NCAA Hockey 101 is a weekly feature on U.S. Division I college hockey. Stick around and you just might learn a thing or two.
I have to admit that this time two weeks ago, I was a little incredulous. Tiny little Bemidji State had given everyone a reason to cheer for them last year when they tore through the NCAA tournament to become the first team from their tiny little four-team conference to make the Frozen Four. That was a very nice little story.
But did they deserve to be No. 6 in the country? It seemed a little silly to me. Sure they'd split with a subpar Minnesota team and that's a name that -- unfairly or not -- still has some sway around college hockey, but the Beavers hadn't really beaten anyone of note.
They only had one loss in 12 games, but they'd barely played anyone of note (sorry, Robert Morris fans, it's true) and that loss was to the so-so Gophers.
Then they proved me wrong.
On Nov. 27 they stunned No. 1 Miami, the team that beat them in the NCAA semifinals last season, 3-2. Of course, the next night they lost 2-1 in overtime to unranked but strong Ohio State, but still -- the Beavers proved they are a "for-real" team. That weekend opened a lot of eyes and they jumped to No. 5 in the country then swept Niagara, outscoring the Purple Eagles 11-4.
It's been a pretty upside down and very odd first half of the season in college hockey, but perhaps nothing is odder than these Beavers having scored 62 goals and conceded just 28 (the nation's stingiest goals allowed per game) for the best goal differential in the country.
Led by a pair of forwards -- junior Matt Read and freshman Jordan George -- who have 42 combined points in 16 games, and sophomore goalie Dan Bakala whose stats are a ridiculous 1.73/.935, the Beavers have skyrocketed to a 13-2-1 record. With only a handful of remaining opponents that aren't considerably worse than them, it's getting increasingly more difficult to imagine a scenario in which the Beavers will lose more than four more games the rest of the season.
It's pretty obvious by now that they've earned their No. 4 ranking. They will easily make the NCAA tournament this year and will be just the second (and last) College Hockey America team of all time to win 30 games.
Plus, no one on the corner has swagger like the Beavers.