St. Cloud State hosts Union this weekend in what should be a fantastic display of excellent college hockey, but this is just one of four non-conference series taking place this weekend.
Both Denver and Colorado College are on the road this weekend. The Pioneers will take on RPI, while the Tigers skirmish against the Big Ten's Wisconsin Badgers. North Dakota hosts Northern Michigan, and like stated above, St. Cloud State will host Union at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.
In the lonely conference series, Minnesota Duluth will hosts the Western Michigan Broncos. Saturday's game will be broadcasted live on CBS Sports Network.
Nebraska Omaha finished off the year last weekend and won't see the ice until next year, or January 3rd and 4th against New Hampshire.
Colorado College freshman defenseman Jaccob Slavin was added to the U.S. National Junior Team preliminary roster on Tuesday, as he’ll attend the U.S. camp in preparation for the World Junior Championship. He joins Miami sophomore Riley Barber, Denver sophomore Quentin Shore, and freshman Will Butcher, who were named to the initial preliminary roster.
#10 Union (10-3-2) at #1 St. Cloud State (11-1-2)
For the second time this year, a NCHC team is ranked No. 1 in the country as St. Cloud State moved into the top spot in the USCHO.com Poll Monday. The Huskies boast the best win percentage in Division I at .857 and are tied for the second-longest active unbeaten streak in the NCAA at seven games (6-0-1). St. Cloud State ranks first in the nation on defense this season with a 1.79 goals allowed per game average this season. The Huskies have allowed just 25 goals in 14 games.
Union, on the other hand, is ready to go this weekend after defeating Dartmouth on Wednesday by a score of 3-2 at home. The Dutchmen are tied for second in the nation in the scoring category, and sit atop the list in the ECAC averaging 4.11 goals per game.
The Dutchmen will ride an 8-game win streak into St. Cloud this weekend, which should give the #1 ranked team in the country a good run for their money. The puck drops at 7:37 CT on Friday and 7:07 CT on Saturday.
#20 Denver (8-6-2) at #18 RPI (8-5-3)
Denver was outshot in Friday’s 3-1 win at Miami by a 34-12 margin - marking its largest discrepancy in a win since it was outshot 50-23 in St. Cloud on Oct. 13, 2006. Senior goalie Sam Brittain turned away 33 shots in Friday’s win at Miami. Brittain has posted at least 30 saves in seven games this season, including three of the last four contests.
Rensselaer is currently unbeaten in their last three games, tying Quinnipiac last Saturday in a 3-3 battle that allowed the Engineers to prove how lethal they can be. Led by junior Ryan Haggerty with 18 goals for 24 points, the RPI offensive unit is no stranger to finding the back of the net.
Denver leads the all-time series with RPI 11-1-0. The puck drops at 6:00 CT on both Saturday and Sunday.
Western Michigan (6-7-3) at Minnesota Duluth (6-7-1)
UMD was beaten twice by in-state rival St. Cloud State last weekend in the Bulldogs’ home NCHC debuts, falling 4-2 on Friday and 5-1 the following evening. Junior forwards Caleb Herbert and Justin Crandall each scored once and assisted on another goal in the series opener while sophomore forward Charlie Sampair accounted for the lone Bulldog goal Saturday. The series sweep, the first inflicted against UMD in Duluth since last February, dropped the Bulldogs below the .500 mark for the first time this season (6-7-1 overall).
Western Michigan has now swept or been swept in its three NCHC series so far this season. The Broncos have been swept by North Dakota (last weekend) and Denver, while sweeping Colorado College. Saturday’s 3-2 loss to North Dakota was the first time the Broncos have scored at least one goal in a game and senior forward Shane Berschbach has not registered a point. He sits at 99 career points (30g, 69a).
Western Michigan is 0-4-0 all-time against Minnesota Duluth. The last time the Broncos played in Duluth was a non-conference series in 2008. The Broncos lost 5-1 on Friday and then 6-5 in overtime the following night.
The puck drops at 7:07 CT on both Friday and Saturday.
Northern Michigan (6-8-2) at North Dakota (7-7-2)
UND picked up its first sweep of the season with a pair of 3-2 victories at NCHC rival Western Michigan. Freshman forward Luke Johnson enjoyed a four-point series at WMU with a pair of power-play goals Friday and two assists Saturday.
Northern Michigan is winless is their last four games, but their opponents have been anything but a walk in the park. Last weekend, the Wildcats lost a pair of games against the Minnesota State Mavericks and came out of a winless series against Ferris state before that, but don't count the 'Cats out...
UND leads the all-time series with its one-time WCHA rival by a 27-23-3 (.583) margin, although the two teams have not squared off since the 1996-97 season, NMU’s last in the WCHA.
The puck drops at 7:37 CT on Friday and 7:07 CT on Saturday.
Colorado College (2-10-3) at #15 Wisconsin (6-5-1)
The Tigers, who snapped a 12-game winless drought in the series opener, enjoyed their most productive weekend of the season while scoring seven times in their 4-2 victory and 3-3 tie against Nebraska Omaha last Friday and Saturday. The four goals marked a season high. But, CC has lost only five of its last 22 games with the Badgers dating back to the 2006-07 season.
Friday’s contest marked the 22nd multi-point performance of senior left wing Alexander Krushelnsyki’s career at CC. Krushelnyski, who scored a power-play goal and assisted on the game-winner by freshman center Sam Rothstein, now has factored in on 10 game-winning goals as a Tiger, scoring three and assisting on seven.
Wisconsin isn't exactly the easiest catch for the Tigers, though. The Badgers swept Penn State last weekend in a 7-1 rout on Friday and 4-3 skirmish Saturday. With an offense unit containing Michael Mersch (Los Angeles Kings), Mark Zengerle, and Nic Kerdiles (Anaheim Ducks), it'll be a real task to stop these guys from producing, even if they've found trouble in a few games.
For a complete series analysis, visit Bucky Hockey's Colorado College Preview.
The puck drops at 6:37 CT on Friday and 7:07 CT on Saturday.
NCHC Fun Facts
NCHC teams have...
- Produced 12 Hobey Baker Award winners, including each of the last three and eight of the last 11. The 12 winners are the most of any current league.
- Won a combined 17 national championships, including three in the last 10 years.
- Seen a combined 47 alumni make 2013 NHL opening-day rosters.
- Made 50 Frozen Four appearances combined, including 13 in the last 10 Frozen Fours.
- A combined 54 NHL draft picks on their current rosters, the most of any NCAA conference.
- Qualified for the NCAA Tournament 107 times among them.
Matt Christians covers Minnesota Duluth and the NCHC for SB Nation and College Hockey News. You can also give him a follow here -> Follow @matt_christians
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