Welcome to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Power Rankings. Three of us will be doing the weekly NCHC Power Rankings during the 2014-15 season.
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Without further adieu, here’s this week’s power rankings.
1. North Dakota
North Dakota swept St. Cloud State at home this weekend. The Sioux looked impressive in nearly all facets of the game this weekend and clinched at least a share of the Penrose Cup. UND will look to clinch the #1 seed in the conference by earning at least 1 point this weekend in Oxford as the Sioux take on Miami.
Miami traveled to the Mile High City and walked away with a split against a strong Denver squad. The RedHawks have all the tools necessary to make a run in the NCHC Tournament, as well as the NCAA Tournament. Miami will face its toughest competition of the season this weekend though, as North Dakota makes the trek out to Ohio to take on the RedHawks. With a sweep, the RedHawks would clinch a share of the Penrose Cup and the #1 seed in the NCHC Tournament.
The Bulldogs managed a pair of draws against Nebraska-Omaha this weekend, but while Duluth still maintains a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, they would be on the road for the First Round of the NCHC Tournament if the season ended today. Six crucial points will be at stake this upcoming weekend as UMD travels to Kalamazoo to take on the Western Michigan Broncos.
The UNO Mavericks treated the crowd at AMSoil arena to a pair of 1-1 draws this weekend. While they were not the pair of wins that Dean Blais’ squad was hoping for, two draws against a top quality opponent on the road are a big upgrade after the Mavs got swept in St. Cloud the weekend before. Omaha will look to earn even more points this weekend as they take on Colorado College.
The Pioneers got outworked on Friday, falling to Miami 5-3. Fortunately for the DU faithful, the Pioneers crushed the RedHawks on Saturday, jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the first period before holding on for a 6-2 victory. Denver is in the mix for home ice in the NCHC Tournament, but they will likely need a decent showing on the road in St. Cloud this weekend.
6. St. Cloud State
The Huskies have a dominant power play, using it effectively three times this weekend against North Dakota. Unfortunately for SCSU, they weren’t able to score without the extra attacker, resulting in getting swept by the top ranked Sioux. St. Cloud will have another opportunity to improve their record this upcoming weekend against Denver.
7. Western Michigan
Western Michigan traveled to Colorado College this past weekend, but after a draw on Friday, the Broncos found themselves on the wrong end of a 5-0 shutout on Saturday. Western is a strong squad that is capable of knocking off any team in the conference. They’ll look to get back in the win column this weekend as they host Minnesota-Duluth.
8. Colorado College
The Tigers had their best conference weekend of the season, earning 4 points with a draw and a win against Western Michigan. That doubled the Tigers point totals on the season. While Colorado College is assured of finishing in last place in the NCHC this season, this past weekend should be a positive sign that things may be turning around. The Tigers travel to Omaha this weekend to take on the Mavericks.
1. North Dakota 24-6-3 USCHO 1 Pairwise 1
Yet another sweep at home, this time on senior weekend, the University of North Dakota men’s hockey team battled hard to earn their six points against a very tough St. Cloud State Huskies roster who’s power play didn’t fail to disappoint. One thing of concern from the weekend is Senior Mark MacMillan would go down with some kind of leg injury after blocking a shot on a SCSU power play. Early reports look as if MacMillan’s NCAA career may be over, but head coach Dave Hakstol would provide no further comments on the extent of the injury.
Senior Nick Mattson has been one of UND’s top players since late January, and his three points on the weekend would earn him NCHC defenseman of the week honors for the first time this season. The Chanhassen, Minnesota native has three goals and 13 assists for 16 points this season, with 12 of those coming in the second half of the season. Mattson is currently on a three-game point streak and has been a big part of UND’s success this season.
The Connor Gaarder, Brendan O’Donnell, Austin Poganski line has also been impressive the past few weeks as well. With a combined seven points last weekend against St. Cloud, including a four-point performance Saturday, which includes the games opening, and game-winning goals, has this UND “third line” exceeding expectations of many and making it easier for this team to stay on top of the standings.
This weekend North Dakota travels to Oxford to battle with second place Miami in one last regular season series where if UND gains just one point, they will get the number one seed and sole possession of the Penrose Cup. I see a split this weekend with one game going into overtime.
2. Miami 20-11-1 USCHO 5 Pairwise 4
Splits in the last two series for the Miami RedHawks have costed them a chance to solely possess the Penrose Cup. Needing six points for a share and the number one seed in the NCHC playoffs, Miami will have their word cut out for them if they are able to pull off the task that no team has been able to do this season, sweep North Dakota.
