Game Preview: UND vs. St. Cloud State

As I mentioned in my article about the Challenge Cup, the rivalry between these two schools has picked up since the WCHA made North Dakota and St. Cloud State schedule partners five seasons ago.

Both teams come into this series with plenty on the line. The Huskies (17-14-3, 12-12-2 WCHA) are currently tied for fifth place in the league standings with MSU-Mankato. SCSU and MSU-M have collected 26 points in WCHA action, and both of those schools hope to leapfrog idle Wisconsin, which finished up with a conference record of 11-12-5 (27 points). The Mavericks host Michigan Tech on Friday and Saturday.

North Dakota (23-8-2, 18-7-1 WCHA) is the hottest team in the country, owning a 15-game unbeaten streak (14-0-1). During that stretch, the Sioux have allowed a total of 19 goals. UND’s winning ways have them right back in the MacNaughton Cup race with Colorado College, two points behind with two games remaining for each team. CC will play a home-and-home series with Denver University this weekend. For more on the MacNaughton Cup’s travel plans for the weekend, click here.

There are a number of players performing at an incredibly high level for each team. Sioux senior goaltender Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (22-8-2) comes into this weekend’s action with the nation’s best goals-against average (1.68). Lamoureux, who has twice been named the league’s defensive player of the week, is second nationally in save percentage (.934) and shutouts (5). Juniors T.J. Oshie (14-21-35) and Ryan Duncan (13-20-33) continue to pace the Sioux offensively, while Chris VandeVelde (14-14-28) and Andrew Kozek (15-3-18) are having breakout seasons. North Dakota is also getting solid contributions from the blue line, as their top four defenseman (Robbie Bina 2-21-23, Chay Genoway 6-16-22, Taylor Chorney 2-18-20, and Joe Finley 4-9-13) have all reached double digits in points. Genoway was injured in early in Sunday’s game at Minnesota-Duluth and did not return. He is questionable for this weekend’s series.

For the Huskies, their top three scorers (Ryan Lasch, Garrett Roe, and Andreas Nodl) are all among the top ten national scoring leaders. No other WCHA player is in the top 15. Sophomore Ryan Lasch (22-24-46) is tied for second in the nation in scoring, and is leading the WCHA with 32 points (16 goals, 16 assists) in league play. Freshman Garrett Roe (18-22-40) and sophomore Andreas Nodl (17-23-40) are tied for tenth among all Division I players. Surprisingly, Roe also leads all Huskies with 57 penalty minutes. Sophomore Jase Weslosky (14-11-0, 2.20 GAA, .920 SV, 2 SO) has been solid for St. Cloud State, and the Huskies are receiving some production from their blueliners. Senior defenseman Aaron Brocklehurst (3-14-17) and sophomore defenseman Garrett Raboin (1-14-15) have performed particularly well offensively.

The problem St. Cloud has had this season has been in close games. The Huskies are 4-8 in one-goal games and 0-1-3 in overtime contests. So despite outscoring opponents 105-83 for the season (an average of 3.09 goals for and 2.44 goals against/game), SCSU has an overall record of 17-14-3. North Dakota, by contrast, is 5-3 in one-goal games and 2-0-1 when going to overtime. UND is outscoring opponents 104-59 this season (3.15 goals for and 1.79 goals against), and has a sparkling record of 23-8-2.

Specialty teams will be key for this weekend’s games. UND comes in as the second-most penalized team in the country (20.76 penalty minutes/game), while SCSU has collected only 11.38 penalty minutes per game. Further complicating matters for North Dakota is that the Huskies are converting almost 23% of their power play opportunities (4th nationally), while the Fighting Sioux are hovering at right around 18% (17th). Or put more simply, SCSU has scored 38% of its goals with the man advantage; UND, only 27%. Lasch, Nodl, and Roe have scored 31 of St. Cloud’s 40 power play goals. Both teams are very effective at killing penalties. UND has negated 134 of 150 man-advantage opportunities (89.3%-4th nationally); SCSU, 108 of 123 (87.8%-8th)

The UND/SCSU Challenge Cup will be on the line this weekend as the two teams complete their four-game season series. The teams split a pair of games in St. Cloud earlier this season. Incidentally, St. Cloud is the last team to have beaten UND, coming from behind to take Friday’s series opener, 3-2. North Dakota won Saturday’s finale 6-2, chasing goaltender Dan Dunn after scoring three goals in the first period. St. Cloud’s comeback victory on Friday night was UND’s only loss in 2008.

