It wasn’t because Jason Zucker lay motionless on the ice for five minutes, because the Denver forward got his chin cut by a Minnesota stick earlier in the game or because of the extent of Zucker’s injury.
“I don’t know the extent of Zucker’s injury and I don’t need to know,” WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod said. “That’s not the issue. It’s my job to deal with the action itself.
“You can have very bad injuries happen where there is no penalty committed; it’s a contact sport.”
Kyle Rau, Minnesota’s freshman with an aggressive but not dirty reputation, was suspended for one game last Saturday after he made contact with Zucker’s head in Friday’s game after Zucker dumped in the puck.
The scientific name for suspension is supplementary discipline, and the process for which the discipline is supplemented is as technical as and precise as a scientific method.
McLeod, WCHA head of officials Greg Shepherd and assistant to the commissioner Jeff Sauer are required to review every major penalty whether the offender was ejected from the game.
They compare the incident to past infractions, look at all other issues surrounding the incident and decide whether the call on the ice was appropriate before determining the need for supplemental discipline.
McLeod said he spent hours deliberating over a conference call Friday night regarding Rau’s hit on Zucker.
“We decided in the Zucker-Rau incident, after looking at all the factors involved, that there were enough other circumstances involved,” said McLeod, who didn’t specify said circumstances. “We wrote them down and conversed about them. We talked on the phone until about 2 a.m. Central Time.
“We agreed on a route, we slept on it and made our decision first thing Saturday morning.”
Zucker is scheduled to travel with the Pioneers this week to Wisconsin, where his playing status for the series with the Badgers will be further evaluated.
When you’re hot, you’re hot
The WCHA is home to one of the hottest teams in the land these days and it’s not who you might think.
The Bemidji State Beavers are 11-4-2 in their last 17 games and unbeaten in their last four (3-0-1) after sweeping Colorado College at home last weekend.
“I just think the bottom line is things are going our way,” said BSU coach Tom Serratore. “There’s no formula, we’re just a pretty confident bunch and I think there’s some parts of our game right now that are very solid and that’s allowing us to have success.
“So all we’re trying to do is we’re trying to play hard, we’re trying to play smart, we’re trying to be consistent in our play and then just let the chips fall where they may.”
Some of the credit has to go to senior goaltender Dan Bakala, who has a 6-2-1 record with a 1.89 goals against average and a .937 save percentage in his last seven games. Bakala is firmly entrenched in the starter’s role after the position was somewhat unsettled earlier in the season.
“Danny’s been there before, he’s had a lot of success in the program, he’s been our backstop the last couple of years,” said Serratore. “He’s the guy right now that’s carrying the ball.”
Considering how tight the race for playoff positioning is, the Beavers, in an eighth-place tie with St. Cloud State, have a chance to move quickly up the ladder if they can maintain their pace. But Serratore’s focus, not surprisingly, is solely on the present.
“There’s such a logjam in the WCHA right now and everybody’s jockeying for position,” said Serratore. “The bottom line is you need to win games each and every weekend.
“I don’t think you can look too far ahead because, if you look too far ahead and you lose a couple, there’s going to be a lot of separation in the standings.”
Brown out for Mavs series
The upper body injury Minnesota-Duluth’s J.T. Brown suffered last Saturday will cause him to miss this weekend’s series at Minnesota State, according to the Duluth News Tribune‘s Kevin Pates.
No timetable has been established for the return of Brown, who leads the nation in plus/minus rating (plus-25) and is tied for seventh among the country’s overall scoring leaders.
Colorado College is just 3-5-2 since the change of the calendar year and it’s not difficult to see why. Once atop the nation in scoring average, the Tigers, who are winless in three games (0-2-1), have scored just 10 goals — one of them into an empty net — in their past six games.
The CC power play has short circuited as well in recent weeks. Although the Tigers still rank third in the conference and eighth in the nation in power-play proficiency at 22.8 percent (28-for-123), they are a paltry 4-for-31 (12.9 percent) in their last 11 games with the man advantage.
New Fighting Sioux commit comes with Cup-winning pedigree
North Dakota received a verb … er, tweeted commitment from Toronto AAA star Brendan Lemieux this week when he used his Twitter account to notify his followers, who quickly spread the news.
