Three things: March 15

The semifinals for the Frozen Faceoff are set. Given how competitive play between teams in the NCHC has been this season, perhaps the most surprising thing about the quarterfinal round is that three teams swept their series. There was only one upset, as the 1, 2, and 4 seeds advanced in North Dakota, Miami, and Denver, while No. 6 St. Cloud bedeviled No. 3 Omaha once again, sweeping the series in Omaha.

In the semis, North Dakota will face St. Cloud and Miami will face Denver.

Here are three things we learned.

Omaha fades again
There had been signs, yes. After finishing January in first place after splitting two overtime decisions against North Dakota, Omaha started February with a loss to Western Michigan. The Mavericks went 1-3-2 in February, and 1-0-1 against Colorado College to close the regular season on a 2-3-3 run in the regular season.

Yes, Omaha looked vulnerable. Slightly. Yet they were hosting St. Cloud, a team they’d swept at home and gotten swept by on the road. You would have thought home ice would matter. However, the Mavericks lost again, continuing a stretch in which they have not won a playoff series over the last four years.

Injuries didn’t help necessarily, as starting goalie Ryan Massa was injured in the first period Friday. However, Kirk Thompson came on strong, stopping 30 shots in a 2-1 loss in the second overtime. The game-winning goal seemed a fluke, as David Morley sent a wrist shot on net and it bounced high in the air, falling behind Thompson at 9:49.

Saturday’s game saw the Huskies jump out to a 2-0 lead after two periods. Omaha pulled its goalie with almost four minutes left, and it paid off when Grant Gallo scored to pull Omaha within one, but Joey Benik scored less than a minute later to seal the sweep for St. Cloud.

Omaha is likely high enough in the PairWise that it will qualify for the NCAA tournament, but after going 1-4-3 in its last seven, time is running out for the Mavericks to make a push.

Top line lifts Denver
“I’m sitting back in my net in awe of the plays they do,” said Denver goalie Evan Cowley of Denver’s top line of Danton Heinen, Trevor Moore, and Daniel Doremus, after Denver defeated Minnesota-Duluth 4-0 to sweep the series between the two.

DU’s top line, in particular Heinen, was key to the sweep. Heinen scored in both games, including a highlight-reel goal in the second game where he froze the defenseman, deked around him and then went top shelf in one smooth move.

Moore got Denver’s first goal, a great effort that ended with a spin-around shot that hit the post, then goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo’s leg, then went over the goal line.

In addition to the top line, Denver got balanced scoring, as Ty Loney had a hat trick in the first game, and Hobey Baker candidate Joey LaLeggia had two assists and a goal on the weekend.

Minnesota-Duluth coach Scott Sandelin also praised DU’s top line, saying of Heinen, “He’s had a great year, and it’s probably one of the best lines I’ve seen. Certainly the way they’ve been playing right now the last month and a half, they’ve really caught fire, and we knew that coming in.”

Western Michigan challenges Miami
The only series to go three games pitted Miami against Western Michigan. Both teams had opportunities to sweep. The Broncos held a 3-2 lead in the first game after Kyle Novak’s goal at 1:44 of the third period, but Miami rallied with three goals, one on a power play and one into an empty net. Blake Coleman netted the game-winner.

On Saturday, Miami held the early lead after a goal by Riley Barber at 2:24 of the first, but Frederik Tiffels scored a short-handed goal to tie it, and then Tiffels gave the Broncos a lead they would never relinquish with a goal at 1:33 of the second.

In the deciding game, Scott Dornbrock put the RedHawks up in the first, Barber and Austin Czarnik scored in the second, and Coleman scored an empty-netter to seal the win.

Though Western’s season is over, the Broncos did beat every team in the conference except for North Dakota.

48 COMMENTS

  1. If St. Cloud State loses both their games next weekend, they will finish with an overall record below .500. Would that eliminate them from NCAA tournament consideration or can they still qualify if their pairwise ranking is high enough?

