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Patrick Donnelly | | October 21, 2022

Previews for the best games in men's college hockey, beginning with No. 1 Minnesota vs. No. 7 North Dakota

The top college hockey storylines for 2022-23

After last weekend's stacked schedule in men's college hockey, this week features more highly-ranked matchups and potential national tournament previews. Here's everything you need to know for this weekend's top games.

Possible Frozen Four preview: No. 1 Minnesota hosts No. 7 North Dakota

After a shakeup in the polls, Minnesota, the new top team in the nation, welcomes a North Dakota squad looking to bounce back after a winless weekend.

The Gophers (3-1-0) were idle last weekend, but find themselves looking to recover from a loss of their own after settling for a split with then-No. 5 Minnesota State last time out, ending a three-game win streak to open the year. Minnesota has outscored opponents 16-8 and a couple underclassmen have led the way. Freshman Logan Cooley (2g, 3a), the third overall pick in last year's NHL Draft, and sophomore Rhett Pitlick (5a) lead the way. Freshman Jimmy Snuggerud (4g), another first-rounder last year, and sophomore Matthew Knies (2g, 1a), a preseason Hobey Baker favorite, have also had nice starts to their seasons.

In goal, Justen Close has picked up where he left off last season, coming out of the gates with a .941 save percentage and 1.34 goals against average in three starts. 

For the Fighting Hawks (2-1-1), they face their toughest test of the young season after sweeping Holy Cross and going 0-1-1 against then-No. 8 Quinnipiac at home last weekend, losing 6-2 to the Bobcats on Saturday. Quinnipiac outscored North Dakota 11-7 in the series after the Fighting Hawks surrendered one goal in two games to Holy Cross.

Still one of the more dangerous teams in college hockey, the Fighting Hawks have had a number of players come out flying this season. Graduate defenseman Chris Jandric (1g, 6a) and freshman forward Blake Jackson (3g, 3a) are among five skaters over a point per game this season, including sniper Riese Gaber (3g, 1a). Both goaltenders have each had two starts with fifth-year transfer Drew DeRidder posting a .912 save percentage and 2.26 GAA, while sophomore Jakob Hellsten holds an .857 save percentage with a 2.96 GAA.

Both teams are looking to bounce back from losses with Minnesota aiming to back up its No.1 ranking, and North Dakota trying to climb back into the top-five.

State of Hockey: No. 2 Minnesota State visits No. 8 St. Cloud State

Fresh off a season-opening split with Minnesota and a dominant sweep of then-No. 4 Minnesota Duluth last week, the Mavericks look to take care of another upstate rival in the Huskies. 

Last year's runner-up, Mankato (3-1-0) jumped from fifth in the polls, thanks to the sweep and some help around the nation. Minnesota State held UMD off the board for nearly the entirety of the series, outscoring the Bulldogs 8-1 on the weekend. 

So far, the Mavericks have been well-equipped to handle the losses of top scorer Nathan Smith and Hobey Baker winning-goaltender Dryden McKay, even with Brendan Furry being held off the scoresheet. Senior forward Sam Morton (3g, 2a) and junior defensemen Jake Livingstone (2g, 3a) and Akito Hirose (5a) each have a share of the team lead in points. Freshman netminder Alex Tracy opened his collegiate career with a shutout last Friday, and followed it up by allowing one goal on Saturday. The weekend before, sophomore Keenan Rancier looked solid in the split with the Gophers, coming away with a 2.53 GAA.

The Maverick special teams have been strong with the power play working at a 31.3 percent clip, and the penalty kill is 2-for-14, holding an 85.7 percent success rate.

Meanwhile, St. Cloud (4-0-0) is coming off sweeps of St. Thomas and Wisconsin with a 14-3 scoring differential and similar success on special teams. The man-advantage is firing at 33.3 percent, while the penalty kill is a perfect 13-for-13. 

Five skaters are at a point per game or better with senior blue-liner Dylan Anhorn (2g, 5a) and fifth-year forward Grant Cruikshank (3g, 2a) pacing the offense. Two upperclassmen have shared the crease thus far. Junior Dominic Basse holds a .971 save percentage with a shutout, and senior Jaxon Castor has a .946 save percentage and a 1.00 GAA. 

Will St. Cloud remain undefeated, or will Minnesota State stay hot?

Non-conference showdown: No. 4 Denver welcomes No. 11 Providence

In a common theme of the week, both Denver and Providence are looking to prove themselves as viable top teams in the rankings with the Friars looking to build off an upset win, and the Pioneers attempting to bounce back after a stunning sweep. 

