Here’s my ranked “Performers” and “Underperformers” for the weekend of November 22/23:
- University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks – You’ve got to hand it to the UNO Mavericks. They’ve had a pretty tough schedule to contend with the past 4 weeks and they’ve not only survived but have won 6 of 8 games including wins over Denver, Michigan, North Dakota and now Miami. The unranked Mavericks faced off against #8 Miami and picked up 6 league points and find themselves perched on top of the NCHC. On Friday, the Mavs fell behind 1-0 early but struck 5 times in the second period (all 5×5 goals) including two from Austin Ortega to win 6-3. On Saturday, UNO came out firing outshooting Miami 43-26 and earned a 3-1 win. Knotted 1-1 after the first, Tanner Lane picked up a shortie and Dominic Zombo a power play goal in the third for the win. Goaltender, Ryan Massa picked up both wins. A HUGE weekend sweep for UNO and my team “Performer of the week.
- University of Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks – In a highly anticipated Hockey East matchup between #6 Notre Dame and #13 Lowell the Irish fell twice on the road 1-0 and 3-1. The over-ranked Irish who’ve split nearly every series since October 25 ran into a very hot goaltending performance by Conner Hellebuyck who turned away all 40 Notre Dame shots on goal for the shutout. The GWG was scored by Stephen Buco on the power play. In game two, it was much of the same with Hellebuyck stopping 34 of 35 SOG for the win. Lowell rode two first period goals including the GWG by Michael Kapla in the 3-1 win. Lowell improves their Hockey East record to 4-1 while Notre Dame falls to 8th in the standings.
- Ferris State University Bulldogs – Currently, the Bulldogs are the class of the WCHA and unquestionably one of the top five teams in college hockey. They are another team that’s made it a “habit” to win and did so again this past weekend with a sweep of the Alaska Nanooks, their 8th and 9th games in a row without a loss. Ferris jumped out to a first period 1-0 lead, withstood being penalized 5 times in the second and outshot 15-5 yet, outscored the Nanooks 2-0 in the period. Chad McDonald got the GWG 44 seconds into the third and then held off a furious 3 goal rally by Alaska to hang on for a 5-3 win. C. J. Motte improved his record to 9-0-1 in goal. In the rematch, Ferris jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead, held off another Nanook rally of three goals in the second and got the GWG at 13:02 by Garrett Thompson for the 4-3 win. Motte picked up his 10th win of the season and Ferris remains solidly in first place in the WCHA.
- Western Michigan University Broncos – After a winless four games, the Broncos were looking for that “tonic” to get back on track. What better way to get back in the winning column than to have a home and home series with intra-state rival and weekly “underperformer” Michigan State. In a predictable sweep for the Broncos, they shut out the Spartans on Friday 2-0 in a “yawner”. On Saturday, Justin Kovacs scored the GWG at 9:57 of the first and WMU cruised to a 4-1 win. The Spartans finally got on the board midway through the third but this game was already over by then. Did I say rivalry?
- University of Vermont Catamounts – The Catamounts entered this home and home series with UMass losing 4 of the previous 5 games. Falling behind 2-0 on Friday the ‘Cats pulled it together scoring the next three goals including two on the PP to earn a 3-2 win. Nick Bruneteau was the hero with the GWG. On Sunday in Burlington, Jake Fallon scored the GWG at 18:22 of the first period and the ‘Cats got stingy on defense shutting out the Minutemen 2-0. An important conference sweep for Vermont.
- Northeastern University Huskies – Northeastern needed that “tonic” as well and found it in another “underperformer” Merrimack, who had lost seven of their prior ten games. This was also a home and home series for a Northeastern squad that had lost 5 of their prior six. Predictably a split right? Think again – on Friday, the Huskies rose to the occasion and despite an undisciplined 10 penalties, being outshot and allowing two Warrior PP goals they found a way to prevail 5-2. Clay Witt stopped 29 of 31 SOG for the win. Congrats, a solid road win for Northeastern. In the follow-up at Matthews Arena in Boston, Torin Synydeman got the GWG midway through the first and Clay Witt was solid once again in the 2-0 shutout. These wins could not have come at a better time for the Huskies.
