SCSU sweeps at home
Not much is guaranteed in meetings between two teams that have struggled much of the season to find consistency. Such a series took place this weekend when Miami visited St. Cloud State, but the home team came away with two wins.
SCSU began the weekend set with a 4-2 win Friday despite conceding two power play goals. A three-goal third period from the Huskies was the difference after both teams scored a power play goal in the first.
Winning Friday’s game gave St. Cloud an opportunity to pick up its first series sweep since Nov. 11-12 at Colorado College. Saturday games have often been troublesome for the Huskies, though, who hadn’t won one since a 4-2 victory over Arizona State on New Year’s Eve.
SCSU finally got over that hump Saturday against Miami, as Jake Wahlin scored an eventual game-winner on a rush inside the game’s final three minutes before the Huskies won 3-1. The win moved the Huskies in the PairWise Rankings from 16th at the start of the weekend to 12th, firming up SCSU’s odds to qualify for the NCAA tournament.
St. Cloud, currently fourth in the NCHC standings, is off next weekend before visiting Denver on Feb. 24-25. Miami, seven points back from fourth place, hosts DU next week.
Denver’s dominance of CC continues
All DU does these days against in-state rival Colorado College is win.
Second-ranked Denver picked up its 11th and 12th consecutive victories over the Tigers last weekend as the teams continued their annual Gold Pan series. After edging CC 2-1 in Denver on Friday, the Pioneers rolled to a 5-1 rout Saturday in Colorado Springs.
Denver has now swept CC in each of the past three seasons. In a more immediate sense, DU is now in first place in the NCHC standings ahead of Minnesota-Duluth, and the Pioneers are now a virtual lock to snap up their 10th consecutive NCAA tournament bid. Not a bad place to be with six regular season games remaining.
DU and CC could still meet in the first round of the NCHC playoffs – that’s what would happen if the regular season had ended Saturday – but so far, the recent series history numbers are staggering. Denver is 14-2 in its last 16 games against the Tigers, with Pioneers head coach Jim Montgomery behind the bench for all of them.
Denver has never won the NCHC regular season championship, and the Pioneers will hope to take advantage of a remaining schedule from which DU will be favored to take its share of points. After visiting Miami next weekend, the Pioneers host St. Cloud State in two weeks before traveling to Omaha.
UNO keeps NCAA tourney hopes alive
Unranked Omaha entered this weekend’s home series against No. 8 Western Michigan needing positive results in order to keep the Mavericks’ flagging NCAA tournament hopes afloat. UNO got there in the end with a series split.
The Mavericks’ 7-6 loss to Western on Friday largely boiled down to special teams play. A Broncos team that had only scored one shorthanded goal all season before visiting Omaha’s Baxter Arena picked up another three Friday to dig Omaha’s hole further, with the Mavericks then having gone 0-4-1 in their last five games.
Omaha’s goaltending was problematic Friday, too, with starter Evan Weninger getting yanked 12:54 into the game after stopping three of seven WMU shots. Backup Alex Blankenburg didn’t do much better, conceding Western’s last three goals.
Mavericks head coach Dean Blais had choice words after the game regarding UNO’s goaltending situation, comparing choosing a starter for Saturday to “rolling the dice.”
Blais continued: “It’s an unsettling (thing) at this time of year to not have your goaltender do his job.”
Omaha came out on the right side of another high-scoring game Saturday, besting WMU 6-3. Blankenburg made 33 saves in his first start of the season and Freddy Olafsson scored twice to pace the Mavericks’ attackers.
UNO picked up the win despite scratches for forward Austin Ortega and defenseman Ian Brady, both of them key seniors in the Mavericks’ lineup.
Omaha will get some much-needed rest this week before visiting North Dakota on Feb. 24-25 ahead of a home series against Denver on the final weekend of the regular season.