NCAA Frozen Four Preview: UND vs. Quinnipiac

In 17 years at the Division I level, Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold has never had a losing season. Pecknold has led the Bobcats to their fourth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance (and fifth overall), and QU faces a fairly unfamiliar opponent (North Dakota) in the national championship game. The two teams are tied for the most wins (109) over the past four seasons and are one-two this season in wins, winning percentage, and number of weeks at #1. Since Christmas, UND and Quinnipiac have been the only two schools at the top of the USCHO poll.

Despite Quinnipiac’s recent success and the Bobcats’ deep run in 2013 (national runner-up, losing 4-0 to Yale in the final), UND and QU have only met once in the national tournament (last year’s West Regional in Fargo, ND). North Dakota downed the Bobcats 4-1 in that tilt, and the two teams have only faced each other on one other occasion: an October 2006 series in Grand Forks that went in the books as a UND sweep. Sioux forwards Ryan Duncan, T.J. Oshie, and Jonathan Toews figured heavily in those results (note: current Quinnipiac defenseman Devon Toews is no relation to Jonathan).

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

It is fairly difficult to compare teams from different conferences, but there are some measurables. The three common opponents for the two programs this season were Maine, Northeastern, and St. Cloud State. Quinnipiac defeated Maine 4-0 in October and swept SCSU (5-2, 4-1) at home the following weekend. In the first game of the new year, the Bobcats skated to a 3-3 tie at Northeastern and got the same result at Maine later in January. North Dakota tied Maine 1-1 at the IceBreaker in October, split at St. Cloud State (4-3, 1-6) in November, and took down Northeastern 6-2 in the NCAA Midwest Regional, handing the Huskies their first loss since February 1st and just their second since December 6th.

Incidentally, St. Cloud State was the team Quinnipiac defeated by a score of 4-1 at the 2013 NCAA Frozen Four, the Bobcats’ first and only other appearance in the last weekend of the college hockey season. Quinnipiac is seeking the program’s first NCAA title, and four of the past five national championships have gone to first-time winners: Duluth (2011), Yale (2013), Union (2014), and Providence (2015). Before that stretch, the last team to hoist the trophy for the first time was Maine in 1993. Three other teams won their first titles in the 80s; Bowling Green in 1984, Lake Superior State in 1988, and Harvard in 1989.

North Dakota is seeking the program’s eighth national title and first since 2000. Other men’s ice hockey championships for the school came in 1959, 1963, 1980, 1982, 1987, and 1997. Michigan has nine titles (six between 1948 and 1956 and another in 1964), while Denver also has seven (five between 1958 and 1969). With a win tonight and the eighth banner that would come with it, UND would unquestionably be at the top of the men’ Division I college hockey heap as the best program of all time.

There is some intrigue regarding the availability of QU junior forward Sam Anas, who has been limited by a shoulder injury and has been used most extensively in situations where Quinnipiac needs to generate offense. It seems that Rand Pecknold has not called upon Anas in situations where the junior forward (132 career points) would have to defend and protect a lead. It is worth noting that the Bobcats’ leading point-getter (24 goals, 26 assists) has only scored three goals since February 12th, a stretch of thirteen games. In that same span, however, he has continued to set up his linemates (nine assists).

Tonight’s tournament action will feature one of the top rookies in the country. North Dakota’s Brock Boeser (26-30-56) is fourth nationally among all scorers but was not named one of ten finalists for the 2016 Hobey Baker Memorial Award. Among freshmen, Boeser trails only Kyle Connor (35-36-71), whose Michigan team lost to UND in the Midwest Regional final. Connor was edged out by Harvard senior Jimmy Vesey for the Hobey yesterday.

Since 1983-84, the only UND freshman to score as many goals as Boeser’s 26 was Zach Parise, who also had 26 in 2002-03. In their first years at North Dakota, T.J. Oshie scored 24 and Jonathan Toews scored 22. The only other freshmen in Fighting Sioux men’s hockey history to score more than 25 goals in a season are Troy Murray (33 in 1980-81), Kevin Maxwell (31, 1978-79), Perry Berezan (31, 1983-84), and Cary Eades (27, 1978-79). In fact, of the first twelve rookies to reach the twenty-goal plateau, ten went on to play in the NHL (Eades and Ian Kallay were the exception). Boeser assisted on all three UND goals at the NCHC Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis, added five points in three NCAA tournament games, and joined Zach Parise (25-35-61) as the only North Dakota freshmen in the past 35 years to notch at least 50 points.

North Dakota’s ‘CBS’ line of Boeser paired with Drake Caggiula (23-26-49) and Nick Schmaltz (11-34-45) has scored 31 of UND’s 91 goals (34.1 percent) since January 1st. It will be interesting to see which Bobcat forward line jumps over the boards when 9, 8, and 16 are on the ice.

On the other side of the ledger, UND lost junior forward Luke Johnson (11-10-21) after he went knee-to-knee with teammate Brock Boeser in the second period of Thursday’s national semifinal against Denver. Johnson, a Grand Forks native, had appeared in every game for the Green and White this season and was a key cog in the team’s ‘Heavy Line’, also featuring sophomore Austin Poganski (9-15-24) and freshman Rhett Gardner (11-6-17). In Johnson’s absence, expect Gardner to move to center with one of two seniors on his wing: Coltyn Sanderson (7-5-12) or Colten St. Clair, an alternate captain who has been limited to nine games this year due to an upper body injury.

North Dakota has been strong all season long, losing back-to-back games only once in six situations (4-1-1). UND’s offense receives most of the accolades, but there may not be a better defensive group in the nation than Gage Ausmus, Paul LaDue, Tucker Poolman, Hayden Shaw, Troy Stecher, Keaton Thompson, and Christian Wolanin. One of the freshmen (Shaw or Wolanin) will sit for today’s Frozen Four final (Wolanin has been in the stands for all three NCAA tournament games), but all seven have shown the ability to take over games in all three zones.

A big reason for UND’s success this season has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. During the 2015-16 campaign, Brad Berry’s squad is unbeaten (26-0-3) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past eight years, North Dakota is converting almost 90 percent of second intermission leads into victories and has just seven losses in the last 184 such situations (164-7-13).

North Dakota has enjoyed twenty consecutive seasons of unprecedented success, advancing to the NCAA tournament 19 times with eleven Frozen Four appearances and two national titles. Brad Berry is in his first year behind the North Dakota bench and set the program record for most wins by a rookie head coach (33). With their fourteenth consecutive NCAA tourney bid, North Dakota boasts the longest active streak in men’s Division I college hockey (and the second-longest of all time). Since 2004-05, UND has gone 18-4 (.818) in NCAA regional games and has qualified for the Frozen four in eight of those twelve seasons (no team has advanced to more national semifinal games in that time).

Amazingly, UND is 7th of 60 teams nationally in scoring offense and 2nd in scoring defense, notching 157 goals and allowing only 80 in 43 games this season (Quinnipiac has marks of 4th and 3rd, respectively, and has outscored opponents 162-80 in 42 games). Aside from the Bobcats, only St. Cloud State (175 goals for/90 goals against in 41 games) boasts a better scoring margin than North Dakota.

Here are a few more interesting comparisons:

North Dakota’s record when leading/tied after one period of play: 29-5-4
North Dakota’s record when trailing after one period of play: 4-1-0
Quinnpiac’s record when leading/tied after one period of play: 26-3-5
Qunnipiac’s record when trailing after one period of play: 6-0-2

North Dakota’s record against the NCAA tournament field: 10-4-1
Qunnipiac’s record against the NCAA tournament field: 10-1-1

North Dakota’s record in one-goal games: 7-1-0
Quinnipiac’s record in one-goal games: 8-2-0

North Dakota’s road/neutral site record: 17-4-3
Qunnipiacs’s road/neutral site record: 17-1-3

The Bobcats prefer to play with a lead and let their neutral zone trap (a 1-1-3 or a 1-3-1, depending on who is answering the question) create turnovers. Quinnipiac has trailed for less than 360 minutes in their 42 games combined this season, and that statistic is the main reason that Rand Pecknold’s crew has suffered only three defeats.

Here are the storylines worth watching in tonight’s battle of college hockey heavyweights:

Goaltending: The netminders tonight (Michael Garteig and Cam Johnson) will be called upon early and often (UND averages 32.5 shots on goal/game; QU, 34.7), as these two teams possess skill with and creativity without the puck. Whichever goaltender makes more game-changing saves and showcases the ability to find loose pucks in traffic will lead his team to victory.

‘CBS’ Line: Without last change, will the dynamic trio be able to handle the best of what the Bobcats have to offer defensively, and will they be able to use their speed and creativity through the neutral zone to carry the puck across the blueline?

Playing From Behind: Neither team wants to get down by two goals in this contest, as both squads have shown the ability to lock down a lead. The leader on the scoreboard going into the third period is likely to hold up the trophy at the final buzzer.

Sam Anas: Will he play? Will he be able to finish the game? Will Rand Pecknold need to shorten his bench to ten forwards in order to roll only three lines and protect Anas somewhat?

Specialty Teams: Quinnipiac has been lethal on the power play this year (27.5%, 4th in the nation) and effective on the penalty kill (89.0%, 3rd). North Dakota’s numbers with the man advantage (19.4%, 21st) are solid but not quite as spectacular, while their penalty kill (86.7%, 5th) has been a bright spot. UND would prefer not to trade power plays with the Bobcats, but rather play as much 5-on-5 hockey as possible.

Quinnipiac Team Profile

Head Coach: Rand Pecknold (22nd season at QU, 446-263-83, .616)
National Ranking: #1/#1
This Season: 32-3-7 overall, 16-1-5 ECAC (1st)
Last Ten Games: 9-1-0 (lost 5-4 to Cornell)
Last Season: 23-12-4 overall (NCAA West Regional semifinalist), 16-3-3 ECAC (1st)

Team Offense: 3.86 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.90 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 27.5% (46 of 167)
Penalty Kill: 89.0% (137 of 154)

Key Players: Junior F Sam Anas (24-26-50), Senior F Travis St. Denis (22-26-48), Junior F Tim Clifton (18-24-42), Sophomore F Landon Smith (12-25-37), Junior D Devon Toews (7-23-30), Junior D Connor Clifton (7-20-27), Senior G Michael Garteig (32-3-7, 1.83 GAA, .926 SV%, 8 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (1st season at UND, 33-6-4, .814)
Pairwise Ranking: 2nd of 60 teams
National Rankings: #3/#2
This Season: 33-6-4 overall, 19-4-1-1 NCHC (1st)
Last Season: 29-10-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)
Last Ten Games: 8-1-1 (lost 4-2 to Duluth; tied Denver 1-1)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.65 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.86 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.4% (31 of 160)
Penalty Kill: 86.7% (137 of 158)

Key Players: Freshman F Brock Boeser (26-30-56), Senior F Drake Caggiula (23-26-49), Sophomore F Nick Schmaltz (11-34-45), Sophomore F Austin Poganski (9-15-24), Senior F Bryn Chyzyk (12-10-22), Junior D Troy Stecher (8-21-29), Sophomore F Tucker Poolman (5-19-24), Junior D Paul LaDue (5-13-18), Sophomore G Cam Johnson (23-4-2, 1.68 GAA, .933 SV%, 5 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: March 27, 2015 (Fargo, ND). North Dakota blocked 28 shots in front of a partisan crowd at Scheels Arena and downed the Bobcats 4-1 to advance to the NCAA West Regional Final, where they would play St. Cloud State. Tucker Poolman, Bryn Chyzyk, Drake Caggiula, and Luke Johnson all scored for UND, who received 29 saves from 2015 Mike Richter Award winner Zane McIntyre. Quinnipiac went 1-for-8 with the man advantage, scoring only an extra-attacker power play goal with less than two minutes remaining.

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

Most Important Meeting: Saturday night’s national championship game is the most important meeting between the two programs.

All-time Series: The two teams have only played three games (the aforementioned October 2006 series in Grand Forks and last season’s West Regional semifinal), with UND sweeping the Bobcats by a combined score of 14-4. All three contests were played in the state of North Dakota.

Game News and Notes
North Dakota’s all-time winning percentage of .671 (51-25) in the NCAA tourney is the best in the country, and UND’s 51 tournament victories are good for 2nd all-time (Minnesota has 55 but might not win another one this decade). Quinnipiac has competed at the Division I level since the 1999-2000 season; that was the year UND won its seventh national championship. Only one player on the Bobcats’ roster, Travis St. Denis, was on the ice during the 2013 Frozen Four. The other five seniors watched from the stands. Quinnipiac will wear their yellow alternate jerseys tonight; expect UND to counter with their black “business suits” for the last game of the season.

Media Coverage
UND and Quinnipiac will face off at 7:00 p.m. CT, with the game shown live on ESPN2 as well as TSN2 in Canada. There will also be a webcast available via the ESPN3/WatchESPN app. 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.

Pre-Game Events and Watch Parties
UND fans attending the NCAA Frozen Four in Tampa, Florida are invited to gather for pregame festivities prior to today’s national championship game. The pregame event will be held at Ferg’s Live, across the street from Amelie Arena. All UND alumni, family, and friends are invited to this free event with cash bars, a full menu, and more! There are also watch parties organized in Atlanta, Bismarck, Bloomington, Boise, Boston, Cavalier, Denver, Dickinson, Fargo, Flagstaff, Grand Forks, Grapevine, Hatton, Houston, Indianapolis, Kirkland, Las Vegas, Littleton, Long Island, Meridian, Minneapolis, Mountain Iron, Omaha, Prescott, Rapid City, Robins, Saint Paul, San Diego, Scottsdale, Sioux Falls, Virginia (MN), Waite Park, Washington (D.C.), and West Fargo. For more information or to see if additional events have been planned, please visit ndchampionsclub.com.

The Prediction
Quinnipiac will give UND fits with its overall team speed, and Cam Johnson will need to be up to the challenge as the Bobcats generate several odd-man rushes per game. The partisan green and white crowd at Amelie Arena and the weight of all the years of near-misses should give North Dakota the push it needs to earn an eighth national championship. UND 3, QU 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!

NCAA Frozen Four Preview: UND vs. Denver

In the NCHC, it is clear that Denver/North Dakota is at the top of the league rivalries. Tonight’s NCAA Frozen Four semifinal will be the twelfth game played between the teams over the past three seasons, 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 eight 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 four of the past six 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. The Pioneers throttled North Dakota 5-1 last March when the two teams met in the third-place game at the 2015 NCHC Frozen Faceoff, and a similar matchup in Minneapolis last month netted only a 1-1 tie.

