Commentary

Calm at the top before league tourneys

Originally Published: March 7, 2011
By Inside College Hockey

Many of the nation's best teams earned the past weekend off, as several received playoff byes in league tournaments. For those in the WCHA and in Hockey East, they generally proved their mettle and maintained positions. There's not a lot of movement in this week's edition of the INCH Power Rankings, but after observing what happened in playoff series around the country, they'll be prepared to defend against upsets as league playoffs begin in earnest.

Here's how the Inside College Hockey editors and staff rank the nation's top teams (along with a note for each team).

1. North Dakota
Record: 26-8-3 (21-6-1 WCHA)
Recent scores:W at Michigan Tech, 6-1; W at Michigan Tech, 11-2
This week: vs. Michigan Tech (WCHA first-round series)
Note: Jason Gregoire extended his point streak to 12 games with four goals and two assists in the Fighting Sioux's weekend sweep of Michigan Tech. The junior forward has 14 goals and nine assists in his last dozen matches.

2. Boston College
Record: 26-7-1 (20-6-1 Hockey East)
Recent scores: W vs. New Hampshire, 4-0; W at New Hampshire, 4-3
This week: vs. Massachusetts (Hockey East quarterfinal series)
Note: BC doesn't need no stinkin' regular-season titles -- the Eagles are made for March. But they'll take it this year, after sweeping UNH in a the final weekend of the regular season to overtake the Wildcats for first place in Hockey East.

3. Union
Record: 25-7-4 (17-3-2 ECAC Hockey)
Recent scores: Off
This week: vs. Colgate (ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series)
Note: Union has never faced Colgate in an ECAC Hockey playoff series. That will change this weekend, when the Raiders visit the Capital District for the second straight weekend. Colgate knocked off RPI in a first-round series.

4. Yale
Record: 23-5-1 (17-4-1 ECAC Hockey) br> Recent scores: Off
This week: vs. St. Lawrence (ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series)
Note: Last year, Yale was bounced from the ECAC Hockey playoffs by the 11th-place team in the regular season. This year, circumstances result in Yale getting the 11th-seed again. The Bulldogs are hoping for a better outcome.

5. Miami
Record: 19-9-6 (16-7-5 CCHA)
Recent scores: Off
This week: vs. Alaska (CCHA quarterfinal series)
Note: The RedHawks have been to back-to-back Frozen Fours, but that's nothing compared to Miami's synchronized skating team, which won its seventh straight collegiate national title in Ontario, Calif., this past weekend.

6. Michigan
Record: 23-9-4 (20-7-1 CCHA)
Recent scores: Off
This week: vs. Bowling Green (CCHA quarterfinal series)
Note: Even though the Wolverines will be a heavy favorite in their CCHA playoff quarterfinal series, the health of senior forward Louie Caporusso, the team's second-leading scorer, is a concern. He hurt his knee in the second-to-last game of the regular season against Western Michigan.

7. Merrimack
Record: 22-8-4 (16-8-3 Hockey East)
Recent scores: W vs. Providence, 6-1; L at Providence, 5-3
This week: vs. Maine (Hockey East quarterfinal series)
Note: A little more perspective on how far these Merrimack seniors have come since arriving on campus: With 22 wins this year, they've already surpassed their total victories from their first two years at Merrimack (21) when they failed to make the Hockey East playoffs each year.

8. New Hampshire
Record: 15-5-4 (13-2-2 Hockey East)
Recent scores: W at Providence, 5-2; W vs. Providence, 5-1
This week: vs. Maine, vs. Maine
Note: Mike Sislo became the latest member of UNH's 100-career-point club with three points Friday at Providence. Bobby Butler was the previous member, and he also achieved that milestone at Providence's Schneider Arena.

9. Denver
Record: 19-9-6 (17-6-4 Hockey East)
Recent scores: L at Boston College, 4-0; L vs. Boston College, 4-3
This week: vs. Vermont (Hockey East quarterfinal series)
Note: After closing the regular season with two losses, it's a safe bet that UNH is happy to see Vermont on its way to the Whitt. New Hampshire was 2-0-1 against the Catamounts this year, including victories by 5-1 and 6-1 scores.

10. Notre Dame
Record: 21-10-5 (18-7-3 CCHA)
Recent scores: Off
This week: vs. Lake Superior State (CCHA quarterfinal series)
Note: The Fighting Irish have scored 128 goals in 36 games this season. In 38 games a year ago, Notre Dame managed just 90 goals, quite a drop after registering 135 or more in the three previous campaigns.

