After last weekend's lack of conference games, NCHC play resumes with three conference series. The remaining two teams, Minnesota Duluth and Miami, will play non-conference games.
This weekend, St. Cloud State and North Dakota highlight play within the NCHC. Western Michigan hosts Colorado College, while Nebraska Omaha will venture west to take on the Pioneers of Denver. Miami will host Canisius and Minnesota Duluth will head to Ohio State for non-conference play.
#9 St. Cloud State (3-0-1) at #5 North Dakota (2-1-1)
St. Cloud State opens up conference play this weekend at arguably one of the more difficult houses of hockey, Ralph Englestad Arena. Both teams have a more tedious weekend of college hockey under their belts; St. Cloud State against Colgate and North Dakota against Miami, but this weekend's play will be a good indication of what each team can bring to the table.
St. Cloud State swept the ECAC's Colgate in Hamilton, New York last weekend - 4-2 and 4-3 with much thanks to Nic Dowd's shorthanded tally on Saturday, while North Dakota hosted the US U-18 team for exhibition play and pulled out the 4-1 win, but sophomore forward Drake Caggiula was carried of the ice on a stretcher and taken to the hospital during the game.
Nebraska Omaha (2-4-0) at Denver (3-3-0)
Nebraska Omaha had a rough series last weekend, falling to Cornell 3-5 and 3-4 in Omaha, despite outshooting the Big Red by nearly 40 shots on the weekend. Denver defeated Niagara on Friday night in a 5-1 rout, but fell to Canisius (who fell to Niagara the weekend before) on Saturday 1-4.
Nebraska Omaha has a truck load of potential rostered, but struggle between the pipes. If Dean Blais can find a goaltender who is willing to step up, the Mavericks could develop into a lethal team and really give Denver a hard time this weekend. On the other hand, Denver has received rock-solid goaltending from Sam Brittain, who is currently recording a 1.20 GAA and .953 save percentage.
Colorado College (1-3-0) at Western Michigan (1-2-1)
Despite senior goaltender Josh Thorimbert's 68 saves on the weekend, Colorado College couldn't find scoring last weekend as they fell to Clarkson 1-2 and 0-1. Meanwhile, Western Michigan had the weekend off, but defeated Alaska Anchorage 6-2 and tied Alaska Fairbanks 3-3 in the previous weekend.
Scoring is going to be a big deal in this game, as both teams sit at the bottom of the conference in goals scored per game. If Josh Thorimbert can play the way he did last weekend and Andy Murray's netminder, Frank Slubowski, comes to play, this game could be a very interesting one.
#20 Minnesota Duluth (3-2-1) at Ohio State (3-3-0)
Both Minnesota Duluth and Ohio State are coming off pretty good weekends. The Bulldogs split against former #2, Notre Dame, in a 2-3 and 4-1 weekend at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. The Buckeyes are currently riding a 3-game win streak after sweeping Robert Morris last weekend and defeating Bowling Green at home on Tuesday in a 5-3 victory.
The Bulldogs are getting the best goaltending in the NCHC, allowing only 1.64 goals against per game in their 6 games played. The big hurt for UMD is their power play, which is unlike Scott Sandelin's past teams and is currently at 10.3%. Ohio State's netminder's Collin Olson and Matt Tomkins, both NHL prospects, are young, but have improved in the last three outings. Ryan Dzingel leads the Buckeyes with 7 points on the season, which has allowed Ohio State to hit a comfortable 3.67 goals per game, but defensively the Buckeyes allow 4.17 goals, which could spring problems for Steve Rohlik's team.
Canisius (2-2-0) at #6 Miami (3-2-1)
Miami is coming out of a rough weekend at Providence, where the Redhawks came home with a 2-3 OT loss and 4-4 tie the following night. Canisius fell in a close 3-2 game against Air Force on Friday before beating Denver in a 4-1 rout on Saturday.
This weekend is a big one for Miami, who came into the NCHC as the team to beat. Although they've played arguably one of the more difficult schedules in college hockey, Enrico Blasi's Redhawks need a pair of wins this weekend to reassure teams of their capable dominance. Led by NCHC point leaders Austin Czarnik and Riley Barber (11 points each), The Redhawks cannot take Canisius lightly, especially after they proved how dangerous they can be against Denver last weekend.
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Matt Christians covers Minnesota Duluth and the NCHC for SB Nation and College Hockey News. You can also follow him here -> Follow @matt_christians