There’s no question that these two teams have history: bad blood, controversy, and postseason clashes. But rather than looking at the past, both schools are treating this weekend’s action as an important series that will affect the conference race and the national picture.
After narrowly missing out on last year’s NCAA tournament (and the West Regional held at Pepsi Center in Denver), the Pioneers seem poised for a run toward this year’s Frozen Four, also held at Pepsi Center.
Denver has a number of impressive wins on the young season, including 5-1 and 4-1 wins over Minnesota at Mariucci Arena and home sweeps of Maine and Minnesota State-Mankato. They are led offensively by their trio of super sophs (Brock Trotter, Tyler Ruegsegger, and Rhett Rakhshani), who have tallied 16 goals and 21 assists through 12 games.
North Dakota has four consecutive conference splits (@Michigan Tech, Colorado College, @Wisconsin, Minnesota-Duluth) after opening the season with impressive wins over Michigan State and Northeastern and a 0-0, two period tie with Boston College.
UND has fared well recently in Denver, posting a 10-3-1 record (.875) at Magness Arena since 97-98.
Denver Team Profile
National Rankings: #3/#3
Head Coach: George Gwozdecky (14th season at DU, 306-194-40, .604)
This Season: 9-3-0 Overall, 6-2-0 WCHA
Special Teams: Power Play 12.9% (8 of 62), Penalty Kill 89.3% (50 of 56)
Last Season: 21-15-4, 13-11-4 WCHA (4th)
Key Players: Sophomore F Brock Trotter (6-8-14), Sophomore F Tyler Ruegsegger (7-6-13), Freshman F Tyler Bozak (6-4-10), Sophomore F Rhett Rakhshani (3-7-10), Junior D Chris Butler (0-5-5), Senior G Peter Mannino (9-3-0, 1.68 GAA, .935 SV, 2 SO)
North Dakota Team Profile
National Rankings: #8/#8
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (4th season at UND, 84-49-12, .621)
This Season: 6-4-1 Overall, 4-4-0 WCHA
Specialty Teams: Power Play 16% (8 of 50), Penalty Kill 90.7% (49 of 54)
Last Season: 24-14-5 (Frozen Four semifinalist), 13-10-5 WCHA (3rd)
Key Players: Junior F Ryan Duncan (3-8-11), Junior F T.J. Oshie (7-4-11), Sophomore F Chris VandeVelde (4-3-7), Senior D Robbie Bina (0-11-11), Junior D Taylor Chorney (0-9-9), Senior G Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (6-4-1, 1.61 GAA, .933 SV, 4 SO)
By The Numbers
Last Meeting: February 24, 2007. UND wins 3-0 in Denver to salvage a split in the only series between the two schools last season. Denver won the first game, 4-3 in overtime.
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.
All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 125-108-7 (.535). DU leads the series in Denver, 63-48-3 (.566).
Game News and Notes
UND goaltender Jean-Philippe Lamoureux has now started 36 consecutive games betwen the pipes, four shy of the school record of 40 held by Al Finkelstein (1951-53). Denver netminder Peter Mannino has been named WCHA Defensive Player of the Week three times this season. North Dakota forward Chris VandeVelde has been the team’s best face-off man, winning over 55% of his draws this season. During their two-game series last February, UND held Denver scoreless on 11 power play opportunities. Denver sophomore sensations Trotter, Ruegsegger, and Rakhshani combined for 41 goals and 69 assists in 40 games last season, and are ahead of that scoring pace through 12 games this season.
Both schools bring a great deal of talent to the ice. If UND has an edge, it’s on the blue line, both in terms of experience and offensive punch. These games will be tightly contested, and a split is all but inevitable. UND 4-3, DU 4-2.
Thank you for reading. As always, I welcome your questions and comments. Click here for reaction to Friday’s game action. Please check back after Saturday’s contest for more analysis, and commentary.