Weekend Preview: North Dakota at St. Cloud State

Last season, North Dakota and St. Cloud State battled six times, with UND clearly having the better of it:

NCHC Regular Season
November 18, 2016 (St. Cloud): UND 4, SCSU 0
November 19, 2016 (St. Cloud): UND 3, SCSU 0

NCHC Regular Season
February 3, 2017 (Grand Forks): SCSU 3, UND 1
February 4, 2017 (Grand Forks): UND 2, SCSU 1 (OT)

NCHC First Round Playoff Series
March 10, 2017 (Grand Forks): UND 5, SCSU 2
March 11, 2017 (Grand Forks): UND 6, SCSU 5 (OT)

I would expect this weekend’s games to be less like the November series in St. Cloud and more like the NCHC playoff series that these two teams played back in March, with plenty of offense and end-to-end action.

#2 St. Cloud State boasts the nation’s most potent offense (4.54 goals scored/game) and the third-best power play (17 of 62, 27.4 percent). For many teams, that commitment to getting the puck up the ice and at the net will result in plenty of chances the other way, but the Huskies also have the country’s fourth-best team defense (2.15 goals allowed/game).

SCSU is even more effective on home ice, using the wide sheet to their advantage at even strength and on the power play. Through their first eight home games (all victories), Bob Motzko’s squad has scored forty goals (5.00 goals scored/game) and allowed only fifteen (1.88 goals allowed/game).

Offensively, the Huskies are led by four forwards and a defenseman who have already reached the double-digit point plateau this season:

Junior D Jimmy Schuldt: 5-14-19
Junior F Robby Jackson: 6-10-16
Sophomore F Ryan Poehling: 3-11-14
Junior F Mikey Eyssimont: 4-9-13
Junior F Jacob Benson: 5-5-10

This quartet of forwards have led the charge, with freshman forward Kevin Fitzgerald (4-5-9), senior forward Judd Peterson (1-8-9), junior forward Patrick Newell (2-6-8), and sophomore forward Jack Poehling (6-1-7) also contributing handily. The offensive talent is spread throughout the lineup and will be a matchup nightmare for Brad Berry and his staff, as UND’s second and third defensive pairs are relatively inexperienced.

Through the first eleven games, St. Cloud State had traveled outside of Minnesota just once, losing a pair at Denver but winning all nine games played in the State of Hockey. The Huskies answered some critics last weekend, however, by sweeping a weekend series at Omaha (7-4, 5-0). Despite the disparity in home and away games through the first half of the season, SCSU has played the 4th-most difficult schedule in the country (according to KRACH). By comparison, North Dakota’s strength of schedule weighs in at #12.

It’s been up and down for the Huskies in the first five seasons of the NCHC. After winning the Penrose Cup in the inaugural season of the new league (2013-14) with an overall record of 22-11-5 (.645), St. Cloud State made the NCAA tournament again in 2014-15 with a relatively pedestrian mark of 20-19-1 (.512). At the end of that season, SCSU had the unfortunate circumstance of facing and falling to North Dakota in the West Regional final (Fargo, ND), a virtual home game for the Green and White.

SCSU captured the NCHC Frozen Faceoff championship and another NCAA tourney bid in 2015-16 with a sparkling record of 31-9-1 (.768) but unfortunately suffered an overtime loss in the opening round of the national tournament. St. Cloud State, the top seed in the NCAA West Regional (Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, MN), rallied to tie #18 Ferris State in the third period, but the Bulldogs scored just 18 seconds into the extra session to knock off the Huskies (who were ranked #2 in the country heading into the NCAAs) by a final of 5-4.

Thirty-win seasons are extremely rare in today’s college hockey landscape, with more parity and more ties taking away the opportunity to rack up victories. Since I started traveling to St. Cloud for the UND/SCSU games back in 1998, the Fighting Sioux/Hawks and the Huskies have both reached the 30-victory plateau on multiple occasions. Remarkably, St. Cloud State posted identical marks of 31-9-1 (.768) in their milestone seasons (2001 and 2016).

1997-98 North Dakota (30-8-1)
1998-99 North Dakota (32-6-2)
1999-00 North Dakota (31-8-5)
2000-01 St. Cloud State (31-9-1)
2003-04 North Dakota (30-8-3)
2010-11 North Dakota (32-9-3)
2015-16 North Dakota (34-6-4)
2015-16 St. Cloud State (31-9-1)

For more on the rarity and importance of a thirty-win season, follow this link.

Last season was far from a milestone season for Bob Motzko’s squad, as the group sputtered to a record of 16-19-1 (.458) and missed the NCAAs for the first time since the 2011-12 team finished at .500 (17-17-5). North Dakota has made fifteen consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, the longest active streak in Division I men’s ice hockey and the second-longest streak of all time (Michigan appeared in 22 straight NCAA tourneys from 1991 to 2012).

North Dakota ended St. Cloud State’s 2016-17 campaign with a home sweep in the first round of the NCHC playoffs. UND cruised 5-2 in the opener before besting the Huskies in a 6-5 overtime thriller. As I have said before, we have come to expect close matchups in NCHC playoff games played on Saturdays (and often Sundays), as the visiting team is almost always playing to extend their season.

North Dakota and St. Cloud State will also face off in Grand Forks on March 2nd and 3rd, one week before the start of the league playoffs. It is very likely that the games this weekend and the series in March will determine whether one of these two teams (or Denver) will win the NCHC regular season title. Furthermore, the games this weekend give UND a chance to take over the top spot in the NCHC standings heading into the Christmas break, with the Fighting Hawks (5-2-1-1 in the NCHC, 17 points) trailing St. Cloud State (6-2-0-0 in the NCHC, 18 points) by a single point in the league standings.

For both UND and SCSU (and for the league as a whole), non-conference records will definitely help them down the road. St. Cloud State is a perfect 5-0-0 against Minnesota State (one game), Alaska, and Boston College while North Dakota is 5-2-3 against Alaska Anchorage, St. Lawrence, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Union.

In the second half, the Huskies will face Princeton, Minnesota, and Minnesota State (one game), while UND has only a home-and-home series with Bemidji State on the second half schedule. The league as a whole has gone 36-16-9 (.664) in non-conference play and could easily place five teams in the NCAA tournament field.

On the injury/illness front, St. Cloud State is completely healthy and North Dakota is…well….getting there. Senior goaltender Cam Johnson (7-2-1/1.71/.921 this season; 51-19-6/2.00/.918 in his UND career) and junior forward Joel Janatuinen (1-6-7 this season; 13-22-35 career) made their return to the lineup in last weekend’s sweep of Western Michigan. Junior forward Nick Jones (6-7-13) also played last Saturday after missing Friday due to illness.

Senior forward Trevor Olson (0-2-2 in seven games this season; 9-16-25 career) is expected to return and bring his physical style of play to the lineup this weekend, but the Fighting Hawks are still without the services of Dixon Bowen (1-2-3 this season; 7-6-13 career). UND has definitely missed Bowen’s speed, particularly on the penalty kill.

Sophomore forward Ludvig Hoff (2-4-6 this season; 6-16-22 career) and sophomore defenseman Andrew Peski (0-2-2 this season; 0-5-5 career) both left the UND lineup last weekend against the Broncos, and it is unclear whether either one will be available for Brad Berry in the last hockey action before the holiday break.

St. Cloud State Team Profile

Head Coach: Bob Motzko (13th season at SCSU, 262-185-43, .579)

National Rankings: #2/#2

This Season: 11-2-0 overall, 6-2-0-0 NCHC (1st)
Last Season: 16-19-1 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 10-13-1-0 NCHC (5th)

2017-18 Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 4.54 goals scored/game – 1st of 60 teams
Team Defense: 2.15 goals allowed/game – 4th of 60 teams
Power Play: 27.4% (17 of 62) – 3rd of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 81.1% (43 of 53) – 33rd of 60 teams

Key Players: Junior F Robby Jackson (6-10-16), Sophomore F Ryan Poehling (3-11-14), Junior F Mikey Eyssimont (4-9-13), Junior F Jacob Benson (5-5-10), Junior D Jimmy Schuldt (5-14-19), Sophomore D Jack Ahcan (1-7-8), Junior D Will Borgen (1-7-8), Sophomore G Jeff Smith (7-1-0, 2.13 GAA, .927 SV%, 1 SO), Freshman G David Hrenak (3-1-0, 1.50 GAA, .959 SV%, 2 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (3rd season at UND, 65-26-11, .691)

National Rankings: #5/#5

This Season: 10-4-4 overall, 5-2-1-1 NCHC (2nd)
Last Season: 21-16-3 overall (NCAA West Regional semifinalist), 11-12-1-1 NCHC (4th)

2017-18 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 2.94 goals scored/game – 23rd of 60 teams
Team Defense: 2.17 goals allowed/game – 5th of 60 teams
Power Play: 20.5% (16 of 78) – 24th of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 87.0% (67 of 77) – 8th of 60 teams

Key Players: Junior F Nick Jones (6-7-13), Freshman F Grant Mismash (5-9-14), Junior F Shane Gersich (5-6-11), Junior F Rhett Gardner (3-7-10), Junior D Christian Wolanin (5-9-14 and a wicked slap shot for a shootout goal), Sophomore D Colton Poolman (4-7-11), Senior G Cam Johnson (7-2-1, 1.71 GAA, .921 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: March 11, 2017 (Grand Forks, North Dakota). North Dakota finished off St. Cloud State in a wild contest that featured eleven goals, six lead changes, and an overtime winner by junior forward Trevor Olson. UND sophomore defenseman Christian Wolanin tied the game at 5-5 with just over four minutes remaining to send the game to an extra session. SCSU sophomore blueliner Will Borgen was ineligible to play in the first two games of the playoff series due to his suspension for physically abusing an official in a game against Colorado College. Had the Huskies held on to defeat the Fighting Hawks,

Last Meeting in St. Cloud: November 19, 2016. One night after making 26 saves in a 4-0 road victory, North Dakota netminder Cam Johnson bettered himself by making 36 stops in a 3-0 win. In the impressive weekend sweep, the Fighting Hawks went 3-for-8 on the power play and held SCSU scoreless on eight man-advantage situations. North Dakota sophomore forward Shane Gersich found the net four times over the two games, including a hat trick in Friday’s opener. The two wins, coupled with a 2-1 overtime victory in February, meant that UND won the Challenge Cup outright last season.

