What Is Quinnipiac and why should we care?
The New #1. Minnesota’s weekend split at St. Cloud State has some eyes back on the Pairwise rankings, published by the online hockey organization USCHO, which projects NCAA playoff rankings (http://www.uscho.com/rankings/pairwise-rankings/d-i-men/). I know fans who have been quoting the site since November, which is ridiculously premature, like saying a batter who’s clouting .300 in May is on track for an MVP award.
Still, its weekly Division I college hockey poll is one of the two nationally-recognized weekly rankings and the latest poll flip-flops the top two teams. Quinnipiac is now the number one team in the nation. Minnesota, which had topped the rankings for several weeks, is the new number two.
Quinnipiac University (Hamden, CT) sits atop the USCHO power rankings and has occupied that perch for weeks. Small wonder since, 28 games into the season, the Bobcats haven’t lost in recent memory. In fact, they started the season with only three wins in their first eight games (3-4-1). Now, though, coach Rand Pecknold’s crew has run up an NCAA Division I-leading 21-game unbeaten streak (18-0-3) and scared the wits out of the ECAC. The “Q” is coming off a 3-2 victory at Colgate to lead the nation in wins.
It also tops the Pairwise power rankings. Minnesota ranks second.
Who have they played? Strength of schedule is an obvious rap against Quinnipiac’s top Pairwise ranking. Regional chauvinism aside, Pairwise says it has that aspect covered by figuring in records in its TUC (Teams Under Consideration) category, comparing teams that are seriously eligible for the NCAA tournament. In that column, Quinnipiac ranks first again with .8235%. The Gophers are fifth at .6562 percent.
What does it all mean? I suspect the Pairwise rankings are good ballpark estimates for how the post-season could line up. They’re vulnerable, of course, because of the volatile nature of college hockey, especially in the playoffs. Any team can beat any other on the proverbial given night. So my advice is: use Pairwise as a launching pad for a lively college hockey discussion.
But don’t take it to Vegas.
Hartzell In Goal. What’s that? Sure enough, the Bobcats’ fortunes have been bolstered by a standout season from their regular starting goaltender, Eric Hartzell. Yes, he’s the son of former Gopher captain Kevin Hartzell and his wife Mary Beth. The 6-4, 188-pound senior has started 27 of Quinnipiac’s 28 games, running up a 21-2-4 record and 1.46 goals-against average.
Last Friday at Cornell, Hartzell posted a 17-save win, tying him with J.C. Wells for the most wins in a single season in program history.
Beanpot On the Boil. Meanwhile, what of the team the Gophers beat to earn their ride atop the polls, Boston College? The Eagles are in the 61st Beanpot tournament in Boston this week, seeking their 18th title and a school record fourth straight win (remember, that tournament was only half-jokingly referred to as the BU Invitational until recently).
The Eagles, who were embarrassed by Minnesota 8-1 in the final game of the Mariucci Classic December 29th, head into the Beanpot following a 4-1 win over Harvard last week. The Crimson are in lamentable condition this season; they've won only once since mid-November and that was in overtime.
Badger Hunt. The Gophers stay on the road this weekend for games against Wisconsin in Madison and Chicago. I’ll preview that series later this week.