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Published by Dave Berger on 12 Dec 2014

Weekend Preview: North Dakota at Denver

In the NCHC, it is clear that Denver/North Dakota will be at the top of the league rivalries. Despite having played just two games since February 2013, the schools clearly do not like each other. 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 six 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 won the last four playoff games between the schools, including three consecutive victories in the WCHA Final Five (2010-2012) and the 2011 NCAA Midwest Regional final which sent the Fighting Sioux to the Frozen Four.

A key storyline for DU in the early going has been the emergence of freshman forward Danton Heinen. The 6-foot, 161 pound phenom from Langley, British Columbia leads the Pios in scoring with 16 points in 13 games. Heinen, who played his junior hockey with the Surrey Eagles (BCHL), has been even more impressive since the calendar turned to November, cranking out five goals and adding seven assists for twelve points in his last eight contests. Nationally, Jack Eichel (Boston University) has been the most impressive freshman (8-17-25 in 15 games to lead the nation in scoring), but Heinen is the second-most prolific scorer among first-year players.

One of the biggest reasons for UND’s success over the first seventeen games of this current campaign has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. Dave Hakstol’s squad is unbeaten this season (10-0-1) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past nine years, North Dakota is converting ninety percent of second intermission leads into victories (165-13-12).

On the injury front, North Dakota will be without the services of sophomore defenseman Troy Stecher, the most consistent blueliner on the roster (a team-leading +10 on the season). Stecher’s leg injury is expected to keep him out for 6-8 weeks (between six and ten games), with senior d-man Nick Mattson taking his spot in the lineup. Mattson has appeared in nine contests this season after playing 120 games over his first three seasons at UND.

At forward, Drake Caggiula, Mark MacMillan, Brendan O’Donnell, and Nick Schmaltz have returned to the lineup after missing a combined ten games. Colten St. Clair is out indefinitely with an upper body injury he sustained against Lake Superior State, while Bryn Chyzyk has not played since being injured November 21st at St. Cloud State. Chyzyk could return to the lineup this weekend against the Pioneers.

So far, Dave Hakstol has been able to keep things humming by inserting first-year forwards Johnny Simonson, Trevor Olson and Austin Poganski into the lineup (4-6-10 in 41 combined games played). Sophomore winger Wade Murphy has appeared in seven games, and freshman defenseman Tucker Poolman has been effective at forward when called upon. With twelve healthy forwards, however, expect Poolman back at his natural position on the blueline this weekend against Denver.

Junior netminder Zane McIntyre has been everything for North Dakota while the boys in green and white shuffle lines and adjust to the mounting list of injuries. McIntyre, from Thief River Falls, Minnesota, is UND’s all-time leader in goals-against average (2.10) and save percentage (.925). Jean-Phillippe Lamoureux, Jordan Parise, Aaron Dell, and Karl Goehring round out the top five in each category.

For the Pioneers, sophomore goaltender Evan Cowley has started nine of the first thirteen games, posting a record of 6-4-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average, a save percentage of .922, and two shutouts. Cowley, from nearby Arvada, Colorado, played in five games last season (1.76 GAA, .949 SV%) while learning from senior Sam Brittain. At 6’4”, Cowley is three inches taller than Brittain and two inches taller than McIntyre.

UND is currently 7-1-1 (.833) in non-conference play, with only a January home series versus Niagara (3-11-0, .214) remaining outside of their league schedule.

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference as a whole has a stellar record against other leagues so far this season, a far cry from last year’s troubles. Currently, five conference schools are ranked in the top twelve in the country: #1 North Dakota, #6 Miami, #9 Minnesota-Duluth, #11 Denver, and #12 Nebraska-Omaha (St. Cloud State is also receiving votes, while Western Michigan and Colorado College are unranked). More importantly, those same five ranked teams are also currently in the top twelve in the Pairwise rankings. If the league continues to notch non-conference victories at this pace, the NCHC could easily place four or even five teams in the NCAA tournament after sending just three (and barely that) a year ago.

NCHC overall record vs. other conferences: 36-17-2 (.673, best in the country)

NCHC record vs. Atlantic Hockey: 3-2-0 (.600)
NCHC record vs. Big Ten: 12-2-0 (.857)
NCHC record vs. ECAC: 8-4-1 (.654)
NCHC record vs. Hockey East: 3-3-1 (.500)
NCHC record vs. WCHA: 10-6-0 (.625)

The six teams in the Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin) are a combined 29-34-4 (.463) in non-league play, the second-worst winning percentage in college hockey (Atlantic Hockey, 11-33-2, .261). Not including a 7-0-1 mark against Atlantic Hockey, the Big Ten sports a dismal 22-34-3 (.398) record against the other four major hockey conferences.

Denver Team Profile

Head Coach: Jim Montgomery (2nd season at DU, 29-20-6, .582)
National Rankings: #11/#11
This Season: 9-4-0 overall, 3-2-0-0 NCHC (5th)
Last Season: 20-16-6 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 10-11-3-2 NCHC (6th)

Team Offense: 3.38 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.23 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 27.6% (16 of 58)
Penalty Kill: 84.7% (50 of 59)

Key Players: Freshman F Danton Heinen (6-10-16), Senior F Daniel Doremus (4-11-15), Sophomore F Trevor Moore (5-9-14), Junior F Quentin Shore (5-6-11), Senior D Joey LaLeggia (5-6-11), Junior D Nolan Zajac (3-7-10), Sophomore G Evan Cowley (6-4-0, 1.98 GAA, .922 SV%, 2 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (11th season at UND, 272-136-42, .651)
National Rankings: #1/#1
This Season: 12-3-2 overall, 5-2-1-0 NCHC (3rd)
Last Season: 25-14-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)

Team Offense: 3.41 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.12 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 23.1% (18 of 78)
Penalty Kill: 88.0% (66 of 75)

Key Players: Junior F Drake Caggiula (7-14-21), Senior F Michael Parks (6-13-19), Senior F Mark MacMillan (8-7-15 in 13 games), Freshman F Nick Schmaltz (2-12-14 in 13 games), Junior D Jordan Schmaltz (3-11-14), Sophomore D Paul LaDue (3-6-9), Junior G Zane McIntyre (12-3-2, 1.94 GAA, .929 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: January 25, 2014 (Denver, CO). Despite outshooting the Pioneers 43-23, North Dakota failed to put one past Sam Brittain and fell 3-0 to homestanding DU. Denver’s Zac Larraza scored two third period goals, one early on the power play and a late empty netter to seal the victory. UND won Friday’s opener 4-2, with nine different players figuring in the scoring for the Green and White.

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: North Dakota has had the better of it lately, going 6-3-1 (.650) in the last ten meetings between the schools and outscoring Denver 39-25 over that span. The two teams have also met once in the WCHA Final Five (St. Paul) and once in the NCAA regionals during this most recent stretch, with UND winning both of those playoff games.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 138-118-9 (.537), but the Pioneers hold a 69-52-3 (.569) record in game played at altitude.

Game News and Notes

Currently 12-3-2, head coach Dave Hakstol has never won more than thirteen games before Christmas in his ten seasons behind the North Dakota bench. Senior forward Brendan O’Donnell has scored a goal in each of his last three games (UND is 16-0-1 when O’Donnell scores a goal). Denver is 7-2-0 at home this season; North Dakota is 6-1-0 on the road (sweeps at Colorado College and Wisconsin, a road win at Bemidji State, and a split at St. Cloud State). The aforementioned 2003-04 UND squad is the last team to leave Denver with a sweep. The two teams will meet again in February 2015 in Grand Forks.

