Welcome to another chat with the writers from Inside College Hockey. We'll be taking questions for the next 30 minutes, or longer, as they come in.
What do you think is the potential of Union College? Until last year, Union had never won an ECAC playoff series and now the team is ranked 7th in the Pairwise rankings, seemingly on their way to a possible NCAA Tournament at-large bid. They remain in first place in the ECAC going undefeated in the conference at 7-0-3. They face Harvard and Dartmouth this upcoming weekend.
We'll start with a bit on Union, and I think this team has tons of potential. One of their keys to success in my opinion is that they're playing to a high standard. Instead of settling for low expectations, they've got a group of players and a coaching staff that believes itself to be a league championship level team and among the nation's best. I think Union will do enough in the remaining 12 conference games to play itself into a top-four ECAC Hockey spot, win a playoff series, and advance to the league's championship weekend in nearby Albany. If they make it to Albany as a top-four seed, that'll be good enough to get an at-large bid in the NCAAs. Great offensive talent up front and strong goaltending from the freshman Kinkaid.
interested in knowing if you think UNH can compete for remainder of the season and any thoughts on Blake Kessel who i think is underrated?
Kessel is one of the best defensemen in the league, and he can do it offensively and defensively if he's asked to fill either role. If Brian Foster keeps up his stellar play, the Wildcats have a serious shot to claim the No. 1 seed and make some noise in the postseason.
What do the Sioux coaching staff seen in Brad Eidsness that they keep bringing him back game after game?
Changing goalies, or quarterbacks in football, to me is like firing a coach. A lot of fans want to run coaches out of jobs, but then realize there aren't better options out there to take over. Maybe that's the case at North Dakota. Obviously, Dave Hakstol and the coaching staff will go with the guy they feel gives them the best chance to win. That said, I understand why some Sioux fans are frustrated with how Eidsness has performed. Several shaky performances since around Thanksgiving.
When does Jim Culhane finally get the axe at Western Michigan? This is years past due.
Culhane's contract doesn't expire until May 2011. With the current state of education funding here in Michigan, odds are slim that the university will buy him out of his last year. But it seems like time for him to go; that program is stale, with no trips to Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA playoffs and an eighth straight season with a record of .500 or worse on the horizon.
James Marcou currently leads the country in points, and PPG. He is not mentioned in this week's Hobey Tracker. I was wondering what your thoughts are on Marcou and do you think he has a legitimate chance of winning the Hobey?
Legitimate? No. But he will remain in the conversation as long as UMass stays within reach of an NCAA tournament berth. Yes, Marcou is one of the most talented point producers in the country, and he could potentially play on the first line on any team in the country. But to be realistic, he doesn't play for one of the national powers, and it'll take a Herculian effort to win the Hobey.
The WCHA standings are so tight, I could see a tie-breaker deciding home ice. What are the tie-breaking procedures in the WCHA? I realize that head-to-head records are the first tie-breaker, but what comes after that? In the case of North Dakota vs. Minnesota, they've got the same head-to-head record, and even the exact same number of goals.
The WCHA breaks ties by looking first at head-to-head results. If the teams are still tied, then they go to most conference wins. The third tiebreaker is whoever allowed the fewest goals in head-to-head meetings between the two teams. If they're still tied after those three, the league goes by "winning margin" in all WCHA games (games versus WCHA teams in holiday tournaments do not count), meaning total goals for minus total goals against. Nowhere in the WCHA rules does it say they resort to a coin flip, but the Gophers and Sioux are so even this year, the might have to resort to heads or tails.
Now that the one week hiatus for Miami has seemed to subside and all the haters have gone back into the woodwork, is their anyone that can catch Miami in the CCHA race? and with North Dakota struggling is it a two team race between Denver and Miami as the tops in the nation?
That was a big weekend sweep of Ferris State and Miami certainly put itself way ahead of the pack. They've got a five-point lead in the standings with two games in hand on their closest chasers. For now, I'd agree that it's a race between Denver and Miami for the top spot in the rankings, but a number of teams closely behind can make a push - Wisconsin, Minnesota Duluth, Yale, Boston College, Cornell for example.
Miami's Cody Reichard has been incredible in net this season, leading the nation with a 1.56 gaa, .932 save %, and a .812 win %. All this after a tragic loss in last years title game. Could he be a legitimate Hobey Candidate?
We debuted our list of the top three Hobey candidates last night and Reichard wasn't in that group. Had we gone 10 deep, however, you'd probably have seen his name. In my opinion, Reichard and Denver's Marc Cheverie have been the nation's two best goalies this season.