Both teams are looking to hoist banner number eight in Tampa, Florida this weekend. It is worth noting that Denver collected five national championships by 1969. In the past 46 years, the Pioneers have won two. During that same span (1970-2015), the Fighting Sioux won five national titles, most recently in 2000.

Tonight’s tournament action will feature two of the top three rookies in the country. North Dakota’s Brock Boeser (26-28-54) is fifth nationally among all scorers, while Denver’s Dylan Gambrell (17-30-47) is tenth. Among freshman point-getters, the two trail only Kyle Connor (35-36-71), whose Michigan team lost to UND in the Midwest Regional final. Colin White (Boston College) is a distant fourth with 19 goals and 23 assists in 36 games played.

Since 1983-84, the only UND freshman to score as many goals as Boeser’s 26 was Zach Parise, who also had 26 in 2002-03. In their first years at North Dakota, T.J. Oshie scored 24 and Jonathan Toews scored 22. The only other freshmen in Fighting Sioux men’s hockey history to score more than 25 goals in a season are Troy Murray (33 in 1980-81), Kevin Maxwell (31, 1978-79), Perry Berezan (31, 1983-84), and Cary Eades (27, 1978-79). In fact, of the first twelve rookies to reach the twenty-goal plateau, ten went on to play in the NHL (Eades and Ian Kallay were the exception). Boeser assisted on all three UND goals at the NCHC Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis, added three points in the Midwest Regional (Cincinnati, Ohio), and joined Zach Parise (25-35-61) as the only North Dakota freshmen in the past 35 years to notch at least 50 points.

Denver’s ‘Pacific Rim’ line of Gambrell, Danton Heinen (20-28-48), and Trevor Moore (11-33-44) has scored 38 of the team’s 85 goals (44.7 percent) since January 1st. North Dakota’s ‘CBS’ line of Boeser paired with Drake Caggiula (20-25-45) and Nick Schmaltz (10-34-44) has scored 28 of UND’s 87 goals (32.2 percent) over that same stretch.

With the last line change, UND head coach Brad Berry will likely keep his top line away from the West Coast trio and instead counter with his “heavy line” of Rhett Gardner, Luke Johnson, and Austin Poganski.

North Dakota has been strong all season long, losing back-to-back games only once in six situations (4-1-1). UND’s offense receives most of the accolades, but there may not be a better defensive group in the nation than Gage Ausmus, Paul LaDue, Tucker Poolman, Hayden Shaw, Troy Stecher, Keaton Thompson, and Christian Wolanin. One of the freshmen (Shaw or Wolanin) will sit for today’s Frozen Four semifinal (Wolanin was in the stands for the two NCAA regional games), but all seven have shown the ability to take over games in all three zones. Expect the top two pairs (Poolman-LaDue and Ausmus-Stecher) to be on the ice every time Denver’s Pacific Rim line hops over the boards.

A big reason for UND’s success this season has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. During the 2015-16 campaign, Brad Berry’s squad is unbeaten (25-0-3) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past eight years, North Dakota is converting almost 90 percent of second intermission leads into victories and has just seven losses in the last 183 such situations (163-7-13).

North Dakota has enjoyed twenty consecutive seasons of unprecedented success, advancing to the NCAA tournament 19 times with eleven Frozen Four appearances and two national titles. Brad Berry is in his first year behind the North Dakota bench and set the program record for most wins by a rookie head coach (32). With their fourteenth consecutive NCAA tourney bid, North Dakota boasts the longest active streak in men’s Division I college hockey (and the second-longest of all time). Since 2004-05, UND has gone 18-4 (.818) in NCAA regional games and has qualified for the Frozen four in eight of those twelve seasons (no team has advanced to more national semifinal games in that time).

Amazingly, UND is 7th of 60 teams nationally in scoring offense and 2nd in scoring defense, notching 153 goals and allowing only 78 in 42 games this season (Denver has marks of 11th and 13th, respectively, and has outscored opponents 132-92). Nationally, only St. Cloud State (175 goals for/90 goals against in 41 games) and Quinnipiac (159 goals for/78 goals against in 41 games) boast a better scoring margin than North Dakota. Boston College (154 goals for/79 goals against in 40 games) has identical numbers to UND despite playing two fewer games.

Here are a few more interesting comparisons:

North Dakota’s record when leading/tied after one period of play: 28-5-4
North Dakota’s record when trailing after one period of play: 4-1-0
Denver’s record when leading/tied after one period of play: 24-5-3
Denver’s record when trailing after one period of play: 1-4-3

North Dakota’s record against the NCAA tournament field: 9-4-1
Denver’s record against the NCAA tournament field: 7-7-4

North Dakota’s record in one-goal games: 7-1-0
Denver’s record in one-goal games: 5-3-0

North Dakota’s road/neutral site record: 16-4-3
Denver’s road/neutral site record: 12-7-3

Denver Team Profile
Head Coach: Jim Montgomery (3rd season at DU, 69-39-14, .623)

Pairwise Ranking: 5th of 60 teams
National Ranking: #7/#4
This Season: 25-9-6 overall, 17-6-1-1 NCHC (t-2nd)
Last Season: 24-14-2 overall (NCAA East Regional finalist), 13-10-1-1 NCHC (4th)
Last Ten Games: 8-1-1 (.850)

Team Offense: 3.30 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.30 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.0% (26 of 137)
Penalty Kill: 82.0% (100 of 122)

Key Players: Sophomore F Danton Heinen (20-28-48), Freshman F Dylan Gambrell (17-30-47), Junior F Trevor Moore (11-33-44), Senior F Quentin Shore (13-15-28), Junior D Will Butcher (8-23-31), Senior D Nolan Zajac (3-17-20), Sophomore G Tanner Jaillet (17-4-5, 2.25 GAA, .923 SV%, 3 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile
Head Coach: Brad Berry (1st season at UND, 32-6-4, .810)
Pairwise Ranking: 2nd of 60 teams
National Rankings: #3/#2
This Season: 32-6-4 overall, 19-4-1-1 NCHC (1st)
Last Season: 29-10-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)
Last Ten Games: 8-1-1 (.850)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.64 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.86 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.5% (31 of 159)
Penalty Kill: 86.4% (133 of 154)

Key Players: Freshman F Brock Boeser (26-28-54), Senior F Drake Caggiula (21-25-46), Sophomore F Nick Schmaltz (10-34-44), Senior F Bryn Chyzyk (12-10-22), Junior D Troy Stecher (8-20-28), Sophomore F Tucker Poolman (5-19-24), Junior D Paul LaDue (5-13-18), Sophomore G Cam Johnson (22-4-2, 1.67 GAA, .934 SV%, 5 SO)

By The Numbers
Last Meeting: February 13, 2016 (Denver, CO). The Pioneers completed the weekend sweep of visiting North Dakota with a 4-1 victory. UND outshot the Pios 35-25 but could manage only an Austin Poganski goal midway through the first period. DU’s ‘Pacific Rim’ line scored three goals and added four assists. Denver won Friday’s opener 6-4 thanks to a game-winning shorthanded goal with under four minutes to play in the contest.

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 are even (4-4-2) in the last ten meetings between the schools, although North Dakota has outscored Denver 30-24 over that stretch of games.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 142-122-11 (.536). The teams first met in 1950, with North Dakota prevailing 18-3 in Denver.

Game News and Notes
The teams are dead even in ten contests over the past two seasons, with each team winning four games and two contests ending in a tie. Denver sophomore forward Danton Heinen, last year’s NCHC Rookie of the Year and the reigning league overall scoring champion (16-29-45 in 40 games), is expected to sign with the NHL’s Boston Bruins after this season. North Dakota’s all-time winning percentage of .667 (50-25) in the NCAA tourney is the best in the country, and UND’s 50 tournament victories are tied with Michigan for 2nd all-time (Minnesota has 55 but might not win another one this decade). The Pioneers have lost just twice in 24 games (18-2-4) since the Christmas break. Denver (15) and North Dakota (14) 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 seven straight twenty-win seasons; Quinnipiac has accomplished the feat five consecutive times.

Media Coverage
UND and Denver will face off at 7:30 p.m. CT, with the game shown live on ESPN2 as well as TSN2 in Canada. There will also be a webcast available via the ESPN3/WatchESPN app. 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.

Pre-Game Events and Watch Parties
UND fans attending the NCAA Frozen Four in Tampa, Florida are invited to gather for pregame festivities beginning three hours prior to today’s national semifinal. The pregame event will be held at the Maloney’s Local Irish Pub (1120 East Kennedy Boulevard), just under a mile from Amelie Arena. All UND alumni, family, and friends are invited to this free event with cash bars, a full menu, and more! There are also watch parties organized in Atlanta, Bismarck, Bloomington, Boise, Boston, Cavalier, Denver, Dickinson, Fargo, Finley, Grand Forks, Hatton, Houston, Las Vegas, Littleton, Long Island, Minneapolis, Mountain Iron, Omaha, Prescott, Rapid City, San Diego, Sioux Falls, Virginia (MN), Scottsdale, Waite Park, Washington (D.C.), and West Fargo. For more information or to see if additional events have been planned, please visit ndchampionsclub.com.

The Prediction
All of the advantages are in UND’s corner: last line change, better goaltending, a deeper defensive corps, and playoff experience. If Brad Berry has his team playing the way they did in Cincinnati, there’s not much the Pioneers can do. If each side gets four power plays, however, DU has a chance. As it stands, though, this is a special squad, and North Dakota will advance to Saturday’s championship game. UND 4, Denver 2.

Bonus Prediction
In Thursday’s first semifinal, BC and the Bobcats will square off for East Coast bragging rights. There are question marks surrounding QU’s Sam Anas and his ability to play through a shoulder injury. Anas will play, but he won’t score enough to hold off Jerry York’s Eagles. Boston College 3, Quinnipiac 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!

NCAA Midwest Regional Preview: UND vs. Michigan

The top two programs in NCAA Division I men’s hockey history will square off today with a chance to advance to the 2016 Frozen Four in Tampa, Florida. The Michigan Wolverines are seeking their tenth NCAA championship, while North Dakota is looking to hoist banner number eight.

It is worth noting that Michigan collected six national championships by 1956. In the past 55 years, the Wolverines have three. During that same span (1957-2010), the Fighting Sioux have won seven national titles, most recently in 2000.

The Fighting Hawks and Wolverines also boast the top two lines and the top two rookies in all of college hockey. Michigan’s Kyle Connor (35-35-70) is the nation’s Rookie of the Year and the prohibitive favorite to win the Hobey Baker Memorial Award. UND’s Brock Boeser (26-28-54) is second in the country in scoring among freshmen.

Red Berenson’s ‘CCM’ line of Connor, JT Compher (14-47-61), and Tyler Motte (32-25-57) has scored more goals than nine other college hockey teams this season. North Dakota’s ‘CBS’ line has Boeser paired with Drake Caggiula (20-25-45) and Nick Schmaltz (10-34-44). With the last line change, UND head coach Brad Berry will likely keep his top line away from the CCM trio and instead counter with his “heavy line” of Rhett Gardner, Luke Johnson, and Austin Poganski.

Despite their combined 67 tournament appearances (Michigan 36, North Dakota 31), the two teams have only met four times in the NCAA playoffs. In 1998 and 2011, Michigan ended two of the most promising seasons in North Dakota men’s hockey history. The Wolverines hosted UND at the NCAA Midwest Regional at Yost Ice Arena (their home rink) on March 28, 1998 and took down a 30-7-1 Fighting Sioux team by the score of 4-3, ending North Dakota’s promising season one game short of the Frozen Four. The 2011 Matt Frattin-led UND squad outshot Michigan 40-20 but couldn’t light the lamp and fell 2-0 (a full summary is below).

North Dakota has enjoyed twenty consecutive seasons of unprecedented success, advancing to the NCAA tournament 19 times with ten Frozen Four appearances and two national titles. Brad Berry is in his first year behind the North Dakota bench but has already set the program record for most wins by a rookie head coach (31). Michigan’s Red Berenson won titles with the Wolverines in 1996 and 1998, and has taken his team to nine other Frozen Fours since 1991 (two since 2003).

The Maize and Blue played in the NCAA tournament for 22 consecutive seasons, a streak that ended in 2011 (before that stretch, Michigan had appeared in the national tournament once between 1964 and 1990). With their fourteenth consecutive NCAA tourney bid, North Dakota boasts the longest active streak in men’s Division I college hockey (and the second-longest of all time). Since 2004-05, UND has gone 17-4 (.810) in NCAA regional games and has qualified for the Frozen four in seven of those eleven seasons (no team has advanced to more national semifinal games in that time).

North Dakota has been strong all season long, losing back-to-back games only once in six situations (4-1-1). UND’s offense receives most of the accolades, but there may not be a better defensive group in the nation than Gage Ausmus, Paul LaDue, Tucker Poolman, Hayden Shaw, Troy Stecher, Keaton Thompson, and Christian Wolanin. One of the freshmen (Shaw or Wolanin) will sit for today’s regional final (Wolanin was in the stands yesterday), but all seven have shown the ability to take over games in all three zones. Expect the top two pairs (Poolman-LaDue and Ausmus-Stecher) to be on the ice every time Michigan’s CCM line hops over the boards.

A big reason for UND’s success this season has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. During the 2015-16 campaign, Brad Berry’s squad is unbeaten (24-0-2) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past eight years, North Dakota is converting almost 90 percent of second intermission leads into victories and has just seven losses in the last 181 such situations (162-7-12).

North Dakota’s Brock Boeser has traded roles with linemate Nick Schmaltz over the past three weekends of play. Boeser, a first-year forward from Burnsville, Minnesota, has collected ten assists over those five games while Schmaltz has netted five goals (to give him ten for the season). Here are the top five freshman point-getters in the nation:

1. Kyle Connor (Michigan): 35-35-70 in 37 games (1.89 points/game)
2. Brock Boeser (North Dakota): 26-28-54 in 39 games (1.38 points/game)
3. Dylan Gambrell (Denver): 15-28-43 in 38 games (1.13 points/game)
4. Colin White (Boston College): 19-23-42 in 35 games (1.20 points/game)
5. Max Letunov (Connecticut): 16-24-40 in 36 games (1.11 points/game)

Since 1983-84, the only UND freshman to score as many goals as Boeser’s 26 was Zach Parise, who also had 26 in 2002-03. In their first years at North Dakota, T.J. Oshie scored 24 and Jonathan Toews scored 22. The only other freshmen in Fighting Sioux men’s hockey history to score more than 25 goals in a season are Troy Murray (33 in 1980-81), Kevin Maxwell (31, 1978-79), Perry Berezan (31, 1983-84), and Cary Eades (27, 1978-79). In fact, of the first twelve rookies to reach the twenty-goal plateau, ten went on to play in the NHL (Eades and Ian Kallay were the exception). Boeser assisted on all three UND goals at the NCHC Frozen Faceoff last weekend, added three points against Northeastern yesterday, and joined Zach Parise (25-35-61) as the only North Dakota freshmen in the past 35 years to notch at least 50 points.

