Five conference series and 11 of the 12 teams are in action this weekend around the league. Here are a look at my WCHA power rankings as we hurdle towards November:
1 — Colorado College (Last week: 1)
The Tigers got the week off last week and head out east for a nonconference series at RPI this weekend. Should be a great chance at a pair of wins.
2 — Denver (Last week: 3)
DU got off to a sluggish start Friday against Minnesota State, allowing the Mavericks to keep it a game until the very end. Saturday, they took advantage of a banged up MSU bunch and hung 10 goals en route to a relatively easy 4 points.
3 — Minnesota (Last week: 2)
Nobody in the league in scoring more than the Gophers, but the goaltending effort by Kent Patterson on Sunday was not good enough. It didn’t help that Minnesota was taking dumb penalties. Shore those things up and Minnesota can beat anyone in the country.
4 — Minnesota Duluth (Last week: 6)
The Bulldogs quietly went out east and took 3 points from Providence, a boost for UMD’s confidence more than anything. They’ll need at least that many this weekend against Bemidji in order to be considered a true contender.
5 — Nebraska-Omaha (Last week: 7)
Alex Hudson returns to the line-up and the Mavericks gain four points. I guess he was as big a loss as advertised.
6 — North Dakota (Last week: 4)
To say Aaron Dell and Brad Eidsness have not provided the type of goaltending they did last year would be like saying after A, B, and C comes D. With a young group, combined with some injuries and eligibility issues, North Dakota is limping through the first month of the season.
7 — Bemidji State (Last week: 9)
Yes, it was Michigan Tech. But the Beavers showed some killer instinct last weekend and the ability to put the puck in the net. That could come in handy this weekend in Duluth.
8 — Wisconsin (Last week: 10)
The Badgers rebound off being swept at Michigan Tech by sweeping North Dakota. Only in the WCHA, I tell you…
9 — St. Cloud State (Last week: 11)
After opening their home schedule with a win and a tie last weekend against UNH, the Huskies open their conference schedule back on the road at UND. They need to take advantage of a staggering North Dakota team, as these points could be crucial in March.
10 — Alaska-Anchorage (Last week: 5)
After a good start, the Seawolves hit the road for the first time last weekend and were promptly swept in Omaha. Back in Anchorage this weekend, their challenge gets even tougher as a red-hot Minnesota team comes to town.
11 — Michigan Tech (Last week: 8 )
After already equaling their win total from the year before, perhaps asking Tech to start the season with a three game conference winning streak was a bit too much. They’ll get a true test this weekend as the Pioneers come to Houghton.
12 — Minnesota State (Last week: 12)
Never has a week off been better timed. MSU was down eight players last Saturday because of injuries, and it showed as MSU was pounded 10-2 at Magness Arena. This weekend is all about getting healthy before jumping back into WCHA action next week. The Mavericks need points and will have a shot to get some at Tech in seven days.
THIS WEEKEND AROUND THE WCHA
Denver at Michigan Tech
The Huskies better get their goaltending taken care of or, like Minnesota State, Tech will get run out of the building. Beau Bennett dished out five assists in a game and a half before a game misconduct Saturday took him out of the goal scoring bonanza. With Drew Shore and Jason Zucker already in midseason form, adding a playmaker like Bennett to the mix is truly unfair.
Bemidji State at Minnesota Duluth
The Beavers have had their share of success against the Bulldogs over the years, including a Final Five quarterfinal match-up in St. Paul last season — a 3-2 BSU win, the final time UMD suffered a defeat en route to the national title. Nine goals last weekend against Michigan Tech could be a precursor to what they will need this weekend, as the ‘Dogs can still score, seemingly at will.
Nebraska-Omaha at Wisconsin
A pair of Jekyll and Hyde outfits do battle in Madison this weekend as the Mavericks (poor start, nice sweep last weekend) take on the Badgers (swept by Tech two weeks ago, sweep of North Dakota last weekend). Wisconsin must take advantage of shaky goaltending like they did last weekend, scoring 10 goals in two games despite putting only 41 shots on goal. John Faulkner has been a model of inconsistency so far, but kept the previously hot UAA virtually off the board all weekend (just two goals in two games).
St. Cloud State at North Dakota
The Fighting Sioux broke with history last season by starting the year red-hot — and pretty much carrying that momentum all the way to the Frozen Four. UND is back to its old tricks this season, but with questionable play in net combined with missed man games from Rocco Grimaldi, climbing out of this hole will be significantly harder than in years past. UND can’t win the MacNaughton Cup in October, but they’ll certainly able to lose it. SCSU is the only team without a conference game played, so any points this weekend will be points in hand on everyone else.
Minnesota at Alaska-Anchorage
It’s safe to say the Gophers offensive explosion is more a trend than a mirage. They even scored four in their first loss of the season Sunday against Vermont. As long as Minnesota learns from its mistakes in game two against the Catamounts, they’ll be fine. A sweep in Alaska would go a long ways towards silencing the critics. It would also exact a bit of revenge for UAA’s sweep of Minnesota at Mariucci Arena in the first round of the WCHA playoffs last season.
Colorado College at RPI
RPI is off to a 1-4-0 start, with that lone win coming at home to Minnesota State (a night after they were shut out by the Mavericks). If CC can jump ahead early, these games could get ugly.