Three things from the WCHA, Jan. 26

1. State champions

Coming into this weekend’s North Star College Cup, Bemidji State were afterthoughts. As the lone unranked team in the competition, the Beavers didn’t get much chatter prior to their game Friday against No. 7 Minnesota Duluth. Beating the Bulldogs 4-0 changed that a little. Winning the whole damn thing on Saturday — handily beating No. 1 Minnesota State 3-1 — changed that a lot. Now the Beavers are the toast of Minnesota, and also the internet. (No, really. BSU‘s win actually broke the Bemidji State athletics webpage late Saturday night and early Sunday morning.) Not only do the Beavers get to take home a trophy (dubbed by some as “Paul Bunyan’s Pimp Chalice”) they also get some validation they were lacking. They’ve played a few different top-5 teams already this season and didn’t quite have enough to find a way to win. Now, BSU is unbeaten in nine of the last 11. A big win like this against some big-name instate rivals could be just the boost the Beavers need to get back into the home ice race in the WCHA playoffs. As we all saw this weekend, the Beavers have the talent to skate with just about anyone in the country. They just need to put it together more consistently.

2. WCHA shows muscle — again

Those of us who cover the league on a regular basis know how strong the WCHA actually is, as do players, coaches and fans around the league. But it still isn’t registering in some corners. Some still see it as a “cast-off” league. Minnesota State came in as the No. 1 team but weren’t necessarily favorites — in Minnesota circles, it seems, the Gophers are always a favorite no matter how much they are struggling. And Bemidji State wasn’t given much of a chance against No. 7 Minnesota Duluth, who has had an excellent season but hasn’t played well the past two weekends. Although WCHA teams have proven, time and again, that they weren’t just afterthoughts in a mid-major league, the North Star Cup should have put any doubts to rest. Maybe it took two WCHA teams playing for a title in one of the country’s biggest college hockey markets, but after Saturday’s game it seems like more folks have come around to the fact that the WCHA might not be the old league it once was but is just as competitive on a national level. Case-in-point: Despite losing their game to Bemidji State, Minnesota State is still No. 1 in the Pairwise.

3. Tech inches ahead

Outside of the state Minnesota last weekend, Michigan Tech and Bowling Green were also playing in key series to jockey for playoff positioning. And the Huskies, who earned a sweep over a strong Alaska team, took a slight lead over BGSU as the season comes into the back stretch. The Falcons split with a Lake Superior State team who is playing with lots of confidence right now; the Lakers won Friday’s game 3-1 in Ohio while the Falcons won by that same score Saturday. Tech is now three points (27) ahead of Bowling Green but four points behind idle-in-league-play MSU. The Falcons have two games-in-hand on the Huskies. Next weekend Tech hosts Alabama Huntsville — hardly a pushover these days — while Bowling Green heads to a surging and supremely confident Bemidji State team looking to keep rolling against top-10 teams.

37 COMMENTS

  1. Being an alum, and of course a fan of a WCHA school and the league as a whole, I have to admit that I was worried about the WCHA’s future a few years ago. Last year, I saw a high level of play amongst the schools (Well, most of them) and was happy to see old rivalries re-ignited, as well as new one’s forming. This year, I see a league that reminds me of this year’s B1G football… Ignored initially by the “experts”, treated inferior by many fans of other leagues, and yet, often kicking the butts of other leagues in non-conference play. It was fun to watch both Bemidji and Mankato own the Xcel this weekend. Congrats to the most underrated team in college hockey, the Bemidji State Beavers, and congrats to the WCHA as a whole for so quickly proving the critics wrong about your future place in the college hockey landscape.

      • Yes, the Gophs have stunk this year but the Gopher jealously is great by other team’s fans in the state. Where were you clowns when they were winning titles and in the championship last year?

        Bottom line, the NCAA is all about money and the difference besides the Gophers winning titles is that the UM put more fans in the seats than all the other MN schools combined.

        • We were watching… And honestly, being from Minnesota, I was rooting for them too. When they are good, they deserve the high ranking, but when they are not, they don’t. Yes, we are all aware that the student population at the U of M is 10 times that of some of the other schools. 10 times the grads = 10 times the fans. 10 times the money, and all of that is important. But the final 16 are supposed to be the best reps from each conference, followed by the best teams in all of hockey. If the NCAA wanted to be honest and say we need 6 big revenue schools in the tournament each year, followed by the next ten best schools, so be it. But they don’t, and that is why the rest of us complain when big revenue schools are over-rated in the polls and pairwise.

        • Honestly I always got the impression that if the NCAA could it would drop every sport except D1 FBS Football and D1 Men’s Basketball.

    • I am a Tech alum, however watching Bemidji SMOKE (arrogant) Cornell in the NCAA semis a few years ago in Grand Rapids, they have become my adopted second favorite team. I have a soft spot in my heart for small schools in remote freeze-your-a$$ off locations, I guess.

    • I wouldn’t call Bemidji underrated this year. They have earned their unranked position so far. This tourney just showed how much they have wasted their season up to this point. I wouldn’t want to play them in the first round of the conference tournament, though. Heck, my Falcons play them next weekend! Should hopefully be a good series.

