This is the halfway mark for most WCHA teams. Ten of the 12 -- all except the Gophers and North Dakota -- have played 14 of their 28 conference games. The U of M and UND have played 12.
Three players have emerged as strong Hobey Baker candidates -- they are 1-2-3 in WCHA scoring. And their schools are sending out e-mails pushing their candidacy:
* Junior forward Ryan Walters of Nebraska Omaha. Walters, of Rosemount, leads the nation in goals with 13 and points with 33. He has 20 assists. And the red Mavericks are in first place in the WCHA.
All of his 13 goals have come in the last 15 games. He has at least one point in 14 of those games. He is one of 77 players nominated by their schools for the Hobey; each school could nominate up to three. Fan voting for the award began Monday and is 1% of the final decision.
* Senior Corban Knight of North Dakota. He has 10 goals and 19 assists for 29 points. He leads WCHA players with a 1.53 points per game average. He is winning 60.2 percent of his draws -- on pace to break his own record of 59.9 percent set as two seasons ago. He is a plus-11 and has a 15-game points streak. He is from High River, Alberta. Knight was the national player of the month in December.
* Senior forward Drew LeBlanc of St. Cloud State. After a broken leg sidelined him last season, LeBlanc decided to return as a redshirt senior and is the team co-captain. He leads the nation in assists with 24 and has six goals for 30 points. He has am 11-game points streak. The Huskies are second in the WCHA. ... The Huskies mention all three of their candidates in Hobey Baker voting reminders -- they also nominated Ben Hankinson and Nic Dowd -- but LeBlanc, of Hermantown, Minn., is having the best season so far.
The 12 WCHA schools nominated 17 players for the Hobey.
Three teams nominated three, the maximum possible: the Gophers, Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State. The Gophers nominees are centers Nick Bjugstad and Erik Haula and defenseman Nate Schmidt.
Haula is off to the best start of those three at Minnesota. He has nine goals and 17 assists for a team-high 26 points, but he is hurt now (slashed hand) and won't play against Notre Dame tonight.
Colorado College, Denver and Wisconsin nominated two players apiece.
Nebraska Omaha and North Dakota submitted just one name each for the Hobey, Walters and Knight, respectively.
Four teams did not nominate anyone: Alaska Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech and Minnesota State Mankato.
To vote on the Hobey go here.
The six early leaders as of 10 a.m. Tuesday: Corban Knight, North Dakota, 1,002; Johnny Gaudreau, Boston College, 605; Drew LeBlanc, St. Cloud State, 291; Brett Gensler, Bentley, 287; Ryan Walters, Nebraska Omaha, 246, and Nick Bjugstad, Gophers, 203. Nobody else had more than 200 votes and only one has more than 100.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Senior forward Eriah Hayes of Minnesota State Mankato is having a breakout season. He has seven power-play goals, tied for first nationally. The purple Mavericks have won 11 of their last 12 games.
Gopher left winger Kyle Rau and two other WCHA players -- Johnny McInnis of MSU and Nic Dowd of SCSU -- all have four game-winners. They are among four players with four, which ties all of them for second nationally.
Denver sophomore defenseman Joey LaLeggia has 18 points, more than any other blue-liner. He has seven goals. ... Gophers junior Nate Schmidt is tied for third nationally in points among D-men. He has three goals and 13 assists for 16 points.
UMD's Tony Cameranesi is tied for second in points by a freshman nationally. He has eight goal and 11 assists for 19 points.
Two WCHA goalies are sixth and seventh in Division I hockey in goals-against average. Juho Olkinuora of Denver has a 1.55 gaa, Adam Wilcox has a 1.63. Wilcox has played more minutes -- 1,064.23 -- than all but two goalies. ... In save percentage, Olkinuora is fourth at .948, Wilcox 16th at .927. ... Wilcox is second in winning percentage at .794 with a 12-2-3 record.
The Gophers are fourth in the nation on the power play at 24.2 percent and seventh on the penalty kill at 89.1 percent.
Offensively, the Gophers are third in scoring at 3.63 goals per game, just behind UNO, second at 3.68. ... Alaska Anchorage, which visits Mariucci this weekend, is 57th out of 59 teams at 1.94 goals per game.
The Gophers are giving up only 1.84 goals per game -- fourth nationally. Notre Dame, their opponent on Tuesday, is second at 1.61. Those two teams are 1-2 in scoring margin. The Gophers are scoring 1.79 goals more than their opponents, the Irish 1.61.
GOOD-BYE TO ANOTHER PLAYER
Freshman goalie Anthony Stolarz has left Nebraska Omaha and is expected to sign with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.
Mavericks coach Dean Blais didn't try to hide how unhappy he is over his departure.
“I’m obviously disappointed by Anthony’s decision,” Blais said. “He has been making a very challenging transition from the North American Hockey League to the WCHA, and we, as coaches, saw good progress from him in the first half of the season. But ultimately, it’s his decision where he wants to play, and we wish him the best in the next chapter of his career.”
About half the WCHA teams seem to have lost one player in the last month. In the Gophers' case, it was sophomore defenseman Blake Thompson. Most of them were playing little. Not so with Stolarz.
The 6-6, 220-pound native of Jackson, N.J., appeared in eight games for UNO, starting seven. He was 2-5-0 with a 2.56 goals-against average and a .898 save percentage.
He made 27 saves in beating Minnesota State 5-1 on Dec. 15 in his last victory.
The Gophers, going into their final nonconference game, have the best record of any team in Division I hockey in those games: They are 7-0-0. The only other unbeaten WCHA team in nonconference play is Minnesota State Mankato at 6-0-2.
But the other 10 are a ho-hum 29-30-3.
Here are the other records:
North Dakota 5-3-0
Nebraska Omaha 4-4-0
Michigan Tech 3-2-0
Colorado College 3-4-1
St. Cloud State 3-5-0
Alaska Anchorage 2-1-1
Minnesota Duluth 2-4-0
Bemidji State 1-4-1
WCHA against other conferences
9-0-1 vs. Atlantic Hockey
7-0-1 vs. independents Alabama-Huntsville, Penn State
9-8-1 vs. Hockey East
7-8-1 vs. ECAC
10-14-1 vs. CCHA
42-30-5 overall in nonconference