The Rink Rat Rankings: Season 2, Edition No. 14

By Elliot Olshansky - February 11, 2008


As much as I emphasize that the Rink Rat Rankings don't behave in the same way as the rest of the rankings out there - most notably, that I don't necessarily drop teams for losses - when the No. 2 team takes three points from the No. 1 team at No. 1's home rink, well...a change is gonna come.

And so it has, as you'll see in this week's Rink Rat Rankings, up to 44 teams with the addition of Providence.

1. Michigan - Each of the top four teams in the CCHA has now played six games against the other three. Michigan's record is 3-1-2, Miami 3-2-1, Michigan State 2-2-2, and Notre Dame 1-4-1. Of course, the Wolverines have two more games to play against the one team they haven't beaten, but thus far, they've been pretty darned impressive, including nine goals in two against one of the best goaltenders in the country. I've worried a bit about the Wolverine freshmen "hitting the wall," but I have to wonder how much of a worry that is for kids out of the NTDP or the USHL. Billy Sauer still has some convincing to do in my eyes - his best performances against the upper echelon of the CCHA have come against a Notre Dame team that has struggled with top competition - but he's hardly alone in that regard.

2. Miami - There's a serious question now that has to be asked in Oxford: Can Jeff Zatkoff win the big one? Now, in all fairness, when the RedHawks didn't get on the board until the third period on Friday, there's clearly more going than goaltending, but the fact remains that while Zatkoff has been a remarkably consistent goaltender over his time in Oxford, his record in high-stakes games is not exactly stellar. His most significant win was against a New Hampshire team in decline at the Northeast Regional last season. Of course, playing Boston College in the NCAA tournament isn't exactly a recipe for postseason excellence these days, but still...Zatkoff still has something to prove as a big-game goaltender. I dare say Miami can be confident in him for the rest of the regular season, though, and since Michigan still has two games against Michigan State left while Miami's taking on the lesser lights of the CCHA, some hardware may be on its way to Oxford in the near future before the postseason even gets started.

3. North Dakota - Nothing new from the Sioux this week, so that means I get to use my other joke about Dave Hakstol's "salute" to Don Adam a couple of weeks ago. Ready? OK...here goes...

I guess the logo and nickname aren't the only things that are "hostile and abusive" at UND!

Thank you, I'll be here all week. Tip your bartenders. OK, here's one thing that's not a joke: Jean-Philippe Lamoureux now leads the nation in both goals-against average and save percentage. It's quite the roller coaster for Lamoureux, from "Maybe he's not the weak link after all," to "OK, maybe he is the weak link after all" back to the former. Keep your eye on this team, and expect to see a lot of them in Colorado this spring.

4. New Hampshire - Maine has been a tough place to play this season, even with the Black Bears struggling. The Wildcats going into their biggest rival's barn and leaving with four points is an impressive feat, as UNH continues to build some impressive momentum heading toward the postseason. Of course, no one doubts UNH until March, so while the real test is further down the road for everyone, it's even more true as it pertains to the Wildcats. I do like this team's balance with Kevin Regan in goal, Braid Flaishans and Craig Switzer leading the defensive corps, and plenty of scoring options up front.

5. Boston College - Opposing fans may like to taunt Nathan Gerbe for his name's similarity to a certain popular baby food brand, but Gerbe's probably left a few of those fans crying like babies this season, particularly in the last week. Got to love a six-point week, especially when it includes game-tying and overtime game-winning goals in the Beanpot, followed by a four-point night in a 4-1 win at UMass. More to the point, though, the Eagles are distinct favorites to capture their first Beanpot since 2004 this evening, and given how much momentum they've picked up after losing the Beanpot the last couple of years (last year especially), one has to wonder what will happen if and when they win it.

6. Colorado College - Chad Rau picked a lousy time to disappear from the score sheet, and while the Tigers got on just fine without him on Friday against St. Cloud, Saturday was a different story. Rau, Richard Bachman and the rest of the Tigers will have a weekend to rest before an important trip to Duluth next weekend. CC, of course, will have the opportunity to play at home in the NCAA tournament, but momentum will be important as they look to get there.

