The two WCHA teams based in Colorado are both off to fast starts in the conference.
Denver is alone in first place. The Pioneers are 7-1-0 overall, 5-1-0 in conference for 10 points. They are ranked No. 3 in this week's USCHO.com national poll.
Colorado College is on their heels. CC is 7-3-0 overall, 4-0-0 in conference for eight points -- tied for third place with St. Cloud State. But the Tigers have two games in hand on the other four teams in the top five. The Tigers are rated No. 14 by USCHO.com.
And this weekend, those two arch-rivals play a home-and-home series. Friday's game is in Colorado Springs, Saturday's in Denver. They have another series like that on Feb. 8-9. Whichever teams has the best record after those four games gets the Gold Pan Trophy.
Here's a look at each team:
Chris Knowlton's second goal of the game, with 3:12 left, gave Denver a 3-2 win at Minnesota State Mavericks 3-2 Saturday. It was Pioneers' first road sweep since they swept Nebraska Omaha on March 2-3, 2012.
“It was one of those games that we knew was going to be a real tough test for us,” DU coach George Gwozdecky said, according to a Pioneers news release. “We weren’t able to generate a lot of offense, a lot of it because we were in the penalty box more than we were playing even strength.
"I’m really proud of the way this team played. They played hard and battled like crazy. Some people would say that it wasn’t a very pretty game, but it was a game where we had to just keep fighting.”
Sophomore Daniel Doremus had the other goal for the Pioneers. Sophomore goalie Juho Olkinoura of Helsinki, Finland, had 30 saves for DU.
“Olkinoura was very strong in goal, very consistent for us tonight,” Gwozdecky said. “Probably one of the unsung heroes, aside from Chris Knowlton who scored two goals, was Gabe Levin who had an outstanding game. It was one of those night for Ty [Loney] that he would want to have back, as he spent more time in the penalty box than he did on the ice. We decided to make a change and even thought Gabe went in cold, he made some great plays in the offensive zone to give us an opportunity and help us win the game.”
Loney is the right wing on DU's third line, Levin the center on the fourth line.
The Mavericks had a 32-23 advantage in shots and were two-for-nine on power plays. Denver was scoreless on two power plays.
Denver also won the first game of the series in Mankato by one goal, 4-3.
ZZ BIG FOR CC
William Rapuzzi and Rylan Schwartz were Colorado College's main cogs in the Tigers' 6-3 rout of Bemidji State on Saturday in Colorado Springs. Rapuzzi had four points, on two goals and two assists, and Schwartz had three assists.
The Beavers' penalty kill was 17 of 18 this season until CC's Scott Winkler scored on the power play late in the first period after a double minor on freshman forward Markus Gerbrandt. Only 2:16 later, after another BSU penalty, senior defenseman Mike Boivin scored for CC on a man advantage to make it 2-0.
Freshman forward Cory Ward scored a goal for the Beavers in the first period, senior Aaron McLeod added a second goal in the middle period on a power play.
But CC retook the lead at 3-2 with 41 seconds in the middle period on Andrew Hamburg's goal.
Rapuzzi dominated the third period with two goals and an assist on Alexander Krushelnyski's empty-net goal at the end. Archie Skalbeck, a junior forward from Hopkins, and Schwartz each had assists on both of Rapuzzi’s goals.
Gerbrandt had BSU's third goal with 1:28 left in the game.
CC is 7-0-1 against BSU on the Olympic sheet at World Arena. Bemidji State returns to Sanford Center to play Michigan Tech next weekend.
* BSU senior forward Jordan George scored his 50th career goal in the Beavers' 3-2 loss to CC on Friday. He is the only current Division I player with that many goals.
UNO ON ROLL
In between Denver and CC in the WCHA standings is Nebraska Omaha, or Omaha as the school is calling itself this season. UNO is 6-3-1 overall, 4-1-1 in the conference for nine points.
The purple Mavericks have swept Michigan State and Minnesota Duluth the past two weekends. This is the first time they have done that since the 2010-11 season.
Dominic Zombo had two goals and one assist as Omaha set a season high for goals in a 6-3 win over Minnesota Duluth on Sunday afternoon at the CenturyLink Center.
UMD's Austin Farley scored 70 second into the third period to bring the Bulldogs within 4-3. But goals by Ryan Walters and Brent Gwidt enabled the Mavericks to get separation, one of The Don's favorite hockey terms.
Walters, a junior from Rosemount who went to Omaha after the Gophers told him to return to juniors another season, has eight points in the last three games. He had a goal and two assists in this game.
Mike Seidel and Joe Basaraba had the first two UMD goals.
UNO goalie John Faulkner improved his record to 6-0-1, making 31 saves while UMD freshman Matt McNeely had 22 stops in the loss. Faulkner, with 44 career wins, needs one more to tie Jerad Kaufmann for second all-time at UNO.
The purple Mavericks have a bye this weekend before Alabama Huntsville visits.
Wisconsin at Minnesota, 7:07 pm
Minnesota Duluth at North Dakota, 7:37 pm
Michigan Tech at Bemidji State, 7:37 pm
Denver at Colorado College, 8:37 pm
Minnesota Duluth at North Dakota, 7:07 pm
Michigan Tech at Bemidji State, 7:07 pm
Colorado College at Denver, 8:07 pm
Wisconsin at Minnesota, 8:07 pm
* WCHA with bye weeks are Alaska Anchorage, Minnesota State Mankato, Nebraska Omaha and St. Cloud State
* The WCHA is 21-15-3 against nonconference opponents. It has losing records against Hockey East, 3-4-0, and the CCHA, 7-9-0.