World-Herald staff writer Rob White ranks the WCHA teams as published in The World-Herald on Jan. 7.
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1. Minnesota (13-3-3 overall, 6-3-3 WCHA, RPI No. 6): The Gophers, ranked first nationally, hammered then-No. 1 Boston College 8-1 in their first game back from the break as Nick Bjugstad had two goals and two assists in a rematch of a Frozen Four semifinal. Minnesota is prepping for its third game in an eight-game homestand, which includes a Jan. 18 and 19 series with North Dakota. Next: Tuesday, Notre Dame. Friday-Saturday, Alaska-Anchorage.
2. North Dakota (12-5-3, 7-2-3, No. 7): North Dakota is 6-0-1 the past seven games and has a slightly higher winning percentage in WCHA games than first-place UNO. That February series in Omaha, which includes the outdoor game at TD Ameritrade Park, could be special. Forward Michael Parks played his first two full games of the season during the weekend after being out with an injury and scored the tying goal Saturday as North Dakota completed a sweep of No. 20 Holy Cross. Next: Colorado College.
3. UNO (13-8-1, 9-4-1, No. 14): Mavs, 12-4-1 against teams outside the top 5, regained momentum by sweeping Colorado College, but have to face a suddenly rejuvenated Denver squad on the road this weekend — and UNO has never fared particularly well against the Pioneers. Still, the surprising season continues thanks to the every-night consistency provided by forwards Ryan Walters, Dominic Zombo, Josh Archibald and Matt White and one of the country's best groups of defensemen. Next: At Denver.
4. Denver (12-6-3, 7-4-3, No. 9): The Pioneers, who had been No. 2 in the country before limping into the Christmas break with a 0-5-3 stretch, signaled their return with a 6-0 shellacking of then-No. 6 Boston University and a sweep of Nos. 11 and 12 Cornell. Juho Olkinuora is 6-1-3 with a 1.55 goals-against average and .948 save percentage, Nick Shore has nine goals and 23 points, and Chris Knowlton has a team-best 11 goals. Next: UNO.
5. Minnesota State-Mankato (14-6-2, 8-6, No. 12): Mike Hastings' crew has won four straight since losing the second game of its series at UNO — that 5-1 defeat is MSU's only setback during an 11-1 stretch. Freshman goalie Stephon Williams, who shut out Providence on Saturday, is 11-4-1 with a 1.77 GAA and .928 save percentage. Next: Wisconsin.
6. St. Cloud State (12-10, 9-5, No. 18): After sweeping Colorado College before Christmas, the second-place Huskies haven't regained their stride while losing three of four nonconference games, all at home, including this past weekend to Northern Michigan. Center Drew LeBlanc continues to rank as one of the most prolific point producers in the country (6 goals, 20 assists) and has an 11-game point streak. Next: Denver, Jan. 18 and 19.
7. Wisconsin (6-7-5, 4-5-5, No. 30): Four straight wins help, even if they were against Alabama-Huntsville and Alaska-Anchorage. After a 1-7-2 start, the Badgers are unbeaten in eight games (5-0-3), a streak that coincides with the collegiate debut of forward Nic Kerdiles (2 goals, 4 assists). Anaheim's second-round draft pick had been sidelined at first because of an eligibility issue and then because of injury. Talented center Mark Zengerle has been back for the last six games. Next: At Minnesota State.
8. Minnesota-Duluth (7-10-3, 5-6-3, No. 32): The Bulldogs showed signs of returning to previous form with a 4-1-1 stretch in WCHA play before the break, but losses of 1-0 to Maine and 6-2 to No. 19 Ferris State during the Florida College Hockey Classic are head-scratchers. Freshman center Tony Cameranesi (8 goals, 11 assists), a 2011 fifth-round pick by Toronto, continues his impressive debut season. Next: Michigan Tech.
9. Colorado College (8-12-2, 5-8-1, No. 29): The Tigers showed a lot more fight in a 3-1 Saturday loss to UNO than in Friday's 8-4 opener, but still dropped to 0-6-1 in the last seven games and 1-9-2 in the last 12 — all against ranked teams. Goalies Josh Thorimbert and Joe Howe haven't been good enough to overcome Colorado College's poor defensive coverage. There's no break in sight, either. Next: at North Dakota.
10. Michigan Tech (6-10-3, 3-8-3, No. 38): The Huskies captured the Great Lakes Invitational with wins against Michigan and a ranked Western Michigan and now welcome back 10-goal scorer Blake Pietila from the United States' gold medal-winning world juniors team. Tech went into the break on a 0-4-3 skid. Next: at Minnesota-Duluth.
11. Bemidji State (5-11-4, 4-7-3, No. 42): A tie with Nos. 7 and 10 Western Michigan on Saturday came one night after a 6-0 loss to the same team. Since getting three points out of Omaha on Oct. 26 and 27, the Beavers are 3-10-3. Bemidji State has a WCHA-worst special teams net of minus-6 goals — its penalty kill is ranked 11th (78.8 percent) while the power play is seventh (19.7 percent). Next: At Michigan Tech, Jan. 18 and 19.
12. Alaska-Anchorage (3-11-4, 1-10-3, No. 54): The Seawolves' losing streak is at six games after consecutive sweeps at the hands of Minnesota State, Minnesota-Duluth and Wisconsin. They'd looked promising in early-season ties with North Dakota and Minnesota, and a win against St. Cloud State. Next: At Minnesota.