Denver gains revenge, solidifies home ice
Back in December, Denver traveled to North Dakota and got swept fairly convincingly, a blow to the Pioneers that carried over into the following weekend, where they were swept by St. Cloud State.
This weekend, Denver gained redemption, sweeping the Fighting Hawks 6-4 and 4-1, in part due to the reunited line of Danton Heinen and Trevor Moore who are playing with freshman Dylan Gambrell. Heinen had a monster weekend, notching five points on Friday with two goals and three assists, and following that Saturday with two more assists for seven points on the weekend. Moore matched him, getting two goals and two assists Friday and a goal and two assists Saturday, while Gambrell two assists Friday and scored twice on Saturday.
Goaltender Tanner Jaillet was hot as well, making 41 saves in Friday’s win and following that with 34 on Saturday.
While the revenge was nice, and the team was definitely amped to play North Dakota, the results are more important for Denver’s postseason. With the sweep, the Pioneers moved into a tie for eighth in the PairWise, and solidified their hold on third place in the NCHC standings, which will gain them home ice for the first round of the NCHC playoffs. Denver has 35 points, 10 points ahead of Minnesota-Duluth and Nebraska-Omaha, who are tied for fourth.
The Pioneers also now trail first place North Dakota and St. Cloud State by only six points.
Omaha gains crucial sweep
Omaha has spent most of the second half struggling to find the consistency the Mavericks showed in the first half. In January, they went 2-6, including getting swept at home twice, by Denver and Miami.
This weekend, the Mavericks may have regained the first-half home-ice mojo, sweeping a crucial series against Western Michigan in two very different games, winning Friday 2-1 and following that Saturday with a 6-3 decision.
On Friday, Tyler Vessel scored short-handed at 6:44 of the first and Austin Ortega scored a power-play goal in the second. Scott Moldenhauer scored late in the second to pull the Broncos back within one, but Evan Weninger stayed strong in net, making 11 saves in the third to preserve the win.
On Saturday, after twice falling behind by a goal in the first period, Omaha’s offense erupted. Vessel scored at 19:19 of the first to tie it 2-2, and then Jake Guentzel, Vessel, and Mason MOrelli all scored in the second to put Omaha up 5-2. Weninger was strong in net again, making 31 saves.
With the sweep, Omaha moved back up in the PairWise rankings to a tie with Denver for eighth. The NCHC now has four teams ranked in the top eight of the PairWise.
Miami stays hot
Don’t look now, but Miami is back in the national tournament picture. A convincing 4-1 win over No. 19 Bowling Green on the road has Miami at 20th in the PairWise.
After giving up the first goal and trailing the Falcons at the end of one, Miami got two goals in the second and two more in the third for the win. Anthony Louis, who had scored the last-second game-winner against Bowling Green three weeks ago, started the RedHawks rally with a five-on-three power-play goal at 12:37 of the second, and Sean Kuraly scored the game-winner at 15:15 of the second.
Since closing the first half on a 2-8-1 streak, Miami has heated up, and is 7-4-1 in the second half. The RedHawks travel to Western Michigan next weekend, and will look to play themselves back into the top 16 of the PairWise as the season continues.