Five Thoughts: Conference Races Tighten Up

Even though many teams enjoyed the final off week of the regular season, plenty of big games were to be had and key points were up for grabs. Here are my five thoughts.

  1. Miami Impresses in Hard-Earned Split

On first glace, it’s easy to make assumptions about the St. Cloud State Huskies against the Miami Redhawks. It looks like the Huskies dominated with a 5-1 win on Friday, while the Redhawks were able to sneak away with a 3-2 victory on Saturday.

Watching that series, I feel Miami has the better of the play most of the series. A 5-1 score can look deceiving, but the Redhawks peppered junior goaltender Charlie Lindgren with 36 shots on goal, including 17 in the first, and controlled most of the play.

The Huskies got four of the five goals off odd-man rushes or breakaways and only finished with 24 shots. Credit the Huskies for capitalizing on its chances, but you can’t expect to win many games with that little puck possession.

That’s what happened on Saturday. Again Miami came out strong, but went into the first intermission with a 1-0 deficit. The tide turned in the second period when Miami scored three goals in 4:37 to get the lead for good.

I’ve been nervous about how the Huskies respond to giving up goals all season. It feels like they can let a game get out of reach. That’s what happened here.

I think Miami is set up well for home ice. They have a favorable schedule remaining against Western Michigan, Colorado College, and Minnesota Duluth.

  1. Minnesota Duluth’s Sweep Vaults Bulldogs to Home Ice Position

Speaking of home ice, the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs currently occupy the final home-ice spot in the NCHC. The season hasn’t been ideal for the Bulldogs, but a nice sweep of Colorado College may provide them with a spark to turn it around.

The sweep wasn’t without a fair share of drama, however. After a back and forth affair on Friday, the Tigers had a 2-1 lead late in the third period and seemed poised for a split. The Bulldogs were able to score two goals less than a minute apart and hang on for a 3-2 win.

Even though the Bulldogs are off this weekend, they can fall back no farther than a tie for fourth, depending on what Omaha does against Western Michigan (remember, the Broncos swept the Mavericks earlier this year). This battle for the last home ice spot may be the best battle in the conference as it looks to me that North Dakota has the best chance at the Penrose. Duluth does have the edge in points over Miami, but Duluth’s schedule down the road involves games at North Dakota and at Saint Cloud. That is a huge test and may be too much to overcome. The key series will be the final showdown between the Bulldogs and the Redhawks. Any way I look at the remainder of the schedule, it comes down to that series as being the key series for fourth place.

  1. Harvard is 1-3 in Last Four, Falls to 11 in Pairwise

The Harvard Crimson started the season strong, going 8-1-3 in its first 12 games. However, the team has taken a little bit of a hit and currently sits at 13-7-3 and has stumbled as of late, only scoring seven goals in the past four games.

Harvard finished last in the Beanpot, losing the first game 3-2 against Boston College and 5-1 Monday against Northeastern.

The Crimson are led in the goal scoring department by seniors Jimmy Vesey and Kyle Criscuolo with 18 and 16 goals, respectively. Keeping them off the score sheet is tough, but has been proven to be possible. At the beginning of the season, I thought they were one of the top teams in the country, but they seem less scary than they were early in the year.

  1. Michigan State Upsets Michigan, Gets Split

The upset of the week came from the Big Ten as the Spartans were able to stifle the potent Michigan Wolverine offense and win the Friday tilt 3-2 in overtime. Senior Matt DeBlouw tallied his fourth of the year for the game winner. The win was only the seventh of the year and third in the Big Ten for the Spartans.

The Wolverines were able to bounce back on Saturday, winning 4-1 the following night, firing 42 shots on goal and 20 in the first period alone.

The Wolverines have one of the best lines in college hockey with juniors JT Compher, Tyler Motte, and freshman Kyle Connor. The trio has combined for a total of 121 points on the season and has accumulated a 17-4-4 record.

I am not that high on the Michigan Wolverines. While they do have that talented trio and a pretty good supporting cast for depth, the goaltending has been mediocre all season. Senior Steve Racine has been flirting with a save percentage below .900 all season and at times has looked real shaky. I think a well-disciplined team in a regional will knock them out.

