INCH Writers 4×4: Version 1.0

The INCH 4×4 represents how we think the NCAA Tournament field will look WHEN THE BRACKET IS ANNOUNCED Sunday, March 24 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPNU.

We’ve touted the INCH 4×4 as all of the NCAA Tournament speculation with none of the math. Like we’ve said a million times before, the PairWise rankings are relevant on just one day—the day in March the selection committee sits down and actually plots the field. Focusing on the week-in, week-out fluctuations is an exercise in futility. Besides, in some highly unscientific research Joe Gladziszewski and I did a while back—I think we looked at previous tourney fields one afternoon we were bored—the computer rankings tend to line up with winning percentage the vast majority of the time. In most cases, it doesn’t matter who you beat, just as long as you beat ’em.

One thing that bothers me about this first projection is there’s only two ECAC Hockey representative in the field (Quinnipiac and Yale). Ultimately, I think you’ll see a third team work its way into the mix—one of Colgate, Dartmouth, and Union. Nothing based in hard data, but a hunch. Continue reading


INCH Writers Rankings: The Top Whatever

Any time you try to put people, places, or things in order from best to, uhh, less best, you’re bound to elicit reactions from those who disagree with your opinion. For example, leaving Nebraska-Omaha and Boston University off this list won’t go over well with some people. But, hey, the line had to be drawn somewhere and this time around those two teams were just below it.

Quick note about BU: You know how we’ll sometimes say a team is greater than the some of its parts? The Terriers seem like less than the sum of their parts. I don’t have an answer for why that is; just throwing it out there. Anyway, on with the countdown …

1. Minnesota (17-3-4): “He loved the Golden Gophers but he hated all the drawn-out winters,” sang The Hold Steady lead singer Craig Finn, who grew up in the Minneapolis suburbs. If Don Lucia’s squad keeps playing like this — unbeaten in its last 10 and 12-1-4 since Nov. 9 — fans won’t care about the cold and snow.

2. Boston College (14-5-2): The Eagles are 3-4-2 in their last nine games since Nov. 30. Last season, BC went 2-5-1 between Dec. 9-Jan. 21 … then won 19 in a row.

3. Quinnipiac (18-3-3): The Bobcats’ record against foes from the CCHA, ECAC Hockey, Hockey East, and the WCHA is 16-1-3. They’re 2-2-0 against Atlantic Hockey opponents following Tuesday’s win against UConn. Jeremy Langlois (pictured, right) had a pair of assists in that game.

4. Western Michigan (14-6-4): Got to thinking about college hockey in Michigan. If I was asked to rank Michigan’s college hockey teams, I think it’d be Western, Ferris, Lake Superior, Northern, Tech, Michigan, and Michigan State. If you’d been away from college hockey for 15 years and saw that list, you’d be floored.

5. New Hampshire (14-5-2): Here’s a sign your penalty kill is pretty good: The Wildcats have allowed five power-play goals and scored four shorthanded goals. Has a team ever broken even or finished in plus territory in that regard for an entire season?

6. North Dakota (13-7-4): We put Danny Kristo on our 60-Percent Season Review All-America team, but linemate Corban Knight, who enters his team’s weekend series against St. Cloud State with a 19-game point streak, is just as deserving.

7. Miami (13-6-5): Since reeling off an eight-game unbeaten streak from Nov. 3-Dec. 7, the RedHawks are 3-4-2 in their last nine games and, perhaps more alarming, have scored a total of 11 goals during that span.

8. Yale (11-4-3): The Bulldogs don’t lose often, but there’s been a complete absence of defense when they do. In their four defeats they’ve given up 19 goals, compared to 29 goals allowed in their 14 non-losses.

9. UMass Lowell (13-7-1): Who’s hotter than the River Hawks, winners of nine in a row? How about UML freshman goalie Connor Hellebuyck — he’s been victorious in each of his last seven starts and has a 0.95 GAA and a .964 save percentage during that stretch.

action_scsu_leblanc10. St. Cloud State (14-10-0): NoDak’s Knight has some competition in the scoring-streak department from the Huskies’ Drew LeBlanc (pictured, right), who enters the weekend with a 13-game point streak. LeBlanc has two goals and 18 assists in those 13 matches.

