North Dakota finds itself in an unfamiliar situation after dropping both games at the Icebreaker (Boston, MA). Boston University blew out UND 5-1 in the opener, and, despite a better effort in Saturday afternoon’s contest against UMass, the Fighting Sioux lost 3-2 and left Boston with a record of 0-2.
Jim Dahl does a great job of discussing the possible playoff implications of these early season losses, and I encourage you to check out that article here.
I’m going to dive in to some other issues that need to be addressed as we move forward into conference play this weekend….
The first area of focus is goaltending. The situation is muddier than ever, with neither Eidsness nor Walski distinguishing himself in Boston. Freshman Brad Eidsness saw more action (33 shots) and allowed five goals (four at even strength and one 4 on 4). Senior Aaron Walski faced only 16 shots and allowed three goals, all of the goal-mouth/tap-in variety. Two of Walski’s three goals allowed came while the Sioux were shorthanded.
I would expect Eidsness and Walski to each get a start this weekend at Mankato, and that rotation will continue for the first month or so of the regular season.
A second area of concern is special teams play. Certainly, the power play hit the skids at the Icebreaker, as UND scored just once in 14 man-advantage situations. The “new-look” power play that went 3 for 7 against Manitoba in the home opener struggled over the weekend. I have a feeling that we might see a 2 for 6 or 3 for 7 power-play night before October is over. The Sioux penalty kill was effective against BU on Friday (the Terriers went 0 for 6), but allowed the Minutemen two goals on four opportunities on Saturday. And to make matters worse, Boston University scored a four on four goal against North Dakota after UND excelled in that area last season.
In short, games are won and lost with special teams, and the Fighting Sioux need to improve to compete.
I’m excited about the line of Andrew Kozek, Evan Trupp, and Jason Gregoire. They were noticeably absent from the scoresheet in both games last weekend, but should give opposing teams fits down the road. Inceidentally, this line was the only line to remain intact from Friday to Saturday.
I’m not sold on Brad Miller with Ryan Duncan and Chris VandeVelde on the top line. Apparently, neither are the coaches, as Miller was a healthy scratch on Saturday after scoring UND’s lone goal on Friday night. Brett Hextall moved up to the top line on Saturday.
Check back later this week for a full preview of UND vs. the MSU-Mankato Mavericks. As always, I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.