Weekend Preview: North Dakota at Denver

In the NCHC, it is clear that Denver/North Dakota is at the top of the league rivalries. The teams have played 26 times during the first six seasons of the new conference, but the feud goes all the way back to Geoff Paukovitch’ illegal check on Sioux forward Robbie Bina during the 2005 WCHA Final Five.

Since that 2005 Final Five contest (a Denver victory), the two teams have met twelve times in tournament play. Denver won the 2005 NCAA title with a victory over North Dakota and claimed a 2008 WCHA Final Five win as well. UND has earned six victories and a tie in the last ten playoff games between the schools, including three consecutive victories in the WCHA Final Five (2010-2012), the 2011 NCAA Midwest Regional final which sent the Fighting Sioux to the Frozen Four, 2016’s thrilling Frozen Four semifinal (a 4-2 UND victory) in Tampa, Florida, and the 2017 NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinal in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Denver turned the tables by dispatching North Dakota in the first round of the league playoffs at Magness Arena last season (2-0, 4-2).

(It is impossible to bring up the Paukovitch/Bina incident without also writing that Brad Malone‘s check on Denver’s Jesse Martin during an October 2010 contest at Ralph Engelstad Arena fractured three of Martin’s vertebrae and ended the hockey career of the Atlanta Thrashers’ draft pick.)

Six full seasons have come and gone since the college hockey landscape changed forever. With Minnesota and Wisconsin departing the Western Collegiate Hockey Association for the Big Ten after the 2012-13 season, several other conference schools and two members of the now-defunct Central Collegiate Hockey Association created the National Collegiate Hockey Conference and left Alaska Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, and Minnesota State behind in a watered-down WCHA.

It is abundantly clear that the NCHC has been the premier hockey conference since its inception, and particularly over the past five seasons. The eight teams in the league have gone 284-137-52 (.655) in non-conference action since the start of the 2014-15 season and sent nine teams to the Frozen Four (UND and Omaha in 2015, UND and Denver in 2016, Denver and Duluth in 2017, Duluth in 2018, and Denver and Duluth in 2019) over that five-year stretch. Conference members North Dakota (2016), Denver (2017), and Minnesota Duluth (2018, 2019) have won the last four national titles.

In last season’s NCAA tournament, league members Denver and St. Cloud State were both placed in the West Regional (Fargo, North Dakota) and were on track to face off in the regional final. The Pioneers (#6 in the country) held up their end of the bargain with a 2-0 victory over #9 Ohio State, but #19 American International shocked the college hockey world and dispatched the #1-ranked Huskies by a final score of 2-1. One night later, Denver blanked AIC 3-0 to advance to their third Frozen Four in four seasons. The Pios would eventually fall to #4 Massachusetts in overtime in the national semifinal.

Last season’s losses at Canisius College in early January were certainly instrumental in keeping North Dakota out of the national tournament, but other inter-conference losses and ties last year didn’t help, either. UND went just 6-4-1 in out-of-conference games in 2018-19 and missed the NCAAs for the second consecutive season after appearing in fifteen consecutive tourneys (2003-2017).

Here’s a look at the non-conference records under fifth-year head coach Brad Berry:

2015-2016: 9-1-2 (.833) ~ National Champions
2016-2017: 7-2-2 (.727) ~ NCAA West Regional Semifinalist
2017-2018: 6-2-4 (.677) ~ missed NCAA tournament
2018-2019: 6-4-1 (.591) ~ missed NCAA tournament
2019-2020: 5-1-1 (.786)

UND’s other non-conference opponents during the 2019-20 campaign will be at unranked Minnesota (November 28th and 29th, 2019) and at home vs. unranked Alabama Huntsville (January 3rd and 4th, 2020).

Last weekend, North Dakota swept Miami at home (7-1, 5-4) in the conference opener for both schools, while Denver got two of six league points from its trip to #7 Minnesota Duluth, earning a shootout win after a 3-3 tie on Friday night before falling 5-2 in Saturday’s rematch.

For UND, the goal is simple: return to national prominence after a two-year absence from the national tournament. There is reason for optimism in Grand Forks, with an experienced d-corps, plenty of returning grit and skill, and a crop of freshmen with a tremendous amount of upside.

It is abundantly clear that North Dakota will have the puck a lot this season, and the numbers bear that out. Through nine games, the Fighting Hawks lead the nation in shots on goal allowed/game (18.4) and are second only to Massachusetts in two key puck possession statistics:

Corsi (% of shots taken vs. opponent): 61.5%
Fenwick (% of unblocked shots taken vs. opponent): 62.8%

Those numbers will change after this weekend, however, as Denver is third in both categories (Corsi 58.6%, Fenwick 58.9%) and is averaging over 35 shots on goal per contest (North Dakota is averaging 30.7/game).

Last season, UND trailed only national champion Duluth in both puck possession categories across all Division I teams but could not finish enough of their chances. This year, fans of the Green and White should have already noticed that more shots are going in the net. North Dakota is scoring on an astounding 14.1 percent of their shots on goal, good for fourth-best in the country and second-best among teams which have played more than four games. Last season, UND lit the lamp on only 7.8 percent of their shots on goal (52nd in the nation). Denver’s shooting percentage this season weighs in at 10.8 percent (19th in the country).

And here’s another way to highlight North Dakota’s scoring prowess: UND has scored five goals or more in four of its nine games this season; in 2018-19, the Fighting Hawks had five such games all year.

One key area to watch this weekend is the face-off circle. The Fighting Hawks have improved on draws over the past two weekends and are now sitting at 52.7 percent on the young season (14th) after leading the nation at 57.1 percent a year ago. Denver has won 51.5 percent of its faceoffs through ten games (18th in the country).

Denver Team Profile

Head Coach: David Carle (Denver ’12, 2nd season at DU, 32-13-6, .686)

National Rankings: #2/#1
This Season: 8-1-1 overall, 0-1-1-1 NCHC (4th)
Last Season: 24-12-5 overall (NCAA Frozen Four Semifinalist), 11-10-3-3 NCHC (4th)

2019-20 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.80 goals scored/game – 9th of 60 teams
Team Defense: 2.10 goals allowed/game – 11th of 60 teams
Power Play: 20.8% (10 of 48) – 18th of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 92.9% (39 of 42) – 6th of 60 teams

Key Players: Senior F Liam Finlay (3-8-11), Sophomore F Brett Stapley (3-6-9), Sophomore F Emilio Pettersen (1-8-9), Senior F Tyson McLellan (4-4-8), Freshman F Bobby Brink (4-3-7), Sophomore F Cole Guttman (3-2-5), Junior D Ian Mitchell (3-7-10), Junior D Griffin Mendel (1-3-4), Senior D Michael Davies (0-1-1), Freshman G Magnus Chrona (7-1-1, 2.20 GAA, .913 SV%, 2 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (North Dakota ’02, 5th season at UND; 97-53-20, .629)

National Rankings: #9/#9
This Season: 7-1-1 overall, 2-0-0-0 NCHC (1st)
Last Season: 18-17-2 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 12-11-1-0 NCHC (5th)

Team Offense: 4.33 goals scored/game – 3rd of 60 teams
Team Defense: 1.67 goals allowed/game – 2nd of 60 teams
Power Play: 14.7% (5 of 34) – 38th of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 93.1% (27 of 29) – 5th of 60 teams

Key Players: Junior F Jordan Kawaguchi (3-10-13), Senior F Westin Michaud (5-3-8), Junior F Collin Adams (4-4-8), Freshman F Harrison Blaisdell (2-5-7), Freshman F Shane Pinto (2-4-6), Senior F Dixon Bowen (4-1-5), Junior F Grant Mismash (2-3-5), Sophomore D Jacob Bernard-Docker (1-7-8), Senior D Colton Poolman (1-6-7), Junior D Matt Kiersted (1-6-7), Sophomore D Jonny Tychonick (3-2-5), Sophomore G Adam Scheel (7-1-1, 1.66 GAA, .910 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: March 16, 2019 (Denver, CO). North Dakota’s season came to an end despite peppering DU netminder Filip Larsson with 42 shots on goal. Denver scored twice in the middle frame (Colin Staub, Jarid Lukosevicius) and added an empty netter for the 4-2 final score. Senior forward Nick Jones scored both goals for UND, and Fighting Hawks goaltender Peter Thome made 14 saves in the losing effort. One night earlier, the Pioneers blanked UND 2-0 despite being outshot 32-17, a common theme for the Green and White last season.

A Recent Memory: April 7, 2016 (Tampa, Florida). In the semifinals of the NCAA Frozen Four, the two league rivals squared off in a tightly-contested contest. Senior forward Drake Caggiula scored twice early in the middle frame to stake UND to a 2-0 lead, but the Pioneers battled back with a pair of third period goals. The CBS line came through when it mattered most, with Nick Schmaltz scoring the game winner off of a faceoff win with 57 seconds remaining in the hockey game. North Dakota blocked 27 Denver shot attempts and goaltender Cam Johnson made 21 saves for the Fighting Hawks, who won the program’s eighth national title on the same sheet of ice two nights later.

Most Important Meeting: It’s hard to pick just one game, as the two teams have played four times for the national title. Denver defeated UND for the national championship in 1958, 1968, and 2005, while the Sioux downed the Pioneers in 1963. But the game that stands out in recent memory as “the one that got away” was DU’s 1-0 victory over the Fighting Sioux in the 2004 NCAA West Regional final (Colorado Springs, CO). That North Dakota team went 30-8-4 on the season (Dean Blais’ last behind the UND bench) and featured one of the deepest rosters in the past twenty years: Brandon Bochenski, Zach Parise, Brady Murray, Colby Genoway, Drew Stafford and David Lundbohm up front; Nick Fuher, Matt Jones, Matt Greene, and Ryan Hale on defense; and a couple of goaltending stalwarts in Jordan Parise and Jake Brandt.

Last Ten Games: UND has three victories and three ties over the past ten games, with Denver outscoring North Dakota 24-20 over that stretch. Three of the last eight meetings have gone into overtime.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 146-128-15 (.531), although Denver enjoys a 76-54-4 (.582) advantage in games played at altitude. The teams first met in 1950, with North Dakota prevailing 18-3 in Denver.

Game News and Notes

North Dakota has not swept in Denver since 2003. Both UND (7-0-0) and DU (4-0-0) have been perfect on home ice this season. Brad Berry is 6-8-5 (.447) in his coaching career vs. the Pioneers. Four North Dakota players have scored multiple career goals against DU (Westin Michaud 4, Matt Kiersted 2, Colton Poolman 2, Cole Smith 2). Since seven of Michigan’s nine titles were earned by 1964, I consider Denver (eight titles) and North Dakota (eight titles) to be the top two men’s college hockey programs of all time.

The Prediction

The best that North Dakota can hope for this weekend is a split. The Fighting Hawks would like to play as much of this series at even strength as possible. I give the slight edge to Denver in Friday’s opener, with UND rebounding for a fairly convincing victory in Saturday’s rematch. DU 3-2, UND 4-1.

Broadcast Information

Saturday’s game will be shown live on Midco Sports Network. Both games will be available online at NCHC.tv. All UND men’s hockey games, home and away, can be heard on stations across the UND Sports Home of Economy Radio Network as well as through the iHeart Radio app.

Social Media

Keep up with the action live during all UND hockey games by following @UNDmhockey and @UNDInsider on Twitter. Fans can also read the action via Brad Schlossman’s live chat on the Grand Forks Herald website.

On A Personal Note

I have participated in Movember for the past seven years and have proudly raised over $12,000 to help change the face of men’s health. Will you join me and support the cause? Please visit my Movember fundraising page to learn more and to donate. Thank you!

As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Follow me on Twitter (@DBergerHockey) for more information and insight. Here’s to hockey!

Weekend Preview: North Dakota vs. Miami

Over the first six seasons of the NCHC, Miami has averaged a sixth-place finish (8th, 2nd, 5th, 7th, 8th, 7th), with a combined league record of 39-70-11-8 (.378).

When the National Collegiate Hockey Conference was formed, Miami appeared positioned to be a dominant program. Prior to the 2013-14 season (their inaugural campaign in the NCHC), the RedHawks had made eight consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, with consecutive Frozen Four bids in 2009 (2nd) and 2010 (3rd). Since joining the NCHC, Miami has just one NCAA tournament appearance (2015), and that ended quickly with a first-round loss to eventual national champion Providence.

For comparison, North Dakota has finished 2nd, 1st, 1st, 4th, 4th, and 5th in the first six seasons of the new league, for an average finish of 3rd place.

Long-tenured head coach Enrico Blasi was fired during the offseason after posting a fourth consecutive losing season. Over that stretch of time, the RedHawks were 47-81-19 (.384). There is reason for optimism in Oxford, however, with new bench boss Chris Bergeron taking over the program after leading Bowling Green to six consecutive winning seasons, five consecutive years with twenty or more victories, and an NCAA tournament appearance in 2018-2019.

The Fighting Hawks came in at number four in the annual NCHC media preseason poll, trailing Denver, Duluth, and Western Michigan. Miami was picked to finish last in the eight-team league again this year.

Six full seasons have come and gone since the college hockey landscape changed forever. With Minnesota and Wisconsin departing the Western Collegiate Hockey Association for the Big Ten after the 2012-13 season, several other conference schools and two members of the now-defunct Central Collegiate Hockey Association created the National Collegiate Hockey Conference and left Alaska Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, and Minnesota State behind in a watered-down WCHA.

It is abundantly clear that the NCHC has been the premier hockey conference since its inception, and particularly over the past five seasons. The eight teams in the league have gone 280-136-51 (.654) in non-conference action since the start of the 2014-15 season and sent nine teams to the Frozen Four (UND and Omaha in 2015, UND and Denver in 2016, Denver and Duluth in 2017, Duluth in 2018, and Denver and Duluth in 2019) over that five-year stretch. Conference members North Dakota (2016), Denver (2017), and Minnesota Duluth (2018, 2019) have won the last four national titles.

The blame for UND’s absence from last season’s NCAA tourney rests squarely on the two road losses at Canisius. When North Dakota failed to make the national tournament following the 2017-2018 season, many pointed to the road series at Miami as the “games that got away”. Let’s get in the DeLorean, shall we?

Friday, February 23rd, 2018. Steve Cady Arena. Miami, Ohio. 1.21 jiggawatts…

#12 UND led the unranked RedHawks 3-0 in the second period before surrendering four unanswered goals, the last in overtime. Had the Fighting Hawks held onto the lead and won that game, it would have been invited to the NCAAs for a sixteenth consecutive season. And conversely, Minnesota Duluth, the eventual national champion, would have been watching the tourney from home.

