This Week in the WCHA: Nov. 15, 2007

The quick breakdown:

The Gophers finally won, the Sioux are playing like they usually do this time of year, the Badgers have an offense, the Sioux and Badgers renewed their rivalry and the Tigers found someone to fill Zaba’s skates with great success.

Red Baron Pizza WCHA Players of the Week

Red Baron WCHA Offensive Player of the Week: Ryan Lasch, St. Cloud State.
Why: Scored three goals, had one assist and five shots on goal in SCSU’s sweep of Michigan Tech.
Also Nominated: Andreas Vlassopoulos, CC; Ben Gordon, UM.

Red Baron WCHA Defensive Player of the Week: Shane Connelly, Wisconsin.
Why: Had four shutout periods, a .961 saves percentage, made 74 saves and allowed only two even-strength goals in the Badgers’ split against North Dakota.
Also Nominated: Jake Gannon, CC; Jase Weslosky, SCSU.

Red Baron WCHA Rookie of the Week: Richard Bachman, Colorado College.
Why: Earned his first collegiate shutout, had 58 saves and a .951 save percentage in the Tigers’ sweep over Minnesota-Duluth.
Also Nominated: Cade Fairchild, UM; Garrett Roe, SCSU.

Rivalry Renewed

If you follow the league, I’m sure you’ve all heard about the mini-brawl that broke out at the end of the North Dakota-Wisconsin game on Saturday, with all 10 players on the ice getting involved and 122 of the game’s 172 penalty minutes doled out in total. Predictably, no one involved would truly comment on what happened — except in typical roundabout fashion.

Badgers captain Davis Drewiske “seemed annoyed,” to quote one of my predecessors, Todd D. Milewski, now of Madison’s The Capital Times.

“You’re not going to prove how tough you are after the whistle,” Drewiske told media after the game. “It’s college hockey.”

However, as in the pros occasionally, North Dakota’s Dave Hakstol and Wisconsin’s Mike Eaves had a few words after the game and needed to be separated by officials.

“From the bench, the whole thing bothered me how it unfolded and carried on,” Eaves told the press. “I was just disappointed and I expressed it to [Hakstol]. How often do you see that in college hockey?”

What I want to know is how often do you see the following in college hockey? Milewski reported a few days later that Fighting Sioux defenseman Joe Finley has to apologize to the mascot, Bucky Badger — a.k.a. UW student David Blanchard.

According to Milewski, WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod saw Finley slashing Bucky in the shins before Saturday’s game on videotape. As a result, Finley must write an apology to Blanchard.

Gophers Lose Another

In the midst of the Gophers winning their first two WCHA games, perhaps lost in the mix was that the team lost another forward from the ranks. Senior and assistant captain Mike Howe went down Saturday night against Minnesota State with a concussion and, as a result, will not play in this weekend’s series against Alaska Anchorage.

This of course means that, combined with the earlier losses of Ryan Stoa to injury for the rest of the season and Mike Carman to academic ineligibility until around the turn of the new year, the Gophers will not have enough players to field four lines should they lose one more player.

“The one thing we are going to make sure in the future is we are not going to start the year with this few players,” head coach Don Lucia told the Minneapolis Star Tribune earlier this week. “This is two years in a row that, in my opinion, we have had too few players.”

Random Recruiting News

While this certainly won’t become a regular feature, I figured it’d be nice to toss something about recruiting in the ol’ column since the early signing period opened up this week.

While not an early sign, Michigan Tech learned that recruit Casey Pierro-Zabotel, thought to be joining the team later this season, has not been cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center and, as a result, has opted to play major juniors instead.

The Sioux landed, according to USA Hockey, the best 1991-born Minnesota hockey player in defenseman Nick Mattson. However, he’s only 16, so can’t officially sign anything yet. However, they did get official signings from forwards Mike Cichy, David Toews (younger brother of you-know-who) and Mario Lamoureux as well as defensemen Joe Gleason and Corey Fienhage.

Minnesota State signed four players — defensemen Cameron Cooper and Baylor Dieter and forwards Adam Mueller and Joe Schiller, St. Cloud signed two — forwards Jared Festler and Drew LeBlanc and though not official yet, Colorado College expects forwards Tim Hall, David Civitarese and Andrew Hamburg to sign this week.

