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Evan Marinofsky | | November 1, 2021

5 takeaways from a wild October in DI men's college hockey

2022 NCAA hockey bracket predictions, two weeks into the season

That was a pretty great first month of college hockey. 

October brought a lot. There were impressive performances, different teams atop the rankings every week and best of all, some incredible matchups that legitimately lived up to the hype. There were even a few upsets sprinkled in as well (I'm looking right at you, Western Michigan). 

With a month this good leading things off for the season, it's hard not to imagine what else the rest of the year has in store. 

Here are five takeaways from the past month. 

Minnesota State owned its tough, early-season slate of games. 

The Mavericks were clearly feeling confident when they put together this season's schedule, slotting in a series with reigning national champion UMass, a series with St. Cloud State and then an Ice Breaker Tournament at Minnesota Duluth against Providence and Michigan. When the time came, they opened against a No. 1 seed, a No. 2 seed a No. 10 seed and a No. 3 seed. 

They finished that stretch 4-2. That's hard to dislike if you're Minnesota State. 

Minnesota State impressed in the first month of the season.

The highlight so far for Minnesota State is its opening sweep against UMass, spoiling the Minutemen's banner-raising ceremony in Amherst, Massachusetts. That earned them the No. 1 spot in the nation. Then a split with then-No. 2 St. Cloud State kept the Mavericks at No. 1. They lost that ranking after falling to Michigan, 3-2, in the Ice Breaker Tournament final

Goalie Dryden McKay entered the season two shutouts shy of tying Ryan Miller for most shutouts all-time by a DI men's ice hockey goaltender. It only took him three games to get there, and they came against UMass and St. Cloud State. It only took him five more games after that to get to 27, setting the new record

Forwards Nathan Smith and Brendan Furry led the way offensively, both posting point totals of 10. 

RANKINGS: Here's the latest Power 10

St. Cloud State came out firing  

The Huskies lost in last season's national championship game. They look like a team motivated to get back there. 

After curb-stomping St. Thomas in its first two games, St. Cloud State split both series' with Minnesota State and Minnesota — with both losses only being by a goal — and then dismissing Wisconsin with ease. 

Graduate student goalie David Hrenak has been outstanding, sporting the No. 4 goals-against average in the country (1.37) and No. 6 save percentage (.943). The most important thing to remember is he's played in seven games so far, which is more than any of the goalies ranked higher than him on both of those lists. He's been consistently great in net, which has been key for St. Cloud State. 

David Hrenak had a terrific October.

The Huskies have had no trouble scoring goals, with Kevin Fitzgerald, Jami Krannila, Nolan Walker and a healthy Easton Brodzinski scoring four goals apiece in October. At the end of their October play, which ended Oct. 23 since they had the final weekend of the month off, they led the league in goals with 31. 

Lots of movement at No. 1 in the rankings 

Nothing like a rotating cast of No. 1 teams to get the season going, right? 

In total, four schools have claimed the No. 1 spot in the USCHO rankings. UMass opened the season first overall after capturing the national title last year. Then, after being swept by Minnesota State, the Mavericks held the top spot for two weeks. Michigan beat Minnesota State at the Ice Breaker Tournament, catapulting the Wolverines into No. 1. Michigan's loss to Western Michigan ended its weekly stay atop the college hockey mountain, leading St. Cloud State to take its place. 

POLL: Here's the latest USCHO poll

That all happened in *checks calendar* 31 days. 

This trend doesn't appear to be stopping any time soon. None of those teams really separated themselves in October because all are playing well. Even UMass, who started the month being swept by Minnesota State and lost an exhibition game to Dartmouth, bounced back with two riveting wins over Merrimack to end the month. 

Tons of movement elsewhere in the rankings

With all the really good matchups came a fun, constant game of musical chairs throughout the rest of the top 10. 

Boston University entered the season at No. 10 and in the final USCHO poll of the month, was clinging to the No. 19 spot. After two losses to UMass Lowell, the Terriers enter November unranked. Teams like Boston College and UMass have also fallen down the rankings over the last 31 days. 

Providence and Denver took turns going from inside the top 10 to outside the top 10 on a weekly basis. Quinnipiac slowly moved up the rankings, beginning the month at No. 9 and making the push to No. 5. The Bobcats enter November at No. 6. Minnesota Duluth also jumped around quite a bit. What made this possible was all the non-conference games these squads had against each other. 

Quinnipiac was great in October.

As the calendar flips to November, teams will play a more conference-centric schedule. The unfortunate part of that is, obviously, fewer non-conference games. The flip side is diving back into conference rivalries. 

Also, since it's the end of October, let's pour one out for the lone first-place vote Denver received for four-straight weeks to open the season. Never forget. 

Hockey East teams slacking 

This was a rough month for Hockey East teams inside the top 20. After UMass' short-lived stint at No. 1 to open the year, no Hockey East team went inside the top five. The highest-ranked team in the final poll of the month is No. 8 Providence. 

BU opened its season with splits against UConn, Sacred Heart and Merrimack and then got swept by UMass Lowell. Between wins against then-No. 18 Northeastern and then-No. 8 Denver, BC fell to Bentley, 6-2, and Colorado College, 5-3. Although Providence lost to then-No. 1 Minnesota State and then-No. 5 Minnesota Duluth, the Friars did take care of business with the rest of their October schedule. 

COMEBACK SZN: Take a look at how Western Michigan came back from down five goals

In total, Hockey East went 19-21-3 against other conferences, which isn't great for one of the premier college hockey conferences in the country and one that usually has quite a large representation at the big dance in the spring. If this keeps up, it'll spell trouble for Hockey East squads looking for tournament berths. 

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