Last season’s losses at Canisius College in early January were certainly instrumental in keeping North Dakota out of the national tournament, but other inter-conference losses and ties last year didn’t help, either. UND went just 6-4-1 in out-of-conference games in 2018-19 and missed the NCAAs for the second consecutive season after appearing in fifteen consecutive tourneys (2003-2017).

Here’s a look at the non-conference records under fifth-year head coach Brad Berry:

2015-2016: 9-1-2 (.833) ~ National Champions
2016-2017: 7-2-2 (.727) ~ NCAA West Regional Semifinalist
2017-2018: 6-2-4 (.677) ~ missed NCAA tournament
2018-2019: 6-4-1 (.591) ~ missed NCAA tournament
2019-2020: 5-1-1 (.786)

UND’s other non-conference opponents during the 2019-20 campaign will be at Minnesota (November 28th and 29th, 2019) and at home vs. Alabama Huntsville (January 3rd and 4th, 2020).

Last weekend, North Dakota toppled Michigan Tech by a final score of 3-1 in the U.S. Hockey Hall Of Fame Game while Miami handled the US Under-18 Team 4-2 in exhibition action.

For UND, the goal is simple: return to national prominence after a two-year absence from the national tournament. There is reason for optimism in Grand Forks, with an experienced d-corps, plenty of returning grit and skill, and a crop of freshmen with a tremendous amount of upside.

It is abundantly clear that North Dakota will have the puck a lot this season, and the numbers bear that out. Through seven games, the Fighting Hawks lead the nation in shots on goal allowed/game (14.7) and two key puck possession statistics:

Corsi (% of shots taken vs. opponent): 63.0%
Fenwick (% of unblocked shots taken vs. opponent): 64.2%

By comparison, Miami sits at 48.5% in Corsi (38th) and 46.3% in Fenwick (48th).

Last season, UND trailed only national champion Duluth in both puck possession categories across all Division I teams but could not finish enough of their chances. This year, fans of the Green and White should already be noticing that more shots are going in the net. North Dakota is scoring on 12.3 percent of their shots on goal, good for sixth-best in the country among teams which have played more than two games. Last season, UND lit the lamp on only 7.8 percent of their shots on goal (52nd in the nation).

One key area to watch this weekend is the face-off circle. The Fighting Hawks improved on draws last Saturday against Michigan Tech and are now sitting at 51.2 percent on the young season (4th) after leading the nation at 57.1 percent a year ago. Miami has won 53.7 percent of its faceoffs through seven games (12th in the country).

Miami Team Profile

Head Coach: Chris Bergeron (1st season at Miami, 2-3-2, .429)

National Rankings: NR/NR
This Season: 2-3-2 overall, 0-0-0-0 NCHC
Last Season: 11-23-4 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 5-17-2-1 NCHC (t-7th of 8 teams)

Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 2.86 goals scored/game – 28th of 60 teams
Team Defense: 3.71 goals allowed/game – 50th of 60 teams
Power Play: 10.3% (3 of 29) – 47th of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 75.8% (25 of 33) – 48th of 60 teams

Key Players: Senior F Gordie Green (4-5-9), Senior F Karch Bachman (4-3-7), Junior F Casey Gilling (1-6-7), Freshman F John Sladic (2-1-3), Sophomore F Brian Hawkinson (0-1-1), Sophomore D Derek Daschke (1-5-6), Freshman D Jack Clement (2-3-5), Sophomore D Bray Crowder (0-2-2), Senior G Ryan Larkin (2-3-0, 3.72 GAA, .890 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (5th season at UND; 95-53-20, .625)

National Rankings: #10/#10
This Season: 5-1-1 overall, 0-0-0-0 NCHC
Last Season: 18-17-2 overall, 12-11-1-0 NCHC (5th)

Team Offense: 3.86 goals scored/game – 11th of 60 teams
Team Defense: 1.43 goals allowed/game – 1st of 60 teams
Power Play: 8.0% (2 of 25) – 49th of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 95.2% (20 of 21) – 5th of 60 teams

Key Players: Junior F Jordan Kawaguchi (2-5-7), Sophomore F Mark Senden (2-2-4), Senior F Dixon Bowen (3-1-4), Senior F Westin Michaud (3-1-4), Freshman F Harrison Blaisdell (2-2-4), Freshman F Shane Pinto (2-3-5), Sophomore D Jacob Bernard-Docker (0-6-6), Senior D Colton Poolman (1-3-4), Junior D Gabe Bast (2-1-3), Sophomore G Adam Scheel (5-1-1, 1.42 GAA, .917 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers:

Last Meeting: November 10, 2018 (Oxford, OH). It was a furious third period at Steve Cady Arena, with each team scoring two goals. The difference was that Miami’s Josh Melnick had opened the scoring with a power play marker in the opening frame and the RedHawks prevailed 3-2. North Dakota won 3-1 one night earlier in the conference opener for both teams. UND outshot Miami 68-40 on the weekend.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: November 11, 2017. The shootout took four rounds, but in the end, Christian Wolanin blasted a slapshot from the faceoff circle (at the 4:30 mark of this video) and UND emerged victorious after tying the visiting RedHawks 3-3. One night earlier, it was all North Dakota, as Nick Jones (two goals), Rhett Gardner (one goal), and Grant Mismash (one goal) all lit the lamp in a 4-1 victory.

Most Important Meeting: March 6, 2015 (Oxford, OH). North Dakota claimed the Penrose Cup with a 2-1 road victory over Miami. UND fell flat the following night, losing 6-3 in the final game of the regular season.

Last Ten: UND has picked up five wins and two ties in the past ten contests between the teams, outscoring Miami 31-25 over that stretch of games. North Dakota has only hosted four of the past ten meetings between the schools.

All-time Series: North Dakota leads the all-time series 14-7-3 (.646), including a 7-2-2 (.727) record in games played at Ralph Engelstad Arena. The teams first played in 1999 (Badger Showdown, Milwaukee, WI).

Game News and Notes

UND is 5-0-0 at home this year and 0-1-1 on the road. North Dakota men’s hockey teams are a combined 245-93-44 (.699) at Ralph Engelstad Arena since the building opened in 2001. After this weekend, UND will only have one more home series in 2019 (November 22nd and 23rd vs. St. Cloud State). Brad Berry’s squad will travel to Oxford to face Miami in January. Green Hawks are preferable to RedHawks.

The Prediction

All signs point to a North Dakota sweep. This will be the weekend that the power play will get untracked, and at least one game will see five goals for the Green and White. UND 5-2, 4-3.

Broadcast Information

This series will be televised live on Midco Sports Network and also available online at NCHC.tv. All UND men’s hockey games, home and away, can be heard on stations across the UND Sports Home of Economy Radio Network as well as through the iHeart Radio app.

Social Media

Keep up with the action live during all UND hockey games by following @UNDmhockey and @UNDInsider on Twitter. Fans can also read the action via Brad Schlossman’s live chat on the Grand Forks Herald website.

Ticket Information

Information about tickets can be found at the UND Box Office inside Ralph Engelstad Arena or online at FightingHawks.com/tickets.

On A Personal Note

I have participated in Movember for the past seven years and have proudly raised over $11,000 to help change the face of men’s health. Will you join me and support the cause? Please visit my Movember fundraising page to learn more and to donate. Thank you!

As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Follow me on Twitter (@DBergerHockey) for more information and insight. Here’s to hockey!

Hall Of Fame Game Preview: North Dakota vs. Michigan Tech

Saturday’s contest will mark the eleventh time that North Dakota will take part in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game (now called the “Face-Off Classic”). UND is 6-3-1 all-time in the annual event and first hosted the Hall of Fame Game on October 5, 2001, the grand opening of the new Ralph Engelstad Arena. The debut of the new “Ralph”, which went down as a 7-5 Minnesota victory, dropped North Dakota’s record in Hall of Fame Games to 0-3-1.

The Green and White have fared better in more recent Hall of Fame Games, defeating Minnesota Duluth 3-2 (2003), Michigan State 6-0 (2007), Air Force 3-2 [OT] (2014), and RPI 5-2 (2016) in Grand Forks, blitzing the Bulldogs 5-0 in Duluth during the grand opening of Amsoil Arena (December 30, 2010), and handling the Minnesota Golden Gophers 3-1 in Las Vegas almost exactly one year ago.

In the first 27 years of the event (1974-2000), North Dakota appeared in three Hall Of Fame Games (against Minnesota in 1978 and against Minnesota Duluth in 1988 and 1992). Beginning in 2001, UND has been a part of eight such contests, including six in Grand Forks. This is mostly a testament to the athletic department’s ability and willingness to host events like these and the draw of Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Six full seasons have come and gone since the college hockey landscape changed forever. With Minnesota and Wisconsin departing the Western Collegiate Hockey Association for the Big Ten after the 2012-13 season, several other conference schools and two members of the now-defunct Central Collegiate Hockey Association created the National Collegiate Hockey Conference and left Alaska Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, and Minnesota State behind in a watered-down WCHA.

It is abundantly clear that the NCHC has been the premier hockey conference since its inception, and particularly over the past five seasons. The eight teams in the league have gone 276-135-49 (.653) in non-conference action since the start of the 2014-15 season and sent nine teams to the Frozen Four (UND and Omaha in 2015, UND and Denver in 2016, Denver and Duluth in 2017, Duluth in 2018, and Denver and Duluth in 2019) over that five-year stretch. Conference members North Dakota (2016), Denver (2017), and Minnesota Duluth (2018, 2019) have won the last four national titles.

Michigan Tech has benefitted from its new conference as well, making the NCAA tournament in three of the past five seasons (2015, 2017, and 2018):

In 2018, MTU lost 4-3 to #2 Notre Dame in the East Regional.
In 2017, MTU lost 5-2 to #1 Denver In the Midwest Regional.
In 2015, the best MTU squad in recent memory lost 3-2 in overtime to #13 St. Cloud State in the West Regional) despite outshooting SCSU 38-21.

More to the point, Michigan Tech and North Dakota were both members of the WCHA from 1984-85 through 2012-13 (29 seasons), and the Huskies put together exactly two winning seasons during that stretch:

1992-93: 17-15-5 (.527)
2006-07: 18-17-5 (.512)

Since the reshaping of the WCHA six seasons ago, Michigan Tech has enjoyed four of its best seasons in program history:

2014-15: 29-10-2 (.732)
2015-16: 23-9-5 (.689)
2016-17: 23-15-7 (.589)
2017-18: 22-17-5 (.557)

Last season’s version of the Huskies won only fourteen games (14-20-4, .421) after averaging over 24 wins per year from 2014-2018. MTU is looking to regain some of its scoring touch after losing a tremendous amount of firepower from its three tournament teams:

Forward Alex Petan (59 goals and 76 assists for 135 points in 153 games played)
Forward Tanner Kero (55-56-111 in 153 gp)
Forward Blake Pietila (46-60-106 in 153 gp)
Forward David Johnstone (36-67-103 in 127 gp)
Forward Joel L’Esperance (46-52-98 in 152 gp)
Defenseman Shane Hanna (21-69-90 in 163 gp)
Defenseman Mark Auk (21-63-84 in 150 gp)

In terms of overall offense, the best NCAA tournament team that Michigan Tech put together (2014-15) scored 3.49 goals/game. The other two tourney teams were not far behind:

2016-17 offense: 2.89 goals scored/game
2017-18 offense: 3.05 goals scored/game

This season, the Huskies are scoring goals at a rate of 2.83/game, good for 22nd in the nation among the 54 teams which have played at least one game to this point in the season.

Last season’s losses at Canisius College in early January were certainly instrumental in keeping North Dakota out of the national tournament, but other inter-conference losses and ties last year didn’t help, either. UND went just 6-4-1 in out-of-conference games in 2018-19 and missed the NCAAs for the second consecutive season after appearing in fifteen consecutive tourneys (2003-2017).

Here’s a look at the non-conference records under fifth-year head coach Brad Berry:

2015-2016: 9-1-2 (.833) ~ National Champions
2016-2017: 7-2-2 (.727) ~ NCAA West Regional Semifinalist
2017-2018: 6-2-4 (.677) ~ missed NCAA tournament
2018-2019: 6-4-1 (.591) ~ missed NCAA tournament
2019-2020: 4-1-1 (.750)

After this weekend’s tilt against Michigan Tech, UND’s other non-conference opponents during the 2019-20 campaign will be at Minnesota (November 28-29) and at home vs. Alabama Huntsville (January 3-4).

Last weekend, North Dakota swept former WCHA foe Bemidji State, coming back for a 2-1 overtime victory in Friday’s opener before handling the Beavers 4-1 in Saturday’s rematch. Michigan Tech traveled to face #17 Bowling Green last weekend, dropping a 3-1 decision before rebounding for a 4-2 victory.

For UND, the goal is simple: return to national prominence after a two-year absence from the national tournament. There is reason for optimism in Grand Forks, with an experienced d-corps, plenty of returning grit and skill, and a crop of freshmen with a tremendous amount of upside.

It is abundantly clear that North Dakota will have the puck a lot this season, and the numbers bear that out. Through six games, the Fighting Hawks lead the nation in shots on goal allowed/game (17.7) and trail only Massachusetts and Air Force in two key puck possession statistics:

Corsi (% of shots taken vs. opponent): 63.5%
Fenwick (% of unblocked shots taken vs. opponent): 61.0%

By comparison, Michigan Tech sits at 48.8% in Corsi (30th) and 49.3% in Fenwick (27th).

Last season, UND trailed only national champion Duluth in both puck possession categories across all Division I teams but could not finish enough of their chances. This year, fans of the Green and White should already be noticing that more shots are going in the net. North Dakota is scoring on 12.3 percent of their shots on goal, good for sixth-best in the country. Last season, UND lit the lamp on only 7.8 percent of their shots on goal (52nd in the nation).

One key area to watch this weekend is the face-off circle. The Fighting Hawks improved on draws last weekend against Bemidji State and are now sitting at 50.8 percent on the young season (21st) after leading the nation at 57.1 percent a year ago. Michigan Tech has won 48.9 percent of its faceoffs through six games (32nd in the country).

