The Gophers broke out offensively in a big way this weekend and earned their first Western Collegiate Hockey Association sweep in nearly a year over Colorado College.
They’ll return to Mariucci Arena this weekend with loads of confidence, but their guests will bring plenty of their own. Wisconsin was the only other WCHA team to sweep this weekend, doing so over Michigan Tech.
Elsewhere, Denver’s split at North Dakota was overshadowed by Jesse Martin’s horrific spine injury, conference leader Minnesota Duluth kept newcomer Bemidji State winless in the WCHA and Minnesota State traveled to far away Alaska and returned with a win and a tie.
DU’s Martin hospitalized with neck injury
At 11:06 of the second period during Saturday’s game, North Dakota’s Brad Malone hit Denver’s Jesse Martin just as the Pioneers’ senior dropped his head while bringing the puck up the ice. The hit knocked Martin unconscious and he was taken from the ice in a stretcher with what was ultimately diagnosed as a triple fracture to the C-2 vertebrae in his neck.
Martin’s father Terry told the Denver Post that Jesse didn’t immediately have use of his extremities but regained movement on his way to a Grand Forks medical facility.
While their fallen teammate was being cared for at Altru Hospital, the No. 13 Pioneers broke out of a 0-0 tie, scored three times and kept the No. 9 Fighting Sioux out of the net to split the series; North Dakota won 4-3 Friday night.
Martin is in stable condition and is currently in Minneapolis at the Hennepin County Medical Center. According to the Denver Post, he spoke with Malone, who delivered the hit, and told the North Dakota senior that he harbored no hard feelings and didn’t think it was an illegal hit.
It is still uncertain whether Martin will undergo surgery.
Wisconsin sweeps Michigan Tech
The No. 15 Badgers claimed their first two WCHA wins at the expense of the Huskies and improved their record at home this season to 4-0-0.
Tech jumped out to leads in both games, 2-0 in the first period Friday and 1-0 in the second on Saturday. But Wisconsin responded with five and four unanswered goals, respectively, in the sweep. Michael Mersch and Craig Smith finished the weekend with two goals apiece; Smith, the Badgers’ highest scoring player to return from last year’s national runner-up team, now leads the team in points with five goals and six assists.
Wisconsin travels a few hours west to play the Gophers this weekend, another team hot off a convincing sweep. The Badgers haven’t been great on the road, but their schedule has been considerably tougher away from the Kohl Center. Their two losses have been to No. 13 Denver and 3rd-ranked and unbeaten Boston University.
Duluth, State finish weekend with win and tie
Minnesota State and Minnesota Duluth each earned three points in their conference series.
UMD, still unbeaten this season and now ranked No. 2 in the country, kept WCHA newcomer Bemidji State winless in the conference and winless in its new arena with a 3-2 overtime win Friday night and a 1-1 overtime tie Saturday.
The Beavers’ Emil Billberg tied the game with 91 seconds remaining in regulation on Saturday to force overtime and earn Bemidji State its first WCHA point.
Minnesota State, meanwhile, won 3-2 at Alaska Anchorage on Friday and tied 2-2 Saturday. The Mavericks scored a late goal in the second game to salvage their third point and improve to an even 2-2-2 in the WCHA. The Seawolves, like the Beavers, have yet to win in the conference.