By Nate Ewell
Preseason No. 1 and defending national champion Denver begins its title defense with a Frozen Four rematch series at Notre Dame this weekend. The Pioneers bring back a wealth of talent, including a handful of players who were candidates to sign NHL deals this summer, including Henrik Borgstrom (Helsinki, Finland/HIFK U20/FLA), Dylan Gambrell (Bonney Lake, Wash./Dubuque-USHL/SJ) and Troy Terry (Denver, Colo./U.S. NTDP/ANA). Also returning is the tournament MVP from the Frozen Four, junior Jarid Lukosevicious (Squamish, B.C./Powell-BCHL). While often overshadowed by his talented teammates, Lukosevicious grabbed the spotlight in the national championship game with a hat trick – the first in a title tilt since his head coach, Jim Montgomery, recorded one for Maine in 1993. | Both games are on NBCSN
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Auk steps up for MTU – A defenseman shares the national scoring lead as Michigan Tech senior Mark Auk (St. Clair Shores, Mich./Cedar Rapids-USHL) has posted six points in three games and was named MVP of the Ice Breaker Tournament. Auk, while overshadowed by skilled defensemen Matt Roy and Shane Hanna on the Huskies the past three seasons, has shown his offensive touch as well. Only two defensemen in the country have more career points than Auk, who won Michigan state high school championships in both hockey and baseball.
Active Career Point Leaders, Defensemen
95 – Jordan Gross, Notre Dame
72 – Garret Cockerill, Northeastern
59 – Mark Auk, Michigan Tech
55 – Phil Boje, Air Force
55 – Lester Lancaster, Mercyhurst
Brothers back to full strength – Twin brothers Brady and Chase Norrish (Strong Field, Sask./Yorkton-SJHL) – two of RIT’s four captains – lead the Tigers into Saturday’s annual Brick City Homecoming game at the downtown Blue Cross Arena. RIT was missing the two senior defensemen down the stretch last season when they were felled by nearly identical knee injuries that required surgery – Chase to his right knee, Brady to his left. The Tigers went 3-5-0 without the pair in the lineup and will undoubtedly be bolstered by their return. Both brothers have been Atlantic Hockey All-Conference selections in the past.
Clark Cup reunions for Clarkson – Clarkson takes its 2-0-0 record to Western Michigan this weekend after Golden Knights sophomore goaltender Jake Kielly (Eden Prairie, Minn./Tri-City-USHL) stopped 98.5% of the shots he faced against Penn State and Michigan. No stranger to success, Kielly won a Clark Cup championship in 2016 while playing for current Michigan associate head coach Bill Muckalt, whose team Kielly shut out Saturday. He’ll meet another familiar face in Western Michigan’s Wade Allison (Myrtle, Man./Tri-City-USHL), who was Clark Cup MVP when Tri-City won it.
Balanced attack leads UNH – New Hampshire lost national co-scoring leader Tyler Kelleher to graduation but a balanced attack saw six players combine for seven goals last weekend – and that was without a goal from the Wildcats’ top three returning scorers. Senior Shane Eiserman (Newburyport, Mass./Dubuque-USHL/OTT), who grew up a UNH fan, scored the dramatic game-winner Friday and added an assist Saturday. He should be among a crowd of candidates to provide offense for the Wildcats in Kelleher’s absence.
Big-name rookie – Minnesota’s Big Ten opening series against Penn State should also mark the regular-season home debut for heralded freshman Casey Mittelstadt (Eden Prairie, Minn./Green Bay-USHL/BUF). The No. 8 overall pick has lived up to expectations to this point, with points in each game of the Ice Breaker Tournament after a four-point exhibition game win. Mittelstadt helps make the Gophers the preseason favorites to win the Big Ten yet again, as they have in the first four years of the conference’s existence.
First-Round NHL Draft Picks in NCAA Hockey
Cale Makar, Massachusetts (4th, Colorado)
Casey Mittelstadt, Minnesota (8th, Buffalo)
Dante Fabbro, Boston University (17th, Nashville)
Josh Norris, Michigan (19th, San Jose)
Henrik Borgström, Denver (23rd, Florida)
Ryan Poehling, St. Cloud State (25th, Montreal)
Riley Tufte, Minnesota Duluth (25th, Dallas)
Jake Oettinger, Boston University (26th, Dallas)
Shane Bowers, Boston University (28th, Ottawa)
Trent Frederic, Wisconsin (29th, Boston)
NHL Note of the Week
Sixteen players who played NCAA hockey last season have already made their NHL debuts.
Fries at the Bottom of the Bag
College Hockey Nation, a new half-hour show available on ESPN On Demand, debuts Sunday, Oct. 15 … New Rensselaer head coach Dave Smith will make his debut behind the Engineer bench at his alma mater, Ohio State … Four Ivy League teams begin play with exhibition games against Canadian universities this weekend … Find a national TV schedule here … Minnesota junior goaltender Eric Schierhorn (Anchorage, Alaska/Muskegon-USHL) is expected to tie a school record with his 78th consecutive start Friday night, the longest active streak in the nation … Vermont sophomore Ross Colton (Robbinsville, N.J./Cedar Rapids-USHL/TB) recorded the season’s first hat trick (and only one to this point) Saturday night.