Now that the Vikings have Viking’d, we can move on to more important things in the world of sports. The stretch run for the hockey season is officially underway and this weekend’s games did not disappoint. A few teams bounced back with wins, a couple of long winning streaks ended, and a weekend series shutout for a contender. Let’s also take a look into how the five Minnesota college teams did this weekend, and the three stars of the week.
Streaks Coming to an End
The weekend began with two long winning streaks from the two top-rated teams in the nation. Notre Dame was riding a 15-game winning streak and would host the 18th ranked Wisconsin Badgers. On Friday night the two teams played a very physical game with a lot of heavy hitting. Ultimately, the Fighting Irish would keep the winning streak alive with a 4-2 win. The two teams were given the day off on Saturday in order to travel to Chicago where they would meet in another conference battle at the home of the Chicago Blackhawks, the United Center. The Badgers would get revenge on Sunday and bring Notre Dame’s winning streak to an end at 16 games. Wisconsin scored in the latter part of the first period, and that would be all they would need. They ended up winning the game 5-0 - Notre Dame’s worst loss of the season. Even with that loss, the Irish still remained the top ranked team in the USCHO.com poll receiving 33 of the 50 votes.
The other winning streak going into the weekend was held by the nation’s second ranked team, the Clarkson Golden Knights. Clarkson’s winning streak was up to 14 in a row, and they had two conference games coming up. Friday night Clarkson hosted Harvard, a team that also hadn’t lost in a few weeks. In a high-scoring, back-and-forth game, Harvard scored with under a minute remaining in the game to force overtime. Neither team scored in the overtime period resulting in a tie. This would end the Clarkson winning streak, but the unbeaten streak was extended to 15 games. Saturday night the Golden Knights would host Dartmouth in the weekend finale. Down by a goal late in the second period, Clarkson tied it up. However, Dartmouth would get a power-play a few minutes into the third period and capitalized on the opportunity to end Clarkson’s unbeaten streak. Even though the Golden Knights didn’t get a win this weekend, they only dropped to number 3 in Monday’s USCHO.com polls.
Hockey Day Minnesota
All five division one hockey programs were active on the state-wide holiday, Hockey Day Minnesota. The Gophers played Michigan State, Minnesota-Duluth hosted the Fighting Hawks of North Dakota, Minnesota State and St. Cloud State squared off, and Bemidji State played on the road at Ferris State.
Minnesota at Michigan State
On Thursday night the Gophers traveled to East Lansing, MI to play the Spartans of Michigan State in a weekend series to see who will either get back on track, or remain at the bottom of the Big Ten. The Gophers had plans to get back on track after dropping 8 of its previous 12 games. Down 4-1 early in the second period, the Spartans charged back. They scored 3 consecutive goals to tie it up midway through the 3rd period. Tyler Sheehy of the Gophers took it upon himself to get the team back in the win column by scoring the go-ahead goal with a couple minutes left in the game.
The teams were idle on Friday night, but would play a neutral site game at Madison Square Garden on Saturday evening. Buffalo Sabres first round draft pick, Casey Mittelstadt got the Gophers on the board first with a 1st period goal. Again, the Spartans would tie it up roughly midway through the 3rd period, but the Gophers would prevail with a late goal to sweep the weekend series. Minnesota would leapfrog Wisconsin in the Big Ten standings and are now in 5th place. The Gophers play at home against number 1 ranked Notre Dame this weekend.
Minnesota State vs St. Cloud State
This was the featured men's game for the big event known as Hockey Day Minnesota. There were high school games, women’s college hockey, and NHL games featured on television as a part of the celebration around the Minnesota.
This was the only game on either teams’ schedule for this weekend, but it was a big non-conference game between two top 10 teams. Minnesota State would make the trip north to Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud, MN to play the 3rd ranked Huskies. Zeb Knutson led the way for the Mavericks with 2 goals in a 5-2 victory for Minnesota State. This win over a top 3 team on the road propelled Minnesota State to number 7 in Monday’s USCHO.com poll.
Minnesota-Duluth vs North Dakota
The Bulldogs hosted the Fighting Hawks of North Dakota in an NCHC series that would have huge implications for standings positioning in the NCHC. North Dakota came into the weekend in the top 2 in the NCHC standings with UMD near the bottom. The Bulldogs, led by Joey Anderson, who captained team USA’s World Junior Championship team, swept North Dakota. Anderson led the series in scoring with 1 goal and 5 assists for 6 points. The sweep moved the Bulldogs up to 5th in the NCHC standings and North Dakota dropped to 4th. UMD plays a mid-week game @ Minnesota State on Tuesday.
Bemidji State at Ferris State
The Beavers traveled to Ferris State and swept the weekend series very easily behind a couple of very good defensive performances, and excellent goaltending. Bemidji State’s Michael Bitzer made 23 saves on Friday night to earn the shutout in a 2-0 victory. Saturday night’s game saw much of the same as the Bemidji State defense held Ferris State to 20 shots on goal. Bitzer made 19 saves to earn a weekend sweep with the 4-1 win.
Three Stars of the Week
Third Star – My third star of the week goes to Denver forward Henrik Borgstrom. Borgstrom is currently second in the nation in scoring and is one of the Hobey Baker Award favorites coming down the stretch. He was able to score 1 goal against Omaha this weekend and added 4 more assists to bring his season totals to 16 goals, 19 assists, and 35 points.
Second Star – The second star of the weekend goes to UMD’s Joey Anderson. He put up 6 points this weekend against a very tough North Dakota squad scoring 1 goal and adding 5 assists. Those six points brought his season totals up to 5 goals, 11 assists and 16 points.
First Star – My first star is going to Denver Pioneer senior goaltender Tanner Jaillet. He helped the Pioneers sweep the weekend series against the Omaha Mavericks by not allowing a single puck by him. He made 34 saves on Friday and another 30 saves on Saturday.
One more note to add: Western Michigan’s twitter account tweeted Friday that sophomore star Wade Allison will be out for the season with a lower body injury. This is devastating news for the Broncos as Allison was a big part of their success so far this season. This may be the last time Allison plays for Western Michigan. He was a second round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2016 draft. As a freshman last year he had 29 points in 36 games and was on pace for a major breakout season this year. Through 22 games Allison had 15 goals and 15 assists and was top ten in the nation in scoring prior to his injury.
If you want to see the top rated team in the land play this weekend you can catch Notre Dame vs. Minnesota on ESPN 2. (Yes, you read that correctly, ESPN2… hockey… on ESPN2) The Gophers and Fighting Irish will face off on Fox Sports North PLUS on Saturday as well.