The jockeying for position in the WCHA standings raged forward this weekend with a dramatic leap, a couple of tweaks, and a pair of harmful sweeps. Only six conference games remain on the docket for all but Minnesota State and Alaska-Anchorage leaving minuscule room for error over the next three weekends.

Two points is all that separates the league’s top three teams (Minnesota, UMD, and Denver) and just four points sits between six teams situated from fourth to an eighth-place tie.

Minnesota had just enough of a cushion to maintain a one-point lead atop the WCHA despite suffering its first sweep of the season courtesy of the Denver Pioneers at Magness Arena where Don Lucia is just 4-12-2 as Minnesota’s bench boss.

The Gophers have their “friends” from Grand Forks to thank for their slim lead as the recently re-christened—for the time being—Fighting Sioux took two of four points from Minnesota-Duluth at Amsoil Arena and clings to a one-point lead over Michigan Tech for the sixth the final home-ice playoff spot.

With Minnesota holding firm at 30 points, the two points UMD salvaged on Saturday against North Dakota puts the Bulldogs within a single point at 29. The one-point deficit is the closest UMD has been to first place since the Gophers broke a 24-point tie between the two with a 2-1 win over Colorado College on Jan. 21.

As if the Bulldogs’ 2-4-1 record in their last seven conference games wasn’t enough of a bitter pill swallow in light of that information, UMD may be without the services of J.T. Brown for an undetermined period. Brown, whose first-period goal on Saturday gave him seven of his team’s past eight goals over a four-game stretch, sat out the game’s final two periods after suffering an undisclosed injury.

Bemidji State improved to 4-1-1 in its last five games with a sweep at home over Colorado College and jumped into an eighth place tie with idle St. Cloud State just four points behind CC. Although the Tigers didn’t lose any ground to Minnesota and fell only one spot to fourth in the standings, CC went from one point up on rival Denver to three back of the Pioneers and four points behind second-place UMD.

A three-point weekend for Nebraska-Omaha spoiled the hockey portion of Michigan Tech’s Winter Carnival festivities and bumped the Mavericks into a tie for fourth with CC while snapping a three-way tie for fifth with UND and the Huskies who now fall to seventh.

Finally, Michael Dorr’s goal with just over six minutes to play in Anchorage gave Minnesota State a 2-1 win over the Seawolves and a sweep on the road. The Mavericks, who have won seven of 11 (7-4-0) and four of their last five (4-1-0), edged ahead of Wisconsin into 10th place, although the Badgers have two games in hand.

Zucker out, Rau serves suspension

There is no doubt that when Kyle Rau skated from the defensive zone and lined up Jason Zucker for a big hit in front of the Denver bench well after Zucker dumped the puck, Rau’s hands came up high and made contact to Zucker’s face. Zucker’s head whipped around and slammed the glass. The call on the ice was the right call, but the one-game suspension imposed by the WCHA afterward, may not have been the right call.

Zucker lay on the ice, motionless for a long and uneasy five minutes before the trainers rolled him to his back and helped him up. Rau, meanwhile, was sent to the locker room with a game misconduct but not a disqualification. DQs force offenders to sit the next game. The WCHA’s decision came after Friday’s game.

There have been a lot of other hits that had worse consequences but didn’t receive suspension in this league. Not sure this one was any worse. Obviously, when a player is motionless on the ice for as long as Zucker was and misses the rest of the game, there will be consequences.

Zucker didn’t play Saturday but George Gwozdecky said Zucker didn’t suffer any head or neck trauma and the Pioneers hope to have him back next week at Wisconsin.

UND turning it on
Friday’s 3-1 win at Minnesota-Duluth not only kept North Dakota a leg up on some of the other teams in the log jam in the middle of the WCHA standings. It was a huge road win, proving UND is hot enough to win in any building, making the Feb. 24-25 series at Denver a lot more interesting. UND hosts Michigan Tech this coming Friday and Saturday and hosts Minnesota State March 2-3 to end the season.

The Friday win was the fourth in a row for UND, which was 9-3-1 since Dec. 10 going into Saturday’s game. Brock Nelson has four goals and three assists in the past five games and linemate Danny Kristo has two goals and four assists in that stretch.
UND’s Achilles’ heel was the lack of discipline in the form of eight power plays Saturday which the Bulldogs took advantage of, scoring four times in the 5-4 UMD overtime win.

  • bulldogs

    UMD didn’t win in overtime on Saturday night.

    • Scott Reed

      Not officially, but those extra 5 seconds were a gift to UND

      • Sioux Poo

        UND is a goon squad and their fans are drunk buffoons.  

        • North Dakota!

          You’re a drunk buffoon for thinking that North Dakotan’s are drunk baffoons. Just because you’re jealous of how awesome North Dakota is, how great the people are from here, and how amazingly amazing the hockey program is here doesn’t give you the right to bash on people that you wish you were but sadly are not. You need to calm down. GO SIOUX!!! 

          • SiouxHockey33


        • Haters-gon-hate

          yep, such goons. hard nosed hockey gets you nowhere-look at the bruins. real smart man. i personally like to watch hockey with as little hitting as possible.

          • WearThemWithPride

            Do you wear pink panties and fly a rainbow flag

          • puckhead

            Maybe you should just watch the ladies play then, if you like low impact hockey.

            So stick your hand down the back side of your pants and push your undies out for between you butt cheeks and go watch the ladies play.

            GO DOGS! 

          • SiouxHockey33

            puckhead get your facts together. A) hitting may not be allowed in womens hockey, but it still is a contact sport. B) dont bash womens hockey because there is ALOT of skill involved in the game, and in my opinion some of the players have more skill than some of the D1 mens players. C) fans just looking for the fights and big hits in games is runing mens hockey, i know that it is a big part of the game, but its not what hockey is all about. hockey is about creative passing plays, scoring amazing goals, seeing a goalie completely rob someone, and great team play. so before you make a comment like this again be sure to get your facts together bro!

