One of the only events North Dakota’s seniors haven’t experienced is defeat at the Final Five. UND has won eight straight games at the Final Five and three championships going back to 2009, the year it fell to eventual champion Minnesota-Duluth in the semifinals. That was a season before any of the current players joined the team. [scg_html_wcha2013]Since then, UND won three straight to win the 2010 title, took down Denver in double overtime in [...]
Alaska-Anchorage at No. 20 Wisconsin
Joe: The league’s No. 2 defense should be enough for the Badgers to get three points against the struggling Seawolves, who average only 1.91 goals (last in the WCHA), but usually manage one good game a weekend.
Tyler: The Badgers defense held the Seawolves to 12 shots in a game during the Jan. 4-5 series in Anchorage because Wisconsin had the puck for most of the game. Puck control, a solid defensive corps and goaltending are going to be too much for UAA. The Badgers have had trouble on the power play but they go against the Seawolves, who allow a power play goal once every four penalty kills. Wisconsin sweep
No. 15 St. Cloud State at No. 5 North Dakota
Joe: North Dakota played well enough to move up in the polls despite getting only one road point against Minnesota. That may say more about the high level the Gophers are playing right now than UND, which picked up its level of play. In Grand Forks, that should be enough for a sweep against the inconsistent Huskies in two tight games.
Tyler: I have to think UND will come out firing against St. Cloud State at home after a one-point weekend at Minnesota. Ryan Fargher has held his ground against UND in his career, allowing 12 goals in six games for a .942 save percentage and he’ll need to be a factor for the Huskies to get some points this weekend. This is going to be another entertaining series between two teams going for the WCHA title. Split
No. 14 Minnesota State vs. No. 1 Minnesota (H&H)
Joe: The Gophers will win at home while the Mavericks can take advantage of better line matchups at home and its strong team defense (2.31 goals) to generate a tie.
Tyler: Minnesota came out flat against Alaska-Anchorage Jan. 11 and needed two late power play goals to overcome a one-goal deficit. That was the first game after back-to-back games against the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the nation with rival UND coming the next week and the Gophers barely passed the trap game twice. Not sure if there’s any direct correlation, but Minnesota is 1-4 in its last five games following a regular season series with UND. The Gophers have the depth, goaltending and talent to get at least a split against any team, but have they come down from the high of grabbing three points in an emotional series? The Mavericks were competitive in a loss at Mariucci earlier this season and salvaged a split. These teams will split again.
No. 13 Nebraska-Omaha at Bemidji State
Joe: The Mavericks have a lot of offensive firepower which suggest they may win one game easily but have a tough time in one game. UNO will get out of Bemidji with three points.
Tyler: UNO’s offense can be quite a handful, but if the Beavers can hunker down and hold the Mavericks to two or less goals, BSU can put a few past a shaky UNO defense. The Beavers have had little trouble with the Mavericks since the teams entered the league playing similar styles no matter where the teams were positioned in the standings. BSU is 7-1-4 against UNO since 2010-11.
From now until the end of the 2015-16 season, North Dakota/Minnesota games will occur only if the teams play at this year’s WCHA Final Five or in the NCAA playoffs.
The rivalry is not dead. It is, however, on hold. The teams move to separate conferences and Minnesota has filled out its nonconference schedule for the next three seasons.
Talk to any coach, player, fan or media member and no one is glad to see the rivalry discontinue its consistent regular season meetings.
“It’s a hell of a rivalry and it’s fun to be part of,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said after Saturday’s game. “It needs to continue and it needs to continue often.
“The rest we have to leave behind closed doors. I’m not going to air that out in a public forum.”
Don Lucia said last week in an interview on KFAN Radio that once Minnesota’s scheduling contract with Notre Dame expires, UND will be back on the Gophers schedule.
Fans of this rivalry will always dispute the reasons for the temporary discontinuation of the series. Some think the Gophers are avoiding UND. Others believe Minnesota pulled the trigger too fast on completing its nonconference scheduling without North Dakota.
Minnesota can’t schedule nonconference opponents with Native American nicknames because of a policy set by the athletic department for all programs across the board.
Minnesota will play Notre Dame for three more years and signed on for a four-year Hockey East two-step with Boston College and Northeastern, according to Lucia.
