Elliott Olshansky, NCAA.com
A relatively stable week atop the USCHO.com Division I Men’s poll belies one of the most chaotic weekends of the season, as each of the top five teams in last week’s poll took a loss over the weekend.
It started on Friday, when No. 2 North Dakota welcomed rival Minnesota to Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks for a WCHA series. In a wild contest that saw the two teams combine for 52 total minutes in penalties, the Fighting Sioux battled back from a 2-0 first period deficit to tie the game at two goals apiece, only for Nico Saccheti to put the Golden Gophers up for good three minutes after Jason Gregoire’s tying goal, giving Minnesota a 3-2 win.
The Fighting Sioux would battle back on Saturday night for a 4-1 win, but while North Dakota evened the score with its fiercest rival, two more top-five teams were tasting defeat. At Amsoil Arena in Duluth, Minnesota, No. 9 Wisconsin got a goal and an assist apiece from Justin Schultz and Craig Smith en route to a 3-2 win over No. 5 Minnesota Duluth, while at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H., Doug Jones scored with 1:11 remaining to give Dartmouth a 5-4 win over No. 4 New Hampshire in the annual Battle for the Riverstone.
The biggest upset came on Sunday afternoon, when No. 1 Yale visited ECAC Hockey travel partner Brown for the back end of a home-and-home series. Senior forward Harry Zolnierczyk assisted on each of the Bears’ first two goals, then scored with 46 seconds left in the game to hand the Bulldogs just their second defeat of the season. The weekend of upsets ended in grand fashion on Sunday night, when No. 13 Maine got a goal and two assists from senior defenseman Jeff Dimmen to upset No. 3 Boston College, 4-1.
So, after the parade of upsets, where did everyone land? Well, the Wildcats took a tumble, falling to No. 7, but Yale, North Dakota, BC and Duluth remained in place, with Michigan filling the No. 4 slot after a home-and-home sweep of Ferris State.
Need to Know
- In contrast to their Division I brethren, the top five teams in Division III enjoyed the picture of tranquility over the weekend, paced by No. 1 Oswego. The Lakers have been idle since a 3-0 win over Curry on January 8, but regained sole possession of first place in the USCHO.com Division III, despite last week’s co-No. 1, St. Norbert, winning both of its games against Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Still in line behind the Lakers and Green Knights are Norwich, Bowdoin and Manhattanville.
- NCAA hockey made its debut in the state of Tennessee over the weekend, as Alabama-Huntsville took on then-No. 15 Merrimack in a pair of games at Bridgestone Arena, home of the NHL’s Nashville Predators. Fittingly, it was a Tennessee native, sophomore forward Geoffrion (a Brentwood native and the brother of 2010 Hobey Baker Award winner Blake Geoffrion), who scored the first goal, and helped the Chargers build an early 3-0 lead. However, the Warriors stormed back and won 5-4, going ahead for good on Shawn Bates’ goal with 3:45 remaining, then left no doubt in a Saturday matinee, getting two goals apiece from Jesse Todd and Carter Madsen in a 7-0 win. Merrimack moved up to No. 13 in this week’s poll, and will face No. 15 Boston University on Tuesday night in a game rescheduled from Jan. 12.
- Buffalo State freshman Kevin Carr scored an impressive double honor in the SUNY Athletic Conference. The Unionville, Ontario native was named both Goalie of the Week and Rookie of the Week after stopping 69 of 72 shots in a 2-1 week for the Bengals. It started on Tuesday, when Carr made 22 saves in a 2-1 overtime loss to new No. 14 Hobart. Then, in a weekend series with Johnson and Wales, Carr stopped 20 of 21 shots in a 5-1 Bengals win on Friday, and turned aside all 29 shots he faced on Saturday in a 7-0 thrashing.
- With the top five teams in Division I all taking a tumble, No. 17 Western Michigan is now the proud owner of the nation’s longest unbeaten streak…sort of. The Broncos lost a shootout to Ohio State on Saturday night, but because the shootout is not used outside the CCHA, the game is counted as a tie at the national level. The Broncos’ last loss in regulation or overtime came on December 10, when they suffered a 5-2 defeat at the hands of Lake Superior. Western Michigan will have a chance to avenge that loss this weekend, as the Broncos will travel to Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. to face the Lakers.
Western Michigan is doing it with defense, led by senior goaltender Jerry Kuhn. Kuhn ranks 12th in the country in goals-against average (2.06) and eighth in save percentage (.926)… The nation’s longest unbeaten streak in any division belongs to Plymouth State. The Panthers have gone 7-0-5 since a 5-2 loss to Salem State on November 18, but did not receive a single vote in the most recent USCHO.com Division III Men’s poll….Mercyhurst placed a pair of players from near and far among this week’s Atlantic Hockey honorees, as hometown boy Ryan Zapolski shared Goalie of the Week honors with Robert Morris sophomore Eric Levine, while Taylor Holstrom, a native of Yorba Linda, Calif., was named the conference Rookie of the Week…Hamilton defenseman Joe Houk went on an offensive tear last week en route to earning NESCAC Player of the Week honors. The sophomore from Richboro, Pa. recorded eight points (4g, 4a) in a tie with Amherst on Tuesday and wins at Tufts and Connecticut College over the weekend…In Hockey East, Vermont goaltender Rob Madore was named the Pure Hockey Defensive Player of the Week. The Pittsburgh native stopped 70 shots in the Catamounts’ weekend split with Northeastern, and did not allow a 5-on-5 goal….It won’t make up for a sweep in the MCHA’s first games between two Top 10 teams, but Milwaukee School of Engineering defenseman Michael Thompson was named the conference’s Rookie of the Week for a goal and an assist in Saturday’s game with No. 9 Adrian.