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Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Feb. 9

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

After just four Big Ten teams played this weekend with mixed results, it’s hard to learn anything new. I’m left with more questions than answers, and am even more unsure of where each team stands.

Minnesota beat Penn State 4-1 before losing 5-3. Michigan State beat Michigan 3-2 in overtime on Friday night, snapping Michigan’s eight-game unbeaten streak. The Wolverines rebounded with a 4-1 win on Saturday.

After the weekend (and before the Beanpot), Michigan dropped to sixth in the PairWise. Penn State is 16th and Minnesota is 21st. The Wolverines and Gophers are tied for first in the Big Ten while Penn State is third – six points behind both teams. The Buckeyes are fourth with 12, Michigan State has nine and Wisconsin has six. 

(After the jump: Is this the norm for Michigan State, Michigan will still probably win the Big Ten Tournament and anyone can beat anyone.)

Is this the normal for Michigan State?

The Spartans now have two wins in their last four games, and have stopped a couple of good offenses in Michigan and Ohio State. Despite losing to the Wolverines on Saturday, only allowing four goals isn’t bad – especially because Michigan State’s defense has really struggled this year.

The win over Ohio State was impressive, but it was hard to tell if it was a one-time thing for the Spartans or an indication of improvement. But beating Michigan and holding their offense to six goals over the weekend makes me believe the Spartans are improving.

Michigan will probably still win the Big Ten tournament 

As much as I enjoy changing my preseason picks in the middle of the season, I have to stick with Michigan. While the Wolverines can lose one game in the tournament, it’s not likely going to be in an offensive shootout. I think the only Big Ten team that can stop Michigan is still Michigan State, but I’m not sure the two will face off in the tournament.

Anyone can beat anyone 

The only thing I really learned after last weekend is that any team in the conference is capable of beating any other team in the conference (well, that’s hard to say for Wisconsin right now.) But Penn State and Minnesota have already played in a couple of tough series, Ohio State has hung in with Michigan and now even the Spartans have proved they can beat the conference’s elite.

This makes it really hard to predict the tournament and the regular-season standings. It will most likely be Penn State, Michigan and Minnesota in the top three spots, but it’s hard to tell who’ll finish first and second. 

Three Things I Think: ECAC 2/9

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

Another interesting week hit the ECAC over the weekend, as Quinnipiac continued to remain unbeaten and Clarkson continued its hot streak. Quinnipiac, Clarkson and Yale have a combined for just two losses in their last 30 games. Those three teams are making hay within the league standings, with Quinnipiac running away with the lead. Harvard has struggled recently and it is now tied with Yale for second in the league, seven points behind the Bobcats for the league lead.

One of the interesting aspects of the ECAC standings right now, is that the top eight is pretty much figured out. Clarkson and Cornell are in a tie for seventh, with 17 points. That mark is six points up on ninth place Union. Although it is mathematically possible for a team from the bottom four to catch up with the top eight, it seems unlikely with just six games remaining in the regular season. This should make the battle for the top four and the byes all the more interesting, as positions two to seven in the standings are separated by just four points. One should look at Yale and Clarkson as the favorites to take two of the top four. This would leave the other position to Harvard, Dartmouth, RPI and SLU. The Engineers, Saints and the Big Green are currently tied for the fourth position. Without further ado here are my thoughts for the week. (more…)

Projecting the Final Hockey East Standings Using KRACH

Monday, February 8th, 2016

At College Hockey News, we endorse the KRACH ratings as the best way to compare college hockey teams. The KRACH stands for “Ken’s Ratings For American College Hockey,” and it was first applied to college hockey by statistician Ken Butler, hence the name.

Butler uses a mathematical model known as the Bradley-Terry rating system.

(more…)

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Feb. 5

Friday, February 5th, 2016

Conference play is back in action for just four teams this weekend. The Gophers, Nittany Lions, Spartans and Wolverines are playing this weekend while Wisconsin and Ohio State take a break.

Minnesota and Penn State will play while Michigan and Michigan will face each other. These are two series that have already happened earlier this season. The Wolverines dismantled the Spartans, while the Gophers and Nittany Lions split.

While Michigan and Michigan State are far apart in the standings, Minnesota and Penn State are separated by just six points. And remember, because of shootouts there are three points up for grabs in each Big Ten game. Three points are awarded for a regulation/OT win, two for a shootout win and one for a shootout loss. (more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC 2/3

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

Separation from positions two through eight is hard come by in the ECAC standings right now, but the only tie in the league is 11th where Princeton and Colgate are tied with eight points. The seven teams between 2-8 have a progressive seven point difference. Harvard has 19 points, RPI has 18, while each of the teams below them have one less point until reaching ninth place Union which is three points behind eighth place Clarkson. Dartmouth and Quinnipiac played an interesting, 7-5 game in Hanover on Friday night and the Bobcats remained undefeated in ECAC play. Right now Quinnipiac, is running away with the league (6pts up) and it is time to acknowledge that fact.

