Union Wins 9th Straight, Tops St. Cloud State
North Dakota, Denver Also Among Friday's Winners
CHN Staff Report
A program that has been on the steady rise for a decade, Union seems to keep having to prove itself. Yet it still keeps doing it.
An ECAC championship three years ago, a Frozen Four appearance two years ago, another ECAC title and a whisker from another Frozen Four last year.
And Union keeps on doing it, with another big win Friday at St. Cloud, knocking off the top-rated Huskies, 4-1.
Union did it despite having just played Wednesday, and so coach Rick Bennett went to backup goaltender Alex Sakellaropoulus in place of Colin Stevens, who had played three games in six days.
Union improved to 6-0-1 on the road, despite it being its first game on the Olympic-sized sheet.
"When you're playing the No. 1 team in the country, you have to keep it simple, and I thought we did just that," Bennett said. "We stayed within our system and the whole team benefited. It was just a super team win."
Overall, Union has won nine in a row since Bennett blasted his team following a loss to Colgate on Nov. 8. St. Cloud State saw its unbeaten streak snapped at seven.
Union used a pair of power play goals to stake a 2-0 lead after one period. Max Novak buried a wrister at 15:01, followed 74 seconds later by a Eli Lichtenwald's wrister that floated just under the cross bar. Ltchtenwald now has points in nine of 10 games played this season.
“We took six penalties in the game and five of them were really bad on our part,” St. Cloud coach Bob Motzko told the St. Cloud Times. “That’s two of the last three games where we haven’t played well. ... We got it going a little bit in the second period and we got back in the game. But in the third period, we need a lot stronger push than that.”
With the second half around the corner, North Dakota is again heating up. UND won its fourth straight, 4-1 over Northern Michigan, to go above .500 at 8-7-2. Freshman Luke Johnson scored his third goal in the last three games to lead the way.
Johnson sniped a power-play goal over the shoulder of Northern Michigan goalie Mathias Dahlstrom (26 saves). It came just 10 seconds into the power play and staked UND to a 2-0 lead.
Johnson, who now plays right wing on a line with Rocco Grimaldi at center and Drake Caggiula on the side, has thrived since the change was moved to shift him from center.
"It's a lot different in the 'D' (defensive) zone, not as much work," Johnson said. "But I've played wing before, so I'm kind of used to it."
Johnson said he has more confidence in his game now and his linemates are two good players who know how to distribute the puck. "I think confidence is just the biggest thing," Johnson said.
Nine UND players picked up at least a point, led by Grimaldi and defenseman Johdan Schmaltz with two assists each.
"Everyone joined in and bought into the system," Johnson said. "We're really trying to make a push before the break."
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Denver freshman Emil Romig, a native of Vienna, Austria, scored 3:02 into overtime to give the Pioneers a 2-1 win over Rensselaer in Troy, N.Y.
Junior Zac Larraza set up Romig’s heroics with a nice centering feed after a hard rush up the left wing. The win was Denver’s first in overtime since March 16, 2012 vs. Minnesota-Duluth in the WCHA playoffs, snapping a 10-game winless streak in games that required extra time.
“I liked our 200-foot hockey tonight,” DU head coach Jim Montgomery said. “I thought it was the best complete game we have played all year long and it was right from the first minute through when we got the overtime winner.”
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Wisconsin used a familiar formula, as well as an extra boost from its special teams, to remain undefeated at the Kohl Center in a 4-1 victory over Colorado College.
Goaltender Joel Rumpel was again sharp, with 24 saves. And Wisconsin’s four goals nearly matched the five goals per game home scoring average it carried into Friday’s matchup.
In addition, where the special teams hasn't always been sharp this season, it was in this game, including a pair of second-period power-play goals to give Wisconsin a lead it never relinquished.
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Bolstered by three power-play goals, Minnesota State extended its winning streak to six games with a 4-1 victory at Alabama-Huntsville. Sophomore Dylan Margonari got his fourth goal of this season when he beat UAH netminder Matt Larose at 12:45 of the first period, setting the Mavericks on their way.