Colorado College rekindles the Gold Pan
Entering the weekend, Colorado College had lost 14 straight games to its in-state rival Denver. Seeing Denver hoist the national championship last season was extra mud in the eye. Friday at Denver, the Pioneers fell behind twice, but a late goal by Jaakko Heikkinen seemed to have Denver poised for a 15th straight win. However, CC’s Mason Bergh had other ideas. He scored with 6.8 seconds left, digging the puck out in the crease and firing it into the open net. While neither team scored in the OT, CC’s Christiano Versich scored on a power play during the 3-on-3 OT, earning the Tigers the extra conference point and setting loose a celebration for CC. The next night in Colorado Springs, CC carried a 1-0 lead into the third period thanks to the outstanding goaltending of Alex Leclerc, who made 37 saves, but Liam Finlay scored 17 seconds into the third period, and the game again finished in a tie. Finlay scored again in the 3-on-3 OT to give Denver the extra conference point.
The Gold Pan is awarded to the team that wins the season series. In recent years, Denver has owned it, and the rivalry has diminished, with fans not even paying much attention to it. If this is any indication, it’s heating up again thanks to a Tigers squad that is proving resilient and much better than expected. The Gold Pan does need to be won outright, so if Denver wins one of the two games between the teams in February, Denver will retain the award.
Miami breaks the aura
So far this season, Western Michigan has seemed like an almost unbeatable opponent at its home arena, Lawson Ice Arena, where they have scored goals in bunches. However, Miami, which has shown itself to be a solid team in recent weeks with wins over ranked teams like Cornell, may have burst that bubble just a little this weekend, winning convincingly Friday, 5-2. Gordie Green scored two goals and added an assist, and Josh Melnick had a goal and two assists, including the game-winner at 13:20 of the second period with a snap shot right off a faceoff. Miami almost managed a sweep, leading 3-1 in the second period, but Wade Allison scored twice, including the goal to tie it with just over four minutes left in the game, and then scored the overtime winner at 3:53, which snapped a four-game losing streak, including two at Lawson. Miami meanwhile, is back at .500 overall and is climbing in the NCHC standings. The RedHawks are off till January, when they host Denver for a pair.
St. Cloud State moves into first
With a tie/shootout loss and then a win over No. 5 North Dakota on Saturday, the St. Cloud State Huskies continued their strong season and moved into sole possession of first place in the NCHC, three points ahead of North Dakota and four ahead of Denver and Western Michigan. The Huskies had a strong weekend overall, with solid defensive play. In Friday’s shootout loss, Jeff Smith made 30 saves., though twice North Dakota rallied from a goal down to earn the tie. Christian Wolanin scored on Smith in the shootout to earn the extra point for North Dakota. Saturday, St. Cloud scored three goals in the first 8:33 of the second period, with Mikey Eyssimont scoring twice. Jon Lizotte had two assists. Coach Bob Motzko started rookie Dávid Hrenák in net, and he responded with 34 saves in the win, moving to 4-1 on the year with a 1.40 goals-against average and .962 save percentage.
St. Cloud is done for the first half, and resumes play on Dec. 29-30 with a road trip to Princeton before a home-and-home with in-state rival Minnesota in the first weekend of January. The Huskies close the first half sitting atop the PairWise, and currently have the second toughest strength of schedule.