Minnesota-Duluth and Denver closed out the DECC with a big series between two of the top teams in the WCHA so far this season.
Two weeks ago, I mentioned in a weekend recap that I felt Duluth might have trouble sustaining their success because of some questions in goal, and some incredible luck in overtime. Friday, both of those seemed to catch up with the Bulldogs, as Denver scored 5 times on just 22 shots, including an overtime winner from Denver's Drew Shore.
The following evening, an emotional one, being the last college game ever played at the old DECC, Duluth prevailed with a 2-1 victory. It's an impressive performance by Denver to play two tough games on the road and come away with two points on the weekend, and it was impressive for Duluth to bounce back from a tough loss on Friday night and get a win on Saturday. Both look like very legitimate teams, and I expect them to hang in with North Dakota in the WCHA race for the second half of the season.
On the other end of the spectrum, St. Cloud was a team many people expected to be in the hunt for the WCHA title this season, and the Huskies now sit in 11th place in the league after being swept in embarrassing fashion against North Dakota. There's never any shame in losing at Grand Forks, but Friday night, the Huskies were already down 4-0 before the 11-minute mark of the first period. The Huskies have one home series against Colorado College before Christmas, which could be critical. They currently sit four gamed under .500 overall, and have to start digging themselves out of this hole soon, because they end the season by playing the top four teams in the league over the last five weeks of the season, and it's going to be hard to make up ground then.
On the World Junior front, this past weekend has already made some of my picks obsolete. Denver's Beau Bennett suffered a reportedly nasty leg injury on Friday night and didn't play Saturday. It would not be shocking if he missed the tournament. Meanwhile, Shane Prince had a big statistical weekend and moved into the lead in the OHL's scoring race, meaning it would be difficult not to give him a look. Minnesota's Nick Bjugstad had a pretty nice game on Saturday night, and showed he could be a grinding physical force on the wing for the US. Finally, Emerson Etem may have announced being invited to the Selection Camp in the most Flava Flav way possible by breaking a two-month Twitter silence and tweeting: "excited to rep the west coast for usa again yeee boiii". Yeee boiii indeed.
The rest of the week's action after the jump.
Notre Dame traveled to Miami for a series between two of the CCHA's top three teams. On Friday, the two teams combined for nine goals on just 45 shots, with Notre Dame coming out with a 5-4 win. What was most impressive about the win for Notre Dame is that out of the five goals and eight assists they registered, senior Ryan Guentzel's goal was the only point scored by an upperclassmen. Notre Dame's freshman class deserves a lot of credit for the turnaround this year for the Irish.
Minnesota State swept Minnesota in Mankato this past weekend, which tightens up the race for the last couple home ice playoff spots a bit heading towards Christmas break. The key play in Friday's 3-2 win: 6'3" Gopher defenseman Mark Alt went into to the corner to try and hit Minnesota State's Adam Mueller, who is maybe 5'8", early in the second period. Somehow, Alt ended up being the one on the ice after the collision, and Mueller came out of the corner with the puck, and notched what would end up being the game's winning goal. There's probably a lot of things you can extrapolate about the Gophers recent--and by recent I mean the last three seasons-- struggles from that play.
Saturday's affair was a typical Maverick-Gopher affair in that, as Maverick head coach Troy Jutting has loved to point out in the past, the two teams were tied in goals scored at even strength. What made this different is that the Gophers putrid special teams made it a 2-1 Maverick victory instead of the usual 5-2 or 6-2 Gopher win. Minnesota State goalie Phil Cook was brilliant in the win, making 49 saves.
Also tightening up the middle of the pack in the WCHA was Bemidji State pulling off a surprising home sweep of Nebraska-Omaha. Bemidji goalie Dan Bakala faced 65 shots and only allowed one goal. The other key for the Beavers is that they decided to split up Matt Read and Jordan George from their top line, and have won all three games since doing so.
Michigan had a good opportunity to make a move in the CCHA standings with Notre Dame and Miami playing each other, while they drew bottom-tier Ohio State. But on Friday, Michigan missed an empty-net goal by just inches with under a minute left in a 2-1 game, and ended up letting OSU tie the game with just 10 seconds left, before Alex Szczechura notched his second OT winner of the season. The Wolverines rebounded with a 2-1 win on Saturday, but certainly aren't playing their best hockey heading into this weekend's Big Chill outdoor game.
Speaking of the Big Chill, Michigan State's struggles to get any momentum going continued, with a split over Ferris State. The Spartans won on Friday night, but nobody could score on Saturday until Chad Billins shot from the point snuck through a hole with just over a minute left in overtime to give Ferris State a 1-0 win.
Bowling Green and Lake Superior played back-to-back 1-1 ties with Lake Superior winning both shootouts by a score of 2-1.
The wheels have completely fallen off for Michigan Tech. They were swept badly at home by Colorado College, and have now lost eight straight games since being the darlings of college hockey after their 3-0-2 start. Jaden Schwartz had a nice little seven point weekend. Seriously Hockey Canada, college players suck. You don't want this kid. Please don't pick him.
Alaska-Anchorage scored with 9 seconds left in Friday night's game to steal a 2-1 victory over Wisconsin. Wisconsin rebounded back with a win on Saturday, but still looks like they'll be fighting it out with the middle of the pack for a home ice spot, rather than competing with the top three or four teams in the league for a WCHA title.