This Week in the WCHA: Jan. 21, 2010

The gap is expanding.

21 points separate first (Minnesota-Duluth, 25 points, by virtue of Denver’s bye week) and last (still Michigan Tech, still with four points).

The gap is still close.

Six points separate first from sixth place. Eighth place is six points down from that (for clarity’s sake, eighth-place Alaska-Anchorage is 10 points behind second-place Denver).

The gap doesn’t matter.

We’ll still watch anyway.

Red Baron WCHA Players of the Week

Red Baron WCHA Offensive Player of the Week: Kevin Clark, UAA.
Why: Scored six points (four goals, two assists), including his first collegiate hat trick in the Seawolves’ sweep of Michigan Tech.
Also Nominated: Brian McMillin, CC; Jordan Baker, MTU; Jacob Cepis, UM; Michael Davies, UW.

Red Baron WCHA Defensive Player of the Week: Alex Kangas, UM.
Why: Stopped 64 of 68 shots to help his Gophers earn three points from North Dakota.
Also Nominated: Jon Olthuis, UAA; Brendan Smith, UW.

Red Baron WCHA Rookie of the Week: Zach Budish, UM.
Why: Scored three points (one goal, two assists), including Saturday’s game winner, to help his Gophers take three points from North Dakota.
Also Nominated: Andrew Hamburg, CC; Danny Kristo, UND; David Eddy, SCSU.

Hardship Waiver? What’s That?

The NCAA’s hardship waiver is what’s more commonly known as a medical redshirt.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, as the season drags on, I know there have been a few rumblings among Sioux fans about whether Sioux defenseman Chay Genoway will apply for this hardship waiver. He’s still having after effects from the concussion he suffered and his status from week to week doesn’t change (out indefinitely).

Given said rumbles, I was curious to know exactly how the process works and what he (or, say, Jay Barriball) would have to do to earn one of these hardship waivers.

Step One: Before the injury/illness, the player must not have “participated in more than three contests or dates of competition (whichever is applicable to that sport) or 30 percent (whichever number is greater) of the institution’s scheduled or completed contests or dates of competition.” (NCAA rule 14.2.4(c)) and the injury must have occurred in the first half of the season (14.2.4.(b)).

I think both WCHA examples are good here.

Step Two: The team can supply proper “medical documentation, from a physician (a medical doctor) who administered care at the time of the injury or illness, that establishes the student-athlete’s inability to compete as a result of that injury or illness” (14.2.4.3.3).

This is apparently a really big thing with the NCAA and players have been denied hardship waivers because their teams didn’t have their paperwork in proper order.

Step Three: If an injured player tries to come back late in the season, say, for the playoffs (a la Air Force’s Eric Ehn a few years back), “and then is unable to participate further as a result of aggravating the original injury[, he] does not qualify for the hardship waiver” (14.2.4.3.5).

In other words, if Genoway seems to be concussion syndrome-free and his Sioux make it to the Frozen Four and he plays and gets an errant puck off the helmet that brings back all the dizziness … no waiver for him.

(My personal question on this step is, what if Genoway becomes symptom free by the end of UND’s season and Sioux staff still choose not to play him just in case? Does that negate the waiver eligibility? Given Step Two, I would presume so given that his paperwork would say he’s A-OK, but it’s not clear in the rulebook.)

Step Four in theory should be the deadline for which UND or UM would have to apply for the hardship waiver, but there’s nothing within the two pages of wording for rule 14.2.4 that says. The power of Google brought a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference medical hardship waiver application form that says: “Note: An application should be submitted no earlier than the conclusion of the season the application relates to and no later than September 15 of the next academic year.”

Of course, the form also says it’s for rule 14.2.5, which is now the Season-of-Competition Waiver — Competition While Eligible rule, so take that for what it’s worth.

In any case, it sounds like both Minnesota and North Dakota can choose to wait until the end of the season before they have to apply for the hardship waivers. Whether they will, however, is a completely different story given that both Genoway and Barriball are seniors.

The Power of Three

Goals, that is. In perusing this week’s series game notes, both Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth had tidbits about what happens when either they, a) score three or more goals a game, and/or, b) when they allow their opponent to score three or more times a game.

Courtesy of both schools:

GOOD THINGS ALSO COME IN THREES: The Bulldogs have yet to lose when scoring three or more times this season (15-0-1) and are winless when they’ve failed to do so (1-7-0 — with the lone victory coming last Friday night in Mankato).”

Third Time’s the Harm
Minnesota is 12-0-0 this season when holding opponents to two goals or fewer and 0-10-2 when opponents score three goals or more. The Gophers are also 11-1-2 when they score three or more goals with the only blemish being a 4-3 overtime loss to Minnesota-Duluth.”

Given that this three-goal deal is apparently a big one, I looked through the rest of the league.

Every team has a fantastic record when scoring three or more goals per game (except Tech, which is 3-3-0. One must note, however, that Tech has only three wins this season).

Also unsurprising is that most teams have a poor record when allowing three or more goals a game. Denver is the closest thing to an exception, with a 4-5-2 record in that situation.

While this may be worthy enough to stick in weekly game notes, to me, it’s not, as the whole thing makes sense.

Looking at stats and what teams ideally want their goalie to do, a team should hope to score about three goals per game to be successful. Although I’m sure it varies, I heard once that one ideally wants one’s goalie to have a goals-against average of 1.9something at the very least (meaning, of course, that if all goes well, the goalie will only let in just under two goals a game). If that’s the case, logically, a team wants to be able to score at least three goals per game just to win.

