First some will say, “Of course, you have UND in first again.” With their play on the ice, I think UND has earned the top spot in the NCHC. At least for another week. UND is ranked second in the Pairwise Rankings and they have one of the top records in the nation. Also, UND took 7-of-12 points in their season series against current first place team in the NCHC.
This weekend, UND is off.
2. Nebraska-Omaha (16-7-3, 10-5-1-1NCHC) Pairwise Ranking: T-3 Last 10: 6-3-1
This past weekend, the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks split (3-2 W, 3-4 L O.T.) their weekend series with UND.
The series was a goaltending battle between two former Fargo Force goalies. This time around, Ryan Massa was the better of the two goalies. Massa’s play was the difference in Friday’s series opener. Saturday, Massa keep his team in the game when UND was pressing. Massa stopped 38-of-42 shots in a losing effort on Sunday.
6. Western Michigan (11-10-4, 4-7-4-3NCHC) Pairwise Ranking: T-22 Last 10: 5-2-3
This past weekend, Western Michigan tied (3-3) Miami University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The Broncos lost in the shootout.
This weekend, the Broncos, and the RedHawks travel to Chicago to play in the Hockey City Classic at Soldier Field.
After starting out the season slowly, the Bronco are playing better hockey and have gone 8-2-3 since the Thanksgiving weekend. The Broncos went 5-1-0 in non-conference play. During that same time frame, the Broncos have 3-1-3 in conference play.
7. St. Cloud State (12-13-1, 7-8-1-0 NCHC) Pairwise Ranking: 25 Last 10: 6-4-0.
The Huskies continue their rendition of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. After losing three-of-four games, the Huskies swept (7-1 W, 6-1W) the Colorado College Tigers in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
This weekend, the Huskies are off.
8. Colorado College (5-18-1, 1-13-1-0 NCHC) Pairwise Ranking: 47 Last 10: 2-8-0
This past weekend, the Colorado College Tigers were swept (1-7 L, 1-6 L) at home. Neither game was close. The Tigers continue to play bad hockey and
This weekend, the Tigers entertain the Denver Pioneers in a single game.
1. North Dakota (19-6-2, 10-5-1-0 NCHC) Pairwise Ranking: 2
North Dakota outplayed Nebraska-Omaha for significant chunks of the series this past weekend, but may count themselves lucky to escape Omaha with a split. Brendan O’Donnell’s overtime goal allowed the Sioux to earn 3 points, and win the season series with Omaha winning 7 of the 12 points. As a result, I have North Dakota just edging Omaha for the #1 spot in my rankings this week. The Sioux are off this weekend, and will use the time to gear up for the final stretch, which starts with a home series against Denver in two weeks.
The Mavericks played an epic series with North Dakota this past weekend, earning an overtime victory just moments before a shootout would have taken place on Friday. While Omaha fell just short on Saturday, the Mavs and their faithful should take pride in how UNO played against a very strong North Dakota squad. Omaha will have the week off this week, and they hold a 1-point edge in the race for the Penrose Cup. The Mavs will get back in action in two weeks when they square off against Western Michigan at home.
The RedHawks took on Western Michigan on Saturday and the former CCHA squads skated to a 3-3 draw, but Miami earned the extra point with the shootout win. The two sides will square off again this Saturday in Chicago in an outdoor matchup. Miami is in what looks like a dogfight for home ice this season, so they will need any and all points they can get against a Western Michigan squad that looks like they can beat anyone in the country at the moment.
Duluth traveled to Denver to take on the Pioneers last weekend. On Friday, the Dogs fell just short, falling 3-2 to the Pioneers. Coach Sandelin’s squad returned the favor on Saturday, and UMD earned a series split with a strong effort, winning 4-2. The split should restore some confidence that the Bulldogs may have lost after going 1-4-1 in their previous six. Minnesota Duluth takes on Northern Michigan in non-conference action this weekend up in Duluth.
Denver hosted Minnesota Duluth in a key series that will go a long way towards settling who will get home ice in the NCHC Tournament this season. While DU took the Friday contest, they fell just short on Saturday. The split helped Denver’s odds of making the NCAA Tournament, as they now sit at #9 in the Pairwise rankings. Unfortunately for the Pioneers, they still sit in the bottom half of the conference rankings. They will look to add 3 points this weekend, as they take on in-state rival Colorado College on Friday in NCHC action.
