WCHA Special: Dec. 11, 2008

Well, here it is — the last column of the calendar year. As promised, I give you an update on the penalty crackdown from this season as well as the midseason grades as I see them.

Also, I missed St. Cloud State freshman Oliver Lauridsen when talking about players representing their country in the IIHF tournaments. The defenseman from Denmark will be playing for his native country in the IIHF World Under-20 Championship Division I Group B Tournament, which happens a week before the regular tourney.

Red Baron Pizza WCHA Players of the Week

Red Baron WCHA Offensive Player of the Week: Ryan Lasch, SCSU.
Why: Scored five scoring points (1g, 4a) and helped on both game-winning goals in the Huskies’ sweep of Minnesota State.
Also Nominated: Jesse Martin, DU; Ryan Martens, UND; Michael Davies, UW.

Red Baron WCHA Defensive Player of the Week: Cody Golubef, UW.
Why: Scored both game-winning goals to help his Badgers sweep Alaska Anchorage.
Also Nominated: Marc Cheverie, DU; Brad Miller, UND.

Red Baron WCHA Rookie of the Week: Brad Eidsness, UND.
Why: Stopped 72 of 76 total shots and had a series saves percentage of .947 to help his Sioux sweep Harvard at Bright Arena.
Also Nominated: Joe Colborne, DU; Jordy Christian, SCSU; Derek Stepan, UW.

Penalty Crackdown: The “Midway” Point

Well, midway point by USCHO column purposes, at least. Given that we are almost halfway through the season, I figured I’d revisit this issue for you, including recapping our prior numbers.

To start 2008-2009, there were:

926 total penalties
294 total goals scored
111 total power-play goals
16 total shorthanded goals
38% of all goals scored have been on the power play
6.1 goals per game average

The above numbers are for 48 games played. Teams went a total of 111-for-711 on the power play, earning a 15.6% success rate.

Since then, we’ve had:

868 total penalties
323 total goals scored
119 total power-play goals
16 total shorthanded goals
37% of all goals scored have been on the power play
5.7 goals per game average

The above numbers are for 57 games played. Teams went a total of 119-for-663 on the power play, earning a 17.9% success rate.

Breaking it down to a point I didn’t before, in the first part of the season, there was an average of 19.3 penalties per game. Since then, there has been an average of 15.2 penalties per game.

So, as most have expected, the amount of penalties has gone down since the beginning — some things that may have gotten called at the beginning of the year may not be called as much now. Along with that, the success rate on the power play has gone up — also not unexpected, given that teams have had time to figure things out.

However, scoring in general has gone down a bit — from 6.1 goals per game to 5.7 goals per game. Overall for the season, though, scoring is roughly at 5.8 goals per game. I didn’t compare to where scoring was at this point last year, but I will at the end of the season to see how things compared overall.

WCHA Report Card

Okay, so it’s not really the halfway point of the season, but, as I said, for the purpose of the column, it is. So, here are my midseason grades as I can figure them for everyone.

No. 2 Minnesota
Poll Movement: Up one after staying idle.
Overall Record: 7-2-5 (6-1-3 WCHA).
Top Scorer: Ryan Stoa (11-9-20).
Goaltending: Alex Kangas (14 gp, 7-2-5, 2.39 GAA, .917 sv %).
Grade: A-. The Gophers have gotten by wonderfully with arguably the best line in the WCHA right now in Stoa, Jordan Schroeder and Jay Barriball as well as Kangas picking up nicely from last year. However, the Gophers need to find a way to spread out the scoring or they may find trouble down the road.

No. 6 Denver
Poll Movement: Up two after sweeping Michigan Tech.
Overall Record: 11-5-1 (7-4-1 WCHA).
Top Scorer: Anthony Maiani (6-16-22).
Goaltending: Marc Cheverie (17 gp, 11-5-1, 2.22 GAA, .927 sv %).
Grade: B-. While the Pioneers have picked up steam (again) recently, they’ve been too inconsistent for an A — especially in nets, though it does seem as though Cheverie has finally figured things out. Still, this team could drop just as easily as it could rise.

No. 9 Colorado College
Poll Movement: Down four after earning one point from Minnesota Duluth.
Overall Record: 9-5-4 (6-4-2 WCHA).
Top Scorer: Chad Rau (10-14-24).
Goaltending: Richard Bachman (16 gp, 8-4-4, 2.30 GAA, .925 sv %).
Grade: C-. What, I’m grading a team still in the top-10 with a C? Yes, and for many reasons. Bachman has looked to be more inconsistent, although part of that may be a weaker defensive core in front of him as opposed to years past. That, and the Tigers have struggled to score this year and haven’t played well at home — an anomaly for Tiger teams. Plus, those who follow the team on a consistent basis are puzzled why the team is ranked so high every week.