The Prediction

With all of the talent on both rosters, a split is the most likely result. I’ll take the home team in a close one on Friday, with UND rebounding on Saturday to keep both teams feeling good about themselves heading into the holiday break. DU 3-2, UND 4-2.

Published by Dave Berger on 05 Dec 2014

Weekend Preview: UND vs. Lake Superior State

After Union dismantled Minnesota to become the 20th college hockey team to claim a national championship, I ranked all twenty programs. Lake Superior State, UND’s opponent this weekend, came in at #13 (you’ll have to check out the full article to see where North Dakota ended up). At that time, I said this about the Lakers:

From 1987-1996, the Lakers were a college hockey dynasty. Head coaches Frank Anzalone and Jeff Jackson amassed a combined record of 277-80-39 (.749), and Lake Superior appeared in nine straight NCAA tournaments with three national titles (1988, 1992, 1994) and a runner-up finish in 1993. Perhaps the most astounding fact of all is that the best Laker team, the 1990-91 squad, went 36-5-4 but lost their first round NCAA playoff series to Clarkson and didn’t make the Frozen Four. Still, it’s been 18 seasons since those glory days without a single noteworthy accomplishment or tournament appearance. Until that changes, the Lakers are stuck in the past.

Beginning in 1996-97, Lake Superior fell off the college hockey map just as the Fighting Sioux were returning to national prominence. Even though LSSU has competed at the Division I level since 1966, the two teams have never been members of the same conference or met in postseason play. Remarkably, the two schools have only played two games in almost fifty seasons of hockey, a weekend series in Grand Forks in December 1973.

LSSU now competes in the new-look WCHA after competing in the CCHA from 1966 until 2013. Lake Superior had one dominant stretch as mentioned above, claiming three regular season championships and four league playoff titles in a nine year span. But since 1996, the Lakers have only reached the twenty-win plateau once (2006-07) and grew accustomed to finishing in the bottom half of the league standings.

This season, the Lakers went winless in October (0-9-0) and were outscored 36-13 over that stretch of games. November has been a bit better for Lake Superior (3-4-0), although they were recently blanked at home by scores of 7-0 and 3-0 at the hands of current #2 Minnesota State. LSSU is a very young team, with only three seniors on the roster (compared with nine freshmen and nine sophomores). Damon Whitten is in his first year as head coach in Sault Ste. Marie, and he regularly plays a first-year netminder and five freshmen on the blue line.

For the first time since 2002-03, a North Dakota team has ten or more wins over the first two months of the season. UND is currently 10-3-2, compared to an October/November record of 5-7-2 a year ago. Last year’s squad went 20-7-1 (.732) over the final five months of the season, overcoming that slow start and advancing to the Frozen Four for the sixth time in Dave Hakstol’s ten seasons behind the bench.

One of the biggest reasons for UND’s success over the first fifteen games of this current campaign has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. Dave Hakstol’s squad is unbeaten this season (8-0-1) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past nine years, North Dakota is converting ninety percent of second intermission leads into victories (163-13-12).

UND is currently 5-1-1 (.786) in non-conference play, with only a January home series versus Niagara (3-9-0, .250) on the horizon after this weekend’s games.

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference as a whole has a stellar record against other leagues so far this season, a far cry from last year’s troubles. Currently, five conference schools are ranked in the top twelve in the country: #1 North Dakota, #4 Miami, #8 Minnesota-Duluth, #10 Denver, and #12 Nebraska-Omaha (St. Cloud State is also receiving votes, while Western Michigan and Colorado College are unranked). If the league continues to notch non-conference victories at this pace, the NCHC could easily place four or even five teams in the NCAA tournament in March after sending just three (and barely that) a year ago.

NCHC overall record vs. other conferences: 33-16-2 (.667, best in the country)

NCHC record vs. Atlantic Hockey: 3-2-0 (.600)
NCHC record vs. Big Ten: 12-2-0 (.857)
NCHC record vs. ECAC: 7-3-1 (.682)
NCHC record vs. Hockey East: 3-3-1 (.500)
NCHC record vs. WCHA: 8-6-0 (.571)

The six teams in the Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin) are a combined 29-34-4 (.463) in non-league play, the second-worst winning percentage in college hockey (Atlantic Hockey, 11-33-2, .261). Not including a 7-0-1 mark against Atlantic Hockey, the Big Ten sports a dismal 22-34-3 (.398) record against the other four major hockey conferences.

After this weekend, UND will travel to Denver for an important NCHC series against the Pioneers while Lake Superior heads four hours south of Sault Ste. Marie to Big Rapids, Michigan for a pair with Ferris State. The Lakers will also take part in the Florida College Classic (also featuring Cornell, Miami, and Notre Dame) to close out the 2014 portion of their schedule.

Lake Superior Team Profile

Head Coach: Damon Whitten (1st season at LSSU, 3-13-0, .188)
National Ranking: NR/NR
This Season: 3-13-0 overall, 3-9-0 WCHA (6th)
Last Season: 16-19-1 overall, 12-16-0 WCHA (t-8th)

Team Offense: 1.69 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.88 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 6.9% (5 of 72)
Penalty Kill: 75.9% (41 of 54)

Key Players: Junior F Bryce Schmitt (5-5-10), Senior F Stephen Perfetto (4-2-6), Senior F Chris Ciotti (4-1-5), Freshman D James Roll (0-7-7), Freshman D Jason Bird (1-3-4), Freshman G Gordon Defiel (3-11-0, 3.53 GAA, .900 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (11th season at UND, 270-136-42, .650)
National Ranking: #1/#1
This Season: 10-3-2 overall, 5-2-1-0 NCHC (2nd)
Last Season: 25-14-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)

Team Offense: 3.20 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.07 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 18.6% (13 of 70)
Penalty Kill: 86.4% (57 of 66)

Key Players: Junior F Drake Caggiula (7-13-20), Senior F Michael Parks (5-11-16), Senior F Mark MacMillan (7-6-13 in 11 games), Freshman F Nick Schmaltz (2-8-10 in 11 games), Junior D Jordan Schmaltz (2-7-9), Sophomore D Troy Stecher (1-8-9), Sophomore D Paul LaDue (3-5-8), Junior G Zane McIntyre (10-3-2, 2.02 GAA, .928 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last meeting: December 15, 1973 (Grand Forks, ND). One night after throttling the visiting Lakers 7-2, the homestanding Sioux defeated Lake Superior 7-3 to earn the series sweep. Rookie head coach Rick Comley did manage to win twenty games that season after taking over for the legendary Ron Mason, who left LSSU to coach at Bowling Green (and later Michigan State).

All-time Series: North Dakota has won both of the meetings between the teams by a combined score of 14-5.

Game News and Notes

The Lakers have not made the NCAA tournament since a thirty win season in 1995-96. North Dakota has advanced to the tourney 17 times since then, winning two national titles (1997 and 2000). UND has scored eight shorthanded goals this season, most in the nation. Lake State’s power play is currently 57th out of 59 Division 1 men’s hockey teams. North Dakota junior forward Drake Caggiula is tied for second nationally in scoring (20 points).

The Prediction

Normally, in a mismatched series, the Saturday game will be a closer contest after the underdog has had some time to adjust and prepare for the rematch. But I’ve got a feeling that Friday’s opener will be tighter, with the Lakers running out of gas in game two. UND 4-2, 6-1.

