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This Week in the WCHA

College Hockey:
Minnesota-Duluth expects toughest test to date against North Dakota

Before the season, it seemed the overwhelming majority had North Dakota running away with the MacNaughton Cup in 2010-11 as the WCHA’s team to beat. The Fighting Sioux have gone 1-3 after a 3-0-1 start and have fallen from second to ninth in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll.

Enter Minnesota-Duluth, undefeated and ranked second in both polls with one of the nation’s best offenses.

When the teams meet this weekend in Grand Forks, the Bulldogs can use the game as a measuring stick to see where they stand at this point in the season and whether their 6-0-2 record is for real.

North Dakota, on the other hand, has the chance to show why it received so much respect by voters in preseason stories.

“They’re still one of the best teams in the country and in our league,” Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said Tuesday afternoon. “For an early-season matchup, it’s exciting from our standpoint to see where we’re at, too.”

The difference in this series could be how the Bulldogs’ high-octane offense matches up against North Dakota’s depth. The “big three” is putting up big numbers again this season for the Bulldogs, who rank sixth nationally in goals per game (4.25).

Mike Connolly leads UMD with 13 points (6-7–13) and Jack Connolly (3-9–12) and Justin Fontaine (4-8–12) each has 12 points. All three rank in the nation’s top 10 in scoring.

Freshman J.T. Brown is right behind with four goals and seven assists for 11 points.

UMD’s opponents have a combined record of 9-20-7, and Sandelin said he believes the Bulldogs will see the toughest competition they’ve seen all season when they step into Ralph Engelstad Arena on Friday.

“They’re obviously the best team we’ve faced to this point,” Sandelin said. “They’re deeper and a little more skilled than the other teams we’ve faced, plus we’re at [UND's] rink. We need to take care of the puck and play smart hockey because teams with their ability will take it and put it in your net.”

The Sioux are known for having one of the deepest lineups in Division I and have the ability to roll four solid lines each week.

“Our depth is definitely going to be tested this week,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said Wednesday evening.

Grand Forks Herald beat writer Brad Schlossman reported Wednesday that the Sioux will be without Derek Forbort and Andrew MacWilliam on the blue line, and forward Carter Rowney is expected to miss the series, too.

According to Schlossman, Brad Malone is facing a possible suspension for his hit on Denver’s Jesse Martin last Saturday that earned Malone a game misconduct.

“We’ll endure these injuries and give a lot of guys the opportunity to help our team become a better team,” Hakstol said.

The Sioux was 3-0-1 after a sweep at Bemidji State but got swept at Maine and split with Denver. If any program in the WCHA is capable of getting out of a funk, however, it’s UND. The Sioux have a tendency to start out average but get hot down the stretch.

“It’s early in the season and there’s two good teams playing each other this weekend,” Hakstol said. “There will be a lot of skill on the ice. There’s a lot of intensity in these two teams.”

Here’s a look at what else is happening around the league this weekend.

No. 15 Wisconsin (5-2-1, 2-1-1 WCHA) at No. 17 Minnesota (5-3-0, 3-3-0)

They call it the “Border Battle,” when every year Gophers fans try to fill as much of Mariucci Arena with gold as they can but red-clad fans that support the Badgers make the drive to spoil it.

Minnesota rides a three-game winning streak into the series after it swept Colorado College last weekend. Gophers second-line winger Zach Budish is out with a torn ACL in his right knee and will be out until at least December unless he opts for season-ending surgery, according to Minnesota coach Don Lucia.

The Gophers erupted for nine goals Saturday night but Wisconsin’s defense is stingy as usual with only 15 goals allowed in eight games. Give some credit to senior goaltender Brett Bennett. The second-year transfer from Boston University has a 1.00 goals-against average with a .960 save percentage in 180 minutes.

The Badgers have the third-best power play at 31 percent and are unbeaten since Oct. 22. Wisconsin swept Michigan Tech in Madison last weekend.

Minnesota State (2-2-4, 2-2-2) at No. 8 Nebraska-Omaha (5-1-0, 2-0-0)

UNO returns to WCHA play for the first time in three weeks after a split at Michigan and a bye. UNO is still undefeated in WCHA play with two wins at Minnesota Oct. 15-16. UNO has scored more goals per game (4.50) than any other WCHA team so far. Rich Purslow leads the way for UNO with three goals and seven assists.