Most Important Meeting: NCAA West Regional Final in Fargo, ND (March 28, 2015). North Dakota scored three unassisted goals over the final two periods of the hockey game to defeat St. Cloud State 4-1 in the West Regional Final and advance to the NCAA Frozen Four. Jimmy Murray got the Huskies on the board less than 90 seconds in to the hockey game, but that did nothing to quiet the partisan crowd of 5,307 at SCHEELS Arena. Four different players scored for UND, while Zane McIntyre made 19 stops to earn his 29th and final victory of the season.

All-Time Series: North Dakota leads the all-time series, 71-40-12 (.626), including a 29-21-6 (.571) record in games played in St. Cloud. Aside from their 2015 NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinal victory, the Huskies also defeated North Dakota in the 2001 WCHA Final Five championship game. The teams have been squaring off regularly since the 1989-90 season, but have only met once in the NCAA tournament (2015).

Last Ten: UND holds a 7-3-0 (.700) edge in the last ten meetings between the teams, outscoring the Huskies 31-24 over that stretch of games.

Game News and Notes

St. Cloud State is perfect at home this season (8-0-0); North Dakota is 4-2-2 (.625) on the road. UND forwards Shane Gersich and Austin Poganski have each scored eight career points against SCSU, although it took Poganski fourteen games and Gersich only seven. The Fighting Hawks (57.0 percent) and Huskies (55.3 percent) are the top two faceoff teams in the country. Furthermore, nine of the top twenty centermen in the NCHC (according to faceoff stats) will be on the ice this weekend in St. Cloud. North Dakota netminder Cam Johnson is undefeated in his career against SCSU, with a 5-0-0 record, a goals-against average of 1.45, a save percentage of .931, and two shutouts.

Media Coverage

Both games will be streamed in high definition on NCHC.tv and available live on FOX College Sports Pacific as well as DirecTV and DISH channels. Friday’s opener will also be carried on FOX Sports North PLUS, with Saturday’s rematch on FOX Sports North. UND men’s hockey games (home and away) can be heard on 96.1 FM and on stations across the UND Sports Radio 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.

A Personal Note

All North Dakota and St. Cloud State hockey fans are invited and encouraged to attend an informal pre-game social on Saturday, December 9th beginning at 4:00 p.m. at Brothers (119 5th Avenue South in St. Cloud). Just a note that there will not be food or door prizes provided, but the Challenge Cup will make an appearance. Come and meet fans on both sides of this rivalry – here’s to hockey!

The Prediction

It will take North Dakota’s young group of defensemen some time to adjust to the wide sheet, particularly in the corners. I give St. Cloud State the advantage in the opener, with the Fighting Hawks roaring back to earn a road split. SCSU 4-2, UND 4-3.

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. Western Michigan

Before last season’s December home series against WMU, I wrote the following:

North Dakota and Western Michigan have faced off sixteen times since 1997, with UND claiming victory in fifteen of those contests and outscoring WMU 68-28 in the process.

The Fighting Hawks will be fortunate to win two of the four regular-season games against the Broncos this year.

How can both of these statements be true?

Through recruiting and player development, Western Michigan head coach Andy Murray has finally been able to put his mark on the team. Freshmen and sophomores are leading the way for the Broncos, and the combination of speed, size, and skill is one that will be barely recognizable to North Dakota fans.

And it was certainly prophetic to suggest that UND would struggle last season against the new-look Broncos, as Andy Murray’s squad split the series in Grand Forks (1-5, 3-1) and swept North Dakota at home in February (4-2, 3-2).

It appears that WMU will bring that same combination of speed, size, and skill to Ralph Engelstad Arena this weekend, having scored 27 goals in six conference games (5-1-0). For the Broncos, junior forward Colt Conrad (9-12-21) and sophomore forward Wade Allison (10-9-19) both rank among the top ten nationally in scoring, with two other second-year forwards (Hugh McGing [4-13-17] and Dawson DiPietro [7-9-16]) not far behind.

The offensive success of Conrad, Allison, and McGing is not surprising (the trio combined for 80 points last season), but DiPietro came out of nowhere after appearing in just one game a year ago.

By comparison, junior transfer Nick Jones leads all UND forwards with a line of 5-6-11.

After this weekend, North Dakota will travel to St. Cloud to face the #2-ranked Huskies. If UND hopes to end 2017 on a high note, it will need to get more offensive production from senior Austin Poganski and juniors Shane Gersich, Rhett Gardner, and Joel Janatuinen. The quartet has just eleven goals in 62 combined games this season after potting 49 goals in 154 games last year.

Western Michigan is sitting in first place in the NCHC standings but has played only one league series away from home, a split at Duluth (WMU swept both Denver and Omaha at home). Overall, Andy Murray’s group is 9-5-1 through the first fifteen games of the season but have played only four games on the road (1-3-0). This next stretch of games will feature a much tougher test for the Broncos, with nine of their next thirteen contests away from Lawson Ice Arena.

The Fighting Hawks are getting healthier, with senior goaltender Cam Johnson (5-2-1/1.63/.925 this season; 49-19-6/2.00/.919 in his UND career) and junior forward Joel Janatuinen (1-5-6 this season; 13-21-34 in his UND career) expected to return to the lineup. Freshman netminder Peter Thome filled in admirably over the past eight games (3-2-3, 2.56 GAA, .907 SV%), but there’s no replacing Johnson’s talent and experience.

Sophomore forward Dixon Bowen (1-2-3 this season; 7-6-13 in his UND career) and senior forward Trevor Olson (0-2-2 this season; 9-16-25 in his UND career) remain out of the North Dakota lineup. UND has definitely missed Olson’s physicality up front and Bowen’s speed, particularly on the penalty kill.

Western Michigan Team Profile

Head Coach: Andy Murray (7th season at WMU, 112-102-33, .520)

National Rankings: #10/#8

This Season: 9-5-1 overall, 5-1-0-0 NCHC (1st)
Last Season: 22-13-5 overall (NCAA East Regional semifinalist), 13-9-2-1 NCHC (3rd)

2017-18 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.67 goals scored/game – 4th of 60 teams
Team Defense: 2.73 goals allowed/game – 24th of 60 teams
Power Play: 16.0% (13 of 81) – 41st of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 85.7% (72 of 84) – 12th of 60 teams

Key Players: Junior F Colt Conrad (9-12-21), Sophomore F Wade Allison (10-9-19), Sophomore F Hugh McGing (4-13-17), Sophomore F Dawson DePietro (7-9-16), Sophomore D Luke Bafia (1-8-9), Sophomore D Cam Lee (3-5-8), Sophomore G Ben Blacker (8-5-1, 2.48 GAA, .914 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (3rd season at UND, 63-26-11, .685)

National Rankings: #6/#6

This Season: 8-4-4 overall, 3-2-1-1 NCHC (3rd)
Last Season: 21-16-3 overall (NCAA West Regional semifinalist), 11-12-1-1 NCHC (4th)

2017-18 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 2.81 goals scored/game – 28th of 60 teams
Team Defense: 2.19 goals allowed/game – 7th of 60 teams
Power Play: 20.0% (13 of 65) – 25th of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 88.1% (59 of 67) – 5th of 60 teams

Key Players: Junior F Nick Jones (5-6-11), Freshman F Grant Mismash (4-7-11), Junior F Shane Gersich (5-4-9), Junior F Rhett Gardner (3-6-9), Junior D Christian Wolanin (5-8-13 and a wicked slap shot for a shootout goal), Sophomore D Colton Poolman (4-6-10), Senior G Cam Johnson (5-2-1, 1.63 GAA, .925 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: February 18, 2017 (Kalamazoo, MI). 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).

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: December 10, 2016. One night after dominating every aspect of play in a 5-1 victory, UND outshot Western Michigan 33-22 (21-7 in the third period) but went 0-for-6 on the power play and allowed the game-winner with under eight minutes remaining. The Broncos’ Michael Rebry added an empty-net goal to make the final score 3-1 in favor of WMU.

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 sixteen of the twenty games, outscoring the Broncos 78-39. Before last season, 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: North Dakota is 7-3 in the last ten meetings between the teams, although the Broncos have turned the tables in the series and have won the past three games.

Game News and Notes

With six more wins, North Dakota will reach the 1500-victory milestone as a program. No other program in the country has as many wins in the past eleven years as UND (298). 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.

Media Coverage

Both games this weekend will be carried live by Midco Sports Network, with Saturday’s rematch also available on FOX College Sports. This weekend’s series will also be streamed live 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.

On A Personal Note

I have participated in Movember for the past five years and have proudly raised almost $9000 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!

The Prediction

We are bound to see quite a bit of racehorse hockey this weekend, with the first team to four goals usually emerging victorious. I give the edge to the visitors in game one, with North Dakota rebounding on Saturday night for a split. WMU 4-2, UND 4-3

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 Denver

In the NCHC, it is clear that Denver/North Dakota is at the top of the league rivalries. The teams have played sixteen times during the first three 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 last season’s 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.)