Published by Dave Berger on 28 Nov 2014

Weekend Preview: UND vs. Nebraska-Omaha

From the outside looking in, it appears as though Dean Blais has resurrected the hockey program in Omaha, bringing in top-end recruits and a new style of play. The Mavericks play an honest, up-tempo brand of hockey, something familiar to fans of the Green and White from Blais’ time in Grand Forks.

But for all of the improvements and excitement, Blais has only brought one team to the NCAA tournament. In 2010-11 (his second season behind the Mavericks bench and UNO’s first season in the WCHA), Nebraska-Omaha took #6-ranked Michigan to overtime but fell 3-2 in the NCAA West Regional semifinals.

For comparison’s sake, previous coach Mike Kemp only took the Mavericks to the NCAA tournament once during his twelve year tenure behind the bench. And to be fair, Blais had to contend with two league changes (first to the WCHA and now to the NCHC) in his first five seasons in Omaha.

This might be the year that changes everything. #11 Nebraska-Omaha is off to a 7-2-1 start and has an opportunity to make a statement over the next couple of weekends.

This year’s version of the UNO Mavericks has a different look to it, as Dean Blais no longer has forwards Josh Archibald and Ryan Walters on the roster. The two combined for 108 goals and 120 assists in 264 college games. However, senior forward Dominic Zombo remains, and UND fans may remember his dad, Rick Zombo, who wore the green and white during Blais’ tenure in Grand Forks.

Despite being outshot by an average margin of 31-24 this year, senior goaltender Ryan Massa is keeping the Mavericks in games. His 1.49 goals-against average ranks fourth in all of college hockey, while his save percentage (.951) has him tied for second.

By comparison, UND junior netminder Zane McIntyre is 21st in goals-against average (2.04), while his save percentage of .927 is good for 23rd nationally.

Nebraska-Omaha is 3-1 in NCHC play on the young season, outscoring opponents 14-6 in those four games (a sweep at Western Michigan and a home split with #8 Minnesota-Duluth). These next two weekends will tell the tale for UNO: after this weekend’s series at #2 North Dakota, the Mavericks will travel to Oxford, Ohio to take on the #5 Miami RedHawks.

I said when this season began that if North Dakota could stay healthy, then a run to the Frozen Four was likely. The roster has been anything but healthy, with freshman forward Nick Schmaltz (1-7-8 in 9 games), junior forward Bryn Chyzyk (2-3-5 in 11 games), and senior forward Brendan O’Donnell (3-1-4 in 13 games) expected to miss this weekend’s action. Senior forward Mark MacMillan and sophomore defenseman Paul LaDue have already returned to play after missing games due to injury, and freshman defenseman Tucker Poolman should play up front against the Mavericks after appearing at forward last weekend against St. Cloud State.

That offensive capability from the blue line is one reason for UND’s early success. After leading the nation in scoring by defensemen last year, UND is second in the country in that category on the young season. Through thirteen games, North Dakota blueliners have scored nine goals and added 26 assists for 35 points, or 2.69 points per game. Only Massachusetts-Lowell has scored at a higher rate (9-31-40 in thirteen games, 3.08/game).

More to the point, North Dakota’s top six defensemen have already notched nine goals and added 24 assists for 32 points in thirteen games (2.46 points/game). By comparison, the six UNO blueliners expected to be in the lineup this weekend have combined for five goals and eleven assists for 16 points (1.6 points/game).

North Dakota has definitely missed the play of freshman phenom Nick Schmaltz, particularly with the man advantage. After starting the season with nine power play goals on its first 29 opportunities, UND has gone just 3 for 34 over the past eight games. In six of those eight games, North Dakota has failed to score on the power play.

And here’s how Nick Schmaltz’ injury has impacted the situation:

With Nick Schmaltz in the lineup (nine games): 11 for 48 on the power play (22.9 percent)
Without Nick Schmaltz in the lineup (four games): 1 for 15 on the power play (6.7 percent)

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference has a stellar record against other leagues so far this season, a far cry from last year’s troubles. Currently, six conference schools are ranked in the top sixteen in the country (only Western Michigan and Colorado College are unranked). If these numbers hold, the NCHC could easily place four or even five teams in the NCAA tournament in March after sending just three (and barely that) a year ago.

NCHC overall record vs. other conferences: 30-15-2 (.660, best in the country)

NCHC record vs. Atlantic Hockey: 3-2-0 (.600)
NCHC record vs. Big Ten: 11-2-0 (.846)
NCHC record vs. ECAC: 6-3-1 (.650)
NCHC record vs. Hockey East: 3-3-1 (.500)
NCHC record vs. WCHA: 7-5-0 (.583)

The six teams in the Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin) are a combined 23-30-3 (.438) in non-league play, the second-worst winning percentage in college hockey (Atlantic Hockey, 10-31-2, .256). Not including a 7-0-1 mark against Atlantic Hockey, the Big Ten sports an embarrassing 16-30-2 (.354) record against the other four major hockey conferences.

Nebraska-Omaha Team Profile

Head Coach: Dean Blais (6th season at UNO, 98-88-19, .524)
National Ranking: #11/#13
This Season: 7-2-1 overall, 3-1-0-0 NCHC (t-4th)
Last Season: 17-18-2 overall, 13-9-2-1 NCHC (3rd)

Team Offense: 3.20 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.90 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 17.1% (7 of 41)
Penalty Kill: 90.9% (40 of 44)

Key Players: Sophomore F Austin Ortega (5-8-13), Sophomore F Jake Guentzel (5-6-11), Freshman F Jake Randolph (1-8-9), Senior F Dominic Zombo (3-3-6), Junior D Brian Cooper (2-4-6), Freshman D Luc Snuggerud (1-2-3), Senior G Ryan Massa (6-1-1, 1.49 GAA, .951 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (11th season at UND, 269-136-41, .649)
National Ranking: #2/#2
This Season: 9-3-1 overall, 4-2-0-0 NCHC (3rd)
Last Season: 25-14-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)

Team Offense: 3.31 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.08 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.0% (12 of 63)
Penalty Kill: 84.7% (50 of 59)

Key Players: Junior F Drake Caggiula (7-10-17), Senior F Michael Parks (5-9-14), Senior F Mark MacMillan (6-5-11 in 9 games), Sophomore F Luke Johnson (3-3-6), Junior D Jordan Schmaltz (1-7-8), Sophomore D Troy Stecher (1-8-9), Sophomore D Paul LaDue (3-5-8), Junior G Zane McIntyre (9-3-1, 2.04 GAA, .927 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last meeting: February 8, 2014 (Grand Forks, ND). Nebraska-Omaha rebounded from a 4-2 defeat to earn a series (and season) split with homestanding UND. In the 6-3 victory on Saturday night, Mavericks forward Josh Archibald netted a hat trick and added an assist as UNO scored five consecutive goals. North Dakota, which had built a 3-1 lead, went 0-for-6 on the power play.

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

All-time: UND leads the all-time series 7-5-0 (.583) although both teams have won three of the six meetings in Grand Forks. North Dakota has won six of the last ten games between the schools, with each squad scoring 29 goals over that stretch.

Game News and Notes

Mavericks’ head coach Dean Blais is 3-3 lifetime on the visitors’ bench at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Blais, who was the head coach at UND from 1994-2004, collected 262 victories at North Dakota and led the school to national titles in 1997 and 2000. UND has scored seven shorthanded goals this season, most in the nation. UNO is 5-0-1 on the road this year. North Dakota junior forward Drake Caggiula is tied for fourth nationally in scoring (17 points).

