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College Hockey:
Three observations from the holiday break

Impressive wins for Michigan Tech and Minnesota

Wow. No. 4 Minnesota routed No. 1 Boston College 8-1 in the weekend’s marquee matchup on Sunday night in what many billed as a preview of a Frozen Four semifinal. I chuckled a bit when I first read that – UM is tied for fifth place after all – but after Sunday, I cannot ignore that idea anymore.

Not to be overlooked is Michigan Tech’s 10th Great Lakes Invitational title and first since 1980, when coach Mel Pearson was a player. This kind of confidence boost, especially with fourth leading scorer Blake Pietila unavailable because of the world junior championships, could pay dividends in the second half, especially if freshman goalie and GLI MVP Pheonix Copley, 70 saves in two shutouts, can stay close to maintaining that high level of play.

SCSU’s Drew LeBlanc shines

With all the talk about the debut of freshman Joey Benik, it was St. Cloud State captain Drew LeBlanc who proved most critical to the Huskies’ home split, recording two assists in Thursday’s 4-3 loss and a goal and assist in Friday’s 2-1 series finale win against RPI.

His 28 points are tied for tops in Division I and his 22 assists lead that category easily. The four-point weekend moved him to 11th all-time at SCSU with 125 career points ahead of Brian Cook (1987-91) and Brett Lievers (1990-95) and extended a nine-game points streak.

Denver looks rejuvenated in return from break

It looks like the WCHA’s best offense through November may be back. After seeing its rate of 4.5 goals dip to 3.28, sixth in the league, and generating no more than two goals in all but one game of an 0-5-3 stretch, host Denver snapped its eight-game winless streak with six different goal scorers in a 6-0 win over No. 6 Boston University Saturday.

Denver may not score at that 4.5 clip during the second half, but the Pioneers (10-6-3, 7-4-3), which are tied for second in the WCHA with idle North Dakota (10-5-3, 7-2-3), can rely on their one constant: sophomore goalie Juho Olkinuora. The Finn recorded his third career shutout and stoned BU for the first time in an NCAA record 126 games. His play was the reason DU did not go 0-8 during that span.

Olkinuora and a revived DU offense are not good news for the rest of the league.

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