SCSU leaves door open for MacNaughton

Had St. Cloud State finished off a sweep of Michigan Tech like it was expected to Saturday at home, SCSU would’ve clinched at least a tie for its first WCHA title.

SCSU didn’t finish Tech. In fact, Tech didn’t let SCSU get started and went up 3-0 on the home team in the first 4:23 of the game.

SCSU’s lead is now two points on North Dakota and Minnesota, which are tied for second place at 33 points. SCSU is at Wisconsin to end the season and the Badgers just won two road games this weekend at Nebraska-Omaha.

Minnesota has a better chance to catch SCSU by finishing with a series at 11th-place Bemidji State than UND does finishing with a couple of tough games at Minnesota State.

Michigan Tech was a much faster team in the opening minutes Saturday and executed their chances with three goals on five shots. Jamie Phillips played a solid game in goal for Tech and kept SCSU from getting the all-important first goal until late in the third period.

SCSU outplayed Michigan Tech for large portions of the game but was too sloppy to string together solid scoring chances. It certainly didn’t look like the SCSU team that had executed so well in the second half.

And since SCSU left the door was open a crack, don’t be surprised if the Gophers, or even UND, sneaks in and grabs at least a piece of the MacNaughton Cup.

Power play explosion springs MSU

Minnesota State’s fourth-ranked power play went scoreless in three chances in a 4-1 loss to Colorado College Friday.

After going 0-for-5 on the man advantage through the first 35 minutes, which included two five-minute major penalties against CC, the Mavericks power play got back to its usual form in a hurry.

Ian Young took CC’s second game misconduct with a check from behind on the same play Matt Leitner scored on the delayed call with 4:06 left.

Leitner wasn’t done, finishing a hat trick in the time it takes to run to the concessions stand. He scored with 1:03 left in the second period, Josh Nelson netted 30 seconds later, and, with 13 seconds remaining in the second period, Leitner scored goal No. 3.

MSU led 1-0 going into the final four minutes of the second period and thanks to CC’s third major penalty of the game, the Mavericks led 5-1 at the second intermission and eventually salvaged a split with a 7-2 win.

Wisconsin responds

Wisconsin’s playoff chances appeared to diminish when it lost to Penn State Monday.

The defeat dropped the Badgers from the top 20 to 29th in the PairWise Rankings and all of the sudden, the talk was that Wisconsin would need to run the table in the playoffs to get the WCHA’s auto-bid into the NCAA tournament.

That might not be the case, now.

The Badgers moved up to the mid 20s during the week as a result of other games around the country during the week. The Badgers are 20th as of Sunday night after sweeping UNO with one regular season series left (at home against SCSU), and UW also has the first round of the WCHA playoffs and perhaps the Final Five in which to shoot up five (or so) spots to get in position for an at-large bid.

On Friday with four days rest, Wisconsin put four goals past a WCHA team for just the fifth time this season before scoring six goals in the rematch, the first time this season the Badgers had scored that many in a game.

The Badgers had 11 power plays goals going into Saturday’s game before they scored two on the man advantage to complete the sweep of the Mavericks.