WCHA rivalries checker schedule

Michael Rand

Although there is rarely a dull slate of games in the WCHA, this weekend’s upcoming matchups are more intriguing than usual.
Interstate rivals Colorado College and Denver face off in a home-and-home series, while undefeated North Dakota will face Minnesota at Mariucci Arena. The other two series — Minnesota-Duluth at St. Cloud State and Wisconsin at Northern Michigan — also have important early-season implications.
Colorado College (3-3 in the WCHA and Denver (1-3 in the WCHA) were supposed to contend for a league title but have struggled so far this season. The Pioneers gained some momentum with a non-conference sweep at Clarkson last weekend, however, and could be awakening after a slow start.
North Dakota (6-0) sits atop the league after sweeping Northern Michigan over the weekend. The Gophers have been inconsistent at times but have also endured a difficult schedule. Home ice has been a key in this series in recent years: Minnesota is 4-0-2 at Mariucci in the past three years, while the Sioux have posted a 4-1-1 mark at Ralph Engelstad Arena during the same span.
The series between Minnesota-Duluth (3-1) and St. Cloud State (2-2, including a win at Colorado College) features two teams off to pretty good starts. Both were considered middle-of-the-pack teams before the season started, and a sweep by either team could springboard one of them into the upper echelon of the WCHA.
After a 2-2 start, Northern Michigan was swept at North Dakota last weekend. If the Wildcats are swept at home this weekend by Wisconsin, it could begin a downward spiral for a team that finished 7-30-2 a year ago.
Where’s the O’?
Don’t blame Alaska-Anchorage’s goaltenders or defensemen for the team’s 1-3 start in the WCHA.
The Seawolves have allowed just 11 goals — three of them empty-netters — in their first four league games, but their offense has produced just six scores in that stretch.
In the Seawolves’ three losses, they trailed in each game 2-1 late in the third period before losing 3-1 following empty-net goals.
CC’s home streak snapped
Colorado College’s 28-game unbeaten streak at Air Force Cadet Ice Arena ended Friday with a 6-3 loss to St. Cloud State. Before losing to the Huskies, the Tigers last home loss was a 6-5 setback to Minnesota-Duluth on Jan. 7, 1995.
Colorado College managed to keep one streak alive this weekend after rebounding to win on Saturday. The Tigers have not been swept in 44 consecutive regular-season WCHA series.
Backchecks
ù The Gophers were 24-3-2 when scoring the first goal of a game last season. Minnesota has scored first five of six times this season, but is just 2-3 in those games.
ù Wisconsin’s 3-1 win over Minnesota on Friday night gave Jeff Sauer 367 wins as coach of the Badgers, tying Bob Johnson for most wins at the school.
ù North Dakota’s fast start can partially be attributed to its good finishes. The Sioux have outscored opponents 16-3 in the third period and overtime this season.