Previewing the Frozen Face-Off
After the first round of the NCHC playoffs, four teams have been eliminated from not only their conference tournament, but likely the national tournament as well.
The University of Nebraska-Omaha was on the bubble heading into their first-round matchup with the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks, but being swept in Grand Fork all but sealed their fate.
For the Western Michigan Broncos, an auto-bid from winning the NCHC tournament was likely necessary to continue their season. They were easily dispatched by the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs without scoring a goal in either game.
The Miami University RedHawks put up a valiant effort last weekend against the St. Cloud State University Huskies winning in overtime on Saturday to send the series to a third game. After yet another overtime thriller, the Huskies came away victorious this time winning 4-3 and advancing to St. Paul next weekend to the Frozen Faceoff.
After winning the first game in the series, the Colorado College Tigers had a 2-1 lead over the University of Denver Pioneers going into the final period of their Saturday game. The lead would not hold up as the Pioneers scored two goals in the third period to send the series to a third game. The Pioneers won handily in the final game, 6-1, to advance in the tournament.
UND 16-12-10 (12) vs SCSU 24-7-6 (1)
UND and SCSU will face each other in the quarterfinals of the Frozen Faceoff this weekend at the Excel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Earlier in the season, the teams faced each her four times with SCSU winning two of the games, while losing the other to games in a shootout.
The Huskies have the advantage on the offensive side as they have a few high-end scorers, while the Hawks’ leading scorer is Christian Wolanin, who is a defenseman.
Robby Jackson, Mikey Eyssimont and Ryan Poehling all have at least 30 points the season. UND does not have a single forward that has more than 28 points.
SCSU also has an advantage in net. David Hrenak is 13-5-2 allowing 2.02 goals per game. The Freshman from Slovakia was impressive all season with the third highest goals against average.
While the Huskies may have the advantage, Cam Johnson is no slouch in net either. The senior goaltender has won a national championship with the Hawks in 2016 and owns a 2.16 goals against average which is good for fourth best in the conference.
The game is much more important to the Hawks. They will likely need to win at least this game to advance to the NCAA tournament and will need help from other teams.
“We’re not off the hook. We won’t be off the hook, hopefully, until April. We have to make sure the urgency, the compete level, the intensity is there from everybody.” UND head coach Brad Berry said in an interview with the Grand Forks Herald.
UMD 21-14-3 (8) vs DU 20-9-8 (4)
UMD and DU square off for the fourth time this season this weekend in St. Paul.
The Pioneers swept the season series 4-0, but it was not without resistance. All four games came down to one goal.
DU has had a high-powered offense all season and it shows when looking at the stats. They are lead by Henrik Borgström who has 48 points on the season. Troy Terry and Dylan Gambrell also have 40+ points this season.
UMD head coach Scott Sandelin knows that you cannot give a team the caliber of DU many opportunities.
“One thing I’ve learned is don’t make too many mistakes against them because they’re going to capitalize.” Sandelin said in an interview with the Denver Post.
Although they do not have as many high-volume scorers, the Bulldogs only scored one less goal this season than the Pioneers. They were lead by defenseman Scott Perunovich with 34 points and forward Peter Krieger with 30.
In goal, it is about as even as it gets. Both goalies were exceptional this season coming in at #1 and #2 in the goals against average.
Tanner Jaillet went 19-8-7 for the season with an NCHC-leading 1.90 goals against average. UMD’s Hunter Shepard was right behind him with a 21-12-1 record and a 1.92 goals against average.
Both teams are in good position to make the NCAA tournament, so winning the tournament is not necessary for them to advance.