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UND, Miami showdown looms

GRAND FORKS -- The first league game for the National Collegiate Hockey Conference will come with quite a bit of fanfare.

It's No. 6 North Dakota at Miami University, which took over the No. 1 ranking on Monday afternoon when both national polls were released.

Not only have Miami and North Dakota been pegged as top teams this year, they've been two of the country's three winningest programs in the last eight years. Only Boston College has won more games than UND and Miami since 20005-06.

Friday's game will be televised nationally by CBS Sports. Ben Holden and Dave Starman will be on the call. ESPN personality John Buccigross and NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton also are planning to attend the series in Oxford, Ohio.

Miami started the season by sweeping Ohio State 6-2 and 6-3. Sophomore Riley Barber and junior Hobey Baker finalist Austin Czarnik combined for 12 points in the two games. Barber leads the country in scoring after one weekend. UND's Rocco Grimaldi is third nationally with five points.

How did they start?

Last weekend was the first chance to see how the new leagues fared in nonconference play. The results were about as expected.

The Big Ten and NCHC went a combined 15-5-3, while the new Western Collegiate Hockey Association went 5-10-3.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was that Minnesota State-Mankato, the overwhelming favorite to win the WCHA, was outscored 8-1 in a pair of losses at Providence over the weekend.

The Big Ten (7-2) and the NCHC (8-3-3) currently have the best nonconference records in the country. Hockey East is at 10-9-1.

Rookies lead Gophers

The University of Minnesota lost five players early to pro signings over the offseason, but the freshman class appears ready to help replace them.

The Gophers won the IceBreaker Invitational over the weekend in Mariucci Arena, beating Mercyhurst 6-0 and New Hampshire 3-2. The freshmen played a large role in the games.

Four of Minnesota's eight goal scorers on the weekend were rookies -- Hudson Fasching, Michael Brodzinski, Justin Kloos and Vinni Lettieri all netted the first of their careers.

Brittain finds form

Sam Brittain, an all-conference goalie for the University of Denver as a freshman, was forgotten the last two seasons as he battled injuries and was reduced to a back-up role for the Pioneers.

Now a senior, Brittain is showing his old form.

Brittain started the season with back-to-back shutouts for the Pioneers, stopping all 53 shots against Merrimack over the weekend. It is the first time that Denver has posted consecutive shutouts since Marc Cheverie blanked Minnesota on back-to-back nights in October 2009.