January 30, 2012
Colorado College skates in a home-and-home series with Denver
MADISON, Wis. – The month of February, a four-week blitz that could go a long way in determining this season's Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular season champion and the six teams that will earn home ice for the first round of playoffs, launches Friday and Saturday with five league series. On the docket for Feb. 3-4 are two-game match ups featuring Nebraska Omaha hosting Bemidji State, Michigan Tech traveling to Minnesota State, Wisconsin entertaining St. Cloud State, Minnesota Duluth visiting Alaska Anchorage and Colorado College and Denver playing home-and-home.
Heading into the final five weeks of the 2011-12 regular season, No. 1/2-ranked Minnesota has opened a five-point advantage in the race for the MacNaughton Cup and just five points separate six teams between second place and No. 1/2-ranked Minnesota Duluth and seventh place Michigan Tech.
At CenturyLink Center (15,959) in Omaha this weekend, the UNO Mavericks (15-10-2, 11-9-0 WCHA) return to action after a bye week by taking on Bemidji State (12-12-2, 6-10-2 WCHA) at 7:37 pm CT on Friday and 7:07 pm CT on Saturday. The Mavericks hold a 1-0-1 advantage in the four-game regular season series, having tied (3-3 ot) and won (5-1) at Sanford Center in Bemidji back on Nov. 11-12.
In Mankato, Minnesota State (9-18-1, 5-14-1 WCHA) will engage Michigan Tech (12-12-2, 9-7-2 WCHA) in a pair of evening contests, with Friday's face-off at Verizon Wireless Center (4,832) at 7:37 pm CT and Saturday's contest at 7:07 pm CT. The Mavericks and Huskies split their first two-game set back on Nov. 4-5 at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena in Houghton, with MTU blanking MSU 1-0 in the opener and MSU coming back for a 6-3 triumph in game two. Michigan Tech is 3-1-1 in calendar year 2012.
At the Kohl Center (15,325) in Madison on Feb. 2-3, two clubs separated by a single point in the standings – Wisconsin (12-12-2, 7-11-2 WCHA) and St. Cloud State (10-14-4, 7-10-3 WCHA) – will do battle at 7:07 pm CT on Friday evening and 8:07 pm CT on Saturday night. The Huskies are 1-0-1 vs the Badgers this season, having earned three points in their Nov. 4-5 series at the National Hockey Center with a 7-2 victory and 3-3 (ot) tie.
Up at Sullivan Arena (6,251) this weekend, Alaska Anchorage (6-16-2, 3-16-1 WCHA) will go up against defending national champion Minnesota Duluth (17-5-4, 11-4-3 WCHA) in a pair of 7:07 pm AT puck drops. The Bulldogs swept the Seawolves at AMSOIL Arena back on Nov. 11-12 by 5-0 and 3-1 counts.
And in the Rocky Mountain state this Friday and Saturday, arch-rivals Colorado College (14-9-1, 11-7-0 WCHA) and Denver (15-8-3, 10-5-3 WCHA) will go head-to-head in a home-and-home set. Game one between the No. 11-ranked Tigers and No. 13-ranked Pioneers will be played on Friday evening at 7:37 pm MT at DU's Magness Arena (6,025) with Saturday's rematch at the Colorado Springs World Arena (7,380) at 7:07 pm MT. Both teams won at home in their first go-round this season, with DU skating to a 5-4 win on Nov. 12 and CC prevailing 4-3 (ot) on Dec. 2. Denver sports a five-game winning streak heading into the series.
Idle from competition this week are both Minnesota (19-9-1, 15-5-0 WCHA) and No. 17-ranked North Dakota (15-10-2, 11-9-0 WCHA).
With five weeks and 54 conference games remaining in the 2011-12 regular season, this week's league standings find first place Minnesota expanding their lead to five points (20 gp, 15-5-0, 30 points) over second place Minnesota Duluth (18 gp, 11-4-3, 25 points), Denver (18 gp, 10-5-3, 23 points) moving up to third and Colorado College (18 gp, 11-7-0, 22 points) and defending champion North Dakota (20 gp, 11-9-0, 22 points) tied for fourth. Nebraska Omaha (18 gp, 9-6-3, 21 points) is sixth, followed closely by Michigan Tech (18 gp, 9-7-2, 20 points) in seventh. St. Cloud State (20 gp, 7-10-3, 17 points) is eighth this week, Wisconsin (20 gp, 7-11-2, 16 points) is ninth, Bemidji State (18 gp, 6-10-2, 14 points) is 10th, Minnesota State (20 gp, 5-14-1, 11 points) is 11th and Alaska Anchorage (20 gp, 3-16-1, seven points) is 12th.
