Apologies for the two-week blog hiatus. Reports of my demise (and that of the Beaver Blog) have been greatly exaggerated.
Also false: Reports of the BSU women’s hockey team’s demise.
For the first time since 2012, the Bemidji State women’s hockey team is ranked in the top 10. In the latest USCHO.com poll, the Beavers are No. 9 — ahead of Minnesota-Duluth.
It’s a well-deserved ranking after the Beavers won their third straight (or fourth straight, if you think shootouts count as points) this weekend with a sweep of North Dakota. The Beavers won 4-1 on Friday in a game that didn’t even seem as close as that score indicated, then pulled out a 2-1 victory Saturday to finish off their first sweep of North Dakota since 2007.
It seems like the Beavers are finality on the upswing after going 4-0 to start the season in nonconference play then 0-4 in their first four WCHA games.
However, a tie and a win against Minnesota (5 points with the shootout win) seemed to give BSU some much-needed momentum. After a week off the Beavers came back with tons of energy against UND and didn’t look like a team that had had the previous week off.
Also of note: All six of BSU’s scoring leaders are members of the junior class, which bodes well not just for this season but for next. Kaitlyn Tougas leads the BSU in points with nine while Ivana Bilic has seven. Stephanie Anderson has a team-high four goals.
The team is now 7-4-1 going into yet another bye week (an odd schedule quirk has seen the Beavers have three off weekends already in their first two months). Then, they’ll host Minnesota-Duluth Nov. 28-29. BSU last beat UMD Nov. 23, 2013, in Duluth but have never swept the Bulldogs. It’s a daunting task, but with this BSU team, it seems like “never” is not a word in their vocabulary.
Men swept by another top 10 team
Conversely this weekend at the Sanford Center, the Beaver men’s team once again found itself playing a top 10 team (Michigan Tech, now No. 1 in the country, then No. 5). For the second straight weekend (and third weekend overall this season), the Beavers were swept by a top 10-team. The weekend before, BSU was swept by Minnesota State. The Beavers have also been swept by Minnesota.
It must be frustrating for Tom Serratore’s crew: Tech won 2-1 Friday and 4-2 Saturday but the Beavers outplayed the Huskies in both games. BSU, now 3-7-0, seems to be just on the cusp of greatness but have struggled to put teams away where it counts (namely, special teams).
It’s BSU’s fourth loss in a row. Another ranked team — No. 19 Bowling Green — looms this weekend. It will be another difficult test (BSU’s gotta have one of the toughest schedules in the country) but it’s getting to the point in the season where it’s not early anymore. If the Beavers are going to start making statements as a contender in the WCHA, they need to start now.
Leaders of the Pack
The Michigan Tech Huskies might as well buy some motorcycles and impress the ladies, because for the first time in their 94-year hockey history they are 10-0 and the No. 1 team in the country.
In the USCHO poll (of which I am a voter), the Huskies leaped over North Dakota, Boston U, Minnesota and U-Mass Lowell to claim the top spot. The Gophers were No. 1 before being swept by Minnesota-Duluth in a home-and-home this weekend. UND and Lowell both split their series this weekend while BU played just one game.
Meanwhile the Huskies are the nation’s only undefeated team.
Naysayers (the “WCHA is dead” crowd, of which there are too many) will likely argue that Tech’s strength of schedule is weaker than said teams, but the point is moot (especially since the Huskies are No. 1 in the pairwise) — 10-0-0 is impressive no matter who you’re playing.
Accordingly, they impressed me enough to get my No. 1 vote. I’ve been rolling with the Gophers all season, but the Huskies looked impressive even in a pair of games that, statistically, they should have lost this weekend. It doesn’t hurt that goaltender Jamie Phillips looked, to me, like a legit Hobey Baker candidate this weekend.
In many ways, this year’s Huskies remind me a lot of last season’s Ferris State team: A deep, experienced squad that’s not overly skilled but has an outstanding goalie and finds ways to win.
The Huskies have to lose some day (it could come this weekend, against Minnesota State — which will be a heck of a matchup in Houghton) but right now this roll they’re on is impressive. That’s why they got my (and many other writers’) vote.
Here’s my full ballot for this week. North Dakota doesn’t impress me as much as other writers (they’re No. 2 this week) but my perception may be colored by seeing them get smacked by BSU on opening weekend. I still think the Gophers are a better team than UND.
Anyhow, my entire ballot is as follows:
1. Michigan Tech
2. Boston University
5. North Dakota
7. Minnesota Duluth
9. Minnesota State
12. Bowling Green
13. Boston College
14. Northern Michigan
17. St. Lawrence
18. Penn State
19. Robert Morris
20. Notre Dame