Roundup: Sweeps by Denver, ND, St. Cloud Further Muddy NCHC Standings
CHN Staff Report
Denver earned its second straight one-goal win, earning a weekend sweep at Minnesota-Duluth, 2-1 and 1-0. Tanner Jailett made 57 saves on the weekend in 58 shots.
"Sometimes you get too comfortable with him because he is that good, and he's always controlling the game," Denver coach Montgomery said of his goaltender. "It was nice to see him be so good when we needed him."
Neither team mustered much offense in the first period despite both having a chance on the power play. In fact, Montgomery thought the whole weekend was a slog for both teams.
"Our jump, our life, our energy wasn't great, but neither was theirs," Denver coach Jim Montgomery said. "I don't know if it was the post-Thanksgiving tryptophan lasting for 10 days. The crowd wasn't that into it. It was a really weird NCHC weekend. ... It was not the usual racetrack of great scoring chances we usually have in games against them."
The tight-checking style of play continued through the majority of the second period, limiting scoring chances for both teams before Denver broke through with 21 seconds remaining in the period. Jarid Lukosevicus made it 1-0 after Colin Staub centered a puck from the end boards and Logan O'Connor tapped a short pass to Lukosevicus who patiently put the puck around Bulldogs goalie Hunter Shepard. The Pioneers held a 1-0 lead through 40 minutes.
Minnesota-Duluth answered midway through the third period, but seven minutes later, Denver got the lead back for good. Jake Durflinger broke the tie, following up on a rebound created by Kohen Olischefski who drove the net off the right-wing side.
Olischefski's assist was the first point in his career for the freshman, who had been out of the lineup, but got back in because of an injury to Tyson McLellan.
"It was great to get production from other players. Olischefski is a talented offensive player, you saw that when he went inside-out on the defender," Montgomery said. "Durflinger did what he was recruited to do, be a greaseball.
"To grow, this is what we needed, win two tough games, mentallty and physically. So that was the good thing, but there were a few negatives."
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North Dakota, playing shorthanded because of illness and injuries, nevertheless completed a sweep of Western Michigan with a 4-1 win at Ralph Engelstad Arena on Saturday. The sweep further convoluted the muddled NCHC standings, with ND, WMU, St. Cloud and Denver all with a game of each other atop the league.
Senior goalie Cam Johnson (19 saves) returned from an eight-game injury layoff to lead North Dakota, and freshman Nick Jones had a goal and assist despite battling illness.
The Broncos had grabbed the lead when 6-foot-7, 228-pound freshman center Austin Rueschhoff walked around UND defenseman Matt Kierstad to score his fifth goal of the season at 8:33 of the secod period. Jones knocked in a rebound of a Grant Mismash shot at 19:37 of the second period to tie it at 1-1.
Then just 7 seconds into the third period, Cole Smith raced in alone off the opening faceoff to beat WMU goalie Ben Blecker with a quick move to put UND ahead for good at 2-1. The Broncos never recovered from those two goals eating up just 30 seconds of clock time.
"Tonight I thought he had a lot of energy," UND coach Brad Berry said of Jones. "It killed him not being in the lineup yesterday. He gave us a big boost today."
His return was vital since UND lost forward Ludvig Hoff and defenseman Andrew Peski with injuries suffered in Friday's game.
Smith said the quick goal off the opening faceoff in the third period is something UND works on in practice. "It's kind of a set play," he said. "We have both our wingers jumping right away. I just beat (WMU's) winger. Had a good jump there."
Berry started the line of Smith and defenseman-turned-wing Josh Reiger centered by Johnny Simonson, both to begin the game and open the third period.
"They bring you energy and mentality," Berry said. "They earned it. We went into last weekend with Josh Rieger never playing forward before in his life. He did pretty well."
Indeed. Rieger was the one who bumped the puck ahead enough off the third period opening faceoff to spring Smith in alone for the game-winning goal.
Said Berry about Smith, "He's that late-bloomer who is getting better and better. He's a worker."
"We talk about growing as a team," Berry said "When you win games, you grow as a team. I think you grow even more when you see the lineup changes that we've had due to illness and injuries. You find ways to win with guys in different roles."
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St. Cloud State blanked Nebraska-Omaha, 5-0, to take a road sweep from the Mavericks. The wins set up next week's matchup against North Dakota, in a battle of two teams in the top six in the country, and fighting atop of the league standings.
The Huskies are one point ahead of UND in the standings, with Western Michigan and Denver now tied for third, three points out of first.
The games are in St. Cloud.