Pioneers Sweep has Leaders Looking Over Their Shoulder

 (Photo Prout)

It’s all smiles in Denver after a sweep of North Dakota (Photo Prout)

 

My how a weekend can change things. Denver’s sweep of North Dakota in combination with St. Cloud’s bye weekend injects the Pioneers back into the race for the Julie and Spencer Penrose Memorial Cup, awarded to the regular season NCHC conference champion. Suddenly, it turns a two-horse race between SCSU and UND  into  a competition of three in the NCHC. The 6-4 and 4-1 wins not only pushed Denver to within six points of league leaders SCSU and UND but also (and more importantly) catapulted the Pioneers to #8 in the Pairwise rankings. And, whether it’s a priority for the Pioneers or not, it gives them a legitimate opportunity to catch either or both leaders by seasons end. With all the teams finally at par in the number of league games played here’s a look at how each team in the NCHC has fared in the last 10 games:

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Denver University Pioneers – 8-1-1

St. Cloud State University Huskies – 7-2-1

University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks – 6-3-1

Miami University RedHawks – 6-3-1

University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs – 4-5-1

Omaha Mavericks – 4-6-0

Colorado College Tigers – 3-6-1

Western Michigan Broncos – 0-8-2

Without suggesting that there is any easy competitor in the NCHC here are a few comments, a rundown of the three team’s schedules and projections for the final six games of the regular season:

DENVER UNIVERSITY PIONEERS

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Based on current league record and current standings, the Pioneers look to have the most favorable schedule of the three teams. They’ll face in-state rival Colorado College this week in what is sure to be a very competitive series with a resurgent Tiger’s team. They follow that up with a trip to Kalamazoo, MI to face the struggling Broncos who have not won a game since December 30th. They finish up their schedule with another team looking to find some momentum over their final three series in the Omaha Mavericks. The Mavericks will have to endure consecutive weekends battling league leaders SCSU and UND and it’ll be interesting to see how much fuel they have in their tank by the Denver series.

Last three series:

Colorado College (Home and Home)

Western Michigan University (Away)

Omaha (Home)

Projected finish in last six games: 4-1-1

UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA FIGHTING HAWKS

UND_2013

The Fighting Hawks should be ornery after getting swept by the Denver Pioneers last weekend. They’ll face a Bulldog team that needs to get its act together quickly if they have any ambitions for post-season play. Currently ranked 23rd in the lastest Pairwise rankings, the Bulldogs could do themselves a favor with a strong weekend on the road vs North Dakota. After the home series with UMD, the Fighting Hawks then travel to Omaha to face another team that typically gives them fits. The Mavericks were the last squad to defeat UND prior to the losses to the Pioneers. On January 15, the Mavericks earned a 4-3 overtime win snapping a nine game winning streak by UND. Finally, the Fighting Hawks finish the regular with a home series with Western Michigan University.  The Penrose Cup could very well be on the line that weekend and this should be a favorable matchup for UND.

University of Minnesota-Duluth (Home)

Omaha (Away)

Western Michigan University (Home)

Projected finish in last six games: 4-2-0

ST. CLOUD STATE UNIVERSITY HUSKIES

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The Huskies have a schedule similar to the Fighting Hawks with the exception that the Huskies will be on the road their last series of the regular season in Colorado Springs. After a week off, the Huskies should be ready for their final push to the end of the season starting with a road series in Omaha. The Mavericks have not had a lot of success vs the Huskies as of late dropping five of the past six. However, the last contest between the two was a lopsided 7-2 win for Omaha and that has to be in the back of the minds of the Huskies. SCSU then returns home to face the UMD Bulldogs, another team that has the capability to throw a road block in front of the Huskies. Again, it’ll be interesting to see how UMD holds up after two consecutive road weekends against UND and SCSU. Finally, the Huskies hit the road to face Colorado College in the final series of the regular season. The much improved Tigers will not be intimidated by the Huskies having played to a one-goal loss and defeating the Huskies by a 5-2 score on January 9th on the road. It’s very likely the league title could be on the line with UND facing Western Michigan  on home ice and the Huskies on the road vs the Tigers.

Omaha (Away)

University of Minnesota-Duluth (Home)

Colorado College (Away)

Projected finish in last six games: 4-2-0

It should be another exciting finish to the end of the regular season in the NCHC. Enjoy the games!

 

 

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