I was struggling to come up with a topic for this week’s post until I happened upon the conference standings and voila. Granted some conferences are further into their slates than others, but each conference has somewhat of a surprise at the top. A look from least to most surprising:
WCHA – Minnesota-Duluth
Although I still think North Dakota is the best team in the conference, it’s not surprising at all that Minnesota-Duluth is atop the WCHA standings. They have actually played two more games than 2nd place Nebraska-Omaha, but the Bulldogs have taken advantage of playing two of the weaker WCHA teams in Alaska-Anchorage and Bemidji State, and then came up with a great road split in Grand Forks. The Bulldogs have Michigan Tech next before the tests start coming via series with Wisconsin and Denver.
Hockey East – Boston University
It’s surprising because we all expected BU’s cross-town rivals to be leading the conference at this point, but not as surprising in the sense that I think everyone realized BU would have a good team. The young talent coming in got a lot of pub for the Terriers, but is a pair of Juniors who lead the team in scoring. Chris Connolly is tied for 4th in the conference with 1.25 PPG and David Warsofsky leads all Hockey East defensemen in points with 9.
ECAC – St. Lawrence
By far the worst team on this list, and they share first place with Yale, but it’s not as surprising because St. Lawrence has only played two conference games. They shutout Cornell, who appears to be much worse than anyone expected this year, and beat a middling Colgate team. They were also the only two wins for the 2-4-3 Saints. The Saints haven’t scored a lot of goals so far this year, but they’re allowing just 2.44 goals per game, 4th in ECAC Hockey, and they have an 88.9% penalty kill.
CCHA – Notre Dame
I will admit I thought Notre Dame was going to be dreadful this year. With Jarred Tinordi not coming, Kyle Palmieri leaving, and the drama surrounding Riley Sheahan possibly going to the OHL, I thought the Irish were in deep trouble. But they have gotten some surprising contributions. Ryan Guentzel is 3rd in the conference in points per game with 1.44 (though he has only one goal on the year), and TJ Tynan is having a breakout Freshman season, with 4 goals and 10 points. His four goals are second only to more heralded Freshman Anders Lee. The Minnesota native has 7 tallies in his first 9 collegiate games. They are 8th in the CCHA in scoring defense, so that will have to improve in order for them to win the conference, but they look like an NCAA Tourney caliber team at the moment.
Atlantic Hockey – Robert Morris
Robert Morris was maybe the 2nd best, maybe the 3rd best team in the CHA last year, and with the step up in competition it looked like they were going to be a middle of the pack team. But they have asserted themselves well in Atlantic Hockey, going 5-2 in their first conference games. They do have to watch out for Holy Cross however, as they have lost to the Crusaders already and HC has two games in hand. Senior Nathan Longpre is 3rd in the conference in scoring, but where the Colonials excel is on the defensive end. Robert Morris is allowing just 2.38 goals per game, tops in Atlantic Hockey.