A lot has happened in the two weeks since the last “3 Things” was written; enough so where it feels like I could cover 8 things and not do the conference justice. Since the holiday break the WCHA went through some doom and gloom. St. Cloud State lost to RPI, Minnesota-Duluth fell to Maine and Nebraska-Omaha saw themselves swept by Quinnipiac. With so few non-conference games, their importance in the PairWise grow and each loss takes its toll.
But following the doom and gloom, the WCHA also went through some prosperity. Minnesota State, Michigan Tech and Minnesota won holiday tournament titles alongside sweeps by Denver and North Dakota over Cornell and Holy Cross, respectively. The Gophers joined the Pioneers, who earlier defeated Boston University 6-0, in routing Boston schools when they blew out a Johnny Gaudreau-less Boston College 8-1.
With that win comes a statement, as goaltender Adam Wilcox said, “when [teams] look at it and see ‘Gophers 8-1′ it puts our name on the board.” It’s hard to argue with that.
The top-ranked Gophers had another chance to make a non-conference statement when they faced #2 Notre Dame last night in a rare Tuesday night college hockey game. On a national stage, Minnesota defeated the Fighting Irish 4-1 to finish their non-conference schedule an undefeated 8-0; a remarkable feat given other teams’ issues outside of the conference.
More importantly, their positive non-conference experience helps the Gophers – currently 6th in league play – as they put their focus on the second half of the season. With 2 games in hand over 4 of the 5 teams ahead of them and only 4 points out of first, the gap between first and sixth cannot be smaller.
After the break, first-year players dominate the discussion. From Pheonix Copely and Stephon Williams to Anthony Stolarz and Nicolas Kerdiles, all 3 things cover WCHA freshmen. (more…)