Archive for the 'WCHA' Category

WCHA All-First Half Team & Other Awards

Friday, January 11th, 2013

Before the second half of WCHA conference play begins, I feel like it would be a good opportunity to step back and reflect upon the first half of the season. There have been some ups and downs along the way. Players who have expected to dominate have struggled while a few teams have exceeded every expectation from the preseason. Most importantly, the play continues to live up to the high standards of the WCHA. It’s a treat to watch all 12 teams every weekend and with 6 teams within 4 points of first place, the final second half of the conference as we know it cannot get any better.

So without further adieu, here are my WCHA first-half awards. Winners receive nothing except for the praise of seeing their name on the internet. Those excluded will have others make arguments for them because this is the internet. (more…)

WCHA Power Rankings: 1/10/13

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

The holidays are over, and that means we’re back to conference play. Although I didn’t have time to write up last week’s blog entry, I did tweet out my rankings. So the “Last week” does actually refer to last week and not pre-break.

1. Minnesota (14-3-3, 6-3-3 WCHA) — Last week: 1
The Gophers beat Notre Dame 4-1 on Tuesday to extend their unbeaten streak to six games. Prior to that, they outscored Air Force and Boston College 12-1 en route to winning the Mariucci Classic. Nick Bjugstad had two goals and four assists in the tournament, while Sam Warning, Nate Condon and Zach Budish each had two points in Tuesday’s victory over the Irish.

2. North Dakota (12-5-3, 7-2-3 WCHA) — Last week: 2
UND extended its unbeaten streak to seven games by sweeping Holy Cross over the weekend, winning 5-2 on Friday and 3-2 on Saturday. They outshot the Crusaders 78-34 in the series. Corban Knight registered two goals and four assists on the weekend and is now tied for third in the country with 29 points on the season. He has a 15-game point streak, and has multiple points in each of the last five.


Three Things I Think, January 9: WCHA

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

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…)

The Takeaway: UNH Survives for OT Win Over Bemidji

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Hanover, NH- In the consolation game of the Ledyard Bank National Classic, Bemidji State took an early 1-0 lead two minutes, 12 seconds into the game on a goal by Markus Gerbrandt. UNH would respond 13 minutes later, as Grayson Downing would get a feed from Trevor van Riemsdyk in the right circle and he stayed true to tie the game at 1. The Wildcats would score the lone goal in the second period, as Jay Camper would send the game into the third period a 2-1 game in favor of UNH.

The third period was much different than the first two, as Bemidji made it a game when Jordan George tied the contest at two nine minutes into the third period. That tie would hold and send the game into overtime where Trevor van Riemsdyk fired a shot from the high slot past Bemidji goaltender, Andrew Walsh to give UNH a much needed win. UNH improves to 12-3-2 on the season, while Bemidji State falls to 5-10-3. (more…)

The Takeaway: UMass Holds on for 4-3 Win Over Bemidji

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

Hanover, NH.- It was a tale of three different periods for UMass and Bemidji State. The first period was a struggle to find the puck by both teams but Bemidji State found their groove quicker than UMass and took a 2-0 lead at the intermission, on goals by Aaron Macleod at nine minutes, 17 seconds and a power-play goal by Brance Orban at 14:47. The second period was a much different story as UMass dominated the Beavers and were able to take a 3-2 lead, on goals by Michael Pereira, Darren Rowe and Adam Phillips.

The third was a relative stalemate as the Minutemen and Beavers traded goals to make it a 4-3 final in favor of UMass. UMass improves their record to 6-9-2 on the season, while Bemidji State falls to 5-9-3 overall. Both teams will continue in the Ledyard Bank Classic on Monday evening, UMass in the championship game and Bemidji in the consolation game.


The Takeaway: Minnesota shuts out Air Force behind Wilcox’s 18 saves

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS - On a day that saw Jerry York break the all-time record for college hockey wins, the second game of the Mariucci Classic saw a family affair. Air Force (5-8-3, 4-4-2 AHA) head coach Frank Serratore faced his son, Minnesota junior forward Tom, and it was the Gophers (12-3-3, 6-3-3 WCHA) who came away with a 4-0 win.

It was a team effort for the Gophers on Saturday night. Four different Minnesota players scored, led by two points from Erik Haula (1G-1A) and Nick Bjugstad (2A), and freshman goalie Adam Wilcox made 18 saves for his third shutout of the season. Haula started off the scoring when he banked a shot off of Jason Fabian’s skate 6:58 into the game. That was followed in the second period by Ryan Reilly’s first goal as a Gopher when he roofed in a Christian Isackson pass over Air Force goalie Jason Torf. After a breakaway attempt by Stephen Carew was stopped by Wilcox, third period goals by Minnesota’s Kyle Rau and Nate Condon put the game out of hand for the Falcons.

Minnesota next faces Boston College Sunday at 7 p.m. CT while Air Force goes up against Alabama-Huntsville at 4 p.m in the final day of the Mariucci Classic.


