This Week in the WCHA: Nov. 9, 2006

Off the Top of My Head

Just when you thought you might be starting to figure things out…

• Colorado College turns the tables on Michigan Tech, handing the Huskies their first sweep of the season.

• Alaska-Anchorage goes from losing 9-0 to Tech one Friday night to defeating defending national champion Wisconsin eight days later.

and …

• Minnesota State is swept at home by Bemidji State

Some Truth to the Cliché

It is no secret that all coaches have certain sayings that they like to use over and over again. One of those most-used in the WCHA is that “You can’t look past any team in this league because any team can beat you on any given night.”

Some significant blunders in past seasons have shown that the statement has some truth to it, but it probably hasn’t been more true any time than now.

Through the first weekend in November, every team in the WCHA except for Minnesota (4-0-0) has either lost or tied at least twice.

Just when it looked like injury and illness would put a damper on Colorado College’s season, the Tigers got their legs under them and swept one of the hottest teams in the country in Michigan Tech.

The Seawolves beat the Badgers despite being swept by Tech. St. Cloud State split with Denver and Minnesota State and took a point from North Dakota.

It seems that this might be a year where there really aren’t any of those teams that produce questions like “How do you make sure your team doesn’t overlook this weekend?”

It is not a bad situation for the league to be in.

“I think the top teams, at least at this point in the season, have come down a notch or two, and you can look at Michigan Tech and Alaska-Anchorage, for example, they have improved teams,” WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod said. “What we’ve done is kind of compressed … I think we always say you never know from weekend to weekend, but with compression it’s even tougher.”

That’s also a big deal for fans of teams in the league.

If you were planning on staying home or selling your tickets when the Huskies or Seawolves come to an arena near you, you may want to reconsider.

“No doubt about it, it’s a great situation for the fans,” McLeod said. “I think it’s a good situation for the league … a little tough on the coaches, though.”

Finding Bobby Goepfert

For those wondering where the real St. Cloud State goaltender Bobby Goepfert had gone at the beginning of the season, he may have been found — and the answer might have been in his pads.

Named to the All-WCHA First Team last season, Goepfert finished the year 20-14-4 with a .924 save percentage and a 2.20 goals against average. Through five starts this year, he is just 1-3-1 with a 2.95 GAA and a .899 save percentage.

“His numbers are definitely off from a year ago, but he is not far off at all,” SCSU head coach Bob Motzko said. “I think this last weekend was a weekend that will put him right back on track. He’s just had a few shots that have just gotten away from him.”

Motzko said he would not make excuses for Goepfert, but that the senior switched equipment, and not just to the same extent that every goalie had to. Not only did he make the necessary shift to smaller pads, but he also changed the brand of equipment that he was using.

Which begs the question: After such a great season a year ago, why make the switch?

“You’re asking me the question I asked him,” Motzko said. “It’s something that he wanted to do. He’s a goalie.”

Either way, in the off-week that the Huskies had prior to last weekend’s matchup with North Dakota, Goepfert ordered up pads from his old brand in an effort to turn things around.

He gave up five goals on 62 shots against the Sioux last weekend, heading back home with a loss and a tie in a well-fought series. Motzko hopes the new pads do the trick.

“Now he’s got it fixed and hopefully that was a little bit of it,” Motzko said.

Meanwhile, Motzko also said not to be surprised when freshman netminder Jace Weslosky starts seeing more action. The rookie got his first start and first win of his career against Minnesota State earlier in the year and with plenty of non-conference foes in the upcoming schedule, Weslosky will get the nod again at some point.

“We’ll get him in more, no doubt about it,” Motzko said. “We are going to make some changes and we’ll take advantage of that part of our schedule.”

15 Minutes of Infamy

They say everybody gets their 15 minutes of fame, but this is not how referee Don Adam and assistant Tony Lancette, Jr., saw it happening.

In Friday night’s game between Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth, the two to deal with a sticky situation after an apparent Bulldog goal. UMD found the back of the net with Adam signaling the goal, but Lancette immediately confronted Adam and told him that the Bulldogs had too many men on the ice.

When asked why he had not whistled the infraction immediately, Lancette did not have a clear-cut answer, only that he had made a mistake. While it would not have been pretty, Adam could have explained to UMD head coach Scott Sandelin exactly what had happened and waved off the goal.

“That should have been the end,” said McLeod, who was at the game. “He has the right to correct any kind of mistakes that are made before the next start of play.”

Instead, Adam spent the next 15 minutes talking with both Sandelin and Minnesota head coach Lucia and consulting his assistants before finally waving it off.

“It definitely is unacceptable to take 15 minutes away in a game,” McLeod said. “Hopefully we have instructed the officials and hopefully we won’t run into that again. But if we do, it definitely won’t take 15 minutes again.”

Back Up and Running

Colorado College and North Dakota both got some good news when key forwards got back in the lineup this past weekend.

UND sophomore Jonathan Toews had missed three games, but was back against St. Cloud and assisted on two of the three UND goals. On Saturday, the top line of Toews, T.J. Oshie and Ryan Duncan was back together.

Head coach Scott Owens and the Tigers got a lift from forward Jimmy Kilpatrick. The junior missed two games with strep throat and thought he would be out longer because of mononucleosis.

But tests showed Kilpatrick did not have mono and he took advantage of getting back into action, scoring one goal and assisting on two others in a 4-1 CC victory over Michigan Tech.

Wisconsin hopes the trend continues over to this weekend, when senior forward Ross Carlson is expected to return against Denver. Out since injuring his knee in the third game of the year against North Dakota, Carlson was the Badgers’ leading returning scorer heading into this season.

A Look at the Pros: Fifth WCHA early exit joins NHL ranks

Former North Dakota forward Drew Stafford was recalled by the Buffalo Sabres from the Rochester Americans of the AHL. He made his NHL debut Sunday and assisted on the Sabres’ game-winning goal. By doing so, he became just the second player in league history to pick up his first NHL point in the overtime period of his NHL debut.

Former Gopher Ryan Potulny was recalled from the Philadelphia Phantoms of the AHL to the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday, only to be reassigned to the Phantoms on Thursday.

Former Denver defenseman Matt Carle is second among NHL rookies with 14 points, one more than former teammate Paul Stastny.

In the AHL, former Wisconsin center Joe Pavelski leads all rookies and is eighth overall with 15 points in 10 games.

In Other Words

• WCHA Players of the Week were Minnesota’s Tyler Hirsch on offense, CC’s Matt Zaba on defense and North Dakota’s Anthony Grieco for the rookies.

• Minnesota State paid tribute to Anthony Ford Saturday night, retiring the number 99 in his honor. The nine-year-old Mavericks fan passed away last April after an 18-month battle with leukemia.

• Alaska-Anchorage’s victory Saturday over Wisconsin was the program’s 100th WCHA victory.

• Minnesota-Duluth goalie Alex Stalock is the first Bulldog goalie to play every minute of the team’s first eight games in a season since Brant Nicklin did so in the 1997-98 season.

• Talk about streaks. Not only has Minnesota won eight straight games, but the Gophers went nearly a month without ever trailing in a game. They have trailed only a little more than 85 minutes through nine games this year — and nearly 60 of them came in their opener against Maine.

• If history tells us anything, Denver should be in for a successful weekend. The Pioneers are 36-13-4 coming off byes or holiday breaks under head coach George Gwozdecky. They are also 9-1-2 when playing in Wisconsin’s Kohl Center.

• Wisconsin may be down to six defensemen against Denver this weekend. Freshman Nigel Williams left the team after playing in just one of the team’s first 10 games and junior Joe Piskula was injured in practice Monday.