This Week in the WCHA: Dec. 12, 2002

Find the Schedule

A few thoughts, while looking for my schedule to find the nearest Colorado College-North Dakota series:

  • Those of you who dislike the way the Shepherds run the WCHA refereeing business — and I have the e-mails to prove those people exist — won’t like this too much: At Monday’s Minnesota-Team Italy game, supervisor of officials Greg Shepherd was the referee, with sons Derek and Brad as his assistants.
  • With last Friday’s victory, CC is 6-1 at Denver’s Magness Arena. To think, one of the reasons the Tigers wanted out of the Denver Cup was that DU was moving it to Magness.
  • So Alaska-Anchorage has hit “rock bottom” at 1-10-5, huh? With 18 regular-season games remaining, maybe that’s wishful thinking.
  • Just to recap: Minnesota-Duluth loses to Bemidji State at home, then responds with a 12-0 whupping of the Beavers on the road the next night. Wake-up call, anyone?
  • And finally, it turns out we don’t have to wait much into the new year for that Tigers-Sioux series. They get together in Grand Forks on Jan. 3 and 4. The return series is Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.

    Let’s Take a Break

    With winter break just around the corner — or already here for some teams — here’s a look at how the WCHA did in the first 2 1/2 months of the season.

    Alaska-Anchorage

    The high point: Things were looking pretty good that 11th night of October, when the Seawolves started the season with a victory over rival Alaska-Fairbanks. They broke a 2-2, third-period tie late to escape with a 4-2 win. And scoring four goals was a positive sign for a team looking for some improved offensive numbers. Little did they know that would be the high-water mark for goals so far this season.

    The low point: The depths of the Seawolves’ struggles likely will be felt most when they’re off the ice for the next few weeks. For almost a month, they won’t be able to do a thing about a 15-game winless string and it might gnaw away at them. As far as confidence, it appears there is none. Coach John Hill told the Anchorage Daily News his team hit “rock bottom” after tying Minnesota State-Mankato last Saturday. And as far as atmosphere in the locker room, freshman Curtis Glencross told the paper, “It’s dead.”

    The future: It can get worse. But the Seawolves likely will turn away from their seniors — who have provided little in the way of offense — and look toward the underclassmen who have been carrying things.

    Colorado College

    The high point: Any CC fan will point toward a sweep of Denver as one of the highlights in a season. But the weekend that proved the Tigers were for real was when they got three points at Mariucci Arena.

    The low point: Will a 4-1 home loss to Massachusetts-Lowell on Oct. 12 prove costly to the Tigers when it comes to NCAA tournament seeding? That’s been the only loss so far for CC, so the down notes have been few and far between.

    The future: Two meetings with North Dakota in the span of five weekends may prove critical for the MacNaughton Cup race. The Tigers close with another home-and-home series with Denver on March 6 and 7, another weekend to remember.

    Denver

    The high point: The Pioneers started with just one loss in their first nine games, but the first weekend may have provided the most impressive wins of the season so far. They blitzed Michigan State 5-0 in the opener and then squeaked past Nebraska-Omaha 3-2 the next night.

    The low point: Over a three-week span, Denver lost to Minnesota-Duluth and tied Michigan Tech and Alaska-Anchorage. Those are the kind of results that can derail a run toward the MacNaughton Cup.

    The future: The Pioneers play 11 of their last 16 WCHA games at home, but they already have two home losses this season. They had three all of last season. They’re not out of the race for the trophy, but they’ve got work to do.

    Michigan Tech

    The high point: It would be convenient to pick the 7-1 win over St. Lawrence early in the season, but the Huskies may have looked their best in 3-3 home ties against Minnesota and Denver. They also played the Gophers tough at Mariucci, but — as has been the story of the season — weren’t rewarded.

    The low point: The biggest disappointment probably has been the Sunday afternoon spanking in Colorado Springs, when the Tigers unloaded on Tech to the tune of 9-0. The loss to Wayne State two weekends ago wasn’t pretty, either.

    The future: After hosting the Great Lakes Invitational, a series with Anchorage awaits just after the new year, so there’s the Huskies’ chance to get things rolling in the second half.

    Minnesota

    The high point: True to Don Lucia’s teachings, the Gophers haven’t been too high or too low. Getting back in the thick of the WCHA race last weekend with a sweep of Wisconsin might stand out as a key point down the road.

    The low point: As good as it was for CC, the Gophers’ series with the Tigers was that bad for Minnesota. After a 7-3 humbling on Friday, the Gophers had to rally for a 2-2 tie on Saturday.

    The future: Expect the Gophers to be a factor in the race for the regular-season title, but only if they can put together a run of victories like they had in the second half last season.