The Takeaway: Quinnipiac Tops UNO in High-Scoring Affair

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

HAMDEN, Conn. – Two teams that pride themselves on defense ended up in a shootout Saturday, as Quinnipiac beat Nebraska-Omaha 5-4. Jordan Samuels-Thomas scored two goals for the Bobcats, including what proved to be the game-winner 3:47 into the third. Just three minutes after UNO’s Ryan Walters tied the game at 4-4, Matthew Peca led a 4-on-2 and found Samuels-Thomas in the high slot for the goal. Quinnipiac extended its unbeaten streak to 11 games with the win.

Samuels-Thomas and Peca also opened the scoring, as each scored within the game’s first four minutes to give the Bobcats (13-3-2) a 2-0 lead that they would hold until the end of the first. Matt White cut the lead in half early in the second before Ben Arnt restored Quinnipiac’s two-goal lead. The Mavericks (11-7-1) came back to tie the game at 3-3, though, as Johnnie Searfoss and Brian O’Rourke both found the back of the net. It looked like the game would go into the third deadlocked, but a UNO turnover behind the net allowed Kellen Jones to feed Kevin Bui in front to give the Bobcats a 4-3 lead with 1:06 left in the second.


Three Things I Think, December 19: WCHA

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Sometimes it isn’t easy to be a college hockey fan. As much as our passion for the sport bleeds through, few outsiders would know that and that’s disappointing. If the NHL is a niche sport in the United States then college hockey is a niche of a niche. You could say we’re the hockey fans of hockey.

So it is satisfying to see when fans of locked out teams check out games on NBC Sports Net and double viewership from last year. The same is true when Peter Richmond gives Sports Illustrated readers a chance to experience the passion of a North Dakota game and Grantland’s Katie Baker writes nearly 5000 words on the Minnesota-Wisconsin rivalry at Mariucci Arena. The things WCHA fans experience on a weekly level that normally stay inside are  out there for the rest of the world to see.

It’s even more rewarding when college hockey polls make the bottom line of major sports networks or John Buccigross casually drops scores in the middle of a Sportscenter or to his 111,000 Twitter followers. Many of these things don’t mean much in the long run but as fans that aren’t used to any attention, the effort is appreciated. It’s much better than watching intermission reports that have nothing to do with college hockey.

Along with them and everyone who works hard day-in and day-out to bring more attention to college hockey, I’m thankful for this great sport we all love.

After the break, I continue to celebrate college hockey and the holiday season with bad puns. There’s also Bemidji State helping Denver crash to rock bottom, North Dakota rising to the top and thoughts on Minnesota State’s split with Nebraska-Omaha, but mostly bad holiday puns. (more…)

WCHA Power Rankings: 12/19/12

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Well, we’ve arrived at winter break. The top two teams in these rankings are exactly who we thought they’d be before the season, but there have been plenty of surprises after that. Minnesota State, under first-year head coach Mike Hastings, has overcome a slow start to emerge as a top-five team. Elsewhere, Denver has dropped from one of the top teams in the country to the middle of the pack, and Wisconsin hasn’t even come close to meeting preseason expectations that, in hindsight, were probably too high in the first place.

1. Minnesota (11-3-3, 6-3-3 WCHA) — Last week: 1
The Gophers had the weekend off, so they stay at the top heading into break. North Dakota certainly closed the gap a bit, though. Minnesota leads the league in both defense (2.00 goals allowed per game) and special teams net (+9), and ranks fourth in offense (3.35 goals per game). Erik Haula enters the break riding a 12-game point streak, and he currently ranks seventh in the league with 22 points on the season.

2. North Dakota (10-5-3, 7-2-3 WCHA) — Last week: 2
North Dakota pulls right up to Minnesota’s bumper after outscoring Michigan Tech 10-2 in a weekend sweep. Corban Knight and Danny Kristo led the way with six points apiece in the series. Knight now has a 13-game point streak, and his 23 points on the season are tied for fourth in the conference. Clarke Saunders stopped 65 of 67 shots and is now fourth in the league with a .925 save percentage.

Three Things I Think, December 12: WCHA

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

As the seasons change and a foot of snow welcomes me outside on 12/12/12, so does the WCHA. And things are getting interesting with the changes.

Yesterday’s top dog Denver has gone from a runaway leader last month to seeing their lead cut down to a single point. Several teams have taken advantage of their recent six-game winless streak and the top half of the WCHA are all within 3 points. That includes the Pioneers’ opponent this weekend, North Dakota, who outshot them twice en route to taking three points and are beginning to look capable of making that near-annual second half run. Although they have failed to sweep an opponent in the WCHA, neither has second-place Minnesota, whose third-period collapse Saturday kept that streak alive.

Regardless, what once looked to be a battle for second has heated up into a second half battle for the final MacNaughton Cup as we know it.

After the break, I discuss the hottest team in the WCHA faces a tough challenge this weekend, Rylan Schwartz is proving his worth and St. Cloud State’s freshmen. (more…)