And now, on to the games this weekend…

On the injury front, North Dakota senior netminder Cam Johnson (49-19-6, 2.04 goals-against average, .917 save percentage, and ten shutouts in his UND career) remains out of the lineup with an undisclosed injury he suffered during the morning skate last weekend in Madison, Wisconsin. In his absence, freshman goaltender Peter Thome has gone 2-0-2 for the Fighting Hawks with a goals-against average of 1.92 and a save percentage of .929. Thome is expected to start both games this weekend in Denver, with junior Ryan “Bob” Anderson backing him up.

Up front, UND is getting healthier, with sophomore forward Ludvig Hoff (5-4-19 in 44 career games played) and junior forward Joel Janatuinen (12-23-33 in 83 gp) available for Brad Berry this weekend. North Dakota will, however, be without the services of senior forward Trevor Olson (9-16-25 in 100 gp), who sustained an upper-body injury at Colorado College three weekends ago.

Playing at altitude is always a challenge for teams visiting Denver, but North Dakota’s depth should mitigate that somewhat. With the last line change, the Pioneers will make things difficult for UND’s defensemen and centers by splitting up their big guns across multiple lines. Here are the top four forwards for DU:

Junior forward Troy Terry: 5-13-18
Sophomore forward Henrik Borgström: 11-6-17
Junior forward Dylan Gambrell: 5-11-16
Junior forward Jarid Lukosevicius: 4-6-10

Terry and Borgström currently sit 1-2 in the NCHC scoring race, with Gambrell in fourth place.

By comparison, North Dakota is led by freshman forward Grant Mismash (4-7-11) and junior defenseman Christian Wolanin (3-7-10). No other Fighting Hawks skater has reached double-digit points this season, although seven other players have multiple goals and another seven have lit the lamp once.

If UND hopes to make a deep playoff run, junior forward Shane Gersich (4-4-8) and senior forward Austin Poganski (2-1-3) will need to find their scoring touch. The two combined for 33 goals and 29 assists last year but have struggled to find open ice through the first twelve games of this season.

If Denver has a weakness, it’s on the blue line. Of the six defensemen who suited up during DU’s national title run last season, only two will be in the lineup this weekend against North Dakota. Will Butcher (28-75-103 in 158 career games played) and Matt VanVoorhis (4-19-23 in 139 gp) graduated, and current seniors Tariq Hammond (5-15-20 in 94 gp) and Adam Plant (8-27-35 in 132 gp) are out of the lineup with injuries.

Hammond, the team captain, still hasn’t been cleared from off-season ankle surgeries. He’s practicing with contact but is still not skating effectively. Plant, an alternate captain, suffered an upper-body injury in the third period of last Saturday’s 5-1 victory over St. Cloud State and hasn’t practiced this week. It is still possible that Plant returns to the DU lineup on Saturday night.

Here’s a look at the likely defensive pairs for Jim Montgomery’s squad this weekend at Magness Arena (NCAA career stats in parenthesis):

Junior Blake Hillman (6-16-22 in 92 career games)
with freshman Ian Mitchell (0-8-8 in 10 career games)

Sophomore Michael Davies (4-17-21 in 54 career games)
with sophomore Erich Fear (0-1-1 in 14 career games)

Junior Sean Mostrom (0-1-1 in 4 career games)
with freshman Griffin Mendel (1-0-1 in 10 career games)

Both Mitchell and Mendel are 18-year-old freshmen.

Because of inexperience on the back end, Denver is allowing 2.80 goals per game this season after giving up just 1.82 goals/game last year.

Special teams play is always a factor in tightly-contested games, and I expect this weekend to be no different. One key situation to watch will be Denver’s power play (13 goals scored in 47 chances; 27.7 percent) against North Dakota’s penalty kill (2 goals allowed in 48 chances; 95.8 percent). UND has also been efficient with the man advantage, scoring 12 goals in 55 opportunities (21.8 percent). DU’s penalty killing has been miserable, allowing 8 goals on 36 opponent power plays.

Denver has one shorthanded goal on the season (Borgström), while North Dakota is still looking for its first.

Denver Team Profile

Head Coach: Jim Montgomery (5th season at DU, 108-49-20, .667)

National Rankings: #1/#1
This Season: 6-2-2 overall, 2-2-0-0 NCHC (t-4th)
Last Season: 33-7-4 overall (NCAA Champions), 18-3-3-2 NCHC (1st)

Team Offense: 4.20 goals scored/game – 2nd of 60 teams
Team Defense: 2.80 goals allowed/game – 27th of 60 teams
Power Play: 27.7% (13 of 47) – 4th of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 77.8% (28 of 36) – 42nd of 60 teams

Key Players: Sophomore F Henrik Borgström (11-6-17), Junior F Troy Terry (5-13-18), Junior F Jarid Lukosevicius (4-6-10), Junior F Dylan Gambrell (5-11-16), Junior D Blake Hillman (2-1-3), Freshman D Ian Mitchell (0-8-8), Sophomore D Michael Davies (1-3-4), Senior G Tanner Jaillet (5-1-2, 2.46 GAA, .911 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (3rd season at UND, 62-24-10, .698)

National Rankings: #3/#3
This Season: 7-2-3 overall, 2-1-1-1 NCHC (3rd)
Last Season: 21-16-3 overall (NCAA West Regional semifinalist), 11-12-1-1 NCHC (4th of 8 teams)

2017-18 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.00 goals scored/game – 22nd of 60 teams
Team Defense: 1.75 goals allowed/game – 3rd of 60 teams
Power Play: 21.8% (12 of 55) – 20th of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 95.8% (46 of 48) – 2nd of 60 teams

Key Players: Junior F Shane Gersich (4-4-8), Junior F Rhett Gardner (3-4-7), Freshman F Grant Mismash (4-7-11), F Nick Jones (5-4-9), Freshman F Collin Adams (4-1-5), Junior D Christian Wolanin (3-7-10 and a wicked slap shot for a shootout goal), Sophomore D Colton Poolman (2-5-7), Freshman G Peter Thome (2-0-2, 1.92 GAA, .929 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: Saturday, 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.

Last Meeting in Denver: February 13, 2016. Dylan Gambrell scored two goals (with Danton Heinen and Trevor Moore assisting on both) as the Pioneers downed UND 4-1 to earn the home sweep. North Dakota outshot DU 35-25 for the game (and 80-56 on the weekend) but could only manage a first-period goal from Austin Poganski. Junior netminder Tanner Jaillet made 75 saves over the course of two games to continually frustrate the Fighting Hawks, who lost Friday’s opener 6-4.

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: The teams have split the last ten games with four victories each and two ties. In those ten meetings, UND has a slight 24-23 edge in combined score.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 144-123-12 (.538), although the Pioneers hold a 72-53-3 (.574) advantage in games played in Denver. The teams first met in 1950, with North Dakota prevailing 18-3 in Denver.

Game News and Notes

UND senior forward Austin Poganski has five goals and two assists in fourteen career games against the Pioneers. Denver (16) and North Dakota (15) have more consecutive seasons with twenty or more victories than any other Division I men’s hockey team in the country (Boston College is third with eight straight twenty-win seasons; Quinnipiac has accomplished the feat six consecutive times). Denver has not lost at home this season (3-0-1). 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

Both games this weekend will be televised live on Altitude 2 and DirecTV, with Friday’s game also available on TSN3 and TSN GO. A high-definition webcast of the series is 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

Earning more than a split at Denver is a mighty tall order, especially considering that North Dakota is without senior netminder Cam Johnson. These games will come down to goaltending and special teams, with Denver’s top-end talent possibly earning an extra point or two in the skills competitions (3-on-3 play and shootouts) that are likely this weekend. I see the Pios handling the Fighting Hawks in the opener, with the visitors rebounding to earn a hard-fought split. DU 4-2, 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!

Weekend Preview: UND vs. Miami

Over the first four seasons of the NCHC, Miami has averaged a fifth-place finish (8th, 2nd, 5th, 7th), with a combined league record of 34-53-9-7 (.410).

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 and 2010. 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, and 4th in the first four seasons of the new league.

Back in March, UND traveled to Ohio to face the RedHawks while also keeping an eye on the out-of-town scoreboard. North Dakota was battling Miami on the ice but also competing with Omaha and St. Cloud State for the last home-ice playoff spot. The Fighting Hawks earned a road sweep and clinched home ice in the first round of the league playoffs for the fifteenth consecutive season.

On the injury front, North Dakota senior netminder Cam Johnson (49-19-6, 2.04 goals-against average, .917 save percentage, and ten shutouts in his UND career) remains out of the lineup with an undisclosed injury he suffered during the morning skate last weekend in Madison, Wisconsin. In his absence, freshman goaltender Peter Thome made 58 saves against the Badgers in a win and a tie (allowing two goals each night), earning NCHC Goaltender of the Week honors for his efforts. Thome is expected to start both games this weekend against Miami, with junior Ryan “Bob” Anderson backing him up.

UND will also be without senior forward Trevor Olson (9-16-25 in 100 career games played), while sophomore forward Ludvig Hoff (5-14-19 in 44 gp) is questionable for this weekend. Both Olson and Hoff sustained upper-body injuries at Colorado College two weekends ago. On the plus side, junior forward Joel Janatuinen (12-23-33 in 81 gp) will play after leaving the Kohl Center ice last Saturday with an upper-body injury he sustained as a result of a high hit from Wisconsin defenseman Tyler Inamoto late in the first period. Inamoto was assessed a major penalty for contact to the head and was ejected from the game.

Both teams are clicking on the power play this season, with Miami at 27.9 percent (12 of 43) and North Dakota at 22.9 percent (11 of 48). UND has a decided advantage on the penalty kill, having killed 39 of 41 opponent power plays through the first ten games (95.1 percent, third-best in the country). The RedHawks, on the other hand, have already allowed eight power play goals (35 of 43, 81.4 percent).

