In this day and age of college hockey, staying at the top isn’t easy.
The best teams have to deal with early NHL signings, CHL defections and the challenges of early recruiting. These are all issues that have led to a leveling of the playing field and the development of No. 4 seeds routinely beating No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament.
Through all of this, there have been two WCHA programs that have better managed these challenges than any, and they are meeting in Ralph Engelstad Arena this weekend.
UND and Denver, who rank 1-2 in wins in the last 10 years among WCHA teams, are playing in a rematch of the last two Final Five title games.
My Friday story has a bunch of remarkable stats that show how consistent these two teams have been, including the note that every WCHA team has had at least four sub-20 win seasons since the last time either UND or DU have done so (2002 for UND, 2001 for DU). Below is a chart of wins in the last decade.
Wins since 2003-04 (last 10 years)
250 — North Dakota
236 — Denver
221 — Minnesota
205 — Colorado College
198 — Wisconsin
179 — Duluth
177 — St. Cloud State
172 — Bemidji State (most games were played in CHA)
161 — Omaha (most games were played in CCHA)
136 — MSU-Mankato
105 — Anchorage
90 — Michigan Tech
The other amazing stat is that either UND or Denver has been in the Broadmoor Trophy championship game in 15 of the last 16 years.
One player to watch this weekend will be UND freshman forward Drake Caggiula, who is finding his way. Here’s the story I wrote about Caggiula for Thursday’s paper with a little bit of color from his interesting postgame interview in Springs. If you haven’t seen the dazzling goal Caggiula scored in Springs last weekend, go to our show and fast forward to about the 3:20 mark. Goal of the year so far for UND.
This week’s Q&A is with Danny Kristo. He talks a little bit about how he tries to fool goalies and about his time at UND. Read that here.
At practice this week, I met up with photog Allison Davis O’Keefe, who was at about half of the games during the 2010-11 season working on a project. She had full access for photos and put together a black-and-white photo book that’s just under 100 pages from that season. It goes on sale today at the Sioux Shop.
Browsing the book brought back a ton of memories from the 2010-11 squad. I wrote about some of those memories in this week’s On The Ice column. From a fan’s perspective, that group was a blast to watch. From a writer’s perspective, that group was a blast to cover. The two teams with the best personalities that I’ve been around would have to be 2010-11 and 2004-05. The common thread? Both were senior-dominated groups (other teams have been very unique in their own ways, too).
The Denver Post won’t be traveling to Grand Forks this week and it doesn’t appear that the Post is giving Mike Chambers many column inches to write this week, despite the hockey void that the NHL lockout has caused. Here’s what was in the Post today. (That’s another reason I love working at the Herald – the editors here understand how important college hockey is to our readers and they devote proper resources to the coverage).
At the same time, one hockey scribe will be escaping the NHL lockout coverage in Canada to enjoy some college hockey this weekend. Winnipeg Free Press writer Tim Campbell is planning to make the trip for the games. He’s a frequent visitor to The Ralph and an unbelievably well-versed hockey writer.
This week’s USCHO column has a bunch of good stuff in it – and it has quite a bit of info from a UND angle. Read that here.
This week’s episode of Through These Doors focuses on the goalies.
Elsewhere around the league…
Omaha at St. Cloud State: Should be a wonderful series. Both teams should be in the mix for an NCAA tournament spot and both are on their way to a home ice spot in the WCHA playoffs. Pick: Split.
Minnesota at Colorado College: Colorado College is giving up shots on goal at a ridiculous rate. That won’t bode well against the Gophers, who are an offensively gifted team and will enjoy playing on the large ice surface of World Arena. Pick: Minnesota sweep.
Bemidji State at Duluth: It has been a tough go for the Beavs, who have one win in the last eight games. Duluth is recovering after its tough start. Pick: Duluth sweep.
Michigan Tech at Wisconsin: Mark Zengerle will be back in the lineup tonight according to Bucky’s Fifth Quarter. So, this will be the first time the Badgers will play with their star player and star recruit (Nic Kerdiles) this season. Tech is 2-7-1 since beating Minnesota. Pick: Wisconsin win and tie.
Anchorage at Mankato: Anchorage went almost a month and a half without a win. But in that time, the Seawolves never got swept. They haven’t been an easy out for anyone, and they won’t be for a Mankato team that’s won four straight and has averaged more than four goals per game in that stretch. Pick: Split.
That’s all for now. We’ll see you back here tonight for the live chat. Until then, I leave you with this.