The Bulldogs were impressive in this past weekend in a showdown with top-ranked North Dakota at the Ralph. Minnesota Duluth outplayed North Dakota for most of Friday night, and started out strong on Saturday. While they were unable to secure the sweep, getting a split in Grand Forks is nothing to be upset about. The Bulldogs are an extremely talented team that has the potential to win a lot of hardware this season.
North Dakota ran into a buzz saw on Friday against Minnesota Duluth, losing a hard fought battle 4-1. However, as great teams often do, the Sioux responded strong on Saturday earning a 5-2 victory over the Bulldogs. North Dakota should be in the mix for some conference hardware, but will have their work cut out for them in trying to win the Penrose Cup. The Sioux close out the season with series against Nebraska Omaha, Denver, rising Western and St. Cloud squads, and then Miami.
Perhaps no team has to earn its respect more than Nebraska Omaha. The Mavericks have been strong throughout the entire season, and showed that strength once again this past weekend, sweeping Denver at home. Omaha’s conference fate will likely be determined during a four week stretch from the end of January to the end of February where the Mavs take on North Dakota and Western in Omaha before traveling to St. Cloud and Duluth.
Miami struggled this past weekend, falling in two hard fought contests with a suddenly resurgent St. Cloud squad. However, the RedHawks are still capable of doing damage not only in the NCHC, but at the national tournament as well. Importantly, 7 of Miami’s final 12 contests are at home, where the RedHawks went 8-2 in the first half of the season. Consequently, Miami’s fate will likely be determined by how they fare in their five remaining road contests, four of which will take place at altitude.
5. St. Cloud State
Overall Record: 9-10-1
Conference Record: 4-5-1-0
Pairwise Ranking: 21
The Huskies had their struggles in the first half of the season, but they also played a tremendously difficult schedule. They were granted no favors starting the second half against a tough Miami squad, but St. Cloud managed to grind out two impressive victories. The Huskies have the talent to get back into the picture for an NCAA bid, but they will have to keep their nose to the grindstone as they did this past weekend. A strong result in the Mile High City against DU this weekend would be a great step towards that goal.
The Pioneers had a difficult weekend against a tough Nebraska Omaha squad, as they were swept by the Mavs. With only 9 conference games played, DU still has plenty of time to recover and get back in the mix for the conference title. However, they will have to earn key points in road contests against Miami, North Dakota, and St. Cloud in order to truly get back in the race. Additionally, the Pios will need to take care of business at home, and that starts this weekend against the Huskies of St. Cloud.
The Broncos are perhaps the best testament to arguing that the NCHC is the best conference in college hockey thus far this season. Western is a poor 2-6-2-2 in conference play, while going 7-3 in non-conference action, including victories over Union, Penn State, and Notre Dame (three times). However, if the Broncos want any hope of making the NCAA Tournament they will need to improve in conference play. That will be a difficult task given the talent of this conference, especially considering that they will play 7 of their next 8 on the road against the likes of Duluth, St. Cloud, Miami, and Nebraska Omaha.
I suggested in an earlier ranking that Colorado College would have difficulties reaching 10 conference points. I still believe that is true, but CC has shown improvement since the beginning of the season. Over the winter break, the Tigers played two strong games against Providence before defeating a surprising Connecticut squad on the road. The Tigers play 10 of their final 15 games at home, where they are 3-2-0 this season. If they keep improving, they will be a difficult squad to play there, but avoiding the cellar will be difficult for this squad.
UND came back with a vengeance Saturday night after a lack luster performance on Friday. UND still remains undefeated whenever Brendan O’Donnell scores a goal. O’Donnell recorded a hat trick in Saturdays game to lead UND to the 5-2 victory. Next weekend the green and white invite Niagara up to the Ralph for a non conference showdown. An all important weekend for the pairwise. A sweep is needed for UND to remain towards the top of the standings.
2. Omaha 14-5-3 USCHO:8 Pairwise: 4
In a very well earned sweep of Denver last weekend, Omaha finds themselves on top of the NCHC standings after the first week of play in the second half. However, if they wish to stay there, they need to keep winning with little margin for error between first and fourth in the standings.
3. Minnesota-Duluth 13-7-0 USCHO: 5 Pairwise: 2
The Dogs came to the Ralph this weekend for a showdown with number one UND and were ready to play on Friday night skating away with the victory and being the much better team in the contest. However, Saturday was a different story. The Dogs would take the early 1-0 lead, but that’s the only taste of a lead they would have in the game. The rest of the game was spent in frustration and trying to crawl back into the lead, but were unsuccessful.
4. Miami 14-8-0 USCHO: 9 Pairwise 7
Well, we saw shades of the Miami of last season this weekend in St. Cloud. The Red Hawks were swept and frankly looked average at times. However, this is a team that can come out of nowhere and the NCHC should still be on high alert. It should be interesting to see what the last weekend of the season has to bring when they host UND and if it has any indications on who hoists the trophy.
