Sunday, March 31, 2013

WCHA Downs Carry Into NCAA

Six Teams Start, One WCHA Remains with Chance of Frozen Four

Six teams must mean a good conference right?  Doesn’t seem like that barely into the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The six WCHA teams, five of which will be with other conferences next season, were put into three regionals.  The NCAA will not take the chance of an all WCHA Frozen Four this season, but it wouldn’t have even come close this season.

Three teams were out Friday: Minnesota Twin Cities, Wisconsin, and Denver.  The only WCHA winner Friday was North Dakota, but they too lost Saturday along with Minnesota State Mankato.

The only WCHA left standing is Saint Cloud State who will be playing today against Miami  for a trip to the Frozen Four.  The two teams will be playing together in the NCHC next season.

The way this column was headed when I sat down the first time was the believed lack of effort and care at the WCHA Final Five.  Top seeds went down playing lackluster games without a sense of urgency.  I was questioning if there was a reason to have conference tournaments if the teams didn’t come to play and play well.  It seemed to be rampant around the country.

In fact it was Don Lucia who flat out said Colorado College who took his Gophers out of the Final Five came out like they had something to play for, that they had no tomorrow if they lost.  But what about his team?  Didn’t the Holy Cross incident prove as a reminder?  I guess not.

But it wasn’t that the WCHA teams didn’t come out to play in the Final Five, it was that the teams just are not that good, at least at this point.  Hockey is a game that ebbs and flows, but that many teams playing poorly at the same time?  It would be highly unlikely which leaves one to think that it is a season of parody in the NCAA.

The only team left, Saint Cloud, is a team that was the most consistent in the league on their way to a share of the title and MacNaughton Cup.  What got The Huskies to a #4 seed is the very subpar 3-5-0 non-conference record. 

As of now, the Huskies are bettering their non-conference record and look to make their first trip to the Frozen Four with a win against Miami at 3:00pm CST.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Final Five is Here and Here is a Preview

Last Time for the Current WCHA Format

Today marks the start of the final WCHA Final Five in the current configuration before the big shake up.

Of the six teams in the tournament, it is most likely that two of them need to win it all to make the NCAA tournament, Wisconsin and Colorado College.

Preview in order of their first game:

#6 Minnesota State Mankato (24-12-3 Overall, 16-11-1 WCHA)
How they got here:  MSUM held home court advantage although it took three games against visiting Omaha.

Why they win it all:  The Mavericks have the top goaltender in the league, freshman Stephon Williams.  Couple that with an offense that can put up numbers, the Mavericks have a good formula to move on.

Why they fall short:  First MSUM has to get past the trap defense of Wisconsin, then they have to win two more games in two nights on a short week after playing three games last weekend.  One of those two factors will down the Mavericks short of the championship.

#4 Wisconsin (19-12-7, 13-8-7)
How they got here:  Wisconsin swept UMD in the first round at home.  The Badgers are 20-5-5 since November 30 to get the #4 seed.

Why they win it all:  They have the defense to shut down most any team in the nation when it is 
clicking.  Defense is a key component to the post season and Wisconsin has it down.

Why they fall short:  if the defense fails, the offense is not there to back them up.  With only two skaters with ten or more goals, being in a high scoring game is not one Wisconsin is likely to win.

#3 North Dakota (21-11-7, 14-7-7)
How they got here:  North Dakota hosted Michigan Tech and needed three games to down the Huskies.  UND got to the third seed by winning many games, but like Wisconsin, they tied seven times.

Why they win it all:  It is March and UND seems to win in March at the Xcel.  They have plenty of scoring to win it all again even though it has been hit and miss at times during the season.

Why they fall short:  Goaltending has been an issue this season.  Gothberg and Saunders have been splitting time an neither has been the far and away number one.  Additionally, UND is also looking at three wins on a short week after three games last weekend if they win the championship.

#8 Colorado College (16-18-5, 11-13-4)
How they got here:  CC was one of three game three winners from the first round of the WCHA playoffs beating arch rival Denver two straight Saturday and Sunday.   The Tigers are the only road team to escape the first round.

Why they win it all:  The chances aren’t good for CC, but they are playing good hockey at the right time.  A good combo of goaltending and offense doing just enough to win two one goal games in Denver.

