Week In Review
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
The marquee games of the weekend came in Minneapolis where the top-ranked Gophers split with Denver. Those two teams represent four of the past five NCAA champs.
After Friday's 1-0 win by Denver, the Pioneers pumped 45 shots on net Saturday, doing everything possible to pull out a weekend sweep and keep a realistic chance to catch the Gophers for first place. But just like the previous weekend, when the Gophers followed up the 22-game unbeaten-streak-snapping loss to Wisconsin with a Saturday win, here Minnesota followed up Friday's 1-0 loss with by hanging on for this one. The Gophers got two goals from Mike Vannelli, making it 5-2 late in the second, and finally broke out of their scoring slump. Since getting five of their players back from the World Juniors, the Gophers had scored just three goals in four games, despite managing to win two of them. This was an old-fashioned-style win for Minnesota. Kyle Okposo, in particular, snapped out of it, getting his 16th in the first period.
That period was also marred by a brawl, precipitated by Jim O'Brien's five-minute charging penalty, for charging into Denver goalie Glenn Fisher — although Minnesota believed that he was shoved into Fisher. Ben Gordon and Denver's J.P. Testwuide were ejected for fighting. Three other players from each team were given roughing minors. ... "I am proud of the way our team battled back several different times," Denver coach George Gwozdecky said. "Minnesota has a great hockey team, but our team showed a lot tonight. We should be proud of effort this weekend, getting two points in a hostile environment."
Also notable in the WCHA, St. Cloud State drew two points closer of the Gophers with a sweep of Minnesota-Duluth, 5-0 and 6-5. Mike Weslosky's goal with 52 seconds left in regulation Saturday gave the Huskies a weekend sweep.
Miami gets three points on the weekend, following Friday's 4-4 tie with a 2-1 win Sunday over Ohio State. Ryan Jones scored his 17th and Raymond Eichenlaub netted the game winner early in the third. Miami is one point behind Notre Dame with a series against the Irish looming next weekend. Miami has played two more league games than Notre Dame, however. The Irish got two points on the weekend, responding to Friday's loss to Western Michigan by getting 26 saves from David Brown for the shutout Saturday.
Bryan Lerg's goal at 2:52 of overtime won Friday's game over Lake Superior State. Saturday, it was cousin's turn, as Jeff Lerg posted a 27-save shutout to give the Spartans the sweep, 4-0. The Spartans stayed a point ahead of Michigan in third in the CCHA.
T.J. Hensick had a hat trick Friday, but Saturday, Michigan instead used five different goal scorers — none of which were Hensick — in completing the weekend sweep in Fairbanks. The freefalling Nanooks have lost nine in a row, and 10 of 11.
Vermont makes its case for College Hockey News' Team of the Week, finishing a weekend sweep of Boston College with a 4-2 win Saturday. That jumps the Catamounts ahead of the Eagles in the Hockey East standings and into third place. Vermont had only 18 shots, but needed only three of those to take a 3-0 second-period lead. BC's rally fell short. Brian Boyle was a minus-three in the game. He had a power-play goal and a minus-1 in Friday's loss, and also took a 10-minute misconduct for arguing a minor penalty. "This was a total team effort ... all weekend," said Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon. "This was a big confidence boost for us and we can enjoy it this weekend but we have a big task going down to Merrimack next week. Our fans were phenomenal this weekend and certainly gave us that lift when we needed it."
Games against Merrimack are supposed to be gimmes for BU if it truly is taking off down the stretch. And, in fact, the Terriers did win both games on the weekend, though the Warriors gave them a good fight. Brett Bennett, a former U.S. national program player, got his first career start in goal for BU, and picked up his first career win. BU moved to within four points of New Hampshire for first place in Hockey East.
New Hampshire and Maine only got splits from Massachusetts and Providence, respectively. UNH was shut out by Jon Quick on Saturday, while Maine was shut out Friday for its third straight loss. The Black Bears then turned it around Saturday, as Ben Bishop stopped 40 shots and Josh Soares scored his 14th, snapping the Black Bears' lengthy goalless drought of 159 minutes, 13 seconds.
