College Hockey Roudup: Penn State’s Momentum, Weirdness in 2012-13, NCAA’s Most Dominant Team

College hockey may be taking a backseat once again as the NHL has made its triumphant return, but it’s still as compelling as ever. The 2012-13 season is utterly unpredictable and in some cases that’s good, in others bad.

The games have been mostly entertaining, but the results continue to shock fans on a weekly basis it seems. Top teams are faltering, while some of the mid-majors are really starting to push for the spotlight.

That’s the joy of college athletics I suppose. It’s never perfect and it seems like no team can ever feel safe as the top dog, but I don’t recall a year that’s been so confounding.

Either way, it’s still fun. There are still plenty of big games on TV late in the season and there are a lot of games that are going to matter a lot in these coming weeks.

More on the weirdness that is 2012-13, the rapid growth of Penn State’s hockey program and find out which team is college hockey’s most dominant this year.

Penn State Hockey Already Making Waves

Despite the NHL’s return on Jan. 19, Penn State and Vermont sold out the home of the Philadelphia Flyers on the night the big club opened its NHL season there earlier in the afternoon. A sellout crowd of 19,529 fans, mostly Penn Staters, filled the building for the game, making it one of the largest crowds for a college hockey game at an NHL venue, not including Frozen Fours.

It’s a positive step for college hockey, but more positive for Penn State which is looking to gain momentum heading into its first season in the Big Ten next year.

For the Nittany Lions, it’s been an up and down year on the ice with low lows of losing to Arizona State’s club hockey team at home and suffering a few losses to Division III teams as well. The high highs however now include a 4-2 win at the jam-packed Wells Fargo Center and wins over future Big Ten foes Ohio State and Michigan State. The latter victory came on the Big Ten Network for a national TV audience.

This is all positive momentum for a team that is only in its first year of existence at the Division I level.

Chris Botta of Sports Business Journal wrote that Penn State’s already making a lot of money as a program and picking up steam.

In addition to the monumental financial gift from the Pegula family, Penn State is selling out ad space for its new facility and doing well in its fundraising efforts. From Botta:

More than $5 million has been raised in private gifts, halfway to a goal of $10 million by 2014. Considering that many Division I schools spend $1 million annually on their hockey programs, hockey could become a revenue-generator for Penn State. Football and basketball are the only sports at the school that currently make money, according to university officials.

The ease with which Penn State is making the transition to major Division I hockey is not necessarily a surprise due to the long-held desire for this to happen one day. However, if it can in fact turn a profit by year 2, that’s astounding.

After PSU’s win over a scuffling Michigan State squad Saturday night, I wondered on Twitter how quickly this team can become competitive. With this kind of momentum, the weight of the Big Ten in recruiting American players, the quality of Pegula Ice Arena, competitiveness could come sooner rather than later.

Penn State fans will need a little patience though. The on-ice product isn’t going to match the business success right away. The Nittany Lions have a good core of players right now, but it’s still going to need some bigger-name recruits in the coming years to be a championship-contending team. It’s easy to see, however, that it will happen and possibly in record time for an upstart program.

Penn State becoming a major player within a few years and potentially a money-maker for the university in such short order is going to force other schools, particularly Big Ten schools, to pay attention. It would be hard for any program to replicate what Penn State is doing, but it is proving it possible even beyond the initial gift.

The 2012-13 Season is Nuts

Some evidence that this season is utterly insane and unpredictable:

Boston College, machine like early in the season, has come crashing back to earth. Hard. Swept by struggling Maine on home ice was a rude awakening for the nation’s former No. 1 team and defending national champion.

Current No. 1 Minnesota lost at home to Minnesota State, the Gophers’ second loss to the Mavericks of the season, but bounced back with a win on the road (not without controversy as MSU’s comeback bid had a goal disallowed).

Notre Dame went into the winter break as the No. 2 team in the country and came out of it losing six of its next eight games with losses to Minnesota (forgivable), Bowling Green, Alaska (a home sweep) and Ferris State.

Perennial elite programs Michigan and Michigan State are at the bottom of the CCHA standings in the league’s last year of existence. The rivals face off this weekend in what has become a competition to not be in last place.

St. Cloud State has a 15-10-1 overall record, but sits in first place in the WCHA with a 12-5-1 conference record. Nebraska with a similar overall record is tied for second with Minnesota, each just one point behind SCSU.

Quinnipiac, meanwhile, owns the nation’s longest unbeaten streak. The Bobcats haven’t lost since Nov. 6 on this 17-game stretch navigating a tough ECAC. QU is the No. 1 team in every computer ranking. For real. Quinnipiac, which was thisclose to losing its head coach to UMass over the summer. Guess Rand Pecknold made the right call. Expect him to become one of the hottest names if there’s a coaching carousel soon.

Niagara is the king of Atlantic Hockey, nine points clear of the next closest team in the conference standings. The Purple Eagles have lost just one in-conference game so far this season.

Up is down in college hockey. Parity reigns supreme. Anybody can beat anybody. This is the new college hockey I guess. Should be interesting to see what happens after realignment.

The Most Dominant Team in Hockey is…

The University of Minnesota women. The Gophers’ winning  streak has now hit 34 games, dating back to last season. That is a new NCAA record.

The record was actually broken on Friday night and extended with a win over Wisconsin, the previous record holder. The sweep of the Badgers was the first for Minnesota since 2003.

This team is absolutely ridiculous. Currently at 26-0-0 on the season, Minnesota’s women have outscored opponents 147-20 (!!!!!!!!!). The Gophers boast the nation’s top two leading scorers and best goaltender.

Amanda Kessel (USA Hockey)

Junior Amanda Kessel, the younger sister of Maple Leafs star Phil, is in the middle of one of the most productive seasons in the history of women’s hockey. Through 25 games she has a staggering 75 points, including 34 goals. That is a three-points-per-game average. See you in Sochi, Ms. Kessel.

Minnesota freshman Hannah Brandt is the next closest player to Kessel nationally with 62 points (25-37). The next closest player to the Minnesota duo trails them by 10 points.

Goaltender Noora Raty, a native of Finland, leads the nation with 10 shutouts in 24 starts. She also has an astonishing 0.90 goals-against average and .958 save percentage. She’s second behind Harvard’s Laura Bellamy in both categories, but has played twice as many minutes.

This is one of the most incredible performances in the history of hockey, men’s or women’s. This type of domination is rare and hopefully sheds more light on collegiate women’s hockey.

College Hockey, Inc’s New Toy

If you’re a college hockey fan, you undoubtedly already know about this, but College Hockey, Inc. recently unveiled a new statistics platform for college hockey that has advanced sorting filters that you can tailor however you like.

This is a great tool for journalists and sports information directors, but those hardcore fans that have to know who has the best faceoff percentage in college hockey or who had the most goals after the New Year or just the simple who has the most points this year have an absolute must-bookmark link.

Here it is. Kill your productivity with this magnificent tool: http://collegehockeyinc.com/stats/filters.php

Apologies for the lack of content of late. A few projects outside the blog have taken precedence of late, so things will be a little slow for a few weeks here. Hopefully we’ll get back to normal soon. Thanks for your patience.

About Chris Peters

Editor of The United States of Hockey. Contributor to CBSSports.com, USA Hockey Magazine and more. Former USA Hockey PR guy. Current Iowan.
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One Response to College Hockey Roudup: Penn State’s Momentum, Weirdness in 2012-13, NCAA’s Most Dominant Team

  1. “College Hockey Roudup: Penn States Momentum, Weirdness in 2012-13, NCAAs Most Dominant Team |
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