First place in January a first for Nebraska-Omaha as it heads to Denver

No. 13 Nebraska-Omaha made history last weekend by taking over first place in the WCHA. It was the first time the Mavericks have led their league in the second half of the season, and they’re not ready to give that spot up.

The No. 1 slot in the WCHA likely will be held by a few teams over the next month as the league race shakes out, and no doubt an upset — paging Alaska-Anchorage — will give one team an edge in late February.

“We’re pretty happy to be a part of that history, and hopefully we’ll keep it going because [the] WCHA is such a close league to be in,” Andrej Sustr told Gateway, the UNO student newspaper. “We just have to be sure we’re ready for every weekend.”

No. 7 North Dakota, tied for third with No. 9 Denver (17 points), and No. 1 Minnesota, alone in sixth (15 points), have games in hand on the red Mavs.

The Mavericks took over the top spot with a potent attack and a steady defense that also contributes on the offensive end. Both will be tested this weekend at Magness Arena against a Denver team that relies on its defense to succeed.

Denver has climbed rapidly up the national poll, going from No. 14 to No. 9 in two weeks, thanks to the reemergence of a dangerous offensive attack and the continued strong play of sophomore goalie Juho Olkinuora.

“We wanted to get back to the things we were doing to start the year,” DU coach George Gwozdecky said. “When we got back from the break, we really worked on getting back to where we were, and I think our guys realized we got away from what we had been doing to start the year. Playing well defensively helps you offensively in any sport, and we’ve gotten back to playing better defensively.”

That strong defense transitioned into an offense that was humming at 4.5 goals per game in the first two months. It is led by junior Nick Shore (23 points, team-high 14 assists), senior Chris Knowlton (21, team-high 11 goals) and sophomore defenseman Joey LaLeggia (18, 11 assists). Olkinuora (6-1-3, 1.55 goals against average, .948 save percentage) is expected to start the series opener after recording his first two-game weekend in a sweep of Cornell last Friday and Saturday.

UNO relies on a potent offense, and its big defenders will need to handle the DU speed well to succeed.

Junior forward Ryan Walters shows no signs of cooling off. He leads Division I with 13 goals and 20 assists for 33 points, all career highs. He is averaging 1.50 points per game to rank fourth in the country, and he has scored points in six straight games (5-4–9) and has 14 of the last 15 (13-17–30).

UNO sophomore Dominic Zombo adds 23 points (16 assists) while second-year forward Josh Archibald adds 21 (11 goals) after recording his first college hat trick last Friday. Junior forward Matt White had 19 points, including 11 scores.

UNO will rely more heavily on Faulkner (11-3-1, 2.63, .900) after freshman backup Anthony Stolarz left the program on Monday. Sophomore Ryan Massa returned to the team on Wednesday after taking the first semester off for personal reasons. Massa, who led UNO goalies in minutes last season, was working out with the USHL’s Omaha Lancers, according to the Omaha World Herald.

Stolarz’s departure another mistake

For the second week in a row, a WCHA player defected to the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League and it was another head scratcher.

Last week, Denver freshman defenseman Dakota Mermis left for the Knights. On Monday, Stolarz told coach Dean Blais he was leaving the team.

Stolarz played in eight games with an. 898 save percentage and a 2.56 goals against average. Not bad, but hardly what was expected. But Stolarz expects to get more playing time where he could very well be the No. 3 goalie?

London already has two good goaltenders — Jake Patterson (2.20, .924) and Kevin Baile (2.50, .921) — who are in the top seven in the OHL in goals against and save percentage. Those two have split the games right down the middle, and London has won 34 of 42 games.

Good luck to Stolarz. He may need it.

Gophers look like a top seed, even if PairWise says otherwise

Minnesota certainly makes a strong case to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament with its last two wins: 8-1 over then-No. 1 Boston College and 4-1 over No. 2 Notre Dame on Tuesday.

This leaves many wondering how the No. 1 team in the Division I Men’s Poll can be ranked fourth in the PairWise Rankings. That is because the Gophers’ Ratings Percentage Index is lower than the four teams in front of them.

Strength of schedule influences the RPI, and Minnesota’s strength of schedule is No. 23 with only six games against teams under consideration (teams at or above .500 in RPI).

Minnesota-Duluth will be short-handed on Friday

Minnesota-Duluth coach Scott Sandelin told the Duluth News Tribune on Tuesday that seniors Cody Danberg and Wade Bergman and freshman forward Austin Farley will sit out Friday’s home game against Michigan Tech for a violation of team rules.

Senior defenseman Drew Olson is expected back from an injury suffered against Ferris State while freshman blue-liner Andy Welinski will remain out. Senior goalie Aaron Crandall is day-to-day.

Quick hits

• The disorderly conduct charge against WCHA referee Peter Friesema for causing a bomb scare at the Anchorage International Airport last October has been dropped, according to the Grand Forks Herald. The WCHA suspended Friesema indefinitely and he has not officiated a game since.

