Nice weekend. Always good to come away with a win
by wearendhockey (2019-01-21 10:15:24)

and a tie on the road. Very nice to see an unexpected source step up with some much needed scoring. Michael Graham's weekend will end up being a huge part of however successful this season ends.

We sit either 13th or 14th in the PWR, depending on who is doing the calculations. (I wonder if some outlets are considering the tie last night as a neutral venue tie or a road tie) Firmly on the bubble, and in with either one or two spots to spare. With 11 games left (12 or 13 if you count the conference tournament) we have enough time left to firm up the NCAA or blow it altogether.

We absolutely need to find some success at home. We are 8-2-2 away from the CFIA, a great record on the road. But we are only 5-6 when the puck is dropped in South Bend. Not acceptable. 7 of the final 11 regular season games are at home. To make the tournament we need to take care of business in the white sweaters. It's as simple as that. Only 1 other conference team on the schedule is currently ranked high enough to make the NCAAs right now, Ohio State. So wins against most of these teams are not going to rocket us up the ladder. Losses, on the other hand, especially at home, will be sure to drop us like an anchor.

With 3 top scorers out (1 is out for the season, one is unknown and one might be back before the season ends) it won't be easy. The team will need to make the most of puck possession, continue to be disciplined on the ice (we are the least penalized team in the league with the second best PK, although the percentage could be better than it is) and continue to find a couple more skaters who can pick up some goals. My hope is the team gets on a little roll and finds a little comfort in the PWR so we don't need to win more than a round in the conference tournament to get in. No one right now scares me as far as the NCAA goes.

St. Cloud looked unbeatable last year and became the first overall #1 seed to lose to the overall #16 seed. UMass is completely untested by the bright lights of tournament play. Minnesota-Duluth only wins when they aren't a top seed. Most of the NCAA tournament heavyweights are on the outside looking in. Michigan, North Dakota, Boston College, Boston U, Minnesota, all would be out. Recent regular participants like UMass-Lowell, Providence and Miami(although they have really struggled as a NCHC member -- only 1 invite in 5 seasons after 9 in the last 10 in the CCHA) would also be on the outside looking in.

If the Irish make the NCAAs this season the entire roster will have tournament experience, including 2 FFs. Right now the only other teams that are in a tournament spot that have that kind of post season experience are Denver and Minnesota Duluth, the two most recent defending champions. Whoever makes up the 16 team field, this might be the most wide-open, unpredictable tournament in the 16 team era. You just never know...


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