Archive for the 'NCHC' Category

NCHC Weekend Preview, October 24-25

Friday, October 24th, 2014

There’s only one conference series this weekend, as Denver visits Minnesota-Duluth in the league openers for both teams… but every other NCHC team (except reigning CHN Team of the Week Nebraska-Omaha) is in action in nonconference competition.


The reigning NCHC tournament champ Pioneers visit Duluth after a weekend that saw Jim Montgomery’s crew outscore Rensselaer 7-1 in a weekend sweep. The story out of Magness Arena a week ago was the play of Zac Larazza and Quentin Shore, who combined for four goals while playing on a line with highly-touted rookie left-wing Danton Heinen. The trio led the offense, while the Pioneers enjoyed strong goaltending from Evan Cowley, who picked up both wins. On Saturday, he replaced an injured Tanner Jaillet just 2:20 into the Jaillet’s first career start. Cowley and Jaillet will likely split this weekend’s games.

Meanwhile, UMD has seen an inconsistent start to its season, with a pair of Friday night losses coupled with a pair of Saturday night wins. Last weekend, the Bulldogs beat Minnesota State 6-2 a night after falling to the WCHA’s Mavericks in overtime. The player to watch: sophomore Dominic Toninato. The Duluth native scored seven goals last year as a freshman … and already has five this season. The Bulldogs offense has been rolling and will face a tough test against a seasoned and responsible defensive unit in Denver.

Prediction: Denver wins Friday, Duluth wins Saturday


NCHC Prediction: Winner Will Be…

Friday, March 21st, 2014

The inaugural NCHC Frozen Faceoff kicks off this afternoon from the Target Center in Minneapolis. Denver and Western Michigan, both of whom won on the road last weekend, will square off in Semifinal #1, and will be followed by North Dakota and Miami in the primetime semifinal tonight.

A full preview of the NCHC championship weekend is here, featuring a breakdown of all four teams and exclusive thoughts from North Dakota captain Dillon Simpson, Western Michigan head coach Andy Murray, and Denver head coach Jim Montgomery.

Predictions (though not to be taken seriously, given my lack of success in my March Madness bracket pool so far)…

Denver 3 Western Michigan 1

North Dakota 4 Miami 2

Denver 3 North Dakota 1

Denver looked like a different team over the last two games, outscoring NCHC Player of the Year Josh Archibald and Nebraska-Omaha by a combined 7-1 score in games two and three of their quarterfinal series last weekend. They also boast the NCHC Goaltender of the Year and Richter Award finalist Sam Brittain, who will need to continue to play well if the Pioneers are to win two games this weekend. Of note, a potential Denver/North Dakota championship game would be interesting, as it would feature two of the top defensive units in the country. Five of the six North Dakota starters on the blueline are NHL draft picks.

In speaking with Denver coach Jim Montgomery on Tuesday, he felt that his team finally came together last week in Omaha, away from the distractions of the Mile High City, where his team struggled this season.

“We’ve been a very good road team,” said the first-year coach. “As far as our execution and our effort every night, we’ve been much more consistent on the road than at home. Right now, being on the road is a good thing for Denver hockey.”

Denver and Western Michigan play at 5 p.m. ET, followed by North Dakota and Miami at 8 p.m. ET. Both games will air live on CBS Sports Network.

A Quick Pairwise Look Heading Into Championship Weekend

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Conferences across the nation will crown their league champions, and NCAA automatic qualifiers, this upcoming weekend.

For some teams these will be do-or-die games. For others, there’s a trophy at stake but their tickets to the NCAA tournament have already been punched. Here’s what we know:


Beyond Montpetit’s Goal

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Denver boasted the best penalty killing unit in the NCHC this season, thanks in large part to All-NCHC First Team goaltender Sam Brittain. Thursday night in the NCHC playoff opener, UNO converted on three of four power play chances and took a 1-0 lead in its quarterfinal series against Denver. Game 2 is tonight.

