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.