Here's how I voted in this week's Tech Hockey Guide WCHA Web Media Poll. Maybe it was because four teams had a bye, maybe it was because the results weren't that surprising this week, or maybe we're just getting to that point in the season, but there wasn't a lot of movement in my poll this week.
1. Denver (NC): Last Week: W at Colorado College 6-5, W vs. Colorado College 6-2
The Pioneers led 6-2 on Friday night, and almost gave away the lead. For the second straight week, they gave up an extra attacker goal and had to cling to a one-goal lead. Friday's game had a bit of weirdness at the end too, when goalie Juho Olkinuora apparently got into a fight at the end of the game with Colorado College's Rylan Schwartz. The DQ had no real effect on Olkinuora, since he was going to the be the back-up the following night anyway, but it did cost CC one of their top forwards. On Saturday, the Pioneers got out to a big lead early, and really pulled away in the third period to make it a blowout. Another impressive weekend for the Pioneers who pretty clearly look like the best team in the WCHA.
2. St. Cloud (NC) Last Week: Bye
Another sweep by the Pioneers makes their one win in Denver look all the more impressive.
3. Minnesota (NC) Last Week: T vs. Wisconsin 2-2, W vs. Wisconsin 3-1
The Gophers are now played the teams currently ranked 7th, 8th, and two tied for 10th, and haven't come out with a sweep against any of the four.
4. North Dakota (NC) Last Week: T vs. Minnesota-Duluth 4-4, W vs. Minnesota-Duluth 4-3 (OT)
North Dakota took on a Duluth team that was very hungry for a win and gave them a heck of a fight, but was able to hold them off and take three points on the weekend, including their first overtime win at home since 2009.
This was a battle all weekend, especially Saturday night, which included this brawl. There were 66 total penalty minutes handed out in this game, with only one 10-minute misconduct, meaning there were 28 other two-minute minors. As a result, this game ended up taking 2 hours and 50 minutes, which was by far the longest WCHA game I could find this season.
5. Nebraska-Omaha (NC) Last Week: Bye
They were actually leading in-state rival Nebraska-Lincoln in basketball early in the second half, before losing by 13. If they couldn't beat the Huskers this year, they'll probably have to wait until UNL starts a hockey program to beat them in something.
6. Colorado College (NC) Last Week: L vs. Denver 6-5, L at Denver 6-2
I probably should have had the Tigers ahead of UNO last week, but it turns out I was right to keep them a little lower. They don't move down any further because they lost to a really good team that has also swept all the teams below them.
7. Michigan Tech (+4) Last Week W at Bemidji State 5-4(OT), W at Bemidji State 2-1(OT)
Michigan Tech moves to the top of the bottom half with a four point weekend in Bemidji. I"m not sure anyone has a real good idea how they came out of the weekend with four points after trailing 4-1 late in the second period on Friday night, and then looking dead to rights after giving up a late tying goal on Saturday. But they found a way, and those extra points could come up huge at the end of the season.
Watching the Huskies this weekend, they still lack a lot of talent on the blue line--although this is the area where I think their recruiting has been at its best--and that probably keeps them from seriously competing with the top half of the league, but there are a lot of dangerous forwards in their lineup. I thought Blake Pietila looked like a player that deserves serious World Juniors consideration. Freshman Jujhar Khaira is starting to acclimate to college hockey as well, scoring his first two career goals on Friday night.
Here are my game notes from Friday's game.
8. Wisconsin (NC) Last Week: T at Minnesota 2-2, L at Minnesota 3-1
Like I said in my preview last week, by all statistical measure, the Badgers should have been swept easily by the Gophers, but things are never that simple in college hockey. The Badgers fought hard all weekend and were able to come away with a point on Friday night, despite losing two of their better forwards to five-minute major penalties that were questionable calls at best.
9. Minnesota-Duluth (NC) Last Week: T at North Dakota 4-4, L at North Dakota 4-3(OT)
Against another team, on another weekend, the Bulldogs probably played well enough to earn four points. Instead, they couldn't even pick up their first win since mid-October.
The good news for the Bulldogs is that they're getting good scoring contributions from their younger players. Tony Cameranesi quietly slipped into a tie for the WCHA scoring lead among freshmen, while teammate Austin Farley sits just two points behind him.
10 Minnesota State (NC) Last Week: Bye
MSU Reporter beat writer Ryan Lund, who I had the pleasure of sitting next to a couple weeks ago, called for better student attendance at hockey games.
Also, SOMEBODY GOT FREAKIN' STABBED IN THE MSU LIBRARY. You couldn't come up with a crazier sentence than that if you were doing a Mad Libs.
11. Alaska-Anchorage (+1) Last Week: Bye
That's two byes over the course of three weeks for Alaska-Anchorage.I guess it's better than being off for over a month like last year, but that's still rough for Anchorage to deal with just two games in nearly a month.
12. Bemidji State (-5) Last Week: L vs. Michigan Tech 5-4(OT), L vs. Michigan Tech 2-1(OT)
I still think there's a lot of talent on this team, and it's not hard to imagine a scenario where they take all four points last weekend, but the bottom line is that they didn't.
The Beavers got Danny Mattson back from injury this weekend and I thought he was really good all weekend. As a sophomore, he's finally starting to look like the player many thought he could be coming out of high school. Once he gets a couple more games under his belt, he could help kickstart the Beavers power play.