Amazingly, UND is 7th of 60 teams nationally in scoring offense and 3rd in scoring defense, notching 148 goals and allowing only 76 in 41 games this season (Michigan has marks of 1st and 36th, respectively, and has outscored opponents 179-110). Nationally, only St. Cloud State (171 goals for/85 goals against in 40 games), Boston College (151 goals for/77 goals against in 39 games), and Quinnipiac (151 goals for/77 goals against in 39 games) boast a better scoring margin than North Dakota.

Here are a few more interesting comparisons:

North Dakota’s record when leading/tied after one period of play: 27-5-4
North Dakota’s record when trailing after one period of play: 4-1-0
Michigan’s record when leading/tied after one period of play: 22-3-3
Michigan’s record when trailing after one period of play: 3-4-2

North Dakota’s record against the NCAA tournament field: 8-4-1
Michigan’s record against the NCAA tournament field: 3-1-0

North Dakota’s record in one-goal games: 7-1-0
Michigan’s record in one-goal games: 3-5-0

North Dakota’s road/neutral site record: 15-4-3
Michigan’s road/neutral site record: 13-4-3

Michigan’s 3-2 overtime victory over Notre Dame yesterday marked their first win in extra time this season. The Wolverines were previously 0-3-5.

To this point, UND has played the 11th most difficult schedule in the country (according to KRACH). Michigan’s strength of schedule is in the middle of the pack, 30th of sixty teams in Division I men’s hockey and the worst of any tournament team not named Ferris State or RIT. Coming in to the NCAA tourney, Red Berenson’s squad had played only three games against the field, splitting a pair with Boston University (2-3 L, 4-2 W) in November and defeating Ferris State University 5-2 in February.

By comparison, the NCHC schedule prepared the Fighting Hawks for March and April, with twelve games combined against Denver, Duluth, and St. Cloud State. UND went 7-4-1 in those games.

The Wolverines boast the nation’s top power play unit (47 power play goals scored in 148 attempts; 31.76 percent) but are just 42nd of 60 teams on the penalty kill (26 power play goals allowed in 131 attempts; 80.2 percent).

Michigan Team Profile

Head Coach: Red Berenson (32nd season at Michigan, 835-406-89, .661)

Pairwise Ranking: 7th of 60 teams
National Rankings: #5/#6
This Season: 25-7-5 overall, 12-5-3-2 Big Ten (2nd)
Last Season: 22-15-0 overall, 12-8-0-0 Big Ten (3rd)

Team Offense: 4.84 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.97 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 31.8% (47 of 148)
Penalty Kill: 80.2% (105 of 131)

Key Players: Freshman F Kyle Connor (35-35-70), Junior F JT Compher (14-47-61), Junior F Tyler Motte (32-23-55), Sophomore D Zach Werenski (11-24-35), Junior D Michael Downing (3-17-20), Senior G Steve Racine (20-5-3, 2.85 GAA, .913 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (1st season at UND, 31-6-4, .805)

Pairwise Ranking: 3rd of 60 teams
National Rankings: #3/#3
This Season: 31-6-4 overall, 19-4-1-1 NCHC (1st)
Last Season: 29-10-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.61 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.85 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.4% (30 of 155)
Penalty Kill: 86.8% (132 of 152)

Key Players: Freshman F Brock Boeser (26-28-54), Senior F Drake Caggiula (20-25-45), Sophomore F Nick Schmaltz (10-34-44), Senior F Bryn Chyzyk (12-10-22), Junior D Troy Stecher (8-19-27), Sophomore F Tucker Poolman (5-18-23), Junior D Paul LaDue (4-12-16), Sophomore G Cam Johnson (21-4-2, 1.66 GAA, .934 SV%, 5 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: April 7, 2011 (St. Paul, MN). In what many faithful fans call “The One That Got Away”, the Fighting Sioux dominated the national semifinal game for long stretches but could not solve Michigan netminder Shawn Hunwick (40 saves). Ben Winnett scored the game-winner at 13:26 of the first period, and the Wolverines survived the last two periods during which UND outshot Michigan 26-7. Red Berenson’s crew was committed to the defensive side of the game, blocking sixteen North Dakota shots. The Wolverines added a late empty net goal to make the final score 2-0, and UND lost its first game since January 28th. Michigan would fall to Duluth 3-2 in overtime two nights later.

Last Ten Games: North Dakota holds a record of 6-3-1 (.650) in the last ten meetings between the schools. The teams have not been a part of the same conference since Michigan left for the CCHA in 1981.

All-time Series: Michigan leads the series 46-40-4 (.533). Each team was won two of the four NCAA tournament games between the schools. The teams first met on January 9, 1948, a 6-5 UND victory that put North Dakota hockey on the map. The Wolverines would win the next ten meetings between the schools by a combined score of 89-32.

Game News and Notes

UND netminder Cam Johnson has five shutouts this season and has allowed exactly one goal on fifteen other occasions (including six of the last ten games). He has allowed three or more goals only seven times in 31 appearances, going 0-3 with four no-decisions. By comparison, Michigan netminder Steve Racine (one shutout) has allowed exactly one goal on six other occasions (including two of the past ten games). Racine has allowed three or more goals fourteen times this season (30 appearances), posting a record of 6-5-3 in those games. North Dakota’s all-time winning percentage of .662 (49-25) in the NCAA tourney is the best in the country. UND is one win away from their third straight Frozen Four.

Media Coverage

UND and Michigan will face off at 5:00 p.m. CT, with the game shown live on ESPN2 as well as TSN2 in Canada. There will also be a webcast available via the ESPN3/WatchESPN app. 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.

Pre-Game Events

UND fans attending the NCAA Midwest Regional in Cincinnati are invited to gather for pregame festivities beginning three hours prior to today’s regional championship. The pregame events will be held at the Moerlein Lager House (115 Joe Nuxhall Way), within walking distance of U.S. Bank Arena. All UND alumni, family, and friends are invited to this free event with cash bars, a full menu, and more! There are also watch parties organized in Bloomington, Cedar Rapids, Denver, Dickinson, Grand Forks, Hatton, Minneapolis, and Waite Park. For more information or to see if additional events have been planned, please visit ndchampionsclub.com.

The Prediction

All of the advantages are in UND’s corner: last line change, more time between games for rest and preparation, and playoff experience. Michigan’s goaltending is suspect, and the Wolverines might need to score five goals to win. North Dakota is too deep up front and too strong in their own end to let that happen. UND 5, Michigan 3.

NCAA Midwest Regional Preview: UND vs. Northeastern

The Northeastern Huskies, a Division I program since 1929, are making their fifth national tournament appearance in school history this weekend. NU failed to advance past the first round of the NCAAs in 1988, 1994, and 2009. The bright spot for the Huskies? A Frozen Four appearance in 1982. The opponent? North Dakota.

The University of North Dakota blitzed NU by a score of 6-2 in the national semifinals on their way to a fourth NCAA title. Current NU head coach Jim Madigan played at Northeastern from 1981 to 1985 (voted Rookie of the Year in 1982) and was an assistant coach from 1986 to 1993 before becoming the program’s ninth head coach in 2011. In between coaching stints with the Huskies, Madigan was a professional scout for the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins, winning a Stanley Cup with the latter in 2009.

Northeastern, a member of ECAC beginning in 1961, moved to Hockey East in 1984 when that conference was formed. The Huskies have never won a regular season conference title but had two league playoff championships to their credit (1982 ECAC, 1988 Hockey East) before accomplishing that feat again last weekend.

For five seasons in the 1980s (1984-89), the Fighting Sioux and Huskies met regularly as part of a schedule agreement that saw games between the WCHA and Hockey East count in both leagues’ conference standings. During that stretch, North Dakota went 4-2-2 against Northeastern. The teams have not met since October 2007.

Northeastern’s strong second half (20-1-2 after a 1-11-2 start) propelled the Huskies to the sixth twenty-win season in program history. Two of the previous five most successful years (1982 and 2009) saw NU reach the 25 victory plateau.

By comparison, North Dakota has won at least twenty games in each of the past fourteen seasons and has a run of fourteen consecutive NCAA tournament appearances (the longest active streak in men’s Division I hockey and the second-longest all-time). The benchmark for UND has been thirty victories, a feat twelve teams in program history (including this year’s squad) have been able to accomplish.

Since 2004-05, UND has gone 16-4 in NCAA regional games and has qualified for the Frozen four in seven of those eleven seasons. No team has advanced to more national semifinal games in that time.

Many within the Huskies’ program credit a trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland with turning their season around. The New York Times did an excellent job on that story here.

Here are some amazing first half/second half splits for Northeastern:

Overall record, scoring offense, scoring defense:

First 14 games: 1-11-2 record, 1.9 goals for/game, 3.4 goals against/game
Last 26 games: 21-2-3 record, 4.1 goals for/game, 2.0 goals against/game

Specialty teams:

First 14 games: 14.3% on the power play, 75.9% on the penalty kill
Last 26 games: 29.1% on the power play, 81.8% on the penalty kill

North Dakota has been strong all season long, losing back-to-back games only once in six situations (4-1-1). UND’s offense receives most of the accolades (particularly the ‘CBS’ line of Drake Caggiula, Brock Boeser, and Nick Schmaltz), but there may not be a better defensive group in the nation than Gage Ausmus, Paul LaDue, Tucker Poolman, Hayden Shaw, Troy Stecher, Keaton Thompson, and Christian Wolanin. One of the freshmen (Shaw or Wolanin) will sit for today’s tournament game, but all seven have shown the ability to take over games in all three zones.

A big reason for UND’s success this season has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. During the 2015-16 campaign, Brad Berry’s squad is unbeaten (23-0-2) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past eight years, North Dakota is converting almost 90 percent of second intermission leads into victories and has just seven losses in the last 180 such situations (161-7-12).

North Dakota’s Brock Boeser has traded roles with linemate Nick Schmaltz over the past two weekends of play. Boeser, a first-year forward from Burnsville, Minnesota, has collected eight assists over those four games while Schmaltz has netted five goals (to give him ten for the season). Here are the top five freshman point-getters in the nation:

1. Kyle Connor (Michigan): 35-34-69 in 36 games (1.92 points/game)
2. Brock Boeser (North Dakota): 25-26-51 in 38 games (1.34 points/game)
3. Dylan Gambrell (Denver): 15-28-43 in 38 games (1.13 points/game)
4. Colin White (Boston College): 19-22-41 in 34 games (1.21 points/game)
5. Max Letunov (Connecticut): 16-24-40 in 36 games (1.11 points/game)

Since 1983-84, the only UND freshman to score more goals than Boeser’s 25 was Zach Parise, who had 26 in 2002-03. In their first years at North Dakota, T.J. Oshie scored 24 and Jonathan Toews scored 22. The only other freshmen in Fighting Sioux men’s hockey history to score 25 or more goals in a season are Troy Murray (33 in 1980-81), Kevin Maxwell (31, 1978-79), Perry Berezan (31, 1983-84), and Cary Eades (27, 1978-79). In fact, of the first twelve rookies to reach the twenty-goal plateau, ten went on to play in the NHL (Eades and Ian Kallay were the exception). Boeser assisted on all three UND goals at the NCHC Frozen Faceoff last weekend and joined Zach Parise (25-35-61) as the only North Dakota freshmen in the past 35 years to notch at least 50 points.

Amazingly, UND is 8th of 60 teams nationally in scoring offense and 3rd in scoring defense, notching 142 goals and allowing only 74 in 40 games this season (Northeastern has marks of 12th and 20th, respectively, and has outscored opponents 132-99 in 40 games). Nationally, only St. Cloud State (171 goals for/85 goals against in 40 games), Boston College (147 goals for/76 goals against in 38 games), and Quinnipiac (151 goals for/77 goals against in 39 games) boast a better scoring margin than North Dakota. Michigan (176 goals for/108 goals against in 37 games) is tied with UND with a +68 goal differential.

Northeastern has easily the worst penalty kill (46th) of any team in the national tournament. The Huskies have allowed 27 power play goals in 131 shorthanded situations (79.4 percent).

Here are a few more interesting comparisons:

North Dakota’s record when leading/tied after one period of play: 26-5-4
North Dakota’s record when trailing after one period of play: 4-1-0
Northeastern’s record when leading/tied after one period of play: 20-3-1
Northeastern’s record when trailing after one period of play: 2-10-4

North Dakota’s record against the NCAA tournament field: 7-4-1
Northeastern’s record against the NCAA tournament field: 5-8-4

North Dakota’s record in one-goal games: 7-1-0
Northeastern’s record in one-goal games: 6-7-0

North Dakota’s road/neutral site record: 14-4-3
Northeastern’s road/neutral site record: 12-8-4

The first period of today’s regional semifinal will tell the tale for the remainder of the contest. Will the Huskies continue to ride their wave of momentum? Will an early North Dakota goal (or three) allow doubt to creep in on the Northeastern bench? How much will NCAA tournament experience factor in? How will UND head coach Brad Berry use the last line change to his advantage? With all of the extra television timeouts, will the teams shorten their benches?

