Archive for the 'WCHA' Category

WCHA Weekend Preview, Nov. 21-22

Friday, November 21st, 2014

This week marks the first full weekend of WCHA play. All ten teams will be in action against one another, and if we learned anything from last season’s tight conference race, it’s that every game matters in this league.

The slate is highlighted by the Michigan Tech-Minnesota State match-up in Houghton. The Huskies and Mavericks come in as the top two teams in both the WCHA and the early edition of the Pairwise rankings. The Pairwise doesn’t mean much this early in the season, but it adds a little extra excitement to an already highly-anticipated series — one the WCHA hopes will bring the league attention nationally.

While it is early, you can see the WCHA race beginning to take shape now that most teams have played six conference games. It’s looking like a three-way race at the top between Michigan Tech, Minnesota State and Bowling Green, but Northern Michigan could put itself in the conversation as well. Ferris State’s offensive outburst last weekend has restored hope for its season, while both Alaska teams – who were expected to be in the thick of things this year – have struggled recently.

(After the jump: A look at this week’s slate of games.)

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Three Things I Think: WCHA, Nov. 18

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

For a conference trying to re-build its image as one of the best in the country, having a team ranked No. 1 in the polls is a huge step in the right direction. The WCHA’s Michigan Tech now occupies that spot after pushing its record to 10-0-0 with a sweep at Bemidji State this weekend. With 10-straight wins to start the season, the Huskies are now off to the best start in the program’s 94-year history.

The sweep of the Beavers wasn’t Michigan Tech’s most dominant performances of the season, but good teams find ways to win and the Huskies did that. They face their stiffest test of the season this weekend in welcoming reigning WCHA playoff champion Minnesota State to Houghton.

In the latest edition of the USCHO.com poll, following bye weeks, the Mavericks remained at No. 9 and Northern Michigan moved up a spot to No. 17. After splitting with Ohio State, Bowling Green also jumped a spot to No. 18. Ferris State (53) is the only WCHA team receiving votes in the poll.

Rapid Recap: In conference play, Michigan Tech grinded out a pair of wins in Bemidji to remain the NCAA’s lone unbeaten team, Ferris State’s offense exploded in a sweep of Alaska Anchorage, and Alabama-Huntsville and Lake Superior State split – pushing the Chargers’ record in their last four games to 2-1-1. Elsewhere, Bowling Green and Ohio State split a non-conference home-and-home series, with each winning at the other’s barn. The WCHA is now 22-17-4 (.558) in non-conference play this season.

(After the jump: My Three Stars of the Weekend in the WCHA and thoughts on what went down)

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WCHA Weekend Preview, Nov. 13-15

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

The WCHA race is starting to take shape as conference play begins in earnest. Michigan Tech’s undefeated start has established the Huskies as the class of the league, but Minnesota State and Bowling Green have shown they’re more than up for a title fight.

Those three teams sit within two points of each other at the top of the conference standings. Northern Michigan might also have a say in the race to the top before all is said and done, but the Wildcats will have to prove themselves against tougher opponents.

For the league as a whole, it has been about as good a start as first-year commissioner Bill Robertson could have hoped for the re-building league. The WCHA has three teams in the top-10 and four teams in the top-15 in winning percentage, which is tied with Hockey East for most among the six conferences, and WCHA players lead the country in nine different statistical categories.

Most importantly for Robertson, whose stated goal in the preseason was to get more teams into the national tournament, is that four teams rank in the top-16 of the PairWise rankings in the (very) early going — No. 1 Michigan Tech, No. 3 Minnesota State, No. 11 Bowling Green, and No. 13 Northern Michigan. I want to stress the “it’s early” part, but it’s a promising sign nonetheless for the WCHA as it tries to build itself back up.

(After the jump: Previewing this weekend’s match-ups)

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Three Things I Think: WCHA, Nov. 11

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

This week in the WCHA featured the conference’s top teams flexing their muscle. Three of the four conference series resulted in sweeps, while Alabama-Huntsville continued the league’s success this season in non-conference play.

In the polls, Michigan Tech slid up four spots in the USCHO.com poll to No. 5 after running its undefeated start to 8-0-0. Minnesota State also moved up four places to No. 13 after sweeping Bemidji State. Northern Michigan jumped two spots to No. 18 with a split versus Ferris State — which dropped out of the top-20 – and, at No. 19, Bowling Green broke into the top-20 for the first time this season after sweeping Alaska.

Ferris State (107) is the only WCHA team receiving votes in this week’s poll.

This week’s top-billed matchup, Ferris State at Northern Michigan, saw an epic goaltending dual between two of the league’s top net minders. Bulldogs senior C.J. Motte and Wildcats sophomore Mathias Dahlstrom each registered 24-save shutouts on Friday and Saturday, respectively. The Bulldogs took the opener in a 1-0 OT thriller before the Wildcats salvaged the split with a 2-0 win on Saturday.

