WCHA weekend rewind: Jan. 30, 2012

As always, we leave you with a few things which stood out from the weekend’s action across the WCHA.

Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard

Cliché as it is, the adage applies to Michigan Tech’s dismantling of Minnesota-Duluth over the course of the final 100 minutes of their series in Duluth this past weekend to leave town with three out of four points. Work ethic or lack thereof in UMD’s case was the prevailing theme uttered by those interviewed by the Duluth News-Tribune’s Kevin Pates for both of his Friday and Saturday night USCHO recaps.

“We got outworked for 60 minutes and it showed on the scoreboard. It was unacceptable,” UMD senior defenseman Brady Lamb said to Pates on Saturday night.

Coming back from four goals down to salvage a tie is an arduous task no matter the circumstance, but to do so on the road against the nation’s No. 1 ranked team as the Huskies did after the first period on Friday is another thing altogether.

Apparently no one, particularly MTU coach Mel Pearson, bothered to inform the Huskies that escaping Duluth with a point was a moral victory in itself. Michigan Tech’s improbable 5-0 win on Saturday meant the Huskies outscored the nation’s highest-scoring team 9-0 over the last five periods of the series and gave UMD its worst loss since an 8-2 loss, also at home, to St. Cloud State on Feb. 11, 2011.

“I’m proud and happy for our players,” said Huskies head coach Mel Pearson in a recap on the team’s web site. “To play the No. 1 team in the country in their building and come out with three points is a big statement for our team. “We were able to continue tonight in the way we finished last night’s game. We converted our opportunities and got good goaltending. That’s a big formula for success.”

The last time the Bulldogs were shut out by the Huskies was a Nov. 10, 2006 scoreless tie between the two teams and Michigan Tech had not posted a shutout win over UMD since Nov. 27, 1999 when MTU downed UMD 3-0 at the DECC.

In addition, not only did MTU end UMD’s Jack Connolly’s 22-game point-scoring streak, it did something no single team had done since Connolly’s freshman season: keep him off the score sheet in consecutive games in one weekend. The last to accomplish that was Minnesota in a Feb. 27-28 2009 series at Mariucci Arena

To be clear, no one is insinuating the one-point weekend is a sign of anything more than a bad weekend for UMD or that Connolly’s seat at the Hobey Baker ceremony isn’t safe. Let’s face it, the Bulldogs and Connolly were more or less due for a game, or even a couple of games like these for that matter after the run they’ve been on.

If nothing else, the weekend’s game footage ought to provide Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin and his staff plenty of teaching material in the days ahead.

“All the nice goals were created from hard work, and transitioning and attacking, and then we quit working,” Sandelin told Pates after Friday’s tie. “We got outworked for the next 40 minutes.

Unfortunately for Sandelin, that became an even hundred.

The returns of Brittain and Lee give Denver and St. Cloud State rosters a much-needed boost

Denver’s Sam Brittain and St. Cloud State’s Mike Lee were both cleared to return to game action last week and both goalies started their next following their respective doctors’ blessings. Lee got the start Friday at Minnesota and showcased his skill with the glove, stopping 24 of 26 shots in a 2-1 loss. Freshman Ryan Fargher started Saturday and it will be interesting to see how the goalie situation plays out at SCSU. Faragher has been hot lately, giving the Huskies a chance to win in every game, plus his numbers are better than Lee’s.

Brittain started Saturday after Adam Murray played Friday’s game for Denver at Alaska-Anchorage. Brittain made 24 saves on 27 shots in his first game back since the 2011 Midwest Region final. Murray and Juho Olkinuora have done a nice job filling in with Brittain out.

Wisconsin can’t win outside of Madison

The Badgers won their first game away from the Kohl Center eight days ago at Minnesota State and they’ve lost three more road games since then, bringing Wisconsin’s road record to 1-8-1. They’ve averaged only two goals per game in those eight losses and 4.38 goals against. Their special teams have been especially bad on the road. Wisconsin’s power play has scored just five power-play goals in 38 opportunities and has killed off only 68.5 percent of the penalties it’s committed on the road.

It’s supposed to be three things, but we’re tossing in an extra one this week.

Gophers stymie St. Cloud attack 

Minnesota took advantage of UMD’s hiccup this weekend by beating SCSU twice to earn its first WCHA series’ sweep since taking two from Minnesota State on Dec. 2-3. The wins extend the Gophers’ conference lead to five points over the Bulldogs. But things easily could have gone the other way for Minnesota. Despite outshooting the injury-depleted Huskies by a  combined 72-25 margin, the Gophers were forced to claw their way to a pair of one-goal victories in the home-and-home series by scores of 2-1 and 3-2. Credit for that goes to the newly re-formed St. Cloud State goalie tandem of Lee (24 saves) and Faragher (43 saves) and Ben Hanowski’s scoring acumen (all three of his team’s goals in the series).