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College Hockey:
Three weekend observations

Here are three observations from this past weekend:

St. Cloud State makes a statement

A 1-3 mark in four nonconference home games suggested the Huskies were tailing off.  A home sweep of a depleted Denver squad with 12 available forwards was a good start.

But getting three points at North Dakota was more convincing.That shows that this could be the year for St. Cloud State to win a league title.

Before this weekend’s series, SCSU coach Bob Motzko said the team was more focused in league play, saying that “a switch got flipped” after inconsistent nonleague play to start the second half.

If the Huskies can continue to put together a strong 60 minutes a night in this crazy tight race, such a weekend could propel them to the league title. Of course, the home series against Minnesota Feb. 8-9 and other games will have a lot to do with that.

Gopher fans need not worry

A visit to college hockey fan boards is a journey into manic-depression. A win prompts declarations of national championships while a loss send many into the doldrums laced with anger.

Here is a reminder for UM fans: A weekend split in a home-and-home series is no reason to panic.

Keep in mind that the Gophers bounced back from a tough home loss to get a road win against a good Minnesota State squad and stay only one point of out the league lead. There is little doubt that the regular-season title will not be decided before the end of March 9′s games.

Lee injury casts shadow over Wisconsin’s hopes for home playoff ice

Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves looked to have found the right offensive mix after shuffling his top two lines. Entering the weekend, the second line had underperformed in Division I’s 50th-rated offense (2.2 goals). The seven goals after center Derek Lee and second-liner Mark Zengerle switched lines for a home sweep of struggling Alaska-Anchorage pushed UW up to 44th (2.33, 56 in 24 games).

Now, that slight progress could be stalled after an apparent head injury to Lee (19 points, team-high 12 assists) sustained Saturday night.

Eaves will not release an update before his Monday news conference. If Lee were to miss a number of games – in such a tight league race, two could prove significant – then the offensively-challenged Badgers’ chances at home playoff ice are slimmer.

The last time the Badgers (11-8-5, 8-5-5 WCHA) lost a league game, they were in 10th place. Thanks to the team’s strong defense, they are now tied for fourth and only four points out of first place.

Rest assured, the Badgers’ home playoff hopes are not done yet. But losing a playmaker like Lee could prove to be the momentum-killer Wisconsin call ill afford.

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