Half Season By The Numbers: The WCHA

Lastly, we visit the conference where goals forgot.

Okay, so that’s not exactly fair. The goaltending in the WCHA is quite good considering the list of mediocre teams. Those goalies are part of the reasons why there have been 14 ties so far in the conference. Of the 14, seven have been 1-1 ties.

Only Michigan Tech is averaging over three goals per game and is in the top half of average goals per game in the country. The next highest in the WCHA is Alaska-Anchorage, which is tied for 33rd with only 2.50 average goals per game.

Here are the standings in the WCHA:

                                           Conference        Overall

Minnesota State            9-1-4    22        10-6-4

Bowling Green               8-2-4    20       11-3-5

Michigan Tech               9-6-1    19        11-6-2

Ferris State                     7-7-2    16         8-8-4

Northern Michigan      5-5-4     14        6-7-6

Alaska Anchorage        5-5-2     12        8-7-3

Lake Superior                4-4-4     12       6-10-4

Bemidji State                 4-8-2     10       5-9-3

Alaska                              3-8-3      9         5-10-3

Alabama-Huntsville   2-10-2   6        4-12-2

Here is one number that caught my interest for each team.

Alabama-Huntsville – 14.9

It’s been a slow start for the Chargers of Alabama-Huntsville. They have struggled to find offense and are near the bottom in many statistical categories.

Except when it comes to penalty minutes per game. The Chargers average 14.9, which is one of the worst in the country. That means the Chargers are playing a man down for almost 75% of a period every game. Doesn’t take a brilliant hockey mind to realize that it will be tough to mount offense.

However, it does mean the penalty kill has been getting plenty of practice, as they kill an impressive 86% of power play opportunities.

Alaska – .936

The Nanooks have evenly split goaltending duties between junior Davis Jones and freshman Jesse Jenks. Judging by the stats, there shouldn’t be any reason to continue with the tandem.

Jenks has a lackluster 3-3-3 record in his nine games played, but has a mind boggling 1.95 goals against average and a staggering .936 save percentage. That doesn’t just blow Jones out of the water, but that puts him up there as some of the best in the country.

For the rest of the season, the Nanooks should starting giving the freshman the majority of the work and has the potential for some upsets throughout the season.

Bemidji State – 23.9

The Beavers have always been known as a ‘defensively sound’ and ‘well-positioned’ (also known as ‘trap’) team. Now, I personally have no problems with teams playing the trap. There is a stigma to the term. But it’s important to know that every team traps, people are just upset how much another team does.

Because of Bemidji’s ability to clog up the zones, they have allowed a league low average of 23.9 shots against per game. If the Beavers are able to keep the shots against to a minimum and get adequate goaltending, they can make a nice leap in the second half.

Also, Bemidji State has given up five shorthanded goals, worst in the nation.

Lake Superior – 1.96

In the “Land that Goals Forgot” that is the WCHA, the Lake Superior State Lakers are at the epicenter. The Lakers don’t have much up front that will scare opponents and are averaging only 1.96 goals per game. That is last in the WCHA and tied for 57th in the NCAA.

Only sophomore J.T. Henke has more than five goals this season and he only sits at six. The young goaltending combo of sophomore Gordon Defiel and freshman Nick Kossoff are they reason this team has six wins this season. Both are having very good seasons.

Alaska Anchorage – -6

The Seawolves are an interesting team. They actually have a fairly respectable shooting percentage of 10 percent, tied for 15th in the nation. But they have trouble generating offense and only registers 24.9 shots on goal per game, second worst in the WCHA.

However, the Achilles heel for the Seawolves has been the second period, where they have a -6 goal differential so far this season. In every other period, the seasons are either even or ahead in goal differential. They have been able to play well during the bookends of the game, but haven’t been able to string many complete games.

Northern Michigan – 24.6

Before tonight’s game against Michigan, the Wildcats averaged only 24.6 shots on goal per game, worst in the WCHA. It looks like that number will right with a 37 shot effort against the Wolverines in the nightcap of the Great Lakes Invitational. Northern Michigan will play Michigan State tomorrow.

