NCAA Rankings: Remembering the early thrills Print
Futures Watch
Written by Steve Wozniak   
Tuesday, 21 February 2012 02:00

As in every sport, some teams just don't live up to expectations during the course of the season. This week's power rankings remembers those teams and looks at the teams that have lived up to or surpassed their expectations.

Steve WozniakWe will start this week’s power rankings with a premature postmortem for the teams that began the season with so much promise and momentum, to only see it evaporate along with hopes for an NCAA Tournament berth.

Rest ye well, Western Michigan. You began the season 6-0-3 behind some gutsy one-goal wins and a sweep of Alabama-Huntsville, who, at the time, we did not know would be so bad. Since then, you’ve gone 10-13-5 and just about vanished from any talk of the postseason.

It was a shock, Notre Dame. At times in the season, you took down titans like Boston College, Michigan, Boston University, Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota and Ferris State. But a 3-9 run since that big win over Minnesota in the Twin Cities has taken you from a No. 1 seed in the tournament to an afterthought.

Michigan Tech, we knew it was too good to last. You began the season 4-0-0 and 6-2-1, this after 5-30-1 and 4-30-4 campaigns. It looked like the dawning of a new era in Houghton, but alas, the WCHA eventually pounded away at the veneer and left you a much-improved but still-not-competitive 13-15-4.

Quinnipiac, you began the season 7-2, then went .500 the rest of the way as ECAC play kicked in. Clarkson went from a 6-1-2 start to a 9-12-4 follow-up. Harvard has gone 8-8-11, despite a ton of high expectations surrounding the eight NHL draft picks on the Crimson’s roster.

As for the rest of you, you’re either way off the radar or find yourself among the 20 teams in this week’s rankings. The first 16 make up today’s hypothetical NCAA Tournament field.

1. Boston College (21-10-1): The Eagles have given up just 12 goals in their current seven-game winning streak, the longest in Division I. Hopefully, BC won’t get distracted by viral rumors that the Rangers may trade their prospect and the Eagles’ top scorer, Chris Kreider, as part of a deal to land Rick Nash.

2. Michigan (20-10-4): The New York Rangers made big news by not allowing more than four goals in regulation in any game this season. The Wolverines have been almost as steady in their own end. They’ve allowed more than three goals in a game just five times this season, and not since dropping a 4-3 decision to Alaska back on Dec. 2.

3. Mass-Lowell (20-9-0): The River Hawks love to tout their speedy, aggressive puck-possession style of play. But the fact is that UML is just 11-7-0 when outshooting its opponents, a more impressive 9-2-0 when outshot.

4. Ferris State (22-8-4): During the Bulldogs’ 14-game unbeaten streak, they’ve knocked off tough teams like Colgate, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Michigan State. It’s hard to believe that their last loss came to Hockey East cellar dwellers Vermont on the last weekend of 2011.

5. Minnesota-Duluth (20-7-5): Seven points in the last three games has vaulted Jack Connolly back into the NCAA scoring race. The undrafted senior, with 17 goals and 33 assists, is now just two points behind Maine’s Spencer Abbott.

6. Boston University (18-11-1): The hits just keep on coming … or at least the raps. Two months after Terriers star and Islanders prospect Corey Trivino was arrested for sexual assault and subsequently kicked out of school, BU junior defenseman and Red Wings draftee Max Nicastro gets arrested on the same charge. Nicastro, though, has only been suspended pending an investigation.  

7. Union (19-6-7): Undrafted sophomore goalie Troy Grosenick now leads Division I in goals against average (1.52) and save percentage (.942). To get the triple crown, he’ll need to post at least three more shutouts to pass Minnesota’s Kent Patterson and his seven goose eggs.

8. Minnesota (21-11-1): The Gophers began the season by scoring at least four goals in each of their first seven games. They’ve accomplished that feat only twice in the last 12 games, though. A 6-6-0 run makes Minnesota one of the bigger enigmas heading into the postseason.