  1. WCHA Race Coming Down to the Wire

It has turned into a three-team race for the top of the WCHA. Minnesota State leads the pack for the time being, but both Bowling Green and Michigan Tech are both only two points back.

Minnesota State and Bowling Green just split a series in Mankato, so no ground was gained or lost from that front. But with no WCHA teams currently occupying an at-large bid for the national tournament, seeding for the WCHA tournament will be very critical.

I can see any one of those teams stepping up and representing the WCHA, but I don’t see any of them jumping up to get an at-large bid. Once the Final Five rolls around, every time will be fighting to avoid elimination.

That is all for me. Weekend preview will be coming on Thursday. My shift is over.

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Weekend Preview: Minnesota Teams in Pivotal Series

Big games highlight the three conferences in the West. With precious conference titles and Pairwise positioning is on the line, some of the conference leaders can’t afford to stumble.

St. Cloud State at Miami

Last meeting: Huskies sweep 3-0, 3-1

Without a doubt, there is much more on the line in this series for the Redhawks. Sure, the Penrose Cup would be nice, but in many sports, the regular season championship is the hardest to win but the least celebrated. The Huskies are in very good position for the NCAA tournament.

Miami will be the more desperate team. They are currently tied for the last home ice spot in the conference with Minnesota Duluth and Omaha. At 22 in the Pairwise, the Redhawks are running out of time to push for and at-large bid and really need to set themselves up for a post-season push. Home ice would be the best way to do that.

The Redhawks have been doing that as of late. They are 4-1 in the past five games, averaging 3.6 goals per game during that stretch. The Redhawks are getting more consistent play from some of the top players like senior Sean Kuraly and junior Anthony Louis. The two freshmen, Jack Roslovic and Josh Melnick, are a threat to score every game.

I’m not a huge fan of the goaltending, however. Seniors Ryan McKay and Jay Williams save percentages of .905 and .900 don’t exactly scare anyone.

On the other side of the ice, the Huskies are fresh off winning the North Star College Cup and have nearly every part of the game clicking. Freshman Mikey Eyssimont was named the tournament MVP with three goals and two assists on the weekend and has added even more depth to a team that has nine players with at least 19 points. Expect Miami’s defense to be very busy all weekend long.

One key match-up will be the potent Huskies power play (31.7 percent) against the Redhawks penalty kill (93.1 percent).

Bowling Green at Minnesota State

Last meeting: 2-2 ties, both games

The top two teams in the WCHA look to take command of the ship as we enter the final leg of the season. If this series is anything like the one that was played early in the season, nothing will be solved.

The Bowling Green Falcons have had an up and down year. The highlight has come in the middle when the team went nine games without a loss. However, taking just one point from third-place Michigan Tech last series puts them in a position where they need to make a jump.

Enter Minnesota State. The Mavericks lost a back and forth game against St. Cloud State last weekend and beat the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The top Maverick players are playing very well and have improved quite a bit throughout the year.

The Falcons don’t have a lot of players that jump out on the stat sheet. Sophomore Brandon Hawkins leads the team with an even split 18 points while senior Mark Cooper leads the team with 10 goals. But a respectable 11 players have reached double digits in points. Nothing to sneeze at.

The main strength of the Falcons’ game comes from goaltender Chris Nell. The sophomore has an impressive 11-5-6 record and an even more impressive .937 save percentage and 1.64 goals against average. Both stats are in the top five in the nation.

The Mavericks will have its hands full. The home ice will be an advantage for the purple, as they are 9-4-0 at home. If the game stays close, the Mavericks have the advantage, as they are 7-2 in one goal games. The leaders of senior Teddy Blueger and sophomore C.J. Franklin played very well and the team will look for them to continue to this important conference tilt.

Both teams are on the outside looking in when it comes to the Pairwise bubble. Bowling Green enters the weekend at 25 whereas Minnesota State sits at 17. The Mavericks can get firmly on the bubble with a sweep this weekend.

