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Published by Dave Berger on 01 Apr 2015

My Top Five April Fool’s Stories on SiouxSports.com

As most of you have already figured out, this morning’s blog post, “Due to historic snowfall, NCAA to move Frozen Four from Boston to Fargo” was an April Fools’ joke.

As I sat and watched the comments roll in and the retweets pile up, I was reminded of my favorite April Fools’ columns and thought I would share them with you again today…

Here are my five favorites from years past:

2009: “Rule Change: Ties in the Frozen Four to be decided by shootout”

2011: “NCAA to drop nickname settlement and sanctions altogether if UND wins hockey championship”

2012: “Audio from ‘The Timeout’ available for the first time”

2013: “After further review: UND and Yale to replay West Regional final”

2014: “Hobey Baker committee adds Gothberg to list of finalists”

Which are your favorites? More to the point: Which, at the time, did you fall for?

Published by Dave Berger on 01 Apr 2015

Due to historic snowfall, NCAA to move Frozen Four from Boston to Fargo

It turns out that Boston, Massachusetts is a bit too frozen for the Frozen Four.

The winter of 2014-15 dumped historic amounts of snow in the northeast, and the hardest hit areas of New England have collected over 100 inches of the white stuff.

Boston Logan Airport has received 110.6 inches of snow this winter, and the persistent cold weather has prevented any meaningful snowmelt. The city recorded 28 consecutive days with lows 20 degrees or colder, from Jan. 25 through Feb. 21 (inclusive), breaking the all-time record of 27 consecutive days set Jan. 12 through Feb. 7, 1881.

Despite the weather, the NCAA held off on making a final decision whether to move the 2015 Frozen Four from TD Garden (Boston, Massachusetts). Tournament officials were hoping that enough snow would melt during the month of March to keep the event in Beantown.

“(The snow melt) didn’t happen quickly enough, so we had to go to ‘Plan B’,” one tournament official said (speaking on condition of anonymity). “And so we looked at what the regionals did last weekend, and one of them (the NCAA West Regional in Fargo, North Dakota) was over capacity. That seemed to make the most sense.”

But TD Garden in Boston seats over 17,000 for hockey games, while SCHEELS Arena in Fargo tops out at 5,000. That was a problem for the NCAA.

“Yeah, we couldn’t squeeze everyone into the USHL rink,” my source said. “And then someone else on the committee remembered that Fargo also has a football team.”

That football team would be the North Dakota State University Bison, the four-time defending NCAA Division I-FCS National Champions (2011-2014). The Bison play in the Fargodome in front of 19,000 fans for every home football game. Local officials know they have a tall task ahead of them putting an ice sheet over the turf, but they’re up for it.

A news conference to formally announce re-ticketing procedures for next weekend’s games (April 9th and 11th) and further explain the rationale behind this unique development is scheduled to air at 4:01 p.m. Eastern time today (April 1st) on ESPNU.

Published by Dave Berger on 28 Mar 2015

NCAA West Regional Preview: UND vs. St. Cloud State

North Dakota and SCSU took different paths to tonight’s West Regional final, and now these familiar foes will face off for the sixth time this season with a trip to Boston and a berth in the NCAA Frozen Four on the line.

The Huskies took the long road home yesterday in Fargo, surviving the opening 40 minutes thanks in large part to the play of goaltender Charlie Lindgren (36 of 38 saves). I wrote about Lindgren’s play and the ups and downs on the St. Cloud State bench in a feature for College Hockey News called “Huskies Never Say Die”. SCSU took yesterday’s tilt with Michigan Tech (a battle of the Huskies, if you will) to overtime before defeating their long-time WCHA foe 3-2 and advancing in the NCAA tournament.

For UND, the 4-1 victory over Quinnipiac was only easy on the scoreboard. North Dakota was able to score a power play goal, an even-strength goal from behind the end line, and two shorthanded goals to put the game out of reach. Despite giving up a late 6-on-4 power play tally to spoil Zane McIntyre’s shutout bid (the junior from Thief River Falls, Minnesota has now allowed exactly one goal 15 times this season), the Green and White used the energy from the partisan crowd and an unbelievable effort in their own end to block 28 Bobcat shot attempts. With almost 15 minutes on the penalty kill over the course of the game, Dave Hakstol’s crew had to win the special teams battle to move on, and the boys from Grand Forks got it done in a virtual home game.

I also wrote a feature called “Bobcats Buried In Fargo” for College Hockey News on the Quinnipiac hockey team and what went wrong for them yesterday. There are some interesting quotes from QU head coach Rand Pecknold about regionals being held at neutral (or not so neutral) sites.

In my opinion, UND will not be able to trade power plays with St. Cloud State and expect a good result. In three victories over the Huskies, North Dakota killed 11 of 14 penalties. Bob Motzko’s two victories over the Green and White this season rode were aided by a potent SCSU power play (two goals in seven attempts). In the season series, the Huskies have scored 11 goals against UND in five games, with five goals coming with the man advantage and a sixth scored into the empty net.

North Dakota went 2-for-10 on the power play in three wins over St. Cloud State and was held scoreless on five attempts in two defeats. It is my contention that UND does not rely nearly as heavily on power play scoring as their counterparts in the red and black and would be better served staying out of the penalty box tonight. This is easier said than done, however, as these NCHC rivals will certainly play all the way until the whistle (and often after it), and Dave Hakstol wants his team playing right on the edge.

According to KRACH, St. Cloud State has played the second-most difficult schedule in the country to this point in the season. Saturday’s matchup between North Dakota and SCSU at Scheels Arena in Fargo marks the Huskies’ fourteenth straight game against an opponent ranked in the top eight in the country. Over the last seven weekends, St. Cloud has gone 8-5-0 against #6 Minnesota-Duluth, #5 Nebraska Omaha, #1 North Dakota, #7 Denver, #8 Nebraska-Omaha, #1 North Dakota, #6 Miami, and #5 Michigan Tech (rankings are for the week the games were played).

North Dakota will be without the services of senior forward Mark MacMillan for the rest of the season. The NCHC Defensive Player of the Year sustained a lower body injury while blocking a shot during a key 5-on-3 penalty kill against St. Cloud State. The senior from Penticton, British Columbia, one of five finalists for the Hockey Humanitarian Award, finishes his North Dakota career with 99 points in 151 games at UND. The last player to fall one point short of UND’s Century Club was forward Wes Dorey (1997-2001), who collected 47 goals and 52 assists in 140 career games.

St. Cloud State saw senior defenseman Andrew Prochno (3-12-15) and junior forward Kalle Kossila (6-20-26) return to the lineup after missing the NCHC Frozen Faceoff with injuries. Kossila scored SCSU’s first goal against Michigan Tech in yesterday’s regional semifinal. In the first period of the same game, Huskies’ forward Jonny Brodzinski sustained a lower-body injury but was able to return and net the game-tying goal with 38 seconds remaining in the hockey game. Brodzinski’s availability for tonight’s contest is still unknown, but I would expect him to suit up for St. Cloud State.

Perhaps the biggest reason for UND’s success this season has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. During the 2014-15 campaign, Dave Hakstol’s squad is unbeaten (24-0-2) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past seven years, North Dakota is converting almost 90 percent of second intermission leads into victories and has just seven losses in the last 154 such situations (137-7-10). The last time UND lost when leading after two periods of play was November 1st, 2013 against visiting St. Cloud State, when a 1-0 lead turned into a 3-2 defeat.

Incredibly, Dave Hakstol has brought his team to the NCAA regional final in nine of his eleven seasons behind the UND bench. Hakstol already has six Frozen Fours to his credit and is looking to add a seventh to his resume and an eighth national title to the rafters at Ralph Engelstad Arena. With three more victories, North Dakota would accomplish both of those tasks.

St. Cloud State Team Profile

Head Coach: Bob Motzko (10th season at SCSU, 204-154-41, .563)
National Rankings: #13/#13
This Season: 20-18-1 overall, 11-12-1-0 NCHC (6th)
Last Ten Games: 6-4-0 (with two overtime victories)
Last Season: 22-11-5 overall (NCAA Region semifinalist), 15-6-3-0 NCHC (1st)

Team Offense: 2.77 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.38 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 24.0% (37 of 154)
Penalty Kill: 80.2% (93 of 116)

Key Players: Junior F Jonny Brodzinski (21-17-38), Junior F Joey Benik (16-23-39), Junior F Kalle Kossila (6-20-26), Freshman F Patrick Russell (10-15-25), Junior D Ethan Prow (4-19-23), Senior D Andrew Prochno (3-12-15), Sophomore G Charlie Lindgren (19-17-1, 2.24 GAA, .920 SV%, 2 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (11th season at UND, 288-142-43, .654)
National Rankings: #3/#3
This Season: 28-9-3 overall, 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)
Last Ten Games: 7-3-0 (with two overtime victories)
Last Season: 25-14-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)

Team Offense: 3.27 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.20 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.8% (32 of 162)
Penalty Kill: 84.7% (138 of 163)

Key Players: Junior F Drake Caggiula (17-18-35), Senior F Michael Parks (12-20-32), Freshman F Nick Schmaltz (5-21-26), Senior F Brendan O’Donnell (13-7-20), Junior D Jordan Schmaltz (4-23-27), Sophomore D Paul LaDue (5-17-22), Senior D Nick Mattson (4-16-20), Junior G Zane McIntyre (28-9-3, 2.02 GAA, .930 SV%, 1 SO

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: March 20th, 2015 (Minneapolis, MN). St. Cloud State silenced the pro-North Dakota crowd with two goals in a span of 19 seconds late in the first period to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead after twenty minutes of play. SCSU forward Joe Rehkamp added an empty net goal with 1:05 left in the game and the Huskies advanced to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff championship game. Zane McIntyre made 21 saves for UND; Charlie Lindgren stopped 19 of 20 North Dakota shots on goal.

