Friday, October 15, 2010

WCHA Gets Tougher Tonight

The WCHA opens conference play this weekend with their new slogan “Just Got Tougher” that refers to the addition of new teams and the confidence that the WCHA will remain the best conference and even extend that claim over college hockey.

Meanwhile, UMD is still in a holding pattern, waiting for their first game in the new WCHA. Really it isn’t that different, it just has two more teams, University of Nebraska – Omaha and Bemidji State. In the meantime, UMD plays another non-conference series, this time against Providence College Friars.

The Series. It has been since 1997 that these two teams have met and UMD holds an all time record of 12-7-1 against the Friars. In fact, this is the first trip to Minnesota since 2002 when they faced off against Minnesota State – Mankato.

Scoring Around. The Bulldogs tallied 11 goals last weekend and it has been noted here how the goals have been spread around. What is seen after the weekend is that of the 21 players logging ice time last weekend, 13 scored at least one point.

Further, Justin Fontaine is starting off on a hot streak. He has taken 12 shots on goal tallying 2 goals and 3 assists. His linemates, Mike and Jack Connolly, added in, the FCC line has 4 goals and 7 assists for 11 points. The challenge is to keep up that pace while developing scorers on other lines.

Early Results Are In. It has been only two games, but a pattern is starting that needs to be stopped. UMD has been outscored in the third period in the first two games. It is only 4-3, but a contending team needs to be able to shut down opponents, especially when comebacks mount in the third period. It is a question of finishing power, defense and goaltending. All facets of the game that Coach Sandelin is stressing with his team.

Outlook for this Weekend. Look for the last DECC home opener to be a sweep over the Friars getting UMD ready for WCHA play next weekend at home against Alaska – Anchorage.

Around the WCHA.

North Dakota at Bemidji State: BSU is opening a new building in their first games as a WCHA member against the favorite in the league. This makes for a big weekend in Bemidji. More excitement? The NoDak bus was in an accident on their way to Bemidji, getting rear ended in Erskine. Through all the firsts and craziness, NoDak will flex their muscle and take three points home from Bemidji.

UNO at UMTC: UNO is another new team getting their new taste of “tougher.” Their tougher will be facing newly resurgent and more confident Gopher team coming off of a disappointing season last year. Barriball is back and he has lit the lamp for four goals over the weekend while completing a pure hat trick in the first period Saturday night. UMTC will sweep UNO. Welcome back to the WCHA, coach Blais.

Minnesota State – Mankato at Michigan Tech: At first look this is the cellar dweller series, but the Huskies are looking to build on a great start and leave the bottom of the standing in their rears. Tech has gone 2-0-1 in their first three games while MSUM is on a tie streak going 0-0-2. Tech is tough at home and that toughness will result in a sweep over the mega-rebuilding Maverick team.

CC vs Alaska – Anchorage (nc – Alaska Goal Rush): A WCHA preview in a non-conference game. UAA has been strong this early season, so look for a Seawolves win over CC paired with a loss against Union Saturday. CC too will get a split as they beat Alaska Saturday.

Boston College at Denver: Two teams that have to find their identity after losses of players. Look for a split.

Miami at Saint Cloud State: Here is an interesting series. SCSU is picked to be an elite team in the WCHA, but suffered arguably the biggest upset last weekend losing convincingly to Clarkson. Miami has also been picked to be at the top of their conference, the CCHA. But they too split a series last weekend at home against a good New Hampshire team. It will be two teams looking to assert themselves as the teams they were picked to be. This will lead to a hard fought series that will end in a split.

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