Three things: Nov. 22

Three of the bigger NCHC talking points from the weekend just gone:

Huskies, Hawks share spoils

Many thought the weekend series between No. 4 North Dakota and No. 7 St. Cloud State would be a split. Lo and behold, that’s what happened.
UND, playing its first hockey game under their new Fighting Hawks nickname, eked past homestanding SCSU Friday in a 4-3 win. A Drake Caggiula hat trick hat trick saw the visitors through, and 35 saves from goaltender Matt Hrynkiw were just enough.
St. Cloud then bounced back in a big way Saturday, rolling to a 6-1 win. Three consecutive Huskies goals helped to get Hrynkiw yanked in the second period, and Hawks backup Cam Johnson just as many goals in his 27:29 on the ice.
The Huskies did an excellent job of spreading out their scoring Saturday. Six different SCSU icers found the back of the Hawks’ net, and 10 Huskies picked up assists.
SCSU (9-3 overall, 5-1 NCHC) will face Minnesota this Friday and Sunday. UND (10-2-2, 5-1) also has a Friday-Sunday set away to Michigan State.

Bulldogs hit CC for 11 goals

Things were already looking bleak for Colorado College heading into this weekend, with the Tigers having lost each of their first 10 games of the season.
That streak now stands at 12 games after No. 17 Minnesota-Duluth gave CC a pair of poundings Friday and Saturday in Colorado Springs. UMD won the series-opener 5-0 before hitting the Tigers for even more Saturday in a 6-0 rout.
Three Bulldogs goals in Friday’s third period bookended tallies from Austin Farley in the first and third periods. Farley then scored twice more Saturday while picking up as many assists.
UMD (5-5-3, 2-3-1-1) is off until the Bulldogs host Western Michigan Dec. 4-5. CC (0-12, 0-6) is back at this next weekened in a home-and-home with Air Force.

RedHawks show strength in 3-on-3 session

Miami got back on track Friday against sixth-rankedOmaha, taking an extra point in a new 3-on-3 second overtime period the NCHC installed for this season’s league games.
After the RedHawks and Mavericks skated to a 3-3 tie through 65 minutes, Miami scored what for league purposes was considered a game-winner. After Louie Belpedio shot a puck into UNO goaltender Kirk Thompson’s chest, Belpedio snagged his own rebound and fired home under Thompson’s glove.
Omaha got its own back Saturday in another game that went to overtime. Jake Randolph found a game-winner for the Mavericks 3:14 into the first and only extra session.
Miami (5-7-2, 2-5-1-1) is now off until it visits Colorado College Dec. 4-5. Omaha (9-2-1, 3-2-1) is back home later this week to take on former CCHA rival Ohio State.

NCHC picks: Nov. 20

Matthew and I again split our results last week, so I’m hanging on to a tenuous two-game lead in our season picks race. We both went a very respectable 4-1-1 (.750). On the year, I am 40-22-6 (.632) while Matthew is 38-24-6 (.602).

No. 17 Minnesota-Duluth at Colorado College
Candace: It wouldn’t surprise me if CC snuck a win in here, but there’s really no percentage in picking it. Minnesota-Duluth 3-1, 3-2
Matthew: With UMD struggling as it has lately, I’m going to kind of go out on a limb and say CC finally picks up its first win of the season this weekend. Prove me right, Tigers. Colorado College 3-2, Minnesota-Duluth 3-1

No. 6 Omaha at Miami
Candace: Possibly the hardest series to pick on the weekend. Miami has been good at home, and I have trouble seeing them lose three in a row, though they did on the road earlier. Miami 3-2, Omaha 3-2
Matthew: UNO’s coming into Oxford fresh to play against a Miami team that’s been in a yo-yo pattern the past few weeks. The RedHawks have been good at home early on this season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Omaha wins both here. Omaha 3-1, 3-2

