From the warmth and comfort of my couch this weekend, here’s what I think I learned channel surfing from game to game on WCHA TV while Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was buried in ice and snow.
Minnesota State is alive and well
After winning just four of their first 11 games of 2013-14, it appeared as if Minnesota State was going to crack under the pressure of being ranked nationally in the preseason and picked by almost everyone to win the new-look WCHA.
Since starting 4-7, however, the Mavericks have won five straight games with back-to-back home sweeps of Alaska-Anchorage and Northern Michigan to move into second place in the WCHA.
Freshman netminder Cole Huggins has been a big part of the run and appears to be the Mavs’ go-to-goaltender now after making back-to-back starts. He leads the league with a 1.80 goals against average and .923 save percentage.
Meanwhile, the return of senior forward Zach Lehrke continues to spark the MSU offense. He tallied another goal and assist against NMU to extend his point streak to six in six games.
The question now is whether or not MSU can catch red-hot Ferris State, which is unbeaten in its last 13 games with no signs of slowing down. This should be an interesting race between both teams in the second half.
If you’re not happy for Huntsville, you’re a Grinch
With NMU and MSU heading to intermission Saturday, I made a quick switch over to Alabama-Huntsville at Bowling Green to see the final minute of overtime.
I was glad I did.
After UAH withstood what I thought for sure was a game-winning attack by BGSU, the Chargers caught the Falcons in transition for one final rush that ended with sophomore defenseman Frank Misuraca scoring on BGSU goaltender Tomas Sholl with 3.4 seconds left in overtime.
The sports fan in me took over at that point, and I let out a quick joyous shout, scaring my dog.
While I found it entertaining when the Detroit Lions went winless in 2008, the start of UAH’s first season in the WCHA has been a bit heart wrenching.
The program went through so much just to get into the WCHA, but going winless in its first season in the league would have been seen as a major setback.
Instead, the program now has something to build on and a glimmer of hope heading into the holidays.
Based on the support I’ve seen on Twitter, it seems I wasn’t the only one to let out a little cheer for UAH on Saturday night.
Understandably, BGSU fans probably weren’t thrilled the win came at the expense of their team, which has now lost four of its last five games. They get a pass for not feeling good about UAH’s win right now.
Two intermissions are enough in college hockey
I had the chance to sit next to WCHA Supervisor of Officials Greg Shepherd early this season in the press box when Northern Michigan hosted Michigan Tech, and it was a great experience.
While the fans voiced their frustration over the Wildcats not shooting the puck on the power play, Shepherd had a reaction for every missed call by his referees or linesmen.
At one point in the game, there was a long pause in the action while his crew had one long conversation with NMU coach Walt Kyle, and another with Tech’s Mel Pearson. At that moment in the game, Shepherd was right along with the fans, asking the guys in stripes to cut the conversation and drop the puck already.
That moment has come to mind the past two weekends while WCHA officials sorted out scrums involving NMU.
The first came during the second period on Nov. 30 in Marquette with the Wildcats hosting Ferris State. NMU’s Reed Seckel made a high open-ice hit that the Bulldogs’ Andy Huff took exception to. Huff hit Seckel from behind after the whistle and the two went at it, taking each other to the ground.
Seckel and Huff both received five minute majors for fighting while Seckel received two additional minors for roughing from WCHA referees. From the time Seckel and Ruff were put in the penalty box — they were later escorted off the ice — to the time the puck was dropped and play resumed, eight minutes had passed.
That was nothing compared to Saturday’s 11-minute delay while the WCHA’s Chris Perrault and Brad Shepherd sorted out 11 penalties by five players stemming from a third-period scrum in front of the Northern net.
For NMU, Stephan Vigier received a pair of minors for roughing and Wade Epp got a minor for roughing and major for facemasking. For MSU, Matt Leiter got two minors for instigating and one for roughing, while Zach Palmquist and Brett Stern each got double minors for roughing.
Later in the period, NMU was called for too many men on the ice when a player was let out of the penalty box early. After another delay to chat things over, the penalty was wiped out.
As a spectator and editor trying to sneak something in the Sunday paper before the presses rolled, I was pretty annoyed by the delays and I can’t imagine Greg Shepherd was too thrilled either.
The WCHA needs to do something to cut down on these delays. No one goes to hockey games to watch refs hold conferences by the glass and argue with coaches.
Eight and 11-minute delays are ridiculous, especially when an intermission lasts 15 minutes.