Second season set to begin in WCHA; awards distributed

by Tim Nichols

With the first round of the WCHA playoffs a mere one day away, league coaches were in a very aggressive mood during the WCHA teleconference on Tuesday.
Each coach is still trying to develop the perfect strategy or game-plan for their first round series.
The coach who might have the most daunting task ahead is Minnesota State’s Don Brose, as his team prepares to take on No. 1 North Dakota.
“You can’t narrow down North Dakota to one or two players,” Brose said. “We need to build momentum early in the game. We’re also very worried of their speciality units. We need to stay out of the box.”
The Mavericks will also need to play the perfect game against the Sioux if the 10th seed has any hope of winning a game, let alone the series.
North Dakota is the overwhelming favorite in this series, but the Sioux do have a couple of concerns with Minnesota State.
“We need to stop Tyler Deis and Aaron Fox,” North Dakota coach Dean Blais said. “Both of them had multiple point games (against us). They have good goaltending. They are a well-disciplined team that has played us tough.”
Naumenko tops WCHA
Not even expected to start at the beginning of the season, Alaska-Anchorage freshman goaltender Gregg Naumenko finished the regular season as the WCHA’s best statistical goaltender.
“We knew he would be a good goalie,” Seawolves coach Dean Talafous said. “The success he’s had has been a surprise. He’s a very confident kid and has a style that doesn’t allow weak goals.”
Although Naumenko’s win-loss record is an unimpressive 10-10-5, he led all goaltenders in conference play with a 2.23 goals against average and a .924 save percentage.
He appeared in 25 conference games for the Seawolves, playing admirably and well enough to steal away the starting job from veteran Doug Teskey.
“We have a good defense in front of (Naumenko),” Talafous said. “We don’t allow many odd-man rushes. If he plays the angles and is steady, he’s ready to go.”
Blake is scoring champ
North Dakota’s senior Jason Blake’s 20 goals and 29 assists proved to be more than enough to win the WCHA conference scoring crown.
Blake’s 49 points were nine better than runner-up and teammate Jay Panzer.
Denver coach George Gwozdecky, Talafous and Brose all said that Blake is their vote for conference MVP. None of the other coaches would comment on their respective votes.
Bulldogs’ Coole out
Adding salt to an already gaping wound, Minnesota-Duluth will have to do without the services of defensemen Ryan Coole for the playoffs.
Coole’s left pinky finger was accidentally severed during the second period of Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Colorado College.
“The cut was right down to the bone, all the ligaments and tendons were cut,” Bulldogs coach Mike Sertich said. “It’ll be a six-to-eight month recovery.”
Wisconsin’s Tanabe honored
Wisconsin freshman defenseman Dave Tanabe was named WCHA rookie of the week for his plus-3 and two goals during the Badgers’ win and tie of Minnesota last weekend.
Tanabe becomes the ninth player this season who earned player of the week honors based on his performance against the Gophers.