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Weekend Wrap: March 20

The Frozen Faceoff pitted the four top seeds in the NCHC against each other. Three of the four, North Dakota, St. Cloud and Denver, had already qualified for the NCAA tournament, while Minnesota-Duluth’s win over North Dakota on Friday and a Minnesota loss to Michigan in the Big Ten championship assured the Bulldogs of a berth.

St. Cloud’s balanced offense
St. Cloud came into the Frozen Faceoff sporting the nation’s second-best offense and second-best power play, and has three seniors averaging over a point a game and two more just under that. The focus, rightly, is often on St. Cloud’s leading scorer, Kalle Kossila, who had a big weekend, getting two assists in each game.

However, it was a freshman, Mikey Eyssimont, who came through big. Eyssimont had struggled in his first half, only getting four points. In the second half, he heated up, scoring 24 points while moving to a line with Kossila and Patrick Russell and moving up to seventh on the team in scoring. Eyssimont scored the game-winning goal against Denver Friday night, just 1:41 into the third period, and he scored the game-winner Saturday against Duluth, his second of the game, picking up a rebound off the boards and sneaking it past Kasimir Kaskisuo.

Eyssimont was named tournament MVP. Also on the Frozen Faceoff All-Tournament Team from St. Cloud were defenseman Ethan Prow (two points) and goaltender Charlie Lindgren (40 saves on the weekend).

Duluth heats up
Minnesota-Duluth came into the Frozen Faceoff on a roll, having won six straight games. After falling behind to North Dakota Friday just 49 seconds into the game, Duluth turned it around in the second period, tying it just 28 seconds into the period on a Dominic Toninato goal and then getting a goal from Alex Iafallo just over three minutes later. Austin Farley scored the game-winner at 12:24 of the second, and Kasimir Kaskisuo made 22 saves.

The momentum carried over into the first period of the championship against St. Cloud, where the Bulldogs blitzed the Huskies in the first period, outshooting them 11-5 and taking the lead at 13:03 on a Carson Soucy goal off a beautiful pass from Frozen Faceoff All-Tournament Team defenseman Willie Raskob (three assists).

The Bulldogs continued to outplay the Huskies early in the second until Eyssimont tied it at 8:59. Even though St. Cloud was opportunistic, the Bulldogs outshot the Huskies in all three periods, including 9-5 in the third.

Third place doesn’t mean much
After losing on Friday night, Denver and North Dakota squared off in the third-place game Saturday afternoon. The two teams had split their regular season series, with North Dakota winning two in Grand Forks and Denver winning two in Denver. Fittingly, the game ended in a tie.

North Dakota, which struggled to score all weekend, took the early lead on a goal by Nick Schmaltz at 6:09 of the first on a beautiful setup by Drake Caggiula. Denver, which seemed to be struggling with motivation and sat six of its regular players and its starting netminder (North Dakota sat three regulars), finally struck back at 13:21 of the third on a goal from in close by Danton Heinen off a great feed from Trevor Moore.

“Playing a third-place game is tough for both teams coming in there, and I thought it was another NCHC battle,” North Dakota coach Brad Berry said.

“It’s the second year in a row unfortunately we’re in this consolation game, but I have to say, both times, the consolation game, I think from a fan’s perspective, was a better game to watch because plays were being made and the pace of game was really high, and it shows the character of both dressing rooms how hard they play in the consolation game,” said Denver coach Jim Montgomery.

Weekend picks

It’s the final day of the NCHC season. Three, possibly four teams, will advance to the NCAA tournament, where I’m sure they will represent the league well. Candace and Matt went 1-1 (.500) in their semifinal picks, with Candace correctly picking Minnesota-Duluth and Matthew picking St. Cloud State. Let’s see how we do on the final day of picks.