A win this week would be huge for Minnesota State, which will try to maintain its position in the league’s upper half, despite the fact that it has played six WCHA games against teams off to slow starts.

Colorado College (3-4-1, 1-3-0) at No. 13 Denver (3-3-2, 2-1-1)

The Pioneers will play with their teammate and assistant captain Martin in the back of their minds as they take on their in-state rival in a home-and-home series. Denver lost Martin last Saturday night when he suffered three fractures in his C-2 vertebra in a collision with North Dakota’s Malone.

Denver’s Sam Brittain is one of the nation’s hottest goalies (1.80 GAA and a .939 save percentage) through five games.

CC’s Schwartz brothers have scored almost half the Tigers’ goals. Jaden Schwartz has seven goals and big brother Rylan has two of CC’s 19 total for the season.

Bemidji State (0-3-1, 0-3-1) at No. 20 St. Cloud State (3-4-1, 1-1-0)

The Huskies hope this is the weekend to stop the slide that has taken them from fourth to 20th in the USCHO.com poll.

This could be the turn-around weekend for SCSU if the Huskies can draw man advantages and convert against BSU, a unit that has had a tough time killing penalties. The Beavers rank near the bottom of Division I with a 69.6 percent penalty kill. All four goals the Beavers allowed to Minnesota-Duluth last weekend were power-play goals, and BSU came away with only one point.

The Beavers are just thirsting for their first WCHA win.

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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  • Tim

    The Bulldogs better keep their heads on a swivel because the cheap shot sue are the dirtiest team in the country!!!!

    • Jon

      If you are referring to Malone’s hit, you might want to check the replays. It was a legal hit, and the result was due to Martin’s low skating style making him vulnerable. There is a reason it wasn’t called a penalty in real time. It wasn’t until Martin was motionless that the refs felt a penalty was needed. Which is BS. Don’t be pissed off because the Sioux are physical. That is hockey. A sport you obviously don’t play.

      • Szma0801

        agreed

      • SES

        Guys you could benifit from really analyizing the rule and the way the hit was carried out. westerncollegehockeyblog.com does a great job of exploring why this WAS a cheap hit as well as being illeagal. Sioux are dirty and play that way, its not a new thing, however Sioux fans cant have it both ways. You cannot be outraged at Marvin’s actions last year while turning a blind eye to this hit. It was cheap, it was against the rules and the player should be suspended. period.

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

      are you kidding me?? you have obviously not been paying attention to what is going on. the wcha ruled that it was clean but because of the injury hakstol and wcha thought it was a good idea to sit out. malone called martin to apologize and martin said it wasnt a dirty hit. gwozdecky said that it wasnt a dirty hit and all of hockey said it was NOT a dirty hit soo again what is soo dirty about north dakota??? sioux players are getting knocked out of games at a higher rate oh and yur bulldogs coach is a long time sioux and will forever be a sioux he will probablly be coaching north dakota again someday so grow up the bulldogs have one line and thats all so good luck even scoring thisweekend

      • Psych

        Ummm Martin called Malone actually. Get your facts straight.

  • Tim

    Let me say it again for you. THE SUE ARE THE DIRTIEST TEAM IN THE COUNTRY! Malone’s hit was right to the head! He went in the corner for only one thing, and it was not to get the puck. He went in only to drill Martin. You look at the video again and this time take off your beer goggles. I am not pissed, just tired of watching the sue goon it up. The WCHA needs to do something about that program.

    • Billy

      Nothing wrong with the program Tim.In the gamee of hockey if you see someone with there head down and they have the puck you hit them. You can blame Brad Malones coaches and all hockey coaches for that body check. Nobody wanted to see Martin get taken off the ice in a stretcher.

  • Bob

    My how ironic that they suspended Malone for Fri. night for that “clean” hit he put on Martin. You “SUE” fans are so full of yourselves it is sickening. Sandelin in a Hibbing boy, a good old iron ranger. He will not go back to the wasteland you tools call home!!!