“We had the chance to schedule Boston College and Northeastern or we could wait around and see what would happen (with the UND nickname),” Lucia said. “How long was that going to take? That had gone on for years and there was no end in sight. We don’t have a lot of room on the schedule.”
“Bottom line is we did what was best for the University of Minnesota and last time I checked, that’s where I work.”
It would’ve been nice to see Minnesota hold off as long as it would’ve taken to put UND on the future nonconference schedule. Maybe Lucia and Minnesota did.
The rivalry is the fiercest and most entertaining in Upper Midwest college hockey, possibly across the country and it has to be on each team’s slate every season starting in 2016.
And the race is on
Two teams are tied atop the WCHA with 22 points, three teams have 20 and two have 19. With seven more weekends left in the regular season, this race is gearing up to be a memorable one.
One win could shoot any given team up the standings but one bad weekend will result in half the league passing a team; just ask Minnesota State.
The Mavericks dropped from fifth place to eighth after a pair of overtime losses to Wisconsin at home, but could’ve been tied for first had they won both those games.
Wisconsin is back in the race thanks to those wins and proved, with a split against No. 8 Miami, that its defense will help the Badgers compete with anyone.
Like Wisconsin, Minnesota-Duluth is also looking to jump back in the fray after a slow start. The Bulldogs are 7-2-1 in their last 10 WCHA games but can’t gain ground this weekend with a bye.
Denver’s inability to salvage a split or tie at St. Cloud State also caused the Pioneers to lose ground going into a bye. The Pioneers could get passed by the Badgers, who host last-place Alaska-Anchorage this weekend.
Two match-ups this weekend could go either way and give the race a completely new complexion:
No. 1 and first-place Minnesota plays a home-and-home against sixth-place MSU and only three points separate the two. St. Cloud State, tied with the Gophers for first, plays at third-place North Dakota.
SCSU gets its groove back
That horrid 1-3 nonconference performance against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Northern Michigan at home in consecutive weekends after break could come back to haunt St. Cloud State in the PairWise rankings.
In the WCHA standings, SCSU is doing just fine.
The Huskies (14-10, 11-5) were in first place going into the Christmas break and after a home sweep of Denver following a bye, they’re back on top.
A sweep against Denver didn’t seem possible because a) no one sweeps Denver, at least not since 2008, and b) because of SCSU’s inconsistency.
“Those first two weeks after break, we were just unplugged,” SCSU coach Bob Motzko said after Friday’s win. “We just forgot about the Northern series and moved on. There was more emotion tonight, getting back in league play.”
Whatever works. The Huskies have now won five straight against WCHA opponents and things are looking up once again for the Huskies.
No. 6 North Dakota at No. 1 Minnesota
Joe: This series should bring out the best in both teams. That bodes well for UND, which did not put together a full 60 minutes each night against Holy Cross and Colorado College. North Dakota will have to play its best to beat Minnesota, which it will at least one night. Let the trolling begin because neither side will like this pick: Split.
Tyler: There is no doubt this will be the most entertaining series of the season throughout the league. It often is, but this weekend is different. Barring encounters in NCAA tournament play, UND and Minnesota won’t see each other for a few years after Saturday. A big key this weekend will be which team can harness its emotion, buckle down and play smart. UND’s top line needs to group that crack Adam Wilcox and Minnesota’s stingy defense, which few teams have been able to do this season but Alaska-Anchorage was able to with three goals last Friday. The Gophers have an edge with a balanced attack and solid ‘D’, but UND is going to find a way to win one of these games. Split
No. 7 Denver at No. 19 St. Cloud State
Joe: SCSU is at home but that has not translated into a strong start to the second half of the season with a 1-3 mark against RPI and Northern Michigan. That is less than impressive, unlike the performance of DU sophomore goalie Juho Olkinuora. He makes the difference as Denver leaves with three points.
Tyler: Olkinuora has been solid as a rock all season and the Pioneers offense came around after the break. That works well in Denver’s favor going into St. Cloud, where the Huskies have been awfully inconsistent all season. SCSU went 3-1 against Nebraska-Omaha and Colorado College in the two home series before break and went 1-3 against RPI and UNM. I think SCSU is too talented of a team with guys on every line that can produce for these struggles to continue. Split
No. 8 Miami at Wisconsin
Joe: Miami’s offense is not all that productive, especially in the first period when the RedHawks have gone scoreless the past four games. That gives the Badgers a chance to play with a lead, especially beneficial for a team playing sound defense. Badgers could sweep, but Miami should pull one game out with its good goaltending. Split.