Last Meeting in North Dakota: February 28, 2015 (Grand Forks). Conner Gaarder led the way with a goal and an assist and North Dakota chased SCSU netminder Charlie Lindgren after two periods of play as UND completed the sweep of the visiting Huskies by a score of 3-1. Nick Mattson scored North Dakota’s third goal with 41 seconds remaining in the middle frame, and Zane McIntyre made 27 of 28 saves for the Green and White after stopping 22 of 24 shots in the series opener (a 3-2 UND victory). With a 3-1 regular season record against St. Cloud State this season, North Dakota won the 2014-15 Challenge Cup.

Most Important Meeting: With a berth in the 2015 Frozen Four on the line, I will call tonight’s NCAA West Regional final the most important meeting between the two teams.

All-time Series: North Dakota leads the all-time series, 64-38-12 (.614), including a 6-2-0 (.750) record at neutral sites. SCSU’s most recent tournament victory was last weekend in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinals (Minneapolis, MN). The Huskies also defeated North Dakota at the 2001 WCHA Final Five. UND is 10-3-0 (.769) against St. Cloud State in the conference playoffs, with their most recent triumph coming in the 2012 WCHA Final Five quarterfinals. The teams have never met in the NCAA tournament.

Last Ten: St. Cloud holds a 5-4-1 (.550) edge in the last ten meetings between the teams and has outscored North Dakota 24-22 over that stretch of games.

Game News and Notes

UND goaltender Zane McIntyre is 5-6-1 against the Huskies in his three years at North Dakota. Head coach Bob Motzko picked up his 200th career victory (ten seasons) with a win over Denver on the final night of the NCHC regular season. North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol, who has 288 coaching victories in eleven seasons, is 26-16-7 (.602) in his career against the Huskies.

The Prediction

Because these teams are so familiar with each other, I expect this game to be played fast and loose. If Bob Motzko has Jonny Brodzinski available in all situations and for all three periods, SCSU has a good chance at advancing to the Frozen Four. UND has an edge in net and on defense, but if the teams trade power plays, the advantage goes to St. Cloud State. This feels like a one-goal game either way, with North Dakota’s fans turning SCHEELS Arena into yet another home game and tipping the scales in favor of the Green and White. UND 3, SCSU 2.

Pregame Event (from UNDsports.com)

The North Dakota Champions Club is hosting an official UND pregame party at Fargo Billiards and Gastro Pub. The pregame party starts at 5:00 p.m. tonight (Saturday, March 28th).

Parking at SCHEELS Arena is limited and fans are encouraged to consider alternate parking options. A shuttle service will run between Fargo Billiards and Gastro Pub, Anderson Softball Complex on 45th Street South, Bulldog Tap, and SCHEELS Arena. Shuttles will begin at 6:00 p.m. tonight and will continue until one hour after the game ends.

Published by Dave Berger on 27 Mar 2015

NCAA West Regional Preview: UND vs. Quinnipiac

In 16 years at the Division I level, Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold has never had a losing season. Pecknold has led the Bobcats to their third consecutive NCAA tournament appearance (and fourth overall), and QU faces a fairly unfamiliar opponent at the West Regional in North Dakota.

Despite Quinnipiac’s recent success and the Bobcats’ deep run in 2013 (national runner-up, losing 4-0 to Yale in the final), UND and QU have never met in the NCAA tournament. The two teams have only faced each other twice: an October 2006 series in Grand Forks that went in the books as a UND sweep. Sioux forwards Ryan Duncan, T.J. Oshie, and Jonathan Toews figured heavily in those results (note: current Quinnipiac forward Devon Toews is no relation to Jonathan).

Before this recent stretch of three straight NCAA tourney bids, the only Quinnipiac appearance on the national scene came in 2001-02, when the team (competing in the MAAC and known as the “Braves”) suffered a 6-1 loss to Cornell in the regional semifinal.

It is fairly difficult to compare teams from different conferences, but there are some measurables. The only common opponent for the two programs this season was St. Cloud State. The Bobcats traveled to St. Cloud in early January and split with the homestanding Huskies (1-0, 2-3). North Dakota has faced SCSU five times this season, winning three of the five contests with each team scoring eleven goals in the season series.

Incidentally, St. Cloud State (who faces Michigan Tech in the other regional semifinal) was the team Quinnipiac defeated by a score of 4-1 at the 2013 NCAA Frozen Four, the only Frozen Four appearance for either of those two programs. Michigan Tech, a former WCHA foe of St. Cloud State and UND, is appearing in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1981 but has three national championships (1962, 1965, 1975).

UND has amassed a record of 27-9-3; Quinnipiac, 23-11-4. According to KRACH, North Dakota has played the 8th most difficult schedule in the country this season, while QU comes in at 32nd. Of the tournament participants, only RIT (49th) has played a softer schedule than the Bobcats.

Quinnipiac played seven games this year against teams in the national tournament, going 2-3-2 with two games each against St. Cloud State and Yale and three games against Harvard. By comparison, 22 of North Dakota’s 39 games this year were against six of the other 15 teams in the NCAAs (the five other NCHC schools in the tournament plus a home series against Providence), with UND going 11-8-3 in those games. The Green and White had an even record this season against Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, and Miami and winning records against Nebraska-Omaha, St. Cloud State and Providence.

North Dakota will be without the services of senior forward Mark MacMillan for the rest of the season. The NCHC Defensive Player of the Year sustained a lower body injury while blocking a shot during a key 5-on-3 penalty kill against St. Cloud State. The senior from Penticton, British Columbia, one of five finalists for the Hockey Humanitarian Award, finishes his North Dakota career with 99 points in 151 games at UND. The last player to fall one point short of UND’s Century Club was forward Wes Dorey (1997-2001), who collected 47 goals and 52 assists in 140 career games.

There is some intrigue regarding the availability of QU sophomore forward Sam Anas. The Bobcats’ leading scorer (23 goals, 16 assists) did not play last weekend in the ECAC semifinals, and earlier this week, Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold was quoted as saying “right now, we’re moving on without him. Is it 100 percent that he’s not playing? No. We’re dreaming. But it’s very unlikely that he will play”. However, Anas participated in the team practice at Scheels Arena on Thursday (wearing a red non-contact jersey), and afterward, Pecknold opened the press conference by stating that he wasn’t going to comment on injuries or who will be in the lineup on Friday against North Dakota.

UND’s seven senior skaters (forwards Conner Gaarder, Mark MacMillan, Brendan O’Donnell, Michael Parks, and Stephane Pattyn, along with defensemen Nick Mattson and Andrew Panzerella) have amassed a career record of 100-49-16 (.655) with four straight trips to the NCAA tournament. By comparison, the winningest class under Dave Hakstol was the 2011 class (forwards Matt Frattin, Evan Trupp, Brad Malone, and Brent Davidson and defensemen Chay Genoway, Jake Marto, and Derrick LaPoint), who went 109-48-16 (.676) during their time at UND. Beginning with the incoming freshman class of 2002, every four-year player to wear the Green and White has collected 100 career victories.

On the other side of the ledger, the three Quinnipiac seniors (forward Matthew Peca and defensemen Justin Agosta and Danny Federico) have amassed a record of 97-43-42 at QU, the best four-year mark in program history.

UND junior netminder Zane McIntyre has been showered with accolades over the past week or so. The junior from Thief River Falls, Minnesota was named the NCHC Goaltender of the Year, one of five finalists for the Mike Richter Award (best goaltender), and one of ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award. McIntyre, who now sits 16th in the country in goals-against average (2.05) and 11th in save percentage (.929), has played the third-most minutes in the nation and has 27 victories, good for second among all goaltenders (Jamie Phillips of Michigan Tech has 28).

Only two goalies in North Dakota hockey history have more wins in a season than McIntyre’s 27: Aaron Dell went 30-7-2 in 2010-11, and Eddie Belfour notched 29 victories against only four defeats during his only season in Grand Forks (1986-87). Incidentally, Jean-Phillippe Lamoureux posted a record of 27-11-4 in 2007-08. With 56 career goaltending victories, McIntyre now sits in fourth place on UND’s all-time list. Karl Goehring (1997-2001, 80 wins), Lamoureux (2004-08, 60 wins), and Brad Eidsness (2008-12, 58 wins) hold the top three spots in that category.

It should be noted that Zane McIntyre is also statistically the best goaltender in North Dakota hockey history. His career goals-against average (2.10) and save percentage (.926) rank as the best all-time at UND. Former goaltending greats Jean-Phillippe Lamoureux, Jordan Parise, Aaron Dell, and Karl Goehring round out the top five.

There is an excellent article by Brad Schlossman here that discusses why Zane changed his name from Gothberg to McIntyre and how much his mother and grandmother have influenced him, both on and off the ice.
Perhaps the biggest reason for UND’s success this season has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. During the 2014-15 campaign, Dave Hakstol’s squad is unbeaten (23-0-2) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past seven years, North Dakota is converting almost 90 percent of second intermission leads into victories and has just seven losses in the last 153 such situations (136-7-10). The last time UND lost when leading after two periods of play was November 1st, 2013 against visiting St. Cloud State, when a 1-0 lead turned into a 3-2 defeat.

Dave Hakstol, a National Coach of the Year finalist for the eighth time, was recently named the NCHC Coach of the Year and has now won twenty or more games in each of his first eleven seasons behind the North Dakota bench. That mark is easily the longest current streak in men’s hockey (Jerry York is second with six straight seasons of twenty or more wins, and UMass-Lowell’s Norm Bazin, Minnesota’s Don Lucia, and Quinnipiac’s Rand Pecknold have four). Since Dave Hakstol was hired (2004-05), his teams are 52-23 (.693) in the postseason (conference and NCAA tournaments). UND’s 25-win season is Hakstol’s eighth in his eleven years behind the North Dakota bench.