Penn State at Minnesota

Last meeting: Split. Penn State won 3-2 OT, Minnesota won 7-1

The Minnesota Golden Gophers were playing very well until the two losses at the North Star College Cup. It felt like junior Hudson Fasching, the team leader in goals and points, disappeared for the two games last weekend, as Bemidji State and Minnesota State were able to shut him down. He was instrumental in the Gophers hot streak and the maroon and gold hopes he gets back on the score sheet.

The Penn State Nittany Lions has slipped a little bit since they got into the meat of the Big Ten schedule. They have lost the last three games and have given up an average of six goals against in those losses.

The majority of the Nittany Lions schedule is on the road from here on out. In fact, they have had only one conference series away from Hockey Valley, a split with Ohio State. Eight of the last ten games are on the road.

A pair of freshmen lead Penn State in goals with Andrew Sturtz with 13 and Chase Berger with 11. They love to put shots and pressure the goalie as they average almost 44 shots on goal per game, so you know Gophers freshman goalie Eric Schierhorn will be busy.

The Gophers are currently tied with the Michigan Wolverines with 24 points in the Big Ten Conference. Penn State sits at third.

In the pairwise, both teams are outside looking in. The Nittany Lions have the edge at 17 to the Gophers placement at 20.

One-timers:

  • It’s great to see Gopher women’s hockey senior Amanda Kessel back on the ice. She hasn’t played since the 2014 Olympics due to concussion issues. She has been cleared by the doctors and will add much more depth to an already dangerous team.
  • The Quinnipiac Bobcats, a team that sits at 20-1-5 and somehow isn’t a consensus number one team according to the polls that shan’t be named, has been playing with a little bit of fire lately. Last Friday against Dartmouth, the Big Green had a 4-1 lead before the Bobcats roared back and ended up winning 7-5. If they fall behind again to Cornell this weekend, I’m not sure the Bobcats will be able to climb back. Cornell is too good defensively.

That is it for me. Enjoy the games this weekend. My shift is over.

North Star College Cup Preview

The North Star College Cup is once again upon us. The tournament consists of four of the five Division I teams in Minnesota meet at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul for a tournament for Paul Bunyan’s Chalice (unofficial term).

The defending champion happens to be the Bemidji State Beavers, which won fairly easily with a 4-0 win over Minnesota Duluth and a 3-1 victory against WCHA foe Minnesota State.

This year, it’s Minnesota Duluth’s time to spectate. The tournament moved to a Saturday-Sunday afternoon format, instead of the traditional Friday-Saturday.

Much has been discussed about this change, so I may as well add my two cents. I think it’s a good move. By changing the dates and times, you encourage fans from outstate to watch the tournament. Fans of Bemidji won’t have to take off work on Friday and spend two nights in the Twin Cities. Instead, fans can come down on Saturday morning and only spend one night before heading back on Sunday night.

I’m certain players and coaches are also not happy about having to be outside of their normal routine. My main problem with that line of thinking is due to the NCAA tournament and how those game times will be out of your routine. May as well get some experience with it.

Changing topics to the actual games to be played, this will be a very interesting tournament. All teams have been playing very well lately and have good reasons they will take the trophy. Let’s get to the contestants.

St. Cloud State Huskies           20-5-1

The favorite in the tournament has to be St. Cloud State. The Huskies have lost one game since December 11th and is coming off a series where they lit up Western Michigan for 15 goals.

Why they will win: The Huskies have five players, all seniors, that are averaging at least point per game. The defense has been rock solid as well, with junior Charlie Lindgren providing the team with great stability between the pipes. The power play is also one of the best in the country, clicking at 30.6 percent.

Why they won’t win: If there is one weak spot for the Huskies, it is on the penalty kill. While is has been a little bit better lately, overall the Huskies only kill off 78 percent of the time. There is no clue to tell how the referees will call the game, but if it is tight and the Huskies get into penalty troubles, it could be disastrous. In all five losses, they have allowed at least one power play goal.

Key Stat: The Huskies are 34-4 when senior David Morley scores a goal in his career.

