A crazy night around the WCHA tonight:
– Michigan Tech fell behind the defending champs, in Duluth, 4-0 after one period. But this isn’t last year’s Huskies anymore. One goal in the second and three more in the third sent the game to overtime, and Michigan Tech earned a point. Huge point for the Huskies, which keep themselves in the home ice race with the point. On the other side, just a brutal tie for UMD. With Minnesota’s win tonight, the Bulldogs are now three points back of the Gophers in the MacNaughton Cup race. This could be a point the Bulldogs look back on at the end of the season…
– North Dakota secures a big win over Wisconsin. The Badgers haven’t been great this season (and they’ve been brutal away from Madison), but had crept to within just two points of UND for the sixth and final home ice spot in the WCHA race. With just one win away from the Kohl Center this season, the Badgers could effectively be eliminated from the home-ice race if they lose Saturday.
– Minnesota broke it’s Friday night hex with a 2-1 win over St. Cloud State — the third straight game featuring the Gophers that has ended with that score. The story of this game, however, was the loss of SCSU’s Travis Novak, who has a lower body injury and was helped off the ice. The Huskies entered the weekend with just 18 healthy skaters and no healthy scratches, so unless that situation changes Saturday night in St. Cloud, the Huskies will skate a man down. The unfortunate part of these injuries for SCSU has been who they have hit. Mike Lee, who returned Friday, has missed significant time. Drew LeBlanc is still out. Jordy Christian is out. Cory Thorson is out. Cam Reid left at Christmas. You have to credit Bob Motzko and Ben Hanowski — who has willed this team much of the season — for how competitive SCSU has remained through these setbacks.
– Bemidji State recovered from a 1-0 first period deficit, tying the game in the second before getting a Jordan George rebound goal in the third to win 2-1. The loss effectively dooms the Mavericks to one of the last two spots in the league standings and keeps the Beavers alive in the chase for home ice. The Mavericks stayed out of the box tonight and had a ton of great chances, but Dan Bakala was outstanding in goal, stopping 39 shots to earn the win.
– Denver is leading Anchorage 3-1 as I write this. Should the Pioneers hold on, they’ll have 21 points and jump from sixth to a tie for fourth. Six points will separate third place from ninth place after tonight, meaning the final month and a half to the finish line will be another exciting one in the WCHA.
Feature story on George will be up next week. One of the league’s most underrated and under-appreciated players. He’s a good one, and his goal tonight showed his lightning quick hands, as he capped a 2-on-1, capitalizing on a rebound chance after MSU’s Phil Cook made an unbelievable save on a backdoor pass to George. The rebound came right back to him, but he had to make just a slight move to his left and roof a shot past Cook.
I’m also looking forward to coming to the arena here in Bemidji tomorrow morning and looking around — just an all-around great facility. With Mankato leaders politicking the governor for upgrades to their own arena, the Sanford Center would be a great place to check out for some ideas. Afterall, MSU and BSU will be just two of three WCHA leftovers when the college hockey rapture happens in 2013.