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 [...]
Bemidji State vs. Massachusetts, Ledyard Bank Classic, Sunday
Joe: Bemidji State, 2-1-1 in its last four games, takes on UMass (5-9-2) which is 1-4 in its last five games and has only four players in double figures in points, led by junior Braden Gracel with 13 (seven goals).
The other semifinal pits host No. 2 New Hampshire (11-2-2) and No. 10 Dartmouth (7-2-2) with the third-place and championship games on Dec. 31. BSU (5-8-3) will be outgunned on New Year’s Eve, but will pull off the win against UMass which should struggle against the Beavers’ defensive style of play. I expect senior Jordan George (11 points, six assists) to have a better second half starting on Dec. 30.
Tyler: Defense and goaltending is what Bemidji State used to sweep Denver in its last weekend before the break. Andrew Walsh has allowed three goals in the past three games with 90 saves in the three games going into this weekend. The Beavers’ offense is going to open up against UMass, which allows the 10th-most goals per game (3.12) in the nation.
Minnesota State vs. UConn
Joe: Beating the hosts will be tough, but the purple Mavericks are playing too well to let down in the championship game. MSU wins.
Tyler: Stephon Williams is on a hot streak and that’s good news for the Mavericks because the Huskies average just two goals per game. MSU wins the tournament.
Michigan Tech vs. Western Michigan
Joe: Western Michigan goalie Frank Slubowski and his seven career shootout wins gives the Broncos the defensive anchor it needs to prevail. The WMU offense should pick up its production and it is too much to ask of Huskies freshman Pheonix Copley to make another 38 saves and win. Broncos win a close one.
Tyler: The Broncos beat Michigan with a great offensive performance and Copley’s first game all season in which he allowed less than three goals. Western Michigan is playing a lot better than the Wolverines are and post a tougher challenge for the Huskies. Broncos take the GLI title.
Air Force, No. 1 Boston College at No. 4 Minnesota, Mariucci Classic, Saturday and Sunday
Joe: No. 1 and Hockey East-leading Boston College (11-2-1) will get head coach Jerry York his all-time wins mark against Alabama-Huntsville (3-14-1) on Dec. 29, taking pressure off the Eagles to focus on the real task at hand; beating the Gophers (11-3-3) the next night.
The Gophers have plenty of offensive weapons – eight with 10 points or more and two others at nine — but will only go as far as freshman goalie Adam Wilcox takes them. He can handle Air Force but the Eagles promise to be a whole different kind of challenge.
My prediction is that Minnesota, tied for fifth in the WCHA, goes 1-1 on the weekend by beating the 5-7-4 Falcons, who have underperformed so far, but falling to BC.
Tyler: The Gophers ended the first half 5-1-1 going back to Nov. 17 and have had plenty of time to rest. Minnesota’s firepower and defense is going to be too much for Air Force to handle Saturday.
The Gophers hope Nick Bjugstad’s offense comes to life and that Erik Haula stays hot going into Sunday’s game against BC.
The Golden Eagles are shorthanded with Jonny Gaudreau gone at World Juniors. The sophomore leads BC, offensively, in goals (11), assists (12) and points (23) at the break. Gaudreau’s offensive skill is a headache Minnesota is lucky it doesn’t need to worry about.
I’ll take the Gophers in the Frozen Four rematch.
No. 6 Boston University at No. 14 Denver, U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Face-Off Classic, Saturday
Joe: The single contest at Magness Arena pairs the surging Terriers (10-5), third in Hockey East, against the Pioneers (9-6-3), who are now tied for second in the WCHA with North Dakota after a 0-5-3 mark over the past four weeks.
The Pioneers (9-6-3) will look to bounce back behind scoring leaders junior Nick Shore (20 points, team-high 13 assists), senior Chris Knowlton (18, team-high 10 goals) and sophomore defenseman Joey LaLeggia (16, nine assists). The defense is anchored by sophomore goalie Juho Olkinuora (3-1-3, 1.92 goals, .936 saves) and junior netminder Sam Brittain (4-4-0, 2.78, .908).
BU answers with six players with 10 points or more, led by sophomore Cason Hohmann (16 points, 12 assists) and senior Wade Megan (15, nine goals) for a balanced attack. The defense is anchored by two freshmen goalies with .930 saves percentages with No. 1 Matt O’Connor (7-3-1) the likely starter after three weeks off for BU.
