The top three teams in the INCH Power Rankings all won weekend tournaments despite missing some top players at the World Junior Championships. Can it really be that when they return to the lineup this week Notre Dame, Boston University and Minnesota will be even better?
Here's how the Inside College Hockey editors and staff rank the nation's top teams (along with a note for each team).
1. Notre Dame
Since being swept out of the first round of the 2006 CCHA playoffs by Alaska, the Fighting Irish are 7-0-1 against the Nanooks and have outscored them by a 26-9 margin.
Record: 16-3-2 (10-2-2 CCHA)
Last week: W vs. Union, 3-1; W vs. Minnesota Duluth, 3-1
This week: vs. Alaska, vs. Alaska
2. Boston University
Lots of people judge a team's worth by how it performs outside of its league. BU is a perfect 7-0-0 in nonleague games this season, including wins over Michigan and Denver. Its only remaining nonleaguers are in the Beanpot, in which the Terriers have traditionally done quite well.
Record: 13-4-1 (6-4-1 Hockey East)
Last week: W vs. Rensselaer, 6-2; W at Denver, 4-1
This week: vs. Maine
Taking over in Cade Fairchild's absence, freshman defenseman Aaron Ness had a goal and two assists in the Gophers' wins against Brown and Northeastern and was named MVP of the Dodge Holiday Classic.
Record: 10-3-5 (7-2-3 WCHA)
Last week: W vs. Brown, 6-2; W vs. Northeastern, 3-2 OT
This week: at North Dakota, at North Dakota
This season is shaping up to be one of the best ever at Cornell, and fans will get to relive past glories when the team dons sweaters bearing names of Big Red greats this weekend against Niagara.
Record: 9-1-3 (6-0-2 ECAC Hockey)
Last week: W at Massachusetts, 5-2
This week: vs. Niagara, vs. Niagara
One goal on 34 shots in a loss to BU meant the Pioneers didn't get a fourth consecutive Denver Cup title. And they hope it's not a preview of life without Tyler Bozak.
Record: 13-6-2 (9-4-1 WCHA)
Last week: T vs. Holy Cross, 2-2 OT; L vs. Boston University, 4-1
This week: vs. Michigan Tech, vs. Michigan Tech
Consistent teams win the games they are favored in and take care of home ice. Northeastern's four losses have all come against ranked opponents -- BU, Minnesota, Princeton and UNH -- and none of them have come at Matthews Arena, where the Huskies are 4-0-1.
Record: 12-4-2 (8-2-1 Hockey East)
Last week: W vs. Western Michigan, 3-1; L at Minnesota, 3-2 OT
This week: vs. Merrimack, at Merrimack
Two of Princeton's three losses this season were shutouts at home by Cornell and Dartmouth. That's especially surprising when you see that the Tigers have scored four goals or more in 11 of their 16 games.
Record: 13-3-0 (8-2-0 ECAC Hockey)
Last week: W vs. Minnesota State, 5-2; W vs. Nebraska-Omaha, 5-1; W vs. Harvard, 5-1; L vs. Dartmouth, 4-0
This week: vs. Union, vs. Rensselaer
Freshman goalie Rob Madore made 29 saves in his first career shutout in his eighth career start in the Catamount Cup championship game. Vermont is 7-1-0 in its past eight games.
Record: 11-4-2 (6-3-1 Hockey East)
Last week: W vs. Colgate, 6-4; W vs. St. Lawrence, 4-0
This week: vs. Boston College, vs. Boston College
9. Miami (Ohio)
You know it's not your weekend when you outshoot your opponents by a 100-38 margin but lose twice. That's what happened to the RedHawks against Clarkson and Army at the Ohio Hockey Classic.
Record: 12-5-3 (10-2-2 CCHA)
Last week: L vs. Clarkson, 4-2; L vs. Army, 3-2
This week: at Michigan, at Michigan
10. Boston College
BC's 3-2 win at home against Vermont in November was one of just two times the Catamounts have lost a one-goal game -- Vermont is 7-2-0 in the close ones -- and the Eagles are 4-0-1 in their past five games against UVM, this week's opponent.
Record: 9-5-2 (5-4-2 Hockey East)
Last week: L at New Brunswick, 5-3 (Ex.); W at New Brunswick, 4-2 (Ex.)
This week: at Vermont, at Vermont
For the rest of the top 20 for this week's Power Rankings, check out Inside College Hockey.