Deciding games on tap in the WCHA

Lou Raguse

All Minnesota men’s hockey coach Don Lucia asked for in the Gophers’ series at Denver was to clinch at least fifth place in the WCHA.

Fifth place would mean Minnesota plays its first round of the WCHA playoffs at home. Sixth place means the Gophers will likely travel to St. Cloud, Minn., or back to Denver as the underdog March 12.

But St. Cloud State didn’t have any more success than Minnesota last weekend, as it was hammered by Colorado College 7-1 and 5-2 on the Huskies’ home ice.

Huskies coach Craig Dahl compared his team’s performance Friday to an exam day gone wrong.

“Have you ever studied for a test and when you got in there was like, ‘what the deuce?’ That’s what it was like – we bombed it,” Dahl said.

Colorado College was 1-3 in its four games before the series, and after the sweep is still in seventh place in the league.

Dahl said Saturday’s game was much closer, despite the three-goal difference in the final score.

“One goal went off a shin pad, and then we gave up a bad goal,” Dahl said. “It was one of those kinds of deals. Kind of like Minnesota’s week.”

Colorado College sophomore forward Brett Sterling earned offensive player of the week honors by scoring a series-high five points for the Tigers.

Lucia noted that after the Gophers’ 6-3 loss to Denver on Saturday, those four teams (Minnesota, Denver, St. Cloud State and Colorado College) will play one another in the first round of playoffs. It’s just a matter of who and where.

The teams will find out this weekend when the Gophers face the Huskies and the Pioneers face the Tigers.

“It won’t just be a great series because (Colorado College) is our No. 1 rival,” Denver coach George Gwozdecky said. “But also because of the huge playoff implications.”

Hello, No. 1

The biggest series of the weekend pitted then-first place Minnesota-Duluth against second place North Dakota. The Sioux reclaimed the top spot in the league and the No. 1 ranking in the country by beating the Bulldogs 4-1 and 2-1 at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center.

North Dakota goaltender Jake Brandt shut down offensive powerhouse Minnesota-Duluth in each game. He allowed only one goal from the nation’s most efficient power-play unit and saved 49 of 51 total shots on goal.

The league rewarded Brandt with defensive player of the week honors.

Denver D-man honored

Denver defenseman Matt Carle earned WCHA rookie of the week honors for his part in the Pioneers’ sweep of the Gophers.

Carle provided 10 hits on defense and five points on offense, including the eventual game-winning goal on the power play Saturday.

This is the third straight week Carle has received rookie of the week honors.