INCH WRITERS RANKINGS: THE PRESEASON TOP WHATEVER

Prior to just about every season at the old INCH site or here at INCH Writers, we’d roll out our rankings of every college team in the country called the Great 58 or the Great 58+1 depending on the number of programs. It was a fun, largely meaningless exercise. Oh, and people like lists.

As I was putting the list together for 2014-15, a problem arose. Slotting the first 10 or so teams was easy. So was ordering the bottom half dozen. The 40 in the middle, however, was a mess. I mean, I probably could’ve come up with a fairly reasonable ranking of all 59 teams, but I didn’t feel good about it.

Thankfully, INCH’s Joe Gladziszewski solved my problem. He said, “Do it like you do the regular-season rankings. Just list the ones you want and when you’re done, you’re done.”

Gladdy didn’t actually say that. He tweeted it to me. I’m embellishing to make the story a little better. This is not like Evgeni Malkin embellishing.

He’s right: just because one can create a top 15 or top 20 doesn’t mean that many teams are worthy of mention. The end result, therefore, is the first INCH Writers Preseason Top Whatever, where I rank the teams until I feel like no one else deserves to be rated.

1. Minnesota (28-6-7 in 2013-14, NCAA runner-up): Here’s the production the Golden Gophers lost from last season: 15 goals, 40 assists and 83 saves. For a team that returns six skaters who scored 10 or more goals last season, making up for the departed shouldn’t be an issue.

action_pc_gillies2. Providence (22-11-6, NCAA Tournament participant): With all but one forward back from last season, the Friars should improve on the 115 goals they scored in 2013-14. With junior Jon Gillies (pictured, right) and his 2.12 career GAA in goal, it isn’t a necessity.

3. Colgate (20-14-5, NCAA Tournament participant): Another veteran-laden squad, the Raiders were a surprise second-place finisher in ECAC Hockey last season. Of the 10 players reached double digits in points a year ago, nine of them are back. So, too, is goalie Charlie Finn.

4. Boston College (28-8-4, NCAA Frozen Four participant): No one, even the great Jerry York, loses four forwards who combined for nearly 500 career points without skipping a beat. It may take a bit for the Eagles to get up to speed, but I expect they’ll be buzzing come March.

5. North Dakota (25-14-3, NCAA Frozen Four participant): There are 14 NHL draft picks on the roster. Freshman forward Nick Schmaltz, a first-round selection of Chicago Blackhawks this past summer, is the most highly touted. Junior goalie Zane McIntyre, property of the Bruins, is the most important, however.

6. Minnesota State (26-14-1, NCAA Tournament participant): If forwards Zach Stepan and Teddy Blueger can improve to Matt Leitner/John-Paul Lafontaine levels of offensive output—and I think they can—the Mavericks will score a lot of goals this season.

7. Miami (15-20-3): Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I’m giving the RedHawks a mulligan for last year’s train wreck because they’ve got too much talent and Enrico Blasi is too good of a coach to let it happen again.

action_scs_prochno8. St. Cloud State (22-11-5, NCAA Tournament participant): The defending Natty Ice regular-season champions have to replace goalie Ryan Faragher. Whomever nabs the no. 1 job gets the benefit of having two terrific defensemen (senior Andrew Prochno, pictured, and junior Ethan Prow) on their side.

9. Union (32-6-4, NCAA champion): No Daniel Carr, no Mat Bodie, no Shayne Gostisbehere. Still, forwards Daniel Ciampini, Mike Vecchione, Max Novak and Mike Pontarelli combined for 62 goals last season and all ECAC Hockey First Team goalie Colin Stevens is back, too.

10. Ferris State (29-11-3, NCAA Tournament participant): Speaking of goalies, C.J. Motte is a good one. He’s back for his senior season—and he’s the Bulldogs’ captain to boot. Keep an eye on sophomore forward Kyle Schempp, who scored 10 goals and 15 assists in a promising rookie campaign.

