Denver finds its defense
There might have been concern last week among fans of the defending national champion Pioneers after a disastrous road trip to Kalamazoo that saw Denver drop games to Western Michigan 6-5 and 7-4. Denver hadn’t given up six goals in a game since losing to Miami in the NCHC tournament on March 20, 2015. More, in both games, Denver had multiple leads it couldn’t hold. For a team that had been built on defense last year and led by Hobey Baker winner Will Butcher, there might have been worry about whether the defense could rebound, especially with the high-octane St. Cloud State Huskies coming to town this past weekend. St. Cloud sported the top offense in the country, and was scoring close to five goals per game.
Instead, the Pioneers responded with an impressive sweep of St. Cloud, scoring 4-2 and 5-1 victories. Goaltender Tanner Jaillet made 32 saves Friday and 21 saves Saturday in the wins. Special teams told the story. Denver scored one power-play goal Friday, which proved to be the game-winner from Jarid Lukosevicius, and held St. Cloud’s potent power play to a single goal on six attempts. Saturday saw Denver strike for three power-play goals while holding St. Cloud without a power-play goal on five attempts. Henrik Borgström scored twice Friday, opening the scoring Friday with a slick move where he cut back sharply into the slot from the goalie’s right, dragging the puck behind him, then roofed it top corner glove side as he skated through the crease, and added an empty-netter to seal the win. He also assisted on the game-winner by Lukosevicius. Saturday, Denver got two power-play goals from Adam Plant and a goal and an assist from Dylan Gambrell. Borgström had an assist, and Lukosevicius scored a goal.
It was a good time for Denver to find its defense, because next weekend, the Pioneers host No. 2 North Dakota.
North Dakota finding its stride
After having some offensive struggles in its first few weekends of action, North Dakota has found its scoring touch over the last few weeks, and scored a win and tie/shootout win over Miami, winning Friday night, 4-1, and Saturday rallying from a two-goal deficit to take a 3-2 lead before settling for 3-3 tie after a late extra-attacker goal from Josh Melnick. After a scoreless first period Friday, North Dakota struck three times in the second, getting two goals from Nick Jones and what turned out to be the game-winner on a power play from Rhett Gardner. Peter Thome again started in goal, as Cam Johnson was unavailable, and made 27 saves. Saturday, the Fighting Hawks fell into a 2-0 deficit at 7:46 of the second after Ryan Siroky scored for Miami, but Colton Poolman started the rally with a goal at 8:23, and then Poolman assisted on Dixon Bowen’s goal 33 seconds into the third that tied it. Shane Gersich gave North Dakota a lead at 16:22 of the third with a beautiful one-timer from the right side of the post right on the goal line. Christian Wolanin gave North Dakota the extra conference point in the shootout, as he was the lone player to score among four shooters for each team, blasting a slap shot past Ryan Larkin.
Freshman Grant Mismash continues to be a key cog for North Dakota. He leads the team in scoring, and assisted on Gersich’s goal Saturday and had a goal and assist Friday.
Colorado College continues winning ways
Coming into the season, not much was expected from Colorado College. Most observers picked the Tigers to finish last again after last year CC could only muster a 4-16-4 record in conference and an 8-24-4 overall record. Part of the reason was that CC hadn’t had consistent scoring in several years, lacking any player close to the point per game mark.
It’s early, but CC currently sits atop the NCHC standings with a 3-3 record and a 7-5 overall record. Over the weekend, CC hosted Omaha, splitting the series, losing 5-3 Friday and winning 4-0 Saturday. Friday, CC took a 2-0 lead in the second when Trey Bradley scored, but then gave up the next four goals, three of which Omaha scored on the power play, with David Pope getting a goal and assist and Jake Randolph getting two assists. Trey Bradley scored his second of the period with five seconds left to pull CC within one, but Pope scored another power-play goal at 8:24 of the third to seal the win. Alex Leclerc made 33 saves in the losing effort, a warmup for Saturday, where he made 41 saves in the 4-0 shutout win. Nick Halloran scored the eventual game-winner on a power play at 10:18 of the first, and Mason Bergh had two assists and a goal.
Part of the reason for CC’s early success is finding more consistent scoring. After not having a player with an average of a point per game since Rylan Schwartz during the 2012-13 season, CC currently has three. Halloran, a sophomore, leads the team in scoring with five goals and 12 assists for 17 points, Bergh has 16 points, and Bradley has 12 points.