Why they fall short:  The Tigers have struggled mightily at time throughout the year losing to top teams and bottom teams.  Most recently loses against Michigan Tech and UMD highlight their struggles.

#2 Minnesota Twin Cities (26-7-5, 16-7-5)
How they got here:  The Gophers dispatched Bemidji State in two games at home in the first round.  Both games were one goals wins with Friday coming in OT and Saturday coming from behind.

Why they win it all:  The Gophers have many great players who are tops in the college game.  With a roster like that, it is not wonder they went 8-0-0 in non-conference.  UMTC scored the most goals and gave up the least in overall games of all WCHA teams.

Why they fall short:  This is a conference tournament and the Gophers have struggled throughout the season with WCHA teams.  UMTC has been making a habit of letting teams have hope by not extending leads.  The Gophers have been in 10 games with a goal differential of two or less in their last 12 games.

#1 Saint Cloud State (23-14-1, 18-9-1)
How they got here:  SCSU easily took care of Alaska – Anchorage at home in two games last weekend.  The Huskies just kept winning and stayed above all the ties in the conference to end up on top in the end.

Why they win it all:  They have shown that they are gritty and can play with any team in the WCHA.  In league games, SCSU tied with the most goals for and the third least goals against.

Why they fall short:  The Huskies can struggle at times for no apparent reason as shown in their 3-5-0 non-conference schedule and losses to Michigan Tech and Colorado College at the close of the WCHA schedule.

Picks by @afiskness.   This is the last Final Five under the current configuration and it sounds like it is going to be well attended.  Picking these games can sometimes be a complete guessing game.  One interesting note from last week is that 5 of the 6 teams that won last weekends series play on the olympic size ice, with North Dakota being the one that doesn't.  Will the ice size play into an advantage for one team over another? 

Wisconsin vs. Minnesota State:  There has been a lot of talk about the Badgers defense for this series, but I think the story is going to be the Mavericks offense.  I think the Mavericks can run enough lines that can score and will beat the Badgers who will always be looking to slow the game down. 

Colorado College vs North Dakota:  Both teams split their games earlier this year which means this should be a great game.  The tigers can score goals, their problem is letting in too many.  This game can go either way, but I will take North Dakota with the home crowd and playing on the ice size they like best to win.

If my above predictions hold here are the remaining games.  MSUM vs SCSU, I will pick SCSU to win and play UMTC who knocks off the UND.  SCSU wins the Final five.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Bulldogs on the Road in Best of Three

UMD to Wisconsin in Rematch of Early Season Series

UMD is on a five game unbeaten streak and maybe just in time.  The Bulldogs embark on their last chance to keep their last WCHA season alive when they travel to Wisconsin for a best of three playoff series.

Although the Bulldogs are on an unbeaten streak, they are also 1-5-2 in their last eight away from Duluth.

The Badgers and Bulldogs last met October 26-27 in Duluth.  Wisconsin won 2-0 followed by a Badger come from behind 2-2 tie.

How Wisconsin Wins.  It is no secret that the Badgers look to slow things down and keep the game a low scoring affair.  Wisconsin has the second lowest scoring defense in the WCHA.

Goalie Joel Rumpel is the key in net.  He has been the workhorse for the Badgers and has shined in the spotlight.  His 1.94 GAA and 0.928 saves percent earned him a spot on the third team all-WCHA.

What Holds Bucky Back?  If the Badger defense stumbles, there isn’t much in the way of offense.  Wisconsin has two players who have scored double-digit goals, Michael Mersch with 22 and Tyler Barnes with 10.  When it comes down to it, stopping Mersch seems to be the key to stifling the Badgers offense.

Nic Kerdiles has come on strong after sitting out the beginning of the season, he has scored six goals.  Six doesn’t seem like many, but on this team, it is noteworthy.

Bulldogs with Power.  UMD’s current winning streak is being propelled by the resurgent power play.  Over their last six games, the Bulldogs have gone 14 of 32 with the man advantage, 43.7%.

Goal scoring leaders on the power play are the usual suspects with Mike Seidel leading with nine goals, and freshmen Tony Cameranesi and Austin Farley each with seven.

Wild Card.  Scoring chances are not plentiful against Wisconsin and UMD must make their chances count.  Additionally, if UMD’s backstop, likely Matt McNeely, doesn’t make the easy saves and some not so easy saves, it could very well be the last series for the 2012-13 Bulldogs.

