Minnesota Duluth hangs on to College Hockey’s top spot
Minnesota Duluth continues to hold top billing in the USCHO Top 20 poll, although their grip has slipped slightly as Denver has gained six first place votes from the Bulldogs. As we move forward in the month of December it will be interesting to see how the standings evolve as many teams will undergo roster shake-ups due to the World Junior Championships in January.
USCHO Top 20 – As of Dec. 7th
1. Minnesota Duluth (44) – 10-2-2
2. Denver (6) – 11-2-3
3. Penn State – 13-1-1
4. Boston College – 12-5-1
5. Boston University – 8-4-2
6. Harvard – 8-2-1
7. Quinnipiac – 10-5-2
8. North Dakota – 8-5-3
9. Massachusetts-Lowell – 8-5-3
10. Ohio State – 9-2-4
11. Minnesota – 7-5-2
12. Vermont – 9-3-2
13. Bemidji State – 12-5-1
14. Notre Dame – 8-6-2
15. Union – 10-3-2
16. Minnesota State – 9-5-2
17. St. Cloud State – 7-6-1
18. Western Michigan – 7-4-3
19. St. Lawrence – 9-5-4
20. Omaha – 8-5-3
Read more: http://www.uscho.com/rankings/d-i-mens-poll/#ixzz4PXrHCtXS
It’s been an up and down season for the Big Ten entering conference play, as the league appears to be quite divided. Penn State and Ohio State have been impressive quick starters and Minnesota has weathered a difficult out of conference schedule to start the Big Ten conference slate with an over .500 record. Michigan appears to be having an uncharacteristic down season, which was to be expected given the roster losses they suffered in the off-season.
Team of the Month: Penn State
For the second straight month, it’s hard not to choose the Nittany Lions for Big Ten Team of the Month. Penn State has won eight in a row since the start of November, and 11 in a row overall, outscoring their opponents 56-16 in the process. It will be worth watching to see how the team performs in conference, but they are off to a good start with a weekend series win over Michigan.
Boston College remains unbeaten in conference play with an 8-0-1 record, scoring a Hockey East leading 4.22 goals per game. New Hampshire has been a surprise in the early conference slate, as they finished last season in 10th place with a 4-12-6 Hockey East record. This season, the Wildcats have already surpassed their win total from a year ago with five wins in conference at this point. The league is proving to have as much depth as was projected when the season started, with five teams in the USCHO Top 20.
Team of the Month: Boston University
There are a few teams that could have taken home Team of the Month for Hockey East, but the Terriers get the nod due to their strong play away from home in the month of November. The team was 3-1-1 away from Agganis Arena, led by Patrick Harper (2016, 138th, NSH) and Charlie McAvoy (2016, 14th, BOS), who have both been near a point-per-game since November 1st. Clayton Keller appears to be near ready to return with the hope of him getting some games before playing for the United States in the World Juniors.
The NCHC has been a great conference for most of the season, with six of its eight teams falling inside the USCHO Top 20. Minnesota Duluth and Denver have accounted for all of the polls first place votes this week, checking in at first and second respectively. Last years National Champion have yet to find their stride this season, ranked sixth overall with a 8-5-3 record. Omaha, St. Cloud State and Western Michigan round out the Top 20.
Team of the Month: Denver
The Pioneers lost their first two games to start the season at home in surprising fashion. Apparently, that was more than enough to wake them up. Since that point, the team has been unbeaten in 14 straight games with an 11-0-3 record.
Denver has been led by draftees Will Butcher (2013, 123rd, COL), Henrik Borgstrom (2016, 23rd, FLA), Troy Terry (2015, 148th, ANA) and Dylan Gambrell (2016, 60th, SJS) all of whom have 14 or more points on the season. Junior goaltender Tanner Jaillet has also been solid, posting a 1.91 goals against average and .923 save percentage.
Bemidji State has gotten off to a hot 12-1-1 start within the conference, and currently hold a five point lead over second place Michigan Tech. Minnesota State, who has a 3-1 record out of conference with wins over St. Cloud State and Minnesota has faltered a bit in conference with a 6-4-2 record in 12 games. The Mavericks end the season against Bemidji State, a series that could prove to have big ramifications in the WCHA race.
Team of the Month: Michigan Tech
After starting the season 0-4, the Huskies have turned their season around, posting a 7-2-1 record since November 1st. During that stretch, Michigan Tech has outscored their opponents 30-16. The strength of the team is depth, with six players accumulating 10 or more scoring points on the season. Freshman goaltender Angus Redmond from the BCHL has been terrific with a 9-2-1 record, 1.47 goals against average and a .932 save percentage.
Freshman of the Month: Denis Smirnov, Penn State
Smirnov leads all freshmen and is third among all players in points with 27 in just 15 games. The USHL product, who scored 61 points in 60 games for the Fargo Force last season, has only been held off the score sheet once this year, notching multi-point games in 10 of 15 contests in 2016-17. He is currently riding a four game point streak where he has piled up five goals and five assists.
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