The team with the most points at the end of the regular season receives the MacNaughton Cup and the No. 1 playoff seed as conference champion. Should two teams tie for first place they would be declared co-champions.
The top six ranked teams in the final regular season WCHA standings will earn home ice for the first round of playoffs. Those best-of-three series will be contested the weekend of March 9-11, with No. 1 hosting No. 12, No. 2 hosting No. 11, No. 3 hosting No. 10, No. 4 hosting No. 9, No. 5 hosting No. 8, and No. 6 hosting No. 7.
The six first round playoff winners will then earn berths in the 2012 Red Baron™ WCHA Final Five, set for March 15-17 at Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn. At the Final Five, the No. 1 and No. 2 seeded teams will receive a first-day bye. There will be two games played on Thursday at 2:07 pm and 7:07 pm CT, and then two semi-final matchups on Friday at 2:07 pm and 7:07 pm CT. On Saturday, the Broadmoor Trophy championship game will be played at 7:07 pm CT. The winner of the Final Five receives the WCHA's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
In conference play last weekend – Friday, Jan. 27 and Saturday, Jan. 28 – three teams were able to gain sweeps as Minnesota captured both ends of a home-and-home series with St. Cloud State, Denver swept at Alaska Anchorage, and North Dakota downed visiting Wisconsin twice. Michigan Tech probably turned in the biggest weekend, taking three of four points on the road from top-ranked Minnesota Duluth while host Bemidji State and Minnesota State split.
At Mariucci Arena last Friday evening, the host Golden Gophers won 2-1 over St. Cloud State on a game-winning goal from center Nick Bjugstad at 11:49 of period two, a goal and an assist from right winger Jake Hansen and a stellar defense that limited the Huskies to just 13 shots on goal. Last Saturday, as the series moved to St. Cloud, UM again won by a single goal, this time 3-2 as left winger Sam Warning notched the game-winner at 18:41 of the third period. The Gophers limited the Huskies to just 12 shots on goal in game two, with center Ben Hanowski scoring both goals for SCSU.
At Sullivan Arena last weekend, Denver won both games against the host UAA Seawolves to bank four points, skating to a 4-2 and 6-3 decisions. On Jan. 27, linemates Drew Shore (C, 1-2=3) and Luke Salazar (RW, 1-2=3) each had three points for the Pioneers, with Shore netting the winner at 1:29 of the second, while defenseman Joey LaLeggia had two assists. On Jan. 28, Denver left winger Ty Loney scored a pair of goals, Salazar had three assists, right winger Chris Knowlton had a goal and two helpers and LaLeggia had 1-1=2 to help goaltender Sam Brittain gain the victory with 24 stops in his first action since missing 25 games to injury.
In Grand Forks last Friday and Saturday, North Dakota logged back-to-back two-goal victories over visiting Wisconsin with 5-3 and 4-2 verdicts at Ralph Engelstad Arena and evened their four-game regular season series at 2-2. In the opener, linemates Brock Nelson (LW) and Danny Kristo (RW) each had a goal and an assist for UND while left winger Stephane Pattyn's first collegiate goal at 18:06 of the third stood as the winner. For UW, right winger Michael Mersch tallied twice. In game two, Nelson and Kristo duplicated their Friday night efforts with a goal and an assist each, with right winger Michael Parks notching the deciding goal at 15:21 of period two.
At AMSOIL Arena in Duluth last weekend, visiting Michigan Tech stung the No. 1-ranked UMD Bulldogs by following a 4-4 (ot) tie on Friday with a 5-0 whitewash on Saturday to earn three road points. After trailing 4-0 in game one, Tech scored nine unanswered goals in the series. On Jan. 27, UMD left winger Caleb Herbert scored two of his team's four goals in the first period before the Huskies rallied for the tie behind a goal and assist from right winger Jordan Baker, two assists from center Brett Olson, a shorthanded third period marker from center Jacob Johnstone, and a game-tying, third period power-play tally from left winger David Johnstone at 14:12. On Jan. 28, MTU goaltender Josh Robinson stopped all 29 shots on goal for the 5-0 shutout win, with left winger Blake Pietila (1g, 2a), David Johnstone (1g, 1a) and defenseman Steven Seigo (2a) providing the offense. The Huskies also blanked Minnesota Duluth on all six power-play chances in the series.
