The second-half surge is upon us.
Looking at the 4-2-0 record that UND has posted in the past three weekends, the above point may be debatable. But watching the way this team has played in home series against New Hampshire and Michigan Tech and on the road at St. Cloud State, it is clear that the Sioux are poised and ready for another playoff run.
The second-half schedule is laid out nicely for North Dakota to hold on to a top-three spot in the conference, and perhaps push Denver for second place. Either way, UND is positioned nicely for the Final Five and an NCAA tournament run, thanks in no small part to their strength of schedule and non-conference record.
The Mavericks are the only WCHA team scoring under two goals per game in the conference, and that trend will continue against a much-improved defensive corps, one of the nation’s best goaltenders, and the country’s 5th best penalty kill.
MSU-Mankato Team Profile
National Rankings: #20/-
Head Coach: Troy Jutting (8th season at MSU-M, 117-137-38, .466)
This Season: 9-8-4 Overall, 3-7-4 WCHA (9th)
Specialty Teams: Power Play 10.8% (10 of 93), Penalty Kill 85.8% (97 of 113)
Last Season: 13-19-6, 10-13-5 WCHA (8th)
Key Players: Sophomore F Trevor Breuss (5-11-16), Senior F Joel Hanson (4-8-12), Junior F Mick Berge (10-2-12), Junior G Mike Zacharias (8-5-4, 1.94 GAA, .930 SV, 3 SO)
North Dakota Team Profile
National Rankings: #6/#7
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (4th season at UND, 90-53-12, .619)
This Season: 12-8-1 Overall, 9-7-0 WCHA (3rd)
Specialty Teams: Power Play 17.4% (15 of 86), Penalty Kill 89.3% (92 of 103)
Last Season: 24-14-5 (Frozen Four semifinalist), 13-10-5 WCHA (3rd)
Key Players: Junior F Ryan Duncan (9-13-22), Junior F T.J. Oshie (10-10-20), Sophomore F Chris VandeVelde (8-11-19), Senior D Robbie Bina (1-17-18), Junior D Taylor Chorney (2-14-16), Senior G Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (12-8-1, 1.86 GAA, .929 SV)
By The Numbers
Last Meeting: March 10, 2007. (Grand Forks, ND) North Dakota defeats MSU-Mankato, 2-1, to complete a two-game sweep of the Mavericks in the opening round of the WCHA playoffs. The Sioux advance to the Final Five riding a 14-2-4 second-half record.
Last Meeting in Mankato: October 28, 2006. UND defeats the Mavs, 8-5, to complete a two game road sweep. North Dakota scored the only three goals of the third period for the victory.
All-time: UND leads the all-time series 26-9-7 (.702), including a 9-3-4 (.688) record in Mankato. Remarkably, 10 of the 42 games played between the two teams have come in the WCHA playoffs, with North Dakota winning eight of those ten games.
Game News and Notes
UND has won at least one game on 20 consecutive regular season weekends, tops among WCHA teams. The Mavericks have a six game home unbeaten streak (4-0-2). North Dakota is 5-0-1 in the last six games played at Mankato. UND senior netminder Jean-Phillippe Lamoureux has 90 career starts for North Dakota, and is tied with Scott Brower (1984-88) for fourth all-time among Sioux goaltenders. North Dakota forwards T.J. Oshie and Ryan Duncan are the top two active career point leaders in the WCHA. Oshie leads the way with 117 points in 107 career games, and Duncan is second with 115 points in 110 games. No other active WCHA player has more than 100 career points.
UND has the advantage in every category and every area of the ice. The only thing weighing against a North Dakota sweep is that Mankato has been playing well at home and the Sioux have not won a Friday road game. I think UND takes a small step in the right direction, and gains three points on the weekend. 2-2 tie, UND 3-0.
Thank you for reading. As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.