Weekend Preview: I94 Rivalry Resumes

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. There are a lot of non-conference games this weekend, which means there are plenty of Pairwise implications up for grabs.

In fact, there are only nine conference match-ups on Friday and five of them take place in the WCHA; including the second game of the most unique rivalry in college hockey.

If the non-conference tilts, one series really stands out. The St. Cloud State Huskies travel down I-94 to face-off against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in a Friday-Sunday series.

Last series, the two split a home-and-home series with each team defending its home ice. The Huskies took the first game at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center 4-1 and handed the Gophers its first loss of the season. While the Gophers got revenge the next night in a 4-3 overtime bout.

This year, both games will be played at Mariucci Arena, a place where the Huskies haven’t won since a 5-2 victory on October 22, 2010. Looking at the box score, it feels like it was even longer than that. Gopher goalie Alex Kangas let in all five goals on 23 shots and was pulled in the second period for Kent Patterson. Garrett Roe had a goal and two assists for the Huskies and Mike Lee made 40 saves to earn the win.

The Gophers got goals from Mike Hoeffel and Taylor Matson. Mark Alt and Kevin Wehrs had assists. Feels like forever ago.

The teams are both coming off splits that feel very different from each other. The Huskies split at home to a highly ranked North Dakota Fighting Hawks squad, losing 4-3 the first night and coming back with a 6-1 drubbing the next night. The Gophers split in a home-and-home series with Minnesota State winning the first night at the Verizon Wireless Center and blowing a 2-0 lead the following night at home losing in overtime.

The Gophers have been spinning its tires starting the season, only scoring one goal in the first three games. In the wins, the Gophers have managed four goals in each of them.

Freshman Eric Schierhorn has taken control of the reigns after Adam Wilcox left after his junior year. The Gophers found stability in net, which was the biggest question mark coming into the season. Schierhorn has kept the Gophers in every game this season, sporting an impressive .931 save percentage and a 2.11 goals against average.

The Gophers have been a bit stymied and averaging 2.43 goals per game, which is 38th in the nation and sandwiched in between Western Michigan and Bentley. Leon Bristedt leads the team with five goals, already matching last year’s total.

If the Gophers are going to win, converting on what few chances they get against the Husky defense will be crucial. Minnesota has been able to generate an average of 26.4 shots per game, but the Huskies have the sixth best team defense in the nation, averaging only 1.67 goals against per game.

While goals have been hard to come by for the Gophers, the defense has played very well. The Gophers have given up an average of 2.22 goals per game. When a team defense is that low, it’s only a manner of time before the offense gets rolling.

One of the more compelling aspects of the series will be on special teams. The Gophers penalty kill is clicking at 90.6%, allowing only three power play goals all year. The Huskies power play is very active in creating lanes and is currently at 23.4 percent. Huskies captain Ethan Prow commands the power play on the point and the power play suffered greatly when he was not able to play during the Quinnipiac and Miami series. In fact, the Huskies went 0-for-14 on the power play during those games when Prow was out. With the Sauk Rapids native in the line up, the Huskies power play is at 33.3 percent.

Usually these two teams both play an up-tempo, high offense style, but don’t think that will be the case with how well both defenses are playing. Charlie Lindgren has been nothing short of fantastic in goal, stopping 93.7 percent of the shots he faces.

The Huskies like to eliminate shots from the home plate area, giving Lindgren the easy save. Just take a look at last game against North Dakota, while they may have had 29 shots on goal, but many were from bad angles or from the point. Defenseman Troy Stetcher had six shots on goal for the Fighting Hawks and the lone goal, where he was the trailer and got the puck in a prime spot.

Whatever team can capitalize on the prime changes, which there will be few, will come out ahead in the series.

One WCHA series will end tonight and it happens to me the most interesting rivalry in college hockey. Bemidji State takes on Alabama-Huntsville in the final game of their series. Bemidji State took the first game 4-1 is a game that was much closer than the score indicates with an empty netter and a goal with eight seconds left in the game.

Make no mistake about it; these two fan bases hate each other. It goes back to when the teams were Division II powerhouses. Both teams are looking to claw back into the WCHA race.

Everyone enjoy some hockey this weekend. My shift is over.

