As I wrote here, the playoffs create rivalries. And because the Fighting Sioux and the Wildcats have never met in the playoffs, it comes as no surprise that no rivalry exists. Despite a combined 20 NCAA tournament appearances in the past 11 seasons, North Dakota and New Hampshire have managed to avoid each other on the national stage. In fact, since the schools began playing each other in 1971, they have only met 13 times.
Perhaps the most meaningful connection between the schools is that Rube Bjorkman was the head coach at New Hampshire for four seasons (1964-68) before becoming UND’s head coach for the 1968-69 season. Bjorkman, who posted only two winning seasons and no tournament appearances in his ten seasons behind the North Dakota bench, struggled to a 17-26 record in his first two seasons with the Wildcats before winning 40 of 54 games from 1966-68.
Both schools are looking to start the second half on a winning note, and this weekend’s results will certainly be important come tournament time.
New Hampshire Team Profile
National Rankings: #10/#9
Head Coach: (Dick Umile, 18th season at New Hampshire, 408-201-64, .654)
This Season: 9-4-1 Overall, 6-4-1 Hockey East
Special Teams: Power Play 13.3% (10 of 75), Penalty Kill 84.6% (66 of 78)
Last Season: 26-11-2 Overall (NCAA Northeast Regional Semifinalist), 18-7-2 Hockey East (1st)
Key Players: Senior F Matt Fornataro (6-11-17), Freshman F James vanRiemsdyk (6-9-15), Senior F Mike Radja (8-4-12), Junior F Jerry Pollastrone (4-6-10), Senior D Brad Flaishans (4-8-12), Senior G Kevin Regan (7-3-0, 2.21 GAA, .922 SV, 1 SO)
North Dakota Team Profile
National Rankings: #7/#7
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (4th season at UND, 86-51-12, .617)
This Season: 8-6-1 Overall, 6-6-0 WCHA
Specialty Teams: Power Play 15.6% (10 of 64), Penalty Kill 88.9% (64 of 72)
Last Season: 24-14-5 (Frozen Four Semifinalist), 13-10-5 WCHA (3rd)
Key Players: Junior F Ryan Duncan (6-9-15), Junior F T.J. Oshie (8-7-15), Sophomore F Chris VandeVelde (6-6-12), Senior D Robbie Bina (0-13-13), Junior D Taylor Chorney (0-12-12), Senior G Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (8-6-1, 1.72 GAA, .936 SV, 4 SO)
By The Numbers
Last Meeting: October 22, 2005 (Durham, New Hampshire). The Sioux and Wildcats skate to a 3-3 tie on Saturday night after North Dakota takes the opener, 3-2.
Last Meeting in Grand Forks: January 6, 1989. UND downs New Hampshire 8-2 in a single game at the old Ralph Engelstad Arena.
All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series with 9 wins against 2 losses and 2 ties. North Dakota has never lost against New Hampshire in Grand Forks, winning all four home contests.
Game News and Notes
UND goaltender Jean-Philippe Lamoureux has now started 40 consecutive games betwen the pipes, and shares the school record with Al Finkelstein (1951-53). Lamoureux’s streak is the second-longest streak in WCHA history, trailing only Brant Nicklin, who started 76 consecutive games for the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs from 1996-98. New Hampshire freshman forward James vanRiemsdyk is second on the team in scoring with 15 points (6g, 9a) but will not play in this weekend’s series, as he is currently playing for the United States national junior team at the World Junior Championships. New Hampshire has made the NCAA tournament 13 times in the past 16 seasons under head coach Dick Umile, and has four Frozen Four appearances and two runner-up finishes in that span.
I would love to predict a Sioux sweep to begin the patented “Hakstol second half surge”, but another split seems likely, particularily if Lamoureux rests Saturday after setting the school record for consecutive starts on Friday night. UND 3-2, UNH 4-2.
Thank you for reading. As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. Check back after the games for reaction and commentary.