Minnesota State Mavericks        13-8-5

It’s been an up and down year for the Minnesota State Mavericks. After starting the season with four losses where they only scored a combined two goals, the Mavericks have torn through the WCHA competition and currently sports a 12-3-5 in conference.

Why they will win: The Mavericks have only two losses since November 13th. The scoring woes that plagued them earlier this year have seemed to sort itself out as the Mavericks scored 13 goals last weekend against Lake Superior State.

Why they won’t win: With the first game against St. Cloud State, the Mavericks clearly don’t have the depth to compete. No member has reached double digits in goal scoring. Sophomore C.J. Franklin leads the team with nine goals on the season and senior Teddy Blueger leads team with 21 points. To put that into context, the Huskies have six players over 21 points.

Key Stat: The Mavericks only have one non-conference win on the season, come-from-behind 3-2 overtime win to Minnesota. And speaking of… (sweet segue, if I do say so myself!)

Minnesota Golden Gophers      13-10-0

Much has been made of the Minnesota Golden Gophers this season. Whether the team will be torn apart from it or will come together stronger is yet to be seen. But there is no doubt this team is playing better as of late, winning its last five games.

Why they will win: Plenty of players have stepped up in the scoring column during the five-game winning streak. During that stretch, the Gophers have scored an amazing 38 goals. Junior Michael Brodzinski has provided the team with much needed offense from the blue line, scoring a hat trick in his last game.

Why they won’t win: The Gophers have been having trouble stringing together complete games all season. In fact, they have a negative goal differential during the second period throughout the season. A full 60-minute game effort will go a long way to taking the tournament.

Key Stat: Junior Hudson Fasching has 15 goals on the season, but 11 of them have come in the last 12 games. If any team is going to slow them down, they will need to keep him off the score sheet.

Bemidji State Beavers           10-10-5

The Beavers also has been playing every well as of late, going 5-1-2 in the last eight games. In that stretch was a four-game stint where they battled both Alaska teams and going 3-0-1 on that road trip. Any current or former WCHA fan is aware how hard it is to string two good games together on Alaska trips, and the Beavers did that on back-to-back weekends.

Why they will win: The Beavers have the incredible knack to turn any game into a defensive slog. They play well in the neutral zone and can smother teams defensively. Opponents only average about 24 shots per game against the Beavers, so you need to make sure your shots count.

Why they won’t win: While sophomore Gerry Fitzgerald leads the team with 12 goals on the season in four few teams than many players on the team, no one else has more than six on the season. If teams focus on Fitzgerald, the Beavers don’t have many other players to step up. The goaltending tandem of sophomore Michael Bitzer and junior Reid Mimmack may have impressive goals against average, but the save percentage of .915 and .908, respectively, doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

Key Stat: Of the 10 losses this season, six of them are one-goal losses and another one was a two-goal loss with an empty net. This team isn’t one to get blown out and will always fight to the end whistle.

That’s it for me. This will be a fun tournament and I hope it really takes off in popularity. Make sure you watch a game this weekend. My shift is over.

Five Thoughts: Red Lamps Get A Workout

There were goals aplenty all over college hockey last weekend. Here are my five thoughts:

  1. Minnesota Crushes in Border Battle

The Minnesota Golden Gophers put up a total of 13 goals in the sweep against the Wisconsin Badgers. Sophomore defenseman Michael Brodzinski had an assist on Friday and capped off Saturday’s game with hat trick in the rout.

As much as the Gopher offense should be the headline for the series, the focus will be on what happened to freshman Tommy Novak.

Novak took two hits that eventually earned suspensions from the Big Ten, the second of which may have Novak sitting out at least for the North Star College Cup.

Junior Aidan Cavallini will sit one game and senior Eddie Wittchow will miss a total of three.

With all the new studies shown about the long-term effects of concussions, I do think stiffer penalties need to be in place at all levels for these types of plays (and when you punch someone while they are lying down on the ice).

Special thanks to twitter user @cjzero. Seriously. Follow him.