 

 

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Five Thoughts: UND-SCSU Battle to Split, B1G Goes Rogue

Holy scuttlebutt! A lot of B1G issues happening in college hockey over the past few days. We will get to that at the end of my five thoughts.

  1. Top Two Teams in the NCHC Stay At The Top.

The North Dakota Fighting Hawks and the Saint Cloud State Huskies split last weekend at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. The Fighting Hawks took the first game turned into the Drake Caggiula Show as he recorded the hat trick to propel the Fighting Hawks to a 4-3 win, despite being outshot 38-26. That was the first game North Dakota was outshot this season. The rematch on Saturday saw the Huskies rebound for a stunning 6-1 win.

The Fighting Hawks, who have been struggling mightily on the power play so far this season, capitalized on two opportunities and walk-on Matt Hrynkiw made 35 stops to get the victory. The CBS line of Brock Boeser, Nick Schmaltz and Caggiula combined for a staggering seven points.

For the Huskies, Judd Peterson got his seventh of the season just 2:20 into the game. North Dakota scored the next three and was able to keep the game just out of reach. Jimmy Murray had a goal and an assist in the game.

The Saturday game was a reversal of fortune for the Huskies. It seemed like a lot of bounces didn’t go the Huskies’ way on Friday, but damn near everything went their way on Saturday. Patrick Newell got the scoring started with a shot that took a lucky bounce off a Fighting Hawks defender an went past Hrynkiw. The Huskies went 2-for-5 on the power play and 15 players had a point. Grand Forks natives Jacob Benson and Jon Lizotte combined for three points.

Since the drop of the puck, the Huskies played a much more sound defensive game and kept a lot of Fighting Hawks shots away from the home plate area. Coach Bob Motzko was upset with the goals the Huskies gave up on Friday, calling them ‘defendable goals’, and the play Saturday was much tighter.

Hrynkiw allowed three goals on the first five shots and was eventually pulled for Cam Johnson. Troy Stecher got the lone goal and led the team with six shots.

Both teams sit at the top of the NCHC with 15 points. Denver is tied for third with 10 points with Omaha, but has only played four conferences games at this point.

  1. Depth and Defense are the Reasons for Saint Cloud Success.

As far as Saint Cloud fans go, I’ve been a little more reserved on my expectations for this team. While Jonny Brodzinski’s early departure was a big hit to the offense, the rest of the senior class were more role players than pure goal scorers. I wasn’t worried about replacing Brodzinski when you even his production out within the whole class.

I was more worried about the defensive side of things. Four freshmen defenseman coming in (Clark Kuster is out until at least the holiday break with an injury) made me really nervous, especially the last series against the Fighting Hawks.

Looking back at the past couple of seasons, the Huskies ’13-’14 season averaged 3.58 goals per game. Last season, Motzko tried to play the same style and saw the goals just weren’t coming. His focus changed to playing better defensively and tighter in their own end. The Huskies managed to get to the NCAA regional final despite only averaging 2.73 goals per game.

The success from the Huskies has come from the freshmen defensemen playing well (giving up an average of 1.67 goals per game) and getting the depth scoring that wasn’t present last year. Last year, if it wasn’t Brodzinski, Joey Benik, David Morley or Patrick Russell (who had a good freshman campaign) was scoring, no one else could be counted on to put the puck in the net. This year, scoring has come from damn near every player on every line. Seven players have over nine points already this year.

One big boost has come from Judd Peterson. His play has gone severely under the radar. The Buffalo Sabres draft pick only had seven points last year, but the switch has been flipped and already has seven goals on the season. He has mostly played on the third and fourth lines but seems to make an impact every time he gets on the ice. While the goals per game can be a little misleading because of the 11-goal output against Western Michigan, but the Huskies are third in team offense, only behind Boston College and Robert Morris. The depth at both ends along with the play of Charlie Lindgren in net has this team exceeding everyone’s expectations.

  1. The Fighting Hawks Should Look into Splitting Up CBS.

While the Huskies won the series on aggregate scoring 9-5, there was no doubt which line was the best in the weekend. The Caggiula-Boeser-Schmaltz line combined for nine points on the weekend. This line has what I call ‘hold your breath’ talent; opposing fans are holding their breath until that line leaves the ice.

