This Week in the WCHA: Feb. 14, 2008

Denver flirts with being back again, Colorado College loses one at home and again, the league race continues to get tighter, with no one wanting to share the love.

Red Baron Pizza WCHA Players of the Week

Red Baron WCHA Offensive Player of the Week: Matt Hartman, SCSU.
Why: Led all WCHAers with five scoring points in the Huskies’ split with Colorado College. Hartman had five assists, including four on Friday, four shots on goal and was a +3.
Also Nominated: Scott McCulloch, CC; Kael Mouillierat, MSU, M.

Red Baron WCHA Defensive Players of the Week: Peter Mannino, DU; Shane Connelly, UW.
Why: Both goaltenders helped their respective teams to three-point weekends. Mannino stopped 64 of 66 shots for a .970 save percentage in the Pioneers’ series against Minnesota. Connelly, on the other hand, stopped 46 of 48 shots for a .958 save percentage for his Badgers against Michigan Tech.
Also Nominated: Brian Connelly, CC.

Red Baron WCHA Rookie of the Week: Tyler Bozak, DU.
Why: Scored three points, including Saturday’s game-winner and Friday’s lone goal in the Pioneers’ weekend series against the Gophers. Bozak also had eight shots on goal, was a +3, had six hits and blocked four shots.
Also Nominated: Tyler Johnson, CC; Bennett Royer, MTU; Ben Youds, MSU, M; Garrett Roe, SCSU.

It’s Not Six Words, But Concise Nevertheless

If you peruse the Fan Forum at all, I’m sure you’ve noticed the threads that have popped up in the Café as well as the D-I and Women’s forums, asking fans to describe their team in six words.

This past Friday against Denver, Minnesota head coach Don Lucia summed up his team’s year in a simple sentence that, with some careful editing, could fit the bill:

“Again, 30-some shots and score one goal. That’s our team.”

SCSU — Back In, Well, A Hunt

I’m going to be honest here — I don’t understand the St. Cloud State University Huskies. At all. The team has three 30-point scorers — one soon to have 40 points — can split with the dominant CC Tigers twice … and yet is near the bottom of the conference. I can understand that the loss of Bobby Goepfert hurt, but it’s not like Jase Weslosky has been awful in net. Maybe it’s the inconsistent defense. Still, the Huskies are (understandably) happy when they can get points, especially from the WCHA elite.

This brings me to one of the favorite quotes I’ve collected all season, from coach Bob Motzko after Saturday’s win over the Tigers:

“We came out here this weekend with the, well, we wanted to get a win, obviously, but we wanted to get back in the hunt,” he said. “We don’t know what we’re chasing, but at least we’re back in the hunt right now and that’s what we wanted: to get back in and play good hockey.”

Spring Surprise

One of the surprise teams of the second half — in a good way — has been the Minnesota State University Mavericks, who have rattled off a six-game winning streak, have vaulted into the polls (15th last week; 13th this week) and the PairWise (tied for eighth) and hope to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002-2003, when the team finished third in the conference.

Why are the Mavericks doing so well? Like most teams in the league, they’ve got a young roster and, perhaps like the Sioux, it’s all about coming together.

“We’re a young hockey team,” said coach Troy Jutting. “[The players are] getting adjusted to what the college game is all about and they’re playing together as a team very well.”

Like most coaches, Jutting isn’t worried about the playoffs yet.

“There’s a lot of season left really, when you look at it in terms of the NCAAs,” he said. “I’m sure the players are optimistic but I also know that we have a big weekend this weekend in Madison and that’s what we’re trying to focus on.

“It’s kind of what we’ve done all year. Let’s not worry about what the polls are … let’s worry about us and make sure we’re doing what we need to do and I think the kids have done a very good job of staying focused on what we are and who we are and not worrying about that other stuff.”

As for this weekend’s series in Madison, Jutting is looking forward to it — not only for the conference match-up, but if the team does progress down the road, they’ll be playing in buildings much like the 15,237-seat Kohl Center.

“It’s a great series for us at this time of the season because hopefully, if things work out, there’s going to be other times where we’re going to have to play in that type of environment so it’s a great experience for the kids.”

Random Notes (and Commentary!) From Around the League

UAA — The Nye Frontier Classic shall now be known as the Kendall Hockey Classic, as Kendall Autos has bought out the Nye Frontier Family.

I guess this is just to say that yes, the tournament is still around in case you see some unfamiliar stuff on the schedule next year.

WCHA — Want to take a break from voting for Hobey? You can vote for some of your favorite WCHAers to represent the West in the Frozen Four Skills Challenge. Go to and vote for CC’s Jimmy Kilpatrick and Scott McCulloch, DU’s Andrew Thomas, Minnesota’s Evan Kaufmann and DU’s Peter Mannino.

Yes, this came out last week, but I missed that memo.

