The Rink Rat Rankings, Edition No. 15

By Elliot Olshansky - February 19, 2007

For the first time since I started the Rink Rat Rankings, we have a week of hockey and no new teams in the Rankings. That doesn't mean there's no movement, though, as things continue to shift around heading down the homestretch of the regular season.

  • DISCLAIMER: The Rink Rat Rankings include only the teams that I have seen in person with my own two eyes. As the season goes on, that will go on to include the vast majority of NCAA teams, and as of now, it includes 49 teams. If you do not see your school of choice, it's because I haven't seen the team play yet. Don't be offended. The Rink Rat Rankings are not intended to identify the best teams in the country, just the best ones I have seen, although at this point, we're getting pretty close.

    And now, on with the show...

    1. St. Cloud - The Rink Rat Rankings were originally born out of my suspicion that most poll voters don't see all the teams they vote on. However, I have another pet peeve to address here: one weekend having an effect on a team's ranking. If you think a team is the fifth-best team in the country, that means you think there are four teams that are better. In other words, they're not perfect, which means they're going to lose some games. But when they do lose games, you drop them down in your rankings. I'm not saying that wins and losses don't tell you something about a team, but I don't think those wins and losses get put in context enough when votes are cast in the polls. That brings me to the Huskies. If the Huskies were on top of one of the polls, the voters would have dropped them after a one-point weekend at Wisconsin. However, to me, a one-point weekend against Wisconsin can happen to anybody, especially since the Badgers still have one of the best goalies in the country. In this case, it happened to St. Cloud. Now, the Huskies need to rebound fast for this weekend's series with Minnesota, because the series with the Gophers will have a major effect on the Huskies McNaughton Cup chances, their No. 1 seed chances, and their chances of being back in this spot next Monday.

    2. Minnesota - The Gophers appear to have rebounded nicely from their recent slump, making a clean sweep of Colorado College for the season after winning a pair in Don Lucia's old stomping grounds. I think that Minnesota is slowly becoming the team that it's going to be down the stretch, and has adjusted to the dismissal of Tyler Hirsch, which was bound to have an impact, just as it would have if he had been injured. This weekend's home-and-home with the Huskies will tell the story.

    3. Boston University - The Terriers are on a seven-game unbeaten streak after a three-point weekend against New Hampshire. Of course, that third point came as BU skated to a draw with the Wildcats on Saturday, and Jack Parker's team now has nine ties this season. ("Nine ties? Niiiiine ties"). The best news is the return of Brandon Yip, who made an impact in his return to the Terrier lineup with . One gets the sense that BU was outplayed by UNH but saved by John Curry. That's the way it's been for most of the season, though, and the Terriers have gotten this far. With the year Curry's having, I dare say they'll get farther.

    4. Miami - The RedHawks may drop a spot, but they made a major statement this weekend against Robert Morris. The Colonials were hot, having just swept two very strong CHA teams in Niagara and Bemidji State. They'd also beaten Notre Dame, so they were certainly no pushover. For the struggling RedHawks, big trouble was a definite possibility. However, Rico Blasi's bunch dug in and took care of business, which just may be the boost the RedHawks need going down the stretch. The thing you need to remember about Miami is that the RedHawks have four more games than the standard NCAA maximum, having played four exempt games (two in the IceBreaker and two at Alaska). That does take a bit of an extra toll, and it makes the first-round bye the RedHawks are in line for in the CCHA playoffs absolutely key for the RedHawks to recharge themselves. Who knows, we just might see that team that sat on top of these rankings for so long resurfacing soon.

    5. New Hampshire - The Wildcats had a chance to lock up the Hockey East regular-season title, and they came up with one point against Boston University. One could make the argument that the Wildcats deserved better than they got against the Terriers, but the fact remains that BU scored seven goals, and scored 11 in the three games against the Wildcats this season, so this weekend can't just be chalked up to too much John Curry. The Wildcats will probably still win the regular-season crown, but they're not a clear-cut favorite for the postseason.