Northeastern Team Profile

Head Coach: Jim Madigan (5th season at NU, 79-80-22, .497)

Pairwise Ranking: 13th of 60 teams
National Rankings: #9/#10
This Season: 22-13-5 overall, 10-8-4 Hockey East (6th of 12 teams)
Last Season: 16-16-4 overall, 11-9-2 Hockey East (6th of 12 teams)

Team Offense: 3.30 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.48 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 23.5% (39 of 166)
Penalty Kill: 79.4% (104 of 131)

Key Players: Junior F Zach Aston-Reese (14-29-43), Sophomore F Nolan Stevens (19-22-41), Junior F John Stevens (10-25-35), Senior F Mike McMurtry (8-22-30), Sophomore D Garret Cockerill (8-13-21), Junior D Matt Benning (5-13-18), Freshman G Ryan Ruck (20-10-4, 2.26 GAA, .912 SV%, 2 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (1st season at UND, 30-6-4, .800)

Pairwise Ranking: 3rd of 60 teams
National Rankings: #3/#3
This Season: 30-6-4 overall, 19-4-1-1 NCHC (1st)
Last Season: 29-10-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.55 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.85 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 18.8% (29 of 154)
Penalty Kill: 86.7% (130 of 150)

Key Players: Freshman F Brock Boeser (25-26-51), Senior F Drake Caggiula (19-25-44), Sophomore F Nick Schmaltz (10-32-42), Senior F Bryn Chyzyk (11-10-21), Junior D Troy Stecher (8-19-27), Sophomore F Tucker Poolman (4-18-22), Junior D Paul LaDue (4-12-16), Sophomore G Cam Johnson (20-4-2, 1.64 GAA, .935 SV%, 5 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: October 20, 2007 (Boston, MA). #1-ranked North Dakota got to play three periods of hockey on their second night in Boston after only playing two periods at Boston College one night earlier due to foggy conditions. As it turned out, UND needed the final frame to pull away from Northeastern, who put 31 shots on goal but could not solve Jean-Phillippe Lamoureux (third consecutive shutout). North Dakota scored a first period power play goal (Brad Miller) and scored twice on odd-man rushes in the third period (Rylan Kaip, Andrew Kozek) to down the Huskies 3-0. Northeastern went 0-for-7 with the man advantage.

Most Important Meeting: March 25, 1982 (Providence, RI). North Dakota rolled to the title game with a 6-2 victory over NU. Current Huskies’ head coach Jim Madigan, who was a player at the time, was quoted at yesterday’s press conference by Brad Schlossman as saying, “I think they had ten guys who played in the National Hockey League for a long time. They were much bigger and more physical, tougher and meaner than we were.” Northeastern would go on to defeat New Hampshire 10-4 in the 3rd place game.

All-time Series: UND holds a 9-5-3 (.618) advantage all-time against Northeastern, but the series is tied 4-4-2 over the past ten games.

Game News and Notes

UND netminder Cam Johnson has five shutouts this season and has allowed exactly one goal on fifteen other occasions (including seven of the last ten games). He has allowed three or more goals only seven times in 30 appearances, going 0-3 with four no-decisions. By comparison, Northeastern netminder Ryan Ruck (two shutouts) has allowed exactly one goal on seven other occasions (including three of the past ten games). Ruck has allowed three or more goals thirteen times this season (36 appearances), posting a record of 4-7-2 in those games. North Dakota’s all-time winning percentage of .658 (48-25) in the NCAA tourney is the best in the country.

Media Coverage

UND and NU will face off at 1:00 p.m. CT, with the game shown live on ESPNU as well as TSN2 in Canada. There will also be a webcast available via the ESPN3/WatchESPN app. 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.

Pre-Game Events

UND fans attending the NCAA Midwest Regional in Cincinnati are invited to gather for pregame festivities beginning three hours prior to any game in which UND is playing. The pregame events will be held at the Moerlein Lager House (115 Joe Nuxhall Way), within walking distance of U.S. Bank Arena. All UND alumni, family, and friends are invited to this free event with cash bars, a full menu, and more! There are also watch parties organized in Bloomington, Cedar Rapids, Denver, Dickinson, Grand Forks, Hatton, Minneapolis, and Waite Park. For more information or to see if more events are being planned, please visit ndchampionsclub.com.

The Prediction

It plays to North Dakota’s advantage that most of the hype leading up to this contest has been focused on Northeastern. UND has all of the advantages afforded the top seed in their regional (last change, home locker room, etc.) but can approach this game as the underdog. Furthermore, last weekend’s disappointing results in Minneapolis have Brad Berry’s squad focused and ready, while the Huskies might fall victim to “we’re just happy to be here” syndrome. A first period advantage would be big for NU, as they have not shown much ability to come back. As it stands, North Dakota has too much talent and experience to let this opportunity slip away. UND 4, NU 2

Bonus Prediction

In the Midwest Regional’s second semifinal, the Wolverines and Fighting Irish will go down to the wire, with Kyle Connor proving yet again why he is not only the nation’s best rookie but also the nation’s best player. Michigan 5, Notre Dame 4

NCHC Frozen Faceoff Preview: UND vs. Minnesota-Duluth

Minnesota-Duluth was tabbed to win the NCHC this season after finishing fifth a year ago. The Bulldogs returned goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo (18-14-3, 2.30 goals-against average, .917 save percentage, one shutout) and 94 of their 115 goals (81.7%) from last season. Here’s what I wrote about UMD in my NCHC Season Preview and Predictions:

Duluth is a legitimate title contender this year, with almost all of the key pieces returning. The Bulldogs tightened up defensively last season and could be even better this time around. If UMD stays healthy, they will have their most successful season since 2011, when Scott Sandelin hung a national championship banner inside the DECC.

In that same poll, North Dakota was picked to finish third (Denver was slotted in 2nd). The media also predicted that St. Cloud State would finish in 6th place.

It is my contention that the four teams competing at the 2016 NCHC Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis this weekend (UND, SCSU, DU, and UMD) are not just the four best teams in the league this season; they are the four who have been the best over the first three seasons of conference play.

Duluth has been able to stay relatively healthy (the Bulldogs’ top six forwards have only missed a combined three games, the top five blueliners have only missed seven, and their goaltender has appeared in all but one game). By comparison, UND’s top six forwards have missed sixteen games, the top five blueliners have missed ten, and North Dakota had to play third-string goaltender Matt Hrynkiw in fourteen contests due to injuries to both scholarship netminders.

Considering all of that, North Dakota’s 30-win season (the 12th in program history) and 2nd consecutive league championship (their 17th overall) have to be seen as a surprise while Duluth’s 17-14-5 mark and 4th place finish in the NCHC must be somewhat disappointing. All that can change for the Bulldogs, however, with a successful weekend in Minneapolis and a berth in the NCAA tournament. UMD would, of course, make the NCAAs with two victories; a single win (or a loss and a tie) might be enough, depending on the results of other league playoff games.

Junior forwards Dominic Toninato and Alex Iafallo have not been a huge factor for Scott Sandelin’s squad this season but could find their scoring touch this weekend. The pair scored 51 points in 68 combined games last season but have just 39 in 72 total games this year.

A big reason for UND’s success this season has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. During the 2015-16 campaign, Brad Berry’s squad is unbeaten (23-0-2) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past eight years, North Dakota is converting almost 90 percent of second intermission leads into victories and has just seven losses in the last 180 such situations (161-7-12).

North Dakota’s Brock Boeser traded roles with linemate Nick Schmaltz last weekend in a home sweep of Colorado College in the NCHC quarterfinals. Boeser, a first-year forward from Burnsville, Minnesota, collected five assists while Schmaltz netted three goals (to give him eight for the season). Here are the top five freshman point-getters in the nation:

1. Kyle Connor (Michigan): 30-31-61 in 34 games (1.79 points/game)
2. Brock Boeser (North Dakota): 25-23-48 in 36 games (1.33 points/game)
3. Dylan Gambrell (Denver): 15-27-42 in 36 games (1.17 points/game)
4. Colin White (Boston College): 18-22-40 in 33 games (1.21 points/game)
5. Max Letunov (Connecticut): 16-24-40 in 36 games (1.11 points/game)

Since 1983-84, the only UND freshman to score more goals than Boeser’s 25 was Zach Parise, who had 26 in 2002-03. In their first years at North Dakota, T.J. Oshie scored 24 and Jonathan Toews scored 22. The only other freshmen in Fighting Sioux men’s hockey history to score 25 or more goals in a season are Troy Murray (33 in 1980-81), Kevin Maxwell (31, 1978-79), Perry Berezan (31, 1983-84), and Cary Eades (27, 1978-79). In fact, of the first twelve rookies to reach the twenty-goal plateau, ten went on to play in the NHL (Eades and Ian Kallay were the exception).

Amazingly, UND is 7th of 60 teams nationally in scoring offense and 3rd in scoring defense, notching 139 goals and allowing only 69 in 38 games this season (Duluth has marks of 27th and 8th, respectively, and has outscored opponents 98-73 in 36 games). Nationally, only St. Cloud State (164 goals for/82 goals against in 38 games) and Boston College (143 goals for/71 goals against in 37 games) boast a better scoring margin than North Dakota. Quinnipiac is close behind, outscoring opponents 144-75 in 37 games.

North Dakota is now a stone-cold lock to make its 14th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, the longest active streak in men’s Division 1 ice hockey. One reason for that outlook is that UND went 9-1-2 in non-conference games this season, with a home split against Wisconsin accounting for the only loss in twelve games. The Fighting Hawks are currently 1st in the Pairwise rankings, one of four NCHC teams (along with St. Cloud State, Denver, and Minnesota-Duluth) who would make the NCAAs if the season ended today. To be fair, Duluth (13th) should be considered squarely on the playoff bubble (due to autobids and upsets in other conference tournaments), with Omaha (t-17th), Miami (26th), Western Michigan (43rd), and Colorado College (55th) on the outside looking in.

In the same way that North Dakota’s Cam Johnson, Brock Boeser, and Drake Caggiula were overlooked for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award (link opens video), Duluth’s Kasimir Kaskisuo was quite possibly the first goaltender left out of the Mike Richter Award conversation (given to the nation’s best netminder).

In the Hobey race, Caggiula, who missed four games due to injury, never quite regained the same form (15-15-30 in 23 games pre-injury; just 4-8-12 in the ten games after his return). Brock Boeser (25-23-48 in 36 games) was hurt by the fact that North Dakota promoted Caggiula for the award (rather than both of them), especially early in the year. Boeser began to attract more of the spotlight once Caggiula went out, going 3-3-6 in four games without his linemate and 7-10-17 down the stretch (ten games), but by then, it was too late to generate enough Hobey steam.

Despite the fact that sophomore netminder Cam Johnson (a Mike Richter Award finalist) leads the nation in goals-against average, save percentage, and winning percentage, he was not named as one of the ten Hobey Baker finalists. Here are the total stat lines for Johnson as well as Thatcher Demko (Boston College) and Alex Lyon (Yale), the two goaltenders who did make the final ballot:

Thatcher Demko: 25-6-4, 1.78 goals-against average, .938 save percentage, ten shutouts
Cam Johnson: 20-3-1, 1.58 goals-against average, .938 save percentage, five shutouts
Alex Lyon: 19-7-4, 1.59 goals-against average, .938 save percentage, five shutouts

And here’s the line for UMD’s Kasimir Kaskisuo: 17-13-5, 1.89 goals-against average, .924 save percentage, five shutouts

Kaskisuo’s thirteen losses certainly hurt him, but his goals-against average (8th) and shutout numbers (6th) are right up there with the best in the country. He only allowed 66 goals all season, not many more than Thatcher Demko (63), but he only made 800 saves to Demko’s 953, which caused his save percentage to suffer (20th in the country). To be fair, the low number of shots on net (25.3/game) is a credit to the team in front of him, but if Kaskisuo had a save percentage like Demko, Johnson, and Lyon (all tied for 1st in the nation at .938), the Bulldogs would have allowed twelve fewer goals on the season and would likely have flipped many of their seven one-goal losses to victories.

In the four head-to-head matchups between the teams, North Dakota’s Cam Johnson won the goaltending battle against Kasimir Kasisuo four times. Johnson shut out the Bulldogs twice in Duluth and allowed a single goal each night in Grand Forks, making a total of 137 saves on 139 shots in the four meetings. Kaskisuo allowed nine goals in the four games (including five at home), stopping 84 of the 93 shots he faced. Here are the stat lines for each in the season series:

Cam Johnson: 4-0-0, 0.49 goals-against average, .986 save percentage, two shutouts
Kasimir Kaskisuo: 0-4-0, 2.28 goals-against average, .903 save percentage

Another result of those four UND victories is that eight North Dakota players have already scored on Kaskisuo this season, and another five notched assists. That level of confidence might help the Hawks as they attempt to bury their chances in Friday’s first semifinal. On the other side of the ledger, only two Bulldogs (Dominic Toninato and Cal Decowski) have put a puck behind Johnson this season, while just three others have picked up a point against the former Fighting Sioux.

Special teams have not been the deciding factor between these two teams. In the four meetings this year, UND went just 2 for 17 with the man advantage; Duluth, 1 of 16.

Here are a few more interesting comparisons:

North Dakota’s record when scoring the first goal: 18-2-2
North Dakota’s record when opponent scores the first goal: 12-3-1
Minnesota-Duluth’s record when scoring the first goal: 14-6-1
Minnesota-Duluth’s record when opponent scores the first goal: 3-8-4

North Dakota’s record against the NCHC Frozen Faceoff field: 7-3-0 (29 goals scored, 22 goals allowed)
Minnesota-Duluth’s record against the NCHC Frozen Faceoff field: 2-6-2 (14 goals scored, 25 goals allowed)

North Dakota’s record in one-goal games: 7-1-0 (an overtime loss to Omaha)
Minnesota-Duluth’s record in one-goal games: 4-7-0 (including two one-goal losses at Denver and two more at North Dakota)

North Dakota’s road record: 13-3-1
North Dakota’s non-conference record: 9-1-2
Minnesota-Duluth’s road record: 7-8-3
Minnesota-Duluth’s non-conference record: 4-4-2

North Dakota scoring in the first period: 43 goals scored, 21 goals allowed
North Dakota scoring the rest of the way: 96 goals scored, 48 goals allowed
Minnesota-Duluth scoring in the first period: 31 goals scored, 18 goals allowed
Minnesota-Duluth scoring the rest of the way: 66 goals scored, 55 goals allowed

And finally, a look back to last season: Boston University defeated both Minnesota-Duluth (3-2) and North Dakota (5-3) in the NCAA tournament on their way to the championship game. The Terriers fell 4-3 to the Providence Friars, one win short of a national title.