• A gigantic American flag was unveiled in the crowd during the first TV timeout of Tuesday’s Minnesota-Notre Dame game. It was a gesture to honor both teams’ contributions (Minnesota’s Mike Reilly, Gophers assistant coach Grant Potulny and Notre Dame’s Mario Lucia) to Team USA for its World Junior Championship gold medal. The flag was stretched across four sections at Mariucci Arena while Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” played.

• North Dakota’s Corban Knight’s point streak sits at 15 games.

• Wisconsin is 5-0-3 since it was swept at home by Minnesota State, its next opponent. The Badgers have not lost with freshman Nic Kerdiles in the lineup. Not to be outdone, North Dakota is 6-0-1 as it enters a home series against Colorado College which is 0-6-1 since beating UND on Nov. 20 in Colorado Springs.

• Minnesota State’s Eriah Hayes is tied for the national lead in power-play goals with seven.

• Denver’s LaLeggia is tied for the Division I lead in points by defensemen (18) with Colorado College’s Mike Boivin, who leads all defensemen with nine goals after a hat trick last Friday.


    • Well your name says it all NDHOCKEY=1. I like how your schedule always seem to be the weakest in the WCHA yet you think you can call yourself number 1( I know you still have to show up and win those weak games). Whoever makes the Gophers schedule is an absolute genius because it seems as though you always play your big games at home and at the most opportune time…. I will take UND’s BIG time schedule over yours any day. If you want to be the best, you play the best and not just at home.
      I also like how BC played the worst team in the country the night before and then has to play an angry goof ball team the next day without their top player(Gaudreau). Then play Notre Dame after a 24 day layoff. Big wins scheduled at the best time… It will be different for the gophers Next weekend though, even if you are at home again. You will playing a team that is actually READY. Like I said, way to avoid any top ranked teams in their barn this year! I’d be scared of the Ralph too! As we can see by the scheduling of Lucia’s kids team over a traditional rivalry for the next four years

      What a Joke

      I will give the gophers some credit and the actuall number 1 ranking after and if they can sweep st. cloud and Wisconsin on the road as it appears they are pretty vulnerable when playing outside their comfort zone.

      • Look captin cry sack I am shure when they made the schedule about 3 yrs ago the knew who would be on the juinors roster and how the irish would do their schedule too they are psychic you know. As for my posting name I live work and play in north dakota and coach youth hocky I think its funny your so butt hurt over a schedule that was probly made 3yrs ago

      • So let me get this straight…

        The one guy lives in ND, has a screen-name that appears to indicate he’s a NoDak hockey fan, but submits a post cheering on CC in upcoming their series against NoDak.

        Then the other guy goes off on a two-paragraph rant about how much he hates NoDak and MN and how over-rated they are, all in response to a post that was supportive of NoDak’s opponent and made no mention of MN whatsoever.

        I think you guys are both a little strange.

      • Also too on the gophers not booking the no dak no names for the next 4yrs you can thank every numb nut fan of the no dak no names who signed your little petition so you could vote on keeping the name or not all the numb nuts screwed the hockey schedule but also a lot of other no name sports that had contracts with minn so please before you get on your soap box know your facts

          • O I am wrong please contact the coaches of the other sports and ask I am a lot more in the know than you are and oh no no punctuation the world is going to end!!!!

          • I have forgotten more than you’ll ever know. Please specifically delineate which schools you allude to and in which sports scheduling was difficult due to the LAW requiring the use of The Fighting Sioux moniker.

          • Almost all the no dak no name sports had contracts or contracts in the works when all the numb nuts signed that sad petition to get a vote so when they turned the petition in and got it to a vote the no names dead moniker came back till the vote and then put them on the ncaa hostile school ban list therefore canceling all contracts both signed and ones in the works due to not having conference affliation any more I didn’t use punctuation again just so you know I know and don’t point it out in your post

          • I did not ask for your anecdotal ramblings. Specifically tell us which schools actually cancelled contracts. Your arrogance is only slightly over shadowed by ignorant hyperbole. (Look it up.)

          • Look at my post from a hr ago please reread it and then go back to huffing gas I am going to take a stab in the dark here but I am guessing you were one of the numb nut no dak no name fans who signed that petition and are now butt hurt and sad at what your actions caused I will miss seeing the gophers playing at mariucci west it is a lot less off a drive to see a game there than at the real mariucci

          • For the last time: You said teams cancelled games. Cite your source. Show me a cancelled game that was contractually obligated. Your perception of reality is skewed. Ask your mother to explain that to you, I am done with this duel of wits with you as you are unarmed. I only wish I was going to Maryhoochi (that glorified pole barn) to watch next weekend. I know farmers with better out-buildings than that dump. I’ll let you have the last word…

          • Why do you live in North Dakota if you have such a lack of respect for the people that live there? I voted on the petition because I felt like my voice and anybody else’s voice should be heard and I wasnt ready to just let the NC$$ walk all over us! Word of advice: Get out of my no name nodak nation before I let my huntin dogs all the way from Minneapolis track you down!

            Come down next weekend actually, it’ll be a barn burner.