      • I agree they have lost too many close games this year. I am referring not to this year so much in general, but year after year. For example, the Gophers have been in a free fall since November, losing to everyone under the sun, yet they were still #17 coming into the North Star Cup? If Bowling Green or BSU were in the same boat, #47 would be more realistic. Getting back to this year, Bemidji started slow, but also played nothing but ranked opponents through November. Now they have won 9 of their last 11, including two decisive wins against top ten teams, and I am sure there will be no considerations in the polls. Happens all the time. Truthfully, I am fine with it. Polls mean very little and it is much more fun to be the underdog when you are clicking!

        • I disagree. The WCHA has three teams in the top 10 and Minnesota State is still #1 in Pairwise despite the loss to an unranked Bemidji team. The league is legit and everyone knows it by now. If Bemidji keeps winning like this they could very quickly move up the ranks. Just so long as they do it after the BG series this weekend. ;)

          • .
            “The league is legit and everyone knows it by now.” I beg to differ… I think other folks are still in denial. And hey, let’s keep it that way…. :)

            .

    • Being from the East, I’m psyched to see the WCHA doing so well. You guys really took it on the chin when the Big10 and the NCHA (and I’m being nice here) formed. With 3 teams in the top 10 (both Poll and Pairwise), I’d say more people are paying attention to the WCHA than some of you think. KUDOS to the league for rising from the ashes to shake things up big time this year… And making it a real battle to get to the sweet 16.

  2. Instead of the goophs getting to be in this tournament every year, which is complete crap, who ever loses two games during the tourney should sit out the next year. Seems a bit more fair that way.

      • I’m just sick of all this goopher BS, they need to be in this every year crap. Was the same at the final five. No matter what place they were in, they always got the night game. I have to take the day off of work to see my team, so you can as well.

        • I was actually really impressed with how well Minnesota State and Bemidji State traveled. Honestly I think that everyone over estimates how important Minnesota is, eventually unless the Big Ten gets better you will start to see people in Minnesota remember that we have 4 other division 1 college hockey programs.

      • Seems stupid that, for example, Bemidji wins it this year, but what if next year is “their year” to sit out? They dont even get a chance to defend their title?

          • Yeah, put SCSU, MSU Mankato, BSU and UMD and you might as well play the Northstar Cup at a high school rink. Without fans in the stands, this tourney wouldn’t exist. Without the Gophers, this tourney wouldn’t exist.

            However, I do agree that the winner should be automatically back to defend the title the following year.

          • But, you know what? If you based entry into this event on merit and returning champs, after losing fans for a bit, eventually fans would turn out to see the best competition. Wouldn’t it be cool for the state of MN to stand for integrity and take a stand on the matter?

    • Dude, you’re trying to be fair and true to the spirit of great hockey. You know better than that.

      It’s about money, and that’s what MN brings.
      Fact is, without MN, the NSCC would not sell enough tickets.

      I agree, it’s not right that MN is automatically in every year. In a better world, every team would sit out equally or the tourney would have five teams.
      But in this world, they need to sell tickets, so there’s not much else they can do.

  3. Okay, anybody else super pumped for the WCHA this year?

    I think it would be awesome for a WCHA school to win the NC!
    I’d love to see Tech get back to the glory days, or Mankato win their first one (any other WCHA school would be fine, too, but that doesn’t seem as likely).

    So since it’s pretty clear MN won’t be in the tourney this year, that’s what I’m pulling for (barring some miracle, of course).

    • It really wouldn’t be a miracle if the Gophers won three games, possibly only two in the Big 10 tourney to get into the national tournament.

  4. There is a reason Minnesota state was number 1, it’s because they are in the cast off league. when 4 of your 11 teams are severely under .500 it makes it pretty easy for mediocre teams to rise to the top. if min st, bgsu, mtech, and ferris state were consistently playing teams from ncho, they would all have under .500 records.

    • Ridiculous statement. Look at SOS for BSU, MSU and WCHA in general. SOS is objective, with no bias or politics. Unlike the bias that you are showing. Also, check last year’s SOS for the WCHA.

      • I’m merely looking at who they beat when they beat them and where the teams they beat are ranked now. It’s the exact same reason ferris state was so highly ranked last year. Wcha is a non competitive league. Bgsu, mtech, ferris state, and min state would all struggle in a different conference. I don’t care what the sos is. It’s a statistic based on if you played every other team once. ONCE! Sincerely a statistician who isn’t a pound moron

  5. a little advance guess at the next bracket. Assuming he still uses winning % and HC sneaks in ahead of RoMo, then HC is #16 and must be at home. Sounds like a good place to put #1 QU. Swapping #10 Yale and #9 BC avoids an ECAC head-to-head with #7 Cornell, so send the 7/9 to worcester and send the #8 Michigan / #10 Yale match out to Cincinatti or St Paul with #2 St. Cloud / whoever the WCHA rep is at #15. Providence to Albany, NoDak to whereever St Cloud doesn’t end up. #13 Lowell and #14 Denver need to be swapped to avoid intraconference 1st rounds, creating a Denver/ PC pair in Albany and a Lowell / NoDak pair. Gonna guess #6 Harvard and #11 ND end up in Cinci, and #5 UNO / #12 BU end up in Albany. Gives Albany PC, UNO, BU, Denver. Maybe NoDak, Harvard, Notre Dame, Lowell in Cinci and St Cloud, Michigan, Yale, and WCHA in St Paul?

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