The start to this season has been a strong one for most WCHA teams. It has not been a good start to the season for a certain Big Ten team operating out of Madison, Wis.
Now the reason I bring up the Badgers is because these two statements are intertwined. Wisconsin is 0-4 this season. All four of those losses have come to WCHA teams.
This is not a joke, or a drill. You are not being punked. Ignoring my complete distaste for college hockey polls for a minute, the Badgers started the season ranked No. 10. They proceeded to lose to both Alaska and Alaska-Anchorage in the Kendall Hockey Classic in Alaska. Innocent enough, right? Making an opening-weekend trip to Alaska for two essentially preseason games isn’t something anyone wants to do. That can be forgiven.
But last weekend the Badgers had their continental U.S. opener against Northern Michigan in Green Bay, Wis. So a neutral site game, but close enough for it to technically have a home-ice feel.
Didn’t really turn out that well. The Wildcats came away with 2-0 and 4-1 wins. Add in Alaska improving to 4-0 with wins against Penn State and Air Force (albeit, in another Alaskan tournament), Anchorage beating Air Force and tying Penn State and Minnesota State splitting with a good Minnesota-Duluth team, it was another good weekend for WCHA teams (we’re just going to ignore Lake Superior and Huntsville’s combined 0-10 record).
WCHA play kind of starts this weekend. There’s only three weekend conference series’, but after only two being played the first two weekends, we’ll take it. Let’s dig in.
1. Ferris State (LW: 1): The Bulldogs actually had some issues with an OK St. Lawrence team this weekend, needing overtime for a 3-2 win Friday, and losing 2-0 Saturday. Maybe they aren’t as bulletproof as I had thought. But they averaged 40 shots per game this weekend, and C.J. Motte was once again spectacular. Plus, Michigan Tech was off and I wasn’t about to bump BG up three spots for beating Huntsville. Deal with it.
2. Michigan Tech (LW: 2): Nothing new on the Northern front. The Huskies were off last weekend. They’re at Ferris this weekend, which should be a fun series. We’ll find out a lot about what the top of this conference could look like this year in this one.
3. Bowling Green (LW: 4): Like I wrote yesterday, nothing too extreme from BG, but they took care of business. As long as the Falcons keep doing that, they’ll be in good shape going forward.
4. Minnesota State (LW: 3): Goaltending, man. Stephon Williams got the start Friday night. He won, but game up four goals on 38 shots. Cole Huggins went Saturday, and he gave up four on only 18 shots (Duluth somehow was able to press enough to score two empty netters). Offensively the Mavericks are doing fine, but they current are allowing more goals per game than Huntsville (let that sink in). I’d say they’ll get it figured out, but with the way Williams fell off the table last year, I’m not so sure.
5. Alaska (LW: 6): I’ll give a little respect to the Nanooks here. I’m not prepare to label them “contenders” until the play well outside of Alaska, but they’re the only WCHA squad to be 4-0 right now. No matter where you’re playing, that’s impressive. Nine players have at least three points, which is about as “scoring by committee” as it gets. Also, of random note, in three games Davis Jones has faced 51 shots. In one game Sean Cahill has faced 43. Odd stats of the day!
6. Bemidji State (LW: 5): Dropping the Beavers for not playing is kind of Bush League, but whatever. They have a fun test this weekend with a road series at No. 1 Minnesota.
7. Northern Michigan (LW: 8): Not sure how much this weekend was “we’re good,” instead of “Wisconsin has an Alaska hangover,” but still an impressive sweep nonetheless. Matthias Dahlstrom was terrific in net. If he continues to play to that level, they’ll surprise some this year.
8. Alaska-Anchorage (LW: 7): Same deal with Alaska, I’ll believe it when they leave their home state and do it. They’ll have a chance to do so this weekend as they take what I can imagine will be an unpleasantly long flight to take on Maine.
9. Lake Superior (LW: 9): The Lakers dropped to 0-6 by losing twice at Notre Dame. They host Northern Michigan this weekend, so they have to chance to poo poo on Northern’s strong start and get rid of that goose egg in the win column all at the same time.
10. Alabama-Huntsville (LW: 10): The Chargers have a chance to capitalize on Minnesota State’s defensive discombobulation (I think I just made up a word) this weekend on the road. Not even kidding. The Mavs are a mess defensively right now and I think the Chargers could steal a game. Of course, now that I say that the Mavs will pitch a pair of shutouts. Shows you what I know.