Nebraska Omaha is atop RFO’s WCHA rankings for the first time ever; Minnesota gave defending national champion Boston College a spectacular pounding in Minneapolis; and Denver is back in business after going through a very rough patch near the end of 2012.
1.) NEBRASKA OMAHA (13-8-1, 9-4-1 WCHA)
Last time: W v Colorado College 8-4 Jan. 4; W v Colorado College 3-1 Jan. 5
Next time: At Denver Friday and Saturday
- Many felt that UNO laid an egg just before New Year’s at sixth-ranked Quinnipiac, but, whether that’s true or not, the Mavericks wowed the CenturyLink Center crowds last weekend against Colorado College. With a league-leading 3.68 goals per game, scoring is the least of UNO’s problems right now, and senior goaltender John Faulkner showed signs against the Tigers that he’s set to go on a roll as he enters the home stretch of his time with the Mavericks. I wasn’t entirely sure whether UNO merited being at the top of these rankings this week, but being at the top of the WCHA standings at this point in the season – something UNO had never done before before this week – is something that can’t be overlooked. We’ll see if the Mavericks are still at the top of the tree after they visit a resurgent Denver team later this week.
2.) MINNESOTA (13-3-3, 6-3-3)
Last time: W v Air Force 4-0 Dec. 29; W 8-1 v Boston College Dec. 30
Next time: V Notre Dame Tuesday, V Alaska Anchorage Friday and Saturday
- The Golden Gophers haven’t blown me away so far this season – although pretty much every team in the WCHA has run hot and cold so far – but I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when Minnesota steamrolled then-top-ranked and now No. 2 Boston College 8-1 in Minneapolis on Dec. 30. Head coach Don Lucia’s men will face another tough test – albeit one that’s at home – on Tuesday against third-ranked Notre Dame before league rival Alaska Anchorage comes to Mariucci Arena for a two-game set this weekend.
3.) NORTH DAKOTA (12-5-3, 7-2-3)
Last time: W v Holy Cross 5-2 Jan. 4; W v Holy Cross 3-2 Jan. 5
Next time: V Colorado College Friday and Saturday
- Holy Cross is doing well this season in Atlantic Hockey, and the Crusaders love playing in Grand Forks – sorry, Gopher fans, but I’ll never get tired of the Holy Cross student radio commentators’ reaction to that goal – but those were two games in which a team as talented as UND shouldn’t have had much trouble. It did, though, and UND might consider itself a tad lucky to have come away with a sweep following last Saturday’s close 2-1 win over the visiting Crusaders. Hopefully that will serve as a wake-up call ahead of this week’s series at home to a Colorado College team that is becoming increasingly desperate to break its 1-9-2 skid dating back to Nov. 16.
4.) DENVER (12-6-3, 7-4-3)
Last time: W v Cornell 5-1 Jan. 4; W v Cornell 2-1 Jan. 5
Next time: V Nebraska Omaha Friday and Saturday
- George Gwozdecky’s Pioneers looked to be in serious trouble as the end of the 2012 calendar year loomed, with DU going 0-5-3 between Nov. 22 and Dec. 15, but the Pios have come back with a bang. DU stomped ninth-ranked Boston University 6-0 on Dec. 29, and the Pioneers cast aside No. 12 Cornell 5-1 and 2-1 last weekend. Gwozdecky’s men have another tough test this week as UNO comes calling to Magness Arena, but the WCHA’s most in-form team at the moment should set to go against the first-place Mavericks.
5.) ST. CLOUD STATE (12-10-0, 9-5-0)
Last time: L v Northern Michigan 6-2 Jan. 4; L v Northern Michigan 2-1 Jan. 5
Next time: Idle this week; V Denver Jan. 18-19
- SCSU has been fun to watch over most of this season so far, but being swept at home last weekend by a Northern Michigan team that’s tied for last place in the CCHA is something the Huskies will want to forget about as soon as possible. That may not happen this week as they’ll have another two weeks to stew until they square off with Denver next week, but perhaps the losses to NMU could serve as motivation to come back and climb up the league table the rest of the way.
