Lastly, we visit the conference where goals forgot.
Okay, so that’s not exactly fair. The goaltending in the WCHA is quite good considering the list of mediocre teams. Those goalies are part of the reasons why there have been 14 ties so far in the conference. Of the 14, seven have been 1-1 ties.
Only Michigan Tech is averaging over three goals per game and is in the top half of average goals per game in the country. The next highest in the WCHA is Alaska-Anchorage, which is tied for 33rd with only 2.50 average goals per game.
Here are the standings in the WCHA:
Minnesota State 9-1-4 22 10-6-4
Bowling Green 8-2-4 20 11-3-5
Michigan Tech 9-6-1 19 11-6-2
Ferris State 7-7-2 16 8-8-4
Northern Michigan 5-5-4 14 6-7-6
Alaska Anchorage 5-5-2 12 8-7-3
Lake Superior 4-4-4 12 6-10-4
Bemidji State 4-8-2 10 5-9-3
Alaska 3-8-3 9 5-10-3
Alabama-Huntsville 2-10-2 6 4-12-2
Here is one number that caught my interest for each team.
Alabama-Huntsville – 14.9
It’s been a slow start for the Chargers of Alabama-Huntsville. They have struggled to find offense and are near the bottom in many statistical categories.
Except when it comes to penalty minutes per game. The Chargers average 14.9, which is one of the worst in the country. That means the Chargers are playing a man down for almost 75% of a period every game. Doesn’t take a brilliant hockey mind to realize that it will be tough to mount offense.
However, it does mean the penalty kill has been getting plenty of practice, as they kill an impressive 86% of power play opportunities.
Alaska – .936
The Nanooks have evenly split goaltending duties between junior Davis Jones and freshman Jesse Jenks. Judging by the stats, there shouldn’t be any reason to continue with the tandem.
Jenks has a lackluster 3-3-3 record in his nine games played, but has a mind boggling 1.95 goals against average and a staggering .936 save percentage. That doesn’t just blow Jones out of the water, but that puts him up there as some of the best in the country.
For the rest of the season, the Nanooks should starting giving the freshman the majority of the work and has the potential for some upsets throughout the season.
Bemidji State – 23.9
The Beavers have always been known as a ‘defensively sound’ and ‘well-positioned’ (also known as ‘trap’) team. Now, I personally have no problems with teams playing the trap. There is a stigma to the term. But it’s important to know that every team traps, people are just upset how much another team does.
Because of Bemidji’s ability to clog up the zones, they have allowed a league low average of 23.9 shots against per game. If the Beavers are able to keep the shots against to a minimum and get adequate goaltending, they can make a nice leap in the second half.
Also, Bemidji State has given up five shorthanded goals, worst in the nation.
Lake Superior – 1.96
In the “Land that Goals Forgot” that is the WCHA, the Lake Superior State Lakers are at the epicenter. The Lakers don’t have much up front that will scare opponents and are averaging only 1.96 goals per game. That is last in the WCHA and tied for 57th in the NCAA.
Only sophomore J.T. Henke has more than five goals this season and he only sits at six. The young goaltending combo of sophomore Gordon Defiel and freshman Nick Kossoff are they reason this team has six wins this season. Both are having very good seasons.
Alaska Anchorage – -6
The Seawolves are an interesting team. They actually have a fairly respectable shooting percentage of 10 percent, tied for 15th in the nation. But they have trouble generating offense and only registers 24.9 shots on goal per game, second worst in the WCHA.
However, the Achilles heel for the Seawolves has been the second period, where they have a -6 goal differential so far this season. In every other period, the seasons are either even or ahead in goal differential. They have been able to play well during the bookends of the game, but haven’t been able to string many complete games.
Northern Michigan – 24.6
Before tonight’s game against Michigan, the Wildcats averaged only 24.6 shots on goal per game, worst in the WCHA. It looks like that number will right with a 37 shot effort against the Wolverines in the nightcap of the Great Lakes Invitational. Northern Michigan will play Michigan State tomorrow.
In a conference that has the defensive and goaltending depth, the Wildcats need to find a way to generate changes and make a postseason run.
Ferris State – 14.3
The Ferris State Bulldogs always seem like a team that is on the cusp. I looked at the lineup this year and felt they could really bust to the top of the WCHA. But that hasn’t happened yet.
One thing that is holding them back is the power play. Operating at just 14.3 percent, the Bulldogs are in desperate need to get the man advantage working. If they look to be any type of threat in the second half of the season, this needs to be much better.
Michigan Tech – 3
After tonight’s come from behind overtime win against Michigan State, the Michigan Tech Huskies have only played three non-conference games this season. Those three games? All against Michigan State.
We still don’t exactly know how well this team stacks up against other competition. Tomorrow’s game is the championship for the Great Lakes Invitational and then the Desert Hockey Classic with Connecticut and either Yale or Arizona State.
The Huskies’ pairwise rankings will be at the mercy of the conference. If they don’t win the conference tournament, that could be the downfall.
Bowling Green – 49
Bowling Green is sitting very well from a record standpoint with 11-3-5 so far on the season, but the relatively weak schedule is a reason they aren’t a major pairwise player.
The Bowling Green Falcons strength of schedule is 49th in nation. The team’s best win was a 3-2 against Michigan Tech who is 23rd in the pairwise after tonight’s win. Minnesota State – 1
The Minnesota State Mavericks are sitting at the top of the WCHA with 22 points and a stellar 9-1-4 record. But with just one non-conference win, if they make the national tournament, they will be a team most people will pick to lose the opening game.
The Mavericks only non-conference win came against Minnesota where they battled back from a 2-0 deficit and beat the Golden Gophers 3-2 in overtime. They lost the first game of that series and four other games at the start of the season to Omaha and Saint Cloud.
Minnesota State has the North Star College Cup where they will again drop the puck against Saint Cloud State, a team that not only swept the Mavericks, but also didn’t even allow a goal.
That’s the recap of the first half from all the western conferences. Holiday tournaments are going on right now, the World Juniors are taking place in Helsinki, Finland, and plenty more college games take place this weekend. My shift is over.