WCHA Midseason Report Cards

So I said this was coming this week … although I think I’m a day later than planned. Oops.

In any case, here are my annual WCHA Mideason Grades, with teams in alphabetical order.

Alaska-Anchorage (t-eighth)
– C
– Needs improvement; meeting/exceeding expectations
– It’s good that the Seawolves have been able to earn a goodly amount of splits. It’s bad, however, that they still can’t find that go-to goal scorer
– The freshmen class has been contributing nicely, whether it be Jordan Kwas or Matt Bailey up front or Rob Gunderson or Chris Kamal in net.
– Second Half Prognosis: UAA probably won’t move up in the standings much, but they do have the potential to at least stay the course and stay out of the bottom of the league basement.

Bemidji State (10th)
– D
– Needs improvement; not meeting expectations
– We all thought that the Beavers would be better. To use a hockey example, Bemidji is the NHL rookie being pushed around and beat up by the 20-year league vets.
Second Half Prognosis: BSU has the ability to turn things around in the second half, but it will be difficult with the vast majority of the schedule on the road.

Colorado College (fifth)
– B
– Exceeding expectations
– The Tigers have struggled, but they’ve turned it around heading into the break.
– Part of their success has been a result of the league’s leading scorer in who may be the league’s RotY in Jaden Schwartz.
Second Half Prognosis: While CC still has to face DU again as well as UMD and UND, they still have the potential to end the season in the top third of the league.

Denver (t-second)
– A
– Exceeding expectations … but not by much
– The Pioneers were expected to be in the top half, but they weren’t expected to be quite this good. However, the reason they are is one Sam Brittain. If this keeps up, DU may take the title of WCHA goalie factory away from Wisconsin.
– The team has also done well since Jesse Martin’s unfortunate injury. Drew Shore is having a breakout year and the freshmen have been performing well.
Second Half Prognosis: As far as the WCHA is concerned, DU has a relative cakewalk to March. Unless the team – or Brittain – implodes, they’re not budging from where they are.

Michigan Tech (12th)
– D
– Technically meeting expectations; needs improvement
– The Huskies started off so nicely, going 3-0-1 … and since then, they’ve been on an 11-game losing streak.
– Whether it’s been a case of too many injuries or too many bye weeks or too many games away from home, the team needs to either figure it out or quit making excuses.
Second Half Prognosis: MTU’s schedule from here on out doesn’t make it any easier on it – the team still hasn’t played the top three teams in the league in DU, UMD and UND yet.

Minnesota (t-sixth)
– C
– Meeting expectations
– The team has talent, but, as has been the same old song and dance for the past few years, it’s not coming together.
– Kent Patterson stepping up where Kangas has not has been a plus.
Second Half Prognosis: UM faces a rough second half, but the team still has a lot of potential to move upward. However, the team also has the potential to plummet further.

Minnesota State (t-eighth)
– C
– Meeting expectations; needs improvement
– The Mavericks had a fairly rough first half, but they started to turn it around a tad at the break.
– The team needs more offense – only four players are in double-digits in scoring. While the numbers might not show it, it feels like the team survived the first half on defense and goaltending (I’m looking at you, Phil Cook, and the Minnesota series).
Second Half Prognosis: MSU’s schedule from here on out is tricky and unfortunately, I don’t see the Mavs moving up a whole lot.

Minnesota-Duluth (t-second)
– A
– Meeting expectations
– We knew they’d be good … and oh look, they’re good. We knew their first line would dominate … and oh look, it is.
– If the team has a weak spot, it might be in goaltending. Both Aaron Crandall and Kenny Reiter have decent numbers, but they’re not outstanding. The Bulldogs have a good enough offense to be able to just simply out-score their opponents … but I am a little concerned on how that’ll play out in come playoff time when EVERYONE tightens up their game defensively. Winning more games in regulation might help, too.
Second Half Prognosis: UMD should stay right where it is given it’s schedule. However, given the relative ease of the schedule, the team also needs to stay sharp or it may amazingly slip downward in the standings (I don’t see the possibility of implosion like DU; just the possibility of relaxing).

Nebraska-Omaha (fourth)
– A
– Exceeding expectations
– So … a mid-pack CCHA team apparently equates to a top-third WCHA team … particularly with a league vet like Dean Blais at the helm. We underestimated these guys big time.
– Three guys are averaging around a point per game – Matt Ambroz, Terry Broadhurst and Joey Martin.
Second Half Prognosis: The next few months are going to be really interesting for UNO, particularly with the teams above it all on the docket. The Mavericks probably won’t move up, but they do have the potential to drop like a rock.

North Dakota (first)
– A
– Meeting expectations
– The first half looked a little iffy to start out – the team was barely over .500 to start November – but then things started clicking.
– Matt Frattin was always good, but he’s really made his comeback story into a good one. Remember: he was kicked off the team a few years for essentially being a drunken idiot before coming back mid-last season.
– Also, Aaron Dell has been a nice surprise in nets.
Second Half Prognosis: If you subscribe to the theory that UND is a second half team, the Sioux will not be relinquishing their top spot any time soon.

St. Cloud State (11th)
– F
– Needs improvement; not meeting expectations
– If I were meaner, I’d finish this off by posting pictures from here.
– Only three players are in double digits, with only one of the three (Drew LeBlanc, 18) solidly there. Nick Jensen and Garrett Roe round it out with 10 points a piece (0.56 points per game).
– That being said, if I may loosely paraphrase CC’s Scott Owens, they’re the best 11th place team you’ll ever watch.
Second Half Prognosis: SCSU’s second half does bring some potential for upward mobility, but I don’t know if either we or the team itself believes it can at this point. Maybe they just need something amazing to happen to snap them out of their funk, like a weekend where they just rout their opponent something ridiculous, like 10-1, 8-0. I don’t know.

Wisconsin (t-sixth)
– C
– Meeting expectations …
– … even though it feels like they’re not. League record is .500, overall is three games over and yet I feel surprised they’re still in the polls for some reason.
– Still, the Badgers are a young team with some young players and those young players are doing well. Two sophomores (Justin Schultz and Craig Smith) and a freshman (Mark Zengerle) are leading the team in scoring, with each player over 20 points. Goaltending is also solid as per the norm in Madison.
Second Half Prognosis: We probably won’t see UW dropping out of where it is. More than likely, the team will either stay where it is or move up.