North Dakota and Minnesota will face off this Thursday evening, April 10th in the NCAA semifinals (Philadelphia, PA). The winner will move on to face either Boston College or Union College for the 2014 NCAA national championship, while the losing side will be left wondering what might have been.
But for both squads, the future is just as bright as this present moment.
Minnesota has four senior skaters – forwards Nate Condon and Tom Serratore, and defensemen Justin Holl and Jake Parenteau. The quartet has appeared in a combined 138 games this season, potting 12 goals and collecting 34 assists for an average of exactly one point every three games (.3333).
And here’s how the other classes compare at Minnesota:
Juniors (5 forwards, 1 defenseman): 53 goals and 92 assists in 210 games (.6905 points/game)
Sophomores (2 forwards, 2 defensemen): 16 goals and 32 assists in 96 games (exactly .5 points/game)
Freshmen (6 forwards, 2 defensemen): 56 goals and 73 assists in 258 games (exactly .5 points/game)
In my opinion, the only big graduation loss for Don Lucia’s squad will be captain Nate Condon. The senior forward from Wausau, Wisconsin is a member of the U of M Century Club with over 100 career points (40g-62a in 157 career games). Minnesota will miss his production and leadership next season.
Fourth-year defensemen Justin Holl and Jake Parenteau have been steady defensively but have not chipped in on the offensive end (0 goals and 15 assists in 66 combined games this year). Likewise, senior forward Tom Serratore has registered exactly one point in the past four months and has 22 career points in 138 games.
Sophomore netminder Adam Wilcox appeared in 36 games for the Gophers this season with a record of 25-5-6. For the season, he sports a 1.89 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage with four shutouts. Goaltender Nick Lehr (Austin Bruins/NAHL) is expected to join the Maroon and Gold for next season, but Wilcox will be the man between the pipes for the next couple of seasons.
North Dakota’s three senior skaters (Mitch MacMillan, Derek Rodwell, and Dillon Simpson) have appeared in 92 games this season, scoring 13 goals and adding 22 assists for a scoring average of .3804 points per game.
At North Dakota, the other three classes have been carrying the load:
Juniors (6 forwards, 1 defenseman): 52 goals and 84 assists in 282 games (.4823 points/game)
Sophomores (4 forwards, 1 defenseman): 38 goals and 58 assists in 161 games (.5963 points/game)
Freshmen (3 forwards, 4 defensemen): 23 goals and 48 assists in 203 games (.3498 points/game)
There are two key points to consider on North Dakota’s roster. UND would not be where they are this season without contributions from their four freshmen on the blue line. Paul LaDue (40 games played, 6g-15a) and Troy Stecher (41 games, 2g-9a) have been absolute warriors, while fellow rookie defensemen Keaton Thompson (25 games, 3g-5a) and Gage Ausmus (21 games, 2g-1a) have been rotated in effectively as the sixth D.
And Dave Hakstol’s crew appears to have the goaltending picture solidified for the foreseeable future. Zane Gothberg (20-9-3, 1.99 GAA, .926 SV%, 3 SO) is just a sophomore, and incoming recruit Cameron Johnson (Fargo/USHL) will compete with Matt Hrynkiw for backup duties while Johnson adjusts to the college game.
The only early departure risks that I see with this group are sophomore forward Rocco Grimaldi (17-22-39 in 41 games played) and sophomore defenseman Jordan Schmaltz (6-17-23 in 40 games played). I would put both at under a ten percent chance of leaving before next season, as both would definitely benefit from another year at the college level.
As for the senior class, forward Mitch MacMillan has only appeared in nine games since December 7th, registering one goal and one assist. He isn’t expected to be in the lineup at the Frozen Four.
Forward Derek Rodwell brings size and grit to the ice, and his effort has earned him a spot in the lineup every night. Even so, it won’t be difficult to replace his offensive production – he’s scored 13 goals and added 11 assists in 122 career games.
North Dakota will also lose goaltender Clarke Saunders to graduation, but the transfer from Alabama-Huntsville has struggled this season (5-4-0, 3.22 GAA, .905 SV%) after posting much better numbers at UND in 2012-13 (13-9-4, 2.30 GAA, .917 SV%, 3 SO). Even though Saunders has lost the starting job to Zane Gothberg, he has been more than a capable backup, a great teammate, and an insurance policy for the coaching staff.
The key graduation loss for this team will be defenseman Dillon Simpson. The senior captain has appeared in 155 games in the North Dakota sweater, potting 16 goals and notching 58 assists. He leads the nation in blocked shots (107 in 41 games) and was recently named to the All-College Hockey News first team. It will be interesting to see which defenseman will be paired with Jordan Schmaltz next season, provided Schmaltz doesn’t leave early.
North Dakota and Minnesota should be considered two of the top four teams in the country going into next season (along with Boston College and Miami). Regardless of the outcome of Thursday’s national semifinal, both programs have quite a bit to be proud of and even more to look forward to. Keeping in mind that UND is hosting the West Regional next season (at Scheels Arena in Fargo, ND), it would not surprise me one bit to see the Green and White in Boston, Massachusetts for the 2015 Frozen Four. And with as much talent as the Gophers stand to bring back, I fully expect the Maroon and Gold to be there as well.