Denver’s goaltending looks fine
Coming into this season, the big question surrounding the Denver Pioneers, last year’s NCHC tournament champs, was how they would do without their starting goaltender, Sam Brittain, who played the lion’s share of games for Denver last season and kept them in many tight games with spectacular saves.
The Pioneers have only played two games, but Denver looks fine in the goaltending department.
Evan Cowley, a sophomore who saw very limited action in his first season, started Friday’s game against Rensselaer and earned a shutout, stopping 26 shots, including 11 in the third period when Rensselaer pressed to get back into the game.
Denver coach Jim Montgomery was pleased with Cowley’s play, saying, “He had to make five to seven key saves, and they were at big moments of the game. He never gave them momentum. He was square to pucks, he was solid, and he played really confidently.”
The next night, Denver started freshman Tanner Jaillet, who only played for two minutes before he was knocked from the game with an injury. Jaillet did make two stops, the only shots RPI had in the first period. Cowley stepped in, and once again shutdown the Engineers, making 14 saves.
Rensselaer finally ended Cowley’s bid for back-to-back shutouts with 35 seconds left in the game when Chris Bradley scored on a power play. Cowley has a .976 save percentage and a .51 goals-against average after two games.
No word yet on Jaillet’s health, but Montgomery did indicate in preseason that he planned to platoon the two netminders at the start of the year and see who plays better in the fire of the NCHC season.
Denver opens NCHC play next weekend, traveling to Duluth to take on the Bulldogs.
North Dakota finds its offense
Coming into this season, the question mark surrounding North Dakota was offense, as the top scorer from last year’s team, Rocco Grimaldi, left after his junior year to play professional hockey.
The question mark seemed even larger after the first weekend of play, as North Dakota was humiliated at home against Bemidji State, losing 5-1. While UND took the second game in Bemidji, it only mustered two goals in winning.
This weekend, North Dakota was in Colorado Springs to face Colorado College. On Friday night, UND once again won a close defensive battle, emerging with a 3-1 win on three first-period goals, two of which were scored by Mark MacMillan during special teams action, one a power play and one while skating four-on-four.
On Saturday, North Dakota erupted for seven goals. MacMillan again got UND started on special teams, this time getting the first goal on a short-handed strike. MacMillan then assisted on the second goal, a power-play goal by Paul LaDue.
Two more power-play goals followed in the period, one by Tucker Poolman and one by Jordan Schmaltz. Jordan’s goal was assisted by his brother, Nick, who also assisted on Poolman’s goal.
In the third period, North Dakota got another power-play goal from LaDue, another power-play goal from MacMillan, and an empty-net short-handed goal from MacMillan to round out its scoring.
MacMillan, a senior, leads the team in scoring with five goals and two assists. LaDue, a sophomore, is second with six points. Nick Schmaltz has started his freshman season off well, notching four points so far.
MacMillan’s classmates have also been putting points on the board, including Michael Parks, Brendan O’Donnell, and Connor Gaarder.
UND will host Providence for a pair next weekend.
Miami can win with offense or defense
Miami played a home-and-home this weekend with its in-state rival, Ohio State, and swept both games. Playing on the road in Columbus Friday, the RedHawks erupted for five goals, getting strikes from some of its big guns, including Riley Barber (one goal, one assist), Blake Coleman (one goal), and Sean Kuraly (one goal, two assists).
Three of the goals were power-play strikes, something that probably pleased Miami coach Enrico Blasi, who indicated that he hadn’t been happy with his team’s power play in its opening two games against Bowling Green.
On Saturday, Miami hosted and emerged with a hard-found 2-1 win. After falling behind in the first period, Louie Belpedio, a freshman defenseman who may end up with back-to-back NCHC rookie of the week honors after his play this weekend, got the tying goal, and Alex Wideman scored the game-winner. Belpedio got an assist on Miami’s third goal Friday.
Goalie Jay Williams, who took over for Ryan McKay after McKay was knocked out of the Bowling Green game last Saturday after six minutes of play, got the nod in both Ohio State games, making 26 saves in the first game and 19 in the second.
Miami hosts St. Lawrence for a pair next weekend, and opens NCHC play against Minnesota-Duluth on Halloween weekend.