Conference races taking shape
Notebook: A longstanding rivalry; honoring a past champion
With only four weeks remaining in the regular season, the conference races are starting to take shape. There are several matchups in each league this weekend that could have a major impact. Below is a closer look at how each conference currently shapes up.
• In Atlantic Hockey, Niagara faces its crosstown rival, Canisius, in two games looking to continue its stranglehold on the regular-season race. The Purple Eagles have 34 points while putting together a 16-1-2 record, while Mercyhurst is holding down second place with 25 points. Air Force and Holy Cross are tied for third place with 22 points. Mercyhurst and Air Force play a two-game series this weekend to try and distance themselves from the rest of the pack.
• In the CCHA, Miami travels to Western Michigan for a two-games series this Friday and Saturday. With 44 points, the RedHawks hold a one-point lead on the Broncos in the race for the conference title in the CCHA’s final season. Miami comes in on a five-game win streak while Western Michigan is unbeaten in its past five games (4-0-1). Notre Dame is in third with 38 points in spite of only one victory in its past eight contests. Ferris State is fourth with 36 points, while Ohio State is one point back in fifth and Alaska is in sixth with 34.
• Quinnipiac has a commanding seven-point lead in ECAC Hockey as it is the only team in the nation without a conference loss. The Bobcats are 12-0-2 in conference play for 26 points, while Yale, which has played one more game, is second with 19. Union and Dartmouth are tied for third with 16 points, while St. Lawrence is fifth with 14. There is a five-team logjam for sixth place at 13 points with Clarkson, Colgate, Princeton, Rensselaer and Brown.
• Hockey East has six teams within seven points of first-place Boston College, which has 25 points. New Hampshire is two points back, while Merrimack is third just three points back. UNH has played one less game than BC and can tie for the conference lead with a two-game set against Providence this weekend. Boston University is in fourth with 21 points, while Providence is fifth with 20 and UMass Lowell is in sixth place with 18 points.
• The WCHA is the tightest race of the bunch with seven teams within eight points of each other. St. Cloud State is in the lead with 29 points but plays host to Minnesota in a two-game set this weekend and with a sweep the third-place Gophers can move within one point of the conference lead. Nebraska-Omaha is three points behind the Huskies in second place and it will play host to North Dakota in a weekend series. UND and Denver are tied with Minnesota in third with 24 points. Wisconsin is still within striking distance at 22 points, while Minnesota State Mankato is seventh with 21.
• Notre Dame plays host to Michigan this weekend. The Wolverines are the Irish's oldest rival as the two teams first met in the 1921-22 season and have played each other 132 times. Michigan leads the all-time series 74-53-5.
• Miami (Ohio) has have won four of the past five meetings against Western Michigan. However, the Broncos won the the most recent game -- in the semifinals of the 2012 CCHA Tournament.
• It has been 1,502 games since the Cornell Big Red has been shutout in back-to-back contests — a streak that survived last weekend when Cornell answered a home shutout loss to Brown with two goals on Feb. 1 at St. Lawrence. The last time Cornell was blanked twice in a row was vs. Clarkson and St. Lawrence in December 1963.
• Rensselaer shut out Harvard and Dartmouth last weekend, marking the first time RPI posted back-to-back shutouts since January 2004 when Nathan Marsters stopped 22 shots against Cornell and 18 versus Sacred Heart. Rensselaer’s last consecutive shutouts on the same weekend was October 2002 against Iona and Army. The Engineers’ most recent back-to-back shutouts in league play was March 2000 against Brown and Harvard. They travel to St. Lawrence looking to extend its shutout streak to three games.
The Yale Bulldogs are wearing a sticker with a ribbon on the back of their helmets in memory of those lost in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn. … Quinnipiac is on a 19-game unbeaten streak and will look to extend it against Cornell and Colgate this weekend. … Bowling Green plays host to Michigan State on Friday night looking to beat the Spartans in its home rink for the first time since 2009. … Colorado College heads into this week’s home-and-home series against Denver needing to sweep the Pioneers in order to retain possession of the Gold Pan it claimed for the 11th time in 19 seasons a year ago. … Princeton is 0-10 this season when trailing after two periods. … Cornell has scored goals on all five occasions this season when it has been on a 5-on-3. … Starting goalies Jon Gillies (Providence) and Casey DeSmith (New Hampshire) for this weekend’s Hockey East series were teammates with the Indiana Ice (USHL) for the 2010-11 season. Friday's game at Providence has been postponed due to the impending snowstorm and has been rescheduled for Feb. 13. Sunday's game at New Hampshire is still on. … The Canisius Griffs are now 10-0-1 this season when scoring three or more tallies. … Miami (Ohio) heads to Western Michigan boasting two of the top goaltenders in the country. Ryan McKay ranks first nationally with both a 1.08 goals-against average and a .960 save percentage while Jay Williams is eighth nationally with a 1.76 GAA and 11th nationally with a .930 save percentage. … Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota will play Saturday’s game outdoors at TD Ameritrade Park, the home of NCAA baseball's College World Series. … Minnesota Duluth is unbeaten in 15 of its past 16 overall confrontations with Minnesota State Mankato (13-1-2), and haven’t lost to the Mavericks in Duluth since Jan. 28, 2006, going 9-0-1 in the interim. … As a St. Cloud State Husky, Drew LeBlanc has played in 157 games and is drawing close to the team record of 161 career games by Ryan Lasch from 2006-10. … Wisconsin will honor the 30th anniversary of the program’s 1983 NCAA championship this Friday by recognizing the team during the first intermission of the Bemidji State game … Mercyhurst has not been shut out this season.