This Week
This Week in the WCHA

College Hockey:
Nebraska-Omaha showing no fear in WCHA introduction

To paraphrase the message Nebraska-Omaha sent its WCHA counterparts last weekend, the Mavericks aren’t intimidated by their new league and the tough teams that make it up.

The Mavericks swept Minnesota by scores of 5-4 and 4-2 in their WCHA debut and are undefeated at 4-0. UNO has done it with a high-powered offense led by Rich Purslow, who’s tied for the national lead in points with nine.

Joey Martin (his seven assists are tied for the national lead), Matt Ambroz (second in the country with five goals) and Alex Hudson all have scored eight points so far. Eric Olimb and Matt White both have six points.

UNO undoubtedly has one of the nation’s top offenses out of the gate with its national-best 5.5 goals per game and a plus-13 goal differential. Don’t forget about some reliable goaltending by John Faulkner, who owns a 2.25 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage.

The Mavericks have been very impressive so far and can continue to make the case that they don’t belong in the WCHA’s bottom half as predicted by the league’s preseason polls.

UNO takes on old CCHA foe No. 4 Michigan (2-0-2) this weekend in Ann Arbor, and a win taken from the Wolverines would definitely be enough to get the critics to jump on the Omaha bandwagon.

Last week, I wrote that you can’t always count on WCHA teams to continue the success or the struggles they start with.

Don’t forget that the Mavericks beat a pretty light opponent in unranked Clarkson along with mid-range opponents Rochester Institute of Technology and Minnesota — ranked 18th and 13th, respectively, at the time of those games. Going into Mariucci Arena and beating the Gophers isn’t exactly considered an upset like it used to be.

Michigan Tech is another team off to a blazing start. The Huskies are unbeaten in five games after beating and tying Northern Michigan, spanking Lake Superior 6-2, and taking three of four points from Minnesota State last weekend. After everyone slaps the Huskies on their collective back, look at the combined record of MTU’s opponents: 0-6-3.

When the Huskies start to play teams that can win — like 3-1 Wisconsin on Oct. 29 and 30 in Madison — reality will set in quickly.

Looking around the league

No. 15 Wisconsin at No. 11 Denver
The Badgers head west to play Denver (1-2-1) in the the weekend’s best matchup between WCHA teams. The Pioneers and Badgers placed first and second, respectively, in last season’s standings but both lost everything in the offseason.

Wisconsin mopped up on Alabama-Huntsville last weekend while Denver welcomed top-ranked Boston College for a weekend series and got outscored 9-2. A bad weekend for the Pioneers might tell what kind of season is ahead of them.

No. 14 St. Cloud State at No. 20 Minnesota
Two more teams looking to bounce back after a sluggish weekend.

If SCSU’s offensive weapons can maintain a heavy attack on a Minnesota defense that has allowed 16 goals in four games and goalie Alex Kangas, who has a 3.46 GAA and a .908 save percentage, the Huskies (1-2-1) will open their WCHA schedule in a positive manner.

The Gophers (2-2) need a big weekend from hot starter Jay Barriball (5-2–7) to keep pace.

Alaska-Anchorage at No. 6 Minnesota-Duluth
It could be a tough weekend for the one of the nation’s worst defenses visiting one of its high-voltage offenses. The Seawolves (1-2-1) have allowed 3.75 goals per game, and the Bulldogs (3-0-1) have scored 5.5 goals per game.

UMD’s Justin Fontaine is off to a fast start (3-6–9) and Mike and Jack Connolly, although unrelated, have identical scoring stats: 3-5–8.

Colorado College at Minnesota State
Normally near the top of the WCHA, CC (2-1-1) is fighting to maintain its reputation as one of the league’s more respectable programs as it moves through a rebuilding stage. MSU (0-1-3) looks for its first win of the season as it battles for respect in the WCHA.

It’s a good opportunity for each team to grab some points. Both teams struggle to score but the Tigers haven’t let many goals in (eight in four games) while the Mavericks have given up four goals per game.

No. 2 North Dakota at No. 12 Maine (non-conference)
This is the marquee matchup of the week with the WCHA’s best team heading to New England to face a top-tier Hockey East team in Maine (1-1-2).

Matt Frattin hopes to keep the hot hand he used to torch Bemidji State for four goals and an assist last week. Junior goaltender Brad Eidsness has struggled through two starts, giving up seven goals on 37 shots (.811 save percentage). Sophomore Aaron Dell has a .919 save percentage with a 1.50 GAA.

Coming Friday on the WCHA Blog: Weekend picks from Tyler Buckentine and Theresa Spisak.

USCHO covers the WCHA all week long on the WCHA Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.

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  • Robo

    UNO is not afraid?? How strange a statement to make….seeing how Hockey East has won the national title two years in a row…..the folks in the WCHA have a serious case of narcissism…..

    • Guest

      I didn’t see a mention of Hockey East in this post? Interesting.

    • Guest

      The title of this column is called “This week in the WCHA.” So why would there be any talk of Hockey East Teams?

    • Gjfey34

      I second both responses, and would also like to add that, if you want to go that Hockey East rout, the WCHA won the title from 2002-2006. And besides, the point of this WCHA column, about WCHA hockey, is that UNO went into a tough WCHA environment and dominated Minnesota….

    • Anonymous

      Yes, how dare they talk about the WCHA in a column titled “This week in the WCHA.”

    • cole p

      Yeah, Robo, you are a moron.. Go back to your hockey east posts and get out of here… perfect example of why I hate the hockey east…

  • F2B&G

    “When the Huskies start to play teams that can win — like 3–1 Wisconsin on Oct. 29 and 30 in Madison — reality will set in quickly.”

    I’ll give you Lake State and Mankato, but NMU is a solid team that is only a consistent goalie away from a winning streak. As for 3-1 Wisconsin, with all due respect to UAH, two of those wins were against weak competition.

    This Tech team is far from perfect, but if they stay healthy, they aren’t going to be a pushover this year either.

  • GoGofs

    Much better than Spisak. I was losing interest in this site due to the poor writing and lack of depth from her. I will check in more often than I thought if Tyler continues.

  • Oldish Husky

    So the teams that an undefeated team beat have a poor record? Of course. I’m not saying that Tech is ready for a title or even home ice, but as there’s equally limited evidence that they can’t compete against better teams. You can only play the schedule you have. Actually, I don’t even think that 0-6-3 is the right record considering that Mankato has 3 ties alone and NMU and LSSU have one each.

  • XYZ

    So when will the column be posted?

  • Baty0501

    It’s amazing to me how unbelievably poor the analyses of the WCHA have become…

    Tyler, you are stepping into a comment attack when you write for the WCHA on USCHO.com, but if you give the fans a highly-detailed and well-written column it will greatly increase your chance of being respected.

  • Siouxphan

    Minnesota – sluggish? Now there’s an understatement if I’ve ever heard one…

  • guest

    way to bash tech before they actually play those “teams that can win”

  • David

    Well, if you read the HE weekly column here at USCHO, you’d find that there isn’t any mentin of Hockey East there either – the whole article is about Boston College. Apparently they are the only team in that league now, unbeknownst to Maine, UNH, Vermont, UMass…

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