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College Hockey Slap Schotts: I voted Union No. 1, and here's why

By Ken Schott
Monday, March 3, 2014

Reader of this blog know that I have a vote in the USCHO.com/NCAA hockey poll. I always post my vote.

Well, here is the latest USCHO.com poll
Team (First Place Votes) Record Points Last Poll
1 Minnesota (37) 23- 4-5 987 2
2 Boston College (12) 25- 5-4 951 1
3 Union (1) 24- 6-4 912 3
4 St. Cloud State 19- 8-5 806 5
5 Wisconsin 19- 9-2 786 6
6 Quinnipiac 22- 8-6 709 8
7 Ferris State 23- 9-3 693 4
8 Massachusetts-Lowell 21- 9-4 680 7
9 North Dakota 19-10-3 608 10
10 Providence 19- 9-6 559 12
11 Notre Dame 20-12-2 446 14
12 Michigan 16-10-4 426 13
13 Cornell 15- 8-5 397 11
14 Northeastern 18-12-4 374 9
15 Vermont 18-12-3 258 17
16 Yale 15- 9-5 242 15
17 Minnesota State 21-13-0 228 19
18 Colgate 17-12-5 227 16
19 Minnesota-Duluth 15-13-4 72 NR
20 Maine 15-13-4 28 18
Others receiving votes: Denver 27, Clarkson 17, Ohio State 17, New Hampshire 16, Air Force 10, Mercyhurst 8, Western Michigan 8, Nebraska-Omaha 6, Alaska 2.

Here is how I voted in the latest poll.
1) Union
2) Minnesota
3) Boston College
4) Wisconsin
5) Quinnipiac
6) St. Cloud State
7) Ferris State
8) UMass-Lowell
9) North Dakota
10) Providence
11) Michigan
12) Notre Dame
13) Cornell
14) Northeastern
15) Yale
16) Colgate
17) Vermont
18) Minn. State
19) Clarkson
20) Denver

Yes, I put Union first. I know what the first reaction will be — it’s a homer pick.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

If you have been reading my picks, you will have seen that I have selected Union No. 2 since the Feb. 10 poll. When Minnesota, the top-ranked team at the time, lost twice to Wisconsin, I dropped the Gophers from first to third, put Boston College first and Union second. The top three stayed that way for the next three weeks.

When Boston College dropped a 2-1 overtime decision to Notre Dame on Saturday, a setback that ended the Eagles’ 19-game unbeaten streak, there was probably going to be a change at the top of the poll.

Union, the ECAC Hockey Cleary Cup champions, concluded the regular season with shutout wins at Yale and Brown. That extended the Dutchmen’s unbeaten streak to nine games, now the longest in the country. Minnesota swept Penn State over the weekend.

Since I have been consistently voting the Dutchmen No. 2, it made sense for me to pick them No. 1. I have been very impressed with the way they are playing. They are scary good right now.

Do I think the other 49 poll voters are wrong with who they pick for first? Not at all. Most of them had Minnesota No. 2, so it was natural for some of them to elevate the Gophers to the top spot.

Was I harsh in dropping BC two spots? Perhaps, since the Eagles only played one game over the weekend.

But here is what is nice about the poll — it’s fun to have debates about it, but in the grand scheme of things, it means nothing. The PairWise Rankings are what counts. It determines the field for the NCAA tournament.

Chastise me if you want to for me picking Union No. 1 in the poll. But I hope you respect the reasons behind my vote.

Here is the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll:
(First-place votes in parentheses)
Rank School Last Week’s Ranking

1. Minnesota, 503 (27) 2
2. Boston College, 480 (7) 1
3. Union, 427 3
4. St. Cloud State, 391 5
5. Wisconsin, 376 6
6. Quinnipiac, 307 7
7. Ferris State, 304 4
8. UMass Lowell, 278 8
9. North Dakota, 235 10
10. Providence, 210 12
11. Michigan, 148 13
12. Notre Dame, 144 RV
13. Cornell, 119 11
14. Northeastern, 92 9
15. Yale, 27 14
Others receiving votes: Minnesota State, 14; Vermont, 13; Colgate, 10; Alaska, 2.

First-round matchups
The ECACH tournament best-of-three first round series get underway Friday. Here is my quick synopsis of the four series. I will have my predictions on Thursday.