Minnesota-Duluth Team Profile

Head Coach: Scott Sandelin (15th season at UMD, 285-275-75, .508)

Pairwise Ranking: 13th of 60 teams
National Rankings: #16/#15
This Season: 17-14-5 overall, 11-10-3-1 NCHC (4th)
Last Season: 21-16-3 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional finalist, 12-9-3-0 NCHC (5th)

Team Offense: 2.72 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.03 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 15.8% (23 of 146)
Penalty Kill: 86.2% (112 of 130)

Key Players: Senior F Austin Farley (13-15-28), Senior F Tony Cameranesi (10-24-34), Junior F Alex Iafallo (7-13-20), Junior F Dominic Toninato (13-6-19), Senior D Andy Welinski (6-13-19), Freshman D Neal Pionk (4-13-17), Sophomore G Kasimir Kaskisuo (17-13-5, 1.89 GAA, .924 SV%, 5 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (1st season at UND, 30-5-3, .829)

Pairwise Ranking: 1st of 60 teams
National Rankings: #1/#1
This Season: 30-5-3 overall, 19-4-1-1 NCHC (1st)
Last Season: 29-10-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.66 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.82 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.5% (29 of 149) four of eight last wknd
Penalty Kill: 86.0% (123 of 143)

Key Players: Freshman F Brock Boeser (25-23-48), Senior F Drake Caggiula (19-23-42), Sophomore F Nick Schmaltz (8-32-40), Senior F Bryn Chyzyk (11-10-21), Junior D Troy Stecher (7-19-26), Sophomore F Tucker Poolman (4-18-22), Junior D Paul LaDue (4-12-16), Sophomore G Cam Johnson (20-3-1, 1.58 GAA, .938 SV%, 5 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: February 20, 2016 (Grand Forks, ND). For the second consecutive night, the homestanding Hawks downed the Bulldogs by a score of 2-1. On this night, freshman phenom Brock Boeser netted the game winner at the 14:39 mark of the third period. Boeser also assisted on the game-tying goal late in the middle frame. In the series opener, sophomore forward Austin Poganski scored on a penalty shot in overtime to send the home fans happy. On the weekend, UND netminder Cam Johnson made 59 of 61 saves to earn his 14th and 15th victories of the season (four of those came against the Bulldogs).

Last Playoff Meeting: March 18, 2010 (St. Paul, MN). After eliminating Minnesota from the WCHA tournament (6-0, 2-4, 4-1) in an epic home quarterfinal series, UND headed down to Xcel Energy Center and turned their attention to Duluth. The Fighting Sioux blanked the Bulldogs 2-0 in front of 15,292 fans to advance to the Final Five semifinals. Jason Gregoire (shorthanded) and Evan Trupp scored third-period goals for the Green and White, who got 22 saves from Brad Eidsness. UMD’s Kenny Reiter made 32 saves. North Dakota went on to defeat Denver and St. Cloud State to claim the first of three consecutive Broadmoor Trophies.

Most Important Meeting: March 22, 1984 (Lake Placid, NY) Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota met in the national semifinal game, with the Bulldogs defeating the Fighting Sioux 2-1 in overtime to advance to the championship. UND went on to defeat Michigan State 6-5 (OT) for third place, while Duluth fell to Bowling Green 5-4 in four overtimes, the longest championship game ever played.

The Meeting That Never Was: Both teams advanced to the 2011 NCAA Frozen Four at Xcel Energy Center (St. Paul, Minnesota). UND could not get past Michigan, falling 2-0 despite outshooting the Wolverines 40-20. In the other national semifinal, Minnesota-Duluth defeated Notre Dame 4-3 and rode that momentum to the title game. The Bulldogs took the Wolverines to overtime before senior forward Kyle Schmidt scored the game winner and earned UMD their first and only national championship. North Dakota won two of the three games against Duluth that season, outscoring Scott Sandelin’s team 11-5.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 144-77-9 (.646), but the teams have split five neutral site games (2-2-1). The teams first met in 1954, with North Dakota winning the first ten games between the schools by a combined score of 72-16. UMD’s first win over the Fighting Sioux (a 3-2 road victory on December 18th, 1959) did not sit well with the defending national champions. UND defeated Duluth 13-2 the following night.

Last Ten: North Dakota is 8-2-0 (.800) in the last ten games between the teams, outscoring Duluth 32-18 over that stretch.

Game News and Notes

UND netminder Cam Johnson has five shutouts this season and has allowed exactly one goal on 14 other occasions (including six of the past eight games). He has allowed three or more goals only six times in 28 appearances, going 0-2 with four no-decisions. By comparison, Duluth netminder Kasimir Kaskisuo (five shutouts) has allowed exactly one goal on ten other occasions (including four of the past eight games). Kaskisuo has allowed three or more goals twelve times this season (35 appearances), posting a record of 2-8-2 in those games. Both head coaches this weekend are alumni of the University of North Dakota; Brad Berry (1983-86) and Scott Sandelin (1982-86) both played for UND under John “Gino” Gasparini.

Media Coverage

UND and Duluth will face off at 4:08 p.m., with the game between SCSU and Denver scheduled to begin at 7:38 p.m. Both semifinals (as well as Saturday night’s NCHC Frozen Faceoff championship game) will be televised on CBS Sports Network. The third-place game will be streamed live at 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.

Pre-Game Events

UND fans attending the NCHC Frozen Faceoff are invited to join the UND Alumni Association & Foundation and UND Athletics for pregame festivities beginning three hours prior to any game in which UND is playing. The pregame events will be held at the Pourhouse in Minneaplois (10 South 5th Street), within walking distance of the Target Center. All UND alumni, family, and friends are invited to this free event with cash bars, a full restaurant, DJs, a live band, and more! The Pourhouse invites all UND fans back to the venue after each hockey game. The usual cover charge will be FREE to UND fans or anyone with a ticket.

The Prediction

Despite all of the stats in UND’s favor, this game is basically a coin flip due to the rivalry and playoff atmosphere. I don’t buy the argument that Duluth has “more to play for”: North Dakota wants to solidify its #1 overall ranking and atone for a 1-3 record in its first two NCHC Frozen Faceoff tournaments; the Bulldogs want to earn their way into the NCAAs and make their mark in the school’s first appearance. I can easily see this game going to overtime, with UND’s top-end talent sealing the deal. North Dakota 3-2 (OT).

Bonus Prediction

In the evening semifinal, it will be interesting to see which team the North Dakota fans cheer for. St. Cloud State has enough firepower to get the job done (particularly in front of a partisan crowd), but will the twenty Denver fans in attendance make enough noise to cheer their team to victory? I’ve got the Huskies in this one, setting up #1 vs. #2 in the title game. SCSU 5-2 (EN).

NCHC Playoff Preview: UND vs. Colorado College

Mike Haviland’s second year behind the Colorado College bench produced better results than year one. Last season, the Tigers were historically bad, winning just twice (2-19-3-1) in 24 league games. This year, CC improved to 4-19-1-1 in league play but still finished in last place, four points behind Western Michigan.

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

UND and Colorado College met six times last season (twice in Colorado Springs), with North Dakota winning all six games and outscoring the Tigers 25-10. Without those six victories, UND’s record last year would have looked far less impressive at 23-10-3 (.681). This season, Brad Berry’s first trip to Colorado Springs as head coach resulted in a pair of victories (5-2, 2-0), and North Dakota took five of six league points during a January series in Grand Forks (5-5 overtime tie/shootout win, 5-1).

The two teams have made a habit of meeting in the first round of the NCHC tournament, with North Dakota dispatching Colorado College each of the past two years. As I wrote about before the start of last season’s league playoffs, earning a sweep in postseason play is no easy task. As I predicted in that article, Saturday’s game went down to the wire, with UND needing a late goal by Connor Gaarder to secure a 3-2 victory. North Dakota easily handled the Tigers 5-1 in Friday’s opener.

The biggest question mark for Mike Haviland’s team is whether netminder Jacob Nehama will be cleared to play. Nehama, a freshman, has earned all six of the Tigers wins this season. If he is not able to go, the Tigers will rely on junior Derek Shatzer, who was blitzed for nine goals (four shorthanded) last Saturday against St. Cloud State.

Last Friday night, UND goaltender Cam Johnson helped the Fighting Hawks win the Penrose Cup with another outstanding performance (stopping 31 of 32 shots). In a reversal of fortune, Johnson was lifted from Saturday’s rematch after allowing three goals on the first four shots he faced. The sophomore from Flint, Michigan is currently second in the nation in both goals-against average (1.62) and save percentage (.937) with 18 wins (9th in the country) and five shutouts (6th).

A big reason for UND’s success this season has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. During the 2015-16 campaign, Brad Berry’s squad is unbeaten (21-0-2) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past eight years, North Dakota is converting almost 90 percent of second intermission leads into victories and has just seven losses in the last 178 such situations (159-7-12).

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference as a whole has a solid record against other leagues once again this season, particularly against the Big Ten. North Dakota’s split against Wisconsin is currently the only league loss against the six teams in the conference that destroyed college hockey as we knew it.

NCHC overall record vs. other conferences: 48-26-10 (.631, best in the country)

NCHC record vs. Atlantic Hockey: 4-2-0 (.667)
NCHC record vs. Big Ten: 14-1-1 (.906)
NCHC record vs. ECAC: 2-7-0 (.286)
NCHC record vs. Hockey East: 5-12-7 (.354)
NCHC record vs. WCHA: 19-4-2 (.800)

The six teams in the Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin) are a combined 39-39-11 (.500) in non-league play, the third-worst winning percentage in college hockey. Not including a 12-3-1 mark against Atlantic Hockey and a 2-0-0 record against D-I independents, the Big Ten sports a dismal 25-36-10 (.423) record against the other four major hockey conferences.

North Dakota’s Brock Boeser collected three goals and three assists last weekend in a home sweep of Western Michigan. Boeser, a first-round draft pick of the Vancouver Canucks, is one of the best rookies in the country. Here are the top five freshman point-getters in the nation:

1. Kyle Connor (Michigan): 26-31-57 in 32 games (1.78 points/game)
2. Brock Boeser (North Dakota): 25-18-43 in 34 games (1.26 points/game)
3. Dylan Gambrell (Denver): 15-27-42 in 34 games (1.24 points/game)
4. Max Letunov (Connecticut): 16-24-40 in 36 games (1.11 points/game)
5. Colin White (Boston College): 17-22-39 in 30 games (1.30 points/game)

Since 1983-84, the only UND freshman to score more goals than Boeser’s 25 was Zach Parise, who had 26 in 2002-03. In their first years at North Dakota, T.J. Oshie scored 24 and Jonathan Toews scored 22. The only other freshmen in Fighting Sioux men’s hockey history to score 25 or more goals in a season are Troy Murray (33 in 1980-81), Kevin Maxwell (31, 1978-79), Perry Berezan (31, 1983-84), and Cary Eades (27, 1978-79). In fact, of the first twelve rookies to reach the twenty-goal plateau, ten went on to play in the NHL (Eades and Ian Kallay were the exception).

Amazingly, UND is 8th of 60 teams nationally in scoring offense and 3rd in scoring defense, notching 127 goals and allowing only 67 in 36 games this season. Nationally, only St. Cloud State (156 goals for/77 goals against in 36 games), Boston College (134 goals for/64 goals against in 34 games), and Quinnipiac (129 goals for/65 goals against in 34 games) boast a better scoring margin than North Dakota.

North Dakota is now a stone-cold lock to make its 14th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, the longest active streak in men’s Division 1 ice hockey. One reason for that outlook is that UND went 9-1-2 in non-conference games this season, with a home split against Wisconsin accounting for the only loss in twelve games. The Fighting Hawks are currently 1st in the Pairwise rankings, one of five NCHC teams (along with St. Cloud State, Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, and Omaha) who would make the NCAAs if the season ended today. To be fair, Duluth (13th), Omaha (15th), and Miami (t-22nd) should all be considered squarely on the playoff bubble, with Western Michigan and Colorado College outside the top 30.

In terms of scoring depth, Colorado College has just three players averaging a point per weekend, while North Dakota has eight. The Tigers have allowed 64 more goals than they have scored (69-133), while the Fighting Hawks are currently a plus-60 in scoring differential (127-67).

If Mike Haviland’s squad has any hope of stealing a game against North Dakota, they will have to rely on forwards Hunter Fejes, Sam Rothstein, and Luc Gerdes to carry the load. The three upperclassmen (Fejes is a senior; the other two are juniors) have combined for 26 goals and 29 assists this season, nearly forty percent of the team’s offensive output.

Colorado College Team Profile

Head Coach: Mike Haviland (2nd season at CC, 12-53-4, .203)

Pairwise Ranking: t-53rd of 60 teams
National Rankings: NR/NR
This Season: 6-27-1 overall, 4-19-1-0 NCHC (8th)
Last Season: 6-26-3 overall, 2-19-3-1 NCHC (8th)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 2.03 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.91 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 15.6% (21 of 135)
Penalty Kill: 79.7% (106 of 133)

Key players: Senior F Hunter Fejes (13-9-22), Junior F Luc Gerdes (7-11-18), Junior F Sam Rothstein (6-9-15), Senior F Cody Bradley (7-8-15), Sophomore D Teemu Kivihalme (3-12-15), Freshman D Andrew Farny (3-9-12), Freshman G Jacob Nehama (6-17-0, 3.62 GAA, .902 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (1st season at UND, 28-5-3, .819)

Pairwise Ranking: 1st of 60 teams
National Rankings: #2/#2
This Season: 28-5-3 overall, 19-4-1-1 NCHC (1st)
Last Season: 29-10-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.53 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.86 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 17.7% (25 of 141)
Penalty Kill: 86.8% (118 of 136)

Key Players: Freshman F Brock Boeser (25-18-43), Senior F Drake Caggiula (18-21-39), Sophomore F Nick Schmaltz (5-29-34), Senior F Bryn Chyzyk (11-9-20), Junior D Troy Stecher (7-18-25), Sophomore F Tucker Poolman (4-17-21), Junior D Paul LaDue (4-10-14), Sophomore G Cam Johnson (18-3-1, 1.63 GAA, .937 SV%, 5 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: January 23, 2016 (Grand Forks, ND). North Dakota peppered Tyler Marble with 32 shots on goal, scoring five times en route to a 5-1 home victory. The two teams went to a shootout in Friday’s opener, as UND let a 4-1 first period lead slip away but scored an extra-attacker goal with 32 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime knotted at five goals apiece.

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, 152-80-11 (.648), including a blistering 98-21-7 (.806) mark in Grand Forks. The teams first met in 1948.

Last Ten: North Dakota has nine wins and a tie in the last ten meetings between the teams, outscoring CC 42-18 over that span. The last Tigers victory over UND was a 3-2 overtime win in the 2014 NCHC quarterfinals. 19 of the last 23 games have been decided by two goals or less.

Game News and Notes

In first periods this season, North Dakota has outscored opponents 37-21 while Colorado College has been outscored 35-13. UND’s Drake Caggiula has 16 game-winning goals in his career, two short of Mark Taylor’s school record (18 from 1976-80). North Dakota’s Penrose Cup championship marks the 17th time that a UND hockey team has claimed a regular season conference title. No Division 1 men’s hockey program has won more conference championships than UND. These two coaching staffs coached against each other at the AHL and NHL levels prior to the NCHC.

