It was certainly another interesting weekend in the WCHA. Minnesota strengthened its hold on the top spot, while Wisconsin’s sweep of Minnesota State made things much more interesting in the middle of the pack. At the bottom, Alaska-Anchorage still isn’t making much noise on the ice, but coach Dave Shyiak certainly made some in front of the mic.
1. Minnesota (16-3-3, 8-3-3 WCHA) — Last week: 1
The Gophers extended their unbeaten streak to eight by sweeping UAA over the weekend. They needed two late power-play goals to get the 4-3 win on Friday before cruising to a 7-1 win on Saturday. Nick Bjugstad scored twice on Friday, Kyle Rau recorded a hat trick on Saturday, and Nate Schmidt tallied six assists on the weekend. The Gophers went 5-for-11 on the power play and 6-for-6 on the penalty kill. They lead the league in both categories.
2. North Dakota (13-6-3, 8-3-3 WCHA) — Last week: 2
UND’s seven-game unbeaten streak came to an end with a 4-3 loss to CC on Friday, but they bounced back with a 5-3 win on Saturday. Danny Kristo registered three goals and two assists in the series to pull within one of linemate Corban Knight for the team lead in points. Speaking of Knight, he extended his point streak to 17 games with an assist in each game, making it the longest by a UND player since Dixon Ward in 1990-91.
3. Denver (13-6-4, 8-4-4 WCHA) — Last week: 3
The Pioneers took three of four points from UNO over the weekend, winning 7-4 on Friday and tying 3-3 on Saturday. Zac Larraza had five points in the series, Scott Mayfield had four, and Shawn Ostrow, Quentin Shore and Matt Tabrum each had three. Larraza now has four goals in five second-half games after scoring just once during the first semester. One point of concern is that DU gave up 40-plus shots in both games.
4. Nebraska-Omaha (13-9-2, 9-5-2 WCHA) — Last week: 5
Even though the Mavericks only got one point out in Denver, they move up a spot thanks to Minnesota State getting swept. Friday’s game was closer than the 7-4 score indicates — it was 4-4 with under seven minutes to go. Ryan Walters and Matt White each had three points on the weekend, and Walters now has five more than anyone else in the country. John Faulkner has an unimpressive .869 save percentage over his last seven starts.
5. Minnesota State (14-8-2, 8-8-0 WCHA) — Last week: 4
The Mavericks drop one spot after losing a pair of overtime games against Wisconsin. I’m not ready to drop them any further just yet, though. Let’s not forget that they were 11-1-0 in the 12 games leading up to the Wisconsin series. Matt Leitner scored twice on Friday and again on Saturday. The Badgers scored their third goal on Friday while starting goalie Stephon Williams was sitting in the penalty box after taking a five-minute facemasking penalty.
6. St. Cloud State (12-10-0, 9-5-0 WCHA) — Last week: 6
The Huskies had the weekend off, so they stay at six. I considered moving them ahead of Minnesota State, but getting swept at home by Northern Michigan two weekends ago, with one of the losses being a blowout, has left too bad of a taste in my mouth. There’s also the fact that they’re under .500 since the start of December.
7. Wisconsin (8-7-5, 6-5-5 WCHA) — Last week: 7
The Badgers don’t quite crack the top six yet, but they’ve certainly pulled within striking distance after sweeping Minnesota State. Those two wins extended their unbeaten streak to 10 games — a remarkable turnaround considering they started the season with just one win in their first 11 games. John Ramage scored the overtime winner both nights, while the line of Ryan Little, Jefferson Dahl and Sean Little combined for three goals and seven assists in the series.
8. Minnesota-Duluth (9-10-3, 7-6-3 WCHA) — Last week: 8
The Bulldogs also pulled a little closer to the top six, as they won a pair of one-goal games against Michigan Tech. Joe Basaraba scored the lone goal in Friday’s 1-0 win, while Tony Cameranesi notched two goals and an assist in Saturday’s 5-4 win. Matt McNeely stopped all 28 shots he faced on Friday to earn his first career shutout.
9. Colorado College (9-13-2, 6-9-1 WCHA) — Last week: 10
The Tigers move up one spot after splitting with North Dakota. Jeff Collett scored Friday’s game-winner with 7:04 left in regulation, and Scott Winkler scored twice in Saturday’s loss. The Tigers continue to rank last in the WCHA in defense, and they’ve now gone 15 games since the last time they held an opponent to two goals or fewer.
10. Bemidji State (5-11-4, 4-7-3 WCHA) — Last week: 11
The Beavers had the weekend off, but they move up one spot as Tech tumbles past them.
11. Michigan Tech (6-12-3, 3-10-3 WCHA) — Last week: 9
Well, the Huskies’ GLI momentum certainly didn’t carry over to league play. They got swept by UMD and are now winless in their last eight conference games. Pheonix Copley ran his shutout streak to 143:32 before giving up a goal on Friday. He followed that by allowing five goals on Saturday.
12. Alaska-Anchorage (3-13-4, 1-12-3 WCHA) — Last week: 12
Make it eight straight losses for the Seawolves. They were on the verge of snapping that losing streak on Friday before a late (and questionable) hitting from behind call on Tyler Currier gave the Gophers a five-minute power play on which they scored twice. Saturday’s game wasn’t even close, though. The highlight came after the game when coach Dave Shyiak sounded off on the officiating.