To take the next step in the season, UMD will need solid play in the net.  The recent winning streak shows that the talent is there and this weekend would be a good time to keep it rolling.

Images via Wikipedia: Bulldog, WCHA, Badger
StatPack.  The Bulldogs and Badgers stack up statistically fairly even for a #9/#4 match-up.  The Badgers did start the season slow, but have played well enough to secure home ice.

Of Note:

  • A team like the Badgers who get 2.50 goals per game need the strong defense that allows 2.11 goals per game.
  • UMD jumped from #13 in the nation for power play to #4 over last weekend where UMD went 7 for 12 on the man advantage.
  • The Bulldogs are apt to get many shots per game and they will need it going against a save percentage of 0.924.
Outlook.  It is an interesting season to look at playoff upsets.  usually there is at least one, but this year the top six look strong.  Given a list of the top six, Wisconsin is the most vulnerable because they are so one dimensional with their defense.

Around the WCHA and Picks by @afiskness.  This is the final WCHA playoffs for many of these teams and it would be a great bragging rights for the victor.  There was a lot of parity in the league this past season making this playoffs wide open.  Every year there are upsets in the playoffs and I am sure there will at least one upset this year.  Will it be a team that is hot staying hot or the sudden change for a team that is ice cold?  The key is to guess the correct game.  I think the three middle seated series are the most likely for upsets.

WCHA First Round Best of Three Series

#12 Alaska - Anchorage at #1 Saint Cloud State: The Seawolves have pulled out some stunners on the road in the playoff, but this year that does not seam likely.  This series is so one sided in favor of the Huskies I will go with a Saint Cloud sweep. 
#11 Bemidji State at #2 Minnesota Twin Cities: The Beavers have played well in years past once the post-season began and this year will probably be no different.  These are two teams that play two totally different styles.  If the Gophers get sucked into the slow down game, the Beavers could find an upset.  I don't think the playoffs will end this week for the Gophers as they sweep. 
#10 Michigan Tech at #3 North Dakota:  Both of these teams have great power plays and special teams can often decide games.  The Huskies played very good in Saint Cloud and they always play hard when they are the underdog.  I am going with North Dakota in three games. 
#9 Minnesota Duluth at #4 Wisconsin:  The Bulldogs put up impressive numbers versus less then impressive opponents, but that is what a team is supposed to do.  The Bulldogs may finally be playing the way the fan base thought they would this year.  The Badgers will look to keep it low scoring and capitalize on turnovers.  Goaltending will be the key.  This series will go three games and either team could prevail.  I like the way the freshmen have been playing for UMD recently, I think they will continue to put out and UMD will get the upset. 
#8 Colorado College at #5 Denver:  The tigers got three points of the eight in the 4 games played between these two teams this year, so it may be a very close match up.  Both teams have had very inconsistent periods this season, so it will likely depend on which version shows up.  I think I will go with the upset and the Tigers in three games. 
#7 Omaha at #6 Minnesota State Mankato:  The red Mavericks are a cold as ice right now and going on the road for the playoffs was not in the game plan a few weeks ago.  The purple Mavericks have struggled before in the playoffs, but this a much different team.  Omaha's season ends as Mankato sweeps.
Playoff Series of Future NCHC Teams (CCHA Playoffs)
#11 Michigan State at #1 Miami
#7 Michigan at #3 Western Michigan

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Blogger All-WCHA Awards

Awards Pile Up as Playoffs Start

The bloggers of the WCHA have weighed in on All-WCHA awards as compiled by A Tradition of Excellence, see the results there or below our ballot.  You can also look at the WCHA press release announcing their All-WCHA awards.

