Shutouts, hat-tricks, comebacks and down-to-the-wire finishes – all part of the weekend that was in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
The final push towards the postseason began in full this past week, with all eight teams returning to conference play for the first time since the final weekend in January. The results didn’t shake up the league standings all that much, but they did set the table for what could prove to be a memorable finish to the NCHC’s seventh season.
Let’s start with the upset in St. Cloud, as the Huskies ran their unbeaten streak to six games with a 3-3 tie and a 2-1 win over then-top ranked North Dakota. Jack Poehling scored the tying goal on Friday and got the game winner on Saturday, part of a three-goal, four-point weekend for the senior forward, while David Hrenak totaled 63 saves against the top-offensive team in country and stopped Jordan Kawaguchi to win the shootout in Game 1. Not a bad way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice in the building named after the man who engineered it.
Lawson Arena – and those watching on CBS Sports Network – witnessed a great comeback on Friday night, as Western Michigan rallied from a 3-2 3rd period deficit with three goals in under two minutes to pull out the victory over Minnesota Duluth. Game 2, however, went the way of the road team, as the Bulldogs’ Justin Richards scored short-handed 35 seconds into the contest in an eventual 2-1 UMD win. The result snapped a seven-game home winning streak for the Broncos and doubled as the fifth win in the last six games for the two-time defending national champs.
On an individual note, congrats are in order for UMD defenseman Scott Perunivich, who earned his 100th career point with a goal and an assist on the weekend, becoming the first active junior in the conference and the first junior D-man in the country to hit that milestone.
Baxter Arena was home to a split this weekend as well. Omaha’s Isaiah Saville, the reigning NCHC Freshman of the Week, notched his first career shutout in a 5-0 win on Friday that saw the Mavs score four times in the final frame. Saturday was a different story, as the Tigers came back from 2-1 down in the 2nd to earn a 3-2 win on a game-winning goal from Zach Berzolla. The victory moves CC one point ahead of Miami into 7th the league standings.
The only sweep in the conference came in the Mile High City, as Denver ended a four-game losing skid in emphatic fashion, besting Miami by a combined score of 14-3 to complete the season sweep of the Redhawks. Tyler Ward had a 1st period hat trick on Friday, Devin Cooley recorded a 22-save shutout on Saturday – his second of the season and the sixth of his career – and Cole Guttman piled up six points over the weekend to earn the league’s offensive player of the week.
DU’s sweep combined with the weekend split in Kalamazoo has moved the Pios within one point of Western for third place in the standings, while Duluth is now six points back of North Dakota at the top. The Bulldogs joined UND in clinching home ice for the NCHC Quarterfinals this weekend, though the other two top-four spots are still up for grabs, as St. Cloud State is still within touching distance of fourth place, plus they’ll get a chance to make up the gap on the team directly ahead of them this weekend, as the Huskies will put their six-game unbeaten streak on the line against Denver at the Brooks Center. Elsewhere, UND could clinch the Penrose this weekend with a sweep against Western or with a little help from Colorado College, but results won’t come easy against a Bronco squad that’s won 9 of their last 12. Duluth heads to Colorado Springs to face a Tiger team that’s 3-1-1 in their last five, while Miami will try to snap an eleven-game winless streak at home against Omaha.
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