With Hockey East leading all other college hockey conferences with nine players on the USA World Junior Championships preliminary roster, the league’s teams could be juggling rosters leading into holiday tournaments – matchups that go a long way towards the sport’s critical PairWise rankings. Players tapped for the World Juniors will leave their team for the length of camp, tune-up games and the tournament – taking them out of lineups potentially until January 5.
The PairWise is the system college hockey relies on to weigh game results and determine NCAA Tournament seedings. In laymen’s terms, it ensures wins against poorly performing programs do not mean as much as wins against high-flying teams. Your team’s win against 2-12-2 UMass Lowell does not mean as much as your win against 11-5 Boston College.
The system also means that when your in-conference foes struggle with poor teams, your wins against them in conference lose their value. With Hockey East vastly divided this season – Boston College, Boston University, University of New Hampshire and University of Maine firmly in the nationwide top ten, but teams like Vermont and UMass Lowell struggling to earn any wins in or out of conference – holiday out of conference matchups could be key to teams’ Pairwise rankings come late March.
Boston College will play the Ledyard National Bank Classic in New Hampshire without USA World Junior roster forwards Chris Kreider and Patrick Wey, and defenders Brian Dumoulin and Philip Samuelsson. The loss of Kreider, who has 5 points in his last 3 games, can be absorbed thanks to the rest of the Eagles’ offense, but it’s the steely defense of Dumoulin that could present problems. Paired with Patch Alber on the blue line in last weekend’s home-and-home against BU, Dumoulin mitigated several Terrier scoring chances on Saturday night. The Eagles roster losses may not come into play against 3-9-1 Colgate, their first round opponent, but could if they square off with 6-3-1 Dartmouth in the second round.
Boston University placed three of their top freshmen on the World Juniors preliminary roster – Matt Nieto, Adam Clendening and Charlie Coyle. The play of defenseman Clendening and wing Nieto the limited bright spots from recent weeks, the Terriers can’t afford to lose two of their biggest threats heading into the competitive Shillelagh Tournament in Illinois. Winning early season out-of-conference matchups is one of the reasons BU continued to rank so high despite their November full of ties, and they will need to win their matchups against Brown, (who they tied over Thanksgiving), and either #11 Notre Dame (who will be out for revenge after the Terriers beat them in October) and Minnesota State to make up for their in-conference losses to New Hampshire and BC.
BU and BC are far from the only teams in college hockey who will face out-of-conference matchup season without World Junior bound players, but given the struggles of their conference mates out-of-conference this season, these games have added meaning.
The Best Hockey You’re Not Watching
New England has become the epicenter of Division I women’s hockey this season, with three teams consistently ranked in the top ten nationally and others threatening every week. The region’s success seems to chalk up to their goaltending.
Five of the nation’s top ten goalies are playing for New England teams. Two of the most outstanding have been Boston University’ Kerrin Sperry and Boston College’s Molly Schaus, who sit at fifth and sixth in the nation in save percentage. The freshmen Sperry, who earned her second straight shutout Tuesday night against Northeastern, has a record of 10-0-2 in goal and a save percentage of .941. Schaus, a senior, is very close behind with a .940 save percentage and a 11-1-2 record.
Game of the Week
New Hampshire at Maine -- This Friday evening matchup of Hockey East foes looks to be one of the best games yet this season. New Hampshire (9-2-4), ranked No. 3 nationally this past week, hasn’t lost since November 20, and No. 8 Maine (7-3-4) is coming off a strong performance Saturday against a tough Providence team. The game will be shown live on CBS College Sports at 7:30 p.m. EST.