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.
Cornell is making a heroic climb up the rankings despite doing absolutely nothing and losing half its points from last year to seniority. Even if this team does end up being pretty good, there’s no real reason to have them here at this point. The only other teams receiving votes were Boston University, who should probably occupy the #10 spot behind Northeastern, and Penn State whose weekend sweep of Union was really impressive I guess…
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:
At long last the Gophers have given up a goal, four of them actually, this weekend to Ohio State. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, they scored 18 en route to two easy wins and a 4-0-0 record in the WCHA. For a brief moment it looked like Ohio State could play with the Gophers as the first period of their Friday game ended with a 1-1 draw and a not awful 13-8 shot disadvantage for the Buckeyes. A 4-0 second period cleared that right up and the Buckeyes never challenged Minnesota the rest of the weekend.
Every week there seems to be something new from the Gophers to strike fear into the rest of the NCAA which is good, lest we run out of things to talk about. This week it’s the fact that their leading scorer, Sarah Potomak, is a freshman and will be terrorizing goaltenders for three more years. In terms of the senior class, Hannah Brandt is second in scoring and Brook Garzone and Milica McMillen are eighth and ninth meaning that this Gophers team will likely be just as good next season. Oh, and their power play is converting at 45%.
For the second straight weekend, the Badgers swept with two shutouts and have yet to concede a goal in WCHA play. For Wisconsin a large part of that is because they dominate shots on goal taking an NCAA leading 76.2% of the shots in their games, or condensed down to a one game figure, a 44-14 advantage on average.
The Badgers have actually played the same WCHA opponents as the Gophers (St. Cloud State and Ohio State) and have slightly better numbers against them with a 22-0 goals advantage to Minnesota’s 36-4 and a 45-13 shot advantage to Minnesota’s 38-12. They’ll be tested this weekend as well as they face Bemidji State at home, who comes off a big 1-0-1 weekend against North Dakota.
Annie Pankowski has lost her share of the NCAA points top spot, dropping all the way down to sixth, but the Badgers boast 17 skaters with multiple points on the season so there are plenty of places to find scoring.
Wisconsin is more or less number one in all the categories in which Minnesota is not number one; save percentage (.976) and shots percentage (76.22%).
3. Boston College
I would have Boston College below Clarkson, nothing against them, I just value wins against ranked teams more than running through unranked and underwhelming Hockey East opponents. Not that BC didn’t have a solid weekend which saw them put up 52 shots on Maine and 82 overall, but this is the same story the Eagles wrote last year and we’re left lacking any meaningful conclusions until they play other top teams.
The Eagles are quickly becoming the Alex Carpenter and Haley Skarupa show as the two have 28 of the team’s 89 points including 9 over the weekend. The Eagles need to find a more balanced attack or they’re going to run into the same roadblocks that they ran into last year.
Equally concerning are the shot breakdowns by period. The Eagles are outshooting their opponents 15-6 and 14-9 through the first two periods, but only 10-8 in the third. To some extent this is because they’ve carried substantial leads into the final period and have not needed to press as much, but it continues a trend from last season where if teams could avoid getting beaten in the first and second by BC then they could skate with the Eagles in the third. Two of the Eagles’ three losses last season featured third period meltdowns in close games.
The Golden Knights capped off the weekend with two comfortable defeats of nationally ranked Boston University. It was rough going for the Knights early as the Terriers jumped out to a two goal lead in Friday’s game with powerplay and 4-on-4 tallies. It was all Clarkson from then on out though as they scored the game’s final four goals and jumped out to their own two goal lead on Saturday in a 4-1 game that was much less close.
There’s a possibility that the Knights aren’t even hitting their ceiling yet with star defender Erin Ambrose still out due to an injury and last year’s second leading scorer Shannon MacAulay languishing towards the bottom of the scoring chart with just two points in seven games. There’s clearly something going on here; MacAulay put up the second most shots for the Knights last season, but currently sits tied for seventh in that category. It could be that she’s simply getting the tough minutes, but she might not be seeing as much icetime in general.
The Bobcats played an exhibition against Western Ontario where they managed to hold the Mustangs to 0 shots in both the first period and overtime, and 9 shots overall while playing to a 1-1 draw. Their high pressure forecheck and backcheck is designed to get them a lot of possession but they’re not an offensive juggernaut so those sort of results are likely to be common this season.
The Bobcats are probably not good enough to win the ECAC, but they seem to have a knack for beating Clarkson, going 3-0-0 against the regular season champs last season. If they continue that success that could throw a wrench into the Golden Knights’ best designs and open the door for either themselves or Harvard.
I’m under no illusion that Colgate is going to be a top team come the end of the season, but they’re off to as impressive a start as any with a 3-0-1 record and pretty well dominating each of their games including their tie versus Connecticut which saw them leading 33-10 on shots after two periods. It was largely penalties that did them in as they took five in the third period and ultimately gave away a 3-1 lead.
