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Evan Marinofsky | | February 15, 2022

Men's college hockey rankings: Minnesota jumps into the top 5, NCHC matchups impact latest Power 10

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This past weekend featured highly-ranked matchups such as Denver-Minnesota Duluth, Western Michigan-St. Cloud State and Minnesota-Ohio State. All three clashes had two things in common. 

For one, they all had big impacts on this week's Power 10 ranking. They will also have a massive impact on the rest of the regular season. For those counting, less than three weeks remain in the men's college hockey season and things are tight. 

Let's dive into this week's rankings. 

1. Minnesota State (27-5-0) | Prev: 1 

The Mavericks didn't play this past weekend, so they remain at No. 1. In other Minnesota State news, junior Nathan Smith scored the eventual game-winner for Team USA in its 3-2 win over Germany. That win gets Team USA to 3-0 in Beijing. Not too shabby. 

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Up next is a home series with Bemidji State. 

2. Michigan (23-7-1) | Prev: 3 

In any sport, Michigan vs. Michigan State is always must-watch. Even in hockey with Michigan State on an eight-game losing streak heading into this past weekend, it's hard not to get excited for a matchup between the two powerhouses. 

The Wolverines walked away with this matchup, however, taking down the Spartans by scores of 6-2 and 7-3. With Michigan missing some of its top players due to the Olympics, this past weekend was a prime opportunity for different players to step up. Senior Jimmy Lambert scored two goals and an assist over the two games, while sophomore Jacob Truscott posted a goal and three assists. 

Freshman defenseman Luke Hughes continued taking massive strides in his development, potting three goals and six points on the weekend. He's tied with Ohio State's Mason Lohrei for the country-lead in points by a freshman defenseman with 29. 

Speaking of Ohio State, next up is a home series against the Buckeyes this weekend. 

3. Denver (21-6-1) | Prev: 2 

Denver had a massive series with then-No. 6 Minnesota Duluth this past weekend. The Pioneers escaped with a split. They took down the Bulldogs, 5-3, in Game 1, but fell, 3-2, in Game 2. 

In the win, freshman Massimo Rizzo, sophomore Mike Benning, junior Bobby Brink and senior Cole Guttman all registered two-point nights. Brink is now the No. 1 point-getter in the country with 44 and Rizzo and fellow freshman Carter Mazur are tied for third in the nation in points by freshmen with 29 apiece. Game 2 saw Denver heavily outshoot Minnesota Duluth and lose. We'll get to why that was so special later. 

Things don't get easier for Denver. Up next is a road series at Western Michigan this weekend. 

4. Western Michigan (19-7-1) | Prev: 4 

Another huge NCHC matchup took place this past weekend in St. Cloud, Minnesota between Western Michigan and the Huskies. The Broncos came out with a 5-5 tie (they later won the shootout) and a 4-1 loss. 

So, how is Western Michigan still at No. 4 after going 0-1-1 against a ranked opponent? Because with the way the Broncos have played this season, they've earned the right to have a series like this and stay in the top five. The fact they're tied for third in PairWise supports that. 

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Next up is a series with Denver this weekend. 

5. Minnesota (19-11-0) | Prev: 8 

The Golden Gophers fly up these rankings after earning a huge weekend sweep of then-No. 8 Ohio State in Columbus with wins of 3-2 and 5-1. 

This sweep of Ohio State is impressive for a couple of reasons. For one, Ohio State has been a force this season. Heading into this past weekend, the Buckeyes hadn't lost in regulation since mid-December. But even more impressive is who Minnesota won without. Top players Brock Faber, Ben Meyers and Matthew Knies are all off competing for Team USA in Beijing. Goalie Jack LaFontaine departed for the NHL in early January. 

But Minnesota is finding ways to win. Along with scoring from all over the lineup, the Gophers also got terrific play in net from junior goalie Justen Close, who stopped 61 of the 64 Ohio State shots he faced over the weekend. Ohio State is a top-five offense in the nation and Close shut it down. 

Next up is a road series at Penn State. 

6. Minnesota Duluth (15-11-3) | Prev: 6 

The Bulldogs stay at No. 6 after splitting their series with Denver. The special moment I mentioned earlier came at the top of the second period of Game 2. 

Minnesota Duluth starter Ryan Fanti was removed from the game due to injury after the first period and in came sophomore Zach Stejskal. It was his first appearance since announcing he was diagnosed with testicular cancer on Nov. 23. He was superb, stopping 20 of the 22 shots he faced to earn the 3-2 win and deny Denver the sweep. 

Up next for Minnesota Duluth is a home series against North Dakota this weekend. 

7. Quinnipiac (25-3-3) | Prev: 5 

This is the ranking I will get the most backlash for and I completely acknowledge it. Quinnipiac has been one of the best teams in college hockey all season long and the Bobcats have lost just three (3!) times all season in regulation. 

But things are tight at the top, and a 3-1 loss to Clarkson this past weekend moves them down to No. 7. 

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The Bobcats did lock up two ECAC wins prior to the loss against Clarkson with a 4-1 win over Brown last Tuesday and a 3-1 win over St. Lawrence on Friday. 

Next up are more road games. First up is a game at Dartmouth on Friday and then a matchup at Harvard on Saturday. 

8. St. Cloud State (15-9-3) | Prev: 10 

After two rough series against North Dakota and Denver, plus a mid-week tie with Minnesota Duluth, the Huskies got the series they were looking for this past weekend against Western Michigan when they tied the Broncos, 5-5, in Game 1 and then won the next night, 4-1. 

Sophomore Joe Molenaar had a terrific weekend, potting three goals over the two games. Junior Zach Okabe registered three points on the weekend as well, scoring two goals and an assist. 

This series was big for St. Cloud State. Even though the Huskies are fifth in the NCHC, the win and tie established some solid ground for them inside the top 10. 

Next up is a road series at Omaha. 

9. North Dakota (17-11-1) | Prev: NR 

The Fighting Hawks got back on track this past weekend by sweeping Colorado College with wins of 3-2 and 4-0. 

In the Game 1 win, North Dakota got first-period goals from juniors Judd Caulfield and Ethan Frisch and sophomore Riese Gaber. Even though Colorado College responded with two in the second, senior goalie Zach Driscoll stopped 24 of the 26 shots he faced en route to the 3-2 win. 

The next night saw North Dakota score four unanswered goals to win, 4-0. The Fighting Hawks also got a 23-save shutout from Driscoll. 

North Dakota heads to Minnesota Duluth for a series this weekend. 

10. UMass (16-9-2) | Prev: 7 

The Minutemen fall three spots this week after splitting their series with Maine this past weekend. They fell in overtime, 3-2, on Friday but bounced back Saturday with a 4-2 victory. 

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Despite the loss, the line of Bobby Trivigno, Josh Lopina and Garrett Wait paid huge dividends for UMass in the two-game set. Trivigno finished the weekend with a goal and four assists, while Wait potted three goals and Lopina registered a goal and an assist in Game 2. 

UMass has a home-and-home this weekend with UConn. 

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