Archive for the 'WCHA' Category

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…)

The Takeaway: Wisconsin Takes Game One With 3-1 Win Over Minnesota-Duluth

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

MADISON – The Wisconsin Badgers take the first game with a physical 3-1 victory over Minnesota Duluth.

UMD’s Dan DeLisle was able to add the first tally to the scoreboard, even though the Badgers controlled the first five minutes of play.  Wisconsin answered with two goals in the second period by Nic Kerdiles and John Ramage, followed by a full-ice, empty-net goal by Mark Zengerle to seal the deal for the Badgers in the 3-1 win. (more…)

All-WCHA Teams & Other Awards

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Yesterday the WCHA unveiled their all-conference teams and individual honors, which are voted on by coaches, players, sports information directors and local media. I don’t have an actual vote when it comes to these things (there’s probably a good reason why), but that isn’t stopping me from naming my own all-WCHA teams and handing out other awards.

It’s always tough to decide on who to pick. This year was no exception; especially with forwards where 7 of the top 10 scorers in the nation are from the WCHA. There were enough deserving players where I could have made a fourth team yet still feel like someone was left off. The other positions are not as deep as forwards, however, there were still plenty of  tough choices.

So without further adieu… (more…)

The Takeaway: UMD Earns Weekend Sweep With 6-0 Win Over UNO

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

DULUTH – Minnesota-Duluth continues to surprise not only it’s fans, but the rest of college hockey with a large-margined, 6-0 victory and weekend sweep over #16 Nebraska-Omaha.  Ryan Massa started in net for the Mavericks, but John Faulkner finished the game off after the Bulldogs had scored four straight powerplay goals from Austin Farley, Cal Decowski, Joe Basaraba and Andy Welinski.

Faulkner took the net to begin the third period, but a powerplay goal from Joe Basaraba and an even-strength goal from Mike Seidel allowed the Bulldogs to finish with two goals in each period.  When the final horn sounded, the Bulldogs earned the weekend sweep while outscoring the Mavericks 11-4.

What I Saw

Nebraska Omaha was paralyzed with penalties all night long, giving the Bulldogs a man-advantage for a large amount of time.  When things were even, the Mavericks were able to display the talent they’ve normally been able to produce, but couldn’t find a hole in UMD Goalie Aaron Crandall.  The physical game one could expect from UNO was there, but the line between being penalized was crossed much too many times.

Minnesota-Duluth is on a tear.  The powerplay was performing very well tonight, going 5/8 while the penalty kill didn’t give up a goal during the three attempts UNO had.  The Bulldogs were able to breakout, connect passes, avoid neutral-zone turnovers, and sloppy play that plagued them for most of the season, allowing for the performance that we’ve seen.

What I Thought

Just when things seemed as though they were looking up for UNO, they would either take a penalty or turn the puck over.  The amount of times UNO would “shoot themselves in the foot” kept adding up, usually resulting in goals.  Blais would have liked his goaltenders to play a little differently, too, as they gave up six goals.  Had they not taken so many penalties and had some momentum growing from the goaltenders making great saves, the game would have been much closer and could have resulted in the Mavericks winning.

UMD is right where they want to be going into the playoffs.  Although they are heading on the road, either to Minnesota State, Wisconsin, or Denver (most-likely, anyway), the Bulldogs will take a large amount of momentum and confidence with them after two sweeps.  The powerplay and goaltending are performing at the best of its ability, which could end up giving UMD a bid into the WCHA Final Five.

What They Said

Nebraska-Omaha coach Dean Blais said,”It didn’t seem to matter what we did, they found a way to take advantage of our mistakes so you’ve got to give Duluth credit.”

Minnesota-Duluth coach Scott Sandelin said,”Like last night, we took advantage on the powerplay.  Our guys played with a lot passion tonight; we played smart and aggressive.”

Minnesota-Duluth senior Mike Seidel said,”We really stressed coming out in the first period because we knew they were going to come out with fire.  We told ourselves that we were going to match their intensity and push forward and to gain momentum.”

What Else You Should Know

Aaron Crandall earned his second shutout in a row for UMD.  He stopped 32 shots and did a fine job at redirecting pucks away from potentially dangerous situations, as well as seeing shots through a good amount of traffic.

The Bulldog powerplay is now 11 for 23 in the last four games (48%) and penalty kill sits at 13 for 14 (93%).

Nebraska-Omaha has now lost four games in row resulting in the longest losing streak of the season.  They’re also 2-7-0 in their last nine games.

The Takeaway: Four Goal Period Propels UMD Over UNO

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

DULUTH – Minnesota-Duluth defeats Nebraska-Omaha 5-4 after scoring four straight goals in the second period.  UNO sits in sixth place in the WCHA, but will fall to seventh tonight as Denver is going to defeat Alaska Anchorage.  The drop in standings results in Omaha taking the road for an away game to kick-off the WCHA playoffs, making tomorrow’s game even more important.