Saturday, March 19

North Dakota versus Denver
Candace: Denver crushed North Dakota last year in this same game. This year, neither team really has anything much to play for. North Dakota could jump to a No. 2 seed and play in the St. Paul regional with a win here and a St. Cloud loss in the final. Denver is pretty much a six or seven seed regardless, and is flying somewhere. I’ll pick the Fighting Hawks to get revenge for last year and keep alive the hopes of a shorter trip. North Dakota 4-2
Matthew: DU was the last team to beat UND before Friday, but while I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Pioneers beat UND again on Saturday, I’m taking the Fighting Hawks to eke one out. North Dakota 3-2

Minnesota-Duluth versus St. Cloud State
Candace: Both teams will come out flying. Duluth knows its NCAA tournament hopes are assured by winning. If Duluth loses, Bulldogs fans will be rooting mightily for Michigan to take down Minnesota in the B1G final. St. Cloud knows that a win means it gets a bus trip to its regional, instead of flying to Cincinnati. It should be one heck of a game. Just for grins, I’ll pick opposite of Matthew, though I think you could flip a coin and have better odds of picking this one. St. Cloud 3-2
Matthew: On paper, at least, St. Cloud looks like the better team. I have a feeling, though, that UMD steals a win here and takes home the playoff title. Minnesota-Duluth 3-2

Weekend Picks: March 17

Well, I correctly picked all four series last week, though I expected the Duluth-Miami series to go three games. I went 7-1 (.875) in games. Matthew went 6-2 (.750). I am now 121-51-14 (.688) on the year, while Matthew is 115-57-14 (.655).

We will do two sets of picks, picking Friday’s games first, and then look for Saturday’s picks on Saturday morning based on the results Friday.

Friday, March 18

Minnesota-Duluth versus North Dakota
Candace: I’m sure North Dakota has a lot of motivation based on their results in the previous two Frozen Faceoffs, but Duluth has more on the line, and something tells me they pull the upset and get their first win against North Dakota in five tries this season. Minnesota-Duluth 3-2
Matthew: UMD needs a win here more than the Fighting Hawks do, but I think North Dakota will boost its winning streak to nine games. North Dakota 3-2

Denver versus St. Cloud State
Candace: I watched both of these teams play last week, and neither looked their best, but Denver has been rolling, and while the Pioneers have downplayed talk of revenge for December, I think it is on their minds. Denver 3-2
Matthew: For me, this is the tougher of the two games to make a pick on. It’ll be close, but I think SCSU’s defense locks down just enough to eke out a win. St. Cloud State 3-2

Four things: March 13

Our NCHC weekend wrap-up typically goes over three of the bigger talking points from recent action. So as to not slight one of the fourth playoff quarterfinal series that took place this week, however, we’ll go over each series.

North Dakota rolls past CC

Thanks to 7-1 and 5-1 victories this weekend over Colorado College, North Dakota is now without a loss in their last 71 games in which the Fighting Hawks led after two periods.

UND went 4-for-6 on the power play in a 7-1 victory over CC on Friday, and the Hawks built up a 4-0 lead in the first period of Saturday’s Game 2 en route to UND’s eighth consecutive victory. The top-seeded Hawks will face No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth in the first round of next week’s NCHC Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis.

SCSU gets hard-earned sweep over Broncos

St. Cloud State had a much more difficult time this weekend than UND did, but the Huskies will join their North Dakota counterparts at the Frozen Faceoff thanks to a two-game sweep of Western Michigan.

A Patrick Newell overtime goal gave St. Cloud a 4-3 victory in Friday’s Game 1, a tilt in which the second-seeded Huskies were trailing 2-1 in the second period. In Game 2 on Saturday, a three-goal middle period for the Huskies proved good enough to allow SCSU to move on to face third-seeded Denver next Friday in Minneapolis. Speaking of the Pioneers…

Denver outlasts Mavericks at home

A year ago, Omaha made a surprise first-ever trip to the Frozen Four in Boston. Now, following a pair of first-round playoff losses at Denver, the Mavericks are now tied for 17th in the PairWise Rankings and are now likely to miss this year’s NCAA tournament.

