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Patrick Donnelly | NCAA.com | November 4, 2022

Denver vs. St. Cloud State leads the best men's college hockey games this weekend

Denver wins the 2022 men's hockey championship

This weekend's men's college hockey schedule features a top-five NCHC matchup as well as some other exciting conference rivalries. 

Here's what you need to know, including players to watch and how to watch each game.

NCHC clash: No. 2 Denver takes on No. 4 St. Cloud State

Denver has been rolling since an upset sweep on the road at the hands of UMass last month. The Pioneers have rattled off consecutive sweeps over then-No. 11 Providence and Miami (Ohio), averaging 3.75 goals per game over their last four games.

The defending national champions (6-2-0, 2-0-0 NCHC) have gotten solid goaltending out of returning starter Magnus Chrona (.918 save percentage, 1.80 goals-against average), while returning sophomores Massimo Rizzo (3g, 11a) and Carter Mazur (10g, 2a) have been building off strong rookie seasons. The addition of Casey Dornbach has added extra offensive punch, as the former Harvard captain is tied for second on the team in points with 12 points (4g, 8a). Mazur was named NCHC Player of the Month for October.

NEED TO KNOW: Click or tap here for live coverage of this weekend's series between Denver and St. Cloud State

St. Cloud (7-1-0) surged to second in the rankings over the first few weeks of the season but had a slip-up last Friday in a 3-1 upset loss at Bemidji State. The Huskies bounced back on Saturday with a 4-1 victory. 

Former Colorado College standout Grant Cruikshank (6g, 4a) and senior defenseman Dylan Anhorn (2g, 8a) have been the top producers for SCSU with 10 points each. In goal, junior Dominic Basse and senior Jaxon Castor (.938 save percentage, 1.51 GAA) have each been strong in four starts apiece. Although, Basse just took home NCHC and Hockey Commissioners Association (HCA) Goaltender of the Month honors with a .945 save percentage, 1.25 GAA and one shutout. 

Big Ten tilt: No. 1 Michigan visits No. 13 Penn State

The rivalry shifts from the field to the rink this weekend when Penn State men's hockey looks to fair better against the Wolverines than the Nittany Lions' football squad did.

Michigan (7-1-0) has won four straight en route to landing tops in the polls this week, coming off a high-scoring sweep of Western Michigan with 5-4 and 6-5 (overtime) wins. 

Freshman forward Adam Fantilli leads the nation in scoring with 18 points (8g, 10a), notching a point in each of the eight games he's suited up in. A projected top-three pick in this year's NHL Draft, the phenom was named national Player and Rookie of the Month for October. In goal, Erik Portillo has been strong too, averaging 26.3 saves per game.

Fantilli, Luke Hughes, TJ Hughes, Mackie Samoskevich, Seamus Casey and Jacob Truscott are each riding point streaks.

LATEST RANKINGS: Click or tap here for the latest USCHO Division I men's hockey poll

The nation's top-scoring offense, averaging 5.25 goals per game, will go right up against PSU's second-ranked offense, scoring 4.63 per game. 

The Nittany Lions (8-0-0) are off to their best start in program history, most recently sweeping Wisconsin on the road. 

Senior Ture Lunden (3g, 7a) and sophomore Ben Schoen (2g, 7a) are each scoring over a point per game for PSU, although Lunden is pointless in three straight games. Junior netminder Liam Souliere leads the big-ten with a .945 save percentage and 1.50 GAA.

Big Ten bash: No. 3 Minnesota hosts No. 13 Notre Dame

Another high-profile Big Ten matchup brings us to Minneapolis as the Gophers welcome the Fighting Irish.

Minnesota (5-3-0, 1-1-0 Big Ten) stumbled last weekend in a split at Ohio State, losing 6-4 on Friday and slipping from first in this week's poll. The Gophers have faced a tough schedule this season with this being their fourth straight series with a top-12 team. 