    • dave

      You threw out the word Wasteland” how many jobs you got in the iron range,so keep yappin,by the way Malones hit was clean if contact in a contact sport bothers you watch figure skating probably your speed

  • Nhultgren99

    I have never seen a player get suspended for a clean hit. Not sure what your watching but how could that be a clean hit. First, it was a charge. How could you argue that he didn’t charge Martin? Second, if Martin had suddenly lowered his head then you could argue the contact to the head was not Malones fault. that is not the case! I agree it was not as bad as the hit on Wehrs (MN) last year but still it was dirty. For goodness sakes if it was clean they would not have suspended him. CONTACT TO TEH HEAD IS NOT LEGAL!!!!!!!

  • tommy

    Beyond whether or not malone’s hit was clean or not, what does everybody think about the UMD – UND series this weekend? Predicitions? I’ve seen both of these teams play already this year, which personally leads me to believe that UMD is a little overrated at #2 (not to say they’re not a good team.) As long as the bulldogs capitalize on their power plays, I think they’ll make it and interesting weekend in Grand Forks. I would like to see a well-played series…ending in a split.

  • Bob

    Nhultgren99, I could not agree with you more. The league does not suspend anyone for a clean, legal hit!! You sue fans do know where the iron range is don’t you?? Some of your best players came from there. The iron range puts out more players in one year than the whole state of ND!

    • dave

      No work might as well play hockey in the wasteland called the “IRON RANGE”. Clean hit go practice your figure eights and get your crying towell ready when the Sioux sweep the Dogs

  • Jon

    I’m sorry, but you are just flat out wrong. There was no penalty called until the player was motionless which means the refs (which were had a great view) didn’t see anything that warrented a call. Malone is listed at 6’2″ 210 pounds, and Martin at 5’10″. It wasn’t going to be pretty no matter what happened. Martin, as I said earlier has a natural low skating style, and if you watch, his head is barely above the boards, which knocks his height down to somewhere near 4 feet high. Malone did not leave his feet, lead with his elbow or take excessive strides…he was coasting when contact was made. “Contact to head” sometimes is actually incidental and unavoidable. Avoiding his head in this case was impossible unless we are playing squirts and checking is illegal. Martin has been playing long enough to know not to skate with your head down, it is one of the first lessons we learn. The reason is two-fold. 1) you keep your head up so you can see everything, and 2) you keep your head up to avoid these types of injuries when checked. There is no intent to injure, it was a complete accident. If you want to avoid these hits, we better put a rule in the books that states all players on the ice must of the same height, weight and skating style. You cannot compare this hit to what Marvin did, what happened to Wehrs, or what happened to Bina a few years back. Each case is different. This is not suspension worthy at all.

    • Bob

      It does not matter how incidental, accidental or unavoidable the hit to the head is. It is a penalty! Have you not been paying attention the last few year about how college hockey is trying to clean up all the hits to the head that result in concussions??? Ask Genoway. I played hockey, I agree that you need to keep your head up but just because a guy has his head down you can’t take a run at his head! You guy’s make this sound like it is Martin’s fault. So he had his head down, that does not make it right that Malone when right through him. This is on Malone and he should have been suspended!

      • Jon

        Just because he was injured does not mean he is at fault. He absolutely is. If he was skating upright, with his head up, he would not be injured. Malone did not go for his head at all, he went to check a guy who had the puck. Perfectly legal. The WCHA is turning into the NFL with its interpretations of head shots. This is an unfortunate result for Martin, but players at all levels are taught to hit anyone with the puck who has their head down. That doesn’t mean hit their head on purpose. But in this case, Martin should have not been skating that low, with his head down. Plain and simple. Just because a player gets injured on a play, does not make that play illegal. If Martin, his family, and Gwoz all interpreted the hit as clean, then the league should as well.

        • Jon

          *Just because he was injured does not mean he is NOT at fault it what I meant to type.

  • Dhansen791

    hey a lot of these guys talkin trash are just tryin to get sioux fans fired up . . . don’t fret, if they played the game they would know the difference b/t the marvin hit on genoway and the malone hit against martin.

    The eye in the sky doesn’t lie, Malone was gliding when he made contact, and Martin admitted he put his head down for a second cuz he lost the puck off his stick.

    The other dudes who say otherwise are pigeons, could you imagine going thru life like that? I would be angry too.

    Good luck losers!

    go sioux go!