As long as I can remember, North Dakota likes to put together power lines and keep them together. Everyone remembers the DOT line of Hobey Baker winner Ryan Duncan and professional talents Jonathan Toews and T.J. Oshie. There was the Money Line of Brandon Bochenski-Zach Parise-Brady Murray. The Line of Fire included Ryan Bayda-Jeff Panzer-Bryan Lundbohm and is actually responsible for one of my favorite college hockey box scores of all time.

More recently, the Pony Express included Brad Malone-Evan Trupp-Matt Frattin and combined for 141 points in the 2010-2011 season.

This series was the first real test for the Fighting Hawks. The other teams North Dakota has played aren’t expected to be big players in the NCAA tournament. Against lesser quality opponents, you can load up one line and will have no problem skating to a victory. As the NCHC conference play starts getting into full swing, the team quality takes an exponential leap and just having one line clicking will spell disaster.

There was a noticeable difference between when CBS was on the ice versus when there were not. They were the only line that created any offense on the weekend. Shuffling the lines around will open up more opportunities on the ice for the other players a get some other players jump started. Shane Gersich being injured didn’t help, but the Fighting Hawks have plenty of options and talent to work with. Three good lines will be more productive in the long run than one great line and two that are having trouble finding the back of the net.

Plus, you have the added bonus of reuniting that line when you really need a goal, giving a team an extra gear that opponents won’t be ready for.

While the Pony Express had an amazing number of points, they were able to put them up because North Dakota had the extra depth from Corban Knight (44 points) and Jason Gregoire (43 points). I feel there are those types of players on this roster, but they haven’t found the right mixture yet.

I think Brad Berry should make these changes against Michigan State this weekend, if only to try it out for a few periods and seeing the results. While loading up one line will work against the Colorado College and Vermont’s of college hockey, the Denver Pioneers head to Grand Forks for another match-up of titans, but only having one line clicking won’t cut it.

  1. Omaha and Miami Series Has Both Games Going to Overtime

While Friday’s game ended in a 3-3 tie, Saturday’s game ended when Tyler Vesel was able to use his speed to create an opening that you can’t give Jake Randolph, as he was able to put the puck away to give Omaha all three points and a 3-2 victory.

Omaha is still riding both goaltenders, as Kirk Thompson got the tie Friday and Evan Weninger got the win Saturday.

Miami freshmen Jack Roslovic and Josh Melnick were both able to find the score sheet Friday, combining for three points. Omaha was able to make adjustments and shut them down Saturday.

Avery Peterson, who scored 21 points as a freshman, is still without a point on the season and did not play in Saturday’s game.

  1. Big Ten Coaches Look for Rule Changes; gives metaphorical middle finger to other programs.

I urge everyone to read Adam Woden’s story on College Hockey News about a proposal that would add age restrictions on incoming freshman.

My thoughts will require a whole separate blog post on why this is a bad idea, but one thing is making me more mad than anything else. Usually, rule changes like this are done at an annual coaches meeting and would be a discussion to how this would affect all conferences.

However, the Big Ten acted alone and just proposed it to the NCAA. Rumors have actually started to swirl that it was voted on and struck down already, but the Big Ten decided to propose it away. Since the Big Ten is the only conference that participates in all sports, it can propose legislations as it pleases.

I do think the Big Ten has gotten too much of the blame in the past for ‘ruining college hockey.’ Heck, you can also argue that the formation and realignment actually saved Alabama-Huntsville and opened the door for Arizona State.

However, going rogue and proposing rule changes directly to the NCAA is a slap in the fact to all member schools, many of whom play up to Division I in hockey and rely on older players because they are not going to be in the running for a blue-chip prospect out of the national development team.

As a rule of thumb, look at the people proposing and what state the teams are in. That gives you a good idea of who stands to gain. The Big Ten conference is stacked by former national powers that have been struggling the past few seasons as a group. If the conference can just propose legislation willy-nilly, that sets a dangerous precedent in college hockey.

That’s all for now. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Lot of non-conference games over the holiday, which means the games have important Pairwise implications. My shift is over.

