Monday, 11 February 2013

The New Number One Team

I would bet that the vast majority of Canadians have no idea where Quinnipiac University is. Most can probably guess that it's in the United States, but as to where exactly it is? Not a chance. Granted, I only know thanks to my interest in NCAA hockey, but Quinnipiac has done something it never has before in its history of being an NCAA Division 1 hockey program. For the first time ever, Quinnipiac is ranked as the top team in collegiate hockey, and they are riding a win streak not seen in the annals of their storied program.

The Hamden, Connecticut-based university men's hockey team reached the top spot in the Division 1 poll for the first time based on the strength of their 21-3-4 overall record combined with their 14-0-2 ECAC Hockey record. After defeating Colgate twice this past weekend, the Bobcats have run their NCAA-leading undefeated streak to 21 games - 18-0-3 in that time - and have not posted a regulation loss since November 6, 2012.

"I think, looking back, to me it's more than impressive that in only our 15th year as a Division I program, that we’re the number-one team in the country," head coach Rand Pecknold said. "I think it's something our fans, alumni and our administration can enjoy. For us, as players and coaches, we'll enjoy it for about 15 minutes and get ready to play St. Lawrence."

The Bobcats were ranked behind Minnesota in the last poll, and the two teams swapped spots in this poll as Quinnipiac captured 41 of 50 first-place votes and 983 total points in the top-20 poll to bump Minnesota out of top spot. Quinnipiac also remains in the lead in the PairWise Rankings, a ranking they have held since January 19. The Pairwise Rankings is a system which mimics the NCAA selection committee's criteria for the seeding of the NCAA Frozen Four Tournament. Needless to say, the Bobcats are the top team in the NCAA without question.

What makes this more impressive is that Quinnipiac is the only squad in the nation that has twenty or more wins in the NCAA at this time. They have rode their 21-game streak to the school's first Number One ranking in any sport. Forward Jeremy Langlois leads the team with 11 goals and 26 points in 27 games while goaltender Eric Hartzell is putting up ridiculous number between the pipes - a 21-2-4 record, a 1.46 GAA, a .936 save percentage, and hasn't lost since a 5-1 defeat against Colgate on October 27. Yeah, this team is getting big contributions from two seniors.

There are eleven players outside of Langlois who have hit double-digit in points. Eight players outside of Langlois have five or more goals. Only two players - Alex Barron and Reese Rolheiser - are minus-players this season, and both are a -1. Langlois, for all it matters, is tied for 42nd in the nation in scoring, but the fact that Quinnipiac has half of their team in double-digits in scoring shows that teams can't just focus on Langlois. There are weapons all over this lineup just waiting to score goals.

Quinnipiac, for all their worth, appear to be a lock for the ECAC's Cleary Cup. They will battle the 13-11-4 (6-6-4) St. Lawrence Saints in a divisional game this weekend, but I'm not sure that St. Lawrence will present much of a battle for Quinnipiac. Based on their schedule, it appears the Quinnipiac Bobcats may stay on top of the NCAA for some time.

It will be interesting to see where the Bobcats finish this season in the Frozen Four tournament where a one-game format can kill the dreams of any program. Here's hoping the Bobcats can make a run in the season-ending tournament.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Jeff said...

While this is a real nice story and their winning streak is an impressive stat in terms of numbers. They aren't the best team. They've played, and defeated, one single team that is currently in the top 10 rankings - and thats Yale (10). Its a nice bit of charity by those that vote, but their strength of schedule should be preventing their top spot - despite the undefeated streak. These mid-week polls ultimately all go out with the was come playoff time, since thankfully there is one in this collegiate sport. I wish them the best of luck and it would be great for it to continue when they meet a team ranked above 9th.

Teebz said...

Good point about the strength of their schedule, Jeff, but they're heads-and-shoulders better than the rest of the ECAC at this point. If their schedule was tougher, they may not have the record they do. In any case, they are #1 for at least a week.