With only one loss in its past 16 contests, Niagara has secured its highest ranking of the season this week at No. 15 in the USCHO.com Division I poll. Not only did it establish a record for highest ranking, it also marked the eighth consecutive week being ranked in the poll, another first for the program. The previous mark was seven weeks in a row from Jan. 2-Feb. 12, 2007. The team’s previous high-water mark came this season during the week of Dec. 10 and for two consecutive weeks during the 2006-07 season (Jan. 22 and Jan. 29), when the team had a No. 16 ranking.
“Coming into this season, looking at the depth chart, we knew we were going to be really good on defense,” Niagara head coach Dave Burkholder said. “We have a lot of experience back there, so we knew we would be able to make it tough for other teams to score. We thought with that being in place it could be a really good season.”
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Making it tough for opposing teams to score is an understatement as junior goalie Carsen Chubka is first in the nation in save percentage at .953 and second in the nation in goals-against average at 1.46. He also leads the nation with five shutouts and during one six-game stretch earlier this season allowed only two goals while posting four shutouts.
“Carsen has been a national story and deservedly so,” Burkholder said. “He got hurt at the end of his freshman year and was only able to play one game all season his sophomore year. We have three really good goalies on the team so we knew it was going to be a tough competition in the preseason, but it has been Carsen’s show since the first day of training camp. His numbers speak for themselves. He has been amazing.”
Niagara has made it to the NCAA tournament after winning College Hockey America tournament titles in 2000, ’04 and ’08, but hasn’t made it to the big show since moving to Atlantic Hockey three years ago.
“Until we start hanging more championship banners, we are not where we want to be,” Burkholder said. “Going into every season our goals are the same, and the main one is to make the NCAA tournament. We want to finish in the top four in the regular season in the conference so we get a first-round bye and then host the next round. Hopefully that will set us up with winning the conference tournament and getting the automatic bid into the NCAAs.”
The season started slow for the Purple Eagles as they only were able to capture one victory in its first five games. The last two games of the string were in East Lansing, Mich., against Michigan State. Niagara was up 2-0 in both games heading into the third period but only was able to manage one point.
“The series against Michigan State was really was our wake-up call,” Burkholder said. “We came back and had a team meeting and explained that what happened wasn’t acceptable, and we have been on a tear ever since.”
• Senior defenseman and captain John Ramage scored two overtime, game-winning goals at then-No. 11 Minnesota State for Wisconsin’s first sweep in Mankato, Minn. The overtime wins were the first on the road and the first in WCHA regular-season action for Wisconsin since Nov. 3, 2006, at Alaska Anchorage. The Badgers had gone 0-10-23 in WCHA regular-season overtime games and 0-7-15 on the road during that stretch. The 4-3 and 2-1 overtime wins helped Wisconsin extend its winning streak to six games and its unbeaten streak to 10 games (7-0-3), currently second-longest in the nation and the program’s longest since a 14-game unbeaten streak during the 2005-06 season. The Badgers look to extend the streak this weekend with a pair of home games against Miami (Ohio). The RedHawks and Badgers have met just twice previously with Wisconsin winning both games. The teams most recently met during the first round of the 1993 NCAA tournament, which was Miami’s first in the tourney — a game won by the Badgers 3-1 in Detroit. Miami head coach Enrico Blasi was a player in that game. The other meeting came in Miami’s season opener in its second season as a varsity program, which was the teams’ only meeting at Wisconsin. The Badgers won that game 3-2 on Oct. 20, 1979, in Madison, Wis.
• The next victory for St. Cloud State head coach Bob Motzko will be his 150th career win. In eight seasons at SCSU, Motzko owns a 149-119-34 career record. His next win in league play also will mark Motzko’s 100th career WCHA victory. His record against conference teams is 99-84-27 since 2005-06. The Huskies will play host to No. 7 Denver this weekend. Motzko served as an associate head coach at Denver from 1993-94. On the topic of Denver connections, SCSU assistant coach Mike Gibbons also served as an assistant coach for the Pioneers from 1990-94.
• Ohio State goaltender Brady Hjelle held Ferris State to three goals this past weekend, with an program-high 38 saves Friday. His goals-against average now is 1.44 to lead the nation, while he is second in the country with a .952 save percentage. Ohio State has allowed more than three goals in a game once since the season opener. The Buckeyes have not been shut out this season, but have scored only one goal nine times and are 1-5-3 in those games. They travel to Northern Michigan this weekend, which has allowed only one goal in four of its past eight games.
With a win and a tie last weekend, Quinnipiac still owns the nation’s longest unbeaten streak at 16. … This weekend, Michigan travels to Lake Superior State to make its first Taffy Abel Arena appearance since the 2009-10 season. The last time Lake Superior defeated the Wolverines at home was a 3-2 win on Feb. 16, 2007. The Lakers are 0-4 against Michigan at home since then. … Boston College is 8-0-1 at home this season and 16-0-2 at home since last January. … Princeton has played five overtime games this season without a win (0-4-1). … Yale is 5-0-1 in its past six away games. … Friday’s game between Boston University and Northeastern will feature Hockey East’s top-two rookie scorers in the Huskies’ Kevin Roy (9-11-20) and BU’s Danny O’Regan (7-8-15). … Miami (Ohio) head coach Enrico Blasi boasts a career record of 298-189-53, all at Miami. With two wins at Wisconsin this weekend (Jan. 18-19), he would become the first Miami head coach to top 300 career victories. He already is the school’s all-time winningest coach. … Canisius and Bentley play a series this weekend. The previous four two-game series between the two schools have ended in splits. … RIT and Army meet this weekend, with RIT unbeaten in the past 10 matchups between the two schools. … Minnesota’s Erik Haula’s next point will mark the 100th of his career, making him the first Gopher to reach 100 points since Jay Barriball on Oct. 30, 2009. … St. Cloud State senior Ben Hanowski is closing in on the 100-point mark in his career. He currently has 97 and he would become the 24th player in team history (all games played at the D1 level) to join the Huskies’ 100-point club. … Western Michigan is 0-4-3 in its past seven games in Bowling Green with its most recent victory on Jan. 6, 2007. … Merrimack’s senior class is two wins away from becoming the most successful class in its Division I history, passing last year’s class … Bemidji State senior Jordan George currently has 114 points (56 goals, 58 assists) in 132 games and needs just one point to match Andrew Murray (2001-05) for third place on BSU’s Division 1-era scoring list. George is second on the goal scoring list, nine short of Matt Read’s (2008-11) record of 65.