Roundup: St. Cloud, Denver, UNO Earn Big NCHC Wins
CHN Staff Report
St. Cloud State swept Miami this weekend, capping it with a 3-1 win Saturday.
The wins were big for a number of reasons. First off, it moved the Huskies into fourth place in the contentious NCHC standings, which is the last home-ice spot for the playoffs. Also, it moved St. Cloud State's overall record one game over .500, which makes it eligible for the NCAAs, for which the Huskies now stand 12th in the ratings and would qualify if things ended today.
"We played a really good first period and a really good third period ... just a really good weekend for us," St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko said.
"We've been playing like this for a long while. I like it. We're coming. We're just running out of time. But we're coming."
Nick Poehling made a beautiful cross-ice pass to find a streaking Jake Wahlin, who buried it with 2:37 remaining in regulation to give St. Cloud the win. The Huskies added an empty netter.
"Nick Poehling made a great pass and (Wahlin) has some clutch goals for us this year, and I think that's a sign of what's to come," Motzko said.
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Denver may still be No. 2 in the Pairwise, but it is No. 1 by itself in the NCHC after finishing a season sweep of rival Colorado College with a 5-1 win Saturday.
With that, Denver also reaches 20 wins for the 16th straight year, the longest current streak.
“Winning 20 games in college hockey isn’t easy and reaching that total that for sixteen straight years is a great accomplishment for our program,” Denver coach Jim Montgomery said. “It’s obviously great to be back in first place as well. We now control our own destiny in our pursuit of the Penrose Cup, which we’ve never won. It’s definitely a trophy our student-athletes, especially the seniors, really want to hoist at the end of the regular season.
“Any time you can win a championship of any kind it better prepares you to compete for a national title – which is ultimately our goal for this season.”
Evan Janssen put DU up 3-0 at the 6:14 mark of the second period, with CC responding 10 minutes later to reduce their deficit to two. A highlight-reel tally off the stick of Henrik Borgström then restored the Pioneers’ three-goal advantage late in the period; the Florida Panthers prospect carried the puck from his own zone the length of the ice and proceeded to beat Tigers goalie Alex Leclerc on a picture-perfect shot to record his 15th goal of the season.
Both Borgström and Troy Terry returned to the Denver lineup this weekend after missing time with injuries.
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After losing a wild game Friday, Nebraska-Omaha recovered for a 6-3 win over Western Michigan on Saturday. UNO is in a pack of four times contending for two final home-ice spots in the NCHC playoffs.
UNO got two goals each from [[Fredrik Olofsson]] and Riley Alferd. For Alferd, a sophomore from Vancouver, they were the first two goals of his college career.
"It's a relief, and excitement," Alferd said.
Said Olofsson, "This time of year, every game is a must win. We knew that urgency."
Alex Blankenburg, the team's No. 3 goaltender, got his first start of the season and picked up the win. UNO's goaltending has been struggling again, and Blankenburg, a 5-foot-8 sophomore, played the last two periods in Friday's game. It was just his fourth appearance and his first win. It was a similar situation to how he appeared last season.
"Both years I've had to wait some time for (my first start)," Blankenburg said. "The guys treat me the same, not like a third goalie. So I felt confident. And the four shots right off the bat helped me get in my groove."
Olofsson had praise for both Alferd and Blankenburg.
"They've been our two hardest workers," Olofsson said. "It shows to our depth. In games like this when we need guys to step up, they're the ones that have been ready and waiting. It's going to be the difference down the stretch.
Western Michigan is in third place by itself after the split, and still in good shape, with a big home weekend looming against North Dakota.