Breaking Down: A discussion of college hockey mid-year polls 12/8/14

By Arthur Lane

This time each week is usually when I would take the opportunity to give my two cents on the most recent national poll for men’s hockey. However, if that’s what you’re looking for, you’re going to have to wait until next week. I have something a little more special for you this week.

I’m going to take the ECAC’s lead here and take a winter break of sorts. Rather than breaking down the national poll, I’m going to take a look at the season so far as a whole and do a little mid-season poll. But I won’t be doing it alone. This week I am joined by Josh Seguin to discuss who the best teams in the country are. For those who don’t know Josh, he is the ECAC reporter for College Hockey News and probably watches the most college hockey in the country, at least to my knowledge.

Now that we’re done with the introductions, let’s get to the hockey. We’ll start by talking about who we think are the top teams and give our individual top 10’s. Josh, since you’re the guest, I’ll let you start it off.

Josh: I was the first to jump on the Harvard train this year and it’s great that the team is finally getting some press for being really good. But in the end, right now, the best teams are in the west. I really like Miami, a team that is second in shots on goal margin nationally. The Red Hawks have five losses on its schedule but only one of those would be considered a bad one. Early in the season it lost 5-4 to St. Lawrence, a game which it outshot the Saints 53-11 (Yes, 53-11). It has road losses at Bowling Green, North Dakota and Minnesota Duluth. It split with Nebraska Omaha, at home, beating them 8-2. Few teams are as dangerous as this year’s Red Hawks.

If I had to vote, I hate polls, here is my complete top ten:

Josh Seguin's Poll

Arthur: I’m going to be a little different here and start off with my poll:

USCHO Arthur poll 12 8

I have no doubt in my mind, following the weekend, that Harvard is the top team in the country. The Crimson are balanced on offense, led by Jimmy Vesey, who has 17 points on the year. What is scary is they have three other players with 15 points. This team has the best depth in the ECAC. Not to mention Steve Michalek has been one of the best goalies in the country and has put up numbers that will most definitely put him in the early talk for the Hobey Baker Award. This team knocks off a ranked opponent every week. There is no team in college hockey who wants the nexts couple weeks to go by quicker than Harvard.

Is North Dakota deserving of the No. 1 ranking? Tough question. I’ll say they are deserving, but they played Lake Superior State over the weekend. No offense to the Lakers, but Harvard took down a ranked opponent on the road.

Minnesota St split at home against Alaska. I have no problem with teams losing to Alaskan teams, as long as they’re playing in Alaska. That wasn’t the case here. Alaska is an underrated team but when the teams behind you win you fall. I still like this Maverick squad more so than most people.

BU tied with Merrimack on Friday night and then beat the Warriors Saturday with stellar performances from Danny O’Regan and Jack Eichel. Im shocked that Josh doesn’t have them in his top 8. Yes this is looking like a down year for the Hockey East, but that doesn’t discount what the Terriers have done thus far. I like them at fourth.

The scary thing when it comes to Miami is I don’t think they’ve gotten close to their maximum potential. We saw some of that potential on Friday night. If they can play near that on a regular basis, this team will make a serious run. Not ready to put them at No. 1 like Josh. I need to see some sweeps and less splits.

Michigan Tech had the weekend off so I’ll move on to Duluth. Duluth squeaked by Colorado College this weekend. The Bulldogs have some quality wins on their schedule, but much like Miami, they have split too many series’ for me to have them closer to the top of my poll.

Minnesota took care of Michigan State Friday to bounce back from a bad loss to Northeastern, but a tie the next night to the Spartans leaves something to be desired once again from the Golden Gophers.

Vermont also had the week off so I’ll finish with Nebraska-Omaha. Yes they split on the weekend, but it certainly didn’t feel like a split after a 8-2 beat down on Friday night. That was Miami’s best game of the season, by far, and I am impressed the Mavs were able to bounce back the next night and take the split.

Josh: UND is probably our biggest disagreement. You have them second, which I think is a stretch. Its schedule has been relatively weak in comparison to the rest its NCHC competition. All of its big wins are at home, Miami, Nebraska Omaha and Providence. It started its season with a home loss against Bemidji State, a WCHA team that is now 4-10-2. It also struggled against Air Force a struggling Atlantic Hockey team, which had them on the down with just 30 seconds left in the game. We also disagree on BU, mainly because I have seen BU and it will struggle against the bigger, more skilled western teams like it did against Dartmouth.

What makes North Dakota more attractive than Nebraska-Omaha and more importantly Miami?

Arthur: Their defense. North Dakota has a huge defense. I love big defenses and I think it could be a huge difference come tournament time. Mark MacMillan is one of the best forwards in the country and Drake Caggiula is having a monster of a year.

Josh: How is BU still in the top four? A tie against Merrimack, getting dominated by Dartmouth and a home loss to Harvard should say something. Right now, the ECAC is a step above Hockey East.

Arthur: These aren’t power rankings for me. This is a poll. I want my top teams to be the teams I think could win the NCAA tournament. BU is young. They will lose games but I think they are going to be one of the last few teams left come April. Matt O’Connor has been stellar in goal. He didn’t play against Dartmouth. This team is a younger Harvard team. I’m obviously high on Harvard, so inherently I’ll continue to be high on BU until I see something that convinces me otherwise.

Will NCHC teams pay come tournament selection time because of the parity within the conference?

Josh: As a coach, you want to see your team play the best teams night in and night out. Right now that is the case in the NCHC, where five of its teams are legitimate top five teams. The only way to get better is to play better competition. You are only as good as the teams you play so no not at all. Playing in the best conference usually leads to success in the tournament. In a conference of eight teams it seems pretty likely that five of them will make the tournament.

Arthur: We both agree Harvard is an elite team in the country. What is the biggest obstacle laying in the Crimson’s path to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament?

Josh: The Beanpot has been Harvard’s biggest obstacle over the years and I don’t see that changing this season.

Arthur: Well that’s it for our mid year polls. I want to thank Josh Seguin for joining me on this. I highly recommend you check him out on collegehockeynews.com and follow him on Twitter at @JoshSeguin24. Also make sure you follow Q30 Sports as well as myself on Twitter. The link’s are below. I’ll be back next week talking about the national polls. Stay tuned for that. Thanks for reading and see you next week.



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