No. 4 North Dakota at No. 7 St. Cloud State
Candace: The marquee series of the weekend has split written all over it. St. Cloud State 3-2. North Dakota 3-2
Matthew: SCSU scored 11 goals in its last game but won’t come anywhere near that this weekend, probably not even in the entire series. UND will have its hands full, too, though, in what will probably end up as a split. St. Cloud State 4-2, North Dakota 4-2

No. 9 Denver at Wisconsin
Candace: Wisconsin showed signs of life by beating North Dakota, but I like the Pioneers in this one. Denver 3-1, 2-1
Matthew: DU has been very good lately, but it’s coming up against a Wisconsin team that’s coming off a bye week after coming up with a boosting upset at UND. I’ll take Denver in both games, but they’ll both be close. Denver 2-1, 3-2

Three things: offensive explosion

Offensive explosion
St. Cloud State exploded for 16 goals on the weekend in a sweep of Western Michigan on the road, with a closer-than-it-looks 5-2 win on Friday and an 11-1 romp on Saturday. Sophomore Patrick Russell had an empty-netter in a 5-2 win Friday and then added two goals Saturday, while Joey Benik had four goals Saturday and a goal Friday. Benik’s output Saturday was the first time a St. Cloud player scored four goals in a game since 2002, when Mark Hartigan did so. The power play was particularly potent for the Huskies, who notched six power-play goals on the weekend. St. Cloud now has the sixth-best offense in the country, and is tied with North Dakota for the NCHC conference lead. Goaltender Charlie Lindgren played both games, and now has a 1.48 goals-against and a .944 save percentage.

Goals still a challenge
Home ice didn’t prove a cure for what ails Minnesota-Duluth, as the Bulldogs could only muster one goal on the weekend in a series against No. 8 Denver. The goal proved enough to get a tie Saturday, and the Bulldogs did gain a point with the three-on-three OT goal. It was the first time ever that the three-on-three format was employed in the NCHC, and  Tony Cameranesi, who had tied the game at 6:17 of the third, scored 2:45 into the three-on-three session. Denver goalie Tanner Jaillet made 45 saves on the night before the three-on-three session, and his teammate Evan Cowley made 27 saves in Friday’s 3-0 shutout. Duluth hasn’t won a game outright in November, last winning against Mass.-Lowell on Oct. 30. The Bulldogs only have one win in their last eight games.

North Dakota rebounds
After suffering its first loss last weekend against Wisconsin, North Dakota has won three straight. This weekend, North Dakota swept a conference series against Miami in two very different games. Friday, North Dakota struck three times in first period and another two times in the second period in a 6-2 win. Saturday however, Miami got two second-period goals to take a 2-1 lead, and then Josh Melnick scored at 14:21 to give Miami a 3-2 lead. Nick Schmaltz scored a goal with the netminder pulled at 18:26, and then Luke Johnson won it for North Dakota in OT with a goal that banked in off Miami goaltender Ryan McKay just 1:23 in. Junior Matt Hrynkiw, who had never played a minute in net for North Dakota before this year, is now 8-1-1 after making 19 saves Friday and another 11 on Saturday. North Dakota will next face the conference’s other undefeated team when it travels to St. Cloud State this weekend.

NCHC picks: Nov. 13

I thought after Friday that I might put a little distance between Matthew and I, but we both ended up going 5-3 (.625). On the year, I am 36-21-5 (.620), while Matthew is 34-23-5 (.588).

The NCHC action is all conference games this weekend, so let’s see how we do.

Friday-Saturday, Nov. 13-14

No. 8 Denver at No. 13 Minnesota-Duluth
Candace: I think this is a split, but dang are the nights hard to pick right. Minnesota-Duluth 3-2, Denver 3-1
Matthew: A rejuvenated Denver team visits a UMD team that needs to pick itself up after being swept last time out in Omaha. This has split written all over it, which is bad for me because I never know which team to take on which night in this sort of situation. Denver 2-1, Minnesota-Duluth 3-1

No. 17 Miami at No. 3 North Dakota
Candace: Somehow, I think North Dakota rebounds en force after the loss to Wisconsin last week. North Dakota 3-1, 4-2
Matthew: I’m tempted to go with a split here, but I’ll take UND to figure the RedHawks out and pick up a couple wins. North Dakota 3-2, 3-1