The Prediction

This weekend feels like a pair of 2-1 or 3-2 games, with both teams able to get up and down the ice without sacrificing too much on the defensive end. A huge key this weekend is whether UND can get back to scoring with the man advantage. I like North Dakota in Friday’s opener, with the Mavericks scoring late on Saturday night to earn the series split. UND 2-1, UNO 3-2.

Published by Dave Berger on 21 Nov 2014

Weekend Preview: UND at 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.

North Dakota finished second in the NCHC, and yet needed some help at the final hour to claim the last spot in the round of sixteen. UND went 8-4-3 in non-league play last season heading into the NCAAs, but the rest of the league struggled mightily, particularly against Hockey East (6-11-5) and the ECAC (4-7-3).

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference has a stellar record against other leagues so far this season, a far cry from last year’s troubles. Currently, six conference schools are ranked in the top sixteen in the country (only Western Michigan and Colorado College are unranked). If these numbers hold, the NCHC could easily place four or even five teams in the NCAA tournament in March after sending just three (and barely that) a year ago.

NCHC overall record vs. other conferences: 27-14-2 (.651, best in the country)

NCHC record vs. Atlantic Hockey: 2-1-0 (.667)
NCHC record vs. Big Ten: 9-2-0 (.818)
NCHC record vs. ECAC: 6-3-1 (.650)
NCHC record vs. Hockey East: 3-3-1 (.500)
NCHC record vs. WCHA: 7-5-0 (.583)

The six teams in the Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin) are a combined 23-28-3 (.454) in non-league play, the second-worst winning percentage in college hockey (Atlantic Hockey, 9-28-2, .256). Not including a 7-0-1 mark against Atlantic Hockey, the Big Ten sports an embarrassing 16-28-2 (.370) record against the other four major hockey conferences.

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 has gone 5-2-1 against North Dakota over the past two regular seasons and has earned the last two Challenge Cups.

SCSU has played perhaps the most difficult schedule in the country to this point, opening up with splits against #6 Colgate, #2 Union, and #1 Minnesota before dropping both games of a home-and-home series with #17 Minnesota-Duluth. Last weekend, the Huskies split at unranked Western Michigan to take their conference record to 1-2-1-0.

As is typical for St. Cloud teams, the Huskies thrive with the man advantage. SCSU is converting 25 percent of power play opportunities (11 of 44), good for fifth in the nation. The flip side of that coin, however, is that the Huskies have only scored 11 even-strength goals over their first ten games (4-5-1).

A key to North Dakota’s early success has been special teams play. With a roughly equal number of power play and shorthanded situations, UND has scored twelve power play goals while only allowing seven. Furthermore, Dave Hakstol’s crew has scored seven shorthanded goals in the first eleven games of the season, best in the country. By comparison, St. Cloud State has scored only one goal while on the penalty kill.

After leading the nation in scoring by defensemen last year, UND is second in the country in that category on the young season. Through eleven games, North Dakota blueliners have scored nine goals and added 23 assists for 32 points, or 2.91 points per game. Only Massachusetts-Lowell has scored at a higher rate (8-30-38 in eleven games, 3.45/game).

More to the point, North Dakota’s top six defensemen have already notched nine goals and added 20 assists for 29 points in eleven games (2.64 points/game). By comparison, the six SCSU blueliners expected to be in the lineup this weekend have combined for five goals and ten assists for 15 points (1.5 points/game).

Eleven UND forwards have already scored a goal this season, including seven players with two or more tallies.
That scoring depth has made North Dakota difficult to match lines against, and the Green and White have capitalized, going 5-0 on the road with a win at Bemidji State and sweeps at Colorado College and Wisconsin.

St. Cloud State has owned the second period in games this year, outscoring opponents 11-4 in the middle frame. In the other 45 minutes of play, however, SCSU has been outscored 22-12. UND has been outscored 12-11 in second periods over its first eleven games but has a 28-10 goal advantage in the first and third periods and overtime.

St. Cloud State Team Profile

Head Coach: (Bob Motzko, 10th season at SCSU, 188-141-41, .564)
National Ranking: #16/#15
This Season: 4-5-1 overall, 1-2-1-0 NCHC (7th)
Last Season: 22-11-5 overall (NCAA Region semifinalist), 15-6-3-0 NCHC (1st)

Team Offense: 2.30 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.60 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 25.0% (11 of 44)
Penalty Kill: 85.0% (34 of 40)

Key Players: Junior F Jonny Brodzinski (5-3-8), Junior F Joey Benik (5-3-8), Junior F Kalle Kossila (2-6-8), Freshman F Patrick Russell (2-5-7), Senior D Andrew Prochno (2-5-7), Junior D Ethan Prow (1-3-4), Sophomore G Charlie Lindgren (4-5-1, 2.49 GAA, .909 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (11th season at UND, 268-135-41, .650)
National Ranking: #2/#3
This Season: 8-2-1 overall, 3-1-0-0 NCHC (t-3rd)
Last Season: 25-14-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)

Team Offense: 3.55 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.00 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 21.1% (12 of 57)
Penalty Kill: 86.5% (45 of 52)

Key Players: Senior F Michael Parks (5-9-14), Junior F Drake Caggiula (6-10-16), Senior F Mark MacMillan (6-4-10 in 7 games), Sophomore F Luke Johnson (3-3-6), Junior D Jordan Schmaltz (1-6-7), Sophomore D Troy Stecher (1-7-8), Sophomore D Paul LaDue (3-5-8), Junior G Zane McIntyre (8-2-1, 1.95 GAA, .928 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: March 1, 2014 (St. Cloud, MN). The Huskies rebounded from a 5-2 loss in Friday’s opener to defeat North Dakota 3-1 in the rematch. St. Cloud scored once in each period to overcome Rocco Grimaldi’s unassisted shorthanded goal in the first. Ryan Faragher made 33 of 34 saves for the Huskies. The series split gave SCSU the inside track to the league title, which they claimed one week later with a sweep at Colorado College.

Most Important Meeting: March 17, 2001 (St. Paul, MN). St. Cloud State defeated North Dakota 6-5 to claim the 2001 WCHA Final Five Championship. Derek Eastman scored the game-winner in overtime after UND scored three goals in the final ten minutes of regulation to force the extra session.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 61-36-12 (.615), including a 25-19-6 (.560) mark in games played in St. Cloud.

Last Ten: St. Cloud holds a slight 5-4-1 (.550) edge in the last ten meetings between the teams, although each team has scored 24 combined goals over that span.

Game News and Notes

UND junior forward Drake Caggiula’s 16 points have him tied with four other players for the nation’s scoring lead. Only Penn State senior forward Taylor Holstrom has amassed that total in fewer games (nine, to Caggiula’s eleven). SCSU junior forwards Joey Benik, Jonny Brodzinski, and Kalle Kossila are tied for the team scoring lead with ten points each. North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol is 23-14-7 (.602) in his career against the Huskies.

The Prediction

Most seasons, I give the edge to St. Cloud at home on the wider sheet. But given UND’s forward depth and mobile defensive corps, I think that the road squad will fare quite well. If the Huskies get their power play going, all bets are off. UND 4-2, 2-2 tie (SCSU wins shootout for the extra league point).

On a Personal Note

I look forward to this series every year because of the unique relationship we have with the St. Cloud State hockey fans. On behalf of SiouxSports.com, I would like to invite you to the UND/SCSU pre-game social on Saturday afternoon from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. on the second floor of Brother’s Bar and Grill (119 Fifth Avenue South) in St. Cloud. This is a great opportunity to meet fans on both sides of the rivalry, win fabulous door prizes, enjoy a free appetizer bar, and view the Challenge Cup. This event is free and open to the public.

