With seven of the NCHC’s eight teams in action this weekend, we’ve been left with plenty of talking points. Here are three that particularly stick out in my mind.
Duluth underwhelms at North Star College Cup
In only its second year of existence, the North Star College Cup has already generated plenty of excitement in Minnesota as the state’s unofficial state college hockey championship. This year’s four-team field seemed surprisingly even, and Minnesota-Duluth wanted to take advantage of that.
The Bulldogs didn’t.
Seventh-ranked UMD struggled in Friday’s first semifinal game, dropping a 4-0 decision to Bemidji State. Duluth outshot the Beavers 28-26, but nothing got past BSU goaltender Michael Bitzer, the eventual tournament MVP.
In Saturday afternoon’s consolation game, the Bulldogs squared off with Minnesota in a battle between two of western college hockey’s more inconsistent teams this season. A goal from Adam Krause – his second of the game against the Gophers – with 2:11 left to play stood up as the game-winner in a tight 2-1 win for Duluth.
UMD (14-9-1, 8-5-1-0 NCHC) heads west this next week to face No. 11 Denver.
UND earns hard-fought wins, keeps pushing ahead
It’s been said many times over here at USCHO and elsewhere that Colorado College is a much better hockey team than its last-place standing in the NCHC would suggest. This weekend, North Dakota found that out first-hand.
UND extended its current winning streak to five games – and has now won seven of its last eight – this weekend with a home sweep of CC in Grand Forks, N.D. Nothing came easy for the hosts, though, which downed the Tigers 2-1 on Friday and 5-3 the following night.
CC picked up 14 of its 31 shots on net Friday in the night’s first period, and the Tigers’ Alex Roos put one of them past UND goaltender Zane McIntyre 4:01 into the game. UND then scored once each in the second and third periods to take a lead of its own, but it wasn’t exactly a matter of levees breaking.
After Mark MacMillan tied the game up at 16:23 of the third period, a shorthanded goal from Michael Parks 6:37 into the third period stood up as the game-winner. UND has become quite adept at picking up such tallies, as Parks’s was the team’s nation-leading ninth of the season.
Saturday’s game was a higher-scoring affair but wasn’t any easier for the favorites. Five different UND players scored in the rematch, but their team had to again withstand pressure from the Tigers en route to a 5-3 win over them.
UND (18-5-2, 9-4-1-0) is on the road next Friday and Saturday at eighth-ranked Omaha, which was idle this weekend. CC (5-16-1, 1-11-1-0) will host St. Cloud State next weekend in Colorado Springs.
Denver, Miami back to where they were
Heading into this weekend, only three points separated fourth-place Miami from fifth-place Denver. That meant that, if the postseason had started on Friday, DU would have visited Miami in the first round of the NCHC playoffs.
That pairing still holds true now after the teams split a regular-season set this weekend in Oxford, Ohio.
Denver started the weekend brightest and picked up a 3-1 win over the homestanding RedHawks on Friday. Trevor Moore picked up the eventual game-clinching goal 30 seconds into the night’s third period before he scored into an empty net with 10 seconds left to play.
Miami returned the favor the following night when the RedHawks recorded a 4-1 win over the Pioneers. MU outshot Denver 34-22 and four different RedHawks pushed the puck past DU goalie Tanner Jaillet in the rematch.
The ninth-ranked RedHawks (15-9-0, 8-6-0-0) will host a home-and-home with Western Michigan over the next two Saturdays, with Western hosting the first leg. Denver (14-8-1, 7-6-0-0) welcomes UMD to the Colorado capital next weekend.