**SELF-PROMOTION UPDATE: My Twitter handle has changed. It is now @MyersHockey. If you’re already following me, thank you, and you will not have to make any changes. But if you have told friends and family to follow me and they aren’t yet, well, you’ll have to let them know.**
A full slate of WCHA action this week, as things tighten up and only three weeks left until playoff time. I will be at Mariucci Arena tonight for Minnesota-Bemidji State. I will provide more commentary on the unusual situation the Gophers are in heading down the stretch.
For now, here are this week’s power rankings:
1 — Minnesota Duluth (Last week: 2)
The top of these power rankings are so close, you could really draw any team out of a hat for any spot and you wouldn’t be wrong. The Bulldogs are back on top thanks to a split with North Dakota. With a trip to Mankato this weekend and no J.T. Brown, it wouldn’t be a shocker to see UMD struggle, especially because the Mavericks have been flat out better in recent weeks.
2 — Denver (Last week: 4)
The Pioneers, courtesy of their sweep of Minnesota, move to No. 2. DU started slow and has flown under because of it. But the Pios, all alone in third place, are only two points back of first place Minnesota. And their sweep of the Gophers last weekend assured them of the tiebreaker advantage.
3 — Minnesota (Last week: 1)
The Gophers are still in good position. They are still in first place, they control their own destiny and they have 4 of their final 6 games at Mariucci Arena. This weekend’s contests against the Beavers should be interesting — BSU is one of the hottest teams in the league and just swept Colorado College last weekend.
4 — North Dakota (Last week: 3)
The Fighting Sioux split at Amsoil Arena, where they are now 2-1 lifetime, and have crept to within a point of fourth place. But there is little time to relax as UND hosts Michigan Tech this weekend, with the Huskies nipping just a point back of its heels for the sixth and final home playoff spot. The Sioux are also out of the NCAA Tournament as of now, although a couple of wins this weekend would do wonders in that regard.
5 — Bemidji State (Last week: 8 )
Watch out for the Beavers, which have taken 7 of a possible 8 points from teams directly in front of them over the last two weeks. The stretch has moved the Beavers from the bottom group squarely into the race for home ice, just three points back of North Dakota. If BSU can find a way to split at Minnesota this weekend, the Beavers four remaining games come against Wisconsin and Alaska-Anchorage, the two worst teams in the WCHA. It’s also a big weekend for BSU’s faint at-large hopes for the NCAA Tournament. Currently 23rd in the Pairwise, this could be BSU’s last crack at a TUC team until playoff time.
6 — Nebraska-Omaha (Last week: 9)
UNO took three big points AT Michigan Tech last weekend giving the Mavs a two-point edge over the Huskies in the standings. Kudos to the Mavericks for staying composed after falling behind 2-0 five minutes into game one. Goaltender Ryan Massa was pulled for John Faulkner and UNO chipped away with a goal in the second and two more in the third to salvage a 3-3 tie. Massa responded the next night by stopping all 35 shots he faced in a 4-0 win.
7 — Colorado College (Last week: 4)
This week’s Anchor Award (better save that for next year) goes to the Tigers, who have assumed the role of “league’s most dinged up team.” Early in the year, it belonged to Minnesota State. More recently, it’s been St. Cloud. The Tigers have as many as EIGHT guys listed as questionable or out this weekend, although it looks like goaltender Joel Thorimbert will be back. CC and UNO are tied for fourth in the league standings and play each other in Colorado Springs this weekend.
8 — St. Cloud State (Last week: 7)
Don’t look now, but the Huskies are as healthy as they’ve been since early in the year. There is nothing they can do about the guys who left over break, but Mike Lee has played like a man possessed since returning from his injury. Drew LeBlanc is back skating in full gear, and although he hasn’t been cleared to play games, he could be back for a playoff run — if he so chooses. If SCSU hopes to remain in the home ice race, this weekend’s series at home against Anchorage is a must-sweep.
9 — Minnesota State (Last week: 10)
If not for those injuries… When this season is over, many in Mankato will have only that to think about. Entering the final year of his contract next season, has Troy Jutting done enough to warrant another extension? The Mavericks have won 4 of 5, 5 of 7, 6 of 9 and 7 of 11. They haven’t lost consecutive games in two months. Last weekend’s sweep at Anchorage pushed MSU ahead of Wisconsin for 10th place, but the Badgers have two games in hand. This weekend’s series against UMD is the final home games of the season. They’ve struggled forever at North Dakota (their opponent in two weeks), so this could be MSU’s last opportunity to get all-important points to stay ahead of UW.
10 — Michigan Tech (Last week: 6)
“The Huskies can be wildly inconsistent, but when they’re on, they’re really on.” That’s what I said last week at this time, and they proved me right by losing 3 points to UNO, at home, last weekend. Tech jumped ahead to an early 2-0 lead, but were unable to hold it, needed a late second period goal by Jordan Baker Friday night just to salvage a point. Thoughts of Houghton in March have been great for the program and the league, but with a brutal schedule remaining, it seems unlikely at this point.
11 — Wisconsin (Last week: 11)
The Badgers are so ice cold right now, they needed a weekend off to heat up. Now in 11th place in the league standings, Wisconsin hosts Denver this weekend in its final home games of the season. The Pioneers, by the way, have won 7 of the last 9 games against these teams at the Kohl Center since 2004. After that, UW, which has won just one game on the road this season, hits the road for trips to Bemidji and Minneapolis to finish the season. Ugh. Luckilly for the Badgers, Anchorage is locked into 12th place.
12 — Alaska-Anchorage (Last week: 12)
Swept by Minnesota State last weekend, the Seawolves have won once since Dec. 10. With nine points, the Seawolves are the only league team still in single digits for points. They’ve scored three goals or less in eight straight games. And even if it won all four of its remaining games, UAA would still finish dead last in the standings. For now, it’s all about where the Seawolves will travel in three weeks. For that, stay tuned.
Minnesota — 30
Minnesota Duluth — 29
Denver — 28
*Colorado College — 25
*Nebraska-Omaha — 25
North Dakota — 24
Michigan Tech — 23
**Bemidji State — 21
**St. Cloud State — 21
Minnesota State — 17
Wisconsin — 16
Alaska-Anchorage — 9
*CC wins tiebreaker (as of now) because of 12-10 lead in conference wins.
**BSU wins tiebreaker (as of now) because of 1-0-1 record vs SCSU this season.
Bemidji State at Minnesota
Denver at Wisconsin
Alaska-Anchorage at St. Cloud State
Minnesota Duluth at Minnesota State
Michigan Tech at North Dakota
Nebraska-Omaha at Colorado College