The Rink Rat Rankings: Season 2, Edition No. 12

By Elliot Olshansky - January 28, 2008

We're now over two-thirds of Division I in the Rink Rat Rankings, and more than half of Atlantic Hockey is now part of the rankings with the addition of "God and Country:" Holy Cross, Sacred Heart, Army and Air Force.

And of course, there was all kinds of craziness going on among the nation's top teams, which you folks undoubtedly care much more about.

A few thoughts before I start with the Rankings for this week: I'm getting sick and tired of certain people - and by "certain people" I mean fans of certain WCHA teams - using strength of schedule as a reason why a CCHA team shouldn't be No. 1 in the country. They say it as if poll voters merely look at results, records, and statistics when filling out their ballots, so that the argument for Miami or Michigan is easier to assault. "Well, sure Miami has the top offense in the country. Look whom they've been scoring on!" "Of course Michigan has only lost three times this season. They haven't played anyone!" I'll you this, folks: I drove past a lot of farms during my travels in Ohio earlier this month, and those farms would have a fine use for thinking like that: fertilizer.

It's not just whether a team wins or loses, but how and why they win or lose. Records are nice, but it's the talents, abilities, and discipline that produced those records that determine what kind of a team it is and just how good it is. That's what I look at when I watch teams to determine the Rink Rat Rankings, and I'd imagine it's what a number of the poll voters look at, too. And based on my evaluations of the teams - NOT THEIR RECORDS - this is how I see the Rink Rat Rankings.

1. Miami - With the RedHawks reclaiming the top spot in the polls this week, this might be a time to consider saying, "See, I told you so." I'm not going to do that. First of all, I don't root for Miami or anyone else (except Dartmouth...old habits die hard), so while it is nice to be right about something, shoving it in people's faces sends the wrong message. Second, Miami plays Michigan next weekend (with the Friday game on CSTV, I might add), and that series will tell us the most about which team is better (until the postseason). Third, bad enough the Miami fans are suggesting I have a "man crush" on their team. The last thing I need is other fans suggesting it.

2. Michigan - You know, there's a very nice silver lining on the Wolverines' dark cloud from the weekend. Who would have thought going into the season that Billy Sauer would be the Wolverines' best player on a big weekend? Seriously. Offense comes and goes. Some nights, you run into a hot goaltender, and with three goals allowed in four games, Jeff Lerg qualifies. Some nights, you don't get the bounces. Some nights, talented players are just off their game for one reason or another. Good, consistent, goaltending, though...that's something the Wolverines have.

3. Denver - The Pioneers had one of the best bye weekends imaginable, watching Colorado College take a spill in Houghton (more on them later). The question for this weekend is whether Peter Mannino has recovered from his struggles against Wisconsin and Air Force and can backstop the Pioneers the rest of the way. Who better to prove it against than those notoriously pesky Minnesota State Mavericks, on the road, right after the Mavericks blasted St. Cloud twice.

4. North Dakota - Here come the Fighting Sioux, on a seven-game winning streak after being unable to establish consistency in the first half of the season. There may be a concern about the offense, but Phil Lamoureux has allowed 10 goals in the seven wins. It's not the unbeatable form that had people thinking North Dakota couldn't lose two weeks into the season, but it;s enough to win.

5. New Hampshire - The Wildcats haven't lost a Hockey East game since December 8, and their non-conference losses, for the most part, have come against teams that won't wind up in the RPI top 25, minimizing their damage on UNH's NCAA tournament position. The balance that UNH has continues to pay dividends, and with all Hockey East games the rest of the way, UNH should be in a very nice groove.

6. Colorado College - Richard Bachman had a rough night in Houghton, and the Tigers couldn't muster enough offense to make good on Bachman's stronger night on Friday. The truth is that in a league that's as strong from top to bottom as the WCHA, there's going to be a weekend like that every now and then. No rest for the weary, though, as Clarkson comes to town for a key non-conference series.

7. Boston College - The Eagles are 9-1-2 in their last 12, and managed to absorb the loss of Brock Bradford (again) without much of a hiccup. 1-0-2 against Maine on the season isn't great for BC, but the big picture shows that this has proved to be just about as good as it was supposed to be. John Muse isn't Cory Schneider, but he gets the job done behind the Eagles' veteran defensive corps. Oh, and then there's Nathan Gerbe who, worthy of the Hobey Baker or not, is one of the best players in the country, dangerous in all situations.

8. Michigan State - The rival Wolverines were reminded of what many Michigan State opponents have learned in painful fashion: when Jeff Lerg is good, he is really, really good. His cousin Bryan was the leader he needed to be on the offensive end, and the Spartans got some much-needed wins against a fellow Team Under Consideration.

9. Notre Dame - With the Irish struggling to score, Bowling Green and its inconsistency were just what the doctor ordered for Jeff Jackson's team. The Thang/Deeth/Condra line continues to produce for the Irish, and Jordan Pearce is giving Notre Dame solid goaltending. The Irish should be able to cruise through the rest of the regular season, with four of the bottom six teams in the league on the schedule.

10. Clarkson - The Golden Knights keep taking care of buiness in ECAC Hockey play, but this weekend's series at Colorado College may be the most important weekend of the second half for George Roll's team. It would take some serious tanking to keep Clarkson out of the tournament, but this series against CC is the last chance before the tournament that Clarkson will have to prove itself on the national level. They have the ingredients, too.

11. UMass - It's been a rough week for all of Hockey East's surprise teams, although given the way things have been going for UMass lately, a tie against Vermont is respectable change of pace. Paul Dainton has had some respectable outings during the Minutemen's six-game losing streak, but he can't seem to put things together on the same night as the UMass offense. The UMass offense doesn't have any one consistent offensive performer, which they can't compensate for every night.