Published by Dave Berger on 20 Nov 2014

A New Era For St. Cloud State Men’s Hockey

Coming into this year, North Dakota’s current senior class (forwards Conner Gaarder, Mark MacMillan, Brendan O’Donnell, Andrew Panzerella, Michael Parks, Stephane Pattyn, and Colten St. Clair, along with defenseman Nick Mattson) has never won the regular season series against St. Cloud State.

Bob Motzko’s Huskies own a 7-4-1 record against UND over the past three seasons, outscoring the Green and White 31-24 in those twelve conference games. North Dakota does claim the only postseason victory over the last three years, a 4-1 triumph at the 2012 WCHA Final Five in St. Paul, Minnesota.

SCSU won the regular season title in the last year of the WCHA as we know it (2012-2013), and also came out on top of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference in the first season of its existence (2013-14). The Huskies have gone 64-44-11 (.584) over the last three full seasons, and the last two years look even better: a record of 47-27-6 (.625), with two regular season league titles, two trips to the NCAA tournament, a berth in the Frozen Four (2012-13), a Hobey Baker winner (forward Drew LeBlanc, 2012-13), and another Hobey Hat Trick finalist (forward Nic Dowd, 2013-14).

There were some who questioned the inclusion of St. Cloud State in the NCHC after Minnesota and Wisconsin bolted for the Big Ten hockey conference. I would contend that SCSU’s sustained success and style of play have made the UND/SCSU rivalry one of the best in the league.

Click here for a full preview and predictions for this weekend’s games in St. Cloud. And make sure to join us at the UND/SCSU fan social (Saturday from 4:00-6:00 p.m. at Brothers Bar & Grill).

Published by Dave Berger on 19 Nov 2014

UND/SCSU fan social set for Saturday, November 22nd

Please join us for the UND/SCSU pre-game social, an event which takes place in both Grand Forks, North Dakota and St. Cloud, Minnesota each hockey season. The fan social provides an opportunity for fans of the University of North Dakota and St. Cloud State University to gather, celebrate the great sport of hockey, and view the Challenge Cup, a traveling trophy which is presented to the team which collects more points in the four regular-season games between the schools. St. Cloud State claimed the Cup last season with a record of 3-1 against UND, outscoring North Dakota 11-9 in the four contests. The teams did not meet in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff or the NCAA tournament a year ago.

This event will be held on Saturday, November 22nd from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on the second floor of Brothers Bar & Grill (the same location as last year). The address is 119 Fifth Avenue South in St. Cloud, within walking distance of the Kelly Inn. The event is free and open to the public (due to the venue, guests must be 21 years of age or older). A free appetizer bar will be available, and everyone in attendance will have the opportunity to win door prizes.

Fans of both teams enjoy the camaraderie at these social events and regularly comment that the connection between the two fan bases is among the best in college hockey.

Mark your calendars and join us for this event!

Published by Dave Berger on 14 Nov 2014

Weekend Preview: UND vs. 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 GAA, .946 SV%, 4 SO 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, Miami traveled to St. Cloud 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.

This season, netminder Jay Williams has taken over the starting spot, and he’s been spectacular. Aside from one rough outing against St. Lawrence, the junior from McLean, Virginia has given up just eight goals in seven games, making 140 of 148 saves (.946) and picking up seven victories.

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 looks to be 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 2.00 goals allowed/game, the exact same scoring defense as North Dakota. And the RedHawks will definitely be able to score with anyone, notching three or more goals in seven of ten games this year (and potting two goals in each of the other three).

North Dakota’s scoring depth will be tested this weekend. Already without the services of senior forward Mark MacMillan (5-2-7 in five games this season), UND freshman phenom Nick Schmaltz (1-7-8 in nine games) sustained an upper body injury against Wisconsin and is not expected to play.

The Green and White will miss MacMillan’s scoring touch and Schmaltz’s playmaking ability over the next month or so, as North Dakota’s first half schedule concludes with tough league opponents St. Cloud State, Nebraska-Omaha, and Denver (along with non-conference foe Lake Superior) over the next four weeks.

Also, sophomore defenseman Paul LaDue (3-5-8 in eight games) will be out of the lineup this weekend. After leading the nation in scoring by defensemen last year, UND is second in the country on the young season. Through nine games, North Dakota blueliners have scored nine goals and added twenty assists for 29 points, or 3.22 points per game. Only Massachusetts-Lowell has scored at a higher rate (7-26-33 in nine games, 3.67/game).

Another key to North Dakota’s early success has been special teams play. With a roughly equal number of power play and shorthanded situations (48 and 47, respectively), UND has scored eleven power play goals while only allowing six. Furthermore, Dave Hakstol’s crew has scored six shorthanded goals in the first nine games of the season, best in the country.

This weekend’s games mark the conference home opener for North Dakota. The National Collegiate Hockey Conference has a stellar record against other leagues so far this season, a far cry from the struggles last year. Currently, six conference schools are ranked in the top 15 in the country (only Western Michigan and Colorado College are unranked). If these numbers hold, the NCHC could easily place four or even five teams in the NCAA tournament in March after sending just three (Denver, North Dakota, and St. Cloud State) a year ago.

NCHC overall record vs. other conferences: 25-14-2 (.634, best in the country)

NCHC record vs. Atlantic Hockey: 2-1-0
NCHC record vs. Big Ten: 7-2-0
NCHC record vs. ECAC: 6-3-1
NCHC record vs. Hockey East: 3-3-1
NCHC record vs. WCHA: 7-5-0

The six teams in the Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin) are a combined 19-23-3 (.456) in non-league play, the second-worst winning percentage in college hockey (Atlantic Hockey, 8-26-2, .250). Not including a 5-0-1 mark against Atlantic Hockey, the Big Ten sports an embarrassing 14-23-2 (.385) record against the other four major hockey conferences.

Miami Team Profile

Head Coach: Enrico Blasi (16th season at Miami, 333-219-56, .594)
National Ranking: #7/#7
This Season: 7-3-0 overall, 3-1-0-0 NCHC (2nd)
Last Season: 15-20-3 overall, 6-17-1-1 NCHC (8th)

Team Offense: 3.20 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.00 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.8% (10 of 48)
Penalty Kill: 78.7% (37 of 47)

Key players: Junior F Riley Barber (5-6-11), Senior F Austin Czarnik (0-10-10), Sophomore F Sean Kuraly (7-4-11), Senior F Blake Coleman (6-5-11), Sophomore D Matthew Caito (0-6-6), Freshman D Louie Belpedio (3-1-4), Junior G Jay Williams (7-1-0, 1.64 GAA, .921 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (11th season at UND, 267-134-41, .650)
National Ranking: #2/#2
This Season: 7-1-1 overall, 2-0-0-0 NCHC (t-3rd)
Last Season: 25-14-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)

Team Offense: 3.67 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.00 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 22.9% (11 of 48)
Penalty Kill: 87.2% (41 of 47)

Key Players: Senior F Michael Parks (3-8-11), Junior F Drake Caggiula (3-8-11), Sophomore F Luke Johnson (3-3-6), Junior F Bryn Chyzyk (2-2-4), Junior D Jordan Schmaltz (1-4-5), Sophomore D Troy Stecher (1-7-8), Junior G Zane McIntyre (7-1-1, 1.94 GAA, .927 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: March 21, 2014 (Minneapolis, MN). UND outshot the RedHawks 32-28 but could not solve sophomore netminder Ryan McKay as Miami advanced to the NCHC title game with a 3-0 victory. North Dakota went 0-5 with the man advantage and allowed a first period power play goal. Miami ‘s Blake Coleman, Austin Czarnik, and Riley Barber all figured in the scoring. Of the announced attendance of 9113, well over nine thousand were wearing green and white.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: February 15, 2014. One night after a 3-2 Valentine’s Day victory, North Dakota showed the visiting RedHawks no love in a 9-2 beatdown. UND chased not one but two goaltenders in the contest as the Green and White scored four goals in each of the first two periods before coasting to the series sweep. North Dakota’s Rocco Grimaldi collected four points, and netminder Zane Gothberg made 27 saves for the victory. Remarkably, UND also had two disallowed goals in the first period.

