Final Night: What’s at Stake

Posted by: Avash Kalra

The final night of the inaugural NCHC regular season kicks off in just a few hours. Here’s a look at what’s on the line:

Regular Season Championship

The first-ever winner of the Penrose Cup will be determined tonight, and North Dakota controls its own destiny. UND and St. Cloud both won Friday night — UND shutting out Western Michigan 2-0 and St. Cloud overcoming Colorado College 7-4 — and as a result, the two teams remain tied atop the NCHC standings with 45 points. Nebraska-Omaha sits in third place with 39.

Either way, North Dakota and St. Cloud will host quarterfinal series when the playoffs kick off next week. The team that finishes in first place will host last-place Miami, and the No. 2 seed will host Colorado College — thereby setting up a potential St. Cloud/CC rematch if both North Dakota and St. Cloud win tonight. If the night ends with North Dakota and St. Cloud both still tied atop the standings, UND will earn the No. 1 seed by virtue of one more conference win than St. Cloud — despite the fact that St. Cloud won three of four games against UND this season. Head-to-head results are the second tiebreaker in the NCHC, as they are in the new Big 10. Head-to-head results form the first tiebreaker, in contrast, in the ECAC, WCHA, and Hockey East.

Friday’s results were very typical of North Dakota and St. Cloud’s style of wins this year — timely goals and strong goaltending (Zane Gothberg) for UND, compared to prolific offensive output (on Friday, led by a hat trick from sophomore Jonny Brodzinski and a five-point night from Joey Benik) that tends to overcome occasional defensive lapses for the Huskies. That said, goaltender Ryan Faragher showed character on Friday for St. Cloud after allowing three consecutive CC goals in the second period; prior to that,  St. Cloud had gone ahead 4-1, but Faragher made several key saves in the late second period and early third period while his teammates put the Huskies ahead for good.

Home Ice

The top four teams in the standings will host the bottom four next week, and heading into tonight, Denver and Minnesota-Duluth are still in contention for the final home ice spot in the upcoming playoffs. The Pioneers and Bulldogs both won on Friday — Denver winning 5-2 against Miami and UMD trouncing Nebraska-Omaha 8-2 — and as a result, Denver (35) still trails Duluth (37) by two points. Denver needs a win and a loss or shootout loss by Minnesota Duluth to clinch home ice for the quarterfinals. Omaha currently sits in third place with 39 points but could fall to fourth depending on tonight’s results.

Western Michigan, with its loss to North Dakota on Friday night, was eliminated from home-ice contention and will finish the regular season in either fifth or sixth place — guaranteeing that last Saturday’s 3-1 win against Denver was the Broncos’ final home game of the season.

Scoring Titles

Point Scoring:                                               GP     PPG    G- A- P
  1   Josh Archibald           Nebraska Omaha     JR F       23    1.30   20-10-30
  2   Chase Balisy             Western Michigan   SR F       23    1.17   12-15-27
  3   Jonny Brodzinski         St. Cloud State    SO F       23    1.09   12-13-25
      Kalle Kossila            St. Cloud State    SO F       23    1.09    9-16-25
      Jake Guentzel            Nebraska Omaha     FR F       23    1.09    5-20-25

Josh Archibald will likely win the NCHC point-scoring title. Heading into tonight, Archibald’s 30 points are three more than Western Michigan’s Chase Balisy’s 27. The junior forward for UNO will certainly finish the season as the conference’s top goal-scorer. His 20 goals pace the league by a wide margin. Balisy along with St. Cloud teammates Nic Dowd and Jonny Brodzinski are tied for second-place with 12 goals.

Omaha’s rookie sensation Jake Guentzel will finish the regular season with the most points among freshmen (25 points heading into tonight), while UMD’s Kyle Osterberg’s 10 goals will lead all rookies.

A look at some other “titles” that are in play heading into tonight:

Defenseman Scoring:                                          GP     PPG    G- A- P
  1   Dillon Simpson           North Dakota       SR D       23    0.83    6-13-19
  2   Jaccob Slavin            Colorado College   FR D       19    0.95    5-13-18
Goals Against Average:                                 Minutes    GA     GAA
  1   Zane Gothberg            North Dakota       SO    898:02    34    2.27
  2   Ryan Massa               Nebraska Omaha     JR    786:16    30    2.29
  3   Sam Brittain             Denver             SR   1274:07    49    2.31
 

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