Photo courtesy Bemidji State Athletics

SLAP SHOTS | Weekend showdowns can clear muddled WCHA, Big Ten races

Around the rinks:

WCHA SHOWDOWN

All 16 of Bemidji State’s wins have come against conference foes. But while the Beavers may be 0-7-1 outside of the WCHA, they can lock down the conference title with a sweep of second-place Michigan Tech at home this weekend. The Beavers are 16-4-2 in conference play and 16-11-3 overall. Tech is 13-3-6 in league play and 16-9-7 overall. It is a showdown of the country’s two leading goalies. Tech’s Angus Redmond leads the nation with a 1.61 goals-against average while BSU’s Michael Bitzer is second at 1.65.

SUPERMAN HAD KRYPTONITE

Boston University, 17-7-2 and ranked third in the polls, has Merrimack to thank for not being ranked higher. The Warriors beat the Terriers 3-1 at home and followed up with a 4-1 road win at BU. Merrimack is just 4-7-3 in Hockey East play and 10-13-3 overall. It’s also a team with a hot goalie. Junior goaltender Collin Delia stopped 67 of 69 shots in the BU sweep and carries a shrinking 2.04 goals-against average and .931 save percentage into its home-and-home weekend series against Connecticut.

BIG NEWS

The Big Ten showdown is No. 7/7 Minnesota hosting No. 6/4 Minnesota State, which is just two points behind the Gophers and Wisconsin in the conference title chase. Speaking of the Badgers, their overtime win Saturday against Ohio State at Madison Square Garden gave them their third straight win over teams ranked in the top 10. Ohio State dropped to 15th. Wisconsin, No. 18, is back in the polls for the first time in two seasons.

UPPER HAND

The only sophomore in the top 10 in scoring in the nation is Adam Gaudette of Northeastern (15 goals, 24 assists), who ranks seventh. The leading freshman scorer is Marc Michaels of Minnesota State. His 11 goals and 20 assists tie him for 15th in the nation with 31 points. The rest of the top 10 scorers are juniors and seniors.

LeSTONEWALL

Colorado College stole a 1-0 victory over visiting North Dakota on Saturday, thanks to the stellar play of freshman goalie Alex Leclerc. Hailing from Longueuil, Quebec, Leclerc stopped all 45 shots he faced in a 3-0 win. He also had 38 saves in Friday’s 5-0 loss. UND went 0-for-9 on the power play over the weekend as the Tigers snapped a 14-game winless skid against the Fighting Hawks.

HE DON’T MISKA SAVE

The Duluth Bulldogs are a deep, veteran team with loads of talent up front and at the blue line, but perhaps its most dominant player is freshman goalie Hunter Miska. Miska led Duluth to the program’s first North Star College Cup title by allowing just three goals in two games while totaling 68 saves. He made 37 saves in a 3-2 win over Minnesota on Friday and 31 more in a 2-1 overtime win over St. Cloud State. He finished the weekend with a .958 save percentage and a 1.43 goals-against average. On the season, he is 16-4-2 with a .925 save percentage and a 2.07 GAA.

BEAN TIME

It’s February, meaning the first two Mondays of the short month will be dominated by the Bean Pot. While the North Star Cup is calling it quits for now, the Beanpot continues as one of the greatest college hockey traditions. Keep an eye on unranked Northeastern, 11-10-5, which faces No. 5 Harvard, 14-5-2. The Huskies are the only Beanpot team not ranked and are on the NCAA Tournament bubble at No. 22 Pairwise. A Beanpot title would help their cause immensely since it will face either No. 3 Boston University (17-7-2) or No. 9 Boston College (17-9-2) the following Monday.

Dave Dondoneau is a freelance writer based in Honolulu. Follow him on Twitter at @DakotaHi.

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