Bemidji State (10-15-1) vs. Augustana (8-15-3)
Marking the first time these two teams have met, the Beavers welcomed Augustana to Bemidji by outshooting the Vikings 15-3 and leading 2-0 after one. It took the Beavers only 20 seconds into the second period to extend their lead to 3-0 off a goal from Jere Vaisanen. Later in the period, Adam Flammang scored his fourth goal this season to make it 4-0 and officially put the game out of reach. Bemidji added the lone goal in the third period to beat Augustana 5-0, with goaltender Mattias Sholl only needing to make 10(!) saves to secure the shutout, the least number of shots on goal the Beavers have allowed in 16 seasons.
Fed up with their showing in game one, Augustana opened the scoring early in game two, with Luke Mobley scoring shorthanded for his team-leading fourteenth goal of the season. The Vikings doubled their lead only 19 seconds into period two and later made it 3-0 with only two minutes remaining in the second. With only 3.7 seconds left in the period, the Beavers finally got on the board, giving themselves a shot at a third-period comeback. Augustana halted Bemidji's comeback chances by making it 4-1 early in the third, and later in the period, Greenway graduate Ben Troumbly added an empty netter to secure a 5-2 victory for the Vikings, and the series split.
With the split, the Beavers hold their fourth-place positioning in the CCHA standings and will travel to play the sixth-place team in the conference, Northern Michigan (9-13-4), on 2/9 and 2/10.
Jere Vaisanen, Bemidji State
No. 9 Minnesota (16-7-5) at No. 4 Wisconsin (20-6-2)
A top-10 border battle led to a sold-out series at the Kohl Center, resulting in two tightly contested games.
A back-and-forth first period opened the series with Minnesota outshooting the Badgers 17-11 and leading 1-0 after the first, thanks to a goal from Oliver Moore, marking Moore's eighth straight game with a point. The Badgers stormed back in the second and outshot the Gophers by a 21-5 margin, but Justen Close played lights out and kept Wisconsin off the board through two. Only 1:35 into period three, the Badgers finally found a way past Close and made it all square at 1-1, with that score holding through the end of regulation. In overtime, Minnesota's Sam Rinzel made a tremendous defensive play to stop Wisconsin and quickly turn the puck up ice, leading to a 2-on-1 opportunity which Brody Lamb buried to help the Gophers win game one.
The rematch on Saturday was another low-scoring affair that saw the Badgers take an early 1-0 lead off a goal from Jack Horbach, with Wisconsin holding onto that lead into the first intermission. A disallowed Ryan Chesley goal due to goaltender interference was followed by a goal from Jaxon Nelson, leading to a 1-1 scoreline heading into the third. With under three minutes to go, the Gophers scored a potential game-winner off the stick of Mason Nevers; however, goaltender interference led to a second disallowed goal, and for the second night in a row, the game headed to overtime. Following a scoreless overtime, the Badgers claimed the extra shootout point in the tie, with both teams exiting the weekend with three conference points earned.
Minnesota will return home for a series against Penn State (12-11-3), a team the Gophers split with back in early December, with puck drop at 6:00pm on 2/9 and 3:00pm on 2/10.
Mason Nevers, Minnesota
Minnesota Duluth (10-13-4) at No. 20 Nebraska Omaha (14-9-3)
In what is notoriously a tough matchup for the Bulldogs, Minnesota Duluth traveled to Omaha and found themselves in a two-goal hole in the first period of game one. With 2:45 left in the period, UMD's Matthew Perkins struck to make it 2-1 at the first intermission. A strong 14-save second period from goaltender Zach Stejskal held the score at 2-1 through the second, but only 3:09 into the third, UNO's Tanner Ludtke scored to make it 3-1, his eighth goal this season. The Mavericks added an empty net goal to extend it to 4-1 before Jimmy Glynn added further punishment with a late fifth goal, leading to a 5-1 UNO win.
Much to the chagrin of the Bulldogs, it took the Mavericks only 17 seconds to open the scoring in game two. Later in the first period, Connor McMenamin scored to tally his fifteenth point this season, but Zach Urdahl responded soon after to put Nebraska Omaha in front 2-1 after one. Down 3-1 to start the third, Blake Biondi planted himself in front of the net and scored off a rebound to make it a one-goal game with plenty of time remaining. With two minutes remaining, the Bulldogs added an extra attacker, but the Mavericks scored an empty netter for the second night in a row. Then, Matthew Perkins scored with one minute remaining to make it 4-3, and the Bulldogs had chances to tie it late but ultimately fell short.
