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St. Cloud State captures Minnesota tournament
For the first time, the St. Cloud State Huskies won the North Star College Cup, a Minnesota hockey tournament that features four of the best teams in state. St. Cloud’s stellar offense, currently ranked second in the country, and its third-ranked power-play unit, combined for 10 goals on the weekend in a 5-4 win over Minnesota State and a 5-2 win over Bemidji State.

Against the Mavericks Friday, the power play came through with three goals, including Jimmy Murray’s game-winning strike at 16:41 of the third, seven minutes after Minnesota State had tied the game. Mikey Eyssimont also scored two on the power play, while goaltender Charlie Lindgren needed to be sharp, stopping 29 shots.

In Saturday’s championship game against Bemidji State, Joey Benik got two goals in the first period, putting the Huskies up at just 1:20 and then adding a second at 12:57. Patrick Russell, who had scored the first goal for St. Cloud in Friday’s game, scored the game-winner at 5:23 of the second, and Kalle Kossila put the game away when he scored at 14:18 of the second.

Though Bemidji did get two goals in the third, one was a power-play strike at 18:31 of the period, after Eyssimont had scored an empty-netter at 16:31 to put St. Cloud up 5-1.

RedHawks raise profile
In my second-half preview of the conference, one question I had was whether Miami could bounce back. The RedHawks closed the first half in a 2-8-1-1 tailspin, and were in seventh place in the NCHC. Miami had several woes, including an anemic offense that was ranked 55 out of 60 teams nationally.

After splitting with No. 13 Denver this weekend, the RedHawks are back in the hunt, in a three-way tie for the final home ice spot in the NCHC with 19 points. The RedHawks went 5-3-1 in January, including 3-2-1 in NCHC play.

The offense has improved slightly, as the RedHawks average 2.40 goals per game. The defense is a strength, keeping the team in games, as Miami only gives up 2.72 goals per game.

On Friday, the RedHwaks rallied to win. After Danton Heinen put Denver up 1-0 at 7:06 of the first, Anthony Louis scored a minute and a half later to tie it. Jack Roslovic scored the game-winner at 17:36 of the second on a power play, and Kevin Morris sealed the win with an empty-netter at 19:37 of the third.

Saturday’s game was much different, as Denver dominated much of the play, something Miami coach Enrico Blasi acknowledged, saying, “I thought Denver pretty much outplayed us from the beginning of the game. They were the better team in all aspects of the game tonight. … We just didn’t have that jump.”

Miami starts February by hosting red-hot St. Cloud State, but closes the season with three weekends in a row against teams below them in the standings, including a final weekend series against Minnesota-Duluth, which could prove crucial for playoff seeding.

What’s wrong in Omaha?
Entering the second half, the Omaha Mavericks were 14-3-1 and ranked six in the USCHO.com D-I Men’s Poll. They were unbeaten at home in their new arena.

The second half started with Omaha getting swept by Denver at home, and things have gone downhill from there. The Mavericks went 2-6 in January. The one bright spot was an overtime win over North Dakota.

Part of the issue has been defense, or, rather, the lack thereof. Omaha gave up three or more goals in all but one game in January, Saturday’s 6-1 win over Colorado College. That win came on the heels of Omaha getting blown out by CC on Friday, 5-1. CC isn’t exactly an offensive powerhouse, averaging 2.19 goals per game, good for 53rd nationally, though the Tigers did hang five goals on North Dakota the previous weekend.

Still, Omaha’s lack of defense has been a trend; the Mavericks also gave up seven goals to Miami and five to North Dakota. Freshman Evan Weninger was finally back in the lineup over the weekend, after getting hurt in the Denver series with an ankle injury. He didn’t look like the goalie who had only given up more than two goals twice in the first half in Friday’s game, as the Tigers torched him for four goals. CC got a power-play goal from Mason Bergh at 3:29 of second, then another power-play goal from Luc Gerdes at 6:38 of the second. Omaha’s Brian Cooper scored at 18:58 of the second to put Omaha back in it, but Trevor Gooch scored at 9:04 of the third, then Christian Heil scored at 15:20, and Sam Rothstein added an empty-net short-handed goal at 16:20.

Omaha bounced back impressively Saturday, getting goals from Jordan Klehr and Luc Snuggerud in the first six minutes of the first, and then breaking the game open in the second with four goals, starting with Steven Spinner’s strike at 1:34.

Despite Omaha’s overall good record, the Mavericks have been poor in NCHC play, going 6-9-1. Omaha is off this coming weekend, so Dean Blais has work to do before the team resumes play against Western Michigan on Feb. 12. Considering the Broncos swept the Mavericks back in October, Omaha should have lots of motivation.