Last weekend Minnesota got swept at Denver. The Pioneers won 5-3 on Friday and 4-3 in overtime on Saturday. Zach Budish had two goals on the weekend, while Nate Condon, Erik Haula, Kyle Rau and Nico Sacchetti also scored. Senior goaltender Kent Patterson made a combined 66 saves on the weekend. Patterson has had a lot of great weekends this season but this weekend was not one of them.
The illumination in Denver’s building seems to be duller than most arenas, and this has been the case going back many years to the former rink. The building is sort of odd to begin with the majority of the seating on the ends of the rink. The two factors may have contributed psychologically to Patterson not being 100 percent on his game.
Special team play was down a bit, especially on Saturday. The faceoffs were also called really tight and Nick Bjugstad was probably thrown out of 10 draws over the weekend.
Overall the Gophers didn’t play all that bad, and it showed that Denver has some high-end talent. In many cases Zach Budish and Nate Condon were the best players in these two games.
With the two losses last week Minnesota falls to No. 7 in the polls, and they are 14th in the Pairwise. The Gophers still are on top of the WCHA with 30 points, but the race is tight with UMD at 29, Denver 28, CC and UNO 25, UND 24, Tech 23 and Bemidji and St. Cloud at 21. Just nine points separate first place and ninth place.
While Minnesota is certainly disappointed with two losses at Denver, they still are in control of their own destiny. If they win the games they should over the next three weeks in the series against Bemidji, UNO and Wisconsin, they should be a strong contender to finish atop the WCHA. They have a slightly more difficult schedule than the teams chasing them. Second-place UMD is at Mankato this weekend, followed by a home series against CC and they finish at St. Cloud. Denver is at Wisconsin this weekend before hosting UND and finishing at UNO.
This weekend Bemidji State comes to Mariucci Arena to play the Gophers as a member of the WCHA for the first time. After a 4-8-1 start, Bemidji State has been one of the WCHA’s hottest teams, going 10-4-2 since beginning of December. Last week, the Beavers followed up a three-point weekend at Nebraska-Omaha by beating CC 4-2 and 4-1 at home. BSU is now 15-12-3 overall with a 9-10-3 WCHA mark, good for a tie for eighth place in the conference. The Beavers are led offensively by junior Jordan George’s 25 points (15g-10a). George is followed by senior defenseman Brad Hunt (4g-17a) and senior forward Shea Walters (10g-10a). Aside from Hunt, Bemidji State is led defensively by freshman Matt Prapavessis (0g-10a) and juniors Brady Wacker (4g-5a) and Jake Areshenko (2g-6a). Prapavessis leads BSU with a +9 plus/minus rating and Areshenko has a team-high 46 penalty minutes. In goal, senior starter Dan Bakala, who last week was the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week, has gone 9-7-2 with a 2.48 goals against average and a .919 save percentage. His backup, freshman Andrew Walsh, is 6-4-1 with a 2.37 goals against average and a .915 save percentage. Bakala and Walsh backstop the Beavers’ penalty kill, which leads the WCHA with an 84.8 percent efficiency.
Bemidji has a good power play and penalty kill, which are both reflections of good coaching. The Beavers don’t take a lot of penalties and they are a cycling team down deep. They will keep grinding away playing with good energy.
The Call: 3 points for Minnesota
Elsewhere in the WCHA:
Denver at Wisconsin
Denver has plenty of momentum heading into Madison this weekend and should pick up points against a struggling Wisconsin team that has just seven WCHA wins this season. The big question for Denver will be if the emotion from last weekend can carry over.
The Call: Split
Alaska Anchorage at St. Cloud State
Anchorage has won just four conference games this year.
The Call: St. Cloud sweep
Minnesota Duluth at Minnesota State
UMD needs to get the ship righted and this may be the weekend to do it.
The Call: UMD sweep
Michigan Tech at North Dakota
Tech continues to surprise people and are winning some games, sitting in seventh place with 10 wins.
The Call: Sioux sweep
Nebraska Omaha at Colorado College
This will be a good series as the two teams sit tied for fourth place.
The Call: Split