This weekend featured many series with huge implications on this week's men's college hockey Power 10 rankings.
In the NCHC, there was Western Michigan-Minnesota Duluth and North Dakota-St. Cloud State. Michigan and Notre Dame was the big matchup in the Big Ten. Hockey East featured UMass facing both Providence and UMass Lowell.
The action is only going to get more intense as we fly closer to tournament time, which is an amazing thing for the college hockey world. And while the top five becomes more set, the bottom five are going to be even more up for grabs.
Let's jump into the rankings.
1. Minnesota State (25-5-0) | Prev: 1
This wasn't a hard pick. Minnesota State is the No. 1 team in the country right now and has been for some time.
Minnesota State posted another great weekend, sweeping Arizona State with wins of 4-2 and 5-3. The Mavericks got quality games from senior Nathan Smith in Game 1 with his two assists and juniors Ryan Sandelin and Cade Bordchardt in Game 2. Sandelin potted two goals while Bordchardt tallied a goal and an assist. Again, this is a very deep team.
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In net, Dryden McKay keeps on winning, so much so that with the 5-3 victory, he became just the third player in NCAA DI men’s hockey history to reach 100 career wins.
The Mavericks will look to keep up their winning ways this weekend when they head to Bowling Green.
2. Michigan (21-7-1) | Prev: 3
Back into the top-2 goes Michigan. But for how long?
Before we get to the Wolverines going forward, let’s focus on their terrific series at Wisconsin this past weekend. They swept the Badgers with whopping wins of 5-1 and 6-2. The first night was highlighted by three-point nights from sophomores Matty Beniers and Mackie Samoskevich. The second was about scoring from all over the lineup.
So… the near-future.
Michigan was already missing stars Owen Power and Kent Johnson this past weekend since both were with Team Canada in Switzerland. Brendan Brisson and Beniers are set to join Team USA and miss the next bunch of games. Those are a lot of key cogs missing, however, Michigan still has a very good, deep lineup even without them.
Next up is an exhibition with the U-18 U.S. NTDP this Wednesday and then a series with Michigan State Feb. 11 and 12.
3. Denver (18-5-1) | Prev: 4
Denver continues its ascent up the top 10, placing in the No. 3 spot this week after its sweep of Miami (OH).
In the first matchup of the weekend, the Pioneers were down 4-2 late in the third period. But then senior Cole Guttman decided he wasn’t a huge fan of that, so he rattled off two goals in the final five minutes of the game to tie it, 4-4. One even came with 11.7 seconds to go. Then sophomore d-man Mike Benning won it in OT.
A look at DU’s final three goals last night to tie the game late before winning OT.#PioneerTogether pic.twitter.com/Lg1P5KjpxQ— Denver Hockey (@DU_Hockey) January 29, 2022
The next night was equally close with the score tied, 2-2, after 40 minutes. Roughly six minutes into the final frame, senior Ryan Barrow potted the eventual game-winner. Sophomore McKade Webster added an empty-netter to ensure the 4-2 win.
Denver is tied for third in PairWise. It’s on a six-game win streak and is making a great case to be the best team in the NCHC.
Next up is a massive home series with St. Cloud State.
4. Western Michigan (17-6-0) | Prev: 2
The Broncos fall a couple of spots due to their series split with Minnesota Duluth this past weekend. They fell to the Bulldogs, 5-4, in Game 1, but bounced back with a 3-2 win in overtime on Saturday.
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The loss was as back-and-forth a game as you'll see: Minnesota Duluth scored two, Western Michigan scored two, Minnesota Duluth scored two, Western Michigan scored two. Then with less than 10 minutes to play in regulation, the Bulldogs scored the eventual game-winner. The next night showcased Western Michigan winning the game in OT off of graduate student Josh Passolt's second goal of the night.
OT winner! 🚨🙌— The NCHC (@TheNCHC) January 30, 2022
Passolt's 2nd of the night earns the extra point for @WMUHockey #NCHChockey // #LetsRide pic.twitter.com/ZIz3eOIoKD
Despite falling two spots, both games showed resilience out of Western Michigan. The Broncos are still a top-5 team in college hockey, and I don't expect that to change any time soon.
Next up is a road series with Colorado College this weekend.
5. Quinnipiac (21-2-3) | Prev: 5
This past weekend saw Quinnipiac win the Connecticut Ice Tournament with a 3-2 win over Sacred Heart in overtime and then a 2-0 win over UConn in the championship game. Both were low-scoring, exciting games, which is where Quinnipiac thrives most. Not to be forgotten was the Bobcats' 6-0 win over Princeton last Wednesday.