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 four games these two teams will play this season are also important for NCHC home ice and NCAA tournament hopes.

All-time Series: North Dakota leads the all-time series 5-2-1 (.688), including a 2-0-1 (.833) mark in games played in Grand Forks. Five of the eight all-time meetings between the schools came during the 2013-14 season. The teams first played in 1999 (Badger Showdown, Milwaukee, WI).

Game News and Notes

North Dakota will travel to Miami in early March to play a conference series, the last games of the regular season for both teams. Five of the players on the ice this weekend are leading the NCHC in scoring. Miami’s Blake Coleman, Sean Kuraly and Riley Barber all have eleven points this season, the same total as UND’s Drake Caggiula and Michael Parks. Parks has eight points in five career games against the RedHawks. A victory on Friday would give UND its best ten-game start to a season since 2002-03.

The Prediction

Both of these games could go either way, but I’m giving Miami the edge on Friday night since North Dakota is shuffling lines and readjusting after injuries rocked the lineup. UND will rebound for a victory on Saturday, and a split this weekend would not be a disappointing result. Miami 3-2, UND 4-2.

Published by Dave Berger on 07 Nov 2014

Weekend Preview: UND vs. Wisconsin

A quick rewind to March 2014:

Plenty was written about the roller coaster ride of emotions that North Dakota faced after defeating Western Michigan 5-0 in the 3rd place game of the NCHC tournament (Target Center, Minneapolis, MN). The team had done its part, but needed some help to make the NCAAs.

That help came in the form of the Wisconsin Badgers, former WCHA foe and long-time rival. On Saturday night, across the river at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Bucky was facing Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament championship. Down 4-2 with seven minutes remaining, UW scored twice in twenty seconds and rang a shot off the post in overtime before Mark Zengerle notched the game-winner at 7:48 of the first extra session.

To be fair, North Dakota’s 23-13-3 record and second-place finish in the NCHC would have been good enough for an at-large bid in most seasons. But the new league did not fare well out of conference (37-31-16, .536), including an abysmal 9-17-8 (.382) mark against Hockey East and the ECAC.

Thanks to Wisconsin, UND had new life and nothing to lose. #4 North Dakota managed to defeat the top-seeded Badgers (UW had gone 20-5-1 since November 30th, 2013) and outlasted #2 seed Ferris State for a trip to the Frozen Four (Philadelphia, PA).

Since that regional semifinal eight months ago, the Badgers have become virtually unrecognizable. Head coach Mike Eaves graduated ten seniors (including forwards Mark Zengerle, Michael Mersch, Tyler Barnes, and Jefferson Dahl along with blueliners Frankie Simonelli and Joe Faust) and watched two underclassmen (forward Nic Kerdiles, 26-45-71 in 60 games played, and defenseman Jake McCabe, 14-44-58 in 100 gp) leave early. Overall, those twelve players scored 90 of Wisconsin’s 120 goals. In other words, the Badgers only return 30 total goals from last season (by comparison, UND’s returning players notched 97 goals a year ago).

So it’s no surprise that Wisconsin is winless, scoring less than one goal per hockey game. The Badgers are also scoreless on 18 power play opportunities this season and are giving up almost three goals per contest.

If there’s any reason for optimism in Madison, it’s that things can only get better for Bucky. This weekend’s non-conference series against North Dakota will mark the first home games of the year for UW, and the Badgers have yet to open their conference schedule, so there’s no league hole out of which to climb. Two of Wisconsin’s four losses came at the hands of unbeaten Northern Michigan, while UW also went winless at the Kendall Hockey Classic in Anchorage, Alaska.

North Dakota fans were able to experience some late-game heroics last Saturday night against Air Force. Junior forward Drake Caggiula tied the game with under 30 seconds remaining in regulation, and fellow junior Bryn Chyzyk netted the game-winner with seven ticks left on the overtime clock. Chyzyk notched his overtime tally off a brilliant play and feed from Michael Parks, who created the shorthanded two-on-one situation with a strong individual effort in the neutral zone.

Prior to that, the last time UND tied a game with an extra attacker goal in the final minute of regulation and completed the comeback with an overtime victory was on March 16, 2003. That date happened to be Game 3 of the WCHA playoffs against Denver. On that night, Mike Prpich tied the game at 19:19, and Nick Fuher won it with 64 seconds remaining in the first overtime session. That Sunday victory also started North Dakota’s streak of twelve consecutive league playoff (WCHA Final Five, NCHC Frozen Faceoff) appearances.

On the injury front, UND senior forward Mark MacMillan (five goals and two assists in five games) is expected to be out until after Christmas after suffering a wrist injury against Providence. North Dakota will miss his scoring touch over the next two months, as the Green and White face tough league opponents Miami, St. Cloud State, Nebraska-Omaha, and Denver (along with non-conference foe Lake Superior) over the next five weeks.

After leading the nation in scoring by defensemen last year, UND is second in the country on the young season. Through seven games, North Dakota blueliners have scored seven goals and added fifteen assists for 22 points, or 3.14 points per game. Only Massachusetts-Lowell has scored at a higher rate (6-19-25 in seven games, 3.57/game).

Another key to North Dakota’s early success has been special teams play. With an equal number of power play and shorthanded situations (40 each), UND has scored nine power play goals while only allowing five. Furthermore, Dave Hakstol’s crew has scored five shorthanded goals in the first seven games of the season, tied for most in the country (Minnesota-Duluth).

Wisconsin Team Profile

Head Coach: Mike Eaves (13th season at UW, 255-184-53, .572)

National Ranking: NR
This Season: 0-4-0 overall, 0-0-0 Big Ten
Last Season: 24-11-2 overall (NCAA Midwest Regional semifinalist), 15-6-1 Big Ten (2nd)

Team Offense: 0.75 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.75 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 0.0% (0 of 18)
Penalty Kill: 72.7% (8 of 11)

Key Players: Freshman F Ryan Wagner (0-2-2), Senior F Brad Navin (1-0-1), Senior F Joseph LaBate (0-0-0), Junior D Kevin Schulze (0-0-0), Senior D Chase Drake (0-1-1), Senior G Joel Rumpel (0-3-0, 2.72 GAA, .884 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (11th season at UND, 265-134-41, .649)
National Ranking: #2/#2
This Season: 5-1-1 overall, 2-0-0-0 NCHC (t-1st)
Last Season: 25-14-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)

Team Offense: 3.43 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.00 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 22.5% (9 of 40)
Penalty Kill: 87.5% (35 of 40)

Key Players: Senior F Michael Parks (1-6-7), Junior F Drake Caggiula (2-6-8), Freshman F Nick Schmaltz (1-6-7), Junior F Bryn Chyzyk (2-2-4), Junior D Jordan Schmaltz (1-3-4), Sophomore D Paul LaDue (3-4-7), Junior G Zane McIntyre (5-1-1, 1.92 GAA, .931 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: March 28, 2014 (Cincinnati, OH). UND junior forward Mark MacMillan broke a 2-2 tie with under two minutes remaining in the game as North Dakota advanced to the Midwest Regional final with a 5-2 victory. After a lengthy review to determine whether there was goaltender interference or if MacMillan had played the puck with a high stick, the goal stood. Rocco Grimaldi added two empty-net goals for the Green and White, which gave him a hat trick in the contest (the first of his collegiate career). Joel Rumpel made thirty saves for the Badgers, who lost for just the sixth time since November 30th.