In a conference that has the defensive and goaltending depth, the Wildcats need to find a way to generate changes and make a postseason run.

Ferris State – 14.3

The Ferris State Bulldogs always seem like a team that is on the cusp. I looked at the lineup this year and felt they could really bust to the top of the WCHA. But that hasn’t happened yet.

One thing that is holding them back is the power play. Operating at just 14.3 percent, the Bulldogs are in desperate need to get the man advantage working. If they look to be any type of threat in the second half of the season, this needs to be much better.

Michigan Tech – 3

After tonight’s come from behind overtime win against Michigan State, the Michigan Tech Huskies have only played three non-conference games this season. Those three games? All against Michigan State.

We still don’t exactly know how well this team stacks up against other competition. Tomorrow’s game is the championship for the Great Lakes Invitational and then the Desert Hockey Classic with Connecticut and either Yale or Arizona State.

The Huskies’ pairwise rankings will be at the mercy of the conference. If they don’t win the conference tournament, that could be the downfall.

Bowling Green – 49

Bowling Green is sitting very well from a record standpoint with 11-3-5 so far on the season, but the relatively weak schedule is a reason they aren’t a major pairwise player.

The Bowling Green Falcons strength of schedule is 49th in nation. The team’s best win was a 3-2 against Michigan Tech who is 23rd in the pairwise after tonight’s win. Minnesota State – 1

The Minnesota State Mavericks are sitting at the top of the WCHA with 22 points and a stellar 9-1-4 record. But with just one non-conference win, if they make the national tournament, they will be a team most people will pick to lose the opening game.

The Mavericks only non-conference win came against Minnesota where they battled back from a 2-0 deficit and beat the Golden Gophers 3-2 in overtime. They lost the first game of that series and four other games at the start of the season to Omaha and Saint Cloud.

Minnesota State has the North Star College Cup where they will again drop the puck against Saint Cloud State, a team that not only swept the Mavericks, but also didn’t even allow a goal.

That’s the recap of the first half from all the western conferences. Holiday tournaments are going on right now, the World Juniors are taking place in Helsinki, Finland, and plenty more college games take place this weekend. My shift is over.

 

 

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Half Season By The Numbers: The Big Ten

Another week; another conference to look at in depth. Let’s take a look at the Big Ten by the numbers. In my ongoing reviews of the first half of the NCHC, Big Ten, and WCHA seasons, I look at all the teams and give you one number I find the most interesting.

Here are the standings for the Big Ten:

                                   W-L-T  SO                 Overall

Minnesota                3-1-0               9          7-8-0

Michigan                  2-1-1     1         8          9-3-3

Penn State               2-0-0              6          11-2-3

Wisconsin                 1-2-1              4          4-7-5

Michigan State        1-3-0              3          5-11-2

Ohio State                0-2-0              0          3-11-0

With only six teams, the Big Ten conference plays a bulk of the conference games in the second half of the season. The conference has plenty of surprises and should have entertaining games as the teams positions themselves for the Big Ten tournament in Saint Paul.

Again, we start in reverse standing order. Congratulations, Ohio State. You’re three wins makes for the first entry.

Ohio State – 50

It’s been a streaky half of the year for the Buckeyes. After staring the season 0-7, the Buckeyes took three straight from Atlantic Hockey teams Mercyhurst and Canisius. Since then, they dropped two to Omaha before opening conference play against Minnesota, losing both just a minute and a half into overtime.

Despite the many losses, Ohio State has actually outshot opponents by a 50 on the season. The Buckeyes have the ability to dial up the pressure, most notably peppering Omaha goalie Evan Weninger with 46 shots in the Saturday tilt, but the shots haven’t equaled scoring production.

The Buckeyes have been rotating between Chicago Blackhawks draft pick Matt Tomkins and Christian Frey. Both have over a 3.00 goals against average on the season. Defense is going to have to play much better if Ohio State looks to make a run.

