WCHA PREVIEW: Dec. 6-7, 1996
WCHA Preview: Dec. 6-7, 1996 by Jim Thies
North Dakota has jumped out to a four-point lead in the WCHA standings with 20 points, but Colorado College and Minnesota are close behind with 16 points each with another important weekend of play at hand.
The big series has CC at UND in a pair of games which could put either team in a good spot as the season reaches its midway point. With the Gophers (presumably recovering from their trip to the College Hockey Showcase) idle this weekend, a sweep by either team puts them in the driver’s seat — at least for now.
Here’s a look at each of this weekend’s series.
Colorado College (8-4-0, 8-4-0 WCHA) at North Dakota (10-4-0, 10-4-0 WCHA) Friday-Saturday, 7:35 CT, Engelstad Arena, Grand Forks, ND
North Dakota has the honor of hosting this important series as both teams will try to make their moves for the top.
Colorado College split with Alaska-Anchorage last weekend; the Tigers need to do better in this important series. CC is four points behind UND, but since the Tigers have played two fewer games, the UND lead in the standings is not that great.
CC is 3-2-0 on the road in WCHA play; they hope to improve on that mark that this weekend. Brian Swanson (6-9–15) will need another good weekend, as will goalies Judd Lambert (6-4-0, 3.26 GAA, .876 SV%) and Jason Cugnet (2-0-0, 2.88 GAA, .889 SV%).
North Dakota, which has earned four sweeps this year, aims for a fifth at home, where the Fighting Sioux have lost just once in six WCHA games. UND boasts the top three scorers in the league in Dave Hoogsteen (10-9–19), Jason Blake (6-11–17) and Ian Kallay (7-9–16). Specifically, Hoogsteen leads all WCHA goal-scorers and Blake’s 11 assists are second in that department. Toby Kvalevog (8-3-0, 2.94 GAA, .878 SV%) mans the nets for UND.
ELMO Picks: North Dakota sweeps again: 5-2, 4-1.
Wisconsin (6-8-0, 6-6-0 WCHA) at Alaska-Anchorage (5-6-1, 3-6-1 WCHA) Friday-Saturday, 7:05 AT, Sullivan Arena, Anchorage, AL
Alaska-Anchorage is coming off a great weekend, splitting at Colorado College. The Seawolves look for more good things against Wisconsin this weekend.
Wisconsin lost twice, to two very good teams, in last weekend’s College Hockey Showcase. Now they must regroup for this WCHA series, which could be key for them. In league play, the Badgers have scored 39 goals and given up 40; this weekend goals will be at a premium against a defensive Seawolves team. Brad Englehart (7-5–12) needs to get some support from his teammates in the offensive zone. Goalie Kirk Daubenspeck (5-6-0, 3.41 GAA, .886 SV%) won’t see a lot of shots this weekend, but needs to stay mentally in the game when the puck does get to his end.
Alaska-Anchorage is on a high right now after beating CC at home and handing the Tigers only their second loss in the past 35 games in that series. This is a pair of games the Seawolves think they can sweep, and thatt could happen if they stay sharp in the defensive zone and take advantage of their scoring chances. David Vallieres (4-7–11) had two goals and two assists in the win over CC. Stacy Prevost (5-4–9) is a disciplined player who hasn’t taken a penalty in a WCHA game this year. Doug Tesky (3-3-1, 2.83 GAA, .907 SV%) has been the mainstay in goal — his mediocre won-loss record belies his fine performance thus far this year.
ELMO Picks: UAA sweeps: 3-1, 3-2.
Michigan Tech (5-9-1, 2-9-1 WCHA) at Minnesota-Duluth (7-6-1, 6-5-1 WCHA) Friday-Saturday, 7:05 CT, Duluth Entertainment & Convention Center, Duluth, MN
Both of these teams had it rought last weekend, earning only one point (out of eight) between them.
Michigan Tech got that one point with a 3-3 tie with St. Cloud State that ended a five-game losing streak. The Huskies will be idle for three weeks after this series, so there’s no reason to hold back. MTU is tied with Alaska-Anchorage for the fewest goals scored (24) in league play this year, and UAA has played two fewer games. As one might expect based on that figure, offense has been a problem for Tech; Andre Savage (4-4–8) is the only MTU player listed among the WCHA scoring leaders.
Minnesota-Duluth is just 4-4 at home this year in league play, a major factor in their middle-of-the-pack standing. Nonetheless, the Bulldogs have done a nice job in special-teams play. They are third in power-play conversions (21.3 percent) and second in penalty-killing at 87.5 percent. Mike Peluso (9-6–15) has jumped to fourth in the scoring race while Ken Dzikowski (5-10–15) is sixth. Brant Nicklin’s stats (6-5-1, 3.07 GAA, .901 SV%) may have fallen, but he is the only goalie the Bulldogs have used in a league game this year.
ELMO Picks: A UMD sweep. 5-2, 5-1.
Northern Michigan (4-10-2, 4-9-1 WCHA) at St. Cloud State (7-3-2, 5-3-2 WCHA) Friday-Saturday, 7:05 CT, National Hockey Center, St. Cloud, MN
Northern Michigan and St. Cloud State are within three points of each other in league play, and this weekend the two teams meet for the only times this year. Obviously, a lot is on the line.
NMU picked up three big points against Denver last weekend and hopes to use that as a springboard to further success. They have allowed the most goals (55) in league play, but were much improved last weekend when they gave up only six. Bud Smith (4-7–11) has been the team’s steadiest player this year, with points in every series.
St. Cloud State also picked up three points last weekend, against Michigan Tech. The Huskies have played only four of their 12 games at home, and they are 3-0-1 in that span, which bodes well for this weekend. Dave Paradise (6-7–13) and Mark Parrish (4-8–12) are the team’s top point-getters, but make no mistake: the Huskies will love having Matt Cullen (3-5–8), out the last two series, back in the lineup.
ELMO Picks: A SCSU sweep. 5-2, 4-2.
Next Week in the WCHA Friday, Dec. 13 Minnesota-Duluth at Denver Saturday, Dec. 14 Northern Michigan at Colorado College Minnesota-Duluth at Denver Minnesota at St. Cloud State Sunday, Dec. 15 Northern Michigan at Colorado College Minnesota at St. Cloud State
Jim Thies is the WCHA Correspondent for US College Hockey Online.
Copyright 1996 JIm Thies. All Rights Reserved. Return to Feature Articles Return to News and Recaps Return to US College Hockey Online