The Terriers are the not the opponent the rebooting Pioneers need right out of the gate. BU wins.
Tyler: Perhaps the most puzzling story of the first half is what happened to Denver after Thanksgiving. The Pioneers had a very firm grip on the WCHA lead from the start of the season going 9-1-0 through Nov. 17.
Denver is winless in eight games since then but it sure isn’t Olkinuora’s fault. He’s allowed six goals in the four games during the winless streak while his team has scored five. Olkinuora has a .952 save percentage in that stretch and has kept the Pioneers in a few of those games with big saves.
BU comes into this game winning four of five but the break was exactly what Denver needed. The Pioneers are loaded with talent and there’s no reason this offensive slump should continue. I’ll take Denver, looking like a different team coming out of the break to beat the Terriers.
No. 12 Nebraska-Omaha at No. 9 Quinnipiac, Saturday and Sunday
Joe: The Mavericks, tied with Minnesota for fifth place in the WCHA, travel to take on the ECAC-leading Bobcats (12-3-2) in a series that may have big ramifications in the PairWise rankings and any subsequent NCAA Tournament seeding for UNO.
Nebraska Omaha junior Ryan Walters is tied for the national Division I lead with 26 points (10 goals). UNO sophomores Dominic Zombo and Josh Archibald add 18 points (11 assists) and 17 (10 assists), respectively, to give the Mavs (11-6-1) some balance.
The Bobcats are 9-0-1 since a head-scratching 2-1 loss to American International and are senior-heavy, led by leading scorer Jeremy Langlois (18 points, 10 goals). There are no big wins on their schedule since the season-opener win at Maine is not as impressive as it seemed at the time. Since Quinnipiac is at home, UNO gets out with a road split and the Bobcats earn a quality nonconference victory.
Tyler: The nation’s second-best offense takes on the best defense, on paper. As Joe said, this series could have a big effect on UNO’s PairWise ranking, since Quinnipiac is ranked sixth in the PWR with the third-highest win percentage against teams under consideration.
The Bobcats defense has faced nine offenses that rank in the bottom half of the nation but it did shut out Union, which ranks third in scoring offense (3.60 goals per game) and held Colgate (15th, 3.17) to one goal earlier this season.
Quinnipiac goaltender Eric Hartzell has a .937 save percentage and the second-best goals against average in the country at 1.29 but the Bobcats haven’t seen an explosive offense like UNO’s in back-to-back games.
East-coast trips aren’t easy but UNO is going to return home with one ‘W’.
No. 18 Minnesota State vs. Brown, Saturday, UConn Hockey Classic
Joe: The ECAC’s Bears (3-5-4) have only a tie against No. 13 Union as a notable point against a top-20 team and little offensive support behind scoring leader and sophomore Matt Lorito (14 points, nine goals).
Minnesota State sophomore Matt Leitner leads the Mavs (10-6-2) with 21 points (16 assists) while sophomore Jean-Paul Lafontaine (16 points, 12 assists) and senior Eriah Hayes (15, 10 goals) are supported by freshmen Johnny McInnis (14, eight goals) and Teddy Blueger (12, 10 assists). Freshman goalie Stephon Williams (7-4-1) has been quite good since he assumed the No. 1 role.
Tyler: Minnesota State hopes it doesn’t become victim to a holiday hangover, like St. Cloud State did Thursday and Friday against RPI, the ECAC’s last-place team.
We’ll see how much the Mavericks miss Teddy Blueger, who’s playing for Team Latvia at World Juniors. Blueger was a big playmaker on the third line down the stretch, picking up seven assists in five games.
My prediction is the Mavericks continue playing well and beat Brown.
Michigan Tech vs. Michigan, Great Lakes Invitational, Saturday
Joe: Michigan Tech (4-10-3) faces Michigan (6-9-2) in the 7:35 p.m. semifinal on Saturday. The Huskies have been bitten by the injury bug and do not have enough to overcome the Wolverines, who may have found their goalie in third-stringer Adam Janecyk, who beat No. 8 Western Michigan 2-0 last weekend in his first college start.
