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College Hockey:
Post-realignment WCHA winning the battle against outgoing teams

In monitoring the weekend’s results in the WCHA and across the country, a trend developed which may not mean a lot in the grand scheme of things but which we found interesting nonetheless.

A total of 10 games were played encompassing four series and two single-game matchups involving post-realignment WCHA schools and their soon-to-be-former conference rivals. The WCHA-to-be came out on top winning eight of the 10 contests with Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the state of Alaska proving impossible to conquer.

Let’s start up in Houghton, Mich. where No. 18 Wisconsin carried an 11-game winning streak over Michigan Tech on what may be its final trip, at least for a while, to the U.P. Not only did the Badgers’ streak come to an end, the Huskies embarked on one of their own in sweeping Wisconsin for the first time since February 2007.

Both games were decided in overtime by 2-1 and 3-2 scores but Friday’s game wasn’t without controversy. Accounts out of MacInnes Student Ice Arena indicate that, in overtime, Michigan Tech forward Blake Pietila checked Wisconsin’s John Ramage into Badgers goaltender Landon Peterson behind the net.

Subsequently, when the Huskies Brett Olson fed Jordan Baker in the slot, Baker buried the game winner (skip ahead to 1:30) into a wide open net. Not surprisingly, the Badgers cried foul asking for a penalty on the play but to no avail.

“If nothing else, interference,” UW coach Mike Eaves told Madison.com’s Andy Baggot. “Judging by the sheepishness of the two young referees, they had no command of the play.”

The U.P. was also unkind to St. Cloud State as the Huskies traveled to Marquette to face Northern Michigan. The Wildcats were ungracious hosts and treated the Huskies to 5-2 and 3-2 losses dropping SCSU to 1-3-0 on the season.

No. 15 Nebraska-Omaha ventured up to ‘The Last Frontier’ to face current WCHA rival Alaska-Anchorage and former CCHA foe Alaska-Fairbanks in the Brice Alaska Gold Rush tournament. The Mavericks returned to Omaha 0 for 2 having been outscored 7-1 in the two games.

The third U.P. series featured Michigan State making the trek to Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. to battle future WCHA member Lake Superior State. The Lakers sent the Spartans back to East Lansing licking their wounds from a pair of one-goal losses (5-4, 3-2).

The only exception occurred in Colorado Springs where No. 7 Colorado College swept Bemidji State 3-1 and 6-4.

Kyle Rau will produce on the offensive end of the rink for a Minnesota team that expects a lot from its underclassmen.

Everyone knew the Gophers were young coming into this season and year after year, Minnesota gets some of the best recruits the state has to offer but it’s translated into mediocre results in recent years. It doesn’t appear Kyle Rau and the youthful Gophers want to let that happen.

Minnesota’s 2011 Mr. Hockey – playing for Eden Prairie High School – had a goal and an assist in his college debut against Sacred Heart. He shined on the big stage this weekend in his first WCHA game in front of a packed house at rival Minnesota-Duluth, scoring three goals against the Bulldogs.

Rau’s a little guy at 5-foot-7 and 173 pounds and he’s using grit to score goals, like he did to clinch the 2011 state championship. He’ll dig pucks out of the corner and he can go to the goal mouth and get shoved around to get a goal.

Rau’s five points are the most among Gophers freshmen. Sam Warning has two goals and two assists in his first year. Erik Haula, a sophomore, is Minnesota’s leading scorer with five goals and four assists.

Joey LaLeggia will be one of the league’s best offensive defenseman for Denver.

He’s only 19 and an NHL franchise hasn’t drafted him yet, but as long as Joey LaLeggia is playing for Denver, the freshman defenseman will give the Pioneers offense a boost from the point.

He had two assists in No. 3 Denver’s loss at Boston University, Saturday, but his numbers with the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League should give the Pioneers a lot to be excited about.

LaLeggia amassed 33 goals and 114 assists in 112 games at the juniors level, playing for Penticton. Like Rau, he’s not big either – only 5-10, 180 pounds. That’s a typical size for scoring-oriented defenseman. He is Denver assistant captain John Lee’s defensive partner and Saturday, they were the Pioneers’ top defensive pair on Denver’s line chart.

