1. Minnesota Duluth – The Bulldogs proved that the long break between games did more to help them physically than it hurt them mentally. UMD recorded another sweep, upped its unbeaten streak to 16 games and now boasts a 7-0-3 record away from Amsoil Arena. Most recent result: Sweep @ Western Michigan (4-1, 5-2). This week: @ Nebraska-Omaha.
2. Minnesota – Losing to Northeastern at home would have been a lot more troubling if it had happened when the Gophers were sporting a full lineup. But with Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau gone for the World Juniors, the loss isn’t too concerning. Minnesota came alive late against Notre Dame, so we’ll see if that carries over to this weekend’s match up against the Fighting Sioux University of North Dakota. Most recent result: Loss vs. Notre Dame (3-4). This week: @ North Dakota.
3. North Dakota – UND is quietly beating opponent after opponent while the hockey world’s focus is elsewhere. The wins are coming without tons of UND’s best players, too – Corban Knight, Derek Forbort and Rocco Grimaldi, among others, haven’t been in the lineup lately. Most recent result: Win vs. Clarkson in Winnipeg (3-1). This week: vs. Minnesota.
4. Nebraska-Omaha – The Mavericks haven’t been super impressive since the last rankings, but they got the job done in their only series. With teams around them stumbling, UNO is in good position entering the second half of the conference schedule. Most recent result: Won/tied vs. Quinnipiac (2-2, 4-1). This week: vs. Minnesota Duluth.
5. Denver – Pioneer fans must be going nuts this season. Denver will look great one weekend, then they’ll follow it up with a shoddy effort the next. Consistency will be the most important thing the Pioneers will be fighting for in the second half, and if they can find some, Denver will be a dangerous squad in the postseason. Most recent result: Split vs. Alabama-Huntsville (2-3, 5-2). This week: vs. Bemidji State.
6. Bemidji State – The Beavers have lost only once in their last eight games, and they’re giving up less than a goal per game in those wins. At this point in the year, everyone knows how Bemidji State is going to win games, and they’ve been finding a way to work the game plan to perfection lately. Most recent result: Sweep vs. Bowling Green (4-1, 2-1). This week: @ Denver.
7. Colorado College – Getting Jaden Schwartz back from the World Juniors didn’t exactly help the Tigers against Cornell this weekend, but one has to expect the offense to start clicking again soon. Much like its in-state rivals, Colorado College needs to learn how to bring a consistent effort each night if they want to stay relevant in February and March. Most recent result: Lost/tied vs. Cornell (1-3, 3-3). This week: vs. St. Cloud State.
8. Wisconsin – There has been a great deal of debating going on in hockey circles about whether or not Justin Schultz deserves to be a serious Hobey Baker consideration. Think about this – if Schultz wasn’t in a Badger jersey this year, how many wins would Wisconsin have right now? Most recent result: Sweep vs. RIT (6-3, 2-1). This week: @ Minnesota State.
9. St. Cloud State – Even with the key injuries the Huskies have, they are still getting the job done against some good teams. Wins against Denver and Western Michigan give SCSU fans hope. However, this team doesn’t have enough talent to make mistakes, and with that pressure on them each night one has to wonder if St. Cloud State has the ability to jump into a home-ice spot. Most recent result: Split vs. Western Michigan (4-2, 1-2). This week: @ Colorado College.
10. Michigan Tech – Saying Michigan Tech has cooled off since its hot start to the season would be a colossal understatement. The Huskies have only two wins since Thanksgiving, and they’re scoring less and less every game. Finding a way to get back on track will be Mel Pearson’s goal in the second half, especially with MTU within striking distance of sixth place. Most recent result: Loss vs. Michigan State (1-3), loss vs. Boston College (1-2). This week: vs. Alaska-Anchorage.
11. Alaska-Anchorage – Back-to-back road series followed by visits from two of the WCHA’s offensive powers will test the endurance of Alaska-Anchorage, so let’s hope the month off during the holidays did a lot of good for the Seawolves. Most recent result: Split @ Colorado College on Dec. 9-10 (6-3, 3-4). This week: @ Michigan Tech.
12. Minnesota State – Sitting in last place at this point in the season is a tough reality to face, but it sounds like there is a ton of optimism coming from Maverick players. Minnesota State knows the road ahead is a difficult one, but they believe they can better their positioning by the time the playoffs roll around. Most recent result: Split @ St. Lawrence (3-4, 3-1). This week: vs. Wisconsin.