Miami Team Profile

Head Coach: Enrico Blasi (19th season at Miami, 379-272-67, .575)

National Rankings: NR/NR
This Season: 4-4-0 overall, 1-1-0-0 NCHC (t-4th)
Last Season: 9-20-7 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 5-14-5-3 NCHC (7th)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.38 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.75 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 27.9% (12 of 43)
Penalty Kill: 81.4% (35 of 43)

Key Players: Sophomore F Gordie Green (4-9-13), Junior F Josh Melnick (2-6-8), Junior F Kiefer Sherwood (2-2-4), Sophomore F Carson Meyer (1-2-3), Senior D Louie Belpedio (4-3-7), Junior D Grant Hutton (5-3-8), Sophomore G Ryan Larkin (4-4-0, 2.71 GAA, .884 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (3rd season at UND, 61-24-9, .697)

National Rankings: #2/#4
This Season: 6-2-2 overall, 1-1-0-0 NCHC (t-4th)
Last Season: 21-16-3 overall (NCAA West Regional semifinalist), 11-12-1-1 NCHC (4th of 8 teams)

2017-18 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 2.90 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.70 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 22.9% (11 of 48)
Penalty Kill: 95.1% (39 of 41)

Key Players: Junior F Shane Gersich (3-3-6), Junior F Rhett Gardner (2-4-6), Freshman F Grant Mismash (3-5-8), Junior F Joel Janatuinen (0-5-5), Junior F Nick Jones (3-4-7), Junior D Christian Wolanin (3-6-9), Sophomore D Colton Poolman (1-3-4), Freshman G Peter Thome (1-0-1, 1.63 GAA, .925 SV%)

By The Numbers:

Last Meeting: March 4, 2017 (Oxford, OH). After a scoreless first period, North Dakota’s Tucker Poolman led the way in the final forty minutes with two goals and two assists as UND downed Miami 5-2. The Fighting Hawks outshot the RedHawks 27-11 on the night (and 68-27 on the weekend). In Friday’s opener, North Dakota got a rare unassisted shorthanded tally from Trevor Olson with 100 seconds remaining to win 3-2.

Last meeting in Grand Forks: January 14, 2017. UND outshot Miami 34-15 and got points from seven different players (including a second-period shorthanded goal from Rhett Gardner) to defeat the RedHawks 3-1 and salvage a split of the weekend series. In Friday’s opener, MU used five third-period goals from five different goal scorers to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 6-3 victory, chasing Fighting Hawks netminder Cam Johnson in the process. Incidentally, Miami’s comeback was the first time North Dakota had lost when leading after two periods of play since November 1st, 2013.

Last Ten: UND has picked up seven wins in the past ten contests, outscoring Miami 35-27 over that stretch of games. The RedHawks have only hosted four of the past ten meetings between the schools.

All-time Series: North Dakota leads the all-time series 12-5-1 (.694), including a 6-2-1 (.722) record in games played in Grand Forks. The teams first played in 1999 (Badger Showdown, Milwaukee, WI).

Game News and Notes

Both UND (on the road) and Miami (at home) have earned splits with Colorado College this season. North Dakota’s Grant Mismash (3-5-8 in nine games) is the top-scoring freshman in the NCHC. Miami’s Phil Knies (2-3-5) is tied with UND’s Collin Adams (4-1-5) for sixth among first-year players, one point ahead of North Dakota’s Gabe Bast (1-3-4). UND has received 21 points from its freshman class (Mismash, Adams, Bast, Jordan Kawaguchi, Matt Kiersted, and Josh Rieger), the seventh-most productive rookie class in men’s college hockey. The Fighting Hawks lead the nation in average attendance (11,643 per home game), while the RedHawks are 36th (2,509 per home game).

Media Coverage

This weekend’s games will be broadcast live on Midco Sports Network. A high definition webcast of both games will 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

Miami has not seen a team like North Dakota this season, while UND has already been tested in non-conference action. I see the Fighting Hawks jumping all over the RedHawks (particularly in Friday’s opener) and allowing freshman netminder Peter Thome time to get accustomed to playing in front of the home fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Saturday’s contest will be a bit tighter, but North Dakota has too much depth to let conference points slip away at home. UND 4-2, 3-2.

On A Personal Note

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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: UND at Wisconsin

Over the past sixteen years, Wisconsin men’s hockey has been just like the Olympic Games: good once every four years.

Former Badger coach Mike Eaves was widely criticized for recruiting in a cycle, bringing in huge freshman classes every four years in the hopes that a dominant senior class would bring a title to Madison down the road.

And it worked. Once. In 2006, the Badgers won a national championship on the backs of three seniors (forwards Adam Burish and Ryan MacMurchy and defenseman Tom Gilbert) plus forwards Joe Pavelski and Robbie Earl, underclassmen who left the program after that season. Mike Eaves came close four years later, but Wisconsin fell to Boston College 5-0 in the title game. North Dakota derailed UW’s title hopes at the end of the 2014 season, and now Bucky is looking to be back on top once again.

It remains to be seen whether current Badger bench boss Tony Granato (now in his second season) and his assistants (Mark Strobel, Mark Osiecki, and Jeff Sanger) will be able to break the cycle and have the Badgers more competitive every year.

Here’s a look at the overall records and NCAA tournament results under former head coach Mike Eaves (NCAA tournament record for each year in parenthesis).

2002-03: 13-23-4 (.375) – missed NCAA tournament
2003-04: 22-13-8 (.605) – made NCAA tournament (1-1; regional finalist)
2004-05: 23-14-4 (.610) – made NCAA tournament (0-1; regional semifinalist)
2005-06: 30-10-3 (.733) – made NCAA tournament (4-0; National Champions)
2006-07: 19-18-4 (.512) – missed NCAA tournament
2007-08: 16-17-7 (.487) – made NCAA tournament (1-1; regional finalist)
2008-09: 20-16-4 (.550) – missed NCAA tournament
2009-10: 28-11-4 (.698) – made NCAA tournament (3-1; National Runner-Up)
2010-11: 21-16-4 (.561) – missed NCAA tournament
2011-12: 17-18-2 (.486) – missed NCAA tournament
2012-13: 22-13-7 (.607) – made NCAA tournament (0-1; regional semifinalist)
2013-14: 24-11-2 (.676) – made NCAA tournament (0-1; regional semifinalist)
2014-15: 4-26-5 (.186) – missed NCAA tournament
2015-16: 8-19-8 (.343) – missed NCAA tournament

In the three strongest seasons under Mike Eaves (2006, 2010, 2014), the Badgers went 82-32-9 for a winning percentage of .703. But in the other eleven seasons, Wisconsin went just 185-193-57 (.491). That’s an average record of 17-18-5.

The season that really stings for Wisconsin is the 2013-14 campaign, when a 24-10-2 Badger squad fell to UND by a score of 5-2 in the opening round of the NCAA tourney. North Dakota’s Mark MacMillan potted the game-winner with just over 100 seconds remaining in the third period and Rocco Grimaldi added two empty-net goals to give himself a hat trick and put the game out of reach.

The 2014-15 season (4-26-5, .186) was historically bad for UW hockey. Before that, the last time Bucky won fewer than ten games was in 1963-64, when the Badgers went 8-5-3 in the first season of the modern era of UW hockey (Wisconsin also played as an independent from 1921 to 1935). That’s a stretch of 50 years without a season as bad as that year was for Mike Eaves.

Eaves was given one more season to turn things around, but an eight-win season (8-19-8) was not enough for Eaves to keep his job, and he was let go after fourteen years.

Granato went 20-15-1 in his first season in Madtown, and fans are hopeful for an NCAA tournament bid this year.

Wisconsin goaltender Kyle Hayton is off to a great start with the Badgers after three seasons with the St. Lawrence Saints (ECAC Rookie of the Year in 2015; Mike Richter Award finalist in 2015; ECAC Goalie of the Year in 2017; Second Team All-American in 2017). Hayton, who recorded thirteen shutouts for the Saints and boasts a career save percentage of .933, accelerated his studies to graduate early and pursue post-graduate work at UW. How did it go when Hayton told St. Lawrence coach Mark Morris he wasn’t returning to the team? Todd Milewski (@ToddMilewski on Twitter) tells us more here.

The Badgers are coming off of a non-conference split with St. Lawrence at the Kohl Center last weekend, winning 4-2 on Friday before dropping a 6-3 decision in Saturday’s series finale. UND swept St. Lawrence in Grand Forks three weeks ago (2-1, 6-1).

That series was emblematic of North Dakota’s season so far. UND has fared far better on the second night of their first four weekend series. Here’s the breakdown:

Friday nights: 1-2-1 record (five goals scored, six goals allowed)
Saturday nights: 4-0-0 record (nineteen goals scored, seven goals allowed)

In short, North Dakota has been able to make adjustments and wear down opponents over the course of two games, benefiting from their physical play and forward depth to create time and space in the offensive zone.

So far this year, North Dakota has been led up front by freshman Grant Mismash (3-4-7), junior Rhett Gardner (2-4-6), and junior Shane Gersich (2-3-5), who had a three-point weekend against the Tigers in Colorado Springs last weekend. On the blueline, junior Christian Wolanin (3-5-8) and sophomore Colton Poolman (1-3-4) lead the way offensively.

These out-of-conference games are critical for North Dakota’s postseason aspirations. Last season, Brad Berry’s squad went 7-2-2 in regular season non-conference action (after going 9-1-2 in 2015-16) and made its fifteenth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance (the longest active streak in the country). UND is 4-1-1 this season in games against opponents outside the NCHC and will also face Union and Bemidji State during the 2017-18. Teams who travel to Alaska (as North Dakota did last month) receive an exemption for those games, and therefore can play two extra non-conference games during the season.

