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WCHA At the Midway Point

Matt Christians

Saturday evening's game between Alaska-Fairbanks and Alaska-Anchorage was the 70th conference game out of 140 total on the WCHA league schedule, marking the exact halfway point on the season. With that in mind, it's a good time to take a look at how the league is shaping up heading into the second half of the year.

That game between the Seawolves and Nanooks ended in a 1-1 tie. That was the 14th tie in WCHA play this year, meaning 20% of all games have ended in a draw. But even more remarkable is that it was the seventh 1-1 tie in WCHA play, meaning 10% of all games have ended with the two teams splitting just a pair of goals.

In the preseason, we talked about what a strong crop of goalies the league had. That's been the case so far, especially as teams have opted for a heavily defensive style of play in order to highlight their strength in goal. There are only 4.68 goals per game in WCHA conference play this year. Last year, the league averaged  5.01 goals per game. In 2013-2014, the league averaged 5.53 goals per game.

The lack of scoring shows up in the league's top scorers as well. Michigan Tech's Alex Petan leads the WCHA in conference scoring with 18 points through 16 team games. Alex Petan and Cody Kunyk both led the WCHA in conference scoring with 34 points in each of the past two seasons, so Petan is just a bit off that pace. Meanwhile, Petan and Minnesota State's Teddy Blueger are the only two players in the league averaging a point-per-game or better in conference play. Last year, five players hit that mark, while eight players did it in 2013-2014.

Meanwhile, goalies are shining in the league this year. Bowling Green's Chris Nell leads all goalies with a .943 save percentage, while three other goalies have a save percentage above .935. Last year, Michael Bitzer led the league with a .936 save percentage, with only one other goalie reaching the .935 mark. Two years ago, Cole Huggins and CJ Motte tied for the league lead with a .927 save percentage.

Minnesota State currently sits atop the league standings with 22 points, putting them on pace for 44 points. It took 45 points(Minnesota State) last year and 42 points(Ferris State) two years ago to win the MacNaughton Cup.

Bemidji State currently sits in the final playoff spot with 10 points, one point ahead of Alaska-Fairbanks. Last year, the cut line between 8th/9h place was a tiebreaker at 15 points(though both teams made the playoffs due to UAF's ineligibility). In 2013-2014, the line was a tiebreaker at 24 points.

The Pairwise picture doesn't look pretty for the league either. The league doesn't have anyone currently inside the bubble for an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament, though Bowling Green(16) and Minnesota State(17) are right on the cusp. Michigan Tech(23) is the only other team in the top half of the country in the Pairwise Rankings.