Friday, January 15, 2010

First Place Attainable

This is the weekend that UMD has the opportunity to take over 1st place alone in the WCHA. A sweep or near sweep over MSUM would put UMD alone on top. Denver is currently two points ahead of the 2nd place Bulldogs and Denver is off this weekend.

Score to Win. I know, if you don’t score, you don’t win. But with UMD it is a tale of how much scoring occurs. When UMD scores 3 or more goals, they are 14-0-1 and when less than three are scored, the Bulldogs are 0-7-0. So the whole team has to keep pushing forward, not relying on the previously mentioned big 4 (Fontaine, JConnolly, MConnolly, and Bordson). And that has been happening over the last games. As long as the whole team knows that they are all needed to win, it doesn’t seem to matter what the opponent does to try to shut down the MConnolly-JConnolly-Fontaine line.

That being said, the Bulldogs do seem to struggle on the road. 4-3-1 is the current road record going to Mankato this weekend. If the Bulldogs are to keep contending for the a top three spot in the WCHA, and even for the McNaughton Cup, road wins will have to be a part of that. Mankato may be a great place to pick up two road wins.

The Roads Traveled to Mankato. The Mavericks are coming off being swept at North Dakota last weekend as UMD was sweeping Colorado College in Duluth. Who does that favor? Is MSUM out to turn it around and take advantage of home ice or will heads be hanging low? Is UMD rolling and inertia will carry them through Mankato or will they look past MSUM? Both good questions, but this is the WCHA and teams do come out and play the games to a high level. But what also has to be noted is that UMD has not pieced together four wins in row this season and MSUM has not had four straight loses yet this season. If the Bulldogs are going to take advantage of the 8th place team in the WCHA, those streaks have to be broken.

Who’s in the Net? It will be interesting to see if UMD has found their #1 goalie in Kenny Reiter. I would expect to see him in net tonight and likely again Saturday. He is on fire and Coach Sandelin has ridden his hot goalies in the past.

A Bulldog Sweep is Great, but… A UMD sweep would mean first place in the WCHA as Denver is idle this weekend. A UMD sweep would definitely help their rankings nationally, except maybe in the Pairwise (PWR). Currently MSUM is a TUC helping UMD’s PWR. Two loses at the hands of UMD will likely take them out of the TUC. If that happens, UMD would want MSUM to get more wins, at least enough to keep them in the TUC.

Around the WCHA:

Wisconsin at Colorado College: A telling tale of tow teams highly regarded in the WCHA and nationally. CC is on a little slide after a trip to Duluth broken their unbeaten road record. Wisconsin is on a tear and many national writers and observers are talking that the badgers are the team to beat in the WCHA. After a Badger near sweep (3 points) early in the season, this Colorado Springs series looks like a split.

North Dakota at Minnesota: Another rematch of an early season series. The earlier results were a Sioux near sweep. This time North Dakota will better that with a sweep over a Gopher team that is still trying to find who will stand up and take the lead to make this group of NHL draftees a team. Think back to the NY Ranger’s attempts to make mega-star teams that missed the playoffs because they couldn’t come together. The Gophers are starting to fit that mold.

Alaska-Anchorage at Michigan Tech: The 9th place at the 10th place team. If Tech can play the way they do against Northern Michigan, or UMD for that matter, they will take a sweep. Likely this will be a split.

Saint Cloud State at Quinnipiac: This will be a good road test for the Huskies. If the WCHA non-conference record is the trend, this would be a 3 to 4 point SCSU weekend. The long travel could be reminiscent to NCAA tournament travel. SCSU has never won a Division I NCAA tournament game, so this may be a challenge. Not knowing much about Quinnipiac, I will sit back and watch the scores come in.

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