Tyler: Blake Pietila is Michigan Tech’s big goal producer (10 goals), providing 22 percent of the Huskies’ goals this season. He’s playing in the WJC, which removes a big part of Tech’s already struggling offense. I’m taking the Wolverines, who are struggling as well but have the edge in depth, to win this semifinal.
Minnesota-Duluth vs. Ferris State
Joe: UMD lost 1-0 to Hockey East cellar dweller Maine so beating No. 19 Ferris State will be too much for them in the third-place game Saturday afternoon (4 p.m. ET).
Tyler: UMD will be a hungry team after a bad shutout loss to Maine in Friday’s semifinal but the goals won’t come any easier against Ferris State’s strength, goaltender CJ Motte. The sophomore has a .923 save percentage.
Welcome back to the WCHA Blog after a week off.
This week’s games are spaced out from Thursday to Monday with some teams facing opponents to be determined in their second games of the weekend, so we’ll release the picks in waves.
Look for the next set of picks Saturday.
RPI at No. 16 St. Cloud State, Thursday and Friday
Joe: The WCHA-leading Huskies (11-7-0) take on Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (4-6-4), which is last in the ECAC standings.
The Huskies are paced by senior Drew LeBlanc’s 24 points (league-high 19 assists) and 23 points (14 assists) from junior Nic Dowd. Freshman Kalle Kossila has 15 points (Division I rookie-high 10 goals) while junior defenseman Nick Jensen has 14 points, including 13 assists.
While SCSU’s strength lies with its freshmen, the Engineers, second to last in the ECAC, are led by their sophomores – Jacob Laliberte (14 points, team-high six goals), Matt Neal (11, seven assists) and Ryan Haggerty (five goals). Freshman goalie Jason Hasdorf (2-1-2, 1.46 goals against, .945 saves) has the last five starts and gives RPI a chance, but SCSU is playing too well right now to let the Engineers derail them. SCSU sweeps.
Tyler: Rensselaer is two years removed from an NCAA regional appearance but has fallen into the depths of the ECAC standings this season and SCSU will be too much for RPI to handle. I like the Huskies at home this week and for their scoring ability.
Perhaps the time off is what Ben Hanowski needed to get back on track in terms of scoring. Hanowski was SCSU’s goals leader last season (23) but has scored only twice in the eight games since he returned from a month-long upper-body injury.
Still, Hanowski, the senior captain, is on a four-game point streak while he’s helped feed the freshmen who led the Huskies offensive production going into the break. Joey Benik is a freshman expected to make his debut Thursday and make an impact offensively. Hanowski and Benik are Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, for most career goals in Minnesota high school history.
Minnesota-Duluth vs. Maine (Florida College Hockey Classic, Estero, Fla.), Friday
Joe: The Bulldogs (7-8-3) will try to restart their pre-break hot streak (5-2-1) against the Black Bears (2-11-2) behind the offensive production of UMD senior Mike Seidel (19 points, 11 goals) and freshman Tony Cameranesi (19, 11 assists). Regardless of the Dec. 28 result, UMD will take on a tough foe in either No. 11 Cornell (6-3-2) of the ECAC or No. 19 Ferris State (7-7-3) of the CCHA on Dec. 29. UMD beats Maine.
Tyler: UMD’s power play is one of the best in the nation so look for it to take advantage of Maine’s habit of taking a lot of penalties. The Bulldogs had early struggles on offense but improved as they built around Seidel and Cameranesi down the stretch. The Black Bears, meanwhile, have had trouble scoring all season with a nation-worst 1.33 goals scored per game. UMD wins.
Scoring depth was a question mark on St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko’s mind at the beginning of the season; who would score for the Huskies when guys like Drew LeBlanc, Ben Hanowski and Nic Dowd were not?
The answer: freshmen such as Kalle Kossila, Johnny Brodzinski and David Morley.
Though SCSU’s three upperclassmen big guns haven’t been putting the puck in the net much lately, they’ve been feeding it to its rookies. The freshman class has scored 18 of SCSU’s last 21 goals in the past six games.
Morley has seven points (six goals), Brodzinski has six points (five goals) and Kossila has five points (four goals) over the last three weekends.