Wisconsin Team Profile

Head Coach: Tony Granato (2nd season at UW, 26-18-1, .589)
National Rankings: #7/#7
This Season: 6-3-0 overall, 1-1-0-0 Big Ten (t-2nd of six teams)
Last Season: 20-15-1 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 12-8-0-0 Big Ten (2nd of six teams)

Team Offense: 3.56 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.56 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 25.0% (9 of 36)
Penalty Kill: 83.8% (31 of 37)

Key Players: Sophomore F Trent Frederic (5-5-10), Junior F Will Johnson (3-7-10), Senior F Ryan Wagner (5-4-9), Junior F Seamus Malone (4-3-7), Senior F Cameron Hughes (3-3-6), Junior D Peter Tischke (0-6-6), Freshman D Wyatt Kalynuk (0-5-5), Senior D Tim Davison (1-3-4), Senior G Kyle Hayton (5-2-0, 2.46 GAA, .901 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (3rd season at UND, 59-23-8, .700)

National Rankings: #4/#5
This Season: 5-2-1 overall, 1-1-0-0 NCHC (t-1st)
Last Season: 21-16-3 overall (NCAA West Regional semifinalist), 11-12-1-1 NCHC (4th of 8 teams)

2017-18 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.00 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.62 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 22.7% (10 of 44)
Penalty Kill: 94.7% (36 of 38)

Key Players: Junior F Shane Gersich (2-3-5), Junior F Rhett Gardner (2-4-6), Freshman F Grant Mismash (3-4-7), Junior F Joel Janatuinen (0-4-4), Sophomore F Ludvig Hoff (1-2-3), Junior D Christian Wolanin (3-5-8), Sophomore D Colton Poolman (1-3-4), Senior G Cam Johnson (5-2-1, 1.63 GAA, .925 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: November 7, 2015 (Grand Forks, ND). One night after the Badgers claimed a 3-1 victory, North Dakota turned the tables by the identical score. UND outshot Wisconsin 38-17 and used two third-period goals (Shane Gersich, Drake Caggiula) to pull away. In Friday’s opener, UND outshot the visitors 30-23 but could only put one past netminder Matt Jurusik, who made 64 saves in the weekend split.

Last Meeting in Madison: November 8, 2014. #2 North Dakota scored three third period goals in a six minute stretch to turn a 2-1 contest into a 5-1 victory and a road sweep. 11 different players figured into the scoring for UND, while junior netminder Zane McIntyre stopped 23 of 24 shots, allowing only a second period tally to Grant Besse. North Dakota won Friday’s opener 4-3 behind two goals from Michael Parks, who scored the shorthanded game winner with under eight minutes remaining in the game. Wisconsin’s Grant Besse figured into three of the four Badger goals on the weekend.

Most Important Meeting: March 27, 1982 (Providence, RI). A 2-2 tie after two periods turned into a 5-2 Sioux victory, as Phil Sykes netted a hat trick and led UND to its fourth National Championship. Glen White scored the first goal of the game for North Dakota and assisted on two of Sykes’ goals. Darren Jensen backstopped the Green and White and was named to the all-tournament team along with Sykes, defenseman James Patrick, and forward Cary Eades. This title would be the second of three North Dakota titles won at the Providence Civic Center (1980, 2000).

All-time Series: Wisconsin leads the all-time series, 87-69-12 (.554), including a 46-29-3 (.609) record in Madison. The teams first met in December 1968.

Last Ten: The Green and White have had Bucky’s number lately, going 7-2-1 (.750) in the last ten tilts and outscoring the Badgers 36-22.

Game News and Notes

With one victory this weekend, North Dakota’s Cam Johnson would become just the eighth goaltender in program history to earn 50 wins. Wisconsin is 6-2-1 when leading or tied after one period of play and 0-2-0 when trailing. All 22 of UND’s rostered skaters have registered a point this season, the most of any team in the country. “Badgers” cannot be spelled without “B-A-D”.

Media Coverage

Both games this weekend will be televised by FOX Sports Wisconsin and by FOX College Sports (Atlantic on Friday; Pacific on Saturday). A webcast of the games is also available at FOX Sports GO and BTN2Go. 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.

Pre-Game Events in Madison

From undsports.com:

UND fans in Madison are invited to two events surrounding this weekend’s series. First, UND head coach Brad Berry will speak at the Wisconsin Hockey Backers fan luncheon on Friday afternoon. It begins at noon at The Coliseum Bar located at 232 E. Olin Ave. in Madison. Cost is $15 per person and attendees are encouraged to pre-register at http://www.wisconsinhockeybackers.com/luncheon-sign-up.

Fighting Hawks fans are also invited to a UND Alumni Association & Foundation event before Saturday night’s game. Join DeAnna Carlson Zink, CEO of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation, and alum Mike Hamerlik, ’88, for a pre-game party on Saturday night. Bring a guest to enjoy some refreshments and swap stories. Please RSVP to Roberta Beauchamp at RobertaB@undfoundation.org, or by phone at 701-777-2196. The event takes place from 5-6:30 p.m. at the Blue Moon Bar & Grill located at 2535 University Ave. in Madison.

The Prediction

It’s tough to earn more than a split against the Badgers in Madison, and North Dakota has not shown enough on Friday nights to do more than that this weekend. I expect a couple of close contests, with an empty-netter or two skewing the final scores. UW 3-1, UND 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 Colorado College

After winning just twenty total games over his first three seasons behind the CC bench, head coach Mike Haviland has his Tigers (4-2-0) well above the .500 mark ahead of this weekend’s National Collegiate Hockey Conference opener against North Dakota.

Colorado College has struggled in the NCHC, winning just sixteen conference games combined over the first four seasons of the league’s existence. Of the eight teams in the conference, the Tiger have finished last in each of the past three campaigns after a seventh place finish in 2013-14.

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.

This season, a trio of Tiger forwards (Mason Bergh, Trey Bradley, and Nick Halloran) are among the top point-getters in the NCHC with eight points each. CC is averaging three goals per contest after averaging just a shade over two goals per game (215 goals in 107 games) over the past three seasons.

So far this season North Dakota has been led up front by freshman Grant Mismash (1-4-5), junior Rhett Gardner (2-2-4), and freshman Collin Adams (2-1-3). On the blueline, junior Christian Wolanin (3-3-6) and sophomore Colton Poolman (1-3-4) lead the way offensively.

Junior Shane Gersich (1-1-2 with 19 shots on goal) and senior Austin Poganski (0-0-0 with 13 shots on goal) have yet to get untracked this season after combining for a line of 33-29-62 in 40 games a year ago. As the top two returning scorers on a young North Dakota team, Gersich and Poganski will need to contribute in league play if the Fighting Hawks hope to secure home ice for a sixteenth consecutive season.

UND has fared far better offensively on the second night of their first three weekend series. Here’s the breakdown:

Friday nights: 1-1-1 record (four goals scored, four goals allowed)
Saturday nights: 3-0-0 record (thirteen goals scored, three goals allowed)

In short, North Dakota has been able to make adjustments and wear down opponents over the course of two games, benefiting from their physical play and forward depth to create time and space in the offensive zone.

The one constant for the Green and White in the early going has been the play in their own end. North Dakota has allowed two goals or less in each of the first six games (one, two, one, one, two, and zero goals respectively) and leads the nation in team defense (1.17 goals allowed/game). Senior netminder Cam Johnson ranks 2nd in the country in wins (four), 3rd in goals-against average (1.16), 10th in save percentage (.946), and 2nd in shutouts (one) on the young season. UND’s penalty killers have successfully negated 26 of 27 opponent power plays this year for a success rate of 96.3 percent (2nd in the country behind Bemjidi State’s 14-of-14 PK).

The teams will meet again on February 9th and 10th, 2018 at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Colorado College Team Profile

Head Coach: Mike Haviland (4th season at CC, 24-81-8, .248)

National Rankings: NR/NR
This Season: 4-2-0 overall, 0-0-0-0 NCHC
Last Season: 8-24-4 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 4-16-4-1 NCHC (8th of 8 teams)

2017-18 Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.00 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.67 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 13.5% (5 of 37)
Penalty Kill: 74.1% (20 of 27)

Key players: Junior F Mason Bergh (5-3-8), Sophomore F Nick Halloran (2-6-8), Junior F Trey Bradley (1-7-8), Junior F Westin Michaud (1-4-5), Junior D Cole McCaskill (1-2-3), Junior D Ben Israel (1-1-2), Sophmore G Alex Laclerc (4-2-0, 2.51 GAA, .915 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (3rd season at UND, 59-23-8, .700)

National Rankings: #4/#4
This Season: 4-1-1 overall, 0-0-0-0 NCHC
Last Season: 21-16-3 overall (NCAA West Regional semifinalist), 11-12-1-1 NCHC (4th of 8 teams)

2017-18 Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 2.83 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.17 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 22.2% (8 of 36)
Penalty Kill: 96.3% (26 of 27)

Key Players: Junior F Shane Gersich (1-1-2), Junior F Rhett Gardner (2-2-4), Freshman F Grant Mismash (1-4-5), Junior F Joel Janatuinen (0-3-3), Sophomore F Ludvig Hoff (1-1-2), Junior D Christian Wolanin (3-3-6), Sophomore D Colton Poolman (1-3-4), Senior G Cam Johnson (4-1-1, 1.16 GAA, .942 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: February 28, 2017 (Colorado Springs, CO). Freshman netminder Alex Leclerc stopped all 45 shots he faced in a 3-0 CC victory. The Fighting Hawks put fifteen shots on net during five power play opportunities but managed only to hit two pipes in the process. The Tigers got a late first-period goal past Matt Hrynkiw and added two empty-netters in the final minute. The defeat was UND’s first regular-season loss against Colorado College since January 2013. In Friday’s opener, North Dakota got goals from five different players over the final forty minutes of play after CC raced to a 2-0 lead after one and chased starting goaltender Matej Tomek, who made only six saves.