    6. Notre Dame - Congratulations to the Irish on winning the CCHA regular-season title. I may not be going along with all the folks who feel the Irish are the best team in the country, but I do feel they're an excellent team, and that Jeff Jackson has done a phenomenal job with this program. Notre Dame won two big games in a tough environment this weekend, and they've been getting the job done all season. I have my doubts about them heading down the stretch - Michigan has been hot in 2007 and a Miami resurgence could be in the cards - but they've proven how good they are all season long, and they could keep on doing it.

    7. Denver - Pioneers get a weekend to recharge their batteries, which is definitely a good thing to have when you end the regular season with series against North Dakota and Colorado College. The Pioneers are definitely a young team, but the youngest team in the country played in the national championship game last season. There are young teams that I think are better than the Pioneers (Minnesota certainly qualifies), but I definitely see hosting a regional as a big boost for Denver (not just the crowd, but also the altitude advantage). DU will be a tough out down the line, and next year could be even better.

    8. North Dakota - The Sioux clearly didn't have their best weekend in the series with Minnesota Duluth, but that said, North Dakota did pick up three points, and to get three points in the WCHA on a weekend where you're not quite at your best is a sign of a formidable team. That said, Dave Hakstol's team needs to do much better against Denver this weekend.

    9. Michigan - Well, there's no question that Michigan is a better team in 2007 than in 2006, but the Wolverines still aren't a great team. T.J. Hensick comes up with a big game once every weekend, it seems, but the games where he hasn't lit up the scoresheet have been trouble for the Wolverines

    10. Boston College - After the Eagles lost to BU in the Beanpot on Monday night, Jerry York said that BC could build off of that performance despite the loss. The sweep of Maine on Thursday and Friday would seem to bear that out. Nathan Gerbe came up big with his three goals and three assists on the weekend. In case you weren't keeping score, he had a hand in seven of the Eagles' 12 goals last week, including the Beanpot loss on Monday night. If you think it's too late for the Eagles, remember that at this point last season, the Eagles were inching closer and closer to the NCAA tournament bubble. I wouldn't count on history repeating, but I wouldn't count BC out, either.

    11. Clarkson - The Golden Knights faltered a bit against rival RPI on Senior Night, but managed to salvage the tie. It's not the most encouraging sign out of Clarkson this close to the end of the season, and it will likely cost the Knights their remaining chance at the Cleary Cup, but I still like the balance, experience and goaltending on this team enough to make them the favorite for the Whitelaw.

    12. Maine - The Black Bears were showing signs of life before getting swept by BC. Maine is inconsistent, plain and simple, which only adds to the "anything can happen" atmosphere of Hockey East that I detailed in my column last week. Goaltending is an issue all of a sudden in Orono, as both Dave WIlson and Ben Bishop struggled against the Eagles last weekend.

    13. Michigan State - OK, so Western Michigan has very quietly emerged as a pretty darn good team in the CCHA this season, Still a sweep by the Broncos and the need for more Bryan Lerg heroics (and yes, Lerg has supplied a ton of heroics for the Spartans) against Ferris State probably aren't the sorts of things Rick Comley would like to see from MSU heading down the stretch. The Spartans will be very happy to have a week off after, as an opportunity to regroup could be just what they need. They just need to get through this weekend's series with Bowling Green without anything disastrous happening.

    14. Cornell - I've seen enough of Cornell over the years that I know what Cornell Hockey looks like. What I saw on Friday night in Ithaca was Cornell Hockey. Of course, the Big Red also turned around and scored eight goals on Saturday night against Princeton, which is a good reminder of the fact that there's a new wrinkle or two on Mike Schafer's team this season. Schafer said Friday that people tend to underrate Cornell Hockey in the offense department, and to do so with this adapted version would be a very big mistake.

    15. St. Lawrence - The Saints have found ways to win this season, generally with timely scoring and bigtime goaltending from Alex Petizian. I put them behind Clarkson and an improved Cornell team among ECACHL contenders, but the fact remains that the Saints are closing in on the Cleary Cup, and for a program that hasn't been a real power in the league for a few years, that means a lot.

    And now, the rest of the field...

    16. Massachusetts - A split in Catamount Country keeps the Minutemen in the running for home ice in the Hockey East playoffs.

    17. Colorado College - As rebuilding years go, this has been a very good one for the Tigers, but in the grand scheme of things, it's still a rebuilding year, and Minnesota showed that.

