Denver wins ugly
Denver won both its games this weekend, but coach Jim Montgomery couldn’t have been happy about the way the Pioneers did so, especially Saturday against Wisconsin. Against both Air Force Friday and Wisconsin Saturday, the Pioneers had difficulty holding onto the lead in the third period, and need an OT goal from Jarid Lukosevicius to win. It was Denver’s third straight OT game.
Denver’s penalty kill also struggled. Friday, up 2-1 going into the third, Air Force struck just 39 seconds into the period. Denver answered 13 seconds later, but gave up a tying power-play goal by Erik Baskin at 5:04. Air Force also scored a power-play goal in the first period. Saturday against Wisconsin, Denver entered the third up 5-2, gave up a goal early, scored a five-on-three power-play goal to make it 6-3 and then took a five-minute penalty and gave up two power-play goals. Denver’s penalty kill gave up five power-play goals on the weekend.
Coach Jim Montgomery admitted his team looked tired Saturday, perhaps after all the extra time played.
“It sure looked like it in the last 30 minutes,” said Montgomery of his team’s fatigue level. “We made mistakes with the puck, we didn’t go through bodies in the third period, which got them some momentum and got them the power play. I think Tanner (Jaillet) was a little tired too, because that didn’t look like Tanner in the third period. That’s why you need good depth.”
North Dakota back to winless ways
Starting Halloween weekend, North Dakota, which entered that weekend against Minnesota-Duluth ranked number one, went three straight weekends without a win, going 0-4-2. After sweeping St. Cloud on the road in impressive fashion, it seemed the Fighting Hawks were back in form, but this weekend against Michigan State, the Fighting Hawks went winless again.
And unlike the previous winless streak, when the Hawks were playing teams ranked in the top 10, Michigan State was unranked and had a 2-6-1 record.
Special teams was an issue in both games. Friday in a 4-3 loss, the Spartans scored four-on-four and also got two power-play goals, including the game-winner from Joe Cox at 2:35 of the third period. Saturday in a 2-2 tie, the Spartans got the first goal short-handed, partly off a play by Cox, who carried the puck up the left-side boards and got a shot off, then picked up the rebound, deked two Hawks players, and passed to Thomas Ebbing in the slot.
North Dakota’s offense also had trouble finishing, as they outshot the Spartans in both games, 33-21 Friday and 34-19 Saturday.
North Dakota knows what it takes to win, as shown last year by winning the national championship, and while a lot of talent from that team is gone, much still remains, including top scorer Brock Boeser and goaltender Cam Johnson. The team knows it needs to find consistency.
“We saw how well we played in St. Cloud, we saw how well we can dominate,” sophomore defenseman Christian Wolanin said. “But what does it mean if we don’t do it every night? Anybody can be good on certain occasions, but to put it together for a full season? We saw what we did last year.”
Omaha remains strong on the road
Omaha has had the benefit of playing much of the first half of the season at home. However, that hasn’t translated to success, as the Mavericks have struggled in Baxter Arena, going just 2-5-1. For some reason however, the Mavericks have done well on the road, where they are without a loss. That trend continued this weekend, as they tied and beat Northern Michigan, raising their road record to 5-0-1.
Friday, the Mavericks struck first, scoring at 10 minutes of the first period, only to give up two goals in the next 1:17. However, Tyler Vessel’s power-play goal at 9:56 of the second tied the game, and Kris Oldham made 19 saves over the last two periods to preserve the tie.
Saturday, Evan Weninger made 31 saves as the Mavericks shutout Northern Michigan, 2-0. Omaha’s two goals came over a 14-second span in the second period, one from Jake Randolph and one from Justin Parizek.
Perhaps coach Dean Blais has reason to be happy, as Omaha closes the first half with road series against Wisconsin and St. Cloud State.