It's time to talk college hockey. Thanks for stopping by. Lots of questions in line already, many involving a big series between North Dakota and Minnesota. We'll be taking questions for the next 30 minutes or more.
Gotta ask the question you don't want to hear, if the Sioux sweep the gophers this weekend, do they finally earn the tag of "better than Yale"?
That's a question we'd love to hear, and I'll answer by saying that it probably won't change our minds that much. We evaluate teams after each weekend. North Dakota is playing at home against a .500 team. Union, second-best to Yale in ECAC Hockey, recently won at Minnesota. We keep an eye on all results, North Dakota and Yale are pretty even, and Yale has a decent test this weekend in a home-and-home against Brown. We'll see.
What are your guys expectations of the biggest rivalry in college hockey for this weekends series between Gophers and Sioux?
Minnesota has played pretty well at times this season, but they haven't been at North Dakota's level. It'll certainly be the most hostile environment the Gophers have seen to date. In order for them to get out of Grand Forks with any points, I think they'll have to get a huge performance from goalie Kent Patterson on one or both nights.
Does Paul Thompson have a shot at Hobey Baker? I know kids at Miami are having great years, too.
There are a number of players having great seasons and are worthy of Hobey Baker consideration at this point. Thompson is certainly on that list. As we discussed in this week's INCH Podcast, an interesting aspect this season is that many top teams have multiple candidates for the award. Thompson is near the top of our unofficial standings right now. We'll publish our first Hobey Tracker next week.
Any teams that you like to make a late run to the NCAAs in the second half of the season?
According to the NCAA tournament criteria as it is currently published, Miami and Maine would be outside of the NCAA field. I still think there's something to those teams and each could make a solid run down the stretch. They'll have plenty of games against good opposition, and can help their cases with good runs in the CCHA and Hockey East tournaments.
Out of all of college hockey's areas, which team do you think is the toughest area to play at? Also, which fans do you think are the craziest about their team? ~GO SIOUX
If I didn't know better, I'd say you're trying to bait me. Each league has its toughest place to play--Cornell, Michigan, and, certainly, North Dakota. Maine might be tops on that list, however. Orono is impossible to get to and once you get there, you've got all those fans literally hanging over the ice making your life miserable. Ask the Fighting Sioux how that trip back in October went for them.
Very simple question: Can Brown skate/keep up with Yale's speed?
Yale is definitely the more talented team in this weekend's series, but Brown is on the rise and they won't be outworked, that's for sure. I expect Brown's coaching staff will come up with some strategies to help the Bears slow down Yale a little bit, and the Bulldogs will have to work for anything they get. You won't be cheated by Brown's effort, and these teams played a non-leaguer at the start of the year, so Brown is familiar with some of Yale's strengths.
Big weekend against Minn-Duluth for Wisconsin. What are your thoughts of the Badgers and do you see them making the tourney and how far could they go if they do make it in?
We'd like to see the Badgers stack up a little better against some of the nation's top teams. This weekend is an opportunity for that, and it's also a big series for Minnesota Duluth, still breaking in their new digs.
Who in your opinion will make the top cut for Hobey Baker award?
Narrowing the early Hobey list is tough because there are a ton of good candidates. Obviously, Miami's Carter Camper would be in that group, as would New Hampshire's Paul Thompson, Broc Little and Denny Kearney of Yale, Cam Atkinson and John Muse from Boston College, RPI's Chase Polacek, and one of Minnesota Duluth's forwards. North Dakota's Matt Frattin is probably in the conversation, too, as well as defenseman Chay Genoway.
Will Matt Frattin's off ice issues of season's past make hobey baker voters look past him (like they did to former Nodak standout Brandon Bochenski) or will the fact that he leads the country in goals while playing the nations toughest schedule be enough to garner support? Also, Go Sioux, stomp the rodents!
Man, good to see such excitement about North Dakota before the fans' favorite series of the year. Frattin's case is an interesting one. Some voters consider past indiscretions more highly than other voters. There's no doubt that Frattin has taken positive steps and is having a great season. Hobey or not, that should be applauded.
Given the EZAC's recent NCAA performance, you can't be shocked that everyone has a "we'll believe it when we see it" mentality with Yale, right?
I'm not shocked, but I think it's unfair to judge a team this season based on the results of, say, Cornell or Princeton in a single-game knockout tournament on the last weekend in March in previous seasons. Similarly, would you say that Bemidji State and RIT are better programs than Michigan because they've made the Frozen Four the last two years?
It seems as though the CCHA is having somewhat of a "down year" this year. Will that give Western Michigan an even better chance at making the NCAA Tournament this year? Right now they are square on the bubble.
I would like to see this square bubble of which you speak, as it intrigues me. It sounds silly to say, but it's going to come down to winning games for the Broncos. WMU has a sweep of Union and a win against Miami to its credit, but the last three series of the regular season--Miami, Michigan, Notre Dame--will likely make or break them. Five of those six games are on the road, by the way.
What do the Bulldogs need to do to get some secondary scoring? Should they break up the FCC line and go with Fonzie on line 2 like last season?
No. I think they've got plenty of secondary scoring potential on the second line, with J.T. Brown turning in a great rookie year so far.
Would you not compare Yale to Boise State? They are a good team but don't face the same tough type of competition week in and week out like the Sioux do. Am I the only one that thinks this?
You're not the only one who thinks this, but they also have only been beaten once this year. They're taking care of business.
Word is Jason Gregorie is suiting up for tonights game for the Sioux, how big is that for the Sioux!!!
Just one more added attraction in what I think is the best rivalry in this league. It's not like the Sioux were really struggling without him, but Gregorie's presence might be more of an emotional lift than anything. Minnesota could be facing a real buzzsaw in this pair of games.
Do you see Cam Atkinson winning the Hobey Baker if he leadsa the nation in scoring again this year?
As long as the Eagles keep winning and he keeps scoring (especially goals), he'll have a good shot. But if Muse's numbers hold up, he'll be in the running. So tough for a goalie to win the Hobey, however.
I feel that the ECAC writers and fans are little sensitive when fans of other leagues question Yale and if they are a legit team. I would be willing to be that UND head coach Dave Hakstol would love to have a home and home series with Yale... The Sioux have travel out east almost every season.
I'm a longtime follower and writer on ECAC Hockey, and I don't know if it's over-sensitivity (funny, this coming from Grand Forks) but the dismissal of Yale by North Dakota fans doesn't add up. North Dakota has played home-and-home series with top teams in ECAC Hockey in the last two years, and both were splits against Cornell. Yale knocked North Dakota out of the NCAAs last year, and this year's Yale team is better. You'd think after those types of results, Sioux fans would maybe realize that there's some good hockey out here.
Thanks for all of the questions, and enjoy this weekend's college hockey schedule. Lots of good stuff at INCH to check out before you head to the rinks. We'll be back next week at 2 p.m. to chat again.