Tyler: Maybe I’m going out on a limb here, but I really like Wisconsin’s chances in this nonconference series because of its defense. Both teams have top-10 defenses and below-average offenses. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are less than 10 combined goals this weekend. The Badgers’ ‘D’ shut down potent offenses all season and have found ways to win close games and this weekend their going against a Redhawks attack that’s struggling. I’m taking Wisconsin in a sweep at home.
No. 14 Minnesota State at Alaska-Anchorage
Joe: The purple Mavs came down to earth a bit with two home overtime losses to Wisconsin. MSU will come out firing on Friday but I expect to see UAA come back on Saturday. Split.
Tyler: MSU has the edge talent-wise but he Mavericks must stay focused on burying the Seawolves early if they want to leave with a sweep. Teams like Minnesota and St. Cloud State left points on the table when their offenses looked inept at times in November series in November. UAA has proven, on a few occasions this winter, they can steal points when teams let them hang around. The Seawolves came close in a 4-3 loss at Minnesota Friday. I can’t imagine MSU taking much for granted after losing twice in OT last weekend to Wisconsin. MSU sweep
Minnesota-Duluth at Colorado College
Joe: Two teams looking to string together four well-played games in a row square off for their only regular-season meeting. CC’s power play is improved, which may be enough to offset the league’s worst penalty kill. Minnesota Duluth relies on its power play with 23 of its 60 goals with the man advantage. Look for the Tigers to play disciplined hockey and pick up three points.
Tyler: I think UMD’s power play/CC’s penalty kill will become a huge factor in the outcomes of this series if the Tigers don’t play disciplined. CC doesn’t take a ton of penalties but the Bulldogs are one of 12 teams to go on the power play more than 100 times this season and they take advantage at a rate of 22.8 percent (sixth-best nationally). CC was so competitive at UND last week because it got the early lead both nights and a quick start is important against UMD, a team that has scored 28 first-period goals this season. Split
Bemidji State at Michigan Tech
Joe: Like the UMD at CC series, this is another two games both teams could really use a sweep and a chance to get back into home playoff contention. In Houghton, the Huskies should get three points.
Tyler: This weekend has the recipe for Pheonix Copley to bounce back after a bad five-goal game Saturday night. He stopped 111 of 112 shots in three straight games leading into Saturday’s 5-4 loss to UMD, but BSU’s offense has its struggles. Copley will need the goal support, though, against a Beavers defense that can frustrate teams. Tech sweep
Wisconsin’s confidence, home playoff chances continue to grow
The league’s No. 2 team defense is finally getting support from the offense with players like John Ramage (eight career goals entering weekend) stepping up with OT goals both nights in the program’s first road sweep at Minnesota State.
Wisconsin, now tied for sixth with Minnesota-Duluth after going 7-0-3 in the last 10, has a very good chance at home playoff ice, especially with home series against Alaska-Anchorage and Bemidji State. That is a sentence I did not think I would type before Dec. 1.
While MSU is not among the WCHA elite – Denver, Minnesota, North Dakota and perhaps Nebraska-Omaha come to mind – Wisconsin winning their first WCHA overtime games since the 2006-07 season should give the Badgers the confidence they need to sustain this push.
Colorado College may have turned corner
Speaking of confidence, Colorado College got a much-needed boost by garnering a split at North Dakota by playing arguably their best hockey this season through the first four periods of the series. UND took over Saturday’s game in the second period, but the Tigers, which entered the weekend on a 0-6-1 skid, refused to be satisfied with a split. They showed grit by coming back to tie the game in the third period in an eventual 5-3 loss.
“We’re hoping we can build off this weekend and get on a roll,” CC assistant Eric Rud said in a radio interview.
That remains to be seen with a home series against Minnesota-Duluth but Tiger fans have reason to hope which, judging from the message board comments of “fans,” was in short supply only a few days ago.
Keeping it all in perspective
This just in: The WCHA race is not the most important thing in the world.