6. Western Michigan (11-10-4, 4-7-4-3NCHC) Pairwise Ranking: T-22
Western Michigan continues to show that they are capable of playing with anyone in the country as the Broncos skated to a 3-3 draw with Miami on Saturday. Perhaps no team showcases just how strong the NCHC is this season like Western. They currently rank 7th in the NCHC standings, but they are playing like a top-15 team in the country. Western Michigan plays Miami on Saturday, but that just begins an extremely difficult stretch that sees Western take on Nebraska Omaha, North Dakota, and Minnesota Duluth in six of their final eight games.
7. St. Cloud State (12-13-1, 7-8-1-0 NCHC) Pairwise Ranking: 25
Take out the Huskies third period two weekends ago against Western, and St. Cloud has outscored the opposition 22-2 over their past four games. That includes a dominating sweep this weekend against Colorado College, where the Huskies won 7-1 on Friday and 6-1 on Saturday. St. Cloud State is a dangerous team heading into the stretch run. I don’t think anyone would be too surprised if the Huskies went on a streak and won the NCHC tournament. That being said, I currently have them ranked second from the bottom in the conference, showcasing the NCHC’s tremendous depth this season.
8. Colorado College (5-18-1, 1-13-1-0 NCHC) Pairwise Ranking: 47
If the Tigers played in any other conference, they might be able to put up a respectable record. However, when they have to face off against legitimate NCAA Tournament competition week in and week out in the conference, it should be no surprise that this young Tiger squad has only 1 win in NCHC play. Colorado College will look to add to that total on Friday when they host in-state rival Denver. The Pioneers won the first contest back in November 8-1, so the Tigers should have plenty of motivation to try and turn that score around.
On top of the power rankings, we have a tie this week with North Dakota and Omaha.
1. North Dakota 19-6-2 USCHO 2 pairwise 2
UND put on a great hockey display in a very tough road battle this weekend in Omaha. With both games going to overtime, UND will take the final off weekend to recover into the final four series of the season.
1. Omaha 16-7-3 USCHO 4 pairwise 4
Again, put on a tough series at home against North Dakota, salvaging a split after a Friday overtime victory. Also on a bye weekend, they host Western Michigan before ending the season on the road.
3. UMD 15-10-1 USCHO 7 Pairwise 5
Also getting a split on the road at Denver, Duluth finds themselves just four points off of the top spot in the NCHC. The stretch should be fun to watch as the Dogs also close on the road at Western Michigan.
4. Miami 15-9-1 USCHO T8 Pairwise 8
The only team in the top half of the conference who didn’t split as they took one to the shootout against Western this weekend. With the final weekend of their season at home, all be it against North Dakota, just being 6 points back of first is a nice place to sit right now, but playoffs start now if they want a shot at the Penrose Cup the final weekend.
5. Denver 15-9-1 USCHO 9 Pairwise 9
Again gaining a split at home against UMD, Denver sits 8 points back of first in the NCHC, but just two points back of a home ice first round in the NCHC playoffs. Ending their season in St. Cloud is no easy task. Hopefully for Denver, they can at least get a sweep in their home and home with CC in the coming weeks to keep their pairwise rankings up.
6. St. Cloud 12-13-1 USCHO N/R Pairwise 25
Well, still the most dangerous under 500 team, the Huskies dominated CC on the road this weekend, out-scoring them 13-2 in two games. It will be interesting to see if they sneak their way to the Frozen Face Off a month from now.
7. Western Michigan 11-10-4 USCHO N/R Pairwise T21
Only earning one point against Miami this weekend, the Broncos look to regroup and make another run to Minneapolis in March. Will they see a return trip? Probably not, but everyone thought that last season too.
8. Colorado College 5-18-1 USCHO N/R Pairwise 47
The only team in the NCHC without 10 wins, this season had been disappointing to the Tigers. Giving up 6+ goals in multiple games this season, CC is just looking for some kind of positive coming into the end of this tailspin season.