North Dakota, Colorado square off for top ranking

Tim Nichols

In a series that is worthy of a Michael Buffer introduction, No. 3 Colorado College travels to Grand Forks to take on current No. 1 North Dakota for first place in the conference, and probably first place in the nation.
But the Tigers (7-1-0 WCHA, 7-1-0 overall) will limp into their battle with the Sioux (3-0-1, 5-0-1) after losing sophomore phenom Toby Peterson indefinitely to a broken leg.
Colorado College coach Don Lucia said Peterson had surgery on his leg Saturday morning after breaking it in a game against Denver on Friday. Lucia estimated he will be out for eight to 10 weeks.
“Losing Toby Peterson is a monumental loss,” Lucia said. “It gives everything right now a disjointed look.”
North Dakota will have a cautious outlook coming into the series, as well: Senior David Hoogsteen is also out indefinitely with a broken right leg.
Hoogsteen was injured Saturday during the Sioux’s game with Minnesota at Mariucci Arena. North Dakota coach Dean Blais said he was very worried about losing one of his top players for an extended period of time.
“Definitely (it’s a big loss),” Blais said last Saturday about losing Hoogsteen. “It didn’t happen by the boards or anything. It wasn’t intentional. He was going one way, and the player he went into was going the other.”
With both teams losing key players, the series will likely come down to goaltending.
For North Dakota, sophomore Karl Goehring has been playing amazing hockey as of late. He currently leads all WCHA goalies in goals-against average (1.56) and save percentage (.940).
But directly behind Goehring is the two-headed beast of Colorado College’s Jeff Sanger and Colin Zulianello. The Tigers’ goaltenders were undefeated on the year until Jeff Sanger lost 6-0 to Denver last Saturday.
“It’s not Jeff’s fault that we lost against Denver,” Lucia said. “But they need to play well this weekend. North Dakota is not going to lose many games. They are so deep, I don’t think anyone in the country can match up with them. That’s what has always eaten us up.
“So the bottom line is that the goaltending must be great this weekend.”

Goalie highs and woes
St. Cloud State (2-4-0, 3-5-0) will take on last-place Minnesota-Duluth (0-5-1, 1-6-1) in a crucial home-and-home series for both teams.
When facing the Bulldogs, the top player to beat is goaltender Brant Nicklin. The junior has started every game between the pipes so far for Minnesota-Duluth, and has played well despite his team’s record. Nicklin currently sports a .904 save percentage, which isn’t bad for a team with three points on the year.
For St. Cloud State, however, the goaltending isn’t as solid.
“I’m upset,” Huskies coach Craig Dahl said. “When you come to college to play any sport, you’re expected to do the job. It’s not pressure, it’s just a fact.”
St. Cloud State has gone with three goaltenders thus far, none of them spectacular.
Freshman Gert Prohaska, sophomore Scott Meyer and freshman Dean Weasler have all shared the duties in net for the Huskies. But none of them have yet proven themselves worthy enough to be named the full-time starter.
Dahl’s frustration had him sounding more like Sheriff Andy Taylor scolding a naughty Opie than a college hockey coach.
“Gee whiz, any time you’ve got to go up against a Brant Nicklin, who has about a 2.50 GAA, on a team that is 0-5-1 (in the WCHA), it’s going to be tough,” Dahl said. “Meanwhile our guys aren’t even on the dag-gum list. Our problems aren’t up front or with our defensemen, our problems are in between the pipes.”