Looking over the WCHA standings late Saturday night, I paused at the middle of the top line, right under GF-GA.
In 28 league games this season, MacNaughton Cup champion North Dakota scored 112 goals and allowed 62. That’s a plus-50 scoring margin, the largest in the league since the Sioux were plus-60 in a 2003-04 season that also ended with them atop the standings.
Permit us a trip into the old, printed media guides — and permit me a brief aside here to mention how refreshing that is sometimes, given that everything now seems to be available on the Web — to put a plus-50 into some context, especially in our relatively offensively challenged times.
It’s the 36th time in the league’s 59 seasons that a team has put up a scoring margin of plus-50 or better, but only the fourth in the last 10 years (2001-02 St. Cloud State, plus-52; 2002-03 Colorado College, plus-55; 2003-04 North Dakota, plus-60).
Of the 35 teams that went plus-50 or better before this season, 19 made it to the NCAA title game and 11 won it all. That last group includes North Dakota in 1980, 1987 and 2000. The Sioux were national runners-up in 1979 and missed the Frozen Four in 1999 and 2004 as a plus-50 team.
For the record, the best scoring margin in WCHA history was plus-106 by the 1986-87 North Dakota team that shows up in all sorts of places in the league records.
Padding the statistics?
Of course, it helps the season numbers to finish up by going plus-14 in the final series.
That’s what North Dakota did against Michigan Tech, winning 6-1 and 11-2 in Houghton last weekend.
It’s hard to blame a team, however, for putting up big numbers in games where it should.
Here’s how the Sioux fared in scoring margin against the rest of the league, in standings order:
Denver: Minus-2 in two games (1-1)
Nebraska-Omaha: Minus-2 in four games (2-2)
Minnesota-Duluth: Plus-1 in two games (1-1)
Minnesota: Plus-2 in two games (1-1)
Colorado College: Plus-4 in two games (1-1)
Wisconsin: Plus-3 in two games (2-0)
Alaska-Anchorage: Plus-7 in two games (2-0)
St. Cloud State: Plus-7 in four games (3-0-1)
Bemidji State: Plus-13 in four games (4-0)
Minnesota State: Plus-3 in two games (2-0)
Michigan Tech: Plus-14 in two games (2-0)
So that’s plus-3 and a 6-6 record against the other five teams in the top half of the standings, and plus-47 and 15-0-1 against the six teams that finished in the bottom half.
It’s not unusual for that kind of spread, mind you. Last season, when MacNaughton Cup champion Denver was plus-27 in league games, it built that with a plus-4 margin against the rest of the top five and a plus-23 margin against the bottom five.
Just some numbers to keep in mind over the next two weeks as we size up the Sioux’s playoff competition.
It has been almost three weeks since former Wisconsin goaltender Kirk Daubenspeck was critically injured in a automobile accident on a highway outside of Madison, and we’re happy to report that his condition is improving.
Daubenspeck, who played for the Badgers from 1993 to 1997, was in a coma for days after the Feb. 17 accident but he is now talking and standing, according to a post on a Facebook group.
The outpouring of support since the accident shows you how many lives Daubenspeck touched in his hockey career and beyond.
T-shirts and other items are being sold on the website www.kirkdaubenspeck.com to help Daubenspeck and his family pay for the medical bills.
Awards moved up
Watch for the WCHA to announce its major award winners and all-league teams Thursday afternoon.
In the past, that announcement came a week later, at the league banquet before the Thursday night game at the Final Five.
With two games on the opening day of the Final Five now, that format was scrapped.