Quinnipiac Team Profile

Head Coach: Rand Pecknold (21st season at QU, 414-259-76, .603)
National Ranking: #11/#11
This Season: 23-11-4 overall, 16-3-3 ECAC (1st)
Last Ten Games: 5-3-2
Last Season: 24-10-6 overall (NCAA East Region semifinalist), 12-6-4 ECAC (3rd)

Team Offense: 2.76 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.24 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.6% (29 of 148)
Penalty Kill: 87.9% (124 of 141)

Key Players: Sophomore F Sam Anas (23-16-39), Senior F Matthew Peca (7-29-36), Junior F Travis St. Denis (15-18-33), Freshman F Landon Smith (15-16-31), Senior D Justin Agosta (3-19-22), Sophmore F Devon Toews (4-16-20), Junior G Michael Garteig (22-9-3, 2.00 GAA, .918 SV%, 5 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (11th season at UND, 287-142-43, .654)
National Rankings: #3/#3
This Season: 27-9-3 overall, 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)
Last Ten Games: 7-3-0
Last Season: 25-14-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)

Team Offense: 3.26 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.23 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.6% (31 of 158)
Penalty Kill: 84.5% (131 of 155)

Key Players: Junior F Drake Caggiula (16-17-33), Senior F Michael Parks (12-20-32), Freshman F Nick Schmaltz (5-21-26), Senior F Brendan O’Donnell (13-7-20), Junior D Jordan Schmaltz (4-23-27), Sophomore D Paul LaDue (5-16-21), Senior D Nick Mattson (4-16-20), Junior G Zane McIntyre (27-9-3, 2.05 GAA, .929 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: October 7, 2006 (Grand Forks, ND). A late Quinnipiac power play goal got the Bobcats within a goal, but the damage had been done by then. T.J. Oshie assisted on all three Jonathan Toews goals (remarkably, the only hat trick of his Fighting Sioux career) and Ryan Duncan had a three point night (1 g, 2 a) in a 4-2 North Dakota victory. UND blew out the Bobcats 6-1 in Friday’s opener despite only one goal from the Oshie-Toews-Duncan (D.O.T.) line.

Most Important Meeting: Friday’s NCAA West Regional semifinal is the most important meeting between the two programs.

All-time Series: The two teams have only played two games (the aforementioned October 2006 series in Grand Forks), with North Dakota sweeping the Bobcats by a combined score of 10-3.

Game News and Notes

North Dakota is 11-2 in one-goal games this season. Teams that bus to their regional site (in-state) are 25-15 in NCAA regional games since 2008 (#1 seeds are 9-1); teams that fly are 39-54 over that same time period. Quinnipiac has competed at the Division I level since the 1999-2000 season; that was the year UND won its seventh national championship. North Dakota has played exactly one game in Fargo, a 5-1 victory over the Fargo Flyers on January 18th, 1947. That contest was UND’s second-ever game as a Division I hockey program.

The Prediction

Dave Hakstol has experimented with the lines coming into this matchup, and it will be interested to see how and when he shortens the bench as the game progresses. Quinnipiac will give UND fits with its overall team speed, and Zane McIntyre will need to be up to the challenge as the Bobcats generate several odd-man rushes per game. The partisan green and white crowd at Scheels Arena should give North Dakota the push it needs to advance to the regional final. UND 3, QU 2.

Bonus Prediction

In the first regional semifinal (a battle of the Huskies), I’ve got St. Cloud State and Michigan Tech in a tight contest, with St. Cloud’s power play making the difference. SCSU 3, MTU 2.

Pregame Events (from UNDsports.com)

The North Dakota Champions Club is hosting an official UND pregame party at Fargo Billiards and Gastro Pub. The pregame party starts three hours prior to any game in which UND is participating.

Parking at SCHEELS Arena is limited and fans are encouraged to consider alternate parking options. A shuttle service will run between Fargo Billiards and Gastro Pub, Anderson Softball Complex on 45th Street South, Bulldog Tap, and SCHEELS Arena. Shuttles will begin two hours before the first game of each day and will continue until one hour after the final game ends.

Published by Dave Berger on 20 Mar 2015

NCHC Frozen Faceoff Preview: UND vs. St. Cloud State

In the first year of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, St. Cloud State bested North Dakota by three points to claim the league’s first regular season championship. SCSU and UND were both invited to the NCAA tournament, and Denver earned the conference autobid by winning the inaugural Frozen Faceoff. This season, the Green and White won the Penrose Trophy as the top team in the NCHC while the Huskies fell to sixth place.

I wrote about which teams have had the most success through two seasons in the NCHC here.

North Dakota and St. Cloud State have been paired up as schedule partners and rivals since the 2002-03 season. Two years later, the Center Ice Club created a commemorative trophy to mark the rivalry, and the two teams have been battling it out four times each season to claim the Challenge Cup.

UND had the better of the play in the first eight years of the Challenge Cup era, claiming the Cup four times and sharing the trophy three times while St. Cloud State only won the trophy once (2005-06). However, St. Cloud went 5-2-1 against North Dakota over the past two seasons (2012-14) and earned the last two Challenge Cups.

And in 2014-15, a November split in St. Cloud and a UND sweep in Grand Forks (February 27-28) led to the first Challenge Cup victory for North Dakota since the 2010-11 season (the teams shared the cup in 2011-12).

According to KRACH, St. Cloud State has played the second-most difficult schedule in the country to this point in the season. Friday’s matchup between North Dakota and SCSU at the NCHC Frozen Faceoff marks the Huskies’ eleventh straight game against an opponent ranked in the top eight in the country. Over the last five weekends, St. Cloud went 6-4-0 against #6 Minnesota-Duluth, #5 Nebraska Omaha, #1 North Dakota, #7 Denver, and #8 Nebraska-Omaha (rankings are for the week the games were played).

Last weekend, the Huskies traveled to Omaha, Nebraska to face Dean Blais’ Mavericks in the first round of the NCHC playoffs. SCSU outlasted UNO in a 2-1 double-overtime thriller in Friday’s opener before handing the homestanding Mavs a 3-1 defeat in Game Two to advance to this weekend’s Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis. David Morley (3 goals) and Joey Benik (1 goal, 2 assists) led the way for St. Cloud in the two game sweep, while Charlie Lindgren made 80 of 82 saves (Nebraska-Omaha outshot SCSU 46-39 and 36-28 in the series).

Bob Motzko’s crew is in an unusual position headed into this weekend’s action. Currently tied for 10th in the Pairwise rankings, the Huskies (18-17-1 overall) need to avoid two losses this weekend in Minneapolis to remain above .500 for the season and under consideration for the NCAA tournament. With a loss to North Dakota in Friday’s NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinal, St. Cloud would need to win (or tie) the third place game on Saturday afternoon to remain eligible for the postseason.

North Dakota will be without the services of senior forward Mark MacMillan for the rest of the season. The NCHC Defensive Player of the Year sustained a lower body injury while blocking a shot during a key 5-on-3 penalty kill against St. Cloud State. The senior from Penticton, British Columbia, one of five finalists for the Hockey Humanitarian Award, finishes his North Dakota career with 99 points in 151 games at UND. The last player to fall one point short of UND’s Century Club was forward Wes Dorey (1997-2001), who collected 47 goals and 52 assists in 140 career games.

St. Cloud State will be without senior defenseman Andrew Prochno (3-12-15) this weekend after the Huskies’ assistant captain suffered a hand injury blocking a shot in the same game that took MacMillan out of the North Dakota lineup. SCSU junior forward Kalle Kossila (5-20-25) practiced on Thursday but is a game-time decision for Bob Motzko. Kossila was injured in last weekend’s NCHC quarterfinal action against Nebraska-Omaha, and UNO’s Brian Cooper was given a major penalty (boarding) and a game misconduct for the incident.

UND’s seven senior skaters (forwards Conner Gaarder, Mark MacMillan, Brendan O’Donnell, Michael Parks, and Stephane Pattyn, along with defensemen Nick Mattson and Andrew Panzerella) have combined for 63 points over the last sixteen games and rank as the fourth-most productive senior group in the nation with 130 points (Mercyhurst 191, Air Force 149, Minnesota 137).

The last time North Dakota played on home ice, those seven players were the first to hoist the Penrose Trophy as NCHC regular season champions. The 2015 senior class has amassed a combined record of 100-47-16 (.663) with three straight trips to the NCAA tournament. By comparison, the winningest class under Dave Hakstol was the 2011 class (forwards Matt Frattin, Evan Trupp, Brad Malone, and Brent Davidson and defensemen Chay Genoway, Jake Marto, and Derrick LaPoint), who went 109-48-16 (.676) during their time at UND. Beginning with the incoming freshman class of 2002, every four-year player to wear the Green and White has collected 100 career victories.

Offensive capability from the blue line is a big reason for UND’s continued success. After leading the nation in scoring by defensemen last year, UND is first in the country in that category again this season. Through 37 games, North Dakota blueliners have scored 26 goals and added 84 assists for 110 points, or 2.97 points per game. Denver is second in that category with 104 points in 36 games (2.89 points/game).

More to the point, North Dakota’s top six defensemen have notched 19 goals and added 75 assists for 94 points (2.83 points/game). By comparison, the six St. Cloud blueliners expected to be in the lineup on Friday afternoon have combined for 9 goals and 43 assists (52 points, 1.69 points/game). And furthermore, UND is so deep with talent on the blue line that freshman defenseman Tucker Poolman has been playing wing this season, and he’s chipped in with seven goals and six assists.

Five different members of UND’s defensive corps (Paul LaDue, Nick Mattson, Jordan Schmaltz, Troy Stecher, and Keaton Thompson) have nabbed NCHC Defenseman of the Week honors this season, while Tucker Poolman has been named the league’s Rookie of the Week.

UND junior netminder Zane McIntyre has been showered with accolades over the past couple of days. The junior from Thief River Falls, Minnesota was named the NCHC Goaltender of the Year, one of five finalists for the Mike Richter Award (best goaltender), and one of ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award. McIntyre, who now sits 9th in the country in goals-against average (1.96) and 6th in save percentage (.932), has played the third-most minutes in the nation and is tied for first with 27 victories.

