Another week in the books and with October hockey in the books, here are three things I think about the WCHA this week.
• OK, so Michigan Tech wasn’t going to go undefeated in conference play. But just a week after being swept by Bemidji State, the Huskies put up a three-point weekend against conference favorite Denver. Don’t look now, but Tech is all alone in second place with the league’s worst team, Minnesota State, headed to Houghton this weekend. If the Huskies sweep the Mavericks this weekend, they’ll almost certainly avoid last place in the conference standings this season. If Tech is for real, it is this weekend’s series that will tell the story. One would expect a team to have no trouble getting hyped to play the Denvers of the world. But with a banged up, bad hockey team coming to their building, getting ready this weekend may prove a bit more difficult.
• As I said before the start of the season, way too many folks were overvaluing the goaltending in Anchorage. One of the darlings of the preseason media poll, several believed the Seawolves were ready to compete for a home ice spot after UAA upset the Gophers in the first round last year to advance to the Final Five. Fact is, UAA got a nice five game stretch from Chris Kamal at just the right time last season. Anchorage didn’t bring in any blue-chip freshmen, and other than that five game stretch, Kamal and Rob Gunderson have done zilch to prove themselves among the best in the league. They did lose their best offensive threat in Tommy Grant. And all of that led many to believe Anchorage actually improved during the offseason? I didn’t buy in, putting UAA 10th in my poll, and that may be a little high. The Seawolves have had trouble scoring so far in conference play, so unless Kamal is going channel his ‘inner-late-2010-11’ self, UAA will continue to struggle to get points in the conference. There’s simply too much uncertainty around this squad right now.
• Speaking of uncertainty, it was reported by Brad Schlossman over the weekend that Mike Lee has an injury — potentially a serious one — that could cost him the rest of this season. If that’s the case, St. Cloud State could be in free fall mode. Already shaky along the blueline, adding a major question mark in goal could be too much for SCSU to overcome this season. Lee has the ability to win games by himself when he’s right, and it remains to be seen whether the Huskies have another goalie that can do that. Ryan Faragher pitched a shut out Friday in Grand Forks and was solid this weekend in helping the Huskies get two points at Ralph Engelstad. But is a long term answer in goal for the Huskies? Behind Faragher, SCSU has former Hill-Murray standout Joe Phillippi and senior Nate Hardy. Neither have played a single minute of meaningful hockey past the NAHL level. Until two weeks ago, neither had Faragher. More should be known about Lee’s status as soon as this week, but reports from the Granite City don’t sound encouraging.