Here’s a philosophical question to ponder as we await the return of Division I men’s college hockey games on Dec. 28:
What’s the value of a great start to the season if it doesn’t come with a great finish?
Getting to the holiday break unbeaten or with one loss is a noteworthy accomplishment and puts a team on path for an NCAA tournament spot even if the second half is bumpy.
Four teams have made it to that point this season: defending national champion Providence, Quinnipiac, Cornell and Harvard. That’s the same number that had one loss or fewer at the break in the previous 12 seasons combined.
I was able to find full national standings at the holiday break for the 14 previous seasons, and there were a total of seven one-loss teams over that span.
All seven made the NCAA tournament, three of them as the No. 1 overall seed.
None of the seven won the national championship. Only one — Cornell in 2002-03 — made it to the Frozen Four.
Here’s the list of zero- or one-loss teams at the break since 2001, with this season’s quartet included:
|2015||4||Providence (12-0-3), Quinnipiac (15-1-2), Cornell (8-1-2), Harvard (6-1-3)|
|2002||3||North Dakota (16-1-1), Cornell (10-1), Maine (13-1-2)|
That being said, there have been some quality first halves recently by future national champions. Union and Minnesota-Duluth were 12-3-3 at the break before winning titles in 2013-14 and 2010-11, respectively. Boston College was 10-3-2 in 2009-10 and a somewhat more modest 12-6 in 2011-12.
Still, it’s probably true that if your best games of the season are in October, November and December, you’re not going to go far in March.