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ASN ELITE EIGHT | Minnesota Duluth slides back into top spot

1 | MINNESOTA DULUTH

» RECORD: 12-3-3 » LAST WEEK: 2

The Bulldogs did not compete in a holiday tournament and were idle for the first weekend of the season's second half. But they are the consensus No. 1 for several reasons. Mostly, they are consistently a tough out every time they step on the ice. Also, Denver — the previous No. 1 in the Elite Eight — went winless over the weekend. Duluth might not have to play without Joey Anderson, who is playing for Team USA at the World Juniors tournament. The latest possible game for Team USA is Thursday while the Bulldogs don’t play again until Friday. Most college hockey teams aren’t so fortunate.

2 | PENN STATE

» RECORD: 13-1-1 » LAST WEEK: 3

The Nittany Lions continue to set new heights for the young program. They lead the nation in scoring, shots per game, plus/minus, and faceoff percentage but are about to enter the tough part of their schedule in the Big Ten. They open the second half with two games at Ohio State, another team that had some early season success. Can Penn State continue to prove skeptics wrong and skate to their first-ever NCAA Tournament bid?

3 | DENVER

» RECORD: 12-4-4 » LAST WEEK: 1

After the holidays DU was greeted by Providence College, a team desperate to make some noise against a highly ranked non-conference opponent. It didn’t bode well for the Pios either that two of their best players were not in the lineup. Troy Terry is with Team USA at the World Juniors and Henrik Borgstrom was out with an undisclosed illness. After trailing for most of Friday's game, Denver squeaked out a tie before falling Saturday night to the Friars. Denver fans should not be too concerned. The Pios remain a talented team. They just need to stay healthy and get some bodies back.

4 | HARVARD

» RECORD: 9-2-1 » LAST WEEK: 5

The Crimson are unbeaten in their last four games, three of those wins against ECAC opponents. Their latest victim was RPI, 5-1 behind a balanced attack with 13 players on the score sheet. They continue to be led by Alex Kerfoot, Ryan Donato and Tyler Moy up front. Harvard was without stud defensemen Adam Fox, who is with Team USA at the World Juniors. Harvard’s next two games are big ones against Quinnipiac and Princeton. The Tigers swept the Bobcats earlier this season. It will be interesting to see how the Crimson fare against improved Princeton.

5 | UMASS LOWELL

» RECORD: 12-5-3 » LAST WEEK: 7

The River Hawks won the Ledyard Bank Classic at Dartmouth over the weekend with victories against Colgate and the Big Green in the championship game. Joe Gambardella was named tournament MVP and rightfully so. He tallied 7 points (2 goals and 5 assists). Gambardella has been at the forefront of this team’s success since the day he arrived on campus back in 2013. He has now eclipsed the 30 point mark each of the last three seasons and this year he is on pace for almost 60. C.J. Smith is on pace to eclipse 30 points for the third consecutive season.

6 | NORTH DAKOTA

» RECORD: 10-6-3 » LAST WEEK: Not ranked

It was another successful trip to the Empire State for the Fighting Hawks, who took down another top-ranked opponent in New York. This time it was the offensive powerhouse of Union College in Schenectady. Brad Berry summed up the 3-1 victory: “To win games like this against great teams, your best players have to be your best players, but I thought all of our team chipped in.” Without Tyson Jost and Brock Boeser, other players stepped up. Austin Poganski scored just 11 seconds into the game to quiet the sold out crowd and then set up Shane Gersich on the game-winner later in the contest. It was an imperative non-conference win for the Fighting Hawks, who look for more consistency in NCHC play starting against Nebraska Omaha Friday on ASN.

7 | BOSTON UNIVERSITY

» RECORD: 10-5-2 » LAST WEEK: 6

The Terriers were idle this past weekend and that was probably for the best with seven players representing their respective countries at the World Junior tournament. They had six with Team USA: forwards Clayton Keller, Jordan Greenway, Kieffer Bellows and Patrick Harper; defenseman Charlie McAvoy; and goaltender Jake Oettinger. Freshman defensemen Dante Fabbro is playing for Canada. Keller leads Team USA in scoring and McAvoy has been their best defensemen on both sides of the puck. Harper has played his role on the fourth line nicely and the 6-5, 230-pound Greenway is manhandling opponents. The Terriers will face Union without the aforementioned players. BU prides itself on depth, but how will they fare against one of the better teams in the country without their best players?

8 | WESTERN MICHIGAN

» RECORD: 10-5-3 » LAST WEEK: Not ranked

The Broncos won the final Great Lakes Invitational played at Joe Louis Arena, home of the Detroit Red Wings. The GLI was created to promote college hockey in the Detroit area and hosted by Michigan Tech. WMU blanked Tech 1-0 in the championship game behind the brilliant 23-save performance of Ben Blacker. He is 5-0 on the season with a 1.65 goals against average and .939 save percentage. Matheson Iacopelli, Griffen Molino, and Colt Conrad picked up where they left off before the break and provided much of the offense for the Broncos. Next up is a pair of big NCHC games with Denver.

DROPPING OUT

» Boston College, Vermont

Brendan Jones is ASN’s college hockey analyst. Follow him on Twitter at @MustBeJonesy.

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