Michigan Tech got its own solid effort in goal from junior Jamie Phillips against Alaska-Anchorage. Phillips stopped 45-of-46 shots on the weekend, including a 19-save shutout on Friday. Huskies sophomore defenseman Shane Hanna led the way for MTU with three points (1+2) as it continued its undefeated start to the season with 2-0 and 3-1 wins over the Seawolves.

Minnesota State and Bemidji State combined for 17 goals in their two games, but it was the Mavericks that proved why they’re among the conference favorites, sweeping the series with 6-3 and 5-3 wins. MSU has now won five of its past six games. Minnesota State junior forwards Bryce Gervais and Teddy Blueger combined for six goals and 10 points in the series.

Continuing the theme of strong play in the crease, Bowling Green junior Tommy Burke backstopped the Falcons to a pair of 3-2 wins on the road versus Alaska, turning away 62-of-66 shots thrown his way. Sophomore forward Mark Pohlkamp lit the lamp twice for BGSU, including the game-winner on Saturday.

In the week’s only non-conference series, Alabama-Huntsville got into the win column for the first time this season with a 4-2 road win over Air Force on Friday before battling the Falcons to a 3-3 tie on Saturday. Chargers freshman forward Brennan Saulnier earned WCHA Rookie of the Week honors for his two points in the series. The WCHA is now 3-3-1 against Atlantic Hockey and 21-16-3 overall in non-conference play this season.

(After the jump: WCHA Three Stars of the Weekend and Three Thoughts on what went down)

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WCHA Weekend Preview, Nov. 7-8

Friday, November 7th, 2014

As a league, the WCHA is off to a strong start, which is exciting for first-year commissioner Bill Robertson and his re-building league. Eight of the WCHA’s ten teams are either ranked or receiving votes and six teams – Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan, Bowling Green, Alaska-Anchorage and Alaska – are among the top-20 teams by win percentage.

However, a conference’s strength will always be measured by how it fares against other leagues. In that regard, WCHA teams have a .551 win percentage in non-conference play, which is the second best in the country.

Breaking down its non-conference record, of the WCHA’s 20 wins, almost half have come against the Big Ten. Overall, the league is 9-3-1 vs. the Big Ten, 5-7-0 vs. the NCHC, 2-3-1 vs. Hockey East, 2-0-1 vs. the ECAC, and 2-3-0 vs. Atlantic Hockey.

The biggest news in the WCHA this week, though, was the NCAA handing Alaska a postseason ban for this season stemming from the use of ineligible players from 2007-2011.

With the Nanooks off to a promising start, that decision has big ramifications for the WCHA race. UAF certainly looked capable of a top-eight finish in the conference, so its ban essentially opens up another playoff spot as the ninth place team will now qualify for the WCHA playoffs (assuming it’s not the Nanooks).

(After the jump: Previewing this week’s match-ups)

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Three Things I Think: WCHA, Nov. 3

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

This week in the WCHA featured a number of teams looking to build on hot starts and a trio of non-conference match-ups before conference season kicks into full gear next weekend.

In non-conference play, the WCHA went 3-2-1 or 3-1-0, depending on whether or not you want to count the “non-conference” series between Northern Michigan and Alabama-Huntsville.

In the “match-up of the week” that I highlighted on Friday, No. 17 Michigan Tech trounced No. 15 Michigan, 4-1 and 6-2, in a statement-making sweep. The Huskies have been one of college hockey’s best surprises this season and, Ivy League teams notwithstanding, are the nation’s lone remaining undefeated team (6-0-0).

Elsewhere, No. 14 Ferris State managed a split on the road against Michigan State, despite its continued offensive woes. Bulldogs senior goaltender C.J. Motte pitched a 36-save shutout in a 1-0 win on Friday, before the Spartans got its own sputtering offense going Saturday in a 4-1 FSU loss.

In the weekend’s last “non-conference” series, WCHA members Northern Michigan battled Alabama-Huntsville to a 1-1 tie on Friday, before NMU triumphed, 4-1, in the finale to remain unbeaten (5-0-1) on the year. Sophomore forward Brock Maschmeyer lit the lamp twice to lift the Wildcats to Saturday’s win and sophomore goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom continued his strong start to the season, stopping 40 shots on the weekend to remain the leagues leader in goals against average (0.82) and save percentage (.964).

In WCHA league play, Bemidji State broke its three-game losing streak with a sweep of Alaska in its conference opener. The Beavers offense exploded for a 6-1 win on Friday, before junior forward Cory Ward played hero on Saturday, scoring the overtime winner in a 4-3 BSU win.

