WCHA’s weekend not for the faint of heart

Minnesota State scored more goals in one game than it had in nearly eight years as the Mavericks routed Alabama-Huntsville 9-1 on Saturday night. But that eight-goal blowout was an aberration in an otherwise thrilling weekend of WCHA action.

Seven of the 12 games on the schedule were decided by one goal or less and only 29 seconds stood in the way of that figure from becoming an even two-thirds. Minnesota State’s Zach Lehrke’s empty-net goal at 19:31 of the third period on Friday night gave the Mavericks a two-goal cushion and a 4-2 win over Alabama-Huntsville.

Here’s a rundown beginning with Friday night’s play:

The Denver Pioneers trailed Bemidji State by a goal on the road after two periods but scored twice in the third, including Drew Shore’s game winner with 4:12 to go, for a 3-2 win.

Nebraska-Omaha’s Ryan Walters’ goal at 1:21 of overtime gave the Mavericks a 2-1 win over North Dakota in Grand Forks while Michigan Tech’s Brett Olson accomplished the same feat in 48 fewer seconds to beat Minnesota 3-2 at Mariucci Arena.

Finally, in Madison, Justin Schultz scored 28 seconds into the final period to give Wisconsin a 3-2 lead over the defending national champs. But freshman Caleb Herbert answered just 2:54 later and the Badgers had to settle for a tie against the red-hot Bulldogs who, after beating UW 4-2 the following night, have a nation-best 14-game unbeaten streak (11-0-3) and are tied with Minnesota for the conference lead.

Turning to Saturday, BSU ended a 0 for 9 skid all-time against Denver in a 2-1 win at the Sanford Center behind Andrew Walsh’s 36 saves and Ben Kinne’s game winner 4:03 into the final period. UND turned the tables on UNO as Danny Kristo’s goal just 44 seconds into the third period gave North Dakota a 1-0 lead which held up thanks to Aaron Dell’s 26-save shutout, his first of the season.

Lastly, the Colorado College Tigers rebounded from Friday’s 6-3 loss at home to Alaska-Anchorage in dramatic fashion. With Jaden Schwartz gone for a month to play for Team Canada at the world junior championships, CC’s Mike Boivin picked up the slack scoring twice, including the game winner with 2.8 seconds left in regulation, to give the Tigers a 4-3 victory.

It was the sort of weekend which will be tough to top until playoff time rolls around.

Final minutes tense for Minnesota, MTU  

When Minnesota’s Jake Hansen scored a 5-on-3 goal with less than two minutes left to provide the final margin in the Gophers’ 6-2 win over Michigan Tech on Saturday, the Huskies took exception to the perceived running up of the score.

Keep in mind this was a hotly-contested game in which Minnesota’s Blake Thompson was ejected in the second period for a major contact to the head penalty while Tech’s Dennis Rix took five for high sticking late in the third and was joined in the box by Jordan Baker who served a concurrent 10-minute misconduct.

Michigan Tech’s Steven Seigo took a run at Hansen which drew Hansen’s teammate Nick Bjugstad into the fray earning all three roughing minors. Just 15 seconds later, Minnesota’s Seth Helgeson and MTU’s Carl Nielsen literally lost their lids in a helmet-ejecting scuffle in front of the Minnesota bench.

During the ensuing delay in order to sort out the incident, emotions boiled over on both benches. Tempers even flared between members of the opposing coaching staffs.

Michigan Tech assistant Bill Muckalt traded barbs with both Minnesota coach Don Lucia and his assistant Grant Potulny. Some colorful dialogue and bold challenges can be deciphered from reading the lips of the suit-clad, verbal combatants.

See it here for yourself:

The officials, whom you could see leapt up on the boards between the player boxes to ensure no physical altercations erupted, were reluctant to allow the teams to participate in the customary post-game handshake. But Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson, who had not participated in the shouting match, conferred with Lucia and the teams took part in the sportsmanship display without incident.

“It was an emotional game at the end,” Pearson told USCHO’s Tim Brule after the game. “We should shake hands and show good sportsmanship. We got beat by the better team tonight. There is no reason you should not shake hands.”

Faulker hasn’t lost his his game, or his spot just yet 

After he sat out five straight games, goaltender John Faulkner started for Nebraska-Omaha, Friday at North Dakota and stopped 24 of the 25 shots he faced in a 2-1 Mavericks win in overtime.

It turns out, the senior is just as much in the battle for UNO’s top goalie spot as freshmen Dayn Belfour (.899 SV%, 2.30 GAA) and Ryan Massa (.900, 2.68), if Dean Blais settles on one top goalie. The Mavericks haven’t used the same goalie in three consecutive games since Faulkner started the first three games of the season.

