This Week in the WCHA: Nov. 12, 2009

Though a few of the usual suspects have been hanging around the top half of the league, we’ve still got more of the same like last year, as only seven points separate first and 10th place.

Red Baron WCHA Players of the Week

Red Baron WCHA Co-Offensive Players of the Week: Evan Trupp, UND; Sean Wiles, UAA.
Why: Trupp scored three goals to help his Fighting Sioux sweep Michigan Tech. Wiles also scored three goals in the Seawolves’ split with Denver.
Also Nominated: Bill Sweatt, CC; Rhett Rakhshani, DU; Patrick White, UM; Blake Geoffrion, UW.

Red Baron WCHA Defensive Player of the Week: Alex Kangas, UM.
Why: Stopped 73 of 79 shots on goal in the Gophers’ split with Wisconsin, including a career-high 45 shots on Saturday.
Also Nominated: Gabe Guentzel, CC; Brad Eidsness, UND; Ryan McDonagh, UW.

Red Baron WCHA Rookie of the Week: William Rapuzzi, CC.
Why: Had three points (2g, 1a) in the Tigers’ split with Minnesota-Duluth.
Also Nominated: Zach Budish, UM; Danny Kristo, UND; Craig Smith, UW.

More Gopher Woe

If the injury news wasn’t bad enough, Minnesota has now lost a player off the roster completely. Sophomore defenseman Sam Lofquist left the program earlier this week and has signed with the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League.

Lofquist’s departure makes this the fourth year in a row the Gophers have lost a player midseason. It also means the Gophers are down to six healthy defensemen (basically the bare minimum) as well as 22 total players on their roster. (Teams typically carry 26 players. It should also be noted that one of the original 26 players is Bowling Green transfer Jacob Cepis, who will join the team in the second half.) Coach Don Lucia, on his weekly radio show, remarked that now, “We got the guys who want to be here.”

All this news is resulting in a firestorm of comments all over the Internet from fans, saying things ranging from, “Whatever, get the people who don’t want to be at Minnesota out of there” to “FIRE DON LUCIA NOW!” Who knows what will happen (I’m personally not one for speculating much), but it will be interesting to see how things play out at the U, whether it be this season or over the next couple years.

Thoughts and Comments from the Weekend

UM: While at CC Friday for the CC/UMD series, I was fortunate enough to catch a good chunk of the Gopher/Badger game on Fox Sports North. One of the stats FSN showed was the Gophers’ abysmal power play — at that point in Friday’s game, 1-for-32. Overall this season, Goldy is 2-for-35 with the man advantage, good enough for 56th of 58 teams, above only Alabama-Huntsville and Niagara.

CC: For a while this season, it seemed as though Tiger fans had listened to all the Debbie Downer news circulating around their team, as attendance had been noticeably lower than normal to start the year. However, as CC’s early season success has gotten out, the fans have returned to World Arena in kind. Friday’s crowd was CC’s biggest yet this season; even Director of Athletic Communications Dave Moross noticed, commenting, “We’ve got ourselves a crowd.”

The Tigers also had a penalty shot on Friday night. It’s unsure how many penalty shots CC has seen over the years (the school doesn’t keep track), but the event was definitely the first in coach Scott Owens’ tenure (11 years), making Stephen Schultz’s eventual miss a rare spectacle.

DU: Denver is hoping its bye week will be kind in terms of injury recovery. The Pioneers are already without goaltender Marc Cheverie, who hopes to be back in two weeks for North Dakota, but defenseman Patrick Wiercioch went down late in Saturday’s loss to UAA as well.

Cheverie, in his recovery, sat down with DU’s media relations office for an interview (teams often have player profiles/interviews on their respective Web sites) and, somehow, the question of how to eat an Oreo came up. Besides the fact that I think everyone over the age of 3 probably knows the proper Oreo-consuming process, I thought the exchange was amusing.

SG (DU media relations person): I asked (freshman) Drew Shore this question and he was confused …
MC (Cheverie): That sounds about accurate.
SG: So let’s see if you do a little better than him … How do you eat an Oreo?
MC: Split it, lick it, dip it and eat it.
SG: Nice. He was so confused.
MC: He’s too young to understand.

College hockey players: They’re just like us (whether in good ways or bad ways).

UMD: On a personal note, it’s nice to see Bruce Ciskie back on the call of UMD games. Over the years, one gets to know their fellow media members in the other cities and, quite frankly, it sucks not being able to see your friendly acquaintances year after year due to budget cuts and whatnot. So, Ciskie, nice to see you back traveling again.

UND: Danny Kristo, my random preseason pick for Rookie of the Year for the WCHA media poll, finally scored his first collegiate goal.

On Home-Ice Advantage

Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald had an interesting piece this week on the Fighting Sioux and their ridiculous home ice advantage at the (new) Ralph Englestad Arena.