Due to Big Ten rules (as far as I can tell), there won’t be any news out of the Minnesota or Wisconsin camps until sometime within the next week.

Reader Mailbag

Move along, nothing to see here.

Match-Ups By the Numbers

Only four series this week, folks, but, as always, they should be good ones.

Alaska-Anchorage @ No. 12 Minnesota
Poll Movement: UAA — from receiving six votes to four after being idle. UM — up two spots after sweeping MSU-M.
Overall Records: UAA is 3-2-3 (0-2-2 WCHA). UM is 6-4 (2-4 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: Gophers lead 43-14-5 and 22-6-2 as the home team.
Top Scorers: UAA — Kevin Clark (4-6-10). UM — Blake Wheeler (4-4-8).
Goaltenders: UAA — Jon Olthuis (7 gp, 2-2-3, 3.05 GAA, .872 sv %). UM — Jeff Frazee (7 gp, 4-3, 2.84 GAA, .899 sv %).

No. 18 Michigan Tech @ No. 17 Minnesota-Duluth
Poll Movement: MTU — down five spots after being swept by SCSU. tUMD — down two spots after being swept by CC.
Overall Records: MTU is 5-5 (4-4 WCHA). tUMD is 4-3-1 (3-3 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: Huskies lead 115-68-15 overall and in Duluth 56-44-3.
Top Scorers: MTU — Drew Dobson (1-7-8) and Geoff Kinrade (1-7-8). tUMD — Jordan Fulton (3-2-5), Nick Kemp (2-3-5) and MacGregor Sharp (2-3-5).
Goaltenders: MTU — Michael-Lee Teslak (6 gp, 3-2, 1.70 GAA, .937 sv %). tUMD — Alex Stalock (8 gp, 4-3-1, 2.24 GAA, .916 sv %).

No. 9 Wisconsin @ No. 7 Colorado College
Poll Movement: UW — down one spot after splitting with UND. CC — up two spots after sweeping tUMD.
Overall Records: UW is 5-3 (2-2 WCHA). CC is 5-3 (5-1 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: Badgers lead 104-52-8 overall and in the Springs, 45-25-3.
Top Scorers: UW — Kyle Turris (5-9-14). CC — Bill Sweatt (4-6-10).
Goaltenders: UW — Shane Connelly (7 gp, 4-3, 2.29 GAA, .921 sv %). CC — Richard Bachman (6 gp, 5-1, 1.49 GAA, .950 sv %).

Minnesota State @ No. 4 Denver
Poll Movement: MSU-M — went from receiving four votes to none after being swept by UM. DU — up one spot after being idle.
Overall Records: MSU-M is 3-4-1 (1-4-1 WCHA). DU is 6-2 (3-1 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: Pioneers lead 12-11-4 overall and 7-5-1 in Denver.
Top Scorers: MSU-M — Mick Berge (6-2-8). DU — Brock Trotter (4-6-10).
Goaltenders: MSU-M — Mike Zacharias (6 gp, 2-2-1, 1.92 GAA, .925 sv %). DU — Peter Mannino (8 gp, 6-2, 1.52 GAA, .940 sv %).

No. 5 North Dakota and No. 13 St. Cloud State
Both these teams are off this week.

Poll Movement: UND — down two spots after splitting with UW. SCSU — up four spots after sweeping MTU.
Overall Records: UND is 5-3-1 (3-3 WCHA). SCSU is 6-2-2 (3-2-1 WCHA).
Top Scorers: UND — T.J. Oshie (6-3-9), Ryan Duncan (3-6-9) and Robbie Bina (0-9-9). SCSU — Ryan Lasch (8-9-17) and Garrett Roe (7-10-17).
Goaltenders: UND — Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (9 gp, 5-3-1, 1.29 GAA, .948 sv %). SCSU — Jase Weslosky (7 gp, 5-2, 1.72 GAA, .936 sv %).

It’s Never Too Early to Put in Those Work Requests …

The WCHA Red Baron Final Five fan guide was released by the league earlier this week, chock-full of tournament hotel specials, events and information including dates, times and ticket info. While you can’t get single-game tickets yet, booking airfare and hotels early is always a good idea.

Besides, even if your team doesn’t make it, it’s like a smaller-scale Frozen Four — a fun opportunity to hang out with fans from around the league.

Plus, I’ll be there, so that’s more than enough reason to show up. Seriously.