Lemieux is the son of Claude Lemieux, who won four Stanley Cups with three different teams (Canadiens, Devils and Avalanche) and a Conn Smythe Trophy over a 1,215-game NHL career that also included stops in Phoenix, Dallas and San Jose. Claude Lemieux’s 80 Stanley Cup playoff goals rank ninth all-time.
Outdoor games announced
The phenomenon that is the outdoor hockey is continuing to grow.
One week after it was announced the Michigan Tech-hosted Great Lakes Invitational will be played Dec. 28-29, 2012, at Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, Nebraska-Omaha announced Tuesday it will host North Dakota Feb. 9, 2013, at TD Ameritrade Park, where the College World Series is played.
A USHL game between the Omaha Lancers and the Lincoln Stars will precede the UNO-UND game at 4 p.m. CST.
Between the dots …
St. Cloud State‘s Travis Novak is expected to return this weekend from a leg injury suffered Jan. 27 while Nick Oliver, out with an upper-body injury, will miss this weekend against Alaska-Anchorage and possibly next week, according to Mick Hatten of the St. Cloud Times. … SCSU forward Drew LeBlanc is wearing full pads in practice with a no-contact jersey without a timetable for his return from a leg fracture. … Jack Connolly directly contributed to all six of Minnesota-Duluth‘s goals last weekend against North Dakota. The two-time All-American senior racked up two goals and four assists to move into second place on the nation’s scoring list, just a single point behind Maine’s Spencer Abbott. …
Michigan Tech, which owns a 10-9-3 record in WCHA play, hasn’t finished at .500 or above since the 1992-93 season, when they were 15-12-5. That was also last season Tech hosted a first-round playoff series. … The Huskies remained undefeated in overtime games with a 3-3 tie against Nebraska-Omaha last Friday and are 3-0-3 in overtimes in 2011-12. That includes a 2-0-1 mark in the extra session at home. …
Wisconsin held St. Cloud State without a power-play chance in its last game on Feb. 4, marking the first time a UW opponent went without a power-play chance since at least the 1998-99 season. … In scoring his 10th goal of the season last Friday, Minnesota‘s Nate Condon became the fifth Gophers player to reach double digits in goal scoring, joining Nick Bjugstad (21), Rau (14), Erik Haula (12) and Jake Hansen (10). … Goaltender Kent Patterson’s next win will make him the first Gophers goalie to reach 20 wins since Kellen Briggs went 21-6-3 in 2005-06.
When North Dakota senior goalie Brad Eidsness came off the bench last Saturday and stopped all 14 shots he faced against Minnesota-Duluth, it marked his 98th career appearance, leaving him two short of becoming only the fifth UND goalie to play in 100 games. … With just three losses in 11 games in the second half, UND has a .702 winning percentage after Christmas during coach Dave Hakstol’s eight years behind the bench. The Sioux have gone 26-5-1 (.828) from February to April over the past three seasons and 77-24-12 (.735) overall in those months during Hakstol’s tenure. …
After holding Michigan Tech scoreless on all eight of its power-play chances last weekend, Nebraska-Omaha has killed off 37 of its last 42 short-handed situations (88.1 percent) to rank second in the WCHA in penalty killing. … With a pair of wins at Alaska-Anchorage last weekend, Minnesota State earned its first WCHA road sweep since taking two from Michigan Tech in Houghton (3-2, 4-2) on Nov. 21-22, 2008, and bumped its record to 7-4 in its last 11 games. …
Alaska-Anchorage kept Minnesota State scoreless on nine power-play attempts, moving to No. 6 in the league standings for penalty kill (81.9 percent). In the last 12 games, UAA has gone 42-for-47 on the penalty kill for 89 percent and hasn’t allowed multiple power-play goals since Dec. 3 against North Dakota. … For the first time this season, UAA outshot its opponent in both games of the series, posting a combined 43-33 edge over the Mavericks. The Seawolves also kept Minnesota State to a season-low 16 shots on net last Saturday.
USCHO covers the WCHA all week long on the WCHA Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.