WCHA Roundup: Conference dominates holiday weekend

by Austin Cumblad

The WCHA asserted its dominance in a Thanksgiving weekend stuffed full of non-conference matchups. Conference teams went 8-2-2 against a collection of teams from the CCHA, Hockey East and Alantic Hockey Association. One of the WCHAâÄôs two losses belonged to then-No. 15 Minnesota; a slumping Michigan State team upset them 5-2 Friday night as part of the final College Hockey Showcase at Mariucci Arena. The same night, Bemidji State fell 4-0 to Northern Michigan. The Gophers (8-5-1 overall, 5-4-1 WCHA) rebounded with a 3-1 upset of their own over then-No. 8 Michigan. Both Minnesota and the Wolverines dropped in MondayâÄôs USCHO.com poll, to 17th and 11th, respectively. Elsewhere, Minnesota State and Denver swept, Wisconsin and North Dakota won and tied and in the lone WCHA series, Alaska Anchorage and Colorado College picked up two points apiece with a split. Alaska Anchorage at Colorado College Friday was a wild one in this matchup of bottom-half WCHA teams. Alaska Anchorage freshman Matt Bailey scored equalizing goals with three-tenths of a second remaining in the second period and six seconds left in regulation to force overtime. Three minutes and 50 seconds into the extra period, the SeawolvesâÄô capped their comeback with Tommy GrantâÄôs fourth goal of the season for a 4-3 win. By comparison, Saturday was a yawner. Tigers goaltender Joe Howe made 26 saves to shut out Alaska Anchorage and freshman Archie SkalbeckâÄôs second period goal was all Colorado College needed for the split. A late empty-netter sealed a 2-0 win and the split. No. 12 Notre Dame at No. 7 North Dakota North Dakota has a habit of splitting its annual Subway Hockey Classic, and though the Sioux again werenâÄôt able to complete a sweep, they did knock the CCHAâÄôs first place team down a peg with a win Friday and a tie Saturday. For the second straight week, UND scored six goals Friday night and never trailed in a convincing 6-3 win over the Fighting Irish. Junior Jason GregoireâÄôs pair of third-period goals put distance between the teams even while Notre Dame bombarded Sioux goaltender Aaron Dell with 18 shots, more than the Irish had managed in the first two periods of play combined. On Saturday, Notre Dame goalie Mike Johnson saved 39 of North DakotaâÄôs 41 shots and Irish sophomore Sam Calabrese scored his first career goal late in the third period to tie the game 2-2 and deny the Sioux a sweep. Lake Superior State (Fri.), Air Force (Sat.) at No. 10 Denver Fittingly, the Pioneers dominated the Denver Cup with 6-3 and 3-1 wins, respectively, over Lake Superior State and Air Force. Denver sophomore Drew Shore led the way with his first career hat trick against the Lakers, the game-winner against Air Force and an assist in each game, earning him Most Valuable Player of the tournament. No. 11 Michigan (Fri.), Michigan State (Sat.) at No. 15 Wisconsin The Badgers must be sick of overtime by now. Friday night against the Wolverines, a 4-4 regulation deadlock sent them into an extra period for the third straight game. But whereas top-ranked Minnesota Duluth scored to win both games the week prior, neither Wisconsin nor Michigan could manage an overtime goal. On Saturday, the Badgers finally took care of business in regulation, at the expense of Michigan State. Behind defenseman Justin SchultzâÄôs hat trick âÄî the first by a defenseman at Wisconsin in exactly 18 years âÄî they cruised to a 4-1 win that snapped a six-game winless streak. Minnesota State at UMass-Lowell The Mavericks played the WCHAâÄôs only non-conference road series and improved the conferenceâÄôs record to 4-0 on the year against the UMass system; the Gophers opened their regular season with a sweep of UMass-Amherst, the stateâÄôs flagship campus. Continuing the barrage of hat tricks by WCHA players, junior Justin Jokinen notched one in Friday nightâÄôs 8-3 win. Then Saturday, Chase Grant scored the third and final goal of a frantic third period to give Minnesota State the 3-2 lead it would hold onto for the sweep. Northern Michigan at Bemidji State Struggling Bemidji State split its first non-conference series of the season with a 4-0 loss to Northern Michigan Friday night, followed by a 3-0 win on Saturday. Despite outshooting the Wildcats 37-25 on Friday, the Beavers couldnâÄôt beat goaltender Reid Ellingson. Again Saturday they put 37 shots on goal, and this time scored three, while Dan Bakala turned away all 17 shots he faced. SaturdayâÄôs win was just BemidjiâÄôs third of the season.