The last time these two teams played will go down in the annals of Fighting Sioux hockey history as one of those “I remember where I was when….” games. North Dakota survived (yes, survived) the first two periods of hockey against the hometown Badgers in the Midwest Regional Final. UND was lucky to be down only 2-0 (thank you, Lamoureux, and your trusty sidekicks, the pipes). And then the captain did what captains do: they leave it all on the ice. Rylan Kaip netted just his eighth goal of the season at 3:33 of the third (and how perfect is that?), and 47 seconds later, Ryan Duncan took a brilliant pass from T.J. Oshie and tied the game at two. Andrew Kozek completed the UND comeback at 1:47 of the overtime, and North Dakota was headed to Denver.
And when the teams met earlier in the regular season, a line brawl erupted in the third and even the post-game handshake was heated.
So what can we expect this weekend at the Ralph? Both North Dakota (1-3-0, 1-1-0 WCHA) and Wisconsin (0-5-1, 0-3-1 WCHA) are desperately in need of wins, and this series promises to be as hard-fought as they come.
The biggest surprise in Mad-town so far has been goaltending. Let me put it this way: The Badgers have scored an average of three goals per game and have managed only one tie. Senior Shane Connelly has fought the puck in his four starts, posting a goals-against average of 4.45 and a save percentage of only .882. And his counterpart, sophomore Scott Gudmandson, has even less stellar marks of 6.03 GAA and .824 SV.
In the interest of full disclosure, North Dakota netminders Aaron Walski and Brad Eidsness have struggled in the early going as well. Neither has distinguished himself so far, and it’s fair to say that we will see the Friday/Saturday split between the two until one of them gets hot.
Wisconsin Team Profile
Head Coach: Mike Eaves (7th season at UW, 123-100-31 .545)
This Season: 0-5-1 Overall, 0-3-1 WCHA
National Ranking: NR
Team Offense: 3.00 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 5.00 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 10.9% (5 of 46)
Penalty Kill: 86.8% (46 of 53)
Last Season: 16-17-7 Overall (NCAA Midwest Regional Finalist), 11-12-5 WCHA (6th)
Key Players: Junior F Michael Davies (1-3-4), Freshman F Jordy Murray (2-2-4), Senior F Ben Street (1-0-1), Sophomore D Ryan McDonagh (2-3-5), Freshman D Jake Gardiner (0-5-5)
North Dakota Team Profile
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (5th season at UND, 107-59-15, .633)
This Season: 1-3-0 Overall, 1-1-0 WCHA
National Ranking: #18
Team Offense: 2.00 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 4.00 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 11.8% (4 of 34)
Penalty Kill: 83.3% (20 of 24)
Last Season: 28-11-4 Overall (NCAA Frozen Four semifinalist), 18-7-3 WCHA (2nd)
Key Players: Senior F Ryan Duncan (1-2-3), Junior F Chris VandeVelde (2-0-2), Senior F Ryan Martens (2-1-3), Junior D Chay Genoway (0-2-2)
By The Numbers
Last Meeting: March 30, 2008 (Madison, WI). North Dakota hangs on for the better part of two periods and scores three unanswered goals to defeat the homestanding Badgers and advance to their fourth consecutive Frozen Four.
Most Important Meeting: March 27, 1982. A 2-2 tie after two periods turns into a 5-2 Sioux victory, as Phil Sykes nets a hat trick and leads UND to its fourth National Championship.
All-time Series: Wisconsin leads the all-time series, 80-58-10 (.574).
Game News and Notes
Wisconsin has been outscored 13-5 in third periods this season. The Fighting Sioux have been outstanding in the faceoff circle, winning almost 60% of draws through the first four games. Saturday’s series finale will air nationally on the NHL network. The NHL network will also broadcast the November 28th tilt between North Dakota and Cornell. The Badgers have won the past four games played at Ralph Engelstad Arena. UND and Wisconsin have played on Halloween just once before (1986), with the Fighting Sioux earning the home victory in spook-tacular fashion, 9-4.
UND has improved in each game so far and appear to be healthy up and down the lineup. The Badgers and Sioux look like they could combine for 20 goals this weekend, and whichever squad gets better goaltending will come out on top. I give the edge to North Dakota at home. UND 5-4, 4-4 tie.