Points are hard to come by, and the Penrose Cup

Colorado College vs. Minnesota Duluth at World Arena (Candace Horgan)
The Penrose Memorial Cup was on display over the weekend during the series between Colorado College and Minnesota-Duluth at World Arena (photo: Candace Horgan).

Penrose Memorial Cup

The Julie and Spencer Penrose Memorial Cup, the trophy awarded to the regular-season NCHC champion, was unveiled on the ice at World Arena in Colorado Springs Friday night before the game between Colorado College and Minnesota-Duluth, a contest won by Colorado College. After the unveiling, the trophy was displayed on the concourse level of World Arena during both Friday and Saturday’s games.

CC players admitted that the display of the trophy on their home ice may have provided extra motivation in their game against the Bulldogs.

“That thing, that’s every hockey player’s dream is to win a championship, win those trophies,” said CC goaltender Josh Thorimbert, who stopped 31 shots in the win. “It’s a big trophy, so it definitely catches your eye, and all the guys in the room, that’s our goal, that’s what we are training for, is to win championships, and everyone believes that.”

The Penrose Memorial Cup will travel to all eight arenas of the NCHC schools during the year, allowing fans a chance to view the impressive trophy.

The Penrose Memorial Cup is named after Julie and Spencer Penrose, who earned much of their money thorough the copper industry, which is why the trophy includes a series of copper stars. The Penroses investments included the Broadmoor Hotel complex, where the first 10 college hockey championships were held. The couple also set up the El Pomar Foundation. The NCHC offices are located in the Copper Building on the Penrose compound in Colorado Springs.

Battling for position

North Dakota and Miami battled in Oxford over the weekend in a series that may have promised great things in a developing rivalry. The two teams were preseason favorites for the NCHC, and, perhaps fittingly, split the games. Both games were sellouts, with 3,642 in attendance, and in both games, it was junior forwards who led the way for their teams.

Junior forward Brendan O’Donnell paced North Dakota on Friday, assisting on the first goal and scoring the next two. Miami cut the lead to one goal with two strikes in the second, but Nick Mattson put it away for North Dakota in the third for a 4-2 win.

On Saturday, junior Blake Coleman notched a hat trick, his first in his collegiate career, and junior Cody Murphy scored the first goal and assisted on the last RedHawks’ tally as Miami won, 6-2.

Despite the split, North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol wasn’t happy.

“We wanted both,” Hakstol told reporters after the game. “The old adage of ‘a split on the road is pretty good’ doesn’t sit well with me, it doesn’t sit well with us. We had a chance to come in here and win two games. I didn’t think we did everything in our power to accomplish that. I think we left something on the table tonight.”

At least part of that may be due to the point structure in the NCHC. Each win is worth three points because of the adaptation of the shootout, and so the ability to win a clean game becomes all the more important. Any clean win is worth three points, a shootout win is worth two points, and the team that loses the shootout gets one point in the league standings.

CC coach Scott Owens pointed to that as a big factor in how the battles will play out after his team’s defeat of Minnesota-Duluth on Friday.

“The other thing is it is three points, and three points are a lot of points,” said Owens. “Any kind of clean win you can get to get the points is huge. It used to always be two [points], and now it’s three, so that’s huge for us.”

Youth on display

In their opening weekend series against Merrimack, the Denver Pioneers looked strong, recording two shutout wins. However, the trip to Alaska this past weekend, in which they dropped two 3-2 decisions on late goals in overtime, may have shown that Denver will likely be an inconsistent team, especially in the first half of the year. The Pioneers have only two seniors and have 10 freshmen.

In both games, Denver put itself in a position to win, but couldn’t close the deal. On Friday, Denver built a 2-0 lead, but a Nanooks goal with only 14 seconds left in the second period ended Sam Brittain’s season-opening shutout streak at 159:47, and a streak dating back to last season of 193:49. The Nanooks then capitalized on a power play in the third on goal by Cody Kunyk, and Garrick Perry scored the OT winner with just 26 seconds left in the overtime.

On Saturday against Alaska-Anchorage, Denver took a 2-1 lead at 3:30 in the third on a five-on-three power-play goal by Joey LaLeggia, but Scott Allen tied it up for the Seawolves at 11:41, and Matt Bailey notched the game-winner with just 1:15 left in the overtime.

Scoring by the forwards continues to be a problem for Denver. On Saturday, both goals were scored by defensemen. Of Denver’s nine goals so far this season, five have come from the sticks of defensemen.

“Our power play didn’t work for us, and our defensive-zone net blockouts were poor, and those two areas in particular I think really cost us,” said Pioneers coach Jim Montgomery. “We’d like to get more rebound opportunities; the problem is right now, we are giving up too many rebound opportunities.”