World-Herald Staff Writer Rob White ranks the WCHA teams as published in The World-Herald on Feb. 18.
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1. St. Cloud State (18-11-1, 15-6-1 WCHA, RPI No. 8): The Huskies are in good position to grab MacNaughton Cup as regular-season champion, with four road games (two each with Colorado College and Wisconsin) and two at home (Michigan Tech) against no team higher than sixth in the standings. Kalle Kossila (12 goals, 15 assists, 27 points), Jonny Brodzinski (14-9-23) and David Morley (9-7-16) rank second, tied for fifth and tied for 11th in WCHA freshman scoring. Next: At Colorado College.
2. Minnesota (20-6-4, 12-6-4, No. 2): The Gophers are 11-3-2 since dropping the opener of their home series with UNO on Nov. 30, with only losses to St. Cloud State, Minnesota State-Mankato and Wisconsin. Like St. Cloud State, much of the heavy lifting has already been done, with a home series against Denver the most formidable in a lineup that also includes Minnesota-Duluth at home and Bemidji State on the road. Junior Nate Schmidt leads all WCHA defensemen in points (8-21-29). Next: Minnesota-Duluth.
3. North Dakota (16-8-6, 11-5-6, No. 6): Getting stranded in South Dakota for a couple of days by a blizzard after playing the outdoor game in Omaha probably won’t have much effect on North Dakota, which had this past weekend off. Schedule could get a little tricky, with road trips to Denver and Minnesota State-Mankato sandwiched around home series with Bemidji State. Still, appeared to be as good as any opponent UNO has played — including No. 1 Quinnipiac and No. 2 Minnesota — in taking sweep out of Omaha. Next: at Denver.
4. Minnesota State-Mankato (20-9-3, 14-9-1, No. 4): Mike Hastings’ team has ripped off four straight wins while averaging 4.8 goals in sweeps of Minnesota-Duluth and Michigan Tech. A couple of wins — series at Colorado College and home against North Dakota await — could lock up an NCAA tournament berth for the Mavericks. Matt Leitner has scored a WCHA-best 21 of his 36 points on the power play (he’s tied for fifth in points). Next: at Colorado College, March 1 and 2.
5. UNO (18-12-2, 14-8-2, No. 16): Downgraded in these rankings considering three-game home skid that preceded wild weekend in The Last Frontier, which included the rally and overtime victory that completed a sweep of last-place Alaska-Anchorage. The Mavs matched the school record with their sixth sweep of season. Second place in the WCHA standings is nothing to scoff at, but the Mavs appear in need of a WCHA playoff run to reach the NCAA tournament. Exhibition game Thursday with U.S. National Development Team seems like a good way to recover from travel fatigue and still stay somewhat sharp. Next: Wisconsin, March 1 and 2.
6. Wisconsin (13-10-7, 10-7-7, No. 21): Road series at UNO, followed by home matchup with St. Cloud State, could crystallize the Badgers’ postseason plans — but first they have a nonconference home series with future Big Ten foe Penn State, a first-year program. With home ice for the WCHA playoffs within reach, a win over Minnesota in Sunday’s outdoor game in Chicago was huge. Surprisingly, Wisconsin has the worst power play in the country with a 10 percent (9 of 90) success rate. Next: Penn State.
7. Denver (15-9-5, 10-7-5, No. 11): The Pioneers missed a chance to make a move up the standings by getting just one point in their home-and-home series with Colorado College on Feb. 8 and 9 before having this past weekend off. Next up are red-hot North Dakota at home and Minnesota on the road. Sophomore Joey LaLeggia (10-14-24) is tied for second in the WCHA in scoring by defensemen. Next: North Dakota.
8. Colorado College (11-14-5, 8-10-4, No. 33): Showed signs of life by taking three points in home-and-home series with Denver before getting this past weekend off. Still, probably playing more for higher seed than home ice at this point, especially with St. Cloud State and Minnesota State series preceding a season-ending road trip to Michigan Tech. Rylan Schwartz (11-24-35), William Rapuzzi (14-19-33) and Alexander Krushelnyski (11-21-32) rank 7-8-9 in the league in scoring. Next: St. Cloud State.
9. Michigan Tech (10-16-4, 6-14-4, No. 46): After beating UNO in overtime, the Huskies gave away a home win to Alaska-Anchorage, allowing three third-period goals — including two in the last 2:09 — in a 5-4 loss. They appeared bent on revenge by beating the Seawolves 6-1 the following night and rocking NCAA tournament contender Northern Michigan 8-2 three days later, but then were outscored 10-3 while being swept at Minnesota State-Mankato. Alex Petan (13-15-28) leads WCHA freshman in scoring. Next: at St. Cloud State, March 1 and 2.
10. Minnesota-Duluth (10-16-4, 8-12-4, No. 42): The Bulldogs’ winless streak is now at seven games (0-6-1) after getting one point out of Bemidji State, and a road trip to Minnesota is next. Cody Danberg, who missed most of the past two seasons with injuries, scored his first goal in more than three years late in regulation to salvage a tie Saturday. The Bulldogs may have a chance to build some momentum before hosting UNO for the final series of the regular season, as Alabama-Huntsville comes to town the previous weekend. Next: at Minnesota.
11. Bemidji State (6-17-7, 5-13-6, No. 55): The Beavers picked up three points in home series with Minnesota-Duluth but will be hard pressed to get any more with a road trip to North Dakota followed by a home series with Minnesota to end the season. Notice that UNO’s nemesis is lurking as a potential first-round playoff matchup? Senior Aaron McLeod is tied for fourth in the WCHA with six power-play goals. Next: at North Dakota, March 1 and 2.
12. Alaska-Anchorage (4-19-7, 2-18-6, No. 56): The Seawolves gave UNO all it wanted, and probably deserved better after cashing in four power-play goals before losing 6-5 in overtime Saturday. They had previously scored 12 power-play goals in 95 tries all season, a 12.6 percent success rate that ranked 52nd among 59 teams nationally. Blake Tatchell (8-15-23) is tied for fifth in the WCHA is scoring among freshmen. Next: Alaska-Fairbanks (road, home).