This weekend at the NCHC Frozen Faceoff might have been a possible Frozen Four preview if St. Cloud didn’t get shipped off to Fargo with North Dakota and Denver to Providence with Miami. However, the fact that we could possibly see rematches from games this weekend in two regional finals next weekend could make things interesting when it comes to the Frozen Four in two weeks.
Denver head coach Jim Montgomery said after being asked which league he liked better, the old WCHA or the NCHC, that there are “no nights off in the NCHC.” North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol would also say the same thing. Both coaches noted the quality of the conference after their Saturday third place contest and say it is big in helping prepare for the NCAA tournament.
Montgomery also would joke when asked about the conferences that, “Both Blasi and Hakstol are younger than I am and have a combined 12 Frozen Fours.”
Blake Coleman Dominant
The championship game on Saturday night could have been called the Blake Coleman show. The Senior would put on an offensive display that the fans in attendance would go away and remember. In Miami’s 3-2 victory over St. Cloud State, Coleman would score all three goals in the game and would later be named to the All-Tournament Team and Tournament MVP. Maybe the most impressive stat for Coleman would be his 14-2 faceoff record on the evening. When you’re winning faceoffs like that, you will always give your team a chance to win and score goals.
Although he was dominant in all aspects on the ice Saturday night, Coleman would also get a five-minute major for contact to the head and his third game misconduct penalty on the weekend. NCAA rules state that if you get three game misconducts in one season, it is an automatic one game suspension for that player. For Coleman, it couldn’t have came at a worse time. He will be forced to sit out the first game of the NCAA tournament. With the status of Riley Barber now being unknown for their opening game against Providence, the loss of Coleman puts a lot of weight on the shoulders of senior captain Austin Cznarik.
Czarnik jokingly said that he will have to step up with Coleman’s absence, but then added the good captain and team response that anyone that comes in to fill his shoes will have to step up as well.
St. Cloud Makes NCAA’s
Even with their loss on Saturday in the championship game, St. Cloud State found out on Sunday that their win against North Dakota Friday night was enough to indeed make the NCAA tournament this season as the sixth NCHC team to do so. I have been saying it all season long that their record does not show the strength of this team. Just look at their non-conference schedule, which includes victories over defending champion Union and Minnesota.
If it wasn’t for the outstanding play from Miami goaltender Jay Williams, St. Cloud could have very well been the Frozen Faceoff champions on Saturday night. However, in the absence of center Kalle Kossila, the Huskies were lacking in the faceoff department this weekend. The Huskies were 32-41 in faceoffs (43%) and will need to be better next weekend if they are looking to get out of Fargo.
Senior defenseman Tim Daily was also lost to injury during Saturday night’s contest after taking a hard hit into the boards. He would skate off the ice under his own power, but Head Coach Bob Motzko would give no comments on the extent of Daily’s injury and his availability for next weekend.
North Dakota Non-Existent
After a Friday game with no puck luck and terrible ice conditions to the point the puck could never settle down, North Dakota was looking to rebound in the Saturday third place game against Denver, but did everything but that. North Dakota would score first once again when “Mr. March,” Connor Gaarder, would score the contests opening goal but would surrender the next two to go into the first intermission down 2-1 once again.
After that, the game was all Denver. You could see the frustrations mount in UND goaltender Zane McIntyre and at the first TV timeout of the second period, you could hear McIntyre scream at his teammates on the bench from the press box to try and give them some motivation. However, this was unsuccessful. UND would allow Denver to put five goals in the net and it looked as if the North Dakota roster had already packed it in after Denver made it 3-1.
Gaarder does think that UND has a very mature locker room and they will be ready for next weekend. However, when you have 15 players at a -1 rating or worse, and a 40% win rate on faceoffs, something needs to change, and fast, or they will find themselves not making it to Boston in two weeks.
During the selection show yesterday, Dave Starman had a quote that sticks out in my mind. “Scouts are taught to throw out a teams two worst games or a player’s worst two games in their season. For North Dakota, that was their games last weekend.” Whether having their worst two games leading into the NCAA tournament is a good thing or not, this UND team needs to step it up and play North Dakota Hockey if they want to get out of their regional.