Weekend Preview: Familiar Foes Face-off For NCHC Lead

The summit of the NCHC is up for grabs when the North Dakota Fighting Hawks (9-1-2) travel to St. Cloud for a battle with the St. Cloud State Huskies (8-2-0).

This is the only scheduled time this season where these former WCHA natural rivals will meet. The last time these two teams have only had one series against each other was back in the 2001-2002 season. In the last 10 match-ups, the series is tied at five wins each.

The Fighting Hawks offense has been soaring this season, averaging 3.53 goals per game. Both games last weekend were above that mark, with a 6-2 waxing of Miami on Friday and a character building 4-3 overtime victory on Saturday to earn the sweep.

The Huskies scored a NCHC record 11 goals against Western Michigan Saturday. Combined with a 5-2 victory (two empty net goals, so the game was actually much closer than the score indicates), the offense is clicking on all cylinders. The Huskies currently sit at sixth in the nation with 4.10 goals per game, but that is obviously skewed with last Saturday’s result. Without that game, the Huskies are averaging 3.33 goals per game.

While both teams clearly have enough firepower to keep the scorekeeper busy all night, but both goaltenders are more than capable of keeping the scores low.

Walk-on Matt Hrynkiw has filled in the 6’x4’ hole left when Zane McIntyre left early last year. Hrynkiw has been the surprise of the NCHC, posting 1.81 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. He has started all four conference games and remains unbeaten in those games.

Huskies netminder Charlie Lindgren has been an enigma in the crease. He is second in the nation in shutouts with four and has a .944 save percentage. His goals against average sits at 1.49, which is sits at sixth in the nation and is also an undefeated 4-0 in conference play.

Even more impressive is how well he as played at home, where he has three shutouts in four games. In fact, he has only allowed one goal at home so far this season. The Huskies are third in the nation in team defense, giving up an average of 1.50 goals per game.

Because of how well both goalies are playing this early into the season, I don’t expect a shootout either night. While it’s tempting to pick the Huskies to have the edge after scoring 16 goals last weekend and Hrynkiw gave up three goals on 14 shots last game, Fighting Hawks coach Brad Berry will make sure his squad plays much tougher in its own zone.

Usually, a raucous crowd greatly favors the home team. In this series, especially Friday night, I’m not so sure that is the case. St. Cloud has averaged 3,910 fans per game. Friday’s game will be standing room only; an atmosphere the Huskies haven’t played in during many games. North Dakota, on the other hand, regularly has over 11,000 per game.

Sometimes the atmosphere can work against the team. The Huskies freshmen have never, and probably will never again this season, experience a setting like this. Sometimes you can get too pumped up and anxious for a game, which can allow for uncharacteristic mistakes.

As well as the three freshmen defensemen have played this season for the Huskies, they are still freshmen. In the series against Quinnipiac, the defense inexperience showed as many of the Bobcats’ goals came in bunches.

In the nine victories for the Fighting Hawks, seven had them scoring the first goal. Of that seven, four came with the Fighting Hawks scoring in the first five minutes of the puck drop. The ability for them to start quickly, a new atmosphere, and an inexperienced blue line may spell trouble for the Huskies.

It’s odd for me to say this, but the Huskies may benefit from a boring start. That way, the Huskies can relax, get comfortable in the environment, and play the game the Huskies have been able to play all year. Eliminating mistakes will be the key for the Huskies this series.

Both teams have a lot of firepower, great depth, and ability to skate up and down the ice. I expected a high shooting series, but not necessarily high scoring. Both goalies are just too good.

That’s all I have for this week. Enjoy hockey this weekend. My shift is over.

Five Thoughts: Explosions for SCSU/UND,Elusive Goals for UMD

While some teams had an explosive offensive weekend, other teams are having trouble just finding the net. Here are my five thoughts.

  1. I haven’t check recently, but I think the Huskies just scored again.

Saint Cloud State had no trouble finding the back of the net against Western Michigan, with victories of 5-2 and 11-1.

Senior Joey Benik exploded on Saturday with four goals and one assist. Captain Ethan Prow, who was out the last two series with a concussion, added one goal and two assists. A total of nine Huskies had a multi-point game.

