COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – With all eight National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) teams playing at various times throughout the holiday break, this week’s Bauer NCHC Players of the Week represent any games played between Dec. 21, 2019 and Jan. 5, 2020. Three teams picked up Bauer weekly honors for weeks 12-13 as Minnesota Duluth sophomore Cole Koepke earned Forward of the Week, Denver sophomore Slava Demin is the Defenseman of the Week, St. Cloud State forward Zach Okabe is the Rookie of the Week and UMD senior Hunter Shepard nabbed Goaltender of the Week.
These are the first career NCHC weekly honors for Koepke, Demin and Okabe, while Shepard gloved his fourth Goaltender of the Week nod this season and 13th of his career.
Cole Koepke, Minnesota Duluth
Koepke closed out the 2019 calendar year in strong fashion, racking up five points and scoring a goal in both games to lead the Bulldogs to a sweep at Merrimack on Sunday and Monday, Dec. 29-30. In the series opener on Dec. 29, the Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick tallied two points, scoring his first career short-handed goal to tie the game in the second period, while adding an assist on UMD’s final goal in a 4-1 victory. He was +2 with two shots on goal in Sunday’s win.
The next day, Koepke compiled a career-high three points in a 5-1, sweep-clinching win. He opened the game’s scoring late in the first period with his second goal of the weekend, while handing out assists on the Bulldogs’ next two goals, including the game-winner. He was named First Star of the Game last Monday, finishing +3 with six shots on goal.
Koepke finished the series with the Warriors with two goals, three assists, a +5 plus/minus and eight shots on goal. He also pushed his point streak to five games (5g, 4a), while he’s tied for third on the team with 16 points and is second for UMD with eight goals on the season.
Slava Demin, Denver
Demin had a big weekend at both ends of the ice, helping Denver sweep then-No. 9 Massachusetts last weekend in a rematch of last year’s Frozen Four. The Vegas Golden Knights draft pick compiled three points in the series, all in Friday’s 4-2 comeback win, marking a single-game career high, while it was also his first multi-point game this season.
In Friday’s win, Demin scored his second goal of the season in the second period to tie the game, while dishing out primary assists on DU’s second and fourth goals. Hi first assist came via a shot from the blue line and tied the game at 2-2, while his second helper sealed the victory on an empty net. He was named Second Star of the Game Friday and posted a +2 plus/minus.
The next night, Demin was held off the scoresheet, but played a key role in helping Denver’s penalty kill go 7-for-8, including killing an extended 5-on-3 UMass power play, as the Pioneers rallied for a 4-3 win on Saturday. Demin also played on a penalty kill that was 4-for-4 in Friday’s win, as DU’s penalty kill finished 11-for-12 in the sweep.
Demin finished the series with a goal, two assists, a +2 plus/minus and two blocked shots, with one each night. Demin had five points all season entering the weekend, but now has two goals and six assists for eight points in 19 games.
Zach Okabe, St. Cloud State
Okabe had a breakout and record-setting weekend at the Mariucci Classic back on Dec. 28-29 in Minneapolis, Minn., leading St. Cloud State to the championship game. Entering the tournament with no points in his first 13 collegiate games, Okabe erupted for a record-tying four goals in a 7-2 win over then-No. 2 Minnesota State on Saturday, Dec. 28 in the semifinals for his first collegiate points and goals.
The draft-eligible forward recorded a natural hat trick to start the game against the Mavericks, scoring the first three goals of the contest, with two in the first period and the third coming early in the second period, which served as the game-winner. He then capped his four-goal outburst later in the period to make it 5-1 Huskies. Okabe scored his four goals on only four shots and was +4 in the win, while earning First Star of the Game. The four goals tied an NCHC record as Okabe is the fourth NCHC player to score four goals in a game and second Husky (Joey Benik in 2015), while he was the first player to do so in the Mariucci Classic.
Okabe was held off the scoresheet in the 4-1 championship-game loss to host Minnesota on Sunday, Dec. 29, but still earned Mariucci Classic All-Tournament Team honors. Okabe finished the tournament with four goals, four shots on goal and a +3 plus/minus.
Hunter Shepard, Minnesota Duluth
Shepard was a rock in net against Merrimack on Dec. 29-30, allowing only one goal in each game, while backstopping the Bulldogs to a road sweep. In the series opener on Sunday, Dec. 29, the reigning NCHC Goaltender of the Year made 24 saves in a 4-1 victory, with the lone goal allowed coming on the power play. He was named First Star of the Game for his efforts, while making eight short-handed saves.
A night later, Shepard compiled 16 saves in a 5-1 victory, while helping kill all three Merrimack power plays. He finished the series with a .952 save percentage and a 1.00 goals-against average, while totaling 40 saves on 42 shots in the two wins. Shepard also made 11 of his saves short-handed to help UMD’s penalty kill finish the weekend 6-for-7. On the season, he has started all 18 games in net for the Bulldogs, going 11-6-1 with two shutouts, a .906 save percentage and a 2.29 GAA.
Forward of the Week
Gordie Green, Sr., Miami – Tallied three points in a win at BGSU on Dec. 30, scoring a goal and adding two assists to top 100 points for his career.
Cole Guttman, So., Denver – Totaled four points in a sweep of UMass last weekend, scoring the game-winning goal and adding an assist both games.
Jordan Kawaguchi, Jr., UND – Tallied four points in a sweep of UAH, scoring two goals in Friday’s win, while tallying the game-winner and an assist in Saturday’s victory.
Taylor Ward, So., Omaha – Compiled five points in four games over the break, tallying three goals and adding two assists with 16 shots on goal.
Chris Wilkie, Sr., CC – Scored four goals at the Ledyard Classic to earn All-Tournament Team honors, including a hat trick in a win over St. Lawrence on Dec. 29.
Defenseman of the Week
Jack Ahcan, Sr., SCSU – Blocked eight shots at the Mariucci Classic, while helping limit Minnesota State’s offense in an upset win.
Derek Daschke, So., Miami – Dished out two assists in a win at BGSU last Monday.
Matt Kiersted, Jr., UND – Handed out two assists in the Saturday win over UAH.
Scott Perunovich, Jr., UMD – Doled out an assist each game in a sweep at Merrimack on Dec. 29-30, setting up the game-winner on Dec. 29, while blocking five shots and finishing +4 in the series.
Rookie of the Week
Ethan Frisch, D, UND – Scored his first career goal in Saturday’s win over UAH and finished the series with two blocks and +2.
Nolan Sullivan, F, Omaha – Tallied a goal and three assists in four games over the break, with three points coming against ASU on Dec. 21-22.
Goaltender of the Week
Magnus Chrona, Fr., Denver – Backstopped Denver to a sweep of then-No. 9 UMass last weekend, compiling 59 saves for a .922 save percentage and a 2.51 GAA.
Ryan Larkin, Sr., Miami – In Miami’s only game over break, racked up 35 saves for a .946 save percentage to lead Miami to a 4-2 win at then-No. 11 BGSU last Monday.