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Patrick Donnelly | | November 10, 2022

Minnesota vs. Penn State headlines this weekend's 4 best men's college hockey games

The top college hockey storylines for 2022-23

A top-10 matchup between two high-flying Big Ten squads highlights this week's men's ice hockey schedule.

Here's what you need to know, and how to follow all the action: 

No. 1 Minnesota hosts No. 8 Penn State

Both the Gophers (7-3-0, 3-1-0 Big Ten) and Nittany Lions are rolling as they enter this series, which is one of the marquee matchups of the season so far.

Minnesota — with three wins in a row — has been among the top of the rankings all season with this being the second time earning the top spot. Bob Motzko's team most recently swept former-No. 12 Notre Dame, outscoring the Irish 7-1 on the weekend. Sophomore Matthew Knies (2g, 2a) and freshman Jimmy Snuggerud (2g, 1a) had big weekends against the Irish last time out. Snuggerud has delivered consistently as a rookie, leading the team with 12 points and eight goals. Knies is right there, too, with seven goals and 11 points.

Senior goaltender Justen Close has been very serviceable for Minnesota with a .919 save percentage, 1.84 goals-against average and two shutouts. He stopped 46 of 47 shots against Notre Dame last weekend.

Meanwhile, Penn State (9-1-0, 3-1- Big Ten) is fresh off a split with then-No. 1 Michigan in what was a clash between the top two offenses in the country. In last weekend's series, PSU shut out the Wolverines 3-0 before fighting back from a 3-0 deficit for a 4-3 overtime loss the following day. 

Entering this week, the Nittany Lions are still among the best in that department with the fifth-most goals per game (4.3) and third-highest goal total in the nation (43). PSU has gotten solid production from up and down the lineup with senior forwards Ture Linden (4-7--11) and Kevin Wall (6-4--10) leading the way. Junior goaltender Liam Souliere has been strong with a .937 save percentage, 1.63 GAA and two shutouts.

Special teams will be an area of focus this weekend as both penalty kills have generally struggled with a success rate in the mid-70's. Interestingly enough, Penn State hasn't produced much on the power play (just 13.3 percent), considering their high output this year.

No. 2 Denver visits No. 12 North Dakota

It doesn't get any easier for Denver after splitting with No. 4 St. Cloud State last weekend as this week they travel to Grand Forks for a battle with the No. 12 Fighting Hawks. 

The Pioneers (7-3-0, 3-1-0 NCHC) have had a strong schedule to start the year with ranked opponents in Notre Dame, UMass and Providence as well as last week's top-five series with the Huskies. In all, the Pios have gone 4-3-0 in those games. Although since being swept by UMass, DU has gone on a 5-1-0 run over the last several weeks. 

Sophomore Massimo Rizzo has been Denver's key producer with 17 points (4g, 13a) this season, including a goal and two assists last weekend. Former Harvard captain Casey Dornbach (5-9--14) and sophomore Carter Mazur (10-3--13) have been strong as well. Between the pipes, senior Magnus Chrona has been all right with a .911 save percentage and 2.13 GAA.

On the other side of the matchup, North Dakota (4-3-2, 1-0-1 NCHC) hasn't quite come out of the gates as most expected, but the Fighting Hawks are surely a better team than they've shown so far.

They went 1-0-1 at Omaha last weekend (with the Mavericks taking the extra point in the shootout on Saturday), after an upset at the hands of Arizona State in Las Vegas at the end of October. Against ranked teams in Quinnipiac and Minnesota, UND is 1-2-1. 

Graduate defender Chris Jandric (1-11--12) and junior forward Riese Gaber (8-3--11) have been the Fighting Hawks' biggest sources of production in addition to freshman forward Jackson Blake (4g, 5a), who is having a nice start to his collegiate career. In goal, graduate Drew DeRidder has had an up-and-down season as the former Michigan State starter holds a .906 save percentage and 2.65 GAA to go along with one shutout.

No. 7 UConn takes on No. 9 Providence

The Huskies and Friars have quickly established themselves among the top contenders in Hockey East through the early going.

UConn (9-1-1, 6-1-0 HEA) have been on an absolute tear as the #IceBus has rolled to three straight and five of their last seven, sweeping Maine last time out. The Huskies are 2-1-1 against ranked opponents in formerly-No. 11 Ohio State and ninth BU. 