Michigan State – 3.09

Speaking of disappointments, you shouldn’t have to look much further than the crease of the Michigan State Spartans.

Senior Jake Hildebrand had a terrific ’14-’15 season. He was awarded with the Big Ten Best Goaltender and Big Ten Player of the Year for his .930 save percentage, a 2.18 goals against average and six shutouts. He was a finalist for the Mike Richter award.

This season has been a completely different story. Hildebrand’s GAA currently sits at 3.09, easily the worst of his career. Combined with his .902 save percentage means the Spartans have been playing from behind a lot. In nine games this season, the Spartans have given up four or more goals.

Wisconsin – 1

Ah, the Wisconsin Badgers, A lot has been made with the troubles going on in Madison over the past couple seasons, from declining attendance to assistant coaches calling fans ‘idiots’  during a four-win season. But there is one important number to look at while looking at the Badgers.

The number of importance? One. The entire senior class has scored one goal for the Badgers this season. While this will be another tough year at the Kohl Center, the team will get exponentially better and will pay off in the long run. Wisconsin is used to reloading every year due to players leaving for the professional ranks, but a dip in recruiting and players changing commitments (like Brock Boeser) has led them down a path they normally don’t travel down.

Look for them to be a plucky team at the end of the year and make a big push next year.

Penn State – 11

The Nittany Lions have limited experience at the college level, but they have certainly made a big leap in the win column. At 11-2-3 and having the best overall record in the conference, Penn State has truly turned into Hockey Valley.

Now, I agree the schedule for Penn State has been Charmin soft. Wins over the oxymoron that is American International and Sacred Heart aren’t going to earn the respect of opposing fan bases.

However, they aren’t just squeaking by these opponents. Penn State has victories of 8-2, 8-3, and 6-1, among others so far this season. Sure, they are beating bad teams, but they are beating them easily. They swept Michigan State in the conference opener handily with a pair of six-goal outings. Currently, Penn State sits at second in the nation in offense with 4.38 goals per game.

All of this can be an illusion, but with the conference being as open as it sits after the first half, don’t be surprised to see Penn State make a run.

Michigan – 4.39

The Michigan Wolverines lead the nation in team offense with 4.39 goals per game. Team USA snub Kyle Connor has led the high-powered offense with 22 points in just 15 games. Connor’s 11 goals are tied for the lead on the team with junior Tyler Motte.

The Wolverines have are easily the most balanced team in the Big Ten with 11 players over 10 points and three players averaging over a point per game.

Even with the top offense in the country, Michigan has been outscored 21-20 in the second period.

Minnesota – 54.8

Of the six teams in the conference, finding a number of interest for the Golden Gophers was the biggest challenge. This team is perfectly average. They are in the middle of the pack in nearly every statistical category, which fits perfectly with the mediocre 7-8-0 record.

However, one thing jumped out at me. The top three goal scorers are Leon Bristedt, Hudson Fasching, and Tyler Sheehy. Combined, they have scored 23 goals in 15 games.

The Golden Gophers have scored 42 goals total this season, which means a staggering 54.8 percent of goals scored by them are by those three players. Those talented players can win you a game here and there, but the rest of the team will need to step it up if Minnesota looks to have any success the rest of the year.

That is all for this post. I’ll write about the WCHA next week and look for a post about the updates from the U20 World Juniors. Enjoy your holiday. My shift is over.

 

Half Season By The Numbers: The NCHC

We are at the unofficial midpoint of the hockey season. We can finally take a peek at the Pairwise and actually get an idea of how things will shake out.

HEY!! I said just a peek! Don’t look too long!

I’m going to put the standings of the NCHC, Big Ten, and WCHA over the next three blog posts. I’ll also put down a number you need to know as the season progresses. I will post about the NCHC first because; face it, that’s the most interesting conference out of the three.