Michigan Tech Team Profile

Head Coach: Joe Shawhan (3rd season at MTU, 39-40-9, .494)

National Rankings: NR
This Season: 3-3-0 overall, 1-3-0 WCHA (6th)
Last Season: 14-20-4 overall, 13-12-3-1 WCHA (6th)

Team Offense: 2.83 goals scored/game (22nd of 54 teams)
Team Defense: 1.83 goals allowed/game (9th of 54 teams)
Power Play: 21.6% (29 of 134)
Penalty Kill: 80.6% (116 of 144)

Key Players: Sophomore F Alec Broetzman (4-4-8), Freshman F Parker Saretsky (2-4-6), Sophomore F Tommy Parrottino (4-0-0), Sophomore F Trenton Bliss (2-2-4), Freshman F Logan Pietila (1-3-4), Sophomore F Brian Halonen (2-1-3), Junior F Greyson Reitmeier (0-2-2), Sophomore D Colin Swoyer (0-5-5), Junior D Seamus Donohue (0-3-3), Junior G Robbie Beydoun (1-0-0, 1.26 GAA, .941 SV%), Senior G Matt Jurusik (2-3-0, 2.04 GAA, .926 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (5th season at UND; 94-53-20, .623)

National Rankings: #14/#14
This Season: 4-1-1 overall
Last Season: 18-17-2 overall, 12-11-1-0 NCHC (5th)

Team Offense: 4.00 goals scored/game (6th of 54 teams)
Team Defense: 1.50 goals allowed/game (5th of 54 teams)
Power Play: 10.0% (2 of 20)
Penalty Kill: 94.4% (17 of 18)

Key Players: Junior F Jordan Kawaguchi (1-5-6), Sophomore F Mark Senden (2-2-4), Senior F Dixon Bowen (3-1-4), Senior F Westin Michaud (3-1-4), Freshman F Harrison Blaisdell (2-2-4), Freshman F Shane Pinto (2-3-5), Sophomore D Jacob Bernard-Docker (0-6-6), Senior D Colton Poolman (1-3-4), Junior D Gabe Bast (2-1-3), Sophomore G Adam Scheel (4-1-1, 1.48 GAA, .915 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last meeting: March 17, 2013 (Grand Forks, ND). It was a bonnie St. Paddy’s Day for the lads in green, as UND netminder Clarke Saunders pitched a shutout (6-0, 27 saves) in the third and decisive game of the WCHA first round playoff series. The first two games of the series followed a familiar pattern, with North Dakota winning Friday’s opener 5-3 but struggling to end an opponent’s season, dropping Game 2 by a final of 2-1.

Most Important Meeting: The Sioux and Huskies have never met in the NCAA tournament, so I will go with the most important meeting that never was: in 1965, the Sioux lost to Boston College, 4-3, one game short of the national championship game, where they would have faced the Michigan Tech Huskies, who won the second of their three titles by defeating the Eagles. UND settled for third place that season, downing Brown University, 9-5. North Dakota went 13-3-0 in the regular season in 1964-65, with two of those three losses coming at the hands of Michigan Tech.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 149-94-10 (.609), including a dominating 84-34-5 (.703) record in games played in Grand Forks. The teams first met in 1948.

Last Ten: North Dakota is 8-1-1 (.850) in the last ten meetings between the schools, outscoring the Huskies 49-13 over that stretch. Before 2013, the last time Michigan Tech defeated UND was in the first round of the WCHA playoffs in March 2008 (Grand Forks, ND). As was the case five years later, MTU took the middle game of the three-game series but North Dakota came back to win on Sunday night to advance to the Final Five.

Game News and Notes

Coming into Saturday night, these two storied programs have faced off 253 times. UND’s Brad Berry has never faced Michigan Tech in his head coaching career. North Dakota men’s hockey teams are a combined 244-93-44 (.698) at Ralph Engelstad Arena since the building opened in 2001.

The Prediction

While it is certainly true that anything can happen in a one-game situation, the only thing in doubt in my mind is the final score. Michigan Tech should be able to keep this game close, but if North Dakota gets up by two goals early, it will be off to the races. UND 4-1.

Broadcast Information

Saturday’s game will be televised live on Midco Sports Network and also available online at NCHC.tv. All UND men’s hockey games, home and away, can be heard on stations across the UND Sports Home of Economy Radio Network as well as through the iHeart Radio app.

Social Media

Keep up with the action live during all UND hockey games by following @UNDmhockey and @UNDInsider on Twitter. Fans can also read the action via Brad Schlossman’s live chat on the Grand Forks Herald website.

Ticket Information

Information about tickets can be found at the UND Box Office inside Ralph Engelstad Arena or online at FightingHawks.com/tickets.

On A Personal Note

I have participated in Movember for the past seven years and have proudly raised over $11,000 to help change the face of men’s health. Will you join me and support the cause? Please visit my Movember fundraising page to learn more and to donate. Thank you!

As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Follow me on Twitter (@DBergerHockey) for more information and insight. Here’s to hockey!

Weekend Preview: North Dakota vs. Bemidji State

Six full seasons have come and gone since the college hockey landscape changed forever. With Minnesota and Wisconsin departing the Western Collegiate Hockey Association for the Big Ten after the 2012-13 season, several other conference schools and two members of the now-defunct Central Collegiate Hockey Association created the National Collegiate Hockey Conference and left Alaska Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, and Minnesota State behind in a watered-down WCHA.

It is abundantly clear that the NCHC has been the premier hockey conference since its inception, and particularly over the past five seasons. The eight teams in the league have gone 267-132-48 (.651) in non-conference action since the start of the 2014-15 season and sent nine teams to the Frozen Four (UND and Omaha in 2015, UND and Denver in 2016, Denver and Duluth in 2017, Duluth in 2018, and Denver and Duluth in 2019) over that five-year stretch. Conference members North Dakota (2016), Denver (2017), and Minnesota Duluth (2018, 2019) have won the last four national titles.

After winning the WCHA in 2016-17 with a stellar 20-6-2 conference record, Bemidji State has taken a step back over the past two seasons (31-31-14 overall, 26-20-10 in the WCHA), finishing in fourth place in 2017-18 and in fifth place a year ago.

Last season’s losses at Canisius College in early January were certainly instrumental in keeping North Dakota out of the national tournament, but the road loss and home tie against Bemidji State to open the year didn’t help, either. UND went just 6-4-1 in out-of-conference games in 2018-19 and missed the NCAAs for the second consecutive season after appearing in fifteen consecutive tourneys (2003-2017).

Here’s a look at the non-conference records under fifth-year head coach Brad Berry:

2015-2016: 9-1-2 (.833) ~ National Champions
2016-2017: 7-2-2 (.727) ~ NCAA West Regional Semifinalist
2017-2018: 6-2-4 (.677) ~ missed NCAA tournament
2018-2019: 6-4-1 (.591) ~ missed NCAA tournament
2019-2020: 2-1-1 (.625)

After this weekend’s home games against Bemidji State, UND’s other non-conference opponents during the 2019-20 campaign will be Michigan Tech (Hall Of Fame Game, home), Minnesota (away), and Alabama Huntsville (home).

Last weekend, North Dakota traveled to Mankato to face former WCHA foe Minnesota State, earning a 4-4 tie on Friday night before falling 2-1 in Saturday’s rematch. Bemidji State hosted #7 St. Cloud State for a pair of non-conference games two weeks ago, battling to two ties on the weekend (4-4, 2-2).

For UND, the goal is simple: return to national prominence after a two-year absence from the national tournament. There is reason for optimism in Grand Forks, with an experienced d-corps, plenty of returning grit and skill, and a crop of freshmen with a tremendous amount of upside.

It is abundantly clear that North Dakota will have the puck a lot this season, and the numbers bear that out. Through four games, the Fighting Hawks lead the nation in shots on goal allowed/game (17.3) and trail only Massachusetts in two key puck possession statistics:

Corsi (% of shots taken vs. opponent): 64.3%
Fenwick (% of unblocked shots taken vs. opponent): 65.6%

Last season, UND trailed only national champion Duluth in both puck possession categories across all Division I teams but could not finish enough of their chances. This year, fans of the Green and White should already be noticing that more shots are going in the net. North Dakota is scoring on 12.9 percent of their shots on goal, good for ninth-best in the country. Last season, UND lit the lamp on only 7.8 percent of their shots on goal (52nd in the nation).

One key area to watch this weekend is the face-off circle. The Fighting Hawks struggled mightily on draws in Mankato and are now sitting at 46.9 percent on the young season (42nd) after leading the nation at 57.1 percent a year ago. Against SCSU, Tom Serratore’s squad won 57.5 percent of the faceoffs and won the puck possession battle as well (Corsi 55.0%, Fenwick 55.2%).

Bemidji State Team Profile

Head Coach: Tom Serratore (19th season at BSU, 297-287-88, .507)
National Ranking: NR/NR
This Season: 0-0-2
Last Season: 15-17-6 overall, 13-11-4-2 WCHA (5th of 10 teams)

Team Offense: 3.00 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 23.00 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 0.0% (0 of 4)
Penalty Kill: 80.0% (4 of 5)

Key Players: Junior F Aaron Miller (0-3-3), Senior F Adam Brady (2-0-2), Senior F Alex Ierullo (0-2-2), Junior F Charlie Combs (0-0-0), Sophomore F Owen Sillinger (1-0-1), Junior F Brendan Harris (0-1-1), Freshman D Nick Leitner (1-0-1), Senior D Tommy Muck (0-1-1), Sophomore D Tyler Jubenvill (0-1-1), Junior G Henry Johnson (0-0-1, 1.85 GAA, .938 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (5th season at UND ; 92-53-20, .618)
National Ranking: #16/#19
This Season: 2-1-1 overall
Last Season: 18-17-2 overall, 12-11-1-0 NCHC (5th)

Team Offense: 4.50 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.75 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 13.3% (2 of 15)
Penalty Kill: 100.0% (13 of 13)

Key Players: Junior F Jordan Kawaguchi (0-3-3), Sophomore F Mark Senden (1-2-3), Senior F Dixon Bowen (3-1-4), Senior F Westin Michaud (2-1-3), Freshman F Harrison Blaisdell (2-2-4), Freshman F Shane Pinto (2-2-4), Sophomore D Jacob Bernard Docker (0-5-5), Senior D Colton Poolman (0-3-3), Junior D Gabe Bast (2-1-3), Sophomore G Adam Scheel (2-1-1, 1.73 GAA, .899 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: October 13, 2018 (Grand Forks, ND). North Dakota got an early goal from Grant Mismash but couldn’t make it hold up, as BSU’s Charlie Combs scored the game-tying marker with under five minutes to play. UND outshot Bemidji State 27-16. One night earlier in Bemidji, the Beavers won 2-1 behind goals from Adam Brady and Owen Sillinger and 28 saves from Henry Johnson.

Most Important Meeting: October 15, 2010 (Bemidji, MN). In the first game played at the BREC, North Dakota spotted BSU the opening goal less than two minutes into the contest and then steamrolled the Beavers 5-2. The Fighting Sioux outshot their fellow Green-and-Whiters 38-14.

Last Ten: North Dakota is 5-2-3 (.650) in the last ten meetings between the teams, outscoring the Beavers 29-24 over that stretch of games. Seven of the last ten tilts have been decided by a goal or less, with Bemidji State going 1-3-3 in those games.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 31-4-6 (.829), including a 21-2-4 (.852) record in games played in Grand Forks. Three of BSU’s four wins over North Dakota have come in the past seven seasons (November 2011, October 2014, and October 2018). Bemidji’s other victory over UND came in 1970.

Game News and Notes

UND head coach Brad Berry is 4-1-3 (.688) in his career against Bemidji State. BSU has competed at the Division I level since the 1999-00 season and has made the NCAA tournament four times (2005, 2006, 2009, and 2010), with a Frozen Four appearance in 2009. The Beavers have never made the NCAAs as a member of the WCHA (nine seasons and counting). North Dakota men’s hockey teams are a combined 242-93-44 (.697) at Ralph Engelstad Arena since the building opened in 2001.

Broadcast Information

This weekend’s games will be televised live on Midco Sports Network and also available online at NCHC.tv. All UND men’s hockey games, home and away, can be heard on stations across the UND Sports Home of Economy Radio Network as well as through the iHeart Radio app.

Social Media

Keep up with the action live during all UND hockey games by following @UNDmhockey and @UNDInsider on Twitter. Fans can also read the action via Brad Schlossman’s live chat on the Grand Forks Herald website.

Ticket Information

Information about tickets can be found at the UND Box Office inside Ralph Engelstad Arena or online at FightingHawks.com/tickets.

The Prediction

Bemidji State always seems to bring their best effort against UND, and this weekend will be no exception. North Dakota played well last weekend in Mankato with little to show for it, while the Beavers more or less had the weekend off (aside from a scrimmage with Division III Augsburg University). The Fighting Hawks seem to have found their game and are playing with more pace and crispness in the early going than recent North Dakota squads have offered, so I’m going with the home squad to earn a sweep, pulling away in the third period of both contests. UND 5-2, 4-1.

As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Follow me on Twitter (@DBergerHockey) for more information and insight. Here’s to hockey!

Weekend Preview: North Dakota at Minnesota State

In the last season of the WCHA as we knew it (2012-13), Minnesota, St. Cloud State, and North Dakota finished as the top three teams in the conference standings. There was a three-way tie for fourth, with the final three home-ice spots in the twelve-team league taken by Denver, Wisconsin, and…

Minnesota State.

Seven seasons ago, the Mavericks were on the rise. That year (Mike Hastings’ first behind the bench), Minnesota State went 24-14-3 overall and advanced to the national tournament for the first time since 2003 and just the second time since the Mavericks went Division I in 1996.

Following that historic season, Minnesota State found most of its conference rivals bolting for the Big Ten (Minnesota, Wisconsin) or the newly-formed NCHC (Colorado College, Denver, Minnesota Duluth, North Dakota, Omaha, and St. Cloud State).

Mike Hastings’ squad has taken full advantage of its new collection of league foes, winning the WCHA regular season title three times over the past six seasons and posting a combined league record of 116-35-17 (.741). Those league results have propelled the Mavericks to seven consecutive 20-win seasons and five NCAA tournament appearances over the past seven seasons.

For North Dakota, the goal is simple: return to national prominence after a two-year absence from the national tournament. There is reason for optimism in Grand Forks, with an experienced d-corps, plenty of returning grit and skill, and a crop of freshmen with a tremendous amount of upside.

Last weekend, the Mavericks blitzed Arizona State (4-1, 5-0), while the Fighting Hawks swept Canisius (5-0, 8-1).