- St. Cloud State University Huskies – Despite a 2-2 tie on Friday and falling short 1-0 in the gimmicky NCHC shootout, the Huskies took it like a loss. A determined Husky squad vowed to avoid a repeat on Saturday and did so with a convincing 6-2 win over Colorado College. On Friday, it was a goaltenders duel with CC’s Justin Thorimbert stopping 31 of 33 SOG and his counterpart Ryan Faragher stopping 30 of 32. On Saturday it was all St. Cloud as Nic Dowd scored twice, Ryan Papa the GWG and Andrew Prochno an outstanding +4 in the game. The win secures second place in the NCHC for SCSU and a four-way log jam in the cellar for Colorado College.
- Boston University Terriers -It’s anyone’s guess as to what to expect out of the Terriers this season. Is it the team that trounced Wisconsin 7-3 or the squad that got throttled by Maine 7-0? On this weekend, they took on a Nodak team that has had it’s own struggles dropping 4 of it’s previous 6 games. In this anticipated East/West weekend series in Boston, the Terriers jumped out to a 3-0 lead before UND’s Rocco Grimaldi got the visitor on the board late in period three. Final score 3-1. In an entertaining game on Saturday, the “other” BU squad was outshot 30-13 over two periods yet hung on to a 2-2 tie. Again, in the third, North Dakota held a dominant 25 – 14 edge in shots but could only muster a power play goal. Alas, the Terriers got the equalizer midway through the third for a 3-3 OT final.
- Denver University Pioneers – Here’s a team that’s left the state of Colorado once since the start of the season. That was in October to Alaska. Since that time, they’ve had two away games – both down the road in Colorado Springs. This past weekend, they faced an Air Force squad that defeated home town rival Colorado College on Tuesday. On Friday, on the Falcons home ice, AFA probably deserved a better fate outshooting Denver 34-18 and surging to a 2 goal lead only to see Denver run up three goals in the second period to take a 3-2 lead. However, the never say die Falcons got the GTG from Scott Holm midway through the third to knot the game at 3-3. Neither squad could generate a SOG in overtime. On Saturday in Denver the game weary Falcons jumped out to an early 1-0 lead only to see the Pioneers methodically score the next three goals in a very tight contest. Trevor Moore scored the game winner at 4:53 of the second. Denver has indeed gotten the job done lately putting them in “performer” status.
- University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs– After going 0-7 on the power play and getting bounced by the Gophers 6-1 on Friday, the #19 Bulldogs packed up and returned to Duluth to lick their wounds. The question was how the Bulldogs would respond on Sunday at a venue not kind to visitors. Respond they did, getting their first win in 4 years at at Mariucci and methodically dismantling the #1 Gophers in the effort and special teams categories. The Bulldogs converted 4 of 7 power play opportunities and added a short-handed goal turning the tables on the U of MN winning 6-2. The heroes were Justin Crandall with 2 power play goals and two assists and goaltender Matt McNeely who stopped 36 of 38 shots for the win. this was a great Sunday “performance” by UMD.
- Sacred Heart University Pioneers – Any squad earning a weekend sweep is automatically granted “performer” status. This loser of seven straight had the good fortune of facing an Army team that had lost 10 games thus far this season. Yet, hold on – their only victory was a 6-2 win over this same Sacred Heart squad on November 12. Army seemed to be cruising along with a 3-1 lead after one and a 5-3 advantage after two. Predictably, the roof caved in the third period with the Pioneers scoring three straight goals for a 6-5 win. On Saturday, it was no contest as the Pioneers racked up a four goal lead surrendering only a meaningless power play goal late in the third for a 4-1 win. Tough, tough season for the Black Knights.
