WCHA weekend rewind, Jan. 23, 2012

The following are a few things (among many) which stood out over the weekend in the WCHA.

Anyone have fingernails left?

With this past weekend’s slate of games behind us, only six weekends remain on the schedule to sort out postseason positioning. As the race is heating up, the games are getting tighter. Of the eight conference games played over the weekend six of them were decided by one goal and, realistically, it was actually seven if Jared Festler’s empty-net goal in Friday’s 3-1 SCSU win over UND is removed from the equation.

Even two of the three non-conference games were one-goal affairs as Alabama-Huntsville—goalie Clarke Saunders (95 saves in two games) in particular—gave No. 1 UMD all it could handle in falling to the Bulldogs 2-1 and 4-3 at Amsoil Arena. That’s a whopping nine nail-biting games out of 11 (82 percent) played by WCHA teams taking away Festler’s empty netter.

Wins and, for that matter, sweeps are going to be hard to come by in the next month and change.  With conference teams feasting upon each other the rest of the way combined with the WCHA’s brutal non-conference record, unless a few teams get really hot it spells doom for the conference’s place in terms of NCAA tournament selection.  We shall see.

Brad Eidsness isn’t going away

His awful start to the 2010-11 season and the successful season Aaron Dell had in goal for North Dakota seemed to signal the end of Brad Eidsness as UND’s No. 1 goaltender.

He’s backed up Dell all season long and when Dell struggled and got pulled, Eidsness came in and shined. Eidsness holds a better save percentage (.919) and a better goals against average (2.38) than Dell (.895 SV%, 2.80 GAA) yet Eidsness has only played 18.3 percent of UND’s minutes this season.

Friday night at St. Cloud State, Eidsness stood on his head with 27 shots in a 3-1 loss. The two goals he allowed were point shots with a major traffic jam in front of the net, but other than that he kept UND in the game down 2-1 for the last half of the game. He snatched pucks out of mid air, dove on others loose in the crease and continued to rob the Huskies, looking for an insurance goal in the final 30 minutes.

“I haven’t gotten a lot of chances this year but when I go in I give the team a chance to win,” Eidsness said outside the dressing room Friday. “It’s nice to get the chance to play. I had a tough year last year coming off a couple years where I played a lot. It really made me think about the chance to play and how nice it is and I try to make the most of my opportunities.”

Eidsness and Dell rotated to start the season but Eidsness lost the competition for the job when he allowed four goals on 18 shots Oct. 21 at Wisconsin and since then, he’s only appeared in four games. Eidsness relieved Dell to start the third period Nov. 25 against Colorado College after Dell allowed six goals on 22 shots. Eidsness stopped all 13 shots he faced that night.

Friday’s game at SCSU was evidence Eidsness can still give UND a chance to win in pressure situations and it wouldn’t be a horrible idea for UND to re-evaluate its goaltending situation.

It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish …

Or who starts or who finishes for that matter.

Nebraska-Omaha and Minnesota State met in what became the most dramatic WCHA series played over the weekend. The purple Mavericks hosted the red Mavericks in Mankato and split a pair of overtime thrillers with UNO winning 2-1 on Friday and MSU bouncing back to take the finale 5-4.

Of note is the fact that Nebraska-Omaha’s goaltenders of record (got credit for win/loss) played a combined total of 14:08 in the series making nine saves on 11 shots on goal.  On the other hand, Minnesota State goalie Phil Cook’s 1-1 record was built on 124:42 of action and 74 saves.

After making 38 saves in regulation on Friday night, UNO goalie Ryan Massa’s 39th save had Minnesota State’s Evan Mosey crashing the net for the rebound. Unfortunately he crashed into Massa as well leaving him motionless on the ice as medical staff tended to him for 15 minutes before carting Massa off on a stretcher to a local hospital (he was released early Saturday morning).

Enter backup Dayn Belfour. The freshman stopped the only shot he faced and became the winning goaltender when Bryce Aneloski scored for UNO just 54 seconds after Massa left the ice.

Belfour started on Saturday and, with Massa unavailable, senior John Faulkner, who hadn’t made the trip, was brought up from Omaha to back him up. But UNO coach Dean Blais yanked Belfour just over nine minutes into the second after MSU’s Eriah Hayes tied the game 3-3. Faulkner came in and allowed two goals on 10 shots including Johnny McInnis’ game winner for Minnesota State at 3:05 overtime. Faulkner takes the loss for Nebraska-Omaha in just 13:14 of action.

Whoever said life was fair never played goalie in Omaha, we’re fairly certain of that.

54 COMMENTS

  1. Dont really know why UND has to reevaluate their goal tending situation. Dell stopped 28 and saved a number of ridiculous chances against my Huskies Saturday.

  2. Remembering a couple years ago when UNH drew the 1 seed in the playoffs and UVM was the 8 and they came to durham and dropped the first game then shut UNH out in the next two.  UVM always plays UNH tough and already played to a draw at the Gut.  don’t count them out or take them for granted.