Friday’s game was a much closer affair than the score indicates. The game was tied at one going into the third when the Broncos defenseman Scott Moldenhauer took a 5-minute boarding penalty. Benik capitalized on the power play and Jimmy Murray scored shortly after the major ended to make the score 3-1, a lead the Huskies would not relinquish as they added two more empty net goals.

One big concern for the Huskies the past few series had to do with the power play. Prior to this weekend, they were only had three power play goals on the season and was converting at a twelve percent rate. On the weekend, the Huskies went 5-for-12 on the power play. One big reason was getting Prow back on the ice. Saint Cloud didn’t score a power play goal when he was injured. No question his return was the reason for the spike in production.

Every season has games you’d dump in the garbage, and this game was it for both teams. The Broncos need to forget Saturday ever existed. They played very well defensively against Miami the week before and aren’t normally a bad team, just ask Omaha. I expect a much better output when the Broncos take the ice next. On the other hand, the Huskies need to forget about this game with a huge series against North Dakota looming, you can’t think about prior games. I’ll have a much larger preview Thursday on the big series.

  1. Minnesota Duluth offense with less power than Amsoil Arena.

As the Bulldogs were picked to finish at the conference because of the offense they have returning, but those players have had a rough go at it so far. The Denver Pioneers limited the Bulldogs to only one goal on the weekend, which came in the 1-1 tie. Denver took Friday’s game 3-0 as Evan Cowley got the shutout.

The Bulldogs lone goal came from Tony Cameranesi, who leads the team with nine points. No player has more than one conference goal on the season.

Not much has gone right for the Bulldogs, who currently sit at 3-5-3 on the season and winless in the last five and one win their last eight. They are also averaging an abysmal 2.17 goals per game, good for 48th in the nation. Players like Alex Iafallo and Dominic Toninato need to step up in a big way. One goal on 46 shots on Saturday isn’t going to get it done in any league.

Luckly, the Bulldogs play Colorado College next, so I can’t imagine only one goal will be scored that weekend.

Denver found offense from freshman Jarid Lukosevicius, who scored two power play goals Friday. The Pioneers got great contributions from depth players, as the Bulldogs were able to keep Will Butcher, Trevor Moore and Danton Heinen mostly in check as they only combined for two assists on the weekend.

Denver has been rotating goalies all season and did during this season. Tanner jalliet was very busy Saturday, stopping 45 of 46 shots.

In the first three-on-three overtime in the NCHC, Minnesota Duluth scored to take the extra point.

  1. North Dakota rebounds after Wisconsin split to sweep Miami.

Sophomore Nick Schmaltz scored his first two goals of the season and added four assists in the weekend’s 6-2 and 4-3 in overtime victories.

The scoring got started quickly for North Dakota as Paul LaDue and Brock Boeser both scored just 3:46 into the game. North Dakota was up 5-0 after two and was able to cruise to a victory. Boeser has been on a tear this season, scoring seven goals and five assists.

Saturday’s game was a seesaw affair. Miami had leads of 2-1 and 3-2 late in the game. Schmaltz tied the game with the extra attacker at the 18:26 mark. Luke Johnson notched the game winner just 1:23 to get the sweep.

Miami had strong games from Josh Melnick, Jack Roslovic, and Louie Belpedio, both had two points in Saturday’s affair, but the team only managed to put 14 shots toward North Dakota goalie Matt Hrynkiw.

North Dakota’s tandem of Schmaltz and Drake Caggiula both have 13 points on the season and are a combined +31. Hrynkiw got both wins and improves to 8-1-1 on the season.

  1. Quinnipiac improves to 11-0, makes hockey look easy.

The Bobcats continue to roll over any challenges as they beat Harvard 4-1, Dartmouth 6-2, and tonight they are victorious over Connecticut 6-2.

Connecticut jumped off to a 2-0 in the first period, but Bobcat junior Sam Anas scored the next two goals to erase the deficit. Quinnipiac would score the next four to cruise.

Travis St. Denis, Tim Clifton, and Anas all have eight goals already this season for the top scoring offense in the nation.

  1. WCHA splits all three series.

The battle for the WCHA keeps being a tightly contested affair as Bowling Green/Michigan Tech, Alaska/Bemidji State, and Ferris State/Alaska Anchorage all split.

