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.