Yet another split in the conference, with two tough series (at Denver, versus Minnesota) coming up. Hopefully the Sioux can gain points each of the next two weekends to set themselves up for the patented second-half surge (more on that later).
For me, the frustrating part of the game wasn’t the center ice goal to make it 3-2 with 8 minutes remaining. It was that UND played a poor second period (generating only four shots on goal) and put themselves at the mercy of a bounce of the puck.
Up until Drew Akins’ 80 footer (his second goal of the game), North Dakota had played with enough effort and intensity to win or tie the hockey game.
I thought UND carried the play during the two 4 on 4 situations. This is due mostly to the puck-moving defenseman we have across all three defensive pairings.
UND finished 0 for 3 on the power play for the second consecutive night, although there was more rhythm and purpose tonight than last night. The Sioux have now converted only 16% (8 of 50) of man-advantage opportunities on the season. North Dakota killed all three Duluth power plays (and 8 of 9 on the weekend), and now are killing penalties at a 90.7% clip (49 of 54).
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Rylan Kaip will equal his career totals (8 goals, 16 assists) this season. He has tallied 4 goals and 1 assist so far.
There are quite a few fans out there who have written off Ryan Duncan, saying that he is not the same player without Jonathan Toews. I am not willing to go that far. He is still scoring a point per contest (3 goals and 8 assists through 11 games), and, along with T.J. Oshie (7-4-11) and Robbie Bina (0-11-11), holds the team scoring lead. Last year he scored 1.33 points per game; as a freshman, he tallied 0.78 points per contest.
UND falls to 6-4-1 (4-4-0 WCHA). Duluth improves to 6-4-2 (5-4-1 WCHA). North Dakota travels to take on the University of Denver next weekend; Duluth heads to Minnesota State University-Mankato for a pair.
And now back to the second-half surge. This is beginning to feel like each of the last three seasons all over again. Or is it?
Part of the October/November frustration is due to the fact that UND hasn’t played very many games (relative to other seasons and to other conference opponents this season). So sitting at 4-4-0 (eight points, 5th place) in the conference feels like a letdown, but three of the four teams above North Dakota have played ten conference games compared to UND’s eight.
In an effort to compare how this team stacks up with years past, let’s take a closer look at the past three seasons, all of which ended with Frozen Four appearances:
2004-2005 October/November record: 9-5-2 (7-4-1 WCHA)
2005-2006 October/November record: 8-5-1 (4-4-0 WCHA)
2006-2007 October/November record: 7-6-1 (5-4-1 WCHA)
And this season in October and November: 6-4-1 (4-4-0 WCHA)
Think of that what you will; I’m merely suggesting that we’ve played tough teams, we’ve competed well in almost every game (Saturday vs. CC being the only exception), and we can clearly get better in every phase. And that’s reason for optimism, not pessimism, in my book.
Thanks for checking out the Saturday Game React. For commentary and analysis of Friday’s game action, click here. I welcome your questions and comments.