Gophers have tight grip on WCHA

Can anyone pry the MacNaughton Cup from Minnesota's hands? It doesn't seem so halfway through the Western Collegiate Hockey Association men's schedule. The defending champions haven't lost a league game (11-0-3), are ranked No. 1 in Division I an...

Can anyone pry the MacNaughton Cup from Minnesota's hands?

It doesn't seem so halfway through the Western Collegiate Hockey Association men's schedule.

The defending champions haven't lost a league game (11-0-3), are ranked No. 1 in Division I and haven't been beaten since Oct. 6. That's 22 games without a loss (19-0-3).

Minnesota Duluth coach Scott Sandelin doesn't expect the Gophers to be caught. Colorado College coach Scott Owens feels the same way.

Ninth-place UMD and fourth-place Colorado College meet this weekend at the DECC focused on finishing in the WCHA's top five during the next two months.


Minnesota, at defending NCAA champion Wisconsin, has a five-point lead over second-place Denver.

"It's possible that St. Cloud State or Denver could have a chance at first place -- they both have excellent goaltending. But when you look at what Minnesota can do offensively and how good the Gophers are on defense, it would take a lot for them to lose their lead,'' Owens said Tuesday.

It did happen to Wisconsin last year. The Badgers were 13-1-2 through 16 WCHA games, then 4-7-1 the rest of the way with All-American goalie Brian Elliott injured. Minnesota came on to claim the regular-season MacNaughton Cup as Wisconsin tied for second. However, the Badgers regrouped and went on to win the Division I title.

* No. 4 St. Cloud State, UMD's road opponent Jan. 19-20, has the second-longest Division I unbeaten streak at 15 (12-0-3) and has won a school-record 12 in a row.

* After losing three of four games to Denver this season, Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves told the Denver Post that the Pioneers have the ingredients for a strong postseason run.

Tigers rebound

If you can count to 500, you can tally the number of career points Colorado College lost from last season. The Tigers are without forwards Brett Sterling (108-76--184), Marty Sertich (51-121--182) and Joey Crabb (53-77--110), who were seniors, and junior defenseman Brian Salcido (16-55--71), who moved on to professional hockey.

That's 547 points from four players who helped Colorado College to the 2006 NCAA tournament.


A less-potent Tigers team has had a pretty good first half of the season, going 13-8-1, including a five-game win streak, and is ranked No. 11 by U.S. College Hockey Online.

"We didn't have any grand illusions for this season, but I'd give us a B-plus grade so far. We've developed into a pretty good team,'' said Owens.

Colorado College swept No. 7 Denver last month, after going 0-6-1 the previous seven games in the series. Four losses have come to No. 1 Minnesota and No. 3 New Hampshire.

Junior winger Scott McCulloch has 15 goals, second-most among WCHA players, while junior Jimmy Kilpatrick leads the team with 21 points. Senior goalie Matt Zaba (.914 and 2.59) is 50-34-7 in his career.

Matchefts, Brophy honored

Former Colorado College and Air Force coach John Matchefts, an Eveleth native, and former News Tribune writer Bill Brophy of Madison, Wis., are recipients of 2007 American Hockey Coaches Association awards announced this week.

Matchefts is the winner of the John "Snooks'' Kelley Founders Award for contributions to the growth and development of hockey in the United States. He played at Michigan and on the 1956 U.S. Olympic team, then coached at Thief River Falls (Minn.) High School and Eveleth before winning 207 games behind the bench at Colorado College and Air Force.

Brophy is the winner of the Jim Fullerton Award as an ambassador for hockey. He's covered the college game for 33 years, starting at the News Tribune in 1973 and later at the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, and worked in radio and television for University of Wisconsin games. He's now in public relations for the women's WCHA.


They will be recognized at the association's annual meeting in April in Naples, Fla.

Post-game antics

The WCHA and Minnesota State-Mankato are investigating a post-game incident involving Mankato coach Troy Jutting and assistant Eric Means on Sunday night at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.

According to the Mankato Free Press, Means confronted referee Jon Campion following Mankato's 1-0 loss to Minnesota in which Mankato had 10 minor penalties and Minnesota five. It was characterized as a "heated exchange."

Jutting, reportedly, also talked with Campion before University of Minnesota police escorted Jutting and Means to their locker room to diffuse the situation, said the Free Press.

WCHA supervisor of officials Greg Shepherd was at the game but didn't witness the incident. League commissioner Bruce McLeod was to look into the matter after returning from NCAA meetings in Florida. There was no official word Wednesday on any sanctions from the league or Minnesota State Mankato.

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