It was a pretty full weekend in the WCHA last week, with only one team having the weekend off. Here is what this week's Tech Hockey Guide WCHA Web Media Poll looks like.
And here is the breakdown on how I voted this week.
1. Denver (NC) Last Week: L vs. Yale 2-1(OT), L vs. New Hampshire 6-4
It's not very often that the Pioneers lose two in a row at home. I'm not quite sure what to make of the loss to Yale, because it's still early in their season, and their results are all over the board, but at this point, it's pretty safe to say that New Hampshire is one of the best teams in the country. In fact, as much as fans out west may hate to admit it, it doesn't look like anybody out west is close to Boston College and New Hampshire right now. The losses don't bode well for the Pioneers, and by extension the WCHA, nationally, but I don't think they move Denver down within the conference, which is why they kept my first place vote.
The Denver-New Hampshire game was a crazy one, with the Pioneers actually getting to Casey DeSmith, who has been near unbeatable all season, for three goals in the game's first nine minutes, and chasing him early. But the Wildcats fought back from the 3-0 deficit to win the game. Denver defenseman Joey LaLeggia, who was once committed to play for New Hampshire, finished the night at a -4 +/- rating.
2. Minnesota (+1) Last Week: W at Vermont 5-1, W at Vermont 3-1
The Gophers finally had the type of complete, dominating weekend we all expected to be a regular occurrence this season. It doesn't help them in the conference at all, but those two wins should be helpful once we get down to the end of the season and tournament selection time.
I mentioned on Twitter this past weekend that Minnesota has still yet to take on a team considered a "team under consideration" for the NCAA tournament(which, by the way, is a ridiculous distinction). A lot of people seemed to take that as a slam against Minnesota, though that's certainly not their fault. They have no control over their league schedule, and how often does a team play four straight WCHA without taking on a team in the top half of the country nationally? Their non-conference schedule isn't all that bad either. Michigan State and Vermont are two pretty good programs, though going through some down times right now. Canisius isn't a powerhouse, but Minnesota had to find someone willing to play a one-off game in order to schedule their game with Notre Dame later this year.
3. St. Cloud (-1) Last Week: L at Minnesota-Duluth 2-1, W at Minnesota-Duluth 5-1
It hardly seems fair moving the Huskies down a spot. Regardless of where either team is at, a St. Cloud/Minnesota-Duluth series is always going to be a hard-fought battle, with a split being the most expected result. Really none of St. Cloud's three consecutive WCHA series splits have been bad, but at a certain point, it's tough to keep them up that high with only a 7-5-0 overall record, even if their schedule has been much, much tougher than 9-2-2 Minnesota.
Ben Hanowski returned to the Husky lineup on Friday night, and on Saturday, he made his presence felt by scoring a goal and two assists.
4. North Dakota (NC) Last Week: W at Notre Dame 2-1, L at Notre Dame 5-2
On one hand, North Dakota went on the road to play the best team in the CCHA, and managed to come out with an impressive looking win. On the other hand, they essentially had the same result there that Minnesota-Duluth had, so how impressive is it really? I kept the Sioux in the same spot for now, but they're a team that could easily be ranked higher, and with tough tests at Colorado College, and a big series against Denver coming up, they'll have a great opportunity to make their move up the rankings.
5. Nebraska-Omaha (NC) Last Week: W vs. Alabama-Huntsville 3-2, W vs. Alabama-Huntsville 8-0
Like Bemidji State, Alabama-Huntsville is a team that Nebraska-Omaha usually finds a way to struggle against. That was the case Friday night when the Mavericks had to kill off two penalties in the third period to cling to a one-goal lead for the win. The next night, the floodgates opened on the Chargers and UNO rolled to an easy win. The bottom line is that the Mavericks managed to get two wins and not hurt their overall record at all.
6. Colorado College (NC) Last Week: T vs. New Hampshire 4-4, L vs. Yale 6-5(OT)
That tie against New Hampshire stands up as a pretty solid result. We'll see how the loss to Yale as their season progresses. Ten goals allowed on the weekend isn't a great sign for Colorado College. Joe Howe was great in relief on Friday night, but couldn't carry it over to the next night, allowing six goals, albeit on 48 shots. Both Josh Thorimbert and Joe Howe are capable of putting up great performances in net, but it seems like neither can do so for more than one game at a time.
7. Michigan Tech (NC) Last Week: Bye
The Huskies got to enjoy their turkey on Thursday and not have to worry about a game the next day.
8. Minnesota State(+2) Last Week: W at Wisconsin 4-2, W at Wisconsin 4-2
It's not often that a trip to Madison is considered a break in the schedule, but after playing arguably the top three teams in the league in their first three series, Minnesota State's schedule lightened considerably with a trip to face the floundering Badgers, and they took advantage, netting the full four points. The Mavericks now have back-to-back home series against Bemidji State and Alaska-Anchorage and if they can continue that momentum, could end the first half of the year in a much better position than many expected just a few weeks ago.
One huge difference for Minnesota State this past weekend was in goal. At the beginning of the year, I said they were likely to go as far as freshman Stephon Williams could take them, and for the first time this season, he looked like a capable number one goalie, allowing only four goals on 69 shots over the weekend.
9. Minnesota-Duluth (NC) Last Week: W vs. St. Cloud 2-1, L vs. St. Cloud 5-1
The Bulldogs finally got their first win in 36 days with their victory on Friday.
Mike Seidel looks to be next in line for title of Duluth player that comes out of relative obscurity to become a big time scorer, in the fashion of guys like Travis Oleksuk, Rob Bordson, and MacGregor Sharp(Trivia: Sharp went from 17 points as a junior to 50 as a senior, though led the Dogs in scoring both of those years) Seidel, who had big expectations on him coming out of junior hockey, is averaging over a point per game with 14 points through 12 games. Tony Cameranesi also had a nice weekend, having a hand in both goals in Friday's win, and being on the ice for their lone goal on Saturday. I'm happy to see him doing so well, if only because it took me years to commit the a-e-a-e vowel pattern in his last name to memory and I'd hate for that to go to waste.
10 Bemidji State (+2) Last Week: T vs. Alaska-Anchorage 2-2, W vs. Alaska-Anchorage 5-4
The Beavers rebounded from a pair of gut-punch losses to Michigan Tech to take care of business at home and win their series against Alaska-Anchorage.
If there's a concern for the Beavers, it's their defense late in games. They gave up game-tying goals with under five minutes to play in both games this weekend, though were able to respond with the game-winner on Saturday night.
11. Wisconsin (-3) Last Week: L vs. Minnesota 4-2, L vs. Minnesota State 4-2
The Badgers have pretty much hit rock bottom. Their offense has been terrible, attendance at the Kohl Center has been dreadful, they're 56th out of 59 teams in the RPI. There's really not many positives to point to with this team other than that Nic Kerdiles returns from suspension next weekend, and can hopefully give them a shot in the arm.
Michael Mersch has been about the only offensive bright spot, trying to take home the Cy Young Award with a line of eight goals and no assists. Eight goals is pretty impressive when you're playing on a team that has only scored 18 through 10 games.
12. Alaska-Anchorage(-1) Last Week: T at Bemidji State 2-2, L at Bemidji State 5-4
The Seawolves managed to claw out another point with a tie, but still don't have a win yet in WCHA play, and it's looking like those will be very tough to come by for the Seawolves.