Sorry for the late post, here. I am in Milwaukee visiting friends and family for the holiday (I normally work out of the Twin Cities), so I haven’t been around my computer much. But I did want to hop on and do my power rankings, because unlike some people (like myself), the WCHA is definitely NOT on break this weekend. Ten of the league’s 12 teams will be in action this weekend, with eight beginning play tonight. This weekend’s docket also includes a trio of conference series:
1 — Minnesota (Last week: 1)
The Gophers have split their last two weekends, I think a disappointing result because the Gophers are clearly better than both teams. Three of those games were on the road however, and the one that was at home was never really close. I still give Minnesota the edge over UMD because of the head-to-head meeting in October, but this gap is narrowing weekly.
2 — Minnesota Duluth (Last week: 2)
A very impressive weekend by UMD — not because they swept Minnesota State — but because they did it convincingly. Clearly, there is still a ton of firepower in Duluth and if they get continued solid play from Kenny Reiter in goal, they will be up here all season. That Frozen Four run last season has done wonders for his confidence, and it shows.
3 — Colorado College (Last week: 3)
Speaking of taking care if business at home, the Tigers rolled over Wisconsin at World Arena last weekend keeping pace in the WCHA marathon. The key to the weekend was the first period, as CC scored five of their eight goals in the opening 20 minutes — including three on Saturday, virtually ending the Badgers’ hopes of a split.
4 — Denver (Last week: 5)
The Pioneers played one of the oddest games you’ll ever see last Friday against Omaha. The two teams combined for 10 goals through two periods — DU led 7-3 — when all of the sudden, someone turned off the scoring spicket during the second intermission. Neither team yielded a goal in the third and the Pioneers jumped ahead. They ended up taking three big points against a Maverick bunch they will be neck-and-neck with all season.
5 — Nebraska-Omaha (Last week: 4)
See above. The Mavericks outshot Denver 36-30 in that game too. They outshot them again Saturday and led 3-0 after one, but allowed the Pioneers to chip away and tie the game. The difference between a one point and two doesn’t sound like much, but for UNO it had to be extremely disappointing.
6 — St. Cloud State (Last week: 6)
The Huskies raced out to a 4-1 lead Friday at the National Hockey Center and held on for dear life as top-ranked Minnesota fired everything it had at goalie Ryan Faragher. Saturday, the Huskies had nothing left. Bob Motzko said SCSU struggled with Minnesota’s speed, which had to be weird to admit, considering the ability of the Huskies to scoot around the rink in recent years.
7 — North Dakota (Last week: 8 )
Although a split with Bemidji would usually be enough for the Beavers to jump the Sioux, let’s remember the games were played in Bemidji — and a road split in the WCHA is no easy task. And with Rocco Grimaldi out 6-8 weeks with an injury, these two teams aren’t nearly as far apart as their histories would suggest. The Sioux need to find a second line (3 of their 5 goals Friday were scored by their top line and the Sioux were blanked on Saturday) or they will continue to struggle to score goals.
8 — Bemidji State (Last week: 9)
Let’s not get carried away with the Beavers here either. The 1-0 win Sunday is fine, forging their first win over the Sioux in the D-1 era. But North Dakota is not a good team right now and the Beavers were outshot both nights. It had to be nice though to see Dan Bakala get a goose egg Sunday. He has struggled so far in the early going.
9 — Michigan Tech (Last week: 10)
A road split at Alaska-Anchorage is more than the Huskies would have done last season, and they continue to just chug along at about a .500 clip. If they can continue that after their hot start, the Huskies will be in the home ice race. The second half of their long week on the road continues this weekend at St. Lawrence, where Tech needs to get at least a split. A sweep shouldn’t be out of the question either.
10 — Wisconsin (Last week: 7)
The Badgers have struggled to score goals, potting only four in their last three games — all losses. They’ve won only once in their last six contests and Wisconsin has gotten no consistency out of either of their young goalies yet. The Badgers won’t leave Madison until a series in Mankato in mid-January, so they have a chance to gain some confidence for the stretch run in league play.
11 — Minnesota State (Last week: 11)
Perhaps last weekend was the Mavericks’ rock bottom moment? At least one can hope. MSU played with only four defensemen all weekend at Duluth and had to move two forwards back there both nights just to get by. Those forwards were both ejected Saturday night for penalties and the Mavericks were never really threatening to make it a series. Combined with little, if any, goaltending and it was a recipe for disaster. A must-sweep weekend at home if the Mavs harbor any hopes to get back into the home-ice race.
12 — Alaska-Anchorage (Last week: 12)
The Seawolves gained their first points of the season last Friday with a win over Michigan Tech. Given an opportunity to grab a sweep, against a team that’s still not very good (or at least proven it yet), at home… and they lose 5-0. Goaltender Chris Kamal stopped 18 of 19 Friday but was yanked Saturday after allowing four goals on just 21 shots. That inconsistency in goal is what has haunted this team for years.
I hope everyone has a safe rest of the holiday weekend. Safe travels to anyone on the road — like me — and heading home in the next few days.