      • bulldogs

         2.5 seconds, right?  but totally ridiculous I agree…

  • DU_Fan

    Saturday night’s DU-MINN game was worthy of a Frozen Four game!!! The refs (Thul and Bokal) called probably the 2 best games at Magness Arena in the last couple of years. With the exception of a horrible non-offsides call, by Keltie, their judgement was perfect. Was really nice to have important games without Anderson, either Shepherd, or Adam……

  • Csitzman

    Have to disagree on the Rau suspension.  The penalty should have been at least 2 games, if not more.  As you have stated, it was pretty clear that he lined the guy up for a cheap shot.  You seem to think that just because Zucker did not end up with a major injury that the league should just ignore a dirty hit.  There are too many players ending up with serious injuries and it is time for a major crackdown on this stuff.  I like a physical game, but there is no place in hockey for a late, blind hit and smacking a guys head around.  

    • DU_Fan

      As one who was there, I agree that he should have been given a Match Misconduct which would have put him out of Saturday’s game. Standing up for the refs though, who controlled both games perfectly, they knew the play would be reviewed by the WCHA office. Zucker released the puck about 3 full seconds before the hit and was on his way to the bench for a line change. Rau is not a dirty player, he usually is the one getting checked very hard due to his size, but this was a bad hit with an elbow to the head.

      • nogofer

        Do you WATCH Rau?  NOT dirty?  Are you kidding?  Instigators across the hockey world emulate him…

    • Hockey25

      Are you serious? get your head out of the sand! Take a look at JT Brown’s hit or Kristo’s hit and then get back to me. These hits had more intent, and either player received a game suspension. Actually, Brown’s hit came in the third period when the game was pretty much over, so why is this ok? Also, Blood throws a punch at Rau in the hand shake without suspension? I also think Rau shouldn’t have received the extra game suspension – hit from behind – NO – hit to the head – NO.

      • nogofer

        Remember Mark Alt?  OK, we got back to you…

  • Ring_of_Fire

    The argument put forth that the “consequences” of an illegal hit should, in some way, determine the punishment is completely asinine.  Should Brad Malone have had his hockey career ended for him because of the consequences of the Jesse Martin hit? 

    Even the most blindingly homer-istic Denver fan would say, “no”.

    Rau’s hit was late AND intentionally to the head.  With the NCAA’s focus on eliminating violent contact to the head, a game misconduct plus a one game suspension was ABSOLUTELY the right outcome, here.

    I don’t often praise the WCHA or its officials, but to their credit, they definitely got this one right. 

    • DU_Fan

      Even though I am not fond of you catagorizing any fans a “blindingly homer-istic”, and those that disagree with you as “completely asinine”, I do agree with your thoughts. Brad Malone’s hit on Jesse Martin had horrible results but, truthfully, it was a combination of an intentional charge and the fact Jess Martin put himself into a vulnerable position. Like I stated before, Thul and Bokal did a nice job this weekend and knew the hit would be reviewed. Those of us in attendance had no doubt that both Zucker and Rau would not be available Saturday.

      • Ring_of_Fire

        Apparently I should have been more clear.  I wasn’t singling out any particular team’s fans.  In fact, ANY team’s fans can be “blindingly homer-istic” at times. 

        To whit:  North Dakota fans claiming that Malone didn’t charge Jesse Martin.  Gophers fans claiming that the Rau hit was clean.  Denver fans claiming that Paukovitch didn’t deserve a suspension for the Bina hit.

        Those that cannot or will not see past their rooting interest to realize when something is/was blatantly and irrevocably wrong are “blindingly homer-istic”…regardless of WHICH team they cheer for. 

        (FWIW, I am a DU season ticket holder and was “in attendance” as well…)

        • Siouxhockeyrocks

          Agreed.  I just saw the JT Brown hit on Blood.  Dirty as they come.  Then Saturday Blood gets his first CFB.  Now that being said….It seems like nearly every game I’ve seen this year or read about there has been a checking from behind penalty.  CFB HAS TO GO!  There is no place for it and  I’m sure we can all agree.  Time for college hockey to crack down.  

          Rau deserves his penalty and suspension.  Where were the other suspensions?  Its a complete joke.  Bad boarding penalties, CFB, and contact to the head are all deserving of a suspension.  Kristo should’ve had one as well.  I’m a Sioux fan and have to say it’s been a fault of all teams.  I think the Sioux only have 3 CFB’s all year.  I know they’ve been on the receiving end of more than that.I propose that the first major penalty of these types deserves at least an additional game suspension.  If the player receives a second major of Boarding, CFB, or contact to the head he must sit out 2 complete games or more.  And a third should be the remainder of the season or at least 5 games.

          I love physical play and wish for it to continue but please no more of this.  

          • Undsioux

            CFB is a bad deal, people get hurt. That being said, I sat in the 1st row for both of those UMD games. It’s unbelievable to me how many times a player purposely turns their back on an approaching player. I get that the “hope” is that the other player, traveling at full speed, will suddenly stop or that the hit will draw a penalty but the risk players are putting themselves at in these situations is ridiculous. I don’t know if it’s coached but guys are getting hurt doing this.
            In the end, they need to allow the grab check that keeps the player from getting demolished

  • guest

    will the gophers play their way out of another NCAA tourny?


    Good god, don’t the Sioux fans realize how ignorant they are (ref’s suck, other team full of goons, we had a player injured) and they sound like Packer fans if there team goes 5-11.     

    • nogofer

      You don’t understand hockey so we undersrtand…