Rookie goalie tearing up

Tim Nichols

When the Gophers men’s hockey team faces Alaska-Anchorage Saturday and Sunday at Mariucci Arena, they will also take on someone who is widely considered one of the toughest and hottest goaltenders in the WCHA — freshman Gregg Naumenko.
The Chicago native not only has two WCHA defensive player of the week awards to his credit, but was also named rookie of the week after defeating Minnesota-Duluth 5-3 on Friday and shutting them out in a scoreless tie on Saturday.
“Gregg is a good goalie, but more importantly, he’s a consistent goalie,” Seawolves coach Dean Talafous said. “You know what you are going to get every game with him. If the team plays well in front of him, we will be successful.”
Naumenko currently ranks first among WCHA goaltenders in goals against average and save percentage. He boasts a 1.91 GAA and a .933 save percentage in conference play.
Something about Minnesota
The Gophers were once again the platform that catapulted a player to WCHA honors, as Colorado College defenseman Scott Swanson was awarded the defensive player of the week.
Swanson, a two time all-WCHA selection, was a plus-2 over the weekend, chipping in three goals and two assists for the No. 5 Tigers.
Six WCHA awards so far this season were handed out to players who had outstanding weekends against the Gophers.
“Our coach is from Minnesota, a lot of the guys on the team are from there,” Swanson said. “We’ve played with and against them over the years. So it’s always nice to have a little bragging rights when we go home this summer.”
Playoff expansion nixed
With the current migration of Divison II teams into Division I, along with the assemblage of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the issue of expanding the current 12-team NCAA Division I tournament to 16 teams for either next season’s or the 2000-01 tournament has become a hot-button issue for the NCAA.
But in a ruling on February 8, the NCAA tournament committee decided not to expand.
Citing the need for more sponsors and that right now there is an 1-in-4.3 chance — 12 spots with 52 Division I members — for a team to earn a bid to the tournament, the committee determined that expansion is unnecessary.
In the current system, the regular season winners and tournament winners of the WCHA, CCHA, ECHA, and Hockey East all receive automatic bids to the tournament. The remaining spots are at-large bids.
As of right now, the MAAC — in its first year of existence — does not receive any automatic bids. The eight-member conference features teams such as Iona, Connecticut, Holy Cross and Quinnipiac.
Who’s up, who’s down
Who’s up? Wisconsin. The Badgers are fresh off a desperately needed sweep of St. Cloud State and are in good position for fifth place in the WCHA, which guarantees home ice in the first round of the conference tournament. They will host No. 5 Colorado College at the Kohl Center this weekend.
Who’s down? Once again, Michigan Tech. The Huskies will fight this weekend with Minnesota-Duluth for the cellar of the WCHA. They were swept badly, 9-3 and 3-1, at home against No. 1 North Dakota at their mystical, magical Winter Festival.
Now they have to travel to the always-hostile DECC. And although the Bulldogs have earned only one point in their last 4 games, they did play No. 1 North Dakota and Alaska-Anchorage very tough. Look for a Bulldogs sweep.