Archive for the 'WCHA' Category

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)


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)


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.


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:


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.


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.