COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - If there was any doubt about North Dakota’s status as college hockey’s top-ranked team, the Fighting Hawks quelled it with a home sweep of Denver over the weekend.
UND is the unanimous No. 1 squad in the most recent USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll, and all but one voter in the USCHO.com rankings had North Dakota (23-3-3, 14-2-2-2 NCHC) at the top of the list. After clinching home ice for the NCHC Quarterfinals next month, the Fighting Hawks lead four National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) teams to see their name in this week’s rankings, as Western Michigan returned to the USCHO.com Poll on Monday for the first time since Dec. 30.
North Dakota junior Collin Adams earned NCHC Forward of the Week honors, scoring a goal in each game as the Fighting Hawks improved to 16-1-0 at home this season. Fellow junior Peter Thome stopped 51 of 53 shots against Denver -- which fell to seventh in both polls after being swept -- and was named the conference’s netminder of the week.
UND boasts the nation’s highest-scoring offense scoring 4.14 goals per game, with six players tallying 20 or more points to date.
The Fighting Hawks travel to St. Cloud State this weekend. Both games are available on NCHC.tv, with the latter tilt shown regionally on FOX Sports North, as well.
Denver (17-8-5, 7-7-4-3) dropped just one spot in the USCHO.com poll and two places in the USA Hockey Magazine rankings. The Pioneers remain in good position to earn home ice for the first round of the NCHC playoffs, sitting at fourth in the conference heading into a home series against Miami.
Speaking of Miami, Western Michigan settled for a tie with the RedHawks on Friday, before a convincing 4-1 win Saturday. That was enough for Western Michigan (15-10-5, 9-6-3-2) to rank 19th in the USCHO.com poll this week. WMU had been receiving votes since dropping out of the poll to start the new year.
After dropping five of six games from Nov. 23-Jan. 10, the Broncos are 8-1-1 in their past 10 contests. Forward Hugh McGing’s 28 points lead WMU, which has the NCAA’s eighth-most potent offense, and coach Andy Murray’s group has received yeoman’s goaltending from freshman Brandon Bussi (2.64 goals-against average, .909 save percentage).
Western Michigan is now third in the NCHC standings, four points clear of Denver, with three weeks remaining in the regular season. The Broncos are also now up to 17th in the all-important Pairwise Ratings. UND, UMD and Denver all remain in the top five of the Pairwise, which determines NCAA Tournament seeding.
The Broncos’ schedule toughens this weekend as they host second-place Minnesota Duluth, which remained fourth in both national polls after a weekend off. The Bulldogs (17-9-2, 12-4-2-0) topped Western Michigan, 6-3, back on Jan. 10 and fell in a shootout after a tie the following day at AMSOIL Arena in Duluth. Friday’s series opener is on national TV on CBS Sports Network, while Saturday’s game is on NCHC.tv.