With a sweep of the Mavericks, DU wrapped up a perfect 6-0 mark against UNO this season, with the third and fourth victories also coming in Denver in the final weekend of the regular season. More recently, the Pioneers handed UNO a 5-2 loss Friday in Game 1 before Colin Staub played the hero 8:54 into a second overtime on Saturday to give DU a 4-3 victory in Game 2.

Duluth keeps gathering steam, sweeps Miami again

Minnesota-Duluth heads south to Minneapolis later this week carrying a six-game winning streak. Each of the last four of those victories came at home against Miami, including two this weekend.

UMD trailed 4-2 heading into the third period of Friday’s Game 1, but three Bulldogs goals in the final 20 minutes gave Duluth a 5-4 victory over the RedHawks. On Saturday night, UMD went a perfect 6-for-6 on the penalty kill en route to a 3-1 win that ended Miami’s (26th in the PairWise) season. Duluth now sits at 13th in those rankings and could certainly do with another positive result or two next weekend at the Frozen Faceoff.

Weekend Picks: March 11

Matthew and I did pretty well last week, going 7-1 (.875). On the year, I finished the regular season 114-50-14, while Matthew went 109-55-14. I won our picks race, so I’ll be sure to enjoy some tasty IPAs courtesy of Matt.

For the first round of the playoffs, we just pick the winners in the number of games.

Friday-Saturday, March 11-12; Sunday, March 13 (if necessary)

Omaha at Denver
Candace: I was at last Saturday’s game between these two, and while Omaha played well, Denver looks like the strong team overall. Denver 3-2, 3-1
Matthew: UNO will try and shake off its poor recent form, but I’d be surprised if they move on past this weekend. Denver in 3

Western Michigan at St. Cloud State
Candace: St. Cloud has too much offense for the inconsistent Broncos to pull the upset. St. Cloud 4-1, 3-2
Matthew: Difficult to see anything other than a Huskies sweep here. St. Cloud State in 2

Miami at Minnesota-Duluth
Candace: Duluth swept this one last weekend and took swept 10 of 12 points in the season series. It will get harder to sweep from here out, so I see the Bulldogs in three. Minnesota-Duluth 3-1, Miami 3-2, Minnesota-Duluth 3-2
Matthew: Duluth has taken three of four games against the RedHawks so far this season, but I have a sneaking suspicion Miami will steal this series. Miami in 3

Colorado College at North Dakota
Candace: CC surprised the Fighting Hawks in Grand Forks back in January; I don’t see it happening again. North Dakota 4-1, 4-1
Matthew: UND’s trying to lock up a geographically favorable regional, and a sweep this weekend would certainly help there. North Dakota in 2

Three things: March 6

The third regular season of NCHC hockey is in the books. Here are a few of the bigger talking points from the final weekend before the playoffs begin next weekend:

North Dakota wins Penrose Cup outright

To claim sole ownership of the NCHC regular season title, all North Dakota needed this weekend was one point at home against Western Michigan. UND didn’t waste much time getting that and then some.

The Fighting Hawks already had one hand on the Penrose Cup, but the other latched on Friday night when UND tagged Western with an 8-1 defeat. UND scored each of the game’s first five goals, and freshman standout Brock Boeser finished the game with two of them plus an assist.

Saturday’s rematch in Grand Forks, N.D., saw UND experience a greater struggle in a 5-4 win over the Broncos. WMU jumped out to a 3-1 lead in Saturday’s first period before UND needed a Drake Caggiula’s eventual game-winning goal 5:34 into the third period.

Top-seeded UND will host Colorado College next weekend in the first round of the NCHC playoffs, while Western hits the road again to take on No. 2 seed St. Cloud State

Duluth wins right to stay at home

The biggest league series this weekend that didn’t have a trophy up for grabs took place in Duluth, Minn., where Minnesota-Duluth swept Miami to earn home ice in the first round of the league playoffs.

Duluth’s opponent next weekend at the Amsoil Arena? The same team UMD just defeated twice and three times in total so far this season.

