Western Michigan Broncos (20-8-1, 12-7-1 NCHC) Ranked #6
Western Michigan welcomed league leader Denver to town for a series with massive NCHC title implications. With only a few weekends left, every game is critical.
Friday night got started just how the Broncos had planned. Cole Gallant lit the lamp half way through the first period and gave Western Michigan the lead. The joy was short lived, with Denver scoring to tie it up just a few minutes later. That goal was just the beginning of the end for the Broncos, as Denver would go on to score a goal in the second to take the lead, then two more in the third period. After it was all said and done, the Pioneers beat up on the Broncos to a tune of 4-1.
Desperately needing a win to keep themselves in the conference title race, Western Michigan sought revenge on Saturday night. They made their intentions clear right from the puck drop, scoring a goal less than two minutes into the game. Denver scored a shorthanded goal to tie things up, but the Broncos added a shorthanded goal of their own late in the first period to take the 2-1 lead into the first intermission. The second period was all about momentum. Western Michigan went on a run, scoring three consecutive goals in just over five minutes. Denver responded with two goals of their own to close the second period, then another in the opening minutes of the third to cut the Broncos lead down to one. Ethen Frank added an insurance goal late for the Broncos to secure the 6-4 win.
By splitting the series with Denver, the Broncos did not gain any ground in the conference title race. North Dakota took advantage of Denver dropping three points and ascended into first place. North Dakota sits in first place with 45 points, followed by Denver with 44 points, and then Western Michigan with 37 points. With only a few games left for each team, its going to be hard for the Broncos to close the deficit. It is going to take a meltdown from both North Dakota and Denver over the last few weeks of the season for the Broncos to nab the regular season NCHC title.
Next up for the Broncos is a trip out to North Dakota (19-11-1, ranked #7) to take on the Fighting Hawks. Even with a sweep the Broncos would still be one point behind North Dakota heading into the final games of the season.
While the NCHC picture doesn’t look great, Western Michigan is still very nicely positioned for the NCAA tournament. They’re currently sitting tied for third with Denver in the Pairwise, which is used for tournament seeding. With a strong showing over the next few weeks the Broncos could certainly make a case for a #1 seed in the tournament.
Bowling Green Falcons (14-15-3, 11-12-1-2 CCHA)
The Falcons welcomed CCHA rival Northern Michigan to town for a weekend series at Slater Family Ice Arena. The Falcons looked to seek revenge on NMU for sweeping their last weekend series— something which they ultimately couldn’t do on the return matches.
Friday night’s game got off to a positive start with Bowling Green scoring the first goal. That 1-0 lead would turn out to be their only lead of the night. Northern Michigan responded to that goal with three straight of their own to put the Falcons down 3-1. Bowling Green scored to cut the deficit to one, but that’s as close as they would get. Two more Northern Michigan goals stretched their lead out to three. After both teams exchanged one more pair of goals the final score settled out to 6-3 in favor of Northern Michigan.
Saturday night’s game got off to the same bright start for the Falcons as they once again tallied the first goal of the night. Once again, this would be their only lead of the night. Northern Michigan scored three straight goals again to put the game away. After the final horn, the score was 4-2 Wildcats.
Next up for Bowling Green is a trip up to Sault Ste. Marie to take on the Lake Superior State Lakers (15-16-1). The Falcons dominated their first series with the Lakers this year, sweeping them to the tune of a combined score of 11-3.
Bowling Green is currently sitting at #34 on the Pairwise, far outside of NCAA tournament contention. Their only hope to make the tournament is to go on a run and win the CCHA tournament, which would give them an automatic bid.
Miami RedHawks (6-22-2, 3-16-1 CCHA)
The RedHawks loaded up the wagons and set out west for a weekend at Colorado College. Fresh off of a sweep of Omaha, the RedHawks were looking to keep their momentum going. Instead, that momentum came to a screeching halt in one of the most painful ways possible.
Colorado College opened the scoring on Friday night with a goal in the waning seconds of the first period. Miami responded with a goal in the early minutes of the second period, then grabbed a last second goal of their own to take the 2-1 lead into the second intermission. Both teams traded goals in the early third period prior to Colorado College netting the equalizer, eventually forcing a 3-on-3 overtime period. With just 16 seconds left in OT, Colorado College netted the game-winner, and just like that, Miami’s winning streak was over.
Saturday night’s game started off on a similar note as Colorado College grabbed the first goal once again. Miami turned on the gas in the second period, netting two goals to take a 2-1 lead into the third period. Colorado College tied it up part way through the third and for the second night in a row we were headed to overtime. There was not nearly as much suspense in overtime on Saturday as Colorado College scored just 27 seconds into OT to hand the RedHawks their second consecutive overtime loss.
Next up for the RedHawks is a home series vs Minnesota Duluth (15-13-3, ranked #8). Duluth will be a heavy favorite, but Miami did manage to steal a game from the Bulldogs in a OT shoot out win earlier in the season.