Game Preview: UND vs. Minnesota-Duluth

November 23rd and 24th, 2007 (Grand Forks, ND). The Sioux and Bulldogs split a two-game conference series, and North Dakota’s record stood at 6-4-1 (4-4-0 WCHA). Even less impressive was UND’s 3-2-0 home record at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

After Saturday’s game (a 4-2 Duluth victory), I took a look at the October/November records of 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 again, this season in October and November: 6-4-1 (4-4-0 WCHA)

And I wrote these words about the disappointing start:

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.

Optimism, indeed. Since that series in Grand Forks, North Dakota has gone 15-4-1, including 12-3-1 in the conference and 10-2-0 at home. UND brings a 13 game unbeaten string (12-0-1) to Duluth, the longest current streak in the nation.

Duluth, on the other hand, has won only six games since earning a split at North Dakota, going 6-9-4 to bring its season record to 12-12-6 (8-11-5 WCHA). The Bulldogs were swept at home by Colorado College last weekend, going scoreless in the two games. UMD is 2-4-2 in their last eight games at home after opening the season 4-0-3 at the DECC.

North Dakota has had the better of the results between the two teams recently, going 8-1-1 against Duluth in the past ten games.

Minnesota-Duluth Team Profile
National Rankings: #15/#15
Head Coach: Scott Sandelin (8th season at UMD, 121-155-37, .446)
This Season: 12-12-6 Overall, 8-11-5 WCHA (7th)
Special Teams: Power Play 11.5% (15 of 131), Penalty Kill 89.2% (132 of 148)
Last Season: 13-21-5, 8-16-4 WCHA (9th)
Key Returning Players: Junior F MacGregor Sharp (6-10-16), Junior F Nick Kemp (7-7-14), Junior D Josh Meyers (5-8-13), Sophomore G Alex Stalock (12-12-6, 2.28 GAA, .915 SV, 3 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile
National Rankings: #2/#3
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (4th season at UND, 99-53-13, .639)
This Season: 21-8-2 Overall, 16-7-1 WCHA (2nd)
Specialty Teams: Power Play 19.1% (27 of 141), Penalty Kill 88.7% (126 of 142)
Last Season: 24-14-5 (Frozen Four semifinalist), 13-10-5 WCHA (3rd)
Key Returning Players: Junior F T.J. Oshie (13-20-33), Junior F Ryan Duncan (13-19-32), Sophomore F Chris VandeVelde (12-14-26), Senior D Robbie Bina (2-21-23), Sophomore D Chay Genoway (6-15-21), Senior G Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (20-8-2, 1.76 GAA, .931 SV, 4 SO)

By The Numbers
Last Meeting: November 24, 2007 (Grand Forks, ND). Drew Akins broke a 2-2 third period tie with an 80 foot goal, and Duluth added an empty netter to win 4-2 and split the weekend series. North Dakota won the opener, 8-3.
Last Meeting in Duluth: November 12, 2005. After falling behind 2-0 and losing Matt Smaby and Drew Stafford to checking-from-behind penalties, North Dakota scored five goals in the second period en route to a 7-4 victory, completing the weekend sweep of the homestanding Bulldogs. “When we were behind and lost two players I didn’t even feel this team blink,” said North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol. “To come back and win was very significant for this team. I was happy with the drive and the strong will they showed. We haven’t had a period like that all year.” UND won the series opener, 5-3.
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, 126-70-8 (.637), including a 52-37-5 (.580) record in Duluth.

Game News and Notes
North Dakota holds a 14-2-1 record against Duluth over the past five seasons. MacGregor Sharp leads the Bulldogs with 16 points on the season; seven Sioux players have scored 17 points or more. UND senior goaltender Jean-Philippe Lamoureux saw his string of 55 consecutive starts (a school record which ranks third all-time in NCAA history) come to an end when junior netminder Aaron Walski was given the nod against Bemidji State on Sunday afternoon. Walski collected a shutout in his first career start for the Sioux, but Lamoureux is expected to start both games against the Bulldogs. UND has clinched home ice for the first round of the WCHA playoffs, and can finish no worse than third place in the conference. North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol has 99 career victories and could join the century club this weekend. Only three coaches in Sioux history (Rube Bjorkman, John “Gino” Gasparini, and Dean Blais) have collected 100 wins at UND. For the second consecutive weekend, the Sioux will play on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The games are scheduled at 2:07 p.m. each day, and are available on the Fighting Sioux Sports Network.

The Prediction
North Dakota has the top-end talent and an edge in special teams situations that should translate into two victories, but the Bulldogs are smarting after being shut out twice at home last weekend and will find a way to earn at least one point. UND 4-1, 2-2 tie.

Thank you for reading. I welcome your comments and suggestions. Check back after the games for news, reaction, and analysis.

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