No. 10 Dartmouth at No. 7 RPI
RPI (14-14-6) swept the season series, but I believe the Engineers could have their hands full with the Big Green (7-13-2).

Dartmouth, which was 2-11-1 at one point, played well down the stretch, posting a five-game unbeaten streak before losing to Colgate, 2-1, in the regular-season finale. The return of junior forward Tyler Sikura has helped. Dartmouth, which allowed eight goals in a game three times and seven in two others, including one to RPI, has tightened up defensively and has been getting good goaltending from Charles Grant. The Big Green has allowed just eight goals in their last six games.

RPI needs to find consistent offense. Ryan Haggerty (24 goals), Brock Higgs (14) and Matt Neal (10) can’t do all of the scoring. If the Big Green shuts them down, other Engineers need to step up. Otherwise, a season that began with high expectations could be over too soon for RPI.

No. 12 Princeton at No. 5 Clarkson
This could be the best argument as to why not everyone should make the tournament.

Princeton (5-24) finished last with a 4-18 record. To be fair, the Tigers had several players out with injuries. Senior Andrew Calof, who was the team’s leading scorer in each of his first three seasons, missed 10 games. Junior forward Tyler Maugeri, Princeton’s second-leading scorer last year, missed 11 games.

Clarkson, which was picked to finish last in the coaches and media preseason polls, got out to a 12-3-1 start, but went 6-11-3 over the final 20 games. They did sweep Princeton, and just beat the Tigers, 3-1, Friday.

I’m not expecting a close series.

No. 11 Harvard at No. 6 Yale
The last two ECACH teams to win the NCAA titles get together in New Haven, Conn., and it appears to be a mismatch.

The Bulldogs (15-9-5), the defending national champions, went 2-0-1 against the Crimson. They had a pair of five-goal games against Harvard, which included a non-league game at Madison Square Garden. The teams played to a 2-2 tie at Ingalls Rink Dec. 7.

Harvard (10-15-4), which won the 1989 title, is a team that seems to have a great amount of talent, but has never put it together. With eight NHL-drafted players on the team, the Crimson should be much better than what they are.

No. 9 Brown at No. 8 St. Lawrence
Brown (11-15-3) entered the final weekend of the season controlling its destiny for home ice in the first round. But not only did the Bears fall from eighth place to ninth and lose out on home ice, they were shutout at home by RPI and Union. Can the Bears recover from that disappointment? And can the Bears snap their goalless drought, which is at 143:06.

After getting routed at home by Quinnipiac, 8-0, in Friday, St. Lawrence (13-17-4) bounced back with a 5-0 victory over Princeton. But Appleton Arena hasn’t been kind to the Saints this season. They are 5-10-1 there.

PairWise Rankings
Union is tied with St. Cloud State for third in the PairWise Rankings. The Dutchmen are on target to be the top seed in the NCAA tournament East Regional in Bridgeport, Conn.

Quinnipiac remains seventh. Cornell is tied with Vermont for 13th. Colgate is 16th, but that final spot will go to the Atlantic Hockey tournament champion. There are no AH teams in the top 16.

The PairWise Ranking is a system which attempts to mimic the method used by the NCAA Selection Committee to determine participants for the NCAA Division I men’s hockey tournament.

To see the rankings, click here.

Daily Gazette/ECACH Four Stars
Time for my four stars of the week.

Player of the Week — Matthew Peca, Quinnipiac
The junior forward had two goals and four assists in the St. Lawrence win. He had an assist in Saturday’s 1-1 tie at Clarkson.

Goalie of the Week — Colin Stevens, Union

The junior netminder and Niskayuna native made a career-high 49 saves in Friday’s 2-0 win over Yale. It was the most saves in a shutout ever by a Union goalie.

Rookie of the Week — Alex Sakellaropoulos, Union

The freshman goalie’s first ECACH start was a memorable one as he stopped 26 shots in the Dutchmen’s 3-0 victory over Brown on Saturday.

Team of the Week — Union
The Dutchmen were the only team to win twice over the weekend. They also posted back-to-back shutouts for the first time since Dec. 26-27, 1998.

If you have any comments, post them below, or e-mail them to me at schott@dailygazette.com. You can follow me on Twitter @slapschotts. Also, please become a fan of two Facebook pages — The Daily Gazette On Ice, and my "Slap Schotts" college hockey segment page.

Good Monday! Good Hockey!

Follow @dgazettesports on Twitter.

 
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