After a weekend that included all 10 WCHA teams in league action, here’s what I think I learned in the WCHA last week.
It’s still too early to take league standings too seriously
Bridget Berube Carter, Northern Michigan University’s associate athletic director of compliance and interim sports information director, told me this weekend she isn’t bothering to feature the WCHA standings front and center in her game notes for the time being because of how little they actually tell us at this point.
The WCHA is a month into its season, but there is such a disparity in league games played among teams, it’s impossible to truly gauge who is where.
Half of the league has only played six games so far, and all five of those teams sit between a tie for fourth and ninth in the standings. Meanwhile, of the five teams to play eight or more games — Bemidji State leads the league with 10 — four sit in the top four spots with winless Alabama-Huntsville the exception last at 0-8-0.
It’s almost as if you have two separate divisions with Northern leading the six-game teams and Ferris State leading the eight-or-more-game teams.
The best way to rank the league at this point may be by winning percentage, which puts a team like NMU in second place, but six games is just too few for me to say NMU ranks in the top third of the league, especially when the three teams it’s played thus far sit eighth, ninth and 10th in the standings — not that those seeds mean anything at this point.
That being said, Ferris State is the team to beat right now
When it comes to the Bulldogs, throw the first third of this blog post out the window, because most of it doesn’t apply to them.
Ferris State is the undisputed No. 1 team in the WCHA right now, and should be ranked much higher than No. 10 in the country when this week’s USCHO poll is released later today.
The Bulldogs have not only started WCHA play 7-0-1, but have beaten three teams that I consider to be quality opponents right now in Alaska, Bowling Green and Bemidji State.
Take away FSU’s sweep of UAH to drop them into my “six-game division” and the Bulldogs would still be atop the league standings, tied at 11 points with the Beavers, who have played 10 games.
I can understand why some people may still not be sold on Ferris State since it’s only road test this season in league play was down in Huntsville, but even with splits the next two weeks on the road in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula against Northern Michigan and Lake Superior State, Ferris will be the WCHA leaders when league play resumes after Christmas.
And like the Bulldogs, the Chargers are where they should be too
I really hope the fans and administration at the University of Alabama-Huntsville have a lot of patience, because I think the Chargers program could become something special in the future as long as it has a conference to play in.
But, it’s not happening this season, and maybe not next year either.
The odds told me to pick an NMU sweep in Marquette over the weekend, but my gut honestly thought the Chargers could steal a win over Northern on Saturday night.
I’m not sure if it was because the Chargers have had some success on Saturdays, or if I wasn’t as confident as NMU head coach Walt Kyle in his team’s ability to stay focused against a lesser foe.
Either way, I knew I had picked correctly after the first period Friday without even looking at the Wildcats’ 22-5 advantage in shots. It was like watching a college game one night at Marquette’s Berry Events Center and then catching a high school game next door at Lakeview Arena the following night. The overall difference in skill was evident.
What the Chargers need at this point is a young go-to goal scorer like Lake Superior State freshman Alex Globke or Bemidji State sophomore Markus Gerbrandt.
It would also help if the university could keep head coach Mike Corbett around for the forceable future. A league home is a nice step, but consistency at the head coaching position — like Bob Daniels at Ferris State — is the key to long-term success and I think Corbett can get the Chargers there.