We’ve hit December break time in college hockey, with more than half the 60 Division I men’s teams idle this coming weekend. Here are three teams trending upward, three trending downward and three other thoughts.
1. Boston College: Rumors of the Eagles’ demise might have been premature. After a sluggish 2-4 start, coach Jerry York’s squad has reeled off nine wins in a row, capped by a 4-0 and 6-1 sweep of Notre Dame in a long-distance home-and-home series over the weekend. BC has missed the NCAA tournament for three consecutive years. That should end this winter.
2. North Dakota: The Fighting Hawks (14-1-2) continued to serve notice that they’ll be tough to deal with come NCAA tournament time by running their win streak to seven games with a 1-0 and 8-2 sweep of Western Michigan in Kalamazoo. UND’s only loss was at Minnesota State and its two ties were against the Mavericks and at Denver.
3. Sacred Heart: The Pioneers (11-6-1) sit atop Atlantic Hockey and have won eight of nine, with wins over Boston University and giant-killer American International. Even more impressive, Sacred Heart is 8-2 in road games.
1. Denver: On Nov. 4, the Pioneers were 8-0 and a near-unanimous No. 1 in the U.S. College Hockey Online poll. Since then, they’re 1-4-3 after a 4-1 loss and 2-2 tie against Arizona State in Denver. The Pioneers’ scoring has dried up; they have two goals or fewer in six of their past eight games.
2. Wisconsin: A 4-2 start that included a sweep of defending national champion Minnesota Duluth by the Badgers seems so long ago, doesn’t it? With 3-0 and 5-4 losses at Michigan State, the Badgers dropped to 7-10-1 overall and 1-5-1 in their past seven games. Defense and goaltending have been the culprits, with Wisconsin allowing 3.6 goals per game in that seven-game swoon.
3. Notre Dame: In suffering the sweep against Boston College, the Fighting Irish (8-6-2) saw their losing streak reach six games. Goalie Cale Morris, the 2018 Richter Award winner as the nation’s top netminder, is struggling. He has given up 17 goals in his past four games, including six on Sunday to Boston College.
Three other thoughts
1. With its loss and tie (plus three-on-three overtime win) at No. 7 Ohio State, the Gophers men’s hockey team reached its December break at 5-9-4. That’s not nearly where coach Bob Motzko hopes to have this program, and the Dec. 28-29 Mariucci Classic against Bemidji State and either Minnesota State or St. Cloud State will offer a chance for continued maturation. Saturday’s win in the second OT was a good step forward. Stringing together two positive results would be a good follow-up.
2. Wisconsin (18-1-1) has moved ahead of the Gophers (15-1-3) in the USCHO women’s poll the past two weeks. No reason for Minnesota to fret just yet. A two week stretch in mid-to-late January will be key for the Gophers. Fifth-ranked Ohio State visits Ridder Arena on Jan. 17 and Parade Stadium for the Hockey Day Minnesota outdoor contest on Jan. 18. A week later, Minnesota takes on the Badgers in Wisconsin.
3. Led by No. 4 Gustavus (8-0-1), three MIAC teams are in the top 10 of the USCHO Division III women’s poll. St. Thomas (7-2-3) is No. 9, with Hamline (6-3-1) one spot behind. Defending NCAA champion Plattsburgh State (10-1) is No. 1. … Wisconsin-Eau Claire (10-0-1) sits atop the USCHO Division III men’s poll. The Blugolds’ only blemish is a 1-1 season-opening tie against St. John’s, and they own a 3-1 win over No. 5 Augsburg.