Today we’ll jump right into how the USCHO top 20 did, including an offensive explosion in Happy Valley and a couple of losses that caused a shake up in the top 5 (more on that tomorrow).
Starting with then-No. 8 Penn State, something tells me the Nittany Lions were not too happy about that 4-3 overtime loss to Arizona State a couple of weekends ago. Not only did Guy Gadowsky’s squad put up 18 goals in two games versus Robert Morris, but PSU set just about every program record in an 11-6 win Saturday night over the Colonials.
Oh, and the Nittany Lions now have three players (Nikita Pavlychev, Alex Limoges and Evan Barratt) ranked second, third and fourth in total points in the NCAA. I guess that’s what an 18-goal weekend will do for your statistics.
Moving on to my predictions, I went two for three this week, with my lone miss coming in the Border Battle between Minnesota and Wisconsin. I was right about Bob Motzko getting his first conference win with the Gophers, but the Badgers were able to salvage a split in Madison, defeating Minnesota 3-1 thanks to a two-goal final period. Wisconsin will look to find its way back into the rankings this weekend when it travels to Columbus for a two-game set against Ohio State, while the Gophers host St. Lawrence for a pair of non-conference contests at Mariucci.
Getting to the predictions I correctly made, I’ll begin with St. Cloud State, which successfully defended home ice in a sweep over Denver. Both games were decided by a goal, as the Huskies secured a pair of 4-3 wins over the Pioneers, who began a very difficult stretch of games in disappointment. In the first game, the Huskies stormed back from 3-1 down with a three consecutive goals in the second period to secure a lead they would not give up. The story was much of the same in game two, as Denver built a 2-0 lead but allowed SCSU to score three straight for the second night in a row. The only difference was the Pioneers were able to knot the game at three, but a goal from sophomore Kevin Fitzgerald in the third period put the Huskies ahead for good. The lone individual bright spot for Denver was the play of Cole Guttman, who accounted for half of the Pioneers’ goals. Up next for Denver: A weekend matinee with No. 1 Minnesota Duluth….
The second series I nailed was between Big Ten rivals Notre Dame and Michigan, who battled in a rematch of last year’s Frozen Four semifinal. I called for a split, and that’s exactly what happened, with the Wolverines kicking off the weekend successfully in a 2-1 triumph over the Irish before falling 6-2 the next night. Michigan’s ‘SNL’ line of Jake Slaker, Josh Norris and Will Lockwood combined for two points in Friday night’s victory, as Slaker tallied his fifth goal of the season on the power play on an assist from Lockwood. The Wolverines’ game winner also came on the man advantage, courtesy of Nick Pastujov, who found the back of the net at the 7:35 mark of the final period. The loss must’ve awoken Notre Dame’s offense in the series finale, as the Irish used a four-goal second stanza and six consecutive goals after falling behind 1-0 to build an insurmountable lead over Michigan. Freshman Alex Steeves led the Notre Dame offense with two goals and an assist, and was one of ten players to collect a point in the win.
Other Notable Results:
- UMass finishes sweep of Providence – After successfully defending home ice last Thursday versus the Friars, the Minutemen went to Schneider Arena and completed the sweep over Providence thanks to another late game winner. Freshman Anthony Del Gaizo found the back of the net for the UMass with 1:49 remaining in the game to knock off the Friars while goaltender Matt Murray became the first Minuteman to start 6-0 between the pipes in program history.
- ASU sweeps Michigan State – Perhaps one of the better stories in college hockey this season, the Sun Devils swept the Spartans to move to 9-3 this season, and have the nation’s top scorer in forward Johnny Walker. With its latest victories, ASU cracked the top 20 for the first time ever, and now the pressure ramps up as they will aim to stay in the polls for good.
- North Dakota, Miami split – In another showdown between ranked opponents, the Fighting Hawks and RedHawks split in Ohio, with UND stealing game one 3-1 before falling the next night to Miami 3-2.
- Princeton heating up – After a season-opening loss to Penn State, the Tigers haven’t looked back and are now 3-1-1 after two wins this past weekend over Union and Rensselaer. Senior Ryan Kuffner has spearheaded the Princeton offense with 12 points, scoring seven goals and assisting on five.