Some of us got a much-needed reminder of that when Air Force captain Nathan Lagred surprised his family during first intermission of Friday’s Wisconsin at Minnesota State game.
His wife Juanita and her three children were out on the ice for a fan promotion shooting pucks at a masked goalie. After a few shots, the netminder removed his mask to reveal he was their father, who was home a week early from his deployment to Afghanistan as reported by The Western College Hockey Blog.
Minnesota State deserves a pat on the back for setting up this special moment and for providing the video. Make sure to watch the entire video to see the looks on the kids’ faces.
Think of that image the next time you want to rip an opposing team’s fan for an ignorant comment. Remember what’s truly important. Hint: It is not your team’s playoff chances.
No. 13 Nebraska-Omaha at No. 9 Denver
Joe: Two teams with potent offenses and solid defensive corps that also chip in offensively. The difference will be in goal where Denver has the edge with Juho Olkinuora. Pioneers win and tie.
Tyler: Olkinuora is the key in this series. In his last 20 games going back to Dec. 17, 2011, he’s given up more than three goals in a game just twice. The last team to score four or more goals on Olkinuora was Colorado College on Nov. 16 and he’s shut down some pretty decent offensive teams in the meantime. But with all of its weapons, UNO will find a way past Olkinuora and get a split.
Alaska-Anchorage at No. 1 Minnesota
Joe: The Seawolves could not manage a home win against unranked Wisconsin. UAA will battle and keep one game competitive but the Gophers are flying too high right now after wins over Boston College and Notre Dame. Gophers sweep.
Tyler: Coming off two straight statement wins against Boston College and Notre Dame with North Dakota coming to Minneapolis next week, the Gophers can’t stumble in the “trap series” against last-place Alaska-Anchorage. Minnesota scored just one of six goals on even strength in its three-point weekend earlier this season at Anchorage. That won’t be the case because the Gophers’ depth and talent will wear the Seawolves down. Minnesota sweep
Colorado College at No. 7 North Dakota
Joe: The Tigers will play better defense but against a loaded team like North Dakota, 6-0-1 in its last seven, it will not be enough. UND sweeps.
Tyler: This one promises to be a high-scoring weekend with both teams’ offenses posting big numbers this season. UND is at home and has the edge defensively and in goal, were CC has been brutal this season. UND sweep
Wisconsin at No. 11 Minnesota State
Joe: The purple Mavs are deeper on offense and third in team defense while the Badgers defense is second in the WCHA. That is not a big enough advantage for UW to exploit. At home, MSU can get the line matchups it wants, further hampering the Badgers struggling offense. MSU sweeps.
Tyler: It looked like Wisconsin was falling apart when MSU got a sweep in Madison, but the Badgers have important pieces back in place and is a better team than it was in the first two months. Defense has been the cornerstone for Wisconsin for many years and it’s helped the Badgers keep a lot of games close and steal points this season since the beginning of December. The Mavericks’ streak may be a little hotter, winning 11 of 12, but of the seven teams they faced in that stretch, UNO is the only one above .500. Big weekend for both teams provides a win for both teams. Split
Michigan Tech at Minnesota-Duluth
Joe: The multiple one-game suspensions leave UMD quite shorthanded on Friday when the Huskies should win. Those same players should come back with something to prove to their coach on Saturday. Split.
Tyler: I agree with Joe that the Bulldogs are going to suffer from the team-imposed suspensions. The three players – Cody Danberg (captain), Wade Bergmann (team leader in assists) and Austin Farley (third in points) – are all important to UMD’s chances. I have a lot of respect for Scott Sandelin for benching a handful of key players to send the right message. With these guys out Friday, Pheonix Copley’s chances of stealing another game are improved. It’s possible Tech’s Blake Pietila may stay in Houghton to rest up after World Juniors, as Mel Pearson told Bruce Ciskie Thursday. Split
Bemidji State, No. 18 St. Cloud State idle.
No. 2 Notre Dame at No. 1 Minnesota
Joe: Coming off a 24-day break should mean some rust for the CCHA-leading Irish who cannot afford a slow start. The Irish are 12-0-0 when they get the first goal and 2-4-0 when the opposition scores first. It seems likely Minnesota will come out strong at home and take an early lead. Gophers win.
