So last weekend was a pretty bad one for WCHA teams. Like, ‘gotta poop and can’t find a toilet’ bad. Not including Ferris’ two games the previous weekend against Colgate, WCHA teams were 5-10-3. Four of those wins came from Alaska-Anchorage (yes, that is not a typo) and Lake Superior (yes, I’m being serious).
Preseason favorite Minnesota State was smacked around by a Providence College team that is really good, but should not be smacking-them-around good. Michigan Tech was involved in the lowest scoring series in the history of the continental world. OK, that’s a bit of an over-exaggeration, but they still scored only twice in two games against an unranked Minnesota-Duluth team that was starting a goalie who had a .902 save percent last year.
Rather, it was the bottom of the conference that carried the banner during the opening weekend. Lake Superior swept a pretty average Robert Morris team. But still, a sweep is a sweep. Anchorage had one of the most impressive weekends in the entire nation, beating 2013 national runner-up Quinnipiac, 3-1, and an Air Force team that was picked to finish second in Atlantic Hockey, 4-2, to win the Kendall Hockey Classic. Not to take anything away from them, but the tournament was played in Anchorage and the Seawolves have traditionally fared well in early-season tournaments at home.
We’re going to run with these a little earlier this week to get them out prior to BG’s home-opener against Ohio State tomorrow night, so don’t get used to it. Where does everyone stand after one god-awful week of action? Let’s take a gander:
1. Ferris State (LW: 2): OK, Ferris didn’t actually play last weekend, but that means they didn’t do anything to royally embarrass the WCHA either. Bonus points for that. And for, you know, actually playing meaningful games while everyone else was attempting to “tune up” with an exhibition game. Yeah, that worked out so well.
2. Minnesota State (LW: 1): I really don’t even know what to make of the Mavericks’ performance this past weekend. As I touched on above, Providence is a good team. They’re No. 10 in the nation now after that spanking. But they aren’t a team you expect to beat the banner team of a conference by a combined score of 8-1. Stephon Williams got yanked in the third period of game one after allowing five goals on 27 shots. He rebounded nicely to stop 35 of 38 shots Saturday, but got zero help from his offense, which was stymied by next-great-American-goalie Jon Gillies.
3. Michigan Tech (LW: 3): As bad as the Huskies’ offense was (shut down Alex Petan!), their goaltending was magnificent. Pheonix “yes that’s really how it’s spelt” Copley stopped 39 of 41 shots in a tough-luck loss Friday, and Jamie Phillips stopped 21 of 22 on Saturday to guide Tech to a tie. But, and I’m not even trying to be funny anymore, Minnesota-Duluth kept Petan off the score sheet, and the Huskies could not muster much offense. Until they prove to be anything other than a one-trick pony up front, they’re going to see more of these types of games.
4. Alaska (LW: 5): The Nanooks did not have a bad weekend, finishing 1-1 in the same tournament their in-state rivals won. Fairbanks crushed Air Force, 6-1, and lost to Quinnipiac, 4-1. No shame in that outcome. Unless you remember what Quinnipiac did in its other game. John Keeney got the start in net both games, allowing a combined five goals on a combined 42 shots. Not a great weekend, but a pretty OK one. Also, the Colton Beck – Cody Kunyk – Nolan Huysmans line is looking pretty scary to start the season. They combined for four goals and an assist on the weekend.
5. Lake Superior (LW: 7): The Lakers had a strong weekend, beating Robert Morris in a pair of 3-1 games. In a bit of a surprise, Kevin Murdock received both starts in net and was terrific. He stopped 26 of 27 shots Friday, and 27 of 28 shots Saturday. They showed good offensive balance, with no player recording multiple goals on the weekend. I doubt they’ll be this defensively dominant all season, but it was definitely a good start for the Lakers.
6. Bowling Green (LW: 4): Despite a pretty positive result, all things considered, in Friday’s game, BG still had a typical BG Saturday bad-game-after-a-good-game, which really shouldn’t be happening anymore. Tying Union was a really positive sign, considering how badly the Falcons were dominated by the Dutchmen last year and the absence of Ryan Carpenter and Dajon Mingo. Seeing four freshmen pick up their first career points was also a really positive sign. Seeing Tomas Sholl give up five goals on 29 shots was not. That being said, I’d wait until the end of October before I start making any snap judgments about this team.
7. Alaska-Anchorage (LW: 8): I almost moved them up to six. Almost. I mean, they outscored two pretty damn good teams a combined 7-3. Goalies Rob Gunderson (24 saves on 25 shots versus Quinnipiac) and Michael Matyas (25 saves on 27 shots against Air Force) were great. But, not so fast my friend! The last time Anchorage lost a game in the Kendall Hockey Classic was 2009. You can probably bet neither of Air Force nor Quinnipiac (especially Quinnipiac coming from Connecticut) were too thrilled to play in these games. And, I mean, Sacred Heart (a team of two wins this past season) knocked off preseason No.1 UMass-Lowell. Sometimes this stuff just happens.
8: Northern Michigan (LW: 6): Northern kind of gets screwed in these rankings by two teams below them jumping to 2-0 starts. The Wildcats were swept on the weekend, but by a Wisconsin team that is now No. 2 in the nation. After a 5-2 loss Friday, Northern played the Badgers tough on Saturday, losing 2-1 on a late-third period goal. Michael Doan was great in net, stopping 27 of 29 shots. As I said last week, if they can get strong goaltending this year, they could be sneaky good.
9: Bemidji State (LW: 9): Bemidji was not bad at all this weekend, losing to St. Cloud, 3-2, and then skating to a 2-2 tie. I just couldn’t justify dropping Northern any lower than I already did. However, they were outshot 75- 37 on the weekend. So the scores here might be a tad misleading. Andrew Walsh started both games in net and was simply outstanding. He stopped 44 of 46 shots in Saturday’s game. They get another tough test next weekend against Minnesota. Another similar weekend will earn the Beavers some more respect in these rankings.
10. Alabama-Huntsville (LW: 10): Nothing to see here. The Chargers were crushed by Northeastern, 9-1, on Friday before skating to a much more respectable 3-2 loss Saturday. The Chargers are not going to be very good this year and did nothing to dispel that notion after the first weekend of the year.