Meanwhile, Hanowski and Dowd are on four-game point streaks and LeBlanc has 10 assists in the last seven games.
Joey Benik, who was projected to play on the top line with Hanowski and LeBlanc before he broke his leg on the first day of practice, will give the Huskies even more offense from the frosh class when he makes his collegiate debut.
That depth will make the Huskies, who sit in first place going into the break, a dangerous team in the second half.
UMD sneaking back into the race
Unless you stayed up late Saturday to see the final score from Anchorage, you woke up and saw Minnesota-Duluth completed a sweep of the Seawolves.
The Bulldogs – 4-1-1 since Nov. 30 – are knocking on the door to get into the upper half of the standings and jockey for home ice. Only two points separate seventh-place UMD and Minnesota and Nebraska-Omaha, tied for fifth, although both those teams have two games in hand.
UMD got its scoring going thanks to a pair of freshmen – Tony Cameranesi (8-11—19) and Austin Farley (7-9—16). Cameranesi has seven points in six games and Farley has six in that stretch.
UND is the best team in the league right now
The offense is clicking, the defense is ratcheting down on opponents and goaltender Clarke Saunders rebounded against Michigan Tech after a rocky last month.
SCSU has won three straight and seems to have found some consistency to build on, but North Dakota looks like a team that would rather skip Christmas break and continue to knock down everything in its path.
With two games in hand and the fact that UND makes an annual second-half surge, it’s the team to beat in the WCHA.
By many accounts, Michigan Tech caught some bad breaks this weekend and it did put up some high shot totals this weekend, something teams haven’t been able to do against UND since early November.
UND has outshot opponents by 12.6 shots per game going back to a Nov. 30 loss at Colorado College and even though Michigan Tech tightened up the shots-on-goal total differential, Saunders and the UND offense made the difference.
Minnesota State at Nebraska-Omaha
Joe: Minnesota State is on a roll, but commenters have a very legitimate concern when they point out the six wins in a row are against bottom-tier teams. That means MSU is good (beating the teams they should) but not that good (only 1-5 against top-tier teams Denver, Minnesota and St. Cloud State). UNO is another top team. Split.
Tyler: Stephon Williams has built up the confidence after shutting down lesser opponents over the last three weeks. That confidence is required if he’s going to be the key to MSU’s success this weekend, but I think this is the weekend he comes down to Earth a little bit. UNO has also been rolling since the beginning of November led by an offensive explosion from Ryan Walters. Split.
Denver at Bemidji State
Joe: What many Pioneers fans may have penciled in as two wins remains far less certain with the Denver offense cooling off in recent weeks and taking on a frustrating defensive style that disrupts the flow of the game. It isn’t pretty but it is effective enough to get an outmanned Beavers squad a home win. Split.
Tyler: Denver needs Juho Olkinuora in net this weekend. He’s split weekends with Sam Brittain and Olkinuora has been the better goalie the last three weeks with a .951 save percentage and five goals allowed in that stretch. Yet, the Pioneers went 0-1-2 in Olkinuora’s last three starts but if they get their goaltending some goal support, Denver comes out on top this weekend. DU sweep.
Colorado College at St. Cloud State
Joe: The Tigers have shown some improvement on defense and have an offense (league-best overall 3.61 goals) that can score in bunches. SCSU has split each series since sweeping Minnesota State in late October. There is no clear reason to think that up-and-down trend will not continue for the host Huskies. Split.
Tyler: Inconsistency will knock St. Cloud State right out of the WCHA race if the Huskies don’t get on track soon. SCSU has the offensive talent (freshman Joey Benik is recovered from a broken leg and is expected to make his debut) to light up the Tigers like so many teams have this season. The Huskies still haven’t proven to be consistent and CC can score, too. Split.
North Dakota at Michigan Tech
Joe: The UND offense is starting to fire on all cylinders and takes on the league’s worst overall scoring defense (3.53 goals). North Dakota gets three points because the Huskies are at home.
Tyler: UND’s offense is indeed clicking right now (don’t look only at the final scores. UND is putting up high-volume shots and has faced good goaltending performances) and finally broke through for six goals Saturday. The Huskies are leaky on defense and I don’t give them an advantage at home, where they’re 1-4-1 in WCHA games. UND sweep
Minnesota-Duluth at Alaska-Anchorage
Joe: The visiting Bulldogs are playing better but split each of the past three weekends due to Saturday stumbles. Against a Seawolves squad anxious to finish the first half strong, that means a road split for UMD.
