Here are three observations from this past weekend:
Wisconsin’s Kerdiles, Zulinick cannot suit up soon enough
No disrespect to Minnesota State intended, but the fact that the Mavericks marched into Madison and left with a league road sweep shows how far the Badgers have fallen while missing three of its better offensive players. Top-tier freshman talents Nic Kerdiles (NCAA suspension) and Morgan Zulinick (thigh) will likely play at Denver this coming weekend but proven junior center Mark Zengerle (broken finger) will remain out.
Their return cannot be soon enough even if expectations of freshmen must be lower. Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves sounded like the coach of a last-place team (currently Alaska-Anchorage) after Saturday’s loss.
“Stay with us,” Eaves told the Wisconsin State Journal after his club fell to 1-5-2 in the WCHA and 0-4 at home. “This group has not quit. They work hard and we’ll get healthier and we’ll have some difference-makers in our lineup.”
True, but it remains to be seen if they will be enough.
Minnesota-Duluth comes back to earth
Just when things were looking up, host Minnesota-Duluth (3-7-2, 1-5-2 WCHA) was drubbed 5-1 by St. Cloud State in their most lopsided loss of the season a day after their first league win.
“We didn’t get off to a good start; we weren’t able to match (St. Cloud State’s) intensity,” UMD captain Cody Danberg told the Duluth News-Tribune. “Collectively, we struggled in a lot of areas. That shouldn’t happen in our rink.”
Indeed. That kind of inconsistency will continue to trouble UMD until the team figures out they need to play hard for 60 minutes.
North Dakota’s Saunders in position to enjoy special season
It is clear that North Dakota junior goalie Clarke Saunders is on the verge of a memorable year.
Saunders stopped 35 of 36 shots Friday against well-regarded Notre Dame to improve his save percentage to a WCHA-best .934, a 2.09 goals against average (third in the league) with a 4-2-2 mark, including two shutouts.
Saunders, who was an iron man for undermanned Alabama-Huntsville the previous two seasons, could be fresh for the first time late in the season with Zane Gothberg (.902 saves, 2.97 goals against, 2-2-0) spelling him periodically. That bodes very well for North Dakota’s MacNaughton Cup hopes, especially if UND enjoys its usual second-half surge.