with five minutes to go on Saturday before eventually pulling away. It could be a case of running into hot goaltending, but early on it looks like North Dakota has trouble putting the puck in the back of the net. Their leading scorer, Amy Menke has only tallied assists and only five players have more than one goal. With Bemidji State looming next week, they need to find some scoring.
7. Bemidji State
I’ve talked at length about Bemidji State’s shots numbers and asked if they might be a slightly better team in that regard this season. We have a partial answer as the Beavers were outshot 63-58 over the weekend. That 32-29 average is a bit of an improvement over their 34-26 deficit in their seven games against the Bulldogs last season. It’s a small sample size, but encouraging, especially when you consider that goaltender Brittni Mowat is currently third in save percentage at .976 behind only the two Minnesota goaltenders. If they can get even adequate possession and the goaltending they’re used to they’ll be a noisemaker in the WCHA this season, and perhaps beyond.
A sweep of Minnesota-Duluth is a great result early in the season and something the Beavers failed to do last year at either arena, splitting both series. If they can manage a 3-1 record versus UMD and Ohio State (who swept them last year) that’ll likely mean third place and their first home playoff series instead of fifth on the road. It would also be the highest WCHA finish the Beavers have obtained and probably have them in the conversation for an at-large NCAA Tourament bid, something the school has yet to achieve.
Like North Dakota, Quinnipiac has also looked offensively challenged at times this season but when all was said and done they took care of business with a sweep of Maine including a convincing 5-1 win on Saturday. It’s possible that Mercyhurst is better than I gave them credit for and their season opening series was merely the clash of two decent teams. They’ve got two weeks to enjoy their 3-0-1 record as they play Western Ontario in an exhibition next week.
Taylar “T.T.” Cianfarano led the Bobcats in scoring as a freshman last season and is well on her way to doing it as a sophomore with four goals and three assists through the four games. She tormented Maine all weekend with three goals and an assist and certainly has the skill set to not only lead her team, but be a fixture at the top of the NCAA leaderboards as this goal against Princeton last season attests.
The Best of the Rest
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
The Engineers followed up their strong showing against North Dakota last week with 6-2 and 3-1 blowouts against the CHA’s defending champion, RIT. The Tigers are missing goaltender Ali Binnington who graduated last summer, but it’s a solid start for a team that couldn’t even make the ECAC playoffs last season.
RPI is led by a talented corps of seniors, Alexa Gruschow, Mari Mankey, Jenn Godin, and Lauren Wash who sit at #1 and #3-#5 in scoring for the Engineers. With some teams in the ECAC suffering big losses look for RPI to try and sneak into that playoff spot that eluded them last year.
Boston University drops out of the top eight due to their split against Penn State. The Nittany Lions started Division I play in 2012-13 with a very young roster that has seen much less turnover than other NCAA teams as that roster has matured. They didn’t graduate any seniors last year which gives them a bit of an edge over their opponents early on as they work to integrate new players into their respective systems. That said, I would still expect a team like Boston University to handle them with relative ease.
I’ve stated numerous times that BU will have to find someone, or multiple someones to fill the void left by Marie-Philip Poulin. Most would tab last season’s second leading scorer Sarah Lefort, who had 50 points to Poulin’s 54, for that role but Lefort has only managed one goal through four games this season. Simply put, Lefort needs to be a contributor in this offense or the Terriers are going to have a very long season and a very short postseason.
Northeastern beat a pretty solid Syracuse team on Friday before falling to a Lindenwood team that most have penciled in at the bottom of the CHA. The Lindenwood loss is puzzling, though I’m not sure Northeastern didn’t just get beaten by Shara Jasper, much in the same way their opponents are largely beaten by Kendall Coyne. Jasper had a hat trick against the Huskies and 8 of their 27 shots and her and Shannon Morris-Reade combined for all four goals and five points. Jasper is actually tied for the NCAA scoring lead with Wisconsin’s Annie Pankowski with an identical 7-4-11 stat line to the Badger, albeit in more games.
The Orange apparently decided to not heed my advice to contain Kendall Coyne at all costs, allowing her to score 50 seconds into the game, and again just over three and a half minutes later. They bottled up Coyne the rest of the way, but it was a two goal deficit from which they would never recover twice getting within one but never tying the game.
That said, Syracuse led on shots 37-28, a good sign that their competitiveness won’t be relegated to the CHA. This is a team I expect to garner some top ten votes at points during the season if they don’t break in outright.