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, 155-81-11 (.650), although Colorado College holds a 58-53-4 (.522) advantage in Colorado Springs. North Dakota has 100 victories over the Tigers in Grand Forks (100-21-7, .809). The teams first met in 1948.

Last Ten: North Dakota has eight wins and a tie in the last ten meetings between the teams, outscoring CC 42-18 over that span. UND had gone unbeaten in 14 straight (13-0-1) against the Tigers until their most recent matchup.

Game News and Notes

Eight of North Dakota’s seventeen goals this season have been scored with the man advantage. These two coaching staffs coached against each other at the AHL and NHL levels prior to the NCHC. The Tigers have appeared in the NCAA tournament twice in the past ten seasons (2008, 2011). Through the first six games, UND has won 58 percent of faceoffs.

Media Coverage

This weekend’s games will not be televised, although a high definition webcast of the games is 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), although Saturday’s game will instead be broadcast on 100.3 FM. Follow @UNDMHockey for real-time Twitter updates, or follow the action via live chat at UNDsports.com.

The Prediction

The Friday scoring struggles will continue as North Dakota adjusts to the wide sheet of ice. Colorado College might be able to eke out a tie in the opener, but I think UND has just enough to pull away late before dominating in Saturday’s rematch. UND 3-2, 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 vs. Minnesota

It’s a tale of two programs as we enter the 2017-18 season…

North Dakota is one year removed from its eighth national championship and boasts a string of fifteen consecutive tournament appearances, the longest active streak in college hockey.

Minnesota has only advanced to the NCAAs five times in the last nine seasons and is stuck on five national titles, the most recent in 2002 and 2003.

More to the point…

The Golden Gophers played from 1947-1973 without a title (26 seasons).

Head coach Herb Brooks led Minnesota to three NCAA championships in a six year stretch (1974, 1976, and 1979).

The Golden Gophers then played from 1979-2001 without a title (22 seasons).

Head coach Don Lucia won back-to-back titles in 2002 and 2003.

This year will mark the fifteenth anniversary of Minnesota’s most recent NCAA crown.

Despite only nine tournament victories since Minnesota’s last title (UND has 22 in that same span), Gophers’ head coach Don Lucia was given a two-year extension last year that will keep him behind the bench through the 2018-19 campaign.

North Dakota has been relevant in every decade, with head coaches Bob May, Barry Thorndycraft, John “Gino” Gasparini, Dean Blais, and Brad Berry all lifting college hockey’s most coveted trophy.

Thankfully for fans of college hockey’s greatest matchup, this weekend’s games mark the second of seven consecutive seasons in which the teams are guaranteed to meet:

October 20 and 21, 2017: Ralph Engelstad Arena (Grand Forks, North Dakota)
October 27, 2018: Orleans Arena (Las Vegas, Nevada) *Hall Of Fame Game*
2019-20: 3M Arena at Mariucci (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
2020-21: Ralph Engelstad Arena (Grand Forks, North Dakota)
2011-22: 3M Arena at Mariucci (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
2022-23: Ralph Engelstad Arena (Grand Forks, North Dakota)

The two teams have met 286 times and were members of the same conference for over sixty years. Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald has an excellent article about some key moments in the series.

On the injury front, Minnesota will most likely be without the services of freshman forward Scott Reedy (one goal in three games) and junior captain Tyler Sheehy (one assist in two games this season; 32-52-84 in his 77-game Gopher career). UND freshman defenseman Gabe Bast (9-31-40 in 49 games with the Penticton Vees in 2014-15) has been cleared to play and may see game action this weekend. Bast had each of his past two junior seasons cut short by injury and will turn 21 this December.

Including two East Grand Forks products (sophomore forward Dixon Bowen and sophomore defenseman Colton Poolman), UND has twelve Minnesotans on its roster. Four of the other ten were plucked from the Twin Cities (Shane Gersich/Chaska, Grant Mismash/Edina, Hayden Shaw/Woodbury, and Peter Thome/Minneapolis), while the others hail from Brainerd, Duluth, Elk River, Roseau (two), and St. Cloud. Sophomore defenseman Casey Johnson and senior forward Johnny Simonson are from Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Minnesota can no longer lay claim to having a roster made up exclusively of the State of Hockey’s “Pride On Ice”, with players hailing from Anchorage (Alaska), Commerce Township and Grand Rapids (Michigan), Mississauga (Ontario), Newport Beach (California), River Falls (Wisconsin), and Stockholm (Sweden).

These out-of-conference games are critical for North Dakota’s postseason aspirations. Last season, Brad Berry’s squad went 7-2-2 in regular season non-conference action (after going 9-1-2 in 2015-16) and made its fifteenth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance (the longest active streak in the country). UND’s other non-conference opponents during the 2017-18 campaign will be Wisconsin, Union, and Bemidji State. Teams who travel to Alaska (as North Dakota did last month) receive an exemption for those games, and therefore can play two extra non-conference games during the season.

Minnesota Team Profile

Head Coach: Don Lucia (19th season at Minnesota, 440-233-71, .639)

National Rankings: #8/#7
This Season: 2-2-0 overall, 1-1-0-0 Big Ten (t-1st)
Last Season: 23-12-3 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional Semifinalist), 14-5-1-0 Big Ten (1st)

Team Offense: 3.00 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.50 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 15.0% (3 of 20)
Penalty Kill: 66.7% (12 of 18)

Key Players: Junior F Tommy Novak (1-3-4), Sophomore F Rem Pitlick (1-3-4), Freshman F Brannon McManus (3-0-3), Freshman F Casey Mittelstadt (2-1-3, zero pullups), Senior F Mike Szmatula (0-1-1), Sophomore D Ryan Zuhlsdorf (0-3-3), Sophomore D Ryan Lindgren (0-1-1), Junior G Eric Schierhorn (2-2-0, 2.50 GAA, .918 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (3rd season at UND, 58-22-8, .705)
National Ranking: #4/#4
This Season: 3-0-1 overall, 0-0-0-0 NCHC
Last Season: 21-16-3 overall (NCAA West Regional semifinalist), 11-12-1-1 NCHC (4th of 8 teams)

2017-18 Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.00 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.25 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.0% (4 of 21)
Penalty Kill: 93.8% (15 of 16)

Key Players: Junior F Shane Gersich (1-1-2), Junior F Rhett Gardner (1-2-3), Junior F Joel Janatuinen (0-3-3), Sophomore F Ludvig Hoff (1-1-2), Junior D Christian Wolanin (1-2-3), Sophomore D Colton Poolman (0-3-3), Senior G Cam Johnson (3-0-1, 1.23 GAA, .938 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last meeting:November 5, 2016 (Minneapolis, MN). The Fighting Hawks outshot the homestanding Gophers 33-20 but could not solve netminder Eric Schierhorn and fell by a final of 2-0. Friday’s opener featured ten goals, with Minnesota rallying four times to tie the score.

Last meeting in Grand Forks: January 14, 2012. Minnesota’s Nick Bjugstad and Nate Condon each scored twice as the Gophers routed North Dakota 6-2. Condon’s second, a shorthanded marker early in the third period, essentially put the game out of reach. In Friday’s opener, Brock Nelson scored with under four minutes remaining in regulation to break a 1-1 tie and give UND the victory.

Most important meeting: March 24, 1979 (Detroit, MI). North Dakota and Minnesota met to decide the national championship, and the Gophers prevailed, 4-3. Neal Broten scored the game-winning goal for the U of M, and Steve Janaszak was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.

All-time: Minnesota leads the all-time series by a ten-game margin, 140-130-16 (.517), although North Dakota has a 70-55-8 (.556) edge in games played in Grand Forks. The teams first met in 1948.

Last ten: The Gophers have gone 7-1-2 in the last ten meetings between the schools, outscoring UND 37-23 in those games.

Game News and Notes

Gophers’ head coach Don Lucia (Notre Dame ’81) is the only member of his coaching staff without a degree from the University of Minnesota. Associate head coach Mike Guentzel, assistant head coach Scott Bell, and goaltending coach Justin Johnson all attended the U of M. The number eight is greater than the number five. In an effort to alleviate parking concerns, Minnesota fans are asked to park in Duluth and walk to Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Media Coverage

Both games this weekend can be seen on Midco Sports Network as well as on Mediacom cable outlets in Minnesota and Iowa. Friday’s game begins at 7:37 p.m. Central Time with Saturday’s opening faceoff set for 7:07 p.m. CT. The games will also be 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

There will certainly be a buzz at Ralph Engelstad Arena this weekend. This rivalry has shown that whichever side handles the pressure and energy better will emerge victorious. I see UND coming out a bit too amped up for this one with the Gophers taking advantage. The Fighting Hawks will tighten things up in the rematch to earn a split. Minnesota 3-2, North Dakota 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. St. Lawrence

St. Lawrence has struggled mightily out of the gate this season, dropping their exhibition contest to McGill (Montreal, Quebec) by a final score of 3-2 before losing 3-1 to Michigan and 4-1 to #10 Penn State at home last weekend. And it doesn’t get any easier for the Saints after visiting Ralph Engelstad Arena to tangle with the eighth-ranked Fighting Hawks. Unranked SLU will host #9 Providence and #12 UMass-Lowell next weekend before heading to Madison for a pair at #10 Wisconsin to close out October.

UND played well enough to win both contests last weekend at Alaska-Anchorage (outshooting the Seawolves 78-32) but let late leads slip away each night. North Dakota could not net the game-winner in Friday’s opener and settled for a 1-1 tie (followed by a meaningless shootout win), but Casey Johnson’s tally in Saturday’s overtime session sent the Fighting Hawks home with three out of a possible four points.