GP       W-L-T   XP    PTS     GP       W-L-T

North Dakota            10       9-1-0                  27       20       16-2-2

Saint Cloud State     10       8-2-0                  24       18       14-4-0

Minnesota Duluth   10       4-5-1         1        14       17       7-7-3

Omaha                         8          4-3-1                 13       16       12-3-1

Western Michigan   10       4-6-0                 12       17       6-10-1

Denver                        8          3-4-1                 10       16       7-7-2

Miami                          10       2-7-1        1        8          16       5-9-2

Colorado College      10       2-8-0                6          18       3-15-0

 

I’ll go in reverse standing order so Colorado College can be first in something.

Colorado College – 5

To say this has been a rough season for the Tigers is an understatement. Many numbers jump out, but what I found the most interesting is how the Tigers have only five home games remaining on the schedule.

Of the 13 straight losses to open the season, nine of them were at home. Which means the Tigers were be on the road a lot during the remainder of the season. A long season is going to feel even longer for the gold and black.

Those five home games? Two of them are against Omaha, one against Denver and the season finale series against Saint Cloud State.

Miami – 3

That three represents the most goals the Redhawks have scored in any game this season, which they have only been able to reach five times this season. The Redhawks have had great production from freshman Jack Roslovic and Josh Melnick, but few other players have been able to find the back of the net.

Miami is 55th in the nation in total offense with just 2.03 goals per game. If the Redhawks look to make a push for home ice, someone on that team needs to step up in a major way.

Denver – 0

The Pioneers are a team that you feel is a powerhouse year after year. You hear them in the mix every year as a team that can make a deep push into the playoffs. When I see that they are sitting at 18th in the Pairwise, I nod my head thinking, ‘That’s about right’.

Then I looked deeper into Denver’s wins. Zero of them are against a quality opponent. The Pioneers victories are over Air Force, two against Michigan State, two against state rival Colorado College, and one each against Minnesota Duluth and Wisconsin. Suddenly, the question becomes “How are they so high in the Pairwise?”

Granted, they don’t have a ‘bad’ loss per se with defeats to North Dakota, Saint Cloud and the two Boston schools, but the loss to Air Force early in the season in overtime does raise a lot of questions about the level of this squad. The Pioneers will need to step it up against quality competition.

Western Michigan – 63

In just 17 games, the Broncos have allowed 63 total goals against, including a shocking 11-1 loss to Saint Cloud State. Coach Andy Murray has recruiting a very big team (second tallest and the heaviest in the country) and is known as a strong positional coach, so it’s perplexing to see the Broncos tied for 55th in the nation for team defense, allowing 3.69 goals per game.

Consistency in net has been a problem for the Broncos. Lukas Hafner has slightly better numbers than Collin Olson this year, but when your best goalie has a GAA of 3.31 and a save percentage of .905, you aren’t going to win a lot of games.

Omaha – 8

It’s easy to look at the standings right now and see how North Dakota and Saint Cloud State have taken a stranglehold of the conference, but it’s important to note that the Mavericks have only played eight conference games so far this year. Those six outstanding points can put Omaha back into the thick of things.

Omaha is an interesting team. For a team with only three losses so far this season, two of them are a major cause of concern. For a team that has played well for a majority of the season, the two losses to Western Michigan are the biggest surprises of the season. The team was manhandled all weekend but rebounded with a solid sweep of Minnesota Duluth.

The Mavericks have four games against North Dakota in a game all hockey fans should watch and will have major implications on the Penrose Cup.

Minnesota Duluth – 7.5

The preseason favorite has been snake-bitten in the first half of the season. The Bulldogs are only shooting at a putrid 7.5 percent, good for a tie for 50th in the nation. Alex Iafallo only has two goals on the season and Dominic Toninato, who had 26 points last season, only has seven so far.

I don’t think this shooting percentage is sustainable. The Bulldogs have too much talent to be firing an average of 37 shots per game on net and only averaging 2.78 goals per game. The floodgates are bound to open. Look for a strong second half from the Bulldogs.

Saint Cloud State – 71.7

This season has been beyond all expectations for the Huskies. After losing last season’s top scorer Jonny Brodzinski to the professional ranks, the Huskies have the top number of goals (77) and the top shooting percentage (13.5%, also unsustainable) in the country.