Minnesota State Team Profile

Head Coach: Mike Hastings (8th season at Minnesota State, 185-80-21, .684)
National Ranking: #2
This Season: 2-0-0 overall
Last Season: 32-8-3 overall (NCAA East Regional Semifinalist), 22-5-1-1 WCHA (1st)

Team Offense: 4.50 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 0.50 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 35.7% (5 of 14)
Penalty Kill: 100.0% (8 of 8)

Key Players: Senior F Marc Michaelis (3-0-0), Sophomore F Julian Napravnik (1-2-3), Freshman F Lucas Sowder (1-2-3), Junior F Reggie Lutz (1-1-2), Junior F Jared Spooner (0-2-2), Senior D Ian Scheid (0-4-4), Junior D Riese Zmolek (1-1-2), Junior D Connor Mackey (0-1-1), Sophomore G Dryden McKay (2-0-0, 0.5008 GAA, .975 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (5th season at UND ; 92-52-19, .623
National Ranking: #16
This Season: 2-0-0 overall
Last Season: 18-17-2 overall, 12-11-1-0 NCHC (5th)

Team Offense: 6.50 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 0.50 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 11.1% (1 of 9)
Penalty Kill: 100.0% (8 of 8)

Key Players: Junior F Jordan Kawaguchi (0-3-3), Sophomore F Mark Senden (1-2-3), Senior F Cole Smith (2-0-2), Junior F Grant Mismash (1-1-2), Freshman F Shane Pinto (1-1-2), Sophomore D Jacob Bernard Docker (0-4-4), Senior D Colton Poolman (0-2-2), Junior D Gabe Bast (2-0-2), Sophomore G Adam Scheel (2-0-0, 0.50 GAA, .957 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: October 20, 2018 (Grand Forks, ND). Cole Smith netted two goals in a 4-3 North Dakota victory. Minnesota State took Friday’s opener 7-4 behind a hat trick from Max Coatta.

Last Meeting in Mankato: March 9, 2013. Minnesota State’s Brett Knowles netted the overtime winner to break a 1-1 tie and send the home fans happy. One night earlier, UND netminder Zane McIntyre made 37 saves in a 4-3 victory.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 39-12-7 (.733), including a 15-5-4 (.708) record in games played in Mankato.

Last ten: North Dakota has a sparkling 8-2-0 record in the last ten contests, outscoring the Mavericks 35-25 over that stretch of games.

Game News and Notes

Since the start of last season, the Mavericks are 23-1-0 in the Mankato Civic Center. Game times are 7:07 p.m. on Friday and 6:07 p.m. on Saturday. All-time, North Dakota has only lost five games in Mankato (15-5-4).

Broadcast Information

All UND men’s hockey games, home and away, can be heard on stations across the UND Sports Home of Economy Radio Network as well as through the iHeart Radio app. This weekend’s series can be viewed online at flohockey.tv.

The Prediction

I really can’t see either team taking more than one victory from this series. Both teams were perfect on the penalty kill last weekend; I expect that to change in this series, with both teams exhibiting too much skill to be blanked with the man advantage. Mankato will be too much for UND in game one, with North Dakota silencing the cowbells in the series finale on Saturday night. MSUM 4-2, UND 4-2.

As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your thoughts, comments, and suggestions. Here’s to hockey!

NCHC Playoff Preview: North Dakota at Denver

It’s quite simple, really:

Win two games this weekend to continue playing.
Lose two games this weekend and it’s all over.

North Dakota finds itself in an unfamiliar position, heading on the road for the opening round of the league playoffs for the first time since March 2002. That season, the Fighting Sioux played at eventual national champion Minnesota in the opening round of the WCHA playoffs, taking the Gophers to overtime on Saturday night (losing 4-3) after getting destroyed 7-2 in Friday’s opener.

This time around, UND finds themselves in a matchup against the Denver Pioneers. The Fighting Hawks experienced some weather-related issues and delays on their way to Denver, but they managed to practice at Cadet Ice Arena (Colorado Springs, CO), the home rink of the Air Force Falcons.

As has been well-documented, the last three national champions hail from the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, and fifth-place North Dakota (2016 champions) travels to fourth-place Denver (2017) this weekend for a best-of-three playoff series, with both looking up in the final regular-season standings at second-place Duluth (winners of the 2018 NCAA title) as well as Penrose Cup champion St. Cloud State and third-place Western Michigan, two other conference opponents with lofty postseason aspirations.

In the NCHC, it is clear that Denver/North Dakota is at the top of the league rivalries. The teams have played 24 times during the first six seasons of the new conference, but the feud goes all the way back to Geoff Paukovitch’ illegal check on Sioux forward Robbie Bina during the 2005 WCHA Final Five.

Since that 2005 Final Five contest (a Denver victory), the two teams have met ten times in tournament play. Denver won the 2005 NCAA title with a victory over North Dakota and claimed a 2008 WCHA Final Five win as well. UND has earned six victories and a tie in the last eight playoff games between the schools, including three consecutive victories in the WCHA Final Five (2010-2012), the 2011 NCAA Midwest Regional final which sent the Fighting Sioux to the Frozen Four, 2016’s thrilling Frozen Four semifinal (a 4-2 UND victory) in Tampa, Florida, and the 2017 NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinal in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

(It is impossible to bring up the Paukovitch/Bina incident without also writing that Brad Malone‘s check on Denver’s Jesse Martin during an October 2010 contest at Ralph Engelstad Arena fractured three of Martin’s vertebrae and ended the hockey career of the Atlanta Thrashers’ draft pick.)

This year’s version of the Pioneers looks noticeably different to UND fans, with four players graduated (forward Rudy Junda, defensemen Tariq Hammond and Adam Plant, and goaltender Tanner Jaillet) and a new bench boss (David Carle), the youngest in Division I men’s college hockey. Furthermore, Denver had five players leave eligibility on the table during the 2018 offseason, including three prolific goal scorers and a stalwart defenseman:

Forward Henrik Borgström (gave up two seasons of eligibility; drafted Round 1 #23 by the Florida Panthers in 2016): 45 goals and 95 points in 77 career NCAA games

Forward Troy Terry (gave up one season of eligibility; drafted Round 5 #148 by the Anaheim Ducks in 2015): 45 goals and 115 point in 115 career NCAA games

Forward Dylan Gambrell (gave up one season of eligibility; drafted Round 2 #60 by the San Jose Sharks in 2016): 43 goals and 132 points in 120 career NCAA games

Defenseman Blake Hillman (gave up one season of eligibility; drafted Round 6 #173 by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2016): 7 goals and 31 points in 123 career NCAA games

Free agent forward Logan O’Connor also gave up his final season of college eligibility to sign with the Colorado Avalanche of the NHL. O’Connor posted a line of 16-27-43 in 108 career NCAA games.

North Dakota was not immune to the early departure bug during the 2018 offseason, as defenseman Christian Wolanin (12-23-35 in 2017-18, 22-50-72 in 109 career games at North Dakota) and forward Shane Gersich (13-16-29 in 2017-18, 43-34-77 in 117 career games at North Dakota) each gave up his senior season to sign a pro contract (Wolanin with Ottawa, Gersich with Washington).

And the previous three summers haven’t been any easier for fans of the Green and White, as multiple players have left eligibility on the table to join the professional ranks (years of eligibility remaining at the time of signing):

2017: Forward Brock Boeser (2), Forward Tyson Jost (3), Defenseman Tucker Poolman (1)

2016: Forward Luke Johnson (1), Forward Nick Schmaltz (2), Defenseman Paul LaDue (1), Defenseman Troy Stecher (1), Defenseman Keaton Thompson (1)

2015: Defenseman Jordan Schmaltz (1), Goaltender Zane McIntyre (1)

In 2014, forward Rocco Grimaldi left after his sophomore campaign to sign with the Florida Panthers (NHL). In 2013, defenseman Derek Forbort signed with the Los Angeles Kings after his junior year. North Dakota also lost two players (Brock Nelson and Aaron Dell) to early departures in 2012 and two others (Jason Gregoire and Brett Hextall) in 2011.

After suffering an injury during a January 4th contest at Wisconsin, DU sophomore goaltender Devin Cooley (10-6-2, 1.89 goals-against average, .933 save percentage, four shutouts) was out of the lineup for five weekends before returning to the crease and pitching a shutout at Duluth on February 16th. Since that time, Cooley and freshman Filip Larsson (9-4-3, 2.29 GAA, .919 SV%, 1 SO) have basically split time between the pipes, Larsson, a sixth-round pick (#167 overall) of the Detroit Red Wings in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, has fared very well against UND this season, earning two victories and a tie while allowing only one goal in each game (0.95 GAA, .973 SV%).

Last year’s senior class at North Dakota (Cam Johnson, Trevor Olson, Austin Poganski, and Johnny Simonson) went 101-45-20 (.669) and became the fifteenth consecutive recruiting class to win at least 100 games. This year’s group (Ryan Anderson, Rhett Gardner, Joel Janatuinen, and Hayden Shaw) currently sits at 90-50-19 (.626) and will be unable to continue that impressive streak, as only eight possible victories remain on the schedule.

After getting swept at Canisius back in January, UND saw its non-conference record drop to 6-4-1 (.591) on the season. After going 9-1-2 (.833) in non-conference play in 2015-16 and 7-2-2 (.727) out-of-conference in 2016-17, Brad Berry’s squad went just 6-2-4 (.667) last season and snapped its streak of fifteen consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.

Had one of those Canisius losses turned into a victory, UND (currently 18th in the Pairwise) would now be sitting at 14th. With a sweep over the Golden Griffins, North Dakota would be 8th. While it is true that a team’s overall record is indicative of their season-long identity, that particular weekend stands out for Fighting Hawks fans, as the Green and White outshot Canisius 82-30 over the course of two games but were outscored 5-2 in the series.

Looking ahead, UND would likely end up at 13th in the Pairwise with a sweep over Denver and 15th with two victories and a loss. Those precarious Pairwise positions would be mitigated somewhat by the fact that North Dakota would still have two games remaining on its schedule (at the NCHC Frozen Faceoff) to improve on those rankings.

A playoff series loss at Magness Arena this weekend would mark the end of the 2018-19 season for North Dakota, as they would likely drop to 21st with two losses and remain at 18th with a victory and two losses.

If the season ended today, St. Cloud State (1st in the Pairwise rankings), Duluth (4th), and Denver (7th) would be safely in the NCAA tournament, with Western Michigan (13th) on the bubble and North Dakota (18th), Colorado College (24th), Miami (38th), and Omaha (46th) even further back.

It is very likely that the DU/UND series will go to a decisive third game on Sunday, as Denver will be looking to end North Dakota’s season, and that will bring out the best in both teams. Over UND’s incredible run of home ice for the first round of the league tournament, they fared extremely well in Friday openers, with Saturday’s games invariably more tightly contested.

Here are the complete results for UND’s 38 consecutive home conference playoff games:

Year Opponent Game One Game Two Game Three
2018 Omaha 4-0 4-3 (OT)
2017 St. Cloud State 5-2 6-5 (OT)
2016 Colorado College 7-1 5-1
2015 Colorado College 5-1 3-2
2014 Colorado College 4-2 2-3 (OT) 4-3
2013 Michigan Tech 5-3 1-2 6-0
2012 Bemidji State 4-1 4-3
2011 Michigan Tech 8-0 3-1
2010 Minnesota 6-0 2-4 4-1
2009 Michigan Tech 5-1 4-3
2008 Michigan Tech 4-0 2-3 (OT) 2-1
2007 Mankato State 5-2 2-1
2006 Mankato State 2-3 (OT) 4-1 3-0
2005 Minnesota-Duluth 8-2 6-1
2004 Michigan Tech 6-2 4-3 (OT)
2003 Denver 1-4 3-2 (OT) 3-2 (OT)

On the injury front, North Dakota sophomore goaltender Peter Thome (upper body injury) has played well over the past three weekends in place of freshman netminder Adam Scheel, who suffered a lower body injury four weeks ago at Western Michigan. The timeline for Scheel’s return is officially listed as week to week, although he has been ruled out for this weekend’s action.

Thome (4-2-0, 2.02 goals-against average, .915 save percentage over his last six games) helped UND earn splits vs. Duluth and at Colorado College and a home sweep last weekend against Omaha. The sophomore from Minneapolis, Minnesota gave up exactly one goal in three of those six starts.

Forward Joel Janatuinen is also out this weekend (undisclosed), but North Dakota fans got some good news a week ago when forwards Nick Jones and Grant Mismash both returned to the lineup. Mismash, once feared gone for the season, is not fully healed but expects a larger role against the Pioneers. Junior defenseman Colton Poolman (undisclosed injury) has played the past eight games for UND after missing the Denver series back in February, the only two contests he has missed in his 113-game collegiate career.

North Dakota has been best in first periods this season, outscoring opponents 36-21 and outshooting teams by a collective margin of 372-253. When scoring first during the 2018-19 campaign, the Fighting Hawks are 11-4-2. In 35 games, UND has put 1113 shots on goal (31.8/game) while allowing just 816 (23.3/game).

Denver has shined in the third period this year, outscoring opponents 35-22 and outshooting teams by a collective margin of 334-304. When scoring first, the Pioneers are 13-5-2. In 34 games, DU has put 1015 shots on goal (29.9/game) while allowing 969 (28.5/game).

Currently, UND leads the nation in faceoff efficiency (57.0 percent); DU is 18th at 51.9 percent. North Dakota is 2nd in the country in puck possession stats, outpacing Denver in both Corsi (58.3 to 52.3 percent) and Fenwick (58.4 to 51.1 percent). Corsi measures the percentage of shot attempts by a team compared to that of its opponents; Fenwick measures the percentage of unblocked shot attempts by a team compared to that of its opponents.

According to KRACH, Denver has played the fifth-toughest schedule in the country this season; North Dakota’s slate of games ranks as the seventh-most difficult out of sixty men’s Division I hockey programs.

