ASN ELITE EIGHT MINNESOTA DULUTH IS TOP DOG AGAIN

BY BRENDAN JONES

1 | MINNESOTA DULUTH

» RECORD: 15-5-4 » LAST WEEK: 4

The Bulldogs swept North Dakota at The Ralph... yes, you read that correctly. It was the first time the Fighting Hawks were swept at home since 2013. Duluth looked like the better team all weekend, outscoring UND 9-3. UND is battling some injuries to key players, including Tyson Jost, and the Bulldogs took full advantage. Freshman Riley Tufte, the Dallas Stars’ first-round draft pick, tallied four points on the weekend. Fellow freshman Hunter Miska shut out the Fighting Hawks on Saturday for his fourth win against them this season.

2 | Boston University

» RECORD: 16-5-2 » LAST WEEK: 2

The Terriers, No. 1 in the USCHO.com rankings, are playing their best hockey. All seven of their World Junior participants have taken their game to another level since returning to campus. They swept Maine this weekend behind a four-point effort from Clayton Keller. Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson took the team lead in points with 24. The Terriers extended their winning streak to eight games. They have a weekend series against Merrimack, a team they've fared well against.

3 | Denver

» RECORD: 16-6-4 » LAST WEEK: 3

The Pioneers dropped a tough OT game on Friday at St. Cloud State, but responded well the following night with a 3-1 win. After a rough first period on Saturday the Pios established themselves on the forecheck, had a great net front presence and won puck battles. The team did a great job of stepping up in the absence of Troy Terry. Jared Lukosevicius quietly has 19 points and is becoming a go-to guy in crunch time.

4 | Penn State

» RECORD: 16-3-2 » LAST WEEK: 1

The Nittany Lions’ stay at No. 1 ended after a 0-1-1 weekend against Ohio State at home, including a 6-3 loss. The Buckeyes should find themselves in the conversation of an NCAA Tournament bid, so the winless weekend wasn't the end of the world for Penn State.

5 | Minnesota

» RECORD: 14-6-2 » LAST WEEK: 6

The Gophers split with a Wisconsin team that seems to get exponentially better each series. The Gophers played without forward Tommy Novak, who is out for the remainder of the season. Justin Kloos and Tyler Sheehy have been great all season and now have even more pressure to perform. Another key to their success is the consistency of goaltender Eric Scheirhorn, who has been anything but.

6 | Union

» RECORD: 17-5-2 » LAST WEEK: 8

Winners in nine of their last 11 games, the Dutchmen are slowly climbing their way up the national rankings. It took overtime to beat RPI, which has taken down some notable opponents this year. Mike Vecchione and Spencer Foo are tied with Zach Aston-Reese for the nation’s lead in points with 41. Their third-line mate Sebastian Vidmar is tied for 25th in the country. They also have received stellar goaltending from Alex Sakellaropolous.

7 | Western Michigan

» RECORD: 13-6-3 » LAST WEEK: Not ranked

The Broncos swept Colorado College over the weekend, 4-2 and 3-0. They are a team that not too many people are talking about but have split with Minnesota Duluth, Denver, and North Dakota. Ben Blacker picked up two more wins including Saturday’s shutout. Matheson Iacopelli, Sheldon Dries and Wade Allison have led the charge up front since the new year. Allison is starting to live up to high expectations of head coach Andy Murray and the Lawson faithful. Don't look now but the Broncos also sit at No. 5 in the Pairwise rankings.

8 | Cornell

» RECORD: 12-4-2 » LAST WEEK: Not ranked

The Big Red just needed to play more games for people to start recognizing them as one of the best teams in the ECAC and the country. They tied Clarkson and beat St. Lawrence at home over the weekend. Trevor Yates was the hero on Friday night with two goals and an assist to force overtime. On Saturday, nine players scored against the injury-riddled Saints. The ECAC is up for grabs and the Big Red can make it theirs with two of the their next three games against Harvard and Union.

DROPPING OUT

» UMass Lowell (5), North Dakota (7)

Brendan Jones is ASN’s college hockey analyst. Follow him on Twitter at @MustBeJonesy.

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