The last time St. Lawrence traveled to Grand Forks for a weekend series was in November 2013 for the Subway Holiday Classic. The Saints handled North Dakota in Friday’s opener before UND rebounded to earn a split. Both teams were unranked at the time, but Dave Hakstol took his team on a patented second-half run (21-5-2 including the victory over SLU) to reach the NCAA Frozen Four.

These out-of-conference games are critical for North Dakota’s postseason aspirations. Last season, Brad Berry’s squad went 7-2-2 in regular season non-conference action (after going 9-1-2 in 2015-16) and made its fifteenth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance (the longest active streak in the country). UND’s other non-conference opponents during the 2017-18 campaign will be Minnesota, Wisconsin, Union, and Bemidji State. Teams who travel to Alaska receive an exemption for those games, and therefore can play two extra non-conference games during the season.

St. Lawrence Team Profile

Head Coach: Mark Morris (2nd season at SLU, 17-15-7, .526)
National Ranking: NR/NR
This Season: 0-2-0 overall, 0-0-0 ECAC
Last Season: 17-13-7 overall, 12-6-4 ECAC (4th of 12 teams)

2017-18 Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 1.00 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.50 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 11.1% (1 of 9)
Penalty Kill: 80.0% (8 of 10)

Key Players: Senior F Mike Marnell (0-0-0), Senior F Joe Sullivan (0-0-0), Junior F Alex Gilmour (2-0-0), Junior F Jacob Pritchard (0-0-0), Sophomore D Ben Finkelstein (0-1-1), Senior D Nolan Gluchowski (0-0-0), Junior G Arthur Brey (0-2-0, 3.06 GAA, .902 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (3rd season at UND, 56-22-8, .698)
National Ranking: #8/#8
This Season: 1-0-1 overall, 0-0-0-0 NCHC
Last Season: 21-16-3 overall (NCAA West Regional semifinalist), 11-12-1-1 NCHC (4th of 8 teams)

2017-18 Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 2.00 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.50 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 11.1% (1 of 9)
Penalty Kill: 100.0% (8 of 8)

Key Players: Junior F Shane Gersich (0-0-0), Senior F Austin Poganski (0-0-0), Junior F Rhett Gardner (0-2-2), Junior F Joel Janatuinen (0-0-0), Junior D Christian Wolanin (0-1-1), Sophomore D Colton Poolman (0-0-0), Senior G Cam Johnson (1-0-1, 1.43 GAA, .906 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last meeting: November 30, 2013 (Grand Forks, ND). One night after the visiting Saints shocked North Dakota with a 5-2 victory, UND turned the tables with a shorthanded goal (Rocco Grimaldi) midway through the first period and two goals 31 seconds apart in the second period (Connor Gaarder, Stephane Pattyn) to earn a 3-2 win and a series split. Zane Gothberg (later McIntyre) turned aside 25 St. Lawrence shots and helped the Green and White kill all three SLU power play opportunities.

Most important meeting: February 20 and 21, 1987 (Grand Forks, ND). The Hrkac Circus dismantled St. Lawrence in a best-of-three NCAA quarterfinal series, taking down the Saints 3-1 and 6-3 on their way to the program’s fifth national championship.

All-time record: UND leads the all-time series, 12-2-0 (.857), including a 7-1-0 (.875) mark in games played in Grand Forks. Before November 2013, North Dakota’s only loss to SLU was in Canton, New York during the 1981-82 season, a campaign that also ended in an NCAA title for the Fighting Sioux.

Last Ten: UND has won nine of the previous ten games between the schools, outscoring the Saints 40-21 over that stretch of games.

Game News and Notes

St. Lawrence has been a member of the ECAC since 1961 and has won the regular season title twice (2000 and 2007). North Dakota put 78 shots on net last weekend against Alaska Anchorage last weekend but scored only four goals. The Saints last made the NCAA tournament in 2007.

Tickets

Single game tickets remain available for both games this weekend against St. Lawrence. To purchase tickets, please visit the UND Box Office inside Ralph Engelstad Arena or point your internet device toward UNDSports.com/tickets.

Media Coverage

This weekend’s series will be telecast live by Midco Sports Network. A high definition webcast of both games will 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

Often, when two teams haven’t played in a while, the first period or two of the first game are played pretty close to the vest, without much action either way. I feel like this weekend’s games will be wide open from the outset, with plenty of chances for both squads. It’ll come down to special teams and goaltending, with neither side showing signs of life in the former and North Dakota holding a decided advantage in the latter. UND 4-1, 3-1.

Weekend Preview: North Dakota at Alaska Anchorage

Four 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 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 three seasons. The eight teams in the league have gone 149-72-28 (.655) in non-conference action since 2015-16 and sent two teams to the Frozen Four in each of those three years. Conference members North Dakota and Denver claimed the past two national titles, with DU besting Minnesota-Duluth for the championship in April.

The University of Alaska Anchorage became a member of the WCHA beginning with the 1993-94 season and has not advanced to the NCAA tournament since that time (the Seawolves made three tourney appearances as an independent from 1989-92). UAA has had only one winning season in the past 24 years (18-16-4 in 2013-14), with travel being the biggest factor in the team’s lack of success.

These out-of-conference games are critical for North Dakota’s postseason aspirations. Last season, Brad Berry’s squad went 7-2-2 in regular season non-conference action (after going 9-1-2 in 2015-16) and made its fifteenth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance (the longest active streak in the country). UND’s other non-conference opponents during the 2017-18 campaign will be St. Lawrence, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Union, and Bemidji State. Teams who travel to Alaska receive an exemption for those games, and therefore can play two extra non-conference games during the season.

Alaska Anchorage Team Profile

Head Coach: Matt Thomas (5th season at UAA, 44-79-17, .375)
National Ranking: NR/NR
This Season: 0-0-0 overall, 0-0-0 WCHA
Last Season: 7-21-6 overall, 6-16-6 WCHA (10th of 10 teams)

2016-17 Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 1.74 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.00 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 8.3% (15 of 181)
Penalty Kill: 83.1% (148 of 178)

Key Returning Players (2016-17 statistics): Senior F Matt Anholt (5-17-22), Senior F Tad Kozun (5-14-19), Junior F Jonah Renouf (3-6-9), Junior F Alex Jackstadt (4-4-8), Senior D Jarrett Brown (5-10-15), Senior D Tanner Johnson (3-3-6), Senior G Olivier Mantha (7-18-4, 2.82 GAA, .913 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (3rd season at UND, 55-22-7, .696)
National Ranking: #7/#7
This Season: 0-0-0 overall, 0-0-0-0 NCHC
Last Season: 21-16-3 overall (NCAA West Regional semifinalist), 11-12-1-1 NCHC (4th of 8 teams)

2016-17 Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.17 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.60 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 18.5% (32 of 173)
Penalty Kill: 83.8% (140 of 167)

Key Returning Players (2016-17 statistics): Junior F Shane Gersich (21-16-37), Senior F Austin Poganski (12-13-25), Junior F Rhett Gardner (8-13-21), Junior F Joel Janatuinen (8-11-19), Junior D Christian Wolanin (6-16-22), Sophomore D Colton Poolman (2-10-12), Senior G Cam Johnson (20-13-3, 2.39 GAA, .903 SV%, 4 SO)

By The Numbers

Last meeting: October 27, 2012 (Grand Forks, ND). One night after dispatching the Seawolves by a 4-1 margin, North Dakota needed an extra-attacker goal from Derek Forbort to manage a 3-3 tie. Corban Knight and Rocco Grimaldi also scored for the Fighting Sioux, who scored once in each period. Both teams went 0-for-2 with the man advantage, although UAA’s Tyler Currier tallied a shorthanded marker early in the third period to tie the game at 2-2. The late great Butch Mousseaux served as one of the on-ice officials for the contest.

Last meeting in Alaska: October 19, 2012 (Fairbanks, AK). Despite playing with only 15 skaters (nine forwards) due to suspensions and injuries, UND steamrolled Alaska-Anchorage 5-0 in the opening game of the Goal Rush tournament. Sophomore forward Mark MacMillan led the way for North Dakota with two goals, while junior netminder Clarke Saunders stopped all 21 shots he faced to earn the victory.

Most Important Meeting: March 19, 2004 (St. Paul, MN). The Fighting Sioux and Seawolves met in the semifinal round of the WCHA Final Five, and UND cruised to the championship game with a 4-2 victory.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 46-17-5 (.713), with a slight edge (17-14-1, .547) in games played in Anchorage.

Last Ten: UND has a 7-2-1 (.750) record in the last ten games between the teams, outscoring the Seawolves 41-16 over that span.

Game News And Notes

North Dakota is unbeaten in the last seven meetings between the programs. UND is the winningest men’s collegiate hockey program in the nation over the past eleven seasons (290 victories); Alaska Anchorage has notched 118 wins over that same stretch. The Fighting Hawks were the only team in the nation to draw more than 200,000 fans in 2016-17 and led the nation in average home attendance (11,505). The Seawolves last hosted UND in Anchorage in December 2011, with North Dakota sweeping the series (5-2, 4-1).

The Prediction

North Dakota has an advantage all over the ice and will prove too much for Alaska Anchorage to handle. I see Friday’s contest as the more difficult one, with UND pulling away late after struggling to find their legs early. Cam Johnson should be able to blank the Seawolves in Saturday’s rematch. UND 4-2, 3-0.

Media Coverage

All UND men’s hockey games, home and away, can be heard on 96.1 FM (The Fox) and on stations across the UND Sports Home of Economy Radio Network, as well as through the iHeart Radio app. This weekend’s series will not be televised, but both games will be streamed live via WCHA.tv.

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!

