The games must go on, but before we get to the weekend ahead, it’s important to acknowledge the loss the college hockey world is feeling right now.
Jeff Sauer, one of the finest ambassadors college hockey has known and one of its most legendary coaches, died Thursday at 73 years old. His life in college hockey spanned more than 40 years, starting as a player at Colorado College and later as a coach at both CC and the University of Wisconsin.
During his illustrious coaching career, Sauer led the Badgers to two national titles. His 655 career wins place him eighth all-time among Division I men’s hockey coaches.
While the wins and national championships are impressive, the memories being shared publicly by many from the college hockey ranks show just how large of an impact he made on so many people in the game. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would have a bad thing to say about Sauer.
He gave a lot to the game and never asked for anything in return. Even after his college coaching career was over, Sauer continued leaving his mark on the game. He coached the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team to two gold medals at the Paralympic Winter Games, and served as a head coach for the U.S. Deaflympic team over multiple years.
There is no question that there have been few individuals who have made a bigger impact on college hockey than Jeff Sauer. He’ll be sorely missed, but forever remembered with the utmost fondness and respect.
Here’s a look at some of the big games coming up:
Friday, Feb. 3
Michigan Tech at Bemidji State, 8:07 p.m. ET: This will be an awfully big series in the WCHA this weekend as the top two teams in the conference square off. Bemidji State has the historic MacNaughton Cup within their sights with a four-point lead over Michigan Tech in the standings. This weekend could change everything, though. The Huskies have collected points in each of their last seven games, but still haven’t done enough to catch the Beavers. That said, this might be a good time for Tech to play Bemidji State, with the Beavers going 3-6-0 in their last nine. The two clubs split in their first series in Houghton, but this one in Bemidji looms larger in the thick of the WCHA regular-season title race.
Saturday, Feb. 4
Penn State at Minnesota, 8 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network: After such a hot start to the season, the Nittany Lions have cooled off a bit, having gone winless in their last three games. They find themselves with a big test in front of them and a chance to prove themselves once again. Meanwhile, the Gophers are trying to hang on to first place in the Big Ten as they are now tied at the top with Wisconsin.
Monday, Feb. 5 – The Beanpot Tournament
The Beanpot remains one of the great traditions in college hockey and this year’s event, the 65th all-time, should bring plenty of intrigue. Boston University, Boston College and Harvard are each fairly well positioned for a spot in the NCAA tournament, while Northeastern is on the bubble. If local bragging rights and a little late-season hardware aren’t enough motivation, each team’s position in the Pairwise will be. The winners of Monday’s games will meet again for the Beanpot title Feb. 13.
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Northeastern vs. Harvard, 5 p.m. ET, NESN: While the two teams in the other game have been the ones passing the Beanpot back and forth, a Northeastern-Harvard matchup means one of these two is going to get at least a crack at ending a long drought. Harvard is unbeaten in their last four after enduring a little three-game skid. A big win over Cornell last weekend helped the Crimson move further away from the tournament bubble.
Boston University vs. Boston College, 8 p.m. ET, NESN: The Eagles have a title to defend and appear to be hitting their stride with three straight wins. It’s the Terriers, however, that have been the more consistent of the two teams and have already one win over their Commonwealth Ave. rivals. That game featured a great battle of freshmen goalies, with BC’s Joe Woll making 31 saves and Jake Oettinger making 32 stops in BU’s win. You never know what will happen in the Beanpot, but that’s one of many reasons why this one is a must-watch.