Last Meeting in Madison: October 22, 2011. UND forward Danny Kristo potted two goals to bring North Dakota back from a 3-1 deficit, but it wasn’t enough, as the home squad answered with two third period tallies to put the game out of reach. Brock Nelson added an extra-attacker goal with 40 seconds to play, but UW prevailed 5-4, completing the home sweep. The Green and White outshot Bucky 42-15, but Joel Rumpel made 38 saves to Aaron Dell’s 10, and that told the story. The Badgers won Friday’s opener 5-3. It was the first time that North Dakota lost their opening two WCHA games since 1994-95.

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, 86-66-12 (.561), including a 46-27-3 (.625) record in Madison.

Last Ten: The Green and White have had Bucky’s number lately, going 6-3-1 (.650) in the last ten tilts. UND is unbeaten in the last five (4-0-1), outscoring UW 19-9.

Game News and Notes

Despite coaching for two fewer seasons than his counterpart on the UW bench, North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol has collected ten more victories than Mike Eaves. Hakstol recently passed coaching legend Dean Blais (262-115-33) for second-most wins all time at North Dakota. After this weekend against UND, Wisconsin will face Colorado College and Denver on November 21st and 22nd. The Badgers don’t open up Big Ten league play until December 5th against Penn State and won’t play their second conference series until January 16th at Minnesota. North Dakota senior forward Michael Parks has scored five goals in seven career games against UW.

The Prediction

If these games were played in Grand Forks, I’d say that North Dakota would win a couple of 3-1, 4-1 games. But they’re not, and there’s something about the Kohl Center crowd. Yes, the Badgers are winless on the young season, but they’re playing in front of the Kohl Center crowd for the first time this year. That counts for something, and sweeps are hard to come by in Mad-town. I’m going with Rumpel returning to last season’s form and stealing one for Bucky. UND 4-1, UW 2-1.

Published by Dave Berger on 01 Nov 2014

U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game Preview: UND vs. Air Force

Since moving to Atlantic Hockey in 2006, Frank Serratore has brought the Air Force Falcons to the NCAA tournament five times in eight seasons.

Air Force pushed Minnesota to the limit in the 2007 West Regional, leading the Gophers 3-1 with under nine minutes remaining before surrendering three goals in a span of four minutes. The Falcons lost an overtime heartbreaker to Miami in 2008, but finally broke through against Michigan in the 2009 tourney, defeating the Wolverines 2-0 before falling to Vermont 3-2 in double overtime, one game short of the Frozen Four.

Air Force would drop another overtime contest against Yale in the 2011 East Regional, and ran up against Boston College in 2012, losing 2-0 to Jerry York’s Eagles.

Despite a twenty win season a year ago, the Falcons did not make the NCAA tournament.

A national tournament bid is the expectation in Grand Forks, as North Dakota has an active streak of twelve consecutive NCAA bids (best in the nation). UND has also made the tourney in 17 of 18 seasons overall dating back to 1996-97. With a current non-conference record of 2-1-1, Dave Hakstol’s squad has seven games remaining against non-NCHC opponents. After Saturday’s game against Air Force, UND will travel to Wisconsin for two games at the Kohl Center next weekend. North Dakota’s final four non-conference games will be at home: two each against Lake Superior (December 5-6, 2014) and Niagara (January 16-17, 2015).

Saturday’s contest will mark the eighth time that North Dakota will take part in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game. UND is 3-3-1 all-time in the annual event, and first hosted the Hall of Fame Game on October 5, 2001, the grand opening of the new Ralph Engelstad Arena. The Green and White have fared better in more recent Hall of Fame Games, defeating Minnesota-Duluth 3-2 and Michigan State 6-0 in Grand Forks (2003 and 2007, respectively) and blitzing the Bulldogs 5-0 in Duluth during the grand opening of Amsoil Arena (December 30, 2010).

On the injury front, UND senior forward Mark MacMillan (five goals and two assists in five games) is expected to be out until after Christmas after suffering a wrist injury against Providence. North Dakota will miss his scoring touch over the next two months, as the Green and White face tough league opponents Miami, St. Cloud State, Nebraska-Omaha, and Denver over the next six weeks.

After leading the nation in scoring by defensemen last year, UND is at the top of the charts once again. Through six games, North Dakota blueliners have scored six goals and added fifteen assists for 21 points, one better than Union and four points ahead of Massachusetts-Lowell and St. Lawrence.

Air Force Team Profile

Head Coach: Frank Serratore (18th season at AFA, 295-281-62, .511)
National Ranking: NR
This Season: 2-4-0 overall, 2-2-0 Atlantic Hockey (t-5th)
Last Season: 21-14-4 overall, 15-9-3 Atlantic Hockey (t-3rd)

Team Offense: 2.67 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.50 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.7% (6 of 29)
Penalty Kill: 87.0% (20 of 23)

Key players: Senior F Cole Gunner (2-5-7), Senior F Chad Demers (3-2-5), Senior F Scott Holm (2-3-5), Sophomore F A.J.Reid (3-1-4), Sophomore D Johnny Hrabovsky (0-6-6), Freshman D Phil Boje (2-1-3), Sophomore G Chris Truehl (2-4-0, 3.36 GAA, .861 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (11th season at UND, 264-134-41, .648)
National Ranking: #3/#2
This Season: 4-1-1 overall, 2-0-0-0 NCHC (t-1st)
Last Season: 25-14-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)

Team Offense: 3.50 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.00 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 25.0% (9 of 36)
Penalty Kill: 86.5% (32 of 37)

Key Players: Senior F Michael Parks (1-4-5), Junior F Drake Caggiula (1-6-7), Freshman F Nick Schmaltz (1-5-6), Junior F Bryn Chyzyk (1-2-3), Junior D Jordan Schmaltz (1-3-4), Sophomore D Paul LaDue (3-4-7), Junior G Zane McIntyre (4-1-1, 1.93 GAA, .935 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: October 7, 2011 (Grand Forks, ND). Sophomore forward Brock Nelson tallied two third period goals as North Dakota staged a comeback over the visiting Falcons in the semifinals of the IceBreaker Tournament. In the second period, Cole Gunner assisted on both Air Force goals as the Falcons built a 3-2 lead. Nelson also notched an assist on UND’s first goal, giving him three of his 47 points on the season.

All-time Series: UND has won all four games against Air Force, outscoring the Falcons 27-6. North Dakota hosted a November 1980 series as well as a single game in 1988.

Game News and Notes

Air Force head coach Frank Serratore has been a collegiate head coach for 22 seasons. He was an assistant coach at North Dakota from 1987-1989. UND has already scored four shorthanded goals in six games this season, equaling last season’s total (four in 42 games). Two of this season’s four shorties came off the stick of injured forward Mark MacMillan. The school record for shorthanded goals in a season is 18, set in 1986-87 (48 games). On the national college hockey scene, #1 Minnesota and #2 Union have already lost this weekend.

