Here is this week's Tech Hockey Guide WCHA Web Media Poll:
|7)||St. Cloud State||72||7||2-2-0||4||9|
And here is how I voted this week:
1. Minnesota (NC) Last Week: L at Michigan Tech 5-3, W at Michigan Tech 3-2
I debated moving Minnesota down, as a handful did this week after their loss to Michigan Tech on Friday night. It's just a natural reaction any time you see a team lose. Ultimately, I ended up keeping them in the top spot for a couple reasons. I was never under the impression that number one team, whoever it may be, was going to go a perfect 44-0-0 this year. It's just not going to happen. So if a team is going to take a loss, a loss on the road to a very good team is about as excusable of a loss as you can get. The other reason I didn't move them down is because I believe that by the end of the season, we'll look back at the Friday and think it was weird that Mike Shiborowski was starting this game. I expected Adam Wilcox to be the guy for Minnesota this year, and I felt last weekend really proved that the job is his.
That doesn't mean Minnesota is without concerns like they were last week. Their defense was atrocious at times, giving up lots of odd-man rushes, but I was really impressed with their forward depth on Saturday night as they ground out a really tough win on the road in the third period.
2. Denver (+1) Last Week: W vs. UMass-Lowell 5-1, W vs. Air Force 5-2
A very impressive start to the season for the Pioneers with two pretty comfortable home wins. I'm not sure if Lowell is as good as their NCAA tournament team last season, but it's a solid win regardless. The Pioneers used three goals in a two-minute span in the third period to make it look like a blowout. Air Force is a bit of an instate rival and the Pioneers took care of business there too.
Freshman defenseman Nolan Zajac picked up four points on the weekend, all on the power play. He could be in for a big freshman season as a power play specialist for the Pioneers.
3. North Dakota (-1) Last Week: W vs. Alaska-Anchorage 5-0, L at Alaska 2-1
North Dakota spent all weekend with a comically short bench. I suppose you could blame the ugly loss on Saturday on said short bench, although a lot of guys on that short bench were fresh after having Friday night off. It's tough to get too strong a read on them with such a goofy situation last weekend, but I do think the loss shows that they might struggle to find consistent offensive effort if guys like Kristo, Knight, and Grimaldi aren't really producing.
4. Minnesota-Duluth (NC) Last Week: W at Notre Dame 3-1, L at Notre Dame 4-1
Much like last week, UMD had a really impressive win in their first game, and a bit of a disappointing loss in the second game. Playing at Notre Dame is no easy task, so I tend to look at getting a win there as more important than taking a loss there. Matt McNeely played pretty well in his collegiate debut in goal for the Bulldogs, and he could be in line for some more playing time in the future.
5. Michigan Tech (+3) Last Week: W vs. Minnesota 5-3, L vs. Minnesota 3-2
The Huskies get a big bump up this weekend because they looked extremely impressive in beating the Gophers on Friday, and really, looked pretty solid when they fought the Gophers down to the wire on Saturday too. These two results were no fluke. Tech showed a lot of speed, and a lot of skill. Say you want about Minnesota's many defensive mistakes, but many of them were forced, and made more glaring by the fact that Tech knew what to do when they got those opportunities. Tech looked like a legitimate home ice team.
6. Nebraska-Omaha (-1) Last Week: W vs. Northern Michigan 5-2, L vs. Northern Michigan 2-1
UNO was able to jump out to a 2-0 first period lead on Friday, and cruised to a victory. On Saturday, UNO struggled with their discipline and could never seem to get enough momentum to get their offense going. Northern Michigan is now 3-1 against two WCHA teams that people expected to be pretty decent. Maybe the Wildcats aren't so bad?
7. St. Cloud State(NC) Last Week: W vs. Alabama-Huntsville 8-3, W vs. Alabama-Huntsville 4-0
St. Cloud took care of business with two easy wins over an over-matched opponent. It was a nice rebound weekend after a tough trip out to New Hampshire.
Finnish freshman Kalle Kossila played in his first two games for the Huskies this past weekend after being ruled ineligible for St. Cloud's first two games by the NCAA, and Kossila looked pretty good, registering three points on the weekend.
8. Colorado College (-2) Last Week: W at Air Force 6-2, L vs. UMass-Lowell 3-1
Lowell scored an ENG, so that game was even closer than the final score indicated. Colorado College seems to get solid veteran scoring every year. So far this season, their top four scorers are all seniors.
9. Minnesota State (NC) Last Week: T 3-3 vs. RPI, W 4-3 vs. RPI (OT)
After Denver, the Mavericks are the only remaining team in the WCHA without a loss, but they're about as ugly of an undefeated team as one can be. Through two periods of both their games this weekend, they looked destined for the 11th or 12th spot in the power rankings, but erased two-goal deficits in the third period on both nights against an RPI team that struggled to close out wins. Even more concerning is that the Mavericks could not hold on to a lead of their own in the third period on Saturday when they gave up a game-tying goal with about a minute left, before winning in overtime.
10. Wisconsin (NC) Last Week: Bye
The good news for the Badgers is that they'll get Nic Kerdiles back after only a 10-game suspensions. That still seems way too harsh for what he did, but at this point, I think everyone is just thankful that he'll get to play college hockey at some point. The Badgers head to Duluth next weekend, which is not an easy trip for a team looking for their first win.
11. Bemidji State (NC) Last Week: L vs. LSSU 2-0, W vs. LSSU 5-0
Should there be that big of a gap between Michigan Tech and Bemidji State after both split with Lake Superior? There is a numerical gap, but I don't believe there's really that much separating 4th from 11th this year. Bemidji was suffocated by Lake Superior's clog-it-up defensive style on Friday night. On Saturday, they got an early goal from Brance Orban, and once they were able to get on the board, the floodgates started to open a bit.
I continued to be impressed by freshman Cory Ward this weekend for Bemidji. I felt he should have been drafted last year, and think he'd make a great late round pick this year, since he looks like the type of player teams fight over to sign as a free agent.
12. Alaska-Anchorage (NC) Last Week: L vs. North Dakota 5-0, W vs. Merrimack 6-3
Anchorage is in their usual spot in the cellar, but I seriously considered moving them up this week after their win at Merrimack. I just didn't feel anybody deserved to be below them. I'm not sure how well that win against Merrimack will stand up as the year progresses, and Merrimack seems to be particularly bad when they travel t the Last Frontier--they're 0-6 all-time at that tournament--but at this point, UAA is a respectable 2-1-1 heading into a rough stretch of WCHA play, which is pretty good all things considered.