Michigan Tech leads the WCHA with 12 points, but all ten games this season have come against WCHA opponents. That makes them very vulnerable later in the season. Minnesota State sits in second with 10 points, but has played four less games. Minnesota State plays Northern Michigan in a big WCHA match-up next weekend, as Northern Michigan has seven points in just six conference games.

Like I said earlier, I’ll have a preview on Thursday of the North Dakota/Saint Cloud State series. Have a great day. My shift is over.

Weekend Preview: Great Games All Over The Nation

This weekend has some of the best match-ups in the season so far. Here are some of the games I’m looking forward to the most.

The Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs got good news when they learned they are going to get active career leading scorer Tony Cameranesi for this weekend against the Denver Pioneers. His absence was surely missed last weekend when the Bulldogs dropped both games against the Omaha Mavericks.

The season hasn’t exactly gone the way many thought it would for the Bulldogs. A preseason favorite, Minnesota Duluth was considered to be one of the favorites with a strong freshman class and a lot of returning talent. However, they have limped out of the gate with a 3-4-2 record. They have played some solid teams in Notre Dame and Mass.-Lowell, but a season-opening loss to Bemidji State, which is the only victory for the Beavers so far this year, is a loss that really sticks out.

The Bulldogs look to end a three game losing streak when they host a Pioneers team that has come off a sweep of in-state rival Colorado College. Denver is the top scorer in the NCHC, averaging 3.61 goals per game. Defenseman Will Butcher leads the team with 10 points and he is used in all situations.

One thing to note about some of Denver’s losses; they haven’t been the most clutch team in the league. The Pioneers have lost two games in overtime, one to the respectable Boston Terriers and the other to the beyond-woeful Air Force Falcons. The other lost came against Boston College when the Eagles scored the game winner with just 36 seconds left.

If the game is tied late, it will be interesting to see if the experience of the Bulldogs is able to capitalize.

Heading out east, two undefeated teams are set to battle Friday as the Harvard Crimson heads to Hamden, Connecticut to take on the Quinnipiac Bobcats.

The Bobcats are the only team in NCAA to have an unblemished record, skating with a perfect 8-0-0 record. Harvard’s record sits at 3-0-1.

This will be a great battle against two all-around good teams. Goalie Michael Garteig has played every minute for the Bobcats, posting a .928 save percentage and a stunning 1.75 goals against average.

Garteig will have a busy game when Harvard’s NCAA leading offense looks to taint Quinnipiac’s record. Harvard leads the nation with a 4.65 goals per game and has converted on 41.7% of power play opportunities.

Harvard has also been great defensively giving up an average of only 1.47 goals per game. Goalies Michael Lackey and Merrick Madsen have split time in net.

You can (and some have) make the argument that Harvard hasn’t played a solid team as of yet, only exceptions being the one tie against Yale. While the two wins against Dartmouth and the other against Brown don’t exactly jump off the page, they top players are producing for the Crimson. It’s a shame this isn’t a series, but only one time.

There are many other great games on tap. Let’s have a look:

Miami Redhawks at North Dakota – Speaking of easy schedules, North Dakota will finally play a game against a team with a winning record when they take on Miami. The Redhawks are coming off a sweep against Western Michigan, while North Dakota looks to make adjustments after a downright embarrassing split to Wisconsin.

Saint Cloud Huskies at Western Michigan Broncos – It’s been an up and down reason so far for the Broncos. They followed up a home sweep against highly ranked Nebraska Omaha with a pair of 2-1 losses against Miami. You aren’t going to beat many teams by only scoring two goals all weekend. That will especially be the case when the Huskies depth looks to grind down the Broncos. Huskies captain Ethan Prow is expected to make his return after missing the last four games with a concussion. They haven’t scored a power play goal without him in the lineup.

Boston Terriers and Providence Friars (home and home) – This early season Hockey East clash is a rematch of last year’s national championship game and no doubt the Terriers remember. Providence sports an impressive 6-0-1 record and is showing no signs of a national championship hangover. The Terriers, with a modest record of 5-3-0 have had a little trouble firing on all cylinders. The 5-2 loss to Connecticut remains a head scratcher.

