College basketball folks love to talk about "signature" wins. Victories over highly ranked opponents that can get a team over the bubble and into the NCAA tournament when playoffs time comes.
Hockey folks don't do that much. The NCAA committee which picks the nine at-large teams looks at statistical comparisons, basically what the PairWise rankings do.
And, in a team's body of work, those big wins will help, but they don't sway minds. They sway numbers for a computer. Hardly compelling discussion.
My point, in all this? The Gophers, rated No. 4 in the country in both the uscho.com and USA Today polls this week, wil get their chance for two signature wins in the next three weeks, OK 22 days actually.
The U of M p lays No. 1-rated Boston College on Sunday, Dec. 30 in the second game of the Mariucci Classic. And then nine days later, plays No. 3 Notre Dame in a Tuesday nonconference.
Those would be huge wins. Boston College has 44 of a possible 50 first-place votes in the uscho.com poll this weeke and 28 of a possible 34 votes in the USA Today poll.
The Eagles are also the defending NCAA champions and crushed the Gophers 6-1 in the Frozen Four semifinals in Tampa last April.
Notre Dame? The Irish have more wins than any other team. They are 14-4-0 and on a 7-1 roll since the Don's son, Mario Lucia, started playing for them. The freshman winger missed the first 10 games recovering from a broken leg. Obviously, the Irish surge has not been all about Mario, but he has helped.
He has five goals and three assists in his return.
The Gophers are 11-3-3 overall. On the surface, an impressive record. But, remember, they went into each game as the favorite. And they have beaten only two ranked teams: the Gophers split with No. 12/13 Nebraska Omaha and with No. 18/unranked Minnesota State.
JUGGLE SCHEDULE, PLEASE
If the U wants to promote college hockey, someone there should switch the order of opponents in the Mariucci Classic.
The Gophers should be playing BC on the first night, not the second. For history's sake.
As fate would have it, Boston College tied its last game. The Eagles blew a 3-1 lead at Providence. The Friars tied the score when freshman left winger Nick Saracino scored with 10.5 seconds left.
The story -- look at York's face -- from the Boston Globe is here.
That goal cost York a chance to become the winningest coach in Division I college hockey history. He remained tied with Ron Mason, a former Michigan State coach, at 924 victories.
Now York will try to get his milestone win in the first game of the Mariucci Classic against lowly Alabama Huntsville, the program that was given the death sentence last season because of financial reasons, then revived.
The Chargers (3-14-1) are one of the worst, if not the worst team, in college hockey. If UAH comes within five goals of BC, it will be a moral victory.
This is not the opponent a team like BC (11-2-1) should be playing on a night the college hockey world will be watching. A night York goes for his milestone win.
BC should play the Gophers that first day -- not the second. A much more challenging opponent, before a full house.
As it is, Boston College plays UAH at 4 p.m. before thousands of empty seats, and the Gophers play Air Force at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 28.
The next day, Air Force and UAH play at 4 p.m. and BC and the Gophers at 7 p.m.
The U pre-arranged this schedule. They can adjust it again.
I know contracts have been signed, travel arrangements have been made, etc., etc. ... But I doubt any of the three teams from out of state are arriving Saturday. They come in a day early.
So this scheduling shift, if all four teams agree, could be done, it seems to me or am I being naive. Someone at the U should at least pose the question.
Bet it would create some extra buzz if the switch were made.