An interesting weekend in nonconference play for the WCHA (and a couple conference games, too). Here are three things I think I learned.
1. Alaska state Of mind
Both Alaska and Alaska Anchorage are undefeated following this weekend’s Brice Alaska GOAL Rush. Both teams beat Air Force while Alaska came back to beat Penn State (and win the GOAL Rush title in the process). Both teams also beat Wisconsin a week ago in Anchorage’s Kendall Hockey Classic. The big question for both the Nanooks and the Seawolves is if they can keep their hot streaks going outside of their home state. Both teams have, historically, been much better at home in the Last Frontier than on the road (UAA was 6-11-2 away from Alaska and UAF was 6-6-2). The Seawolves make a more-grueling cross country trip to Orono, Maine, to take a Black Bears team they beat 3-1 two weeks ago in the Kendall Classic. The Nanooks are away from home two straight weekends — first going to Western Michigan this weekend then opening up nonconference play at Bemidji State on Halloween. A decent record on the road is going to be key to how well both these teams fare in the WCHA this year.
2. Bowling Green buzzing
The Falcons swept Alabama-Huntsville in the lone league series played last weekend, and came home from Huntsville happy. Sophomore Kevin Dufour scored three times against the Chargers to bring his season total to six goals in four games — good enough to lead the league in goals and tie for the lead in points (6) with teammate Nolan Valleau (6 points, all assists) and Anchorage’s Chase Van Allen (1 goal, 5 assists). Overall the Falcons have scored 14 times in four games, including seven times on the power play. It’s hard to know just how good the Falcons are an d can be after just four games but early reviews seem to indicate they’re going to be a force in the league this season.
3. Lakers need a break
The rough start to the season got rougher for Lake Superior State this weekend. The Lakers went to South Bend, Ind., and were swept for a third-straight series, this time by Notre Dame, 5-3 and 5-1. That makes the Lakers 0-6-0 after starting the season at the earliest possible time. And from watching the games this weekend — they were on national television on NBC Sports — the Lakers look like they could use a break. They seemed tired and disorganized against a Notre Dame team that was also looking for its first win.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, they don’t get a bye week until Christmastime, and the schedule ain’t getting easier: they return to the Sault for a home series against UP rivals Northern Michigan before going to Anchorage followed by a trip to Huntsville the next weekend. Then they’ll host Alaska and Minnesaota State Mankato followed by a trip to North Dakota. All without a break. Yikes.
One bright spot for the Lakers — it seems that new head coach Damon Whitten has settled on a No. 1 starting goalie. Freshman Gordon Diefel has started five of six games for Lake State, which is at least reassuring considering coming into the season the Lakers had four goaltenders on the roster who hadn’t played a minute of college hockey.