Take a look at him here.

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  • UPgoph19

    Ha! Try finding other media outlets to defend UW, of course the Madison paper will defend their badgers

    • http://ndgoon.blogspot.com Goon

      Go back and watch the video, the Badger goalie was taking out by the MTU defenseman. http://ndgoon.blogspot.com/2011/10/wisconsin-loses-to-tech-on-questionable.html

      • Gary

        I was at the game, the Wisconsin goalie was wandering behind the net in OT – their player skated into their own goalie.  It was a good goal.  By the way, Wisconsin fans at the game were a bunch of idiots – getting out of their seats during play – we wait until a stoppage in play as not to interfere with other fans views.  Go Huskies! 

        • Loader187

          I am a badger fan and have season tickets.  it sucks they lost but i agree with Gary.  Badger fans do it at home too.  It is so annoying for them to walk through during the gameplay.  We even have signs outside the entrance to each tunnel that says “Tow wiat till stoppage”  i guess since we are the biggest drinking state, they cant read it.  

          • Loader187

            just watched the video too.  That could have went either way.  If it would have happened to MTU than they would have complained and the badgers would have said no penalty.  Some penalties(like this)  suck because one person is not going to like it.  It was a 50-50 call and unfortunately the ref made it 51-49 MTU.  Oh well i think the badgers are doing really well this year considering they are so young especially in the goalie area.

            Lets go bucky.

          • http://ndgoon.blogspot.com Goon

            Gary, go back and watch the video, the MTU forwards plows Ramage into his goalie, that’s interference and the goal shouldn’t have counted. I am Badger fan by any stretch of the imagination but that was a brutal call.

        • Suture

          whaa, whaa, whaa.  OMG, standing up during a hockey game…..before the whistle blows to stop play?  What has this world come to?  LOL….you can’t be serious..??  Sorry Gary, that is the weakest post I have ever seen on here…lol…but amusing.  At UND we don’t sit down unless the beer vendor needs to pass by…lol..j/k…:)  Come on, get up off your duff….this is college hockey buddy….:)

      • Ruger

        I saw it in person and watched the video a number of times.  Ramage collides with Pietila and falls into the goalie Peterson, who was horribly out of position!  Definitely not a check! 

      • JamesDee

        Awesome

  • Paula Weston

    Gents, that trend wasn’t lost on me either — except that I saw it as victory for two CCHA teams rather than future WCHA teams.  :-D

    Interested to see what the young Gophers will do this season.

    Cheers!

    • Ruger

      If two players are going for the puck and collide, is that automatically considered to be a check because one falls down.  Pietila never put a shoulder into Ramage, he didn’t step into Ramage, and he most certainly didn’t make any contact with Peterson.  Bottom line is Peterson put himself into a vulnerable position and Tech simply outplayed Wisconsin!   

  • Anonymous

    Could Eaves cry about it anymore?

    • JamesDee

      I cant wait till Eaves makes a return trip to Houghton for the WCHA playoffs.

  • FrozenFourFan

    Go New WCHA!  What “Super League?” :)

  • David

    Let me get this straight, a future Big Ten Hockey school that has more than likely had more calls go their way though nepotism is complaining because the opposite happened once? Grow up. Good riddance.

  • Ggivens1

    friday’s score was 2-1. saturday was 3-2.  Article says both nights were 3-2

    • Brian

      Thanks for catching that. The error has now been corrected.

  • WCHA fan

    Goon, incidental contact with the goalie is fair game while he is out of the net. Despite that, the Wisconsin d-man hit his own goalie.
    The Tech forechecker was battling for the puck, engaged the Wisconsin D-man, the Wisconsin D turned and ran into his own goalie.  Not a brutal call, just a bad situation to get stuck in during the overtime for the Badgers.

  • lovecollegehockey

    At the end of the day, the bottom line is little red got swept and I love it!!!!