First off, apologies for the lack of content this week. Anyone who has followed my blog for the few years before moving exclusively to CHN knows I also coach high school football. And anyone who reads a sports page here in Minnesota knows the high school football season is ramping up, meaning time to update the blog as regularly as I’d like to is just not an option right now. No worries though, as the team here at College Hockey News will keep you updated with all of the latest news I may not get to during the hectic time in this guy’s life. Fortunately, I will be around to watch plenty of WCHA puck this weekend, so follow along on Twitter (@CHNDanMyers) as conference play kicks into high gear with four league series in action.
All that said, here are my updated conference power rankings as the college hockey season hurdles into its third weekend of play this weekend:
1 — Colorado College (Last week: 1)
After winning 3-1 on Friday, Tigers goalie Joe Howe entered the game Saturday with his team trailing to Bemidji State and in danger of dropping a couple of points to a team they should sweep at the World Arena. Howe came into the game stopped 11 straight shots and waited for his team to pick him up. They did, and CC rolled to a sweep. All Howe has to do is keep his team close, because the Tigers have more than enough offense to pick up the slack.
2 — Minnesota (Last week: 3)
Somehow, the Gophers allowed 100 shots, on the road, against the defending national champions… and got 4 points. Minnesota rallied from a late one goal deficit to secure overtime, where the Gophers scored a late goal to win 5-4. UMD jumped ahead early again Saturday, but Minnesota rallied with five straight goals. It would have been easy to be happy with two points on the road, but credit is due for the gutty effort to respond. Keep an eye on that Minnesota power play: The Gophers went 6 for 9 with the man advantage last weekend, and if they can keep it going, Minnesota is going to be tough to stop.
3 — Denver (Last week: 2)
The Pioneers should be happy with a road split in Boston. Few teams in the country would be able to boast such a fact after facing Boston College and Boston University on consecutive nights.
4 — North Dakota (Last week: 4)
UND will have to accept a three-point weekend to avenge last season’s sweep at Maine. Brad Eidsness’ victory Friday — he made 30 saves — will make Aaron Dell’s already tenuous hold on that goaltending job even more delicate.
5 — Alaska-Anchorage (Last week: 8 )
The Seawolves just keep on rolling. After shutting out conference foe Nebraska-Omaha in a nonconference game, UAA hammered Mercyhurst 6-2. It’s been a balanced offensive effort and now the Seawolves may have not one, but two goaltenders going strong. An intriguing rematch with Omaha in Nebraska awaits this weekend where we should learn a lot more about where the Seawolves stand.
6 — Minnesota Duluth (Last week: 5)
UMD put 100 shots on Minnesota goaltender Kent Patterson and scored eight goals last weekend but got swept. Saturday, Kenny Reiter made just 11 saves on 16 shots. There’s still enough offense to get it done in Duluth, but Reiter needs to channel his playoff self in order for the Bulldogs to compete for an upper half spot.
7 — Nebraska-Omaha (Last week: 6)
How big of a loss has Alex Hudson been? After scoring five goals in their first game — a win over Mercyhurst — UNO has scored just four goals over their last three games — all losses. Whatever ails them, UNO better figure it out quickly. The Mavericks are in the midst of a stretch where they play games on 10 straight weekends.
8 — Michigan Tech (Last week: 12)
Are the Huskies for real? They’ve already equaled their win total from ALL of last season. Just one victory this weekend would equal the number of points Tech had ALL of last season. At Bemidji Friday and Saturday, this is the first time the Huskies will play away from MacInnes Ice Arena this season. And the Tech power play? An impressive 29 percent thus far — 14 percentage points better than last season.
9 — Bemidji State (Last week: 9)
The Beavers were in line for a split at Colorado College last week, but ran into a bit of a wall (named Joe Howe) in the third period Saturday. The Tigers won that game 6-4, and the Beavers won’t win many shootouts this season. They should have a chance at some points against a significantly less talented offensive group this weekend.
10 — Wisconsin (Last week: 10)
Overtime hasn’t been good to the Badgers during the Mike Eaves era. Since 2007-08, Wisconsin hasn’t won a single league game that has gone to overtime — 23 tries in all — while losing nine times over that same stretch. Overall, they’ve won just once in that stretch (32 tries there). So it probably wasn’t a good thing when both games in Houghton went to overtime last weekend. The Huskies won them both, continuing a rough stretch of free hockey for UW. (Thanks to Madison.com scribe Andy Baggot for the leg work on those overtime stats)
11 — St. Cloud State (Last week: 11)
After opening with four straight road games (and a 1-3-0 record), the Huskies open the home portion of their schedule with a weekend series against New Hampshire at the National Hockey Center. For the sake of getting its season kick started, the Huskies better hope things go much better at home than they have on the road or this year could spiral out of control quickly. In a related but totally unrelated stat, SCSU was just 6-8-4 at the NHC last season.
12 — Minnesota State (Last week: 7)
Tumbling down the rankings after getting swept by Massachusetts-Lowell (in Mankato, no less) are the Mavericks, who are decimated by injury right now. MSU will travel to Denver this weekend (gulp), where it could get ugly. Counting their third goaltender, the Mavericks have exactly 21 healthy hockey players right now. Michael Dorr, Eriah Hayes, Max Gaede, Tyler Elbrecht, J.P. Burkemper and Danny Heath are all nursing injuries and are not on this road trip. The good news? A bye weekend next weekend is extremely well-timed and could help MSU get a couple of players back before a stretch of seven straight busy weekends in November and December.