Three Things I Think: NCHC Week 3

Posted by: Matt Christians

It was a rough weekend in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.  Overall, NCHC teams went 4-7-1, with only a single sweep on the weekend.  Colorado College was swept in Clarkson, Cornell swept Nebraska Omaha at home, Denver beat Niagara and fell to Canisius, Minnesota Duluth split with Notre Dame, but hey – St. Cloud State swept Colgate, so we’re not complete losers!

UNO has a legitimate goaltending problem.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone by now, but this weekend not only highlighted the issue, but circled, bolded, and enhanced it.  On Friday night, Dean Blais gave freshman Kirk Thompson the nod to head between the pipes against Cornell, and it didn’t go so well.   Saturday night, junior Ryan Massa took to the net, which resulted in a similar, traumatic experience.  Thompson gave up 5 goals on 20 shots, while Massa let 4 goals slide by on 13 shots.  Combined, both goaltenders saw a total of 33 shots, giving up 9 goals.  This is a problem.

It’s hard to win hockey games when your forwards are more concerned about reducing opponent shots, rather than scoring goals.  Hell, I’d probably have a winger linger around the blue line, ready incase of a fast-break.  It’s a frustrating situation, especially when the Mavericks ARE getting shots on net.  They led the series in shots, 71-33!

As of now, UNO stands at 2-4-0, with Thompson starting four games and owning both wins.  Blais has one more goaltending option in Reed Peters, a 6-3 freshman from the MJHL, and to be honest it wouldn’t surprise me to see him play.  UNO has a few things to work on, but averaging 4 goals-against per night isn’t going to fly in this conference.  If they can figure out this problem, there’s a good chance some of the other kinks might just work themselves out.

Miami isn’t that bad!

Yeah so they had a rough weekend, have you seen Providence play the game?  They’re actually pretty damn good!  If I had to pick any series to relive this season, it’d be Miami’s this past weekend.  Does it get any better than overtime college hockey?

The Redhawks have had a rough schedule.  To begin the season, Miami handled Ohio State well, but coming out of a series with North Dakota and Providence with only two losses is a pretty good accomplishment, as both of those teams check-in within the top 6 in each poll this week.  The Redhawks are scoring goals, using their special teams well, and getting decent goaltending – I would advise to look through the 3-2-1 record they post.

Miami hosts Canisius this weekend, which should be interesting.  Canisius is 1-2-0 on the season, earning their first win of the year against Denver this past Saturday, but have fallen to both Niagara (whom Denver beat) and Air Force.  Expect the Golden Griffins to have a difficult time controlling the NCHC point leaders, Austin Czarnik and Riley Barber, and finding holes in Ryan McKay.

So it was an off weekend, should we give up?

It was a rough weekend, but we’re young.  The NCHC is made up of nearly 60% underclassmen (58.1% to be exact).  Within the top 15 scorers, most are underclassmen anyway.  Breaking in younger talent takes time, unless you’re Mike Szmatula of course, so just hold on before pushing the panic button.

Each team has their own issues to figure out as well, as do most teams in other conferences.  For example, Colorado College needs to find some goal scorers and Western Michigan needs to find some goal stoppers.  Minnesota Duluth needs to work on their power play, while Miami could use some help on their penalty kill.  See my point?

Give it time, and we’ll be wishing that the conference was a little easier, I promise.

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