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Evan Marinofsky | NCAA.com | October 4, 2021

Men's college hockey rankings: Minnesota State's upset over UMass shakes up first Power 10 of the season

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Welcome, everyone, to the first men’s college hockey Power 10 of the season. It feels great to have games back and underway. Every Monday throughout the season, I’ll be ranking my top 10 men’s teams. 

What’s tough about this week is that not every team truly began its season. Some only played exhibition games.

Even after just one weekend though, a lot has changed within the landscape of men's college hockey. So, let’s get right to it with the first Power 10 of the year:

1. St. Cloud State

This team looks as motivated as ever to get back to the national championship game after losing last season and they have the roster to do it. The Huskies pummeled St. Thomas in the Tommies’ first games in Division I. The first night was a 12-2 drubbing. The second night may have only been a 2-0 win, but the Huskies outshot St. Thomas 36-12.

St. Cloud State got a big weekend from senior forward Kevin Fitzgerald, who potted two goals and two assists in the 12-2 win, as well as an assist the next night. Its biggest win came from forward Easton Brodzinski. The graduate student broke his femur just six months ago in the NCAA regionals and against all odds, was back on the ice this weekend. Simply playing was huge, but Brodzinski tallied two goals as well, getting him to 100-career points.

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“I don’t know if there’s been a better feeling on the bench,” St. Cloud State head coach Brett Larson told reporters of Brodzinski hitting 100 points after the 12-2 win.

2. Minnesota State

Talk about setting the perfect tone for a season.

Minnesota State strolled into Amherst, Massachusetts, this past weekend and completely spoiled the reigning national champions’ banner-raising ceremony and festivities, beating then-No. 1 ranked UMass 2-0 and 6-3. In Game 1, the Mavericks shut down the Minutemen offensively, limiting them to just 18 shots and zero goals. Minnesota State goalie Dryden McKay got his 25th career shutout. One more and he ties Ryan Miller for the most all-time.

Minnesota State had two statement wins over UMass this weekend.

Game 2 was where Minnesota State really flexed its muscles, coming back from a 3-0 deficit to score six straight goals, five of which came in the third period. Junior forward Nathan Smith led the Mavericks this weekend, putting up two goals and five points over the two games.

3. Michigan

The Wolverines only played once this past weekend, crushing Bowling Green, 7-1, in an exhibition game Saturday night. Michigan got a hat trick out of sophomore forward Brendan Brisson and two goals from senior defenseman Nick Blankenburg.

On paper, this is the best roster in the nation, but St. Cloud State feels like it’s on a mission (especially with the return of moral leader Brodzinski) and Minnesota State just swept the No. 1 team in the country and reigning national champs in UMass. Beating Bowling Green by a lot doesn’t match either of those.

4. Minnesota

Minnesota didn’t play this weekend after both games against Alaska were postponed due to COVID issues with the Alaska team.

The Golden Gophers are still a really good, veteran team, led by junior defenseman Jackson LaCombe, senior forward Sammy Walker, junior forward Ben Meyers and graduate student goalie Jack LaFontaine. This squad will certainly be pushing the top three all season long.

5. UMass

Raising the banner Saturday night was the high point of the weekend for UMass. Everything after, well, let's just say the Minutemen faithful would like to forget.

In the 2-0 loss Saturday, UMass was stifled offensively, unable to generate solid scoring chances and get good looks on Minnesota State's McKay. It didn’t help that the Minutemen only had one shot in the first period.

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The offense looked revitalized Sunday night when UMass took a 3-0 lead, but that evaporated after a third-period implosion, as the Minutemen gave up five goals and watched that three-goal lead turn into a three-goal deficit. With defensive issues plaguing UMass in that third period, the losses of defensemen Zac Jones and Marc Del Gaizo became apparent. 

UMass will surely push for that No. 1 spot at some point this season, but two losses to then-No. 5 Minnesota State moves them down in this edition of the rankings.

6. Minnesota Duluth 

Minnesota Duluth took down No. 11 Wisconsin, 4-2, in an exhibition matchup Sunday. The game was supposed to be more of a scrimmage with scripted opportunities for both teams to work on things, but the league wouldn’t allow it. Instead, they played an actual game. The Bulldogs got goals from freshman forward Carter Loney, senior defenseman Hunter Lellig and grad transfer Casey Gilling, as well as adding an empty-netter.

They’ll look to become the fourth school ever to make five-straight Frozen Four appearances. 

7. Boston College

The Eagles took down No. 20 AIC, 4-1, in an exhibition matchup Saturday night. It was an encouraging win, as BC got goals from sophomore forward Colby Ambrosio, senior forward Jack McBain, freshman defenseman Aidan Hreschuk and sophomore forward Nikita Nesterenko.

BC beat AIC, 4-1, in their exhibition game.

The story for BC this year is what it lost this offseason. Matt Boldy, Mike Hardman, Alex Newhook and Spencer Knight will be difficult to replace. The Eagles’ first real test will come on Oct. 8 when they take on No. 9 Quinnipiac. That’s when we’ll really get a look at how BC plans on making up for those losses.

8. North Dakota

Like the Eagles, the Fighting Hawks also lost a ton this offseason, losing Jordan Kawaguchi, Collin Adams and Shane Pinto — the team’s three leading point-getters last year. And also like the Eagles, the Fighting Hawks won their exhibition game this weekend. They took down No. 14 Bemidji State, 2-1.

North Dakota head coach Brad Berry treated the exhibition like an actual game, playing grad transfer goalie and projected starter Zach Driscoll for the entire 60 minutes. Sophomore standout defenseman Jake Sanderson scored the game-winner and added an assist on the first goal.

So, since North Dakota won its exhibition game and no one ranked lower than them did anything spectacular, the Fighting Hawks will stay at No. 8.

9. Quinnipiac

The Bobcats took down Maine, 7-0, in an exhibition game Saturday. Hard to put a ton of stock in crushing a not-so-terrific team in an exhibition game, so they’ll stay ranked No. 9.

However, Quinnipiac has some real promise to push higher on this list as the season goes on. Even though it lost its leading scorer in Odeen Tufto, defenseman Peter DiLiberatore and goalie Keith Petruzzelli, the Bobcats still have senior forwards Ethan de Jong and Desi Burgart, senior defenseman Zach Metsa and sophomore forward Ty Smilanic.

We’ll get a great look at this team against Boston College this Friday and against North Dakota on Oct. 22 and 23.

10. Boston University

The Terriers took care of business in an exhibition against Holy Cross, winning 5-1. Highly-touted freshman forward Tyler Boucher, the No. 10 overall pick in this past summer’s NHL Draft, registered a goal in the win. Another player to watch is freshman defenseman Ty Gallagher who scored Saturday. His 25 goals over two seasons with the US National Team Development Program set a record.

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I have my doubts about this BU team. The loss of David Farrance on the blue line won’t be an easy one to make up for and it’s still a young team. It’s a case of a lot of promise with a lot of question marks.

But, if sophomore goalie Drew Commesso can build on his success from last year, the Terriers should be in a good spot.

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