The NCHC had three conference series this past weekend, with four teams playing their first conference games, and for a league that is supposed to be all about parity, the results were surprising, as all three series were sweeps, and two of those sweeps were by the road team.
Western Michigan was the lone NCHC team to take advantage of home ice in conference play, sweeping Colorado College. On Friday, the Broncos rallied from an early two-goal deficit, tying the game at 17:34 of the first on a Jordan Oesterle tally. That was all the scoring until 1:52 of overtime, when freshman Kyle Novak picked an opportune time to get his first collegiate goal, notching the game-winner. On Saturday, the Broncos jumped all over CC, getting a 3-0 lead by early in the second en route to a 5-1 win. Western Michigan is on a 3-0-1 streak after dropping its opening two games.
Super St. Cloud
I picked St. Cloud to win the NCHC at the start of the year, and so far, the Huskies have made me look good, as they are one of only two undefeated teams in the country after this past weekend. St. Cloud State should be moving up in the rankings after an impressive road sweep of North Dakota. It was the first time since 2010 that North Dakota was swept at home, and in both games, St. Cloud rallied from a goal down after one period. On Friday night, the Huskies scored twice early in the third to take a 2-1 lead and got the game-winner from Andrew Prochno at 12:36. North Dakota pulled within one on a Mark MacMillan goal with under five minutes left, but couldn’t get the tying goal. On Saturday, the Huskies got two in the second to take the lead, and Kalle Kossila added an insurance goal in the third. The Huskies played great team defense Saturday, limiting North Dakota to 17 shots after giving up 31 in Friday’s game.
The last conference series pitted Nebraska-Omaha at Denver, and the Mavericks won both by identical 3-2 overtime decisions, and in both games, Josh Archibald scored the game-winner. For Denver, a few things are concerning. First, Saturday’s loss was the fourth overtime loss for the Pioneers, and all four losses are by identical 3-2 scores. Coach Jim Montgomery singled out conditioning as something that needs to improve. Of more concern is that while the defense remains strong (Sam Brittain is 10th nationally in goaltending and the Pioneers are ninth in team defense), the offense continues to struggle. In eight games so far, the Pioneers have scored only 19 goals. Of that total, 12 have been scored by defensemen; 63 percent of Denver’s goals are scored by the defense, and the top two goal scorers on the team are defensemen, Joey LaLeggia and David Makowski.
The Miami RedHawks swept Canisius this past weekend, and the team’s offense, currently ranked fourth nationally, continues to terrorize opposing netminders, in no small part due to the play of Austin Czarnik and Riley Barber. Czarnik is first nationally in scoring, and Barber is tied for second in scoring. Czarnik had two goals and an assist in Saturday’s 5-2 win. Also leading the way offensively for Miami is Blake Coleman, tied for 11th in scoring nationally.