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.