Week Two of the 2019 THG Power Rankings arrive with new tier names and some movement in the middle but none at the very top or bottom. The big winners of the weekend were Western Michigan and Minnesota, sweeping series against good teams and showing they belong among the elite. The losers included Penn State and Arizona State, who’s flaws were exposed to different lengths and both now sit in far more precarious spots in the Pairwise.
With that said, let’s move on the rankings!
The “Basement of the West” Tier
26. Alaska-Anchorage (LW: 26)
25. Alabama-Huntsville (LW:25)
24. Alaska (LW: 24)
23. Ferris (LW: 23)
The “Might Cause Problems Once a Month” Tier
22. Bemidji State (LW: 19)
21. Michigan State (LW: 22)
MSU outplayed Penn State throughout the weekend and cashed in with a win on Saturday to earn a split. While the Spartans are still the clear worst team in the Big Ten, but a tie against Michigan in the GLI and this win at State College show that they will frustrate unprepared teams when given the chance.
20. Colorado College (LW: 17)
The Tigers played great hockey against North Dakota but to no avail, losing twice in overtime. This team has seemed to just not quite have the killer instinct they need to get finish off winnable games.
19. Nebraska-Omaha (LW: 21)
Nebraska-Omaha battled with Denver back-to-back nights, but the talent of the Pioneers proved too much for them twice. Saturday night, the Mavericks spent the entire third period defending a one-goal lead before Denver finally tied the game with a pulled goalie. A quick winner in OT locked in the sweep of UNO, ending the weekend in disappointment.
The “I’m Still Not Sure What Kind of Team You Are” Tier
18. Wisconsin (LW: 18)
Wisconsin was idle this week and hosts Notre Dame this week, with Saturday’s game played at the United Center in Chicago.
17. Northern Michigan (LW:20)
Ho hum, a sweep of Alaska. But hey, far too often do teams go up to Alaska and lose points needlessly. Northern gets the week off before a much tougher test against Minnesota State.
16. Michigan Tech (LW: 16)
A home split against a very good Bowling Green keeps Tech from falling. They had every opportunity to turn this into a sweep but were unable to capitalize. Gavin Gould was especially good on the weekend and the players responded quite well after a controversial week stemming from the Joe Shawhan’s media interactions. Tech finishes the month with series against Bemidji and Alaska, four games they really need to win if they want to stay in the discussion with the WCHA elite.
15. Michigan (LW: 14)
Michigan had a fine weekend in Columbus, recovering from a dreadful loss against Merrimack with a win on Friday before falling in a tight game on Saturday. Tuesday’s loss to Merrimack was really a microcosm of their whole season: a truly average team cancelling out a great road win (at Notre Dame) with an equally bad home loss. And so it goes for Mel Pearson and the Wolverines, who stay painfully average.
14. Lake State (LW: 12)
While the Lakers did pick up a tie and a win at home against Alabama-Huntsville, their fall in the rankings is due to North Dakota and Minnesota both picking up sweeps. Saturday’s 1-1 tie appeared to be another example of UAH’s goaltender stealing points for an otherwise outmatched team, a theme that has seemed ever-present over the last decade. Lake State had 37 shots, but the key was their 0-for-4 mark on the power play, including failing to score on a five-minute major and a minor in overtime. LSSU is top 20 in the nation in PP%, so chalk this up to a fluky game for now unless proven otherwise.
13. North Dakota (LW: 13)
The Fighting Hawks cannot score. While they swept Colorado College at home this week, it came down to quite a bit of sheer luck, something they did not have last week when they were swept at Canisius. Quite frankly, this was not a better weekend for the Fighting Hawks, just a slightly more fortunate one. Until they figure out how to generate goals – currently 46th in the nation and the worst in the NCHC – they remain a faint threat to the teams above them.
12. Arizona State (LW: 7)
The Sun Devils were swept by Cornell in New York this weekend by a combined score of 9-3. While the Pairwise did not punish them greatly – they currently sit tied for 11th – one win would have done them wonders. Instead, most of their margin for error is gone, with no more games remaining against teams in the top 16 of the Pairwise. Instead, they will have a week off before playing a heating-up Boston University team who will present a real test.
11. Miami (LW: 11)
Rarely will a team get swept and not move down in the rankings but losing by one goal twice on the road against a top ten team nationally gives credence such a reaction. Miami is simply the same team we thought they were last week: slightly worse than Western Michigan. Had these games been in Ohio instead, perhaps the results would be inverse. Still, the RedHawks needs to find a way to win these kinds of games soon.
10. Penn State (LW: 6)
Penn State was not good this weekend at home against Michigan State, losing their worst game of the year on Saturday. PSU drops four spots here because they have the worst goaltending of any of the top 20 teams in these rankings, instead only buoyed by the nation’s best offense. Still, Peyton Jones continues to be an anchor that will limit the Nittany Lions’ chances to do damage in March. Until he or another goalie finds consistency, they remain less powerful than many other teams even with such a potent offense.
The Contenders Tier
9. Minnesota (LW: 16)
This was the best weekend of Bob Motzko’s tenure as the Gophers’ head coach thus far, sweeping Notre Dame in South Bend with a blowout on Friday and a last-second victory on Saturday. The team that showed so much promise in their opening weekend against UMD finally reappeared in a big way. With the best goalie in the conference, at least right now, and some elite talent on the front end, I can see this team going on a run much like Michigan did last year. Next up, a test of their focus against a lesser opponent at Michigan State.
8. Minnesota State (LW: 10)
The Mavericks move up in large part because teams ahead of them struggled, but they did their part in pulling out a road sweep against Ferris State. While both games could have easily gone the other way, all road wins are good wins and there is something to be said for finding ways to win these games when a split seems so likely.
7. Bowling Green (LW: 9)
The Falcons had a similar weekend to Minnesota State, except they played a much better opponent in Michigan Tech. Their split was well-earned, and the recent sweep over Minnesota State still sits fresh in my mind, thus keeping BGSU’s spot as the top WCHA team in these rankings.
6. Notre Dame (LW: 5)
The Irish had a terrible weekend in getting swept by Minnesota. With most of the teams below them in these rankings having mediocre weekends at best, ND only falls one spot. Last week I blamed Cale Morris’ poor performance on the outdoor ice, this week I can do no such thing: he was bad on Friday and was benched in favor of Dylan St. Cyr, who played well on Saturday. This is a situation to keep an eye on as the Irish head to Wisconsin next week.
5. Western Michigan (LW: 8)
Western was a big winner this week, taking a pair of one-goal games against Miami and cementing themselves as a threat in the NCHC and beyond. As I said last week, the time to really watch them is January 18-26 when they play St. Cloud and Denver those two weekends, but they took care of necessary business against Miami. Now they can take some confidence into the make-or-break part of their schedule that will really show us where they belong in the national discussion.
4. Ohio State (LW: 4)
Ohio State continued to have goaltending controversy as both of their netminders played, but this week it was more of a good problem to have with both giving up only two goals. It remains to be seen where the Buckeyes will turn for goaltending down the stretch, but those problems generally solve themselves. For now, Ohio State will find comfort in a split with their rivals that keeps them safely in the top five in the Pairwise and 1st place in the Big Ten standings. Next up is a key road trip to Penn State.
The National Championship Favorites
3. Minnesota-Duluth (LW: 3)
2. Denver (LW: 2)
1. St. Cloud State (LW: 1)
These three are so clearly the best teams in the country, but I am struggling to find much that separates the group. St. Cloud and UMD split a weekend of highly competitive hockey which told us very little: two of the three best teams in the nation beating each other generally does that. I left the three of them in the same rank as before but know the difference is negligible.