Beware the Bulldogs
Don’t look now, but Minnesota Duluth has won four games in a row, and six of its last seven while going undefeated in those games. This weekend, the Bulldogs, who have been many NCHC writers sleeper pick for the second half, including mine, posted an impressive sweep of North Dakota, winning 5-3 and 5-2 and moving into sole possession of fifth place in the NCHC, and only one point behind North Dakota for the final home ice spot for the NCHC playoffs. The Bulldogs have also won five straight in conference during their streak.
Friday, the Bulldogs scored twice on the power play en route to taking a 3-1 lead after two periods, and that’s when things got interesting, as during a 3:12 span early in the first, North Dakota twice pulled within one goal, but the North Dakota rally fell short, as Hunter Shepard made 15 saves in the third to preserve the win and Riley Tufte added an empty-netter to seal the win.
Saturday, Joey Anderson continued his hot play, netting four points, and Scott Perunovich had two goals, including the game-winner, as the Bulldogs scored five unanswered goals and rallied from a 2-0 deficit. Shepard made 18 saves in the win.
Denver gets important sweep
The Denver Pioneers have been off since sweeping Minnesota Duluth at the beginning of December, going 3-3-2 in that stretch. This weekend, the Pioneers may have taken an important step toward getting their mojo back by convincingly sweeping No. 15 Omaha, 5-0 and 4-0. The sweep moved Denver back into first in the NCHC as 2017 Mike Richter Award winner Tanner Jaillet made 64 saves on the weekend in the two shutouts. Jaillet looked like the goalie who backstopped the Pioneers to the national championship last year. Top-scoring forward Henrik Borgström had a goal and four assists on the weekend, and rookie defenseman Ian Mitchell had four assists. The Pioneers also got two goals from Troy Terry, who has struggled offensively during Denver’s rough stretch. As Denver coach Jim Montgomery stated, “For Troy Terry to be scoring goals, it’s always a good sign for Denver hockey.” The Pioneers also scored four power-play goals on the weekend, including three on Friday.
St. Cloud continues to struggle
On Hockey Day Minnesota, the host St. Cloud State Huskies lost 5-2 to in-state rival Minnesota State, giving up two goals in each of the first two periods and an empty-netter in the third. The Huskies outshot the Mavericks, 30-26, but the defense struggled. Jeff Smith gave up three goals on 10 shots in the first two periods before being replaced by Dávid Hrenák, who gave up one. Since the break, the Huskies, who were the no. 1 team in the country to start the year, have gone a middling 2-3-2, and their path won’t get easier, as they travel to Duluth to take on the red-hot Bulldogs.