With week one in the WCHA in the rear-view mirror and conference play getting underway this weekend, here is a look at where the WCHA stands — at least in one man’s point of view.
1 — Colorado College (Last week: 1)
• The Tigers are tops on my list until someone beats them. They were just one of two teams to not play a game that counted last weekend, although they routed the U.S. Under 18 Team in exhibition action.
2 — Denver (Last week: 3)
• Like in-state rival CC, Denver also shutout the U-18 team in an exhibition game last weekend. Much will be known about the Pioneers after this weekend’s trip to Bean Town to face both BC and BU.
3 — Minnesota (Last week: 5)
• Kent Patterson held Sacred Heart without a single goal in 120 minutes of hockey last weekend and the Gophers’ freshmen showed up in a big way. If those two trends continue, Minnesota will surprise this season.
4 — North Dakota (Last week: 2)
• The Sioux struggled at home last weekend, needing a third period comeback to beat Air Force before dropping a 6-2 decision to the nation’s new No. 1 team, Boston College. Aaron Dell needs to be better, or Brad Eidsness might do to him what Dell did to Eidsness a year ago.
5 — Minnesota Duluth (Last week: 6)
• The national champs split at home, but split with one of the country’s best teams. A rivalry series against the Gophers this weekend at AMSOIL Arena will say a lot about where the Bulldogs stand early in the season.
6 — Nebraska-Omaha (Last week: 4)
• A bad loss on Saturday to Colgate highlighted the inconsistencies in goaltender John Faulkner’s game. And with Alex Hudson still out because of a suspension, the Mavericks will need Faulkner to be better than that.
7 — Minnesota State (Last week: 8 )
• The purple Mavericks salvaged a split at nationally ranked RPI last weekend, but scored just two goals in the process. Austin Lee leads the early battle in goal, although coach Troy Jutting will probably let that battle continue for the next couple of weeks.
8 — Alaska-Anchorage (Last week: 10)
• UAA came from behind to grab a tie Friday against Clarkson before coming from behind again in a nonconference win over St. Cloud State. Mickey Spencer had a monster weekend, including a hat trick against the Huskies.
9 — Bemidji State (Last week: 11)
• BSU beat top-ranked Miami Friday and led after two periods on Saturday but couldn’t quite hold onto the sweep. Had they won twice, they’d be much higher on this list.
10 — Wisconsin (Last week: 7)
• The Badgers are extremely young and they will struggle early on. They lost to Northern Michigan Friday before salvaging a split Saturday, but finding goal scoring will be a season-long problem in Madison.
11 — St. Cloud State (Last week: 9)
• SCSU struggled in third periods last season and that issue surfaced again Saturday against Anchorage. If the opening weekend is any indication, Mike Lee is going to keep the Huskies in every game this season.
12 — Michigan Tech (Last week: 12)
• It was a great first act for Mel Pearson in Houghton, but a sweep of American International only closes the gap between Tech and the No. 11 spot in this poll. More success against Wisconsin this weekend could change that however.
THIS WEEKEND AROUND THE WCHA
Wisconsin at Michigan Tech
• Between Brett Olson, Blake Pietilla, Jordan Baker and Steve Seigo, it’s possible the Huskies have the better goal scorers in this series. With the Badgers better on the blue line, the difference in this series comes down to goaltending. Whoever figures it out this weekend will have the edge in this one.
Minnesota at Minnesota Duluth
• The Gophers have a chance to prove last weekend’s 15 goal outburst wasn’t a fluke. Minnesota needs production from freshmen like Kyle Rau and Seth Ambroz, but if they also get production from guys like Jake Hansen, they’re going to win a lot of games. Look for the UMD power play to make a difference here. They were 2 of 8 Friday in a win and just 1 of 6 Saturday in a loss. That one goal will make a difference in what should be a pair of close games.
Bemidji State at Colorado College
• This is a series the Tigers should control, especially at home. But the Beavers have a way of slowing down teams to play at their pace. If BSU can do that at Colorado Springs, they could steal a point or two from this one. But if the Tigers control the pace, BSU likely can’t keep up.
Denver in Boston to take on BC, BU
• An early season trip to Boston will be a definite measuring stick for preseason conference favorite Denver. Without the luxury of playing a series last weekend, the Pios head east to face the nation’s top-ranked team first in what could be a wake up call for netminder Adam Murray, who has struggled in his two years in Denver thus far.
UNO, UAA in Alaska Goal Rush
• Like last weekend, the Seawolves will play a conference for in a nonconference contest as UAA and UNO face off Saturday in Fairbanks. Another win would go a long ways towards cementing the Seawolves among the “improved,” as many have predicted early on. The Mavericks, meanwhile are looking to get the bad taste out of their mouths after a bad loss to Colgate at home last Saturday. UNO faces Alaska Saturday while UAA takes on Mercyhurst.
St. Cloud State at Northern Michigan
• The Huskies hit the road again, as they will for much of the first few weeks of the season. At one point, it was thought SCSU’s arena renovations would hinder its ability to play at home, but hang ups in that process have unnecessarily put St. Cloud on the road for 10 of its first 15 games. A win in game one would go along ways towards helping SCSU secure a road sweep against a team they’re certainly capable of beating twice.
Massachusetts-Lowell at Minnesota State
• The Mavericks swept three series a year ago, including one against Lowell back east. Early on, the Mavs are already battling injuries, as their captain Tyler Elbrecht will miss several weeks with a broken arm. Freshman forward Max Gaede also missed a game with injury last weekend and will be out. This is a series, at home, the Mavericks need before jumping into conference play and it’s one, injuries or not, they should be able to get.
Maine at North Dakota
• In another return match-up from last season, the Fighting Sioux will look for some payback after getting swept in Bangor last October. It was the only time all season UND was swept, and was the only time UND lost consecutive games all season. A 7-3 loss in game one was really the end of Brad Eidsness’ run as starting goaltender, (he allowed three goals on five shots before being pulled for Aaron Dell) so it’s somewhat ironic that Dell may be in a similar position this time around.