Over the past few weeks, Denver has begun to separate itself from the pack in the NCHC, which is an extremely difficult thing to do. The Pioneers have also consistently ranked higher in the college hockey rankings every week, too.
Denver swept St. Cloud State this past weekend. It's a statement sweep that pushes Denver into the top two. The Pioneers are also oh-so-close to taking the No. 1 spot. But then there's Minnesota State who doesn't seem to want to give up the coveted title of No. 1.
There's roughly a month left in the regular season and it feels like the top five teams in there now will be hard to move. The bottom five, however, is where the real fun is going to take place over the next 30 days.
Let's dive into this week's rankings.
1. Minnesota State (27-5-0) | Prev: 1
Even though Denver faces tougher teams consistently since its in the NCHC, Minnesota State has been the deepest and most consistent in college hockey this season. The Mavericks got wins of 3-1 and 5-0 over Bowling Green this past weekend.
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Minnesota State had no issue generating offense with Nathan Smith off at the Olympics. Junior Brendan Furry potted three goals over the two games, while senior Julian Napravnik had a goal and three assists. Napravnik now sits as the third-leading point-getter in the country with 37. Junior Ryan Sandelin, another key part of the Maverick offense, posted two goals in the 5-0 win.
Star goalie Dryden McKay was his usual self, stopping 46 of 47 shots faced over the two games. With his 5-0 win in Saturday's game, McKay has his ninth shutout of the season. He currently ranks third all-time in NCAA DI men's ice hockey wins with 102.
After a weekend off, the Mavericks host Bemidji State for a series on Feb. 18 and 19.
2. Denver (20-5-1) | Prev: 3
The Pioneers made a statement this past weekend in sweeping then-No. 7 St. Cloud State with wins of 8-5 and 2-0. In Game 1, it was all about the scoring. In Game 2, Denver limited the Huskies' scoring chances and overwhelmed them in the offensive zone.
The 8-5 win saw lots of Pioneers get on the scoresheet. Sophomore Carter Savoie potted his second hat trick of the season. Senior Brett Stapley tallied two goals and an assist. Both Savoie and Stapley are tied for 10th in the nation in points with 33. Leading the squad in points Friday was junior Bobby Brink. With his one goal and five assists on the weekend, he's now tied with Smith for most points in the nation with 41. It's no surprise that with production like this, Denver ranks second in the country in goals for at 121.
Denver outshot St. Cloud State, 36-22, Saturday night and junior goalie Magnus Chrona led the way with a 22-save shutout.
One of my favorite parts of @DU_Hockey is in the third period when the crowd sings Country Roads, especially when people continue after the play starts again. Tonight was a good one. Well done Magness Arena and well done Pios on the sweep of a top-10 team. pic.twitter.com/h8mADpkvLZ— Jonathan Horowitz (@jjhorowitz) February 6, 2022
The Pioneers are hot, winning their last eight games. Four of those have been shutouts and they've outscored opponents, 37-13.
Things won't get any easier, as Denver hosts Minnesota Duluth this weekend.
3. Michigan (21-7-1) | Prev: 2
The Wolverines didn't play this past weekend. They only fall because of how good Denver has been of late.
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Next up is a big home-and-home with rival Michigan State.
4. Western Michigan (19-6-0) | Prev: 4
It feels like it's a battle between Western Michigan and Denver for the best team in the NCHC. There's only one problem in deciding who's better: They both keep taking care of business.
Western Michigan swept Colorado College this past weekend with scores of 8-2 and 5-4. In the first matchup, junior defenseman Ronnie Attard continued his outstanding season, netting his second hat trick of the season. Yes, a defenseman has two hat tricks this season alone. After adding an assist in Game 2, Attard is tied for the country-lead in points by a defenseman with 29. It's easy to see why he's a favorite for the Hobey Baker Award.
Sophomore defenseman Aidan Fulp, Attard's d-partner, notched four assists in the 8-2 win. In all, three different Broncos had four-point nights. The next night saw junior Jason Polin post a hat trick.
Western Michigan has a big series coming up this weekend with St. Cloud State.
5. Quinnipiac (23-2-3) | Prev: 5
No team loves winning low-scoring games quite like the Bobcats and that was the case this weekend, as they took down Union, 2-1, and then Rensselaer, 1-0.