5. Denver 11-7-1 USCHO: 13 Pairwise: 17
Stuck in the middle all season long, but another talented roster. Although their series with Omaha didn’t turn out like the Pioneers wanted, they should still be there come NCHC playoff time.
6. Western Michigan 9-9-2 USCHO: N/R Pairwise: 25
The only reason they are not higher after a good weekend of hockey against Notre Dame is that it could have been a weekend of good hockey and not a consistent thing to be seen for the rest of the season. That being said, the way the Broncos played this past weekend opened up a lot of eyes and may show what they will have in store for the NCHC the rest of the season.
6. St. Cloud 9-10-1 USCHO: N/R Pairwise: 21
The Huskies looked great in their sweep of Miami, which earns them a tie at number six this week. The Husky team we saw this weekend was the talented and well disciplined one we saw the last two seasons. I’d keep an eye on these guys as they might have a second half like North Dakota has been known to have under Dave Hakstol.
8. Colorado College 4-13-1 USCHO: N/R Pairwise: 43
Well, the cellar is where the CC Tigers find themselves once again this week, and probably will stay there for the remainder of the regular season. This will be one to forget for the Tigers and should hope to make it, and win the Frozen Faceoff if they hope to make the tourney this season. I’d say you’d have a better shot at seeing a screen door on a submarine, but I’ve seen crazier things in college hockey
This past weekend, North Dakota and Minnesota-Duluth faced-off in Grand Forks, ND. The Bulldogs split their weekend series with top-ranked North Dakota (4-1 W, 2-5 L). We saw first hand that the Bulldogs come at you in waves and they’re very good defensively. This weekend, UMD entertains the Western Michigan Broncos in an important two-game conference series.
1. Tie – North Dakota (14-5-2, 7-4-1 NCHC) USCHO: 3 Pairwise: 6
Last weekend, the University of North Dakota split their weekend series with Minnesota-Duluth (1-4 L, 5-2 W). On Friday night, UND failed to cash in on their grad “A” opportunities and they were a step late to loose pucks.
On Saturday night, UND redeemed themselves, and got the series split. This weekend, UND plays a two-game non-conference series with the Niagara Purple Eagles.
This past weekend, the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks swept Denver (5-4 W, 1-0 L) in Omaha, Nebraska. On Friday night, the Mavericks erased a 3-0 Denver lead to win the game 5-4. On Saturday night, the Mavericks shutout Denver 1-0.
This weekend, the Mavericks travel to Colorado Springs, CO, to play the Colorado College to play the lowly Tigers.
4. Miami (14-8-0, 7-5-0 NCHC) USCHO: 9 Pairwise 7
This past weekend, the Miami RedHawks were swept (1-3 L, 2-3 L) by the St. Cloud State Huskies. The RedHawks were outscored 3-6 on the weekend, and led for only 13:57 of Friday’s game. The sweep hurts their chances at a league championship.
This past weekend, the University of Denver was swept by the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (4-5 L, 0-1 L). Over the last five games, Denver is 1-3-1. On Saturday night, Denver was shutout for the first time this season.
This weekend, Denver entertains the red-hot St. Cloud State Huskies.
6. Tie – St. Cloud (9-10-1, 4-5-1 NCHC) USCHO: N/R Pairwise: 21
During the first half of the season, the St. Cloud State Huskies have struggled. Then something changed, during the New Year, the Huskies have gone 3-1-0, and are suddenly breathing new life.
This past weekend, the Huskies swept the Miami University RedHawks (3-1 W, 3-2 W). With the sweep, the Huskies were able to get some sweet revenge for last season’s playoff loss to the last place RedHawks.
This weekend, the Huskies travel to Denver, CO, to play the University of Denver in an important two-game series.
6. Tie – Western Michigan (9-9-2, 2-6-2 NCHC) USCHO: N/R Pairwise: 25
In the last eight games, the Western Michigan Broncos are 6-1-1, (.812). That’s a deceptive stat, because the Broncos have beaten only one team that in the top-16 of the Pairwise rankings.
This past weekend, Western Michigan swept the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-2 W, 4-3 W).
This weekend, the Broncos travel west to play the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. After this weekend, we should have a better idea what kind of a team Western Michigan is after this series.
8. Colorado College (4-13-1, 1-9-0 NCHC) USCHO: N/R Pairwise: 43
There’s no way sugar coating this, the Colorado College Tigers are a bad hockey team. If you don’t believe me check out their numbers. The Tigers are ranked 45th in scoring offense scoring 2.22 goals per game. The Tigers are ranked 58th in defense giving up 4.06 goals per game.
This past weekend, the Tigers traveled east and played three non-conference games against Providence (X2) and Connecticut. The Tigers ended up getting swept by the Providence College Friars (4-5 O.T. L, 3-5 L).
The Tigers beat the University of Connecticut Huskies on Tuesday night 4-1. Four of C.C. wins have come in non-conference play. Last season, C.C. won one non-conference game.
This weekend, the Tigers entertain the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks in a two-game conference series at the World Arena.