Friday, March 6, 2009

Congratulations to the Fighting Sioux; Help Needed for Gophers

Congratulations to Coach Dave Hakstol and the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux, who won the MacNaughton Cup as WCHA regular season champions with a 2-1 victory over Wisconsin Friday night (HT, Grand Forks Herald).

The Minnesota Gophers missed a golden opportunity to gain first round home ice advantage, losing to Michigan Tech 6-5 in overtime. The victory was Tech's second in conference play. The Gophers completely dominated this game on paper, out-shooting Tech 49-27, and unofficially more than doubling-up MTU's scoring chances 18-8. Therein lied the problem for Minnesota; eight Michigan Tech scoring chances resulting in six goals. Goaltenders Alex Kangas (5 shots, 2 saves) and Kent Patterson 16 shots, 13 saves) were shaky at best, but the Gophers' defensive lapses were the story in this game. Tech's junior Drew Dobson was left untouched for all three of his goals.

The Gophers overcame a horrendous 3:16 period in the second stanza in which MTU converted three consecutive goals, storming out to a 4-1 lead. Minnesota answered with a Ryan Flynn goal with nine minutes left in the period, and Ryan Stoa chipped in two goals in the period's final minute to tie the score. The teams traded third period goals, before the Gophers committed a too many men on the ice penalty in overtime. Less than one minute into the power play, Deron Cousens scored to give Tech its second victory of the WCHA season and dealing the Gophers' NCAA tournament hopes a serious blow.

Interesting stat of the night: The Gophers lost for the first time this season when scoring first. The team had gone 12-0-3 on the season prior to Friday.

Help for the Gophers' home ice cause was provided by MSU-Mankato, which defeated St. Cloud, 5-1, on the road (story from St. Cloud Times).

Further help was provided by the Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves, which came back from two goals down to beat UMD at the DECC, 5-4 (from Duluth News-Tribune).

The standings through Friday's games are here.

Places 4-8 still have to be decided, although Wisconsin holds tie-breakers over both Minnesota and UMD (St. Cloud and Sconnie split their two games, so the tie-breaker will be decided by league wins, of which both schools have 13). Wisconsin will finish either third, fourth or fifth; Colorado College can only finish third or fourth; the three schools tied for fifth cannot finish any higher than fifth (except SCSU); MSU-Mankato can still finish as high as seventh, as it holds a tie-breaker over Minnesota, and would pass the Gophers with a U of M loss and a MSU win at home against SCSU.

Here's the latest PairWise, courtesy of

Bottom line: Still a lot to be decided in the regular season's final night tomorrow.

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