Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Air Force and the Polls

I hate fisking other college hockey writers, because I truly do appreciate anyone willing to put effort into writing about the game, but sometimes it's necessary. Plus, I figure I need actually write something about college hockey every now and then, since, as the MSHSL would like to point out, this is a college hockey blog, and how dare I write anything about high school hockey, which has no possible correlation to college hockey whatsoever. And I'm a fairly bitter person. See the previous statement as proof.

Anyway, Jim Connelly wrote a blog entry over at USCHO titled "Despite win over No. 3 Colorado College, bias against Air Force, Atlantic Hockey still exists".

As a disclaimer, most of this is discussing the recent national polls, of which, I really could not care less about. Partially because they're meaningless, and partially because I once dreamed of voting in one of those polls and turning in the most ridiculous list I could think of, until I realized that there's a good chance nobody would notice.

Anyway, the thesis is that Air Force proved their were For Real last weekend with their split against intrastate rivals Colorado College and Denver. The description of those two games were interesting. Air Force "...lost a tight game to the No. 9 team." while "...knocking off No. 3 Colorado College in CONVINCING fashion"

Wasn't the final score of both games 4-1? I'll grant that Air Force jumped out to a lead on Friday and seemed to have things on cruise control early, while Denver pulled away in the third period and scored an empty-netter, but I think there still has to be more distance between a tight game and an all caps convincing game.

I'll admit that I was a little surprised that Air Force pulled off the win on Friday, but is a win over CC on a Friday worthy of a super high ranking? North Dakota, Minnesota State, and Alaska-Anchorage all have the same win on their resume. The difference is that they've all lost other tough games, as opposed to beating up on 12 other cupcakes.

But wait, there's more.
"The fact that Air Force is being held back because it is a member of Atlantic Hockey should be a crushed argument after this past weekend."
Really?
"Other Atlantic Hockey members were dominant and, in fact, the league posted a 5-3-1 record out of conference on the week."
The line of dominance is apparently drawn at a .600 winning percentage. Anyway, you've got my attention. Who'd they beat?
"Mercyhurst won the RPI tournament by beating the host, RPI, and the No. 7 team in the country"
RPI is pretty brutal this year, with the worst offense in the country. Princeton was coming off their first real big win of the season the previous night and had a goaltending disaster. Still, a nice win for a team that got absolutely embarassed when they came out west to start the season. They seem to have caught something with goalie Ryan Zapolski and may no longer be my go-to bad team punchline.
Cansisius took three of four points from Clarkson, a pre-season top 20.
Heavy emphasis on pre-season, as in, before anyone had seen them play. Clarkson is 2-7-3 and 8th worst team in the country per KRACH.
Connecticut manhandled Brown
Brown hasn't won a game yet and is currently rated as the worst team in the country by KRACH.

Essentially, Atlantic Hockey went 3-0 against teams in the bottom 10 of the country, and 2-3 against teams in the top 20.

The article ends with this:
Though maybe it’s better off - teams might continue to take Air Force lightly and proceed to get outplayed.
Who is going to be taking them lightly? The biggest game on the rest of Air Force's schedule is a potential match-up with KRACH #31 Merrimack, the second worst team in Hockey East. Over half of their remaining games are against the 7 worst teams in the country. I'm pretty sure Connecticut isn't overlooking anyone.

And herein lies the problem. Air Force's strength of schedule is rated 46th best in the country, and presumably, that's as high as it is going to get, once the CC/DU games get more diluted by the rest of the Atlantic Hockey league schedule.

This creates a potential nightmare scenario. Air Force could drop like a rock with a couple losses, but so far, it's not looking like they will. They should be aided by the fact that they'll come nowhere close to the minimum of 10 games against Teams Under Consideration, and thus, don't have to worry about that comparison category. As a result, Air Force may end up doing the impossible: getting people to care about the Atlantic Hockey tournament. Air Force may be dominant over their league, but winning two single elimination games against anybody is a risky proposition. That means we'll likely be a couple weird bounces away from two Atlantic Hockey teams playing in the NCAA tournament. Air Force is a great story, but personally, I'd rather see a more battle-tested mid-pack WCHA or CCHA team make the tournament than a team that played two decent teams all year.

5 comments:

DenverGoldJersey said...

I was at the DU vs. Air Force game. Air Force is good enough to be a mid tier team in the WCHA this season. Somewhere from 6-4 in the Conference if they keep crushing teams they should get an at large bid they are good enough. I was also at the DU vs Notre Dame game, honestly AF looked better than Notre Dame did at the time. I know that game was early and it seems Notre Dame has improved but still I've been at every DU home game and they are the second best team I've seen (I thought CC was better in their game against Denver).

Anonymous said...

The 3-4 top Atlantic teams can compete with the mid level other conference teams, the gap is alot closer than you think.

Anonymous said...

I'd rather see a bunch of back hand saucer passing badgers who will leave after their sophomore year in the NCAA tournament then a bunch of guys dedicating their lives to the armed forces so they can play four years of college hockey....?

OrderedChaos said...

Good post... and for what it's worth, we here in DC love seeing Air Force succeed:

http://www.onfrozenblog.com/2008/12/02/a-service-academy-becomes-a-force-in-college-hockey.html

Hockeyfan said...

Totally agree with all you said Chris. They are still untested, and their cupcake schedule has given them a lot of confidence. They would not have the record they have if they played in the CCHA or the WCHA.