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Updating the NCAA ranks at mid-season

by Bob Snow /

Peter Mannino keeps Denver hot with his 1.79 GAA.
At the season's half-way mark, the CCHA leads all conferences with four teams in the top 10. The league had its last national championship in 1998 with Michigan, until last year when Michigan State bested Boston College. Three months hence, the title game will be in played in Denver at the Pepsi Arena.

Here's a look at the league leaders, and who's hot and who's not across the six conferences as the second half begins.

Central Collegiate Hockey Association -- Michigan's Kevin Porter leads the nation in total points (19-12-31), goals, power-play goals (10), and is on pace to break last year's 58 points. Add Chad Kolarik and Aaron Palushaj's output and their collective 80-point total leads the country. So does Michigan, which is en route to another deep postseason run.

The Wolverines have a scant two-point lead over Miami and Notre Dame; then comes Michigan State, Ferris State, Nebraska-Omaha, Bowling Green, Northern Michigan, Alaska, Ohio State, Western Michigan and Lake Superior.

Western Collegiate Hockey Association -- The hottest team in the country entering the break was Denver. The Pioneers and the Colorado College Tigers are running away in the WCHA with a nine-point bulge over Duluth.

"I don't know if there's much we can change about the second half other than the fact that Peter Mannino (1.79 GAA) will have to continue to play the way he has," said George Gwozdecky last weekend after his Pioneers won the Denver Cup. "He gives us the chance to win every game. At the other end, we've got so many inexperienced players in the lineup. It's not so much changing their game. They've gained confidence over the first half; now it's up to them to use that to be more effective the second half in how we play."

"We're definitely happy with where we are," head coach Scott Owens said about his CC roster. "But we believe we can still be better. We're pleased with our league record and we feel like we're in a good position right now to set ourselves up nicely for the stretch run, when we have more games at home."

After Minn.-Duluth, North Dakota, Michigan Tech, Minnesota, Wisconsin, St. Cloud, Minnesota, State, and Alaska-Anchorage round out the deepest league in NCAA play.

Hockey East -- Three points separate co-league leaders Northeastern and New Hampshire from Massachusetts, Boston College, and the surprising and surging Mass.-Lowell River Hawks.

"Our offense in general needs to be improved," said Northeastern coach Greg Cronin about the major focus the second half. "We're not counting points, just trying to get better every game. It's a nice thing to be getting some buzz and some national recognition."

Behind Lowell are Providence, Vermont, Maine, Boston University, and Merrimack.

Eastern College Athletic Conference Hockey League -- Clarkson, led by senior Nick Dodge, holds a one-point lead over Harvard, led by Kyle Richter's 1.85 GAA in net.

"We need a consistent lineup," said Golden Knights coach George Roll. "It has been one of those years where we have not had the continuity in our lineup. We are 10-6-1, and I know a lot of people would be pleased with that, but we still have a lot of work to do. We have been pretty good at home the last year and a half, and now we have to take that effort on the road with the majority of our remaining games on opponent's home ice."

Harvard's Kyle Richter has a 1.85 GAA in net.

After Harvard comes upstart Yale, Cornell, surprising Princeton, Rensselaer, Quinnipiac, St. Lawrence, Dartmouth, Brown, Colgate, and Union in ECACHL play.

Atlantic Hockey -- Air Force is locked in first with Eric Ehn back in the Hobey-Baker hunt with his 21 team-leading points.

"We'll need to play better second half because the schedule is more difficult," said Tom Serratore after his boys beat Minnesota in the consolation game of the Dodge Classic in St. Paul on the eve of the New Year. "We had a good bounce back against Minnesota, but more of our first-half ties and losses should have been wins."

Sacred Heart, Army, RIT, Bentley, Mercyhurst, Holy Cross, American International, Canisius, and Connecticut follow the Falcons as Atlantic's second-half begins.

College Hockey America -- "We're averaging 1.96 goals a game," said Bemidji State bench boss Tom Serratore. "It will be outstanding if we can continue to play the team defense we have (top 10 in the country), but we need to increase our scoring. It will give me some piece of mind if we can breathe a lot easier if we can get to three goals a game on average. It's really tough scoring goals across all of college hockey."

