This Week in the WCHA: Feb. 4, 2010

Like last week, the playoff picture is getting a little clearer.

We’ve probably got our five teams that will get home ice, though the order is still anyone’s guess as we still have three points separating everyone. Which, of course, is a point better than last week, but still.

Spots six through eight are the current surprise, with North Dakota holding on to the six spot with 19 points. Then, Minnesota follows with 18 and league surprise Alaska-Anchorage with 17.

Minnesota State, with 13 points, could still make a run. And Michigan Tech? Well, I’m just glad it got another win.

Red Baron WCHA Players of the Week

Red Baron WCHA Offensive Player of the Week: Joe Colborne, DU.
Why: Scored both game-winning goals and added an assist in his Pioneers’ road sweep of North Dakota.
Also Nominated: Kevin Clark, UAA; Bill Sweatt, CC; Jordan Schroeder, UM; Garrett Roe, SCSU.

Red Baron WCHA Defensive Player of the Week: Marc Cheverie, DU.
Why: Stopped 55 of 57 total shots and had four shutout periods to help his Pioneers sweep North Dakota.
Also Nominated: Jon Olthuis, UAA; Ryan Lowery, CC; Kenny Reiter, UMD.

Red Baron WCHA Rookie of the Week: Zach Budish, UM.
Why: Scored five points (two goals, three assists) and had the first four-point game of any Gophers player this season in Minnesota’s split with Alaska-Anchorage.
Also Nominated: Andrew Hamburg, CC; Drew Shore, DU.

You Can’t Do That

St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko was issued a public reprimand by the league thanks to his actions near the end of Saturday’s game with Colorado College that were in violation of the WCHA Code of Conduct/Sportsmanship rules.

From Candace Horgan’s recap:

More controversy ensued in the last 90 seconds when an apparent Huskies’ tying goal was waived off by [Brett] Klozowski, and the call stood after review. Apparently, the call was the referees had lost sight of the puck and the play waved dead. A visibly angry Motzko crossed the ice after the game to give Klozowski a piece of his mind, and he was held back by the rest of the officiating crew.

“We scored a goal,” said Motzko. “Everybody in the rink knows we scored a goal. There’s nothing else to say.”

[Mike] Testwuide got an empty-net goal with 10.7 seconds left to seal the win. The Huskies were assessed a team unsportsmanlike conduct and game misconduct at the end of the game for Motzko’s questioning.

Kevin Allenspach of the St. Cloud Times talked to league commissioner Bruce McLeod, who said Klozowski was in the right.

“If you look at the replay, he is as close to the play as can be. He lost sight of the puck and blew the whistle. That’s it. The play is dead. There’s even latitude in the rule book where as soon as a referee intends to blow the whistle, the play is over. Let’s say, for instance, he’s prevented from raising his hand with the whistle. Once he determines to blow it, it’s all over,” said McLeod.

Camp Randall … Finally

After all of the waiting and the constant updates about rink construction on the Badgers Web site, the Culver’s Camp Randall Hockey Classic is finally here, taking place this Saturday.

Though the event seems like a seminal event, with a build-up that’s lasted all year, coach Mike Eaves says his team has been trying to stick to its normal routine.

“We’re so tied up with the day-to-day stuff,” he said. “We’re practicing, we’re still getting ready for practice, we’re working with recruiting. There’s a few more people around in terms of the press, [but] that’s been about the only change, plus the fact that we’re over in a makeshift locker room at the football stadium.”

One reason for this is that the team has already been through something similar. In 2006, the Badgers played (and beat) Ohio State at the Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field. Eaves said that game was a refreshing break from the grind of the WCHA schedule, perhaps helping the team down the stretch and to their Frozen Four victory later that spring.

“We’re looking at [this game] to be an energizer for us,” he said. “That’s kind of what the Lambeau game was four years ago. It was about the same time, it was in the second half of the WCHA race when everything is always so tense and tight.

“This will be a big game in terms of Michigan-Wisconsin and the RPI at the end of the year, but what kind of transcends that whole thing is the fact that we’re playing outside at a football stadium in the middle of February in Wisconsin and there’s going to be 50,000-plus people there and what the kids will walk away from is that experience. They’ll have to think about who won the game when they’re a little bit older, but they’ll be telling their grandchildren about what a great experience it was.”

