Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth played an epically entertaining series, but at least in recent history, it's been pretty rare for all three schools in Michigan's upper peninsula to be enjoying success at the same time. But that's what happened this past weekend with Michigan Tech, Lake Superior, and Northern Michigan all sweeping series, so they get the above the fold treatment this week.
We'll start with Michigan Tech, who beat Wisconsin in overtime two nights in a row to move to 4-0-0 on the season, and 2-0-0 in the WCHA. The Tech Hockey Guide did a great job of getting highlight videos up of the wins on Friday and Saturday. True, Wisconsin doesn't look like a typically strong Badger team this year, especially early on with two goalies playing their first WCHA games. But this is a very promising start for Michigan Tech.
It's very early, but my theory that Mel Pearson moving to Michigan Tech would be a great move for him, seems to be coming to fruition already. Pearson looks like a genius now that he's already matched Tech's WCHA win total from last season in just a single weekend. It's worth noting though, that of the four goal-scorers for Tech this weekend, only one--Jacob Johnstone--was a regular last year. Freshman Tanner Kero scored a goal in each game, while the two OT winners were scored by Brett Olson and Jordan Baker who missed most and all of last season respectively with injuries. Pearson is definitely coaching a much different, much better team this year.
Lake Superior picked up their first six points of the CCHA season by sweeping Michigan State. The Lakers gave up a pair of third period leads on Friday before netting the game-winner with less than 2 minutes to play. They'll have a pair of winnable games next weekend at home against Bowling Green, which could them some serious momentum heading into a tough road series at Miami the following week. Meanwhile, the Tom Anastos era got off to a rough start for Michigan State. The Spartans have a lot of rebuilding to do to recover from the Rick Comley era, but as ugly as it looks, I suppose it's still a better job than if Anastos had stayed on as CCHA commissioner.
And in Marquette, Northern Michigan showed just why St. Cloud had to leave the WCHA for the future of their program, with 5-2 and 3-2 wins over the Huskies. The Wildcats have played two pretty tough series by non-conference schedule standards and came out of it 3-1-0. Twelve different players have at least two points for Northern. They may not have many big names, but have a lot of guys that can contribute. For St. Cloud, Ryan Faragher got his first collegiate start on Saturday after Mike Lee gave up 5 goals on just 29 shots.
The rest of the week's action is after the jump.
The Minnesota-Minnesota-Duluth series was an absolute joy to watch. I'm not totally convinced that either team is all that great in the grand scheme of things, but they combined to play two very exciting up-and-down hockey games. As bad as last week's Sacred Heart series was, this weekend's series was a great reminder of how fun college can be and a great sell for the game of college hockey. I'm very excited at the prospect of Minnesota's one non-conference road series potentially being at Duluth once every five or six years in the future.
Friday night was full of twists and turns, with Duluth taking a 4-3 lead with 2 minutes left to play, and then Minnesota answering back with an extra attacker goal and then winning in overtime. The next night, UMD jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead, before Minnesota scored 5 unanswered goals. UMD came back with two goals in the third, and really threatened to tie the game.
Duluth now sits at 1-3-0 though they've played one of the tougher schedules in the country. The big positive for them was that Caleb Herbert and his line was absolutely fantastic on Friday. The Bulldogs needed another forward line to step up and produce for them, and they may have found it. Meanwhile, for Minnesota, the Gophers showed more fight and heart than they have in years. The defense still didn't look great, but Kent Patterson helped bail them out making 46 saves each night, and the offense played up to their abilities and scored enough to win both games.
Denver sort of defied expectations both by beating Boston College on Friday night 4-2 and by losing to Boston University 4-3 on Saturday. The Pioneers still haven't showed much depth in scoring, but Jason Zucker and Drew Shore continued to play at a level where they might not need much help. Also promising for the Pioneers is that Adam Murray was solid in both games.
Miami continued a pretty meh start to their season by splitting a series at Colgate, when the Red Raiders scored an overtime winner on Saturday night. The RedHawks face a pretty tough test when they have to travel to Ferris State next weekend that should give an idea of just how good Miami actually is.
Speaking of Ferris State, they shut out RPI on back-to-back nights to sweep their series and move to 4-0-0 against ECAC teams. In addition to a stout defense, only seven players in the NCAA have 5 or more goals, and two of them, Kyle Bonis and Travis Oullette, play for Ferris State.
Colorado College started off their season with a home sweep of Bemidji State. Jaden Schwartz had a goal each night, while his brother Rylan had a hat trick on Saturday, meaning they've scored 54% of their team's goals this year. It will be interesting to see how high that percentage stays this year.
The trip up to Alaska for the Brice Alaska Gold Rush in Fairbanks was not a kind one to Nebraska-Omaha, who lost to both Alaska schools over the weekend. The Mavericks will turn around and play UAA at home next weekend, and it looks like they'll have to make some big changes to start playing up to what they are capable of. Both Alaska schools are off to solid starts.
Notre Dame played their last ever series at the Joyce Center--a place I'm pretty sure no one will miss--and lost the final game there in a split with Ohio State. The Irish sold out the Saturday game, but came up a couple hundred short of a sellout on Friday. They'll probably have no trouble doubling that audience on Friday when their beautiful new arena opens up, but you have to wonder if they can maintain that.
Western Michigan tied twice against Union. People say Union is pretty decent and I have no way to dispute that--they could be a interpretive dance quartet for all I know about them--so I guess that's not bad for Western.
North Dakota earned a win and a split with Maine at the Ralph. Looking down the road for the Sioux, their next two series at Wisconsin and against St. Cloud seem to have lost a little luster, but the following weekend, their series at Minnesota is shaping up to be so big that their fans may shut up about the mascot issue for five minutes.
Bowling Green traveled down to Huntsville and earned a sweep. Not the most impressive wins, but still wins nonetheless.
Minnesota State wasn't just swept in their home opener against UMass-Lowell, but also outshot and thoroughly outplayed by a team that just edged their way out of last place in the Hockey East preseason poll. The Mavericks are now 0-17 on the power play this year. Without major changes, their biggest competition this year might be against some of the worst teams in WCHA history.