The lasting highlight of the game will be Brock Montpetit’s highlight reel goal that broke a 3-3 tie in the third period. Montpetit received a pass from Ryan Walters and beat Pioneer defenseman Joey LaLeggia, expertly slipping by him and sliding a backhander by Brittain.

“He makes a heck of a move,” UNO head coach Dean Blais told the Omaha World-Herald, “and then he goes in and beats an All-American goaltender who’s going to be playing in the NHL.”

Beyond Montpetit’s heroics, however, was perhaps a more important storyline — especially if Omaha plans on making a serious playoff run.

Consider that less than a week earlier, the Mavericks defense fell apart against Minnesota-Duluth, with the Bulldogs prevailing 8-2. Thursday, by contrast, UNO’s defense outplayed Denver’s, particularly in the third period — evidenced not just by Montpetit’s goal but by four blocked shots in the frantic final 60 seconds, and by playing the third period with just five defensemen. Captain Michael Young was ejected late in the second period after receiving a major penalty and game misconduct for a contact to the head infraction. In his absence, his teammates on the back end stepped up — most notably junior Jaycob Megna and freshman Ian Brady.

On the other end, Denver’s defense is among the most trusted in the nation, not just for their play on the blue line but also for their offensive output. After all, with the goaltender pulled late in the game last night, four of the six Pioneers on the ice trying to score the tying goal were defensemen — LaLeggia, in addition to Nolan Zajac, David Makowski, and Will Butcher. That foursome has combined for 32 goals this season.

The Pioneers have lost three of four and five of seven, and now face the end to their season if they lose either tonight or tomorrow. And their defense will have to return to form if they want to avoid that.

“The key was killing off the five-minute major,” continued Blais after last night’s game, highlighting again his team’s effort on defense in Game 1. “It might have switched the whole momentum.”

The question remaining is whether UNO carries that momentum to the inaugural NCHC “Frozen Faceoff” a week from today in Minneapolis.

Final Night: What’s at Stake

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

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

Weekend Results Set Up SCSU/UND showdown

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

Each team in the NCHC has four games to play, but it may very well be next weekend’s St. Cloud State / North Dakota series in St. Cloud that determines the first NCHC regular season champion.

Conference Overall
1 St. Cloud State 20 12-5-3 39 71-53 30 18-7-5 109-80
North Dakota 20 13-7-0 39 67-56 30 18-9-3 95-79
3 Nebraska-Omaha 20 10-8-2 1 33 68-59 30 13-15-2 98-100
4 Western Michigan 20 9-9-2 2 31 59-61 32 15-12-5 86-84
5 Denver 20 8-9-3 2 29 49-49 32 14-12-6 81-72
6 Minnesota-Duluth 20 8-10-2 2 28 54-60 30 13-13-4 84-87
7 Colorado College 20 6-9-5 1 24 46-56 30 6-18-6 60-92
8 Miami 20 5-14-1 1 17 48-68 30 11-16-3 88-92

We learned this past weekend that even the teams that have struggled for much of the season — namely, Miami and Colorado College — can’t be taken lightly. On Friday night, the RedHawks toppled St. Cloud, energized by the return of Blake Coleman, who scored two goals in his first game since December 6. More importantly, Miami survived the first several minutes without allowing a goal and enjoyed steady goaltending from Jay Williams for the first time in a while. Colorado College, meanwhile, is suddenly 4-2-2 in its last eight games, including a three game win-streak after sweeping archrival Denver thanks to goals over the weekend from six different goal-scorers.

North Dakota swept Minnesota-Duluth, dropping the Bulldogs to sixth place in the standings, and Dave Hakstol’s team — as they often do this time of year — is peaking, and may just be the favorite to finish the season in first place. Again, though, if St. Cloud or North Dakota has to play Miami or Colorado College in the first round of the playoffs, we saw this weekend that neither will be an easy task.

