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Jordan Guskey | NCAA.com | January 29, 2019

11 must-watch games remaining this 2018-19 men’s hockey season

So much can change before the March 24 bracket announcement of the 2019 Division I Men’s Hockey Championship, just take a look at the past few days.

Men's hockey: Latest Rankings | Scoreboard

No. 1 St. Cloud State nearly went goalless Saturday and lost, 5-1, against an unranked North Dakota squad that’s now the top-voted team not in the USCHO Division I Men’s Poll top 20. No. 2 Massachusetts watched as Jeremy Swayman, the goalie for a sub-.500 Maine team, stopped 53 shots Saturday and guided Maine to a 4-3 upset. Then-No. 4 Denver couldn’t record a victory this past weekend in a two-game set against then-No. 13 Western Michigan as the Broncos out-scored the Pioneers by a combined 8-2 mark.

Three teams in the top four combined for four results that shocked the Division I men’s hockey landscape. And there’s still a lot of hockey left.

Weekend Roundup: Three top-5 ranked teams fall in weekend action

As the conference standings and national rankings shuffle during the coming weeks, make sure to catch these 11 high-profile matchups.

No. 5 Quinnipiac at No. 10 Clarkson — Feb. 1

Quinnipiac (18-5-1) took advantage of now-No. 7 Denver’s back-to-back losses against now-No. 8 Western Michigan to jump into the top five and doesn’t have to wait long for a chance to face a quality opponent and prove it deserves to stay. Clarkson (17-7) is 9-1 at home this season and beat Quinnipiac at home last year. Whoever wins will have bragging rights when the two sides meet again Feb. 23 at Quinnipiac. 

No. 13 Cornell at No. 18 Union — Feb. 1

Cornell has won six of its eight games since the turn of the new year and now travels to face a Union squad that is sliding the wrong way in the rankings. Unless Union can protect its home ice it risks dropping out of the top 20. Cornell (12-6-1) enters with the defensive edge, allowing 2.21 goals per game compared to Union’s 2.78 average. Union (12-7-4) enters with the offensive edge, scoring 3.17 goals per game compared to Cornell’s 2.95 clip.

These two teams will also face each other again on Feb. 23, that time at Cornell.

No. 11 Notre Dame at No. 4 Ohio State — Feb. 1/2

The Fighting Irish visit Columbus four points back of the Big-Ten leading Buckeyes with a prime opportunity to usurp Ohio State. Notre Dame (14-8-3) split two games in early November with Ohio State (15-5-4) and both have since experienced winning streaks and bouts of up-and-down play. If the Buckeyes protect home ice, it could be hard for teams like the Minnesota Gophers or Michigan Wolverines to make late runs for the conference crown.

North Dakota at No. 7 Denver — Feb. 1/2

North Dakota (13-11-1) just shocked the nation’s top-ranked team. Can it ride that momentum and knock off Denver, too? The Pioneers (14-6-3) enter these games after their two losses against the Western Michigan Broncos but aren’t far removed from a seven-game winning streak that stretched from early December through mid-January. These two sides met twice in early December and each won once.

No. 2 Massachusetts at No. 17 UMass Lowell — Feb. 9

UMass Lowell has not lost a game during the 2019 calendar year. The River Hawks (14-8-2) have won six contests and tied once. And the first win in that stretch came Jan. 4 on the road at Massachusetts. But Massachusetts (19-5) is the higher-ranked squad, and — while it suffered an upset at Maine — owns both a top-five scoring offense and top-five scoring defense. At this point, it’s a toss-up. 

Frozen Four: Schedule, dates for the 2019 NCAA college hockey tournament

No. 4 Ohio State at Michigan — Feb. 22/23

There have been a number of teams that have made runs this season. Teams that established themselves in the national championship conversation with extensive winning streaks. This set, while the Wolverines’ current 9-10-6 record isn’t intimidating, could come at a time when Michigan is on a run of its own. Michigan and Ohio State split two games in mid-January that came in the middle of a stretch that saw the Wolverines pick up three wins against ranked opponents in six games.

The Buckeyes hold an eight-point lead on Michigan in the Big Ten standings.

No. 2 Massachusetts at No. 9 Providence — Feb. 23

Each team has its share of challenges before they meet for this top-10 matchup in Rhode Island. However, if Massachusetts can rebound from splitting a series against Maine and Providence can ride the momentum it gained from a two-game sweep of now-No. 12 Northeastern, this very well could be a top-five matchup in a few weeks. The Minutemen beat the Friars (15-7-4) twice in November, both times 3-2, and won two of three last season.

Yale at No. 19 Harvard — Feb. 23

Harvard just jumped into the top 20. Yale is the second-leading vote getter not to be in the top 20. These two teams are on the rise. Harvard (10-6-3) has to keep its three-game winning streak going and Yale (10-7-3) has to break from the up-and-down results it has had recently, but both are suited for this to be a meaningful late-February game. And, after all, it’s Harvard-Yale.

No. 1 St. Cloud State at No. 8 Western Michigan — March 1/2

St. Cloud State swept Western Michigan with 3-0 and 5-3 victories before it suffered its upset against North Dakota this past weekend. Western Michigan (15-8-1) rebounded from those defeats to win twice against the Denver. And while the time that will pass before these two sides meet should allow the Huskies (18-4-2) to regain their momentum, this two-game set will take place on the Broncos’ home ice.

Western Michigan has won 10 of its 13 games at home this season.

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No. 15 Penn State at No. 11 Notre Dame — March 1/2

Penn State’s four-game losing streak during Big Ten play in January could very well have taken it out of contention to win the conference’s regular season title. But, the Nittany Lions (14-10-2) are still a top 15 program. They’re still the nation’s top-performing offense — by nearly a goal — and score an average of 4.54 goals per game. If Penn State’s 56th-ranked scoring defense can step up during its final stretch Notre Dame could experience two games similar to the Nittany Lions’ 9-1 win Dec. 8 against the Fighting Irish.

And it’s yet to be seen how critical these two games will be in determining who wins the conference.

No. 3 Minnesota Duluth at No. 1 St. Cloud State — March 8/9

This two-game series serves as a rematch of a mid-January set between the two sides that saw each one pick up a victory. It could also prove to be the determining factor in the race for the National Collegiate Hockey Conference regular season championship. St. Cloud State leads the NCHC with 33 points. Minnesota Duluth is close behind with 28.

St. Cloud State holds the advantage offensively, averaging 3.75 goals per game to Minnesota Duluth’s 3.21, but the advantage flips defensively. The Bulldogs (16-6-2) allow just 1.83 goals per game to the Huskies’ 2.17 clip.