Rivalries on tap in WCHA


In the WCHA, North Dakota and Wisconsin’s rivalries with Minnesota are usually the first two brought up when discussing the great rivalries in the conference. But this weekend a pair of different rivalries will be on tap. Sticking with the Gophers, Minnesota has a big series this weekend with Minnesota-Duluth, currently ranked #1 in my rankings, but ranked 4th in the USCHO poll. The Gophers are 3-5-2 in their last 10 games, but they did take 3 points from their previous meeting with the Bulldogs this season. If the Gophers want to repeat the trick, they will need a big weekend from Kent Patterson, who is making a bid to become the 1st team All-WCHA goalie this year. Though the Junior is third in save percentage at .920, I don’t think he has as much talent in front of him as the two goalies ahead of him, and Minnesota’s penalty kill is the worst in the conference, leading me to believe that is save percentage at even strength is better than either Gudmanson or Brittain (I would love to find out for sure, but sadly college hockey stats are not kept very well, so the best I can do is guesstimate). But in any event, Patterson had better be on this weekend because the Gophers don’t have the firepower to keep up with the Bulldogs. Jay Barribal is their only double digit goal scorer, and he and Jacob Cepis are the only Gophers above 20 points.

Farther out west, Denver and Colorado College renew their quest to win the GoldPan trophy, with Denver retaining the trophy with just 2 points. Interestingly, Denver coach George Gwozdecky has said that he will start Adam Murray on Friday and Sam Brittain on Saturday. Murray allowed 4 goals on 11 shots the last time he faced Colorado College, and has just an .864 save percentage and a 3.37 GAA while Brittain is second in the conference with a .925 save percentage and 3rd with a 2.09 GAA. This appears to give the Tigers the advantage on Friday, though they will again be without Jaden Schwartz, who was injured at the World Junior Championships. Colorado College has been just 1-3 in WCHA games since Schwartz’s injury, and they have scored just 6 goals in those 4 games.

After having a great start to last season in which he earned some WJC buzz, Joe Howe is just 10th in the WCHA in save percentage, though Colorado College faces the 5th most power plays in the conference and they have the best penalty kill in the conference, killing off 85.7% of the opponents’ man advantages. So at the very least Howe has been good on the penalty kill (especially last weekend when North Dakota was 1-9 on the power play).

These two rivalry series will be hard fought, and as the cliche goes you throw out the records in a rivalry series, but Duluth and Denver are the better teams for a reason, and I think they will take the lion’s share of the points this weekend.