The Mavericks hit the board first with a Josh Archibald tally, finishing off the period ahead of the Bulldogs 3-1.  The second period belonged to the Bulldogs, though.  After killing a five-minute major penalty, the Bulldogs scored four straight goals giving them the 5-3 lead to end the second.  Johnnie Searfoss cut UMD’s lead 5-4 in the third period, but were unable to find anymore offensive production to tie the game.

What I Saw

UNO was able to capitalize on missed passes and sloppy play from UMD which allowed them to dominate most of the first period.  Ryan Massa started the game for the Mavericks, but was pulled and replaced by John Faulkner after giving up four goals.  With the exception of the second period, which I’m sure they’d like to have back, UNO played pretty well.

UMD didn’t exactly fly out of the gates to begin the game, but eventually found traction and success after awhile.  The Bulldog power play helped in adding two goals in four attempts, which looked to be firing on all cylinders in each attempt.

What I Thought

Omaha came to play, and quieted Amsoil Arena very early in the game.  The dominant offense UMD had hoped to stop from UNO produced early in the game, but failed when it counted most.  But when momentum was sided with the Mavericks, which was mainly the first period, they displayed a dangerous amount of talent in connecting with one another and moving the puck.

Duluth’s sloppy play allowed UNO to convert early on, but after killing the major penalty, the Dogs caught fire and didn’t look back.  UMD’s special teams continued to perform well from the week before, killing penalties and finding the back of the net when on a man-advantage.  A team that is finally showing some confidence late in the season.

What They Said

UMD coach Scott Sandelin, “We won the battles around the net, the penalty kill was huge and to kill that (Justin Crandall’s major penalty) off and to respond with four goals was huge.”

UMD freshman Austin Farley,”All lines are working well and we’re all clicking.  Our power play is pretty good too and we wanted to win the special teams battle because that’s what it comes down to later.”

UNO junior Ryan Walters, “They gained a lot of momentum for killing it (Justin Crandall’s major penalty) off and as a result they scored four straight goals and we had to come back just like they did.  The third period came along and we got that goal right away and gave ourselves a chance but fell short tonight.”

What Else You Should Know

UMD is locked up to travel for the first round of the WCHA playoffs, but UNO is one point out of playing at home.  Tomorrow’s game could potentially lock the Mavericks up in an away series as well, depending on how Denver does against UAA tomorrow night.

Austin Farley quietly had a four point night with a goal and three assists, and was also one of five Bulldogs with multiple points.

Tomorrow (Saturday) will be the last regular season game for both teams.

The Takeaway: Minnesota explodes for 4 in the third to defeat Denver 5-1

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS- It took Minnesota nearly 90 minutes to score a goal this weekend, but once the red light went on its work for the weekend was just beginning.

Redshirt junior Zach Budish scored twice while Erik Haula added 3 assists as the Gophers defeated Denver 5-1 behind a four goal third period. The win gave Minnesota a split in their final WCHA regular season home series before joining the Big Ten in 2013-2014.

The Pioneers took an early 1-0 lead on Scott Mayfield’s 3rd goal of the year and were poised for a second when Ty Loney tipped in a shot past Adam Wilcox 5 minutes into the second. Loney’s goal, however, was ruled to have been played with a high stick and overturned. That led to Budish tying the game at one 9:03 into the second before third period goals by Nick Bjugstad, Justin Holl, Sam Warning  and Budish (on an empty netter) sealed the game for Minnesota. (more…)

The Takeaway: Denver shuts out Minnesota 2-0 behind Juho Olkinuora’s 33 saves

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS- For a game featuring two of the top six offenses in college hockey, Friday night’s game – the last Friday WCHA home game for Minnesota – was set up to be an offensive bonanza on paper.

On paper. On the ice it turned out to be anything but one.

Shawn Ostrow scored his 11th goal of the season 18 seconds into the third period and Ty Loney added an empty netter as Denver defeated the Gophers 2-0 at Mariucci Arena. Juho Olkinuora made 33 saves and became the first goaltender to shut out the Gophers since Alaska-Anchorage’s Chris Kamal did so March 12, 2011. (more…)

WCHA Power Rankings: 2/27/13

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

With just two weekends left in the season, the race for the MacNaughton Cup is still wide open. St. Cloud State is two points clear of the field, but Minnesota, Nebraska-Omaha, North Dakota and Minnesota State are all within four points of the Huskies. Denver and Wisconsin are long shots at six points back, but they have a battle of their own going on for the final home ice spot. In this week’s power rankings, I take a look at each team’s postseason situation, both in the WCHA and in the Pairwise.

1. Minnesota (21-6-5, 13-6-5 WCHA) — Last week: 1
Minnesota took three of four points from UMD and moved into second place in the league. Erik Haula scored twice in Friday’s 5-3 win, while Adam Wilcox made 35 saves in Saturday’s 2-2 tie. The Gophers are now just two points out of first with a home series vs. Denver and a road series at Bemidji left on the schedule. They’re still second in the Pairwise, and they should lock up a one-seed with just a few more wins.

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