After a couple of surprising mid-season departures for disciplinary reasons, both Michigan and St. Cloud must be wondering why they didn't make those changes sooner. After both teams struggled with incredibly inconsistent play in the first half of the season--both seemed capable of only playing well for one game per weekend--each team has now won four straight conference games since the dismissals.
For Michigan, they pulled off a sweep at home against a pesky Alaska team. The six point weekend gives Michigan pretty firm control of first place in the CCHA race. They now lead Notre Dame by two points, and Miami by six points, with a game in hand--against Michigan State, nonetheless-- on each team.
St. Cloud, meanwhile, swept Bemidji State in Bemidji. That's six straight wins for the Huskies, and chances of that streak continuing look pretty good since they draw a struggling Minnesota State team at home next weekend. The eight points over the last two weekends more than doubles their output in the first half of the season(seven points), and took them from 11th place in the conference into eighth place, just one point behind Minnesota and Colorado College, who are tied for the final home ice spot. This run isn't entirely surprising, since it was the softest part of St. Cloud's schedule, but taking care of business here could give them some momentum to play well in their brutal final stretch of the season.
The rest of the week's action after the jump.
It was a swell homecoming for Nebraska-Omaha defenseman and former Grand Forks resident Tony Turgeon this weekend. He got to play nearly an entire period before one of North Dakota's fourth liners picked a fight with him, causing both to miss the rest of the weekend. The fight was a pretty blatant attempt to give a flat UND team a spark, with them already trailing 2-0 in the first period, and it didn't seem to work, with UNO running out to a 7-1 lead after two periods, before cruising to an 8-4 win. The Sioux rebounded on Saturday night with a solid 4-2 win.
Western Michigan played their second and third consecutive tie games over the weekend. at Lake Superior. It's perhaps worth noting that while Western Michigan is tied for fourth place in the CCHA, they would be tied for 8th with Alaska if not for shootout points.
Michigan Tech extended their epic winless streak to 20 games, after being swept by Minnesota-Duluth. In a new twist, they were shutout twice in a row, making that three straight games in which Tech has failed to score. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this series was that it was the center of this week's WCHA officiating fiasco. At the end of the 2nd period on Saturday, Michigan Tech's Tyler Gubb was giving a 2-minute minor penalty for boarding after a long on-ice discussion between the officials and with both coaches. When the teams returned to the ice to start the third period, Gubb was told that actually, the officials had changed their mind and he had been given a 5-minute major and a game misconduct.
Notre Dame and Ohio State split a series in Columbus. I caught the replay of the Friday game and Ohio State looked very strong.
Wisconsin picked up four points at home against a Minnesota State team that hasn't won a conference game since they swept Minnesota in early December. The Badgers continue to be very good against the teams that they should beat.
Michigan State stole a win at home against Miami, but it wasn't enough to move them out of 10th place in the conference. Miami isn't nearly as dominating as they've been the past couple years, but they're hanging around the NCAA tournament bubble, thanks in part to the their strength of schedule.
Denver took care of business against an Alaska-Anchorage team that can be tricky to get all four points against. The two wins puts Denver ever so slightly back in the driver seat for the WCHA regular season title. Also of note, freshman forward Justin Jones left the Pioneers to return to the NAHL. [Placeholder for link from Denver Post on how Jones' departure makes DU even MOAR AWESOME.]
After a tough weekend against Alaska-Anchorage, Colorado College got back on track with a pair of easy wins over Alabama-Huntsville. The two wins boosted the Tigers back into the NCAA tournament picture, but with four series remaining against teams in the top 5 of the WCHA, they're going to have a tough time picking up enough wins to stay up there.
Ferris State suffered a sweep in Marquette against Northern Michigan. The two losses, by the way, dropped Ferris State off the YNT Cliff and flipped a couple of comparisons.