The Prediction

In his final game at Ralph Engelstad Arena, Grafton native (and current Air Force senior) Chad Demers will make an impact. Aside from that, I just don’t think that Frank Serratore’s squad has the depth to match up with North Dakota and roll four lines for sixty minutes. If the Falcons can notch a couple of power play goals, however, this game might get interesting. UND 4, AFA 2.

Published by Dave Berger on 24 Oct 2014

Weekend Preview: UND vs. Providence College

Providence College rolls into Grand Forks this weekend to play in a highly-anticipated matchup between two of the top five teams in the country. North Dakota advanced to the Frozen Four a season ago, while the Friars fell to eventual national champion Union in the final of the NCAA East Regional (Bridgeport, CT).

Expectations are high for both programs, and non-conference success is an important step toward fulfilling those title hopes. Since Providence is an unfamiliar foe for fans of the Green and White, I connected with Mark Divver (hockey writer for the Providence Journal) to fill us in on what to expect this weekend (and beyond) from the Friars:

Dave Berger, SiouxSports.com: What should UND fans expect from Providence this weekend? Who are the players to watch?

Mark Divver, Providence Journal: North Dakota fans will see a seasoned (19 returnees), balanced, well-coached team that is backstopped by one of the top goalies in college hockey. Providence College is a team that should be in the Frozen Four conversation come March if they stay healthy.

Players to watch are Ross Mauermann, a tireless worker; Noel Acciari, a devastating hitter when healthy; Jon Gillies, one of the best goalies in the country; three NHL draft picks on defense in John Gilmour, Jake Walman and Anthony Florentino; freshman sniper Brian Pinho; senior winger Nick Saracino.

Gillies is a standout, but the heart and soul of the Friars are captains Mauermann and Acciari. Mauermann is one of the great feel-good stories in college hockey. He came to PC as a walk-on and hasn’t stopped working from day one. There is no harder hitter in college hockey in the east (I can’t speak for the west) than Acciari. He has a rib injury, so if he plays he might have to curtail his checks.

Freshmen Walman and Pinho are top recruits. They are the type of NHL prospects consistently brought in by perennial national contenders such as, well, North Dakota. The fact that they chose Providence College bodes well for the future of the program.

DB: Do you expect junior centers Mark Jankowski and Noel Acciari to play against North Dakota? What would their presence mean to the lineup?

MD:
As you probably know, second-line center Jankowski (shoulder) did not make the trip. But the Friars are as deep up front as they’ve been in years, so they should be able to get by without him for the short term. Pinho is a winger, but is capable of playing in the middle, too.

Acciari is questionable because of his injury, but I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t play. He is a very tough kid – he played a good part of last season with not one but two sprained knees. How physical he can be with his injury remains to be seen. His teammates look up to him, so his presence is very important in a hostile environment.

Another injured player is top four defenseman Tom Parisi (shoulder), who won’t play. Gilmour and Drew McKenzie will be in the lineup for the first time this season, which will help balance the loss of Parisi.

DB: What will the Friars need to do to have success in this important non-conference series? How would you describe their style of play? What do they do well?

MD: Staying out of the penalty box is key for the Friars. They need to play hard between the whistles, but stay away from after-the-whistle scrums.

PC hopes to play with more pace this season after upgrading their team speed over last couple of seasons. They have some defensemen – particularly Gilmour and Walman — who can move the puck and join the attack.

DB: What are the players and coaches saying about this matchup? Is this a weekend that’s been circled on the calendar for a while? Or is it just another pair of games?

MD: I’ve been busy covering the Boston Bruins and Providence Bruins lately, so I haven’t been around the Friars much. Still, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that they are very excited. This isn’t just another road trip. Playing North Dakota at the Ralph is a rare treat. It’s as good as it gets in college hockey.

DB: How will the players and coaches handle the increased expectations this season? With a trip to the regional final last year, is a Frozen Four berth a possibility for this club?

MD:
PC’s experienced coaching staff should keep the team focused. I don’t expect expectations to be an issue.

With the East Regional at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence and the Frozen Four just up the road in Boston, PC has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put the program back on the map without venturing far from home.

I predicted in my season preview that the Friars will reach the Frozen Four. They have the goaltending, a solid defense and a balanced attack. Who knows? Maybe we’ll see a rematch of this weekend’s series in Boston in April.

My thanks to Mark Divver (@MarkDivver on Twitter) for his time and his contributions to this preview. If you’re interested, you can find his game preview for the Providence Journal here.

Providence College Team Profile

Head Coach: Nate Leaman (12th season at PC, 192-173-52, .523)
National Ranking: #5
This Season: 1-1-0 overall, 0-0-0 Hockey East
Last Season: 22-11-6 overall (NCAA East Regional finalist), 11-7-2 Hockey East (3rd)

Team Offense: 3.00 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.00 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 0.0% (0 of 7)
Penalty Kill: 62.5% (5 of 8)

Key players: Freshman F Brian Pinho (2-0-2), Senior F Ross Mauermann (0-2-2), Junior F Noel Acciari (0-0-0), Junior F Nick Saracino (1-1-2), Sophomore D Anthony Florentino (0-2-2), Junior D Tom Parisi (1-1-2), Junior G Jon Gillies (1-1-0, 2.89 GAA, .885 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (11th season at UND, 263-134-40, .648)
National Ranking: #3
This Season: 3-1-0 overall, 2-0-0-0 NCHC (t-1st)
Last Season: 25-14-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)

Team Offense: 3.25 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.25 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 29.2% (7 of 24)
Penalty Kill: 81.8% (18 of 22)

Key Players: Senior F Michael Parks (0-4-4), Senior F Mark MacMillan (5-2-7), Junior F Drake Caggiula (0-3-3), Freshman F Nick Schmaltz (1-3-4), Junior D Jordan Schmaltz (1-0-1), Sophomore D Paul LaDue (2-4-6), Junior G Zane McIntyre (3-1-0, 2.21 GAA, .929 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: January 20, 1989 (Providence RI). North Dakota defeated the homestanding Friars 3-2 in an interconference matchup. In the early years of Hockey East, a scheduling agreement was put in place between the WCHA and Hockey East that had each conference counting these types of games in its league standings.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: November 29, 1987. In another WCHA-HEA tilt, the Fighting Sioux dispatched Providence College 6-4.

Most Important Meeting: Because of the added attention on the upcoming matchup and what the results of this series might mean for title hopes on both sides, I will call this weekend’s games the most important meetings between the two programs.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 8-5-0 (.615), including a 5-2-0 record in games played in Grand Forks. North Dakota has won the last five games between the two teams, outscoring the Friars 23-10.

Game News and Notes

Providence College plays its home games at Schneider Arena, which holds just over 3000 fans. UND senior forward Mark MacMillan notched his first career hat trick last Saturday night at Colorado College and scored five goals in the weekend sweep. The Friars tied the United States Under-18 team in exhibition action last Thursday. Three of North Dakota’s seven national titles were captured at the Providence Civic Center. Providence College head coach Nate Leaman has built his roster from 13 different states and four Canadian provinces, while UND’s players hail from seven states and four provinces.

The Prediction

It’s hard to imagine anything other than a split in this series. I’ve got North Dakota as the favorite in Friday’s opener as the Friars adjust to Ralph Engelstad Arena and the hometown crowd. Providence goaltender Jon Gillies will make his presence known in the rematch. UND 4-2, PC 3-1.

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