Monday 10: Western Michigan sweeps Denver, Providence back on track, Arizona State hanging around

25 Jan 19: The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers host the University of Wisconsin Badgers in B1G matchup at 3M at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis, MN. (Jim Rosvold)
Minnesota and Wisconsin played to a split in a Big Ten series last weekend at 3M at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis, Minn. (photo: Jim Rosvold).

Each week, will pick the top 10 moments from the past weekend in our Monday 10 feature.

1. Home is where the heart is

After seeing its win streak snapped when Western Michigan was swept at St. Cloud State, the Broncos returned to the friendly confines of Lawson Ice Arena and swept No. 4 Denver in impressive fashion, winning 3-1 and 5-1.

The two teams split the season series, with Denver having swept the Broncos in November in Denver. Ethen Frank scored twice in Friday’s win and Trevor Gorsuch made 21 saves. He followed that up with 34 saves in Saturday’s impressive win, one in which five different players scored for the Broncos. Denver’s Emilio Pettersen spoiled Gorsuch’s shutout bid with a power-play goal in the third period. Western is an impressive 10-2-1 at Lawson, but only 3-6 on the road, a trend that cost them last year come tournament time.

2. Massachusetts splits

For the second consecutive weekend, No. 2 Massachusetts split a conference series, but this time it was with an unranked opponent, as Maine beat UMass 4-3 on Saturday in Orono.

The Black Bears scored three goals in the second period to break the game open, and while UMass tried for the rally in the third with two goals, but it wasn’t enough. Maine goalie Jeremy Swayman made 53 saves in the game, including 19 in the second period and 17 in the third as the Minutemen tried to rally. UMass has now lost two of its last three games.

3. Providence regains its swagger

An impressive sweep of No. 8 Northeastern in a home-and-home gave Providence its swagger back after the Friars had gone through a 1-3-1 stretch.

Northeastern opened the scoring Friday at 2:45 of the first, but Providence shut them out from there. Hayden Hawkey made 19 saves Friday and 34 Saturday in the shutout win. Hawkey also got an assist on the empty-net goal that sealed Friday’s win. Providence’s sweep, as well as Lowell’s win and tie against Boston College, created a large logjam in Hockey East, as five teams are within two points of each other for second in the conference, and UNH is not far behind with 15 points.

4. North Dakota splits with St. Cloud

Consistent inconsistency has been the motto for North Dakota this season.

Last weekend, the Fighting Hawks hosted No. 1 St. Cloud State and emerged with a split. St. Cloud took the opener, 3-1, as Patrick Newell got the game-winner at 13:33 of the third period, and Blake Lizotte added an empty-netter at 18:48 to seal the win. North Dakota goalie Adam Scheel made 33 saves in the loss. Saturday, North Dakota was paced by two goals from Gavin Hain and two goals from Dixon Bowen in a 5-1 win. Scheel made 22 saves, while North Dakota chased St. Cloud goalie Dávid Hrenák in the second period. Jeff Smith gave up two goals in the third while making 14 saves on the game. The win vaulted North Dakota into the final home ice spot in the NCHC standings, one point ahead of Denver, though the Pioneers have a game in hand.

This weekend, North Dakota travels to Denver to renew the bitter rivalry between the two, and the stakes are raised with the current standings.

5. Explosive offense

Entering the third period of Friday’s game between old rivals Minnesota and Wisconsin, the Gophers were clinging to a 3-1 lead.

Minnesota had scored three in the first period, but Wisconsin had gotten one back in the second, and then early in the third, Jack Gorniak scored to pull the Badgers within one. The stage was set for a classic finish, but instead, Minnesota exploded for six goals to run away with the game, 9-4. Ryan Norman started it with a goal at 5:56, and Brannon McManus scored what turned into the game-winner at 8:50. Wisconsin got two back to pull within a goal with 7:32 to play, but Minnesota scored three goals within 1:14 to pull away. Two of those goals were power-play strikes.

Wisconsin won the rematch Saturday, rallying from a 3-2 deficit in the second period as Mick Messner tied it at 14:49 of the second and Peter Tischke scored the game-winner at 4:02 of the third. Badgers goalie Daniel Lebedeff made 12 saves in the third to preserve the win.

6. Harvard gets big OT win

Friday night, Harvard carried a two-goal lead into the third period, only to see Clarkson tie it with goals by Josh Dunne at 9:06 and Anthony Callin at 13:50.

Meanwhile, Harvard was unable to get any shots past Clarkson goalie Jake Kielly, who made 20 saves in the third period. However, Reilly Walsh scored in overtime at 2:12 to give Harvard the big win over the No. 10 Golden Knights. Harvard is now tied with Clarkson for third in the ECAC, though the Golden Knights have two games in hand.

7. Colgate upends Cornell

The Golden Knights weren’t the only top ECAC squad that suffered an overtime loss this weekend.

First-place Cornell fell on Saturday to Colgate, 3-2, as Josh Snodgrass scored the game-winner at 3:48 of the extra session. It was Snodgrass’ second of the game. Colgate goalie Mitch Benson made 41 saves in the game, including 17 in the second period and three in the extra session. That loss, combined with Yale’s weekend sweep, put the Big Red in a tie with the Elis atop the ECAC, though Cornell has a game in hand.

8. American International remains atop Atlantic Hockey

With an 8-5 win on Saturday over Mercyhurst, American International remained atop Atlantic Hockey, two points ahead of Air Force.

The game was dubbed “Fighting For Folgs” night, in honor of Mercyhurst equipment manager Mike Folga, who is battling stage IV leiomyosarcoma. The event raised thousands of dollars for Folga. AIC held a 4-2 lead going in the third period that saw three goals from each team, most in bunches. Luka Maver scored what turned into the game-winner at 2:04 of the period, less than a minute after Blake Christensen had scored for the Yellow Jackets. Mercyhurst bettered that when the Lakers got two goals within 32 seconds at 8:46 and 9:18 to pull back to 7-4. AIC scored an empty-netter at 12:04 that sealed the win. Zackarias Skog made 24 saves to earn the win.

9. PairWise volatility

This is the time of year when teams start to pay attention to the PairWise rankings and how they might have a path to the NCAA tournament.

Sometimes, you don’t even have to play to get higher, as was the case with Quinnipiac, which didn’t play this past weekend, but moved up to fourth in the PairWise thanks to other results. While the playoff tournaments in recent years have shown that a team likely needs to be 12th or higher to feel safe about qualifying for the NCAA tournament, it is interesting to look at the top 15 right now and see which conferences are doing well. The NCHC, which has produced the last three national champions, leads the way with four teams, and even more impressive is that those four teams are in the top eight.

The ECAC also has four teams in the top 15. Hockey East has three teams, while the Big Ten has two teams.

10. Arizona State still in hunt

It’s been an interesting season for Arizona State, which is currently sitting at 12th in the PairWise rankings and is in the hunt for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

This past weekend’s results didn’t help the Sun Devils, who split with Boston University, falling 4-2 on Friday but rallying for a 3-0 win Saturday. The Sun Devils only have six games left in their season, with four of those must-win games against Atlantic Hockey opponents. Having a weekend off in between each series probably won’t help Arizona State stay hot either. Whether the Sun Devils make the NCAA tournament likely comes down to their season-ending series in Minneapolis on March 1-2 against the Gophers.