Tyler: Consistency has been a big problem for UMD all season and Alaska-Anchorage has been known to steal points from its visitors this season. The Bulldogs’ power play has been their saving grace, ranked fifth nationally at 25 percent, and they go against UAA’s third-worst penalty kill in the nation (75.4 percent). Still, the inability to put a full weekend together will hurt UMD and I like the Seawolves to win one at home. Split.
Alabama-Huntsville at Wisconsin
Joe: The Badgers will get their first win in the Kohl Center though both games should be close. Sweep.
Tyler: I think the only way Wisconsin loses a game this weekend is if its goaltending doesn’t replicate the great performances it’s had all season and if the offense continues to be a letdown. Landon Peterson and Joel Rumpel should have an easy time with a Huntsville offense that’s scored just 25 goals in 16 games and look for the Badgers offense to break out this weekend. Wisconsin sweep.
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.
Here are our predictions for this weekend:
No. 6 Denver at No. 9 North Dakota
Joe: The key for UND will be reviving its 37th-ranked power play (15.1 percent) against a solid DU penalty kill (86.4 percent overall). They will at home against a DU squad motivated to pick up some of the points lost at home to Wisconsin. Split.
Tyler: In the marquee series of the weekend, Denver comes in winless in four games since Nov. 17 after starting 9-1-0. The best offense in the nation through its last victory, the Pioneers managed just one in three of the last four games. They need Nick Shore – who has just two points in the last four games – to get going again after his torrid start. They might’ve caught UND at the right time, as Clarke Saunders has been up-and-down since his 32-save shutout at St. Cloud State Nov. 9. Split.
No. 14 Nebraska-Omaha at No. 17 St. Cloud State
Joe: The Huskies must bounce back from two poor starts in a row at Alaska Anchorage when they fell behind 3-0 both nights. They cannot afford that against a good Nebraska-Omaha squad that has the nation’s best player from November in league-leader Ryan Walters (20 points) and a good defense anchored by goalie John Faulkner (8-1-1). Split.
Tyler: Here’s a UNO team some had their doubts about because of its schedule weakness going into its series at Minnesota. The Mavericks win Friday was proof they might just be as good as their record indicates. SCSU, meanwhile, has split every weekend since Nov. 2-3 at Denver and allowed six first-period goals at Anchorage. UNO is picking up steam with a red-hot Walters and is going to be hard to slow down. Split.
No. 4 Minnesota at No. 19 Colorado College
Joe: The Tigers defense was better but still gave up 88 shots last weekend against North Dakota. The Gophers certainly have the talent and depth to capitalize on all those chances. CC must get strong goaltending and score first for only the fourth time in 17 games. They will, at least once, at home. Split.
Tyler: CC got a great 44-save goaltending performance from Joe Howe in Friday’s win against UND, and that’s what the Tigers are going to need this weekend. The problem is Howe’s consistency. He allowed six goals two starts in a row when he allowed two goals or less in the previous game. Minnesota can put up big numbers, but the offense has underachieved since early November and 10 of the Gophers’ last 24 goals were on the power play. I think this is a breakthrough weekend for Minnesota against a team that struggles on defense. Gophers sweep
Bemidji State at Minnesota-Duluth
Joe: The Bulldogs are playing well and take on a struggling Beavers squad, which is 1-6-1 since October. UMD flirts with a sweep but ends up with three points.
Tyler: UMD found its offense last week in Houghton and the Beavers have been letting pucks by lately, failing to allow three or less goals in back-to-back games. I’ll take the Bulldogs at home. UMD sweep.
Michigan Tech at Wisconsin
Joe: The visiting Huskies are 2-7-1 over their last 10 games while the Badgers are 0-4 at home. UW will get its first home victory but MTU will get out of there with two points with a split.
Tyler: The Badgers feeling good after taking three points from Denver last weekend because of two outstanding goaltending performances and lockdown defense but their offense worries me. I’m not sold on the Badgers and their defense can’t win every game, even against a Michigan Tech team that stumbles into this series. Split
Alaska-Anchorage at Minnesota State
Joe: Nothing like a new coach to invigorate a program (just ask Michigan Tech fans last season). The high times in Mankato continue with a big home sweep grabbing poll voters’ attention.