The former No. 1 team in the polls and defending national champion, Denver took a sucker punch last time out when they were swept by then-No. 13 UMass on the road. The now-No. 6 Minutemen beat them every which way, whether on special teams, with their goaltending, their depth scoring or their top talent. Suffice to say the Pioneers return home looking for better results against a Hockey East team.

Denver (2-2-0) has been led by sophomore Carter Mazur (4g, 1a), who was primed for a breakout year coming in, and senior transfer and Harvard captain Casey Dornbach (2g, 3a). Starting senior goaltender Magnus Chrona is 1-2-0 with a 2.83 GAA and an .862 save percentage.

Providence (3-0-0, 1-0-0 HEA) is fresh off an upset of conference foe and former top-10 team Northeastern, taking down the Huskies 2-1 on the road and causing them to drop to twelfth in the rankings. Speaking of breakout sophomores, forward Riley Duran also has four goals and an assist to start the year. Five other Friars are scoring at least a point per game, including senior Patrick Moynihan (3g, 1a). Freshman netminder Philip Svedebäck is living up to his fourth-round selection (Boston Bruins) in this year's draft, posting a .945 save percentage and 1.33 GAA in his first collegiate games. 

Providence's power play has been lights out to this point, albeit in a small sample size, finishing 40 percent of their chances.

David Carle's Pioneers hope to snap their skid, while Nate Leaman's Friars try to crack the top-10. 

Hockey East face-off: No. 9 Boston University faces No. 14 UConn

We've got another battle of a top-10 team trying to maintain its spot while a team climbing the rankings looks to create some chaos at the top. 

Like Denver, BU took a punch to the mouth, losing 9-2 at Michigan last Friday. But unlike the Pioneers, the Terriers answered with a scrappy, 3-2 comeback win the following game without their top goaltender, Drew Commesso.

Commesso will likely be unavailable in Friday's series-opener due to a hamstring injury, but may be an option Saturday. In his absence, junior Vinny Duplessis has done what he's usually done when he's been asked to step up in Commesso's absence, delivering with 31 saves in the win over the Wolverines. 

Offensively, the Terriers (2-1-0) have three skaters at a point-per-game clip with junior Matt Brown taking the reins with two goals and three assists to his credit.

Like their Hockey East counterparts in Providence, the Huskies (5-0-1, 2-0-0 HEA) saw a nice jump this week after taking it to a higher-ranked opponent, going 1-0-1 against former No. 11 Ohio State (now 16th) with a 0-0 tie before a 6-1 win. Mike Cavanaugh's squad remains unbeaten, holding a 21-7 goal differential.

The power play hasn't been exceptional, but the penalty kill is yet to surrender a goal against on 23 tries. 

Freshman Matthew Wood has shown promise, leading the team with three goals and four assists. Forwards Chase Bradley, Matt Capone and Ty Amonte each have three tallies.

It's been a timeshare in net so far for the #IceBus. Freshman Arsenii Sergeev has a .940 save percentage and 1.65 GAA, while sophomore Logan Terness has given up just two goals on 75 shots, posting one shutout, a .973 save percentage and a 0.65 GAA.

It'll be a dogfight on Comm. Ave. this weekend as the Terriers look for revenge against a Huskies team that knocked them out of the Hockey East playoffs and national tournament contention last year. 

One night only: No. 12 Northeastern battles conference foe No. 19 UMass Lowell

A conference battle between the Huskies and the River Hawks features two squads looking to stop their slides in the polls. 

Northeastern (3-1-1, 2-1-0 HEA) is winless in its last two games, fighting back to tie Boston College 3-3 on Tuesday after falling 2-1 in an upset at the hands of Providence last week where they failed to get much out of a whopping 51 shots on goal.  

Goal-scorer Aidan McDonough has picked up where he left off from last season, leading the team in goals (four) and points (seven), while Gunnarwolfe Fontaine seems to have taken a step this year, matching McDonough's points output with two goals and five assists. 

Sophomore goaltender Devon Levi is also continuing his strong form with one shutout to his name so far in addition to a .943 save percentage and 1.77 GAA. 

UMass Lowell (3-2-0) has had an inconsistent first five games, winning big against St. Lawrence on opening night before being upset by Miami Ohio in the first game of a series split. They followed up with another split that saw them lose the first game to an unranked opponent last weekend, although that time it was to Michigan State. 

Senior forwards Carl Berglund (4g, 3a) and Brian Chambers (2g, 5a) have paced UML to this point. Between the pipes, junior Henry Welsch (.928 save percentage, 2.52 GAA in two starts) and graduate Gustavs Davis Grigals (.921, 2.02, one shutout) have both split time to open the season. 

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