With only four matchups this weekend, the biggest news in the past seven days came from off the ice. Nebraska Omaha coach Dean Blais dismissed senior forward Alex Hudson last week after his second violation of team rules. With Hudson gone, where does that leave the Mavericks up front?
Hudson (4-6–10) was scoring on around the same pace (.62 points per game) this season as he has for his career and he’s been on the ice for 23 out of UNO’s 53 goals. Hudson was the Mavericks’ first-line center when rejoined the Mavericks lineup after he served a four-game suspension to start the season.
Sophomore Brock Montpetit and freshman Jayson Megna are the only two natural centers left in the lineup, otherwise the Mavericks will use wings to center their lines. Blais told Rob White of the Omaha World-Herald he probably won’t have the manpower to roll four lines when UNO resumes play Dec. 30 against Quinnipiac.
“Because of (Hudson’s dismissal), I don’t think we’re strong enough to play four lines the second half,” said Blais in the World-Herald story. “We’re going to have to be in tremendous physical condition in the second half.”
Jensen’s quick goals killed Denver’s chances
Hats rained from the seats early into the second period of St. Cloud State’s 5-1 win over Denver after defenseman Nick Jensen scored his third goal of the night, 20:21 into the game. As enjoyable as it had to be for Jensen on a career night, even more important was the timing of his goals.
The Pioneers were down 1-0 34 seconds into the game when Jensen’s slapper put the Huskies up 1-0 and Jensen made it 2-0 13 minutes later. Just when Denver may have regained a little momentum with a late second-period goal by Shawn Ostrow, Jensen struck again, 21 seconds after intermission.
Colorado College surging at the break
After they were swept at North Dakota Nov. 25-26, the Colorado College Tigers, a team picked by many to finish at or near the top of the conference standings, found themselves barely above .500 and tied for sixth in the WCHA.
To make matters worse that week, they learned that leading goal scorer Rylan Schwartz—he of back-to-back hat tricks against UND—would be unavailable for the upcoming weekend’s single game against in-state rival Denver.
It wasn’t the best of times, it wasn’t the worst of times, but times were unquestionably not good.
But CC’s sweep at Minnesota State last weekend gives them four wins in their past five games (4-1-0). The four-points earned in Mankato allowed the Tigers to break their tie with North Dakota and leap frog past both Denver and Nebraska-Omaha into the third spot in the WCHA standings as the last of the conference’s teams completed the season’s first half.
Schwartz, who missed just that Denver game with an undisclosed injury, has scored six points (3-3-6) in the past four games and his 16 goals overall rank second in the country. But the key may be goaltender Josh Thorimbert who likely earned a long look as CC’s starter once the Tigers resume play with a pair of Dec. 30-31 home games against Union and Air Force.
Thorimbert stopped 61 of 64 Minnesota State shots on Friday and Saturday while raising his record to 6-1-0 with a 2.76 goals against average and .912 saves percentage.
With 12 of its final 14 games against teams currently sitting at .500 or better, life won’t get any easier for the Tigers in the second half. But Schwartz told The Colorado Springs Gazette’s Brian Gomez that he feels the Tigers are “in a good spot” and Thorimbert agrees.
“We’re within striking distance for the second half of the season, and we’ve just got to keep pace.” Thorimbert told the Gazette, “This weekend showed our depth, missing Jaden and Scott (Schwartz and Winkler who are each competing internationally). It showed we have guys that can step up and play roles and fill in for those guys.”