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College Hockey:
Three observations from the weekend

Three pull away from pack

St. Cloud State, Minnesota and North Dakota all separated themselves from the pack in the race for the MacNaughton Cup.

With Saturday’s win, St. Cloud State maintained its lead atop the WCHA. St. Cloud leads North Dakota by three points and Minnesota by five.

St. Cloud State showed it belongs atop the WCHA by standing toe-to-toe with Minnesota and getting three points at North Dakota.

“In heavyweight fights, you are going to get hit and get hit hard,” SCSU Bob Motzko said. “You have to take a punch and deliver one.”

While the weekend was a good one for SCSU, keep in mind that Minnesota picked up a road split (never a bad thing unless you are in Anchorage) and has two games in hand on both UND and the Huskies.

Fans around the league have wondered, sometimes aloud, why North Dakota is playing like an average team.

While it was true in a few games, you cannot ignore the results, which ultimately decide the standings. A road sweep at Nebraska Omaha makes UND 10-4-4 since Nov. 30 and now No. 6 in the Pairwise rankings. If that kind of play continues, North Dakota could overtake SCSU and hold off Minnesota.

Regardless, it will be fun to watch over the next couple weeks.

WCHA making wise decisions of late

The addition of Alabama-Huntsville recently and now word that the league will drop the laughable “Alaska Plan’ are two positive signs that the WCHA will come out of this time of transition in good shape after all.

The delay acquiring UAH and the “Alaska Plan,’ which would have seen Alaska-Anchorage and Alaska-Fairbanks play one another in the first round regardless of regular-season finish, made me wonder.

As the Mankato Free Press first reported, the WCHA’s athletic directors approved an eight-team playoff format for the first four years of the league with the bottom two teams not advancing to the postseason.

The format must be approved by the school presidents. Let’s hope they do.

Don’t stick a fork in Colorado College just yet

The Tigers may not have retained the annual Gold Pan Trophy, but Colorado College put itself back in home playoff ice contention by taking three points from No. 9 Denver this past weekend and hurting the Pioneers’ MacNaughton chances.

After  a 1-1 tie on Friday in Denver, CC pulled out a 6-5 overtime win in Colorado Springs.

CC went ahead 5-2 with six minutes left in regulation but defensive lapses (a trend this season) helped Denver reel off three goals in 3:18 to tie the game. That spurt came exactly a week after the Pioneers pumped in three in 91 seconds at Minnesota-Duluth to beat the Bulldogs.

Nothing is coming easy for the Tigers this season, but moving past UMD into eighth place and five points back of a three-way tie for fifth (Denver, Minnesota State and Wisconsin) gives CC hope headed into a much-needed bye week (five healthy defensemen).

The Tigers swept Wisconsin early this season and have two home games against MSU that could allow them to pull themselves up into sixth by season’s end if they can continue to play better.

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