Before we go any further, obviously Minnesota and North Dakota will play next season and there’s potential for postseason meetings between now and the split-up of the WCHA in 2013, but college hockey’s best rivalry is taking a huge turn after next season.
Template set for beating Minnesota-Duluth
It was attempted 17 consecutive times by nine teams and all 17 efforts were met with failure. We’re speaking, of course, of Minnesota-Duluth’s 17-game unbeaten streak (14-0-3) which met its end on Saturday night at the hands of Nebraska-Omaha by a final score of 3-1.
To give you some perspective, UMD’s last loss came eight days before Tim Tebow’s first game as Denver’s starting quarterback in 2011.
UMD’s loss to the Mavericks was its first since falling to Minnesota 5-4 on Oct. 15.
Although the scores were unique to each game, enough similarities exist between the two which reveals a relatively simple formula to taking down UMD:
Hot goaltending, opportunistic scoring, and great penalty killing.
UNO freshman goaltender Ryan Massa stopped 43 of 44 UMD shots on Saturday while the Mavericks scored on three of their 15 shots on Kenny Reiter and held the Bulldogs scoreless on five power play opportunities.
Three months ago the Gophers’ Kent Patterson denied the Bulldogs 46 times on 50 attempts as his teammates were 5 for 16 in shooting against Reiter and killed five out of six UMD power plays.
It’s like we said. Simple.
On a series side note, UNO has been utilizing a trio of goaltenders this season in Massa, senior John Faulkner, and freshman Dayn Belfour, although Massa (12 games) and Faulkner (10) have received the bulk of the playing time. Nebraska-Omaha coach Dean Blais told us early last month that he would ride the hot hand down the stretch.
With the season beginning to wind down and with Faulkner not even dressing on Saturday after dropping Friday’s 6-2 decision, it seems plausible Blais would be inclined to turn over the keys to Massa at least for the foreseeable future.
Revitalized Zucker sparks Denver sweep
While we’re still not convinced Jason Zucker should not have been in Denver last weekend, it is hard to argue that the time off didn’t produce an invigorated effort from the Pioneers’ star forward over the weekend. Zucker registered five critical points (2 goals, 3 assists) in DU’s sweep (6-3, 3-2) of Bemidji State at Magness Arena.
“He’s just a great player; he’s one of the best players in the league, and maybe the most explosive player in college hockey,” BSU coachTom Serratore told USCHO’s Candace Horgan after the game. “You have to try to keep those guys in check, or at least only allow them one point or so.”
But not only were the Beavers unable to keep Zucker off the score sheet, he had two helpers on Friday, including the first assist on Drew Shore’s game winner. The following night, Zucker led his team back from a 2-1 third-period deficit as he set up Chris Knowlton’s goal to tie the game 2-2 and scored the winning goal on a power play with 8:10 to play.
Zucker’s Saturday performance was magnified by the absence of Denver’s leading scorer, Drew Shore, who was held of the series finale with a lower body injury suffered on Friday in a game he finished with five points (2-3=5).