Tyler: On paper, it looks like this clash of the titans will be an all-out defensive battle with the Irish defense ranked second (1.61 allowed goals per game) and the Gophers fourth (1.84 GAA). These two teams have a lot of talent and the Notre Dame offense will get a huge lift with Mario Lucia returning from World Juniors. He’ll be the only Irish player fresh from competition since the team hasn’t played since Dec. 15 and the Gophers will be ready. Minnesota win
With one win in CCHA play sitting in the league cellar, Northern Michigan seemed a bit overmatched traveling to St. Cloud State.
The Huskies sat atop the WCHA standings going into the weekend and figured to have gotten its wake-up call in a split with Rensselaer (a last-place ECAC team) last week.
SCSU must’ve hit the snooze button. NMU left St. Cloud with a nonconference sweep beating the Huskies 6-2 and 2-1.
This weekend’s outcomes sound crazy because SCSU and NMU were polar opposites in their respective conference standings, but the Huskies had a 3-3 conference record before this weekend’s losses.
The Wildcats entered the weekend with a 4-1 record vs. WCHA teams by sweeping Wisconsin, splitting at Nebraska-Omaha and beating Michigan Tech. They now have six wins against WCHA teams.
As the St. Cloud Times’ Mick Hatten pointed out, that’s just as many victories against the WCHA as Minnesota has in four more games.
Meanwhile, the Huskies have been vulnerable all season after bye weeks, going 0-3 in series openers when they didn’t play the week before. SCSU came out flat this weekend like they were coming off Christmas break all over again.
That’s a trend SCSU needs to buck right away with another bye coming up this week and Denver waiting on the other end.
In WCHA play this weekend …
Nebraska-Omaha swept Colorado College and Wisconsin won twice at Alaska-Anchorage.
The Badgers just keep on rolling, bursting out for a season-high five goals Friday and winning with defense, their signature style, Saturday by holding the Seawolves to 12 shots on goal in a 1-0 shutout.
Wisconsin has scored 15 goals in four games but only scored 15 goals in the eight games prior going back to Nov. 16.
Not only did UNO need the points to keep its head above water in a very tight race, it needed a big win to bounce back from a bad weekend at Quinnipiac.
Luckily, for UNO, it went from facing one of the nation’s best defenses to one of its worst. The Mavericks scored five goals at Quinnipiac and 11 against CC.
CC, in a ninth-place tie, continues to prove its own defense will keep it from going far in March.
The Tigers haven’t held a team to less than three goals in 13 games since Nov. 9. There have been five games in that stretch in which they allowed five or more goals. CC allows 3.73 goals per game, fifth-worst in the country.
Cornell coach “not coming back”
Don’t expect Cornell to make another trip to face a WCHA team in the near future, at least if you believe the Big Red coach Mike Schafer’s words following a 2-1 loss to Denver Saturday.
Schafer was angry with calls made the by the officials after a skirmish at mid-ice at the game’s completion.
Cornell’s Armand de Swardt received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for spearing, John McCarron received a misconduct and game disqualification for obscene language and the Big Red bench also got a game misconduct penalty.
“I’m looking at the sheet now, and we’re the ones that were assessed all the penalties,” Schafer told reporters after the game. “I won’t come back to the WCHA. I’m not coming back out here. I pride ourselves in traveling everywhere, but after that… It was a great game besides the (officiating).”
USCHO’s Candace Horgan captured Schafer’s postgame comments on video. Read her game recap and see the videos here.
Schafer likely made his comments minutes after leaving the bench area, so it’s possible the threats regarding his team’s nonconference future with the WCHA were the product of raw frustration.
Of course, eight WCHA members, including Denver, won’t be in the league next season anyway.
WCHA officials Chris Perrault and Johnathan Morrison refereed the game. Gary Pedigo and Robert Keltie were the linesmen.
The Big Red entered the game among the most penalized teams in the nation, averaging 17.2 penalty minutes per game. It now averages a nation-high 21.1 penalty minutes per game.
McCarron also received a game disqualification in a Nov. 30 game against Clarkson for leaving the bench.