No. 9 St. Cloud State at Western Michigan
Candace: Western has been far better at home, but I am thinking St. Cloud might get the sweep. St. Cloud State 3-2, 3-1
Matthew: Western will hope to get back on track after falling twice last weekend at Miami, and I think they’ll get one win here. The Huskies are too talented to drop both of these games, though, unless WMU catches fire. St. Cloud State 3-1, Western Michigan 3-2

Three things: Nov. 9

A few of the bigger talking points from this past weekend in NCHC play:

Omaha gets back on track

A week after picking up its first two losses of the season, Omaha bounced back well at home this last weekend against a top-10 opponent.
Sixth-ranked Minnesota-Duluth made its first visit to Baxter Arena to take on the No. 8 Mavericks in one of the nation’s spotlight series of the week. Ultimately, only Omaha came away happy after picking up a pair of 4-2 wins over the Bulldogs.
UNO gained the upper hand early in Friday’s game and stayed ahead. Brian Cooper opened the scoring 24 seconds into the game before three other Mavericks also found their way onto the score sheet.
Saturday’s rematch was a different story, with UNO and UMD heading into the right minutes of the game tied at 1-1. Three consecutive Mavericks goals, however, quickly put the Bulldogs under.
Omaha (8-2-0, 2-2 NCHC) is off this week before visiting Miami on Nov. 20-21. UMD (3-4-3, 0-2) is back at home this weekend to take on ninth-ranked Denver.

Pioneers go panning, strike gold

Speaking of DU, the Pios will enter Minnesota this weekend with momentum on its side after Denver picked up a series sweep of in-state rival Colorado College.
On Friday at Denver’s Magness Arena, three second-period goals helped see the Pioneers through in an eventual 5-3 victory. The next night, DU walked out of Colorado Springs’ World Arena with a 3-1 win over the Tigers.
DU used its solid goaltending tandem to pick up the sweep. Evan Crowley stopped 20 shots on Friday night in the Colorado capital before Tanner Jaillet made 19 saves in the rematch.
Denver (5-3-0, 2-0) will look to keep rolling this weekend against UMD. CC fell to 0-10 on the season last weekend and will have almost two weeks to prepare for a visit from Duluth on Nov. 20-21.

UND made to work for home split

North Dakota came into last weekend looking for a pair of non-conference wins against a Wisconsin team that had been mediocre at the start of the season. What UND ended up getting was somewhat unexpected by the faithful in Grand Forks.
A North Dakota team that went into the weekend ranked No. 1 in the country will find itself further down the ladder Monday after falling 3-1 to the Badgers Friday night. Luke Johnson gave UND an early 1-0 lead 7:31 into the game, but three unanswered UW goals gave the Badgers a surprise victory.
What UND fans like to think is normal service was resumed Saturday when the home team beat the Badgers 3-1. Two third-period goals from Shane Gersich and Drake Caggiula, the latter of whom was suspended for Friday’s game, allowed UND to salvage a split.
UND (7-1-2, 2-0) is at home again this weekend to take on Miami (5-4-1, 2-2), which swept Western Michigan last weekend in Oxford, Ohio.

NCHC picks: Nov. 6

Well, Matthew and I tied again, as I correctly picked Minnesota-Duluth to win its first game against Mass.-Lowell, but incorrectly picked Miami to get the second game of its series with St. Cloud State. Matthew and I both went 6-4 (.600), hardly stellar. On the year, I am 31-18-5 (.620), while Matthew is 29-20-5 (.583).

On to this weekend, where I have a chance to put more space between us, or fall behind.

