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College Hockey:
Three observations from the weekend

Minnesota State deserves to be ranked

With their sixth win in a row and third league sweep in as many weeks, Minnesota State, picked by most to be a bottom-three team in the WCHA, now sits in a tie for third place headed into the final weekend before the holiday break.

It would be a notable oversight if the Mavericks, with a noteworthy win over Minnesota, are not ranked in the Top 20 this Monday, especially when you consider Atlantic Hockey Association leader Niagara’s only considerable nonconference win is over 4-7-5 Clarkson.

Pressure on Denver offense entering Bemidji road series

All league games are important, but there will be a little more pressure on WCHA-leading Denver when it travels to Bemidji State this final weekend before the holiday break. The Pioneers’ winless skid over the last six games is the worst stretch for the Pioneers since the 1999-2000 season.

Suddenly, Denver’s road league series is no gimme with Bemidji State’s frustrating defensive style adding a wrinkle for a Pioneers offense that has cooled off, dropping from a scoring pace over four goals to averaging only two over that six-game stretch.

Denver will likely enter the break in first place, but looks vulnerable with stubbornly sound Minnesota lurking and the usual second-half surge from North Dakota brewing.

Grimaldi outburst bodes well for North Dakota

North Dakota freshman Rocco Grimaldi showed why he is a two-time WCHA Preseason Player of the Year with a four-point performance (three assists, one goal) against Denver on Saturday.

He has been stepping up his play of late, evident on Friday when he was UND’s No. 1 star despite recording no points. On Saturday, he got his payoff, to the delight of the home fans and increased his average to a point a game in WCHA play. If he can keep that pace up, the playmaker should provide a key spark for North Dakota in its pursuit of the regular-season title in its final WCHA campaign.

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