Game Preview: UND vs. Wisconsin

Sioux versus Badgers in Madtown. High-powered offense meets the nation’s top defense. Sound familiar?

Not exactly.

This time around, the nation’s best defense belongs to North Dakota, allowing just 1.29 goals per game, while Wisconsin boasts the country’s second highest scoring offense, tallying 4.67 goals per contest. And though Wisconsin has had the better of the netminding in recent memory (think Elliot, Bruckler, and Melanson), UND brings in Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, whose eye-popping .958 save percentage, 1.06 goals-against average, and four shutouts lead the nation. Top scorers? No Sioux player ranks in the top 20 nationally, while Wisconsin freshman phenom Kyle Turris leads the nation in points (13) and assists (8), despite playing in only 6 games thus far.

So what to make of this apparent role reversal? Is this some sort of early-season anamoly, where statistics do all sorts of crazy things? Maybe. A look inside the schedule reveals that while the teams sport almost identical records (UND 4-2-1, UW 4-2-0), the teams have taken different early-season paths. Both squads have split with Michigan Tech; beyond that, the Fighting Sioux have faced a much tougher schedule.

UND has played 4 games against top-10 teams (vs. Michigan State, at Boston College, 2 vs. Colorado College), while Wisconsin has played #12 Notre Dame and three games against teams in the “others receiving votes” category (vs. Ohio State, 2 vs. Robert Morris). The 15 goals Wisconsin scored in their home series against Robert Morris, and specifically the 8 power play goals on 17 opportunities, have catapulted them to the top of most offensive categories. Kyle Turris, for example, collected 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists) on Robert Morris weekend.

Wisconsin Team Profile
National Rankings: #10/#10
Head Coach: Mike Eaves (6th season at UW, 111-80-23, .572)
This Season: 4-2-0 Overall, 1-1-0 WCHA
Special Teams: Power Play 34.4% (11 of 32), Penalty Kill 84.6% (33 of 39)
Last Season: 19-18-4, 12-13-3 WCHA (6th)
Key Returning Players: Junior F Ben Street (3-7-10), Sophomore F Michael Davies (2-2-4), Freshman F Kyle Turris (5-8-13), Senior D Kyle Klubertanz (4-4-8), Junior G Shane Connelly (3-2-0, 2.60, .897)

North Dakota Team Profile
National Rankings: #3/#4
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (4th season at UND, 82-47-12, .624)
This Season: 4-2-1 Overall, 2-2-0 WCHA
Specialty Teams: Power Play 20.0% (7 of 35), Penalty Kill 94.1% (32 of 34)
Last Season: 24-14-5 (Frozen Four semifinalist), 13-10-5 WCHA (3rd)
Key Returning Players: Junior F Ryan Duncan (3-5-8), Junior F T.J. Oshie (5-2-7), Junior D Taylor Chorney (0-7-7), Senior D Robbie Bina (0-7-7), Senior G Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (4-2-1, 1.06 GAA, .958 SV, 4 SO)

By The Numbers
Last Meeting: December 9, 2006. Wisconsin defeats North Dakota 4-2 in Grand Forks to complete a two-game sweep of the Fighting Sioux. The Badgers won the first game, 4-3.
Last Meeting in Madison: October 14, 2006. Wisconsin defeats North Dakota 1-0 at the Kohl Center to earn a split of the weekend series. UND won the first game, 3-2 (OT).
Most Important Meeting: March 27, 1982. A 2-2 tie after two periods turns into a 5-2 Sioux victory, as Phil Sykes nets a hat trick and leads UND to its fourth National Championship.
All-time Series: Wisconsin leads the all-time series, 79-56-10 (.579), including a 42-21-3 mark (.659) in Madison and a 10-4 record (.714) at the Kohl Center.

Game News and Notes
Badger defensemen have scored 10 goals through 6 games, a number that equals their total from all of last season. North Dakota has only allowed one first period goal in seven games. Wisconsin failed to make the NCAA tournament last year after winning the national championship in 2006. After this weekend’s action, the Badgers head to Colorado Springs for a two-game set with #9 Colorado College. The following weekend, Wisconsin will compete against #2 Michigan and #4/#3 Michigan State in the College Hockey Showcase. UND is idle next weekend and hosts Minnesota-Duluth on November 23rd and 24th. Jean-Philippe Lamoureux has started 32 consecutive games, and needs one start to move alone into second place on UND’s all-time list. Al Finklelstein holds the Sioux start streak record with 40. WCHA teams have a combined 22-5-4 mark (.774) in non-conference action this season.

The Prediction
On neutral ice, I would lean toward three points for the Sioux, but at the Kohl Center, a split is the norm. The Badger offense comes back down to earth, but both sides earn two points. North Dakota 4-2 Friday, Wisconsin 3-2 Saturday.

For reaction to Friday’s game action, click here. Check back after Saturday’s contest for more analysis and commentary. Thank you for reading and, as always, I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.

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