            As for your theory as to why U of M will not be playing UND for the next for years you should get your facts strait buddy. Lucia would rather play out east than play UND. Northeastern, BC, and ND is all he has on his mind. If scheduling was such a problem, why did Wisconsin leave an opening for us on the schedule while the Moniker was being figured out? Hmmmm makes you wonder what is really going on huh….

            Here’s a direct quote directly from magic Don Juan himself ““We will go back there as a non-conference team,” Lucia said at his weekly
            gathering with the media. “We have a great rivalry. Sometimes it gets a little
            over the top and I’m not sure that is healthy for anybody. So we will continue
            to play, but I doubt we will continue to play each and every year.” what a wussy….
            As you can see, he is not exactly thrilled with how the series has been going as of late and I dont blame him. The gophers have been getting stomped by UND the last five years!

      • Why do we have to go over these same rantings constantly. The Gophers have no choice in their conference schedule. As far as the non-conference schedule goes that is made up 3 to 4 years in advance. There is no way to tell how good a team will be that far in advance, End of story. As far as playing all the good teams at home. If you are referring to conference games, once again it is not up to the Gophers. As far as non-conference, that is a little more under their control, but since they hold a holiday tournament, yes they will be games at home, however those are once again scheduled years in advance and you need to select teams that are willing to play, don’t have their own tournaments or other games on those nights in conference or previously scheduled. Back in the 90’s UND tried to start their own holiday tournament and it went belly up after a few years because they couldn’t find any teams to play. It is not as easy as you allude to. Entering the Mariucci Classic the Gophers had a 21 day layoff and came out playing well. Yes, BC was missing Gaudreau and a couple of Dmen too. But that is part of the game. The Gophers played Notre Dame without their leading scorer, Haula, but I see that you forgot to mention that. It is difficult to have a strong schedule every year. However when it is all over I think that the Gophers will be fortunate in that the second half of the season will be heavy with TUC and we can see what the team is made of, playing BC, Notre Dame, UND, SCSU, Minnesota State and Denver plus a couple of good defensive teams in Bemidji State and Wisconsin on the road. all the the second half will be a good test. I will be the first to admit that the Gophers seriously underachieved in the first half, but as a UND fan you should know more than others that the first half doesn’t mean that much if you can have a strong second half. Still given that the Gophers ended up 12-3-3 in the first half. I look forward to the series with UND all hyperbole aside it is always a good series no matter when or where it is played.

          • Well Said! As you should also know, I just wanted to stirrrrrrrr things up and get some hockey talk going and I appreciate when someone such as yourself has the decinty to allow such talk. It’s been a boring winter without the NHL and I felt the need to rant on the almight gophers! I promise not to say anything on Hockey Day In Minnesota Wild Avalanche so I hear The doubleheader will be Legend_dary

  1. Should be an exciting second half! Lots of talent in that top third, could be anyone’s Cup. If Goldy consistently plays the way they have the past two games i dont see how they DONT win it, however UND always has their second half push.

  2. Tyler is still a joke… his WCHA landscape article at the break where he wrote “Minnesota’s Erik Haula recorded 49 points last season and has 22 (14 assists) in 17 games this season. Haula has the longest point streak in the league at 12 games, with five goals and 13 assists in that stretch going back to Nov. 2.” He was wrong and we got an article correction. And now they write UND’s “Corban Knight’s point streak sits at 15 games.” You see how he write differently when it’s about a Gopher? I also like the way they defend the gophers with the parwise ranking… You could have just wrote they are behind in the parwise because they haven’t played a hard schedule at all this year. If it was UND in that position do you think he would have defended them… lol we need new writers.

    • I acknowledged my mistake with Haula and you’re dead wrong if you think I’m a Minnesota backer or a fan of any team for that matter. Read the Gophers/PWR part again. I clearly point out their schedule weakness. Not defending anyone

    • Go back and re-read the articles this year and show me one where it is positive about the Gophers. Neutral maybe, but nothing positive. If you think these guys are Gopher backers I would hate to see what your idea of a Gopher detractor is.

  3. ECAC fan, but hats off to the WCHA players (and Gaudreau BTW) for a great effort in the World Juniors! I guess we can all get back to hating each other, but that was a great run.

  4. and no one has yet pointed out that Tyler yet again refuses to give North Dakota any credit other then a brief mention of Corban Knight’s pointstreak. This is a monumental thing and yet Tyler just mentions it in passing. This hoser needs to be booted off of USCHO. Bring back Theresa

      • Wow, don’t envy your position, Tyler. Pretty much damned if you do, damned if you don’t, huh? On behalf of the majority of reasonable fans out there, sorry for all of the whackjobs that seem to congregate here. I’d read more, but I find myself getting to be too embarrassed at what I’m reading from supposed UND fans. Pretty sad when I find myself siding with Gopher fans. Oy. Regardless, lots of great hockey coming up and can’t wait for UND and MN to go head to head. Should be a great measuring stick for both team’s, although I wish they were playing at the Ralph too.


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