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This Week in the WCHA

College Hockey:
Reiter, defense spark Minnesota-Duluth’s quick turnaround

The mood after Minnesota-Duluth’s 5-4 loss to Minnesota on Oct. 15, which completed a sweep by the Gophers, was as expected.

“We were not happy, especially with that happening on home ice,” said Bulldogs goaltender Kenny Reiter. “We tried to keep it in the back of our heads that that’s what happens when you don’t play a full 60-minute game both nights.”

The Bulldogs haven’t lost since that sweep by Minnesota made them 1-3, and a lot of it has to do with a rejuvenated Reiter and the defense in front of him.

Reiter allowed 13 goals on 88 shots (.852 save percentage) through three games at the completion of the Gophers series. He has given up just seven goals in the six games since, with a pair of shutouts on 155 shots (.952 save percentage), and the Bulldogs are 4-0-2 in that time.

But it’s important to also note the UMD penalty kill, which has allowed one power-play goal over the six-game stretch on 25 opportunities. The Bulldogs’ PK went 13-for-18 in the first four games.

“I don’t think it’s been as much of a difference for me but the guys in front of me have really tightened up the defensive zone and limited scoring chances,” said Reiter, the WCHA defensive player of the week whose Bulldogs host Alaska-Anchorage this weekend. “Everything has been really smooth.”

Dineen PP play earns weekly honor

If Colorado College scored a power-play goal last weekend at Nebraska-Omaha, Nick Dineen was part of it. The senior earned WCHA offensive player of the week honors. 

Dineen scored two power-play goals in Fridays’s 7-5 loss. He scored another goal on the man advantage Saturday night and then assisted on two more power-play goals. The only even-strength goal he was part of was CC’s last goal Saturday. The Tigers’ PP allowed a short-handed goal in each game but Dineen was on the ice only for the goal Saturday.

Dineen has been one of CC’s top-line centers going back to last season and has played a key role on a CC power play that brings a lot of attention to the Schwartz brothers, Jaden and Rylan. The Tigers power play finished 2010-11 first in the WCHA and is second in the conference this season, behind Minnesota, at 27.3 percent.

Minnesota State freshman winger Jean-Paul LaFontaine’s offensive burst Saturday night helped the Mavericks salvage a split at Michigan Tech. His two goals and an assist also helped him garner WCHA rookie of the week honors.

Goofy goal in Houghton

Michigan Tech’s goal in a 1-0 shutout of Minnesota State last Friday wasn’t planned. It was a dump-in from the red line. But the puck took an awkward bounce on the ice in front of Mavericks goaltender Austin Lee.

The puck skipped over Lee’s shoulder for the only goal of the game.

Tech goalie Kevin Genoe, sitting on the bench, must’ve felt some kind of relief. He allowed a goal last season, shot the length of the ice by Denver’s David Makowski, that he appeared to not see until it hopped over his right pad.

Somewhere, Jeff Frazee is smiling. The former Gophers goalie gave up this bouncing-puck goal to North Dakota’s Robbie Bina in 2007.

WCHA alum still atop NHL in offense

Phil Kessel has been a scoring machine for the Toronto Maple Leafs, leading the goals column all season. Now, the former Minnesota player leads the NHL in points as well with 22.

Thomas Vanek, who also played at Minnesota, is right on Kessel’s tail with 10 goals and 18 points for Buffalo. Former Wisconsin star Joe Pavelski has nine goals for San Jose. 

Meanwhile, Brian Elliott hopes he finally found his home in St. Louis. The former Wisconsin goalie bounced around from Ottawa to Colorado and now to St. Louis in his four NHL seasons. His goals against average (1.72) ranks fourth in the league and his save percentage (.941) ranks fifth.

Panning for gold

Last week we looked at the storied rivalry between Minnesota and North Dakota, and the most recent clash between the two resulted in a fantastic weekend of college hockey. However, in all reality, nearly every weekend of the WCHA season features matchups between schools with bitter histories.

This weekend, for instance, Minnesota travels to Wisconsin for its border battle with the Badgers; proximate foes Minnesota State and St. Cloud State meet in Mankato; and even a short-lived but burgeoning rivalry resumes in Bemidji between the Beavers and Nebraska-Omaha.

Although cross-state rivals No. 12 Denver and No. 3 Colorado College play just once each this weekend, it is against each other in the first of four games that mean more than just points in the standings.

Competed for since 1993, the Gold Pan trophy was conceived by the collaboration of then-coaches Frank Serratore of Denver and Don Lucia of Colorado College, and is awarded to the team which wins the regular season series between the Tigers and Pioneers.

“It used to be just an old prospector’s pan that they kind of found and put a tag on it. And now it’s kind of morphed into a real nice trophy,” said Colorado College coach Scott Owens, who was Lucia’s assistant when the trophy was born. “It was something that at the time was just something to kind of rekindle the excitement … between the two programs.