1. Minnesota Duluth – (10-2-2 WCHA, 14-3-3) The Bulldogs swept future NCHC foe Western Michigan University (4-1, 5-2) in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The Bulldogs travel to Omaha, Nebraska to play the UNO Mavericks.
2. Minnesota – (11-3-0 WCHA, 15-7-1) Minnesota lost to Notre Dame (1-4) in the Hall of Fame Game on Saturday night. It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that the Gophers looked out of sync and unimpressive. Since sweeping North Dakota on Nov. 5, 2011, Minnesota has a record of 6-6-1. Minnesota travels to Grand Fork, ND to play UND this weekend.
3. Nebraska-Omaha – (7-4-3 WCHA, 10-8-4) The Mavericks played the Quinnipiac Bobcats this past weekend in Omaha, Nebraska (2-2 T and 4-1 W). The Mavericks entertain the high-flying UMD Bulldogs this weekend.
Tie-4. Denver – (6-5-3 WCHA, 11-8-3) We keep hearing about how good the Denver Pioneers are going to be when they get their injured payers back. Beau Bennett (wrist), John Ryder (knee) David Makowski (unknown) Sam Brittain (knee) are all out with injuries, so one might say that the Pioneers are still a work in progress. However, the time is ticking on the clock. The Pioneers split with the lowly University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers this past weekend in Denver (2-3 L and 5-2 W). This weekend the Pioneers entertain the Bemidji State Beavers.
Tie-4. North Dakota – (7-7-0, 11-8-2) The University of North Dakota beat Clarkson University, 3-1, in Winnipeg, Manitoba at the U.S. College Hockey Classic. It would be an understatement if I said that the University of North Dakota has been hit by the Injury Ninja — the following players are currently out of the line up for UND: Corban Knight (lower body), Rocco Grimaldi (knee), Derek Forbort (unknown) and Derek Rodwell (shoulder, season ending).
6. Colorado College – (12-7-1 WCHA, 9-5-0) The Tigers are a hard team to figure out, and this past weekend the Tigers got their talented sophomore forward Jaden Schwartz back from the Canadian World Junior team. In what could be classified as a puzzling move, the Tigers scratched Schwartz from the line up for Friday night’s game. The Tigers would go on to lose that game (1-3). Schwartz returned to the line up on Saturday night and he would help lead the Tigers to a 3-3 tie against the Cornell Big Red. This weekend the Colorado College Tigers entertain the Saint Cloud State Huskies.
Tie-7. Michigan Tech – (6-7-1 WCHA, 9-11-1) The Michigan Tech Huskies were idle this past weekend after being swept the weekend before in the Great Lakes Invitational (1-3 L, 1-2 L). The Huskies have lost four-straight games and hope to get back to their winning says as they entertain the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves in Houghton, Michigan.
Tie-7. Bemidji State – (5-7-2 WCHA, 11-9-2) The Beavers swept Bowling Green State University last weekend (4-1 W, 2-1 W). Since the Beavers beat UND (1-0) on Nov. 20, the Beavers have gone an impressive 7-1-1, and are unbeaten in their last five games (5-0-0)
9. St. Cloud State – (5-6-3 WCHA, 8-10-4) The Huskies were off this past weekend and travel to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to play the high octane Tigers. Since the Huskies beat the Minnesota Gophers (4-3) in Saint Cloud on Nov. 18, the Huskies have gone a lack luster 3-5-2.
10. Wisconsin – (4-8-2 WCHA, 9-9-2) The Wisconsin Badgers have an impressive 9-4-1 record at home after sweeping Atlantic Hockey foe RIT (6-3 W, 2-1 W). This weekend the Badgers travel to Mankato, Minnesota, to play the last place Minnesota State Mavericks. On paper you would think this is going to be an automatic two wins for the Badgers. Maybe not; the Badgers are an unimpressive 0-5-1 on the road and hope to pick up their first two wins at Mankato half way through the month of January. Until the Badgers can start winning games on the road they will remain in the bottom rung of the WCHA standings and rankings.
11. Alaska-Anchorage – (3-10-1 WCHA, 6-10-2) The Seawolves haven’t played in an actual game since Dec. 10, 2011, when they split with the C.C. Tigers (6-3 W, 3-4 L). The Seawolves could be a little rusty when they travel to Houghton Michigan to play the Michigan Tech Huskies
12. Minnesota State – (2-11-1 WCHA, 6-15-1) The Minnesota State Mavericks split with the Saint Lawrence University Saints (3-4 L, 3-1W) in Canton, New York, this past weekend. The Mavericks entertain the Wisconsin Badgers this weekend at the Verizon Wireless Center.