The sweep moves UNO ahead of the Bulldogs in the NCHC, with UMD holding seventh place in the conference standings and the 26th spot in the Pairwise. The team will have a week off to regroup before facing the Denver Pioneers at home on 2/16 and 2/17, followed by the North Dakota Fighting Hawks on the road on 2/23 and 2/24.
Blake Biondi, Minnesota Duluth
Minnesota State (14-10-4) vs. St. Thomas (13-12-1)
Following a close split series in early December, the top two teams in the CCHA standings met for another home-and-home battle this weekend.
St. Thomas hosted game one and fell behind 2-0 less than 10 minutes into the first period, with Connor Gregga and Brett Moravec scoring for the Mavericks. Still down two goals to start the second, St. Thomas found the back of the net 5:34 into the period to make it 2-1 and, shortly after that, tied it off a goal from Mack Byers. With under five minutes to go and the Tommies on their fifth power play of the game, Cooper Gay scored a go-ahead goal, but the Mavericks were not done yet, with Josh Groll scoring a massive goal with only 34 seconds remaining to make it 3-3 and force overtime. To the home crowd's disappointment, Minnesota State's Kaden Bohlsen scored the overtime winner, marking his eighth goal this season.
In front of a crowd of almost 5,000 in game two, St. Thomas started the scoring only 1:16 into the game before doubling their lead via an unassisted Liam Malmquist goal. A power-play goal from Brian Carrabes cut the lead in half, and St. Thomas went on to lead 2-1 at the first intermission. A quick power-play goal to start the second regained the Tommies' two-goal lead, with Cooper Gay redirecting the puck from the slot to score his third goal of the weekend. Halfway through the period, the Mavericks made it 3-2, but that would be the closest the home team would get, with St. Thomas adding a late empty net goal to win 4-2. Tommie goaltender Aaron Trotter tallied an assist on the empty netter while making 33 saves in the win.
Holding the top conference spot by two points after the split, St. Thomas will go on to face Augustana this weekend on the road. Minnesota State will also play on the road and battle Michigan Tech (11-12-6) on 2/9 and 2/10, a team that swept the Mavericks back in late November.
Aaron Trotter, St. Thomas
No. 16 St. Cloud (12-9-5) at No. 14 Colorado College (16-9-1)
Winning nine of their previous 10 matchups, St. Cloud traveled to Colorado Springs for an important bout against Colorado College with only five series remaining in the regular season.
St. Cloud's Kyler Kupka opened the scoring by beating Kaidan Mbereko 3:21 into the game, with goaltender Dominic Basse making 11 saves in the opening frame to help the Huskies lead 1-0 after one. A defensive battle ensued with a scoreless second period, including Basse upping his save count to 21 through two. Colorado College capitalized on their first power play of the game as Zaccharya Wisdom tallied the tying goal 8:32 into the third period. St. Cloud successfully killed three additional minor penalties after that point, and the game headed to overtime, where with only 12.8 seconds left on the clock, freshman Veeti Miettinen scored the biggest goal of his young career to win it for St. Cloud.
Game two saw the Tigers lead 1-0 after one before doubling their lead 4:06 into the second. Just over a minute later, the Huskies were granted a power play opportunity, and an excellent cross-crease pass led to a goal, and the deficit was brought to one. At 7:37 into the third period, Colorado College extended their lead to 3-1, and then a flurry of penalties on both teams followed, with Noah Laba making it 4-1 with a man advantage before Kyler Kupka struck to bring it to 4-2 on the ensuing power play for St. Cloud. The Huskies pulled their goaltender with over four minutes remaining, and the Tigers added an empty netter, with Colorado College eventually winning 5-3 and earning the split.
St. Cloud holds the second spot in the NCHC standings and will face the last-place team in the conference this weekend, Miami RedHawks (7-17-2), with puck drop in Oxford, OH at 6:00pm CT on 2/9 and 2/10.
Veeti Miettinen, St. Cloud State