“I think it’s really added to and jazzed up the whole series.”

The prized possession, which was replaced when the original was lost after the 2003-04 season, must be won outright, meaning a minimum of five points must be acquired in the four games in order for the pan to change hands.

The Tigers have either won or retained the Gold Pan 10 of the 18 years of its existence, but it’s been in the Mile High City the last two years after three straight seasons in Colorado Springs.

Colorado College (5-1-0) heads to Denver (3-3-2) for this weekend’s lone game fresh off of a weekend split with Nebraska-Omaha, a series about which Owens said he felt pretty good.

“The split was not a bad split for us,” said Owens. “They were two very good games against I think a little bit of an underrated UNO team, to be honest with you. They’ve got some firepower up front.

“We’ve only played six games so we’re still kind of getting a feel for things with our club but, for the most part, we’ve liked what we’ve seen.”

“They are coming in here with a lot of confidence and playing well and feeling good about their chances, not only against DU but within the WCHA this year,” said Denver coach George Gwozdecky. “We’ve got our hands full, there’s no question about it. I think in their minds they’re probably hitting us at the right time but I also think in our minds we’re hitting them at the right time so it should be a great battle.”

Preseason WCHA favorite Denver, on the other hand, limps into Saturday’s game winless in its last four games at Michigan Tech and at home against Minnesota-Duluth.

“I fully expected something like this to happen at some point in the year,” said Gwozdecky. “We’ll continue to work in practice and do some of the things that will help us get through this and certainly to be able to play our archrival might come at a very good time for us.

“We don’t like them, they don’t like us. We respect them, but there is no love lost when we step on that ice.”

Arch rival indeed. The all-time series stretches back to 1950, encompassing 279 games in which the Pioneers own a 156-109-14 advantage. But Colorado College is 14-8-4 in 26 games at DU’s Magness Arena.

“It doesn’t really matter how one team is playing at the time or what’s going on,” said Owens. “This is a series that you can’t really factor in anything that’s happened previously. You’ve just got to go out there and play because it will probably be a totally different deal.”

“The games that we play against them have always been extremely intense,” said Gwozdecky. “You go to the edge of losing a little bit of control of your emotions, of your discipline, but it’s usually the team that holds their emotions best, holds their discipline best, that usually comes out on top.

“It is as fun and as intense and as challenging as any game we play all year long.”

Between the dots …

The Wisconsin trio of junior defenseman Justin Schultz (4-10–14) and sophomore forwards Mark Zengerle (4-9–13) and Tyler Barnes (5-6–11) are all riding nine-game point scoring streaks. … Alaska-Anchorage’s four-game losing streak to start the league season is its worst since coach Dave Shyiak came aboard in 2005-06. … The Seawolves’ 9.2 penalty minutes per game average is second only to Colorado College (9.0) among WCHA teams and ranks as the ninth-fewest in the nation. …

St. Cloud State freshman defenseman Andrew Prochno has been hot of late with three goals in the Huskies’ last four games, including tallies in SCSU’s win and tie against Wisconsin last weekend. … Bemidji State’s Brad Hunt edged ever closer to the 100 career point plateau (21-72–93) last weekend with his team-leading fifth assist of the season against Lake Superior State. … North Dakota is idle this week after allowing Minnesota’s league-leading power play just one goal in 14 attempts. The Sioux have killed off 21 of 22 opponent power plays over the last 14 periods. … UND is just three goals shy of reaching 10,000 in the program’s 75-year history. …

Also idle this week is Michigan Tech, which has already played nearly half of its home schedule (eight of 17 games). … When Nebraska-Omaha coach Dean Blais coached his 500th game last Friday night against Colorado College, it marked 17 years to the day since Blais earned his first win as head coach in guiding North Dakota to a 6-4 victory over Denver. … UNO’s Matt White’s 16 points (5-11–16) ranks second in the nation to former Omaha Lancers (USHL) teammate Erik Haula’s 17 (7-10–17) for Minnesota. … Minnesota’s four sweeps this season (Sacred Heart, at Minnesota-Duluth, at Alaska-Anchorage, North Dakota) equals its sweep total from all of 2010-11. …

Minnesota State’s 6-3 win over Michigan Tech on Saturday snapped the Mavericks’ six-game losing streak, and MSU’s six goals and 45 shots were season highs. … After stopping 82 of 86 shots against MTU, Mavericks goalie Austin Lee’ .931 save percentage is good for 14th in the country. … Minnesota-Duluth forward Jack Connolly’s three-point weekend at Denver has him sitting at 150 career points (50-100–150), which leads the nation among all active players.

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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  • Fan Man

    Im not sure abOUt those Bulldog jerseys…   Kinda old school but kinda ugly!  I like the maroon and gold like MINOT jerseys though   Better than those copy cat Gopher jerseys   J/K

    • DtownsFinest

      They are actually throwbacks to the ones worn in the 60′s…  I love ‘em but I guess to each his own.