No. 12 Cornell at No. 11 Denver
Joe: The Big Red have been scoring pretty consistently with 20 goals in the past five games, but none against teams with as strong a defense as Denver anchored by sophomore goalie Juho Oklinuora, who has been playing well of late. Denver sweeps.
Tyler: Joe’s right in that Cornell hasn’t faced a good defense in its recent offensive outburst. Last weekend’s domination of Boston University said a lot about a Denver team that’s trying to get back on track, but I’m not ready to call a Pioneers sweep. Olkinuora has been consistent while the Denver offense struggled going into the break. The sophomore has given the Pioneers a chance to win every night so Denver should stick with him, but I’m calling a split.
Colorado College at No. 16 Nebraska-Omaha
Joe: Two of the league’s top three offenses square off but the difference will be on defense. UNO has senior goalie John Faulkner and a large defensive corps that can keep CC away from in front of him. If the Tigers can find room, the offense could get on a serious roll and overcome any defensive struggles. It happens at least once. Split.
Tyler: The Tigers are 1-7-2 in their last 10 games but perhaps the time off may be what they needed to get back on track. CC does have a good offense but its defense will have a tough time containing UNO’s offense. Mavericks sweep
Wisconsin at Alaska-Anchorage
Joe: The battle between the 11th and 12th place teams should make for a competitive series. The Badgers play with effort but cannot finish takes on a UAA squad that is much the same. Anchorage is at home but the Badgers are desperate for points. Split.
Tyler: Wisconsin has been a different team since it struggled to a 1-7-2 record on Nov. 24. The Badgers are 3-0-3 since then, but scoring has been an issue all year and also against WCHA opponents Denver and Michigan Tech. Joel Rumpel has been good; Landon Peterson has been better. Both would put Wisconsin in position to win at UAA, the seventh-worst offense in the nation at two goals per game. Badgers sweep
No. 20 Holy Cross at No. 7 North Dakota
Joe: UND won’t need Rocco Grimaldi in a tune-up series after the holiday break. Props to the North Dakota schedule makers. Sweep for North Dakota.
Tyler: I’m also not predicting another miracle at The Ralph for Holy Cross this weekend. I’m not saying Holy Cross will roll over but UND is bolstered by Michael Parks and Mitch MacMillan expecting to make their season debuts. UND sweep
Northern Michigan at No. 15 St. Cloud State
Joe: It’s worst in the CCHA versus first in the WCHA. It really is that simple sometimes. Huskies sweep.
Tyler: I can’t overlook anyone playing St. Cloud State after RPI, last place in the ECAC, surprised the Huskies at home last Friday. Inconsistency was an issue for SCSU in the first half. I think that loss to RPI was because SCSU was slow coming off the break, like it was against Minnesota-Duluth in November. The Huskies should be ready to go and they should sweep.
Providence at No. 14 Minnesota State
Joe: This should a good nonconference series with the fourth-place Friars from Hockey East making the trek out West. The Friars look much improved under second-year coach Nate Leaman but a tad inconsistent. Host Mavericks sweep because they are at home.
Tyler: Providence doesn’t give up many goals. In fact, the Friars allow just 2.25 per game, but look for that to change with goaltender John Gillies still making his way back to the States after the World Junior Championships. MSU at home: sweep.
No. 10 Western Michigan at Bemidji State
Joe: With a short turnaround and an offense that is not terribly productive (2.17 goals per game), the Broncos are ripe to get knocked off at Bemidji State, which gave UMass a tussle and put a scare into New Hampshire. The Broncos are the better team but I predict a split.
Tyler: I wouldn’t be surprised if either team breaks out and scores some goals but these are two fairly unproductive offenses. Andrew Walsh has been playing well enough lately to steal a victory. Split.
No. 1 Minnesota, Michigan Tech and Minnesota-Duluth are idle this weekend.
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.
Bemidji State vs. No. 2 New Hampshire
Joe: Bemidji State was too sloppy with the puck, negating a strong first period and squandering a 2-0 lead in a 4-3 loss to UMass in the tournament opener. The Beavers cannot afford that against a top-tier team. Wildcats win in schools’ first-ever meeting.
Tyler: It’s hard to imagine New Hampshire losing two games in a row after that 4-1 shocker loss to Dartmouth. The Wildcats overmatch the Beavers in several categories. Have to pick UNH in this one.