However, there is one place where the Huskies are terrible. The penalty kill is a horrid 71.7 percent, which ranks 58th in the country. Only Canisius and Dartmouth are worse, and Dartmouth has only played 11 games so far this year.

It helps that the Huskies are one of the least penalize teams in the country, averaging the fourth least penalty minutes in the country.

Good teams will make you pay on the penalty kill. The Huskies need to desperately address this if they want to be in the national title picture.

North Dakota – 41.4

Throughout much of the 2000s, North Dakota has always had one dominant line. There is no difference this year at the line of Drake Caggiula, Brock Boeser, and Nick Schmaltz has combined for 74 points this season.

That line constitutes for 41.4 percent of the goals for the Fighting Hawks this season. Eric Burton of Goon’s World took a look to see how that line has compared to the Line of Fire, Money Line, Pony Express, etc. of the 2000s.

Now, I have stated before that the Fighting Hawks should look at splitting the line up and trying to get some other players of the talented roster going.

I look at having one stacked line to having a Quarterback and Wide Receiver combo in Fantasy Football. When it clicks, it’s unstoppable. But that one time when you get shut down, you’ll be at a loss. One of North Dakota’s two losses of the season was against Saint Cloud State, who was able to hold all three to just two assists on the same goal. The other loss was a stunner to Wisconsin where Caggiula was suspended.

It has been working at the start of the season, but I think when it comes to tournament time the teams will be better at shutting down top lines.

I’ll be doing the same for the Big Ten and WCHA in the next two weeks. I will also be looking at some World Junior updates as that tournament gets underway shortly. Thanks for reading! My shift is over.

 

Five Thoughts: Surprises and Status Quo

With 59 teams hitting the ice this weekend, there were plenty of interesting results. Some teams kept the status quo; other teams hit a major setback. Here are my five thoughts.

  1. Colorado College followed up its first win of the season with a sweep of Miami.

It has already felt like a long season already for the Colorado College Tigers. They have been shutout five times already this and went a whole series without a goal. The clear underdogs against Miami University was able to put aside scoring woes and sweep the Redhawks by scores of 2-1 and 3-2.

The weekend belonged to Hunter Fejes. The senior from Anchorage scored both goals in the 2-1 victory in Friday’s tilt and the game winner with just 1:13 left to go in Saturday’s game.

The Tigers have a chance to put a little winning streak before the winter break. The next two series for the Tigers are against Western Michigan (4-10-1) and Alabama-Huntsville (3-9-2) aren’t exactly lighting the ice on fire. If the Tigers can get some wins under its belt, they could have a lot of confidence going into the series at St. Cloud State.

  1. Quietly, Penn State is off to a terrific season.

It’s not getting a lot of press, but I think the biggest story that isn’t being talked about is how well the Penn State Nittany Lions are off to a blistering 10-2-3 start.

They rank 14th in team defense, giving up only 2.23 goals per game and fourth in team offense with 4.20 goals per game. Not bad considering a team that is only four years old.

The knee jerk reaction to the Nittany Lions’ rise would be the lack of quality opponents on the schedule. While that is probably the reason why they aren’t getting a lot of love from the media, it should be noted that they aren’t exactly squeaking out victories.

American International and Sacred Heart don’t exactly strike fear into the heart of many opposing fanbases, but Penn State beat those teams by scores of 8-3 and 8-2.

The Big Ten started conference play last weekend and Penn State had no problem dispatching Michigan State by scores of 4-2 and 6-1. Penn State’s losses came against St. Lawrence (currently sits at 9-4-2) and Notre Dame (8-4-4).

We all know the Big Ten isn’t exactly ripe with top teams at the moment, so a championship and birth to a NCAA tournament isn’t out of the question.

  1. Omaha’s weekend went from bad to terrible to good in a span of 36 hours.

The Omaha Mavericks lost last Friday’s game against the St. Cloud State Huskies in a rather non-descript 4-1 fashion. The Huskies controlled the play in many parts of the game. While Omaha held a slight edge in shots, many of them were from outside of home plate and didn’t get many quality chances.