Denver Team Profile

Head Coach: David Carle (Denver ’12, 1st season at DU, 19-10-5, .632)

Pairwise Ranking: 7th of 60 teams
National Rankings: #8/#7

This Season: 19-10-5 (.632) overall, 11-1-3-3 NCHC (4th)
Last Season: 23-10-8 overall (NCAA Midwest Regional Finalist), 12-6-6-4 NCHC (2nd)

2018-19 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 2.79 goals scored/game – 29th of 60 teams
Team Defense: 2.15 goals allowed/game – 10th of 60 teams
Power Play: 15.7% (22 of 140) – 44th of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 81.1% (103 of 127) – 33rd of 60 teams

Key Players: Senior F Jarid Lukosevicius (16-9-25), Freshman F Emilio Pettersen (6-20-26), Junior F Liam Finlay (13-19-32), Freshman F Cole Guttman (11-10-21), Sophomore D Ian Mitchell (4-17-21), Junior D Michael Davies (4-8-12), Sophomore G Devin Cooley (10-6-2, 1.89 GAA, .933 SV%, 4 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (4th season at UND, 90-50-19, .626)

Pairwise Ranking: 18th of 60 teams
National Rankings: #19/NR

This Season: 18-15-2 (.543) overall, 12-11-1-0 NCHC (5th)
Last Season: 17-13-10 (.550) overall (missed NCAA tournament), 8-10-6-1 NCHC (4th of 8 teams)

2018-19 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 2.60 goals scored/game – 37th of 60 teams
Team Defense: 2.40 goals allowed/game – 16th of 60 teams
Power Play: 14.9% (21 of 141) – 50th of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 79.6% (109 of 137) – 36th of 60 teams

Key Players: Sophomore F Jordan Kawaguchi (10-16-26), Senior F Nick Jones (7-11-18), Senior F Rhett Gardner (8-7-15), Junior F Cole Smith (5-11-16), Freshman F Mark Senden (6-8-14), Freshman D Jacob Bernard-Docker (5-11-16), Sophomore D Matt Kiersted (7-11-18), Junior D Colton Poolman (5-12-17), Sophomore G Peter Thome (5-5-0, 2.74 GAA, .884 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: February 2, 2019 (Denver, CO). DU’s Brett Stapley scored with just eighteen seconds remaining in the 3-on-3 overtime session to earn the extra conference point for the Pios. That point ended up being the difference in the standings between the schools, as Denver (11-10-3-3 in league play) finished in fourth place with 39 points, two ahead of fifth-place North Dakota (12-11-1-0; 37). In Friday’s opener, UND peppered Filip Larsson with nineteen shots on goal in the opening period (46 for the game) but lost 2-1 to the homestanding Pioneers.

Last Playoff Meeting: March 17, 2017 (Minneapolis, MN). North Dakota got an early third-period goal from junior forward Austin Poganski and made the lead hold up thanks to 21 saves by Cam Johnson. The 1-0 victory in the NCHC semifinals assured UND a berth in its fifteenth consecutive NCAA tournament (the longest active streak in Division I men’s ice hockey). The teams combined to go 0-for-7 with the man advantage. Denver had won thirteen games in a row coming into the contest.

A Recent Memory: April 7, 2016 (Tampa, Florida). In the semifinals of the NCAA Frozen Four, the two league rivals squared off in a tightly-contested contest. Senior forward Drake Caggiula scored twice early in the middle frame to stake UND to a 2-0 lead, but the Pioneers battled back with a pair of third period goals. The CBS line came through when it mattered most, with Nick Schmaltz scoring the game winner off of a faceoff win with 57 seconds remaining in the hockey game. North Dakota blocked 27 Denver shot attempts and goaltender Cam Johnson made 21 saves for the Fighting Hawks, who won the program’s eighth national title on the same sheet of ice two nights later.

Most Important Meeting: It’s hard to pick just one game, as the two teams have played four times for the national title. Denver defeated UND for the national championship in 1958, 1968, and 2005, while the Sioux downed the Pioneers in 1963. But the game that stands out in recent memory as “the one that got away” was DU’s 1-0 victory over the Fighting Sioux in the 2004 NCAA West Regional final (Colorado Springs, CO). That North Dakota team went 30-8-4 on the season (Dean Blais’ last behind the UND bench) and featured one of the deepest rosters in the past twenty years: Brandon Bochenski, Zach Parise, Brady Murray, Colby Genoway, Drew Stafford and David Lundbohm up front; Nick Fuher, Matt Jones, Matt Greene, and Ryan Hale on defense; and a couple of goaltending stalwarts in Jordan Parise and Jake Brandt.

Last Ten Games: UND has three victories and three ties over the past ten games, with Denver outscoring North Dakota 21-20 over that stretch. Four of the last six meetings have gone into overtime.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 146-126-15 (.535), although Denver enjoys a 74-54-4 (.576) advantage in games played at altitude. The teams first met in 1950, with North Dakota prevailing 18-3 in Denver.

Game News and Notes

North Dakota has not swept in Denver since 2003. Four current active UND players have multiple career goals against the Pios (Matt Kiersted, Colton Poolman, Hayden Shaw, and Cole Smith, with two each). Denver and North Dakota have been in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff every year since its inception (2014-2018), but of course only one of them can advance this season and become the only program to play in all six tourneys in league history. UND has advanced past the first round sixteen straight times, while Denver last missed the WCHA Final Five semifinals in 2013, the Pios’ final season in that conference. Since seven of Michigan’s nine titles were earned by 1964, I consider Denver (eight titles) and North Dakota (eight titles) to be the top two men’s college hockey programs of all time.

Media Coverage

All games of this weekend’s series (8:08 p.m. Central Time on Friday and Saturday; 7:08 p.m. Central Time on Sunday if necessary) will be available through Midco Sports Network, which is picking up the feed from Denver’s NCHC.tv broadcast. A high-definition webcast of the games will also be available to NCHC.tv subscribers. All UND men’s hockey games (home and away) can be heard on 96.1 FM and on stations across the UND Sports Network (as well as through the iHeart Radio app). Follow @UNDMHockey for real-time Twitter updates, or follow the action via live chat at UNDsports.com.

The Prediction

North Dakota does not want to get into a track meet with the Pios. UND definitely has a chance at taking this best-of-three series, with at least one of these tilts headed to overtime. If the Fighting Hawks can win the goaltending battle and end up on the plus side of the special teams ledger, they will head to St. Paul for the NCHC Frozen Faceoff. North Dakota has been at their best when the chips are down, and I see that trend continuing this weekend, with plenty of Green and White in the stands at Magness Arena to cheer them on this weekend and even more making the annual trek to the Twin Cities one week from today. UND 2-1, DU 3-2 (OT), UND 3-2 (OT).

As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Follow me on Twitter (@DBergerHockey) for more information and insight. Here’s to hockey!

Weekend Preview: North Dakota vs. Omaha

After a trip to the Frozen Four in 2015, Dean Blais could only manage a mark of 35-34-6 over his final two seasons behind the Omaha bench. He was replaced by Mike Gabinet (Omaha ’04), and Gabinet finished up his rookie campaign with an eerily similar record of 17-17-2.

Maverick fans were certainly hopeful that improvement was coming this season, but Omaha sputtered out of the gate with a record of 0-6-1. Things have certainly leveled off since then with a mixed bag of results, and the Mavs bring an overall record of 9-20-3 into this weekend’s road series at North Dakota (16-15-2).

Omaha has had a bit more offensive success than North Dakota this season (2.59 goals scored/per game for UNO; 2.55 goals scored/game for UND), although they have not been able to keep the puck out of their own net. If three goals is the magic number for success in men’s college hockey, here’s how the two teams stack up:

Omaha scoring three or more goals: 17 times
(including both games vs. North Dakota in January)

Omaha allowing three or more goals: 25 times
(including both games vs. North Dakota in January)

North Dakota scoring three or more goals: 16 times

North Dakota allowing three or more goals: 14 times

North Dakota is allowing 2.39 goals per contest (15th-best in the country); while Omaha clocks in at an abysmal 3.72 goals allowed per game (58th).

More to the point, UND has allowed three or more goals in both games of a weekend series only twice this season:

October 19-20, 2018 vs. Minnesota State: 4-7 L, 4-3 W
January 18-19, 2019 at Nebraska-Omaha: 4-3 W, 3-4 L

That has usually translated into splits, as North Dakota has held opponents to five total goals or less in twelve of sixteen series this season (aside from Minnesota State [ten] and Omaha [seven], Duluth scored six goals in a home series and Western Michigan scored eight at REA in November).

Omaha has struggled mightily in conference play this year, with only five victories (5-15-2-1). UNO has allowed a league-high 82 goals in NCHC play this season while scoring the second-fewest (51). By contrast, North Dakota (10-11-1-0 in league play) has scored 52 but allowed only 53.

Two familiar names in UND hockey history – Morelli and Ward – have been leading the charge for Mike Gabinet’s squad. Senior forward Mason Morelli (grandson of Reg Morelli; 19-13-32 this season) and freshman forward Taylor Ward (son of Dixon Ward; 8-18-26) rank 1st and 3rd in team scoring for the Mavericks. Those two followed in the footsteps of Josh Archibald (son of Jim), Dayn Belfour (son of Ed), and Dominic Zombo (son of Rick) as “legacy” players who followed Dean Blais down I-94 from Grand Forks to Omaha.

North Dakota hockey fans will also recognize another name on the Omaha roster. Junior goaltender Matej Tomek (0-1-0, 4.73 goals-against average, .845 save percentage in five appearances) spent the 2016-17 at UND, appearing in two games while backing up Cam Johnson. Tomek, who spent last season with the Waterloo Blackhawks of the USHL, is a 3rd round draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League (#90 overall in 2015)

Last year’s senior class at North Dakota (Cam Johnson, Trevor Olson, Austin Poganski, and Johnny Simonson) went 101-45-20 (.669) and became the fifteenth consecutive recruiting class to win at least 100 games. This year’s group (Ryan Anderson, Rhett Gardner, Joel Janatuinen, and Hayden Shaw) currently sits at 88-50-19 (.621) and will be unable to continue that impressive streak, as only ten possible victories remain on the schedule.

Currently, UND leads the nation in faceoff efficiency (57.3 percent); UNO is 56th at 44.9 percent. North Dakota outpaces Omaha in both Corsi (58.1 to 45.8 percent) and Fenwick (58.0 to 45.2 percent). Corsi measures the percentage of shot attempts by a team compared to that of its opponents; Fenwick measures the percentage of unblocked shot attempts by a team compared to that of its opponents.

After getting swept at Canisius back in January, UND saw its non-conference record drop to 6-4-1 (.591) on the season. After going 9-1-2 (.833) in non-conference play in 2015-16 and 7-2-2 (.727) out-of-conference in 2016-17, Brad Berry’s squad went just 6-2-4 (.667) last season and snapped its streak of fifteen consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.

As a whole, the NCHC fared extremely well in non-conference action, collecting a combined record of 50-21-8 (.684) and sporting a winning record against four of the other five leagues across the college hockey landscape (losing the head-to-head with the ECAC, 2-3-1). Here are the inter-conference records, from best to worst:

NCHC: 50-21-8 (.684)
Big Ten: 34-22-5 (.598)
Hockey East: 52-44-8 (.538)
ECAC: 43-46-6 (.484)
WCHA: 22-38-5 (.377)
Atlantic Hockey: 14-44-6 (.266)

Not only could the NCHC as a whole field four or even five teams in the NCAA tournament, but North Dakota’s record against Minnesota (1-0-0) and Wisconsin (2-0-0) will also help them specifically in Pairwise comparisons against all of the Big Ten teams. If the season ended today, St. Cloud State (1st in the Pairwise rankings), Duluth (3rd), Denver (6th), with Western Michigan (14th) on the bubble and North Dakota (20th), Colorado College (31st), Miami (34th), and Omaha (44th) even further back.

According to KRACH, Omaha has played the second-toughest schedule in the country this season; North Dakota’s slate of games ranks as the fifth-most difficult out of sixty men’s Division I hockey programs.

This weekend marks the last weekend of the regular season, and UND is currently in fifth place in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, four points behind fourth-place Western Michigan. At 10-11-1-0 (31 points) in league play, North Dakota will need to earn five more league points than the Broncos (11-10-1-1, 35 points) this weekend to secure home ice for the first round of the NCHC playoffs. Over the first five seasons of the league, the fourth-place finisher (final home ice spot) has averaged roughly 36 points (11-11-2-1). UND has hosted the first round of its league playoffs (WCHA/NCHC) for sixteen consecutive seasons.

If UND fans are hopeful that Miami can sweep WMU this weekend in Oxford, Ohio, there is this: MU hasn’t swept a league opponent since January 6-7, 2017 vs. St. Cloud State (a stretch of 30 series without a sweep) and are 2-12 in their last seven weekends against NCHC teams. The RedHawks lost a pair of one-goal games in Kalamazoo back in January

According to Jim Dahl of collegehockeyranked.com, UND is most likely to end up at #16 in the Pairwise with a sweep over Omaha and at #20 with a split. A Mavericks sweep would most likely drop North Dakota to #22.

On the injury front, North Dakota sophomore goaltender Peter Thome (upper body injury) has played well over the past two weekends in place of freshman netminder Adam Scheel, who suffered a lower body injury three weeks ago at Western Michigan. The timeline for Scheel’s return is officially listed as week to week.

Thome (2-2-0, 1.78 goals-against average, .928 save percentage over his last four games) helped UND earn splits vs. Duluth and at Colorado College.

Forwards Joel Janatuinen and Grant Mismash are also out this weekend, although Mismash has resumed skating. Senior center Nick Jones (undisclosed) is expected to return to the lineup against Omaha.

One bright spot for Omaha has been their power play efficiency; the Mavericks clock in at just under 24 percent (8th-best in the country). To this point of the season, 33 of UNO’s 83 goals have been scored with the man advantage. On the flip side, Omaha has been dreadful on the penalty kill, allowing 28 goals in 131 shorthanded situations (78.6 percent, 44th).

By comparison, UND’s power play has been stuck all season long and currently sits at just 15.0 percent (20 of 133; 50th). The Fighting Hawks have allowed 26 power play goals on 129 attempts (79.9 percent; 37th) for a special teams differential of minus-six.

Slow starts have plagued UNO this season, as the Mavericks have been outscored 43-24 in the first period and 42-27 in the second. The final frame has been a wash for Omaha (32 goals scored, 33 goals allowed). Overall this season, UNO is allowing 34 shots per game while generating an average of 28 shots on goal.

North Dakota has been best in first periods this season, outscoring opponents 34-20 and outshooting teams by a collective margin of 341-240. In 33 games, UND has put 1027 shots on goal (31.1/game) while allowing just 771 (23.4/game).