St. Cloud State Team Profile
National Rankings: #11/#11
Head Coach: Bob Motzko (3rd season at SCSU, 61-41-14, .586)
This Season: 17-14-3 Overall, 12-12-2 WCHA (t-5th)
Special Teams: Power Play 22.6% (40 of 177), Penalty Kill 87.8% (108 of 123)
Last Season: 22-11-7 Overall (NCAA East Regional Semifinalist), 14-7-7 WCHA (2nd)
Key Players: Sophomore F Ryan Lasch (22-24-46), Freshman F Garrett Roe (18-22-40), Sophomore F Andreas Nodl (17-23-40), Senior F Nate Dey (10-10-20), Senior D Aaron Brocklehurst (3-14-17), Sophomore G Jase Weslosky (14-11-0, 2.20 GAA, .920 SV, 2 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile
National Rankings: #1/#1
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (4th season at UND, 101-53-13, .644)
This Season: 23-8-2 Overall, 18-7-1 WCHA (2nd)
Specialty Teams: Power Play 18.3% (28 of 153), Penalty Kill 89.3% (134 of 150)
Last Season: 24-14-5 Overall (Frozen Four Semifinalist), 13-10-5 WCHA (3rd)
Key Players: Junior F T.J. Oshie (14-21-35), Junior F Ryan Duncan (13-20-33), Sophomore F Chris VandeVelde (14-14-28), Junior F Andrew Kozek (15-3-18), Senior D Robbie Bina (2-21-23), Junior D Taylor Chorney (2-18-20), Senior G Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (22-8-2, 1.68 GAA, .934 SV, 5 SO)

By The Numbers
Last Meeting: January 5, 2008. North Dakota scored three goals in each of the first two periods and cruised to a 6-2 victory to gain a split of the weekend series. St. Cloud came from behind to win Friday’s opener, 3-2.
Last Meeting in Grand Forks: November 4, 2006. The teams skated to a 2-2 tie after North Dakota won Friday’s game, 3-1. SCSU’s Bobby Goepfert and UND’s Anthony Greico held the teams scoreless over the final 34:36 of the contest, combining to make 32 saves in the third period and overtime.
Most Important Meeting: March 17, 2001 (St. Paul, MN). St. Cloud State defeated North Dakota 6-5 to claim the 2001 WCHA Final Five Championship. Derek Eastman scored the game-winner in overtime after UND scored three goals in the final ten minutes of regulation to force the extra session.
All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 47-26-8 (.630), and holds a record of 24-11-3 (.671) in games played in Grand Forks

Game News and Notes
St. Cloud State is 7-7-0 on the road; North Dakota is 13-4-0 at home. UND has swept its last four series at Ralph Engelstad Arena (Michigan Tech, Alaska-Anchorage, Denver, and Bemidji State). SCSU forward Ryan Lasch leads teammate Andreas Nodl and Colorado College forward Chad Rau by two points in the race for the league scoring title. Sioux forward T.J. Oshie is three points back. UND’s 15-game unbeaten streak (14-0-1) is one shy of the school record. Depending on the outcome of this series, UND can finish 1st or 2nd in the WCHA, while St. Cloud can finish anywhere from 4th to 7th. A tentative WCHA schedule has St. Cloud traveling to Ralph Engelstad Arena on December 12th-13th, 2008 and UND heading to the National Hockey Center on January 30th-31st, 2009.

The Prediction
If the Huskies are going to get any points at all, it will be Friday. Senior Night (Saturday) will belong to UND, as North Dakota’s four seniors (Lamoureux, Bina, Rylan Kaip, and Kyle Radke) will close out the conference season on top. 2-2 tie, UND 3-1.

For more on UND’s senior class, click here.

On a Personal Note
I look forward to this series every year because of the unique relationship we have with the Center Ice Club, the official hockey booster organization for the St. Cloud State University Huskies. On behalf of, I would like to invite you to the UND/SCSU pre-game social on Saturday afternoon from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Southgate Grill and Bar. This event is free and open to all fans 21 and older.

Thank you for reading. I welcome your comments and suggestons. For reaction to Friday’s game, click here. Check back after Saturday’s game for more reaction, analysis, and commentary.

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