Media Coverage

All games this weekend will be televised on Midco Sports Network (Sunday’s game, if necessary, will be played at 7:07 p.m. Central Time). A high definition webcast of the games is also 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

As I mentioned earlier, it is very difficult to sweep a team out of the conference playoffs, particularly when that team’s season is on the line. Historically, Saturday games have been tighter for that very reason, and that’s what I’m going with here. UND 5-1, 3-2.

Weekend Preview: UND vs. Western Michigan

Western Michigan has one victory in 2016 (1-11-2), with a home split versus Miami two weeks ago the only bright spot in a dismal second half.

North Dakota has only three losses during the same time frame (10-3-1) and finds itself alone in first place in the NCHC, needing only one point this weekend (by virtue of a single victory or tie) to win the Penrose Cup and league championship outright.

Freshmen are leading the way for the Western Michigan Broncos, as 22 of the team’s 70 goals (31 percent) have been scored by first-year players. First-year forward Griffen Molino (10-11-21) has slowed down considerably (in his last ten, a hat trick on February 20th vs. Miami but no points in the other nine contests) while two classmates, forward Colt Conrad (5-8-13) and blueliner Oliwer Kaski (4-8-12), have performed above expectations. Among other accolades, Molino was named the NCHC Rookie of the Month for December.

The boys from Kalamazoo, Michigan like to play a tight, physical brand of hockey, but that has meant quite a bit of time in the penalty box. WMU has been in 140 shorthanded situations already this season (compared to 113 power play opportunities). The Broncos’ power play has scored 20 goals this year (converting at 17.7%), but their penalty killers have allowed 41 goals to the opposition. By comparison, North Dakota has scored 23 power play goals and allowed sixteen in an equal number of man-advantage and shorthanded situations (129 each).

UND has the nation’s best penalty kill since December 1st, allowing just three power play goals in 67 penalty kill situations (95.5 percent). The Fighting Hawks have killed twelve straight power plays and have held their opponent without a man advantage goal in eight of the past nine games.

WMU’s Lukas Hafner, a senior goaltender who played his junior hockey with the Cornwall Colts (CCHL), has the worst numbers of his four-year career (3.59 goals-against average and a save percentage of .897), but that has as much to do with the team in front of him as it does his own play. Hafner has the ability to steal games and was a force two seasons ago, posting a 2.06 GAA and a save percentage of .925. The Toledo, Ohio native also has six assists in his career.

His counterpart in the UND net, sophomore Cam Johnson, rebounded from two rough losses in Denver (eight goals allowed on 54 shots; .889 save percentage) to post a home sweep of Duluth and a road sweep of Omaha over the past two weekends. Johnson made 105 of 110 saves in the four wins and is currently second in the nation in both goals-against average (1.54) and save percentage (.940) with 17 wins (9th in the country) and five shutouts (5th).

A big reason for UND’s success this season has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. During the 2015-16 campaign, Brad Berry’s squad is unbeaten (17-0-1) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past eight years, North Dakota is converting almost 90 percent of second intermission leads into victories and has just seven losses in the last 163 such situations (145-7-11).

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference as a whole has a solid record against other leagues once again this season, particularly against the Big Ten. North Dakota’s split against Wisconsin is currently the only league loss against the six teams in the conference that destroyed college hockey as we knew it.

NCHC overall record vs. other conferences: 48-26-10 (.631, best in the country)

NCHC record vs. Atlantic Hockey: 4-2-0 (.667)
NCHC record vs. Big Ten: 14-1-1 (.906)
NCHC record vs. ECAC: 2-7-0 (.286)
NCHC record vs. Hockey East: 5-12-7 (.354)
NCHC record vs. WCHA: 19-4-2 (.800)

The six teams in the Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin) are a combined 39-39-11 (.500) in non-league play, the third-worst winning percentage in college hockey. Not including a 12-3-1 mark against Atlantic Hockey and a 2-0-0 record against D-I independents, the Big Ten sports a dismal 25-36-10 (.423) record against the other four major hockey conferences.

North Dakota’s Brock Boeser is one of the best rookies in the country. Here are the top five freshman point-getters in the nation:

1. Kyle Connor (Michigan): 26-28-54 in 30 games (1.80 points/game)
2. Colin White (Boston College): 17-22-39 in 30 games (1.30 points/game)
3. Dylan Gambrell (Denver): 13-26-39 in 32 games (1.22 points/game)
4. Max Letunov (Connecticut): 16-23-39 in 34 games (1.15 points/game)
5. Brock Boeser (North Dakota): 22-15-37 in 32 games (1.16 points/game)

Since 1999-2000, the only UND freshmen to score more goals than Boeser’s 22 are Zach Parise (26) and T.J. Oshie (24). Jonathan Toews also had 22 goals in his first year at North Dakota. Other Fighting Sioux freshman to score 22 or more goals in a season include Troy Murray (33 in 1980-81), Kevin Maxwell (31, 1978-79), Perry Berezan (31, 1983-84), Cary Eades (27, 1978-79), Ian Kallay (23, 1995-96), Garry Valk (23, 1987-88), Doug Smail (22, 1977-78), and Mark Taylor (22, 1976-77). In fact, of the first twelve rookies to reach the twenty-goal plateau, ten went on to play in the NHL (Eades and Kallay were the exception).

Amazingly, UND is 10th of 60 teams nationally in scoring offense and 2nd in scoring defense, notching 114 goals and allowing only 62 in 32 games this season. Nationally, only St. Cloud State (142 goals for/72 goals against in 34 games), Boston College (134 goals for/64 goals against in 34 games), Quinnipiac (129 goals for/65 goals against in 34 games), and Michigan (142 goals for/88 goals against in 30 games) boast a better scoring margin than North Dakota.

It is looking like North Dakota is a lock to make its 14th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. One reason for that outlook is that UND went 9-1-2 in non-conference games this season, with a home split against Wisconsin accounting for the only loss in twelve games. The Fighting Hawks are currently 2nd in the Pairwise rankings, one of four NCHC teams (along with St. Cloud State, Denver, and Omaha) who would make the NCAAs if the season ended today. Minnesora-Duluth (t-14th) and Miami (18th) sit squarely on the playoff bubble, with Western Michigan and Colorado College outside the top 30.

In terms of scoring depth, Western Michigan has just three players averaging a point per weekend, while North Dakota has eight. The Broncos have allowed 51 more goals than they have scored (70-121), while the Fighting Hawks are currently a plus-52 in scoring differential (114-62).

Western Michigan Team Profile

Head Coach: Andy Murray (5th season at WMU, 81-80-27, .503)

Pairwise Ranking: t-37th of 60 teams
National Rankings: NR/NR
This Season: 8-21-3 overall, 5-16-1-1 NCHC (7th)
Last Season: 14-18-5 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 6-13-5-4 NCHC (7th)

Team Offense: 2.19 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.78 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 17.7% (20 of 113)
Penalty Kill: 70.7% (99 of 140)

Key Players: Freshman F Griffen Molino (10-11-21), Junior F Sheldon Dries (10-7-17), Freshman F Colt Conrad (5-8-13), Senior F Nolan LaPorte (7-7-14), Freshman D Oliwer Kaski (4-8-12), Junior D Chris Dienes (2-10-12), Senior G Lukas Hafner (5-16-3, 3.59 GAA, .897 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (1st season at UND, 26-5-3, .809)

Pairwise Ranking: 2nd of 60 teams
National Rankings: #2/#2
This Season: 26-5-3 overall, 17-4-1-1 NCHC (1st)
Last Season: 29-10-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.35 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.82 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 17.8% (23 of 129)
Penalty Kill: 87.6% (113 of 129)

Key Players: Senior F Drake Caggiula (17-19-36), Sophomore F Nick Schmaltz (4-26-30), Freshman F Brock Boeser (22-15-37), Senior F Bryn Chyzyk (10-9-19), Junior D Troy Stecher (6-16-22), Sophomore F Tucker Poolman (4-15-19), Junior D Paul LaDue (3-9-12), Sophomore G Cam Johnson (17-3-1, 1.54 GAA, .940 SV%, 5 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: January 30, 2016 (Kalamazoo, MI). Brock Boeser scored the game-winning goal with less than three minutes remaining in a wild second period that saw all three goals scored (UND won 2-1) and a combined 33 shots on goal (North Dakota outshot WMU 19-14 for the period and 37-29 for the game). The Fighting Hawks won Friday’s opener 2-0 (both goals by Boeser) despite being outshot 31-30.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: March 18, 2014. Western Michigan’s Colton Hargrove scored a shorthanded goal (his second of the game) eight minutes into the third period to break a 1-1 tie, and the Broncos held on to defeat homestanding North Dakota 2-1 in front of almost 12,000 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena. WMU’s victory was its first and only win in fourteen games against UND, who won Friday’s opener 2-0.

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 five NCAA tournament appearances but have not been in the national tournament since 2012.

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 12th consecutive season.

All-time Series: In the short history between the schools, UND has won thirteen of the fourteen games, outscoring the Broncos 55-23. WMU’s lone victory over North Dakota was the aforementioned 2-1 road win on March 8th, 2014. The teams first met in 1997.

Game News and Notes

UND forward Luke Johnson has collected three goals and four assists in nine career games against Western Michigan but is scoreless in his last four against the Broncos. WMU is a dismal 1-13-2 on the road this season. North Dakota’s Penrose Cup championship marks the 17th time that a UND hockey team has claimed a regular season conference title. No Division 1 men’s hockey program has won more conference championships than North Dakota. The Fighting Hawks will honor four seniors – forwards Drake Caggiula, Bryn Chyzyk, Coltyn Sanderson, and Coltyn St. Clair – before Saturday’s regular season finale.

Media Coverage

Friday’s opener, starting at 8:07 Central Time, will be televised on CBS Sports Network, while Saturday’s rematch will be shown on Midco Sports Network 2 and FOX College Sports Atlantic. A high definition webcast of Saturday’s game will also 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

North Dakota will dominate on Friday to secure the Penrose Cup outright. With less motivation on Saturday, it will be a struggle. UND 5-1, 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 at Nebraska-Omaha

Nebraska-Omaha is just 4-8 since the calendar turned to 2016 and has been outscored 45-31 in those twelve games. More devastating for Dean Blais’ squad is that the Mavs went 3-1 at Colorado College and versus Western Michigan (scoring 15 goals and allowing 10) but 1-7 against Denver, North Dakota, Miami, and St. Cloud State, tallying only 16 goals and giving up 35 in those eight contests.

During that same stretch (January and February), North Dakota is 8-3-2, outscoring opponents 36-25. Outside of a tough series at Denver (the Pioneers swept the Hawks 6-4 and 4-1), UND has been on a roll in 2016, posting two shutouts and allowing only a single goal on six other occasions.

Aside from the two losses at altitude, Brad Berry’s only other defeat during this calendar year came at the hands of UNO. The visiting Mavericks scored halfway through the five minute overtime session to shock the home crowd. North Dakota rebounded the following night, dispatching Dean Blais’ squad by a 5-1 margin.

During that NCHC series in Grand Forks, Blais was without the services of netminder Evan Weninger (sprained ankle). Since returning from injury on January 29th, the freshman from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan has not been the same. Here are the splits:

Pre-injury (10/10/15 through 1/8/16): 10-2-0, 1.99 GAA, .942 SV%, 1 shutout
Post-injury (1/29/16 to present): 3-3-0, 2.88 GAA, .887 SV%, 0 shutouts

Weninger struggled in two losses last weekend vs. St. Cloud State, allowing eight goals on 47 shots, and his three victories came against Colorado College and a sweep of Western Michigan.

His counterpart in the UND net, sophomore Cam Johnson, rebounded from two rough losses in Denver (eight goals allowed on 54 shots; .889 save percentage) to post a home sweep of Duluth last weekend. Johnson made 59 of 61 saves in the two wins and is currently second in the nation in both goals-against average (1.54) and save percentage (.940) with 15 wins (10th in the country) and five shutouts (5th).

North Dakota’s sweep of the Bulldogs allowed them to keep pace with St. Cloud State (the two teams are tied for first in the NCHC) but came at a price. The league suspended junior defenseman Troy Stecher (6-15-21) one game for his illegal hit at the final buzzer. Stecher is UND’s top point-getting blueliner and notched two goals and two assists when the Fighting Hawks and Mavericks faced off last month. Stecher will serve his suspension during Friday’s opener and will be eligible to return in the series finale on Saturday, February 27th.

In his absence, expect both freshman defensemen (Hayden Shaw and Christian Wolanin) in the lineup. It will be interesting to see which blueliner will be paired up with Gage Ausmus (as the Grand Forks Herald’s Brad Schlossman reported, he and Stecher have played 48 consecutive games together and are 35-9-4 as partners) and called upon to defend against UNO’s most potent forward pair, Jake Guentzel (16-24-40) and Austin Ortega (19-12-31). In my opinion, Shaw and Wolanin should be split up on the second and third pairings rather than be counted on to defend together. That leaves a likely defensive corps of Ausmus with Tucker Poolman, Wolanin with Paul LaDue, and Shaw with Keaton Thompson.

A big reason for UND’s success this season has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. During the 2015-16 campaign, Brad Berry’s squad is unbeaten (7-0-1) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past eight years, North Dakota is converting almost 90 percent of second intermission leads into victories and has just seven losses in the last 163 such situations (145-7-11).

Omaha chose to open the brand-new Baxter Arena against Air Force (rather than North Dakota), and that set off a string of eight consecutive home victories (sweeps of the Falcons, Minnesota-Duluth, Ohio State, and Arizona State). Since that time, however, the Mavericks are just 2-6-0 in their new digs, having been swept on home ice by Denver (January 8-9), Miami (January 22-23), and St. Cloud State (February 19-20). UNO’s only home wins since December 20th came against Western Michigan.

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference as a whole has a solid record against other leagues once again this season, particularly against the Big Ten. North Dakota’s split against Wisconsin is currently the only league loss against the six teams in the conference that destroyed college hockey as we knew it.

NCHC overall record vs. other conferences: 48-26-10 (.631, best in the country)

NCHC record vs. Atlantic Hockey: 4-2-0 (.667)
NCHC record vs. Big Ten: 14-1-1 (.906)
NCHC record vs. ECAC: 2-7-0 (.286)
NCHC record vs. Hockey East: 5-12-7 (.354)
NCHC record vs. WCHA: 19-4-2 (.800)

The six teams in the Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin) are a combined 39-39-11 (.500) in non-league play, the third-worst winning percentage in college hockey. Not including a 12-3-1 mark against Atlantic Hockey and a 2-0-0 record against D-I independents, the Big Ten sports a dismal 25-36-10 (.423) record against the other four major hockey conferences.

