Halfway through the 2010-2011 season we’ve seen two teams rise above the rest so far to establish themselves as the teams to beat at the moment.
In the East, RIT has rolled through the first half of the its schedule to the tune of a perfect 13-0-0 record with impressive wins over Norwich and two-time defending national champion Amherst (2).
In the West, Wis. River Falls has been the top dog so far as the Falcons are 10-0-0 with wins over Lake Forest (2) and MIAC powerhouse Gustavus Adolphus.
Amherst has played an absolutely brutal schedule so far and the Lord Jeffs emerged from the gauntlet with a 4-3-2 record and were just crowned the Cardinal/Panther Classic champions on Monday at the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena after downing Elmira 1-0 in the championship game.
In their last seven games, Amherst has played RIT (2), Trinity (2), Elmira, Plattsburgh, and Norwich. The combined record of those teams is 46-9-3 (.819 winning percentage) and every team is ranked in the top 10 of the latest USCHO.com Poll, including three in the top four.
Also, if that wasn’t already impressive enough, every single one of those games was on the road. The schedule eases up considerably for the defending champs from here on out. They only play six more road games and have nine at home, including hosting arch-rival Middlebury at Orr Rink on Jan. 14 and 15.
Outside of Wis. River Falls and RIT, a log jam is starting to form as teams start to jockey for position in their respective conferences and the coveted at-large Pool C bids that inevitably some of the top teams will have to turn to in order to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
In the ECAC West, as usual it’s a three-horse race between RIT, Elmira and Plattsburgh. RIT has established itself out of conference, but the Tigers still have work to do in the ECAC West to cement home-ice advantage for the first time as they still have two meetings each with Elmira and Plattsburgh. The Soaring Eagles and Cardinals split their season series and Elmira also has a tie against Oswego that could come back to bite them.
In the ECAC East, Norwich is the only team with an unblemished record at the moment as Manhattanville tripped up against New England College after the Valiants had downed Holy Cross to give the Crusaders their lone loss in league play. Norwich controls its own destiny if it wins out, but more than likely the league regular season crown will come down to the Feb. 19 showdown with the arch-rival Valiants.
In the NESCAC, Middlebury currently holds the top spot with a 5-0-0 record. However, the Panthers have yet to face Trinity and Amherst, who should be the chief challengers for the crown. Amherst took three points from the Bantams earlier this season and were 10 minutes away from a sweep of all four points before two late goals helped Trinity salvage a point out of the weekend.
For the second straight season it looks the MIAC could provide the most interesting battle for playoff positioning. Every team has played six games so far and six points separates first from eighth place. Gustavus Adolphus, as usual leads the pack currently with 10 points. But, the Gusties split with St. Thomas. There is a three-way tie for second place between St. Thomas, St. Catharine, and St. Mary’s, who all have nine points. St. Mary’s is actually the lone unbeaten team left in MIAC conference play as the Cardinals are 3-0-3 so far. The Cardinals traveled East over the holiday break but returned home without a point as they dropped a pair of 3-1 contests to Trinity and Bowdoin.
In the NCHA, Wis. Superior leads the pack with 16 points and a 7-1-2 record. However, the Yellow jackets have played more games than everyone else so far. Adrian sits in second with 13 points and eight games played. Wis. River Falls is a perfect 6-0-0 with 12 points and six games played. Lake Forest and Wis. Stevens Point, the other two prime challengers for the title have also played six games and have seven and eight points respectively. There is still plenty left to be decided in the NCHA in the second half with most of the matchups between those five teams still to come.
Games starts to pick up this weekend with a majority of the country returning to action. Wis. Stevens Point travels to Wis. River Falls for a pair of league games, RIT tries to stay perfect as the Tigers travel to Adrian to take on a Bulldogs squad that is notorious for splitting series. On Saturday, Plattsburgh travels to Manhattanville and Trinity faces Middlebury in crucial single-game matchups.
This is long overdue and I had originally wanted to post these before Christmas, but here are my picks for mid-season All-Americans.
1st Team East:
F. Sophie Leclerc, Norwich
F. Katie Stack, RIT
F. Steph Moon, Plattsburgh
D. Kara Beuhler, Plattsburgh
D. Traci Galbraith, RIT
G. Laura Chamberlain, RIT
2nd Team East:
F. Kim Weiss, Trinity
F. Tori Charron, Elmira
F. Sarah Dagg, RIT
D. Sarianne Lynn, Norwich
D. Stephanie Clegg, Amherst
G. Emi Williams, Oswego
1st Team West:
F. Allie Tanzer, Stevens Point
F. Kait Mason, River Falls
F. Jenn Paul, Superior
D. Lauren Conrad, River Falls
D. Kirstin Peterson, Gustavus Adolphus
G. Danielle Justice, Gustavus Adolphus