Not much was decided last weekend in the first one back in a while for conference teams. All 12 teams were in action against each other and there were 4 splits among the 6 series.
The big movers were Michigan Tech and Denver, who secured home sweeps over Alaska-Anchorage and Bemidji State, respectively.
Four more conference series are on tap this weekend, with Minnesota Duluth looking to avoid the Alabama-Huntsville trap with a series in Duluth this weekend. Michigan Tech will also host Northern Michigan in a single game Saturday night in Houghton.
If you feel inclined, give my column on hits from behind a read. It is here or linked on the main homepage. I have received plenty of feedback on Twitter regarding the column (follow me @CHNDanMyers if you’re not already). Clearly this is an issue that is front and center right now in all of hockey, especially with the increase in the number and the severity of concussions. Hitting from behind and shots to the head are clearly “culture” things that need to be changed from the youth levels up. But we can’t afford to wait 20 years for the next generation of hockey players to work their way up. Some changes need to be made now, and I made my own suggestion for the college game in the column. Check it out…
I will be in Mankato this weekend reporting on one of the more unique — and forgotten — aspects of the UNO-MSU rivalry, the Spirit of the Maverick Trophy. I will try to get to Mariucci for a spell on Saturday as well…
Now, onto this week’s power rankings:
1 — Minnesota Duluth (Last week: 1)
UMD saw its 17-game unbeaten streak end in a 2-1 loss Saturday night at Nebraska-Omaha. It’s too bad because it would have been nice to see how far that thing could go. Had they won or tied, the Bulldogs host Huntsville this weekend, where they’d be favored. Next weekend, they host Michigan Tech, where they’d be favored. In two weeks, they play at Alaska-Anchorage, where they’d be favored. It’s quite possible Duluth could have brought a 24-game unbeaten streak into its series with North Dakota in mid-February. That would have been good stuff. Instead, UMD should have no trouble starting a new streak this weekend. But I’ve said that before…
2 — Minnesota (Last week: 2)
Kent Patterson was brilliant in a losing effort last Friday night at North Dakota and only a late goal by UND prevented Minnesota from pushing that game to overtime. A split at North Dakota is nice, but it doesn’t do much to silence those that feel the Gophers are slipping. Since a 9-1 start over the first month and a half, Minnesota is a .500 team.
3 — North Dakota (Last week: 3)
Devastating news this week on the injury front for North Dakota which announced that impact freshman Rocco Grimaldi will miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury. He will be eligible for a medical redshirt if he chooses. Injuries have depleted UND so much they brought only 17 healthy skaters to St. Cloud this weekend.
4 — Denver (Last week: 5)
The Pioneers showed some pluck last weekend against Bemidji, falling behind both nights but coming out with 4 points on the weekend. Jason Zucker erupted for three points in Saturday’s 3-2 victory and they will need more of that from him if DU is going to begin climbing the WCHA standings.
5 — Nebraska-Omaha (Last week: 4)
The red Mavericks were outclassed on national television Friday night by the defending champs but held it together enough on Saturday to escape with a split. The 3-1 win was largely due to goaltender Ryan Massa 43 saves — including 17 in the third period. The performance pushed Massa into the top-5 of both major goaltending categories in the WCHA.
6 — Colorado College (Last week: 7)
You can’t fall behind by two goals too often and expect to win. After trading goals with St. Cloud State Friday night and earning the win, CC fell behind 4-2 in the third period Saturday. After tying the game with a late empty-netter, likely expending all of their energy just to even the score, the Huskies pounced in overtime to gain the split. Instead of positioning itself within a victory of the league’s top two, the split simply kept pace. A definite missed opportunity for the Tigers.
7 — St. Cloud State (Last week: 9)
But if you’re going to credit CC for its comeback, you’ve also gotta give credit to the Huskies for rallying in overtime after blowing a third period lead. It would have been easy for SCSU to play for the point instead of the win, but it ended up being a big split. It kept the Huskies within a point of North Dakota, who comes to the National Hockey Center this weekend. SCSU also got good news on the injury front as both Mike Lee and Drew LeBlanc are about a month ahead of schedule on their injuries. Lee won’t play this weekend but could be in the lineup as soon as a week from now. LeBlanc started skating this week and is still a couple of weeks away.
8 — Michigan Tech (Last week: 11)
Just when I was ready to write them off, the Huskies come through with a big 4 points. It wasn’t a tough challenge — Anchorage to Houghton might be the toughest road trip in the country. But beating a team you’re supposed to hasn’t exactly been a hallmark for this program over the last couple (or 30) years. And if the playoffs started today, the Huskies would HOST North Dakota in the first round of the playoffs. No matter what happens in St. Cloud this weekend, Tech will fall out of the top-6. But it’s good to have a Cinderella at least in the mix at this point.
9 — Bemidji State (Last week: 6)
Friday’s second period at Denver was ugly, as the Beavers allowed all five meaningful goals DU scored that night during that stretch. Bemidji actually put 6 more shots on goal that night. Unfortunately, the Beavers got an uneven performance from Andrew Walsh in goal — a rarity this season. The Beavers will get a week off this week before a winnable series next weekend at home against Minnesota State.
10 — Wisconsin (Last week: 8 )
It was a tale of two nights for the Badgers in Mankato. On Friday, the Badgers shutout the home team 4-0. Saturday, they were on the business end of a 3-0 shutout the other way. Justin Schultz was held without a point all weekend and Mark Zengerle’s consecutive games with a point streak ended just one shy of the school record. The win Friday though pulled the Badgers into a ninth place tie with Bemidji State, five points out of a home ice spot. With Alaska-Anchorage in Madison this weekend, this is a must-sweep series for UW.
11 — Minnesota State (Last week: 10)
Phil Cook was outstanding Saturday night in a 3-0 win over the Badgers. In fact, he looked like a completely different goaltender from the one that allowed 9 goals on 11 shots over a period of a couple games earlier this season. Joe Schiller was rewarded for his stellar defensive play with two points Saturday, including an empty-netter with 29 seconds left Saturday. He shadowed Mark Zengerle all weekend long, holding him to just two points and ending his consecutive games with a point streak at 20.
12 — Alaska-Anchorage (Last week: 12)
Swept by Tech, the Seawolves dropped into a tie for last place in the conference. They’ve sputtered of late, losing 5 of their last 6 contests dating back to Thanksgiving. A trip to Madison this weekend, where the Badgers have been pretty good this season, likely means UAA could be all alone in he basement by the time this weekend is over.