This Week in the WCHA: Oct. 23, 2008

Well. That was a crazy little start to league play now, wasn’t it?

Red Baron Pizza WCHA Players of the Week

Red Baron WCHA Offensive Player of the Week: Kevin Clark, UAA.
Why: Scored two goals and added two assists to help UAA win the Brice Alaska Goal Rush tournament and was named tournament MVP.
Also Nominated: Chad Rau, CC; Tyler Bozak, DU; Mike Carman, UM; Justin Fontaine, UMD; Trevor Bruess, MSU, M; Chris VandeVelde, UND.

Red Baron WCHA Defensive Player of the Week: Zach Harrison, MSU, M.
Why: Tied an NCAA and WCHA record by scoring three shorthanded goals in the Mavericks’ 5-1 victory over UND.
Also Nominated: Mat Robinson, UAA; Richard Bachman, CC; Patrick Mullen, DU; Alex Kangas, UM; Evan Oberg, UMD; Chay Genoway, UND.

Red Baron WCHA Rookie of the Week: Patrick Wiercioch, DU.
Why: Scored two goals and two assists in his team’s weekend sweep of the University of Wisconsin.
Also Nominated: Jordan Schroeder, UM; Jack Connolly, UMD; Brad Eidsness, UND.

Anchorage Pains?

Some people might say I took a “gamble” in picking the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves in ninth place in the league as opposed to last (two things — 1: oooh, huge gamble; and 2: hey, I have my reasons).

For right now, even though the Seawolves haven’t seen conference play, it doesn’t look like a bad gamble as the team is 3-1 so far in this young season.

Well, except when you consider a few things — mainly injuries and early departures.

The Seawolves were already down two men thanks to injuries to Jared Tuton and Curtis Leinweber, but are now down to only 20 skaters (a team can dress 18) thanks to the departure of sophomores Brad McCabe and Winston DayChief due to “personal reasons.”

Despite all of that, the Seawolves managed to win the Brice Alaska Goal Rush this past weekend. Still, how bad can this be?

“Obviously, [McCabe and DayChief] were two skilled guys that were regulars in our lineup, so it certainly doesn’t help the depth of our team,” said coach Dave Shyiak. “But, at the same time, it does give opportunity to other individuals that probably wouldn’t see those minutes.

“So, the guys that have stepped up, who have been given that opportunity, have done a great job,” he continued. “Jeremy Smith, who hasn’t played in a whole lot of years and Kenny Selby and Nick Haddad — they were a very, very effective line for us in both Friday and Saturday night’s game and were a big reason why we had success.”

In other words, Shyiak doesn’t really mind too much that his team was hit by a weird version of the early departure bug.

When asked if the shortened lineup seemed maybe not as bad thanks to the probability of Tuton and Leinweber returning relatively soon (Tuton a few weeks; Leinweber in a week or two, according to Doyle Woody of the Anchorage Daily News), Shyiak just shrugged it off.

“[You] really can’t look at it that way — injuries are part of it and you just have to deal with it,” he said. “It’s not going to change how we play a whole lot. It’s just we might have to alter some line combinations and who plays what in certain situations.”

In any case, we’ll probably get a little more of an indication on how the shortened bench hurts the Seawolves a little more when they take on their first conference opponent in Minnesota Duluth.

Shootouts — Yea or Nay?

If you’ve been keeping up with the other leagues and their crazy changes over the summer, you’ll have read that the CCHA decided to institute a shootout for regular-season games this year that end in a tie — much like the NHL did when it came back from its lockout/work stoppage/what have you.

Shootouts have been around the NCAA for a while — but only in pre- or in-season tournaments, so the concept is nothing new.

However, thanks to the CCHA’s move, the other conferences may start thinking about instituting them as well. The idea was tossed around during the WCHA preseason conference call and the coaches were mixed.

“I’m not a big fan of the shootouts,” said Denver’s George Gwozdecky, summing it up neatly.

St. Cloud State’s Bob Motzko is for shootouts, but with one caveat — they can’t affect the PairWise.

“I was in the USHL when we had it and I was dead against it until we used it,” he said. “I think it was a great thing to happen to the game and if there’s ever a way we can put it in, players would enjoy it, our fans would really enjoy it and as long as there’s a way to do it to not affect the PairWise, I’d be game to try it.”