11. Minnesota Duluth
Record: 20-9-6 (15-8-5 WCHA)
Recent scores: W vs. Nebraska-Omaha, 4-1; L vs. Nebraska-Omaha, 5-2
This week: vs. St. Cloud State (WCHA first-round series)
Note: Tough first-round series for the Bulldogs, who host St. Cloud State this weekend. The Huskies won and tied Amsoil Arena last month -- and probably should've swept had UMD not rallied from a 3-0 deficit to salvage a draw in the series finale.

12. Nebraska-Omaha
Record: 21-13-2 (17-9-2 WCHA)
Recent scores: L at Minnesota Duluth, 4-1; W at Minnesota Duluth, 5-2
This week: vs. Bemidji State (WCHA first-round series)
Note: Tough first-round series for the Mavericks, who host Bemidji State this weekend. The Beavers were 3-0-1 against UNO during the regular season and are the only WCHA opponent the Mavs failed to beat in their first year in the circuit.

13. Boston University
Record: 18-10-8 (15-6-6 Hockey East)
Recent scores: W at Northeastern, 3-2; L vs. Northeastern, 4-3
This week: vs. Northeastern (Hockey East quarterfinal series)
Note: BU will be ready if, as expected, this weekend's playoff games are nail-biters. In the Terriers' last 15 games, 11 have been decided by a one-goal margin, two were ties, and the other two were BU victories by a 3-1 score.

14. Western Michigan
Record: 16-10-10 (10-9-9 CCHA)
Recent scores: Off
This week: vs. Ferris State (CCHA quarterfinal series)
Note: When Bowling Green knocked Northern Michigan out of the CCHA playoffs Sunday, it meant three of the head coaches whose teams are still in pursuit of the Mason Cup are ex-Miami assistantsBowling Green's Chris Bergeron, Miami's Enrico Blasi, and Western Michigan's Jeff Blashill.

15. Minnesota
Record: 16-12-6 (13-10-5 WCHA)
Recent scores: T at Bemidji State, 3-3 ot; W at Bemidji State, 3-2 OT
This week: vs. Alaska Anchorage (WCHA first-round series)
Note: Freshman forward Nick Bjugstad scored three goals in the Gophers' tie and win at Bemidji State this past weekend, including the game-winner in Saturday's OT win. In the last seven games, Bjugstad has six goals and four assists.

16. Maine
Record: 17-10-7 (14-8-5 Hockey East)
Recent scores: W at Massachusetts, 4-3; T at Massachusetts, 4-4 OT
This week: at Merrimack (Hockey East quarterfinal series)
Note: Forget the weather, Maine is coming in to March like a lion, with six wins and a tie in its last seven regular-season games. They've outscored opponents 30-10 in that stretch.

17. Wisconsin
Record: 20-14-4 (12-13-3 WCHA)
Recent scores: L vs. Colorado College, 3-2; W vs. Colorado College, 3-1
This week: at Colorado College (WCHA first-round series)
Note: Justin Schultz scored his 18th goal of the season in the Badgers' 3-1 win against Colorado College Saturday. He's just one marker shy of tying the single-season record for goals by a Badger defenseman set by Sean Hill back in 1990-91.

18. Colorado College
Record: 19-16-3 (13-13-2 WCHA)
Recent scores: W at Wisconsin, 3-2; L at Wisconsin, 3-1
This week: vs. Wisconsin (WCHA first-round series)
Note: Home-ice advantage? Maybe not for the Tigers, who've lost three of the last four WCHA first-round playoff series they've hosted. The lone triumph was a sweep of Alaska Anchorage in 2008.

19. Dartmouth
Record: 16-10-3 (12-8-2 ECAC Hockey)
Recent scores: Off
This week: vs. Harvard (ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series)
Note: The Big Green will host travel-partner Harvard in an ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series. Dartmouth blasted the Crimson by scores of 8-2 and 5-2 in a home-and-home series back in November.

17. RIT
Record: 16-10-8 (15-5-7 Atlantic Hockey) LAST WEEK: Off. THIS WEEK:
Recent scores: Off
This week: vs. American International (Atlantic Hockey quarterfinal series)
Note: The Tigers 15-3-1 all-time against American International, but one of those losses came earlier this year. The teams split a weekend series at AIC on the first weekend of December.

Dropped out: Rensselaer

Bubble-licious: Air Force, Cornell, St. Cloud State