The NCAA men's hockey season is still only a couple weeks old but there were plenty of interesting match-ups going on over the weekend, the biggest of which regarding the Carolina Hurricanes being the #6 ranked Michigan Wolverines taking on the #3 ranked Miami Redhawks. The Wolverines had a convincing win over Bentley University last week, but this game was going to be much more of a test for them and the Hurricanes second round pick Phil Di Giuseppe. Aside from an opening-night loss against RIT, Michigan and PdG have been very impressive this year but this two-game series against the Redhawks was going to be one of their toughest tests of the season and I was a little curious about how they would respond to it.
The Wolverines definitely stepped up to the challenge on Friday night as they defeated Miami 4-2 in game 1 of the series. The win certainly wasn't pretty as Michigan looked very sloppy in their own zone and had some a few very ugly turnovers, two of which resulted in Miami goals. I don't know if this was Miami's forecheck overpowering them or if Michigan's defensive play is an issue this year but regardless, they managed to overcome it and get the win.
After falling down 1-0, Michigan got a powerplay late in the first period, and they took full advantage of it with captain AJ Treais scoring on a bomb from the point. Di Giuseppe picked up a primary assist on the goal as he made the initial set up pass to Treais. The play wasn't anything fancy but it definitely got the job done here. Treais would add another goal in the second period and Michigan would add on two more goals in the third to put the game away. Di Giuseppe's assist gives him five points in five games on the year.
There is no doubt that Di Giuseppe has been the most impressive player in the Canes' system among the college ranks but one player who may challenge him for that is Harvard's senior defenseman and team captain Danny Biega, who kicked off his season with a bang on Saturday night. Harvard made quick work of Bentley that night by defeating them 5-0 and Biega recorded two assists to boot, one of which coming on the powerplay. Biega is billed as more of a powerplay quarterback at the NHL level but he appears to be more of an all-around d-man on Harvard's blue-line, so I'm interested to see how he develops this year and what he can do in addition to putting up impressive boxcar stats. He is certainly off to a great start. They start ECAC play next week.
Moving onto teams who are currently in conference play, Brendan Woods and the Wisconsin Badgers picked their first win of the season against WCHA foe Minnesota-Duluth on Friday night. The unranked Badgers came into this game as pretty big underdogs as UMD is ranked #14 in the nation and has a pretty strong roster on top of that, but the Badgers managed to shut them out in their own barn. A lot of credit should go to defenseman Jake McCabe and goaltender Joel Rumpel as they were two of the biggest factors in the Badgers winning that game. As for Woods, he didn't make too much of an impact from the looks of things. He was held off the scoresheet and was 2/5 on faceoffs. He did have three shots on goal, though. Wisconsin would tie Minnesota-Duluth the next night 2-2.
In other inter-conference action, Collin Olson & the Ohio State Buckeyes took on the Bowling Green Falcons in a CCHA series this weekend. The Buckeyes would shutout the Falcons in the first game, but would lose in the shootout the next night when Olson got the start. Olson had a terrific performance in this game, stopping a career high 36 of 39 shots and definitely played well enough to win. Unfortunately, it's hard to win when your team gets outshot 24-39 like the Buckeyes did on Saturday night and Olson also let in two early goals before the Buckeyes went on to score three unanswered in the second period. It's hard to blame Olson too much for that, though since he was under fire for the first two periods and had to face 26 total shots in the first 40 minutes. Despite losing in the shootout, Olson took home second star honors.
Last but certainly not least, we have Mark Alt and the #2 ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers who defeated Canisus University 1-0 in an early Sunday afternoon matchup. Minnesota's Kyle Rau (Florida prospect) scored 12 seconds into the game and the Gophers pretty much took it from there. They outshot Canisus 42-20 and coasted their way to a 1-0 shutout. Alt had two shots on goal and also blocked a shot in this game, so it appeared to be an uneventful afternoon for him. The Gophers defense definitely did their job in limiting Canisus' chances, though as they couldn't produce much offense at all. Minnesota also had an exhibition match on Friday night against the USA U-18 Developmental Team which ended in a 1-1 tie. Alt sat the game out because of an injury.
Next week, we have a couple of in-state matchups as the Wolverines will take on Northern Michigan and the Gophers will play Minnesota State. Meanwhile, Harvard begins ECAC conference play against Brown and Yale, the Badgers return home for a series against Colorado College and Ohio State will take on the Nanooks of Alaska-Fairbanks.