In place of traditional weekend previews, check this space on the CHN blog each Saturday for developing mid-weekend NCHC storylines and observations from Friday night games.
Friday’s action saw St. Cloud State (3-1 at Duluth) and Nebraska-Omaha (4-3 OT thriller at North Dakota) win on the road, while reigning CHN Team of the Week Denver held serve at home with a 5-3 win over Western Michigan. All three series feature a second game tonight. In nonconference action, Miami takes on Bowling Green.
1. Troy Terry
In each of his three seasons as the Denver head coach, Jim Montgomery has had a freshman breakout star. Two years ago, it was Trevor Moore. Last season — Danton Heinen. This year, Dylan Gambrell entered this weekend as the Pioneers’ leading scorer. Last night, freshman forward Troy Terry stood out as one of the most impressive players on the ice, and earned two points (a goal and an assist) in the process. Terry, a product of the U.S. National Team Development Program, showed off a stunning wrist shot on his power play goal late in the first period. The goal, Terry’s fifth of the season, found a miniscule opening in the top corner of the net, above Western Michigan goaltender Lukas Hafner’s right shoulder — and it gave DU a lead that it wouldn’t relinquish. Terry’s quick one-two passing play with Quentin Shore in the second period was another notable example of Terry’s quality. The Denver, Colorado, native could be a key component as Denver continues to roll in the second half. The Pioneers have now won three straight, while Western Michigan continues to play inconsistently on defense. The Broncos are winless in three straight.
2. Second line
Much hype has surrounded North Dakota’s “CBS” line this year — and deservedly so, as Drake Caggiula, Brock Boeser, and Nick Schmaltz are each over 20 points this season already and are arguably the best line in the country. In last night’s loss to Omaha, another line for North Dakota seemed to stand out for entirely different reasons. Freshmen Joel Janatuiene (-2 last night) and Chris Wilkie (-3) played alongside Luke Johnson (-3), and all three were on the ice for the two most notable Omaha goals last night: Jake Randolph’s last-second goal in the second period, and Austin Ortega’s overtime winner. In each case, the line got caught too far up ice, and allowed quick rushes the other way. Ortega’s score came on an odd-man rush and was the latest in a long line of clutch goals for the junior forward from California. Ortega has seven game-winning goals this year, leading the NCAA, and with 19 GWGs in his career is just four behind the all-time NCAA record in that category. Ortega, clearly, can make any line in the country look bad, but last night’s concluding moments did highlight a potential weak point for an otherwise excellent UND team.
3. 0 for 20
Minnesota-Duluth fell at home to St. Cloud State last night, losing 3-1, and a subplot is the Bulldogs’ ongoing woes on the power play. Despite facing one of the nation’s worst (statistically) penalty killing units last night, UMD is now 0 for its last 20 on the man-advantage, a span that stretches five full games. That’s frustrating for UMD fans who saw an opponent score on the power play with such ease, as the Huskie’s Kalle Kossila convert on a perfectly executed St. Cloud power play last night — faceoff win, stretching the penalty killers out with a cross-ice pass, and finding an open player in the slot. All in less than 10 seconds. It’s not the first power outage in Duluth this season, but this one will need to be resolved just as quickly if the Bulldogs are to keep pace in a tough stretch run.