This Week in the WCHA: Dec. 6, 2007

Last week we saw all 10 WCHA teams face off against each other — one of only three times that will happen all season. At the end of the weekend, things stayed pretty much the same. Colorado College and Denver remain on top with Alaska-Anchorage and Minnesota State on the bottom. Minnesota and North Dakota are still in the middle.

We also learned that my column is now apparently a curse, for St. Cloud State is currently sitting in eighth. Sorry guys.

Red Baron Pizza WCHA Players of the Week

Red Baron WCHA Offensive Player of the Week: Blake Geoffrion, UW.
Why: Had four points (1g, 3a) in the Badgers’ sweep of St. Cloud State.
Also Nominated: Jimmy Kilpatrick, CC; Mike Howe, UM; Mick Berge, MSU-M; Ryan Duncan, UND.

Red Baron WCHA Defensive Player of the Week: Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, UND.
Why: Stopped 63 of 65 Pioneer shots in the weekend split with Denver, had four shutout periods and had a .969 save percentage for the series.
Also Nominated: Brian Connelly, CC; Chris Butler, DU; Jeff Frazee, UM; Mike Zacharias, MSU-M.

Red Baron WCHA Rookie of the Week: Ryan McDonagh, UW.
Why: The defenseman had a +4 rating, two assists and four shots on goal during his team’s weekend sweep of St. Cloud State.
Also Nominated: Richard Bachman, CC; Tyler Bozak, DU; Rylan Galiardi, MSU-M.

Keeping Up with the Pros – Monthly Drive-By

I said I’d only do this once a month, so here we go.

NHL: Dany Heatley, UW – 14-19-33 and Paul Stastny, DU – 11-22-33, t-10th overall.
AHL: Toby Petersen, CC – 13-14-27 and Gabe Gauthier, DU – 8-19-27, t-4th overall (but Gauthier is called up currently).
ECHL: Aaron Slattengren, CC – 17-10-27, t-3rd overall.
IHL: Tab Lardner, MTU – 11-10-21, t-1st overall.
CHL: Konrad Reeder, SCSU – 11-17-28, t-7th overall.

Euro Trip

A few teams will be missing a few players as they go off to the Czech Republic to represent Team USA at the IIHF World Junior Championships. The players who will also be representing the WCHA are Minnesota’s Mike Carman, Ryan Flynn, Kyle Okposo and Cade Fairchild, Denver’s Tyler Ruegsegger and Rhett Rakhshani, Wisconsin’s Blake Geoffrion and Jamie McBain and Colorado College’s Bill Sweatt.

Reader Mailbag

Again, nothing. Tear. I was going to have a contest for you guys next week, but plans change. Alas, that will come in January. It’ll be a good one though, I promise.

WCHA Report Card

Well, thanks to this column basically being “This Month in the WCHA,” I can’t break down the series like I normally do. Check that — I could, but I don’t think you want to see that many stats thrown at you and I don’t want to type all of them out. Therefore, I’ll just give you the basics along with my it’s-not-really-at-that-point-yet-but-close-enough-to-count mid-season grades for everyone.

No. 2 Colorado College
Poll Movement: Up two after sweeping Alaska-Anchorage.
Overall Record: 10-4 (10-2 WCHA).
Top Scorer: Chad Rau (9-8-17).
Goaltending: Richard Bachman (11 gp, 9-2, 1.63 GAA, .945 sv %).
Grade: A+. Bachman has stepped in and filled Matt Zaba’s skates unbelievably well, the offense has been clicking and the defense has been strong as well. Now that we know Drew O’Connell can win a game or two, the Tigers should be able to stay strong when Bachman gets a night to rest.

No. 4 Denver
Poll Movement: Down one after splitting with North Dakota.
Overall Record: 10-4 (7-3 WCHA).
Top Scorer: Brock Trotter (6-9-15).
Goaltending: Peter Mannino (14 gp, 10-4, 1.66 GAA, .936 sv %).
Grade: A-. Mannino seems to be back to his freshman year form and the young offense is working just fine. The defense is now a little older and it shows. The team still has some off nights, but it’s nowhere near as bad as last season.

No. 7 North Dakota
Poll Movement: Up one after splitting with Denver.
Overall Record: 7-5-1 (5-5 WCHA).
Top Scorer: Ryan Duncan (5-9-14).
Goaltending: Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (13 gp, 7-5-1, 1.52 GAA, .940 sv %).
Grade: C-. The Fighting Sioux didn’t lose much comparatively in the off-season, have had minimal injuries and Lamoureux has, for the most part, been outstanding. So why are they only .500 in conference? Sure, this team usually turns it on in the second half, but I’m not sure if that’s guaranteed to happen again this year. Maybe the loss of Jonathan Toews hurt more than anyone expected.