Friday was the first time Faulkner, a third team All-WCHA selection last season, started since he gave up seven goals on 23 shots Nov. 18 at Denver. While Faulkner’s struggles were part of the reason he sat the past few weeks, Blais told USCHO two weeks ago that Faulkner needed a break, and that he finally has the supporting cast to fill in.

Blais said he would wait for one of the three to get hot and then ride that goalie down the stretch. It’ll be difficult for any of them to get into a good rhythm since the Mavericks don’t play until Dec. 30 and then have another bye the week after.


      • Anybody on this site pick Tech to earn a split in Minny?  Didn’t think so.  This is a different Tech squad.  Friday night was good stuff.  Saturday, not so much.

        • Gophers flat out stunk on friday, just ask them.  Tech did what they had to win. Flukey goals are a result of sloppy play.Tech earned that win. Saturday was more indicitive of the talent the Gophers have, but they haven’t put it together both nights for a while.

          • And in years past, teams didn’t have to bring their “A” game to get two wins against Tech.  That just shows how much better they are this year (as apposed to past Tech teams).  And it says something about the parity if the WCHA.

      • I’d call getting a goal from bouncing it off a defender a fluke goal, the tech player didn’t even shoot it just happened to deflect towards the net. 

  1. I wish Potulny would’ve decked Muckalt. Running up the score? Don’t take penalties, & put a team on the power play. Another thing Tech might consider is, try losing with class!

    • If you listen closely to the Gopher announcers’ video commentary on the situation, you’ll realize they are every bit as trashy as their counterparts at North Dakota.  The poster who characterized the Gophers and their fans as arrogant hit the nail right on the head.

  2. The gophers have always thought they are bigger and better then everyone else… But when they face teams that are not afaid to hit back they dont talk trash. Why dont they try that against Duluth or the Siouux but they wont cause they know they would be knocked off their horse and get beat down look at the past when they try to pick fights its two or three gophers against one opponent. Anyway the gophers wont be there in the end they will get their’s in the end and not to mention in the big 10. Go UNO MAVS

    • Usually the Gophers vs UMD and Gophers vs UND games are played with respect by both teams. Go back to the CHA and keep losing to Bemidji and Huntsville.

    • What you have written is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever read. At no point during your rambling, incoherent response were you anything close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone is now dumber for having read it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul… The Gophers are very proud of their prestigious program and respect their all of their opponents (Especially North Dakota and Duluth) so I don’t know what you are talking about.

    • Were you watching the game? The Gophers didn’t start any fights. It was completely obvious that Tech was extremely angered by getting overworked with the Gopher’s speed all night. And wow, WCHA newcomer UNO fan already is an expert on WCHA play/teams. Have you ever watched a Gopher/Sioux game? Can there be any more fights then there already are during those games? The Sioux even decided to go after Blake Wheeler during the handshake when every player got into it. Please save your basic hockey knowledge about your new conference after you’ve been here a few years.

      • There were at least 10 cheap shots in that game, coming from both teams.  It wasn’t the Sioux singling him out, everyone wanted to drop the gloves.  Even Ness and Duncan mixed it up that night.  If Tech didn’t learn how to deal with frustration over the last 4 years, it’s never going to happen.  New coach, new attitude, better results.  They play with lot more intensity, and that can work both ways for a young team.  The coaches dropping f-bombs at each other was pretty entertaining, but it looked like Tech boiled over. It’s still a little early to completly write them off, but I don’t see them making the tourney on an at-large.  They’re gonna have to win a bid.

        • I wasn’t saying Minnesota wasn’t at fault in that game. Just responding to the UNO fan that thinks Minnesota backs down from a challenge. UND/UM games are something I look forward to and dread at the same time. Anything can happen, and its been proven countless times.

      • Exactly how do you know what happens out on the ice? are you there? of course not, so before you point fingers know the facts. Finley was pulling on Wheeler but wheeler talks a lot of trash and everyone knows it.  Cocky gopher……just about every Sioux great that is from minnesota was recruited hard by minnesota  but they chose NORTH DAKOTA!!! because of sioux pride

        • Why are you so mad? I wasn’t bashing UND at all, which is unusual for me. I was using it as an example that UM doesn’t back down, especially to UND. Sorry that you took it the wrong way…

        • just like the previous poster knows nothing about what went on, on the ice.  You know nothing about what occurred in the recruitment process, so save it.

        • No your right he won’t……but possibly next year.  I would think that Patterson has a much better chance, especially if he continues to play as well in the second half, as he has in the first half.

          • Unfortunately I don’t think Bjugstad will have a chance  next year. He probably wont be back. Florida GM has hinted they would take him now if they could. Gopher D has to tighten it up on friday for Patterson to have a chance at Hobey. It would be nice but a long shot at best.