And at Sanford Center in Bemidji last weekend, the host BSU Beavers split with Minnesota State. Bemidji State earned a 2-1 victory on Friday behind 39 saves from goaltender Dan Bakala and a game-winning third period goal from right winger Jordan George at 9:46. The visiting Mavericks stormed back on Saturday, however, to post a 5-2 triumph as left winger Michael Dorr (2g, 1a), center Zach Lehrke (1g, 1a), and right wingers Eriah Hayes (1g, 1a) and Mike Louwerse (1g, 1a) all had two points.
Looking ahead to the weekend of Friday and Saturday, Feb. 10-11, there will again be five WCHA series contested as Michigan Tech entertains Nebraska Omaha for Winter Carnival, Bemidji State hosts Colorado College, North Dakota travels to Minnesota Duluth, Denver hosts Minnesota and Minnesota State heads to Alaska Anchorage. Both St. Cloud State and Wisconsin will be idle.
In this week's USCHO.com Div. 1 Men's College Hockey Poll released for Jan. 30, Minnesota Duluth continues with a No. 1 national ranking, Minnesota is up to No. 2, Colorado College is at No. 11, Denver is at No. 13 and North Dakota is at No. 17. Also receiving votes from the WCHA were Nebraska Omaha and Michigan Tech.
And in the latest USA Hockey/USA Hockey Magazine Div. 1 Men's College Hockey Poll issued January 30, Minnesota is ranked No. 1, Minnesota Duluth is No. 2, Colorado College is No. 11 and Denver is No. 13. Receiving votes in the poll was North Dakota.
Heading into February, six of the WCHA's 12-member teams own winning records overall while nine are at least .500. The top winning percentage overall is held by Minnesota Duluth at 17-5-4 (.731), Minnesota is at 19-9-1 (.672), Denver is at 15-8-3 (.634), Colorado College is at 14-9-1 (.604), North Dakota is at 15-10-2 (.593) and Nebraska Omaha is at 12-10-4 (.538). Michigan Tech (12-12-2), Wisconsin (12-12-2) and Bemidji State (12-12-2) are all at .500.
Through 84 games this season, WCHA-member teams stand a combined 47-28-9 (.607) in non-conference play. League teams stand 13-1-0 (.929) vs the Atlantic Hockey Association, 8-2-0 (.800) vs Independents, 11-5-4 (.650) vs ECAC Hockey, 10-14-1 (.420) vs the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, and 5-7-3 (.433) vs the Hockey East Association.
This Week in the WCHA
Games for Friday, February 3: St. Cloud State at Wisconsin (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; Bemidji State at Nebraska Omaha (WCHA), 7:37 pm CT; Michigan Tech at Minnesota State (WCHA), 7:37 pm CT; Colorado College at Denver (WCHA), 7:37 pm MT; Minnesota Duluth at Alaska Anchorage (WCHA), 7:07 pm AT.
Games for Saturday, February 4: Bemidji State at Nebraska Omaha (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; Michigan Tech at Minnesota State (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; Denver at Colorado College (WCHA), 7:07 pm MT; St. Cloud State at Wisconsin (WCHA), 8:07 pm CT; Minnesota Duluth at Alaska Anchorage (WCHA), 7:07 pm AT.
Last Week in the WCHA
Results of Friday, January 27: Michigan Tech 4 at Minnesota Duluth 4 ot (WCHA); St. Cloud State 1 at Minnesota 2 (WCHA); Minnesota State 1 at Bemidji State 2 (WCHA); Wisconsin 3 at North Dakota 5 (WCHA); Denver 4 at Alaska Anchorage 2 (WCHA).
Results of Saturday, January 28: Minnesota 3 at St. Cloud State 2 (WCHA); Minnesota State 5 at Bemidji State 2 (WCHA); Michigan Tech 5 at Minnesota Duluth 0 (WCHA); Wisconsin 2 at North Dakota 4 (WCHA); Denver 6 at Alaska Anchorage 3 (WCHA).