    18. Quinnipiac - While I was eating chicken parm and bowling with Al Carbone, I got a good look at the Bobcats, and they're on the verge of becoming a bona fide power in the ECACHL. They're still a step or two away, though.

    19. Wisconsin - The Badgers have put themselves within striking distance of a home ice berth for the WCHA playoffs, which would be quite an accomplishment given how much they've struggled this season.

    20. Vermont - The Catamounts are still in the top four in Hockey East, but a trip to Agganis Arena while Maine hosts Merrimack means that UVM could be due for a fall, as there still just isn't enough offense to support Joe Fallon.

    21.Ohio State - A strong performance in Omaha gives the Buckeyes some momentum heading into the big series with Michigan this weekend.

    22. Dartmouth - It wasn't pretty, but the Big Green pulled out a weekend sweep, and can claim a share of the Ivy title with a win against Cornell in Hanover on Friday. The bad news is that Troy Davenport played like a Cornell goaltender on Friday. The good news is that Mike Devine's 51 saves on Sunday weren't too shabby, either.

    23. Niagara - The Purple Eagles are falling fast in the CHA, having taken one point in their last four games. There just isn't enough defense, and as good as t

    24. Nebraska-Omaha - The Mavericks are a middle of the pack team in the CCHA, simple as that.

    25. Alaska-Anchorage - The Seawolves' threat for home ice has ended, but there's still some signs of life in this program, and since we know Dave Shyiak will be around for a while, this should be a team to keep an eye on.

    26. Northeastern - In a battle of teams that no one wants to host in the Hockey East playoffs, the Huskies build off of a gutsy performance in the Beanpot consolation and take three points.

    27. Alaska - The Nanooks will get better, but right now, there are clearly some growing pains going on.

    28. Minnesota State - The split with Anchorage at home in November was probably a bit disappointing. A split on the road, though, definitely gives Troy Jutting something more to be happy about.

    29. Northern Michigan - The Wildcats probably weren't happy to see Miami get its mojo back against Bobby Mo; they host the RedHawks this weekend.

    30. Minnesota Duluth - Nice defensive job against North Dakota. Now about that offense...

    31. Princeton - The Tigers will bring playoff hockey to Baker Rink, another step forward under Guy Gadowsky.

    32. RIT - Tigers come painfully close to clinching the Atlantic Hockey title on home ice, but now head east to Bentley to try for it instead.

    33. Colgate - The Raiders have had some rough losses of late, but show glimpses of the team they were supposed to be this year.

    34. Harvard - The Crimson gave up 11 goals and got one point at Yale and Brown this weekend. It ain't pretty in Cambridge.

    35. Sacred Heart - Pioneers sweep Holy Cross to enter the key series with Army hot.

    36. Providence - Friars continue to work hard with no results...that could change at any time, but time is running out.

    37. Robert Morris - The Colonials' momentum comes to a screeching halt against Miami.

    38. Yale - The Bulldogs deserved a better fate than they got against Dartmouth, but got a very gratifying win over Harvard on Friday.

    39. Brown - The Bears continue to struggle.

    40. Army - A sweep of Bentley gives the Black Knights momentum heading into what may be the biggest weekend of the season.

    41. Union - Clarkson's offense is potent enough...the Golden Knights certainly didn't need Union's help.

    42. Rensselaer - The Engineers had Clarkson on the ropes, but couldn't finish off their rivals.

    43. Air Force - The Falcons can only hope that Eric Ehn's big night Saturday is a sign of what's to come down the stretch.

    44. UMass-Lowell - The River Hawks show signs of what may come in the future by taking care of Merrimack.

    45. Merrimack - New Hampshire was clearly too tall an order for the Warriors, but a sweep at the hands of UMass-Lowell cements the Warriors' spot in the Hockey East basement.

    46. Connecticut - Just when things were looking up in Storrs, the Huskies get just one point from AIC.

    47. American International - A three-point weekend against UConn shows that the Yellow Jackets still have some sting.

    48. Canisius - The Griffins got an impressive road win at Air Force on Friday before succumbing to too much Eric Ehn/

    49. Holy Cross - The Crusaders, believe it or not, have won just three times since Thanksgiving.

  • Posted by Elliot Olshansky at 08:49 PM on February 19, 2007

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