As they have each time they’ve played as conference foes, Minnesota State and Bowling Green split their series. Led by a hat trick from junior forward Bryce Gervais, the Mavericks took the opener, 5-2, before the Falcons salvaged the split on Saturday with two third period goals in a 3-1 win.

Finally, after falling 3-2 on Friday to start the season 0-9-0 – the program’s worst start in 15 years – Lake Superior State finally got into the win column, and split with Alaska Anchorage, with a 3-2 win courtesy of an overtime goal from junior forward Bryce Schmitt.

(After the jump: My WCHA Three Stars of the Week and three thoughts on what went down)

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WCHA Weekend Preview, Oct. 31-Nov. 1

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Match-up of the Week: No. 15 Michigan (2-3-0) at No. 17 Michigan Tech (4-0-0)
Friday, Oct. 31, at 7:07 p.m. (ET); Saturday, Nov. 1, at 7:07 p.m. (ET)

Life is good right now in Houghton. Michigan Tech is off to an undefeated 4-0-0 start, ranked in the national polls for the first time since November 2011, and coming off a road sweep of defending MacNaughton Cup champion Ferris State.

This weekend, the Huskies welcomes in-state rival Michigan to the U.P., for the first time since 1983 when they were both in the now-defunct CCHA. However, the rivalry is one of the most played in college hockey history with 221 meetings between the two schools. The Wolverines lead the all-time series, 122-94-5, including two wins last season in Ann Arbor.

This season’s start marks the latest in the season Michigan Tech has been undefeated since 2011-12, which, combined with a big name opponent coming in, should make for a great atmosphere at MacInnes Arena as the buzz around the Huskies grows. It has been awhile since Tech fans have had the opportunity to cheer for a team that looks capable of an NCAA Tournament berth.

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A Quick Pairwise Look Heading Into Championship Weekend

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Conferences across the nation will crown their league champions, and NCAA automatic qualifiers, this upcoming weekend.

For some teams these will be do-or-die games. For others, there’s a trophy at stake but their tickets to the NCAA tournament have already been punched. Here’s what we know:

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The Takeaway: Wisconsin Advances to the Final Five Defeating Minnesota-Duluth 4-1

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

MADISON – The Kohl Center errupted when the Wisconsin Badgers finished off the first round of the WCHA playoffs by defeating the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs 4-1 in Saturday night’s showdown.

The Badgers sounded the horn for the first goal of the night from Jefferson Dahl just under three minutes into the game, followed by another tally from Michael Mersch.  UMD Bulldog Justin Crandall kept the scoreboard active by cutting Wisconsin’s lead in half, 2-1, all within the first five minutes of the game.  Wisconsin’s Kevin Schulze tallied another goal for the Badgers in the first period to send the home team into the locker room with a 3-1 lead.  The second period failed to produce scoring from either team, but Tyler Barnes recorded his 11th goal of the year in the third period, capping off the weekend with a 4-1 win.

With the sweep of Minnesota-Duluth, Wisconsin will play either Colorado College or Denver in the first round of the WCHA Final Five tournament in St. Paul, Minnesota.  The Badgers join the Gophers, who have already swept Bemidji State in teams that will participate in the 2013 Final Five.

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The Takeaway: Ben Marshall caps off Minnesota’s comeback against Bemidji State

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS- It may be a cliche but few things are more valuable in the playoffs than defense and a hot goaltender.

Unfortunately for Bemidji State (6-22-8), those translated into a pair of heartbreaking losses to end the season.

A night after Kyle Rau scored his NCAA-leading 7th game winning goal in overtime, Ben Marshall became Minnesota’s newest hero Saturday when he put the Gophers ahead for the first time with 52.7 seconds left. Their resiliency overshadowed 37 saves from Beavers goaltender Andrew Walsh and goals by Jordan George, Cory Ward and Jeff Jubinville.

Despite Minnesota (26-7-5) out-shooting Bemidji State 12-8 in the first period, George scored the lone goal following a penalty to Nick Bjugstad. The Beavers made it 2-0 9:27 into the second period when Ward tipped in a shot by Sam Rendle. Bjugstad, meanwhile, made up for his earlier penalty, scoring 7 seconds into the Gophers’ first power play to cut the lead into one with 4:27 remaining but Jubinville scored 14 seconds later to make it 3-1 Bemidji State.

That was the Beavers’ high point, though. Nate Condon tipped in an Erik Haula shot with 1:06 remaining in the second to make it 3-2 following the second intermission. Minnesota came out strong, peppering Walsh with the first 8 shots of the 3rd, and eventually tied it 7:38 into the period when  freshman A.J. Michaelson was left open on a line change. Overtime for the second straight night seemed inevitable before Marshall skated through the neutral zone, around a BSU defender and beat Walsh between the legs to send the Gophers to the Final Five on a 5 game winning streak (the last 4 against the Beavers).

Minnesota next plays Friday against an opponent to be determined. (more…)