Friday, January 1, 2010

Around the WCHA: Halfway Home

Wow been a long time since I've gotten around to blogging consistently.

The second half of the NCAA schedule is underway right now w/ some holiday tourneys around the country. Tomorrow begins the final Badger Hockey Showdown, and its a pretty good field, if you are going I'd recommend getting there for the early game Yale/Ferris should be good.

Right now Denver sits on top the WCHA standings, but only 4 pts separates 1st and 5th place. At this point only Tech is really out of things. Wisconsin sits comfortably in 3rd place.

I took the time the other day to put together the remaining Strength of Schedule for every team for WCHA games remaining. Hardest to weakest (home/away games left):

1) minnesota - .571 (7 at home, 7 on the road)
2) Colorado College - .536 (7 at home, 7 on the road)
3) Michigan Tech - .531 (8 home, 6 away)
4) North Dakota - .515 (8 home, 6 away)
5) Wisconsin - .510 (6 home, 8 away)
5) UAA - . 510 (6 home, 8 away)
7) Mankato - .495 (7 home, 7 away)
8) Denver - .444 (7 home, 7 away)
8) Duluth - .444 (6 home, 8 away)
8) St Cloud - .444 (8 home, 6 away)

The gophers have a rough road the rest of the way, I feel bad for them. The only team w/ a losing conference record they play is UAA. Duluth and St Cloud avoid Denver, and each other, and both look in good position to finish in the top five. UW's disadvantage is all the road games left on the conference schedule including some tough stops still in January at CC and Duluth. As always it will be a very interesting finish.

This is a great website to check out. It gives the statisical chance of all of the WCHA teams to finish 1st thru 10th in the standings. UW has a roughly 88% chance of home ice for the WCHA playoffs, and a 19% chance of winning the MacNaughton. This is fun to watch as the season progresses to see how quickly Tech is eliminated from any chance at the top of the standings.

While its really too early to talk Pairwise Rankings, I'll just mention that 5 WCHA teams are in the top 12. DU (3), CC (6), UW (7), Duluth (9) & NoDak (12). St Cloud is 16th and I think its possible for the WCHA to get 5 or 6 teams in the NCAA tourney.

The Badgers have a lot of players who've filled the box scores and find themselves at or near the top in WCHA conference scoring.

Brendan Smith is tied for the lead in pts, 1st in dman scoring & PP pts, t-3rd in PP goals and 5th in assists.

Blake Geoffrion leads the WCHA in goals and PP goals, and is in the top 10 in pts and PP pts.

Craig Smith leads the WCHA in freshman scoring, and is in the top 10 in pts and assists.

Derek Stepan is t-3rd in assists and in the top 10 in scoring. In case you forgot, he is the Captain of Team USA at the WJC.

Scott Gudmandson leads the WCHA in GAA (1.82) and is 4th in save % (.924). Brett Bennett is third in GAA (2.15).

Wisconsin is 1st in scoring offense (stick it up your ass gopher fans, so much for that boring style of play) and second in scoring defense. They do need to improve their special teams. The PP is starting to click, but the PK has done poorly after starting much stronger.

My mid-season All WCHA Selections

All Rookie Team
G Joe Howe (CC)
D Justin Schultz (UW)
D Steven Seigo (Tech)
F Craig Smith (UW)
F Rylan Schwartz (CC)
F Danny Kristo (UND)

1st Team
G Marc Cheverie (DU)
D Brendan Smith (UW)
D Gabe Guentzel (CC)
F Justin Fontaine (Duluth)
F Rhett Rakhshani (DU)
F Blake Geoffrion (UW)

2nd Team
G Scott Gudmandson (UW)
D Chay Genoway (UND)
D Patrick Wiercioch (DU)
F Jack Connolly (Duluth)
F Bill Sweat (CC)
F Ryan Lasch (St Cloud)

Top Dman - Brendan Smith
League MVP - Marc Cheverie

When Cheverie plays, DU is almost hard to beat, as he makes up for a young blue line. When he was out and freshman Adam Murray was in net, DU was shaky at best. Huge series in Madison 3 weeks from now.