Only two goalies in North Dakota hockey history have more wins in a season than McIntyre’s 27: Aaron Dell went 30-7-2 in 2010-11, and Eddie Belfour notched 29 victories against only four defeats during his only season in Grand Forks (1986-87). Incidentally, Jean-Phillippe Lamoureux posted a record of 27-11-4 in 2007-08. With 56 career goaltending victories, McIntyre now sits in fourth place on UND’s all-time list. Karl Goehring (1997-2001, 80 wins), Lamoureux (2004-08, 60 wins), and Brad Eidsness (2008-12, 58 wins) hold the top three spots in that category.

It should be noted that Zane McIntyre is also statistically the best goaltender in North Dakota hockey history. His career goals-against average (2.07) and save percentage (.927) rank as the best all-time at UND. Former goaltending greats Jean-Phillippe Lamoureux, Jordan Parise, Aaron Dell, and Karl Goehring round out the top five.

There is an excellent article by Brad Schlossman here that discusses why Zane changed his name from Gothberg to McIntyre and how much his mother and grandmother have influenced him, both on and off the ice.

Perhaps the biggest reason for UND’s success this season has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. During the 2014-15 campaign, Dave Hakstol’s squad is unbeaten (23-0-2) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past seven years, North Dakota is converting almost 90 percent of second intermission leads into victories and has just seven losses in the last 153 such situations (136-7-10). The last time UND lost when leading after two periods of play was November 1st, 2013 against visiting St. Cloud State, when a 1-0 lead turned into a 3-2 defeat.

Dave Hakstol has his team in a much better position than last year, when North Dakota’s NCAA tournament hopes went down to the wire. With a sparkling 9-1-1 non-conference record, UND currently sits in first place in the Pairwise rankings, one of five NCHC teams in line to make the NCAA tournament. Denver (3rd), Minnesota-Duluth (6th), Miami (7th), and Nebraska-Omaha (8th) are all expected to make the NCAAs regardless of the results of this weekend’s action.

And speaking of Hakstol, the NCHC Coach of the Year has now won twenty or more games in each of his first eleven seasons behind the North Dakota bench. That mark is easily the longest current streak in men’s hockey (Jerry York is second with six straight seasons of twenty or more wins, and UMass-Lowell’s Norm Bazin, Minnesota’s Don Lucia, and Quinnipiac’s Rand Pecknold have four). Since Dave Hakstol was hired (2004-05), his teams are 52-21 (.712) in the postseason (conference and NCAA tournaments). No other NCHC school has more than 33 victories in that timeframe. UND’s 25-win season is Hakstol’s eighth in his eleven years behind the North Dakota bench.

St. Cloud State Team Profile

Head Coach: Bob Motzko (10th season at SCSU, 202-153-41, .562)
Pairwise Ranking: t-10th of 59 teams
National Ranking: #18/#16
This Season: 18-17-1 overall, 11-12-1-0 NCHC (6th)
Last Ten Games: 6-4-0 overall, 4-4-0-0 NCHC
Last Season: 22-11-5 overall (NCAA Region semifinalist), 15-6-3-0 NCHC (1st)

Team Offense: 2.78 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.42 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 24.1% (35 of 145)
Penalty Kill: 80.0% (88 of 110)

Key Players: Junior F Jonny Brodzinski (19-16-35), Junior F Joey Benik (14-21-35), Junior F Kalle Kossila (5-20-25), Freshman F Patrick Russell (10-13-23), Junior D Ethan Prow (4-15-19), Senior D Tim Daly (1-7-8), Sophomore G Charlie Lindgren (17-16-1, 2.27 GAA, .920 SV%, 2 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (11th season at UND, 287-140-43, .656)

Pairwise Ranking: 1st of 59 teams
National Rankings: #1/#1
This Season: 27-7-3 overall, 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)
Last Ten Games: 8-1-1 overall, 6-1-1-0 NCHC
Last Season: 25-14-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)

Team Offense: 3.38 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.14 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.3% (31 of 153)
Penalty Kill: 84.2% (128 of 152)

Key Players: Junior F Drake Caggiula (16-17-33), Senior F Michael Parks (12-20-32), Freshman F Nick Schmaltz (5-21-26), Senior F Brendan O’Donnell (13-6-19), Junior D Jordan Schmaltz (4-23-27), Sophomore D Paul LaDue (5-16-21), Senior D Nick Mattson (4-16-20), Junior G Zane McIntyre (27-7-3, 1.97 GAA, .932 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: February 28, 2015 (Grand Forks, ND). Conner Gaarder led the way with a goal and an assist and North Dakota chased SCSU netminder Charlie Lindgren after two periods of play as UND completed the sweep of the visiting Huskies by a score of 3-1. Nick Mattson scored North Dakota’s third goal with 41 seconds remaining in the middle frame, and Zane McIntyre made 27 of 28 saves for the Green and White after stopping 22 of 24 shots in the series opener (a 3-2 UND victory). With a 3-1 record against St. Cloud State this season, North Dakota won the 2014-15 Challenge Cup.

Last Playoff Meeting: March 15, 2012 (St. Paul, MN). Two empty net goals in the final minute turned a tightly-contested 2-1 game into a 4-1 UND victory in front of 15,133 fans at Xcel Energy Center. North Dakota’s Corban Knight and Danny Kristo each scored a goal and assisted on another while Brock Nelson tallied two goals. The Thursday quarterfinal win sent North Dakota into the semifinals against Minnesota, the game UND fans remember as “The Timeout Game” (video here). Dave Hakstol used a break in the action with six minutes remaining in the second period to rally the troops and turn a 3-0 deficit into a 6-3 victory. North Dakota went on to defeat Denver 4-0 in the WCHA Final Five championship game.

Most Important Meeting: Since St. Cloud State is fighting for an NCAA tournament berth and North Dakota is looking to maintain the #1 overall seed, I will call Friday’s Frozen Faceoff semifinal the most important game between the two schools.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 64-37-12 (.619), including a 6-1-0 (.857) record at neutral sites. St. Cloud’s only tournament victory was an overtime win over North Dakota at the 2001 WCHA Final Five (St. Paul, MN). UND is 10-2-0 (.833) against SCSU in the conference playoffs, with their most recent triumph coming in the 2012 WCHA Final Five quarterfinals.

Last Ten: St. Cloud holds a 5-4-1 (.550) edge in the last ten meetings between the teams and has outscored North Dakota 24-22 over that stretch of games.

Game News and Notes

UND goaltender Zane McIntyre is 5-5-1 against the Huskies in his three years at North Dakota. Head coach Bob Motzko picked up his 200th career victory (ten seasons) with a win over Denver on the final night of the NCHC regular season. North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol, who has 287 coaching victories in eleven seasons, is 26-15-7 (.615) in his career against the Huskies. UND is 11-4-0 on the road this season; St. Cloud State, 8-10-1.

The Prediction

I expect this game to play out much like an NCAA tournament game, with both teams keeping things tight early. With so much at stake, the Huskies will have to guard against playing too tentatively. If Bob Motzko can get his team playing fast and loose, SCSU has a good chance at advancing to the championship game. UND has an edge in net and on defense, but if the teams trade power plays, the advantage goes to St. Cloud State. This feels like a one-goal game either way, with North Dakota’s fans turning Target Center into yet another home game and tipping the scales in favor of the Green and White. UND 3, SCSU 2.

Bonus Prediction

In the other Frozen Faceoff semifinal, I’ve got the RedHawks knocking off Denver to set up a championship tilt between the top two teams in the NCHC. Miami 4, DU 2.

Pregame Events (from undsports.com)

UND fans attending the NCHC Frozen Faceoff are invited to join the UND Alumni Association & Foundation and UND Athletics for pregame festivities beginning three hours prior to any game in which UND is playing. The pregame events will be held at the Pourhouse (10 South 5th Street), within walking distance of the Target Center and area hotels.

All UND alumni, family and friends are invited to this free event with cash bars, a full restaurant, DJs, a live band and more! The Pourhouse invites all UND fans back to the venue after each hockey game. The usual cover charge will be FREE to UND fans or anyone with a ticket. On-site and nearby parking are available.

Published by Dave Berger on 18 Mar 2015

Predicting the 2014-15 Hobey Baker Top Ten

This is my yearly attempt to predict the ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award. In the past, my results have been mixed, from a high of seven (including last year) to a low of four.

Last season, Johnny Gaudreau (Boston College) had basically won the award before the ten finalists were announced. By this time last year, “Johnny Hockey” had already collected 32 goals and 37 assists in 37 games (1.86 points/game).

This season, the nation’s top point producer comes from another Beantown program: Boston University’s Jack Eichel. The freshman phenom from North Chelmsford, Massachusetts (32 miles from Boston) has a stat line of 20 goals and 41 assists in 34 games (1.79 points/game).

Last year’s Hobey winner (Gaudreau) finished his collegiate career with a flourish, scoring four goals and adding seven assists in his final three NCAA appearances to finish with 80 points in 40 games played. That was the most points in a season since Colorado College junior forward Peter Sejna had 36 goals and 46 assists (82 points) for the Tigers in 2002-03.

No collegiate player has scored 100 points in a season since Paul Kariya went 25-75-100 in 39 games as a freshman with the Maine Black Bears in 1992-93. I bring up Kariya because he remains the only first-year player to win the Hobey Baker Memorial Award. In 34 years, seniors have taken home college hockey’s highest individual honor 23 times, while juniors and sophomores have won five times each.

Despite the fact that scoring is down in men’s college hockey this season (2.70 goals scored/game this year, compared to 2.82 goals/game last season and 2.74 in 2012-13), seventeen different skaters have hit the 20 goal plateau and fifty players (40 forwards and 10 defensemen) have collected more than 20 assists.

Six players have already reached 50 points this year, and a seventh (Michigan’s Zach Hyman) is one point shy. I’ve got four of those players on my top ten list (Boston University’s Jack Eichel, RIT’s Matt Garbowsky, Hyman, and Harvard’s Jimmy Vesey), with a fifth (Union’s Daniel Ciampini) an honorable mention. The other two to reach 50 points (BU’s Evan Rodriques and Union’s Mike Vecchione) are overshadowed by higher-profile teammates, and a Hobey nod for either of them is unlikely.

