Five Teams in Hunt for Three Remaining Home Playoff Berths; UAA Goes Home-and-Home with Alaska for Governor's Cup
MADISON, Wis. – With just two weeks remaining in the 2009-10 regular season the race for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association championship is a derby between four teams, two clubs have clinched home WCHA playoff berths, and five remain in contention for home ice for the first round of WCHA playoffs. In addition, six conference teams are currently ranked among the nation’s top 12/13, with Denver at No. 1, Wisconsin at No. 3, St. Cloud State at No. 4/5, North Dakota at No. 8, Minnesota Duluth at No. 10/11 and Colorado College at No. 12/13.
The pre-season WCHA and MacNaughton Cup favorite DU Pioneers, riding a nation’s best eight-game winning streak, have opened a three-point lead over second place St. Cloud State in the title chase and also have two games in hand on the Huskies. Wisconsin is five points back while Minnesota Duluth is seven points out. Both DU and SCSU clinched first round home WCHA playoff berths last weekend, meaning three home playoff spots remain a primary goal for the Badgers, Bulldogs, Colorado College, North Dakota and Minnesota.
On deck for the upcoming weekend of Feb. 26-27 are four conference series. No. 12/13-ranked Colorado College (17-12-3, 11-10-3 WCHA) will host defending WCHA champion and No. 8-ranked North Dakota (16-11-5, 11-10-3 WCHA) at Colorado Springs World Arena (7,343) on Friday at 7:37 pm MT and Saturday at 7:07 pm MT. The Tigers and Sioux, who have yet to meet this season, are deadlocked in fifth place with four games to go for each team.
No. 3-ranked and third place Wisconsin (19-8-4, 14-7-3 WCHA) will travel to Michigan Tech (5-24-1, 4-20-0 WCHA) for a two-game set at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena (4,128), with face-offs set for 7:07 pm ET both Friday and Saturday. The Badgers swept the first series with the Huskies in Madison back on Dec. 4-5 by 8-2 and 6-0 scores.
Up in Duluth this weekend, the No. 10/11-ranked Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs (18-13-1, 14-9-1 WCHA) will entertain arch-rival Minnesota (15-15-2, 10-12-2 WCHA) at the DECC (5,303) on Friday at 7:07 pm CT and Saturday at 7:37 pm CT. UMD won a pair of one-goal games with the Golden Gophers at Mariucci Arena on Nov. 20-21, 4-3 (ot) and 3-2.
And in Mankato, Minnesota State (14-16-2, 8-15-1 WCHA) will play host to top-ranked and league-leading Denver (22-6-4, 16-4-4 WCHA) at Verizon Wireless Center (4,832) on Friday at 7:37 pm CT and Saturday at 7:07 pm CT. The Pioneers took three points from the Mavericks back on Oct. 30-31 in a pair of close encounters at Magness Arena, winning 4-3 and tying 4-4 (ot).
Outside the league on Feb. 26-27, Alaska Anchorage will take on in-state rival and CCHA-member Alaska in a home-and-home non-conference set, with Friday’s game at 7:07 pm AT at Sullivan Arena (6,251) and Saturday’s in Fairbanks at 7:05 pm AT. The two teams are playing for the Alaska Airlines Governor’s Cup. In Div. 1 non-conference action so far this season, the WCHA owns a collective 45-22-5 overall record and a .660 winning percentage through 72 games as of Feb. 22.
No. 4/5-ranked St. Cloud State (20-10-4, 15-8-3 WCHA) is idle this week.
This week’s WCHA standings show Denver (22-6-4, 16-4-4 WCHA) in first place with 36 points in 24 games, St. Cloud State (20-10-4, 15-8-3 WCHA) in second with 33 points in 26 games, Wisconsin (19-8-4, 14-7-3 WCHA) standing third with 31 points in 24 games, and Colorado College (17-12-3, 11-10-3 WCHA) and North Dakota (16-11-5, 11-10-3 WCHA) tied for fifth with 25 points apiece in 24 games. Minnesota (15-15-2, 10-12-2 WCHA) is in seventh place with 22 points in 24 games, Alaska Anchorage (10-18-2, 8-16-2 WCHA) is eighth with 18 points in 26 games, Minnesota State (14-16-2, 8-15-1 WCHA) is ninth with 17 points in 24 games, and Michigan Tech (5-24-1, 4-20-0 WCHA) is 10th with eight points.
A season ago (2008-09), North Dakota won the regular season title with 38 points while Denver was second with 36. It took at least 29 points to earn a first round home WCHA playoff berth with the Sioux, Pioneers, Wisconsin, Colorado College and Minnesota hosting opening round matchups.
In action over the Feb. 19-20 weekend, four teams fashioned WCHA series sweeps while one two-game set ended in a split. Host Denver defeated Michigan Tech (5-2 and 5-3), host North Dakota won twice over Minnesota Duluth (5-2 and 5-1), Minnesota won twice over visiting Colorado College (3-0 and 7-4), and host Minnesota State downed Alaska Anchorage twice (5-2 and 4-3). In Madison, visiting St. Cloud State claimed a 5-1 triumph over Wisconsin last Friday before the host Badgers came back with a 7-4 victory last Saturday.
As of February 22, six WCHA-member teams own winning records overall. In order, they are Denver (20-6-4, .750), Wisconsin (19-8-4, .677), St. Cloud State (20-10-4, .647), Minnesota Duluth (18-13-1, .578), Colorado College (17-12-3, .578) and North Dakota (16-11-5, .578). Minnesota (15-15-2) is at an even .500 while Minnesota State (14-16-2, .469) is just two games under .500.
In the February 22 edition of the USCHO.com Division 1 Men’s College Hockey Poll, Denver has climbed to No. 1 overall, Wisconsin is No. 3, St. Cloud State is No. 4, North Dakota is No. 8, Minnesota Duluth is No. 10 and Colorado College is No. 13. Also receiving votes was Minnesota.
And in this week’s (February 22) USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Division 1 Men’s College Hockey Poll, Denver is No. 1, Wisconsin is No. 3, St. Cloud State is No. 5, North Dakota is No. 8, Minnesota Duluth is No. 11 and Colorado College is No. 12.
The 2009-10 campaign marks the 58th in the storied history of the WCHA, with the league owning a record 36 national championships. It also is the final season league membership consists of 10 teams, as Bemidji State University and the University of Nebraska Omaha come on board as new members for the 2010-11 campaign.
This Week in the WCHA
Games for Friday, February 26: Wisconsin at Michigan Tech (WCHA), 7:07 pm ET; Minnesota at Minnesota Duluth (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; North Dakota at Colorado College (WCHA), 7:37 pm MT; Denver at Minnesota State (WCHA), 7:37 pm CT; *Alaska at Alaska Anchorage (nc), 7:07 pm AT. * Governor’s Cup.
Games for Saturday, February 27: Wisconsin at Michigan Tech (WCHA), 7:07 pm ET; Minnesota at Minnesota Duluth (WCHA), 7:37 pm CT; Denver at Minnesota State (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; North Dakota at Colorado College (WCHA), 7:07 pm MT; *Alaska Anchorage at Alaska (nc), 7:05 pm AT. * Governor’s Cup.