Friday reading: MSU, Gophers, UND, UMD, previews, predictions

DSCF0396I am leading off with three WCHA series that more directly affect idle CC in its efforts to garner home playoff ice. The latest standings are at the end of the post.

Tenth-place Michigan Tech at sixth place (3-way tie) Minnesota State: Minnesota State is College Hockey News’ team of the week. Freshman Teddy Blueger is a big reason why the Mavs are enjoying a solid season.

MSU’s Matt Leitner is featured by the Mankato Free Press, which produces a capsule preview too.

Idle Denver’s one-point weekend against CC allowed MSU to move into CBS’ Top 10 Power Rankings.

Ninth-place Minnesota-Duluth at 11th-place Bemidji State: Minnesota-Duluth is struggling right now. Here is an injury update and more from the News-Tribune beat writer.  UMD is  one point back of the Tigers and winless since a victory at CC on Jan. 18. This may be 11th place BSU’s best chance to break through for its first win of 2013.

Third-place Minnesota (tie) at sixth-place Wisconsin (3-way tie): Here is a look at Minnesota’s league title prospects. The Gophers play Wisconsin indoors Friday and need to focus on that game to make a move up the standings against idle North Dakota and WCHA-leading St. Cloud State, which is also off this weekend.

UND’s troubles getting back to Grand Forks from Omaha this past weekend are detailed by the GF Herald folks in this video.

Third-place Nebraska Omaha is eager to pull off a road sweep of Alaska-Anchorage to try to keep up in the MacNaughton Cup race.  Despite a poor record, last-place UAA has only been swept once at home this season and Jordan Kwas is a big reason why.

Here are USCHO’s predictions for this weekend.

In other leagues, Air Force hosts Canisius in an important Atlantic series for the Falcons, who are battling to finish in the top four and earn a first-round bye. ECAC Colgate is relatively close to getting an on-campus hockey arena.

Updated WCHA standings …

WCHA Games
Overall
GP
W
L
T
Pts
GF
GA
W
L
T
GF
GA
St. Cloud State
22
15
6
1
31
74
47
18
11
1
99
72
North Dakota
22
11
5
6
28
72
56
16
8
6
96
74
Minnesota
20
11
5
4
26
68
48
19
5
4
105
54
Nebraska Omaha
22
12
8
2
26
74
65
16
12
2
103
83
Denver
22
10
7
5
25
70
64
15
9
5
98
77
Minnesota State
22
12
9
1
25
67
54
18
9
3
94
68
Wisconsin
22
9
6
7
25
49
48
12
9
7
63
57
Colorado College
22
8
10
4
20
72
77
11
14
5
100
105
Minnesota Duluth
22
8
11
3
19
56
67
10
15
3
70
84
Michigan Tech
22
6
12
4
16
59
72
10
14
4
86
84
Bemidji State
22
4
13
5
13
45
69
5
17
6
57
86
Alaska Anchorage
24
2
16
6
10
45
84
4
17
7
56
95

Wednesday reading: CLASS Award, CC schedule, ‘What If’ calculator

Minnesota  unveiled  its jerseys for the Hockey City Classic  at Soldier Field on Sunday Feb. 17 at 3:30 p.m. CT vs. Wisconsin (Big Ten Network).

Minnesota unveiled its jerseys for the Hockey City Classic at Soldier Field on Sunday Feb. 17 at 3:30 p.m. CT vs. Wisconsin (Big Ten Network).

Air Force senior Stephen Carew and St. Cloud State’s Ben Hanowski, who will play CC next weekend, are two of the 10 national  Senior CLASS Award finalists.

Carew is the seventh consecutive Falcon to be a finalist for the award, joining Billy Devoney (2007), Frank Schiavone (2008), Mike Phillipich (2009), Matt Fairchild (2010),  Jacques Lamoureux (2011) and Paul Weisgarber (2012). Lamoureux became the first Air Force player in any sport to win the award.

An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School, the award encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.

The award is divided up by sport.  Other men’s hockey finalists: Brett Beebe, Western Michigan; Danny Biega, Harvard; Kyle Bonis, Ferris State;  Alex Gerke, Connecticut; Brendan Jamison, Robert Morris; Brandon Nunn, Holy Cross; Cheyne Rocha, Army; and Steven Spinell, Miami.

Fan voting is underway at the award website or its Facebook page through March 25. Fan votes will be combined with media and Division I head coaches’ votes to determine the winner, which will  be announced during the NCAA Frozen Four® April 11-13.

CC has the fifth-toughest remaining schedule in the WCHA this regular season.