Of the top eight teams in the Pairwise rankings, six (North Dakota, Minnesota State, Denver, Boston University, Michigan Tech, and Miami) are represented among my ten finalists and six honorable mentions. The only two schools in the top eight that don’t get a nomination on my list are both NCHC teams: Minnesota-Duluth and Nebraska-Omaha. Minnesota-Duluth is led by Tony Cameranesi (8-20-28) up front, Andy Welinski (9-11-20) on defense, and Kasimir Kaskisuo (17-13-3, 2.31 GAA, .915 SV%, 1 SO) in net, while Nebraska-Omaha’s frontrunners are forward Jake Guentzel (12-23-35), defenseman Ian Brady (5-15-20), and goaltender Ryan Massa (12-7-6, 2.04 GA, .934 SV%, 1 SO). Despite the success of their teams, it is my opinion that none of these six players will make the final Hobey list.

Of my top sixteen, I’ve got eight forwards, three defensemen, and five goaltenders. My list is laden with upperclassmen (nine seniors, five juniors), with just one sophomore (Yale goaltender Alex Lyon) and the aforementioned first-year sensation Jack Eichel of Boston University.

Here’s my best shot at the ten Hobey Baker finalists:

Skaters (in alphabetical order):

Jack Eichel, freshman forward, Boston University
20 goals, 41 assists (61 points) in 34 games (1.79 points/game)
5 goals, 16 assists for 21 points in his last 10 games (2.10 points/game)

Incredibly, Eichel has only been held off the score sheet five times in 34 games this season, with 18 multi-point efforts to his credit. In his past ten outings, he has scored over two points per game while leading BU to the second weekend of the Hockey East playoff championship. There’s an excellent article by Scott Weighart here about Jack Eichel, who played for the U.S National Under-18 Team (NTDP) before attending Boston University. And a final point about Eichel’s impact: the Terriers went just 10-21-1 last season (their worst mark in over 40 years); this year (with Eichel), they are 21-7-5 with two trophies in the case already: the Beanpot championship (the program’s first since 2009, a national championship season) and the Hockey East regular season title.

Matt Garbowsky, senior forward, RIT
26 goals, 24 assists (50 points) in 36 games (1.39 points/game)
7 goals, 8 assists (15 points) in his last 10 games (1.50 points/game)

After missing 24 games of the 2013-14 season with a broken bone in his left wrist, Garbowsky came back with a vengeance this year, scoring 50 points to become the latest member of RIT’s Century Club (48-62-110 in 124 career games). There’s an excellent feature from the Democrat and Chronicle here which details Garbowsky’s return from injury and demonstrates just how much he means to the RIT hockey program. The Tigers’ captain, who hails from St. George, Ontario, is tied for second in the nation in goals (26), one back of Harvard’s Jimmy Vesey. RIT swept Air Force (Garbowsky had two goals and two assists) to make it to the second weekend of the AHA playoffs and would need to win the tournament title to advance to the NCAAs.

Zach Hyman, senior forward, Michigan
19 goals, 30 assists (49 points) in 34 games (1.44 points/game)
3 goals, 9 assists (12 points) in his last 10 games (1.20 points/game)

The senior from Toronto, Ontario had point streaks of nine and five games earlier this season, but he’s somewhat disappeared over the past two weekends, notching just two assists over the past four games. Hyman, who writes children’s books on the side, is also up for the Hockey Humanitarian Award and the Senior CLASS award. The Michigan Wolverines are currently tied for 20th in the Pairwise rankings after missing the NCAA tournament two straight years (they had advanced to the NCAAs 22 consecutive seasons before that), and if Michigan is going to win the Big Ten tournament (their only hope of making the field of 16), Hyman will need to lead the charge.

Tanner Kero, senior forward, Michigan Tech
19 goals, 26 assists (45 points) in 38 games (1.18 points/game)
6 goals, 4 assists (10 points) in his last 10 games (1.00 points/game)

Tanner Kero scored 34 points (13 goals, 21 assists) in 28 conference games and led the Huskies to a second-place finish in the WCHA (one point behind league champion Minnesota State). There’s an excellent story here about how Kero felt about his final Great Lakes Invitational with the Huskies as favorites. Kero, who hails from Hancock, Michigan and played his junior hockey with the Fargo Force (USHL), was recently named the WCHA Player of the year and Student-Athlete of the Year. Michigan Tech (a program which has had only two winning seasons in the past 32 years) has a record of 28-8-2 and is a lock to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 1980-81 campaign. Kero has career marks of 54-56-110 in 150 games with the Huskies.

Joey LaLeggia, senior defenseman, Denver
13 goals, 25 assists (38 points) in 34 games (1.12 points/game)
4 goals, 12 assists (16 points) in his last 10 games (1.60 points/game)

The first defenseman to make my list hails from the University of Denver. LaLeggia, last season’s NCHC Defenseman of the Year and Offensive Defenseman of the Year, has been everything for the Pioneers this season (and throughout his career) and has his team in position for a number-one seed in the NCAA tournament (currently 3rd in the Pairwise rankings). The senior from Burnaby, British Columbia is the third-most prolific blueliner in the nation, trailing only Minnesota’s Mike Reilly (who also made my list) and Notre Dame’s Robbie Russo, who scored three more points than LaLeggia but appeared in six more games. LaLeggia, who has often been overlooked because of his size (he is listed at 5’10 and 185 pounds), has played 153 games in his DU career, scoring 47 goals and adding 83 assists for 130 points. The Denver Pioneers just completed a first round sweep of NCHC rival Minnesota-Duluth (LaLeggia scored a goal and notched two assists) and are headed to Minneapolis for the Frozen Faceoff, looking for their second consecutive league playoff title.

Mike Reilly, junior defenseman, Minnesota
6 goals, 36 assists (42 points) in 36 games (1.17 points/game)
2 goals, 14 assists (16 points) in his last 10 games (1.60 points/game)

The second player from the Big Ten to make my list wears the Maroon and Gold of the Minnesota Gophers. Reilly is the top scoring defenseman in the country (17th among all skaters) and is tied for 2nd among all players with 36 assists (Jack Eichel has 41). The junior from nearby Chanhassen, Minnesota recently repeated as the Big Ten Defenseman of the Year and was also named to the All-Big Ten First Team. Reilly, who assisted on two goals each night in the Gophers’ sweep of visiting Penn State last weekend, is the Columbus Blue Jackets’ most exciting prospect and is often mentioned as a likely early departure from the college ranks. Minny is in a perilous Pairwise position at the moment (currently 13th), and may need to win the Big Ten playoff tournament (or win at least one game and get some help) in Detroit, Michigan to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Jimmy Vesey, junior forward, Harvard
27 goals, 26 assists (53 points) in 34 games (1.56 points/game)
8 goals, 6 assists (14 points) in his last 10 games (1.40 points/game)

The nation’s leading goal scorer hails from the hallowed halls of Harvard University. Vesey, who trails only Jack Eichel in points/game this season (1.56 to Eichel’s 1.79), has already collected 95 points (51 goals and 44 assists) in 92 career games for the Crimson. The junior from North Reading, Massachusetts is one of only nine players in the country with at least 20 goals and 20 assists. Vesey, who was featured in this Boston Herald article, scored the game-winning goal in the second overtime of a decisive Game Three against Yale in the ECAC playoffs on Sunday night. Harvard, currently 15th in the Pairwise rankings, will need to continue winning to extend its season, and Vesey will be key for the Crimson in Lake Placid this weekend.

Goaltenders (in alphabetical order):

Alex Lyon, sophomore goaltender, Yale
17-9-5, 1.58 goals-against average, .939 save percentage, 7 shutouts
5-3-2, 1.73 goals-against average, .931 save percentage, 3 shutouts in his last 10 games

Lyon is an easy addition to the Hobey Baker top ten. The sophomore from Baudette, Minnesota has the nation’s best goals-against average (1.58), is tied for the lead in save percentage (.939), and has posted more shutouts (seven) than any other netminder in the country. Lyon, who was recently named one of five finalists for the 2015 Mike Richter Award (most outstanding goaltender), has been Yale’s number one goalie since he arrived in New Haven in the fall of 2013. The Bulldogs are idle this weekend after falling to Harvard in the ECAC quarterfinals but have a slim chance at an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

Jamie Phillips, junior goaltender, Michigan Tech
27-7-2, 1.62 goals-against average, .938 save percentage, 6 shutouts
8-1-1, 0.90 goals-against average, .964 save percentage, 3 shutouts in his last 10 games

Jamie Phillips was another of five finalists for the Mike Richter award, but his Huskies are in a much better position than Lyon’s Bulldogs. Michigan Tech opened the season with ten consecutive wins (Phillips started and won all ten) and is currently 5th in the Pairwise rankings headed into the WCHA Final Five (St. Paul, Minnesota). Phillips, from Caledonia, Ontario, is second in the nation in goals-against average (1.62), third in save percentage (.938), tied for first in wins (27), and second in shutouts (six) while playing the second-most minutes in the country (behind only CJ Motte of Ferris State). The All-WCHA First Teamer has played in every game this season for the Huskies, allowing two goals or less 29 times. He posted back-to-back shutouts against Alabama-Huntsville in the first round of the league playoffs and has not allowed a goal in over 180 minutes of game action.

Stephon Williams, junior goaltender, Minnesota State
23-5-3, 1.68 goals-against average, .923 save percentage, 4 shutouts
6-2-2, 1.59 goals-against average, .928 save percentage, 2 shutouts in his last 10 games

This final spot was a tough call between Williams and North Dakota’s Zane McIntyre, but I’m giving the edge to the Mavericks’ netminder simply because his numbers are better. While McIntyre has a better save percentage, Williams has the edge in goals-against average and shutouts. So it comes down to this: UND and Minnesota State played the 8th and 12th toughest schedules in the country (according to KRACH), and McIntyre allowed 21 more goals than Williams in five more games played. It is noteworthy that Stephon Williams, who hails from Fairbanks, Alaska, was responsible for the greatest goaltending moment of the 2014-15 season: he intentionally knocked his net off its moorings to draw attention to an injured teammate. A penalty shot was awarded, Williams proceeded to stop that attempt, and the Mavericks went on to defeat Minnesota. Again, this was a tough call, and it may be telling that Williams was not among five finalists for the 2015 Mike Richter Award, but I think he’s deserving.