No. 14 Minnesota State
Poll Movement: Down three after getting swept by St. Cloud State.
Overall Record: 8-5-3 (5-5-2 WCHA).
Top Scorer: Kurt Davis (5-16-21).
Goaltending: Mike Zacharias (16 gp, 8-5-3, 2.77 GAA, .911 sv %).
Grade: C. The Mavericks haven’t played poorly this season per se, but they haven’t exceeded expectations, either. Coach Troy Jutting is going to need some of his players under that double-digit point barrier — specifically Andrew Sackrison, Zach Harrison and Kael Mouillerat — to step it up. Still, the Mavericks have started out worse to start a season and the second half should go well.

No. 16 Wisconsin
Poll Movement: Broke into the polls after sweeping Alaska Anchorage.
Overall Record: 9-7-2 (7-5-2 WCHA).
Top Scorer: Jamie McBain (3-16-19).
Goaltending: Shane Connelly (15 gp, 8-5-2, 2.65 GAA, .914 sv %).
Grade: B. The Badgers got off to a horrible start — in part because of their schedule. However, the Badgers have rolled as of late, which helped to bring their grade up. Connelly needs to stay consistent and the team needs to find more scoring from its forwards and not just the blue line.

No. 17 St. Cloud State
Poll Movement: Broke into the polls after sweeping Minnesota State.
Overall Record: 10-6-0 (5-5-0 WCHA).
Top Scorer: Garrett Roe (9-16-25).
Goaltending: Jase Weslosky (13 gp, 8-5-0, 2.32 GAA, .926 sv %).
Grade: C+. I’ll admit I haven’t seen the Huskies yet this season and I also can’t get a read on them. However, they’ve seemed to be up and down and Kevin Allenspach from the St. Cloud Times has said as much as well, likening the season to this point as a yo-yo. However, Weslosky has been consistent and the team needs him to stay that way to try for a back-half run.

Minnesota Duluth
Poll Movement: Garnered more votes after getting three points from Colorado College.
Overall Record: 7-4-5 (4-4-4 WCHA).
Top Scorer: Justin Fontaine (8-13-21).
Goaltending: Alex Stalock (16 gp. 7-4-5, 2.31 GAA, .917 sv %).
Grade: B-. A big question going into the season for the Bulldogs this year — as last year — was offense. So far, the Bulldogs already have a player over 20 points when their highest overall scorer last year had 17. That, as well as steady play by Stalock have helped the Bulldogs exceed expectations. They may not be ready for home ice this year, but anything can happen down the stretch.

Alaska Anchorage
Poll Movement: Dropped out of the polls after being swept by Wisconsin.
Overall Record: 7-7-2 (4-6-2 WCHA).
Top Scorer: Paul Crowder (8-12-20).
Goaltending: Jon Olthuis (9 gp, 4-5-0, 3.12 GAA, .873 sv %); Bryce Christianson (8 gp, 3-2-2, 2.55 GAA, .882 sv %).
Grade: A-. The Seawolves are probably the biggest surprise of the league this year. Sure, they’ve struggled a bit lately, going back to their one-goal losses of yore. The ‘Wolves have always been a team that will fight you hard — now, they’re one that can actually get that go-ahead goal. Just think: this year’s Seawolves team is one that has failed to take at least two points out of a weekend just twice. That is exceeding expectations.

North Dakota
Poll Movement: Garnered more votes after sweeping Harvard.
Overall Record: 7-8-1 (4-5-1 WCHA).
Top Scorer: Chay Genoway (2-14-16).
Goaltending: Brad Eidsness (14 gp, 7-5-1, 2.68 GAA, .911 sv %).
Grade: C-. People are used to seeing the Sioux struggle a tad in the first half, but it’s rare that it’s been as bad as this. The goaltending experiment with Aaron Walski obviously didn’t work out, but Eidsness has started to come into his own as of late. Still, the Sioux need to find a way to fill their defensive holes and a way to find the back of the net before they can think of making any postseason noise.

Michigan Tech
Poll Movement: Still out of the polls/votes after being swept by Denver.
Overall Record: 2-13-1 (1-10-1 WCHA).
Top Scorer: Jordan Baker (7-2-9); Drew Dobson (0-9-9).
Goaltending: Rob Nolan (11 gp, 1-9-1, 3.32 GAA, .879 sv %).
Grade: D. I could have given the Huskies an F, but I don’t like failing people. Plus, I’m giving coach Jamie Russell the benefit of the doubt (kind of) when he’s said he’s been playing without a fully healthy roster for the majority of the season. Still, teams go through struggles and injuries and have to find a way to get through them and Tech just isn’t doing that.

See You in 2009

I hope all of you have a happy holiday season and I’ll see you on the flip side.

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