Roman Augustoviz spends Minnesota's winters covering college hockey, specifically the Gophers, and other University of Minnesota sports. During the summer, he writes about the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, with a dose of U sports sprinkled in. Follow him on Twitter @RomanStrib.

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Staying on top in WCHA will be a challenge this season

Posted by: Roman Augustoviz under Gophers, Men's hockey Updated: January 8, 2013 - 5:32 AM

This is shaping up as a crazy final season in the WCHA before the conference is massively re-configured.

Nebraska Omaha moved into first place in the conference by one point after Saturday's conference games. The top six teams are a mere four points apart. UNO has 19 points while the Gophers, ranked No. 1 in the nation, are way down in sixth with 15 points but have two games in hand over four of the five teams ahead of them.

The top six:

1. Nebraska Omaha   9-4-1    19 pts.

Comments: Red Mavericks swept Colorado College last weekend to move into first place in WCHA. Done with Gophers

2. St. Cloud State       9-5-0     18 pts.

Comments: Got swept by Northern Michigan, a team tied for 10th in the CCHA, at National Hockey Center last weekend in nonconference series. Host Gophers Feb. 8-9.

3. (tie) North Dakota  7-2-3      17 pts. (only 12 games, so two in hand against most of the top teams)

Comments: The team formerly known as the Fighting Sioux is 6-0-1 in its last seven games -- that's the third longest current unbeaten streak in the nation. UND plays at Minnesota on Feb. 18-19.

4. (tie) Denver             7-4-3      17 pts.

Comments: After an eight-game winless streak (0-5-3), the  Pioneers have won three in a row. They come to Mariucci on March 1-2.

5. Minnesota State Mankato   8-6-0   16 pts.

Comments: Mavericks are 11-1-0 in last 12 games. Nobody is hotter in the WCHA. Home and home with Gophers on Jan. 25-26.

6. Gophers                 6-3-3       15 pts.

Comments: Gophers have not swept a conference series yet. Have either a loss or tie in all six. So they are averaging 1.25 points per conference game, and are on pace to finish with 35 points. Can'r repeat as MacNaughton Cup champs with that total.

 WHO'S IN FIRST

The first-place team at the end of the night on these WCHA game nights:

Oct. 19 -- Michigan Tech

Oct. 20 -- Michigan Tech and Gophers

Oct.. 26 -- Michigan Tech, Gophers, Denver, Minnesota Duluth, North Dakota, St. Cloud State

 Oct. 27 -- Denver, St. Cloud State

Nov. 2 -- St. Cloud State

Nov. 3 -- Denver and St. Cloud State

Nov. 9 -- Denver

Nov. 10 -- Denver

Nov. 16 -- Denver

Nov. 17 -- Denver

Nov. 23 -- Denver

Nov. 24 -- Denver

Nov. 30 -- Denver

Dec. 1 -- Denver

Dec. 7 -- Denver

Dec. 8 -- Denver

Dec. 14 -- Denver

Dec. 15 -- St. Cloud State

Jan. 4 -- St. Cloud State

Jan. 5 --- Nebraska Omaha

Denver had been in first place or tied for first almost every day since the second weekend of the season.

But St. Cloud State passed the Pioneers in mid-December, and after a short stay in first, has been passed by UNO.  The first place carousel could continue to turn like that the rest of the season.

GOPHERS' RUNAWAY

That's a far cry from a year ago.

During the 2011-12 season, the Gophers' either were in first place in the WCHA or tied for the lead every day of the season except one 24-hour period. A 6-0-0 league start obviously helped.

Remember which team led the league for one night and one day? Minnesota Duluth. On Jan. 13, the Bulldogs beat Nebraska Omaha 6-2 for 24 points in the league standings while the Gophers lost to North Dakota 2-1 and stayed at 22 points. The next day, the Gophers won and UMD lost and it was a tie at the top again.

The Gophers broke the tie on Jan.21 and led the rest of the season.

A look at the Gophers' run to the MacNaughton Cup in 2011-12:

Oct. 14, first day of season

Gophers beat UMD 5-4 for share of first place with Colorado College and Michigan Tech ... all have two points

Oct. 15, second day of season

Gophers win again, but so do CC and Michigan Tech ... all have  four points

Oct. 21, Gophers, CC and Michigan Tech, none play a WCHA series ... all have four points

Oct. 22, Gophers, CC and Michigan Tech joined at top of standings by  Bemidji State, Denver and Nebraska Omaha and Wisconsin, who all sweep series ... seven teams all have four points

Oct. 28 ... Gophers beat Alaska Anchorage for third WCHA win ...  Gophers, Michigan Tech and Nebraska Omaha share lead with six points

Oct. 29 ...  Gophers beat Alaska Anchorage again ... alone in first, have eight points

Dec. 9 ... UMD ties Gophers for first, both have 20 points ... two teams remain tied through Jan. 12

Jan. 13 ... UMD beats Nebraska Omaha 6-2, Gophers lose to North Dakota 2-1 ... Bulldogs take first with 24 points to the Gophers' 22

Jan. 14 ... Two are tied again and remain tied through Jan. 20

Jan. 21 ... Gophers retake sole possession of first place in the WCHA with 26 points to UMD's 24 and remain alone in first the rest of the season

 

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