Here are three observations from this past weekend in the WCHA:
Denver forwards are producing plenty of goals
After preseason questions about their ability to score regularly, the Denver forwards have recorded 12 of the team’s 20 goals in the Pioneers’ 4-0 start, including victories against No. 11 Massachusetts-Lowell and an improved Michigan Tech team, which it swept 5-1, 5-2 this past weekend.
Sophomore forward David Doremus (three goals) and freshman Quentin Shore (two goals) are providing important secondary scoring behind scoring leader Nick Shore (4g-5a-9) while the defensive corps is contributing on the scoresheet thanks to players like Joey LaLeggia (3g-3a-6) and David Makowski (3g-2a-5).
What may be most disconcerting for fans of other WCHA programs is that the DU defense looks to be as good as predicted. They have allowed only six goals, two less than the Pioneers defensemen have scored.
Although it is still October, No. 5 Denver is clearly not overrated as some have suggested.
Bemidji State’s defense key to hex over Nebraska-Omaha
The Bemidji State mastery of Nebraska-Omaha continued on an historic night for BSU hockey. Bemidji State improved to 5-0-3 in its last eight games in Omaha with a 3-2 win Saturday night that was also the school’s 1,000th win, including its years in NCAA Division II.
As a result, the Mavs are 1-7-4 against the Beavers since both joined the WCHA to start the 2010-11 season.
“That’s a question we’ve been asking ourselves ever since I’ve been here,” UNO senior captain Brent Gwidt told the Omaha World Herald. “Tom Serratore runs a pretty good, systematic game, and maybe we just kind of play into that system with what we want our identity to be – a hard-working, forechecking, fast team.
“They sit back a bit and they wait on our mistakes and pounce - whether it’s odd-man rushes or turnovers, which are going to happen. Maybe we play into them.”
Gwidt is right. UNO does appear to struggle against a stout Beavers defense that makes the Mavs work for every inch of ice. Once Nebraska-Omaha found its way up ice, BSU sophomore goalie Andrew Walsh picked up where graduated goalie Dan Bakala left off by recording 39 saves in Friday’s 3-3 tie and 25 stops in Saturday’s win.
Minnesota State must avoid mistakes of the past
With all the talk about a new regime in Minnesota State, the program must avoid resuming a past pattern that surely led to an 11th-place finish last season and the subsequent coaching change.
The Mavericks were called for 226 penalties (571 minutes) last season, making them the most penalized team in the WCHA. That was especially troublesome with an eighth-rated penalty kill (80 percent).
On Saturday, Minnesota State was penalized 11 times, and a Chase Grant cross-checking call just 10 seconds into the third period tilted a 1-0 game into a 5-1 rout by host St. Cloud State and a series sweep. The St. Cloud State power play finished 3-for-7 that night and 4-for-12 for the series.
MSU has 97 minutes through six games for a 16.2 per game clip. It is proving costly so far with a last-place penalty kill stopping only 71.4 percent of opponents’ power plays.
“It’s the same old story,” new head coach Mike Hastings told the Mankato Free Press. “Those are things we’ve tried to discuss. I don’t know if the message is being delivered.”
It must or hopes the Mavs (2-2-2, 0-2 WCHA) can move up in the league standings in Hastings’ debut season will be dashed.