11. Denver (13-8-4): It’s almost unfathomable to think that prior to last weekend’s back-to-back losses at St. Cloud State, the Pioneers hadn’t been swept by a WCHA opponent since Nov. 14-15, 2008. Back then, Justin Bieber was only annoying to people in his hometown of Stratford, Ont., not the entire world.

12. Notre Dame (15-9-0): For a team that’s far better playing with a lead, the Fighting Irish picked a bad time to struggle offensively — they’ve scored 10 goals in their last five games. On the year, Notre Dame is 2-6 when trailing after one period and 0-9 when behind after two periods.

13. Minnesota State (15-8-3): Since taking over as the Mavericks’ starting goalie on Nov. 10, freshman Stephon Williams has amassed a 12-4-1 record, a 1.69 GAA, a .930 save percentage, and four shutouts.

The 60-Percent Season Review

We’re now into mid-January, which is a little more than halfway through the college hockey season. And being sticklers about facts and whatnot, it seemed a little disingenuous to call this a mid-season review, since we passed that mile marker a couple weeks ago. And while we intended to put together some sort of look back at the first half of the season, we opted to enjoy a couple weeks of down time during the holiday break.

(We occasionally get e-mails from readers asking why we don’t post more often here. The simple answer is because posting all the time is what drove the editors at INCH into the ground. An even simpler answer is because we’re doing other stuff.)

So instead of a mid-season review, we here at The INCH Writers bring you the 60-Percent Season Review, or the Three-Fifths Season Review if you’re down with fractions.


It’s gotta be Quinnipiac, right? One month into the season, the Bobcats were 3-3-1 after losing to American International in Hamden. Since then, they’ve gone 14-0-2, moved into the top five in both national polls, and, more importantly, are 11-0-1 in ECAC Hockey play — the Bobcats, who’ve outscored league foes by a 44-16 margin, enter the weekend with a 10-point edge over second-place Princeton. Senior goaltender Eric Hartzell’s been a force, posting a 1.42 GAA and a .934 save percentage in his last 16 starts.


Would you believe Wisconsin? We had the Badgers in our preseason top 10, but they got off to a terrible start. Among other occurrences, touted freshman forward Nic Kerdiles was suspended for the first 10 games for a violation of NCAA rules, leading scorer Mark Zengerle (pictured, right) missed a half-dozen games with a broken finger, and assistant coach Bill Butters tendered his resignation a month into the season.

Saying the Badgers have turned things around might be a tad premature, but the signs are there. Kerdiles and Zengerle are back, junior forward Michael Mersch is on a hot streak, and the goaltending tandem of Landon Peterson and Joel Rumpel have been terrific. Wisconsin enters this weekend’s non-conference series with Miami with a 10-game unbeaten streak, its longest since the national title season of 2005-06.


Quinnipiac’s Hartzell is a natural choice; with 17 wins this season, he’s more than halfway to matching the number he amassed in his first three seasons with the Bobcats. So, too, is Nebraska Omaha forward Ryan Walters, who has 36 points in 24 games for the WCHA co-leaders.

We’ll go with Ohio State goalie Brady Hjelle, however, because no one could have predicted his rise at the start of the season. The senior from International Falls, Minn., played sparingly in his first three seasons — he made 18 starts over two years at Minnesota Duluth before transferring to OSU, where he started five times last season. Hjelle comes into this weekend 6-6-4 with a 1.44 GAA and .952 save percentage. In league play, he’s 6-3-2 with a microscopic 0.92 GAA and a .968 save percentage. The Buckeyes’ 8-9-5 mark isn’t pretty, but at 7-4-3 in the CCHA, they’re in a great position to challenge for a first-round conference playoff bye.


Good thing the Michigan basketball team is playing well, because the Wolverines’ hockey team has floundered through the first 22 games of the season and enter the weekend tied for eighth place in the CCHA standings, six points behind seventh-place Alaska and 17 points behind first-place Notre Dame. Not where a team with 11 NHL draft picks on its roster expects to be in mid-January.

The primary culprit has been lousy goaltending; the Wolverines rank tied for 54th nationally in scoring defense. Most observers expected a dropoff after Shawn Hunwick departed, but Michigan’s three netminders have combined for a 3.47 GAA and a .874 save percentage. Freshman Jared Rutledge, who was expected to pick up most of the slack in Hunwick’s absence, has a .847 save percentage and a 4.57 GAA — an acceptable number if you’re the third starter in the Colorado Rockies’ rotation, but not so much for a no. 1 goalie.


