College hockey: Too close for WCHA comfort

Welcome to the logjam. If you're claustrophobic, too bad. You'll be closely linked to at least six teams in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association the next six weeks. If you're a fan of Colorado College, North Dakota or Denver, please move on....

Welcome to the logjam.

If you're claustrophobic, too bad. You'll be closely linked to at least six teams in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association the next six weeks.

If you're a fan of Colorado College, North Dakota or Denver, please move on.

If you're a fan of Minnesota Duluth, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State-Mankato or St. Cloud State, you already know about the congestion.

Three points separate places three through nine in the 10-team league. The top five teams get to stay home for the first round of the WCHA playoffs March 14-16.


"A little slip, or a little surge can affect your team significantly,'' Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said.

"I look at every game the rest of the year to be tight-checking, low scoring, with good goaltending. A lot like we've seen so far,'' said UMD coach Scott Sandelin.

The teams leading the logjam -- No. 12-ranked UMD and No. 13 Wisconsin -- are tied for fourth place. Their only meeting of the regular season is Friday and Saturday at the Kohl Center in Madison.

Except for UMD, every team in the logjam has an overall record within one game of .500. The Bulldogs (10-8-6) are two games over .500 for the first time since Nov. 30 following a nonleague road sweep of No. 15 Massachusetts-Lowell.

It's been remarkably tough for the Logjam Six to get on the plus side in the WCHA. All are under .500 in the league.

There have been 90 WCHA games to date, 63 have been decided by one or two goals, or finished as ties. The per team scoring average per WCHA game is 2.63, an all-time low.

"The most important thing is to take care of yourself, keep building and keep getting better,'' says Sandelin.

UMD (3-1-2 the last six games) and Wisconsin (3-0-2 the last five) seem to be in that mode.


Wisconsin (11-10-5) started its best streak of the season Jan. 12 in Denver, after a refereeing error the night before. Randy Schmidt's review of a Wisconsin goal in the final second of regulation play, which would've tied the game, was called no-goal. A review the next day showed the goal was good, but the Wisconsin loss stood.

The Badgers beat No. 3 Denver 7-2 in the rematch and have since won and tied at Anchorage and against Minnesota in Madison.

"We got the short end of the stick and we said at the time that we might look back on it as a watershed moment. It was a spark,'' said Eaves.

Also sparking the Badgers has been the return of three players from the World Junior Championships, which ended Jan. 5 in the Czech Republic. Left winger Blake Geoffrion and defenseman Jamie McBain were with the United States team, while center Kyle Turris was the leading scorer for Canada, which won a fourth straight title. Turris, a freshman from New Westminster, British Columbia, leads Wisconsin's scoring with 10 goals and 16 assists for 26 points in 22 games.

Stalock on streak

When UMD sophomore goalie Alex Stalock earned the WCHA's defensive player of the week award for a second straight week Tuesday, and third time this season, it wasn't a big surprise to his teammates.

"We couldn't ask for any more out of him than he's given. He's our best player,'' said junior winger Matt Greer.

Stalock, 20, set a school scoreless record of 137 minutes, 37 seconds over a three-game period, which was broken in the third period Saturday in Lowell, Mass. The previous mark was 133:49 by Taras Lendzyk in 1995.


Stalock blamed himself for the end of the streak saying he came out to play the puck and ran into UMD defenseman Jason Garrison, allowing Lowell's Patrick Cey to score into an open net. Stalock said he was unaware of the scoreless record until informed by UMD strength coach Justin May.

"Because of the great history of the program, to pick up any kind of record is something special,'' Stalock said. "I've been seeing the puck better and better, and we've had some good team efforts.''

Stalock's season marks of a 2.18 goals-against average and .919 save percentage are close to Josh Johnson's team single-season marks of 2.14 and .922 set last year.

St. Norbert Heads North

St. Norbert of DePere, Wis., ranked No. 2 in Division III, makes a call to the Twin Ports this weekend. The Green Knights (17-1-2), unbeaten leaders in the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association, face Wisconsin-Superior (10-5-5) at 7 p.m. Friday at Wessman Arena, and St. Scholastica (8-10-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Mars Lakeview Arena.

Also, last-place Lake Forest (2-17-1) is at St. Scholastica on Friday and at UWS on Saturday.

Earlier this season, St. Norbert tied St. Scholastica 2-2 Nov. 30 and beat UWS 6-2 Dec. 1, both in Green Bay.

St. Norbert dropped from No. 1 this week after a 2-2 tie with Wisconsin-Stevens Point, yet has a 17-game unbeaten streak (15-0-2). The only loss was at home to Gustavus Adolphus 4-2.

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