Who is hot going into the holiday break in the WCHA?
Here's a list -- not for Santa, for WCHA followers:
Minnesota State Mankato 7-1-0 in last eight games. ... Purple Mavericks are the surprise team of the WCHA so far under first-year coach Mike Hastings. After a 1-5-0 dip, MSU swept Wisconsin, Bemidji State and Alaska Anchorage and split with Nebraska Omaha. The Mavericks scored at least three goals in each game of their seven-game winning streak. ... The Mavericks play a home and home series with the Gophers on Jan. 25-26. They split a home and home with the U in early November.
North Dakota 4-0-1 in December. UND beat Colorado College 3-2 in overtime on Dec. 1, scoring in the last minute to tie. Next came a tie and win with Denver and a sweep of Michigan Tech. ... UND plays the Gophers at Mariucci on Jan. 18-19.
Gophers 6-1-3, nice record on paper. But the Gophers started the season tied for No. 1 in one national poll and have not been able to put any kind of winning streak together except for one of three games. Also have not swept a WCHA series in easier part of schedule. ... Still they are not losing often. In last 10 games, got three points against Alaska Anchorage and Wisconsin, swept Vermont, split with Nebraska Omaha and went back to a three-point weekend against Colorado College. The Tigers rallied from a 4-1 deficit to tie second game. ... Competition gets a couple notches higher with Boston College, Notre Dame and North Dakota -- all teams in the top seven or eight in the nation -- coming up soon.
Minnesota Duluth 4-1-1. In the past six games, the Bulldogs have a win and a tie with Michigan Tech, a split with Bemidji State and a sweep at Alaska Anchorage. Before that they were 1-6-2; they scored two goals or fewer in six of those games. ... UMD plays the Gophers at Mariucci on Feb. 22-23.
Wisconsin 3-0-3, the Badgers are showing signs of life after horrible start. In last six games have a tie and win against Denver, two ties with Michigan Tech and a sweep of Alabama Huntsville. Much better than a 0-5-2 stretch just before that. ... The Gophers took three of a possible four points when the Badgers visited Mariucci in mid-November. The two Big Ten-bound teams meet again at the Kohl Center on Feb. 17 and then outdoors in Chicago on Feb. 17.
St. Cloud State 3-0-0, the Huskies have moved into first place in the WCHA, one point ahead of Denver and North Dakota with three consecutive conference wins. Beat Nebraska Omaha in second game of their series and swept Colorado College. Huskies are 5-2-0 in last seven games. ... Huskies host the Gophers on Feb. 8-9.
Bemidji St. 2-0-1 ... After three losses in a row, two to Minnesota State Mankato and one to Minnesota Duluth, have held opponent to one goal in last three games, beat UMD 2-1, tied Denver 1-1 and beat Pioneers 5-1 ... Play Gophers first time at home on last weekend of regular season, March 8-9
Nebraska Omaha 2-3-0 ... The red Mavericks had a seven-game winning streak going into December before the Gophers ended it with a 3-2 win. After that UNO has split with St. Cloud State and Minnesota State. ... Done with Gophers after recent split at Mariucci.
Alaska Anchorage 1-8-3, with four losses in row ... Got one point for a tie in three consecutive series with North Dakota, the Gophers and Bemidji State ... Split with St. Cloud State ... Then swept by Minnesota State Mankato and Minnesota Duluth ... Play Gophers second time Jan. 11-12 at Mariucci
Denver 0-5-3 ... Pioneers have scored only one goal in five of past eight games. ... DU was 9-1-0 and near top of national polls when it fell off the cliff. Started with home losses to Yale and New Hampshire. After that DU has lost and tied in three consecutive WCHA series with Wisconsin, North Dakota and Bemidji State. ... Pioneers play Gophers at Mariucci on March 1-2.
Michigan Tech 0-4-3 ... Michigan Tech's Mel Pearson was the WCHA coach of the last season, his first with the Huskies, but this season is not going as well. Slide started Nov. 30-Dec. 1 weekend, with loss and tie with Minnesota Duluth, then lost to Northern Michigan, tied twice with Wisconsin, got swept by North Dakota. ... Done with Gophers after split at Mariucci in first conference series in mid-October.
Colorado College 1-7-2 ... Tailspin began with being swept by Denver. Then tie with New Hampshire -- after rally from being down 4-0 -- loss to Yale, split with North Dakota, one-point from Gophers -- a tie after trailing 4-1 into third -- swept by St. Cloud State ... Opponents are averaging 4.4 goals in last 10 games and none have scored fewer than three . ... 0-4-1 in last five. ... Done with Gophers in regular season.
* The Gophers are No. 12 in the latest PairWise ratings. They are 3-2-1 against other TUCs, or teams under consideration. Their strength of schedule is 39th out of 59 Division I teams. ... North Dakota is No. 8 in the PairWise ranking and is only WCHA team above the Gophers.
* Home teams hold a slight edge in WCHA games this season, 33-31-14.
* WCHA teams are 28-20-4 in nonconference games, but that edge is entirely based on beating up on the independents, they are 7-0-1 against Alabama-Huntsville and Penn State, and on Atlantic Hockey, 5-0-1. WCHA teams are 8-11-0 vs. the CCHA, 3-4-1 vs. the ECAC and 5-5-1 against Hockey East.
* I went 6-1/2 (right), 3-1/2 (wrong) on my WCHA picks last week. There were three sweeps by UMD, UND and SCSU, Bemidji State's three-point weekend against Denver, and a split between UNO and MSU Mankato. Only series I got exactly right was the last one. Gotta do better than that. The Gophers were idle.