With his team’s 5-2 win over Alabama-Huntsville in Minneapolis last month, Boston College coach Jerry York notched career win no. 925, surpassing Ron Mason for the all-time lead in that category. Based on his record over the last decade — the Eagles have won at least 24 games in nine times in the last 10 seasons — reaching 1,000 wins is a mere formality.

A salute, too, to Michigan Tech, which beat Michigan and Western Michigan to win its first Great Lakes Invitational title since 1980. Head coach Mel Pearson was a senior on that team.


Boston College has been at or near the top of the national rankings the entire season and while the Eagles are loaded with talent, sophomore forward Johnny Gaudreau (pictured, right) has been the best player in the country from day one of the season. The country’s leading scorer in terms of points per game, Gaudreau started the season with a 12-game scoring streak during which he scored 10 goals and 21 points. And not only is he a productive player, but he’s arguably college hockey’s most dynamic skater. There are others in the POTYTD mix — most notably Quinnipiac’s Hartzell, UNO’s Walters, and North Dakota’s Corban Knight and Danny Kristo — but as of right now, Gaudreau’s the player to beat.


With the departures of high-scoring forwards such as Carter Camper, Andy Miele,Alden Hirschfeld, and Reilly Smith over the last couple seasons, Miami has endured fairly significant change up front. Austin Czarnik and Jimmy Mullin helped make the transition smoother last season, and it looks like coach Enrico Blasi has found another keeper in forward Riley Barber. The Livonia, Mich., native leads NCAA freshmen with 24 points, has at least one point in 10 of the RedHawks’ 11 wins to date, and has a negative plus-minus rating in just one of the 20 games he’s played.

Also worthy of consideration are Northeastern forward Kevin Roy, Michigan defenseman Jacob Trouba, and a trio of WCHA rookies — Minnesota goaltender Adam Wilcox, Minnesota Duluth forward Tony Cameranesi, and Minnesota State netminder Stephon Williams.


With just 10 ECAC Hockey regular-season games remaining and a 10-point lead over second-place Princeton, Quinnipiac is a prohibitive favorite to win the league crown for the first time in school history and earn its second-ever NCAA Tournament bid. The Bobcats have ridden Hartzell to 17-3-3 mark, but coach Rand Pecknold has gotten contributions from virtually every player on the roster — 17 skaters have at least one goal, 10 have scored on the power play, and nine have netted a game-winner. That’s the sign of a coach who trusts his lineup from top to bottom, and the players have rewarded Pecknold for that trust by embracing their roles and, more importantly, producing.


F: Johnny Gaudreau, Boston College — Has a point in 14 of the 16 games he’s played to date.
F: Danny Kristo, North Dakota — The Count has been red hot as of late with eight goals and eight assists in his last seven games.
F: Ryan Walters, Nebraska-Omaha — The junior has already eclipsed his career highs in goals, assists, and points and is on pace to surpass his scoring output from his first two seasons combined.
D: Andrej Sustr, Nebraska-Omaha — Pro scouts have long been enamored with the 6-foot-8 Sustr’s frame. With six goals and 17 points in 24 games, he’s proved he’s more than just a big body.
D: Trevor van Riemsdyk, New Hampshire — The Wildcats are 9-0-1 when van Riemsdyk scores a point, and he’s a major reason UNH is ranked eighth nationally in scoring defense and bounced back from last year’s funk.
G: Eric Hartzell, Quinnipiac — Ranks first nationally in winning percentage, tied for second in shutouts, and third in GAA, all while playing more minutes than all but one NCAA goaltender.


Boston College: Here’s a scary thought regarding the defending champs — they don’t usually start playing their best hockey until the final third of the season.
Minnesota: The Gophers handled the first half of their schedule with relative ease; the road gets significantly tougher starting with this weekend’s series against North Dakota.
North Dakota: Like Boston College, North Dakota doesn’t typically hit its stride until February or so. Getting a finally healthy Michael Parks back in the flow will help.
Notre Dame: With Steve Summerhays in net, goaltending hasn’t been an issue. Consistency on offense is another story. Thought about flipping Western Michigan into this spot, but sticking with the Irish … for now.