Our Ballot for the Poll
All-WCHA First Team
F – Ryan Walters UNO
F – Eric Haula UMTC
F – Drew LeBlanc SCSU
D – Nate Schmidt UMTC
D – Nick Jensen SCSU
G – Stephon Williams MSUM

All-WCHA Second Team
F – Danny Kristo UND
F – Corbon Knight UND
F – Rylan Schwartz CC
D – Joey LaLeggia DU
D – Mike Boivin CC
G – Adam Wilcox UMTC

All-WCHA Third Team
F – Nic Dowd SCSU
F – Matt Leitner MSUM
F – Krushelnyski CC
D – David Makowski DU
D – Andrew Prochno SCSU
G – Joel Rumpel UW

All-WCHA Rookie Team
F – Alex Petan MTU
F – Tony Cameranesi UMD
F – Austin Farley UMD
D – Andy Welinski UMD
D – Nolan Zajac DU
G – Stephon Williams MSUM

WCHA Player of the Year – Walters

WCHA Defensive Player of the Year – Schmidt

WCHA Rookie of the Year – Williams

WCHA Coach of the Year – Mike Hastings MSUM

Blogger All-WCHA Results from  A Tradition of Excellence
* Asterisk denotes a unanimous selection

All-WCHA First Team:
F - Ryan Walters, Nebraska-Omaha
F - Erik Haula, Minnesota
F - Danny Kristo, North Dakota
D - Nate Schmidt, Minnesota
D - Nick Jensen, St. Cloud State
G - Stephon Williams, Minnesota State

All-WCHA Second Team:
F - Drew LeBlanc, St. Cloud State
F - Corban Knight, North Dakota
F - Rylan Schwartz, Colorado College
D - Mike Boivin, Colorado College
D - Joey LaLeggia, Denver
G - Adam Wilcox, Minnesota

All-WCHA Third Team:
F - Matt Leitner, Minnesota State
F - Josh Archibald, Nebraska-Omaha
F - Eriah Hayes, Minnesota State
D - Andrew Prochno, St. Cloud State
D - Andrej Sustr, Nebraska-Omaha
G - Juho Olkinuora, Denver

WCHA All-Rookie Team:
F - Alex Petan, Michigan Tech
F - Tony Cameranesi, Minnesota-Duluth
F - Jonny Brodzinski, St. Cloud State
D - Nolan Zajac, Denver *
D - Andy Welinski, Minnesota-Duluth
G - Stephon Williams, Minnesota State

WCHA Player of the Year: Ryan Walters, Nebraska-Omaha

WCHA Defenseman of the Year: Nate Schmidt, Minnesota

WCHA Rookie of the Year: Stephon Williams, Minnesota State

WCHA Coach of the Year: Mike Hastings, Minnesota State

Friday, March 8, 2013

Final Regular Season Weekend Brings Omaha to Duluth

WCHA League Play Ends with Future NCHC Foe

The final season on the WCHA started back in October leading to this point, the end of the regular season.

For the second straight year, Minnesota Duluth hosts Omaha for the last series.  This season is unlike last year where second place in the WCHA was potentially on the line.

This season UNO is trying to hang onto home ice after a promising start and UMD is attempting to keep on a roll as they enter the playoffs almost certainly stuck at ninth place.  While playing both teams will be playing, they will also be scoreboard watching to see how the league shakes out.

As it looks now from PlayoffStatus, Omaha is odds on to fall from sixth to seventh place being passed by Denver.  That sounds good for UMD since Denver is currently one point behind Omaha.  In essence, they are saying the odds are better that Denver will win more points versus UAA this weekend than Omaha will win from UMD.  Denver has the tiebreak over Omaha.

Looking at the possible fourth place finishers, and UMD’s first round opponent, the odds are that North Dakota will be the team.  I came up with the same conclusion using the What-if Calculator last week.  The possible teams for fourth place, with greater than 10% chance, in order behind UND are Omaha, Denver, and Minnesota State Mankato.

We Have Met Before.  Omaha is one of three teams UMD plays for two series this season, Michigan Tech and Bemidji State are the other two.  The teams played in early November with Omaha coming away with a sweep 3-2 and 6-3.

Back then Omaha was on a winning streak and looked to be in the running for the league championship. 

Since that first meeting, the Mavs have gone on a few losing streaks and find themselves on the edge of home ice in the first round of the playoffs.  Currently Omaha has lost four of their last six games.

Goalies Get Work.  The emphasis is on the plural here.  News surrounding UMD has focused on the use of three goalies this season and how seldom that has happened.  Well here come UNO who has used four goalies this season.

When the preseason ballot for WCHA honors came out, the staff discussed the possibilities.  One main point of discussion was first team goalie.  I wanted to go with Mav veteran John Faulkner while the staff wanted to go elsewhere.  My thoughts were he has been around, was good two years ago, and just had an off year last season.

