When North Dakota and Colorado College faced off in Colorado Springs earlier this season, UND carried the play for much of the weekend but needed some late-game heroics on Saturday night to salvage a series split.

UND’s overtime victory sent the teams in opposite directions: Colorado College has not won since (0-6-1), while North Dakota is undefeated (6-0-1). And there are two glaring reasons why the teams are worlds apart: special teams and goaltending.

Coming in to the home series against North Dakota, the Tigers were clipping along at almost 25 percent on the power play (11 of 45). Since then, they are a tepid 3 of 29 (10.3%). And the goaltending has not been there for Scott Owens’ squad, either. So far this season, both senior Joe Howe and junior Josh Thorimbert have shown extended periods of unsteady play.

On the North Dakota side, the same areas have made the difference. After rotating goaltenders for much of the first half of the season, Dave Hakstol went back to Clarke Saunders for Saturday’s rematch with CC. The junior netminder responded with a solid performance and has played every minute since. And after starting the year 8 for 53 (15.1%) with the man advantage, UND has converted 9 of its last 32 (28.1%).

North Dakota has two players with over 100 career points: senior forwards Danny Kristo (134, tops in the country) and Corban Knight (126). There are seven other players in all of college hockey to have accomplished that feat, and UND has already played against three of them, squaring off against St. Cloud State’s Drew LeBlanc (127), Notre Dame’s T.J. Tynan (110), and CC’s Rylan Schwartz, who is one behind Danny Kristo with 133 points.

With freshman forward Rocco Grimaldi returning from the World Juniors (with a gold medal), UND has an embarassment of riches at forward. Expect Brendan O’Donnell to sit in Friday’s opener, with Grimaldi playing with Carter Rowney and Drake Caggiula on the second line.

Colorado College Team Profile

Head Coach: Scott Owens (14th season at CC, 307-197-45, .600)
Pairwise Ranking: NR
National Ranking: NR
This Season: 8-12-2 overall, 5-8-1 WCHA (t-9th)
Last Season: 18-16-2 overall, 15-12-1 WCHA (5th)

Team Offense: 3.36 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.73 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 18.9% (14 of 74)
Penalty Kill: 76.8% (63 of 82)

Key Players: Senior F Rylan Schwartz (10-17-27), Senior F William Rapuzzi (11-15-26), Senior F Scott Winkler (10-10-20), Senior D Mike Boivin (9-9-18), Junior D Eamonn McDermott (2-12-14), Senior G Joe Howe (4-6-1, 3.50 GAA, .896 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (9th season at UND, 225-111-33, .654)
Pairwise Ranking: t-6th
National Ranking: #7
This Season: 12-5-3 overall, 7-2-3 WCHA (t-3rd)
Last Season: 26-13-3 overall (NCAA West Regional Finalist), 16-11-1 WCHA (4th)

Team Offense: 3.40 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.40 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.0% (17 of 85)
Penalty Kill: 83.8% (62 of 74)

Key Players: Senior F Corban Knight (10-19-29), Senior F Danny Kristo (10-15-25), Sophomore F Mark MacMillan (7-9-16), Freshman F Rocco Grimaldi (7-9-16), Junior D Derek Forbort (4-6-10), Sophomore D Nick Mattson (1-8-9), Junior G Clarke Saunders (10-3-3, 2.17 GAA, .922 SV%, 2 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: December 1, 2012 (Colorado Springs, CO). North Dakota was 13 seconds away from being swept out of World Arena when junior defenseman Dillon Simpson stepped in and knotted the contest at two goals apiece. Overtime would only last 51 seconds before freshman forward Drake Caggiula potted the game winning goal for UND.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: November 26, 2011. One night after North Dakota won a wild 7-6 contest (13 goals on only 41 shots), the teams got into a special teams battle, with UND prevailing 4-3. The two squads traded power play goals, with Danny Kristo’s shorthanded tally six minutes into the final frame holding up as the game winner for the Green and White.

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, 138-77-10 (.636), including a dominating 82-19-6 (.794) record in games played in Grand Forks. The teams first met in 1948.

Last Ten: North Dakota is 8-2-0 (.800) in the last ten meetings between the teams, including three straight home victories. UND has only outscored CC 39-30 over the last ten games, with seven of UND’s eight victories coming by a single goal.

Game News and Notes

Senior forward Corban Knight is UND’s candidate for college hockey’s Hobey Baker award. Knight is riding a fifteen game point streak, during which time the centerman has potted 8 goals and notched 19 assists. Colorado College head coach Scott Owens has led the Tigers to the NCAA tournament seven times in thirteen seasons, with one Frozen Four appearance. Dave Hakstol has advanced UND to the national tournament in each of his first eight seasons, including five Frozen Fours. North Dakota has ten players averaging a half point per game or more, led by Corban Knight (1.53) and Danny Kristo (1.39). By comparison, Colorado College has seven, with Rylan Schwartz (1.29) and William Rapuzzi (1.18) leading the charge.

The Prediction

I hear more people talking about UND vs. Minnesota than UND vs. Colorado College, but the players and coaching staffs will be ready for this weekend’s games. North Dakota has an edge everywhere on the ice, especially between the pipes where it matters most. It’s possible that the Tigers grab a point in Saturday’s rematch, but I’m giving both games to the Green and White. UND 5-2, 4-3.