Parity seems to have a strangehold on college hockey. As the WCHA season finally opens this weekend for St. Cloud State, the last team to play a league game, the WCHA is down to one unbeaten team.
And that team -- Colorado College -- has played all of two games.
Seven of the WCHA's 12 teams are at or below .500 on the young season, including defending national champion Minnesota Duluth, which lost three straight after a season-opening win over Notre Dame. If you're looking only at Minnesota's teams, only the Gophers have a winning record. Bemidji State is .500, while St. Cloud State, UMD, and Minnesota State are all under .500.
While the Gophers look very strong so far, you have one Minnesota team (UMD) struggling on defense. Another (SCSU) has been somewhat inconsistent. Bemidji State is trying to reload after losing Matt Read, who is now making waves in the NHL with the Flyers. Minnesota State is wrecked by injuries and might not have been that good to start with.Bemidji State 6, Michigan Tech 5; Bemidji State 3, Michigan Tech 1
The Beavers knocked Tech from the ranks of the unbeaten, while picking up their first two WCHA wins. On Friday, Tech led 3-1 in the first, scoring three goals on four shots against BSU star goaltender Dan Bakala. The Beavers pulled Bakala for freshman Andrew Walsh and promptly rallied, scoring five straight goals before holding on late.
Saturday, Walsh got his first collegiate start and made 31 saves as the Beavers were outshot 32-16. Captain Ben Kinne, who missed last season after suffering a stroke in the summer of 2010, scored twice in the series, including Saturday's game-winner.
Bemidji State plays a two-game series at UMD this weekend.
Denver 4, Minnesota State 2; Denver 10, Minnesota State 2
That's not a misprint. The Pioneers hit double digits against the Mavericks Saturday night, taking advantage of a team depleted by injuries. MSU has been ravaged so far, losing front-line players early and often this season. It all started in the season opener, when captain Tyler Elbrecht broke his arm. As Shane Frederick notes, Elbrecht's injury was only the beginning, as the Mavericks have seen 26 man-games lost to injury, and they've only played six games total.
I'm not a fan of excuses, but if a Mavericks supporter wants to curse his/her favorite team's rotten luck, I'll support the lament.
MSU has the weekend off, which is probably a good thing. The Mavericks play next weekend at Michigan Tech.
Minnesota 6, Vermont 0; Vermont 5, Minnesota 4
In Friday's game, Kent Patterson pitched his third straight home shutout as the Gophers dominated from the start. The final score might not be a true indicator of how lopsided this game was.
Sunday's game was a totally different story. The Catamounts fell behind 3-1 in the second period, but staged an impressive rally. Patterson allowed five goals on 25 shots, and Kyle Rau's sixth goal in as many games -- a third-period power play goal -- wasn't enough to bring Minnesota back from a two-goal deficit.
The Gophers head to Alaska this weekend to take on Alaska-Anchorage, a team swept at Nebraska-Omaha last season to derail what had been a strong start to the season.
St. Cloud State 7, New Hampshire 5; St. Cloud State 3, New Hampshire 3
Goaltending might not have been the star of the show in St. Cloud, but let's give credit to Huskies netminder Mike Lee, who stopped 44 shots Saturday as SCSU was badly outshot by the winless Wildcats. Ben Hanowski and captain Drew LeBlanc each had four points on Friday, and big forward Cam Reid had a goal and assist Saturday. Promising defenseman Nick Jensen chipped in three points on Friday.
The Huskies open league play this weekend at longtime rival North Dakota.
Minnesota Duluth 5, Providence 2; Minnesota Duluth 2, Providence 2
UMD goalie Kenny Reiter struggled out of the gates, but put together two solid games in Providence, stopping 54 of 58 shots. Senior Travis Oleksuk scored twice Friday, and Mike Seidel had a goal in each game for UMD, which is now 2-3-1.
The Bulldogs are back in league play this weekend, hosting Bemidji State. It's a rivalry that's featured some great games in the past, and the Beavers tend to give UMD fits with their in-your-face style and ability to pounce on opponents' mistakes. UMD's defensemen, who have had their issues so far this season, will get a huge test, especially when it comes to Bemidji's forecheck and ability to hound teams in the neutral zone.