COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – With all eight National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) teams in action last weekend, several players had strong showings but the four Bauer NCHC Players of the Week for the week of Jan. 18-24 come from four different teams, all of which went unbeaten on the weekend. Earning Bauer NCHC Players of the Week for week 14 are St. Cloud State senior forward Joey Benik for Offensive Player of the Week, Miami senior blue liner Matthew Caito for Defenseman of the Week, North Dakota freshman forward Rhett Gardner for Rookie of the Week and Denver junior netminder Evan Cowley for Goaltender of the Week.
Benik captured his second NCHC Offensive Player of the Week honor this season and of his career while Caito also earned his second career NCHC Defenseman of the Week accolade but first this season. Gardner garnered his first career NCHC honor of any kind while Cowley claimed his second NCHC Goalie of the Week honor this season and also of his career.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Joey Benik, St. Cloud State
Benik had a hand in nearly half of SCSU’s 15 goals in a sweep of Western Michigan, totaling seven points in the two wins. On Friday, he tied a career high with five points, his third career five-point game and second this season against WMU. He scored the Huskies’ first goal of the game in the first period, while adding three assists in the second period and another in the third with two of the helpers the primary assist. Benik posted a plus-4 rating in the 8-2 victory as he was named the game’s first star. Saturday Benik recorded another multi-point game, once more scoring the game’s opening goal, this time on the power play, while he had the primary assist to make it 3-1 SCSU. He finished the weekend with two goals and five assists, while logging a plus-5 rating after going plus-1 on Saturday, and putting four shots on goal with two each game.
DEFENSEMAN OF THE WEEK
Matthew Caito, Miami
Coto de Caza, Calif.
Caito was a big contributor at both ends of the ice to help Miami snap a seven-game road losing streak and complete a sweep at No. 7 Omaha for the RedHawks’ first road sweep of the season. Offensively, Caito chipped in three points, his most in a weekend series this season, while helping limit the Mavericks to four goals and 58 shots on goal all weekend. On Friday, Caito notched his first multi-point game of the season as he scored the game-winning goal on the power play with 2:03 remaining in regulation to break a 1-1 tie, while he also assisted on the clinching empty-net goal in a 3-1 win. Playing on Miami’s top defensive pair, he logged a plus-1 rating and put three shots on goal as he was named the game’s first star. The next night, Caito set up a power play goal with an assist during Miami’s six-goal second period en route to a 7-3 victory as he again had a plus-1 rating and blocked two shots. He also anchored a penalty kill unit that went 9-for-10 on the weekend, including 5-for-5 Saturday, while he finished the weekend with a plus-2 rating, two blocked shots and four shots on goal.
ROOKIE OF THE WEEK
Rhett Gardner, North Dakota
Moose Jaw, Sask.
After entering the weekend with five goals all season, Gardner exploded for four goals against Colorado College, helping UND earn five points in the series. In Friday’s 5-5 overtime tie, Gardner book-ended the Fighting Hawks scoring, tallying the game’s opening goal early in the first period while scoring the game-tying goal with an extra attacker with 32 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime. It was his first collegiate multi-goal game and second career multi-point game while he also posted a plus-2 rating in the tie. The next night, Gardner found the net twice again for back-to-back multi-goal games, striking twice in the third period, including a short-handed empty-netter to seal the 5-1 victory. He again logged a plus-2 rating and finished the weekend with a plus-4 rating while his shooting percentage was .800 as he scored on four of his five shots on goal in the series. Gardner was also impressive in the faceoff circle, winning 26 of 38 draws on the weekend (68.4 percent).
GOALTENDER OF THE WEEK
Evan Cowley, Denver
Cowley was nearly unbeatable in backstopping the Pioneers to a sweep of No. 19 Minnesota Duluth, winning both games while allowing only one goal in nearly 114 minutes of action. Having last played on Dec. 12, Cowley entered in relief on Friday with DU down 2-0 and turned aside all 39 shots he faced, including 17 in the second period, as Denver rallied for a 3-2 win. The 39 saves were a season high despite only playing 53:47 in net as he was named the game’s first star. The next night, the Florida Panthers prospect started in goal and compiled 34 saves in a 2-1 win as DU was outshot by UMD for the second straight night. Cowley once again was named the game’s first star as he earned his first win in net since Nov. 13. In the series, Cowley compiled a 0.53 goals-against average and a .986 save percentage as he made 73 saves on 74 Bulldog shots. He also helped DU’s penalty kill go 4-for-4, making seven saves on UMD’s two power plays Friday and six more saves on a pair of Bulldog power plays Saturday.
Offensive Player of the Week
Hunter Fejes, Sr., F, CC – Logged a career-high four points in Friday’s 5-5 overtime tie at UND, scoring two goals while handing out a pair of assists as well and posting a plus-3 rating in the contest.
Danton Heinen, So., F, DU – Racked up four points in a sweep of UMD as he had a hand in four of DU’s five goals, scoring two goals, including the game-winner, on Friday, while scoring the first goal and assisting on the game-winner in Saturday’s 2-1 win.
Sean Kuraly, Sr., F, Miami – Totaled five points in a sweep at Omaha, assisting on the game-winner Friday while totaling a career-high-tying four points on Saturday on a goal and three assists as he finished the series with a plus-4 rating.
Austin Poganski, So., F, UND – Compiled four points against CC, dishing out two assists in Friday’s overtime tie while on Saturday he scored the game-winning goal and added another assist while posting a plus-2 rating in the game.
Defenseman of the Week
Niklas Nevalainen, Jr., D, SCSU – Handed out five assists in a sweep of WMU, dishing out two Friday and three Saturday with three helpers coming on the power play while he posted a plus-3 rating in the series and helped SCSU go 8-for-9 on the penalty kill.
Rookie of the Week
Andrew Farny, Fr., D, CC – Scored CC’s lone goal in Saturday’s loss at UND while he blocked seven shots in the series and helped CC go 8-for-9 on the penalty kill.
Dylan Gambrell, Fr., F, DU – Compiled three points in a sweep of UMD, handing out an assist Friday while scoring the game-winner on Saturday and assisting on the other goal for a two-point game in the 2-1 win.
Zach LaValle, Fr., F, Miami – In Saturday’s 7-3 win, tallied his first collegiate multi-point game with a goal and two assists while posting a plus-3 rating in the game.
Patrick Newell, Fr., F, SCSU – Set a career high with three points in Friday’s 8-2 win over WMU, scoring two goals while adding an assist and posting a plus-3 rating in the series.
Goaltender of the Week
Charlie Lindgren, Jr., G, SCSU – Backstopped SCSU to a sweep of WMU, going 2-0 while posting a 2.50 GAA and a 92.2 save percentage as he totaled 59 saves in the series.
Jay Williams, Sr., G, Miami – Earned a pair of wins in net at Omaha, making 54 saves on 58 shots for a .931 save percentage, while posting a 2.00 GAA and helping kill 9-of-10 UNO power plays.