NCAA West Regional Preview: North Dakota vs. Boston University

Two seasons ago, UND cruised through the NCAA West Regional at Scheels Arena (Fargo, North Dakota) with a pair of 4-1 victories (vs. Quinnipiac and St. Cloud State). The reward for that accomplishment? A Frozen Four semifinal matchup against Boston University at TD Garden (Boston, Massachusetts). Dave Hakstol, coaching his last college game, saw his team fall behind 2-0 and 4-1 before mounting a late third-period comeback that fell just short (BU’s Jack Eichel potted an empty-net goal with just under twenty seconds remaining to make the final score 5-3).

It was that unfinished business, coupled with a heartbreaking last-second loss to Minnesota in the 2014 national semifinals, that fueled last season’s title run, the eighth in team history.

This time around, it’s the boys in green and white who have the benefit of playing a virtual home game. Boston University has not played well away from Agannis Arena this season, going just 10-8-1 on the road (compared to 13-3-2 at home). Furthermore, since the start of the 16-team format (2003), this is the fourth time that BU has had to fly to a regional. The previous three resulted in first-round losses. Here are the final scores for those three games:

Michigan State 5, Boston University 1 (2007 – Grand Rapids, Michigan)

Minnesota 7, Boston University 3 (2012 – St. Paul, Minnesota)

Denver 7, Boston University 2 (2016 – St. Paul, Minnesota)

In short, things do not look good for the Terriers.

For both schools, the underclassmen have been leading the charge, and that’s no surprise, given the fact that there are 21 combined NHL draft picks on the two rosters (BU 11, UND 10), and those players tend not to make it to their junior or senior seasons in college.

The Terriers’ freshman class, led by forwards Clayton Keller (20-22-42) and Patrick Harper (12-22-34) and defenseman Dante Fabbro (6-11-17), has scored 56 goals and notched 135 points this season. First-year goaltender Jake Oettinger (20-10-3, 2.09 goals-against average .927 save percentage) has carried the load between the pipes for fourth-year head coach David Quinn (82 career head coaching victories at BU).

Clayton Keller’s 42 points are good for ninth place on the all-time BU rookie scoring list, far short of Jack Eichel’s 71 points (2014-15) but the second-highest freshman total at BU since Tony Amonte scored 58 points as a Terrier in 1989-90.

Here’s the Boston University scoring breakdown by class:

Freshmen (six forwards, two defensemen):
56-79-135 in 253 games played (0.53 points/game)

Sophomores (five forwards, two defensemen):
43-87-130 in 200 games played (0.65 points/game)

Juniors (two forwards, three defensemen):
12-24-36 in 114 games played (0.32 points/game)

Seniors (two forwards, one defenseman):
6-11-17 in 98 games played (0.17 points/game)

Here’s the North Dakota scoring breakdown by class:

Freshmen (five forwards, three defensemen):
33-57-90 in 262 games played (0.34 points/game)

Sophomores (six forwards, two defensemen):
62-88-150 in 251 games played (0.60 points/game)

Juniors (three forwards, one defenseman):
27-50-77 in 152 games played (0.51 points/game)

Seniors (one defenseman):
2-7-9 in 37 games played (0.24 points/game)

For Boston University, first- and second-year players have scored 99 of the team’s 117 goals this season. For North Dakota, first- and second-year players have scored 95 of the team’s 124 goals this season.

In terms of overall point production, BU’s freshmen and sophomores have accounted for 265 of 318 points scored (83.3%), while UND’s freshmen and sophomores have accounted for 240 of 326 points scored (73.6%).

A fast start will be key for both squads in today’s NCAA West Regional semifinal. Boston University will want to get an early lead and attempt to quiet the partisan crowd at Scheels Arena, while Brad Berry’s squad will surely want just the opposite – to keep the fans in the game with some early success. To that point, the Terriers have allowed the first goal in their last nine games, with a record of 4-4-1 in those contests.

Boston University seems to have an edge in the special teams battle, boasting the fourth-best penalty kill in the country (87.0 percent) and a power play that clips along at 19.9 percent (21st). North Dakota’s penalty kill checks in at 83.6 percent (19th), and the team has scored on 19.2 percent of power play opportunities (24th).

More specifically, BU has outscored opponents 33-24 in power play/penalty kill situations and added nine shorthanded goals. In the same situations, UND holds a 32-27 advantage with six shorthanded goals.

According to KRACH, North Dakota has played the fourth-toughest schedule in the country, while Boston University’s slate of games ranks as the ninth most difficult.

UND’s all-time tournament winning percentage of .657 (52-25) is the best in Division I men’s hockey history. Since 2004-05, North Dakota has gone 18-4 (.818) in NCAA regional games and qualified for the NCAA Frozen Four in eight of those twelve seasons.

Boston University Team Profile

Head Coach: David Quinn (4th season at BU, 82-53-17, .595)

National Rankings: #6/#6
This Season: 23-11-3 overall, 13-6-3 Hockey East (t-1st)
Last Ten Games: 5-4-1 (including one overtime win)
Last Season: 21-13-5 overall (NCAA West Regional semifinalist), 12-6-4 Hockey East (t-4th)

2016-17 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.16 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.27 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.9% (33 of 166)
Penalty Kill: 87.0% (161 of 185)

Key Players: Freshman F Clayton Keller (20-22-42), Freshman F Patrick Harper (12-22-34), Sophomore F Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (13-19-32), Sophomore F Bobo Carpenter (13-18-31), Sophomore F Jordan Greenway (10-20-30), Sophomore D Charlie McAvoy (4-20-24), Freshman D Dante Fabbro (6-11-17), Freshman G Jake Oettinger (20-13-3, .927 SV%, 2.09 GAA, 4 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (2nd season at UND, 55-21-7, .705)

National Rankings: #10/#10
This Season: 21-15-3 overall, 11-12-1-1 NCHC (4th)
Last Ten Games: 6-4-0 (including one overtime win)
Last Season: 34-6-4 overall (NCAA champions), 19-4-1-1 NCHC (1st)

2016-17 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.18 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.56 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.2% (32 of 167)
Penalty Kill: 83.6% (138 of 165)

Key Players: Sophomore F Shane Gersich (21-16-37), Freshman F Tyson Jost (16-19-35), Sophomore F Brock Boeser (16-17-33), Junior F Austin Poganski (12-13-25), Sophomore F Rhett Gardner (7-13-20) Junior D Tucker Poolman (7-23-30), Sophomore D Christian Wolanin (5-16-21), Junior G Cam Johnson (20-12-3, 2.38 GAA, .904 SV%, 4 SO)

By The Numbers

Last meeting: April 9, 2015 (Boston, MA). In a battle of heavyweights, UND outshot the Terriers 39-28 but trailed for 55 minutes of the Frozen Four semifinal. North Dakota made it interesting with two late third-period goals but came up just short. Jack Eichel notched three points for BU, including an empty-net goal with under twenty seconds remaining that made the final score 5-3.

Last meeting in the NCAA Regionals: March 25, 2005 (Worcester, MA). North Dakota’s Colby Genoway (2 goals, 2 assists) led the way as UND blanked the Terriers 4-0 at the NCAA East Regional. BU went 0-for-9 on the power play, and UND’s Jordan Parise turned aside 29 shots for the shutout. The Fighting Sioux would go on to defeat Boston College 6-3 in the regional final and advance to the Frozen Four, best known for featuring four WCHA teams and UND’s 4-2 semifinal victory over Minnesota.

Most important meeting: March 29, 1997 (Milwaukee, WI). North Dakota scored five goals in the second period and went on to defeat Boston University 6-4 for the 1997 NCAA championship (the program’s 6th). David Hoogsteen scored two goals for the Fighting Sioux, including a back-breaking tally with six seconds remaining in the middle frame.

All-time record: North Dakota leads the all-time series, 12-10-2 (.542), helped by a stellar 6-1-1 (.813) record in games played in Grand Forks. When the newly-formed Hockey East began play in 1984-1985, it created a five-year interlocking schedule with the WCHA. During that time, Boston University and North Dakota met 7 times, with John “Gino” Gasparini’s Fighting Sioux squad going 6-1-0 against Jack Parker’s Terriers. The teams first met in 1981.

Last Ten: Boston University has had the better of it lately, going 5-3-2 (.600) over the last ten games between the teams and outscoring UND 32-29 over that stretch.

Game News and Notes

Boston University has outscored opponents 53-28 in third periods and overtime sessions (combined) this season. In second periods this season, UND has outscored opponents 42-27. The Terriers play on a hybrid sheet of ice at Agannis Arena; the playing surface is 90 feet wide, five feet wider than NHL rinks but not as wide as the Olympic ice sheets (100 feet wide). This season, BU is 10-0-1 when leading after one period of play but just 13-11-2 when trailing or tied. No current Boston University forward has ever scored a goal in the NCAA tournament. Before the 2015 West Regional, North Dakota had 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.

Media Coverage

Friday afternoon’s game will be telecast live on ESPN2 and can also be seen on DirecTV (209) and DISH Network (144). A live stream of the game will also be available via WatchESPN. 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

Boston University will give UND fits with its overall team speed and talent, and North Dakota netminder Cam Johnson will need to be up to the challenge, as I expect the Terriers to generate several odd-man rushes in this game. UND’s roster is littered with players who took part in the 2015 West Regional and last season’s title run, and that experience matters. The partisan green and white crowd at Scheels Arena should give North Dakota the push it needs to advance to the regional final. UND 4, BU 3.

Bonus Prediction

In Friday’s second regional semifinal, Minnesota-Duluth will struggle to contain Ohio State’s power play, and the game will hinge on how many penalties are called. If UND is still alive in the tournament, the Scheels Arena crowd might cheer for the underdog Buckeyes. If North Dakota is eliminated in the first game, conference pride among the fans in attendance should turn the tide in the Bulldogs’ favor. As I see it, Scott Sandelin’s crew will find a way to win, setting up an all-NCHC regional final. UMD 4, OSU 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 and Scheels Arena as well as other establishments (check social media accounts for the most current information).

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!