In the end we didn’t go with Faulkner and he came out playing like he should have received the preseason honor.

As the season has wore on, he has become less effective, thus the need to fit in three other people into the net.

Compare Faulkner to UMD workhorse McNeely, and the stats are quite close, but McNeely edges Faulkner in GAA and saves percent.  In team comparison, both squads have allowed the same number of goals.

Flying Freshmen.  In looking towards the WCHA season awards, the freshmen at UMD look to be in the running for some accolades.  The freshmen, and the future, are sixth in the nation in scoring at 33-51-84 points.

Tony Cameranesi and Austin Farley have now moved into a tie with senior Mike Seidel for goal scoring leader on UMD with 14.  Total points goes to Cameranesi with 14-16-30.

In conference games, defenseman Andy Welinski is the highest scoring defenseman with 2-11-13.

Images via Wikipedia: Bulldog, WCHA, Maverick
StatPack.  At right are the statistical comparisons of the Bulldogs and red Mavericks.  Unlike the last two weekends, the stats are a mixture of strengths.

Of Note:

  • Despite a 6th versus 9th place series, the number of goals allowed is the same.  Goals for tells the story of why the standings disparity.
  • The Bulldogs improved both PP and PK standings in their series against UAH last weekend.
  • UMD still is a nation leader in penalty minutes, but UNO is not far behind.  The difference is the prowess Omaha has on the PK to score logging the six SHGs this season.
Outlook.  The odds state that UMD is expected to take at least one point this weekend.  It doesn't seem likely the way the teams played earlier in the season against each other, but this is now.  UMD should get at least a point, but that may very be it, one point.  UNO has a lot to play for while UMD is locked at ninth.  The hope, the expectation, is UMD will come out with fire and show that they are a threat in the first round of the playoffs.

Around the WCHA and picks by @afiskness.  All 12 teams play in this final weekend of WCHA regular season and the WCHA regular season champion will be decided.  There will be a lot of scoreboard watching in all the WCHA rinks.  It is likely home ice won’t be completely decided until Sunday when Denver and Anchorage finish their second game of the series.   A few weeks back I thought 30 points would be enough for home ice now I am predicting 33 points.  It will be interesting to see how close my picks are to the final standings.

WCHA Conference
Alaska - Anchorage at Denver:  This Friday/Sunday series will likely decide the last home ice spot.  The Seawolves have one road win this season and will not get one in Denver.  Pioneers sweep. 
Colorado College at Michigan Tech:  Both of these teams split last weekend against higher ranked opponents.  The Huskies dominated St. Cloud in the Saturday win and will be hoping the momentum will continue for them at home in Houghton.  The Tigers have lacked consistency and that will probably continue this weekend.  Split. 
Minnesota Twin Cities at Bemidji State:  The Gophers split at home against the Pioneers and now go to the smaller rink in Bemidji.  The Beavers slow down game has been trouble for some teams this year and I think the Gophers could be affected.  This looks like a Gopher win and tie for 3 points and a share of the MacNaughton Cup.  
North Dakota at Minnesota State Mankato:  This is a big series for both teams and will be a real playoff test.  North Dakota got three points at home and the Mavericks split on the road.  Both would like to move up in the standings and I think they will each get 2 points in a split. 
Omaha at Minnesota Duluth:  Last weekends' results for these two teams were opposite each other as the Bulldogs swept the Chargers at home meanwhile the Mavericks were swept by the Badgers.  Omaha has more to play for this weekend as they are currently in sixth but could see that go to seventh without some wins.  I think the Bulldogs have been playing well enough recently to get a split. 
Saint Cloud State at Wisconsin:  This series will be played at the Dane, which is perfect setting for the Badgers to make their exodus from the WCHA.  The Huskies win and the get sole possession of the MacNaughton Cup.  Wisconsin bounced back last weekend and swept Omaha, I think their good fortunes will continue and the Huskies share the MacNaughton Cup.  Badgers win and tie for 3 points.
Final Standings Prediction

Saint Cloud         36
UMTC                36
North Dakota        35
Wisconsin           34
Minnesota State     33
Denver              33
UNO                 32
CC                  26
UMD                 23
MTU                 20
BSU                 18
UAA                 10

Future NCHC Teams
Miami and Western Michigan are off this weekend with byes in the first round of the CCHA playoffs.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Wild WCHA Weekend as Season Winds Down

Picture Became Very Clear Friday...Then Saturday Happened

A wild weekend in the WCHA saw only two sweeps, both in non-conference action.