Personally, I go back and forth on the matter. However, ultimately, I think Minnesota’s Don Lucia said it best — “My view is, if it’s such a great idea, let’s do it in the NCAA tournament. When we go there, then I’m ready for it for the regular season.”

Lucia elaborated on why he believes the shootout is fine in say, the NHL.

“We don’t play enough games. If we played 80 games, I wouldn’t have a problem with the shootout, but 28 games is too few,” he said. “You look at how compressed our league is year in and year out. I don’t want to see a team move up or down in the league standings based on shootouts. That’s just me.”

What do you guys think?

Random Notes (and Commentary!) From Around the League

MSU, M — As you read above, Zach Harrison scored a shorthanded hat trick in the Mavericks’ 5-1 win over the Sioux last Friday.

The fact that it was a shorthanded hat trick is unusual — Harrison’s only the sixth player in NCAA history to do it. However, the fact that it was a natural hat trick — three goals uninterrupted — is what is going to immortalize Harrison, as his stick is on its way to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

Apparently the folks at the Hall heard about Harrison’s feat and checked to see if they could find anyone else who has scored a shorthanded natural hat trick. Since they haven’t (yet), they requested Harrison’s stick to be shipped on up to Toronto.

If you’re interested in seeing a little piece of (potential) history, word is the stick may appear as soon as December in the Hall’s “Year-in-Review” display. After that, the stick would stay in the HHOF archives, occasionally rotating into the Hall’s “University” display and perhaps in traveling exhibits.

Reader Mailbag … Kinda

In talking with some of my coworkers here at USCHO, I learned that I (or the hat I pulled predictions out of) have become somewhat infamous. Apparently, P.A. of “P.A. and Dubay” on KFAN in Minneapolis picked up on my season preview — the same season preview that, due to sheer random luck, had the Gophers picked seventh. This evidently caused some consternation, was a huge topic of discussion and I got ripped for it.

At least someone picked up the slack in that department …

Seriously guys, nothing this past week? Geez, I guess I just need to write some more inflammatory stuff.

Matchups By the Numbers

Only two conference matchups this week and Michigan Tech gets a “break,” if you will, with just one game this weekend.

No. 7 Minnesota @ Wisconsin
Overall Records: UM — 2-0-0 (2-0-0 WCHA). UW — 0-4-0 (0-2-0 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: UM leads the overall series, 149-79-17.

Minnesota Duluth @ Alaska Anchorage
Overall Records: UMD — 3-0-1 (0-0-0 WCHA). UAA — 3-1-0 (0-0-0 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: UMD leads the overall series, 37-15-11.

No. 15 St. Cloud State @ Bemidji State
Overall Records: SCSU — 2-2-0 (0-2-0 WCHA). BSU — 0-4-0 (0-0-0 CHA).
Head-to-Head: BSU leads the overall series, 41-37-3, but SCSU leads the DI leg of the series, 10-0-0.

No. 1 Colorado College @ No. 19 Clarkson
Overall Records: CC — 4-0-0 (2-0-0 WCHA). CU — 1-1-0 (0-0-0 ECACHL).
Head-to-Head: CC leads the overall series, 9-0-1.

Ohio State @ No. 2 Denver
Overall Records: OSU — 1-2-1 (1-2-1-1 CCHA). DU — 3-0-0 (2-0-0 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: DU leads the overall series, 4-2.

U.S. Under-18 Team @ Michigan Tech
Overall Records: U.S. — 7-4-1-1 (… I think). MTU — 1-3-0 (0-2-0 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: The teams are tied, 1-1.

Off: No. 13 Minnesota State, No. 16 North Dakota

Odds and Ends

I’ve been around the game for a while and thought I knew a lot of hockey stuff, including random trivia (example: what is a quinella? E-mail me if you know.).

However, every now and then, I learn something … like what a “natural” hat trick is. Obviously I know what a hat trick is, but, weirdly enough, I never actually knew for sure what a natural one was. Thanks to Zach Harrison, I now know that it’s the three goals scored in succession — unbroken by any other goals.

In talking with others about this, I learned that if one wanted to be picky about it, a true natural hat trick is all goals scored in the same period — something that didn’t happen in Harrison’s case (he scored one in the second and two in the third).

Still, nice to know I’m still learning.