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%)
- Power play and penalty kill percentage – NEW DATA
- 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%)
I have finally decided to do the extra work so we can include special teams figures. Also I have taken to making all of my spreadsheets available for download here.
North Dakota was the only team that lost to a team (Ohio State) that isn’t in the top ten. (Bemidji State lost to Minnesota and Princeton lost to Quinnipiac.) I personally would have dinged UND a bit more for that, especially since Quinnipiac beat another ranked team.
The PairWise ranking is important because the NCAA tournament field’s at-large bids are generally populated by the highest ranked teams that didn’t secure an auto-bid by winning their conference tournament. A breakdown of how the ranking is determined can be foundhere.
I’ve added the previous weekend’s results along with each team’s movement from the previous week. Again, eight teams make the NCAA Tournament so let’s run down the top eight:
Wisconsin’s shutout streak is finally over, but their win streak isn’t. With a sweep of Minnesota-Duluth, they’re still undefeated, and still in first in the WCHA.
Wisconsin is dominating statistically. They’re top-five in every stat category I track and top-three in all but shooting percentage. They’re first in win percentage, save percentage (.979), penalty kill (97.4%), shots percentage (72.04%), and shots percentage vs. teams with a 50%+ shots percentage (66.38%).
2. Boston College
Boston College is difficult to gauge. If you go by shots figures, they’ve played one of the easiest schedules in the NCAA. (Their average opponent takes 47.63% of shots.) That said, they’re almost as statistically dominant as Wisconsin. They’re top five in every category except relative shots percentage against 50%+ shots percentage teams (7th).
They’re still very good versus other top teams, but it’s a small indication that they might struggle against better competition.
I still think the Gophers are the best team in the NCAA. They lent some credence to that by throttling Bemidji State 4-0 and 8-3 this past weekend. For the Gophers, and the WCHA, it’s all about who wins the series versus Wisconsin.
Minnesota’s goaltending has lagged behind the rest of the team statistically (.925 save percentage, 13th). Their penalty killing has also been curiously below average (80.0%, 23rd). Their scoring may be good enough to make those figures matter little. The Gophers rank first in goals (74), goal differential (+59), shooting percentage (16.6%), power play (45.7%), relative shots percentage (+17.75%), and relative shots percentage versus 50%+ shots percentage teams (+17.95%).
For those of you that skip the intro, those last two figures compare a team’s shots for and against performances against their opponents versus the average shots numbers against those opponents. Minnesota’s +17.75% figure in relative shots percentage means that teams take 51.35% of the shots on average versus Gopher opponents while the Gophers take 69.10% of the shots against those teams.
The Knights at times have trouble scoring. Their shooting percentage is mediocre at 18th in the nation. That reared its ugly head this weekend against Connecticut where the Knights struggled to score on Elaine Chuli. Two late goals on Saturday preserved the sweep, but things were not looking good late.
I’ve watched the Knights more than any other team this season and even I find it difficult to pinpoint the cause for their struggles. It might not get any more complicated than them simply being a team that lacks snipers. Another possible cause is that the Knights also possess several talented defenders, most notably Erin Ambrose and Renata Fast. They do like to take shots from the point, which are typically low percentage shots.
If you thought a Bobcat would defeat a Tiger in a fight, you were right as Quinnipiac went 1-0-1 over the weekend against Princeton. Playing Quinnipiac is painful, they’re one of just four teams allowing less than 20 shots per game (Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota). The Bobcats also take 3+ fewer shots than those teams per game (31.3) so they’re not a good team to watch if you like high scoring games.
Facing the Tigers, whose own per game averages are 24.0-27.1, produces some gritty affairs. The 1-1 draw on Friday and Quinnipiac’s empty-net-aided 4-2 win Saturday certainly fit that bill.
There isn’t much to say about Northeastern blowing out a program that’s playing it’s first season in NCAA Division I hockey. Northeastern is a solid team with a handful of very good players. That’ll win you most of your games, but keep you just out of the upper echelon.
The Crimson have not been an overwhelmingly good possession team (51.04%, 13th shots percentage), but they weren’t early last season either. I don’t know if it’s the late Ivy League start or something else, but Harvard always seems to struggle early and come together late.
Unlike their traveling partners, the Big Green are a pretty solid possession team taking 59.95% of shots, good for 7th. They’re also right behind the Crimson in the ECAC standings in second.
Checking In With The League
There aren’t really any teams outside the top eight that I feel compelled to talk about this week so I’ll venture to some of the schools that don’t often get mentioned.
Life without star goaltender Ali Binnington has been rough. The Tigers are 3-10-0, have been outscored 48-26, and their team save percentage is .881, 29th in the nation.
The Wildcats are puzzling in that they consistently put up decent shots numbers (50.71%, 14th), but the wins don’t come. My guess is they rely heavily on perimeter shooting. If you try to work the puck into high scoring areas against a team like BC, you’re probably more likely to give it away than get a shot on goal. If you take a shot from the point you’re not only more likely to get the puck on net, but your chances to recover and reload are probably close to even.
Connecticut, Maine, Merrimack, Vermont, and Providence
For some reason 4th through 8th, now 9th, has always fascinated me in Hockey East. Probably because the standings shuffle constantly. Here’s what they look like now:
Who’s going to come out of that? I have no idea! I give slight edges to Maine and Connecticut.
With a sweep at the hands of St. Cloud State last weekend, we can probably put away the ‘Can MSU make some noise?’ question. It’s disappointing. I’m tired of watching Minnesota and Wisconsin run away with the conference while North Dakota, Bemidji State, Minnesota-Duluth, and Ohio State are never quite good enough.
Brown and Union
I watch the ECAC a lot, even the bottom teams. I have a certain fondness for Union who has never finished higher than second to last. I thought this season would be rough with Shenae Lundberg, Christine Valente, and Alex Tancrell-Fontaine all leaving, but they’re still looking feisty.
I want to say Brown looks like they’re in trouble, but their numbers aren’t that much worse than Unions, they just don’t have any results to show for it.