Bobcats love winning! pic.twitter.com/hsPSgiB0JB— Quinnipiac Men's Ice Hockey (@QU_MIH) January 31, 2022
In the win over Sacred Heart, junior Joey Cipollone registered two goals and defenseman Zach Metsa continued his terrific season, potting the game-winner in OT. The next night it was goalie Yaniv Perets posting a 29-save shutout en route to not just the tournament win, but also winning the tournament's MVP award.
Fun fact: Perets' ninth shutout of the season is a school record. Have room for another fun fact? Quinnipiac has 12 on the season, which ties the NCAA single-season record.
Next on the schedule are two home games against Union and RPI this weekend.
6. Minnesota Duluth (14-10-2) | Prev: 9
While the top five feels pretty set right now, the bottom five are very up for grabs. That starts with Minnesota Duluth.
Even though the Bulldogs haven't swept a series since Nov. 26 and 27 against Alaska-Fairbanks, splitting this past weekend with Western Michigan felt like a step in the right direction. They outshot the Broncos both games and came away with a 5-4 win and a 3-2 loss.
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Minnesota Duluth needed a weekend like this past one. The rest of its season features four games against St. Cloud State and then two against Denver, North Dakota and Miami (OH). That's life in the NCHC, but the Bulldogs will be extremely battle-tested come March.
7. St. Cloud State (14-7-1) | Prev: 6
They say the President has a difficult job, but I'd argue that placing St. Cloud State and North Dakota this week was much tougher.
Even though the Huskies lost to the Fighting Hawks, 7-1, in Game 1 and then tied them, 3-3, the next night (and lost the shootout), they've been the better team throughout the entirety of this season. The Huskies rank No. 5 in PairWise and are a team full of veterans motivated by last season's national championship loss.
While I assume they'd like to toss the game film from Friday's 7-1 drubbing, things were a bit better in the tie. Senior defenseman Nick Perbix scored a goal and two assists in his last game before heading to the Olympics. He heads off to Beijing with 11 points in his last four games.
Next up is a weekend series at Denver.
8. UMass (13-8-2) | Prev: 8
The Minutemen were set to fall in these rankings after their 6-4 loss to Boston University last Tuesday and their 2-1 loss to No. 17 Providence on Friday. But then they turned in a gutsy 4-3 win over No. 14 UMass Lowell on Sunday, so they stay put.
In the win over the River Hawks, UMass was down 3-2 but scored two late in the third period to tie the game and then take the lead. The first was from freshman Taylor Makar who potted his first collegiate goal (yes, his brother is who you think it is). Then it was freshman defender Scott Morrow scoring the game-winner.
Morrow has been superb this season, leading all freshmen defenders in points with 24 in 23 games.
Up next is a home weekend series against LIU.
9. North Dakota (14-10-1) | Prev: NR
Even though the Fighting Hawks have been inconsistent at times this season, beating St. Cloud State, 7-1, and battling to finish with a tie in Game 2 is enough to catapult them back into these rankings.
In the 7-1 win, North Dakota got four-point nights from linemates Riese Gaber and Matteo Costantini. Junior Ashton Calder notched two goals of his own as well. In the second game, North Dakota battled back from a 3-1 deficit to tie it, 3-3, in the third period. Jake Sanderson scored the tying goal in his final game before heading to Beijing.
That's our Olympian! #UNDproud | #LGH pic.twitter.com/dkUbBxqQeo— North Dakota MHockey (@UNDmhockey) January 30, 2022
The Fighting Hawks will look to stay hot against Omaha this weekend.
10. Minnesota (15-11-0) | Prev: 10
The final spot in this week's Power 10 came down to three Big Ten teams: Minnesota, Ohio State and Notre Dame. Minnesota didn't do anything to lose this spot, so I kept the Golden Gophers right here at No. 10.
Minnesota earned a big 5-1 win at No. 11 Notre Dame on Friday and then lost, 3-2, in overtime to the Fighting Irish on Saturday.
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Senior forward Blake McLaughlin registered two goals in Friday's win. Junior defenseman Jackson LaCombe also had a solid night, posting two assists. The biggest performance of all, however, came in net with goalie Justen Close stopping 28 of 29 shots that came his way. With Jack LaFontaine gone for the NHL, he's going to need to continue his stellar play.
Up next for Minnesota is a weekend series with Michigan State.