Then there are those teams who continue to exude greatness in their programs. For much of last year (after December) six or so teams held the standard for tops in NCAA Division 1 Men’s hockey: Denver (the eventual champion), Minnesota-Duluth (the runner-up), Harvard, UMass-Lowell, and Boston University. Notre Dame, a surprise Frozen Four participant, held court in the latter half of the top 10 teams for much of the season.
But what separated these teams from the rest of the pack? Better yet, what stats defined a great hockey team in 2016-2017?
Playing close games and winning only a few of them wasn’t enough to get you over the hump in 2016-2017, you had to win big. It’s no surprise that two of the most dominant teams in the latter half of the season, Denver and Harvard, ended up in the Frozen Four. The Pioneers and the Crimson had goal margins of 1.84 and 1.92, respectively, meaning there were many times where they had the game in hand with plenty of time to go (one can look at Denver’s first three games in the D1 hockey tournament for that stat to be true).
UMass-Lowell and Minnesota-Duluth were third and fifth in goal margin, respectively.
The statistic “shots on goal margin” also applies here- Denver and Harvard were both in the top 10 here as well.
It’s not enough to be great at either offense or defense- Penn State found the limits of one-way greatness that after their drubbing of Union. You have to be great at both. Three out of the four participants of the Frozen Four had both top 10 offenses and defenses, with Harvard ranking in the top-5 for both offense and defense.
Percentage of Shots Taken Versus Opponents
Division 1 College Hockey is a curious sport to keep track of. Some non-playoffs teams can be on top when it comes to statistics where you’d expect to find some of the top teams. This statistic is not one of them. If your team wasn’t about 50% in this statistic, you didn’t have a chance at success, though Ohio State did make the tournament even with a 47% Corsi adjusted stat. All four Frozen Four teams were in the top 20 in this stat, with Denver in 6th at 56%.
Corsi is an advanced statistic commonly used in the NHL. To clarify, “the stat refers to “close game” situations and is only measured when the score is within a goal in the first two periods and tied in the third period. This reduces score effects of games that aren’t close when the team leading goes into a defensive shell and the team trailing attempts many more shots, especially in the third period.”
This is the formula for Corsi:
(Shots on Target For + Missed Shots For + Blocked Shots Against ) - (Shots on Target Against + Missed Shots Against + Blocked Shots For)
The good teams are able to keep possession of the puck when it matters most. Denver was third in the NCAA with a 57.9 Corsi close percentage, while Minnesota-Duluth was 10th.
High Fenwick Percentage
Another commonly referenced advanced statistic, Fenwick is like Corsi except it removes blocked shots. Denver, Harvard, and Minnesota-Duluth all were in the top ten of the NCAA when it came to total Fenwick percentage, with Denver the sixth-highest at 56.4%.
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