Honorable Mention:

Daniel Ciampini, senior forward, Union
26 goals, 24 assists (50 points) in 39 games (1.28 points/game)

Austin Czarnik, senior forward, Miami
8 goals, 32 assists (40 points) in 37 games (1.08 points/game)

Robbie Russo, senior defenseman, Notre Dame
15 goals, 26 assists (41 points) in 40 games (1.03 points/game)

Cody Wydo, senior forward, Robert Morris
19 goals, 22 assists (41 points) in 36 games (1.14 points/game)

Zane McIntyre, junior goaltender, North Dakota
27-7-3, 1.97 goals-against average, .932 save percentage, 1 shutout

CJ Motte, senior goaltender, Ferris State
18-19-2, 2.05 goals-against average, .923 save percentage, 5 shutouts

So what do you think? Who would you include? Leave out? Feel free to comment below, and thanks for reading!

Published by Dave Berger on 17 Mar 2015

The First Two Seasons Of The NCHC: Who’s On Top?

St. Cloud State won the inaugural season of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, with North Dakota hoisting the Penrose Cup this year. But beyond that, which teams are making their mark as frontrunners in the NCHC and which programs are quickly headed in the wrong direction?

For comparison’s sake, I have the teams ranked in order of their average league finish (2013-14 and 2014-15). There was one tie (Denver finished 6th and 4th over the past two seasons; Miami, 8th and 2nd), and I settled that by looking at the combined conference record for both schools.

Season and combined records are for conference games only.

Team 2014-15 record 2014-15 finish 2013-14 record 2013-14 finish Combined record Average finish
North Dakota 16-6-2-0 1st 15-9-0-0 2nd 31-15-2-0 1.5
Nebraska-Omaha 12-8-4-3 3rd 13-9-2-1 3rd 25-17-6-4 3.0
St. Cloud State 11-12-1-0 6th 15-6-3-0 1st 26-18-4-0 3.5
Minnesota-Duluth 12-9-3-0 5th 11-11-2-2 4th 23-20-5-2 4.5
University of Denver 13-10-1-1 4th 10-11-3-2 6th 23-21-4-3 5.0
Miami University 14-9-1-1 2nd 6-17-1-1 8th 20-26-2-2 5.0
Western Michigan 6-13-5-4 7th 11-11-2-2 5th 17-24-7-6 6.0
Colorado College 2-19-3-1 8th 6-13-5-1 7th 8-32-8-2 7.5

What stands out to you? Who are North Dakota’s biggest rivals, year in and year out? Which conference series do you most look forward to? And who do you expect to make the biggest jump next season?

Published by Dave Berger on 13 Mar 2015

NCHC Playoff Preview: UND vs. Colorado College

After opening the season with a home sweep of Alabama-Huntsville, the Colorado College Tigers hosted UND at the World Arena. North Dakota erupted for ten goals in the two game sweep and sent the home team reeling. That series started a stretch of fifteen games with only victory (and that against Wisconsin, a team that everyone is beating these days).

North Dakota hosted CC in January and dispatched the Tigers by scores of 2-1 and 5-3, although Saturday’s series finale was also a one-goal contest until a late empty-net goal sealed the victory for UND.

Colorado College has only won two league games all season. One of those victories was against Nebraska-Omaha in mid-January, and the other came two weeks ago in a home series against Western Michigan. CC tied the Broncos 2-2 on Friday night (but lost the shootout) before throttling WMU 5-0 in the rematch. The Tigers also tied at UNO last Friday night and picked up a shootout win.

The biggest struggle for the boys from Colorado Springs has been goaltending. Since January 16th (the start of the second half of their NCHC schedule), CC has played fifteen games and given up three or more goals in ten of them. Over that same stretch, the Tigers have scored more than two goals only five times. As a result, Colorado College went 2-11-2-1 against those league opponents and sputtered to a last-place finish in the league standings.

The feeling among the Tiger faithful is that new blood behind the bench will eventually translate into new life on the ice. First-year head coach Mike Haviland is new to Division I hockey, but he was named the AHL coach of the year in 2006-07 (Norfolk Admirals) and served as an assistant coach with the Chicago Blackhawks for four seasons (2008-12), winning a Stanley Cup in 2010. He was most recently head coach for the AHL’s Hershey Bears.

UND and Colorado College met five times last season (all in Grand Forks), with North Dakota winning four of the five contests. As I wrote in this article, it has been extremely difficult to sweep in the first round of the conference tournament, and last year’s playoffs were no exception. CC notched an overtime victory in Game 2 of the NCHC quarterfinals to force a third and decisive game. Dave Hakstol’s crew ended the Tigers’ season with a 4-3 victory on Sunday night.

North Dakota will be without the services of senior forward Mark MacMillan for the rest of the season. The senior from Penticton, British Columbia sustained a lower body injury while blocking a shot during a key 5-on-3 penalty kill against St. Cloud State. MacMillan, one of three finalists for the NCHC defensive forward of the year, finishes his North Dakota career with 99 points in 151 games at UND. The last player to fall one point short of UND’s Century Club was forward Wes Dorey (1997-2001), who collected 47 goals and 52 assists in 140 career games.

UND’s seven senior skaters (forwards Connor Gaarder, Mark MacMillan, Brendan O’Donnell, Michael Parks, and Stephane Pattyn along with defensemen Nick Mattson and Andrew Panzarella) have combined for 54 points over the last fourteen games and rank as the fifth-most productive senior group in the nation with 120 points (Mercyhurst 171, Air Force 143, Minnesota 128, Dartmouth 124).

The last time North Dakota played on home ice, a Senior Night celebration was held for those seven players. The 2015 senior class has amassed a combined record of 98-47-16 (.658) with three straight trips to the NCAA tournament. By comparison, the winningest class under Dave Hakstol was the 2011 class (forwards Matt Frattin, Evan Trupp, Brad Malone, and Brent Davidson and defensemen Chay Genoway, Jake Marto, and Derrick LaPoint), who went 109-48-16 (.676) during their time at UND. Beginning with the incoming freshman class of 2002, every four-year player to wear the Green and White has collected 100 career victories.

Offensive capability from the blue line is a big reason for UND’s continued success. After leading the nation in scoring by defensemen last year, UND is first in the country in that category again this season. Through 35 games, North Dakota blueliners have scored 22 goals and added 79 assists for 101 points, or 2.89 points per game. Denver is second in that category with 98 points in 34 games (2.88 points/game).

More to the point, North Dakota’s top six defensemen have notched 16 goals and added 70 assists for 86 points (2.76 points/game). By comparison, the six Tiger blueliners expected to be in the lineup this weekend have combined for 19 goals and 34 assists for 53 points (1.69 points/game). And furthermore, UND is so deep with talent on the blue line that freshman defenseman Tucker Poolman has been playing wing this season, and he’s chipped in with six goals and six assists.

Five different members of UND’s defensive corps (Paul LaDue, Nick Mattson, Jordan Schmaltz, Troy Stecher, and Keaton Thompson) have nabbed NCHC Defenseman of the Week honors this season, while Tucker Poolman has been named the league’s Rookie of the Week.

UND junior netminder Zane McIntyre took a step backward in the Hobey Baker race with an up-and-down performance last weekend. After a fantastic outing (43 of 44 saves) in Friday’s 2-1 victory at Miami, he made only 23 of 28 stops in Saturday’s 6-3 defeat. McIntyre, who now sits 13th in the country in goals-against average (1.99) and 7th in save percentage (.931), has played the second-most minutes in the nation and is tied for first with 25 victories. In my opinion, the junior from Thief River Falls, Minnesota will earn a Hobey Baker nomination, but a berth in the Hobey Hat Trick (three finalists) would be a surprise.

Only three goalies in North Dakota hockey history have more wins in a season than McIntyre’s 25: Aaron Dell went 30-7-2 in 2010-11, Eddie Belfour notched 29 victories against only four defeats during his only season in Grand Forks (1986-87), and Jean-Phillippe Lamoureux posted a record of 27-11-4 in 2007-08. With one more win, McIntyre would tie Jordan Parise (2003-06, 55 career goaltending victories) for fourth place on UND’s all-time list. Karl Goehring (1997-2001, 80 wins), Lamoureux (2004-08, 60 wins), and Brad Eidsness (2008-12, 58 wins) hold the top three spots in that category.

It should be noted that Zane McIntyre is also statistically the best goaltender in North Dakota hockey history. His career goals-against average (2.09) and save percentage (.927) rank as the best all-time at UND. Former goaltending greats Jean-Phillippe Lamoureux, Jordan Parise, Aaron Dell, and Karl Goehring round out the top five.

Perhaps the biggest reason for UND’s success this season has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. During the 2014-15 campaign, Dave Hakstol’s squad is unbeaten (21-0-2) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past seven years, North Dakota is converting almost 90 percent of second intermission leads into victories and has just seven losses in the last 151 such situations (134-7-10). In fact, the last time UND lost when leading after two periods of play was November 1st, 2013 against visiting St. Cloud State, when a 1-0 lead turned into a 3-2 defeat.

Dave Hakstol has his team in a much better position than last year, when North Dakota’s NCAA tournament hopes went down to the wire. With a sparkling 9-1-1 non-conference record, UND currently sits in first place in the Pairwise rankings, one of five NCHC teams in line to make the NCAA tournament. Minnesota-Duluth (3rd), Miami (4th), Nebraska-Omaha (7th), and Denver (8th) would all make the field of 16 if the season ended today. St. Cloud State (16th) sits squarely on the bubble for the national tournament after losing three of its last four games. The Huskies play at Nebraska-Omaha in the first round of the NCHC playoffs and will more than likely need to advance to Minneapolis to continue their season. Incidentally, SCSU and UNO swapped places from the NCHC preseason media poll. The Huskies were picked to finish 3rd, while the Mavericks were slotted in 6th. The other six teams in the league finished exactly as predicted (#1 North Dakota, #2 Miami, #4 Denver, #5 Minnesota-Duluth, #7 Western Michigan, and #8 Colorado College).