This week on CHN look for a feature about the St. Cloud/North Dakota showdown, and we’ll also look into Nebraska-Omaha’s roller-coaster February.

The Takeaway: Willows Hat Trick Leads UNH Past UNO

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

Durham, NH- It is amazing how fast a game can change at times, but for UNH it took all of one minute, and 42 seconds in the third period to turn a deficit into a win. Nebraska-Omaha scored the only goal in the first period, when Josh Archibald got a lucky bounce off the fist of Brett Pesce that went into the net to give UNO a 1-0 first intermission lead. Much like the first period, the second period was a defensive chess match but UNH scored a tying goal one minute, 52 seconds into the period when Casey Thrush backhanded a rebound into the net.

The Third period, however, was much different. Nebraska-Omaha scored a go-ahead goal off the stick of Ryan Walters to give them a 2-1 lead. That lead held until the 13:46 mark of the third, when it became the Matt Willows show. Matt Willows tied the game at two and then scored a go ahead goal 1:42 late. Nick Sorkin put the game away moments later on the power-play. Willows completed the hat trick with an empty netter, which he accomplished in 4:30. The win completed the sweep for UNH and improves its record 12-10-1 on the season, while Nebraska-Omaha falls to 8-9-1. (more…)

The Takeaway: UNH Uses Strong Second To Defeat UNO

Saturday, January 4th, 2014

Durham, NH- Nebraska Omaha played its first game in nearly a month and execution became its biggest enemy against New Hampshire. It was also without its head coach, Dean Blais, and defenseman Jaycob Megna who were both suspended for an exchange of improper benefits.

Nebraska-Omaha scored the first goal of the night, as Josh Archibald received a pass from Ian Brady all alone in the slot at three minutes, 34 seconds of the first period to beat UNH goaltender Casey Desmith. UNH responded six minutes later on the power-play, when Eric Knodel blasted a shot from the point. Knodel added another power-play goal with 32 seconds remaining to give UNH a 2-1 first intermission lead.

The second period was owned by the Wildcats, but UNO scored first in the period when Austin Ortega made an individual drive down the right slot and wristed a shot off the cross-bar, down into the net to tie the game at one. It was a false sense of a close game, as UNH would dominate the rest of period. Matt Willows gave UNH the lead for good at 12:18 when he found a puck sent towards the net by Kevin Goumas and put it behind Maverick goaltender, Ryan Massa. Dan Correale and Casey Thrush added goals late in the third period to give the Wildcats a commanding 5-2 lead heading into the third period.

Nebraska-Omaha and New Hampshire traded goals in the third period. Josh Archibald added his second of the night on a breakaway and Kevin Goumas scored a break-away, empty net goal, as UNH defeated UNO 6-3 in front of 2987 at the Whittemore Center.  Josh Archibald and Eric Knodel scored two on the night, while UNH’s Trevor van Riemsdyk added a trio of assists.The win improves UNH’s record to 11-10-1 on the season, while dropping UNO’s record back to .500 at 8-8-1.  (more…)

The Takeaway: North Dakota Downs Minnesota Duluth 4-2

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

GRAND FORKS, ND – North Dakota finally looked to have found the traction they’ve been looking for since their 4-game skid.  Rocco Grimaldi lit the lamp first off of a power play goal, decreasing UMD’s former #1 ranked penalty kill, followed by a weird goal (see below) from Michael Parks.  UMD’s Alex Iafallo and Adam Krause responded 20 seconds apart, Krause scoring on the power play, to tie the game at twos.

Jordan Schmaltz buried the game winner off a beautiful wrister from the point, which ended up counting as the game winner, but Stephane Pattyn would record an empty-net goal before time expired, giving North Dakota the 4-2 victory.  North Dakota is now 4-4-1 overall and 3-4-0 in the NCHC, while Minnesota Duluth stands at 4-4-1 overall and 1-2-0 in NCHC action.


Three Things I Think: NCHC Week 3

Monday, October 28th, 2013

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!