Then news came down for Saturday that top offensive threat Austin Ortega came down with an allergic reaction to a cookie and wasn’t able to play the rematch. Also, Jake Guentzel also went down with about about five minutes left in the first period and didn’t return.

So what does Omaha do with its top two scorers out? Just put up seven goals from seven different goal scorers against one of the best defenses in the country.

The split in this series was easily seen by nearly everyone that could make a prediction, but if you had told me that Omaha would have won because of the depth I would have told you how you have no business predicting hockey.

  1. The Huskies lost more than just Saturday’s game.

The most improved player on the Huskies so far this season has been sophomore Judd Peterson. The Buffalo draft pick leads the team with 10 goals this season.

During the second period in Friday’s game, Peterson was crashing the net and got his legs tangled with the Omaha defenseman. His speed caused him to crash into the boards hard. He was helped off the ice by a trainer for what looked like a shoulder injury.

Coach Bob Motzko said that Peterson would at miss at least the next series at Denver.

Peterson plays in all situations, but especially on the penalty kill. In his absence, that meant that other players would have to fill that role. Omaha capitalized and went 3-for-5 on the power play on Saturday.

It’s important to note how bad St. Cloud’s penalty kill has been. So far this year, the Huskies are second to last in the nation, with only Dartmouth being worse. Now that Peterson is out, arguably the top penalty killing forward, it could get a lot worse. No doubt Motzko will put a lot of work into the PK units this week in practice.

  1. The top teams keep refusing to lose.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t remember a time where we have had this many dominating teams with so few losses this late into the season. Quinnipiac and Providence are still undefeated (compared to zero last year). Eleven teams this year have lost three or fewer times (compared to eight last year).

It’s quite remarkable to see so many top year teams this late into the season. The talent pool has never been deeper. Do yourself a favor and go see one of these teams.

Stick tap to all college hockey fans around the nation for the #FromTopShelfToFoodShelf campaign. About $2,548 and 311 food items were donated from fans just like you and me. I’m sad David Morley didn’t reach 100 points, but my donation was still $40 from the UNO/SCSU series. Special thanks goes to Donna Carpenter for organizing this every year. Please think about participating next year!

Winter Break is approaching for many teams, but still valuable points on the line coming up. My shift is over.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Pledges!

#FromTopShelfToFoodShelf, Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Pledges!

It’s time for #FromTopShelfToFoodShelf. For those of you who are unaware, it’s a time for hockey fans to pledge money, food, etc. to whatever food shelf you choose based on your favorite team’s performance. Whether it’s a little or a lot, it all adds up.

I am proud to announce I will be participating this year and my donation will be explained at the end of the blog when I breakdown the Omaha/Saint Cloud series.

Before I get to that, I’m going to go a little in depth with the big Denver/North Dakota series that will take place at Ralph Engelstad arena.

Make no mistake about it; these teams hate each other. From line brawls  to former Denver coach George Gwozdecky actually walking on the ice, it feels like nothing is off limits for this series.

Looking at the NCHC standings, the Denver Pioneers are currently sitting in a tie for third place with 10 points. They have also played the fewest number of games out of any team from the conference, just four.

While the Pioneers don’t have the standout scorers (Danton Heinen and Matt Marcinew both lead the team with five goals), they certainly aren’t lacking in the scoring department. Top to bottom scoring has lead the Pioneers to a 7-3-2 record and 3.44 goals per game, good for 11th in the country.

The Pioneers are a team that has had some puzzling games this year. In the first year against Wisconsin, the Pioneers were losing 3-1 midway through the second period before a power play goal by Trevor Moore was able to turn the momentum and helped Denver earn the tie.

For whatever reason, the Pioneers have had trouble closing out games. The first game in the season, Denver lost against a mediocre Air Force squad in overtime. In a trip out to the Boston area, the Pioneers dropped one to Boston College allowing a goal with just 36 seconds left and dropping another in overtime the next night to Boston University.