Reader Mailbag

I got several responses from fans and their travel habits. Not many people gave me actual mileage (kind of what I was looking for, actually), but told me about their travel exploits.

Steve G., a Badger fan from Dayton, Ohio, has been driving and flying to rinks since the end of the 2002-03 season with the goal to see all Division I teams on their home ice. The ones I’m jealous of are Findlay and Fairfield (vs. Iona) — two schools that no longer have D-I hockey.

Matt Drawz and his dad are trying to see the Gophers in every WCHA arena at some point, have been to Duluth and St. Cloud thus far and are hitting up Anchorage in a few weeks.

Paula Cutler, a St. Cloud season ticket holder, decided to tell me about her longest trip — a trek to Rochester for Regionals last year:

“Two of us loaded up the truck with munchies and the DVD player and headed out for the 19-hour (over 1k miles) trip. We left Thursday, March 22nd from Brooklyn Park, Minn., at 6am, arrived in Rochester, N.Y., around 1am their time,” she explained. “Went to the three games at the regional and unfortunately watched my Huskies not get that monkey off their back with a tournament win, but made my five seconds of fame on ESPN2. :)”

I did get mileage from a couple people. Bryn Jarcho, a Minnesota State fan, will total 3,302 miles by the end of the year after next week’s trip to Colorado College. David Krawczyk, who won the column contest a few weeks ago, will total 11,830 miles by the time the Frozen Four rolls around, missing only the Badgers’ series at CC. A trip to Anchorage helped that total out, in case you were curious. Last year, Dave logged 5,750 miles traveling to see both the men’s and women’s teams.

Match-Ups By the Numbers

Colorado College and Minnesota each get a chance to rest and heal up for the end-of-season craziness.

No. 13 Minnesota State @ No. 10 Wisconsin
Overall Records: MSU, M — 15-10-4 (9-9-4 WCHA). UW — 13-11-6 (9-9-4 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: UW leads the overall series, 14-11-3.
Top Scorers: MSU, M — Trevor Bruess (7-18-25). UW — Kyle Turris (11-18-29).
Goaltenders: MSU, M — Mike Zacharias (26 gp, 14-7-4, 2.10 GAA, .921 sv %). UW — Shane Connelly (27 gp, 12-11-4, 2.30 GAA, .917 sv %).

No. 6 Denver @ No. 3 North Dakota
Overall Records: DU — 19-8-1 (13-6-1 WCHA). UND — 17-8-2 (14-7-1 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: UND leads the overall series, 126-109-7.
Top Scorers: DU — Tyler Bozak (14-12-26). UND — T.J. Oshie (12-14-26), Ryan Duncan (10-16-26).
Goaltenders: DU — Peter Mannino (27 gp, 18-8-1, 2.15 GAA, .921 sv %). UND — Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (27 gp, 17-8-2, 1.73 GAA, .934 sv %).

No. 12 Minnesota-Duluth @ Michigan Tech
Overall Records: tUMD — 11-9-6 (7-8-5 WCHA). MTU — 10-13-5 (6-10-4 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: MTU leads the overall series, 115-69-16.
Top Scorers: tUMD — Nick Kemp (7-7-14), Jason Garrison (5-9-14), MacGregor Sharp (5-9-14). MTU — Peter Rouleau (9-11-20).
Goaltenders: tUMD — Alex Stalock (26 gp, 11-9-6, 2.13 GAA, .922 sv %). MTU — Rob Nolan (16 gp, 6-8-1, 2.68 GAA, .896 sv %), Michael-Lee Teslak (14 gp, 4-5-4, 1.84 GAA, .930 sv %).

No. 19 St. Cloud State @ Alaska Anchorage
Overall Records: SCSU — 12-13-3 (7-11-2 WCHA). UAA — 7-14-7 (3-14-5 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: SCSU leads the overall series, 40-12-5.
Top Scorers: SCSU — Ryan Lasch (20-19-39). UAA — Kevin Clark (7-16-23).
Goaltenders: SCSU — Jase Weslosky (21 gp, 9-10, 2.51 GAA, .917 sv %). UAA — Jon Olthuis (25 gp, 6-11-7, 2.87 GAA, .886 sv %).

Hallmark Holiday

Well, you all know what today is. If you have a significant other, make today special for him or her if s/he so wants you to. If not, spend the day with another love — hockey. This weekend is “Hockey Weekend Across America” and cities all across the country will have various events going on to support this amazing sport.

Hell, even if you do have a significant other, go watch some hockey anyway. I’m going to drag the boy to go see the Avalanche as they take on the Blues (this year’s Frozen Four site versus last year’s Frozen Four site). I’ll also root for the former WCHA’ers on both squads (Tyler Arnason, David Backes, Jeff Finger, Erik Johnson, Ryan Johnson, Jordan Leopold, Paul Stastny, Steve Wagner) as well as the other college hockey products.

Share the hockey love, people.