North Dakota’s Brock Boeser is tied with Denver’s Dylan Gambrell for the most points among first-year players in the NCHC, and both are among the best in the country. Here are the top five freshman point-getters in the nation:

1. Kyle Connor (Michigan): 24-27-51 in 28 games (1.82 points/game)
2. Colin White (Boston College): 17-22-39 in 30 games (1.30 points/game)
3. Max Letunov (Connecticut): 15-21-36 in 32 games (1.12 points/game)
4. Brock Boeser (North Dakota): 20-15-35 in 30 games (1.17 points/game)
4. Dylan Gambrell (Denver): 11-24-35 in 30 games (1.17 points/game)

Since 1999-2000, the only UND freshmen to score more goals than Boeser’s 20 are Zach Parise (26), T.J. Oshie (24), and Jonathan Toews (22). Travis Zajac also had 20 goals in his first year at North Dakota. Other Fighting Sioux freshman to score 20 or more goals in a season include Troy Murray (33 in 1980-81), Kevin Maxwell (31, 1978-79), Perry Berezan (31, 1983-84), Cary Eades (27, 1978-79), Ian Kallay (23, 1995-96), Garry Valk (23, 1987-88), Doug Smail (22, 1977-78), and Mark Taylor (22, 1976-77). Of the first twelve rookies to reach the twenty-goal plateau, ten went on to play in the NHL (Eades and Kallay were the exception).

During the 2015-16 campaign, Brad Berry’s squad is unbeaten (18-0-2) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, North Dakota has gone 66 straight games without a loss when leading after the first two periods. Amazingly, UND is 11th of 60 teams nationally in scoring offense and 2nd in scoring defense, notching 106 goals and allowing only 59 in 32 games this season. Nationally, only St. Cloud State (140 goals for/66 goals against in 32 games), Boston College (130 goals for/60 goals against in 32 games), Quinnipiac (121 goals for/63 goals against in 32 games), and Michigan (134 goals for/83 goals against in 28 games) boast a better scoring margin than North Dakota.

My article, the race for the Penrose Cup is down to North Dakota and St. Cloud State, may have been a bit premature, although it is looking likely that Denver (13-5-2-0, 41 points) will finish in third place behind the Huskies and Fighting Hawks, both of whom have a conference record of 15-4-1-1 (47 points). In the simplest terms, the Pioneers are two games back of the league leaders with four games remaining:

UND: at Omaha, vs. Western Michigan
SCSU: vs. Duluth, at Colorado College
DU: at Western Michigan, vs. Omaha

St. Cloud State and North Dakota were winners of the first two NCHC regular season league titles. Denver’s last league title came in 2010 (WCHA).

According to Jim Dahl of collegehockeyranked.com, Brad Berry’s team is a virtual lock to make their 14th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. In that same article, Dahl mentions that Omaha is unlikely to drop below 14th in the Pairwise rankings after this weekend’s action, regardless of the results. UND went 9-1-2 in non-conference games this season, with a home split with Wisconsin accounting for the only loss in twelve games. The Fighting Hawks are currently 4th in the Pairwise rankings, one of four NCHC teams (along with St. Cloud State, Denver, and Omaha) who would make the NCAAs if the season ended today. Miami (t-16th) and Minnesota-Duluth (25th) are within striking distance, with Western Michigan and Colorado College outside the top 30.

Last season, both North Dakota and Omaha advanced to the Frozen Four but neither team made the championship game. UND fell to Boston University 5-3, while the Mavericks were upended 4-1 by eventual national champion Providence.

The Hawks-Mavericks rivalry isn’t quite there yet, but as Tom Shatel (Omaha World Herald) writes, “UNO is ripe for rivalry with North Dakota green.”

Nebraska-Omaha Team Profile

Head Coach: Dean Blais (7th season at UNO, 129-110-25, .536)

Pairwise Ranking: 11th of 60 teams
National Rankings: #13/#13
This Season: 18-11-1 overall, 8-11-1-0 NCHC (t-4th)
Last Season: 20-13-6 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 12-8-4-3 NCHC (3rd)

Team Offense: 3.13 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.83 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 16.3% (21 of 129)
Penalty Kill: 82.5% (99 of 120)

Key Players: Junior forward Jake Guentzel (16-24-40), Junior F Austin Ortega (19-12-31), Junior F Justin Parizek (8-19-27), Sophomore F Jake Randolph (9-12-21), Sophomore D Luc Snuggerud (3-13-16), Junior D Ian Brady (3-10-13), Freshman G Evan Weninger (13-5-0, 2.31 GAA, .926 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (1st season at UND, 24-5-3, .797)

Pairwise Ranking: 4th of 60 teams
National Rankings: #4/#4
This Season: 24-5-3 overall, 15-4-1-1 NCHC (t-1st)
Last Season: 29-10-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.31 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.84 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 17.6% (22 of 125)
Penalty Kill: 87.0% (107 of 123)

Key Players: Senior F Drake Caggiula (15-18-33), Sophomore F Nick Schmaltz (4-25-29), Freshman F Brock Boeser (20-15-35), Senior F Bryn Chyzyk (9-8-17), Junior D Troy Stecher (6-15-21), Sophomore F Tucker Poolman (3-13-16), Junior D Paul LaDue (3-9-12), Sophomore G Cam Johnson (15-3-1, 1.54 GAA, .940 SV%, 5 SO)

By The Numbers:

Last meeting: January 16, 2016 (Grand Forks, ND). North Dakota spotted UNO the a 1-0 lead in the first period, but it wouldn’t last long. Drake Caggiula potted a power play goal with seven seconds remaining in the opening frame and UND added two goals in each of the next two periods to defeat the visiting Mavericks 5-1. Omaha won Friday’s opener 4-3 in overtime, helped along by Jake Randolph’s tally with one tick left on the second period clock.

Last meeting in Omaha: January 31, 2015. UND flipped the script from Friday’s opener as Brendan O’Donnell potted the game-winner two minutes into overtime to give North Dakota a 4-3 victory. One night earlier, Omaha forward Austin Ortega’s goal with 33 ticks remaining in the extra frame spoiled UND’s third period comeback. Five of the twelve goals in the series were scored on the power play.

Most memorable 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. In my opinion, this hockey weekend solidified the notion that for UND hockey, it’s always a home game.

All-time: UND leads the all-time series 10-7-1 (.583), including a 5-3-0 (.625) record in games played in Omaha. North Dakota has picked up five wins and a tie in the last ten games between the schools, outscoring the Mavs 31-29 over that stretch. Four of the last six games have gone to overtime.

Game News and Notes

The Mavericks are 2-6-0 against teams in the top 15 of the Pairwise rankings (St. Cloud State, North Dakota, Denver) and 16-5-1 against other opponents. North Dakota is 8-4-0 against nationally-ranked teams this season. The Fighting Hawks have already clinched home ice for the first round of the NCHC playoffs and will host the first round for the 14th consecutive season, the longest active streak in men’s college hockey. Dean 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. Omaha has scored eight shorthand goals this season (4th in the country); while UND has netted seven (7th). The Mavericks have only three seniors on their roster — defenseman Brian Cooper (captain) and forwards Tanner Lane and Aaron Pearce. The classmates will be honored during Saturday’s senior night.

Media Coverage

Friday’s game will not be televised, but Saturday’s rematch will be available on American Sports Network, Midco Sports Network, and WDAY’Z Extra. 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

UND needs more than a split this weekend to keep pace with St. Cloud State, but positive results will be hard to come by, particularly on Friday night. At least one of these tilts will go to overtime, and North Dakota’s goaltending edge will be the difference. UND 3-2 (OT), 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: UND vs. Minnesota-Duluth

Heading into their December home series with UND, the Bulldogs had just gone through a four-game stretch during which they dismantled Colorado College and Western Michigan by a combined score of 24-2. Duluth went 9-for-21 (nearly 43 percent) with the man advantage over those two weekends and was converting at a 21.7% rate for the season. Furthermore, UMD had scored 48 goals over its first 15 contests (3.2 goals/game).

North Dakota blanked UMD on the weekend (3-0 each night) and killed all nine Bulldog power plays. Duluth has gone just 2 for 48 (4.2%) with the man advantage since December 11th and has just 26 goals in the past 13 games. Aside from a 5-2 victory at Miami on January 9th, the Bulldogs only impressive offensive output in the second half of the season came in consecutive home victories over Colorado College (5-3, 3-2) two weekends ago.

In short, Duluth is still controlling the puck and getting shots to the net; they just aren’t scoring. And to make matters worse for Scott Sandelin’s crew, North Dakota has the nation’s best penalty kill (52 of 54, 96.3%) since December 1st. On the season, UND’s penalty kill is at 87.1 percent, good for fifth in the nation.

Minnesota-Duluth was tabbed to win the NCHC this season after finishing fifth a year ago. The Bulldogs returned goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo (18-14-3, 2.30 goals-against average, .917 save percentage, one shutout) and 94 of their 115 goals (81.7%) from last season. Here’s what I wrote about UMD in my NCHC Season Preview and Predictions:

Duluth is a legitimate title contender this year, with almost all of the key pieces returning. The Bulldogs tightened up defensively last season and could be even better this time around. If UMD stays healthy, they will have their most successful season since 2011, when Scott Sandelin hung a national championship banner inside the DECC.

With those lofty expectations, Duluth’s season has to be seen as a disappointment. While it is true that UMD is still in the mix for home ice in the NCHC playoffs, the Bulldogs are currently tied for 22nd in the Pairwise rankings and will need to string some victories together (or win the NCHC Frozen Faceoff) to make the national tournament.

Junior forwards Dominic Toninato and Alex Iafallo have not been a huge factor for the Bulldogs this season after torching opponents last year. The pair combined for 51 points in 68 combined games last season but are stuck on 28 combined points (14 each) through the team’s first 28 contests this year. Toninato had a nice October, with two game-winning goals (vs. Minnesota in the second game of a home-and-home and at Massachusetts-Lowell), and his third period goal at Minnesota in the series opener effectively iced the game just 32 seconds after the Gophers cut the lead to one. Unfortunately, Toninato, who scored 16 goals in 2014-15, has lit the lamp just four times in the past 14 games dating back December 5th.

A big reason for UND’s success this season has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. During the 2015-16 campaign, Brad Berry’s squad is unbeaten (7-0-1) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past eight years, North Dakota is converting almost 90 percent of second intermission leads into victories and has just seven losses in the last 163 such situations (145-7-11).

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference as a whole has a solid record against other leagues once again this season, particularly against the Big Ten. North Dakota’s split against Wisconsin is currently the only league loss against the six teams in the conference that destroyed college hockey as we knew it.

NCHC overall record vs. other conferences: 48-26-10 (.631, best in the country)

NCHC record vs. Atlantic Hockey: 4-2-0 (.667)
NCHC record vs. Big Ten: 14-1-1 (.906)
NCHC record vs. ECAC: 2-7-0 (.286)
NCHC record vs. Hockey East: 5-12-7 (.354)
NCHC record vs. WCHA: 19-4-2 (.800)

The six teams in the Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin) are a combined 38-39-11 (.494) in non-league play, the third-worst winning percentage in college hockey. Not including a 12-3-1 mark against Atlantic Hockey and a 2-0-0 record against D-I independents, the Big Ten sports a dismal 24-36-10 (.414) record against the other four major hockey conferences.

North Dakota’s Brock Boeser is tied with Denver’s Dylan Gambrell for the most points among first-year players in the NCHC, and both are among the best in the country. Here are the top five freshman point-getters in the nation:

1. Kyle Connor (Michigan): 22-26-48 in 27 games (1.78 points/game)
2. Colin White (Boston College): 17-19-36 in 28 games (1.29 points/game)
3. Brock Boeser (North Dakota): 19-14-33 in 28 games (1.18 points/game)
4. Dylan Gambrell (Denver): 10-23-33 in 29 games (1.14 points/game)
5. Max Letunov (Connecticut): 15-18-33 in 30 games (1.10 points/game)

Since 1999-2000, the only UND freshmen to score more goals than Boeser’s 19 are Zach Parise (26), T.J. Oshie (24), Jonathan Toews (22), and Travis Zajac (20). Brady Murray also had 19 goals in his first year at North Dakota. Other Fighting Sioux freshman to score 20 or more goals in a season include Troy Murray (33 in 1980-81), Kevin Maxwell (31, 1978-79), Perry Berezan (31, 1983-84), Cary Eades (27, 1978-79), Ian Kallay (23, 1995-96), Garry Valk (23, 1987-88), Doug Smail (22, 1977-78), and Mark Taylor (22, 1976-77). Of the first twelve rookies to reach the twenty-goal plateau, ten went on to play in the NHL (Eades and Kallay were the exception).

Duluth’s top two freshman, forward Adam Johnson and defenseman Neal Pionk, have 12 points each.

UND netminder Cam Johnson racked up 120 of his nearly 300 consecutive minutes without allowing a goal (a UND record and the second-longest in the history of NCAA Division I men’s hockey) at Duluth, two of his four consecutive shutouts. The Hockey Commissioners’ Association and NCHC Player of the Month for the month of December had two rough outings last weekend at altitude, allowing eight goals on 54 shots (.889) in consecutive road losses to Denver. Johnson is currently second in the nation in both goals-against average (1.61) and save percentage (.937).

During the 2015-16 campaign, Brad Berry’s squad is unbeaten (18-0-2) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, North Dakota has gone 66 straight games without a loss when leading after the first two periods. Amazingly, UND is 8th nationally in scoring offense and 4th in scoring defense, notching 102 goals and allowing only 57 in 30 games this season. Nationally, only St. Cloud State (130 goals for/62 goals against in 30 games), Boston College (123 goals for/58 goals against in 30 games), Quinnipiac (113 goals for/56 goals against in 30 games), and Michigan (129 goals for/81 goals against in 27 games) boast a better scoring margin than North Dakota.

My article, the race for the Penrose Cup is down to North Dakota and St. Cloud State, may have been a bit premature. Denver’s home sweep of North Dakota has them just three points back of the league leaders, although the Pioneers (12-5-2-0, 38 points) have only five conference games remaining. The Huskies (13-4-1-1, 41 points) and the Fighting Hawks (13-2-1-1, 41 points) each have six:

UND: vs. Duluth, at Omaha, vs. Western Michigan
SCSU: at Omaha, vs. Duluth, at Colorado College
DU: vs. Colorado College (one game), at Western Michigan, vs. Omaha

St. Cloud State and North Dakota were winners of the first two NCHC regular season league titles. Denver’s last league title came in 2010 (WCHA).