          • My son played in the same association as young Mr. Patterson so we saw him frequently through bantams.  He is a quality kid, a quality goal-tender, and he carried his teams back then too.  As I have repeatedly stated, my tirades are not directed at the Gopher’s players (though I think K. Rau embellished the high stick saturday) but at the gofer-faithful (aka rodents, rodentia…) who likely have never been to campus (and yes, I have been).  You have proven yourself a smart hockey fan who admits his bias.  I respect that. Mr. Patterson is definitely a candidate.  And if anyone has yet to wonder who I cheer for let me just say KEEP FIGHTING SIOUX.

    • The Gophers didn’t start anything. A stick to the head while you’re skating off for a change, will prompt retaliation every time. As for the Flickertails and the Bulldogs, did you notice  the GOPHER SWEEPS?

  3. I am sick and tired of Minnesota’s (and their fans) arrogance.  The last I checked the weekend was split.  And what’s this about being a fluke start?  Really?!?!  Oh and Mel Pearson has way more class than the smug Lucia (or his lackey). 

  4. For the benefit of you youngsters, Michigan Tech and Minnesota have a bitter history that goes back to the 1973-74 and 1974-75 seasons when they were #1 and #2 in the US. I remember a game my freshman year at MTU in 1976 when the fights started as soon as they dropped the puck. Gloves were dropped, punches were thrown and helmets were flipped into the stands. Big Gord Salt was pounding on UM players. It was a battle both nights! By the end of Saturday’s game, each team had only two players and a backup goalie left on the bench because all of the other players had been ejected.

  5. Haha it’s so funny to come to this site mainly because of the Gopher hating. After a long time of us beating you it’s understandable that you naturally hate us, and I’m okay with that. We have the 2nd best offense and tied for 5th best defense in the nation, I don’t think I need to say anymore to prove we are a dominant team. Are we perfect? No, and no WCHA team goes through a season without losing a few to lower level teams, that’s just the way the conference is.

  6. What I would love to know is why, if the goophs are so great, why do they bring in the crappiest teams to play non conference and that retarded holiday tournament against? Come on, Vermont? Sacred Heart? Niagara? Look out for these guys. What a line up of $hitty games. They must bring them in so they can try and stomp them 15-0 over the weekend and try and look all that better.

    • You probably don’t understand hockey so that’s fine. Every year they play their holiday tournament and those lineups for such tournament are set years in advance giving no one the slightest idea of whose going to be good or not. Also, when most top ranking non-conference teams have their own tournament it’s tough to get those schools to come play in your tournament.


  8. many of the players including the senior leaders on the unh team think Tyler Scott should be in net.  Unfortunately Umile doesn’t stand behind his walk on recruit.  He would rather play the players he invested in instead of players that can play to win.

    • I find that hard to believe… I do think Casey DeSmith deserves more time and Jeff Wyer would have gotten a lot more time by now, if not for his knee injury.  I don’t think there is any way Scott is better than Wyer or DeSmith.  Either way, the way Digi is playing, I’d rather see anybody but him in there.

  9. CORRECTION: the shootout victory that UND had against the badgers on sunday was NOT the best result. we have 2 wins against the badgers.

    • Yes, but both occurred during the 2009-2010 season when Johnson was away coaching the Olympic team, which is why I referenced the coach, not the team.

  10. Looking forward to an excellent effort from the UND Fighting Bison this weekend — the pride of the prairie! The rest of the NACHO teams will provide the gooey cheese to fill up that North Star Cup. Hmmm……I can taste it now…victory or that cheese, not sure which is sweeter!

  11. Have to agree with MN Wild. When Mathew states: “Duluth has won its last three games, but against lesser competition than the Gophers.” I wouldn’t say St Cloud State and North Dakota are lesser competition than Michigan and Wisconsin. Michigan is terrible this year (How did they fall so fast?) ranked 38th in the pairwise. Wisconsin is currently ranked below St Cloud and North Dakota in the pairwise as well. Net result is that these last three games Duluth has played tougher competition than Minnesota. Just saying :)

  12. Nice weekly write up Candace. Looks like the season is filled with much parity and should be fun to watch. #GOWISCO your spirit is contagious. But Chokers and yer sad copycats, get real, UND is 6-2-1 vs. unranked opponents. without that they would not be in the top 25. Don”t start that SOS crap or the fans travel well. Heck, what other teams are there in ND? Just get it. They are national champs and they will get no easy games. Funny tho, the ECAC gets no respect, yet they have won a few national championships, lately. Maybe because the players go to school to get a degree and not use the system like it was the minors. They actually have seniors on the team. Do you think that Jost is going to get his MBA from ND? nah, he would be better off getting it from the University of Minnesota.


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