From the article (you may be asked to log in): The last time the Sioux have lost at home was a year ago (Nov. 29, 2008, vs. Cornell). None of the current players on the SCSU roster (this weekend’s opponent), the MSU, M roster or the DU roster has won a collegiate game at the Ralph.

The Sioux went 7-9-1 in the first season at the new Ralph and since then, have gone 103-36-21 at home for a .709 winning percentage (compared to .693 at the old Ralph).

After reading these facts, I was curious about how the other teams in the league have fared at home and whether they’ve enjoyed the same home-ice advantage. Information was found primarily for teams with newer arenas. Also good to note is that not all schools said if their totals included exhibition games. CC’s did, so I went ahead and added in exhibition games for all teams when adding this year’s games to the overall totals. This may skew the numbers slightly, but not enough to make a huge difference. Hopefully.

Colorado College is 187-69-12 since the World Arena opened in 1997 for a .717 winning percentage at home.

Denver is 134-66-9 for a .663 winning percentage in the 10 years of Magness Arena.

Minnesota State is 130-81-34 at the Verizon Wireless Center since it opened for an even .600 winning percentage.

Since 1989 when the National Hockey Center opened, St. Cloud State is 232-122-38 for a .640 winning percentage.

The Seawolves are 238-202-52 at the Sullivan Arena for a .537 winning percentage.

Wisconsin is 125-93-23 at the Kohl Center for a .566 winning percentage.

The main thing to take away is that pretty much everyone enjoys home ice; the advantage is just larger for some. From those that I could find without compiling home winning percentages for hundreds of years of history, CC has the largest home-ice advantage while Alaska-Anchorage, understandably, has the worst.

You may notice that the DECC (Duluth), Mariucci Arena (Minnesota) and MacInnes Student Ice Arena (Michigan Tech) are absent. None of the schools mentioned their team’s home-ice record (as far as I could find). I can understand Michigan Tech somewhat (given their arena is quite a bit older), but I was surprised that the Gophers mentioned squat among all the other information about Mariucci.

Match-Ups By the Numbers

We get to see one of our future teams in action this weekend for the first time (Beavers at Gophers) and Denver gets a week to rest up.

St. Cloud State @ North Dakota
Overall Records: SCSU — 3-3-2 (2-1-1 WCHA). UND — 6-1-1 (4-1-1 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: UND leads the overall series, 50-27-10.

Colorado College @ Minnesota State
Overall Records: CC — 5-2-1 (4-1-1 WCHA). MSU, M — 3-4-1 (1-4-1 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: CC leads the overall series, 25-12-1.

Michigan Tech @ Minnesota-Duluth
Overall Records: MTU — 2-6-0 (1-5-0 WCHA). UMD — 6-3-1 (3-2-1 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: MTU leads the overall series, 116-72-18.

Alaska Anchorage @ Wisconsin
Overall Records: UAA — 4-6-0 (2-4-0 WCHA). UW — 4-3-1 (2-3-1 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: UW leads the overall series, 42-13-9.

Bemidji State @ Minnesota
Overall Records: BSU — 7-0-1 (4-0-0 CHA). UM — 3-4-1 (3-4-1 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: UM leads the overall series, 6-0-0
Of Note: UM has outscored BSU 35-9 in the all-time series … the closest game was a 2-1 UM win on Feb. 6, 2004 … BSU has outscored opponents 30-10 this year.

Future WCHA Team Watch

The Beavers continued their roll, sweeping conference foe Robert Morris last weekend. This weekend, they get to face their soon-to-be conference mate Minnesota in a Saturday/Sunday series. Nebraska-Omaha, on the other hand, managed to gain only two points against Michigan State, losing and then tying (though technically beating in a shootout) the Spartans. The Mavericks host Lake Superior State this weekend.

BSU: 7-0-1 overall, 0-0-0 vs. WCHA
UNO: 4-1-3 overall, 0-0-0 vs. WCHA

On the Flip Side of the Coin

For the past few years, you’ve read a piece in this column either about the Sioux’s slow start around about this time of the season or about their (supposed) second-half surge sometime in late February/early March.

This year, however, the Sioux have gotten off to a faster start than the rest of us have been accustomed to. So, it’s understandable that coach Dave Hakstol was asked at this week’s team press conference how it felt to not have to answer questions about a slow start.

His response? “I don’t know [how it feels]; I still have to answer all the other ones about not having a slow start so it’s not much different.”

Good to know that at least he has a sense of humor about it all.

P.S.

Last Friday, I was sent a video by Jay Levin of the Nashville Predators about the team’s prospects involved in the Gopher/Badger rivalry. Obviously, it was too late to stick in the column, but given that the two teams will face off once again at the end of the year, I figured it’d be interesting to share with everyone.

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