Friday-Saturday, Nov. 6-7

Colorado College vs No. 9 Denver home-and-home
Candace: Colorado College good at times last week, but inconsistent, and at least last year, the Tigers didn’t get up for this series the way they did under Scott Owens. Denver 4-2, 3-2
Matthew: Colorado College is going to finally get into the win column eventually, but it might not happen this weekend against a strong DU team. I am going to go out on a limb, though, and take CC to win on Saturday. Denver 4-1, Colorado College 3-2

Western Michigan at No. 19 Miami
Candace: Miami is off to a really rough start so far. Western Michigan hasn’t been good on the road. Which will give? Miami 3-2, Western Michigan 3-2
Matthew: This could be a very tight series. Miami needs to get back on track after getting swept at St. Cloud State last weekend, but I think Western will carry some momentum from its own pair of wins last weekend into this series. Western Michigan 3-1, Miami 3-1

No. 6 Minnesota-Duluth at No. 8 Omaha
Candace: This is going to be a split, and I’ll be bold, unlike Matthew, and try to call it correctly. I will just say to RedArmyUNO that my split call had nothing to do with last weekend. Omaha 3-2, Minnesota-Duluth 3-2
Matthew: Can the Mavericks stay undefeated at Baxter Arena? I have a feeling the Bulldogs will take one of these games, but only as I can’t decide who wins which game, I’ll take Omaha to win both. Omaha 3-1, 4-2

Wisconsin at No. 1 North Dakota
Candace: Remember when Wisconsin was a team to be feared? Not so much right now. I guess North Dakota could lose if it comes out flat-footed, but I don’t see that happening at the Ralph. North Dakota 4-2, 4-1
Matthew: UW has been mediocre early on this season, and North Dakota knows that it needs to pick up wins in non-league play. UND will have to get through Friday without the suspended Drake Caggiula, but I don’t see UND losing either of these games. North Dakota 3-1, 3-1

Three things: It’s going to be a dogfight

Dogfight ahead
No. 2 Nebraska-Omaha had started the season 6-0, including impressive road sweeps of Minnesota State and Vermont, and a home series sweep of Air Force.

This weekend, the Mavericks started NCHC conference play, and things didn’t go so well, as they were swept by Western Michigan, 4-2 and 6-1. The Broncos got 31 saves on Friday from Colin Olson, and Sheldon Dries scored the game-winner at 13:30 of the second, while Aaron Hadley added an insurance goal early in the third.

On Saturday, Lukas Hafner stopped 37 shots in the 6-1 win and the Broncos got scoring from five different players. Omaha’s vaunted offense was almost completely shut down, including three power play chances killed.

Omaha is certain to drop from its No. 2 spot in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll, though how far is uncertain. Meanwhile, the Broncos showed a nice recovery from being swept by Clarkson the weekend before.

Breaks not kind
No. 5 Denver traveled to Boston this weekend and dropped a pair of heart-breakers, losing 4-3 to No. 4 Boston College Friday on a goal by Matthew Gaudreau with 36 seconds left in the game, and then dropping a 5-4 overtime decision Saturday afternoon to No. 8 Boston University, with Ahti Oksanen scoring the game-winner just 21 seconds into the OT, after Denver had scored twice in the third to tie the game.

One interesting note is that Denver had won twice in its last outings two weeks ago against Michigan State, then had a bye week. Earlier in October, Western Michigan won twice at home, had a bye week, then went on the road and got swept. Perhaps NCHC teams should decline rest weekends?

Home sweep home
After one month of play, one thing has become clear: NCHC teams prefer to play at home. The road, on the other hand, has not been kind. Only two NCHC teams have a winning road record. Three are winless on the road.

NCHC teams currently boast an overall mark of 31-23-6. Of the 23 losses, 17 have been on the road, an astonishing 74 percent, while five of the six ties have been on the road.

Here’s the breakdown:

Colorado College: 0-4 home, 0-4 road
Denver: 3-0 home, 0-3 road
Miami: 1-1-1 home, 2-3 road
Minnesota-Duluth: 2-1 home, 1-1-2 road
North Dakota: 1-0 home, 5-0-2 road
Omaha: 2-0 home, 4-2 road
St. Cloud State: 4-0 home, 2-2 road
Western Michigan: 4-0 home, 0-2-1 road

NCHC picks: Oct. 30

Matthew gained a game back on me, because I picked Western Michigan to sweep, but I still have a two-game lead. I went 8-4-2 last week, not bad, while Matthew went 9-3-2. On the year, I am 25-14-5, while Matthew is 23-16-5. We’ve got some big conference series this weekend, so let’s see what we can do.