SCSU Vs Minnesota this weekend. This could make be the turning point for either club. Both clubs are coming off a 7-1-1 run. SCSU will be hungry after going 0-5 against the gophers last year. Who do you like in this match up?
Can I be a wimp and predict a split? These have been the two most underachieving teams in the WCHA, in my opinion, but both are starting to play up to their potential in recent weeks. I like Minnesota's goaltending better than that of the Huskies right now, but I think SCSU has more reliable offensive weapons, and a better defensive corps. Still, it would be tough to pick either of these teams to win in the other's building right now, so we'll be non-courageous and pick wins for the home teams.
Which current NCAA hockey player do you think will have the best professional hockey career?
Good question. There are a number of guys that will go on to great professional careers. Among the more highly-drafted players I think Jordan Schroeder of Minnesota and Danny Kristo of North Dakota are bound for long, productive NHL careers. Obviously, you're familiar with Gustav Nyquist and he's in a great situation as a Detroit Red Wings draft pick. For a more defensive-minded third-line role, and an older collegian, keep an eye on Colin Greening of Cornell. He's a senior with a big frame and has great leadership characteristics. I see him fitting in with the Ottawa organization.
Who do you see finishing in the top 4 in Hockey East? Even though they made the Frozen Four last year, is Vermont a sleeper?
Vermont is actually an underperformer in my mind. I thought UVM would be much better this season, but it's just not getting it done defensively. For the top four, I'll call UNH and BC a lock, and I'll go with UMass and UMass Lowell in the next two spots.
Assuming Miami is able to get the #1 overall seed in the NCAA tourney and Notre Dame finds they're way in to the tournament as a 4 seed, where do you think Miami will be sent since they won't be able to go to Ft. Wayne because of the 1 vs 4 in conference first round match-up.
If that's how it played out, I'd expect Miami to end up in either Albany or Worcester since a WCHA team will most likely end up as the top seed in the St. Paul region. But Notre Dame making the tournament is a big if at this point.
How many teams from the WCHA do you see making the NCAA Tournament?
A fellow Minnesotan and I were joking last week that after last year's rare WCHA-free Frozen Four, all was right with the world again, with three WCHA teams among the top four in the INCH Power Rankings. Of course, that means nothing when it all comes down to winning two games in March and two more in April. But I'd look for five WCHA teams among the field of 16. Denver, Minnesota Duluth and Wisconsin are near-locks. St. Cloud State is a very strong candidate, and then pick one more from among the field of North Dakota, Colorado College and (dare I say it) Minnesota as the last member of the western quintet.
Why does Miami (OH) have any Hobey finalists? We deserve atleast one with our dominance this year.
We won't know the 10 official Hobey finalists until the latter part of the season but I think Miami will have at least one representative among that group. Cody Reichard was mentioned earlier in this chat. I've always thought highly of Tommy Wingels and he's leading the team in scoring this year. Carter Camper is another viable candidate. It'll be tougher for the forwards, because their point totals relative to other players in the country are low.
Is the fact that Justin Fontaine and Jack Connolly are on the same line preventing either of them from garnering more Hobey support? Will they split votes so that neither of them will be in the final 10? Also, is there a better top line in the country than the one that the Bulldogs are sending out there?
It hurts the Hobey candidacy a little ... it's hard for voters who don't see every UMD game to determine which player is the more instrumental in the team's success. And the FCC Line of Fontaine, Jack Connelly, and Mike Connolly is certainly among the best in the country. Denver's line of Rakhshani, Ruegsegger, and Colborne is pretty spectacular, too.
As a follow-up, we've seen linemates make it to the top-10 finalists (Sertich-Sterling, Porter-Kolarik come to mind) so it's not impossible. I think with more coverage of the sport, voters have a pretty strong knowledge base and are aware of the nation's elite players.
Based on last year's performance (and this year to date), how well do you think Bemidji State will be able to compete when they jump to the WCHA next year? Do they have the potential to finish in the top half of the conference year one, or do you think it will take a few years to get there?
I think they have a talent to be a top five team (or a top six team, which will be more relevant next year) but I could see them stumbling a little just because it will all be new and different. Still, that's a very good program, and the new rink will be a big recruiting boost.
Thoughts on Wisconsin hosting Denver this weekend?
Two evenly matched teams. Denver's been really good in Madison over the past few years. I give the Pioneers the edge because of Cheverie.
Thanks for stopping by to chat with us this week. We'll be back next week, same time. Be sure to check out INCH for our debut installment of the Hobey Tracker and the latest INCH Podcast, recorded earlier this week.