We had been doing so well in the WCHA, making it about a month into the season without much in the way of officiating controversy. Sure, there was the player that had to sit out a single game for nearly decapitating an opponent with an illegal check, but even that was probably handled correctly by the on-ice officials, giving the player a game misconduct, and letting any decisions on supplementary discipline be made after the game when the play could be reviewed more closely. Any blame there goes straight to the league office. But this was a pretty tough week for WCHA officiating, with some very tough calls having to be made in some pretty big situations.
The biggest series of the weekend was between WCHA front-runners North Dakota and Nebraska-Omaha. Nebraska-Omaha came out as you would expect on Friday night, given all the hype around the program with their fast start, jumping out to an early 2-0 lead in the first period, in front of a crowd of 11,000, which, without caring to look up, has to be at least close to a record crowd for a hockey game at the Qwest Center. But unlike UNO's previous WCHA opponents, North Dakota showed they had some level of competency, and fought back for a tough 6-5 win.
The next night, UNO lost over 36% of their fans from the previous evening, likely due to Nebraska football playing in prime time, or, like me, they went to see Harry Potter and the Blair Witch(neither the football game, nor the film were that great). They ended up missing a pretty exciting hockey game, or at least a pretty exciting ending, with UNO scoring the game's only goal with .3 seconds left in the third period. The goal came with some additional controversy, with some people claiming UNO was offsides on the rush that led to the goal, but I didn't see anything conclusive enough to say it was wrong.
Meanwhile, newly minted #1 team Minnesota-Duluth traveled to Madison to take on the Wisconsin Badgers, where the Bulldogs won both games in overtime. Friday's game was a complete goaltending disaster from both sides, with both starting goalies getting pulled early, and neither back-up goalie being that much better.
The big story on the weekend though, was Minnesota-Duluth goalie Aaron Crandall, who ended up with two wins against a team that once recruited him, offered him a scholarship, and then eventually told him he no longer had that scholarship when he failed to live up to expectations in the USHL. I'm sure the fact that he got the win on Friday almost solely because neither of the two goalies the Badgers selected over him could stop a beach ball made it all the sweeter. Crandall apparently made some sort of gesture towards the UW bench after the wins this weekend, which, good for him.
The Bulldogs stay the number one team in the country by virtue of their two victories, but you have to wonder if there aren't some causes for concern. They now sport an unbelievable 5-0-2 overtime record this season, which seems like one of those stats that is so out of whack that it can't be sustainable. The number of league points they've gained in overtime this year vaults them from fifth place in the WCHA to first.
Second, I expressed some concern before the season about the Bulldogs coming into this season with three goalies on the roster recruited as walk-ons. Kenny Reiter, who was expected to be the starter, has struggled a bit this season, but luckily, Aaron Crandall has stepped up and looked fairly competent. The Bulldogs do a pretty good job of keeping the number of shots on goal against their goalies low, and they have the offense to score enough to goals to cover any mistakes their goalies might make, but later in the season, especially around playoff time, when goals are harder to come by for everyone, they might find themselves at a bit of a disadvantage.
And keeping with the theme of officiating controversy, apparently UMD's first overtime game winner came as a direct result of a non-call on a close play. I, of course, happened to watch the entirety of regulation, and had to leave home prior to the overtime, so I missed it.
Finally, it's pretty rare that Alaska-Anchorage gets above-the-fold treatment, but their home series against St. Cloud brought a little controversy of its own. The Huskies continued their streak of playing awful one night, and decent the opposite night getting a split on the weekend.
In Saturday's game, Alaska-Anchorage took back-to-back five minute major penalties in the second period. The second came on a hit by UAA's Brad Gorham, who hit a turning Travis Novak. By most accounts, Gorham's hit shouldn't have been called a penalty, but because of the way Novak turned and fell into the boards, he hit the boards head first and laid motionless on the ice. Novak was taken to the hospital, and eventually it was determined that he'd be okay, but it was certainly a scary situation. After long deliberation, the officiating crew decided to assess Gorham a five-minute major, and SCSU scored twice with him in the box, the second of which ended up being the game-winning goal.
The bigger issue, in my mind, is that the Anchorage Daily News reported that Novak was on the ice for 25 minutes before EMTs arrived to take him to the hospital. I know that nobody goes to Seawolves games in Anchorage, but that shouldn't include medical personnel. That's ridiculous to not have anyone on the scene and ready to go in case of an emergency like that. Hopefully that gets corrected.
The rest of the week's action after the jump.
The CCHA also played some games too this weekend. The league's big three of Miami, Notre Dame, and Michigan all held serve by taking six points against Bowling Green, Michigan State, and Lake Superior, respectively. The only real surprise there is Michigan State has now lost five of their last six and doesn't look like they'll live up to the hype they earned with an opening weekend win and tie against Maine.
Bemidji State's WCHA Reality Check continued, as the Beavers were swept at Denver. Bemidji registered just 15 shots on Friday night, marking the third conference game this season they couldn't put 20 shots on goal.
Alaska had a tough time scoring goals on Northern Michigan's Reid Elligson, and only managed two of six points in a weekend series against the Wildcats. Alaska goalie Scott Greenham only gave up two goals all weekend, and failed to get a win.
Michigan Tech is no longer the WCHA's feel-good story, after losing their fifth and sixth straight games this past weekend against Minnesota. Minnesota goalie Kent Patterson moved his record to 6-0-1 and seems to be earning a more permanent position as Minnesota's starting goalie.
Ferris State won and tied against Western Michigan in a battle of the CCHA's middle class. Western took the shootout point on Saturday to at least come away with two points on the weekend.