Three things: Dec. 18

Denver gets all it can handle with Dartmouth
Having won only one of its last four games in regulation, not everything is going swimmingly at the holiday break with second-ranked Denver.

The Pioneers were made to work hard to split last weekend with a Dartmouth team that came to Magness Arena on Friday carrying an 0-5-1 record on the road. That night, a second-period power play goal from Denver’s Jaakko Heikkinen was the difference in a surprisingly tight 1-0 win.

On Saturday, the Big Green discovered its scoring touch in a 5-4 upset. Dartmouth climbed out of an early 3-0 hole with three goals of its own in the second period before getting two more 40 seconds apart late in the game. A Shane Sellar empty-netter ended up being the game-winner after Denver’s Jack Doremus capped the scoring with 27 seconds left.

Denver is now off for two weeks, and now seems like a good time to recharge the batteries. Four more unranked opponents – Merrimack, Air Force, Miami and Omaha – make up the Pioneers’ schedule until the last weekend of January, but nothing’s ever guaranteed.

CC gets mixed results at home
Let’s go to another series that my writing partner Candace Horgan and I didn’t exactly get right. We both picked Colorado College to sweep Arizona State at home – we were half-right, anyway.

CC jumped out to a big early lead in Saturday’s opener at World Arena, with Westin Michaud, Nick Halloran and Christiano Versich all scoring in a five-minute span in the first period. Michaud second again 91 seconds into the second period before Alex Leclerc shut the door in what ended up being a 36-save shutout win.

On Sunday, the Tigers scored four consecutive goals and led 4-2 early in the second period but saw Arizona State tie the game in that same period. The Sun Devils went 0-for-5 on the power play but still put four shots past Leclerc (35 saves).

CC is 8-7-3 at the break. The Tigers are six points below a home-ice spot for the first round of the NCHC playoffs, but with fifth place being relatively new territory for CC at this point in the season, we’ll be eager to see how the second half goes.

Six above the line
Three-quarters of the NCHC currently sits in the top 16 of the PairWise Rankings, with Colorado College and Miami (tied for 18th) not far behind.

At 12-2-1, St. Cloud State is rightly the top dog, with Denver in fifth after its home split with Dartmouth. North Dakota, currently three points below SCSU in the NCHC standings, is seventh in the PairWise.

Western Michigan just cracks the top 10, while Minnesota Duluth (16th) and Omaha (15th) could be much worse off despite currently being the bottom two teams, respectively, in their own conference.

We still have half the season to go, of course. Up to now, though, the NCHC’s seemingly evergreen strength top-to-bottom is still very much there.

Happy holidays, everyone.