In newest college hockey rankings, Gophers nowhere to be found

by Max Sanders

In many ways, the state of Minnesota is doing just fine in men’s college hockey. The state has two teams in the top 20 of the latest USCHO rankings, one of which is making its way up the rankings, climbing all the way to No. 6 in the nation this week.

The problem for people in the metro area is that the team making its move is not the Gophers, rather it is the soon-to-be Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s Bemidji State.

The Gophers men’s hockey team has struggled mightily this year, and with a record of 4-7-1 are nowhere close to being ranked in this week’s poll.

Minnesota is represented in the top 20 only by Bemidji State at No. 6 and Minnesota-Duluth at No. 14.

Both schools made significant jumps in the past week, as Bemidji State climbed two spots to its current position and Minnesota-Duluth jumped all the way from No. 20 to No. 14.

As for the other Minnesota school, Gophers head coach Don Lucia’s squad is far removed from its preseason No. 6 ranking. While a slow start was predicted due to opening the year against national powerhouses North Dakota and Denver, what was unforeseen were the injuries, departures and off-the-ice issues that have plagued and threatened to derail this year’s team.

Last weekend perfectly illustrated how Minnesota’s season has gone thus far. With 2-0 leads in both games against Minnesota-Duluth, the Gophers had a chance to make a strong statement and right the ship after a split the previous weekend against Bemidji State. Instead, Minnesota couldn’t work with a lead and lost both games.

If the Gophers are to go on a run and indeed right the ship, the schedule will certainly allow them to do so. Minnesota has winnable series beginning this weekend against Michigan and Michigan State, and follow that with series against Minnesota State and Michigan Tech. The Gophers can easily take four or five points in that stretch, which would likely allow them to return to the rankings and become a threat in the WCHA conference. Gaining points against inferior teams is an absolute necessity for Lucia’s team at this point. Already fading in WCHA conference standings, the Gophers face a difficult schedule to close out the year. After the annual Dodge Holiday Classic, Minnesota will face North Dakota, Denver, St. Cloud State, Colorado College and Wisconsin to end the year. If the Gophers fail to earn four or five points in their next three series combined, it could be a long rest of the season for the Minnesota men’s hockey team.

WCHA Teams in the Rankings:

No. 2 Denver (Up one spot from last week)

No. 4 North Dakota (Down two spots from last week)

No. 5 Colorado College (Up two spots from last week)

No. 14 Minnesota-Duluth (Up six spots from last week)

No. 15 Wisconsin (Unchanged)