Thursday, January 12, 2012

2011-2012 WCHA Power Rankings & Tiers: Midseason

As the WCHA's member teams begin their second half of conference play, here's a look at the league's Power Rankings and Tiers.

WCHA Standings:

1. Minnesota - 11-3-0 (15-7-1 Overall), 22 Points
1. Minnesota-Duluth - 10-2-2 (14-3-3 Overall), 22 Points
3. Colorado College - 9-5-0 (12-7-1 Overall), 18 Points
4. Nebraska-Omaha - 7-4-3 (10-8-4 Overall), 17 Points
5. Denver - 6-5-3 (11-8-3 Overall), 15 Points
6. North Dakota - 7-7-0 (11-8-2 Overall), 14 Points
7. Michigan Tech - 6-7-1 (11-9-1 Overall), 13 Points
7. St. Cloud State - 5-6-3 (8-10-4 Overall), 13 Points
9. Bemidji State - 5-7-2 (11-9-2 Overall), 12 Points
10. Wisconsin - 4-8-2 (9-9-2 Overall), 10 Points
11. Alaska-Anchorage - 3-10-1 (6-10-2 Overall), 7 Points
12. Minnesota State - 2-11-1 (6-15-1 Overall), 5 Points

Power Rankings:

1. Minnesota-Duluth (No Change)
Last Ranking: #1
Last Week: Road Sweep @ Western Michigan
14-3-3 Overall, 10-2-2 WCHA
Next Week: @ (6) Nebraska-Omaha

It's hard to believe that the Bulldogs have not lost since being swept in the WCHA's opening weekend against the Gophers. Duluth is hotter than hot, and they may face their toughest challenge the rest of the season long this weekend as they travel to Omaha to face the Mavericks. Unless UMD falls apart, expect them to win the league - their second half schedule is littered with bottom-half WCHA opponents.

2. Minnesota (No Change)
Last Ranking: #2
Last Week: Loss (Saturday) vs. Notre Dame
15-7-1 Overall, 11-3-0 WCHA
Next Week: @ (4) North Dakota

Minnesota spun its wheels over the holiday break, splitting in their own holiday tournament before falling to a good Notre Dame team in the Hall of Fame game. They face a fierce contest this weekend when they travel up to Grand Forks to take on the team formerly known as the Sioux. North Dakota has been hot, and this season could be a springboard for either team heading into the second half. If I had to guess right now, I would say the Gophers will finish second in the league, but I could see Minnesota ending up anywhere from first to fourth.

3. Colorado College (No Change)
Last Ranking: #3
Last Week: Home Loss & Tie vs. Cornell
12-7-1 Overall, 9-5-0 WCHA
Next Week: vs. (9) St. Cloud

Colorado College is back up to third place in the league, and they should remain up near the top of the league table for the remainder of the year. CC is a solid team, and if they can ever figure out their defense and goaltending they could compete for a top two position in the league.

4. North Dakota (UP 1)
Last Ranking: #5
Last Week: Home Win (Sat) vs. Clarkson
11-8-2 Overall, 7-7-0 WCHA
Next Week: vs. (2) Minnesota

North Dakota continues its usual late-season surge (and meteoric rise up the WCHA power rankings) as it enters the second half of the season. UND dug itself out of a 1-5-0 hole and has won eight of their last eleven games since being swept in Minneapolis by the Gophers. They face that same Gopher team at home next weekend, and could be looking for revenge.

5. Denver (DOWN 1)
Last Ranking: #4
Last Week: Home Split vs. Alabama-Huntsville
11-8-3 Overall, 6-5-3 WCHA
Next Week: vs. (7) Bemidji State

Denver is a mystery of a team so far this year. The Pioneers possess tremendous offensive potential, with players like the Shore brothers and Jason Zucker. However, they've had goalie woes and have lost some head-scratching games (last weekend's loss to Alabama-Huntsville included). Denver is still waiting for their great goalie Sam Brittain to come back from ACL surgery - he's scheduled to be back at the end of January - and they should get a boost then.

6. Nebraska-Omaha (No Change)
Last Ranking: #6
Last Week: Idle
10-8-4 Overall, 7-4-3 WCHA
Next Week: vs. (1) Minnesota-Duluth

Nebraska-Omaha should hold onto a home ice spot throughout the remainder of the year, as the team is solid and plays hard every night. They face a challenge this weekend, though, as the UMD Bulldogs come to town riding an undefeated streak that is two-plus months long.

7. Bemidji State (UP 3)
Last Ranking: #10
Last Week: Idle
11-9-2 Overall, 5-7-2 WCHA
Next Week: @ (5) Denver

I think there's a pretty substantial drop-off between the #6 and #7 teams in the WCHA, but there's no reason why Bemidji State shouldn't be considered one of the better second division teams in the league. They're well coached and have quietly beaten some good teams this season. They travel to Denver this weekend - two or more points and the Beavers could be making a run at a home ice spot in the WCHA playoffs.

8. Michigan Tech (DOWN 1)
Last Ranking: #7
Last Week: Idle
9-11-1 Overall, 6-7-1 WCHA
Next Week: vs (11) Alaska-Anchorage

Michigan Tech's tremendous start has been nearly forgotten at this point in the season, as the team is mired in the middle of the WCHA pack and now sports a record under .500 overall and in the league. They host Alaska-Anchorage this weekend with a chance to right the ship.

9. St. Cloud State (No Change)
Last Ranking: #9
Last Week: Idle
8-10-4 Overall, 5-6-3 WCHA
Next Week: @ (3) Colorado College

St. Cloud had a snakebit first half, with injuries and defections plaguing the team. However, some good news is on the horizon - goaltender Mike Lee may come back this season. The Huskies take on the Colorado College Tigers in Colorado Springs this weekend.

10. Wisconsin (DOWN 2)
Last Ranking: #8
Last Week: Home Sweep vs. RIT
9-9-2 Overall, 4-8-2 WCHA
Next Week: @ (12) Minnesota State

The Badgers are still winless on the road, but they have a good chance to change that this weekend against the Mavericks of Minnesota State. Wisconsin is currently tenth in the league.

11. Alaska-Anchorage (No Change)
Last Ranking: #11
Last Week: Idle
6-10-2 Overall, 3-10-1 WCHA
Next Week: @ (8) Michigan Tech

Alaska-Anchorage continues to struggle this season, and will travel to Houghton to take on the Huskies this weekend.

12. Minnesota State - Mankato (No Change)
Last Ranking: #12
Last Week: Road Split @ St. Lawrence
6-15-1 Overall, 2-11-1 WCHA
Next Week: vs. (10) Wisconsin

The Mavericks are stuck in a rut at the bottom of the WCHA pack, but should be a better team once they get healthy. Mankato takes on Wisconsin at home this weekend, and anything more than one point would be a decent result.

Team Tiers:

Last Week

Tier 1 - Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota
Tier 2 - Colorado College, Denver
Tier 3 - North Dakota, Nebraska-Omaha
Tier 4 - No Teams
Tier 5 - Michigan Tech, Wisconsin
Tier 6 - St. Cloud State
Tier 7 - Bemidji State
Tier 8 - Alaska-Anchorage, Minnesota State

This Week

Tier 1 - Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota
Tier 2 - Colorado College
Tier 3 - North Dakota, Denver
Tier 4 - Nebraska-Omaha
Tier 5 - No Teams
Tier 6 - Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, St. Cloud State, Wisconsin
Tier 7 - No Teams
Tier 8 - Alaska-Anchorage, Minnesota State

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