Tyler: The Mavericks are rolling right now with Stephon Williams in goal. He hasn’t seen the greatest competition lately (Bemidji State and Wisconsin are the two lowest-scoring offenses in the WCHA), but the Seawolves rank 10th in scoring at 2.42 goals per game and Williams can handle that. MSU sweep
Michigan Tech at Northern Michigan
Joe: Neither team comes into this single-game Tuesday night on a roll with the WCHA’s Huskies losing and tying Minnesota-Duluth over the weekend while the CCHA Wildcats were swept on the road by Western Michigan. Based on recent strength of schedule, I pick NMU to win at home.
Tyler: Michigan Tech will win this game if it takes advantage of NMU’s penalty kill. Tech did get a road sweep against Bemidji State a few weeks back but Northern Michigan has a better defensive game than the Beavers. In a year that’s been up-and-down for Tech and very hard to predict, I’m going to have to go with the Wildcats at home.
Few gave Wisconsin much chance to win this weekend at No. 5 Denver, and they had every reason to think the Pioneers would easily sweep this series after the Badgers lost twice at home to Minnesota State and slipped to 1-7-2 and winless at home.
But good teams must put away struggling ones early or face the consequences. Any team playing Wisconsin needs to get an early lead and put them at a disadvantage their struggling offense can’t overcome.
The Pioneers didn’t do that, having to rally late for a 1-1 tie Friday and never led in a 3-1 loss to Wisconsin on Saturday, which snapped an eight-game winless streak for the Badgers.
Understandably overlooked is Wisconsin’s defense, which hasn’t allowed more than five goals in a game. Badgers goaltender Landon Peterson went more than a month without a start, but he’s allowed just seven goals in the four games since with a .941 save percentage.
Joel Rumpel, yanked after a three-goal first period against MSU, stole the show on Friday. He made 29 saves and was 1:16 away from a 1-0 shutout before Joey LaLeggia tied it.
Friday’s game was an example of why Wisconsin is where it is in the standings. A good defense is undone by an offense which can’t cash in. Even with the returns of key offensive players, the Badgers likely won’t catapult into the top half of the standings but they’ll continue to steal points from the WCHA’s best teams because of strong defense and goaltending.
UND escapes the Springs with two points
Dillon Simpson saved what looked to be a lost weekend for North Dakota on its trip to Colorado College.
One night after losing 5-3, UND was down 2-1 going into an offensive-zone faceoff with 47 seconds left. A loss would’ve put them in the bottom half of the WCHA standings, but Simpson sent the game to overtime at the 19:47 mark and Drake Caggiula scored the game-winner 51 seconds into overtime.
Fifty-nine minutes and 13 seconds passed between Corban Knight’s goal 34 seconds into the game, a fluky one bouncing in off a CC defenseman’s skate, and Simpson’s equalizer.
The gap was especially trying judging from the shots on goal edge with UND enjoying an 89-46 edge for the series. But when it really mattered, the final 64 seconds of the game, UND had all four shots and two were goals.
Williams stonewalling opponents
Freshman goaltender Stephon Williams is a lot better since he became the regular starter for Minnesota State a few weeks ago, than he was in his first two starts. This isn’t an anointing, but it’s fair to give this guy a look.
He earned his first shutout against Bemidji State on Friday and almost got another Saturday. Williams has taken over the No. 1 job after he replaced Phil Cook during the first period of a Nov. 9 loss to Denver.
Before that game, he gave up five goals on 40 shots in two games. Since the Nov. 9 game, Williams is 4-1 with eight goals allowed and a .938 save percentage.
Williams protected 3-2 leads for a total of 53:23 against Wisconsin and came up with a few highlight saves in high-pressure situations.
Yes, Williams saw just six shots through two periods Saturday and he’s faced the two weakest offenses the last couple weekends (he’ll face the third weakest this weekend when Alaska-Anchorage goes to Mankato).
But stretches like these can be a confidence builder for a goalie, which will be important when MSU travels to Nebraska-Omaha before the holiday break.