From top to bottom, the only sure thing is that there are no sure things in the WCHA
Especially considering the WCHA’s bottom three teams heading into the weekend ended up going 3-2-1 with wins over the second (Minnesota-Duluth by Alaska Anchorage), sixth (Nebraska-Omaha by Bemidji State) and seventh (Michigan Tech by Minnesota State) place teams at the time.
Credit must go out to the Seawolves, in particular, who snapped an eight-game losing streak with a 3-2 win over the defending champs on Saturday.
Last week, we said to wait a tick before anyone crowns Minnesota king of the WCHA hill because the remaining schedule favored UMD (not to mention the two games in hand), but with the Bulldogs slipping once again, the Gophers are one step closer to the top.
The slide began when Minnesota-Duluth lost to UNO on the road, then two one-goal nail-biters against a team once thought to be the nation’s punching bag, then nine straight goals given up at home to Michigan Tech and the latest: Saturday’s loss at Alaska-Anchorage that dropped the Bulldogs from No. 1 to No. 5 in the all-important PairWise Rankings.
In one night, UMD fell a whole national tournament seed, but there’s plenty of time to get that back. However, let’s not call UMD’s remaining schedule easy anymore because the Bulldogs just split against the WCHA’s bottom-dweller a week after getting just one point against Michigan Tech, which was also in the league’s bottom half when the teams met.
What killed the Bulldogs, Saturday was the nine power-play minutes they gave UAA throughout the second period, down 1-0. The Seawolves scored a PP goal before the period ended to take a 2-0 lead, and it’s even tougher to battle back when you’re in the box all the time.
The jostling for postseason positioning just keeps getting more interesting by the week. For example, when play began on Friday there were five teams within three points from third through seventh in the standings but now we see six teams separated by four points from third through eighth.
Buckle up and enjoy the ride.
What can [J.T.] Brown do for UMD?
Carry his team on any given night.
The streaky UMD sophomore sniper provided all of his team’s scoring in what ultimately became a split-salvaging 4-1 win over Alaska-Anchorage in Friday’s series opener between the two teams. When he put Minnesota-Duluth on the board in its Saturday loss it meant Brown had played a part in six consecutive UMD goals going back to his assist on the Bulldogs’ fourth and final goal of last weekend’s Michigan Tech series in their 4-4 tie the previous Friday night.
Not to be outdone, at least in the points department, linemate Travis Oleksuk assisted on all four of Brown’s goals on Friday as well as UMD’s third and fourth goals seven days earlier against MTU. Brown and Oleksuk each now have matching totals of 16 goal and 21 assists on the season.
On the subject of carrying a team for the short term, the first two of St. Cloud State’s goals in its 5-1 win over Wisconsin on Friday were scored by junior forward Ben Hanowski who scored all three of SCSU’s goals in its sweep by Minnesota the week before. Hanowski now has 17 goals to go with 16 assists.
Call it the “Sam Gagner Effect” after the Edmonton Oiler center contributed to 11 straight goals by his team (6-5-11) over a two-game stretch last week.
Terry got his groove back?
For those who don’t remember, Terry Broadhurst is Nebraska-Omaha’s left winger who was second to Nick Bjugstad for the WCHA lead in goals at the end of November, scoring 14 goals in his team’s first 15 games. Then he didn’t score a single goal for 12 straight games until he netted a pair with two assists, involving himself in all four UNO goals Saturday night. The Mavericks still lost 6-4 at home to Bemidji State.
With Alex Hudson kicked off the team, Broadhurst is the leading returning scorer (30 points) from last season’s team, which graduated its top three scorers. The Mavericks need Broadhurst to kick it in the ‘hind and start producing as they make a push for a home playoff spot and it won’t be easy. Three teams — Colorado College, Minnesota and Denver — out of the four UNO faces down the stretch are in the top four in the WCHA for scoring defense.