The Bulldogs gained the upper hand in their latest series against Miami on Friday when UMD pasted the RedHawks 5-0. Five different Duluth skaters found the back of the Miami net, while Kasimir Kaskisuo stopped all 20 shots he faced at the other end of the ice.

Duluth then prevailed again in Saturday’s rematch, this time handing Miami a 3-1 defeat. The teams entered Saturday’s second period tied at 1-1 before Charlie Sampair and Alex Iafallo scored in the third to allow UMD to take all six points from the series.

Omaha’s late-season struggles continue

A Frozen Four participant last season, Omaha finds its NCAA tournament hopes this time around even more unstable after a pair of road losses to Denver this weekend.

UNO’s 3-0 loss inside Magness Arena on Friday and a 2-1 defeat to the Pioneers in Saturday’s rematch saw the Mavericks’ current losing streak stretch to six games. Also worrying for UNO is the fact that the Mavs are now 4-12 in their past 16 games.

They sit in 15th place in the PairWise Rankings ahead of next week’s first round of the NCHC playoffs. UNO’s opening-round foe? Denver, currently tied for sixth in the PairWise, back in the Colorado capital.

Weekend Picks: March 4

Well, Matthew and I split last week, with me correctly calling the North Dakota sweep of Omaha, and him correctly calling Minnesota-Duluth to take at lease one game from St. Cloud State. We went a respectable 6-2 (.750) regardless. On the year, I am 107-49-14 (.670), while Matthew is 102-54-14 (.641). I can’t remember if in the past in our beer contest we’ve gone into the playoffs or not, but I have a pretty good lead for the regular season and unfortunately for him, we see this week the same.

Friday-Saturday, March 4-5

St. Cloud State at Colorado College
Candace: St. Cloud will get back on track and claim second place in the NCHC. St. Cloud State 4-2, 4-1
Matthew: SCSU will hold up its end of the bargain in terms of the waning league title chase, but I have a feeling only UND will end up with the Penrose Cup. St. Cloud State 3-2, 3-1

No. 15 Omaha at No. 7 Denver
Candace: I just have no confidence in Omaha winning anything right now, unless perhaps they get back to the NCAA tournament. Denver 4-1, 4-2
Matthew: These will be close games, but I’m not sure Omaha gets anything out of it. Denver 3-1, 3-2

Miami at Minnesota-Duluth
Candace: Split is likely. Which night does which team win? Minnesota-Duluth 3-2, Miami 3-2
Matthew: This has ‘split’ written all over it to me. I’m just not sure who wins which night. Minnesota-Duluth 3-1, Miami 3-1

Western Michigan at No. 2 North Dakota
Candace: North Dakota gets a sweep and wins the Penrose outright. North Dakota 4-1, 3-1
Matthew: Difficult to see anything other than a UND sweep here. North Dakota 3-1, 3-1

Down to the wire: breaking down the possibilities

There’s one weekend left, and the standings took quite a turn over the weekend. Let’s look at what is known, based on the results over the weekend.

The definites
Entering the final weekend of play, not one of the eight seeds is set yet, though some scenarios are more likely than others. Here is what is absolutely set by team:

  • North Dakota can finish no lower than second and will be home for the first round of the playoffs. If North Dakota earns one point against Western Michigan or CC earns one point against St. Cloud, North Dakota finishes first.
  • St. Cloud can finish 1, 2, or 3, and will be home for the first round of the playoffs.
  • Denver can finish 2 or 3 and will be home for the first round of the playoffs.
  • Minnesota-Duluth can finish 4, 5, and 6. To finish fourth and be home for the first round of the playoffs, Duluth needs to get three points out of its two games at home against Miami this weekend.
  • Miami can finish 4 or 5. To finish fourth and be home for the first round of the playoffs, Miami needs to earn four points in any way from Duluth. If Miami gets three or fewer points against Duluth, the RedHawks finish fifth.
  • Omaha can finish 5 or 6, and will be on the road for the first round of the playoffs. To finish 5, Omaha would need to sweep Denver in Denver and Duluth would need to sweep Miami. If Denver gets any points against Omaha, the Mavericks finish sixth.
  • Western Michigan can finish 7 or 8 and will be on the road for the first round of the playoffs. The Broncos finish 7 if they earn three points against North Dakota, earn one or two points and St. Cloud gets one point against Colorado College, or St. Cloud earns two points at CC.
  • Colorado College can finish 7 or 8 and will be on the road for the first round of the playoffs. To finish 7 CC needs to sweep St. Cloud and North Dakota needs to get four points against Western Michigan, or CC needs five points and North Dakota sweeps the Broncos.