    • That would finish the Huskies thanks to the Wisconsin Rule from around half a decade ago.
      Also, while SCSU was swept in Omaha earlier this year, they had no business being in the Friday game let alone winning, and SCSU could have won Saturday too. It may have been a UNO sweep, but SCSU played a really good road series and played way better than UNO in the four regular season games. Writing was on the wall…
      December UNO > > > March UNO

      • I wonder if that possibility is calculated into uscho’s Pairwise Predictor’s “Percentage of PairWise Predictor scenarios in which team makes NCAA Tournament.”

        • Impossible unless you pick all the way through conference tourneys. A non-ranked tourney winner takes a spot in “top 16”. Right now, if Minnesota wins the B1G, only the AHC winner will enter equation to eliminate #16 in PWR.

          • So all of the teams that are left in HE and WCHA would be in the tourney right now? Or am I just not understanding what you are saying here?

          • Only Ferris State in WCHA is not in top 12. New Hampshire in HE is the only one that cannot gain top 14, would need to win out. With BU at #4 PWR, either UMASS Lowell (t16) or Vermont (18) would move to top 14 with win over BU. UMASS Lowell will move to 15 just by beating Vermont, according to PWR Predictor. So really the only teams that will auto-qualify only by winning their tourneys are Ferris State and New Hampshire. The rest will be in the top 14 anyway, not taking a slot. Did I confuse you enough?

          • Sorry, I see what you are saying despite my explanation above. Unless BU wins HE, another team will take a “slot” in top 16. They will do this either by getting in as tourney winner, or getting to top 14 due to winning their 2 games. Either way HE will have 2 teams, unless BU wins tourney.

          • Right, plus there are still scenarios where there are three auto qualifiers that are below 16 based on the predator run I did earlier. So the teams on the bubble right now are praying for just chalk all the way. My guess is that the one that doesn’t go chalk (or someone who is already in the top 16 for this conversation) is Big10 and MN loses to someone and take a spot away.

          • I think if Minnesota loses their first game, if the sky falls, and they lose to Wisconsin, they would drop down to the 15/16 range. Especially, if Bowling Green and Quinnipiac win. In this case, AHC and B1G winners would eliminate 15/16 anyway. This, or Minnesota winning B1G would be best case scenario for St. Cloud (assuming a split this weekend). NCHC getting 6 teams in would be awesome, and get some bloggers upset.

          • I really couldn’t find a scenario where MN loses to who ever wins between Penn and Ohio and have them make the tournament. Pretty sure if they lose Friday night they will not make the tournament. Not sure if anyone else could find a way that they get in after losing on Friday.

    • If everything goes “chalk” next weekend (huskies lose both) they would be 15th in the pairwise….they’ed make it. If they can take 3rd, they jump to 11th and are assured of being in I would suspect. However if they lose both and someone gets an upset auto bid, they are out.

      • And actually it looks like a team has to have at least a .500 record and if they lose both they would be under .500 right? So that 3rd place game could totally screw them out of a spot at this point.

        • Correct. That is what I replied to Bruce. One reason I hate 3rd place games. St. Cloud would be “in” even losing to UND and not having to play another game.

          • Yeah the third place game seems like just another game to have to play but I will say that while it gives you the chance to lose it there it also gives you the opportunity to win one and get in with that win. I would think that every team given the option would prefer to have the game if it would make a difference. If SCSU beats UND all that game can do it bad things for UND so I will hate it but I see why you put it there, you give your teams the chance at least.

          • I don’t think it will “do bad things” for UND if they lose to St. Cloud. Put the lose in PWR Predictor and you see Sioux stay at #2. They will still stay in top band.

          • Yeah, I meant there is no upside for them to play the 3rd place game. At this point in the season I’d just as soon if they lose that game be done until round 1 of the NCAA, lots of bad things could happen in that 3rd place game agains Miami or DU as that would be a tough game either way.

