Back to normal posting here on a Thursday… but because of a death in the family, I will not be able to watch much hockey this weekend. For any breaking news in the WCHA check out the main page — Adam and the gang are the best in the business.
Without further ado, here are this week’s rankings, including a new No. 1:
1 — Minnesota (Last week: 2)
The Gophers were idle last week but jump a spot because UMD split in Anchorage. The week off could do wonders for guys like Kyle Rau and Nick Bjugstad, who because of the World Junior tournament, have been going almost nonstop since mid-September. This bye week comes not too early, but not too late, and should allow the Gophers to get into quite a rhythm starting this weekend in Denver.
2 — Minnesota Duluth (Last week: 1)
Anchorage is never an easy place to play, but the Seawolves had gone two months without a victory. The Bulldogs are stuggling right now and if not for J.T. Brown last weekend, the Bulldogs might have been swept. His four-goal outburst in Friday’s win provided the entire margin of victory in a 4-1 victory. He added another goal Saturday to make things interesting but UAA scored just two minutes later to put things away. North Dakota comes to Amsoil this weekend in what could be a very entertaining series.
3 — North Dakota (Last week: 3)
The Fighting Sioux have their name back (at least until the next twist in this story) and are locked in a three-way tie for fifth in the WCHA entering this weekend. With the other two teams tied with UND set to play each other this weekend, North Dakota has a chance to pull ahead of both with three or four points in Duluth.
4 — Colorado College (Last week: 5)
The Tigers took three of four points from rival Denver last weekend, securing the Gold Pan for the first time in three seasons. The victory also moved CC ahead of Denver in the WCHA standings and squarely onto the NCAA tourney bubble. A trip to Bemidji this weekend looms and the Tigers will be without No. 1 goalie Josh Thorimbert, who didn’t make the trip because of an upper body injury. That means old reliable, Joe Howe, will start both games this weekend.
5 — Denver (Last week: 4)
A big weekend for the Pioneers this weekend, who can jump right back into the MacNaughton Cup picture with a sweep of league-leading Minnesota this weekend. I’d be shocked if Sam Brittain didn’t start both games for DU this weekend, which has dominated Minnesota over the last few years.
6 — Michigan Tech (Last week: 6)
The Huskies can be wildly inconsistent, but when they’re on, they’re really on. After falling behind 3-0 in the first period last Friday in Mankato, the Huskies rallied to tie the game at three after two periods. The Mavericks scored a pair in the third to win 5-3, but Tech rallied for six goals in the first period Saturday. This team can score in bunches, and if they can get home ice, will be a dangerous trip for someone. Get this Tech team into a one-game setting and anything could happen.
7 — St. Cloud State (Last week: 9)
Just when you’re ready to count out the Huskies, they go to Madison and sweep the Badgers. Yes, Wisconsin has been underwhelming this season, but winning two at the Kohl Center is no easy task. Mike Lee struggled early in the season before his injury, but backstopped the Badgers last weekend, including a 41-save effort in a 2-1 win Saturday night. If St. Cloud can start to piece together a lineup for the playoffs, a hot goaltender can carry a team a long ways. SCSU, by the way, is just one point back of that trio tied for fifth and gets a well-timed weekend off to try and get healthy.
8 — Bemidji State (Last week: 10)
Just when you’re ready to count out the Beavers, they go to Omaha and take three points. Friday’s 1-1 tie is a typical BSU score, but the Beavers exploded for six goals Saturday — all six by different goal scorers. That’s the kind of production that can make the Beavers a dangerous team in the playoffs, like they were last year when they upset UNO. Getting Andrew Walsh back and squared away will also help. At 17 points, the Beavers need four points if they hope to be a late entrant into the home ice race. They are four back of SCSU.
9 — Nebraska-Omaha (Last week: 7)
Of the three teams tied for the final home ice spot, UNO has the fewest wins (9). They sit one game over .500 overall and have been wildly inconsistent for much of the season. This weekend in Houghton could be make-or-break for the Mavericks in terms of home ice hopes. Getting swept by MTU could be a death knell for playoff games at the CenturyLink Center.
10 — Minnesota State (Last week: 8 )
Minnesota State scored a big 5-3 win over Michigan Tech Friday, breaking its Friday night hex. Then the Mavericks laid an egg in the first period Saturday, allowing six goals in a 7-3 loss. MSU actually led game two 1-0 early and nearly made it 2-0, ringing the post just a minute later. The loud ring must have awoken Tech, which scorched Phil Cook for five goals on nine shots, forcing him from the game. It will be interesting to see who Troy Jutting goes with this weekend against Alaska-Anchorage. MSU will be looking for some retribution — the Seawolves took three points from MSU in Mankato back in November. A sweep in Anchorage would move MSU ahead of idle Wisconsin for 10th in the WCHA standings.
11 — Wisconsin (Last week: 11)
The Badgers just aren’t very good this season. They’ve won just once on the road all season and now, they can’t take care of business at home against a reeling St. Cloud State team, scoring just two goals all weekend in the process. It won’t get any easier for UW either, as the Badgers host Denver next weekend before consecutive road trips to Bemidji and Minneapolis to wrap up the season. An 11th place finish is not completely out of the question, but what I’m wondering is, will Wisconsin win another game this season?
12 — Alaska-Anchorage (Last week: 12)
The Seawolves got a big win over No. UMD last weekend and can pull itself out of the basement with a sweep of Minnesota State this weekend. Rob Gunderson was solid against the Bulldogs in their 3-2 win Saturday, stopping 27 shots. Matt Bailey also had two goals and an assist in the victory.
This weekend’s schedule:
Nebraska-Omaha at Michigan Tech
North Dakota at Minnesota Duluth
Colorado College at Bemidji State
Minnesota at Denver
Minnesota State at Alaska-Anchorage