The NCAA: Already Interesting

Yeah I’m holding the Miller post until I gather more info.

Meanwhile her old program did not beat the living corn pone out of Lindenwood, though it will take awhile for a new coaching and recruiting philosophy in Duluth to take hold. That’s a huge moral victory for the Lions. Although a moral victory gathers no poll points. Nor did Minnesota destroy Penn State in game one, and Robert Morris skated to a tie with BSU in game two, which augers well for an competitive CHA this year. Saint Cloud State also beat the Raty-less Whitecaps in a somewhat surprising turn of events. Although there are some who would argue it was more surprising that a barnstorming team who has probably practiced twice did that well against the Gophers (or, the current Gophers, in a kind of intersquad match-up) in the first place.

Teams that got defeated by their CIS opponents: in trouble already (there are many fine players on those teams but they simply aren’t the semi-professional machines that NCAA D-I provides). Teams that allow multiple goals to PWHL squads? Also suspect.

The real question-answerer among the upcoming week’s games is Lakers-Bobcats. Can Mercyhurst integrate its crop of first-years quickly?  How much do the coaching change and graduations affect QU (a lot, has already been my take).  The outcomes of that series will go a long way in setting the tone for the year on the poll. This is a season of truth for Colgate’s sophomores: if the games are high-scoring, they triumph. If they are defensive, RMU can probably scrabble out at least a tie.  OSU, while technically more talented than Lindenwood, is also a team they can face with confidence after their opening series. If RIT can beat bottom shelf WCHA talent it will send a huge message to the rest of the conference. And BC had better darn well thrash the Bulldogs if it wants to send a message of its own, although really its problems began late in the season last year after a blazing start.

Semi-bold predictions: UW and BC sweep; Colgate a win and tie; OSU and Lindenwood two ties; ‘Hurst and QU split. RIT sweeps. Now let’s see how well that lines up with Marttila’s opinion….

The Season Is Upon Us

I was all set to write a gently humorous post about Lindenwood ‘s PoE connections and everything.

But…hockey has started!  There’s even a compelling series this weekend already, St, Lawrence versus Northeastern. Plus some interesting college/pro match-ups.

I’m headed over to Twitter and whatever live video exists to check in on the action. Join me, won’t you?

Quick Thought: Mercyhurst

With the dawning realization that the CHA would no longer be a cakewalk, and with it the end of the automatic automatic national tournament bid, the Lakers’ recruitment strategy has become Britain at the start of World War II, as described by Eddie Izzard:

“Get the tanks!”
“We haven’t got any tanks!”
“Get the ice cream van! Here’s a Mister Whippy for you, you bastard!”

‘Hurst signed a LOT of first-years, and I do think they’ll be rewarded by winning the conference again this year.

*There’s an important ongoing discussion to be had about whether bids are something women’s hockey should continue at all.

First USCHO Poll Of The Year Is Out

  1. Minnesota
  2. BC
  3. Wisconsin
  4. Harvard
  5. Clarkson
  6. UND
  7. Quinnipiac
  8. BU
  9. Bemidji State
  10. Cornell

Others receiving votes: Northeastern, ‘Hurst, UMD, SLU

Pre-season polls are by their nature guesswork. My own guesswork leads me to think UND and Quinnipiac are over-ranked here.  Northeastern will make it back onto this thing at some point soon although they have a recent history of uneven  seasons. Cornell could go either way: the first-year class could gel spectacularly or they could need another year to adjust, which is probably more likely. You know I picked Clarkson to win the ECAC. And I will let you know what I think about the BC versus Minnesota split, and BU’s chances of success in the wake of the Poulin era, in my HE preview. It’s always bad news to bet against the Gophers but they are technically mortal.

L’Etat, C’est Moi

Word around the hockey ether is that a higher-up in Hockey Canada has told players that if they choose the NWHL over the CWHL, they will be blacklisted from the national team. I do not have the privileged access to either confirm or deny this, but it seems consistent with HC’s views about players’ perceived duties to the national program, along with a broad definition of what counts as loyalty to that program. While HC/the government do apparently fund some players’ training, constraining their choices as to employment within hockey would be significant.

WCHA Preview, Part One

The WCHA Coaches’ Poll is out, and it looks like this:

1 Minnesota (6) 48
2 Wisconsin (2) 44
3 North Dakota 35
4 Bemidji State 31
5 Minnesota Duluth 26
6 Ohio State 20
7 St. Cloud State 13
8 Minnesota State 7

Bear in mind that coaches could not vote for their own team.  It makes sense that UMN and UW were close on points but not particularly so on first-place votes since a team can garner a lot of sixes but still get everyone’s second-place nod.

When I said that UMN went with a quantity system on recruits, this is true in terms of numbers, but I should also note that there is a tier of those recruits that includes what many believe is the best current Canadian U-18 player plus last year’s Minnesota Ms. Hockey. Add that to presumption Kaz winner Brandt and other returnees from a championship squad such as Pannek and this team will be difficult to challenge within the conference. Wisconsin is formidable with the assumption that Pankowski (I am working on a nickname for her; suggestions welcome) will start to really come into her own as a sophomore and their small but elite class of first-years. However UW also lost a larger percentage of its scoring (Turnbull-Sylvester-Ammerman) than the Gophers. It will also need to significantly improve on its power play if it wants to challenge for the top spot.

North Dakota, meanwhile, held second place in combined special teams ranking last season and will be led by Amsley-Benzie in her senior season. UND’s recruiting strategy for the past several years has been ‘do what UMD did, but more effectively’ which means sweep up all the available international talent plus what seems like all of Minnesota’s public high graduates (fine, a slight exaggeration).  It’s really a coin toss whether their program or now-upperclass goalie Mowat plus the surprising seniors of BSU will take third. Mowat faced a mad number of shots last year and still returned among the conference’s best goaltending stats. There’s always a chance she is ground down by the continued demands placed upon her, but let’s be wild and wacky and go with BSU for that third place.

Ohio State brings in an excellent first-year class anchored by ‘hey I’ve finally made it to college might be a slight let-down after all my national team duty’ Dunne which seems unwieldy as a nickname. I don’t pretend to know how Coach WTF managed that, but it’s a gift to his successor. On the other hand, the Buckeyes also lose among the highest percentage of offense from last season. Given big program change plus some intimations that there may not be strong institutional support for women’s hockey this will be a rebuilding year. I cannot count how many times I have said that over the past five seasons, coupled with the occasional ‘hey, this could be the year they break through a bit…nope.’

Likewise, we have seen the ‘rebirth’ of SCSU on countless occasions, but they are the object lesson in the fact that one recruit that seems great on paper cannot change a programmatic culture by herself. This year’s candidate is of course transfer Taylor Crosby. Mankato needs to take fewer penalties.

This is where we start in the most competitive of D-I conferences.