Friday, February 11, 2011

Swooning Huskies Travel to Duluth

Saint Cloud Returns to Duluth for First Time Since 2008

The Huskies of SCSU are back in town. That is a notable mark as this is their first game in Duluth since November of 2008, a scheduling quirk indeed.

The last time we covered a Huskies game was last March in Saint Paul for the NCAA West Regional Championship. Things have definitely changed from last year to this year for the Huskies.

The Huskies accomplishments last season include finishing third in the league, ending their NCAA Tournament loss streak (it was actually their first NCAA win), and sending Ryan Latsch to the top of all time Huskies scorers. It was a banner year to work into the future.

So what happened? SCSU is currently tied for 10th place in the now 12 team WCHA, rank 11th in the WCHA in team defense (3.04 goals allowed per game), rank 357th in the nation in scoring with 2.71 goals per game and their top point getter, Drew LeBlanc, is 11-23-34 (6th WCHA, 21st nationally).

It has really been a perfect storm that has hit Saint Cloud. Loss of scoring talent through graduation (Latsch and Garret Raboin), the academic ineligibility first semester of sophomore David Eddy who was the leading freshman scorer, and the midseason dismissal of two players has left the lineup in constant flux. Additionally, the erratic play of the defense, especially the once dubbed dynamic goaltending dup of Mike Lee and Dan Dunn, leaves SCSU in the hole they are in.

SCSU is no cupcake, though. They have put up a streak in over Christmas break extending into 2011 when they put together a six game win streak against teams like Cornell and Miami, but also against lower half WCHA teams BSU and MTU. The team just can’t get to even, currently 11-14-3 (7-11-2 WCHA).

Power is Key for UMD. Special teams will be important throughout the end of the season. Currently the Bulldogs are staying almost steady, but losing a little ground in the power play department, now at #14 in the nation with 20.83%. The penalty kill is surging behind a current kill streak of 38 of 41 (92.7%). That streak has improved UMD to 84.8%, 13th in the nation.

2011 is Good. The Bulldogs are 9-1-1 in the new year. The loss and tie have both come at AMSOIL Arena.

Gaoltending! Reiter was strong in net last weekend and may have solidified the starting job the whole weekend. Crandall does need more experience and that is where the question comes in: When do you stop developing a backup and start preparing a goalie ready for the postseason push? It has to be one of these weekends soon, because reiter will be tested this postseson.

Bottom Line. UMD is still rising as seen with the reunification of the FCC line last weekend. The Bulldogs are playing for the coveted McNaughton Cup and a potential bye in the first round of the new format Final Five.

The Bulldogs will take advantage of a reeling SCSU team and complete their first sweep at AMSOIL Arena.

Around the WCHA. All 12 teams are engaged in conference play this weekend, with only four weekends left in the regular season.

Alaska – Anchorage at #5 North Dakota: North Dakota was really banged up before last weekend which they had off. Some players have returned, but some key players, Kristo and Genoway, are still out. Coach Hakstol has gone so far as to say he is not happy with the distraction that the Kristo injury has caused and that he will turn his attention to the 26 guys he has in Grand Forks. Kristo is still currently in the Twin Cities recovering from frostbite. Drama on the Prairie leads to a 3 point weekend for UND.

#5 Denver at UMTC: This is a tough one for us. It is not often that the staff cannot come to consensus and this is one of those times. After a poor defensive showing at Duluth last weekend and the possibility of Barribal out for the weekend, I have a Pioneers sweep in Minneapolis. Andy sees UMTC using some home cooking to salvage a split.

#7 Wisconsin at #14 Nebraska – Omaha: This looks to be the marquee match-up of the weekend. Wisconsin is really turning on the heat making a run tot the top of the PWR and WCHA. The Badgers are currently two points behind the Mavs in the conference and UNO is having trouble finding a groove. If Mavs goalie Faulkner is on his game, UNO could squeak out a split. The most likely scenario is UW’s netminder Gudmandson will be great and UNO’s home ice advantage will make this a 3 pointer for Wisconsin.

Minnesota State – Mankato at #18 Colorado College: The Tigers of CC are still trying to move up in t PWR, but just can’t seem to do that. MSUM may seem like a good opponent to make some hay against, but the Mavs have been playing inspired hockey as of late. The end result is CC won’t move up when they split with Mankato.

Bemidji State at Michigan Technological University: Whether the Huskies are good or bad, and this season has been bad, Winter Carnival Weekend in Houghton always seems to bring something more out of the home Huskies. Bemidji has been muddling around the bottom of the WCHA with Tech all season and now they finally meet. Carnival mojo brings an end to Techs winless streak in a split.

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