Out-of-conference mark a strength

The NCHC continued its strong play in out-of-conference action, going 5-1-2 over the weekend to up is best nonconference winning mark to 43-23-9 (.633). St. Cloud State and North Dakota both swept opponents, No. 17 Denver battled No. 16 Notre Dame to two ties, and Miami split with Rensselaer.

Shutout streak ends
Perhaps it was a New Year’s hangover, but No. 2 North Dakota certainly didn’t look like a powerhouse in its first game of 2016, battling to a 1-0 win over Alabama-Huntsville, whose goaltender, Carmine Guerriero, made 38 stops in the loss. North Dakota got its only goal of the game from Bryn Chyzk on a power play at 9:35 of the second period.

The Fighting Hawks came out with more offense at the start of the rubber game, as Paul LaDue scored just 25 seconds into the game on Saturday, but Huntsville tied it on a goal by Richard Buri with just 13 seconds left in the first, breaking North Dakota goalie Cam Johnson’s shutout streak at 298:35 and his saves number at 137 straight. It was the second-longest shutout streak in college hockey. The goal actually went in off the stick of North Dakota defenseman Keaton Thompson.

The record was set by Lake Superior State goaltender Blaine Lacher in 1994, and ran 375:01.

Drake Caggiula scored the game-winner short-handed at 8:16 of the second, and Chyzk got an empty-netter at 18:08 of the third, followed by Tucker Poolman goal a minute later to seal the win. Guerriero made 34 saves, while Cam Johnson made 14 saves, added to 19 in Friday’s contest, which was his fourth straight shutout.

After Saturday’s game, Johnson was able to joke about it. Evidently his teammates had been ribbing him about his favoriting of tweets mentioning the stats, so Johnson said, “Yeah, they were giving me crap in there about all of the tweets I’ve been favoriting and stuff, so I think Keaton had that in the back of his mind and said, ‘I’m sick of seeing all of this.'” (Source: Grand Forks Herald).

Shots don’t equal goals for Denver
The No. 17 Denver Pioneers closed their first half in ignominious fashion, losing big in four straight games to North Dakota and St. Cloud State. After the second loss to St. Cloud, Denver coach Jim Montgomery quipped, “I’ve got to be honest, I’ve been very fortunate, I’ve had nothing but success as a head coach; I’ve never been through something like this. The only thing I know is the only way you get out of this from my pro career as a player is to go back to work, get back to what your team identity is. As coaches, we have to make sure the details are really good when we get back so that we give ourselves a better chance and we’re not chasing the game.”

Denver’s players must have heeded the message, because they came out strong in their first series of 2016, firing 50 shots on Notre Dame goaltender Cal Petersen Friday night, but could only get one past him, a third-period goal from Trevor Moore at 6:45 that got the Pioneers a 1-1 tie. Denver’s power play continued to have issues, going 0-for-4.

On Saturday, Denver continued to dominate offensive possession, getting 45 shots on Petersen, but an extra-attacker power-play goal from Sam Herr with 30 seconds left in the game gave the Fighting Irish a 2-2 draw after a Dylan Gambrell goal at 15:52 of the third put Denver up 2-1. Denver’s power play finally got a goal when Gambrell scored at 19:06 of the second.

Miami finally breaks through
Like Denver, Miami had closed its first half on a down note, getting swept by a Colorado College team that had one win on the whole season prior to sweeping the RedHawks. Entering Sunday’s game against Rensselaer, the RedHawks hadn’t won since beating Western Michigan on Nov. 7, 2-1. In that span, Miami went 0-6-1, including Saturday’s 3-2 loss to RPI where Kenny Gillespie scored the game-winner at 15:12 after Miami’s Jack Roslovic had tied the game at two at 12:53.

Miami captain Sean Kuraly said, “We’ve got to stick with it after we get the goals. Every single day, you’ve got to do the little things right. We’re doing some of them right, but not all of them right. We’ve got to get a lot better at that.

Miami finally broke into the win column Sunday with a 4-2 decision, rallying from a 2-1 deficit with three third-period goals. Alex Gacek tied it at 6:37, Justin Greenberg scored the game-winner at 8:20, and Chris Joyaux scored an empty-net goal to seal the win at 19:35. Miami netminder Jay Williams made 17 stops in the win.