And what a great experience it should be for the rest of us.

Around the WCHA

SCSU: Thanks to their 6-5 loss to CC on Saturday, the Huskies’ nine-game winning streak finally came to an end. Their last loss prior to the streak? A 4-1 defeat at the hands of the same Tigers.

UAA : Friday night’s game against Minnesota was delayed for 30 minutes due to a Freon leak at the Sullivan Arena (according to UAA; Minnesota’s site just said “ice issues”).

Hearing about why that game was delayed reminded many in the CC press box of a similar incident that happened in the 1996 Frozen Four in Cincinnati. The semifinal game between CC and Vermont was delayed for a similar reason. CC ended up winning that game in overtime before falling to Michigan in the national title game two days later.

Matchups by the Numbers

Only two conference matchups this weekend, while three other teams get the last of their non-conference games out of the way.

Alaska-Anchorage @ St. Cloud State
Overall Records: UAA — 10-15-1 (8-13-1 WCHA). SCSU — 17-8-3 (12-6-2 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: SCSU leads the overall series, 46-13-5.
Notes: UAA hasn’t won a road game with SCSU since Nov. 7, 1987 … SCSU is the only team to sweep UAA in Anchorage this year.

Minnesota-Duluth @ Michigan Tech
Overall Records: UMD — 17-10-1 (13-6-1 WCHA). MTU — 4-21-1 (3-17-0 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: MTU leads the overall series, 117-75-18.
Notes: Tech has a 72-40-10 record at Winter Carnival.

Denver vs. Mercyhurst, @ Air Force
Overall Records: DU — 16-6-4 (12-4-4 WCHA). MC — 12-14-2 (12-8-2 AHA). AFA — 12-10-6 (12-6-6 AHA).
Head-to-Head: DU leads both overall series; the Pioneers are 2-0 against Mercyhurst and 28-3 against Air Force.

Colorado College vs. Air Force, Mercyhurst
Overall Records: CC — 15-10-3 (11-8-3 WCHA). AFA — 12-10-6 (12-6-6 AHA). MC — 12-14-2 (12-8-2 AHA).
Head-to-Head: CC leads both overall series; the Tigers are 56-7-2 against Air Force and 1-0 against Mercyhurst.

Wisconsin vs. Michigan @ Camp Randall
Overall Records: UW — 15-7-4 (11-6-3 WCHA). UM — 15-12-1 (10-9-1-0 CCHA).
Head-to-Head: UM leads the overall series, 64-51-7.

Future WCHA Team Watch

Bemidji State split with Robert Morris and now gets a weekend off before facing the Colonials again. Nebraska-Omaha split a series against Notre Dame and next hosts Ohio State for two.

No. 7 BSU: 18-6-2 overall, 3-3-0 vs. WCHA
UNO: 13-12-5 overall, 1-1-1 vs. WCHA

Odds and Ends

• Go vote to see some of your favorite WCHA players in the Frozen Four Skills Challenge this year. The WCHA nominees are: Drew Akins, UMD; Michael Davies, UW; Zach Harrison, MSU; Ryan Lasch, SCSU; Tony Lucia, UM; Rhett Rakhshani, DU; Bill Sweatt, CC.

• I caught some of the Pioneers-Sioux game on TV Friday night and it struck me how lost UND looked on the ice. I know that the team hasn’t been able to catch a break lately and, granted, I did catch only snippets as I was officially watching and working the CC/SCSU game. However, there were times that the Sioux looked disjointed. I know they’re without arguably one of the best players in college hockey. I know they’re young and I know they’ve been going through injury problems.

However, just because a player (or two, or three) goes down doesn’t mean that the whole team should suddenly look like they forgot to play hockey. Isn’t there something to be said about everyone else picking up the slack?

This season, so far, has been quite disheartening for Sioux fans and seemingly only looks to get worse.

The only bright spot is that some other teams can get a chunk of the spotlight that they normally wouldn’t — a spotlight that’s been a long time coming and definitely well-deserved. I don’t want to count the Sioux out — there’s still quite a bit of hockey left to be played. However, it still feels weird that such a familiar face (and perhaps faces, depending on how Minnesota’s season plays out) most likely will not be in the mix at the end of the year.


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