Friday, Oct. 30

No. 5 Denver at No. 4 Boston College
Candace: I’m tempted to pick Denver, but I think the layoff from last weekend combined with the long flight might hurt the Pioneers. Boston College 3-2
Matthew: This is the start of a big weekend for the Pioneers, but I don’t see it going how they want it to. Boston College 3-2

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 30-31

No. 1 North Dakota at Colorado College
Candace: I saw CC play Boston College last week; North Dakota is better than BC, and should get a sweep. North Dakota 4-1, 4-2
Matthew: CC is going to get into the win column before long, but I don’t see it happening this weekend. North Dakota 3-1, 4-2

No. 15 Miami at No. 14 St. Cloud State
Candace: This will likely be a split. I’m guessing St. Cloud wins the first night and bounces back from getting swept last weekend. St. Cloud 3-2, Miami 3-2
Matthew: This will probably be a split, but I’ll go out on a limb and take a sweep because it’s so tough to tell who wins which night in a series that looks close on paper. St. Cloud State 4-3, 3-2

No. 2 Omaha at Western Michigan
Candace: I’m tempted to pick an Omaha sweep. Western has been good at home though. Western Michigan 3-2, Omaha 4-2
Matthew: I think Western bounces back from a rough weekend at Clarkson but won’t sweep a UNO team that has started this season on fire. Western Michigan 3-1, Omaha 4-1

No. 7 Massachusetts-Lowell at No. 6 Minnesota-Duluth
Candace: Probably the toughest series to pick all weekend. Lowell has had trouble scoring so far. I’m pretty sure Duluth wins game one, and with the long road trip, I’ll go out on a limb and pick Duluth to sweep. Minnesota-Duluth 3-2, 3-1
Matthew: I want to go with the homer pick, but this has split written all over it. UML 3-2, UMD 2-0

Saturday, Oct. 31
No. 5 Denver at No. 8 Boston University
Candace: BU has been very inconsistent, so I think Denver takes this. Denver 3-2
Matthew: I can’t see DU coming away from this weekend empty-handed. I like the Pioneers to steal one at Agganis. Denver 4-2

Three things: Oct. 25

This is a big year for the Omaha athletic department, not least because of the opening of the new Baxter Arena. So far, the school’s hockey team is holding up its end of the bargain.

The second-ranked Mavericks’ great start to the season continued this weekend when UNO swept non-conference foe Air Force in the first two hockey games at the city’s newest venue. Omaha’s Steven Spinner scored the first goal in Baxter Arena history 14:28 into Friday’s series opener and later picked up a second tally en route to his team’s 4-2 victory over the Falcons.

UNO was even stronger on Saturday in a 4-1 win over AFA. Three first-period goals from Aaron Pearce, Jake Randolph and Austin Ortega proved more than enough to bump the Mavericks to a program-best 6-0 start to the season.

Omaha will visit Western Michigan over Halloween weekend before hosting No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth on Nov. 6-7.

Western struggles on eastern swing

Speaking of WMU, they will feel they have something to prove when Omaha comes to town. The Broncos will be fresh off of a pair of losses this weekend at non-conference opponent Clarkson.

Western started its weekend in Potsdam, N.Y., well, with Nolan LaPorte giving the Broncos a first-period lead on Friday. Two Clarkson goals in the second period and another pair in the third, however, boosted the Golden Knights to a home victory at Cheel Arena.

Clarkson topped its performance on Friday with a 6-2 victory over the Broncos on Saturday. WMU again took  a first-period lead on a Kyle Novak goal, but two Golden Knights tallies in that same period and three more in the second helped to put Clarkson out of sight.

