Saturday, February 05, 2011

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: No Need to Worry About the Pairwise

If you take a trip around the college hockey twitterverse, you'll usually have no trouble finding some sort of anxiety over the latest update of the Pairwise ratings. It's about as automatic as sunrise and sunset.

I've received a few texts and tweets from people over the last few weeks who were in full-on grip mode regarding the ratings, even though we are still six weeks away from them being remotely useful.

For UMD, a "fall" from a peak of second to fourth in the ratings after Friday's tie against Minnesota probably has people squeezing the life out of the mouse as they look online at the Pairwise.

Don't worry, fans. It's still nothing more than a meaningless discussion piece, a measuring stick of where your favorite team stands against the others. Not only that, but as long as your team doesn't go into a slump (and, no, saying "UMD hasn't won a game since Jan. 22" doesn't mean UMD is in a slump), everything is fine.

Not only that, but with it being so early in the season, we're going to see more turnover with the teams actually in the Pairwise. As teams like Robert Morris, Alaska-Anchorage, Bemidji State, and others drop off and come back on, it is going to lead to some volatility in the way the rankings shape up.

Once we get closer to March 20 and the selections, there will be less volatility and a bit more certainty as to which teams will actually be in the Pairwise when it's all said and done.

For now, just relax and enjoy the hockey. Especially if you're a UMD fan, because there's nothing to be upset about when your favorite hockey team is still in position for No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.


Friday night, we saw the pitcher's duel we expected to see. UMD goalie Kenny Reiter and Minnesota's Kent Patterson were rock solid, and the teams skated to a 2-2 draw.

Patterson made a few more saves, but Reiter's stop of Jay Barriball on a breakaway was easily the best save of the night. Patterson made a beauty earlier in the second period to stop what inexplicably turned into a three-on-one UMD rush off the opening faceoff. I'm pretty sure I hadn't seen that happen above the Mite level before.

It was an entertaining game, and probably should have been a tie. Minnesota -- as they showed with the sweep at Colorado College and the win at North Dakota -- is capable of being a very dangerous group in the second half of the season, and it's simply a matter of playing with more consistency.

UMD simply has to find a way to generate some life in the power play. Too many times Friday, the Bulldogs played on the perimeter, and were simply incapable of getting serious pressure in front of Patterson. Given that Minnesota's penaly kill was last in the league entering the game, that's probably something that ate away at the coaches as they watched the video.

Before the game, Minnesota coach Don Lucia told me that he was hoping his team would hold UMD to a draw on special teams. He got better than that, as Cade Fairchild's power-play goal was the only goal in the game not scored five-on-five. Certainly, it's good that UMD could score five-on-five, but when you're up against a penalty kill as statistically bad as the Gophers, it isn't good enough to score twice in 17 chances over three games.

If UMD doesn't win the special teams battle Saturday, it could be a sign of trouble.


Minnesota State got an overtime goal from Channing Boe to beat Bemidji State 2-1. Considering that MSU outshot BSU 43-19, it's probably fair.

Nebraska-Omaha's 3-0 win over St. Cloud State was John Faulkner's fifth shutout of the season. That's Stalockian.

Colorado College beat Denver 3-2 to put themselves in position to win the Gold Pan at Denver Saturday night. The Tigers have taken sole possession of sixth, thanks to Minnesota's tie.

Michigan Tech has now lost 17 straight after falling 4-1 at Alaska-Anchorage. The Huskies managed just 14 shots on goal, which should sound familiar, since they had 14 in each of UMD's two shutout wins there two weeks ago.

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