In one sweep, Minnesota Duluth scored four goals in two consecutive games to down Alabama – Huntsville 4-2 and 4-0.  Friday was the first four goal output by the Bulldogs since January 12 when they scored five goals.  Going back further, the previous was at Alaska – Anchorage on December 14, 2012 when again UMD again scored five goals.  The four goals in each game was on UAH’s average of goals against (4.13).

The other sweep was Alaska – Anchorage being swept at the hands of Alaska.  The two losses give the Governor’s Cup to the Nanooks and continues a streak for UAA of one win in their last 20 games.
The WCHA games played this past weekend did more muddying up of the waters than anything.  

Saturday night presented a chance for Saint Cloud State to clinch a share of the title and many were rightfully disgusted that the league would not bring the MacNaughton Cup to Saint Cloud for the night.  Problem solved, because the cup wasn’t needed.

SCSU had control of the Friday game against Michigan Tech into the third period leading 4-0.  The MTU Huskies would not go away quietly scoring three straight in the final period before losing 5-3.  That offensive output seemed to set the table for MTU Saturday as they dominated the team who looked poised to have a strangle hold on the league title.

The Tech Huskies reeled off five goals before allowing SCSU one with less than three minutes remaining in the game for a 5-1 win.  The SCSU loss squandered the gains from Friday as the finish line nears.

A Friday night 2-0 shutout of the Gophers by Denver looked to end the likely chances of UMTC getting a share of the title.  The Denver win also propelled them into the home playoff hunt. 

A convincing Gopher win Saturday turned everything around.  Coupled with the SCSU loss, UMTC is back in the hunt and the Pioneers are currently out of the home ice position.  Yes, the #8 team in the PairWise is currently not aligned for home ice in their first round games!  Denver plays one more series next weekend at home against UAA, so chances of moving up are good.

North Dakota likely saw a chance to better their standing, but they likely never saw the challenge on the weekend coming from opponent Bemidji State.  The Beavers held UND to a 1-1 tie entering the third period Friday before losing 4-2.  Saturday BSU lead for the second straight night before UND came back, but that night it was only good enough for a 2-2 OT tie.

The results of the weekend leaves UND in second place tie with UMTC, trailing SCSU by two points.

Minnesota State Mankato salvaged a split with Colorado College on a Saturday night win that puts them in a 4th place tie with surprising Wisconsin who swept at Omaha.

Frantic Finish.  Four of the top six teams play each other this last weekend of the league season, SCSU at Wisconsin and North Dakota at MSUM.  That leaves Denver the only team that doesn’t have a chair in the home ice race and can move into the mix.

Denver is likely to get a chair when the music stops, but who will drop?  Most likely to drop are Wisconsin, MSUM, or Omaha in that order.  But as we found out last weekend, anything is possible!
Again, if you want to look at the possibilities, go to the What-if Calculator.

Up Next.  The Bulldogs will close out their last WCHA regular season hosting Omaha.  THe Mavericks will be trying desperately to rebound from a sweep and stay in the top half of the league for home ice.  The Mavericks swept UMD in November in a series in Omaha.

UMD will be scoreboard watching to see who will finish fourth and be the location the Bulldogs will travel to as they are stuck at ninth place.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Duluth Hosts UAH for Second Straight Year

New WCHA Team Travels to Outgoing WCHA

Drawing to the end of the regular season, a non-conference series may just be what the Bulldogs need.  Now is the time to get on a roll and pull things together.

The opponent is UAH, the Chargers, who have been accepted into the new look WCHA for next season.  For this season they are playing an independent schedule and have amassed an NCAA record of 3-19-1.  Two of the wins are against Division III opponent Finlandia.  Additionally UAH played seven exhibition games resulting in a record of 5-1-1.

UMD is currently on a nine game winless streak at 0-7-2, the longest such streak since 2000-01 season.  As much as UMD has struggled over the past nine games, they have played well at times and must pull together to get on track this weekend.