9. Maine (18-10-3): The Black Bears have gone without a power-play goal in seven games this season; they are not surprisingly 2-5-0 in those games. The plus, though, is that Maine has avoided a shutout through its first 31 games.

10. Michigan State (18-12-4): With 89.2 percent success, the Spartans’ penalty kill ranks second in the country to Robert Morris’ 92-percent success rate.

11. Miami (19-13-2): After posting just one shutout in their first 21 games, the RedHawks have posted four in their last 13. In that stretch of 13 games, Miami has allowed just 18 goals, or 1.38 per game.

12. Denver (18-10-4): Strangely, the Pioneers have a losing record (7-8-0) when they outshoot their opponent.

13. Ohio State (15-11-5): How bad are things going for the Buckeyes? After ending their 11-game winless streak with a 4-3 victory over Western Michigan, the schedule gave Ohio State a week off to halt any momentum from that rare triumph.

14. North Dakota (17-11-3): We know the Team-Formerly-Known-As-Fighting-Sioux love playing in the palace that is Engelstad Arena, but a 5-7-0 road record has to cause some concern for the postseason championships and NCAA Tournament – where exactly zero games will be played at Engelstad.

15. Cornell (14-6-7): The Big Red have been held to under 20 shots on goal five times this season. On average, they’re being outshot by two trigger pulls a game.

16. Air Force (16-8-7): Robert Morris should beware this weekend. The Falcons have posted shutouts on the previous three Friday nights they’ve played.

ON THE BUBBLE

17. Merrimack (15-9-6): The Warriors still have the sixth best defense in the country. But having the offense dry up has led to a 1-4-1 February. Ugh.

18. Northern Michigan (14-12-6): The Wildcats’ longest winning streak was four games. Their longest winless streak was eight games. Somehow those numbers don’t foretell a future championship.

19. Lake Superior (16-13-5): A season-ending sweep of rival Northern Michigan and a decent run in the CCHA playoffs may give the Lakers their best season since 1995-96, the last time LSSU made the NCAA Tournament.

20. Colorado College (16-12-2): The Tigers are still looking for their first win streak since a three-gamer from Dec. 10-17.

THREE STARS

Alex Grieve, Bentley

The week: The undrafted freshman figured in all six of the Falcons’ goals in Saturday’s 6-1 whipping of Connecticut. For the weekend, he had two goals, five assists, and was a plus-7 in two games.

Fun fact: He had 152 points in 169 career games with the Westside Warriors of the BCHL prior to coming to Bentley.

Kenny Agostino, Yale

The week: The sophomore and Penguins prospect tallied three goals and two assists as the Bulldogs thumped both Dartmouth and Harvard.

Fun fact: Hockeysfuture.com lists Agostino as Pittsburgh’s ninth-best prospect, two spots ahead of New Hampshire alum Paul Thompson, last season’s Hockey East Player of the Year.

Connor Knapp, Miami

The week: The senior Sabres draftee stonewalled Notre Dame, stopping 59 of 60 shots to give the RedHawks the sweep and put them back squarely in the tournament picture.

Fun fact: At 6-foot-6, Connor is the tallest goalie in the NCAA. Going top shelf on him over the shoulder isn’t really an option.

EARLY BRACKETOLOGY

Northeast Regional (Worcester, Mass.)

1 Boston College vs. 4 Air Force

2 Boston University vs. 3 Denver

East Regional (Bridgeport, Conn.)

1 Mass-Lowell vs. 4 Ohio State

2 Union vs. 3 Michigan State

Midwest Regional (Green Bay, Wis.)

1 Michigan vs. 4 Cornell

2 Minnesota-Duluth vs. 3 Maine

West Regional (St. Paul, Minn.)

1 Ferris State vs. 4 North Dakota

2 Minnesota vs. 3 Maine

Photo by Boston College

Last Updated on Friday, 24 February 2012 18:36