In a strange set of stats, Omaha senior netminder Evan Weninger has seen his numbers drop every season in college hockey:

2015-16: 13-8-0, 2.46 goals-against average, .923 save percentage
2016-17: 11-11-4, 2.94 goals-against average, .907 save percentage
2017-18: 15-14-1, 3.36 goals-against average, .899 save percentage
2018-19: 9-19-3, 3.56 goals-against average, .897 save percentage

Omaha Team Profile

Head Coach: Mike Gabinet (2nd season at UNO, 26-37-5, .419)

Pairwise Ranking: 44th of 60 teams
National Rankings: NR/NR

This Season: 9-20-3 (.328) overall, 5-15-2-1 NCHC (t-7th)
Last Season: 17-17-2 (.500) overall (missed NCAA tournament), 10-13-1-0 NCHC (t-5th)

Team Offense: 2.59 goals scored/game – 39th of 60 teams
Team Defense: 3.72 goals allowed/game – 58th of 60 teams
Power Play: 23.9% (33 of 138) – 8th of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 78.6% (103 of 131) – 44th of 60 teams

Key Players: Senior F Mason Morelli (19-13-32), Senior F Fredrik Olofsson (10-21-31), Junior F Zach Jordan (7-17-24), Freshman F Taylor Ward (8-18-26), Junior D Dean Stewart (5-15-20), Junior D Ryan Jones (0-11-11), Senior G Evan Weninger (9-19-3, 3.56 GAA, .897 SV%, 4 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (4th season at UND, 88-50-19, .621)

Pairwise Ranking: 20th of 60 teams
National Rankings: #19/NR

This Season: 16-15-2 (.515) overall, 10-11-1-0 NCHC (5th)
Last Season: 17-13-10 (.550) overall (missed NCAA tournament), 8-10-6-1 NCHC (4th of 8 teams)

2018-19 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 2.55 goals scored/game – 41st of 60 teams
Team Defense: 2.39 goals allowed/game – 15th of 60 teams
Power Play: 15.0% (20 of 133) – 50th of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 79.8% (103 of 129) – 37th of 60 teams

Key Players: Sophomore F Jordan Kawaguchi (8-16-24), Senior F Nick Jones (5-10-15), Senior F Rhett Gardner (8-6-14), Junior F Cole Smith (4-10-14), Freshman F Mark Senden (6-7-13), Freshman D Jacob Bernard-Docker (5-11-16), Sophomore D Matt Kiersted (7-10-17), Junior D Colton Poolman (5-10-15), Sophomore G Peter Thome (3-5-0, 2.80 GAA, .883 SV%)

By The Numbers:

Last meeting: January 19, 2019 (Omaha, NE). The Mavericks scored three unanswered goals over the final 27 minutes of the hockey game to come from behind for a 4-3 win. Eleven different players figured in on the scoring for UNO, who got 31 saves from senior netminder Evan Weninger. One night earlier, UND’s Jackson Keane scored the game-winner with less than two minutes remaining for a 4-3 road victory. North Dakota outshot Omaha 71-44 in the two-game series.

Last meeting in Grand Forks: March 10, 2018. In the second and decisive game of the NCHC quarterfinal series between North Dakota and Omaha, Fighting Hawks’ forward Nick Jones scored the game-tying goal at 10:45 of the third period and the game-winner 53 seconds into overtime to propel the Green and White to their sixteenth-consecutive Twin Cities tournament weekend (WCHA Final Five/NCHC Frozen Faceoff). UND won Friday’s opener 4-0 on the strength of three second-period goals (by Christian Wolanin, Jones, and Joel Janatuinen).

Most memorable meeting: The game that UND fans will long remember is the outdoor game played at TD Ameritrade Park (Omaha, Nebraska) on February 9th, 2013. One day after winning a tight 2-1 contest indoors, North Dakota throttled UNO 5-2 on a sunny, melty afternoon. Mavericks netminder John Faulkner was pulled after allowing three goals on five shots in just ten minutes of game action. In my opinion, this hockey weekend solidified the notion that for UND hockey, it’s always a home game.

Last ten: North Dakota has won six of the last ten contests between the schools, outscoring the Mavericks 35-27 over that stretch.

All-time: UND leads the all-time series 20-11-1 (.641), including a 9-6-1 (.594) record in games played in Grand Forks. North Dakota owns a record of 15-8-1 (.646) against the Mavericks since both teams joined the NCHC. The teams first met on November 19, 2010.

Game News and Notes

In 2015, both North Dakota and Omaha advanced to the Frozen Four but neither team made the championship game. UND fell to Boston University 5-3, while the Mavericks were upended 4-1 by eventual national champion Providence. Since joining the WCHA in 2011 (and later the NCHC), the Mavs have never reached the Twin Cities for the second weekend of the conference tournament despite having home ice in three of those eight years. North Dakota ended UNO’s season in the first round of the league playoffs one year ago (4-0, 4-3 OT). The Mavs are 2-11-1 on the road this season, UND is 10-6-1 at home. Hawks’ junior defenseman (and captain) Colton Poolman has two goals and twelve points in twelve career games against Omaha.

Media Coverage

Both games this weekend can be seen live on Midco Sports Network and Fox College Sports, with a high definition webcast of the series also available to NCHC.tv subscribers. All UND men’s hockey games (home and away) can be heard on stations across the UND Sports Network (as well as through the iHeart Radio app). The flagship station for the network is 96.1 FM (The Fox). Follow @UNDMHockey for real-time Twitter updates, or follow the action via live chat at UNDsports.com.

The Prediction

If the faceoff percentages and fancy stats (Corsi, Fenwick) are any indication, North Dakota will have the puck most of this weekend. The results of this series will rest on the goaltending efforts of Omaha’s Evan Weninger. In nine victories, he has allowed fifteen total goals (1.67 goals allowed/game) with four shutouts; in nineteen losses, he has given up 79 (4.16 goals allowed/game). The Fighting Hawks are still in the mix for home ice and will celebrate Senior Night on Saturday, and both of those things should translate into some intensity from the Green and White side. The first team to three goals will win each contest, and it will be North Dakota on back-to-back nights. UND 4-3, 3-2.

As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Follow me on Twitter (@DBergerHockey) for more information and insight. Here’s to hockey!

Weekend Preview: North Dakota at Colorado College

After winning just twenty total games over his first three seasons behind the CC bench, head coach Mike Haviland won fifteen games (15-17-5) during the 2017-18 campaign and took Denver to three games in the first round of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference playoffs (2-0 W, 2-3 L, 1-6 L).

The feeling among the Tiger faithful has always been that new blood behind the bench would eventually translate into new life on the ice, and CC fans are finally being rewarded for their patience. Colorado College (12-16-4) is averaging well over three goals per game since the beginning of last season after averaging just a shade over two goals per contest (215 goals in 107 games) in Haviland’s first three campaigns.

As Brad Schlossman pointed out, Colorado College is third in the NCHC in scoring offense this year after finishing last in that category in each of the past five seasons.

Many familiar names have been popping up on the scoresheet for the Tigers, with twelve forwards reaching double-digit point totals: senior Trey Bradley (12-15-27), senior Westin Michaud (10-13-23), senior Trevor Gooch (10-10-20), Senior Mason Bergh (5-15-20), junior Chris Wilkie (6-13-19 in 20 games), freshman Ben Copeland (9-9-18), freshman Grant Cruikshank (9-7-16), junior Alex Berardinelli (8-8-16), sophomore Christiano Versich (4-9-13), junior Nick Halloran (4-9-13 in 20 games), sophomore Troy Conzo (6-6-12), and freshman Erik Middendorf (6-4-10).

Ben Copeland scored five of his nine goals last weekend against Western Michigan. Sadly, it was announced back in January that Nick Halloran is out for the season with a lower-body injury, so the prolific Halloran-Bergh-Bradley line that was together all of last year is no more.

By comparison, only five UND forwards have collected ten or more points so far this season: sophomore Jordan Kawaguchi (8-15-23), senior Nick Jones (5-10-15), senior Rhett Gardner (8-6-14), freshman Mark Senden (6-7-13), and junior Cole Smith (3-10-13).

Nick Jones did not play in last weekend’s home series against Duluth but has made the trip to Colorado Springs; his availability is still in question. Grant Mismash collected five goals and four assists in his first 21 games of this season before suffering a season-ending knee injury against St. Cloud State.

North Dakota fans should have noticed another familiar name in the Colorado College lineup: junior Chris Wilkie (6-13-19) has recovered from an injury and appeared in twenty games for the Tigers this season after transferring from UND (where he spent two years and won a national title) and sitting out last season (per NCAA rules).

Last year’s senior class at North Dakota (Cam Johnson, Trevor Olson, Austin Poganski, and Johnny Simonson) went 101-45-20 (.669) and became the fifteenth consecutive recruiting class to win at least 100 games. This year’s group (Ryan Anderson, Rhett Gardner, Joel Janatuinen, and Hayden Shaw) currently sits at 87-49-19 (.623) and will be unable to continue that impressive streak, as only twelve possible victories remain on the schedule.

Currently, UND leads the nation in faceoff efficiency (57.2 percent); CC is 57th at 45.0 percent. North Dakota outpaces Colorado College in both Corsi (58.2 to 48.9 percent) and Fenwick (58.1 to 48.7 percent). Corsi measures the percentage of shot attempts by a team compared to that of its opponents; Fenwick measures the percentage of unblocked shot attempts by a team compared to that of its opponents.

After getting swept at Canisius last month, UND saw its non-conference record drop to 6-4-1 (.591) on the season. After going 9-1-2 (.833) in non-conference play in 2015-16 and 7-2-2 (.727) out-of-conference in 2016-17, Brad Berry’s squad went just 6-2-4 (.667) last season and snapped its streak of fifteen consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.

As a whole, the NCHC fared extremely well in non-conference action, collecting a combined record of 50-21-8 (.684) and sporting a winning record against four of the other five leagues across the college hockey landscape (losing the head-to-head with the ECAC, 2-3-1). Here are the inter-conference records, from best to worst:

NCHC: 50-21-8 (.684)
Big Ten: 34-22-5 (.598)
Hockey East: 52-44-8 (.538)
ECAC: 43-46-6 (.484)
WCHA: 22-38-5 (.377)
Atlantic Hockey: 14-44-6 (.266)

Not only could the NCHC as a whole field four or even five teams in the NCAA tournament, but North Dakota’s record against Minnesota (1-0-0) and Wisconsin (2-0-0) will also help them specifically in Pairwise comparisons against all of the Big Ten teams. If the season ended today, St. Cloud State (1st in the Pairwise rankings), Duluth (3rd), Denver (4th), and Western Michigan (10th) would make the national tourney, with North Dakota (18th) on the outside looking in and Colorado College (28th), Miami (34th), and Omaha (43rd) even further back.

According to KRACH, Colorado College has played the 13th-toughest schedule in the country this season; North Dakota’s slate of games ranks as the fourth-most difficult out of sixty men’s Division I hockey programs.

This weekend marks the third of four consecutive conference opponents to finish out the regular season, and the schedule has lightened up considerably. Here are the remaining series for the Fighting Hawks:

March 1-2: at Colorado College (#28 in the Pairwise)
March 8-9: vs. Nebraska-Omaha (#43 in the Pairwise)

UND (#18 in the Pairwise) is currently in fifth place in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, six points behind fourth-place Denver. At 9-10-1-0 (28 points) in league play, North Dakota will likely need to win its final four conference games and get some help to secure home ice for the first round of the NCHC playoffs. Over the first five seasons of the league, the fourth-place finisher (final home ice spot) has averaged roughly 36 points (11-11-2-1).

According to Jim Dahl of collegehockeyranked.com, UND is most likely to end up at #16 in the Pairwise with a sweep over Colorado College and at #18 with a split. A Tigers sweep would most likely drop North Dakota to #21.

With sweeps over both Colorado College and Omaha, the Fighting Hawks would most likely end the regular season at #14 in the Pairwise with a chance of climbing as high as #11. Three wins over the final two weekends of the regular season would most likely land UND at #17; two wins in that span would most likely place North Dakota at #19.

On the injury front, North Dakota sophomore goaltender Peter Thome (upper body injury) returned to the lineup last weekend and played well in place of freshman netminder Adam Scheel, who suffered a lower body injury two weeks ago at Western Michigan. The timeline for Scheel’s return is officially listed as week to week. Forwards Joel Janatuinen and Grant Mismash are also out this weekend. Senior center Nick Jones (undisclosed) traveled with the team but is officially questionable for this weekend.

Colorado College Team Profile

Head Coach: Mike Haviland (5th season at CC, 47-112-17, .315)

Pairwise Ranking: 28th of 60 teams
National Rankings: NR/NR

This Season: 12-16-4 overall (.438), 6-11-3-0 NCHC (6th)
Last Season: 15-17-5 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 8-12-4-3 NCHC (t-5th of 8 teams)

2018-19 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.12 goals scored/game – 15th of 60 teams
Team Defense: 2.84 goals allowed/game – 34th of 60 teams
Power Play: 18.4% (25 of 136) – 30th of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 79.4% (77 of 97) – 35th of 60 teams

Key players: Senior F Trey Bradley (12-15-27), Senior F Westin Michaud (10-13-23), Senior F Trevor Gooch (10-10-20), Senior F Mason Bergh (5-15-20), Junior F Chris Wilkie (6-13-19 in 20 games), Freshman D Bryan Yoon (1-17-18), Junior D Kristian Blumenschein (2-6-8), Senior D Andrew Farny (0-7-7), Junior G Alex Leclerc (12-15-4, 2.74 GAA, .912 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (4th season at UND, 87-49-19, .623)

Pairwise Ranking: 18th of 60 teams
National Rankings: #20/NR

This Season: 15-14-2 (.516) overall, 9-10-1-0 NCHC (5th)
Last Season: 17-13-10 (.550) overall (missed NCAA tournament), 8-10-6-1 NCHC (4th of 8 teams)

2018-19 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 2.61 goals scored/game – 39th of 60 teams
Team Defense: 2.42 goals allowed/game – 20th of 60 teams
Power Play: 15.6% (19 of 122) – 46th of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 81.0% (98 of 121) – 33rd of 60 teams

Key Players: Sophomore F Jordan Kawaguchi (8-15-23), Senior F Nick Jones (5-10-15), Senior F Rhett Gardner (8-6-14), Junior F Cole Smith (3-10-13), Freshman F Mark Senden (6-7-13), Freshman D Jacob Bernard-Docker (5-11-16), Sophomore D Matt Kiersted (6-9-15), Junior D Colton Poolman (5-9-14), Sophomore G Peter Thome (2-4-0, 3.21 GAA, .855 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: January 12, 2019 (Grand Forks, ND). North Dakota squandered a two-goal lead before sophomore forward Jordan Kawaguchi netted the game-winner in the opening minute of overtime for a 3-2 victory and a sweep of the weekend series. UND also needed overtime on Friday night, with Ludvig Hoff scoring late in the extra session for a 4-3 win.

Last Meeting in Colorado Springs: October 28, 2017. North Dakota freshman forward Grant Mismash netted two goals and paced UND to a 6-4 victory over the Tigers. Colorado College won Friday’s opener 2-1 behind 26 saves from Alex Leclerc and one goal apiece from Mason Bergh and Nick Halloran.

Most Important Meeting: March 27, 1997. UND defeated Colorado College, 6-2, in the Frozen Four Semifinals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Two nights later, North Dakota downed Boston University, 6-4, to claim its sixth NCAA Championship. North Dakota and Colorado College also met in the 2001 East Regional (Worcester, Mass.), with UND prevailing, 4-1.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 159-83-11 (.650), although the Tigers hold a slight edge (59-54-4, .521) in games played in Colorado Springs. The teams first met in 1948.