6.) MINNESOTA STATE (!4-6-2, 8-6-0)
Last time: W v Providence 4-3 (OT) Jan. 4; W v Providence 4-0 Jan. 5
Next time: V Wisconsin Friday and Saturday
- The WCHA’s purple Mavericks have won 11 of their last 12 games – including a sweep at home last weekend over a solid Providence club – and I like how things are looking for Mike Hastings’ men in the second half of the season. MSU only has two remaining series against teams with winning records in the league (Minnesota and North Dakota, and three of those four games are home), and the only other remaining team under consideration for the NCAA tournament on the slate is a Colorado College team that has been on a big downswing since around Thanksgiving. My preseason prediction of Hastings winning the league’s coach of the year award is looking better all the time these days.
7.) WISCONSIN (7-6-4, 4-5-5)
Last time: W at Alaska Anchorage 5-3 Jan. 4; W at Alaska Anchorage 1-0 Jan. 5
Next time: At Minnesota State Friday and Saturday
- The Badgers had a nightmarish start to the season, but things have looked up lately. Head coach Mike Eaves’ UW team is unbeaten since freshman forward Nic Kerdiles returned from his controversial suspension earlier in the campaign, and the Badgers are 5-0-3 in their last eight games. What’s more, they face this week a Minnesota State club that went into Madison and picked up a sweep at Kohl Center. UW isn’t accustomed to having that happen to the Badgers on their own patch, and they won’t be short on incentives to do the business this weekend in Mankato.
8.) MINNESOTA DULUTH (7-10-3, 5-6-3)
Last time: L v Maine 1-0 Dec. 28 (at Estero, Fla.); L v Ferris State 6-2 Dec. 29 (at Estero, Fla.)
Next time: V Michigan Tech Friday and Saturday
- The Bulldogs have been frustratingly inconsistent this season, and UMD didn’t cover itself in any particular glory last time out in the Florida College Classic in Estero. Scott Sandelin’s Bulldogs lost 1-0 in their tournament opener against a poor Maine team, and then they were routed by a Ferris State team that made it into last season’s Frozen Four but hasn’t particularly set the world on fire so far in the 2012-13 campaign. This weekend’s series at home to Michigan Tech isn’t one in which UMD needs to pick up all four points on offer, but the Bulldogs need to pick up something from those two games.
9.) MICHIGAN TECH (6-10-3, 3-8-3)
Last time: W v Michigan 4-0 Dec. 29 (at Detroit); W v Western Michigan Dec. 30 (at Detroit)
Next time: At Minnesota Duluth Friday and Saturday
- Michigan Tech has struggled in Mel Pearson’s second season as the Huskies’ head coach, but Tech pulled off a huge surprise just before New Year’s by winning the school’s first Great Lakes Invitational title in a generation. Things just might be turning around in Houghton – We may find out for sure if MTU can pick up a win or two this weekend at UMD.
10.) COLORADO COLLEGE (8-12-2, 5-8-1)
Last time: L at Nebraska Omaha 8-4 Jan. 4; L at Nebraska Omaha 3-1 Jan. 5
Next time: At North Dakota Friday and Saturday
- Enough has already been written so far in this article about the Tigers’ woes so far this season that it seems like overkill to bring it back up again. You do have to worry for head coach Scott Owens’ CC team, though, and things might not get better in a hurry this weekend when his Tigers square off with seventh-ranked North Dakota in Grand Forks.
11.) BEMIDJI STATE (5-11-4, 4-7-3)
Last time: L v Western Michigan 6-0 Jan. 4; T v Western Michigan 2-2 Jan. 5
Next time: Idle this week; At Michigan Tech Jan. 18-19
- BSU is 2-6-2 in its last ten games, and that’s not a good sign considering the Beavers have the WCHA’s second-toughest remaining schedule as we enter the 2013 half of the regular season. Tom Serratore’s BSU team is off this weekend, and it will need to take the time to rest ahead of an important series at Michigan Tech next weekend.
12.) ALASKA ANCHORAGE (3-11-4, 1-10-3)
Last time: L v Wisconsin 5-3 Jan. 4; L v Wisconsin 1-0 Jan. 5
Next time: At Minnesota Friday and Saturday
- UAA is in even more trouble than Bemidji, with the Seawolves having lost each of their last six games including a pair of setbacks at home last weekend against Wisconsin. Dave Shyiak’s men do, however, have what on paper appears to be the easiest remaining schedule in the league, so it will be interesting to see whether the Seawolves can get out of the WCHA basement before the teams above it are able to cement UAA into the 12th spot heading into the league playoffs.