I think the biggest question going forward is not the title race, but whether or not Quinnipiac can finish the season with less than two losses on the season in league play. Both of these numbers would be historically significant, because the league has only seen less than two losses ten times, with most of them happening before the 1980’s arrived. The last team to have one loss in ECAC play, was 1984-85 RPI. That RPI team went 20-1-0 in the ECAC, losing its first game to St. Lawrence and then ran the table with 20 straight wins. There has been only one team in ECAC play that went undefeated, which was 1969-70 Cornell that went 21-0-0. That Cornell team is often the bench mark of college hockey, as it also holds the distinction of being the only team that finished a season undefeated, 29-0-0. Although Quinnipiac also has more ties, finishing with  less than two losses would be a monumental feat to say the least. The Bobcats have played 14 games and are 11-0-3 with eight games remaining in the ECAC. It has been a historic run for Quinnipiac thus far, who are 20-1-5 overall this year.

The national picture has gotten better in recent weeks, despite teams dropping. Quinnipiac is the clear number one in the pairwise and will be even if it starts dropping games, while Harvard is seventh. Those two are joined by Yale, Rensselaer, Dartmouth and Cornell in the top 16. All four of those teams are in jeopardy with losses over the next few weeks, as Dartmouth and Cornell are 15 and 16, while Yale and RPI are right in front of them at 13 and 14. If the tournament, started today four league teams would be in, while two others would just miss out. All in all, this is fine but we also know how much of a grind the ECAC is. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Feb. 1

Monday, February 1st, 2016

Another weekend of the season featured an in-conference matchup, a different stage and the last pieces of non-conference play for these teams. My biggest takeaway from this weekend is that the conference is a mess – and you can’t make much out (aren’t they all, though).

Minnesota and Michigan are tied for the conference lead while Penn State is third, Ohio State is fourth, Michigan State fifth and Wisconsin last. I know several weeks ago I said the Spartans would finish last, but now I’m not so sure.

Michigan State split its series with Ohio State, winning 4-2 before falling 2-1. The Wolverines swept Penn State. Minnesota dropped both its games at the North Star College Cup, while Wisconsin swept Alaska in non-conference play.

After the sweep this weekend, Michigan has moved really high in the PairWise – standing in fourth place. They’re the only team safely in the PairWise, though. Penn State is next at 17th and Minnesota is 20th.

(After the jump: Maybe MSG was a better idea, weaknesses non-conference play exposes, and the same dilemma with Michigan) (more…)

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Jan. 28

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

This weekend features a mix of in-conference and out-of-conference series. Michigan plays Penn State and Ohio State faces Michigan State in the two Big Ten series, while Wisconsin hosts Alaska and the Gophers play in the North Star College Cup. The out-of-conference series are pretty big for Big Ten teams in the pairwise, since they struggled earlier in non-conference play.

Michigan against Penn State will probably be the most exciting series, with two powerful offenses facing off. This weekend will also be a huge test for the Gophers, who haven’t faced much of a test recently – especially out of conference.

(more…)

Three Things I Think: ECAC 1/26

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

The league standings started to take shape over the weekend and some teams certainly made the most of their opportunities against teams near them. Harvard outclassed Cornell at Lynah on Saturday, which saw them build on a good win at Colgate on Friday night. Dartmouth continued its resurgence with a weekend sweep opposite of Harvard, while Clarkson and Yale picked up three points. Quinnipiac still has a wide margin in the league standings, followed by Harvard, RPI, Yale and Dartmouth. The Big Green are now 7-1-0 since the break and are on a current five game winning streak, including four against conference opponents.

Over the weekend I got to visit the two Central New York rinks and had a good time in doing so, certainly both share interesting histories and a certain charm. It is always tough to see old barns close, like Starr, and I really enjoyed that rink. Cornell of course had quite the atmosphere for the Harvard game, but it was quelled fast as Harvard never looked challenged by the Big Red.  Cornell is winless in its last four and is dropping fast, as its offense has sputtered in recent weeks. (more…)

Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Jan. 26

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

Another week in the Big Ten produced some surprises. Actually, the only series I thought was surprising was Wisconsin-Minnesota. but I’ll get to that later. The Gophers swept the Badgers by a combined score of 13-2. After shutting out Wisconsin on the first night, Minnesota won 9-2 the second night.

The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions split their series. Penn Statewon 3-2 on Friday before Ohio State won 5-1 on Saturday. Michigan and Michigan State both had exhibitions games against the NTDP. Michigan won 5-2, while Michigan State won 3-2.

Michigan is still the highest Big Ten team in the PairWise at No. 6. The Gophers are 15th while Penn State is 16th. After the losses, Wisconsin stands at 44. Next weekend features another little break in some Big Ten play, as the Gophers get their last non-conference tests in the North Star College Cup.

(After the jump: What’s wrong with Wisconsin, the truth about Penn State and limiting dangerous hits) (more…)

Weekend Preview: Big Ten, Jan. 22

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

This weekend features just two Big Ten series, as the Wolverines and Spartans take the weekend off for exhibition games against the NTDP. The Badgers host the Gophers in the border battle, while Penn State travels to Ohio State. This is the last Big Ten matchup for Minnesota until February, as the Gophers take a break from conference play for the North Star College Cup.

Entering the weekend, Minnesota and Michigan are tied for first place. Penn State is third, Ohio State and Wisconsin are tied for fourth and Michigan State is last.

(more…)