Getting hit upside the head by a flying puck might sting a little, and a skate blade cut across the jugular will probably bleed.
But these examples pale in comparison to the understatement that the race for the WCHA regular-season title is going to be close.
First-place North Dakota and St. Cloud State and Wisconsin, tied for second, are all within two points of each other with little more than a month remaining in the season.
Over the weekend, the Sioux — also the second-ranked team in the nation — split with St. Cloud State to keep their slim hold on the top spot. But the Huskies may have earned the greater victory: With its 14-12 edge in total goals in the series, St. Cloud State would get the top seed in the league playoffs if the teams finished tied in the regular season standings.
North Dakota needed a six-goal win in the series finale at St. Cloud last weekend to even the overall score, but the Sioux won by only four. North Dakota led in the third period by a score of 6-1, but Blais said he didn’t consider pulling his goalie in hopes of earning that all-important seventh goal.
“There’s too much of the season to play with 10 games left,” Blais said. “You never know what will happen.”
Blais was speaking from first-hand knowledge. Last season, the Gophers and North Dakota were tied at the end of the regular season, but the Sioux won the tiebreaker and the No. 1 seed on the basis of their one-goal advantage in the series.
But all of this conjecture may be for naught. Wisconsin is 10-0-1 in its last 11 games and has two games in hand on both North Dakota and St. Cloud State.
The Badgers host the Huskies in the second to last weekend of the season before traveling to North Dakota for the finale.
“Nothing beats going to Grand Forks in first place and having a chance to play for the championship that weekend,” Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer said. “That would be great. But there’s more to play for than the championship of the league, and I’ve never put a lot of emphasis on that.”
As far as strength of schedule is concerned, St. Cloud State looks to have a slight advantage, with seven of its 10 remaining games at home. The Huskies are 8-0 against their opponents-in-waiting, but that figure doesn’t include the Badgers, whom they haven’t played yet.
Gotta be good at something
Here’s a dubious distinction: Michigan Tech goaltender Luciano Caravaggio, according to notes distributed to the press, leads the nation in one little-known category.
He has the most syllables in his name of any college hockey player — nine.
ù The crowd of 7,758 who saw Colorado College lose to Wisconsin 6-5 in overtime Friday was the biggest to attend an indoor sporting event in Colorado Springs. The game served as the debut of the Tigers’ new home, the World Arena.
ù The Badgers’ 11-game unbeaten streak is the longest in the nation, and the longest in Sauer’s tenure at Wisconsin.
ù Wisconsin center Steve Reinprecht is making a charge for WCHA Player of the Year honors. He’s been a player of the week three times, and his 16 goals and 30 points lead the league. In the last eight games, Reinprecht has nine goals and six assists.
ù If, as expected, Minnesota-Duluth sophomore goaltender Brant Nicklin makes the start against Colorado College on Friday, he’ll equal a Bulldogs record with 64 consecutive starts.
–Various sources were used in compiling this notebook