Go to a game this weekend. My shift is over.

Five Thoughts: NCHC Series Ends In Sweeps, BC’s Charmin Schedule

Another great weekend in college hockey had its fair share of surprises. Here are my five thoughts on the weekend:

  1. Previously undefeated North Dakota goes down to…Wisconsin?

The Badgers shocked the nation Friday night when they went to Ralph Englestad Arena and took down one of the best in the nation. Draft eligible Luke Kunin scored the game winner just 37 seconds into the second period.

Kunin has been fighting rumors all week that he was in the process of defecting to the OHL. Scoring the game winner in hostile (and abusive) territory sure makes a statement.

North Dakota ramped up the pressure in the third, outshooting the Badgers 12-4 in the final period. Badgers goalie Matt Jurusik got the win, making 29 of 30 saves.

North Dakota got redemption the following night with a 3-1 win. Shane Gersich got the game winner and Drake Caggiula, who was suspended for the Friday loss, had a goal an assist on Saturday.

North Dakota bounced back in a big way and really controlled the play, outshooting the Badgers 38-16 in the contest. Even though the shots and the possession were lopsided, this game was tied into the third period. North Dakota let the Badgers hang around and it almost cost the home team, but strong play from a strong leadership group let to the victory.

This series is the perfect example of why I love hockey. I wrote off this series last Thursday thinking it was going to be a boat race each time, but Wisconsin was able to steal a victory. Hockey is always unpredictable.

  1. Omaha sweeps Minnesota Duluth, Guentzel goes ham.

Omaha’s Jake Guentzel had two goals and three assists last weekend, as the Omaha Mavericks sweep the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs by identical 4-2 scores each night.

After getting swept by the Western Michigan Broncos where the Mavericks looked downright terrible, Omaha needed to bounce back weekend in a bad way. They got great performances each night from Evan Weninger, something that was really missing the week prior against the Broncos.

Even without active career leading scorer Tony Cameranesi, the Bulldogs were able to throw a ton of pucks on net with a combined 84 shots. However, just putting four in the back of the net has to be a cause of concern.

This is not the start the Bulldogs were planning; nor is it one a lot of people predicted. Right now, they sit 40th in the nation in offense, scoring only 2.51 goals per game. That isn’t going to get it done in this conference. Sitting at a 3-4-2 record, the scoring needs to pick up if they are going to make any noise come playoff time.

While team scoring for the Mavericks is 24th in the nation at 3.10, I’m a little worried about a sophomore slump for Avery Peterson. After a strong freshman campaign where he had 11 goals and 10 assists, he is so far scoreless this season. Omaha has some of the best top lines in the nation, but depth is what wins in the NCHC, and Peterson will need to step it up and start putting points up.

  1. Miami rebounds and sweeps Western Michigan

The Western Michigan Broncos had a hard time figuring out Ryan McKay as he only gave up two goals all weekend. McKay has run away with the starting job, posting 1.70 goals against average and a .937 save percentage. Anthony Lewis tallied a goal and two assists on the weekend.

Two freshmen were pivotal for the Redhawks. Jack Roslovic and Josh Melnick both found the back of the net and have been filling the void of some of the top players Miami lost from last season.

Western Michigan has had a roller coaster season so far. A surprise sweep of Omaha, then getting swept at Miami; we don’t know what exactly to expect from this Broncos team. They have a home battle this weekend with St. Cloud State, who was off last weekend.

  1. Quinnipiac still unblemished

The Bobcats took another two wins last weekend, beating Colgate 3-2 and Cornell 5-4 in overtime. They are the only remaining team without a loss or tie at 8-0-0 on the season.

Saturday’s game against Cornell sure was an interesting one. Even though Cornell was getting heavily outshot, they held a 4-1 lead just over halfway though the game. Quinnipiac was able to score three straight in just 5:59 to tie the game going into the second intermission. Connor Clifton picked a heck of a time to score his first of the season, just 1:26 into overtime to give the Bobcats the victory.

All season, the Bobcats have been able to score in bunches. During the sweep of St. Cloud a few weeks ago, the Bobcats scored three in 6:13 and was able to score twice in under three minutes on four separate occasions during the weekend.