Mike Cavanaugh's group has gotten contributions from its big players as well as the depth of the lineup. Junior forward Ryan Tverberg (7g, 4a) and freshman Matthew Wood (4g, 6a) have led the way, while both goaltenders have gotten it done between sophomore Logan Terness (.951, 1.31 GAA, one shutout in six starts) and freshman Arsenii Sergeev (.929, 2.24 GAA in four starts). 

Although the power play has struggled (just 13.6 percent), UConn has been dominant on the penalty kill with a 93.2 percent success rate.

The Friars (6-2-1, 4-0-1 HEA) have had a nice run of their own in recent weeks with three wins in a row, going unbeaten in their last four after sweeping fifth-ranked UMass last weekend. PC suffered a sweep at then-No. 4 Denver last month, but since have gone 3-0-0 against top-10 teams in UMass and former No. 7 Northeastern.

Junior forward Brett Berard (3g, 2a) and senior captain Parker Ford (2g, 3a) had big weekends against the Minutemen as the Friars hung 11 goals on the board across the two games. Sophomore forward Riley Duran chipped in with a hat trick in Friday's 7-4 win. 

Duran leads the team with seven goals and 10 points in nine games with Berard right behind him with nine points (3g, 6a). Freshman netminder Philip Svedebäck has been tossed right into the fire, and has answered the bell, although his .903 save percentage and 2.30 GAA might not necessarily paint the whole picture.

PC's strong power play, scoring at a 31.3 percent clip, will go right up against UConn's stalwart unit. 

Cavanaugh has been slowly building something special in Hartford, while Nate Leaman almost always has the Friars in the mix without fail. This weekend's series between two of the conference's most exciting teams should deliver. 

No. 11 UMass faces No. 14 Boston University

This series could almost be the showcase of two of the most Jekyll and Hyde teams college hockey has to offer. 

In one corner, you have UMass (5-3-1, 1-3-0 HEA), who have lost three in a row after being splitting with Merrimack and being swept by PC. Just a week earlier, the Minutemen swept Union in dominant fashion after rolling over Denver in a sweep of the top team in the nation at the time. 

UMass just hasn't been able to close out teams the way we've grown accustomed to over the last several years. Three of their last four games have gone to overtime, and in each of those contests, the Minutemen held a lead at one point in the third period. Even in the first win in the series against Denver, the Pioneers cut into UMass' 4-0 lead in the third period to at least cut it to 4-2 and make it interesting. 

The production hasn't been an issue as five Minutemen are at or above a point per game with freshman forward Kenny Connors (4g, 7a) being the top producer. Even the special teams have been strong as the penalty kill has bent on just 14.3 percent of its opportunities, while the power play is producing at an insane 43.5 percent scoring rate. 

In goal, both sophomore Luke Pavicich and junior Brady Cole have beens strong on the season as a whole, but since conference play has started in the last four games, both have save percentages in the .890's and GAA's above three. 

UMass will be fine, but Greg Carvel's squad sure could use a save. 

In the other corner is BU, which over the last several years have shown flashes of brilliance, which have almost always been immediately followed by clunkers. 

So far this season, the Terriers (4-3-0, 2-2-0 HEA) have one of the strongest early schedules in college hockey with every game from Oct. 14 through Nov. 23 coming against ranked teams in Michigan, UConn, UMass Lowell, UMass, Northeastern and Notre Dame. They've yet to string wins together this year, but outside of dropping the ball in Ann Arbor with a 9-2 loss, each of BU's losses have been one-goal games that came down to the very end.

In last weekend's split against the River Hawks, both games finished 2-1, with the Terriers taking Saturday's rematch in overtime thanks to freshman blue-liner Lane Hutson's heroics to tie the game late before finishing it off in the extra frame. 

Hutson has stepped in seamlessly as a freshman with eight points (3g, 5a) in his first seven collegiate games, while senior forward Matt Brown has come up big for BU with 10 points (4g, 6a). In goal, junior Drew Commesso made two starts before going down with injury for four games after getting lit up at Michigan, but returned last Saturday with a strong 29-save outing. In his absence, Vinny Duplessis had his flashes, but was inconsistent by and large. 

The penalty kill has been decent (81.1 percent), but BU has had trouble staying out of the box, something that will be critical against the lethal UMass man-advantage this weekend.

Also on the radar: No. 3 Michigan at No. 18 Notre Dame (7:35 p.m. ET Friday and 6:05 p.m. ET Saturday; Peacock – subscription required) and No. 4 St. Cloud State vs. No 17 Western Michigan (8:30 p.m. ET Friday and 7 p.m. ET Saturday; Fox9+ and – subscription required)

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