- Northern Michigan University Wildcats – In another series with predictable results, the Wildcats outshot Alabama-Huntsville 74-33 over the two games and shut out the Chargers 3-0 and 4-0 in the sweep. Kudos to the Chargers, they kept Stephan Vigier of the Wildcats without a goal all weekend. A nice accomplishment.
- Miami University RedHawks – The highly regarded RedHawks, a preseason favorite in the NCHC fell flat in Omaha dropping two games to the Mavericks. They are now 2-4 in the conference and finding out the weekly grind of the NCHC schedule is going to be a huge task. A disastrous second period Friday yielding 5 goals led to a 6-3 loss. On Saturday, two special teams goals by UNO including a shorthanded goal in period two and a power play goal in period three gave UNO the 3-1 win and weekend sweep. Simply a weekend with results worthy of the “underperformer” list.
- Michigan State University Spartans – Regardless of the conference opponent, at home or on the road, the Spartans continue to underperform. Unacceptable for a Big 10 school of this stature and with their tradition. This weekend, NCHC member and intra-state competitor, Western Michigan swept them in this home and home series. They were able to muster one goal all weekend in the final period of Saturday’s game. A big shake of the head.
- University of Massachusetts Minutemen – After sweeping Michigan State in a non-conference series in mid October, the Minutemen have been on a downward spiral ever since. Winless in 7 of 8 coming into this series UMass needed to find some success – some how some way. Not to be as they found themselves coughing up a 2 goal lead on home ice Friday in losing 3-2 and getting shutout on the road Sunday in a 2-0 loss. This team now has a 5 game road stretch. Good luck.
- Merrimack University Warriors – Merrimack continues to make this list more often than not. It tends not to matter who the opponent is (except of course Army, Bentley or Mercyhurst) on the road or at home. This week it was Northeastern, another struggling squad who tagged two more losses on the Warriors. They are now winless in the last six games and seem destined for the cellar in Hockey East.
- Notre Dame University Fighting Irish – In my mind, an overrated squad, the #6 ranked Irish travelled to Lowell, MA for a highly anticipated series with new Hockey East rival, #13 UMass-Lowell. They were derailed by Lowell goaltender Conner Hellebuyck both games scoring one goal over the weekend. The Irish are now winless in 6 of their last 9 games and are in 8th place in Hockey East. They should take a tumble in the polls this week. Close games and moral victories don’t count in the final analysis.
- Army Black Knights – In a battle of two very weak squads, Army coughed up a comfortable lead in game one vs Sacred Heart only to lose 6-5 and then proceeded to drop Saturday’s game 4-1. A weekly underperformer, Army has now lost 10 of 11 games thus far this season.
- University of Alaska Nanooks – This was a tall order for the Nanooks travelling to Big Rapids, MI to face WCHA leading Ferris State. After sleeping through the first two periods on Friday and failing to convert on the power play, UAF made a furious third period comeback only to fall 5-3. On Saturday, a three goal first period doomed the Nanooks as again a three goal comeback fell short. Too little too late in both games. Getting swept in conference play places them on this list.
- Niagara University Purple Eagles – Niagara travelled to Michigan for a single game with the Wolverines and were blitzed 6-0 – as expected, for their 8th loss of the season. After a two game respite where they picked up a pair of wins against Army, apparently they are ready to start another losing streak.
- University of North Dakota – UND picked up an overtime tie and a loss vs Boston University on the road. They scored a meaningless late goal on Friday in the 3-1 loss and could not bury the puck Saturday despite badly outshooting the Terriers. I suspect we’ll be told we must be patient as Nodak always makes that “late season” run. I expected more from UND on this road trip and thus, here they are.
- University of Alabama – Huntsville Chargers – I’m starting to feel sorry for this squad. They were shutout both nights vs Northern Michigan and were outshot 74-33. On the bright side, it can’t get any worse when you are winless. it can only get better. One win and they make the “performer” list. Really.
The University of Nebraska-Omaha is the “View from Center Ice” Performer of the week as a result of their outstanding weekend sweep of #8 ranked Miami University. Congrats.