  3. With how much Merrimack has struggled of late, I’d be surprised if the games are as close as Dave and Jim are predicting.  Hopefully they get things going in the right direction this weekend. 

    With this weekend’s series and the series against UML and 2 against UMass left, I could easily see the Warriors losing at least 4, and perhaps 5 of those games, and if they want any shot at home ice, and to try to secure a spot in the PWR for the NCAAs, they had better get the ship righted and get moving in the right direction.

  4. What a terrific finish … if ML and Merrimac go down again tonight – what an ideal match-up they will have next weekend. Bringing more certainty that the Boston(s) will be one, two – with Maine as a sleeper. The latter has becoming a team that no one may want to play in the tournament if they can maintain some poise. All that said, Northestern, Providence and NH will still have something to say …

  5. Jerry has the boys peaking at just the right time.  Hockey east is the dominant conference so far this season and I hope that 5 teams can make the big show.  North Dakota not making the cut would be a Bonus!
    Go EAGLES!!!

  6. More than being surprised by PC’s performance I was disappointed
    with Maine. Granted the Blackbears haven’t been a first half team for a few
    seasons now but neither has PC. Here is one thing I don’t remember seeing is PC
    on the top of the standings in hockey east. It’s after all too early and they
    haven’t played any of the top teams but congratulations for being 4-0 in the
    conference.

    The BC and BU rivalry means everyone will come and play even
    if the odds of losing are high. Sperry came up big for the Terriers on that tie
    and the Eagles once again couldn’t hold up defensively for 60 minutes. The SOG
    were more than double for BC again but BU has forwards that you do not want
    wondering around so close to the net untouched nor give them time to setup,
    they can shoot pretty accurately. I think overall the main focus for the Eagles
    is to find a way to stay organized in their zone for the full 60 minutes, if they
    can accomplish that regularly oh boy! It’s odd to see the 3 game series between
    those 2 over so soon. It usually is back to back games on the first half and a
    tie breaker on the second. I can’t remember a time when the series ended in a
    tie.

    I was wrong thinking the Lamoureux sisters would be gone for
    pre-camp this weekend, which would have given Clarkson the sweep. Either way I
    think for UND as well for BC this week puts them in a better position
    nationally by beating #4 and 3. I still believe the top 4 should stay the same
    but the bottom 6 will shuffle.

  7. “No. 5 Mercyhurst didn’t enjoy quite the laughs at Lindenwood’s expense that it did a season ago, but with 6-1 and 6-0 wins, the Lakers demonstrated that the Lions still have plenty of ground to close.”

    ?? We question how you conclude that Mercyhurst “laughs” at any other team’s expense. We Guarantee that no one on Mercyhurst University Lakers was laughing at the efforts of a young rival team

    • I borrowed from the definitions of a “laugher”: either a contest where one team overwhelms another or an easy victory would fit. If you wish to look at it more literally, watch goal celebrations of a team that is doing well; the players laugh. When a team is on the wrong end of a 14-1 score, those laughs are definitely at the losing team’s expense. Fewer goals means fewer celebrations.

      I never said that Mercyhurst laughed at the efforts of Lindenwoods’ players.

      I hope that answers your question, although given you describe yourself as “we”, maybe that should be “questions”.

  8. Nice write up Matthew as usual. Although I can’t stand home games around a holiday or school break, colgate is in for a rough weekend.

        • Yeah, I was pretty worried when not only Iacopelli, but Tiffels and Molino left as well. But DiPietro and a couple of the freshmen have really gelled nicely.

          Oh, and by the way Ray, you’re not the sole WMU fan here anymore. I’ve read all these comments for years and figured I should finally join the party. ;)

          • Glad to hear you joined the party lol. Fully agree with your comment and am very happy that wade allison decided to stay. Really enjoy watching him play, and his scoring comes in bunches.

          • He’s literally the “fastest” scorer in the nation. So many times he’s scored in under a minute or so after a previous goal, either by the opposing team or WMU (or in the last two Saturday’s cases – himself).

          • It’s crazy, really is haha. He took two shots right after each other and made them both count. Last year I took my cousin to his first away game, and wade scored twice in the 3rd and then again in the exhibition 3 on 3. That game was one of the best ch experiences.

          • Was that the Bowling Green game? Because I went down to Ohio and back in one night for that one. Long hop. My first away game as well.

        • 1-3 just means they got off on the wrong foot. The columnists were saying a couple weeks back WMU is terrible on the road, when they had only played 2 games away from home. Very small sample size to declare they’re just a straight-up bad road team.

      • Slightly better record so far this year, both overall and in conference. But I agree with you, that this team doesnt look as strong based on the eye test.

        • As long as they don’t fall into a slump and stay relatively as consistent as they have been, WMU will easily make the tourney again. At the present rate, I’d say Omaha, Duluth and even CC could be the surprise team this year. Miami will have to win the Frozen Faceoff in order to make the big dance.

