Well, we’ve arrived at winter break. The top two teams in these rankings are exactly who we thought they’d be before the season, but there have been plenty of surprises after that. Minnesota State, under first-year head coach Mike Hastings, has overcome a slow start to emerge as a top-five team. Elsewhere, Denver has dropped from one of the top teams in the country to the middle of the pack, and Wisconsin hasn’t even come close to meeting preseason expectations that, in hindsight, were probably too high in the first place.
1. Minnesota (11-3-3, 6-3-3 WCHA) — Last week: 1
The Gophers had the weekend off, so they stay at the top heading into break. North Dakota certainly closed the gap a bit, though. Minnesota leads the league in both defense (2.00 goals allowed per game) and special teams net (+9), and ranks fourth in offense (3.35 goals per game). Erik Haula enters the break riding a 12-game point streak, and he currently ranks seventh in the league with 22 points on the season.
2. North Dakota (10-5-3, 7-2-3 WCHA) — Last week: 2
North Dakota pulls right up to Minnesota’s bumper after outscoring Michigan Tech 10-2 in a weekend sweep. Corban Knight and Danny Kristo led the way with six points apiece in the series. Knight now has a 13-game point streak, and his 23 points on the season are tied for fourth in the conference. Clarke Saunders stopped 65 of 67 shots and is now fourth in the league with a .925 save percentage.
3. St. Cloud State (11-7-0, 9-5-0 WCHA) — Last week: 5
The Huskies move up two spots after sweeping Colorado College with a 5-3 win on Friday and 3-1 win on Saturday. Drew LeBlanc, Jonny Brodzinski and Nic Dowd each registered three points in the series. LeBlanc is now tied for second in points with 24, while Dowd is one behind him. St. Cloud continues to do a great job staying out of the box, as its 10.1 penalty minutes per game are the fewest in the league.
4. Nebraska-Omaha (11-6-1, 7-4-1 WCHA) — Last week: 3
The Mavericks split with Minnesota State, losing 6-3 on Friday before bouncing back with a 5-1 win on Saturday. John Faulkner struggled in goal for the second straight game Friday, while Anthony Stolarz’s effort on Saturday marked his third straight start allowing fewer than three goals. Ryan Walters tallied two goals and is now tied for the national lead in points with 26.
5. Minnesota State (10-6-2, 8-6-0 WCHA) — Last week: 6
The Mavericks continue their ascent after splitting with UNO. They extended their winning streak to seven games on Friday before having it snapped on Saturday. Johnny McInnis had four points on the weekend and Teddy Blueger had three. Matt Leitner had a point in each game and now has at least one in 11 of the last 12. This weekend marked the first time since Nov. 10 that Stephon Williams had allowed more than two goals in a game.
6. Denver (9-6-3, 7-4-3 WCHA) — Last week: 4
The Pioneers’ winless skid reached eight games over the weekend, as they dropped three of four points against Bemidji. They tied 1-1 on Friday before suffering an embarrassing 5-1 loss on Saturday. They’ve scored more than two goals just twice during this eight-game stretch, and leading scorer Nick Shore has just three points in the last seven. Adam Murray got his first start since Oct. 27 on Saturday, but it didn’t go too well.
7. Minnesota-Duluth (7-8-3, 5-6-3 WCHA) — Last week: 8
The Bulldogs move up one spot following their sweep of Alaska-Anchorage. They won 5-1 on Friday and 2-1 on Saturday. Matt McNeely improved to 4-0-0 in his last four starts by stopping 32 of 34 shots on the weekend. Tony Cameranesi tallied two goals and two assists in the series and is now first in freshman scoring with 19 points on the season. UMD enters the break with the league’s top power play (23.5%).
8. Colorado College (8-10-2, 5-6-1 WCHA) — Last week: 7
The Tigers got swept by St. Cloud and are now just 1-7-2 in their last 10. They’ve allowed three or more goals in all 10 of those games, and four or more in seven of them. So while they rank second in the league in offense (3.45 goals per game), they rank second to last in defense (3.55 goals allowed per game).
9. Wisconsin (4-7-5, 2-5-5 WCHA) — Last week: 9
The Badgers got to beat up on lowly Alabama-Huntsville over the weekend, winning 5-0 on Thursday and 4-1 on Friday. It may not be the most impressive unbeaten streak, but the Badgers enter break on a 3-0-3 run. Michael Mersch scored twice and is now tied for the league lead in goals with 11. Landon Peterson is first in save percentage at .942.
10. Bemidji State (5-8-3, 4-7-3 WCHA) — Last week: 11
The Beavers move up one spot after taking three of four points from Denver. Aaron McLeod scored the tying goal with 8:30 left in Friday’s draw, while the Brance Orban-Jeff Jubinville-David Boehm line combined for four goals and four assists in Saturday’s win. Andrew Walsh stopped 57 of 59 shots in the series and now ranks third in the conference with a .929 save percentage.
11. Michigan Tech (4-10-3, 3-8-3 WCHA) — Last week: 10
The Huskies drop to 11 after getting blown out of the water by North Dakota. Kevin Genoe had a tough series for the second time in three weeks, as he surrendered nine goals. Of course, his defense didn’t help him much — the Huskies gave up 82 shots on the weekend. That’s been a season-long trend, as Tech ranks last in the league with 3.71 goals allowed per game.
12. Alaska-Anchorage (3-9-4, 1-8-3 WCHA) — Last week: 12
The Seawolves stay in the basement after getting swept by UMD. They’ve scored just three goals in their last four games and are now last in the conference in offense with 2.00 goals per game on the season. Chris Kamal surrendered five goals on Friday, while Rob Gunderson stopped 24 of 26 shots on Saturday.