Ah, the first snowfall was last night here in Kalamazoo. I love this time of year. You should too! It's hockey season! So while ESPN can continue to suppress hockey all they want, they can't silence us here at Hustle Belt! FIGHT THE SYSTEM!!!!!! *ahem*. Let's just look at the teams, shall we?
All rankings are courtesy of USCHO.com. They rank up to 20 spots, with others "receiving votes". I extend out the counts until there is no more listings.
Bowling Green Falcons
Record: 2-6-3 (1-3-2-1 in CCHA, t-9th)
The Falcons have gotten off to a sluggish start after last season's success. However, if you take away the sweep by Union, you have a 2-4-3 record, which is somewhat respectable. Despite the sub-par start, BG may have found themselves this past weekend. They only managed to take 1 point out of 6 against #10 Western Michigan, but held their own throughout the series.
I was able to speak with Head Coach Chris Bergeron. He said that throughout the poor start, his team had not shown resiliency and a constant fight throughout games, but finally saw that this weekend. This "fight" is the same thing that sparked the Falcons to their Final Four appearance in the CCHA Tournament last season, so there is hope.
To end 2012, their schedule isn't easy by any means. They play host to #23 Niagara, #8 Notre Dame, and #20 Ferris State (twice) while making trips to #13 Michigan and #22 Alaska (twice). Still, I think this team can get to the middle of the CCHA pack by then.
#29 Massachusetts Minutemen
Record: 3-4-0 (2-4-0 in Hockey East, 7th)
UMass is getting votes folks! They have been a fairly pleasant surprise and have not laid down in their conference. Why? Well, their four losses are to #11 Boston U (twice) and #1 Boston College (twice). In both BC games, the Minutemen held leads before watching them evaporate into an OT loss, and a 3-2 regulation loss. Still, the Minutemen are getting things done, and may just crack the top half of the Hockey East!
For the rest of 2012, UMass has a fairly mixed schedule of easy and ranked-ish teams. They have Maine, Vermont, Northeastern, and Colgate, but also have #26 Quinnipiac, #21 UMass-Lowell, and the Ledyard Bank Classic. So they can really make up some ground before hitting 2013 and all their Hockey East barn-burners.
#4 Miami RedHawks
Record: 6-2-2 (3-2-1-1 in CCHA, 1st)
That's right! This early and the RedHawks lead the CCHA. Now it should be noted that they aren't leading in Points Earned/Game, but they are in first nonetheless. How? Well they have split a series at a then top-10 Michigan team and a ranked Ferris St team, but also took 5 points from a #16 ranked Northern Michigan team. So tough schedule, but results! They also beat Colgate (twice) and took the equivalent of 5 points against Providence, who is receiving votes.
The RedHawk offense is 2nd in the CCHA at 3 goals/game while their defense is 3rd giving up 2.1 goals/game. Not bad. They get a little bit of a break in their schedule with 2 home series against LSSU and Michigan State, but also have road trips to rival #27 Ohio State and #22 Alaska before getting the Buckeyes in the first round of the Three Rivers Classic. Still, a doable schedule for this team.
#9 Western Michigan Broncos
Record: 5-2-1 (2-1-1-1 in CCHA, t-8th)
The Broncos started the conference schedule with a bye, so their ranking is deceiving. After losing the first game of the year against now #16 St Lawrence, the Broncos have lost just once, albeit a disappointing 4-0 loss on the road to #8 Notre Dame. They haven't really played anyone outside of the two aforementioned teams though. Canisius was a sweep for the Broncos and they took 5 points against a (hopeful) upstart BGSU team, that's all 8 games.
Going forward seems like a slightly tougher test with road trips against #22 Alaska and #13 Michigan coming up, along with home series against #19 Northern Michigan and #20 Ferris State, the Broncos should be well tested for the Great Lakes Invitational, that will now be indoors at Joe Louis Arena on December 29th and 30th. The Broncos will open with Michigan State, and will then play either Michigan or Michigan Tech in the 2nd game.
Plenty of hockey still to be played, but we'll check back in after New Years! Get out and support your favorite MAC team in hockey!