Penrose Cup
North Dakota has repeated as Penrose Cup champions after sweeping Omaha over the weekend, 4-2 and 4-1. The Fighting Hawks have claimed at least a share of the league title, and have a six-point lead on Denver and St. Cloud. Given that North Dakota plays Western Michigan at home on the last weekend and that even a single point gives the Fighting Hawks the league crown outright, it looks like they will finish first and be the sole champion.

St. Cloud had entered the weekend tied in the standings with North Dakota, and owned the tiebreaker, but after getting swept by Minnesota-Duluth, 4-1 and 2-1, the Huskies would need a lot of help to claim a share of the trophy. St. Cloud visits Colorado College this weekend. If the Huskies were to sweep, and North Dakota got swept by Western Michigan in either regulation or the first OT, St. Cloud would share the trophy and finish as the top seed.

The Denver-St. Cloud tiebreakers
Denver and St. Cloud are currently tied in second with 47 points. With Denver’s weekend sweep of Western Michigan on the road by scores of 5-1 and 4-1, and Minnesota-Duluth’s sweep of St. Cloud, the Pioneers made things interesting. The tiebreakers for St. Cloud and Denver are convoluted, since they played an unbalanced schedule.

St. Cloud finishes second under one of the following scenarios:

  • Sweeps CC AND UND earns 1 point vs. WMU
  • Earns 5 points (win and 3×3 OT win) at CC AND Omaha earns 1 point at DU
  • Earns 4 points with win and tie/3×3 OT loss at CC AND Omaha earns 2 points at DU
  • Earns 4 points with 2 3×3 OT wins at CC AND Omaha earns 3 points vs. DU OR ties DU twice
  • Earns 1 win at CC AND DU Omaha earns 3 points at DU
  • Earns 3 points with 2 ties/3×3 OT win AND Omaha earns 4 points vs. DU OR DU earns 3 points with 2 ties/3×3 OT win
  • Earns 2 points at CC AND Omaha earns 4 points at DU
  • Earn 1 point at CC AND Omaha earns 5 points at DU
  • Omaha sweeps DU

Denver finishes second under one of the following scenarios:

  • Earns 1 point vs. Omaha AND CC sweeps SCSU
  • Earns 2 points vs. Omaha AND CC earns 5 points vs. SCSU
  • Earns 3 points with 1 win vs. Omaha AND CC earns 4 points vs. SCSU OR SCSU only earns 3 points with 2 ties/3×3 OT win at CC
  • Earns 3 points with 2 ties/3×3 OT win vs. Omaha AND CC earns 4 points vs. SCSU
  • Earns 4 points with 1 win and tie/3×3 OT loss vs. Omaha AND CC earns 3 points vs. SCSU OR CC earns 2 ties vs. SCSU
  • Earns 4 points with 2 3×3 OT wins vs. Omaha AND CC earns 3 points vs. SCSU
  • Earns 5 points (win and 3×3 OT win) vs. Omaha AND CC earns 2 points vs. SCSU
  • Sweeps Omaha AND CC earns 1 point vs. SCSU

Weekend Picks: Feb. 26

Thank you Denver! The Pioneers’ sweep of Colorado College put me five up on Matthew in our picks race. Last week, I went 6-2 (.750), moving to 101-47-14 (.667), while Matthew went 5-3 (.625) to move to 96-52-14 (.635).