In the 23 NCAA games played, the Chargers have two players tied for leading scorer at 10 points, sophomores Jeff Vanderlugt and Kyle Lysaght. 

One significant change from last year’s UAH team that visited Duluth is the departure of goalie Clarke Saunders.  Saunders used last season’s uncertainty of the UAH program to take an NCAA transfer to North Dakota where he is splitting time with Zane Gothberg.  Saunders’ replacement at UAH has been goalie by committee, similar to UMD, using three netminders.  But for the Chargers, the numbers have not been good for the goalies with leader John Griggs with a respectable 0.894 save percentage, but an alarming 3.95 GAA. 

The Bulldogs may be drooling at the defensive numbers put up by the Chargers, but UMD definitely has something to prove.  The Bulldogs have only scored 15 goals in their nine game winless streak. 

Images via Wikipedia: BulldogWCHAChargers
StatPack.  The stats looked similar last weekend, but against UMD.  The results of the weekend were two close games with the Gophers. The obvious disclaimer of stats need not be stated.

Of Note:

  • Both the PP and PK of UMD improved with a good showing last weekend.
  • Goals per game for the Bulldogs has steadily been going down.  This may be a good weekend to help buoy the number.
  • UMD continues to be in the top three nationally for average penalty minutes.  UAH is just four minutes greater than the national leader in fewest penalty minutes, Saint Cloud State.
  • This series marks the end of the season for UAH.

Farley Charging.   Fresh off a three goal weekend, look for Austin Farley to become more consistent. The maturation of Farley and fellow freshman forward Tony Cameranesi is the future of scoring for UMD and these last weeks of the season should give a preview of what to expect going into next season.

Final Words.  UMD looked good last weekend in gaining one point at UMTC, but the weekend before they looked like a team that had given up during a one point weekend at BSU.  This is the weekend to put it together, feel success again, and start a run towards the postseason.

Around the WCHA and picks by @afiskness.
For UMD fans this upcoming series against the Chargers is the one they are hoping will resurrect the Bulldogs offense and all-around team play.  The Chargers only have one Division I win this season and that win dates back to mid-November, so all indications are that this will be a UMD sweep.  Anything less than two wins would be a disappointment.

There are a few other great series in college hockey this weekend, both in the WCHA and outside the WCHA.  Hockey East has two series to watch as Merrimack is up against Lowell in a home and home series and BC is taking on Providence.  These games very well could decide the Hockey East champion.  In the ECAC St. Lawrence is going to Troy, NY to play RPI for two games.  Now the ECAC regular season title won't be going to either one of these teams, but both are NCAA bubble teams and the outcomes could impact how long their season extend.

WCHA Conference
Bemidji State at North Dakota:  The Beavers have always struggled against North Dakota and this series definitely favors North Dakota.  Scoring is a not the Beavers strong point and right now North Dakota's offense is clicking, in the last three games North Dakota has scored 15 goals.  This will be a North Dakota sweep.  
Denver at Minnesota Twin Cities:  It is hard to predict what Denver team is going to show up, the one that can score or the one that doesn't.  I think we will probably see both teams this weekend.  The Gophers played good last weekend and got three points at home against the Bulldogs, but they did have some struggles at times.  This looks like a split. 
Michigan Tech at Saint Cloud State:  The Huskies of Saint Cloud are controlling their own destiny and I don't think the Huskies from the U.P. will be able to slow them down much.  This series in Saint Cloud should result in a Sweep for Saint Cloud. 
Wisconsin at Omaha:  The Badgers cruised past the Nitany Loins on Sunday only to follow it up with a stunning loss.  This one loss alone had a big impact to the Badgers NCAA hopes.  They will likely playing this series with some urgency.  The Mavericks have had two weeks to prepare for this series and they are also playing for their NCAA playoff future.  My guess it the Badgers defense will be enough to get a split.
Alabama - Huntsville at Minnesota Duluth:  This is a must win series for the Bulldogs.  Not in the sense of playoff but more as a statement of the program as a whole.  The Chargers only have one win all season against Division I teams and talent wise they do not match up against the Bulldogs.  Bulldogs sweep. 
Alaska Anchorage at Alaska:  This is a home and home series for the Governor's Cup. The Nanook's are the better of the two teams, but I think the home and home favors a split.
Future NCHC
Ohio State at Miami
Western Michigan at Michigan State