Here is this week's Tech Hockey Guide WCHA Web Media Poll:
|4)||St. Cloud State||109||7||4-2-0||2||5|
And here is how I voted this week:
1. Denver (+1) Last Week: W vs. Michigan Tech 5-1, W vs. Michigan Tech 5-2
The Pioneers continue to roll along with their fourth straight home win, all by three or more goals. They get another home weekend against St. Cloud next weekend, and then ease into road action with a trip to Mankato after that. The Pioneers may need to make hay while they can with all these home series early in the year, because they have to make tough trips to St. Cloud, Duluth, and Minnesota in the second half of the season.
Junior Nick Shore is off to a blazing start with 9 points through his first four games.
2. Minnesota(-1) Last Week: T vs. NTDP-U18 2-2(exhibition), W vs. Canisius 1-0
For more in-depth coverage from Friday's exhibition tie, you can view our live coverage from the game here. I generally avoid putting too much stock in exhibition results, because they're not always a true indicator, and that's the case here. The Gophers looked good when they wanted to be, and looked like they were going through the motions of a game that didn't count other times. On Sunday, they ran into a really hot goalie who played outstanding, and were still able to come away with a victory. Not the most impressive weekend, but they came away from it accomplishing everything they needed to accomplish.
3. North Dakota (NC) Last Week: W vs. Alaska-Anchorage 4-1, T vs. Alaska-Anchorage 3-3
The biggest surprise of last weekend had to be North Dakota needing a late goal just to earn a tie against Alaska-Anchorage. Danny Kristo came back from his two-game suspension last weekend and picked up four assists in the two games this weekend, vaulting him into a tie with Rocco Grimaldi for the team lead in points.
4. St. Cloud State (+3) Last Week: W vs. Minnesota State 5-1, W vs. Minnesota State 5-1
For a more in-depth look at Saturday's game, check out our live coverage from the game here.
Say what you will about the quality of Minnesota State last weekend, but St. Cloud absolutely dominated a WCHA series and looked very good in doing so. They'll get a more serious test traveling to Denver next weekend, but for now, their defense looks much improved, they got timely goal tending from Ryan Faragher, and Kalle Kossila appears to have answered any questions about freshmen stepping up to score, which were the three biggest concerns I had about St. Cloud heading into the season.
5. Wisconsin (+5) Last Week: W at Minnesota-Duluth 2-0, T at Minnesota-Duluth 2-2
WCH writer Andy Johnson covered both games for SBN's Wisconsin site, Bucky's Fifth Quarter. Here are his recaps from Friday and Saturday.
According to the poll, nobody had the Badgers ranked higher than I did, though with them being in sixth overall, I suspect some other people had them fifth as well. This was a big jump up, though they were only playing their third and fourth games of the season, and there's going to be more volatility with fewer games to go off. I also felt like they had to go above Minnesota-Duluth after the weekend's results, and didn't feel like I could drop the Bulldogs that far.
Anyway, Wisconsin took an impressive three points on the road at Duluth, and showed signs of being the team I thought they would be at the beginning of the season. The biggest news for the Badgers is that goalie Joel Rumpel was reportedly outstanding on the weekend. The Badgers have lacked that top-caliber goalie for a few years now, and if they have one now, they'll be even more dangerous as the season progresses.
6. Minnesota-Duluth(-2) Last Week: L vs. Wisconsin 2-0, T vs. Wisconsin 2-2
It's tough to know what to make of this Duluth team. They've played a pretty difficult schedule so far, and have a quality road win at Notre Dame, but have a pretty meager 2-3-1 record right now. After a bye this week, they'll have to face two tough road tests in Omaha and Grand Forks. The first part of this season may just be about surviving for the Bulldogs, and staying in contention until the stretch run where their schedule lightens up a bit.
7. Michigan Tech (-3) Last Week: L at Denver 5-1, L at Denver 5-2
This was a bit of a reality check for the Huskies after their great weekend last weekend against Minnesota. Like Duluth, they've got one really quality win--their upset of Minnesota--but an ugly 2-4 record.
The big key for the Huskies will be learning to play and win on the road. They're 0-3 away from home this season with three pretty ugly losses. If they want to make that next step and compete in the top half of the league, they can't just be dangerous half the time when they're at home.
8. Bemidji State (+3) Last Week: T at Nebraska-Omaha 3-3, W at Nebraska-Omaha 3-2
Like Wisconsin, their jump is maybe a little artificially bigger because I had to put them ahead of UNO after last weekend's results. Nebraska-Omaha's struggles with the Beavers continued even now that Dan Bakala has graduated. Andrew Walsh only allowed five goals on 69 shots this weekend.
9 Nebraska-Omaha (-3) Last Week: T vs. Bemidji State 3-3, L vs. Bemidji State 3-2
Maverick fans are hoping last weekend was one of those fluky things where a lesser team just has their number. The Mavericks just aren't going to get a lot of scoring out of their bottom two lines this year, and it's going to be difficult for their top two lines to carry them. Sophomore Josh Archibald, who grew up about as close to Bemidji as you can get while still being in civilization, had a very nice weekend, netting two goals and an assist.
10. Colorado College (-2) Last Week: L at Cornell 2-0, L at Cornell 3-2
I apparently had Colorado College as low as anybody did. They finished fifth in the poll, and somebody had them fourth, and I really can't figure out why based on their results. They swept Clarkson, a team that is still searching for their first win of the season despite playing Holy Cross and two games against Niagara. Air Force's only win on the season is against Robert Morris. None of their losses are that bad either, but I'm just not seeing much right now to indicate this a team that will be playing on their home ice come March.
11. Alaska-Anchorage (+1) Last Week: L at North Dakota 4-1, T at North Dakota 3-3
I wasn't sure if Anchorage would move out of the last spot all season, but a tie at Ralph Engelstad Arena is a really impressive result, and they've played pretty respectable hockey so far this season. It's near inevitable that their travel schedule will catch up with them eventually, but they're putting out a nice effort after a pretty tough summer with a lot of departures.
12. Minnesota State (-3) Last Week: L at St. Cloud 5-1, L at St. Cloud 5-1
Last week, I said the Mavericks stayed out of this spot by sheer virtue of pulling out decent looking results against weaker competition. They brought a similar effort against a pretty good WCHA team this week and paid dearly for it.
Certainly some of their problems, namely struggles on the power play and penalty kill, can be chalked up to a new coach that only has so many hours on the ice with his team prior to the season. But being unable to put together three periods of high-intensity effort, and a lack of physical toughness, especially along the boards, are really troubling concerns for MSU right now.