Thursday, January 21, 2010

WCHA Red Hot Right Now

The calendar has turned to 2010 and the race for the MacNaughton Cup in the WCHA is very tight right now. Surging UMD leads the pack, but Denver trails by only two points, and the Pioneers have two games in hand. Five points separate third and seventh places, and we still have seven weeks remaining in the regular season.

Looking at the latest weekly poll, four of the top five teams play in the WCHA. Denver leads the way at #1. The CCHA's Miami follows at #2, but then Wisconsin, UMD, and North Dakota appear to round out the top five. Colorado College checks in at #7, and St. Cloud State is #12. With six teams in this week's top 20, the WCHA as a conference has managed to place the most teams.

Of course, we're at the point of the season where the polls are meaningless and all attention is paid to the PairWise rankings. The latest here shows Miami and Denver in a virtual tie for the top spot. UMD is third, Wisconsin fourth, St. Cloud State checks in at #6, Colorado College tenth, and North Dakota at #12. Looking outside the top 16, you'll find Minnesota at #23. So, if the NCAA Tournament began today, the WCHA would be represented by six teams.

As far as streaks go, the league's top teams are hitting on all cylinders right now. Take the following into consideration:
  • UMD: Four-game winning streak; 7-2-0 since December 5
  • Denver: 5-1-2 record since December 4
  • Wisconsin: 6-1-2 mark since December 4; eight-game unbeaten string was snapped in their last game
  • St. Cloud State: Six-game winning streak; 9-1-1 record since November 28
  • Minnesota: 8-2-1 mark since November 28 to get back into the race
  • North Dakota: 3-1-2 record in 2010; the Sioux are notorious for their second-half runs, so keep an eye on them
Of the league's top seven teams, only Colorado College is truly scuffling right now. The Tigers had lost four games in a row before beating Wisconsin last Saturday to snap the string. The streak saw the Tigers drop a few spots in the league standings and erased a fine start - at least temporarily.

We've often point out here and in other sites that the WCHA is the most competitive league outside the NHL. I still believe this to be true. The talent on the rosters of the league's top seven teams is unmatched and the competitiveness of each weekend's series is tremendous. With so much on the line each weekend, the intensity levels are unbelievable. With seven weeks remaining in the regular season, the intensity level will be dialed-up even further as teams are jockeying for first round home ice.

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