  9. I’m still waiting for an explanation from the league on why the goal was reviewed. From Schlossmans blog: “Denver coach Jim Montgomery told the local media that he challenged the call. The officials told UND’s bench that the linesman waved the goal off for goalie interference, thus prompting the review.

    Either way, I’m not sure how the officials proceeded the way they did.

    If Montgomery challenged it (which means he has to put his timeout on the line), then the officials should have gone right to the review box. Instead, they stood on the ice for several minutes discussing it before deciding to go and review it. If there was a challenge, what’s there to talk about? If the linesman waved the goal off for goalie interference, that would be the first time in my 13 years of covering college hockey that I’ve seen a linesman wave off a goal (and on a play he’s not in position to do so, either). But that’s also not true. A linesman didn’t wave it off. If he did, they would have gone straight to the review. That didn’t happen.”
    Either way, there was no rhyme or reason for the review.

    • I have watched all levels of hockey for 30 plus years and the is the most lopsided penalty minutes I have ever seen. Even when one team is racking up penalties, they still seem to find some on the other team.

        • Nope just saying. I have always wished hockey refs would call em like they see em instead of trying to balance the playing field.

          • Couldn’t agree with you more regarding the refs. Too many call a ton of penalties early on, against one team. Then when the game is out of reach, call a ton of penalties against the other team so the box score looks even. In this case, all the calls Saturday were well warranted. Wish you could see a replay of the game, so you could judge yourself.

          • Well it seemed likes the Refs were calling it close to the vest and UND is a physical team so they should probably adapt to the Refs a little better.

      • DU got away with one in the 3rd period…hit from the behind/side on UND rush. Player lost his balance and puck possession. Surprised the ref swallowed his whistle there. Otherwise, I think the officiating was pretty legit.

      • What makes DU and ND fans wonder, is how SCSU stayed within 2 goals against DU on Friday. Surprised you have the moxie to complain after taking the weekend beating. Suggest you might concentrate on December 8th and 9th, or Sioux might do the same to your team.

        • State played a very undisciplined game Saturday, which was disappointing. 2 majors in one game is inexcusable. Hrenak looked lost, giving up a goal on basically the same shot on back to back Denver rushes. With Smith in net and some better discipline I think it would have been much closer Saturday, and will be next time we meet. Saturday was the aberration, not Friday.

          • I was surprised Smith was not in goal Saturday, also. He played well Friday. Wonder why Motzko played a freshman in such a high pressure situation. He got beat high, glove-side on first 3 goals. I was busting your chops about “the weekend beating”. I totally agree the one goal , minus open net, game is more reflective of how even these teams are. Congrats on being #1 in the only rankings that count, Pairwise.

          • yeah, Hrenak had played well enough to deserve another start but I’m not sure a road game against a top 3 team was the place for it. Unfortunately I think the word is out on David now, and he will have to prove he can stop those high glove snipes if he wants another start.

          • Good thing to work on in practice, now that everyone knows this weakness. Bet Motzko will have his shooters test him.

    • Another point is that if it was goalie interference, why was there no penalty after the review? The whole review sequence from start to finish was completely off from how the rules of review are written IMO. If it was CONCLUSIVE interference, call a goalie interference penalty after the review, if not, maybe it shouldn’t have been overturned. I just wanted Sheppard to make up his mind to close the issue.

      Either way, both teams will be alive at the end of March, life goes on.

      • Penalties are not reviewable. Regionals and FF they can review whether it should be major or minor. Might help if you knew the rules. You are correct though, both teams should be alive when Regionals are assigned.

  10. I was at both games this weekend in Denver. Both teams represented well. No doubt in my mind they are both currently in the upper tier of college hockey. Not sure how it added up to 27 minutes – UND took 7 minors and 1 major, but they earned every one of their penalties. And wow, did Hawk Nation show up in force. But who the heck is Sue?

      • So the 10 minute was a game misconduct and UND was not shorthanded on the ice. It’s misleading…sounds like DU had a 27 minute power play. I was there going…wait i know DU has had a lot of power play time, but 27 minutes?

  11. Denver has played seven opponents thus far. At present those opponents have a combined record of 52-32-10[.606] and Denver has posted a 7-3-2[.666] record against them.

    At present Denver’s next seven opponents have a combined record of 32-41-9[.445]. Currently none of the seven teams has a winning record, although Duluth 6-6-2, Colorado College 7-7-0 and Air Force 6-6-2 are each at .500.

    Dartmouth, Merrimack, Miami and Omaha are each below .500. In their next twelve games the Pioneers have an opportunity to fashion a most favorable record.

  12. Weird that the #1 team splits at home with the #3 team (and might have been getting swept if not for a garbage review call), and the 3 gains hardly any votes.

  13. The top 3 spots in the national poll belong to the NCHC. We need at least the top 5 spots. Western Michigan can move up to #4. Can CC take #5? Or UMD?

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