INCH Writers Rankings: The Top Whatever

It’s been a couple weeks since our first rundown of teams we felt deserved to be on this list. Back then, we had 15 on the docket; this time around, it’s 13. You have no idea how refreshing it is to have the ability to draw the line between “pretty good” and “just north of mediocre.” Or as it’s more commonly called, the NFC East.

1. Boston College (10-1-0): The Eagles have won 10 games in a row and 29 of 30 going back to Jan. 27 of last season. During that same period, Johnny Gaudreau has 22 goals and 24 assists. Just putting that out there.
2. New Hampshire (9-1-2): UNH has more players from Maryland and New Jersey (seven) on its roster than New England (six). Some would find that interesting. Count me among the some.
3. Minnesota (9-2-2): Of the six teams that will comprise the Big Ten hockey league next season, the Gophs are the only one with a record better than one game above .500. On the plus side, none of the programs are on probation.
4. Miami (7-2-3): Fourteen RedHawks have scored more than one point this season. All but four of them are freshmen or sophomores, and both of the team’s goalies (who’ve been impressive thus far) are rookies.
5. Denver (9-3-0): Through 12 games this season, the Pios have given up 30 goals—including 14 in the third period and one in OT. Hey, DU, like Blake said in Glengarry Glen Ross, always be closing.
6. Union (8-2-1): Hats off to Penn State goalie Matt Skoff for his work in the Nittany Lions’ two losses to the Dutchmen last weekend. Union launched a total of 88 shots but could muster just six goals, two of which were empty netters. Wait, was this supposed to be about Union?
7. Notre Dame (9-4-0): Coach Jeff Jackson was fined and reprimanded by the CCHA for criticizing the officials following his team’s 2-1 loss to North Dakota Friday. The fine I get, but what is the reprimand? Does someone at the CCHA office write Jackson’s name on a whiteboard?
8. North Dakota (6-4-2): Sure, coaches, fans, and (to a much lesser extent) players get on the officials’ case, but refs can pretty much squash about 98 percent of the arguments they here by saying they either lost sight of the puck or the whistle blew. This is Lethal Weapon 2-level diplomatic immunity, isn’t it?
9. Nebraska Omaha (8-3-1): Did you know Joss Ackland, the actor who said “diplomatic immunity” in Lethal Weapon 2, also played Hans, the skate shop owner in the Mighty Ducks trilogy? The bulk of those movies were shot in Minnesota, which is where the Mavs will be this weekend to face the Gophers. Full circle.
10. Western Michigan (6-3-1): The Broncos are the only team in the country with a plus-.500 record that has been outscored by its opponents. WMU has netted 23 goals and allowed 24 through 10 games.
11. Yale (5-2-1): The Bulldogs are 1-1-0 this season in games in which they have allowed one goal. Yale is also 1-1-0 in contests in which it has given up four or more goals. Not even Nate Silver could predict what will happen next to the Elis.
12. Boston University (7-4-0): I originally had the Terriers below Dartmouth, then noticed BU’s four losses are (in order) at New Hampshire, at North Dakota, and Boston College and UNH at home. That’s three of the country’s top eight teams. Now I’m thinking this spot might be too low.
13. Dartmouth (5-2-2): Keep an eye on this team, because it seems like the Big Green could go in any direction at any time. After reeling off a six-game unbeaten streak to start the season, Dartmouth blew a 4-1 third-period lead in a loss at Colgate, scored with less than a minute left in regulation to salvage a tie at Cornell, and allowed three third-period goals in a 6-3 at Boston College.

Gladdy Says: An Introduction And Early-Season Thoughts

As means of introduction, thanks for reading the debut of Gladdy Says, which will be published here at INCH Writers whenever I feel like it. Over the past several years I’ve found myself reading more train-of-thought briefs from writers like Elliotte Friedman, Pat Forde, Buster Olney, Peter King and others. I thought I’d throw some thoughts out there in a similar format.

The distinguishing characteristic about Gladdy Says is that these briefs will be presented in order; ranked by Opponents’ Opponents KRACH Above Replacement. No they won’t, they’re (mostly) about hockey and capturing the spirit of the thing. I do encourage your comments, rebuttals and feedback at the bottom of this post or on Twitter at @INCH_Gladdy.