    Minnesota-Duluth

    The high point: The biggest positive for the Bulldogs in the first half might be that they’re still in the hunt for a top-five spot in the league at the end of it. With the rest of the top six teams having two games in hand, the Bulldogs are in fourth place with 13 points. Wins over Denver and St. Cloud State and a tie with Colorado College helped.

    The low point: With the chance to go into break with a winning record, the Bulldogs suffered a bad overtime loss to Bemidji State at home last Friday. Instead, they’re 6-6-4 after, ahem, rebounding for a 12-0 win on Saturday. That’s some rebound.

    The future: They’ve set a good standard to build from in the second half, and with WCHA series against Wisconsin, St. Cloud State and Minnesota State early in the second half, they just might reach the top five in the final standings.

    Minnesota State-Mankato

    The high point: In three straight weekend openers, the Mavericks beat Minnesota and St. Cloud State and claimed a 6-6 tie with North Dakota. A 4-6-4 record isn’t so bad when considering the Mavs started 0-3-2, but they still have a weekend with Colorado College before their break.

    The low point: In that tie with North Dakota, the Mavs held a 6-3 lead after two periods. The difference between holding on to that lead and letting it slide away might show the difference between a top-five and bottom-five team.

    The future: Of the Mavericks’ first four WCHA series of the new year, three of them are on the road, including back-to-back trips to Denver and Minnesota. They’ll likely hang around the top five, but cracking it will be difficult.

    North Dakota

    The high point: The critics will point out that the Sioux haven’t played anyone from the top five in the WCHA. True, but a 14-1-1 record isn’t anything to sneeze at, either. A couple more wins over Canisius this weekend — remember the 8-0 win in the opener? — would complete a first half in which the Sioux did just about everything they had to.

    The low point: A three-goal, third-period comeback against Mankato got the Sioux a point, but the performance that weekend didn’t follow the form the team had shown to that point this season.

    The future: The CC series on Jan. 3 and 4 ends a 14-game homestand. After that point, the Sioux play only four of their last 16 games at home, so it’ll be a grind down the stretch.

    St. Cloud State

    The high point: The Huskies have been so inconsistent that it’s tough to find any one point that has been the team’s best this season. They had a three-game unbeaten streak early in the season that stands out, but the 6-5 overtime win over Mankato that started that run featured a five-goal collapse.

    The low point: The Huskies’ defense has been depleted by injuries and ineligibilities and it’s shown. They’ve allowed seven goals once, six once and five twice.

    The future: They should get defenseman Derek Eastman back from ineligibility after the break and they have all four games left with rival Minnesota to create a spark, but will it help?

    Wisconsin

    The high point: A decent start gave the Badgers a 4-2 record after three weeks. Included in those four wins were victories over Northern Michigan and home and at Northeastern.

    The low point: They go into the break as losers of six in a row, having scored only six goals and been shut out twice in that stretch. In WCHA games, the Badgers have scored only two goals on 40 power-play chances for a paltry 5.0 percent. They’ve also allowed two shorthanded goals.

    The future: Coach Mike Eaves said he hopes the Badgers will reach their potential soon after Christmas, after having worked out all the bugs of a new regime. They’ve shown flickers of improvement, but haven’t been able to sustain that. That’s one of the challenges for the second half.

    On the Shelf

  • At St. Cloud State, goaltender Jake Moreland is out for three to six weeks with a dislocated left kneecap, the St. Cloud Times reported.
  • At Denver, goaltender Wade Dubielewicz remains out with an injured hamstring.

    In Other Words

    The March 1 Michigan Tech-Wisconsin game at the Resch Center in Green Bay, Wis., sold out so fast that the Tech athletics department is talking about doing it again in the 2003-04 season. … CC’s victories over Denver last weekend ensure the Gold Pan will stay with the Tigers for a fourth straight season. … Michigan Tech coach Mike Sertich will be the emcee of the United States Hockey League all-star banquet on Feb. 3 in Green Bay. Former Minnesota, St. Cloud State and USA Hockey coach Herb Brooks is the featured speaker. …

    Players of the week were CC’s Peter Sejna on offense, Minnesota’s Travis Weber on defense and North Dakota’s Zach Parise as the top rookie. … St. Cloud State is under the .500 mark (6-7-1) for the first time since Nov. 27, 1999. … Grant Stevenson extended his point-scoring streak to 10 games last weekend and will take that into this weekend’s series against Colorado College. Sejna has a 17-game point streak. … North Dakota was in danger of being outshot for the first time this season last Saturday when St. Cloud State was leading in shots 21-9 at the halfway point. The Sioux wound up with a 30-26 advantage. … Wisconsin goaltender Scott Kabotoff made his 1,000th collegiate save last Friday in a 3-0 loss to Minnesota.

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