GOTW: No. 1 North Dakota rides goaltender Thome to weekend sweep of No. 6 Denver, inches closer to clinching NCHC hockey crown

February 15, 2020 a NCAA men's ice hockey game between the Denver Pioneers and the University of North Dakota at Ralph Engelstad Arena, Grand Forks, ND. Photo by Russell Hons (Russell Hons)
It was another close-checking game, but for the second straight night, No. 1 North Dakota skated to a 3-1 victory over No. 6 Denver, further advancing the Fighting Hawks towards capturing the NCHC regular-season crown (Photo: Russell Hons/UND Athletics)

For 120 minutes over the course of the weekend, fans in Grand Forks were treated to the thrilling, competitive hockey they expected. And thanks to a second solid effort by the host Fighting Hawks, fans left Ralph Englestad Arena happy as No. 1 North Dakota completed the weekend sweep of sixth-ranked Denver with a 3-1 victory.

The Fighting Hawks are now eight points ahead of Minnesota Duluth, idle this weekend, in the NCHC standings. They improve to 16-1-0 at home this season. Each teams have six games remaining.

Matt Kiersted opened the scoring for North Dakota, netting his fifth of the season on the power play at 9:31 of the first.

Collin Adams scored his 10th at 11:25 of the second for a 2-0 cushion. But Denver’s Brett Edwards narrowed the gap to 2-1 less than five minutes later.

Denver held a 10-7 shot advantage in the third but couldn’t beat Peter Thome, who earned two wins on the weekend. Jasper Weatherby added a late empty net goal.

No. 12 Northeastern 2, No. 11 UMass Lowell 1

Matt Demelis scored with 10:34 remaining in regulation to break a 1-1 tie as the 12th-ranked Huskies knocked off No. 11 UMass Lowell to complete a weekend sweep and move from ninth place in Hockey East at the start of the weekend into sixth by weekend’s end and are now just three points out of first place.

UMass Lowell held a 31-20 advantage in shots on the night, including 14-4 in the first when the team finished the frame with just a 1-0 lead on a Reid Stefanson goal.

Northeastern turned things around in the second and evened the game on a blast from left point from Mike Kesselring.

Craig Pantano was stellar on the night stopping 30 of 31 shots for the victory.

No. 7 Boston College 6, Merrimack 2

The Eagles climbed into a tie for first place in Hockey East with idle Massachusetts, completing a weekend sweep of Merrimack in dominating fashion, winning 6-2.

Rookies Matt Boldy and Alex Newhook each scored twice for the Eagles. Newhook added three assists for BC’s first five-point game since Johnny Gaudreau in 2014.

Territorially, Merrimack was strong, outshooting the Eagles, 26-21 in the game including 23-11 over the final two periods. But the Eagles attack was efficient when they had the puck, scoring five of their goals while 5-on-5.

Minnesota 2, Notre Dame 1

The Golden Gophers scored twice in the third period to overcome a 1-0 deficit and earn a 2-1 victory over Notre Dame to take five-of-six points on the weekend and remain in a tie for first place with Penn State, a 3-2 winner over Wisconsin, in the Big Ten standings.

Minnesota holds a game in hand on the Nittany Lions and is five points in front of Michigan State, which itself holds a game-in-hand that will be play on Monday against Michigan at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.

Nick Leivermann gave the Irish a 1-0 lead through two, but goals by Ben Meyers and Blake McLaughlin in the third flipped the game and improved the Gophers to 7-1-1 in their last nine games.

No. 2 Cornell 4, Rensselaer 2

The Big Red jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first on goals by Noah Bauld, Alex Green and Yanni Kaldis and then hung on, scoring a late empty-netter for a 4-2 victory over RPI.

Ture Linden and Todd Burgess each scored early in the second and third periods, respectively, for the Engineers. But from there, Cornell limited attempts as RPI had just five shots on goal in the third.

Combined with Clarkson’s 3-1 win at Princeton, the two clubs remain tied atop the ECAC standings heading into the league’s final two weekends.