WCHA’s first weekend: A look back

Gophers senior forward Jacob Cepis maneuvers around University of Nebraska at Omaha’s defenseman Bryce Aneloski Friday at Mariucci Arena.

Joe Michaud-Scorza

Gophers senior forward Jacob Cepis maneuvers around University of Nebraska at Omaha’s defenseman Bryce Aneloski Friday at Mariucci Arena.

Austin Cumblad

Half the teams in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association played conference series this weekend, but make no mistake âÄî the drama they provided was more than enough for all 12 programs in the newly expanded league.
To wit: 46 goals were scored, one WCHA newcomer swept, the other got swept, and two perennial bottom feeders played a classic in MichiganâÄôs Upper Peninsula.
LetâÄôs recap the weekendâÄôs WCHA action.

No. 2 North Dakota at Bemidji State
The Beavers were hosting a debut in two ways: it was their first ever WCHA series, and it was being played in the newly opened Bemidji Regional Event Center.
The Fighting Sioux didnâÄôt care.
UND won rather comfortably Friday night, mounting a 4-1 lead before the third period. Though Jordan George pulled Bemidji within two, Matt Frattin capped off his hat trick with an empty netter in the closing minutes and the Sioux won 5-2.
Then they did it again on Saturday. This time, the Beavers took a 2-1 lead early in the second, but UNDâÄôs Derek Rodwell and Evan Trupp scored a pair of goals in the span of 75 seconds. It stayed 3-2 until the final minute and a half of regulation, when Frattin netted his fourth goal of the weekend and Brett Hextall padded the score with an empty netter for another 5-2 Sioux victory.
What we learned: UND is every bit the veteran powerhouse we all expected. In a new arena and new league, Bemidji might have let emotions get the best of them, but this is no slouch of a team; the Beavers have made back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, not to mention a trip to the Frozen Four in 2009.

No. 17 Nebraska Omaha at No. 13 Minnesota
Well, those rankings were current when the weekend started.
UNOâÄôs weekend, also its first ever in the WCHA, was a mirror image of BemidjiâÄôs. The Mavericks swept the Gophers, 5-4 Friday and 4-2 Saturday, and quickly vaulted up the national rankings.
UNO is now ranked No. 10 in both the USCHO.com and USA Today polls, while Minnesota has dropped to No. 20 in USCHO.com and out of USA Today (which includes only 15 teams).
In Friday nightâÄôs barnburner, the Gophers rallied all the way from four goals down to tie the game late in the third period, but Alex Hudson scored the game-winner, his second of the night, with 96 seconds left on the clock, rendering MinnesotaâÄôs furious comeback obsolete.
Saturday was more of the same. The Mavericks led 3-0 after two periods, the Gophers scored twice to make things interesting, but UNO held on and added an empty netter to ensure it would move to 4-0-0 and, at least for a week, the top of the WCHA standings.
The obvious questions: Are the Mavericks that good? Is Minnesota destined for another decidedly mediocre season?
The only responsible answer: Maybe. One weekend isnâÄôt enough to crown a team WCHA royalty âÄî though UNO was fast, physical and opportunistic in front of net âÄî nor is it enough to declare a season lost.
The Gophers are plenty talented, but there may be a few growing pains as young and old, inexperienced and veteran, learn to play together. In the mean time, some first period goals would be nice.

Minnesota State at Michigan Tech
Pop quiz: Which Division I team currently boasts the longest active unbeaten streak?
Answer: Michigan Tech.
The Huskies wrapped up five games in nine days with a win and a tie against the Mavericks, 5-2 on Friday and 5-5 on Saturday.
With its 3-0-2 start, Tech is creeping toward the national rankings despite being picked by the coaches before the season to finish last in the WCHA. To gain true legitimacy, however, the Huskies will have to do better than taking three points from the team picked to finish 10th. A series this weekend against Wisconsin will either further or halt TechâÄôs march toward the polls.
Did we learn anything?: Not necessarily. Tech can score goals, that much is clear; it has yet to score less than four goals in a game this season.
But Minnesota State is still winless and has allowed five goals in three of its first four games, so weâÄôll wait to see how the Huskies fare in some tough upcoming series.