HAT TRICK | Minnesota looking like the center of the hockey universe

brad-mcclure-minn-state-crop

Three observations from the college hockey weekend:

1STARS OF THE NORTH

It looks like this could be a particularly good season for college hockey in the state of Minnesota.  Bemidji State is unbeaten in WCHA play through twelve games, Minnesota State is ranked nationally and not far behind BSU in conference, and the latest USA Today/USA Hockey poll has Minnesota Duluth the No. 1 team in the country.

The Bulldogs went down to Omaha this past weekend to sweep the Mavericks, scoring nine goals in two games in the process.  Freshman netminder Hunter Miksa made 33 saves on Saturday to seal the sweep.   Meanwhile, Denver had to go to two overtime shootouts, which they won, against Miami.  While that will keep their conference record robust, the games will count as ties nationally, and might cost DU their top spot in the national polls.

Minnesota Duluth features a balanced attack, with eight different skaters over 10 points already on the season.  Senior Ales Iafallo leads the way with 19 points (9 goals, 10 assists), and their freshman goaltender Miksa has three shutouts on the year.

The Bulldogs are idle for the next two weeks, they’ll be back in action on Dec. 9.

2LAND OF A THOUSAND RINKS

The Hat Trick stays in Minnesota for another big series, this one between the Minnesota Golden Gophers and Minnesota State.  The highest ranked team nationally from the Big Ten, Minnesota has their eyes on some big things this year.  The Mavericks, for their part, would love to take another chunk out of an in-state rival.  With the future of the North Star College Cup in doubt beyond this year, and Minnesota’s presence in the Big Ten minimizing their local rivalries, every game between one of Minnesota’s more hockey-exclusive schools and the Gophers will feel tremendously big.

The Mavericks took the opener on their home ice Friday, scoring two goals in both of the first two periods to take a commanding lead and never let go.  The final score was 4-1.  The Gophers pulled goalie Eric Schierhorn after the second period for Nick Lehr, who kept the score at 4-1 but by then it was of course too late.  Jason Pawloski, one of two goaltenders the Mavericks are alternating with great success so far this year, was fantastic in the win.  Both of Minnesota State’s goaltenders are in the top twelve in the country statistically.

Minnesota took Saturday’s game at their own rink 1-0, a much needed shutout for Schierhorn after a tough game on the road.  The sophomore is in his second season as Minnesota’s primary goalie, and he now has six shutouts in that short time, three of which came in this season.  Schierhorn can be unpredictable between the pipes, but when he’s on he shows why he has the starting spot.

Minnesota travels to Boston to take on Northeastern on Friday and Boston College on Sunday.  There is no longer an official “Big Ten/Hockey East Challenge,” but the two games will be a good gauge of how well the two power conferences stack up.  Minnesota State is idle this week.

3HARVARD STUNS BC

Boston College suffered a surprising 5-2 loss on Friday at local rival Harvard.  The Crimson scored two goals in the second period to take a 2-1 lead into the second intermission, then scored three goals in the first five minutes of the third period, chasing BC goalie Joe Woll in the process.  Junior goalie Merrick Madsen made 33 saves in the effort, helping change the game in Harvard’s favor.

The loss snapped a 10-game unbeaten streak for Boston College that started back on Oct. 16 that saw the Eagles rise to the top of Hockey East.  They remain unbeaten in conference play and they’re the only team in Hockey East with 10 overall wins.  They’re also undefeated at home without even a tie in their four games at Conte Forum.

Harvard, meanwhile, is starting to look like a national force this season.  One of the last teams to start the season, the Crimson still suffer statistically from a really small sample size.  They’ve only played seven games so far this year, other teams have played as many as 18.  That also keeps them fresh, however, as senior Tyler Moy has 11 points already in those seven games.

Boston College is in action on Tuesday at Connecticut, as the Eagles continue to pioneer the Tuesday night college hockey game.  Harvard also goes on Tuesday at Boston University, another local rival.

If you are wondering if Harvard can sweep the other Beanpot schools, they can, but it will have to involve that tournament, as their only meeting with Northeastern is in the local tournament.


Above: Minnesota State’s Brad McClure (Photo courtesy Minnesota State University Athletics) 

Tim Williams

Tim Williams is a freelance writer based in Boston. Follow him on Twitter at @TimWritesSports.