12. Northeastern - Remember how Providence is the best team no one's talking about? Well, the Friars are being talked about now, and I'm sure the things the Huskies are saying about Providence aren't fit for print. The Huskies are 1-4-1 in their last six, hitting a tough stretch just in time for the Beanpot, where the Huskies have their best chance in years to add championship No. 5 to the trophy case and briefly shut up the BU student chants of "WHERE'S YOUR BEANPOT?!". Will they be ready? Ask Brad Thiessen tomorrow in his Tuesday @ the Rink chat and check in on Thursday for Shawn McEachern's thoughts at Breakout, Break In.

13. St. Cloud - The Huskies had a truly ugly weekend against Minnesota State, with the lowlight coming in the form of a five-goal third period for the Mavericks. Lapses in focus like that may be unavoidable with a young team like the one that Bob Motzko has in St. Cloud. Fortunately for Motzko, he'll have plenty of time to try and right the ship, with a bye weekend before a trip to Colorado Springs.

14. Minnesota - The good news is that Alex Kangas has allowed seven goals in his last four starts. The bad news is that the Gophers are 1-1-2 in that time. This is shaping up to be a landmark year in offensive futility for the Gophers. Here's how the Gophers have finished nationally in scoring the last five seasons: third, third, fifth, second, third. This season, they're 36th. That's a pretty stark picture right there.

15. UMass Lowell - The River Hawks took one on the chin from Minnesota Duluth over the weekend, but the story for this team is going to be told in Hockey East play. If the River Hawks reach the point where they're really thinking about what happened this weekend, that'll likely be a very good thing. In all honesty, after what nearly happened to this program last summer, it's a team that's "playing with house money," and that will likely work in Blaise MacDonald's favor when it comes to his team's attitude and approach down the stretch.

Now, the rest...

16. Bowling Green - The weekend sweep by Notre Dame shows just how wide the gap between No. 4 and No. 5 is in the CCHA.

17. Princeton - Tigers are refreshed and ready to return to action against a dangerous Robert Morris team.

18. Quinnipiac - No disrespect to Niagara, but the Bobcats need to consistently win games like those to get respect nationally.

19. RIT - The Tigers opened the door for their Atlantic Hockey rivals with a one-point weekend against UConn.

20. Boston University - The Terriers have been better in 2008, but they haven't always shown it, and time is starting to run out.

21. Cornell - The Big Red is taking care of business in ECAC Hockey.

22. Yale - Billy Blase is a rock in net for the Bulldogs, but considering that he's being mentored by Keith Allain and Mike Richter, should we be surprised?

23. Union - The Dutchmen's big win streak ends, but it took a powerful Clarkson team to do it.

24. Nebraska-Omaha - The Mavericks should send Notre Dame a very nice "Thank You" note for keeping them at fifth in the CCHA.

25. Alaska-Anchorage - Word is the Seawolves deserved points at the Ralph. You don't always get what you deserve.

26. Maine - Alfond remains a tough place to play, even when the Black Bears are struggling

27. Harvard - Has the exam break rejuvenated the Crimson, or is it just their annoying habit of beating my alma mater that we saw on Saturday?

28. Air Force - The Falcons are getting strong performances in net from Andrew Volkening of late, but they're squandering it with anemic offensive performances, and Eric Ehn's injury doesn't exactly help matters.

29. Alaska - Think Miami was remembering that loss at Cady Arena when they outscored the Nanooks 9-2 on the weekend?

30. Army - A big sweep of rival Air Force puts the Black Knights right in the thick of the Atlantic Hockey race.

31. Rensselaer - The Engineers are officially off the schneid, and there are signs of life on the power play.

32. Sacred Heart - The Pioneers' weekend split against Holy Cross without Bear Trapp and Paul Ferraro was pretty darn good, but only the third-best performance of the week, at best, by a shorthanded college sports team in the Nutmeg State.

33. Ohio State - A split is nice for a team that hasn't had much in the way of wins, but the truth is

34. Dartmouth - With all due respect to American International, the Big Green's need for an extra-attacker goal at 19:59 of the third period to tie AIC looks really, really bad.

35. St. Lawrence - Has the Saints' inconsistency in goal been made worse by or resulted from the graduation of top defenseman Drew Bagnall? Either way, it's made for a long season in Canton.

36. Holy Cross - The Crusaders power play had an off night when I watched Friday, but there's no doubt it will be a weapon for them in the thick of a tightly-contested Atlantic Hockey race.

37. Western Michigan - The Broncos find some offense against Ferris.

38. Colgate - The Raiders keep chugging along below expectations.

39. American International - I want to feel bad for the Yellow Jackets, coming within one second of a landmark win for the program only to have it taken away. I really do, but I just don't have that much compassion in me. Sorry, Gary.

40. Brown - The Bears' nightmare season continues in central N.Y.

41. Alabama-Huntsville - The Chargers are coming painfully close to conference wins.

Posted by Elliot Olshansky at 05:12 PM on January 28, 2008
Comments (1)


Hey Elliot,
Sorry to put that "man crush" label on you.

I don't want to take any future content from you, but here's a nice little stat that INCH gave us in the Power Rankings:
"The RedHawks lead the nation with 123 goals, which is 22 more than second-place Michigan. Miami has also allowed the second-fewest goals in the country (43), two more than Cornell, but the Big Red has played NINE fewer games."

I'd say that's a pretty good reason to have the RedHawks at 1.

Go Miami!


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