Austin Czarnik leads the team with 32 points, but Riley Barber is just behind at 31, so if it is going to happen, the magic between these two needs to be full speed this weekend. More than likely Miami will find themselves hosting Western Michigan next weekend in their best of three series, sending Colorado College up to Grand Forks to play UND.
3. Denver 19-11-2 USCHO 7 Pairwise 8
Sitting eighth in the Pairwise right now is a pretty comfortable spot to be for the Pioneers, but if Denver was somehow to lose out and not make the Frozen Faceoff, there is that off chance where they could fall outside of the top 15 (note: no Atlantic Hockey Conference team is in the top 16 in the Pairwise and the conference champion gets an auto bid as the 16 seed.) leaving them sitting at home. Again, I can’t see this happening. Denver has a strong core of upperclassmen who are helping them lead the way to success this season.
As the defending NCHC Frozen Faceoff champions, the short term goal for Denver is to get back into this tournament and defend their championship last season. In their way, the fight to remain in the top four for home ice in the first round of the playoffs, and a very upset St. Cloud State team who didn’t quite get the job done last weekend in Grand Forks. Being on the road in St. Cloud this weekend may create a minor speed bump for Denver this weekend as it did for Omaha two weeks ago.
I see a split coming in St. Cloud this weekend for Denver, but they better hope that UMD does the same thing seeing as they are only two points up on them for that final home ice spot.
3. Nebraska-Omaha 17-10-5 USCHO 8 Pairwise 5
After getting swept in St. Cloud two weeks ago, and now only being able to get two ties (shootout victories) this weekend, the once powerhouse of the NCHC going neck and neck with North Dakota, is now in third place just three points ahead of not having home ice next weekend for the first round of the playoffs.
Sophomore Austin Ortega leads the NCAA in game winning goals with a record tying 10 of them. His 17 goals and 31 points lead this UNO team and will have to continue to do that to keep inside the top four for home ice. However, one thing to their advantage this weekend is Colorado College invades Century Link Center and I can’t see anything but a sweep going UNO’s way.
5. Duluth 19-12-3 USCHO 6 Pairwise 3
Duluth might be in fifth place in the NCHC right now, but if Alex Iafallo and Austin Farley have anything to say about that this final weekend of regular season play, UNO or Denver could be the odd man out for home ice this weekend. Just two points back of that final spot, Duluth needs all six points this weekend against Western Michigan and they will clinch home ice for the first round of the playoffs next weekend.
With their final series on the road in Kalamazoo, the Bulldogs will have to bring their A game if they wish to get that road sweep. We all saw what kind of fight the Broncos gave to UND two weeks ago when the two battled in two very hard fought contests. I see Western Michigan stealing one of the games this weekend and probably wrecking the hopes of home ice for UMD.
6. St. Cloud State 15-16-1 USCHO N/R Pairwise 17
Well, St. Cloud was above the 500 mark until they rolled into Grand Forks last weekend. However, that could change once again as they close out the regular season at home against a scrappy Denver Pioneers team. Essentially the Huskies will probably have to win out and win the Frozen Faceoff to get back into the NCAA tournament this season. The defending Penrose Cup holders will have to pass the torch this weekend and will most likely do that knowing they will be on the road to start the playoffs next weekend.
Johnny Brodzinski (Ham Lake, Minnesota) leads the NCAA in power play goals this season with 10, and his power play unit is the top power play unit in all of NCAA division one hockey. At 23.7%, St. Cloud’s power play is fifth in the country only behind Minnesota, BU, Michigan, and Mankato. If the Huskies are going to have late season, and playoff success, they need to lean on their power play and capitalize on every opportunity that they earn.
7. Western Michigan 12-15-5 USCHO N/R Pairwise 27
As the calendar changed to 2015, Western Michigan found themselves clawing their ways up the standings, but have recently hit a road block. Their last victory was six games ago against UNO and because of that have locked themselves into the seventh position and likely will have a date in Oxford next weekend for their best of three series.
For this weekend, it is time to honor their seniors in their final home series of this season and possibly play spoilers to a Duluth club that is trying to claw their way into home ice in the first round.
8. Colorado College 6-23-2 USCHO N/R Pairwise 49
Probably the highest point of the season for the seniors on this Tigers team was that they were able to win on their senior night and last time they will ever play in front of their home fans. With just two wins inside of the NCHC this season, and six overall, this season can’t end soon enough for the Tigers.
