NCHC: Arizona State pushes No. 9 Western Michigan to the limit

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Colt Conrad paced Western Michigan to a 4-2 win over a pesky Arizona State team in a game that wasn’t decided until the final minute Friday night.

“First I want to recognize Arizona and how they played,” said Broncos coach Andy Murray. “In our league, you don’t shake hands until the second night, but I wanted to do it tonight. They have a hardworking, determined team, and I told their coach that they are one of the best structured teams we’ve played this season. They worked hard, they forechecked us. We certainly tried to mention to our players that they’ve beaten some good teams this year, and to be quite honest with you, we were not overly pleased with our game, but let’s give credit to our opponents.”

The Broncos got on the board first at 8:06 of the first period when Wade Allison fed Conrad at the left faceoff circle, and Conrad rifled a shot top corner glove side at 8:06. Arizona State tied it at 11:50 when Liam McGing carried the puck up the right-side boards and fed Anthony Croston trailing in the slot, and Croston wristed a quick shot past Ben Blacker.

Conrad put the Broncos back on top with a power-play goal at 17:59 of the second off a feed from Taylor Fleming, who carried the puck deep along the right-side boards and fed Conrad in the crease, and Conrad backhanded it five-hole past Joey Daccord on his second whack at the puck.

“It’s just fun to play with them,” said Conrad of his line, which accounted for three of the Broncos’ goals. “We’re clicking right now, and when things are going for you they just kind of flow. We all know where each other is going to be, make a pass, and if we screw up we just try to make another play.”

Arizona State wouldn’t go away though, and Wade Murphy tied it with a power-play goal at 7:28 of the third. Robbie Baillargeon got the puck at the right point and fed it to Murphy at the top of the left circle, and he one-timed it past Blacker.

However, the tie didn’t last long as Allison carried the puck in deep on the left side of the slot and spun back toward the blue line and fed a pass to Corey Schueneman at the left point, and Schueneman took a step toward the net and rifled it past Daccord at 8:25.

Arizona State made a desperate attempt to tie it in the last minute, and got some good chances with Daccord pulled, forcing Blacker to make big saves, but Western Michigan was finally able to clear it and Griffen Molino sent it into the empty net from center ice with 13.5 seconds left to seal the win.

Murray admitted that the Broncos need to come out better Saturday night against ASU to have more success.

“We played too much of an individual game,” said Murray. “We need to be better collectively. We need to be a better team. It’s going to be a real battle tomorrow night.”

NCHC roundup

No. 1 Minnesota Duluth 2, Omaha 2
Omaha twice rallied from a one-goal deficit to earn a tie with Minnesota-Duluth. Omaha goalie Evan Weninger made 37 saves in the draw, including five in the overtime in which the Bulldogs repeatedly pressed trying to get the win.

In the shootout to decide the extra NCHC conference point, Duluth’s first of the year, Hunter Miska stopped Omaha’s Jake Randolph on the first chance, and then Alex Iafallo scored after making a smooth toe drag, beating Weninger stick side to give Duluth the extra conference point.

Duluth got on the board first early in the second period when Dominic Toninato was sprung on a breakaway right off the opening faceoff. Toninato skated down on Weninger and beat him top corner stick side at 12 seconds of the period.

Luc Snuggerud, however, got the Mavericks even with a power-play goal at 10:35. Austin Ortega sent him a pass at the left point, and Snuggerud one-timed a rocket slap shot past Miska. Toninato however, put the Bulldogs back up in the final minute of the second period with a beautiful power-play goal. Toninato was behind the net to Weninger’s right, and he got a pass from Joey Anderson, who was in the right corner behind the goal line. Toninato made a quick move toward the net and, while still behind the net, lifted it into the top corner in one motion with 56 seconds left in the period.

Omaha almost tied it with 9 seconds left in the period when Teemu Pulkkinen was sprung on a partial breakaway and cut toward the net, but Miska, who made 23 saves, kept his left leg along the ice and stopped the shot. That save didn’t affect the Mavericks, and Omaha tied it early in the third period at 1:33. Miska didn’t have his stick and was out of position, and Ian Brady carried it out from behind the net and spun toward the net from the left side of the slot and beat Miska with a wrist shot five-hole.

In the three-on-three OT, Weninger again came up huge, stopping Carson Soucy’s point-blank shot from alone in front. Soucy tried to go five-hole, but Weninger closed the door. Omaha didn’t get a shot on goal in either the regular overtime or the three-on-three OT.

St. Cloud State 3, No. 13 North Dakota 1
North Dakota’s recent struggles continued, as St. Cloud State beat the Fighting Hawks in Grand Forks, 3-1. St. Cloud jumped out in front 1-0 on a goal by Jacob Benson at 11:25 that North Dakota goalie Matt Hrynkiw would like back, as Benson got the puck behind the goal line to Hrynkiw’s left, turned and fired a shot on net, banking it in off Hrynkiw. Jimmy Schuldt made it 2-0 at 6:05 of the second, firing a shot from the blue line that beat a screened Hrynkiw.

North Dakota fought back though. After five scoreless periods dating back to last week, Tucker Poolman finally broke North Dakota’s scoreless drought with a power-play goal at 8:16 of the third to pull the Fighting Hawks within one, banging in a rebound of a Rhett Gardner shot as he was falling to the ice. North Dakota’s scoreless drought went 108:49.

However, North Dakota couldn’t build any momentum off that goal, as Ryan Poehling gave St. Cloud the two-goal lead again, scoring just 28 seconds after Poolman did. Robby Jackson got a pass from Patrick Newell on a three-on-two and fired a shot from the left side of the slot, and Poehling tipped it past Hrynkiw.

St. Cloud goalie Jeff Smith made 28 saves in the win.

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