Teams I thought about including but ultimately didn’t: Denver (20-16-6), Northeastern (19-14-4), Yale (17-11-5), Michigan (18-13-4)

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INCH Writers Rankings: The Top Whatever

It’s the last weekend of the regular season, or the second-to-last weekend, or the third-to-last weekend depending on the conference. What does that have to do with this installment of the INCH Top Whatever? Nothing, other than providing a convenient
lead-in to our list of the top teams in the country.

action_bc_hayes1. Boston College (25-4-4/16-1-2 Hockey East): Obscure statistics are kinda my thing. Here’s one I dubbed dagger goals: BC forward Kevin Hayes (pictured, right) has five goals this season in the first minute or last minute of a period or overtime when the Eagles and their opponent are tied.

2. Minnesota (21-4-5/10-2-2 Big Ten): The key to beating the Gophers may be sticking with them through the game’s first 20 minutes. Minnesota is 7-4-4 this season when tied or trailing after one period; they’re 14-0-1 otherwise.

3. Union (22-6-4/16-3-1 ECAC Hockey): How close are the Dutch to being unbeaten this season? Five of their six losses are of one-goal variety; the sixth, a 5-3 defeat to Colgate, featured an empty net goal with 19 seconds left in regulation.

4. Ferris State (23-7-3/18-4-2 WCHA): The Bulldogs are averaging nearly a full goal per game more at home (55 goals in 14 games for an average of 3.93 goals per game) than on the road (50 goals in 17 games, an average of 2.94 goals per game.)

action_scs_prochno5. St. Cloud State (18-7-5/12-5-3 NCHC): Defenseman Andrew Prochno (pictured, right) will miss this weekend’s critical series with North Dakota, a critical loss for the Huskies. The junior is among Natty Ice’s leaders in defensemen scoring (19 points) and plus-minus rating (+17).

6. Wisconsin (19-9-2/10-5-1 Big Ten): Joel Rumpel is challenging Michigan State’s Jake Hildebrand for the title of best goaltender in the Big Ten. In seven February starts, Rumpel is 5-1-1 with a 1.42 GAA and a .954 save percentage.

7. North Dakota (18-9-3/13-7-0 NCHC): NoDak is 13-2-1 since its Nov. 29 loss to St. Lawrence. During that 16-game stretch, goalie Zane Gothberg is 11-0-1 with a 1.66 GAA and a .934 save percentage.

8. UMass Lowell (20-8-4/10-5-3 Hockey East): The River Hawks are 9-0-2 in Hockey East play when leading after one period and 1-5-1 when trailing or tied after the first 20 minutes.

9. Quinnipiac (21-8-5/11-6-3 ECAC Hockey): Spent some time poking around for an interesting note on the Bobcats. Can’t really find anything. That’s not really on me, is it?

10. Northeastern (18-10-4/10-6-2 Hockey East): Forwards Braden Pimm (18 goals) and Kevin Roy (17 goals) have a chance to become the first Huskies’ duo to score 20 or more goals in a season since J.F. Aube and Jordan Shields did it in 1994-95.

11. Colgate (16-11-5/12-5-3 ECAC Hockey): BC’s Thatcher Demko is the highest-profile freshman goalie in the country, but how about a nod to the Raiders’ Charlie Finn? Since Jan. 1, he’s 9-1-3 with a 1.89 GAA and a .934 save percentage.

action_mnk_lafontaine12. Minnesota State (19-13-0/17-7-0 WCHA): The Mavericks (that’s leading scorer Jean-Paul Lafontaine pictured on the right) are one of three teams currently ranked among the top 18 nationally in scoring offense, scoring defense, power-play success rate, and penalty-killing percentage. Boston College and Quinnipiac are the others.

13. Cornell (14-7-5/10-6-4 ECAC Hockey): Cornell’s a good team, but this statistic sort of runs counter to that reality: The Big Red is 11-3-5 in games decided by two or fewer goals and 3-4-0 in games decided by three or more goals. So more often than not when Cornell loses, they really get shellacked.

INCH Writers Rankings: The Top Whatever

abe_simpsonHey, it’s an actual post!

