Here is my vote for this week's Tech Hockey Guide WCHA Web Media Poll.
As I fill my poll every Sunday night, it's always interesting to me to see where the standings the toughest decisions have to be made. This week, there seems to be a pretty clear split right in the middle of the conference, with six teams that are pretty clearly the "haves" and six teams that are pretty clearly the "have-nots" right now.
1. Denver (NC) Last Week: W at Minnesota State 4-3, W at Minnesota State 3-2
By no means did the Pioneers play their best weekend of hockey, but they were able to jump out to early leads on both nights, and pick up game-winning goals late in the third period both nights and managed to come away from the weekend with a full four points.
2. St. Cloud (NC) Last Week: L vs. North Dakota 3-0, W vs. North Dakota 5-2
The Huskies managed a split at home with a nice bounce-back victory on Saturday night after being snakebit in Friday night's game. A multi-point game on Saturday for both Drew Leblanc and Nic Dowd brought them into a tie with each other for top overall scorer in the WCHA, and Leblanc into a tie for top scorer in WCHA conference play(...with UNO's Dominic Zombo. Who knew?).
The Huskies get a much welcomed bye week after two pretty intense series against the best in the WCHA.
3. Minnesota (NC) Last Week: W at Alaska-Anchorage 4-0, T at Alaska-Anchorage 2-2
Minnesota's power play was an astonishing 4-6 on Friday night. They went 1-5 on Saturday to finish the weekend just under 50% on the power play. The Gophers are 10 for 30 in WCHA play this year on the power play--second in percentage to Colorado College's 5 for 10.
They did, however, give away another point on Saturday night to a team they had the potential sweep. The difference between Minnesota and Denver in the standings right now is that Denver was able to take care of business and get four point weekends against Michigan Tech and Minnesota State, whereas Minnesota dropped a game in both of those series. The three point lead Denver has built because of that isn't insurmountable, but Minnesota has already dug themselves a in a bit of a hole.
4. North Dakota (NC) Last Week: W at St. Cloud 3-0, L at St. Cloud 5-2
The seasonal trend of North Dakota not performing on Saturday nights won out over the historical trend of North Dakota losing Friday and winning Saturday in St. Cloud.
Clarke Saunders was the difference maker on Friday, when allowed North Dakota to escape the first period with a 1-0 lead despite North Dakota being outshot 14-5.
5. Nebraska-Omaha(+2) Last Week: W vs. Minnesota-Duluth 3-2, W vs. Minnesota-Duluth 6-3
The Mavericks gave away an early first period 2-0 lead, but were able to stem momentum and get a late third period power play goal from Michael Young to win on Saturday.
Last week, it was the line of Johnnie Searfoss, Brock Montpetit, and Zahn Raubenheimer doing all the scoring for Nebraska-Omaha. This week, it was the line of Ryan Walters, Dominic Zombo, and Josh Archibald. Walters and Zombo each registered five points on the weekend to move among the leaders in conference scoring.
6. Colorado College (NC) Last Week: W vs. Bemidji State 3-2, W vs. Bemidji State 6-3
Since being swept at Cornell, Colorado College has won an impressive four straight WCHA games. Colorado College's Rylan Schwartz finally started to get going this weekend, registering five points, which doubled his season total. The Tigers should have a lot of momentum heading into next weekend's rivalry home-and-home series against Denver.
7. Bemidji State (+1) Last Week: L at Colorado College 3-2, L at Colorado College 6-3
Bemidji gets the honor of "best of the rest" solely because of lack of another viable option. They've only played two WCHA series and one of them was a pretty impressive three point weekend at Nebraska-Omaha, so they have the fewest check marks in their negative column right now. Next weekend's series when they host Michigan Tech should provide a clearer picture of where this team is at.
8. Wisconsin (+1) Last Week: Bye
The Badgers move up without playing because I felt they had to be ahead of Minnesota-Duluth. They have a big series next weekend against Minnesota. The Badgers are dead last in the WCHA in scoring offense, and will be facing their first series without Mark Zengerle, after he broke his finger.
9. Minnesota-Duluth(-4) Last Week: L at Nebraska-Omaha 3-2, L at Nebraska-Omaha 6-3
Their Thursday night win over Notre Dame is starting to seem like a distant memory, and the Bulldogs don't have a win since. If Jack Connolly wasn't already considered one of the most valuable players in college hockey history, his stock will only rise if Duluth reverts back to the terrible program they were in the years prior to his arrival on campus. I still think there's way too much talent on this roster for that to happen, but right now, there's certainly something missing.
10. Minnesota State (NC) Last Week: L vs. Denver 4-3, L vs. Denver 3-2
There's flashes of a very good team here. They dominated Denver for the better part of two periods on Friday night, including outshooting them 13-1 in the final period--though Minnesota State head coach Mike Hastings admitted part of that was due to his team having to play to the scoreboard after digging an early hole, whereas Denver did not. They just haven't found a way to play that way for a full 60 minutes on a consistent basis, and they don't quite have the talent of a team like Denver or Minnesota to get away with not playing their best.
Goal tending also appears to be a major concern for the Mavericks, with both of their goalies dropping below 89% in save percentage coming off the weekend.
11. Michigan Tech (NC) Last Week: Bye
In local news, a bunch of old mining records at the MTU library were damaged by the sprinkler system during a recent fire.
12. Alaska-Anchorage (NC) Last Week: L vs. Minnesota 4-0, T vs. Minnesota 2-2
The Seawolves have managed two ties, both against pretty good teams, but were leading late in both games, which has to feel like a pair of missed opportunities for them. Alex Gellert and Scott Allen both have four goals for the Seawolves, stepping up and providing an answer to where goals are going to come from on this team.