Minnesota-Duluth reclaims the top spot
A strong month of January saw Minnesota-Duluth back on top of the USCHO Top 20 poll, receiving 92% of the available first place votes. Providence, Wisconsin and Air Force slide in to the Top 20, while Bemidji State, Minnesota State and Michigan Tech fall out this week.
1. Minnesota-Duluth (46) – 18-5-5
2. Denver (4) – 18-4-6
3. Boston University – 18-7-2
4. Harvard – 15-5-2
5. Minnesota – 17-7-2
6. Union – 19-7-2
7. Boston College – 18-9-2
8. Western Michigan – 15-7-4
9. UMass-Lowell – 17-9-3
10. Penn State – 16-6-2
11. Providence – 16-8-4
t12. Cornell – 14-6-2
t12. Ohio State – 13-7-6
14. North Dakota – 15-11-3
15. Vermont – 16-9-3
16. Notre Dame – 15-9-4
17. Wisconsin – 15-8-1
18. St. Lawrence – 15-8-6
19. Quinnipiac – 16-11-2
20. Air Force – 18-8-4
Read more: http://www.uscho.com/rankings/d-i-mens-poll/
Don't look now, but Wisconsin's play has them back in contention for a Big Ten title and back into national relevance in this weeks Top 20 poll. First year Coach Tony Granato was tasked with rebuilding his alma mater, which seems to be bit ahead of schedule at this point. Both Wisconsin and Minnesota are tied atop the conference with an 8-2 record through 10 conference games. Penn State and Ohio State are still in the picture but will need a strong close to the conference season to have a chance.
Team of the Month: Wisconsin
Since the year turned to 2017, the Badgers have won seven of eight games, with their only blemish being an overtime loss against Minnesota. The team is being led by NHL prospects Luke Kunin (MIN), Trent Frederic (BOS), Grant Besse (ANA) and Cameron Hughes (BOS) all of whom have greater than 23 points this season. With a up and coming core consisting of 14 freshmen and sophomores, you could see Wisconsin making waves over the next couple seasons. The fact that their rebuild has already garnered results is a bonus at this time.
With the Beanpot Final looming next Monday, it's obvious that the Hockey East season is coming down the stretch. The league boasts six teams in the USCHO Top 20 poll this week, which showcases the depth of the colleges which play in the conference. Boston College still leads with 27 points, but Boston University is nipping at their heels just three points back. BU and Harvard will play for the Beanpot championship next week, pitting two top five teams against each other in one of Boston's most beloved sporting events.
Team of the Month: Providence
The Friars have been on fire as of late, winning seven straight and clawing their way back into the Hockey East and National pictures after starting the conference season 1-6-2. During their seven game winning streak, Providence has allowed just 13 goals, backstopped by Hayden Hawkey (MON) who has played all but 10 minutes in goal for the Friars this season. Brian Pinho (WAS) and Erik Foley (WPG) lead the way with 26 and 23 points, but the emergence of undrafted freshman Josh Wilkins and his 10 goals and 13 assists have played a big role in the teams turnaround.
Minnesota-Duluth went 3-0 during a tough stretch at the end of January, winning twice at North Dakota and defeating Minnesota at home to take over the top spot both nationally and in-conference. Denver is right behind them just four points off pace in the NCHC, with a favorable schedule down the stretch. At this point it appears to be a two-horse race for the conference's top spot and a number one seed going into the Frozen Four tournament.
Team of the Month: Minnesota-Duluth
Hard not to tout the Bulldogs further, as they are unbeaten in their last seven and currently are the undisputed team at the top of the USCHO rankings garnering 46 of 50 first place votes. Carrying a plus-25 goal differential in conference, Minnesota-Duluth has been led by balanced scoring, with eight players currently sitting at 15 points or more on the season. As a team, the Bulldog goaltenders currently have a goals against average under two (1.96) and a save percentage of .928%, holding teams scoreless in five contests on the season.
Out with the WCHA this month, and enter the ECAC, one of the most competitive leagues in college hockey this season. Currently five teams are separated in the ECAC standings by just four points, with Union and St. Lawrence tied at the top of the conference with 25 points. Harvard, Cornell and Quinnipiac, all teams in the USCHO Top 20 are just behind the conference leaders, and are pushing to take over the top spot.
Team of the Month: Harvard
The Crimson are unbeaten in their last six games, and have climbed to fourth in this week's Top 20 poll. They have a stiff test coming up this weekend at home against Union, and then in the Beanpot Final on Monday against BU. Harvard currently has five players playing at above a point-per-game pace, including NHL prospects Alexander Kerfoot (NJ), Sean Malone (BUF), Tyler Moy (NSH) and super-freshman Adam Fox (CGY). Philadelphia prospect goaltender Merrick Madsen has allowed just over two goals-per-game this season, and has played all but 45 minutes of the whole season in-between the pipes for his team.
Freshman of the Month: Clayton Keller, Boston University
Since returning from the his gold winning World Juniors run with Team USA, Keller has been on fire. He has points in all 10 games in 2017, including goals in six of his last seven contests. He now leads all BU scorers with 30 points (14G, 16A) despite playing just 20 games. Arizona's first rounder from a year ago is averaging nearly 4.5 shots-per-game, and ranks second among NCAA freshman scorers. His 1.5 points-per-game rank in the top 10 nationally. Keller could be the driving force towards a BU Frozen Four run later this spring, as the team is 13-4-1 when he records a point.
Give Kevin a follow @kleblanchockey for NHL prospect talk and happenings.
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