WCHA roundup: top 5

by Dane Mizutani


With five weeks left in the WCHA regular season, the weeding-out process has begun.

The Gophers stand alone atop the WCHA with 30 points, but they must hold serve in the coming weeks with four teams within eight points of the lead.

Should Minnesota finish the season first in the WCHA, it will claim the MacNaughton Cup for the first time since the 2006-07 season.

The Gophers currently hold a five-point cushion over second-place Minnesota-Duluth, a seven-point lead over Denver and an eight-point advantage over both Colorado College and North Dakota.

Minnesota has played two more conference games than every team listed except North Dakota.

Listed are teamsâÄô USCHO.com rankings, overall record and conference record. The teams are ordered by their standings in the WCHA:

No. 2 Minnesota (19-9-1, 15-5-0 WCHA)

The Gophers entered the season as the No. 19 team in the nation but quickly rose to the top.

Minnesota started the season 9-1-0 and was the No. 1 team in the nation at one point, but it has struggled immensely on Fridays this season.

The Gophers will get a break this weekend and will have time to recuperate before traveling to Denver on Feb. 10-11.

After Denver, Minnesota will play Bemidji State, Nebraska-Omaha and Wisconsin to close out the season.

No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth (17-5-4, 11-4-6 WCHA)

The Bulldogs have a realistic chance to repeat as the NCAA national champions this season.

UMD was swept by in-state rival Minnesota in early October and followed up the losses with an undefeated streak that lasted nearly three months.

The Bulldogs, however, were thrashed 5-0 at the hands of Michigan Tech last Saturday.

They will find solace when they face last-place Alaska-Anchorage this weekend and will finish up with North Dakota, Minnesota State, Colorado College and St. Cloud State.

No. 13 Denver (15-8-3, 10-5-3 WCHA)

The Pioneers started off this season on the wrong foot and were a mere 5-3-3 through its first 11 games.

Once the calendar turned to 2012, the team woke up.

Denver is currently riding a five-game winning streak and will look to extend that this weekend against in-state rival Colorado College.

It will host the Gophers in two weeks and will close out the season with Wisconsin, North Dakota and Nebraska-Omaha in an attempt to climb back into the WCHA standings.

No. 11 Colorado College (14-9-1, 11-7-0 WCHA)

The Tigers are led by the brother tandem Rylan and Jaden Schwartz.

Colorado College is the polar opposite of in-state rival Denver and shot out of the gate, but it has been inconsistent lately.

The Tigers will try to get back on track this weekend in a home-and-home series with Denver.

They will conclude the season with Bemidji State, Nebraska-Omaha, Minnesota-Duluth and Michigan Tech.

No. 17 North Dakota (15-10-2, 11-9-0 WCHA)

UND has a tendency each year to start off slow before finishing the season strong. This year has been no different.

UND was a mediocre 3-6-1 through its first 10 games of the season, but it has battled back to fifth place in the WCHA. It will have a bye this weekend before opening up its final stretch of the regular season.

UND will have Minnesota-Duluth, Michigan Tech, Denver and Minnesota State to close the season late.