They key theme heard over and over — and over — at the NCHC media day earlier this year was it is a fine line separating No. 1 from No. 8 in this league.
It took only one weekend of conference play for the “on any given night” rhetoric to ring true.
The Western Michigan Broncos, they of the 6-13-5 conference record last season and ranked seventh of eight teams in the NCHC preseason poll, pulled off the upsets of the week with a 4-2, 6-1 sweep over previously unbeaten and top-ranked Omaha in Kalamazoo.
Aaron Hadley, a junior forward, led the charge offensively with four points in the series after having just one point in his entire career entering the weekend games. Collin Olson stopped 31 shots in the 4-2 win and Lukas Hafner made 37 saves to complete the sweep.
Elsewhere this week in college hockey:
HOCKEY EAST LEADS THE WAY
So far this year NCHC is 25-17-6 against all other conferences, but just 5-10-4 against Hockey East. Boston College swept its marquee matchup against visiting Denver with a pair of one-goal wins and moved up to No. 3 in both polls.
UMass-Lowell jumped three spots in both polls (4/5) with its split over Minnesota-Duluth, the NCHC preseason favorite.
NO. 1 WITH A … WALK-ON?
What is surprising is how UND is doing it.
UND has played seven of its first eight games on the road and both of its scholarship goalies are injured. Loaded with freshmen and veteran defensemen, first-year coach Brad Berry has UND off to its best start since the the 1999-2000 team went 8-0-1 and won the national title.
Entering this season junior goalie Matt Hyrkiw had never played in a game for UND, but since being forced into the lineup he’s 5-0-1 with a 1.48 goals-against average and .942 save percentage. He earned his second shutout of the season Saturday night, making 29 saves in a 2-0 win to cap a weekend sweep at Colorado College.
BIG GOAL MAROONEY
The junior forward led the Chargers to their first-ever road sweep in WCHA play with 5-4 and 5-0 wins at Lake Superior State.
He finished with two goals and an assist and a plus-3 rating for the weekend.
SHAKEUP IN WOMEN’S POLL
The win gave UND a series split and dropped Minnesota, previously No. 1 in the polls, to third behind Wisconsin and Boston College.
Both the Badgers and the BC women are on record pace for their schools. Each are 10-0. The Eagle remained at No. 2 in the polls behind sophomore goalie Katie Burt. They haven’t allowed a goal in league play and are riding a three-game shutout streak.
Wisconsin, which jumped from No. 3 to No. 1, has eight consecutive shutouts. See ASN’s Hockey Player of the Week for more on the Badgers.
ASN will televise Minnesota at Notre Dame on Friday night. The Fighting Irish (3-1-2 overall, 2-0-0 Big Ten) are coming off a sweep of UConn and back-to-bak ties against Minnesota-Duluth. Minnesota (2-3-0, 0-0-0) is coming off a sweep of Northeastern.