Casto expected back; UMD knows Clarke Saunders; Jack Connolly injured; video of hit on LeBlanc

Sophomore defenseman Chris Casto is expected back in Minnesota Duluth’s lineup this weekend at No. 6 North Dakota after sitting out with an injury last week at Nebraska-Omaha, coach Scott Sandelin said Tuesday. Defenseman Luke McManus, sidelined Saturday at Omaha with an injury, is questionable for the North Dakota series.

Although junior goalie Clarke Saunders is new to North Dakota’s team this season after transferring, UMD got a good look at him last Jan. 20-21 at Amsoil Arena. Saunders was in an Alabama-Huntsville uniform and stopped 95 of 101 shots as UMD swept 2-1 and 4-3. When it appeared the Huntsville program would be dropped, players were allowed to transfer without having to sit out (Huntsville’s program was subsequently saved by a grass roots initiative, but Saunders followed through on his transfer). This season he is 3-2-1 with a .931 save percentage and 1.98 goals-against average, with two shutouts.

Zack Friedli of College Hockey News looks at who’s hot and who’s not in the WCHA here.

College Hockey News also has WCHA power rankings, with UMD No. 11, in a post here.

In the American Hockey League on Tuesday, winger Justin Fontaine of Houston had three assists in a 7-5 win over San Antonio.

2012 Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner Jack Connolly has been injured recently and has missed five games with Farjestad BK of Karlstad, Sweden, in the Swedish Elite League. In 16 games he has two goals and five assists.

The INCH Writers debut a Division I Top 15 this week right here.

Eric Burton has video from last Saturday as North Dakota’s Jordan Schmaltz hits St. Cloud State’s Drew LeBlanc from behind, resulting in a major penalty. St. Cloud State won the game 5-2. The video is here.

The Fairbanks News-Miner has a story on NCAA sanctions against the Alaska-Fairbanks athletic program, including hockey, here.