7. Denver - As pertains Mr. Brock Trotter, good luck to him in the pros, although you could tell by the distinct lack of anger in George Gwozdecky's comments that this wasn't entirely his choice or that of the Montreal Canadiens. I don't do the "dirty laundry" thing, so we'll just leave it at that. Of course, this leaves the Pioneers without their leading scorer, although I still like their team...just not as much as I did before Trotter left. I will say this, though: Peter Mannino sure picked a heck of a time to get back to form...or was that just Minnesota's impotent offense?

8. Michigan State - I have the following theories about the Spartans' recent struggles, going 1-3-0 in their last four games: 1) Rick Comley's team was replaced by the cast of Meet The Spartans for the games against Nebraska-Omaha and Northern Michigan; 2) The Spartans didn't feel they were enough of an underdog to recreate their 2007 NCAA tournament run, so they decided to go in the tank for a couple of weeks; 3) It's a rough patch, just like the ones almost every team in the country endures at some point, and this too, shall pass. Of course, I favor Option 3, but I also thought those first two options were funny, so what does my opinion mean?

9. Clarkson - Back to business as usual for the Golden Knights, as they return from a sweep at the hands of Colorado College and get right back to their winning ways in ECAC Hockey. They'll have a fight to the finish for the Cleary Cup, though, with both Princeton and Quinnipiac right on their tails. How convenient: the Tigers and Bobcats visit the North Country on the last weekend of the regular season. I still like Clarkson to finish the job, with David Leggio in goal backing up a very skilled offensive team, but anything can happen.

10. Notre Dame - The Fighting Irish have problems with Ferris State this season. Some teams just have problems with a particular team. Just ask anyone at Denver about Minnesota State. The more telling stat, of course, is Notre Dame's 1-4-1 record against the other big dogs in the CCHA. This is a young team defensively that lost a Hobey Baker finalist in goal, and while the Irish are still an excellent team on track for a second straight NCAA tournament appearance, the best years are still ahead.

11. Providence - The Friars lost a very tough game on Friday against Vermont, but it was still easy to see what makes Tim Army's club so dangerous. I love the tenacity that the Friars bring to the ice, and while the Friars went 0-fer on the power play on Friday at Schneider Arena, I really liked the way the Friars approached their extra-man opportunities. It's no accident that Providence has gone from having the second-worst power play in the country to one of the best. They don't go overboard passing the puck, and have very good discipline out there. I also like the PC penalty kill, and good special teams, as any coach will tell you, are a key for postseason success.

12. Northeastern - I have no idea what to make of the Huskies' flat performance at the Beanpot last week. None at all. One would have expected Greg Cronin's team to come out on fire, urged on by an outstanding showing from the NU student section, and taken care of business against a struggling Harvard team. Of course, the Huskies have one senior, the Crimson seven, none of whom had ever been to a Beanpot final, and that probably had something to do with it, given the senior involvement on all three Harvard goals. Still, there's no excuse for Northeastern to be as flat as it was, and it suggests that there may be some issue that we're not seeing on Huntington Avenue. When a team comes out that flat for a game that big, it makes you wonder. Northeastern got back on track Friday against a Merrimack team that proved troublesome earlier, but Monday's consolation game against BU will be very telling.

13. St. Cloud - The Huskies got off the schneid in a huge way at Colorado College on Saturday night. Anyone else think it's funny that Ryan Lasch had three points in the loss, but none in the win? Of course, the Huskies have a greater threat in Andreas Nodl and Garrett Roe's line with Matt Hartman. Bob Motzko's team is a mediocre 4-5-1 in its last 10, but with good coaching, solid goaltending (most of the time), and offensive performers like Lasch, Roe and Nodl, this is going to be a dangerous team every night out. I can tell you this: if I were in the prediction business, I wouldn't touch the WCHA with a 10-foot composite stick.

14. Princeton - Whether the Tigers will capture a Cleary or Whitelaw Cup as an ECAC champion remains to be seen, but the Tigers clinched a share of the Ivy League title by beating Yale on Saturday. Yes, the Ivy title doesn't mean much in college hockey, generally speaking. However, for the programs that have won it lately - and Princeton can clinch it outright with two or more points at Harvard and Dartmouth this weekend - it's an important milestone in the programs' recent history. It'll be the first championship of any kind in Guy Gadowsky's tenure as coach, and somehow, I doubt it will be the last.

