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This Week
This Week in the WCHA

College Hockey:
Denver, North Dakota look to gain ground

Eleven of the 12 WCHA teams play this weekend, and a couple of the series are extremely key for the participants. Here are what I think are the important series and why:

Denver at North Dakota

With this series, we’re treated to what has become one of the best rivalries in the WCHA. It may still not garner the hype that, say, a Denver-Colorado College or a North Dakota-Minnesota or a Minnesota-Wisconsin or, really, a Minnesota-practically anyone would, but the games between the Pioneers and the Sioux have been anything but boring the last several years.

und du grp Denver, North Dakota look to gain ground

Games between Denver and North Dakota have generally proven to deliver some memorable moments (photo: Tim Brule).

From the Geoff Paukovich-Robbie Bina incident in 2005 and the fallout from that to Denver coach George Gwozdecky being ejected twice (once in 2006 and then in 2009), combined with the great hockey one usually sees at these games, they’re never boring.

That being said, this weekend is key for both teams for a variety of reasons.

For the Pioneers:

  • Gwozdecky said that last Saturday’s tie against Wisconsin was probably the best game his team has played thus far. The team obviously wants to capitalize on that momentum and put forth its new best games of the season up in a hostile environment. If the Pioneers are successful, they could sweep the season series for the second straight year and the second time ever.
  • The Pioneers had arguably one of the toughest starts to the season around and have come out of it relatively OK, at a 2-2-2 record. However, that start may be more helpful than not as it has definitely prepared the team for the challenge that faces them this weekend.
  • “I think our experience over the past three weekends certainly has been challenging for us,” Gwozdecky said at his weekly press conference. “I certainly think that those six games we have played certainly prepare us for our second WCHA opponent of the year.”
  • Denver has to contend with what will undoubtedly be a fired-up Sioux squad, and winning these games would not only be great for the Pioneers going forward, but could be a huge factor on the Sioux’s mind-set as well. “They’re certainly going to be upset by how they played and it’s certainly going to be an emotional task for us to deal with their emotion and determination and their will to win starting Friday night, but certainly I feel good about what we’ve been doing so far,” said Gwozdecky.

For the Fighting Sioux:

  • This weekend is the first time the Sioux have been able to enjoy the comforts of the Ralph Engelstad Arena in the regular season. If there was ever a time for them to hope for home-ice advantage, this is it.
  • Even though the Sioux have played six games thus far and are 3-2-1 in those games, this weekend feels like do or die for the team. Maybe it’s only because of the high expectations placed on the team at the beginning of the year or the fact that coach Dave Hakstol had a grim response when he was asked what they needed to do better this weekend: “Everything,” he said. “I’m not kidding, everything. … we were very sporadic in all areas of our game.”
  • This series is the start of a tough stretch for the Sioux (after this, it’s Minnesota-Duluth, Wisconsin and Nebraska-Omaha) and a great chance for the team to get back on track, especially given the rivalry atmosphere.”It’s a great rivalry, it’ll be a great series and I’m looking forward to our team having a chance to put our game back on the map,” Hakstol said.

    Minnesota-Duluth at Bemidji State

    The Bulldogs have been on a roll so far this season, outscoring opponents 24-7. Therefore, while a chance to gain league points is always important, the Bulldogs aren’t the team we’re worried about.

    On the other hand, this series could prove crucial for the Beavers and here’s why:

  • The team needs to get some points here soon in league play. Right now, the team is fresh from a bye week and is primed to do so.
  • BSU had higher expectations coming in than Nebraska-Omaha and we all know how the Mavericks are doing. To grab some points here against an upper-echelon team like Duluth would be a huge boost of confidence for the team going forward and make it feel like the WCHA is the right fit.
  • Michigan Tech at Wisconsin

    In years past, this series would probably not warrant being labeled as an “important” one. This year, however, things are a bit different. Here’s why:

    Michigan Tech has had a remarkable start to their season so far, but, as my colleague Tyler Buckentine pointed out last week, its schedule hasn’t exactly been the toughest out there. Granted, the Huskies have been doing what they should (and what they should have been doing for the past … well, many years), but this weekend is arguably their first real test. Should they split, take three points or sweep the Badgers, this weekend will be a continuance of the Huskies’ success.

    The Badgers, on the other hand, need a good weekend against the upstart Huskies. Wisconsin’s start to league play wasn’t what it had hoped for (a sole point against DU) and traditionally weak Tech is a great place to start gaining a foothold in the league standings.

