This Week in the WCHA: Nov. 20, 2008

It’s been a fairly quiet week and weekend in the league. Other than the surprises we’ve seen so far, there hasn’t really been anything else.

Okay, except the early signing period, as a few teams have already inked some of tomorrow’s future stars … or busts, as it may turn out to be.

Red Baron Pizza WCHA Players of the Week

Red Baron WCHA Offensive Player of the Week: Blake Geoffrion, UW.
Why: Scored three points, including two goals on Friday, to help his Badgers take three points from Minnesota Duluth.
Also Nominated: Chad Rau, CC; Ryan Stoa, UM; Brett Hextall, UND.

Red Baron WCHA Defensive Players of the Week: Alex Kangas, UM and Jase Weslosky, SCSU.
Why: Kangas recorded his first collegiate shutout and allowed only two goals on the weekend as his Gophers took three points from Michigan Tech. Weslosky stopped 48 of 51 total shots as his Huskies swept the visiting Denver Pioneers.
Also Nominated: Brian Connelly, CC; Rob Nolan, MTU; Kurt Davis, MSU, M; Brad Malone, UND; Jamie McBain, UW.

Red Baron WCHA Rookies of the Week: Brad Eidsness, UND and Tyler Thompson, MSU, M.
Why: Eidsness stopped 29 of 30 shots on goal to help his team earn a weekend split against Alaska Anchorage. Thompson scored his first collegiate goal on Friday — a game-winner — to help his Mavericks beat Colorado College and added an assist in Saturday’s loss against the Tigers.
Also Nominated: Jordan Schroeder, UM; Travis Novak, SCSU.

Just Wait for the Second Half

Just like North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol, Michigan Tech coach Jamie Russell sees no reason to push the panic button this early in the season.

Granted, the Huskies have struggled more than the Sioux, but Russell is optimistic about what his team can do — once he gets it.

“I think [our start] is a number of things,” he said. “We’ve played 10 games. Eight of them have been on the road, seven have been on Olympic ice sheets and, to be honest, I don’t know what my team can do because I haven’t played with my team yet.

“We haven’t had a healthy roster since day one. We’ve played a number of games where we’ve only been able to dress 18 skaters and a healthy goalie, including last weekend where we went with 11 forwards and six healthy defensemen.

“So [it’s] definitely been challenging, the schedule we’ve had,” he continued. “We played at Colorado College when they were number one in the country, at Minnesota when they were number one in the country and we’ve done so without a healthy roster.”

One gaping hole in particular on that not-so-healthy roster is senior captain John Schwarz.

“Our team captain, John Schwarz, has not played a game in the WCHA yet so that’s a huge loss to us,” said Russell. “He logs an awful lot of ice time, he’s our leader and [we] really missed him on the road in the locker room during games. He’s a great leader by example and we’re looking forward to getting him back in the next few weeks.”

In other words, once the Huskies get a few people back and are able to have a few weekends at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena, the rest of the league may want to worry a bit more on their long trips up to the U.P.

Also from Russell …

There was a bit of discussion on the USCHO Fan Forum this week about senior Malcolm Gwilliam and what may or may not have happened to him this past weekend in Minnesota. Russell didn’t have much to say about the incident (both understandably and predictably), but he gave a sanitized version of what happened.

“It was not related to hockey,” he said. “He was fine at breakfast Sunday morning, we were at the rink, it was prior to even warmups. He had a medical issue [and] was taken to the hospital. As a team, we returned back to Houghton, he stayed behind in the hospital and he’s staying in Minneapolis right now.

“He was fine on Saturday, he was fine on Sunday morning, he had a medical issue unrelated to a hockey injury prior to our game Sunday afternoon, was taken to the hospital and that’s about all I can say about it.”

Return of Reader Mailbag

Steve Preckel e-mailed me this week and asked where last year’s “Keeping Up With the Pros: Monthly Drive-by” feature went.

Long story short, it was pretty unpopular and you all hated it because, as you e-mailed me multiple times, if you wanted to know that stuff you could look it up yourself.

However, Steve was curious about the number of WCHA’ers currently in the NHL. So, I looked up all the rosters on, which means that some of the players may not have seen ice time, but they’ve all been up with the big club at some point this season. Some of what I found was pretty interesting, actually.

• Three of 30 NHL clubs have no WCHA’ers — Montreal, the New York Rangers and Washington.
• 84 former WCHA’ers have been on NHL rosters at some point this season.
• St. Louis has the most former WCHA’ers with six; the Islanders, Tampa Bay and Carolina follow with five.
• North Dakota claims the most players, with 17. Wisconsin follows with 16, Minnesota with 13, St. Cloud with 12, CC with seven, DU with six, Duluth with five, Minnesota State with four, Michigan Tech with three and Alaska Anchorage with one.

If you’re curious about who’s where, e-mail me and I’ll tell you.

Match-Ups By the Numbers

We get our second straight week of pure WCHA action this year, with all ten teams playing each other this week, too. This will only happen once more this season — the weekend of January 9-10.

In other words, next week, we’re back to some more non-conference action.

No. 20 North Dakota @ Minnesota Duluth
Overall Records: UND — 4-6-0 (4-4-0 WCHA). UMD — 4-4-3 (1-4-2 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: UND leads the overall series, 128-70-8.

No. 1 Minnesota @ No. 10 Denver
Overall Records: UM — 6-0-4 (5-0-3 WCHA). DU — 6-4-1 (4-3-1 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: UM leads the overall series, 92-63-12.

Wisconsin @ No. 17 St. Cloud State
Overall Records: UW — 4-6-2 (4-4-2 WCHA). SCSU — 7-4-0 (2-3-0 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: UW leads the overall series, 39-23-8.

No. 11 Minnesota State @ Michigan Tech
Overall Records: MSU, M — 5-3-2 (3-3-2 WCHA). MTU — 2-7-1 (1-6-1 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: MSU, M leads the overall series, 18-12-3.

No. 3 Colorado College @ Alaska Anchorage
Overall Records: CC — 7-2-3 (5-2-1 WCHA). UAA — 6-4-2 (3-3-2 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: CC leads the overall series, 45-11-3.

Odds and Ends

• The away team leads the overall series in every match-up this week.

• For a laugh (sorry, Seawolf fans), head over to the Seawolves’ athletics Web site, find the “Inside Athletics” tab and scroll down to “Traditions.” Then, listen to the Seawolf song. Don’t blame me if it gets in your head, as it’s incredibly cheesy and yet incredibly catchy.