Senior defenseman Jackson LaCombe has led the way for Minnesota with 10 points (3g, 7a) in eight games, and has scored in three of his last four games. He's one goal off his career-high, set in 2020-21. Freshman Jimmy Snuggerud (nine points) leads the team in goals with six, while sophomore Matthew Knies has five tallies. Senior netminder Justen Close has a .900 save percentage and 2.28 GAA, although the Gophers have had to outscore a lot of their problems, with 3.9 goals per game as opposed to 2.9 allowed. 

A NIGHT OF UPSETS: How the top-two men's hockey teams lost in a wild Friday night last week

The Irish (4-2-2, 1-0-1 Big Ten) took four of six points against Michigan State last weekend with a 5-0 shutout and 1-1 tie. Notre Dame has had inconsistent production this year, averaging 2.88 goals per game and allowing 2.50, while the power play has struggled to a 17.9 percent conversion rate.

Ryder Rolston (4-5--9) and Chayse Primeau (2-6--8) have been the key contributors for ND this season. Goaltender Ryan Bischel has been strong for the Irish with two shutouts, a .934 save percentage and 2.12 GAA.

Minnesota will have to deal with another stiff matchup as Notre Dame looks to build on a 4-1-1 stretch over their last six games.

Hockey East face-off: No. 5 UMass faces No. 14 Providence

The Minutemen took their first loss of the season last Saturday in a 2-1 overtime upset at Merrimack after five straight wins, including the upset sweep of then-No. 1 Denver. 

UMass (5-1-1, 1-1-0 HEA) split the weekend with the Warriors, thanks to Friday's 3-2 overtime win. On the whole, Greg Carvel's squad has been strong, as is customary, scoring 3.9 goals per game and allowing just 1.3. The Minutemen special teams have been difference-makers as well with the power play working at an insane 47.4 percent clip and the penalty kill holding a 95.5 percent success rate.

HOBEY BAKER: Click or tap here for a way-too-early watchlist for the Hobey Baker Award 

Freshman forward Kenny Connors has jumped right into the college game, leading the team with nine points (3g, 6a), and sophomore defenseman Scott Morrow is continuing to show tremendous upside with eight points (4g, 4a) on the year. Sophomore goaltender Luke Pavicich has seamlessly stepped into the starting role with a .956 save percentage, 1.41 GAA and one shutout. 

Providence (4-2-1, 2-0-1 HEA) has slid a bit as of late, going 1-2-1 in their last four games after being swept by Denver and taking four of six points against New Hampshire last weekend. 

Nate Leaman's Friars have had a ton of offensive consistency since opening the season with 6-1 and 5-2 wins, averaging just two goals per game in their last five contests. 

Sophomore forward Riley Duran is off to a nice start with seven points (4g, 3a) in seven games after a good debut season in 2021-22. Freshman goaltender Philip Svedebäck has been solid to begin his collegiate career, posting a .915 save percentage and 1.97 GAA.

With both teams looking to build positive momentum, this should be the series to watch in Hockey East this week. 

Also on the radar

No. 7 Quinnipiac battles Colgate and Cornell

The Bobcats come in after a week off, splitting a series at Maine two weeks ago after going 1-0-1 at North Dakota. 

Neither of those places are easy places to play, so Quinnipiac (3-1-2) should be happy to return home to kick off conference play this weekend with a Friday tilt against Colgate before facing the Big Red. One area of concern for the Bobcats is in goal as Yaniv Perets has not been himself, putting up a .909 save percentage and 2.47 GAA this year after a historic season last year. He'll look to try to get right this weekend. 

HISTORY: Here's every Division I men's hockey champion since 1948

Cornell had a tough opening weekend to its season, facing a desperate No. 19 Minnesota Duluth team. After being swept by the Bulldogs, the Big Red visit Princeton in search of a bounce back before traveling up to Quinnipiac for another challenging game on Saturday. 

Cornell struggled with consistency last year, falling out of the rankings after at one point being a top-10 team. Now, they're out of the rankings for the first time since the preseason. 

This might just be a "show us what you're made of" weekend for Mike Schafer's team. 

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