Coming into the 2007-2008 season, both the Sioux and the Bulldogs were hoping to avoid the early-departure bug that has bitten so many conference teams in recent history.
It has been well-documented that North Dakota avoided a mass exodus of underclassmen, as Taylor Chorney (8-23-31 last season), Joe Finley (1-6-7), T.J. Oshie (17-35-52), and Hobey Baker winner Ryan Duncan (31-26-57) all passed up professional contracts to return to UND. Only Jonathan Toews (18-28-46) and Brian Lee (2-24-26) gave up eligibility to turn pro, leaving the Fighting Sioux with enough depth and talent to compete for an upper-division finish.
The Bulldogs, on the other hand, unexpectedly lost two key underclassmen in forward Mason Raymond (14-32-46) and defenseman Matt Niskanen (9-22-31), who gave up their final two seasons of eligibility to join the professional ranks. These two losses, along with the graduation loss of Bryan McGregor (16-12-28), leave Minnesota-Duluth with only two 20-point scorers [F MacGregor Sharp (11-16-27) and D Josh Meyers (11-13-24)] from a year ago. UND, by contrast, returns five twenty-point players [F Ryan Duncan, F T.J. Oshie, D Robbie Bina (10-22-32), D Taylor Chorney, and F Brad Miller (10-14-24)].
According to Minnesota-Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin, the lack of top-end talent may be a mixed blessing for his club.
“We might not have that one big line or that one dynamic player,” Sandelin said, adding that the team will have to hope for production from everyone as well as look for a few players to break out offensively.
North Dakota has had the better of the results between the two teams recently, going unbeaten (7-0-1) in their last eight meetings. The two teams will also play a weekend series in Duluth on March 1-2, 2008.
Minnesota-Duluth Team Profile
National Rankings: #15/#12
Head Coach: Scott Sandelin (8th season at UMD, 114-146-33, .445)
This Season: 5-3-2 Overall, 4-3-1 WCHA
Special Teams: Power Play 9.3% (4 of 43), Penalty Kill 88.7% (47 of 53)
Last Season: 13-21-5, 8-16-4 WCHA (9th)
Key Returning Players: Junior F Michael Gergen (2-3-5), Junior D Josh Meyers (4-4-8), Junior F MacGregor Sharp (2-5-7), Sophomore G Alex Stalock (5-3-2, 1.97 GAA, .929 SV, 2 SO)
North Dakota Team Profile
National Rankings: #6/#5
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (4th season at UND, 83-48-12, .622)
This Season: 5-3-1 Overall, 3-3-0 WCHA
Specialty Teams: Power Play 18.2% (8 of 44), Penalty Kill 91.1% (41 of 45)
Last Season: 24-14-5 (Frozen Four semifinalist), 13-10-5 WCHA (3rd)
Key Returning Players: Junior F Ryan Duncan (3-6-9), Junior F T.J. Oshie (6-3-9), Junior D Taylor Chorney (0-7-7), Senior D Robbie Bina (0-9-9), Senior G Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (5-3-1, 1.29 GAA, .948 SV, 4 SO)
By The Numbers
Last Meeting: February 17, 2007 (Grand Forks, ND). UND’s Ryan Duncan scores the only goal of the contest at 3:14 of the opening period, and North Dakota prevails 1-0 to take three of four points from the weekend series. Duncan also scored the game-tying goal in Friday’s contest, a 2-2 deadlock.
Most Important Meeting: March 22, 1984. Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota meet in a National Semifinal game in Lake Placid, New York. The Bulldogs defeat the Fighting Sioux 2-1 in overtime to advance to the title game. UND goes on to defeat Michigan State 6-5 (OT) for third place, while Duluth falls to Bowling Green 5-4 in four overtimes, the longest championship game ever played.
All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 125-69-8 (.639), including a 72-30-2 (.702) mark in Grand Forks and a 8-1-2 (.818) record at the new Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Game News and Notes
North Dakota holds a 13-1-1 record against Duluth over the past four seasons. UMD sophomore goaltender Alex Stalock, who had four assists last season, has never faced the Fighting Sioux. UND is 11-2-1 in games on Thanksgiving weekend in the past ten seasons. The Sioux have allowed just one 1st period goal all season.
North Dakota has the top-end talent and an edge in special teams situations that should translate into two victories. If they can maintain their intensity after a week off and keep the crowd involved through their physical play, it will be a long weekend for the Bulldogs. UND 3-2, 4-1.