What I Think: Week 3

Trying out a new weekly installment of the blog — some random (and not-so-random) thoughts on the week prior.

* I’ve never seen this before. And neither have you, unless you were a Minnesota hockey follower in 1930 and were around for those momentous games against the Tulsa Athletic Club and Wisconsin.

Denver blanked the Golden Gophers in both games of a WCHA series on this, the third weekend of the season. Minnesota hadn’t been shut out in consecutive games since a 0-0 tie with Tulsa and a 2-0 loss to Wisconsin.

You can argue that it was a shot in the dark, a complete anomaly. But look at the Gophers’ season to date: four games, three of them shutouts. It doesn’t take much to get them riled up about the Gophers in the Twin Cities, so I suspect this isn’t sitting well.

Minnesota has Alaska-Anchorage heading to Mariucci next weekend, which you normally would think would be a welcome sight. But given the Seawolves’ victory over North Dakota on Saturday, maybe not. Of course, the games probably will be welcome after what I’m guessing will be a pretty grueling week of practice.

* I posted this on the USCHO Twitter feed when it happened, but in case you missed it: When Boston University lost to Notre Dame on Tuesday, it fell to 0-2 and became the first defending national champion to open with two losses since Denver in 2005.

Yeah, not too long ago, really, so it wasn’t a stunning development. But remember that the Pioneers didn’t make the NCAAs in 2005-06 despite a 21-15-3 overall record and a 17-8-3 WCHA mark and second-place conference finish.

Those early losses seem to haunt teams, so it was important that the Terriers responded with a victory over Michigan on Saturday. A home-and-home series with Massachusetts-Lowell next weekend should tell us quite a bit about both sides.

* Since everything I write here today seems to have at least a connection to Denver, here’s another one: Pioneers coach George Gwozdecky earned his 500th victory on Saturday.

That’s in a little over 23 seasons, working out to an average of a shade under 22 victories per season. By comparison, Ron Mason, the all-time wins leader with 924, averaged over 25 wins a season over 36 seasons. Not a fair comparison, of course — I’m not sure there is one when Ron Mason is at the other side — but interesting to note.

* Wisconsin got called for two major checking from behind penalties in the third period Saturday night at Minnesota State, and the Mavericks scored the eventual game-winning goal on the power play resulting from the second.

And they were bad checks from behind. Craig Smith got Geoff Irwin first and rightly earned a game disqualification that will keep him out of Friday’s game against New Hampshire.

Wisconsin tri-captain Ryan McDonagh hit Eriah Hayes 4:30 later. That one could have merited a DQ as well, but the defenseman got off with just the major and game misconduct.

The double trouble got me thinking about the idea of progressive penalties when a team is called for multiple checking from behind majors in the same game. My first reaction was that maybe you punish a team more for the second major in the same game to try to emphasize how awful it is that you saw it happen earlier and did it again.

But leaving your team on a five-minute penalty kill is already a pretty hefty fine. Unless we start seeing an uptick in checking from behind majors, maybe status quo is punishment enough.

* In beating Michigan Tech 8-5 on Saturday, Colorado College scored five times in 10 power-play chances and added two shorthanded goals (one into an empty net). A night earlier, CC scored three power-play goals and an empty-netter in a 4-1 victory.

I try to give the benefit of the doubt, but there is no good light to be found there for the Tech penalty kill, which is now operating at a national-worst 60 percent early this season (18-for-30).

* Here’s my top 20:

1. Denver

2. Miami

3. North Dakota

4. Boston University

5. Massachusetts-Lowell

6. Michigan

7. Yale

8. Vermont

9. Notre Dame

10. Cornell

11. Nebraska-Omaha

12. Bemidji State

13. Princeton

14. Colorado College

15. Quinnipiac

16. Boston College

17. Alaska

18. Massachusetts

19. Michigan State

20. St. Cloud State