History gets made in St. Cloud
Many people believe life is better for bacon’s presence therein. The list of true believers apparently doesn’t stop at the door to North Dakota’s dressing room.
The eighth-ranked Fighting Hawks made history this weekend, defeating No. 12 St. Cloud State 4-0 on Friday night in St. Cloud, Minn., before blanking the Huskies again Saturday by a 3-0 count. Not once in the 27-year history of the National Hockey Center had SCSU been shut out in back-to-back home games before 62 saves from UND goaltender Cam Johnson did the trick.
A Shane Gersich hat trick on Friday helped UND snap a six-game winless streak (0-4-2). The next night, 36 saves from Johnson propelled the Hawks to their first two-game sweep at SCSU since 1998.
UND captain Gage Ausmus was quoted in the Grand Forks Herald Sunday as crediting a return of bacon to the Hawks’ morning meals for the Hawks’ resurgence. Regardless of what has turned UND back in the right direction, however, the sweep of SCSU came at an opportune time.
The Hawks’ (7-4-1 overall, 2-3-1-1 NCHC) schedule before the holiday break isn’t easy. After hosting Michigan State next weekend, UND caps its 2016 slate with a one-off game against No. 3 Boston College in New York, a home series against No. 18 Western Michigan and one game at No. 17 Union.
SCSU (6-6. 2-4) will be idle over Thanksgiving weekend before visiting WMU on Dec. 2-3. A home series against Omaha the week after that and two holiday tournament games in Arizona take the Huskies through to the start of 2017.
Duluth sweeps on the road, too
Even very good teams are happy to let bounces go those teams’ way.
Talent and a bit of luck combined to help second-ranked Minnesota-Duluth to a road sweep this weekend against Omaha. The Bulldogs’ 6-4 triumph on Friday night came despite UMD giving up four power play goals, and another two from UNO on Saturday weren’t enough as Duluth survived 3-2.
In Friday’s second period, a turnover in UNO’s zone led to a go-ahead goal from Duluth captain Dominic Toninato. Four minutes later, NCHC leading scorer Alex Iafallo picked up his ninth goal of the season when a shot rolled down Omaha goalie Evan Weninger’s back before crossing the line.
On Saturday, 33 saves from UMD goaltender Hunter Miska made the difference as the Bulldogs picked up their first sweep in Omaha since January of 2014. After a rough first period in which Miska made 16 saves, second-period goals from Adam Johnson, Toninato and Kyle Osterberg put Duluth ahead 3-0.
Osterberg’s goal allowed UMD to connect on its only power play opportunity of the weekend. The Bulldogs’ typically solid penalty-killing units (84.4 percent heading into the series, good for second in the NCHC) struggled late both nights at Baxter Arena, as Omaha scored four power play goals in the games’ third periods.
UMD (10-2-2, 7-1) is now off until the Bulldogs visit Denver on Dec. 9-10. Omaha (6-5-1, 3-3) visits Northern Michigan this weekend for a non-conference set.
Shootouts fall Denver’s way
From Denver’s perspective this weekend, it’s a shame that shootout victories don’t count toward teams’ overall records.
The top-ranked Pioneers skated to a pair of home ties this weekend with Miami. DU’s current unbeaten streak hit 10 games thanks to a 1-1 win draw on Friday night and a 2-2 tie Saturday.
Both games went to overtime shootouts, and both were won by Denver. A Henrik Borgstrom goal in the first round of Friday’s shootout stood up as the winner. Late Saturday night, one shootout goal from Dylan Gambrell and four saves from goalie Tanner Jaillet gave the Pioneers another extra point in the NCHC standings.
Denver (7-2-3, 3-0-3-2) hasn’t lost a game since the first weekend of the season and will take a 7-0-3 streak to Air Force this Friday prior to a home game Saturday against Wisconsin. Miami (3-6-4, 0-4-2), winless in its last seven games, is off for Thanksgiving weekend before visiting Cornell on Dec. 2-3.