          • That I definitely agree. Having teams “beat up on each other” in a meaningless game can only do harm. If DU loses to Miami, they will end up in the 2nd band no matter how they do in the 3rd place game.

          • Do you think the teams in the 3rd place game (except St. Cloud since they would need to win 3rd if they lose Friday) would play hard? It is a pointless game and I just don’t see anyone wanting to get hurt.

    • Only teams that win their conference will be in, if their record is under .500. No At-Large teams will be considered if their record versus D-1 teams is under .500. In this scenario, a split this weekend would put them in. Two losses, no matter where they would rank in the Pairwise would leave them out.

  2. Which team presents a tougher challenge for UND…..SCSU or Miami? I am not making a statement regarding who will win this weekend, I am just curious who ppl think would provide a tougher game for UND…….SCSU or Miami? Appreciate any thoughts…..

      • I agree. I’m hoping the Sioux win Friday and the Huskies take third. That would more than likely get 6 NCHC teams in.

      • I agree, too. There is no “easier” game now. I am totally shocked that UND plays the early game Friday. Since a large majority of fans with be from UND and St. Cloud, you would think they would have them play the late game.

          • You could be right. UND game is 4:00, DU game at 7:30. Both are CT and televised by CBSSN. Usually they have top ranked team play game at night, like a showcase game.

          • My guess is the NCHC wanted to fill the seats to start, hope that people stick around for the second game. Maybe UND had some input into playing the early game, though.

          • Is it exactly four hours? Are you able to predict the future, Chockes? You have so many talents!

            Bawk, bawk, bawk, bawk, bawk, bawk, bawk, bawk, bawk, bawk, bawk, bawk, bawk, bawk, bawk, bawk, bawk, bawk.

            Chockesing!!!

        • Yeah a bunch of UND fans are trying to say that UND asked for the earlier game. Even if they did, how do you let the top team pick? You have to do what is best for the tournament, this is a money maker for the NCHC.

          My guess is that for some reason the TV partner wants the UND game in that time slot. As we all know money is the all mighty king and if they found a reason for UND/SCSU to play that early game it had to have something to do with cashhhhhhh.

          Just a guess but I hope it wasn’t because UND wanted it and was granted what they wanted, just sets a bad precedent.

          • I hope not, too. Night games are usually watched by more people, especially with national broadcast. Seriously doubt anyone can “pick” the game they want, and why would anybody choose to play with less exposure?

          • Oh I am sure that if UND had the choice of the first game they would prefer it, UND fans will tune in no matter what time the game is on and it would give them more time to rebound for the game the next day.

          • Not talking just about UND fans. Thinking more about national exposure for NCHC by having best team play when more people will be watching. Don’t care how good you are, thinking about what happens “if” you lose is not a positive way to go into tourney. Do you think Hakstol appreciates that attitude? Plus, “when” you win, it makes games times more like normal weekend.

          • Only thing I can think of is that the NCHC is hoping the UND fans pack the early game, which they will, and will stay for the nightcap. If Miami and DU were first, there was potential to have a less full arena. Just a thought.

    • Sioux Fans should be hoping for an NCHC Tourney Title. According to the PWR Predictor, if UND loses one game this weekend and MSU-Mavericks win the WCHA tourney, then the Mavs get the overall number one seed. I’m guessing both the Mavs and the Sioux would rather play a team like Robert Morris in the first round rather than a team like Michigan, Michigan State, St. Cloud State or even the Gophers (should Minnesota lose in the first round of conference play).

  3. After UND wins the tournament, they can stroll on over to the Xcel Center and see how real hockey is played. Whoah! That just happened!
    Talk about a statement made for shock value…

    • You’re a couple weeks removed from the MN state hockey tournament, Purple. Oh wait…. you were referring to the WCHA? Awwww… that’s cute :)

  4. I think the NCHC semi’s schedule is designed to give the highest seed the early game so they get more rest heading into the finals.

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