Berry has his team in very good position for a 14th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. UND went 9-1-2 in non-conference games this season, with a home split with Wisconsin accounting for the only loss in twelve games. The Fighting Hawks are currently 3rd in the Pairwise rankings, one of four NCHC teams (along with St. Cloud State, Denver, and Omaha) who would make the NCAAs if the season ended today. Miami (20th) and Minnesota-Duluth (t-22nd) are within striking distance, with Western Michigan and Colorado College outside the top 25.

Last season, Boston University defeated both Minnesota-Duluth (3-2) and North Dakota (5-3) in the NCAA tournament on their way to the championship game. The Terriers fell 4-3 to the Providence Friars, one win short of a national title.

Minnesota-Duluth Team Profile

Head Coach: Scott Sandelin (15th season at UMD, 279-273-75, .505)

Pairwise Ranking: t-22nd of 60 teams
National Rankings: NR/NR
This Season: 11-12-5 overall, 7-8-3-1 NCHC (t-4th)
Last Season: 21-16-3 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional finalist, 12-9-3-0 NCHC (5th)

Team Offense: 2.64 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.18 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 14.5% (17 of 117) 2 of last 48 (used to be 15 of 69, 21.7%
Penalty Kill: 84.8% (89 of 105)

Key Players: Senior F Austin Farley (13-13-26), Senior F Tony Cameranesi (9-18-27), Junior F Alex Iafallo (6-8-14), Junior F Dominic Toninato (10-4-14), Senior D Andy Welinski (4-13-17), Freshman D Neal Pionk (2-10-12), Sophomore G Kasimir Kaskisuo (11-11-5, 2.01 GAA, .918 SV%, 4 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (1st season at UND, 22-5-3, .783)

Pairwise Ranking: 3rd of 60 teams
National Rankings: #4/#4
This Season: 22-5-3 overall, 13-4-1-1 NCHC (t-1st)
Last Season: 29-10-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.40 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.90 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 18.6% (22 of 118)
Penalty Kill: 87.1% (101 of 116)

Key Players: Senior F Drake Caggiula (15-17-32), Sophomore F Nick Schmaltz (4-25-29), Freshman F Brock Boeser (19-14-33), Senior F Bryn Chyzyk (9-8-17), Junior D Troy Stecher (6-15-21), Sophomore F Tucker Poolman (3-13-16), Junior D Paul LaDue (2-9-11), Sophomore G Cam Johnson (13-3-1, 1.61 GAA, .937 SV%, 5 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: December 12, 2015 (Duluth, MN). It was déjà vu all over again for the Bulldogs, as North Dakota continually frustrated the home squad. UND scored two second period power play goals just 31 seconds apart and Luke Johnson added a shorthanded empty netter late in the third as the Fighting Hawks blanked UMD 3-0 for the second consecutive night. Duluth outshot North Dakota 38-20 for the game (and 78-42 for the weekend) but could not score with the man advantage, going 0-for-4 one night after an 0-for-5 performance.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: January 10, 2015. #1 North Dakota rallied from a 4-1 defeat to earn a home split with a 5-2 win over the visiting Bulldogs. Senior Brendan O’Donnell led the way for the Green and White with a hat trick, while teammate Zane McIntyre made 41 of 43 saves and picked up an assist on Mark McMillan’s second period goal. UND would not lose again in regulation until March 7th at #5 Miami.

Most Important Meeting: March 22, 1984 (Lake Placid, NY) Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota met in the national semifinal game, with the Bulldogs defeating the Fighting Sioux 2-1 in overtime to advance to the championship. UND went on to defeat Michigan State 6-5 (OT) for third place, while Duluth fell to Bowling Green 5-4 in four overtimes, the longest championship game ever played.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 142-77-9 (.643), including a 78-33-3 (.697) record in games played in Grand Forks. The teams first met in 1954, with North Dakota winning the first ten games against “Duluth Branch” by a combined score of 72-16. UMD’s first win over the Fighting Sioux (a 3-2 road victory on December 18th, 1959) did not sit well with the defending national champions. UND defeated Duluth 13-2 the following night.

Last Ten: North Dakota is 7-2-1 (.750) in the last ten games between the teams, outscoring Duluth 36-23 over that stretch. UND has won three straight and five of the last six.

Game News and Notes

The Bulldogs are 1-9-4 against teams in the top 15 of the Pairwise rankings and 10-3-1 against other opponents. North Dakota is 8-4-0 against nationally-ranked teams this season. The Fighting Hawks can clinch home ice for the first round of the NCHC playoffs by capturing one or more points (via a win or a tie) this weekend. UND has hosted the first round for 13 consecutive seasons, the longest active streak in men’s college hockey. Both head coaches this weekend are alumni of the University of North Dakota; Brad Berry (1983-86) and Scott Sandelin (1982-86) both played for UND under John “Gino” Gasparini.

Media Coverage

Friday’s game will be shown live on CBS Sports Network, with the game also available on DirecTV 221 and DISH 158. Saturday’s rematch will be available on Midco Sports Network, FOX College Sports Central, DirecTV 608, and DISH 444. A high definition webcast of Saturday’s game will be available to NCHC.tv subscribers (Friday’s opener will not be streamed). 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

North Dakota needs to rebound after two poor performances last weekend, and they will. The Fighting Hawks will blow the doors off of Duluth in the opener, with Saturday’s game going down to the wire. UND 4-1, 3-2 (OT).

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 Denver

In the NCHC, it is clear that Denver/North Dakota is at the top of the league rivalries. This weekend’s games will be the tenth and eleventh games played between the teams over the past three seasons, 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 seven 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 four of the past five 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. The Pioneers throttled North Dakota 5-1 back last March when the two teams met in the third-place game at the 2015 NCHC Frozen Faceoff.

This weekend’s action will feature the top two rookies in the NCHC. North Dakota’s Brock Boeser currently leads the conference with 31 points, while Denver’s Dylan Gambrell is second with 26 points. Boeser is currently 22nd nationally in points among all scorers, while Gambrell is 50th. Here are the top five freshman point-getters in the nation:

1. Kyle Connor (Michigan): 20-24-44 in 25 games (1.76 points/game)
2. Colin White (Boston College): 16-19-35 in 26 games (1.35 points/game)
3. Brock Boeser (North Dakota): 18-13-31 in 26 games (1.19 points/game)
4. Max Letunov (Connecticut): 15-16-31 in 28 games (1.11 points/game)
5. Miles Wood (Boston College): 8-18-26 in 25 games (1.04 points/game)

Since 1999-2000, the only UND freshmen to score more goals than Boeser’s 18 are Zach Parise (26), T.J. Oshie (24), Jonathan Toews (22), Travis Zajac (20), and Brady Murray (19).

Denver goaltenders Tanner Jaillet (18 games played, 7-3-5, 2.52 GAA, .916 SV%, 2 SO) and Evan Cowley (12 games played, 6-5-0, 2.44 GAA, .917 SV%, 1 SO) have split time for the Pioneers this season, with Jaillet played just over sixty percent of the minutes in net. Both goalies started a game at Ralph Engelstad Arena back in December, and I expect each to play one game at Magness Arena this weekend.

Their counterpart in the UND net, sophomore Cam Johnson, began his stretch of nearly 300 consecutive minutes without allowing a goal (a UND record and the second-longest in the history of NCAA Division I men’s hockey) at home against Denver. The Hockey Commissioners’ Association and NCHC Player of the Month for the month of December had a couple of rough January outings, allowing four goals on 23 shots against Omaha and three goals on 11 shots against Colorado College in two consecutive Friday home starts. Johnson has bounced back with three outstanding games in a row (3-0-0, 0.67 goals against average, .975 save percentage, one shutout) and is currently first in the nation in both goals-against average (1.31) and save percentage (.948). Since returning November 27th after missing ten games due to injury, the Troy, Michigan native has collected a record of 12-1-0 with a GAA of 1.03, a SV% of .960, and five shutouts in fourteen starts.

During the 2015-16 campaign, Brad Berry’s squad is unbeaten (18-0-2) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, North Dakota has gone 66 straight games without a loss when leading after the first two periods. Amazingly, UND is 9th nationally in scoring offense and 2nd in scoring defense, notching 97 goals and allowing only 47 in 28 games this season. Nationally, only St. Cloud State (130 goals for/62 goals against in 30 games), Boston College (112 goals for/50 goals against in 28 games), and Quinnipiac (107 goals for/50 goals against in 28 games) boast a better scoring margin than North Dakota.

This season, the race for the Penrose Cup is down to North Dakota and St. Cloud State, the two teams tied at the top of the league standings. The Huskies (13-4-1-1, 41 points) are idle this weekend and have six league games remaining, while the Fighting Hawks (13-2-1-1, 41 points) have eight. SCSU and UND, winners of the first two NCHC regular season league titles, will not meet again in the regular season.

Berry has his team in very good position for a 14th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. UND went 9-1-2 in non-conference games this season, with a home split with Wisconsin accounting for the only loss in twelve games. The Fighting Hawks are currently 3rd in the Pairwise rankings, one of four NCHC teams (along with St. Cloud State, Omaha, and Denver) who would make the NCAAs if the season ended today. Miami (24th) and Minnesota-Duluth (t-25th) are within striking distance, with Western Michigan and Colorado College outside the top 25.

North Dakota has all 27 players on the roster available for the first time this season (13 players have missed a total of 62 games with injuries). UND’s potent top line of Drake Caggiula, Brock Boeser, and Nick Schmaltz has only been together for one game over the past two months but will appear on the ice at Magness this weekend. The only players not on the trip to Denver (due to travel restrictions) are four freshman: goalies Ryan Anderson and Matej Tomek, defenseman Danys Chartrand, and forward Mike Gornall. There will be tough lineup decisions for head coach Brad Berry, but that’s a luxury he hasn’t had much this year. There will be a defenseman (most likely Hayden Shaw) and two forwards (my guesses would be Joel Janatuinen and Trevor Olson) sitting and watching Friday’s opener and waiting for a chance to play, and the players on the ice will be well aware that any drop in performance will have them trading in their jersey for a business suit and a seat in the stands.

UND has a road record of 11-1-1 this season, with their only loss coming at St. Cloud State in November. North Dakota has already collected road sweeps against Colorado College, Michigan State, Minnesota-Duluth, and Western Michigan. After this weekend, the Fighting Hawks’ only remaining road series is against Omaha on February 26th and 27th.

Denver Team Profile

Head Coach: Jim Montgomery (3rd season at DU, 57-38-13, .588)

Pairwise Ranking: 12th of 60 teams
National Ranking: #13/#13
This Season: 13-8-5 overall, 9-5-2-0 NCHC (3rd)
Last Season: 24-14-2 overall (NCAA East Regional finalist), 13-10-1-1 NCHC (4th)
Last Ten Games: 6-1-3 overall, 6-1-1-0 NCHC (19 of 24 possible league points)

Team Offense: 2.88 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.58 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 16.7% (16 of 96)
Penalty Kill: 83.5% (66 of 79)

Key Players: Sophomore F Danton Heinen (10-10-20), Freshman F Dylan Gambrell (7-19-26), Junior F Trevor Moore (4-20-24), Senior F Gabe Levin (5-5-10), Senior F Quentin Shore (8-6-14), Junior D Will Butcher (5-14-19), Senior D Nolan Zajac (2-12-14), Sophomore G Tanner Jaillet (7-3-5, 2.52 GAA, .916 SV%, 2 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (1st season at UND, 22-3-3, .839)

Pairwise Ranking: 3rd of 60 teams
National Rankings: #2/#2
This Season: 22-3-3 overall, 13-2-1-1 NCHC (t-1st)
Last Season: 29-10-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.46 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.68 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.1% (21 of 110)
Penalty Kill: 86.4% (95 of 110)

Key Players: Senior F Drake Caggiula (15-15-30), Sophomore F Nick Schmaltz (3-24-27), Freshman F Brock Boeser (18-13-31), Senior F Bryn Chyzyk (9-8-17), Junior D Troy Stecher (5-14-19), Sophomore F Tucker Poolman (3-12-15), Junior D Paul LaDue (2-9-11), Sophomore G Cam Johnson (13-1-1, 1.31 GAA, .948 SV%, 5 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: December 5, 2015 (Grand Forks, ND). North Dakota forward Austin Poganski scored a shorthanded goal with one second remaining in the opening period and added a power play goal midway through the hockey game as UND blanked the visiting Pios 4-0. Cam Johnson stopped all 18 shots he faced and earned the first of four consecutive shutouts. UND also continually frustrated Denver in Friday’s opener and outscored the Pioneers 9-1 on the weekend to earn the home sweep.

Last Meeting in Denver: December 13, 2014. UND used goals by Nick Mattson, Nick Schmaltz, and Drake Caggiula and 32 saves from Zane McIntyre to down the homestanding Pioneers 3-1. Nolan Zajac scored the lone goal for DU at the nine minute mark of the third period to bring the Pios within two. Both teams went 0-3 with the man advantage. Denver won Friday’s opener 4-1 (with an empty netter scored at the 19:59 mark of period three).

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 31-22 over that span.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 142-120-9 (.540), although Denver owns a 70-53-3 (.567 advantage in games played at altitude. The teams first met in 1950.

Game News and Notes

The teams were dead even in five contests last season, with each team winning two games and the fifth ending in a tie. Denver sophomore forward Danton Heinen, last year’s NCHC Rookie of the Year and the reigning league overall scoring champion (16-29-45 in 40 games), is expected to sign with the NHL’s Boston Bruins after this season. DU has gone 0-4 against UND and St. Cloud State this season and 9-1-2 against the rest of the league. Brock Boeser (18-13-31 in 26 games) and Dylan Gambrell (7-19-26 in 26 games) are the top two rookie scorers in the NCHC.

Media Coverage

Friday’s game will be carried live on CBS Sports Network, while Saturday’s rematch will appear live on ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain. This series will not 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

UND hasn’t swept in Denver since 2003 and hasn’t been swept at Magness Arena since a pair of one-goal losses in 2009. That trend continues this weekend, with the homestanding Pios ready to exact some revenge for December’s shellacking. North Dakota will rebound on Saturday, with the recently reunited CBS line leading the way. DU 3-2, UND 5-1.