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Poolman may return for Western Michigan series

Collin Adams scores during a goal-mouth scramble Friday night, Feb. 1, in Denver. Shannon Valerio / University of Denver

GRAND FORKS -- The week off comes at a good time for the University of North Dakota.

With captain Colton Poolman sidelined with an undisclosed injury -- one that he battled in the week prior to UND’s home series against St. Cloud State and became too problematic to play last weekend in Denver -- it just might be enough time to get him back for the next game.

The Fighting Hawks don’t play again until Feb. 15 at Western Michigan in Kalamazoo, Mich.

UND coach Brad Berry said that Poolman has a chance to be ready by then.

“It’s two weeks from now, so, he’s made some progress -- I hear he has -- and hopefully, we’ll have him back here,” Berry said Saturday night.

In Poolman’s absence, UND’s defensive corps of Hayden Shaw, Jacob Bernard-Docker, Matt Kiersted, Gabe Bast, Jonny Tychonick and Andrew Peski played additional minutes against Denver, and helped slow down the Pioneers’ offense.

Denver managed just three goals on the weekend, though it was good for a win and a tie against the Fighting Hawks.

“I thought they did a good job moving pucks,” Berry said about the defensive corps after Friday’s game. “Any time you have a guy out who plays the minutes that Colton does, you wonder what will happen to your corps, but I thought guys like Matt Kiersted and Gabe Bast and those type of players, and even our younger guys, they took a step. That’s a way you gain experience on the fly.”

A second-half tumble

Miami’s top player, Josh Melnick, returned for a six-game injury absence, but it didn’t help Miami avoid a pair of 5-1 losses at St. Cloud State.

For the third season in a row, Miami’s season is slipping away in the second half.

The RedHawks are winless in 14 games (0-10-4) dating back to 3-2 win over Colorado College on Nov. 17.

Miami has mustered just five goals in the last six games, and only two at even-strength in losses to St. Cloud State, Colorado College and Minnesota Duluth.

Last season, Miami started 9-8-2 and went 3-12-3 down the stretch. In 2016-17, the RedHawks started 8-8-5 and went 1-12-2 down the stretch -- a season that was derailed when star defenseman Louie Belpedio went down with an injury.

The RedHawks close the regular season at home against Omaha, at Denver, at Duluth and home against Western Michigan.

Ref returns to Omaha

NCHC official Dan Dreger returned to Omaha for the first time since suffering a gruesome injury when he took a puck to the face on a deflected slap shot last season.

Ironically, the game featured the exact same two teams -- Western Michigan and Omaha -- and the exact same linesmen. It was six days away from being exactly a year to the day when he suffered a facial fracture that forced doctors to insert four permanent plates into his face, two temporary brackets in his mouth, eight screws and 36 stitches.

WMU finally drops a game with Allison

For the first time this season, Western Michigan lost a game with junior standout Wade Allison in the lineup when Omaha topped the Broncos 6-3 on Saturday night.

Western Michigan is 10-1-1 with Allison in the lineup this season, 6-8 without him.

Allison, a second-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, has three goals and six points in 12 games.

The Broncos were missing one key player for that series finale against the Mavericks. Leading goal-scorer Josh Passolt served a one-game suspension for an illegal hit in the series opener.

Strength of schedule

According to KRACH, Minnesota Duluth has played the most difficult schedule in the country. UND’s strength of schedule ranks seventh. Because the NCHC has the best out-of-conference record, its teams are stacked near the top of strength of schedule listings.

The teams who have played the toughest schedule in each conference are Minnesota Duluth, Ohio State (Big Ten, fourth overall), Boston University (Hockey East, eighth overall), Princeton (ECAC, 16th overall), Northern Michigan (WCHA, 31st overall), RIT (Atlantic Hockey, 50th overall). College hockey’s lone independent, Arizona State, is at 21st overall.