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January 23, 2022
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WMU, Denver Remain Hot in Tight NCHC Race

CHN Staff Report

Coming off Friday’s overtime loss to Minnesota, a regulation win was just what the doctor ordered for Michigan. The Wolverines scored four straight after Minnesota took an early lead, and won 4-1, to remain even with Ohio State for first place in the Big Ten, and squeak back past Minnesota State for the top spot in the Pairwise.

Minnesota threw everything at Michigan for the first two periods, but Erik Portillo, who finished with 39 saves, came up huge.

Erik Portillo capped off another outstanding weekend with a 39-save performance to lead U-M.

“Not the start we wanted,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “I thought we got off to a really slow start. … We just weren’t at the level we wanted, especially in the first 10 minutes.” 

Minnesota came out on fire and scored 2:43 into the game, thanks to Bryce Brodzinski. Michigan had to kill off a penalty, and fell behind 11-3 in shots, but the remained 1-0.








  1 2 3 F
Michigan 2 1 1 4
Minnesota 1 0 0 1
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All it take was a couple split-second lapses on Minnesota’s part for Michigan to turn things around. The scoring duo of Brendan Brisson and Matty Beniers did it again, scoring 62 seconds apart — their 16th and 15th goals, respectively — to give Michigan a 2-1 lead. Beniers was set up by fellow super-sophomores Owen Power and Kent Johnson. All four of those aforementioned players are soon going to the Olympics.

“We made three mistakes tonight and they scored on them,” Minnesota coach Bob Motzko said. “We made three poor decisions coming back, and that was it.”

Motzko added, “We got a little cute at times as the game wore on pressing. You just got to put a guy in front of (Portillo) and try to create havoc, and we did — (he was) just feeling good today.”

Western Michigan 2, North Dakota 0

Brandon Bussi stopped all 24 shots thrown his way to help Western Michigan defeat North Dakota, 2-0, and complete the weekend sweep in Kalamazoo. 

UND fell out of first place in the NCHC for the first time since November and remain winless in the month of January. Denver hopped into the top spot, and WMU is now tied with North Dakota for second.

The Broncos were on the penalty kill late in the first period when Max Sasson intercepted a pass just in front of the WMU blue line. Sasson used a burst of speed to head off on the breakaway and beat UND goalie Jakob Hellsten over his left shoulder for the unassisted shorthanded goal.

North Dakota was denied on three power plays.

WMU was playing this weekend for the first time since the ill-fated Great Lakes Invitational, and is 9-1 over its last 10 games, all in regulation. The Broncos play at Minnesota-Duluth next weekend.

Denver 4, Colorado College 0

Goaltender Magnus Chrona posted his third consecutive shutout and senior captain Cole Guttman scored twice to reach 100 career points as Denver defeated Colorado College, 4-0, on Saturday night at Robson Arena. For the weekend, Denver outscored rival CC 9-0 in the home-and-home series.

Denver has won four straight, all without head coach David Carle, who sat out another weekend because of COVID protocols.

“We had a young group to start the season, the second-youngest in college hockey. And when you get new people in there, it’s a different level,” Denver assistant coach Dallas Ferguson said. “There’s new faces, people in different spots, and now guys seem pretty comfortable with the game plan (Carle) is putting together for them. There’s a little less teaching right now, and that’s a good thing. … The focus is always 60 minutes. To play a perfect game, I don’t think that’s possible, but I think what you’re seeing is more minutes in a game (that’s) more predictable in our play.”

Guttman’s second of the night was of the highlight-reel variety, scoring as he was being taken down.

“Our line was buzzing and we had support all over the ice,” Guttman said. “The puck just popped out to me and I took it to the middle, and I remember getting taken down and put it to the net, and I looked up and it was in.”

CC nearly did have a goal late in the second that would’ve made it 3-1, but it was disallowed for goaltender interference.

Colorado College was unable to put up much of a fight against Denver the whole weekend. From start to finish, Denver dominated and buzzed around the CC zone. The shots were 40-19 Denver on Friday, and 41-16 on Saturday.

“Our team has made it pretty easy sometimes,” Chrona said. “I try to stay engaged and focus on my part. It’s a confidence booster when we’re putting up those numbers of shots and scoring goals, so I try to just give us an extra boost.”

CC starting goalie Dominic Basse was pulled in both games, and while it wasn’t necessarily his fault, No. 2 Matt Vernon looked impressive in relief both times.

“Matt was fantastic tonight,” CC coach Kris Mayotte said. “He was really good last night as well. In these two games, he brought a lot of energy to our bench.”

The Tigers found themselves in the penalty box for a good portion of the game, taking 10 penalties, including a pair of 10-minute misconduct fouls, none of which helped. CC’s penalty kill was strong, however, as Denver scored on just one of its seven power-play opportunities. The Tigers were 0-for-4 on the power play

“We have a long way to go,” Mayotte added. “We haven’t learned our lesson with penalties. We caused a lot of our own problems.”

Omaha 5, Minnesota-Duluth 1

The last time Minnesota-Duluth put together a pair of regulation wins in a weekend was in October, against Minnesota. It hasn’t done so yet this season in NCHC play, not even last week when it lost in a shootout at home to Miami on Saturday.