You know that old saying about a body in motion staying in motion and a body at rest saying at rest? That’s how it works with writing. Once you stop, it’s a bitch to start up again. That and everything I felt like talking about seemed more like complaining. Like outdoor hockey games. They suck and everyone knows they suck, but you don’t really need me to tell you that. I was one step from becoming Abe Simpson.

Anyway, here are some teams ranked from best to not-quite-as-good-but-still-pretty-good. If your favorite team isn’t mentioned, make your own list or root for a better program. On with the countdown …

1. Minnesota (17-2-3/7-0-1): The Gophers have been the top team since Day One. For most of the season, they’ve been the undisputed No. 1—as in, no one has been nearly as good—but BC is rapidly closing that gap.

2. Boston College (17-4-3/11-1-1): If there’s any question forward Johnny Gaudreau (48 points in 24 games) isn’t the best player in college hockey, I’m here to tell you there’s not. If he doesn’t win the Hobey, they should just stop giving out the award.

3. Quinnipiac (18-4-5/8-2-3): There’s not much of a difference between Nos. 3-6 on this list. Someone could completely rearrange these four spots and I wouldn’t have a problem with it. I guess I favor the Bobcats because the hardest thing to do in hockey is score goals, and they’re pretty good at that.

action_uni_stevens4. Union (15-4-3/9-2-0): Is Shayne Gostisbehere Union’s best player? Probably, but goalie Colin Stevens (that’s him on the right) would get my vote for team MVP.

5. Ferris State (17-5-3/12-2-2): The Bulldogs are 7-4-3 when tied or trailing after the first period. Seems like a recipe for success against Ferris until you see they’ve outscored opponents by a 30-11 margin in the game’s first 20 minutes.

6. St. Cloud State (12-4-4/7-3-2): The Huskies have five NHL draft picks on their roster. Three of them (Johnny Brodzinski, Nic Dowd, and Kevin Gravel) are property of the Los Angeles Kings. That has nothing to do with SCSU’s play this season. It’s just an interesting factoid. Use it at your next social event.

7. Wisconsin (13-6-1/4-2-0): Did you know how crummy the Badgers have been away from home? Granted, they’ve only played six road games, but Bucky has one win and 12 goals in those half-dozen matches. That compares to 12 wins and 59 goals in 14 games at Kohl Center.

8. Northeastern (14-7-3/7-4-1): Saw the Huskies in person about six weeks ago and was impressed, but I can’t put a finger on what it was I liked. One thing that struck me was they played with a lot of poise and confidence, which would explain why they’ve been so good in one-goal games (5-1).

9. Providence (14-5-5/6-4-1): I’m not as high on the Friars than everyone else, it appears, probably because they’ve only got one win in their last six games. Prior to scoring seven in its win against Colorado College last Saturday, Providence had a total of eight goals in its previous five games.

10. UMass Lowell (15-6-2/5-3-1): With the emergence of Connor Hellebuyck last season, Doug Carr, who was terrific as a sophomore in 2011-12, almost became an afterthought in goal. This season, the two share duties almost equally and have been formidable, combining for a 1.85 GAA and a .935 save percentage.

action_ndk_gothberg11. North Dakota (12-7-3/7-5-0): Goaltender Zane Gothberg (pictured, right) is out indefinitely due to injury. Too bad, because NoDak really hit its stride when he took the reins at No. 1 goalie. During the team’s current nine-game unbeaten streak, Gothberg is 8-0-1 with a 1.76 GAA and a .923 save percentage.

12. Clarkson (15-7-2/8-2-0): I can typically find at least one statistic that explains a team’s success, but not in Clarkson’s case.They’re not particularly high scoring nor are they overly stingy on defense, and their special teams are mediocre. Oh, here it is—the Golden Knights are 12-3 in one-goal games.

13. Cornell (9-4-4/5-3-3): Some readers are certainly asking, Cornell ahead of Yale? Yes, because the Big Red has been better than the Elis as of late (6-1-3 over the last 10 games including a five-game unbeaten streak.)

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.

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 INCHWriters.com, 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.

No.
Team Circle The Dates
1.
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.
2.
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 …
3.
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.
4.
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.
5.
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