Three of the six Division I conferences will wrap up their regular seasons this weekend -- the ECAC, CCHA and Atlantic Hockey -- before the best-of-three first-round conference tournaments begins the following week.
Only one of the six leagues eliminates teams from its postseason tournament; in Hockey East, only eight of the 10 teams make it. As of now, Massachusetts, Maine and Merrimack are fighting it out for that final spot.
On Jan. 18, Vermont stood a wretched 4-9-6. After putting in solid campaigns during its first two seasons in Hockey East, the Catamounts not only were regrouping with a younger team, but their star goalie -- Joe Fallon -- was a shell of his former self. Benched in December, Fallon saw a sports psychologist, returned and split time with Mike Spillane.
But as Fallon gradually came out of the funk, so did the Catamounts. In the past four games, Fallon has allowed four goals in leading UVM to four victories. The latest win -- a 1-0 shutout at Massachusetts-Lowell, completed Vermont's first two-game road sweep since it joined the Hockey East conference.
Fallon's early-season struggles can be attributed to him overcompensating for the five freshmen defensemen on the Catamounts roster. Concerned that his young defensemen were not strong enough to keep the front of his net clear, Fallon too often tried to police things himself.
"He was thinking about the second and third save, and forgetting about the first one. Once you do that, forget it," coach Kevin Sneddon said.
"That's a lot of what the sports psychologist would call, 'putting the mental bricks on his shoulders.' He needs to worry about doing what he can do and as a team and coaching staff, we need to worry about the pieces around him."
With his team mired in poor play, Sneddon told them that youth was no longer an excuse. The staff challenged the team to improve. "We rode the team pretty hard the first week of January," Sneddon said. "We needed to take on a more strict role as a coaching staff.
"It's gotten better in terms of accountability. Our men -- we might have been boys at the beginning -- they've handled it very, very well; the way you'd want a team to handle it."
Freshman Richard Bachman wasn't supposed to be Colorado College's No. 1 goalie when the year started -- that position was earmarked for Drew O'Connell. It didn't take long, however, for the Tigers to realize how talented their first-year player was. Over the weekend, Bachman traveled to Minnesota-Duluth and shut out the Bulldogs in both games.
For the season, Bachman is 21-5-1 with a 1.71 goals against average and .935 save percentage.
College hockey has a completely objective system -- known as the system of Pairwise comparisons -- for selecting and seeding the NCAA tournament field. You can see this system at work on CHN. The system allows fans to analyze how the NCAA bracket will take shape. Currently, Michigan, New Hampshire, Colorado College and North Dakota hold the four No. 1 seeds. The four regionals will take place in Colorado Springs, Worcester (Mass.), Albany (NY) and Madison (Wis.).
The committee, in an attempt to minimize travel and keep attendance strong, places teams that are hosting a regional in that region. They also place the No. 1 seeds in the regionals closest to its home location if possible, prioritized in order. In other words, Michigan -- which currently holds the No. 1 overall spot -- will likely get placed in Madison. Colorado College must be in Colorado Springs, leaving New Hampshire in Worcester and North Dakota in Albany.
The most likely teams to break up this party are Denver and Miami.
Miami has the best chance of catching North Dakota, though it would take some work. Denver can get hot and catch anyone, but if the Pioneers are a No. 1 seed and Colorado College isn't, then Denver would likely be placed in Colorado Springs -- putting Denver and C.C. in the same bracket. I'm not sure either team likes that idea.
College hockey players are being arrested at an unprecedented pace this season. The latest case centers around Brown freshman Harrison Zolnierczyk, who was arrested on child pornography charges last July for an incident that dates back to 2006. He played this season without anyone knowing this, but when the Canadian media reported on his failure to appear for a court date, the Providence Journal caught wind of it and reported the whole story. Brown swiftly booted Zolnierczyk off its team.
Did Brown know about any of this in advance and let Zolnierczyk play anyway? If so, that's horrendous. If not, that's negligent.
Princeton at Clarkson, 7 p.m. Friday. -- Last weekend, the Tigers inched within a point of first-place Clarkson. They already have won their first outright Ivy League title (a symbolic victory, but a good one, nonetheless) and have clinched their highest-ever finish in the ECAC. They control their own destiny for a first-ever ECAC regular-season title.
Boston College vs. Providence, home and home -- The teams are jockeying for position in the Hockey East standings. After each getting swept last weekend, they are in fourth and fifth place, respectively, but still within plenty of striking distance of second place. The top four will get home ice in the quarterfinal round of the league playoffs.
Adam Wodon is the Managing Editor for College Hockey News. He has covered college hockey as a writer and broadcaster for 19 years.