Despite going down 1-0 against Union, Quinnipiac battled back with second-period goals from senior Wyatt Bongiovanni and junior Ethan Leyh. In the second game, a goal from Leyh was all the Bobcats needed to get past RPI.
The consistent story throughout both games was the strong play of first-year goalie Yaniv Perets in net. He stopped 42 of the 43 shots he faced. His shutout Saturday was his 10th of the season, which makes him only the sixth goalie in DI men's college hockey history to hit double-digit shutouts in a season. Perets leads the country in both goals-against average (0.75) and save percentage (.956).
🚨 NCAA RECORD 🚨— NCAA Ice Hockey (@NCAAIceHockey) February 6, 2022
Thanks to the 16 saves by freshman Yaniv Perets in the 1-0 win against RPI, The Bobcats earned their 13th shutout of the season to break the 22 year-old record set by Niagara in 2000.#NCAAHockey x 🎥 @QU_MIH pic.twitter.com/FTlMW6F88f
Next up for the Bobcats is a game against Brown on Tuesday and then road matchups with St. Lawrence and Clarkson this weekend.
6. Minnesota Duluth (14-10-2) | Prev: 6
It's a good thing the Bulldogs got this past weekend off because their next few games are far from easy.
First, they head to St. Cloud State this Tuesday. Then, they have a weekend series at Denver. They host North Dakota Feb. 18 and 19 and then go back to St. Cloud State for a Tuesday game on Feb. 22. That's life in the NCHC.
7. UMass (15-8-2) | Prev: 8
The Minutemen took care of business against LIU this past weekend, taking down the Sharks, 6-3, in Game 1 and, 3-1, in Game 2.
In the first game, senior Bobby Trivigno notched a goal and four assists, bringing his point total to a team-high 30 points in 24 games. Sophomore Josh Lopina and senior Garrett Wait both posted multi-point games as well.
Freshman goalie Luke Pavicich earned his first-career win in his first collegiate start in the second game, stopping 28 of 29 shots en route to the 3-1 win.
UMass hosts Maine for a series this upcoming weekend.
8. Minnesota (17-11-0) | Prev: 10
Goalie Jack LaFontaine, last year's Mike Richter Award-winner, left for the Carolina Hurricanes on Jan. 12. Ever since, Minnesota has gone 5-3-0 and kept its identity as one of the 15-best college hockey teams in the country. This week sees the Golden Gophers go all the way up to No. 8.
Minnesota swept Michigan State this past weekend with wins of 4-2 and 3-1. On Friday, the Spartans scored twice in the first period, but that didn't matter much. The Gophers fired back with four unanswered goals to secure the win. The next night, senior Sammy Walker scored twice in the third period to help get Minnesota a 3-1 win.
What can we say, when he's hot, he's hot! pic.twitter.com/VcmGpJGowD— Minnesota Men’s Hockey (@GopherHockey) February 6, 2022
Junior goalie Justen Close continued his steady play since LaFontaine's departure, stopping 46 of 49 Michigan State shots.
Minnesota has a big weekend series coming up on the road against Ohio State. That will be a terrific series.
9. Ohio State (21-7-2) | Prev: NR
Speaking of Ohio State, the Buckeyes re-join the Power 10 after a sweep of Wisconsin. It's been a long time coming that they made their way back into my Power 10.
Despite being down 3-1 in the third period of Game 1, Ohio State got third-period goals from sophomore Michael Gildon and senior Jake Wise to tie the game, 3-3. Then, freshman Georgii Merkulov won the game, 4-3, in OT. Things weren't as close on Saturday, as the Buckeyes exploded for five unanswered goals en route to a 6-2 win.
What's encouraging for the future of Ohio State is the two leading point-getters are Merkulov and defenseman Mason Lohrei — both freshmen. Lohrei is actually tied with Attard for the country-lead in points for a defenseman.
Next up is a series with Minnesota.
10. St. Cloud State (14-9-1) | Prev: 7
The Huskies fall to No. 10 after being swept by Denver.
The only positive for St. Cloud on the weekend was scoring five goals in Game 1. Senior Micah Miller and juniors Jami Krannila and Zach Okabe all registered three points each in the loss. The negative, however, was much bigger: Denver scored eight goals and took 50 shots.
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St. Cloud State will look to rebound this Tuesday against Minnesota Duluth and then in a series this weekend against Western Michigan.