Sioux Sports put out its annual ‘What If’ calculator so fans can predict upcoming WCHA games and then see how that may affect the final standings. If anything, it may give CC fans a reason to care about that Anchorage-Omaha series, for example.

Mercyhurst rallies to tie third-place AFA 2-2

airforce-kruseERIE, Pa. –  Air Force senior Kyle De Laurell scored two power play goals as the Falcons and Mercyhurst skated to a 2-2 overtime tie in an Atlantic Hockey Association game Saturday, Feb. 9, at the Mercyhurst Ice Center in Erie, Pa. With the tie, Air Force (12-10-7, 10-6-5 AHA) remains in third place in the AHA with 25 points, one point behind second-place Mercyhurst (14-11-3, 12-7-2 AHA).

Mercyhurst opened the scoring at the 15:31 mark of the first period on the rush. The Lakers won a faceoff in their own end and defenseman Anthony Mastrodicasa sent the puck up the wall to Chris Bodo. Bodo skated down the right side and scored his 13th of the season with a wrister from the right circle.

Late in the second period, a too many men on the ice penalty on Mercyhurst gave the Falcons a power play. Just over a minute into the power play, the Falcons started the rush in their own end. Ben Carey gave the puck to Stephen Carew who skated through traffic and into the zone. Carew sent the puck to the left side and Kyle De Laurell tied the game at the 14:01 mark.

Air Force took its first lead of the game late in the third period with its second power-play goal of the game. Adam McKenzie sent the puck down low to John Kruse who chipped it to De Laurell in the left circle. De Laurell spun around and fired a shot that beat Max Strang for his second of the game and team-leading 13th of the season. However, less than two minutes later, the Lakers tied the game.

Defenseman Nick Jones fired a wrister from the slot with 2:26 left to tie the score at 2-2.

In overtime, Air Force outshot Mercyhurst, 3-1. With 20 seconds left in the game, Ryan Timar took a shot that rang off the cross bar and the game ended in 2-2 overtime tie.

Air Force outshot Mercyhurst, 37-28, in the game. Mercyhurst was 0-for-3 on the power play while Air Force was 2-for-4. Jason Torf made 26 saves for the Falcons while Max Strang made 35 for the Lakers.

“We played a really strong game and strong series this weekend,” head coach Frank Serratore said. “Mercyhurst is a good hockey team. It was so disappointing when they scored that second goal to tie the game. But, give them credit, they needed to get that goal and they got it. The bottom line is that we came into the building of the hottest team in the league and took three points. This team showed their resilience as we had to come back in both games. I like the direction this team is going.”

Air Force returns home to host a two-game series with Canisius, Friday-Saturday, Feb. 15-16, at the Cadet Ice Arena.

Falcons rally to beat Mercyhurst on road

airforce-kruseFrom AFA sports information …

ERIE, Pa. –  Freshman Max Hartner scored the first two goals of his career as Air Force came from behind for a 4-2 win over Mercyhurst in an Atlantic Hockey Association game Friday, Feb. 8, at the Mercyhurst Ice Center in Erie, Pa. Air Force improved to 12-10-6 overall and 10-6-4 and in third place in the AHA. Mercyhurst’s four-game unbeaten streak ended as the Lakers fell to 14-11-2 overall and 12-7-1 in the league for second place, one point ahead of Air Force.

An even-strength goal and a power-play goal by the Lakers in the first period gave the home team a 2-0 lead. Daniel Bahntge scored his 12th of the season at the 7:00 mark of the first period. Ryan Misiak led a 2-on-1 rush down the left side and fed Bahntge in the center for the game’s first goal. Mercyhurst took a 2-0 lead on the power play at the 13:28 mark. Daniel O’Donoghue skated the puck into the zone and left it for Matthew Zay on the left side. Zay’s slap shot from just inside the top of the circle deflected off of goalie Jason Torf and into the net.

Air Force came back with three goals in the second period. Hartner scored his first career goal at the 2:43 mark of the second period. Dan Weissenhofer sent the puck behind the net to Jason Fabian. Hartner walked out from behind the net and his back-hand wrap-around went over the shoulder of goalie Max Strang. Ten minutes later, Hartner netted the second of his career on the rush. Hartner took the puck down the left side and fired a shot from the left circle that hit the shoulder of Strang, dropped over the top and slid into the net to tie the game at 12:43. Eric Artman and Mike Walsh assisted on the play. Air Force took a 3-2 lead at the 14:43 mark on the power play. Cole Gunner made a pass from the left circle to the front of the net and Scott Holm tipped it in for a 3-2 lead.

