Weekend Preview: NCHC Teams Jostling for Position

Thank you to everyone who gave positive feedback about the podcast that was put up yesterday. It was a lot of fun and I would like to do more in the future. If you haven’t had a chance to give it a listen, I encourage you to do so even if you aren’t a St. Cloud State fan. We went through the NCHC, Big Ten, and WCHA conferences.

Due to that podcast, this is going to be a short blog. I don’t want to risk repeating myself.

First a little recap with the non-conference game on Tuesday night.

Bemidji State 2 Minnesota Duluth 1

Coming off a three game win streak, the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs caught a bit of a snag with a loss to the Bemidji State Beavers. The game was a make up from earlier in the year when Amsoil Arena suffered a power outage.

The loss was utter devastation for the Bulldog’s at-large chances, dropping to a tie for 26th in the pairwise.

They do have four games with North Dakota and St. Cloud left, all on the road. So while the light is dimming, I don’t think it’s burnt out quite yet. But they would have to run the table.

Senior Markus Gerbrandt scored the game-winning goal for the Beavers with ten minutes remaining and sophomore goaltender Michael Bitzer stopped 25 of 26 shots to secure the victory.

The Bulldogs were playing a little shorthanded due to injuries (and suspensions). They are off this week, so this break comes at a good time for them. They have some very important games coming up.

Shifting the focus to this weekend, two key matchups highlight the NCHC as North Dakota travels to take on Denver and Western Michigan travels to Omaha.

In Denver, the Pioneers have been playing very well as of late. They are 6-1-3 in the last 10 games. During the stretch, the Pioneers have only allowed 20 goals.

Trying to break the Pioneers will be North Dakota, where the Fighting Hawks have been playing well since the start of the season. They haven’t lost since January 15th, where they fell 4-3 in overtime to Omaha.

Aided by the bye week, the Fighting Hawks got some well-needed rest for some of its star players, as senior Drake Caggiula and freshman Nick Schmaltz will both be back for this weekend. Their scoring touch will be a big welcome back, as they only managed to score four goals last weekend (three from freshman Brock Boeser).

North Dakota easily swept Denver earlier in the series by 5-1 and 4-0 results.

Moving to the other series, the Omaha Mavericks look to stop the bleeding that has occurred during the second half of the season. The Mavericks have gone 2-6 in the last eight games, including some lopsided losses to Colorado College and Miami. Omaha has had its fair share of troubles in conference play, going 6-9-1 and fighting for home ice. They are also being outscored 56-44 in those conference games.

The Western Michigan Broncos are sitting in the seventh spot in the conference and hasn’t won a conference game since beating Colorado College on December 12th.

It’s tough to look at this series without thinking about what happened earlier this season. The Mavericks were a perfect 6-0 heading into the first conference games of the season and just got ran out of Kalamazoo by 4-2 and 6-1 scores. Of the three goals the Mavericks were able to post, junior Jake Guentzel scored two of them.

I can’t see that happening against this series, especially with home ice points on the line for Omaha and being in front of the home crowd. However, the Broncos played North Dakota very tightly last series, so don’t be surprised if they manage to steal one.

I went though this and plenty more during the podcast, so please give that a listen. Both NCHC games are on CBS Sports Network on Friday, so check them out. My shift is over.

 

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