Last Ten: North Dakota has seven wins in the last ten meetings between the teams, outscoring CC 38-23 over that span. UND had gone unbeaten in 14 straight (13-0-1) against the Tigers until three of the last four series between the schools ended in splits.

Game News and Notes

Colorado College is just 7-5-1 (.577) when leading after two periods of play and have been outscored 37-28 in third periods and overtime sessions this season. By comparison, UND is 4-2-1 (.643) in those situations and have outscored opponents 28-26 over the final frames. These two coaching staffs coached against each other at the AHL and NHL levels prior to the NCHC. North Dakota forwards Rhett Gardner and Joel Janatuinen each have five career goals against Colorado College. CC has won two national titles (1950, 1957). Since 1957, the Tigers have appeared in the NCAA tournament thirteen times (most recently in 2011) and advanced to three Frozen Fours (1996, 1997, 2005).

Media Coverage

Friday’s game will be broadcast by CBS Sports Network, with Saturday’s rematch only available via high-definition webcast at NCHC.tv. All UND men’s hockey games (home and away) can be heard on stations across the UND Sports Network (as well as through the iHeart Radio app). The flagship station for the network is 96.1 FM (The Fox). Follow @UNDMHockey for real-time Twitter updates, or follow the action via live chat at UNDsports.com.

The Prediction

In almost every UND/CC matchup that I can remember, North Dakota has had an advantage in scoring depth. That is not the case this season, and the harsh reality is that the Fighting Hawks cannot be counted on to score more than two goals on consecutive nights. Colorado College also has the goaltending advantage and much more experience on the wider sheet of ice. Since the Fighting Hawks needed overtime in both home games against the Tigers, I’ve got to call a split in this one. UND 3-2, CC 3-2.

As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Follow me on Twitter (@DBergerHockey) for more information and insight. Here’s to hockey!

Weekend Preview: North Dakota vs. Minnesota Duluth

March 17th, 2018. Xcel Energy Center. St. Paul, Minnesota. North Dakota and Minnesota Duluth square off in the third-place game of the NCHC Frozen Faceoff with NCAA tournament hopes hanging in the balance. UND defeats the Bulldogs 4-1, and both teams are left to play the waiting game.

According to twincities.com:

After losing to the Fighting Hawks, UMD needed a win by either Clarkson or Providence to clinch an NCAA tournament berth. Both teams lost, leaving just one obscure scenario remaining for Duluth to continue playing.

Notre Dame’s overtime goal against Ohio State just before 10:00 p.m. (on St. Patrick’s Day) was the exclamation point on that scenario, forcing a tie between the Bulldogs and Minnesota for 12th in the Pairwise rankings — the formula used to select at-large teams and seed the 16-team field.

Notre Dame’s win gave the Bulldogs the tiebreaker for 12th in the Pairwise as UMD’s Ratings Percentage Index — a part of the Pairwise formula — was one ten-thousandth of a point (.0001) higher than the Gophers.

Typically, finishing 13th or 14th in the Pairwise gets a team into the tournament, but not (last) season, as No. 13 Minnesota and No. 14 North Dakota learned. Because four teams — Air Force (Atlantic Hockey), Michigan Tech (WCHA), Boston University (Hockey East) and Princeton (ECAC) — instead of the usual one or two from outside the bubble won their conference tournament for an automatic bid, that meant No. 12 was the cutoff for at-large teams.

With that unfortunate news, North Dakota saw its streak of fifteen consecutive NCAA tournament appearances come to an end, while Duluth took advantage of its program-record fourth straight tourney bid, winning four consecutive one-goal games to claim the program’s second national title:

Minnesota Duluth 3, Minnesota State 2 (OT)
Minnesota Duluth 2, Air Force 1
Minnesota Duluth 2, Ohio State 1
Minnesota Duluth 2, Notre Dame 1

Before UND’s victory at the 2018 NCHC Frozen Faceoff, Scott Sandelin’s crew had won eight consecutive games against the Green and White. That losing streak for North Dakota was the longest against one team since Wisconsin won nine in a row from 1987-89.

Last season, Scott Sandelin brought in five first-year defensemen as a part of a ten-player freshman class. Three of those blueliners – Mikey Anderson, Scott Perunovich, and Dylan Samberg – played for the United States at the World Junior Championships. That trio joined teammates Joey Anderson and Riley Tufte, both sophomore forwards. Most impressively, the Bulldogs only gave up 2.09 goals/game over the course of the 2017-18 season with a relatively young d-corps.

Joey Anderson gave up his final two seasons of eligibility to sign a three-year entry level contract with the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. Anderson, who collected 23 goals and 64 points in 75 career college games, underwent surgery back in November to repair a broken ankle; he has returned to the Devils’ lineup and appeared in seven games this month, with one goal (shorthanded) on ten shots and an even plus-minus rating while averaging almost fourteen minutes of ice time per game.

Duluth’s Scott Perunovich (3-21-24 in 28 games this season) is in the top 20 nationally in scoring by a defenseman. Perunovich, who led the Bulldogs in scoring a season ago with a scoring line of 11-25-36 in 42 games played, was drafted in the second round (#45 overall) by the St. Louis Blues in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. The sophomore blueliner from Hibbing, Minnesota will face some pressure to sign with the Blues at the conclusion of this season.

North Dakota was not immune to the early departure bug during the 2018 offseason, as defenseman Christian Wolanin (12-23-35 in 2017-18, 22-50-72 in 109 career games at North Dakota) and forward Shane Gersich (13-16-29 in 2017-18, 43-34-77 in 117 career games at North Dakota) each gave up his senior season to sign a pro contract (Wolanin with Ottawa, Gersich with Washington).

And the previous three summers haven’t been any easier for fans of the Green and White, as multiple players have left eligibility on the table to join the professional ranks (years of eligibility remaining at the time of signing):

2017: Forward Brock Boeser (2), Forward Tyson Jost (3), Defenseman Tucker Poolman (1)

2016: Forward Luke Johnson (1), Forward Nick Schmaltz (2), Defenseman Paul LaDue (1), Defenseman Troy Stecher (1), Defenseman Keaton Thompson (1)

2015: Defenseman Jordan Schmaltz (1), Goaltender Zane McIntyre (1)

In 2014, forward Rocco Grimaldi left after his sophomore campaign to sign with the Florida Panthers (NHL). In 2013, defenseman Derek Forbort signed with the Los Angeles Kings after his junior year. North Dakota also lost two players (Brock Nelson and Aaron Dell) to early departures in 2012 and two others (Jason Gregoire and Brett Hextall) in 2011.

Last year’s senior class at North Dakota (Cam Johnson, Trevor Olson, Austin Poganski, and Johnny Simonson) went 101-45-20 (.669) and became the fifteenth consecutive recruiting class to win at least 100 games. This year’s group (Ryan Anderson, Rhett Gardner, Joel Janatuinen, and Hayden Shaw) currently sits at 86-48-19 (.624) and would need fourteen more victories in the final fifteen games remaining on the schedule (at most) to continue that impressive streak.

Currently, UND leads the nation in faceoff efficiency (57.4 percent); Duluth is 10th at 53.6 percent. Duluth barely outpaces North Dakota in both Corsi (60.5 to 58.7 percent) and Fenwick (60.8 to 58.4 percent). Corsi measures the percentage of shot attempts by a team compared to that of its opponents; Fenwick measures the percentage of unblocked shot attempts by a team compared to that of its opponents.

After getting swept at Canisius last month, UND saw its non-conference record drop to 6-4-1 (.591) on the season. After going 9-1-2 (.833) in non-conference play in 2015-16 and 7-2-2 (.727) out-of-conference in 2016-17, Brad Berry’s squad went just 6-2-4 (.667) last season and snapped its streak of fifteen consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.

As a whole, the NCHC fared extremely well in non-conference action, collecting a combined record of 50-21-8 (.684) and sporting a winning record against four of the other five leagues across the college hockey landscape (losing the head-to-head with the ECAC, 2-3-1). Here are the inter-conference records, from best to worst:

NCHC: 50-21-8 (.684)
Big Ten: 34-22-5 (.598)
Hockey East: 52-44-8 (.538)
ECAC: 43-46-6 (.484)
WCHA: 22-38-5 (.377)
Atlantic Hockey: 14-44-6 (.266)

Not only could the NCHC as a whole field four or even five teams in the NCAA tournament, but North Dakota’s record against Minnesota (1-0-0) and Wisconsin (2-0-0) will also help them specifically in Pairwise comparisons against all of the Big Ten teams. If the season ended today, St. Cloud State (1st in the Pairwise rankings), Duluth (3rd), Denver (4th), and Western Michigan (8th) would make the national tourney, with North Dakota (21st) on the outside looking in and Colorado College (26th), Miami (38th), and Omaha (40th) even further back.

According to KRACH, Duluth has played the toughest schedule in the country this season; North Dakota’s slate of games ranks as the fourth-most difficult out of sixty men’s Division I hockey programs.

This weekend marks the second of four consecutive conference opponents to finish out the regular season, and the schedule lightens up after this weekend’s action. Here are the remaining series for the Fighting Hawks:

February 22-23: vs. #3 Minnesota Duluth
March 1-2: at Colorado College
March 8-9: vs. Nebraska-Omaha

UND is currently in fifth place in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, three points behind fourth-place Denver. However, the Pioneers have a game in hand due to a contest at Colorado College that was rescheduled for Tuesday, February 26th due to the weather. At 8-9-1-0 (25 points) in league play, North Dakota will likely need four or five more victories over its final six conference games to secure home ice for the first round of the NCHC playoffs. Over the first five seasons of the league, the fourth-place finisher (final home ice spot) has averaged roughly 36 points (11-11-2-1).

According to Jim Dahl of collegehockeyranked.com, UND is most likely to end up at #15 in the Pairwise with a sweep over Duluth and at #20 with a split. A Bulldogs sweep would most likely keep North Dakota at #21.

On the injury front, North Dakota sophomore goaltender Peter Thome (upper body injury) will return to the lineup in place of freshman netminder Adam Scheel, who suffered a lower body injury in Saturday night’s contest at Western Michigan. The timeline for Scheel’s return is officially listed as week to week. Forwards Joel Janatuinen and Grant Mismash are also out this weekend. Senior center Nick Jones practiced earlier this week but sat out Thursday’s session (undisclosed) and is officially questionable for this weekend.

Minnesota-Duluth Team Profile

Head Coach: Scott Sandelin (19th season at UMD, 358-308-87, .533)

Pairwise Ranking: 3rd of 60 teams
National Rankings: #3/#3

This Season: 18-8-2 (.679) overall, 11-6-1-0 NCHC (2nd)
Last Season: 25-16-3 (.602) overall (NCAA national champions), 13-11-0-0 NCHC (3rd)

2018-19 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.13 goals scored/game – 13th of 60 teams
Team Defense: 1.82 goals allowed/game – 3rd of 60 teams
Power Play: 23.0% (23 of 100) – 11th of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 91.8% (90 of 98 ) – 1st of 60 teams

Key Players: Sophomore F Justin Richards (10-17-27), Senior F Parker Mackay (11-11-22), Sophomore F Nick Swaney (12-8-20), Senior F Peter Krieger (4-13-17), Junior F Riley Tufte (5-8-13), Sophomore D Scott Perunovich (3-21-24), Sophomore D Mikey Anderson (4-9-13), Junior D Nick Wolff (3-10-13), Junior G Hunter Shepard (18-8-2, 1.73 GAA, .924 SV%, 5 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (4th season at UND, 86-48-19, .624)

Pairwise Ranking: 21st of 60 teams
National Rankings: #22/NR

This Season: 14-13-2 (.517) overall, 8-9-1-0 NCHC (5th)
Last Season: 17-13-10 (.550) overall (missed NCAA tournament), 8-10-6-1 NCHC (4th of 8 teams)

2018-19 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 2.59 goals scored/game – 41st of 60 teams
Team Defense: 2.45 goals allowed/game – 20th of 60 teams
Power Play: 15.8% (18 of 114) – 46th of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 81.2% (91 of 112) – 30th of 60 teams

Key Players: Sophomore F Jordan Kawaguchi (8-13-21), Senior F Nick Jones (5-10-15), Senior F Rhett Gardner (8-4-12), Junior F Cole Smith (2-9-11), Freshman D Jacob Bernard-Docker (5-10-15), Sophomore D Matt Kiersted (6-9-15), Junior D Colton Poolman (4-9-13), Sophomore G Peter Thome (1-3-0, 3.75 GAA, .838 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: December 1, 2018 (Duluth, Minnesota). North Dakota sophomore forward Jordan Kawaguchi (goal, assist) figured in on both UND goals in a 2-1 road victory over the Bulldogs. Tanner Laderoute potted the lone goal for Duluth. All three goals were scored in the first period. UMD dominated Friday’s opener 5-0 behind two power play goals from Kobe Roth, two points each from Mikey Anderson, Parker Mackay, and Justin Richards, and a 22-save performance from Hunter Shepard.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: February 20, 2016. Brock Boeser (game-winning goal, assist) and Drake Caggiula (primary assist on the GWG) were the heroes for North Dakota in a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over Duluth. The Bulldogs, who got on the board late in the middle frame on a Cal Decowski goal, outshot the Green and White 16-8 in the third period but could not put a second goal past UND netminder Cam Johnson, who finished with 27 saves. One night earlier, Austin Poganski scored on a penalty shot in overtime to break a 1-1 tie and send the home fans happy.

Most Important Meeting: March 22, 1984 (Lake Placid, NY) Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota met in the national semifinal game, with the Bulldogs defeating the Fighting Sioux 2-1 in overtime to advance to the championship. UND went on to defeat Michigan State 6-5 (OT) for third place, while Duluth fell to Bowling Green 5-4 in four overtimes, the longest championship game ever played.

The Meeting That Never Was: Both teams advanced to the 2011 NCAA Frozen Four at Xcel Energy Center (St. Paul, Minnesota). UND could not get past Michigan, falling 2-0 despite outshooting the Wolverines 40-20. In the other national semifinal, Minnesota-Duluth defeated Notre Dame 4-3 and rode that momentum to the title game. The Bulldogs took the Wolverines to overtime before senior forward Kyle Schmidt scored the game winner and earned UMD their first and only national championship. North Dakota won two of the three games against Duluth that season, outscoring Scott Sandelin’s team 11-5.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 146-84-10 (.629), although the Bulldogs have won nine of the last eleven contests. North Dakota holds a record of 81-36-3 (.688) in games played in Grand Forks. The teams first met in 1954, with North Dakota winning the first ten games between the schools by a combined score of 72-16. UMD’s first win over the Fighting Sioux (a 3-2 road victory on December 18th, 1959) did not sit well with the defending national champions. UND defeated Duluth 13-2 the following night.

