Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
A preview of this weekend's WCHA action.
Nine of the league's 12 teams are in action this week, including four conference series. The biggest of the week may be the battle in Denver, between the only two teams in the league with a perfect record after two games played. All games this week are two-game Friday/Saturday series.
St. Cloud State at Denver
Pretty sure I was the only person to write 1100 words about Nic Dowd this week.
Injuries are starting to become a big concern with the Huskies. Joey Benik is still out with a broken leg. Ben Hanowski suffered what appeared to be a concussion last Friday, and didn't practice this week, and redshirt freshman David Morley was pulled out of last Saturday's line-up with a lower body injury and didn't practice this week.(By the way, 'lower body' is significant with Morley since he missed all of last season with concussion-related issues). As a result of this, the St. Cloud Times' Mick Hatten reports that senior defenseman Taylor Johnson has been practicing as a forward this week.
Meanwhile, I guess a bunch of Denver players must have gotten into trouble again, because there was literally nothing about them in the papers this week. The last article in both the Denver Post and DU Clarion are about their win over Michigan Tech on Saturday. You can just feel the excitement over this battle for first place with a future NCHC rival.
Minnesota State at Minnesota, Friday, Minnesota at Minnesota State, Saturday
This is the first of two home-and-home series between these two teams this year, with Minnesota State getting the home game on Saturday in both series. That move makes it a little easier for Minnesota fans to make the trek down to Mankato on Saturday night, and hopefully help out the local Mankato economy a little more; no small deal for a smaller community, and one that has had to support the hockey program almost entirely in the absence of state-funding for facilities.
For Minnesota this weekend, they get Brady Skjei back on the blue line after he missed last Sunday's game against Canisius, but will be without forward Sam Warning for the weekend due to injury. No decision has officially been made on who will start in goal, but at this point, it seems like the only question is if Adam Wilcox only gets one start, or if he gets both starts.
For the Mavericks, College Hockey News' Zack Friedli points out that forward Jean-Paul LaFontaine is off to a very slow start. The Mavericks' power play seems to key on getting LaFontaine the puck in the lower right circle and letting him use his playmaking abilities to distribute the puck and create chances. That means that if LaFontaine is struggling, odds are pretty good the Maverick power play is struggling too. And ever since a strong opening night, the Mavericks have just one goal on their last 23 power plays, including a long stretch of 5-on3 power play last Saturday during a 5-minute major that could have helped bring them back into the game. That said, if LaFontaine gains comfort in that role and starts producing, the Mavericks become a much more competitive team.
The Mavericks also have a goal tending battle going on between senior Phil Cook and freshman Stephon Williams. Cook has been pretty solid over his career against Minnesota, so he'll likely start on Friday, with Saturday's starter depending on how Friday goes.
Boston University at North Dakota
Boston University defenseman Ben Rosen added a little spice to this series when he had the audacity to tweet that the flat, boring place he was in was a flat, boring place. The fact that that caused any controversy proves Rosen's point, in an extremely meta-way.
The BU hockey team had no trouble making it out of Boston after Hurricane Sandy, with Boston's airport re-opening midway through the week. For the Terriers, freshman Matt O'Connor has won the starting goalie job, and has some outstanding numbers on the season. Sophomores Cason Hohmann and Evan Rodrigues are the two biggest scoring threats for the Terriers.
Michael Parks is still out with an injury for the Sioux.
Nebraska-Omaha at Michigan Tech
The Huskies have to be happy to return home after a tough trip to Denver, and get back to playing in Houghton where they've been very good this year.
Husky defenseman Dan Sova suffered a small fracture in his wrist that will keep him out of the lineup for 6-8 weeks. Sophomore Jimmy Davis has taken over his spot in the lineup.
After not putting a puck in the net in his freshman season, UNO's James Polk scored his first collegiate goal last weekend. UNO head coach Dean Blais is hoping Polk, along with his fellow third and fourth liners, can provide important contributions despite not being regarded as one of the team's bigger names, not unlike the former President Polk shares a name with.
Colorado College at Wisconsin
This will be a special weekend in Madison with the Badgers honoring former coach, and one of the great ambassadors for the sport, Badger Bob Johnson, by renaming the ice at the Kohl Center after him. This is the perfect weekend for it since Johnson's college coaching career started in Colorado Springs with the Tigers, before he took the head job at Wisconsin just a few years later.
I still can't quite figure out what WCHA pollsters are seeing in Colorado College, but this tough road trip to Wisconsin gives them a prime opportunity to change my mind about them.
The Badgers get Derek Lee back into the line-up after his scooter accident last week, but will be without forward Brendan Woods, who suffered a lower-body injury in practice last week.