Bemidji State is leaving the rest of the CHA five-team league on life support, led by Matt Climie in goal. Robert Morris, Niagara, Wayne State, and Alabama-Huntsville follow the Beavers in that order.

Top-10 stories of 2007

10. The approximate 85 percent of NCAA hockey players who graduated in 2007 after four year of play. No other major men's sport in NCAA play achieves such a lofty number.

9. The season-long spirited play of Michigan Tech that needed to win its last game in Minnesota last March to assure a winning record for the first time in nearly two decades. The Huskies beat the Gophers, 5-4, to end the regular season at 16-15-5. They then beat Colorado College in the WCHA opening round playoff series, before losing the Final Five play-in game to Wisconsin.

8. Boston University coach Jack Parker suspending four players for violating team rules this past November, including captain Brian McGuirk. Parker still knows how to play the game.

7. Air Force captain Eric Ehn not winning the Hobey Baker Award as a Hobey Hat Trick Finalist. If any player in NCAA history most exemplified Hobey Baker the player and man, it was Ehn. He is back in the Hobey hunt this year as a senior.

6. Maine coach Tim Whitehead losing his mother-in-law in a tragic car accident, while she was en route to the Frozen Four semifinal game against Michigan State. Whitehead coached his Black Bears just hours after the accident.

5. The early departure of Minnesota sophomore Kyle Okposo to the Islanders two months into this current season. It's one thing to lose an underclassman after the freshman or sophomore season, quite another to recruit with the uncertainty of not getting an understood full-season commitment.

4. Air Force taking Minnesota deep into the third period with a 3-1 lead in the West Regional last March before bowing to the Gophers, 4-3.

3. The end of D-I play at Wayne State University after this season. University officials determined the program is not cost-effective. Here's hoping the other 58 Division I teams open their rosters to Warrior underclassmen who want to pursue their NCAA careers.

2. The Frozen Four semifinal between Boston College and North Dakota. When was the last NCAA game played at that level of skill and tempo? The Eagles prevailed, 6-4.

1. Michigan State's national championship win, led by Jeff Lerg in goal. The diminutive Lerg stood the heavily favored Eagles on their beaks for three periods until Tim Kennedy knotted the game, 1-1, at 9:53 of the third, and Justin Abdelkader won it with 19 ticks in regulation.

On Campus Clips -- Winners of last weekend's holiday tournaments: Michigan over Michigan Tech, 1-0 in two OT’s in the Great Lakes Invitational, the Wolverines first GLI title in 11 years; Northeastern took down Colgate, 2-1, in the Badger Showdown; Quinnipiac took the Catamount Cup, 4-1, against Vermont; BC bested RIT in the Dodge Holiday Classic; Massachusetts won an OT thriller over Colorado College, 5-4, in the Lightning Classic; Miami outlasted nemesis Ohio State, 3-2, in the Ohio Hockey Classic; Denver prevailed, 5-3, over Dartmouth in the Wells Fargo Denver Cup; Mass-Lowell manhandled Maine in the Florida College Classic, 6-0; Connecticut marched over Army, 4-1, in the UConn Holiday Classic. ...The first-ever U.S. outdoor Winter Classic in Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium Tuesday between Buffalo and Pittsburgh featured two of college hockey's best all-time -- and American-born goaltenders. The Sabres’ Ryan Miller (East Lansing, Michigan.) rewrote the Michigan State record books en route to a Hobey Baker Award in 2001. Penguin netminder and former four-year standout New Hampshire Wildcat Ty Conklin (Anchorage, Alaska) was between the pipes in the scintillating 1999 title game in won by the Maine Black Bears in OT, 3-2. Top 10
  1. Michigan 18-2-010
  2. Miami 18-2-010
  3. Denver 16-4-010
  4. Colorado College 12-6-010
  5. Michigan State 12-5-210
  6. Notre Dame 17-5-010
  7. North Dakota 9-7-110
  8. Clarkson 10-5-010
  9. UMass 9-3-5
  10. New Hampshire 10-5-1
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