GLADDY SAYS: NOV. 19, 2012

• I don’t think anyone would’ve been surprised to see that Sacred Heart was the first team in the nation to allow 50 goals on the season, which they’ve done in the first 11 games. The next-highest total goals-against aggregate is 49, which RIT has allowed in 11 games and Alabama-Huntsville has surrendered in 12 games. Next highest after those two? Michigan and Colorado College at 39.

• I didn’t think there would be a point in the entire season where Cornell would be mired in a five-game winless streak (two ties and three losses) nor did I think they’d struggle to score like they have recently. Certainly, an uptick in degree-of-difficulty on the schedule has something to do with that, but the Big Red have been held to one goal in each of their last three games. That might be remedied in the coming weeks with games against Michigan and Clarkson, ranked 55th and 45th nationally in team defense, and a St. Lawrence team that has allowed 16 goals in its last four games.

• My Rams.

• As Mike Eidelbes and I mentioned via our @INCH Twitter account, we didn’t get the entire band back together but he and I were able to gather this past Friday in East Lansing and check out some college hockey games on the good old color television while catching up on some thoughts about the early part of the season. It was a special-engagement duet reunion show. We consider Jeff Howe to be our one-armed drummer. Of course, we also met up with distinguished hockey scribe Neil Koepke and got his takes on some of the teams and players. Good to see those guys as always.

• Of course, one of the games we dialed up was the Friday night contest between North Dakota and Minnesota Duluth. I encourage the readers to take advantage of your opportunities to watch Danny Kristo play hockey. He’s one of the best offensive talents I’ve seen in my years of closely following college hockey. I consider some of Kristo’s attributes as a combination of the players involved in the great Hobey debate of 2008. His anticipation to make plays and to be in the right places on the ice matches Michigan’s Kevin Porter. Kristo’s skill, excitement, and big-game contributions compare favorably to Boston College’s Nathan Gerbe. Even Jess Myers would buy a ticket to watch Kristo play.

• If I had a Hobey vote this year, I would vote at the end of the season. It’s too early to make any claims at this point.

• Stick Salute to Dartmouth for making my preseason projection that they’ll be a breakthrough team look pretty good in the early going, even without a ton of significant contributions from Dustin Walsh.

• Bench Minor to me for not giving Colgate a little more credit. They have relied on depth in scoring and have great team quickness and have accounted for the departures of Austin Smith and Chris Wagner very capably. Of note on the Raiders, head coach Don Vaughan mentioned that he loves the hockey intelligence that this freshman class has brought to the team. Seven freshmen have been lineup regulars for the Raiders this season and freshman goalie Spencer Finney has started to earn more playing time in recent weeks.

• Finally, a sincere thanks to those who sent many kind words about our work at INCH over the years. I consider myself fortunate to have met great people and to continue many of the friendships built while INCH was more prominent, especially within the ECAC Hockey circles. I can still be found at Lynah Rink for most Cornell home games and am looking forward to seeing everyone around the rinks.

INCH Writers Rankings: The Top Whatever

Every Sunday night during the hockey season for 10 years, the INCH staff at rolled out the Power Rankings, our take on the nation’s top 20 (actually, we rated the top 16 teams our first year) and without a doubt the most popular feature of the old site. It’s not as easy as it seems, however. There were weeks we felt only 14 teams deserved to be ranked. Or 17. Some nights we’d get through about a dozen or so teams and declare, “Everyone stinks.”

Now that we’re at, we’re not going to rank a fixed number of teams. We’ll just go until we feel no one else deserves to be ranked. It’s a new era, people.