They are going to need find the extra gear against the North Dakota Fighting Hawks. Coming in tied for the lead with 15 points in the conference, the Fighting Hawks are coming off a sweep of the Michigan State Spartans.

It’s hard to talk about the Fighting Hawks and not mention the CBS line. Drake Caggiula, Brock Boeser, and Nick Schmaltz have combined for 58 points this season, which is almost 40% of the team’s offensive production.

It is interesting to note the change in netminders for the Fighting Hawks. Cam Johnson got both wins, only allowing two goals on the weekend. Matt Hrynkiw has been the starter all year. After a split with Saint Cloud State where many of the goals were not his fault, I was surprised Brad Berry went with Johnson for both games.

The other big series in the NCHC takes place in Saint Cloud, where the Huskies will host the Omaha Mavericks. Both teams feature a potent offense and a very up-tempo style of play.

The Huskies will probably be without defenseman Niklas Nevalainen, who was on the business end of Nick Seeler flying elbow. Expect Mika Ilvonen to play in his place since freshman Clark Kuster hasn’t been cleared for contact.

The Huskies lead the NCAA in total goals scored with 60 and have done it with depth. When one line gets shut down, the other lines are able to pick up the slack. Seven players have over 10 points so fart his season. David Morley, who was originally committed to Omaha, is only two points away from 100 in his career.

Omaha is lead up front by the 1-2 punch of junior Jake Guentzel and Austin Ortega. The power duo has a combined 40 points on the season. Ortega is also known for his timely goal scoring all career and leads the nation with 12 goals on the season.

This series will feature two goalies that are at the top of their game. Charlie Lindgren will start both games for the Huskies with a .931 save percentage and a 1.88 goals against average. Not to be outdone, Omaha’s Evan Weninger has a slightly worse goals against average at 1.91, but the save percentage is a gaudy .948 and leads the NCHC.

The Huskies have the edge in the power play department, which is currently clicking at 29.82% conversion rate. It would be very wise for Omaha to play very disciplined this weekend.

Omaha is also a team that gives up a lot of shots. The Huskies currently lead the NCAA in shot percentage, scoring on about 13.4% of their shots. That spells trouble for Omaha, who has given up 190 shots in the past five games.

On the other side, Omaha is a team that you cannot give a lot of chances to. If they get a little bit of room or make a bad pinch, the Mavericks are able to stampede the other way.

This series will be a very entertaining one to watch. Both teams are very good in transition and are able to move up and down the ice quickly.

That brings me to my #FromTopShelfToFoodShelf donation. During the Omaha Mavericks vs the Saint Cloud State Huskies, I will donate $2 for every goal scored by either team, $5 for every power play goal and if Morley gets his 100th career point this weekend, I will donate and extra $10 to Catholic Charities. I know Lindgren and Weninger are able to shut down opponents, so I will make sure to donate a minimum of $25 no matter what. I urge everyone to participate or give whatever you can. It’s a great cause!

Enjoy some puck this weekend. Almost every college hockey team is in action this weekend, so make sure you take in a game. My shift is over.

 

Five Thoughts: NCHC Continues Domination of B1G

As the Big Ten still struggles to find consistency, the NCHC continues its domination. Here are my five thoughts:

  1. Call Saint Cloud State’s power play Miley Cyrus, because it can’t be tamed.

Last blog post, I said how I thought the Minnesota Golden Gophers penalty will would be able to stifle the Huskies power play. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The Huskies went 6-for-10 on power play opportunities as they sweep the Gophers by a 3-2 and 7-4 margin in the rare Friday/Sunday series.

The Huskies power play is clicking at a 29.82 percent, which is third in the nation behind Robert Morris and Penn State. What is more impressive is that the Huskies went 0-for-14 when Ethan Prow went down with a concussion. With him in the line up, the power play is 17-for-43 for an insane 39.53 percent.

David Morley continues his hot streak with two goals and three assists on the weekend, inching him closer to the 100-career point milestone. He currently sits at 98 points.

