Before the Gophers trekked to Alaska Anchroage, coach Don Lucia was talking about the Seawolves' left wing lock -- whatever that is -- and their penchant for always dropping three players back on defense.
He also worried about the Alaska meltdown. Every WCHA team that goes up there seems to play one bad game and loses.
Four of the five WCHA teams that traveled north had lost their second game to AA:
North Dakota won first game 5-0, lost second 2-1
Denver won first game 3-2, lost second 7-3
MSU Mankato won first game 8-2, lost second 4-1
Colorado College won first game 6-1, lost second 2-1
Minnesota's series followed exact same pattern. Gophers won first game 7-4, lost second by the popular score of 2-1 ... So those who want to throw stones at the U of M for losing up there better have a few more for everyone else who has lost up there.
Only St. Cloud State has managed to sweep in the 49th state, winning 3-1 and 3-2. Only one WCHA team has series left up there, UMD visits Sullivan Arena March 5-6, the last weekend of the regular season. For the Bulldogs' sake, that last game better not mean much. If it does, UMD may be in trouble.
The Gophers have this week to regroup and relax a bit after the trip to Alaska. Since they are off next week, coach Don Lucia said everyone will have 3-4 days off and Jordan Schroeder maybe the whole week because he did not get a holiday break. Schroeder played in the World Junior Championships.
Mike Hoeffel, out with mono, is expected to be back for series at Denver in two weeks. That is actually shaping up as pretty huge for the Gophers. If they can somehow get three, four points, They will be in a positon to climb over fifth-place Colorado College, which now has a six-point lead over the U but does not play any WCHA games the next two weeks.
Working against Gophers is their tough reamining schedule. They play four of the top five teams, two on the road. No other WCHA has a schedule that tough:
WCHA record of teams left Winning WCHA pct. of teams left
Minnesota 47-24-11 .636
Michigan Tech 44-25-11 .619
MSU, Mankato 43-29-10 .585
Alaska Anchorage 31-25-4 .550
Colorado College 28-23-9 .542
North Dakota 39-37-6 .512
St. Cloud State 33-41-8 .451
Wisconsin 29-46-5 .394
Denver 28-48-6 .378
UMD 27-49-6 .366
The Gophers have a great chance to play spoiler in the WCHA. Let's look at every team, starting with the U:
Gophers: Idle, @ DU, CC, @ UMD, Wis ... if Gophers can split on road, win three of four at home, would finish 5-3 for 10 more points for 26 total, probably sixth in WCHA ... probably need at least 6-2 finish for 30 pts. and shot at fifth.
Denver: non conf, Minny, Mich Tech, @ MSU Mankato, home and home with CC ... with 5 of last 8 games at home, Pios could easily go 5-3, maybe 6-2 to finish with 38, 40 pts. ... Win WCHA title with 40
UMD: @ Mich Tech, idle, @ NoDak, Minny, @ Alaska Anchorage ... Easist schedule but six of eight on road is pesky. Looking at 5-3 finish, which would give Dogs 37 points, and third place.
St. Cloud State: Alaska Anchorage, NoDak, @ Wis, idle, @ MSU Mankato ... a 6-2 finish for 38 points and second in WCHA
Wisconsin: Mich outdoors on Sat.; MSU Mankato, St. Cloud State, @ Mich Tech, @ Minny .... a 6-2 finish for 35 points and fourth
Colorado College: non conf. games, idle, @ Minny, NoDak, home and home with DU ... a 3-3 finish for 31 points and fifth
North Dakota: idle, @ St, Cloud State, UMD, @ CC, Mich Tech ... a 4-4 or 5-3 finish for 28 or 30 pts
Alaska Anchorage: @ St. Cloud State, idle, @ MSU Mankato, non conf, UMD ... 3-3 finish for 23 pts.
MSU Mankato: idle, @ Wis, Alaska Anchorage, Denver, St. Cloud State ... Mavs finish with six home games, but last two foes will be fighting for title
Michigan Tech: UMD, idle, @ Denver, Wis, @ NoDak ... Huskies have only three WCHA wins, they might not get another
My projected finish:
2. St. Cloud State
5. Colorado College
7. North Dakota
8. Alaska Anchorage
9. MSU, Mankato
10. Michigan Tech
So if these predictions are correct, first-round WCHA would be:
Michigan Tech at Denver
MSU, Mankato at St. Cloud State
Alaska Anchorage at UMD
North Dakota at Wisconsin
Gophers at Colorado College