Thursday, October 20, 2011

2011-2012 WCHA Power Rankings and Tiers: Week 2

After two weeks of regular season play, let's take a look at my very own formulation of the WCHA power rankings and if any teams have moved up or down from their positions in the pre-season predictions.

1. Colorado College (No Change)
Preseason Rank: 1, 2-0-0 overall
Believe in the Schwartz! Jaden and Rylan have combined for 5 goals in just two games thus far. A pair of home wins against Bemidji got the Tigers off on the right foot.

2. Denver (No Change)
Preseason Rank: 2, 1-1-0 overall
DU beat a good BC team and lost to BU in their trip out east to open the season. No reason to doubt them thus far.

3. Minnesota (No Change)
Preseason Rank: 3, 4-0-0 overall
Don Lucia's crew has looked stellar thus far in blanking Sacred Heart and sweeping Duluth at Amsoil Arena. The Gophers have racked up 25 goals in four games played and leading the nation in power play. Kent Patterson looks to be a rock between the pipes.

4. North Dakota (UP 1)
Preseason Rank: 5, 2-1-1 overall
The Sioux beat Air Force and lost to BC in the first weekend of the season, while beating and tying Maine last weekend. Can they find someone to step up and score goals? Looks like Corban Knight and Danny Kristo will carry the load with a combined five goals and 13 points in four games. Where will the secondary scoring come from, though? Maybe Brock Nelson (2-2-4) will continue his solid play.

5. Minnesota-Duluth (UP 1)
Preseason Rank: 6, 1-3-0 overall
I know UMD was swept at home by Minnesota last weekend. But the games were close (both nights the Bulldogs lost 5-4), and Duluth split with a good Notre Dame team in their first weekend of action. UMD looked like a solid team in their losses with the Gophers, and good hockey will win out over the long run.

6. Nebraska-Omaha (DOWN 2)
Preseason Rank: 4, 1-3-0 overall
Omaha has only won one game thus far (Mercyhurst), while losing Colgate, Alaska-Anchorage and Alaska-Fairbanks. The Mavericks look to get leading scorer Alex Hudson back from injury soon.

7. Alaska-Anchorage (UP 3)
Preseason Rank: 10, 3-0-1 overall
The Seawolves are off to a hot start, and it appears they're building on the momentum they created at the end of last season. Anchorage tied Clarkson and beat St. Cloud State in their opening weekend, and beat Omaha and Mercyhurst in their most recent set of games. Are they on the verge of an upswing?

8. Bemidji State (UP 1)
Preseason Rank: 9, 1-3-0 overall
Bemidji split at Miami (OH) and were swept at Colorado College. To come out of that opening gauntlet 1-3-0 is not the worst start in the world, and this Serratore-coached team does a lot of things right.

9. Wisconsin (DOWN 2)
Preseason Rank: 7, 1-3-0 overall
Wisconsin split with Northern Michigan and were swept by Michigan Tech. The UP has not been kind to the Badgers this season. Bucky lost a lot of talent off their roster from last season, so we'll see whether or not the Badgers will be able to right the ship while leaning on a lot of young players, including starting a freshman in goal. However, all three of Wisconsin's losses have come in overtime, so maybe some bad luck has stung the team this early in the year.

10. Michigan Tech (UP 2)
Preseason Rank: 12, 4-0-0 overall
Tech has already won as many games this season as it did all of last year. New coach Mel Pearson must be doing something right up there in Houghton. The Huskies swept Wisconsin last weekend at home to open up their WCHA season and swept American International the weekend prior.

11. St. Cloud State (DOWN 3)
Preseason Rank: 8, 1-3-0 overall
St. Cloud has not been very good thus far, beating Alaska-Fairbanks while losing to Alaska-Anchorage and getting swept by Northern Michigan. The Huskies have looked like a team that will spend its time lurking in the basement of the WCHA so far. But hey, they should at least be better than Mankato...

12. Minnesota State (DOWN 1)
Preseason Rank: 11, 1-3-0 overall
MSU-Mankato hasn't done a whole lot right in their early season matchups. They don't score a lot of goals, and although their best player may be their goaltender they'll likely be outscored on most nights. It looks pretty clear that the Mavericks will be the worst team in the league this season. An early-season split with RPI and a sweep at the hands of UMass-Lowell don't give much encouragement for this team's future.

I like to think of the WCHA as having multiple tiers of teams. If you had asked me preseason what I thought of the relative strengths of teams, here's what I would have said:

Tier 1 - Colorado College, Denver
Tier 2 - no teams
Tier 3 - Minnesota, North Dakota, Nebraska-Omaha, Minnesota-Duluth
Tier 4 - no teams
Tier 5 - Wisconsin, St. Cloud State
Tier 6 - Bemidji State, Alaska-Anchorage
Tier 7 - Michigan Tech, Minnesota State

However, if you were to ask me today, here's what I'd have to say:

Tier 1 - Colorado College, Denver
Tier 2 - Minnesota
Tier 3 - North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha
Tier 4 - no teams
Tier 5 - Alaska-Anchorage
Tier 6 - Wisconsin, Bemidji State
Tier 7 - Michigan Tech, St. Cloud State
Tier 8 - Minnesota State

The way I see it right now, Minnesota is just underneath the CC/DU tier, Alaska-Anchorage moves up above UW and BSU, and St. Cloud moves down and Michigan Tech moves up to the space between UW/BSU and Mankato, and there's a special tier at the bottom for the non-Omaha Mavericks. I still think that the league has a pretty clear-cut top six / bottom six split. I would be very surprised if a team from outside my preseason top six rankings (CC, DU, Minnesota, UNO, North Dakota, UMD) did not earn home ice in the first round of the WCHA, but stranger things have happened.

Let's see where the power rankings and tiers shake out after this weekend's action!


  1. If their opening series was with any team outside of Atlantic Hockey, I could see your thinking with UMN just below tier one. As it stands, you only have one WCHA series to base that prediction on and therefore, it cannot be possible that UMN is "tier two."

  2. How so? Every other team in the previous "tier two" stumbled badly - NoDak got slaughtered by BC and tied a mediocre Maine team, UNO struggled and UMD got swept by the aforementioned Gophers. I think it's fair to say that at this point in the season Minnesota has opened a gap between them and the teams they were previously on par with. Sacred Heart was not good, but Minnesota beat them 15-0. I don't know how much more emphatic it can get.

  3. Let me elaborate on that last point: it's not about how good or bad of a team that you play, but how well you do against them as well. Just because Minnesota played Sacred Heart doesn't mean that those games can't tell us anything about the quality of the team. Yes, Sacred Heart doesn't provide much of a challenge. HOWEVER, Minnesota beat them as badly as one team can beat another team. To compare, Clarkson - a team that tied Alaska-Anchorage - beat Sacred Heart 8-2 in their weekend series. The Gophers beat them 15-0. In my opinion, that can be informative.


What do you think?