  1. For two straight weekends, major penalties played key roles in halting comebacks against the Huskies.

In the second game against the North Dakota Fighting Hawks, the Huskies looked comfortable with a 3-0 lead late into the second period. Troy Stecher got the Fighting Hawks on the board and started getting a little momentum on their side. However, Trevor Olson took a five-minute interference penalty, which Niklas Nevalainen converted on to keep the Huskies with the momentum. The Huskies ended up winning 6-1.

Sunday against the Gophers saw a seesaw affair turn ugly very quickly. With the score 3-1 in favor of the Huskies, Tyler Sheehy faked a drop pass along the half board. Two Huskies defenders both bit, and Sheehy had an open lane in the slot and beat Charlie Lindgren cleanly, switching momentum back to the Gophers only down by one.

Enter Nick Seeler.

Seeler decided not to play the puck on a pinch, stuck his elbow out and drilled Nevalainen in the head. Nevalainen did not return in the game.

For his effort, Seeler got a five-minute major, game misconduct, and the Big Ten handed down a one-game suspension. The Huskies scored two power play goals on the major from Judd Peterson and Patrick Russell to put the game out of reach.

No official word has come out on Nevalainen’s status, but he already missed a few games earlier this year with a concussion and can’t see him playing against Omaha. With the winter break coming up, I’d be surprised if he plays in Denver the following week as well.

  1. If you manage to shut down Guentzel one night, he’ll go HAM the next.

The Ohio State Buckeye’s have done something not many teams have been able to do all season; shut down Jake Guentzel. The Pittsburgh Penguin draft pick didn’t record a point in Friday’s game. Omaha was still able to sneak out a 3-1 victory with Austin Ortega recording a goal and an assist.

Well, Guentzel didn’t take to kindly to being held without a point and he went off on Saturday. Guentzel had two goals and three assists as Omaha put away a 6-4 victory.

His 22 points on the season leads the NCHC. He also has played fewer games than the two players with 21 points in Drake Caggiula and Nick Schmaltz.

Ortega also had multi-point games in both contests, scoring three goals and adding one assist on the weekend.

  1. Omaha found its workhorse in net.

Evan Weninger improved to 8-1 in the season, getting both wins on the weekend. Earlier in the season, coach Dean Blais was rotating goalies between him and Kirk Thompson. In a previous blog post, I noted that rotating goalies is fine early in the season, but around mid-season its best to hitch your wagon to one goalie.

Well, Weninger has given no reason for Blais to take him out of the starting job. Since being pulled from the Western Michigan game, he is 5-0 and has made 179 saves on 190 shots, good for a .942 save percentage.

Much has been made about Omaha’s advanced stats, but the team keeps rolling. While I don’t believe Corsi is the end-all, be-all of statistics, I do think there is something with amount of shots Omaha gives up. Yes, shots on goal can be subjective and inflating, but Weninger facing 190 shots in just five games is quite a lot of shots to be giving up. I don’t know where the shots are coming from and they may be floaters from the blue line, but games where you are giving up an average of 38 shots per game cannot continue to be the norm.

  1. Michigan State is no match for North Dakota.

The CBS line keeps rolling. Caggiula, Schmaltz and Brock Boeser combined for 11 points on the weekend as the Fighting Hawks easily take down the Spartans 3-1 and 4-1.

Last week, I posted a blog saying that coach Brad Berry should look at breaking up that line. I know it sounds even crazier after an 11-point weekend, but only two of the seven goals didn’t involve at least two of those players.

Depth scoring is so important as the season continues and come tournament time, there will be games where the CBS line gets shut down. Just look at the second game against the Huskies. That line was shut down and the Huskies won 6-1. There is a lot of talent on the Fighting Hawks to have the depth scoring that is needed to make a deep run.

So far this season, the Big Ten is 1-14-1 against the NCHC, with Wisconsin beating North Dakota and tying Denver.

Some awesome games next weekend with Saint Cloud hosting Omaha and Denver traveling to North Dakota. Preview should be posted Thursday night. My shift is over.