Once they face stronger competition they’ll most likely drop pretty quickly down to about the twentieth spot, but they might as well enjoy themselves while they’re up here.
Colgate may make the ECAC picture a bit murkier with the gap disappearing between the four teams that missed the playoffs last season and the rest of the conference. Their best finish of fifth is probably out of the question, but a spot in the ECAC tournament, their first since 2012-13, is not.
7. Bemidji State
The Beavers got the better of their WCHA rivals North Dakota with a shootout loss on Friday and an overtime win Saturday. They performed as advertised with stellar goaltending that saved 56 of 57 shots over the weekend and small but manageable shot disadvantages in both games. It’s actually a slightly worse performance than last season’s first UND series which the Beavers swept, but those UND teams were not nationally ranked at the time. North Dakota returned the favor later on in the season so the Beavers can’t get too confident.
The Beavers certainly don’t light up the scoreboard, but when they’ve got Brittni Mowat sitting with a .978 save percentage, they don’t need to. Next week they’ve got a premier matchup against the Badgers in Madison so they’ll need to be in top form, but if they can steal a game, this is a team that is on a good track to finish third in the WCHA and get that home quarterfinals series.
8. North Dakota
It’d hard to fault North Dakota too much for running into the brick wall that is Brittni Mowat’s pads. They had shot advantages in both games, but you need to pepper Mowat to put one past her. North Dakota is certainly a good team, but it’s looking more likely that they lack the depth and scoring needed to put them firmly into the top eight and give them hope for an at-large NCAA tournament bid.
If there’s one reason for optimism it’s that North Dakota pretty much did the same thing last year, starting off ranked towards the bottom of the top ten before falling off in the middle of the year. They then rode a 13-2-1 run to third in the WCHA and just missed making the NCAA tournament. If they can avoid that mid-year lull things will be different this year.
The Best of the Rest
The Huskies are chaos as a hockey team. They’ve combined with their opponents to score five goals or more in the first period three times already this year and have wild 9-5, 5-4, 5-4, and 7-3 wins. The latter two game came this past weekend versus Mercyhurst and both were utterly ridiculous. On Friday the Huskies spotted the Lakers a 4-0 lead before erasing it by the end of the second period and getting the game winner halfway through the third. Mercyhurst scored on their first two shots and three of their first four as the Northeastern defense looked nonexistent. Saturday saw the Lakers take a 2-0 lead in the first only to have it gone six minutes into the third. The Lakers actually regained the lead late in the second before conceding five third period goals en route to the 7-3 finish.
I, quite frankly, do not know what to make of the Huskies. They’re obviously pretty good and they’ve got a superstar in Kendall Coyne (who did this), but sometimes they look completely uncoached. Their 4-0 deficit on Friday came about because of passing that looked to have no real purpose and absolutely atrocious defensive positioning. Passing is generally supposed to get the puck to a more open teammate or to move a defender, but often the Huskies seem to pass solely for the sake of it. It makes for a very sloppy game at times. They’re 4-1-1 so it hasn’t panned out too poorly for them yet.
It’s possible they’re simply as good as Kendall Coyne and Denisa Krížová make them. The pair have 26 of the Huskies’ 74 points on the season and 14 of their 30 goals. When you add Hayley Scamurra to the mix that’s 32 and 18 respectively making the Huskies among the more top-heavy teams in the NCAA.
It pained me to see Syracuse give away a 3-2 lead versus Connecticut this weekend and without the ‘you just got Elaine Chuli-ed’ excuse to trot out as Annie Belanger got the start for the Huskies. It seems that losing to UConn is a skill the hockey team has borrowed from other sports.
At what point do the Orange start getting frustrated with their netminders? This is a good team that can dominate possession for stretches even against other good teams like Northeastern, but if they keep getting a .874 save percentage (23rd) from their netminders, they’re going to lose a handful of games they should win.
It’s hard to fault the Terriers too much for getting swept twice by Clarkson, and they did have stretches where they played well. This is where intuition-based power rankings have an advantage and you can drop them towards the bottom of the top ten instead of all the way to 15th where they almost certainly don’t belong.
Sarah Lefort seems to finally be getting going with two assists in their first game over the weekend. They’ll need her to keep it up because if she no-shows often Northeastern is going to leapfrog them in the standings.
Early record aside, the Saints are a solid team and just about anyone would struggle with a schedule of Northeastern, Clarkson, Boston College. They’re at the point where they can expect to pile up wins and did so this past weekend with a sweep of Vermont. The next three games (Syracuse, at Dartmouth, at Harvard) are tough matchups but the Saints should feel like they can win at least two of the three.