ASN ELITE EIGHT No. 1 Penn State's happy in Hockey Valley

1 | penn state

» RECORD: 16-2-1 » LAST WEEK: 2

Happy Valley is also Hockey Valley with the nation’s top-ranked team. Their strength of schedule might be the worst among the top 22 teams, but you can’t look past their consistency. That has been hard to come by in college hockey this season. They also boast the country’s highest-scoring offense (4.58 per game). Penn State has been tested a few times, most notably against Notre Dame (win and tie) and Ohio State (split). They haven't had any slip ups since. After its popular hashtag #WeAre, Penn State can add: No. 1.

2 | BOSTON UNIVERSITY

» RECORD: 13-5-2 » LAST WEEK: 5

The Terriers battled through adversity when several players, including Clayton Keller, were sidelined with injuries. However, BU is arguably the deepest team in the country and did not struggle. Now everyone is back in the lineup and the Terriers are playing their best hockey, including a sweep of Boston College in a home-and-home. BU has won six in a row. Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson has seven goals in his last four games. The power play looks sharp and Jake Oettinger has four shutouts this season.

3 | DENVER

» RECORD: 15-5-4 » LAST WEEK: 1

The Pios were shut out 3-0 by Ben Blacker in a hostile environment on Friday night at Western Michigan. Saturday night was a different story as the Pioneers put up a seven spot and chased Blacker with four goals on 12 shots. Denver showed its depth, playing without Troy Terry, who apparently injured a wrist injury during Friday’s game. Evan Ritt, Logan O'Connor and Jarid Lukosevicius stepped up and had big games.

4 | MINNESOTA DULUTH

» RECORD: 13-5-4 » LAST WEEK: 4

The Bulldogs had a rough go on Friday night when St. Cloud’s Jeff Smith made 41 saves in a 2-1 win. However, UMD salvaged a split with a 4-3 win Saturday night. They remain one of the best teams in the country. After blowing a three-goal lead, Kyle Osterberg came to the rescue in OT to send the UMD faithful home happy. The Bulldogs have cooled off after a hot start and long tenure as the No. 1 team in the nation. They head to North Dakota for a two-game series at the Ralph this weekend.

5 | UMASS LOWELL

» RECORD: 15-5-3 » LAST WEEK: 7

The River Hawks, on a seven-game winning streak, face a good Providence team this weekend. Lowell continues to play a strong possession game with minimal mistakes. Norm Bazin continues to get it done without a team loaded with NHL draft picks (this year he has four, two are goalies). He finds players who are the hardest-working guys on every shift. Look no further than leading scorer Joe Gambardella.

6 | MINNESOTA

» RECORD: 13-5-2 » LAST WEEK: Not ranked

The Gophers are on a six-game winning streak heading into the tough part of their conference schedule. They made easy work of a Michigan team in the midst of a rebuild behind a hat trick from Vinni Lettieri on Saturday. But the Gophers learned this week that sophomore forward Tommy Novak will miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury. That’s a big blow. Novak not only provided offense but was a consummate team player able to play with anyone. Don Lucia and the Gophers will take the "next man up" attitude.

7 | NORTH DAKOTA

» RECORD: 13-7-3 »LAST WEEK: 6

The Fighting Hawks lost to the red-hot Redhawks of Miami on Friday night, giving up five goals in the third period in a 6-3 loss. They rebounded with a 3-1 victory Saturday in which Cam Johnson only had to make 14 saves. UND was much better in the third period having played most of it in Miami's end. They got some depth scoring from Rhett Gardner and Dixon Bowen. Coach Brad Berry said his players were mentally stronger this time around, which is exactly how UND wants it heading into a huge weekend series with Minnesota Duluth.

8 | UNION

» RECORD: 16-5-2 »LAST WEEK: Not ranked

The Dutchmen have won eight of their last 10 games with the two losses against Boston University and North Dakota. It looks as though the ECAC is wide open. Harvard struggled this weekend and didn't score a goal until 11 seconds remained in regulation on Saturday. As for Union, Vecchione, Foo and Sebastian Vidmar continue to make trouble for opposing coaches and goaltenders. With some secondary scoring and good goaltending Union could be the team to beat come March in the ECAC.

DROPPING OUT

» Harvard, Vermont

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