After last weekend featured all 10 league teams in action against each other, this weekend found the action dialed back a little, with just three league series and two teams having byes. Three notable things, from my view:
1. Solid weekend for top teams
After their exciting series in Houghton (one that the Mavericks swept in a pair of close games), both Minnesota State and Michigan Tech continued to dominate their competition on the road. The Mavericks swept Lake Superior State while Michigan Tech swept Alabama Huntsville.
The Mavs had a little easier time of things in the Soo — winning the series with a 7-0 and 3-0 games. Stephon Williams stopped all 45 shots to slam the door on the Lakers.
Meanwhile in Huntsville, Tech had a little tougher time with the Chargers, as the teams played a pair of back-and-forth games before Tech won 4-2 and 5-2 in a battle of WCHA Engineering Schools.
Tech currently sits in first place in the league standings with 20 points in 12 games but the Mavs, who have 18 points in 10 games, host Alaska this weekend with a chance to pull ahead of the Huskies, who have the weekend off.
With just two weeks before the holiday break, there’s a chance these teams could be tied at the top of the standings going into the end of December.
2. Wildcats split in Alaska
No. 19 Northern Michigan returns from its two-weeklong Alaska trip with a 2-2 record. Neither Alaska team is easy to beat at home, much less sweep, so the Wildcats have to be pleased to return to the Lower 48 with two wins and four points.
After splitting with Alaska-Anchorage two weekends ago (winning 1-0 then losing 4-0), NMU managed a split with Alaska in Fairbanks this past weekend. The Nanooks won 3-0 Friday before the Wildcats rallied to win 4-1 Saturday.
Goaltender Mathias Dahlström, despite giving up eight goals on the weekend, still has the best goals against average (1.19) in the country.
However, NMU has scored just 25 goals in 12 games — in the bottom half of the WCHA in scoring offense. They’ll want to improve their scoring to bail out Dahlström and make it a little easier on themselves than the white-knuckle, close games they’ve found themselves in.
Also: circle next weekend on your calendar (in case you forget that next weekend is just five days away). The Wildcats host No. 15 Bowling Green in a battle of two surprising WCHA contenders.
3. Beavers finally find a reward
After losing seven straight — including three straight league series — Bemidji State finally snapped their “play well but can’t finish” streak Saturday, beating No. 16 St. Cloud State 4-1 in Bemidji. Not only did this game feature the much-anticipated “Triple Fitzg3rald” (aka, a Fitzgerald (Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald) goal) but also had senior goaltender Andrew Walsh in prime form. He stopped 34 shots for his second win of the season.
Although the Beavers’ 4-10-0 record doesn’t seem like much, they’ve shown what they have the potential to do against some top-quality competition. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them win some more games if they can find the back of the net with more consistency.