15. Quinnipiac - The Bobcats are clearly treating their games against Yale as enough of a rivalry for both teams. It may have taken the Bobcats a while to get on track, but they've done so in fine form, as they're on pace to clinch an ECAC Hockey first-round by for the first time, and still have a chance at the Cleary Cup. As mentioned, they visit the North Country on the final weekend of the regular-season. Think that'll be just a bit interesting?

Now, the rest...

16. Minnesota - Two games, two goals, one point on the weekend...and Tony Lucia's suspension for Friday night's game probably wasn't the issue.

17. UMass-Lowell - The River Hawks were in the wrong place at the wrong time on Friday.

18. UMass - After a hot start, the Minutemen are suddenly clinging to a Hockey East playoff spot...looks like those preseason predictions of a dropoff were more or less on the money.

19. Bowling Green - The Falcons keep missing opportunities to pass Nebraska-Omaha in the point totals, but they have their best chance this week, when the Falcons head to Omaha.

20. Boston University - After a disappointment in the Beanpot and an injury scare with Matt Gilroy, the Terriers went to Lowell and took out their frustrations on the River Hawks. Was it the start of something, or another spike in an up-and-down season for BU?

21. Cornell - Ben Scrivens has developed into a solid Big Red goaltender, but isn't getting the offensive support he needs.

22. Union - The Dutchmen missed a crucial opportunity in the ECAC race by only taking one point from Harvard and Dartmouth.

23. Vermont - Overtime loss at Providence on Saturday notwithstanding, the Catamounts are heating up, sitting at .500 in Hockey East and contending for home ice.

24. Yale - Anyone else think that Quinnipiac is trying to pound Yale into the admission of a rivalry by head coach Keith Allain?

25. Nebraska-Omaha - Apparently, a prominent sports talk host in Omaha has flatly stated that he won't talk about the Mavericks on his show. What other team in the state of Nebraska is beating Ohio State in anything these days?

26. RIT - RIT's president was wary of getting involved in D-I athletics, but if he complains any after the wild brawl at Ritter on Saturday against Canisius, Wayne Wilson should just show him some game tape from D-III Curry's 2004-05 season. If you don't know what I mean, look it up.

27. Alaska-Anchorage - Seawolves became the latest victim of the suddenly mighty Mavericks from Mankato.

28. Alaska - Think the newest Nanook, Ryan Hohl, enjoyed beating his old team on Saturday?

29. Maine - The Black Bears were game against UNH, but this is just an ugly year in Orono.

30. Army - The Black Knights - who will do their fighting after they graduate, thank you very much - are making a run at an Atlantic Hockey regular-season title.

31. Harvard - Could the Crimson be coming out of its tailspin after a cathartic Beanpot win? Ask Union.

32. Air Force - It was a Jekyll and Hyde weekend for the Falcons, and they sure tanned Mercyhurst's "Hyde" on Saturday.

33. Sacred Heart - The Pioneers asserted their Nutmeg State dominance - at least where Atlantic Hockey is concerned - with a sweep of UConn.

34. Ohio State - Road points aren't easy to come by in the CCHA. The Buckeyes got one in Omaha.

35. St. Lawrence - The Saints score big with an upset of Cornell, but remain mired near the bottom of the ECAC pack.

36. Rensselaer - The Engineers showed good heart in coming from four goals down to tie the Big Green.

37. Dartmouth - The good news is that the Big Green turned in one of its best weekends of the season; the bad news is that one of Dartmouth's best weekend's of the season consisted of a pair of ties.

38. Holy Cross - Good point on the road against an Army team that's emerging as the class of Atlantic Hockey.

39. Merrimack - Someone had to pay after the Huskies got their tails handed to them at the Beanpot...that someone was Merrimack.

40. Colgate - Solid three-point weekend from the Raiders, who remain dangerous in the short-term, if not the long.

41. Brown - The Bears are playing better, but aren't improved enough to win against the upper echelon of ECAC Hockey.

42. Western Michigan - The Broncos have won one of their last 14 games.

43. American International - The Yellow Jackets are progressing toward their best ever finish in Atlantic Hockey. Could we get an Atlantic Hockey Coach of the Year award for Mr. Gary Wright?

44. Alabama-Huntsville - Danton Cole's team is competing hard every night, but the results aren't there.

And that will do it for now.

Posted by Elliot Olshansky at 10:33 AM on February 11, 2008
Comments (1)

Comments

I like the way you think. GO BC.

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