ASNetminding: Storylines to watch in 2016

If the rest of the second half of the season goes anything like the Florida College Hockey Classic, toss out the rankings and hold on to your seats.

With top-ranked Providence, fourth-ranked Boston College and ninth-ranked Cornell in the field, all with a Pairwise rating ranging from 3 to 15, the tournament had the toughest field of all the holiday tournaments.

Ohio State (5-11-0) was the afterthought from the lowest-ranked conference, the Big Ten.

And the Buckeyes are also the tournament champions. They not only beat the Eagles on Monday night, 3-2, they demolished once-beaten Cornell by an 8-0 score.


Cornell (9-2-2) was on track to be the next “one to watch” after it knocked Providence from the unbeaten ranks in Monday’s opening game, 2-1 in overtime. It was the Friars’ first loss in 20 games, dating back to last March.

There are no longer any unbeaten teams in men’s Division I hockey, but Providence, (13-1-3) rallied Tuesday night to hand Boston College a 2-1 loss in the consolation game. The Eagles (13-4-1) have lost three straight. Their next series is on Jan. 8-9 against — Providence.

A when-will-they-lose watch won’t be part of 2016, thanks to Cornell, but buckle up and here are a few storylines to follow:

1,000 victories at BC

Sometime in January, Boston College coach Jerry York will make history with his 1,000th career coaching victory. The Eagles’ coach sit at 997 wins following the holiday tournament losses in Florida, and his team has dropped three straight.

It won’t get easier to start the second half. Providence and Boston College play a home-and-home series Jan. 8-9.

York got his first coaching gig at Clarkson and went 18-15-0 in the 1972-73 season. He moved to Bowling Green from to start the 1979 and stayed through the 1993-94 season and has been coaching at his alma mater ever since.
Can Penn State pull it off?
The Nittany Lions (11-3-3) have made school history with their No. 14 ranking, now it’s time to see if they can win their first Big Ten title. Penn State is just 2-2-0 in conference play, but Minnesota State (7-8 overall, 4-3 Big Ten) and Michigan (9-3-3, 4-2-1) are within striking distance.
Can Quinnipiac continue?
Outside of Quinnipiac (15-1-2), many NCHC teams ease into the season with light schedules so it’s difficult to see how the league compares. With Cornell’s (9-1-2) win over Providence on Monday, it looks like the ECAC is going to be a dogfight heading into the second half of the season.

Harvard is 6-1-3. Rensselaer (10-6-3) and St. Lawrence (10-5-2) also look strong.
Any given night …
Parity reigns in the WCHA.

Minnesota State leads the league with 22 points and a 9-1-4 league record, but close behind is  Bowling Green with 20 points (8-2-4) and Michigan Tech at 19 (9-6-1).

The real fight will be for the final league playoff spot as three teams — Bemidji State (10 points),  Alaska (9 points) and Alabama Huntsville (6 points) — are vying for the eighth and final playoff spot.
Can Berry nice start continue?
North Dakota coach Brad Berry is living the dream in his first year at the helm of his alma mater.

When former coach Dave Hakstol left to coach the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers after making the NCAA tournament in all 11 seasons as the team’s head coach, he wasn’t the only loss. Goalie Zane McIntyre, who played nearly every minute last season and was voted the best goalie in college hockey, turned pro and is currently with the Boston Bruins’ farm club, and defenseman Jordan Schmaltz also left to join the St. Louis Blues.

In come 15 freshmen and surprising goalie play. Cam Johnson has yet to be beaten in net and walk-on goalie Matt Hrynkiw is deserving of an MVP award after backstopping the Fighting Hawks to a 9-2-1 record when Johnson was out with an injury.

Could the best be yet to come? Entering the season highly  touted Matej Tomek, still out with injury, was regarded as the team’s No. 1 goalie and he is expected to return.

UND’s 16 wins lead the nation, and its CBS line of Drake Caggiula, Brock Boeser and Nick Schmaltz have combined for 29 goals and 46 assists. Boeser and Schmaltz are currently competing for Team USA at the world championships in Finland.

The Fighting Hawks are ranked second and third in the latest polls with a 16-2-2 record.

Denver Broncos quarterbacks aren’t the only ones shouting “Omaha” these days. The Mavs (14-3-1) are 8-0 in their new Baxter Arena and finished the first half 10-0 against non-conference foes.

According to Pairwise, the Mavs’ first-half schedule was the second toughest in the country behind Quinnipiac.
Offensive defenseman
Just two defensemen in college hockey are averaging a point a game — Providence’s Jake Walman and St. Cloud’s Ethan Prow.

Both are vital to their team’s success. Prow keys SCSU’s power play an the Huskies are 12-2 with him in the lineup and 2-2 without him.

Providence’s loss on Monday to Cornell came with Walman sidelined by injury. He's listed as day-to-day and had to miss playing for Team Canada in Finland because of the injury.
Holiday tournaments
There are seven holiday tournaments around the country this week, and the only conference play features Quinnipiac vs. Princeton in an ECAC matchup.

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