Friday, November 20, 2009

Around the NCAA in 80 seconds

Since the Engineers are off this weekend, here's a quick rundown of the big games in college hockey to look forward to between now and the next poll release on Monday.

Friday
#13 Quinnipiac at Colgate
This is the big one in the ECAC. It's early in the season, but the Bobcats and Raiders are 1-2 in the standings and have been very impressive early in the season. The winner of this game will have to be considered a definite favorite for a first-round bye going forward.

#19 Princeton at #5 Cornell
Games between ranked teams in conference simply can't be ignored. Princeton seems like they're better than they've played early in the season, and Cornell looks like they have a few flaws here and there that are being overlooked. Many people are calling this an easy win for Cornell, especially at home, but I'm not so sure.

Clarkson at Dartmouth
We've got the battle at the top of the standings and then the battle of the basement. These are the last two teams in the ECAC without any points (after 4 and 5 games respectively). Something's got to give - the loser of this game is certainly in for a very long season indeed.

Army at Bentley
This game - actually a two game series - features a past RPI opponent against the next RPI opponent. The Engineers were flat against Army, and the victory over RPI was one of the lone bright spots thus far for the Black Knights. Bentley, meanwhile, is off to a pretty decent start in Atlantic Hockey.

#10 Alaska at Lake Superior
Another battle of past and (potentially) future RPI foes. One of the major occupational hazards for college hockey players in Alaska are the long flights to the "lower 48" for away games, and this one is longer than most - to Sault Ste. Marie in the Upper Peninsula, which probably means a long bus ride on top of a long flight. If the Lakers do well in the two-game set, they'll be coming to Troy riding high and could prove dangerous for Union or RPI.

#2 North Dakota at #3 Denver
The series of the weekend pits the two teams most experts considered to be the cream of the crop in the WCHA this season. Although it seems that Colorado College and Wisconsin may have something to add to that conversation, there's no denying that the points earned this weekend will be huge for either team in the quest for the MacNaughton Cup.

Boston University at New Hampshire
It's rare indeed when these two teams meet and neither one of them is nationally ranked and, yet again, it's a matchup between teams with RPI as a common opponent. They meet again in Boston on Saturday. For BU, it's a chance to resurrect their national title defense, which at present is in complete shambles. For UNH, it's a chance to make sure they don't slide into irrelevance early in the season.

Saturday
#13 Quinnipiac at #5 Cornell
The Bobcats have played like a juggernaut in their first 8 games, going 7-1-0. During the 2000s, Cornell has been the juggernaut of the ECAC. And again, it's a battle atop the league table. If the Bobcats can pull off a third straight sweep, they could be establishing the early claim as Cleary Cup favorites. If Cornell sweeps, it could be them.

Merrimack at #4 UMass-Lowell
Ever since Merrimack's move to Division I in 1989, the Warriors have yet to put together a winning season. It's not that they haven't had any good teams, it's just that they've never been able to approach the class of Hockey East. That may be changing this year. The Warriors are 6-4-0 and have wins over BC and BU on consecutive weekends. This weekend, they face their long-time rivals in one of the biggest matchups between Merrimack and UMass-Lowell since they moved to D-I together.

Sunday
#6 Michigan State at #14 Notre Dame
The only game on the docket on Sunday is bound to be a good one. The Spartans have surprised many casual observers and even some experts with their explosive start (9-2-2). Michigan State is in first place in the CCHA. Meanwhile, the Irish have struggled to a .500 start to the season.

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