1. Boston College (8-1-0): Jerry York needs four victories to pass Ron Mason and become the winningest coach in college hockey history. If the Eagles can win their next three, York would break the record Dec. 1 at home against Boston University. Nice.
2. Denver (7-1-0): We figured the goaltending would be strong, but the offense has been unreal. Eight games into the season, the Pioneers have 33 goals and 12 different players have scored at least once.
3. New Hampshire (6-1-1): The Wildcats’ roster entered the year with a combined 131 career goals. Through eight games this season, they’ve banded together to score 26 goals.
4. Minnesota (6-2-1): Minnesota is, at worst, the second most-talented team in the nation. But losses to Michigan Tech and Minnesota State are a concern. Improved teams, sure, but if you’re the Gophers, you’ve got to be ready for your opponents’ best shot every night.
5. Miami (6-2-2): There aren’t Vegas odds for college hockey games but if there were, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say the RedHawks would be favored in its next 18 games. Not saying they’ll win them all, but don’t be surprised if they reel off a few wins between now and the beginning of February.
6. Union (6-2-1):
Saturday’s loss to Dartmouth snapped the Dutchmen’s seven-game unbeaten streak. Losing goalie Troy Grosenick, who was hurt in Friday’s win at Harvard, for an extended period of time would be a bigger blow; he’s listed as day-to-day.  
7. Notre Dame (6-3-0):
In our Great 58+1 rankings, we said the Irish would go as far as their goaltending allowed. In eight starts, Steve Summerhays has a 1.64 GAA and a .932 save percentage.
8. Western Michigan (5-2-1):
In its five wins and one tie, the Broncos have given up a total of eight goals. In its two losses? Eight goals allowed. So, yeah, that pretty much sums it up right there.
9. Dartmouth (5-0-1):
Nice start, Big Green, but noting you’re No. 1 in the computer rankings that shall not be mentioned in mid-November? Plenty of room for that next to the Matt Barkley for Heisman website.
10. Colorado College (7-3-0):
Through 10 games, the Tigers have seven players with three or more goals; four players (Andrew Hamburg, Alex Krushelnyski, William Rapuzzi, and Scott Winkler) have combined for 21 of the team’s 36 goals.
11. North Dakota (4-3-1):
Guess it’s been a bit of an uneven start for NoDak, but it seems like they’re still trying to find the right combinations. No need to worry, however.
12. Cornell (3-2-1):
Last weekend wasn’t a great one for the Big Red, who allowed a total of nine goals in losses at Princeton and Quinnipiac. They’ll have to try to right the ship this weekend against Harvard and Dartmouth.
13. Nebraska-Omaha (6-3-1): Touted rookie goalie Anthony Stolarz has taken a back seat to senior John Faulkner, who’s 6-0-1 with a 2.03 GAA and a .915 save percentage in seven starts.
14. St. Cloud State (6-4-0): With Ben Hanowski sidelined due to injury for all but five games—coach Bob Motzko hopes he’ll be back before Christmas—Nic Dowd (6-8—14) and Drew LeBlanc (5-9—14) have picked up the offensive slack.
15. Boston University (5-3-0): According to my reasonably accurate calculations, the Terriers are 82-42-16 all-time at home since moving into Agganis Arena in Jan. 2005. Their record against BC in the new digs? 2-9-1.

INCH Power Rankings: Great 58+1

When we compiled our first power rankings of the 2012-13 season—the Great 58+1 rankings of every Division I program—we put it together with the intention of releasing it on the old site in early October.

That, of course, didn’t happen, but there’s no use in wasting a perfectly good set of rankings, right?

Here, then, are the INCH Writers Great 58+1 Power Rankings. Please note these were put together a few weeks ago and between then and now, a few games have been played. Some teams look like they might be ranked a tad low; others appear to be spotted a bit high (we’re looking in your general direction, Maine.) We’re sticking with the original list, though—no revisionist history here.

As we ranked the nation’s top teams, we also highlight a key part of the schedule for each club.

Team Circle The Dates
Minnesota Not only do the Gophers have the top-ranked team heading into the season, but they’ve also got a favorable schedule—no trips to Denver, Duluth, or Grand Forks and just one game at Wisconsin.
Boston College Odd scheduling quirk for the Eagles, whose three regular-season meetings with arch-rival Boston University fall during a 20-day stretch from Nov. 11-Dec. 1. Of course, the two could face one another on a February Monday …
North Dakota During a six-week stretch of November and December, North Dakota has series vs. Boston University, at St. Cloud State, vs. Minnesota Duluth, at Notre Dame, at Colorado College, and vs. Denver.
Cornell From Dec. 28-Jan. 19, the Big Red play six games, all away from Lynah Rink: vs. Ferris State and either Maine or UMD at the Florida College Classic, a series at Denver, and league road matches at Union and Rensselaer.
Western Michigan The Broncos’ chances for winning the final regular-season title in CCHA history may hinge on a three-week stretch in late January and February that includes home series with Michigan and Miami and a series at Ferris State. Continue reading