Minnesota takes over as the top team in the WCHA; Denver continues its current slide; and Minnesota State has won six in a row ahead of a homecoming of sorts for MSU head coach Mike Hastings.
1.) MINNESOTA (11-3-3, 6-3-3 WCHA)
Last week: W at Colorado College 4-2 Dec. 7; T at Colorado College 4-4 Dec. 8
This week: Idle; next game v Air Force Dec. 29
- Ranked fourth in the latest USCHO.com Division I poll, the Golden Gophers are currently the best team in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, and they took care of business last weekend by taking three of the four points on offer at No. 19 Colorado College. Their reward: Two weeks off before welcoming Air Force and second-ranked Minnesota to Minneapolis for the Mariucci Classic. Keep an eye on that match-up against BC: In-season tournaments mean little in college sports, but that game should be a doozy.
2.) NEBRASKA OMAHA (10-5-1, 9-3-1)
Last week: W at St. Cloud State 6-5 Dec. 7; L at St. Cloud State 2-1 Dec. 8
This week: V Minnesota State Fri. and Sat.
- Yes, UNO has lost two of its last three games, but they were both on the road against ranked competition, and the Mavericks have won eight of their last ten overall. A sweep of Minnesota State at home this week might become vital, though, considering all of UNO’s remaining opposition through to the middle of next month is currently ranked.
3.) DENVER (9-5-2, 7-3-2)
Last week: T at North Dakota 2-2 Dec. 7; L at Denver 6-3 Dec. 8
This week: At Bemidji State Fri. and Sat.
- The Pioneers had a very hot start to the season, but things aren’t going nearly as well lately. DU is 0-4-2 in its last six games, and a huge 31-save performance last Friday from goaltender Juha Olkinuora was the only reason the Pioneers picked up their one point from the four available last weekend at North Dakota. Bemidji State this week is a considerably easier test than UND, but Denver will still be playing far from home in a pair of games from which the Pios really need to get a win or two.
4.) NORTH DAKOTA (8-5-3, 5-2-3)
Last week: T v Denver 2-2 Dec. 7; W v Denver 6-3 Dec. 8
This week: At Michigan Tech Fri. and Sat.
- UND still hasn’t swept any of its opponents so far this season, but there’s little to complain about regarding last weekend’s three-point showing at home against sixth-ranked Denver. The hosts were the better team in Friday’s 2-2 draw, and UND got what it deserved the following night in a 6-3 win over one of the team’s biggest rivals. Can UND finally get a four-point weekend this time around at Michigan Tech?
5.) ST. CLOUD STATE (9-7-0, 7-5-0)
Last week: L v Nebraska Omaha 6-5 Dec. 7; W v Nebraska Omaha 2-1 Dec. 8
This week: V Colorado College Fri. and Sat.
- You have to feel bad for St. Cloud State forward David Morley. St. Cloud State lost to visiting Nebraska Omaha 6-5 last Friday despite a hat trick from Morley – including two third-period goals that brought the Huskies back into the game – and then he went off injured in the second period of Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Mavericks. As for his team, though, UNO saw two goals disallowed on Saturday for various infractions, so perhaps SCSU should be thankful it came away from the series with a split.
6.) MINNESOTA STATE (9-5-2, 7-5-0)
Last week: W v Alaska Anchorage 3-1 Dec. 7; W v Alaska Anchorage 3-0 Dec. 8
This week: At Nebraska Omaha Fri. and Sat.
- First-year head coach Mike Hastings has the purple Mavericks on a serious roll, as MSU has won each of its last six games. This week should prove particularly interesting, though, as Hastings’s club travels to Omaha to face UNO, a team that Hastings served as an associate head coach on before the head job opened up in Mankato, Minn.
7.) COLORADO COLLEGE (8-8-2, 5-4-1)
Last week: L v Minnesota 4-2 Dec. 7; T v Minnesota 4-4 Dec. 8
This week: At St. Cloud State Fri. and Sat.
- CC is experiencing the meat of its schedule right now, but things aren’t going so well in terms of results. The Tigers are 1-5-2 in their last eight games – seven of them at home – and CC shipped eight goals last weekend at home against Minnesota. Things won’t get much easier this week, though, as head coach Scott Owens’s Tigers head north to pay St. Cloud State a visit.
8.) MICHIGAN TECH (4-8-3, 3-6-3)
Last week: L at Northern Michigan 2-1 Dec. 4; T at Wisconsin 1-1 Dec. 7; T at Wisconsin Dec. 8
This week: V North Dakota Fri. and Sat.
- Tech will have gladly taken its pair of draws at Wisconsin last weekend after having dropped a tough 2-1 decision earlier in the week at arch-rival Northern Michigan. The Huskies are back at home in Houghton, Mich. this week to face a North Dakota club that did very well last weekend at home to Denver.
9.) MINNESOTA DULUTH (5-8-3, 3-6-3)
Last week: W v Bemidji State 4-2 Dec. 7; L v Bemidji State 2-1 Dec. 8
Next week: At Alaska Anchorage Fri. and Sat.
- UMD split last weekend at home against Bemidji State in what ought to be a bigger rivalry series than it is, although it hasn’t been and likely won’t be once the Bulldogs leave the WCHA for the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference at the start of next season. This week, Duluth passes over a couple time zones to face last-place Alaska Anchorage.
10.) WISCONSIN (2-7-5, 2-5-5
Last week: T v Michigan Tech 1-1 Dec. 7; T v Michigan Tech 3-3 Dec. 8
This week: V Alabama Huntsville Thurs. and Fri.
- I’m not so sure what to make of the Badgers right now, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Andy Johnson of Bucky’s Fifth Quarter has to say about them later this week on the RFO/B5Q Podcast. I thought UW was back on the upward swing two weekends ago when the Badgers picked up three points at Denver, but a mere pair of draws at home to Michigan Tech isn’t going to blow anyone away.
11.) BEMIDJI STATE (4-8-2, 3-7-2)
Last week: L at Minnesota Duluth 4-2 Dec. 7; W at Minnesota Duluth 2-1 Dec. 8
Next week: V Denver Fri. and Sat.
- The Beavers did what they had to do in picking up a split on the road last week against UMD. BSU is at home this week against a struggling Denver side, and there may never be a better time for the Beavers to play against the Pioneers, especially at Sanford Center.
12.) ALASKA ANCHORAGE (3-7-4, 1-6-3)
Last week: L at Minnesota State 3-1 Dec. 7; L at Minnesota State Dec. 8
This week: V Minnesota Duluth Fri. and Sat.
- Following a solid split against St. Cloud State two weekends ago – including UAA’s first WCHA win of the season – I thought the Seawolves were finally starting to turn the corner. A rough pair of losses last weekend at Minnesota State have me thinking that I might’ve been wrong, though, but UAA has a chance to redeem itself next weekend at home to a UMD club that has run hot and cold so far this season.