The Gophers are off for a couple of weeks. But most WCHA teams are playing this weekend.
Wisconsin got off to a good start on Thursday, beating vagabond Alabama-Huntsville 5-0 for the Badgers' first win at the Kohl Center this season. Hard to believe.
The Badgers are playing a day earlier than other teams because the Kohl Center is being used for graduation ceremonies on Sunday morning and Saturday night is used for set-up purposes. Academics getting in the way of athletics, what a unique concept.
US is 3-7-5 overall now (2-5-5- in the WCHA).
“I think that’s the first night we’ve been able to use our sound system to the fullest,” Badgers forward Sean Little, referring to the team's new locker room.
“[We] finally [got to] celebrate a win at home,” Little said, according to a UW news release.
Freshmen forward Nic Kerdiles, a hot prospect who was suspended the first 10 games by the NCAA for amateur rules violatoins, scoring his first college goal four minutes into the game.
“I’m happy to finally get the monkey off my back, as I would call it, and finally get that goal,” Kerdiles said. “At the end of the day, I’m just excited for the way our team played tonight.”
The Badgers tied their season-high in shots on goal with 37, set a season-high for goals in a game and set a school record for fewest shots allowed in a game with nine.
The caveat there has to be that the opponent was the Chargers. An independent team that was given the death sentence last season -- several top players left -- before getting a reprieve. UAH is 3-13-1, one of the worst teams in the country. Sacred Heart (0-14-2) might be the only team worse.
UAH plays 20 of its 22 Division I opponents on the road or at neutral sites.
Kerdiles got his second goal of the season in the third period.
Junior Michael Mersch also had two goals. Little, a freshman, also got the other goal, his first of the season.
Mersch has 11 goals this season.
“We were talking about it a little bit before the game to get the fans the ice cream,” Mersch said. “A lot of guys contributed tonight, and that’s pretty big for us.”
Fans at a five-goal get free ice cream; the Gophers have a similar promotion with Culver's and yogurt.
BIG WCHA WEEKEND
Ten of the 12 WCHA teams play conference games this weekend. So the Gophers' stay all alone at second place in the conference standings won't last long.
Two teams are just one point behind them, two are two points back and one is three. If results break a certain way, the Gophers (6-3-3, 15 points) could fall to a tie for fourth place with three other teams, or they could drop as low as a tie for fifth with one team.
Here's a look at the WCHA series this weekend:
Minnesota State (9-5-2, 7-5-0) at Nebraska Omaha (10-5-1, 6-3-1): The Mavericks have won six conference games in a row. Freshman Stephon Williams has been in goal in all those games and in that stretch has a 1.00 goals-against average and a .958 save percentage. Junior forward Eriah Hayes ia on an eight-game points streak. MSU has killed 27 of 29 opponents' power plays in the past eight games and is outscoring opponents 21-12 in the third period. ... UNO split at St. Cloud State last weekend, winning 6-5 in the first game, losing 2-1 in the second. The red Mavericks are 7-0-1 on the first night of series. Junior forward Ryan Walters has eight goals and 16 assists for 24 points, one shy of his total last season. The junior class is the highest scoring in the nation with 89 points and 33 goals. Picks: Split
Colorado College (8-8-2, 5-4-1) at St. Cloud State (9-7-0, 7-5-0): After playing nine of 11 games at home, the Tigers are on the road for nine of their next 11 starting with this trip. Senior forward Rylan Schwartz (10-14-24) is tied for the WCHA scoring lead. CC is coming off a loss and a tie with the Gophers. They trailed the U 4-1 going into the third period Saturday, but rallied for a 4-4 overtime tie. Captain William Rapuzzi has scored in nine consecutive games for the Tigers. In those games, he has six goals and 16 points. ... The Huskies split with UNO last weekend. They have two of the WCHA's top scorers in Drew LeBlanc (5-16-21) and Nic Dowd (8-12-20), a senior and junior, respectively, but Huskies freshmen have scored 11 of the team's 12 goals the past four games. Kalle Kossila, a freshman from Finland, has eight goals. SCSU is 10th in the nation in scoring, averaging 3.38 goals per game; CC is second, 3.61 per game. Picks: Split.
Denver (9-5-2, 7-3-2) at Bemidji State (4-8-2, 3-7-2): The Pioneers were cruising along until they hit a bump. They are winless in their last six games. Last weekend they tied North Dakota 2-2 and then lost to UND 6-3 on Saturday at the Ralph. DU is 10-1 against BSU all-time. Denver is sixth in the nation in scoring at 3.56 goals per game, but has fallen to a tie for 24th in defense, giving up 2.62 goals per game. DU is 3-1-1 on the road. The Pioneers' line chart has 10 forwards and six defensemen. DU's blue-line corpts had 52 points, an NCAA best. ... The Beavers split at UMD last weekend, winning the second game 2-1 behind goalie Andrew Walsh's 33 saves. That win ended a three-game losing streak and gave coach Tom Serratore his 199th career victory. Jordan George (5-6-11) leads the team in scoring. BSU is being outscored 15-7 in the third period of conference games. Pick: DU wins and ties
North Dakota (8-5-3, 5-2-3) at Michigan Tech (4-8-3, 3-6-3): UND is 12-0-2 in its last 14 games against Michigan Tech. Last weekend at the Ralph, the team formerly known as the Fighting Sioux got a 2-2 tie and a 6-3 win. Senior forward Corban Knight has an 11-game poitnts streak during which he has three goals and 12 assists for 15 points. ... The Huskies are coming off 1-1 and 3-3 ties with Wisconsin. They remain pretty banged up. Last weekend five players were out with injuries and four remain questionable for this weekend. Tech is 0-7-2 when the opponent scores first. Defenseman Steven Seigo has four goals in the past seven games. Picks: UND wins and ties
Minnesota Duluth (5-8-3, 3-6-3) at Alaska Anchorage (3-7-4, 1-6-3): UMD is 15-13-6 against UAA in Alaska. Mike Seidel has 10 goals, six on the power play, and eight assists for a team-high 18 points. The freshmen have 43 points, tied for fourth in the nation. UMD has scored 19 power-play goals, only Union with 20 has scored more. The Bulldogs are 0-6-2 on the second night of series. ... The Seawolves were swept by Minnesota State last weekend, losing 3-1 and 3-0 even though goalie Chris Kamal had a season-high 37 saves the first game and 32 the second. The Seawolves have given up one or more power-play goals in each of their last seven games. Pick: Split