If you are playing the Bobcats, never let off the gas. They can and will score in bunches.

  1. Boston College taking advantage of Charmin schedule

The Eagles have soared to an 8-1-0 record this season scored two more shutouts over winless Maine by scores of 3-0 and 2-0.

Looking at the team stats for the Eagles, it’s impressive. They have shut out six of the last seven and have allowed a leading 0.67 goals against per game.

Of the eight wins, only one of them has come against a quality team, a last minute 4-3 win over Denver. The rest of the wins were against Army, Wisconsin, two against Colorado College, UMass (with a 6-2-1 record also inflated by a soft schedule), two against Maine.

By the end of the season, I can’t see any of those wins really factoring in the Pairwise. Until I see Boston College dominate a team that wouldn’t give Boy Scout Troop 41 a run for its money, I’m not sure how bullish I should be on the Eagles. I’ll wait until the Providence series until I can make a judgment on Boston College.

Oh, and the one Boston College loss was to a mediocre Rensselaer team.

That’s all I have for today. Check back in Thursday night for a weekend preview. My shift is over.

Weekend Preview: Omaha Looks to Rebound, Huntsville Charges Forward

Great games on tap this weekend in college hockey. Here is what I’m looking forward to this weekend.

The premier matchup in the NCHC this weekend takes place as newly christened Baxter Arena were the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs take on the Nebraska Omaha Mavericks.

Huge blow came down on the Bulldogs earlier this week when it was announced that leading scorer Tony Cameranesi would not make the trip to Omaha as he is nursing an upper-body injury. He suffered the injury in the third period of last Saturday’s game against Mass.-Lowell. Cameranesi leads the Bulldogs with eight points on the season and is seven points shy of the century club.

On the other side of the rink, the Mavericks will be a determined team after a horrendous trip to Western Michigan, which saw the Broncos score a staggering 10 goals on the weekend.

This weekend will rely on the defensive effort Omaha. Coach Dean Blais was not happy with how the team played and responded with a very tough practice throughout the week. Sure, Cameranesi is out, but the Bulldogs still have plenty of depth to wreck havoc in the Omaha end.

Both teams have nearly identical team stats. Offensively, the Mavericks are averaging 2.88 goals per game while the Bulldogs are averaging 2.65 goals per game. Defensively, the Bulldogs have been slightly better than the Mavericks, 2.37 to 2.38 goals against per game. Two very strong teams will have a heavyweight bout, which usually means this will end up being a split.

While looking at early season results, you may be surprised to see how many teams in the WCHA are off to strong starts. Last year, it was a three-team race between Minnesota State, Michigan Tech, and Bowling Green. So far this year, seven teams are at or over .500 with only Bemidji State, Alaska, and Lake Superior State below that line.

One of the surprising teams above .500 is Alabama-Huntsville at 3-2-1. Now, I know they haven’t had the most daunting of schedule, but it’s easy to forget that this team nearly dropped completely out of hockey just a few years ago. Top two scorers for the Chargers are Brennen Saulnier and Max McHugh; both sophomores

The Chargers will get a good test this weekend when they host a team at the .500 mark, the Michigan Tech Huskies. The Huskies haven’t been able to string together solid efforts on back-to-back nights as they have three splits, two with Ferris State and one with Northern Michigan. Jamie Phillips has started every game so far this season for the Huskies, posting a 2.64 GAA and a .917 save percentage.

I really hope things work out for the Chargers. Not necessarily this weekend, or even this season, but the emotions the players and the supporters had to go through had to have been nerve-wrecking. So far, it looks like they are on the right track.

Other series that have caught my eye:

  • Minnesota at Notre Dame: The last of the Lucia Bowl, as father Don faces his son Tony for the last time in the regular season. Quietly, Notre Dame has a 3-1-2 record, with those two ties coming against the Bulldogs. Minnesota has underachieved to say the least.
  • Wisconsin at North Dakota: These teams have had some fun battles in the past so I’m hoping the spark is still there. The results have been lopsided, as Wisconsin hasn’t beaten North Dakota since October 22nd, 2011.

That’s all for now. Make sure you catch a game this weekend. My shift is over.