Last Ten: Duluth is 8-2-0 (.800) in the last ten games between the teams, outscoring the Hawks 38-19 over that stretch. Eight of the past ten contests have taken place in the state of Minnesota, with the Bulldogs winning six times. North Dakota’s last victory over Duluth at Ralph Engelstad Arena was on February 20th, 2016.

Game News and Notes

The Bulldogs are 12-2-0 when scoring first and 6-6-2 when allowing the first goal. North Dakota is 9-5-1 at home this season; Duluth is 8-4-1 on the road. Duluth junior forward Jade Miller (Minto, ND) is the only North Dakotan on the Bulldog roster (17 from Minnesota, two each from Alberta and Ontario, and one each from California, Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Saskatchewan). Senior forward Peter Krieger (Oakdale, Minnesota) is a transfer from Alaska Fairbanks. Both head coaches this weekend are alumni of the University of North Dakota; Brad Berry (1983-86) and Scott Sandelin (1982-86) both played for UND under John “Gino” Gasparini. In 2015, Boston University defeated both Minnesota-Duluth (3-2) and North Dakota (5-3) in the NCAA tournament on their way to the championship game. The Terriers fell 4-3 to the Providence Friars, one win short of a national title.

Media Coverage

Friday’s opener will be televised on CBS Sports Network and available via webcast at CBS Sports.com. Saturday’s game will be available on Midco Sports Network and streamed live in high definition via NCHC.tv. All UND men’s hockey games (home and away) can be heard on 96.1 FM and on stations across the UND Sports Network (as well as through the iHeart Radio app). Follow @UNDMHockey for real-time Twitter updates, or follow the action via live chat at UNDsports.com

The Prediction

All signs point to a Bulldog sweep in this one, but I see North Dakota rebounding for at least a tie (and maybe more) in Saturday’s rematch. The home team will need to play five-on-five and get above-average goaltending to have any sort of success this weekend. I’ll give the Fighting Hawks the extra point in a shootout victory in Game Two. UMD 4-2, 2-2 tie (UND wins the shootout).

As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Follow me on Twitter (@DBergerHockey) for more information and insight. Here’s to hockey!

Weekend Preview: North Dakota at Western Michigan

North Dakota has only lost twice in ten games at Western Michigan in the short history of the series, but those losses came in UND’s last trip to Kalamazoo almost exactly two seasons ago. This year, the #9-ranked Broncos are equally tough at home, with a sparkling 10-2-1 mark at Lawson Ice Arena. The Fighting Hawks are just 3-7-1 on the road this season.

UND’s roster features eight NHL draft picks, the most of any NCHC program: goaltender Peter Thome (Columbus, Round 6/#155 in 2016), defensemen Jacob Bernard-Docker (Ottawa, Round 1/#26 in 2018) and Jonny Tychonick (Ottawa, Round 2/#48 in 2018), and forwards Gavin Hain (Philadelphia, Round 6/#174 in 2018), Grant Mismash (Nashville, Round 2/#61 in 2017), Collin Adams (New York Islanders, Round 6/#170 in 2016), Rhett Gardner (Dallas, Round 4/#116 in 2016), and Jasper Weatherby (San Jose, Round 4/#102 in 2018).

Western Michigan has three NHL draft picks on its roster: defenseman Mattias Samuelsson (Buffalo, Round 2/#32 in 2018) and forwards Wade Allison (Philadelphia, Round 2/#52 in 2016) and Hugh McGing (St. Louis, Round 5/#138 in 2018).

A fourth NHL draft pick (forward Paul Cotter, Vegas, Round 4/#115 in 2018) left the Broncos to sign with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.

In its thirteen home games this season, Western Michigan has outscored opponents 50-31, with five of their ten victories at Lawson Ice Arena coming by a single goal. The Broncos have gone 6-1-1-1 over their first four home conference series this season (vs. Omaha, Duluth, Miami, and Denver).

For the Broncos, scoring has come from expected and unexpected sources. Senior forward Colton Conrad and junior forwards Hugh McGing and Dawson DiPeitro have carried the load for the better part of a year while third-year forward Wade Allison recovers from two separate injuries. Those four have posted the following lines over the past three seasons:

2016-17: 81 total points in 116 combined games played
2017-18: 122 total points in 120 combined games played
2018-19: 72 total points in 86 combined games played

The secondary scoring has been the biggest surprise, vaulting Western Michigan to 6th nationally in team offense (3.54 goals scored/game). Sophomore forwards Josh Passolt (15-10-25) and Ethan Frank (13-9-22) managed just 23 points between them in 65 games played a year ago but have crushed that total over their first 48 combined games this season.

And aside from these six forwards, the Broncos have two other players (junior defenseman Cam Lee and sophomore forward Austin Rueschhoff) averaging at least a half point per contest (by comparison, North Dakota has only three players – forwards Nick Jones and Jordan Kawaguchi and defensemen Jacob Bernard-Docker – at .5/game or better).

Last year’s senior class at North Dakota (Cam Johnson, Trevor Olson, Austin Poganski, and Johnny Simonson) went 101-45-20 (.669) and became the fifteenth consecutive recruiting class to win at least 100 games. This year’s group (Ryan Anderson, Rhett Gardner, Joel Janatuinen, and Hayden Shaw) currently sits at 85-47-19 (.626) and would need fifteen more victories in the final seventeen games remaining on the schedule (at most) to continue that impressive streak.

Currently, UND leads the nation in faceoff efficiency (58.1 percent); Western Michigan is 8th at 53.8 percent. North Dakota also outpaces the Broncos in both Corsi (59.0 to 47.3 percent) and Fenwick (58.9 to 49.5 percent). Corsi measures the percentage of shot attempts by a team compared to that of its opponents; Fenwick measures the percentage of unblocked shot attempts by a team compared to that of its opponents.

After getting swept at Canisius last month, UND saw its non-conference record drop to 6-4-1 (.591) on the season. After going 9-1-2 (.833) in non-conference play in 2015-16 and 7-2-2 (.727) out-of-conference in 2016-17, Brad Berry’s squad went just 6-2-4 (.667) last season and snapped its streak of fifteen consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.

As a whole, the NCHC fared extremely well in non-conference action, collecting a combined record of 50-21-8 (.684) and sporting a winning record against four of the other five leagues across the college hockey landscape (losing the head-to-head with the ECAC, 2-3-1). Here are the inter-conference records, from best to worst:

NCHC: 50-21-8 (.684)
Big Ten: 34-22-5 (.598)
Hockey East: 52-44-8 (.538)
ECAC: 43-46-6 (.484)
WCHA: 22-38-5 (.377)
Atlantic Hockey: 14-44-6 (.266)

Not only could the NCHC as a whole field four or even five teams in the NCAA tournament, but North Dakota’s record against Minnesota (1-0-0) and Wisconsin (2-0-0) will also help them specifically in Pairwise comparisons against all of the Big Ten teams. If the season ended today, St. Cloud State (1st in the Pairwise rankings), Duluth (4th), Denver (7th), and Western Michigan (10th) would make the national tourney, with North Dakota (21st) on the outside looking in and Colorado College (25th), Miami (39th), and Omaha (41st) even further back.

According to KRACH, Western Michigan has played the eighth-toughest schedule in the country this season; North Dakota’s slate of games ranks as the tenth-most difficult out of sixty men’s Division I hockey programs.

This weekend marks the first of four consecutive conference opponents to finish out the regular season, and the February schedule is definitely more challenging than the slate of games in March. Here are the remaining series for the Fighting Hawks:

February 15-16: at #9 Western Michigan
February 22-23: vs. #4 Minnesota Duluth
March 1-2: at Colorado College
March 8-9: vs. Nebraska-Omaha

UND is currently in fifth place in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, three points behind fourth-place Denver. However, the Pioneers have a game in hand due to a contest at Colorado College that was rescheduled for Tuesday, February 26th due to the weather. At 7-8-1-0 (22 points) in league play, North Dakota will likely need five more victories over its final eight conference games to secure home ice for the first round of the NCHC playoffs. Over the first five seasons of the league, the fourth-place finisher (final home ice spot) has averaged roughly 36 points (11-11-2-1).

According to Jim Dahl of collegehockeyranked.com, UND would move up to 16th in the Pairwise with a sweep of Western Michigan and to 19th with a split. A Broncos sweep would keep North Dakota at 21.

On the injury front, North Dakota junior defenseman Colton Poolman (4-7-11, plus-7) will return to the lineup this weekend after missing the games at Denver (the first two of his collegiate career after appearing in 105 straight contests) with an undisclosed injury. Forwards Joel Janatuinen and Grant Mismash and goaltender Peter Thome are also out this weekend.

Western Michigan Team Profile

Head Coach: Andy Murray (8th season at WMU, 134-125-35, .515)

Pairwise Ranking: 10th of 60 teams
National Rankings: #9/#9

This Season: 16-9-1 overall (.635), 9-6-1-1 NCHC (3rd)
Last Season: 15-19-2 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 10-13-1-0 NCHC (t-5th)

2018-19 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.54 goals scored/game – 6th of 60 teams
Team Defense: 2.85 goals allowed/game – 32nd of 60 teams
Power Play: 18.1% (21 of 116) – 31st of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 80.3% (102 of 127) – 33rd of 60 teams

Key Players: Senior F Colt Conrad (8-20-28), Junior F Wade Allison (3-3-6 in twelve games), Junior F Hugh McGing (12-14-26), Junior F Dawson DePietro (4-8-12), Sophomore F Josh Passolt (15-10-25), Sophomore F Ethen Frank (13-9-22), Junior D Cam Lee (6-14-20), Freshman D Mattias Samuelsson (4-6-10), Senior G Trevor Gorsuch (14-5-1, 2.31 GAA, .923 SV%, 2 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (4th season at UND, 85-47-19, .626)

Pairwise Ranking: 21st of 60 teams
National Rankings: #22/NR

This Season: 13-12-2 (.519) overall, 7-8-1-0 NCHC (5th)
Last Season: 17-13-10 (.550) overall (missed NCAA tournament), 8-10-6-1 NCHC (4th of 8 teams)

2018-19 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 2.52 goals scored/game – 46th of 60 teams
Team Defense: 2.44 goals allowed/game – 20th of 60 teams
Power Play: 15.2% (16 of 105) – 48th of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 81.6% (84 of 103) – 29th of 60 teams

Key Players: Sophomore F Jordan Kawaguchi (6-13-19), Senior F Nick Jones (5-10-15 in twenty games), Senior F Rhett Gardner (8-3-11), Junior F Cole Smith (2-7-9), Freshman D Jacob Bernard-Docker (4-10-14), Sophomore D Matt Kiersted (5-7-12), Junior D Colton Poolman (4-7-11), Freshman G Adam Scheel (12-9-2, 2.03 GAA, .910 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: November 17, 2018 (Grand Forks, ND). North Dakota starting netminder Adam Scheel allowed four goals on eighteen shots (including three second-period goals in the span of under six minutes) before giving way to Peter Thome. Colt Conrad (one goal, four assists) figured in on five of Western Michigan’s six goals as the Broncos completed the sweep with a 6-2 road win after a 2-0 victory in Friday’s opener. The Fighting Hawks managed just two goals all weekend despite outshooting WMU 64-45.

Last Meeting in Kalamazoo: February 18, 2017. North Dakota outshot WMU 46-19 (including 34-7 over the final two periods) but could not rally from a 3-0 deficit as the Broncos held on for a 3-2 victory and a series sweep over the Fighting Hawks. UND sophomore forward Brock Boeser assisted on both North Dakota goals (Shane Gersich, Austin Poganski). The goal by Gersich came just nine seconds after WMU’s Taylor Fleming made it 3-0 early in the middle frame. Western Michigan won Friday’s opener by a score of 4-2 (ENG).

Most Important Meeting: March 24, 2012 (St. Paul, MN). North Dakota upended Western Michigan 3-1 in the NCAA West Regional semifinal. Brock Nelson had two points, including an empty net goal with 25 seconds remaining that sent UND to the regional finals against Minnesota. Aaron Dell made 24 saves for the Green and White. The Broncos, who have played at the Division I level since 1975-76, have six NCAA tournament appearances.

A Trip Down Memory Lane: Saturday, March 22, 2014 (Minneapolis, MN). North Dakota faced a must-win situation in the 3rd place game at the inaugural NCHC Frozen Faceoff, and did not disappoint the partisan crowd. The Green and White rolled to a 5-0 victory behind two first-period goals from Conner Gaarder. UND netminder Zane Gothberg made 25 saves for the shutout, and Dave Hakstol’s crew played the waiting game for several more hours before discovering that they had indeed made the NCAA tournament for the twelfth consecutive season.

All-Time Series: In the short history between the schools, UND has won 18 of the 24 games (including eight of the ten games played in Kalamazoo). The Broncos have turned the tables recently, winning five of the past seven games overall. Before the 2016-17 season in which Western Michigan won three of the four meetings, WMU’s lone victory over North Dakota was a 2-1 road win on March 8th, 2014. The teams first met in 1997.

Last Ten: Each team has won five of the past ten games despite the fact that eight of the last ten have been played in Grand Forks. Over that stretch, UND has outscored Western Michigan 33-28.

Game News and Notes

Western Michigan moved up to the Division I ranks beginning with the 1975-76 season and has advanced to the NCAA tournament six times. WMU head coach Andy Murray’s son Brady played two seasons at North Dakota (2003-05) and finished with a scoring line of 27-39-66 in 63 career games. Brady Murray spent most of his professional hockey career in the Swiss-A league (Rapperswil-Jona and Lugano, among other teams) but did appear in four NHL games with the Los Angeles Kings in 2007-08, scoring one goal. In the 2018-19 National Collegiate Hockey Conference Preseason Media Poll, North Dakota was picked to finish in third place behind Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State, while Western Michigan was tabbed for fourth place.

Media Coverage

Friday’s opener will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network, with Saturday’s rematch available on high definition webcast via NCHC.tv. All UND men’s hockey games (home and away) can be heard on 96.1 FM and on stations across the UND Sports Network (as well as through the iHeart Radio app). Follow @UNDMHockey for real-time Twitter updates, or follow the action via live chat at UNDsports.com.

The Prediction

Western Michigan has too much scoring depth and plays too well at home for North Dakota fans to hope for anything more than a split this weekend. If there is a weakness for the Broncos, however, it’s on the penalty kill, as WMU has surrendered 25 power play goals this season. Both teams were idle last weekend, so that’s a non-factor here. WMU 3-2, UND 3-2.

As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Follow me on Twitter (@DBergerHockey) for more information and insight. Here’s to hockey!