Also, Northeastern swept Massachusetts-Lowell, as Lowell's winless streak reaches a wretched 17 games.
Clarkson blew a chance to continue its feel-good momentum, losing for the first time in 12 games, in overtime at Union. T.J. Fox scored in OT, his 11th. Union avoided losing its fourth straight one-goal home game. Clarkson coach George Roll was OK, however, with his team's performance. You can't win 'em all.
St. Lawrence (12-9-2) moved within two points of Quinnipiac for first in the ECAC with three games in hand. Down 3-1 in the third playing at RPI's annual Big Red Freakout, the Saints rallied for two goals in 53 seconds to get the tie. RPI did manage to stay unbeaten in its last 17 Big Red Freakout games (12-0-5).
Cornell's implosion since the holidays continues, getting just a tie to Yale and loss to Brown at home this weekend. Less than a month ago, the Big Red won their biggest game of the season, defeating UNH in the opener of the Florida College Classic, but is winless now in six games since — and 0-2-1 at Lynah since then, including a loss to Sacred Heart and Friday's tie to Yale. This was the first loss to Brown at Lynah in the Mike Schafer era — although Schafer wasn't actually behind the bench; because of pain from recent hernia surgery, he elected to sit in the press box. Four points currently separate third-place Clarkson from 10th-place Brown in the ECAC.
After blowing a 3-0 lead to lose in OT on Friday, RIT, in its first year in Atlantic Hockey, remained in first place by itself with Saturday's 4-2 win over Connecticut. Army and Air Force also split their weekend grudge match, leaving the standings in the same place as when the weekend started, with the Cadets two points back of RIT and Air Force in fourth place, four points back.
WHO'S HOT/WHO'S NOT
1. Andrew Cogliano, Michigan — Scored once in each game this weekend, has scored in four straight, and has 10 goals in his last eight games. The only game he didn't score in that span was the first one back after being away winning a gold medal for Canada in the World Juniors.
2. Andrew Gordon, St. Cloud State — He was 2-4—6 this past weekend, and has nine goals in his last nine games.
3. Defense/Goaltending, Boston University — The Terriers have four shutouts in the last seven games, all wins except a 0-0 tie with Northeastern.
1. Blake Wheeler, Minnesota — Has gone cold again, pointless in his last five, goalless in his last six.
2. Matt Christie, Miami — The senior hasn't found his rhythm all season, and he's just 1-0—1 in his last five.
3. Defense/Goaltending, Mass.-Lowell — None of the three goalies have a save percentage higher than .880. And the team has allowed 25 goals in six January games, all losses.
NCAA TOP 10
The Top 10 is by order of the KRACH Ranking.
1 Minnesota (21-3-3)
Finally got its scoring legs back, but the biggest tests of the season still loom for the Gophers. No one is going to care what they did in the first half if they don't get the job done with it all on the line.
2 St. Cloud State (16-4-4)
Another tick up the chart for the Huskies.
3 New Hampshire (18-4-1)
A split with Massachusetts drops the Wildcats a notch.
4 Notre Dame (20-5-1)
Big series looms with Miami this weekend, a potential first-place decision-maker. Coach Jeff Jackson calls this potentially the biggest series in Notre Dame hockey history.
5 Denver (18-8-2)
Like Maine, Denver split, but against much tougher opposition, thus bumping Maine down a few slots.
6 CC (14-9-1)
Only game was an exhibition win against the Under-18 team.
7 Michigan State (16-8-1)
Creeping back towards the elite as the team stabilizes.
8 Maine (15-6-2)
Split with Providence.
9 Vermont (14-8-2)
The Cats are back and Clarkson drops out after Vermont sweeps BC.
10 Michigan (17-9-0)
Wins over Alaska weren't sexy enough to move the Wolverines.
GAMES TO WATCH
Clarkson at St. Lawrence
The beauty of this matchup is that finally, it's not just a local grudge match, but one for ECAC supremacy as well.
Boston University vs. Boston College
First, the teams meet Wednesday to make up a December game that was cancelled due to poor ice conditions.
St. Cloud State at Denver
Two hot teams that are clinging to hopes of catching the Gophers. For that to be possible, one will probably need to sweep this series.