NOTE: Because of the holiday break, this will be the final edition of the WCHA Power Rankings until the New Year.
1. Minnesota Duluth – A school-best 14-game unbeaten streak, a perfect 5-0-3 record on the road and a lot of character in the locker room has the defending champs looking pretty good right now. It will be interesting to see how they respond after the long break, especially against the caliber of opponent they’ll see in Kalamazoo. Last week: Won/tied @ Wisconsin (3-3, 4-2). Coming up: Off until 1/6-7 @ Western Michigan.
2. Minnesota – The Gophers started the year on fire, but have only posted a 5-4-1 record in the last five weeks. This team has all the talent in the world, but one has to question Minnesota’s mental toughness. Games like the showing the Gophers have had on Fridays recently are games that end seasons in March. Last week: Split vs. Michigan Tech (2-3, 6-2). Coming up: Off until 12/30-31 in Mariucci Classic (Niagara, Northeastern and Princeton).
3. North Dakota – UND is finding different ways to win every weekend. Against Colorado College and Alaska-Anchorage, the offense exploded. With UNO in town, the Sioux got great efforts from Aaron Dell. The teams that end up hoisting the hardware are the ones that adapt to different scenarios to get the job done. Last week: Split vs. Nebraska-Omaha (1-2, 1-0). Coming up: Exhibition vs. Russian Red Stars on Saturday; vs. Harvard on 12/30-31.
4. Denver – The Pioneers’ first half leaves a lot of people wondering whether or not this team can be as good as we expected them to be in the preseason. Yeah, they have some pretty key injuries, but, even with those guys out of the lineup, this team is still ultra-talented. They’ve underachieved to this point, and George Gwozdecky needs to find a way to get this team to the level they should be at. Last week: Split @ Bemidji State (3-2, 1-2). Coming up: @ St. Cloud State this weekend; vs. Union on 12/30, @ Air Force on 12/31.
5. Nebraska-Omaha – The Mavericks have been anything but extraordinary lately, and their climb in the rankings comes mostly because of what’s happened around them. UNO’s mediocre play is closely tied to their struggles offensively – they’ve scored two or less goals in 4 of 5 games. Through their first 14 games, Nebraska-Omaha scored two or less only three times. Last week: Split @ North Dakota (2-1, 0-1). Coming up: Off until 12/30-31 vs. Quinnipiac.
6. Colorado College – The Tigers prove they have a great offense over and over again, but they aren’t getting help on the backend. Goaltending is a coin flip every night for CC, and the guy everyone expected to be “the guy” (Joe Howe) isn’t playing anywhere close to the way he has in the past. There is no way this team should be giving up six goals to the Seawolves. Last week: Split vs. Alaska-Anchorage (3-6, 4-3). Coming up: @ Minnesota State this weekend; vs. Air Force and Union on 12/30-31.
7. Bemidji State – The Beavers are being very opportunistic in their wins this season. Low shot totals, good special teams and solid play between the pipes are helping BSU earn WCHA points. Bemidji State’s game is clearly molded to succeed in playoff-like situations, where the play is more defensive and teams take fewer risks. Their formula could be good for an upset or two come March. Last week: Split vs. Denver (2-3, 2-1). Coming up: vs. Alabama-Huntsville this weekend; vs. Bowling Green on 12/30-31.
8. Michigan Tech – The Huskies are obviously a better team than anything we’ve seen come out of Houghton in a while. With the pieces Mel Pearson and his staff have in place, only expect them to get better. If they can continue to build confidence and that killer instinct the best teams in the country always seem to have, MTU will become a team that people won’t want to play late in the year. Last week: Split @ Minnesota (3-2, 2-6). Coming up: @ Northern Michigan on Friday; Great Lakes Invitation on 12/29-30 (Michigan State, Michigan and Boston College).
9. Wisconsin – We know what this team can do, because they’ve shown flashes of brilliance throughout the season. But youth is youth, and it’s going to bite you from time to time. Friday’s game against UMD this weekend is a harsh example of the difference experience makes. Last week: Lost/tied vs. Minnesota Duluth (3-3, 2-4). Coming up: Exhibition vs. US Under-18 Team on 12/31; vs. RIT on 1/6-7.
10. St. Cloud State – Hopefully the bye helped the Huskies figure out a way to get back on track. If they can’t do it soon, it may be a while before SCSU finds their stride again – St. Cloud State has one of the toughest schedules in the nation in the second half of the season. Last week: Off. Coming up: vs. Denver this weekend; vs. Western Michigan on 12/29-30.
11. Alaska-Anchorage – Being a big, grind-it-out team makes the Seawolves a tough group to battle with week in and week out. They aren’t and won’t be one of the upper-tier teams, meaning they’ll have to fight and claw for anything they get. Don’t expect UAA to score nine goals in a weekend too often. Last week: Split @ Colorado College (6-3, 3-4). Coming up: Off until 1/13-14 @ Michigan Tech.
12. Minnesota State – The Mavericks used their series against Huntsville to take out all of the anger from lost opportunities over the past few weekends. MSU scored 13 times, matching their output from the last two weekends. I’m still not convinced this team is the worst team in the league, but they need to win some games before they climb out of the cellar. Last week: Sweep vs. Alabama-Huntsville (4-2, 9-1). Coming up: vs. Colorado College this weekend; vs. US Under-18 Team on 12/30.