For now they have one final series at Century Link Center in Omaha, then likely travel to Grand Forks next weekend for their best of three series in a rematch of last years first round of the NCHC playoffs which ended in two games.
1. North Dakota 24-6-3 USCHO 1 Pairwise 1 Last 10: 8-1-1
This past weekend, the University of North Dakota hockey team swept (3-2 W, 3-1 W) the St. Cloud State Huskies. The win came with a cost as senior forward Mark MacMillan suffered a lower body injury and had surgery on Wednesday. MacMillan is out indefinitely and there’s a good possibly that he’s done for the year. UND has not ruled out a return, though.
This weekend, UND travels to Oxford, Ohio, to take on the Miami University RedHawks in the regular season finale. UND needs a single point to secure the Penrose Cup outright.
Sidebar note: All season long, we’ve heard how UND isn’t as good as their record. That being said, UND has at least a share of the regular-season title in one of the best college hockey conferences in the country.
2. Miami 20-11-1 USCHO 5 Pairwise 4 Last 10: 6-3-1
This past weekend, the Miami University RedHawks split (5-3 W, 2-6 L) their weekend series with the Denver University Pioneers.
This weekend, the RedHawks entertain UND in an important two-game series. If Miami can sweep, they will tie with UND for the top spot in the NCHC standings. I can’t think of a better way to end the regular season, UND vs. Miami.
3. Denver 19-11-2 USCHO 7 Pairwise 8 Last 10: 5-4-1
This past weekend, the Denver University Pioneers split (3-5 W, 6-2 W) their weekend series with the Miami RedHawks.
This weekend, the Pioneers travel to St. Cloud to take on the Huskies at the National Hockey Center. The Pioneers swept the Huskies at home earlier in the season.
3. Duluth 19-12-3 USCHO 6 Pairwise 3 Last 10: 5-3-2
This past weekend, The University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs and the University of Nebraska-Omaha played to a pair of 1-1 ties. True to form, the Mavericks won both shootouts and are now 3-0 in the shootout this season.
The good news for the Bulldogs is that the games will officially count as a tie in the Pairwise Rankings.
This weekend, the Bulldogs travel to Kalamazoo, Michigan, to take on the Western Michigan Broncos in the season finale. The Bulldogs tied and lost the Broncos earlier in the season.
5. Nebraska-Omaha 17-10-5 USCHO 8 Pairwise 5 Last 10: 3-5-2
This past weekend, University of Nebraska-Omaha and the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs played to a pair of 1-1 ties. The Mavericks secured the extra point both nights by winning in the shootout.
This season, the Mavericks are 3-0 in the shootout.
This weekend, the Mavericks entertain the Colorado College Tigers at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska.
Ironically, the Mavericks were the first team to lose to the Tigers earlier in the season. After coming out of the gates fast, the Mavericks have kind of tailed off a bit. Currently, the Mavericks are ranked fifth in the Pairwise Rankings, but with a couple of bad losses would drop quickly in the Pairwise Rankings.
6. St. Cloud State 15-16-1 USCHO N/R Pairwise 17 Last 10: 6-4-0
This past weekend, the Huskies were swept (2-3 L, 1-3 L) by North Dakota on the road.
This weekend, the Huskies entertain the Denver Pioneers. The Huskies are in dire need of wins. A couple of wins for the Huskies would put them back in the running for an at-large NCAA bid.
A sweep for the Huskies could give them the momentum going into the NCHC playoffs. Being swept by the Pioneers, would probably torpedo their NCAA tournament hopes.
7. Western Michigan 12-15-5 USCHO N/R Pairwise 27 Last 10: 2-6-2
This past weekend, the Western Michigan Bronco tied and lost (2-2 T, 0-5 L) to the Colorado College Tigers. The Broncos won the shootout on Friday night to secure the extra point.
This weekend, the Bronco’s look to right the ship after experiencing a tough February that saw the Broncos go 1-5-1.
This weekend, the Bronco entertain Minnesota-Duluth. The Broncos beat and tied the Bulldogs earlier in the season.
8. Colorado College 6-23-2 USCHO N/R Pairwise 49 Last 10: 1-8-1
This past weekend, the Colorado College Tigers took four-of-six points from the Western Michigan Broncos. The Broncos won the shootout on Friday night. The Tigers got their second conference win of the season on Saturday night to get their first series win of the year.
This weekend, the Tigers Travel to Omaha, Nebraska, to take on the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks in the season finale. The Mavericks had the dubious honor of being the first team to lose to the Tigers.