In the biggest departure from their pro and junior counterparts, college hockey is about to take a significant holiday break. As student-athletes take final exams for thee fall semester and then enjoy a break over Christmas, there are just five games scheduled from December 15-27. The final weekend of the month is also a lighter schedule than normal, as many teams are already done until January and many more will be after this weekend.
It has not been so much of a fall from grace for several top teams of late as it has been a plummet. Notre Dame and Harvard, both of whom began their seasons with substantial undefeated streaks, have both failed to pick up a point in the past two weeks, and Wisconsin, a popular pick to be title contender this season, has fallen out of the rankings with three straight losses. Notre Dame has fallen ten spots in the rankings from No. 5 to No. 15 after back-to-back sweeps at the hands of No. 10 Bowling Green and No. 5 Boston College by a combined score of 20-5. BC also took down Harvard, as did Boston University, No. 3 Cornell, and Colgate. The Crimson have moved from No. 9 to No. 17 as a result. Wisconsin had a disastrous run-in with their next door neighbors, splitting a home series against unranked Michigan before being swept on the road at No. 18 Michigan State.
Meanwhile, the teams at the top continue to soar. No. 1 Minnesota State continues to be unbeatable, taking both games against defending champion No. 11 Minnesota-Duluth and extended their winning streak to nine games with a sweep of Lake Superior. Mankato currently has an unassailable lead in the NCAA rankings. Goaltender Dryden McKay’s impeccable .957 save percentage and 1.06 GAA are miles ahead of even his closest rivals, Tyler Wall (NYR) of No. 14 UMass Lowell and Cornell’s Matthew Galajda. The Mavericks’ keeper could be on the fast track to taking home the Hobey Baker Award this year.
However, another player in the hunt will be Jordan Kawaguchi of No. 2 North Dakota. The Fighting Hawks have been on fire of late, knocking off Minnesota on Thanksgiving Day (and again the day after) and then sweeping No. 19 Western Michigan, and Kawaguchi has been the catalyst. The junior forward is up to 24 points on the year, third-best in the NCAA, and could become a real threat to Jack Dugan (VGK) of No. 13 Providence for the scoring title.
Providence themselves split a chippy series with UMass Lowell in a battle between two teams pushing for a spot in the top ten. It’s been a better stretch for Hockey East over the past two weeks, as Boston College is also surging, No. 12 Northeastern came away with a tournament win in Belfast, Northern Ireland two weeks ago, and No. 9 UMass has not surrendered more than two goals in a game in a month.
World Junior Participation
While most NCAA teams will take a break for much of the remainder of December, not all of their players will be out of action. With the majority of preliminary rosters released for the upcoming U-20 World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic, it looks as though a number of college standouts will get a chance to make their mark on the international stage. Below is the list of NCAA participants:
Finland: F Sampo Ranta (COL), Minnesota
Switzerland: F Matthew Verboon, Colgate
United States: G Spencer Knight (FLA), Boston College; G Isaiah Saville (VGK), Nebraska-Omaha; D Ty Emberson (ARI), Wisconsin; D Jordan Harris (MTL), Northeastern; D Ryan Johnson (BUF), Minnesota; D Zac Jones (NYR), UMass; Christian Krygier (NYI), Michigan State; D K’Andre Miller (NYR), Wisconsin; D Mattias Samuelsson (BUF), Wester Michigan; D Spencer Stastney (NSH), Notre Dame; D Cam York (PHI), Michigan; F John Beecher (BOS), Michigan; F Bobby Brink (PHI), Denver; F Cole Caufield (MTL), Wisconsin; F Jack Drury (CAR), Harvard; F Parker Ford, Providence; F Curtis Hall (BOS), Yale; Trevor Janicke (ANA), Notre Dame; Robert Mastrosimone (DET), Boston University; F Shane Pinto (OTT), North Dakota; F Jacob Pivonka (NYI), Notre Dame; Alex Turcotte (LAK), Wisconsin; Trevor Zegras (ANA), Boston University