It was a light weekend for the NCHC, with only half of the league’s eight teams in action. Let’s recap the action.
Western’s feast-or-famine offense feasts
For coach Andy Murray and his Western Michigan Broncos, this season has been one of maddening feast or famine in terms of offensive production. The Broncos have been shutout in three games, and have scored less than two goals in four more games. Twice they have gone through three-game stretches with anemic goal scoring, then responded with stretches where goals have come in bunches.
Perhaps it was only appropriate that on Thanksgiving weekend, the Broncos offense feasted in impressive fashion. Western Michigan won the Shillelagh Tournament at Notre Dame by defeating Ohio State, 6-2, and following that with a beatdown of No. 17 Union, 8-2.
Against Ohio State Friday, Frederik Tiffels notched a hat trick, including an empty-netter to seal the win at 14:23 of the third. All the goals were even-strength.
Tiffels was held to one assist in Saturday’s win over Union, but Nolan LaPorte scored a hat trick, Justin Kovacs had four assists, Sheldon Dries notched two goals and two assists, and Kenney Morrison had two assists. Five of the goals were scored on a power-play, including Dries scoring on a five-on-three. At the other end, Lukas Hafner was strong in net, making 40 saves.
Western Michigan is off this coming weekend, then closes its first half at home Dec. 12-13 against Colorado College, a team that has struggled defensively, so Western’s offense has a good chance to stay hot.
Nebraska-Omaha continues to impress
Entering the season, not much was expected of Nebraska-Omaha, which was tabbed sixth in the preseason NCHC poll. The players and coach Dean Blais apparently didn’t get the message, as the Mavericks are currently 7-3-2 overall to start the year.
This weekend, the Mavericks traveled to North Dakota to face Blais’ old team. On Friday, Nebraska-Omaha took a 2-1 lead into the third period, thanks to goals from Tyler Vesel and Justin Parizek. However, North Dakota answered early, and the game remained tied after OT. Goaltender Ryan Massa came up big in the shootout, stopping all three North Dakota shooters, while Dominic Zombo scored on Nebraska-Omaha’s third attempt to notch the shootout win and extra point in the standings.
The Mavericks couldn’t muster a point Saturday, as North Dakota grabbed an early two-goal lead in the first period. UNO looked to have a chance to get back in it after Jake Randolph cut the deficit to one, but Stephane Pattyn scored a short-handed goal at 18:07 of the second that proved to be the game-winner, though Grant Gallo scored at 13:48 of the third to make the last six minutes interesting. North Dakota’s Zane McIntyre made 32 saves.
Massa is currently eighth nationally among goaltenders with a 1.67 goals-against average and has a sixth-best .943 save percentage.
Nebraska-Omaha faces Miami in Oxford, Ohio, this coming weekend.
St. Cloud’s struggles continue
St. Cloud State faced off against yet another Minnesota team in Bemidji State, and emerged with a split. Last year’s NCHC regular season champ is currently 6-7-1 overall and in sixth place in the NCHC with a 2-3-1 mark. The Huskies have also struggled against Minnesota teams, going 2-4 combined against Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth, and now Bemidji State. Two of the losses were in OT.
On Friday, the Huskies’ offense exploded for six goals in an impressive come-from-behind 6-3 win that wasn’t sealed until the last minute. Entering the third period, the teams were tied 2-2. St. Cloud took an early lead in the third on Joey Benik’s goal at 2:54, but Bemidji’s Gerry Fitzgerald answered with a power-play goal at 6:17.
Tim Daly scored the game-winner at 8:44 and Jonny Brodzinski scored an empty-net power-play goal at 19:31 to give the Huskies some breathing room. Brooks Bertsch capped the scoring at 19:52.
On Saturday, the offense never got untracked, as Bemdji earned a 4-1 win. Bemidji goaltender Andrew Walsh kept St. Cloud in check by making 34 saves. Benik gave the Huskies a lead at 17:16 of the first, but the Beavers answered at 3:11 of the second on a goal by Ruslan Pedan.
The game turned in a manner of seconds in the third, as Fitzgerald scored at 8:13 to put Bemidji up 2-1, then Charlie O’Connor scored at 8:50. Phil Brewer added an empty-net tally at 19:38.
St. Cloud is off this weekend, then ends its first half with a critical league series in Omaha on Dec. 12-13.