Minnesota is currently on a five game win streak heading into the North Star College Cup against Bemidji State.

  1. St. Cloud State Drills Western Michigan, Again

The St. Cloud State Huskies proved the last series against Western Michigan was no fluke as the Huskies 8-2 and 7-3 over the weekend, including six goals on the power play.

Senior Joey Benik was named the offensive player of the year for the NCHC have a monstrous two goal, five assist weekend.

As much as this looks like a massacre, there were actually key moments in each game that really turned the momentum toward St. Cloud.

On Friday’s game, the Huskies were up 1-0 when the Broncos had a golden 5×3 opportunity for 1:04 late in the first to take the lead.

Even though the Huskies’ penalty kill sitting at a poor 78 percent, they were able to stay strong and kill the penalties. Shortly after the penalties expired, the Huskies rattled three goals by the time the five-minute mark of the second period was reached.

Saturday’s key moment happened at the end of the second period with the Huskies up 6-3. It appeared the Broncos scored, but was eventually reviewed and disallowed being ruled the puck was played with a high stick before entering the net. I was surprised it was overturned by the TV cameras, but maybe the official have access to a different angle. The Huskies scored another and clamped down defensively to make sure another didn’t get past junior goaltender Charlie Lindgren.

I would imagine the Broncos are privately hoping not to play the Huskies in the first round of the playoffs as the Huskies have outscored the Broncos 31-8 in three games.

  1. North Dakota Survives Friday Scare Against Colorado College

The first 15 minutes couldn’t have gone any better for the Fighting Hawks in last Friday’s game. Up 4-0, it would seem like losing senior Drake Caggiula and freshman Nick Schmaltz wouldn’t be a problem at all.

The Tigers came roaring back and scored five straight to take the 5-4 lead in Grand Forks and had the lead until the last minute.

After a few failed empty net attempts that turned into icings against the Tigers, the Fighting Hawks kept up the pressure and finally tied it up with about 32 seconds remaining by freshman Rhett Gardner.

The Tigers have been playing very well recently, so it was no surprise to see them push the Fighting Hawks to the limit. The depth scoring is something the Fighting Hawks really need as the season goes on, and coming back Friday and winning 5-1 Saturday is a welcome sight for them.

  1. Omaha Falling Faster than the Canadian Dollar

Things were rolling along just fine throughout the season, but the Mavericks momentum hit a brick wall the last three series.

The Mavericks are just 1-5 in its last six game and just got swept in very ugly fashion to Miami.

It was just a few weeks ago where they were sitting in the fifth spot in the pairwise and flirting with a one seed. This recent slide has them fallen to ninth with a trip to a much improved Colorado College squad next weekend.

Fans should be very worried about the Maverick’s conference performance. While they are a perfect 10-0 in non-conference play, they are just 5-8-1 against NCHC foes and sitting outside home ice.

A lot has to do with the loss of freshman goalie Evan Weninger, who was injured when this slide started. He is easily the best choice in goal, but three of the losses the Mavericks were shutout or only scored one. Hard to win that way.

  1. Minnesota State Finds the Net Often Against Lowly Lake Superior State

If you remember the start of the season, Minnesota State was shut out in three of the first four games of the season. They had no such problems against the Lakers with 8-0 and 5-1 victories.

In Friday’s 8-0 shellacking, 15 different players found the score sheet and fired 42 shots on net. Only one of those goals came on the power play, which isn’t usually the case when one team dominated on the score sheet. Usually they are aided by a few power play goals.

The 5-1 game on Saturday saw Minnesota State leading goal scorer sophomore C.J. Franklin score two goals and senior Teddy Blueger add two assists.

Minnesota State is feasting on WCHA competition with a 12-3-5 record and is sitting at the top, three points ahead of Bowling Green. It looks like the WCHA will be a one-bid conference, so seeding position will be very important come tournament time.

Minnesota State has only lost twice in the last 15 games.

That is all for this evening. I’ll have a North Star College Cup preview. All four teams are playing well, so it will be a very fun tournament. My shift is over.

 

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.

 

 

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: 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.