The Falcons clung to the one-goal lead until late in the third period. Mercyhurst pulled its goalie with 1:31 left in the third period in favor of the extra attacker. In the final 90 seconds, Falcon forward Ryan Timar blocked two shots and sent the puck out of the zone. With 30 seconds left, Tony Thomas forced the puck out of the zone and Timar sent the puck up ice to Fabian. Fabian’s empty-net goal with 21 seconds remaining sealed the 4-2 win for Air Force.

Air Force outshot Mercyhurst, 34-21, in the game. The Falcons had a 17-4 advantage in the second period. Each team was 1-for-5 on the power play. Torf made 19 saves for the Falcons while Strang made 30 for the Lakers.

“I liked how we played in the first period, but we dropped a couple bombs and were down 2-0,” head coach Frank Serratore said. “We took control of the game in the second period. How cool was that for Max Hartner? His first goals and he single-handedly brought us back from the dead. We didn’t make many mistakes in the second and third periods tonight. Give our guys credit, they came from behind to win on the road against maybe the hottest team in the league. This was a great win and I’m so happy for our guys.”

Air Force and Mercyhurst conclude the two-game series on Saturday, Feb. 9, at 7:05 p.m. ET in Erie, Pa.

Friday reading: Target Center, blizzard, previews, predictions

target_center1Minnesota Duluth radio man Bruce Ciskie interviewed NCHC commissioner Jim Scherr about the Target Center and other topics.

The blizzard walloping the northeast United States prompted hockey games to be rescheduled.

The top match-up of the weekend may be No. 3 Miami at No. 6 Western Michigan, a league series that could determine the final CCHA regular-season champion.

Both are headed to the NCHC next season. USCHO predicts a WMU sweep. I say a split.

There are plenty of important storylines involving No. 7 North Dakota and No. 13/14 Nebraska-Omaha this weekend besides the outdoor game Saturday afternoon. UND gets its usual blanket coverage from the Grand Forks Herald.

Here are previews for No. 11/13 Minnesota State, in seventh place in the WCHA, at eighth-place Minnesota-Duluth this weekend.

CC must sweep Denver to retain the Gold Pan Trophy.

Here are my predictions for this weekend in the WCHA.

Air Force will try to bounce back from a bad home weekend with a challenging road series at Mercyhurst this weekend.

 

Monday reading: Badgers, MacNaughton race, Bachman, AHA, polls

bachman maskThe 19th-ranked Badgers play North Dakota for the last time this weekend in WCHA action, but their nonconference play will resume during the 2014-15 season.

Wisconsin’s Derek Lee suffered a concussion in Saturday’s win over Anchorage. His status for this weekend’s road series at No. 7/8 North Dakota road series is unclear judging from this quote from coach Mike Eaves:

‘Well, talked to Mr. Hrodey this morning, and he passed his cognitive test. That’s step one. He still has some residual headaches, so those have to dissipate before he can get on the bike.

At this point, we’re hopeful. The fact that he passed the cognitive was a good step. He won’t go on the ice today, and tomorrow we’ll come back and see where he’s at.”

The Gophers beat writer says SCSU, Minnesota and Omaha have the best chance at the MacNaughton Cup regular-season title.

Former Tiger Richard Bachman’s “The Shining” mask, pictured, continues to draw rave reviews.

Here is a brief look at the Atlantic Hockey Association race with an eye on the Niagara at Air Force regular-season finale.

The latest USCHO.com poll is in as is the WCHA web media poll.

AFA’s Torf earns league goalie of the week honor

From Air Force sports information …

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo.  – Air Force junior goaltender Jason Torf was named the Travel Team USA Atlantic Hockey Association Goalie of the Week as he helped lead Air Force to sweep of Robert Morris, Jan. 25-26.

Torf led Air Force to its first home sweep of the season as he allowed just one goal in two games, posting a .983 saves percentage and a 0.50 GAA. The native of Hermosa Beach, Calif., recorded his second shutout of the season, and ninth of his career, as he blanked the Colonials on Friday. His 30 saves in Friday’s win marked the 12th time in 25 games this season that he has had 29 or more saves. Torf made 11 saves in the third period on Friday to preserve the 2-0 win. On Saturday, he stopped 28 of 29 Colonial shots to lead the Falcons to a 4-1 victory. In the first 15 minutes of Saturday’s game, Torf made 13 saves as the Colonials had outshot the Falcons, 14-4. Torf’s play in the first period kept the game tied at 1-1 as the Falcons went on to win, 4-1.

Air Force, 11-9-5 and 9-5-3 for second place in the AHA, hosts a two-game league series against the AIC Yellow Jackets, Friday-Saturday, Feb. 1-2, at 7:05 p.m. each night at Cadet Ice Arena.