Friday-Saturday 2-26-27

Colorado College at Miami
Candace: Miami got swept in Colorado Springs back in December, completing a horrible run, so I think they get two back here. Miami 3-1, 3-2
Matthew: This would’ve been a tougher series to pick a few weeks ago before Miami really got moving. Now, I have the RedHawks taking all six points. Miami 3-1, 3-1

Minnesota-Duluth at No. 3 St. Cloud State
Candace: I’m not sure I’m willing to bet against St. Cloud right now. St. Cloud 3-2, 3-1
Matthew: Duluth played well last weekend but got swept. I’ll go out on a limb and say that doesn’t happen again this week. Minnesota-Duluth 3-2, St. Cloud State 4-2

No. 4 North Dakota at No. 13 Omaha
Candace: Omaha will be motivated, but that hasn’t always been enough for them of late. North Dakota 3-2, 3-1
Matthew: These are must-have points for UNO, but I’m not sure how many the Mavericks get. Omaha 3-2, North Dakota 3-1

No. 8 Denver at Western Michigan
Candace: I think Denver will remember how difficult it was to beat Western in January at Magness and come out flying. Denver 3-2, 4-2
Matthew: Tough to pick against the Pioneers with the way they’ve been playing lately. Denver 3-2, 3-2

Three things: Feb. 21

A busy weekend of NCHC hockey gave us plenty of talking points. Here are three of the bigger ones that stood out:

UND takes all six points at home

North Dakota is in a tight race with St. Cloud State atop the NCHC standings, and the Fighting Hawks kept up their end of the bargain this weekend with a sweep at home against Minnesota-Duluth.

The first of UND’s two wins came in controversial fashion. After a turnover in overtime by Duluth’s Willie Raskob, Austin Poganski raced toward the Bulldogs net on a rush but was ruled by referee Todd Anderson to have been impeded before a shot by UMD defenseman Carson Soucy.

That sent Poganski to center ice for a penalty shot, which he put past Duluth goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo to give UND a 2-1. series-opening victory.

Saturday provided another tight game, with the Fighting Hawks again coming out 2-1 winners. This time, it was thanks to UND freshman Brock Boeser’s 20th goal of the season with 5:21 left in the game.

Duluth is on the road again next weekend to take on St. Cloud State, while UND visits Omaha.

Huskies hold firm

Speaking of Omaha, UNO struggled this weekend in a pair of home losses against SCSU. St. Cloud remains tied with UND at the top of the NCHC standings with 47 points apiece and identical records in league play.

SCSU got the ball rolling on Friday with a 4-1 win over the Mavericks at Baxter Arena. A Jacob Bensen goal 15:03 into the game stood up as the game-winner before Joey Benik scored two insurance goals in the game’s third period.

A 6-3 win for the Huskies in Saturday’s rematch wasn’t without its roller-coaster moments. SCSU opened up a 3-0 through the first 32:10 before Luke Nogard (one goal) and Jake Guentzel (two) gave UNO life. It wasn’t enough, though, as Kalle Kossila and Judd Peterson put the result on ice with one goal each in the game’s final four minutes.

Omaha now finds itself tied on points with UMD and Miami in the race for the fourth and final home-ice spot in the first round of the playoffs. The Mavericks have a tough lead-up to the postseason: At home next weekend against UND before visiting Denver, a team that swept the Mavericks in Omaha on Jan. 8-9.

Denver completes season sweep of CC

After winning two games against Colorado College by a combined 6-1 in November, DU looked to pick up two more wins this weekend against the Pioneers’ in-state rival.

DU did just that, winning by 4-1 counts both Thursday and Saturday. Matt Hansen gave CC a 1-0 lead on the Tigers’ World Arena ice before four different Denver skaters scored past Jacob Nehama.

On Saturday, the Colorado rivals took it outside to Denver’s Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies baseball team. The rematch provided a similar story, with DU again getting goals from four different Pioneer players.

CC hits the road next weekend to face Miami, while Denver also plays away from home at Western Michigan.

 

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