Western now sits at 2-2-1 ahead of Omaha’s visit. Both teams will open NCHC play against one another.

CC’s early struggles continue

Colorado College’s rough start to the season continued at pace this weekend when the Tigers welcomed fourth-ranked Boston College to the World Arena. The Eagles didn’t run into a lot of trouble and instead shut CC out twice in the teams’ two-game set.

Ryan Fitzgerald scored both of BC’s first two goals in a 3-0 victory on Friday before four different Eagles scored in a 5-0 win over CC on Saturday. The Tigers struggled to capitalize on the chances it got and finished 0-for-10 on the power play.

CC could face another scary proposition over Halloween weekend when top-ranked North Dakota pays a visit to Colorado Springs.

NCHC picks: Oct. 23

Last weekend, we did a much better job picking the correct results, and I gained another game on Matthew in our picks race last week, courtesy of St. Cloud. I went 11-2-1, moving to 17-10-3 on the year, while Matthew went 10-3-1, moving to 14-13-3. Let’s get to this week.

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 23-24

No. 4 Boston College at Colorado College
Candace: CC did better against Lowell than I thought, and BC hasn’t exactly overwhelmed opponents, but I have trouble seeing this as anything but an Eagles’ sweep. Boston College 4-2, 4-1
Matthew: I wonder how much of an effect the long travel and altitude might have on BC this early into the season, but I have a hard time seeing CC picking up a win here. Boston College 3-1, 3-1

Western Michigan at Clarkson
Candace: Perhaps the Merrimack game was an outlier, as other than that, Clarkson’s results have been good. I think I’ll be an NCHC homer though. Western Michigan 3-2, 3-2
Matthew: Western has had a great start to the season and will be fresh after having last weekend off. Clarkson has started well, too, though, and Cheel will be loud for the Golden Knights’ homecoming series. This might come back to bite me, but I’ll take a split. Western Michigan 3-1, Clarkson 3-2

No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth at Notre Dame
Candace: I knew I should have picked the Bulldogs to sweep the rodents last week. Minnesota-Duluth 3-1, 3-1
Matthew: UMD is riding high after what it did to Minnesota and I think they keep it going this weekend. Homer-ish pick, but I’m going with a sweep. Minnesota-Duluth 3-2, 3-1

No. 9 St. Cloud State at No 14 Quinnipiac
Candace: St. Cloud has justified my faith so far. This is a hard series to pick. A split is more likely than not, but I’m going for a St. Cloud sweep just so I get at least one night right. St. Cloud 3-2, 3-1
Matthew: For me, our most interesting series of the weekend. Can Charlie Lindgren keep up his excellent start in net for SCSU? I think so, but I don’t know if the Huskies take both of these games. Quinnipiac 4-2, St. Cloud State 3-1

No. 15 Miami at No. 17 St. Lawrence
Candace: I have a really hard time with this one. I think I could flip a coin for each game and stand a better chance. Miami 3-2, St. Lawrence 3-2
Matthew: Enrico Blasi said this week that he feels St. Lawrence is one of the 10 best teams in the country. If that’s true, I don’t know if RedHawks fans would come away too unhappy with a split. Miami 3-1, St. Lawrence 3-1

No. 1 North Dakota at Vermont
Candace: North Dakota seems to like ties, but I figure they’ll get a sweep eventually. North Dakota 3-2, 3-1
Matthew: Vermont will want to bounce back after being swept at home last weekend by Omaha. I’ll take the Catamounts to pick up a split if only because I can’t see them losing four in a row at home. Vermont 3-2, North Dakota 4-1

Air Force at No. 2 Omaha
Candace: Sorry Omaha fans, but there’s no way I can pick a split this weekend. I think Omaha coach Dean Blais will remind his players that Air Force beat Denver on opening weekend, and have them prepared accordingly. Omaha 4-2, 3-2
Matthew: Second-ranked UNO has never been in a higher place in the polls and they’re opening their own arena this weekend. I’m not expecting the home fans to walk away disappointed either night. Omaha 5-2, 3-1

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