Oswego unanimous choice for top slot
Notes: Former N. Dakota coach Blais returns with Neb.-Omaha
Elliott Olshansky, NCAA.com
Since late November, a silent debate has raged atop the USCHO.com Division III men’s poll. At issue: who is the best team in Division III, Oswego or St. Norbert?
Of course, the debate can’t truly be settled until March and the NCAA Tournament, but for now, the pundits have a unanimous choice: Oswego.
The Lakers (17-2-0) were a unanimous No. 1 choice in this week’s poll after maintaining their perfect SUNYAC record with a 4-1 win at Buffalo State and a 5-4 overtime victory at Fredonia. The Blue Devils nearly treated their fans to a stunning upset, rallying from a 4-0 deficit to send the game to overtime on Mat Hehr’s extra-attacker goal at 19:55 of the third period, but Paul Rodrigues scored just 55 seconds into overtime to preserve Oswego’s unblemished conference mark.
"We're just going to have to shake it off," Fredonia senior forward Alex Morton told the Observer (Dunkirk, N.Y.). "We spotted the number one team in the country four goals and dominated them from the middle of the game until the end."
St. Norbert, meanwhile, wasn’t nearly as lucky. The Green Knights were stymied by Wisconsin-Superior goaltender Drew Standberg on Friday, and the Yellowjackets scored twice in the final minute of the first period en route to a 3-0 win. Johan Ryd scored the game-winning goal and added two assists on Saturday as St. Norbert bounced back, but the damage had been done. The Green Knights remain atop the NCHA standings, but the Yellowjackets -- who broke into the USCHO poll this week at No. 15 -- are nipping at their heels, sitting just two points behind in the standings. St. Norbert will have no margin for error this weekend, as they host Wisconsin-Stevens Point on Thursday night, then travel to Wisconsin-Eau Claire on Saturday.
Need to Know
• Former North Dakota coach Dean Blais had a happy homecoming on Friday night when he brought Nebraska-Omaha to his old stomping grounds at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks. The Mavericks used five power-play goals to open up a 7-1 lead on the Fighting Sioux, eventually winning 8-4. Joey Martin recorded a hat trick for UNO, scoring the Mavericks’ first, fourth and eighth goals. The Fighting Sioux came back on Saturday night, getting two goals and an assist from Jason Gregoire in a 4-2 win, but it couldn’t stop North Dakota from falling from second to fourth in the USCHO.com Division I poll.
• The hottest team in the country -- in any division -- is Castleton State. The Spartans have won eleven straight games, and have not lost since a 3-2 loss to Bowdoin on December 4. Castleton jumped up to No. 4 in this week’s USCHO.com Division III poll, but still sits behind No. 3 Norwich in both the poll and the ECAC East Standings. The Spartans will go for their second win over the Cadets on February 11, but still have four more games to worry about before that contest, including home games this weekend against Tufts and Connecticut College.
• The Beanpot is still just under two weeks away, but Boston College has already earned Commonwealth Avenue bragging rights over rival Boston University. The Eagles scored a 3-2 win on Friday night at the Terriers’ Agganis Arena, sweeping the Hockey East season series. After losing 9-5 and 5-2 in early December, BU played their best game of the year against BC, but couldn’t overcome a three-goal first period by the Eagles. BU did bounce back to beat New Hampshire on Saturday night, and will get one more shot at the defending national champions, on Monday, February 7 at TD Garden, in the opening round of the Beanpot.
• No. 6 Michigan’s Carl Hagelin is the CCHA Offensive Player of the Week after assisting on five of Michigan’s six goals in a weekend sweep of Alaska. Hagelin set up both goals in Friday’s 2-0 win against the Nanooks, then set up the Wolverines’ first three goals in a 4-3 win on Saturday.
• Wesleyan sophomore goaltender Matt Hadge was named the NESCAC Player of the Week after backstopping the unranked Cardinals to an upset of No. 3 Norwich. Hadge, the owner of the No. 2 save percentage in Division III (.943), stopped 47 of 49 shots in the Cardinals’ 5-2 victory.
• Niagara senior forward Paul Zanette was named Atlantic Hockey Player of the Week after a six-point weekend against Sacred Heart. Zanette, who shares the nation’s goals-per-game lead with teammate Bryan Haczyk, had a goal and two assists in a 4-2 win against the Pioneers on Friday, then followed it up with two goals and an assist in a 6-2 win on Saturday.
• Milwaukee School of Engineering goaltender Connor Toomey is the MCHA Defensive Player of the Week. A junior from Burlington, Mass., Toomey stopped 47 of 49 shots in a pair of wins over Finlandia, helping the No. 12 Raiders keep pace with No. 8 Adrian atop the MCHA’s South Division.
• UMass-Lowell senior forward Patrick Cey was named the Athletic Republic Player of the Week by Hockey East. A senior from Saskatoon, Sask., Cey scored two goals, including the game-winner, as the River Hawks upset then-No. 13 Merrimack.
• Rensselaer returned to the Top 10 in this week’s USCHO.com Division I poll after wins against Harvard and No. 18 Dartmouth at Houston Field House. Senior forward Chase Polacek scored three goals during the weekend, including both game-winners, as the Engineers hung four goals on one of the nation’s top goaltenders, Dartmouth’s James Mello.
• Plymouth State continued its nation-long unbeaten streak with wins against UMass-Dartmouth and Franklin Pierce. The Panthers are now tied with the Corsairs -- their Thursday night victim -- atop the Massachusetts State collegiate Athletic Conference standings.