And speaking of Hakstol, the UND head coach has now won twenty or more games in each of his first eleven seasons behind the North Dakota bench. That mark is easily the longest current streak in men’s hockey (Jerry York is second with six straight seasons of twenty or more wins, and Quinnipiac’s Rand Pecknold has four). Since Dave Hakstol was hired (2004-05), his teams are 50-21 (.704) in the postseason (conference and NCAA tournaments). No other NCHC school has more than 31 victories in that timeframe.

Colorado College Team Profile

Head Coach: Mike Haviland (1st season at CC, 6-24-3, .227)

Pairwise Ranking: 50th of 59 teams
National Rankings: NR/NR
This Season: 6-24-3 overall, 2-19-3-1 NCHC (8th)
Last Ten Games: 1-7-2 overall, 1-7-2-1 NCHC
Last Season: 7-24-6 overall, 6-13-5-1 NCHC (7th)

Team Offense: 2.15 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.88 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 21.0% (26 of 124)
Penalty Kill: 77.5% (100 of 129)

Key players: Junior F Cody Bradley (10-19-29), Junior F Hunter Fejes (5-13-18), Senior F Scott Wamsganz (8-11-19), Sophomore F Sam Rothstein (6-8-14), Sophomore D Jaccob Slavin (5-12-17), Senior D Peter Stoykewych (3-7-10), Sophomore G Tyler Marble (5-16-2, 3.39 GAA, .899 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (11th season at UND, 285-140-43, .655)

Pairwise Ranking: 1st of 59 teams
National Rankings: #1/#1
This Season: 25-7-3 overall, 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)
Last Ten Games: 7-2-1 overall, 7-2-1-0 NCHC
Last Season: 25-14-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)

Team Offense: 3.34 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.17 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.5% (30 of 146)
Penalty Kill: 83.6% (122 of 146)

Key Players: Junior F Drake Caggiula (16-17-33), Senior F Michael Parks (12-19-31), Freshman F Nick Schmaltz (5-20-25), Senior F Brendan O’Donnell (11-6-17), Junior D Jordan Schmaltz (3-23-26), Sophomore D Paul LaDue (4-15-19), Senior D Nick Mattson (3-13-16), Junior G Zane McIntyre (25-7-3, 1.99 GAA, .931 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: January 24th, 2015 (Grand Forks, ND). North Dakota completed the weekend sweep of the visiting Tigers with a 5-3 triumph. Five different players tallied goals for UND , eleven North Dakota skaters figured in the scoring, and Zane McIntyre made 25 saves. Colorado College went two for three on the power play and also scored an extra-attacker goal with under two minutes to play. Drake Caggiula’s unassisted empty-netter with 27 seconds remaining iced the victory.

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, 147-80-10 (.641), including a stellar 89-21-6 (.793) record in games played in Grand Forks. The teams first met in 1948.

Last Ten: North Dakota has won eight of the last ten meetings between the teams, outscoring CC 38-24 over that span. Both of the Tigers’ victories were overtime wins in league playoff action (WCHA Final Five in 2013, NCHC Quarterfinal in 2014). Sixteen of the last seventeen games have been decided by two goals or less.

Game News and Notes

CC has just one victory on the road this season and sports a 1-15-2 (.111) record in games away from the Springs. UND head coach Dave Hakstol has an overall record of 24-13-1 (.645) against Colorado College. Three North Dakota forwards in this weekend’s lineup have scored ten or more career points against Colorado College: junior forward Drake Caggiula and senior forward Michael Parks have gone 8-5-13 and 5-7-12 respectively in their fourteen games against the Tigers, while senior defenseman Nick Mattson has played against Colorado College fifteen times, scoring three goals and adding eight assists. For the second time in two seasons, a college hockey team in Colorado has a new coach (Jim Montgomery took over for George Gwozdecky at DU last year). UND went the entire regular season without being swept on the road (11-4-0 away from Ralph Engelstad Arena this year).

The Prediction

I feel like this series will play out like so many playoff weekends in the past. Friday’s opener will be no contest, with CC pushing back on Saturday night. Expect Colorado College seniors Scott Wamsganz and Peter Stoykewych to figure heavily in the outcome of these games as they battle to extend their season (and collegiate careers). If the Tigers’ power play gets clicking, this one could go to three games. As it is, however, I’ve got North Dakota in two. UND 4-1, 3-2.

Published by Dave Berger on 10 Mar 2015

The First Round Playoff Series: Why Is It So Difficult To Sweep?

This is the 13th consecutive season that North Dakota has hosted a first round playoff series, and UND has fared extremely well on home ice, advancing to the second weekend of the conference tournament in each instance.

Dave Hakstol is 20-5 in home quarterfinal games during his tenure, putting the home fans at ease by winning Friday’s opener eight straight times. Over the past twelve series, Saturday’s games have been more difficult, as seen by the following breakdown:

Average goals scored/goals allowed in first round home playoff games (2003-2014):

Friday: 4.83 goals scored/1.67 goals allowed
Saturday: 3.08 goals scored/2.25 goals allowed
Sunday: 3.67 goals scored/1.17 goals allowed

The way this has played out in the past is that North Dakota has typically hosted a team from the bottom third of the league (Michigan Tech five times, MSU-Mankato twice, and once each for Bemidji State, Colorado College, Denver, Minnesota, and Minnesota-Duluth). Friday’s openers have been blowouts, with UND winning ten of its last twelve openers by an average score of 5.5 – 1.3.

So why is it that six of the past twelve home series have gone to a third and decisive game?

The main reason that the Green and White have played much closer games on Saturday night (eight one-goal games) is that in every case, North Dakota was playing to extend its own season and/or end another team’s season. Elimination games bring out the best in both teams, and the results are tightly contested matches. Remarkably, UND played host to five overtime playoff contests from 2003-2008 but only one (last season’s Game Two overtime loss to Colorado College) since that time.

And not coincidentally, the last time North Dakota was on the road for the first round (2002), they demonstrated similar results. Playing at eventual national champion Minnesota in the opening round of the WCHA playoffs, UND took the Gophers to overtime on Saturday night (losing 4-3) after getting destroyed 7-2 in Friday’s opener.

The boys from Grand Forks have only given up seven total goals in six Sunday home playoff games. Two recent Game Threes went into the books as blowouts (4-1 vs. Minnesota [2010] and 6-0 vs. Michigan Tech [2013]), but last season’s rubber match against the Tigers went right down to the wire. CC scored an extra-attacker goal with 90 seconds remaining but could not find the equalizer and fell by a score of 4-3.

The only playoff series in the current stretch that did not feature at least one close game was in 2005. North Dakota destroyed Minnesota-Duluth 8-2 and 6-1, with Rory McMahon (2 goals, 5 assists) and Rastislav Spirko (3 goals, 3 assists) leading the way for the Fighting Sioux. Colby Genoway added three goals and two assists, and netminder Jordan Parise turned away 34 of 37 Bulldog shots to earn two victories and the series sweep.

Here are the complete results for the last 30 home conference playoff games:

Year Opponent Game One Game Two Game Three
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)

So what will this weekend’s result be between #1 North Dakota and #8 Colorado College? Will the series go to a third game? Follow this link for a full preview and prediction.

Published by Dave Berger on 06 Mar 2015

Weekend Preview: UND at Miami

At the beginning of last season, Miami was #1 in the national polls and expected to finish first in the inaugural season of the NCHC. The RedHawks returned Ryan McKay between the pipes (1.39 goals-against average, .946 save percentage, and four shutouts in 2012-13) and a pair of high-flying forwards in Riley Barber and Austin Czarnik.

Inconsistent goaltending and a string of injuries took their toll on Enrico Blasi’s squad. Furthermore, Miami went 4-10 in one-goal games last year and sputtered to a 15-20-3 record. It was the first time in ten seasons that the RedHawks failed to win at least twenty games.

Despite the disappointing regular season results, last place Miami traveled to league champion St. Cloud State for the first round of the NCHC playoffs and dispatched #4 St. Cloud State in a pair of tight games. At the inaugural Frozen Faceoff, the RedHawks blanked #11 North Dakota 3-0 before dropping a heartbreaker to Denver in the league championship game, ending their improbable run one game short of the NCAA tournament.

Miami only graduated two players from last year’s squad: forwards Max Cook (23 points in 111 career games) and Bryon Paulazzo (33 points in 105 games). To the cynic, bringing back almost the entire roster from a 15 win season might not be all that exciting, but this year has been markedly different for the boys from Oxford, Ohio. After allowing over three goals per game a year ago, Miami has brought that number down to 2.28. (North Dakota is allowing just 2.09 goals/game). And the RedHawks have been able to score with anyone, notching three or more goals in 19 of 32 games this year (and potting two goals in eight others).

This season, RedHawks netminder Jay Williams has taken over the starting spot, and he had a spectacular first half. The junior from McLean, Virginia went 12-2-0 over the first three months of the season with three shutout victories. Since the calendar turned to 2015, however, Williams has struggled, giving up three or more goals in four of eight contests and posting a pedestrian record of 4-4-0. More incredibly, Williams only made 38 of 45 stops in back-to-back losses against Minnesota-Duluth and Denver (his two most recent appearances) and was chased by the Pioneers after less than thirteen minutes (four goals allowed on thirteen shots).

North Dakota will be without the services of senior forward Mark MacMillan this weekend and for the foreseeable future. The senior from Penticton, British Columbia sustained a lower body injury while blocking a shot during a key 5-on-3 penalty kill early in last Saturday’s game against St. Cloud State. MacMillan, who may have played his last game for the Green and White, has 99 career points in 151 games at UND. The last player to fall one point short of UND’s Century Club was forward Wes Dorey (1997-2001), who collected 47 goals and 52 assists in 140 career games.