  1 2 3 F
Minnesota-Duluth 0 0 1 1
Omaha 2 2 1 5
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Well, it still hasn’t happened. After a strong 5-1 win Friday in Omaha, the Bulldogs were taken aback by a strong pushback from the Mavericks at home Saturday.

“We just need to find some consistency,” UMD forward Tanner Laderoute told The Rink Live. “We can’t lay an egg on Friday and play amazing on Saturday, and play amazing on Friday and lay an egg on Saturday. So we have to find some consistency and that’s going to start on Monday at practice and just having a solid, good week coming up here.”

UMD coach Scott Sandelin thought the game got away from his team, down 1-0, when Omaha scored a power-play goal that he thought never should’ve happened. The Bulldogs thought UNO iced the puck on its power play, but play continued, and the Mavericks made it 2-0.

“I thought the missed icing call changed the game,” Sandelin told The Rink Live. “I thought it changed the game because I thought we were climbing back in it and getting back even. I thought it was back and forth and nobody had the advantage after their start. They get the second goal off the missed icing call, and you can’t make those mistakes. You can’t. I thought that changed the game. From them on, we were chasing the game.”

On Omaha’s side, goals by Brandon Scanlin and Taylor Ward (also on the power play) opened things up in the second period. The Mavericks moved back to No. 20 in the Pairwise.

“I’m really proud of the group, unbelievable effort tonight from everybody,” Omaha coach Mike Gabinet said. “When everybody’s working like that, playing together as a team and we’ve got everybody going, good things are going to happen. [This was] one of our most complete games of the season.

“We’ve got guys in that room that are all in,” Gabinet said. “We’ve got guys that are high-character individuals. They want to do well for the program, both individually and collectively. They’re all in. They’re giving it everything that they’ve got.

“Sometimes you don’t get the results, but it was nice to see tonight. Everybody was good tonight. That was a special game by us tonight.”

Penn State 7, Wisconsin 2

Penn State has had some rough patches lately, but at times looked very close to putting things together. In a recent four-game losing streak, two games were by one goal and another came in overtime.

The Lions showed what they can do this weekend when everything is clicking, taking apart Wisconsin, 4-1 and 7-2.

A lot of the play Saturday was driven by freshmen, including Ryan Kirwan, who scored the game’s first two goals.

“They were exceptional today,” Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said of the freshmen. “I think it’s a factor of not just the offense, but what they’ve all been working hard to do. To just play quality Penn State Hockey, learn about it and become consistent with it. They’re doing a good job and they’re seeing the results.

“The experiences that we’ve gone through lately, whether it be against Notre Dame, Michigan, or even against Wisconsin at Wisconsin, all build up to being able to do that. It’s easy to talk about. You can talk about it, but you have to go through it to really get the lesson to stick.”

Kirwan was not the only one — freshman Ben Schoen also scored, and now has 13 points. But Kirwan has been the biggest, and has 9-11—20 now through 24 games, and a solid plus-5.

“He deserves every bit of this because he’s been so detailed in the things that he has to do to play good hockey and to be in the lineup,” Gadowsky said. “First, you have to give him a ton of credit for being meticulous about the details which he has, and the rest is his release. That’s something you can’t coach; you can’t teach that. It’s just special, obviously you saw that tonight. It’s nice that we saw him use it, but you got to give him credit for giving himself a chance to put himself in those situations. He has played really good hockey to be in those [scoring] situations.”

Ohio State 3, Michigan State 2

Ohio State kept pace for first place in the Big Ten with a sweep of Michigan State.

The Buckeyes led 1-0 after the first period and 2-0 early in the second. The Spartans made it a one-goal game but a tally in the final minute of the second pushed Ohio State’s lead back to two. Michigan State again drew within one as it scored with the extra attacker late, but the Buckeyes held on for the win.

Georgii Merkulov had a team-best two goals, Cam Thiesing had a goal and an assist and Mason Lohrei and Quinn Preston both had two assists for the Buckeyes, while goalie Jakub Dobeš had 40 saves. 

“It’s always hard to win in college hockey, especially on the road, and to win two is even tougher,” OSU coach Steve Rohlik said. “Credit to our guys. Michigan State played hard, but we held on at the end. Now we start preparing for another tough road series at Penn State.”

Said senior Grant Gabriele, “It’s always a great feeling winning on the road and an even better feeling getting a sweep. It definitely wasn’t our ‘A’ game tonight but we found a way. We can enjoy the win, but it’s back to work this week to clean up some things before we head to Penn State.”

Elsewhere …

St. Cloud State clobbered Miami for a second straight night, 8-0. The score was 11-1 on Friday. Because of recent COVID issues, the Huskies were playing this weekend for the first time in three weeks, and the first league games since Dec. 3-4.

Minnesota State took care of business against St. Thomas, sweeping the series with wins of 5-1 and 7-1. Friday, the Tommies actually scored first, but that was it. Saturday, the Mavericks had an 11-0 shot edge after the first period en route to the rout. Sophomore center David Silye had a hat trick for MSU.

Ferris State scored the game’s first five goals, and went on to a 5-2 win over Bemidji State to sweep the weekend series on the road.

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