The battle continues. The #7/7 ranked SCSU Huskies return to the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center this weekend to face #6/6 ranked Omaha in a key NCHC weekend series. The Huskies (5-1-0 conference | 11-3-0 overall) look to at least maintain their co-leadership in the standings in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. The Mavericks (3-2-1 conference | 11-2-1 overall) need a successful weekend to keep within striking distance of league leaders North Dakota and St. Cloud State. Currently, Omaha and Denver occupy third place in the NCHC standings with 10 points. With #9/9 Denver visiting #4/4 North Dakota this weekend odds are we could see a shake-up in the conference standings by the conclusion of this weekends series.
Both teams are ranked highly in the early PWR with SCSU at #4 and Omaha at #5.
Both games will be televised locally in the St. Cloud area on the SCSU Sports Network Charter channels 823/426. Game times are 7:37 PM CT on Friday and 7:07 PM CT on Saturday.
HEAD TO HEAD
These two squads played each other six times during the 2014-15 season with the Huskies owning a 4-2-0 edge including two NCHC quarterfinal wins in Omaha last March. SCSU has won four straight contests with the Mavericks and are 5-1-0 in the last six games at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center and 9-2-1 all-time vs Omaha on their home rink.
Both teams are fresh off successful non-conference weekends with Omaha sweeping visiting Ohio State University by scores of 3-1 and 6-4 to remain undefeated in non-conference play. This was Omaha’s fifth series sweep of the early 2015-16 season. They are also 6-0-0 on home ice at the newly opened Baxter Arena in Omaha. Omaha’s only two losses of the season were on the road to Western Michigan on October 30/31.
The Huskies also swept their BIG 10 opponent, University of Minnesota, in a Friday / Sunday series by scores of 3-2 and 7-4. This was the first weekend sweep ever at Mariucci Arena for SCSU. The Huskies have swept five series this season including the Kendall Hockey Classic wins over both Alaska schools. SCSU has won seven of their last eight contests. Their three losses this season were non-conference games to Quinnipiac 5-2 / 4-1 on October 23/24 and a conference loss 4-3 to North Dakota on November 20.
The Mavericks carry with them a formidable offensive attack led by junior forward Jake Guentzel, currently the NCHC’s overall points leader with 8-14-22. Nationally, Guentzel ranks 8th in points per game at 1.57. Last weekend, Guentzel tied a school record with five points and was +4 in Saturday’s 6-4 win over OSU. Guentzel also leads the current team in points vs SCSU with 11. Teammate, Austin Ortega, is currently the NCAA goal-scoring leader with 12 goals in 14 games. Additionally, he leads the country in game-winning goals with 5. Ortega contributed three goals last weekend vs Ohio State. Other contributors to the offense are forwards Justin Parizek ( 3-10-13), Fredrik Olofsson (6-5-11) and Jake Randolph (7-3-10).
Defensively, the Mavericks are led by senior Brian Cooper ( 2-5-7 +8 ) and sophomore Luc Snuggerud ( 1-5-6 +4). In goal, first-year player Evan Weninger has been outstanding with a .948 SV % and 1.909 GAA. The play of Weninger is a key component in the Maverick’s 13th ranked defense allowing only 2.36 GPG and a penalty kill stopping 86.4% of the opponents opportunities.
The Mavericks offense is ranked 13th nationally in goals per game at 3.39 and lead the country in short-handed goals with 5. The power play lags however at 50th nationally only converting 13% of their opportunities. Like the Huskies, Omaha spends little time in the penalty box and is ranked 35th in that category.
ST. CLOUD STATE UNIVERSITY
The Huskies offense is scoring goals at a torrid pace with much of this offense coming via the power play lately. The nations third-ranked offense currently averages 4.29 GPG and has scored 14 power play goals in it’s last six games. The power play is converting 29.8% of it’s opportunities ranking them 3rd nationally. The Huskies balanced scoring attack includes five players with five or more goals. The team points leader is David Morley (7-10-17 +10) who carries a five-game scoring streak into the weekend. He has 12 points in the last five games and should join SCSU’s 100 point club this weekend. Right behind Morley in points are Kalle Kossila ( 3-13-16 +9) Patrick Russell (7-8-15 +7) Joey Benik ( 8-6-14 +10) and Judd Peterson ( 9-4-13 +8 ).
The stingy defense of the Huskies is anchored by senior Ethan Prow who has also added to the offense with 2 goals and 10 assists and a +5 rating. He’s backed up by a solid core of young defenseman including sophomore, Nathan Widman (+12), Jimmy Schuldt (+5), Will Borgen (+5) and Jon Lizotte (+12). Junior Niklas Nevalainen has been a key defensive and offensive component to this unit with 8 points in 12 games and a +13 ranking. Goaltender Charlie Lindgren is ranked 10th in the country with a 1.885 GAA and .931 SV %. The Huskies are ranked 3rd nationally in team defense allowing 1.86 GPG. The penalty kill has been the weak link ranked 53rd and allowing the opponent to score on 25% of their opportunities. As always, SCSU is one of the least penalized teams in the country currently ranked 55 out of 60 teams.
Despite the strong goaltending by Evan Weninger it has to be concerning to see the number of shots on goal Omaha has been allowing lately. In the last three series, the Mavericks have been outshot 221-166 including a 47 shot burst by UMD on November 6 and 46 SOG last Saturday by Ohio State. With 40% of the SCSU scoring coming from the power play in the last six games it’ll be imperative for Omaha to limit their time in the penalty box. However, the Mavericks penalty kill has been highly effective at 86%. If there is a weak link for the Huskies it has been the penalty kill. Omaha’s power play has been a weak spot as well but the Mavericks have too many proven scorers to assume their paltry 13% conversion percentage will continue. Omaha forwards Jake Guentzel and Austin Ortega have been deadly offensively and the Huskies will have to keep an eye on them all weekend. Defensively, the edge probably tilts to SCSU when you stack up the play of the two defensive units. The well-rounded and balanced scoring attack of the Huskies should provide fits for the Mavericks defense all weekend. With two of the top goaltenders in the country being showcased in this series it should be a whale of a weekend.
As always, all the pertinent links for this weekends games can be found HERE
Enjoy the games!