COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Closing out 2018 strong and starting off the New Year right, the four Bauer National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) Players of the Week for the final week of 2018 and first week of 2019 led their teams to undefeated weekends. Garnering Bauer NCHC Player of the Week honors for the weeks of Dec. 24, 2018 through Jan. 6, 2019 are Denver junior forward Liam Finlay for Offensive Player of the Week, Western Michigan junior blue liner Luke Bafia for Defenseman of the Week, DU freshman forward Tyler Ward for Rookie of the Week and Omaha senior netminder Evan Weninger for Goaltender of the Week.
This is Finlay’s second career NCHC weekly honor and first this season, while Bafia collected his first career NCHC weekly nod. Ward is now a two-time Rookie of the Week this season, while Weninger has now received 10 career NCHC weekly honors, including two this season, and eight career NCHC Goaltender of the Week accolades.
Liam Finlay, Denver
Finlay powered Denver to a 4-0-0 record on the road over the last two weekends, racking up six points, including five in a sweep of Wisconsin last weekend. Two weeks ago, he scored the game-winning goal on the power play in a 3-1 win at Merrimack on Dec. 28. Then this past Friday in Madison, he chipped in three points on a goal and two assists. Finlay had the primary assists on DU’s first and fifth goals, while scoring his own goal to break a 2-2 tie in the third period of an eventual 6-3 win over Wisconsin. The next night, Finlay came up big again with two more assists, setting up the game-tying goal in the third period to force overtime, while also earning a helper on the overtime game-winner in a 4-3 sweep-clinching victory. He finished the four games with two goals, four assists and nine shots on goal, while posting a +3 plus/minus against the Badgers and was +3 for the two weeks combined, as well.
Luke Bafia, Western Michigan
Bafia had a breakout weekend in Las Vegas to help lead Western Michigan to the Ice Vegas Invitational title, earning All-Tournament Team honors. On offense, he scored his first goal of the season in Friday’s 5-1 semifinal win over UConn, tallying WMU’s fourth goal unassisted, while posting a +3 plus/minus. The next night, he scored the game’s opening goal late in the first period of an eventual 4-1 victory over Air Force in the championship game. Defensively, Bafia helped limit WMU’s opponents to only two goals all weekend (none even strength) and played on a penalty kill that finished 8-of-10 at the tournament. He ended the Ice Vegas Invitational with two goals, three shots on goal, +4 and four blocked shots, with two each game.
Tyler Ward, Denver
Ward helped lead Denver to four wins over the last two weeks, pushing the Pioneers’ win streak to five games. Back on Dec. 28, he handed out an assist on Liam Finlay’s game-winning power play goal in a 3-1 win at Merrimack. Then this past weekend, Ward racked up three points in a sweep at Wisconsin, including two goals. He notched his third career two-point game in Friday’s 6-3 win over the Badgers, setting up another Finlay goal with a primary assist to break a 2-2 tie in the third period, while scoring the eventual game-winning goal minutes later. The next night, Ward began a DU rally, scoring the Pioneers’ first goal of the game to help dig out of a 2-0 hole in an eventual 4-3 overtime victory Saturday. In the four games, Ward compiled two goals and two assists, fired nine shots on goal and blocked two shots. He also finished +3 over the two weeks and was +4 in the series at Wisconsin.
Evan Weninger, Omaha
Weninger was perfect in Omaha’s sweep of Alaska Anchorage, logging back-to-back shutouts to close out 2018. He compiled 20 saves in each game for his second and third shutouts this season. He also helped UNO’s penalty kill finish a perfect 5-for-5 against the Seawolves, while Weninger earned First Star of the Game in Monday’s 4-0 blanking. With his whitewashes last Saturday, Dec. 29 and Monday, Dec. 31, Weninger tied Dan Ellis for Omaha’s career shutouts record with seven. They were the first consecutive shutouts for the Mavericks since 2002. Weninger is now tied for third all-time at Omaha with 45 career wins. He finished the series with 40 saves and a perfect 1.000 save percentage, lowering his goals-against average from 4.13 to 3.60 and boosting his save percentage from .884 to .893 on the season.
Kevin Fitzgerald, So., F, SCSU – Compiled three goals and an assist at the Three Rivers Classic, including two goals in a loss to Union Friday, while posting a +1 plus/minus and firing eight shots on goal.
Ethen Frank, So., F, WMU – Scored three goals and was named to the All-Tournament Team at the Ice Vegas Invitational, tallying two, including the game-winner, in the championship, while finishing +3.
Tristan Keck, Jr., F, Omaha – Racked up three points and was +3 in a sweep of UAA, tallying the game-winner both nights, while also adding an assist on Saturday.
Ryan Siroky, Sr., F, Miami – Scored a goal each night in a loss and tie at Providence, while also adding an assist in Saturday’s draw and finishing +2 in the series.
Jack Ahcan, Jr., SCSU – Handed out three assists, blocked three shots and finished +2 as SCSU took third in the Three Rivers Classic.
Michael Davies, Jr., DU – Tallied a point in all four of Denver’s wins over the last two weeks, potting a goal and adding three assists, while finishing with a +6 plus/minus.
Dean Stewart, Jr., Omaha – Helped pitch back-to-back shutouts against UAA, while scoring a goal, handing out an assist and posting a +4 plus/minus in the sweep.
Derek Daschke, Fr., D, Miami – Dished out two assists in Friday’s loss at Providence, while finishing the series +1.
Trevor Gorsuch, Sr., WMU – Backstopped WMU to the Ice Vegas Invitational title, earning tournament MVP honors with a .958 save percentage and a 1.00 GAA in wins over UConn and Air Force.