No. 10 Wisconsin
Poll Movement: Up three after sweeping St. Cloud State.
Overall Record: 7-6-1 (4-4 WCHA).
Top Scorer: Kyle Turris (6-11-17).
Goaltending: Shane Connelly (12 gp, 6-6, 2.84 GAA, .901 sv %).
Grade: C. Shane Connelly has been an adequate replacement for Brian Elliott, but nothing overly spectacular — yet. Offense, which looked to be a problem coming into the season, hasn’t been bad, all things considered. However, they’re just middle-of-the-pack right now — much like everyone else.

No. 14 St. Cloud State
Poll Movement: Down four after being swept by Wisconsin.
Overall Record: 7-5-2 (3-4-1 WCHA).
Top Scorer: Ryan Lasch (11-12-23).
Goaltending: Jase Weslosky (11 gp, 6-5, 2.03 GAA, .932 sv %).
Grade: B-/C+. Weslosky has worked well as a replacement for Bobby Goepfert and Garrett Roe has been a wonderful addition to the line-up. Still, the Huskies need offensive production from more than just Lasch and Roe and the defense still needs some work. For them to move solidly into “B” territory, they need to be able to take points from the lower teams every weekend.

No. 15 Minnesota
Poll Movement: Down one after splitting with Michigan Tech.
Overall Record: 8-7-1 (4-6 WCHA).
Top Scorer: Ben Gordon (4-9-13).
Goaltending: Jeff Frazee (11 gp, 6-5, 2.72 GAA, .896 sv %).
Grade: F. What was that I said at the beginning of the season — the Gophers don’t rebuild, they reload? Well, despite returning almost all of their offense, they haven’t been able to get it going — probably in part to the offensive losses from the back line. If something doesn’t change and fast, Minnesota fans may well be in for a long rebuilding year.

No. 16 Minnesota-Duluth
Poll Movement: Down four after taking only one point from Minnesota State.
Overall Record: 6-5-3 (5-5-2 WCHA).
Top Scorer: Josh Meyers (4-6-10).
Goaltending: Alex Stalock (14 gp, 6-5-3, 2.28 GAA, .914 sv %).
Grade: B-. Sure, they’re only .500 in league play, but all things considered, they’re doing better than most people expected. Besides, most everyone’s around .500 in league play, so that means nothing. The main problem going into this season was offensive production — they don’t have one dominant line or player (their top scorer only has 10 points), but at the same time, everyone except their back-up goaltender and a freshman defenseman out since the beginning of November has at least one point.

No. 20 Michigan Tech
Poll Movement: Stayed put after splitting with Minnesota.
Overall Record: 6-7-1 (5-6-1 WCHA).
Top Scorer: Tyler Shelast (7-3-10).
Goaltending: Michael-Lee Teslak (10 gp, 4-4-1, 1.81 GAA, .935 sv %).
Grade: C. In terms of the WCHA, these Huskies — currently fourth — are about where everyone pegged them to be. The defense and goaltending have also performed as expected, but their problem still continues to be offense. Losing a highly-regarded offensive recruit to major-juniors after failing to get through the NCAA Clearinghouse also doesn’t help.

Minnesota State
Poll Movement: Garnered one vote after taking three points from Minnesota-Duluth.
Overall Record: 4-6-2 (2-6-2 WCHA).
Top Scorer: Mick Berge (7-2-9).
Goaltending: Mike Zacharias (9 gp, 3-3-2, 1.82 GAA, .930 sv %).
Grade: D-. Sure, the Mavericks returned both goaltenders — and Zacharias has been doing pretty well, considering — but they just can’t seem to crawl their way into the top half of the league. Right now, the conference highlight for them is probably taking three points from tUMD. That’s not good, but there is an upside — with the league the way it is this season, there’s basically nowhere to go but up.

Poll Movement: Still out of the polls after being swept by Colorado College.
Overall Record: 4-5-3 (1-5-2 WCHA).
Top Scorer: Kevin Clark (5-7-12).
Goaltending: Jon Olthius (11 gp, 3-5-3, 2.86 GAA, .886 sv %).
Grade: D. The Seawolves do have some positives — a point a game player in Kevin Clark, four games in hand and they’ve been relatively competitive, beating the Gophers and tying a few other teams. However, they’re also at the bottom of the league as usual. As a result, their upside is the same as Minnesota State — all they can do is improve.

In Case You Didn’t See It

I was asked to fill in on the Tuesday Morning Quarterback feature this week since my esteemed editor has been taken out with a nasty flu bug. It’s only available to USCHO Extra subscribers, so if you don’t have the feature, find and annoy a friend who does (or just spring for it). I had a lot of fun doing it and if my poor editor doesn’t get better, I may become a regular fill-in.

Try Not to Miss Me Too Much

Being the newbie here, I didn’t realize that this would be my last column until January. JANUARY! I don’t know how I’ll cope…well, except for, you know, watching hockey and making gifts and maybe even churning out a feature or two.

Since I won’t see you again until after, I hope all of you have a great holiday season, no matter how you celebrate it.