It appears as though Trevor Olson will be inserted in the lineup at wing this weekend, with senior forward Stephane Pattyn moving to center. North Dakota fans may remember that two key UND players were out of the lineup for the home split against Miami earlier this season; freshman forward Nick Schmaltz and sophomore defenseman Paul LaDue both missed that November series.

UND’s seven senior skaters (forwards Connor Gaarder, Mark MacMillan, Brendan O’Donnell, Michael Parks, and Stephane Pattyn along with defensemen Nick Mattson and Andrew Panzarella) have combined for 52 points over the last twelve games and rank as the fourth-most productive senior group in the nation with 118 points (Mercyhurst 171, Air Force 128, Minnesota 124).

North Dakota honored those seven players during last Saturday’s Senior Night celebration. The 2015 senior class has amassed a combined record of 97-46-16 (.660) with three straight trips to the NCAA tournament. By comparison, the winningest class under Dave Hakstol was the 2011 class (forwards Matt Frattin, Evan Trupp, Brad Malone, and Brent Davidson and defensemen Chay Genoway, Jake Marto, and Derrick LaPoint), who went 109-48-16 (.676) during their time at UND. Beginning with the incoming freshman class of 2002, every four-year player to wear the Green and White has collected 100 career victories.

Offensive capability from the blue line is a big reason for UND’s continued success. After leading the nation in scoring by defensemen last year, UND is first in the country in that category again this season. Through 33 games, North Dakota blueliners have scored 21 goals and added 77 assists for 98 points, or 2.97 points per game. Denver is second in that category with 94 points in 32 games (2.94 points/game).

More to the point, North Dakota’s top six defensemen have notched 14 goals and added 68 assists for 82 points (2.81 points/game). By comparison, the six Miami blueliners expected to be in the lineup this weekend have combined for 12 goals and 42 assists for 54 points (1.80 points/game). And furthermore, UND is so deep with talent on the blue line that freshman defenseman Tucker Poolman has been playing wing this season, and he’s chipped in with six goals and six assists.

Five different members of UND’s defensive corps (Paul LaDue, Nick Mattson, Jordan Schmaltz, Troy Stecher, and Keaton Thompson) have nabbed NCHC Defenseman of the Week honors this season, while Tucker Poolman has been named the league’s Rookie of the Week.

UND junior netminder Zane McIntyre is squarely in the Hobey Baker conversation after another stellar performance last weekend against St. Cloud State (49 of 52 saves in the home sweep while not allowing an even-strength goal). McIntyre, who now sits 8th in the country in goals-against average (1.93) and 7th in save percentage (.933), has played the third-most minutes in the nation and has the most victories in the country (24). In my opinion, the junior from Thief River Falls, Minnesota will need to continue registering victories and pick up one or two more shutouts over the next two weekends of action to remain in contention for college hockey’s highest individual award.

Only three goalies in North Dakota hockey history have more wins in a season than McIntyre’s 24: Aaron Dell went 30-7-2 in 2010-11, Eddie Belfour notched 29 victories against only four defeats during his only season in Grand Forks (1986-87), and Jean-Phillippe Lamoureux posted a record of 27-11-4 in 2007-08.

It should be noted that Zane McIntyre is also statistically the best goaltender in North Dakota hockey history. His career goals-against average (2.06) and save percentage (.927) rank as the best all-time at UND. Former goaltending greats Jean-Phillippe Lamoureux, Jordan Parise, Aaron Dell, and Karl Goehring round out the top five.

Perhaps the biggest reason for UND’s success this season has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. During the 2014-15 campaign, Dave Hakstol’s squad is unbeaten (20-0-2) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past seven years, North Dakota is converting almost 90 percent of second intermission leads into victories and has just seven losses in the last 150 such situations (133-7-10). In fact, the last time UND lost when leading after two periods of play was November 1st, 2013 against visiting St. Cloud State, when a 1-0 lead turned into a 3-2 defeat.

Dave Hakstol has his team in a much better position than last year, when North Dakota’s NCAA tournament hopes went down to the wire. With a sparkling 9-1-1 non-conference record, UND currently sits in first place in the Pairwise rankings, one of five NCHC teams in line to make the NCAA tournament. Minnesota-Duluth (3rd), Miami (4th), Nebraska-Omaha (5th), and Denver (8th) would all make the field of 16 if the season ended today. St. Cloud State dropped from 14th to 17th in the Pairwise after losing two road games against North Dakota last weekend.

And speaking of Hakstol, the UND head coach has now won twenty or more games in each of his first eleven seasons behind the North Dakota bench. That mark is easily the longest current streak in men’s hockey (Jerry York is second with six straight seasons of twenty or more wins, and Quinnipiac’s Rand Pecknold has four).

North Dakota has already clinched a share of the Penrose Cup, which is awarded to the regular season league champion (Miami is the only team within striking distance). With one point this weekend, UND will claim the title outright and face Colorado College at home in the first round of the NCHC playoffs.

If league games were not decided by shootout, North Dakota would have already won the Penrose Cup: UND’s 15-5-2 record in NCHC action would be good for 32 points, while Miami’s 13-8-1 mark would only get them to 27.

The reason North Dakota is in such an enviable position (in the league and nationally) is that Dave Hasktol’s squad has played thirteen different teams this season and has a winning record against ten of them. UND earned splits against their other three opponents (Bemidji State, Minnesota-Duluth, and Miami), and would like at least a split this weekend to continue winning the Pairwise comparison against the RedHawks.

Miami Team Profile

Head Coach: Enrico Blasi (16th season at Miami, 346-227-57, .594)

Pairwise Ranking: 4th of 59 teams
National Ranking: #5/#5
This Season: 20-11-1 overall, 13-8-1-1 NCHC (2nd)
Last Ten Games: 6-3-1 overall, 6-3-1-1 NCHC
Last Season: 15-20-3 overall, 6-17-1-1 NCHC (8th)

Team Offense: 2.97 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.28 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.3% (27 of 140)
Penalty Kill: 83.1% (13 of 136)

Key players: Junior F Riley Barber (16-15-31), Senior F Austin Czarnik (2-30-32), Sophomore F Sean Kuraly (16-7-23), Senior F Blake Coleman (12-12-24), Sophomore F Anthony Louis (6-21-27). Sophomore D Matthew Caito (3-15-18), Freshman D Louie Belpedio (4-10-14), Junior G Jay Williams (16-6-0, 1.90 GAA, .920 SV%, 4 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (11th season at UND, 284-139-43, .656)

Pairwise Ranking: 1st of 59 teams
National Rankings: #1/#1
This Season: 24-6-3 overall, 15-5-2-0 NCHC (1st)
Last Ten Games: 8-1-1 overall, 8-1-1-0 NCHC
Last Season: 25-14-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)

Team Offense: 3.39 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.09 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.9% (29 of 139)
Penalty Kill: 84.1% (116 of 138)

Key Players: Junior F Drake Caggiula (15-16-31), Senior F Michael Parks (12-19-31), Freshman F Nick Schmaltz (5-19-24), Senior F Brendan O’Donnell (11-6-17), Junior D Jordan Schmaltz (3-22-25), Sophomore D Paul LaDue (4-15-19), Senior D Nick Mattson (3-13-16), Junior G Zane McIntyre (24-6-3, 1.93 GAA, .933 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: November 15, 2014 (Grand Forks, ND). After surrendering the first goal early in the second period, North Dakota came roaring back with three of their own in the middle frame and cruised to a 4-1 win in front of 11,802 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Junior forward Drake Caggiula potted two goals (including a highlight reel dangle through Ben Paulides’ skates) and assisted on another, while seniors Mark MacMillan and Michael Parks collected two points each. Zane McIntyre made 28 of 29 saves in the victory, while UND hung the loss on Ryan McKay (23 of 27 saves). Since then, McKay has only appeared in eight games for the RedHawks, going 4-2-1. Miami won the series opener by a final of 3-2, with both teams scoring a shorthanded goal.

Last Meeting in Oxford: October 19, 2013. Blake Coleman’s hat trick led the way for Miami, as the RedHawks rolled to a 6-2 home victory over UND. Zane Gothberg (now McIntyre) was chased from the game after allowing four goals on fifteen shots. Less than fifteen seconds after Clarke Saunders entered the game, Coleman, who had just scored on Gothberg, put one top-shelf on Saunders to make it 5-0. North Dakota won the opener, 4-2, with Blake Coleman being issued a game misconduct early in the contest. 3642 fans came through the gates each night (Steve Cady Arena’s listed capacity is 3200).

Most Important Meeting: Last season’s loss to Miami at the Frozen Faceoff could have ended North Dakota’s season, but UND rebounded with a 5-0 victory over Western Michigan. After Wisconsin did their part across the river in St. Paul, the Green and White used their second chance as fuel for a Frozen Four run. The series these two teams will play this weekend has both NCHC and NCAA tournament implications.

All-time Series: North Dakota leads the all-time series 6-3-1 (.650), including a 1-1-0 (.500) mark in games played in Oxford. Five of the ten all-time meetings between the schools came during the 2013-14 season, with UND picking up wins in three of those five games. The teams first played in 1999 (Badger Showdown, Milwaukee, WI).

Game News and Notes

North Dakota is 9-2 in one-goal games this season. Miami has only been outshot in six of 32 games this season; the RedHawks are 0-6 in those games. UND has not allowed an even-strength goal in almost 260 minutes of action. Miami made the NCAA tournament in nine of Enrico Blasi’s previous fifteen seasons as head coach. North Dakota senior forward Michael Parks has collected eleven points in seven career games against the RedHawks, leading all current players in that category.

The Prediction

In the absence of Mark MacMillan, it will take some time for Dave Hakstol’s new line combinations to gel. I give Miami the edge in Friday’s opener, with North Dakota roaring back in the rematch to remain unbeaten on Saturday nights (currently 15-0-2) and hoist the Penrose Cup. Miami 3-2, UND 4-2.

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