    Quotable

    “Given that I have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express, in my expert medical opinion, he’s maybe two weeks out.” — Gwozdecky, when asked on the progress of injured players; in this case, freshman Nick Shore.

    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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    • http://twitter.com/saraj323 Sara Folkestad

      Not to be nitpicky, but the Sioux have actually played 6 games and are 3-2-1 not 2-2.

    • Kb_nodak

      UND has indeed played six games and are 3-2-1 with all the games being on the road. As usual USCHO writers could care less about UND. If you can not even get the basic facts correct how can you begin to report on SIOUX hockey

    • J Bond

      Not only has North Dakota played six games…They have also traveled about 7,500 in three weeks with trips to Alaska, Bemidji, and Maine. So this weekend really isn’t the “start to a tough stretch”, is it Theresa?

      • JG

        This was going to be my exact comment. I’m wondering if any basic research is done for WCHA articles? We have the premier league in the country, and the worst columnists. How is that possible?

    • DHG

      Wow listen to the Sioux excuse computer. really?

      • Hendog19und

        You should check out the North Dakota Native Americans Website. mhanation.com has many Sioux references like the Oglala Sioux tribe. Standing Rock call themselves the Sioux on their website as well. dhg maybe you should check your info before writing. Just Saying!

    • dhg

      Kb_nodak….what is Sioux Hockey? I have heard of North Dakota Hockey, but the Sioux is an offensive name and thank god will no longer exist.

      • Gophers are offensive

        The Sioux is offensive? A native american tribe is offensive to you? Perhaps we should change North and South DAKOTA to something less offensive to you, since they too are named after the tribes that settled the areas? Moron.

        • OhPioneers

          Well, to be fair, the word Sioux isn’t a native Lakota word; it’s an Algonquian word meaning ‘foreigner’ borrowed by French missionaries used to describe the Siouan peoples, and many of them do find the word ‘Sioux’ offensive, or at the least, ignorant. However, I don’t think that has any relevancy to the naming of sports teams.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KBVOP7JEIJTGTBGPEMTI67KVLU J

            oh really sooo explain to me why most if not all the lakota accept the term Sioux to describe the whole indian nation???? answer that for me?? everyone knows where the term originated but it has been accepted over time by the native ppls and most all peoples, it is a name that should be honored and respected

      • Bucky’s Pucks

        To all who want to ban the Sioux name: you can first go after the Fighting Irish, complete with a cartoonish drunken leprachuan in Marquess of Queensberry stance, and you should follow that up by getting rid of the Utes, Seminoles, Chippewas, Illini, Aztecs, and don’t forget about the Nanooks up in AK.
        If the Sioux name is offensive to you, and this is biggest problem you have in life, you’ve got it made. If you want offensive, check out the status of education & healthcare along with job opportunities on the reservations. Hell, a good part of the US in general for that matter.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KBVOP7JEIJTGTBGPEMTI67KVLU J

        im sick of ignorant people such as yourself. (sioux is an offensive name) are you kidding me??!??!?!! not only does that make noo sense at all. its down right rediculous and what you said is insulting to the sioux tribes!!! HOW ABOUT MOST OF THE THE SIOUX PEOPLES SUPPORT THE NICKNAME BUT THE DICTATORSHIP STYLE COUNCILS ARE TRYING TO SPEAK FOR EVERYONE BY GOING AGAINST IT. the ppl of north dakota and south dakota (all people) are proud of thier university and what it has done for the sioux tribes as far as donation and free scholarships…..dhg is whats wrong with society today soo stop talking out of yur A*S

    • vbosch

      only 2 sentences about Duluth, the number 3 team in the nation. really? and another error, the Bulldogs have outscored opponents 30-14. this writer sucks!

    • Baty0501

      The Sioux name should never change. It is out of respect and admiration the name was adopted in the first place. The political system has failed us all when it comes to the name change. 2 of the 3 noteworthy native tribes voted ‘yes’ to keeping the name and one didn’t vote at all. A non-vote is not a ‘no’ vote in this case and because of that simple fact the UND hockey program is taking not only a financial hit, but a socially embarrassing one. As a St. Cloud State Husky, I find it is asinine and embarassing that somehow we can change a majestic, powerful, and prideful Sioux logo and not that of other mascots. If you want something is actually considered to be offensive…try the Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians.