NCAA Weekly Recap: North Dakota Avoids Fall From Top

North Dakota (UNDSports)

North Dakota is atop the NCAA rankings (UNDSports)

It wasn’t always pretty, but North Dakota survived the weekend as the consensus No. 1 team in the country.

It certainly hasn’t been easy being at the top of the collegiate hockey world thus far this season. In fact, a trip to the top spot in the Division 1 rankings has almost guaranteed a setback was just around the corner. North Dakota, the most recent big-name school to hold down the top ranking, was able to notch a pair of victories over a bad Lake Superior State team over the weekend to secure its top billing, at least for one more week.

On Friday, North Dakota rallied from a 3-0 deficit with five goals in the second period, including a pair off the stick of freshman defenseman Tucker Poolman, to pull out a wild 7-4 victory. They then took care of business on Saturday with a much more disciplined 3-1 victory over the Lakers to improve to 12-3-2 on the season.

Junior Zane McIntyre continues to shine in goal for North Dakota, playing every game while sporting a 1.94 GAA and a .929 save percentage. Junior forward Drake Caggiula is among the leading scorers in the county with 7-14-21 in just 17 games.

Here’s a closer look at Week 11 in Division 1 play:
• We should find out this coming weekend whether Denver University is a contender or pretender. The Pioneers, who split a pair of games last weekend with Cornell, have been in and out of the Top 10 rankings for much of the season but will host No. 1 North Dakota in a weekend series. Freshman Danton Heinen has led the way offensively for Denver with 6-10-16 in 13 games.

• Yes, it’s very early in the race for Big 10 supremacy but Penn State has wasted little time making its presence known. The Nittany Lions sit atop the conference standings with a 3-1 record (9-4-2 overall), including a weekend sweep of Wisconsin. Junior Casey Bailey leads the Pennsylvania school with 10-8-18 in 15 games.

• While Minnesota State and Michigan Tech have garnered most of the headlines in the WCHA, he Falcons of Bowling Green have quietly kept pace with an 8-1-1 conference record. Coming off a three-point weekend against conference rival Northern Michigan, the Falcons don’t play again until after the New Year.

• The River Hawks of Massachusetts-Lowell rebounded from a loss to ECAC-leading Harvard last weekend to post wins over Connecticut and Maine to remain unbeaten in Hockey East play and keep pace with Boston University. The River Hawks, whose top six scorers are all underclassmen, are now idle until Dec. 27-28 when they take part in the Frozen Holiday Classic along with Sacred Heart, Connecticut, and Union College.

While some mid-season breaks have already begun, Week 12 still promises lots of great action ahead, including:
• A weekend series between Top 10 squads Michigan Tech and Minnesota-Duluth. The Bulldogs of Duluth split a pair of games against Nebraska-Omaha last weekend and would love to use this series against the Huskies as a springboard to bigger things.

• On Saturday, high-scoring Michigan, winners of four straight, will look to take down Boston College on the road. The Wolverines have scored 25 goals in their recent four-game winning streak, led by senior Zach Hyman (7-10-17), who has already equaled his point total of the year ago.

• On Sunday, Atlantic Hockey takes center ice as conference leader and Top 20 squad Robert Morris travels to Mercyhurst Ice Center in Erie, Pa. to challenge the Lakers.

World Juniors
Many of the top Division 1 collegiate players in the country, including the likes of Jack Eichel and Thatcher Demko from Boston College, Hudson Fasching from University of Minnesota, and Jack Dougherty of Wisconsin will be busy during the holidays. They will be among 30 players attending U.S. National Junior Team training camp from Dec. 16-19 in Boston. The final U.S. roster for the World Junior Championships, which will be played from Dec. 26, 2014 to Jan. 5, 2015 in Montreal, Toronto and Quebec, Canada, is expected to be named by Christmas Eve.

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