If said goaltender (and said goalie’s defense) break down to the point that he is allowing three or more goals per game, it’s not often the case that the offense can keep up the scoring to the point of a victory.

The teams that can, however, are usually successful. Therefore, it’s really no surprise that the four teams with the best records when allowing three or more goals a game are also top-four in the league: UMD (4-7-1), DU (4-5-2), CC (3-7-2), UW (3-6-0). St. Cloud State, tied for fourth, is somewhat of an outlier (1-5-3), but not by much.

Around the WCHA

In league news, one of my predecessors and current writer/blogger for USCHO.com, Todd Milewski wrote a good piece on what league expansion may do to our beloved Final Five.

CC — Before last Friday, when CC lost 4-0 to Wisconsin, can you guess the last time the Tigers were shut out?

Think back, way back, to March 2007 during the WCHA playoffs when Michigan Tech beat CC 1-0 to advance to the Final Five. After that loss, CC went on a 100-game scoring streak, going two and a half seasons before being shut out again.

UAA — Anchorage’s sweep of Michigan Tech was noteworthy for the WCHA’s most northern team in a couple of ways.

• The sweep helped the Seawolves take the lead in the all-time series against MTU.
• The 11 goals UAA scored are the most the school has scored in a series under Dave Shyiak.
• The 11 goals also tied the program record for most goals in a WCHA road series.
• Said 11 goals are three shy of the most UAA has ever scored in a WCHA series since joining the conference in 1993 (that would be 14 in a sweep over UND in 1994).

UM — Just as the Gophers were starting to turn things around, they got some bad news in the form of Mike Hoeffel. Hoeffel, the team’s leading goal scorer and in a three-way tie for team’s overall leading scorer, will be out for about two weeks thanks to a bout of mono.

UMD — The Bulldogs’ No. 4 ranking in this week’s poll is the highest ranking nationally since they held the third spot way back in early November 2004, the season after their Frozen Four run.

Matchups By the Numbers

Three conference tilts, two non-conference series and Michigan Tech and Minnesota State get the weekend off.

Colorado College @ Alaska-Anchorage
Overall Records: CC — 13-8-3 (9-6-3 WCHA). UAA — 8-13-1 (6-11-1 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: CC leads the overall series, 47-13-3, or 49-13-3, depending on whom you ask.

Minnesota and St. Cloud State, Home and Home
Overall Records: UM — 12-10-2 (7-7-2 WCHA). SCSU — 14-7-3 (9-5-2 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: UM leads the overall series, 47-23-12.
Notes: UM is undefeated in the last eight meetings. … Saturday’s game is part of “Hockey Day in Minnesota.”

Denver @ Wisconsin
Overall Records: DU — 14-5-3 (10-3-3- WCHA). UW — 13-6-3 (9-5-2 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: UW leads the overall series, 71-55-9.
Notes: DU will be without defensemen John Ryder and William Wrenn on Friday due to their automatic one-game suspension thanks to their game disqualification penalties in the UAA series.

North Dakota @ Cornell
Overall Records: UND — 12-7-5 (8-7-3 WCHA). CU — 9-4-3 (7-2-2 ECACHL).
Head-to-Head: UND leads the overall series, 4-2.
Notes: This will be the first meeting in Ithaca.

Minnesota-Duluth and Bemidji State, Home and Home
Overall Records: UMD — 16-7-1 (12-5-1 WCHA). BSU — 15-5-2 (9-1-0 CHA).
Head-to-Head: UMD leads the overall series, 18-7-0.

Future WCHA Team Watch

Bemidji State split with Niagara and next plays a home and home series with Minnesota-Duluth. Nebraska-Omaha was swept by Lake Superior State and next hosts Northern Michigan for a pair in Omaha.

No. 11 BSU: 15-5-2 overall, 1-3-0 vs. WCHA
UNO: 10-11-5 overall, 1-1-1 vs. WCHA

On Voting

From following college hockey for about the last decade, I know that one of the more commonly discussed items is the weekly polls.

As much as people grumble about them, many others insist that “polls (or poles, for those of you who post on the USCHO.com Fan Forum) don’t matter,” … and I’m here to say that, in some senses, I agree.

This is an odd statement coming from me, given that I’m one of the 50 voters in the USCHO.com men’s D-I poll.

Every week I vote and almost every week I’m unsatisfied with how my top-20 end up. Take last week, for example. Most of the top eight teams didn’t do so well. Numbers nine through 14 did, while the rest of the poll (save Nos. 19 and 20) did badly.

So you think, well, Ferris State got swept so they should drop, but on the other hand, they were swept by the second-ranked team in the country, so they shouldn’t drop down too much. Yes, the nine through 14 teams did well, but not really well enough to move them up much. Yeah, Nos. 15-17 all had two-loss weekends, but many of those losses were to teams above them so how much weight does that carry?

When it’s a month or two into the season, I wonder how a team with a .500 (or just below a .500) record could still be ranked, because for me, that just doesn’t seem right.

Granted, my mind probably works in a different capacity than the vast majority of my fellow voters, but ranking the top-20 of college hockey’s 58 teams is one of the hardest things I do every week. I even wonder about the polls as a voter, curious even now if UND should really be ranked as high as fifth, when I had them dropped out of the top-10. I know I follow them on a regular basis, with the Sioux being in the WCHA and all, but I just don’t think they deserve to be that high, still-good record notwithstanding.

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