This weekend marks the halfway point for North Dakota’s non-conference schedule, and the Fighting Sioux have struggled to a 1-3-0 record outside of the WCHA. With a date with Michigan State on December 27th and a possible clash with Michigan the following night, this weekend’s games against the Harvard Crimson take on an added significance.
UND can look ahead and hope to sweep Bemidji State in a home-and-home non-conference series in January, but if they hope to make a splash in the NCAA tournament, they will need to pick up wins this weekend in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Harvard entered this season with two main question marks: scoring and goaltending.
And the freshmen will lead them.
Freshman phenom Alex Killorn is a Tampa Bay draft pick (#77 overall) who has adjusted quickly to the college game (2 goals and 6 assists in ten games). And fellow frosh Matt Hoyle has performed admirably between the pipes for the Crimson, posting a goals-against average of 2.09 and a save percentage of .929 while playing virtually every minute this season.
Harvard is undefeated at home this year (4-0-0), defeating ECAC opponents Dartmouth, Rensselaer, Clarkson, and St. Lawrence. The Crimson have finished games well, going 4-1-2 when leading or tied after two periods.
North Dakota needs to find a way to score at even strength. The Fighting Sioux have scored 36 goals this season, but only 14 of them have come while the teams were skating 5 on 5. UND has struggled on the road (2-4-1), and has not won a game this season when scoring two or fewer goals (0-7-1).
Harvard Team Profile
National Rankings: NR
Head Coach: Ted Donato (5th season at Harvard, 77-56-13, .572)
This Season: 4-4-2 Overall, 4-3-2 ECAC (t-2nd)
Team Offense: 2.30 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.10 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 16.4% (11 of 67)
Penalty Kill: 87.5% (63 of 72)
Last Season: 17-13-4 Overall, 12-7-3 ECAC (3rd)
Key Players: Freshman F Alex Killorn (2-6-8), Sophomore F Matt McCollum (3-3-6), Junior F Doug Rogers (0-4-4), Junior D Alex Biega (1-3-4) Senior D Brian McCafferty (1-3-4), Freshman G Matt Hoyle (4-4-2, .2.09 GAA, .929 SV, 1 SO)
North Dakota Team Profile
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (5th season at UND, 111-64-16, .623)
This Season: 5-8-1 Overall, 4-5-1 WCHA (t-7th)
National Ranking: NR
Team Offense: 2.57 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.21 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 15.6% (17 of 109)
Penalty Kill: 81.2% (65 of 80)
Last Season: 28-11-4 Overall (NCAA Frozen Four semifinalist), 18-7-3 WCHA (2nd)
Key Players: Senior F Ryan Duncan (5-6-11), Junior F Chris VandeVelde (3-6-9), Senior F/D Brad Miller (3-7-10), Freshman F Brett Hextall (5-2-7), Junior D Chay Genoway (1-13-14), Freshman G Brad Eidsness (5-5-1, 2.80 GAA, .902 SV)
By The Numbers
Last Meeting: December 30, 2005 (Grand Forks, ND). North Dakota earned a split with a 3-2 victory after the Crimson took Friday’s opener, 1-0.
Most Important Meeting: The Fighting Sioux and Harvard Crimson have met twice in the NCAA semifinals, with UND coming out on top in 1958 (9-1) and 1987 (5-2).
All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 6-2-1 (.722). The two teams have never played in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Game News and Notes
Six current Sioux players appeared in the 2005 series against Harvard; none of the six (Duncan, Finley, Kozek, Martens, Miller, Watkins) registered a point on the weekend. UND freshman goaltender Brad Eidsness has appeared in eleven consecutive games (including ten starts). The last freshman netminder to appear in a longer stretch of games was Aaron Schweitzer, who played in the last 18 games of UND’s 1996-97 championship campaign. North Dakota senior forward Ryan Duncan is currently 27th on the UND career scoring list. Duncan has notched 144 points in his Sioux career and would move into the top 25 all-time with two points this weekend. North Dakota sophomore forward Matt Frattin was named the WCHA Offensive Player of the Week after his hat trick helped the Fighting Sioux hand Cornell its first loss of the season last Friday. Frattin has now scored five goals in his last five games.
Call it a hunch, but I have a feeling that North Dakota will come out playing very well on Friday night. If the Fighting Sioux find success early, it could be a long weekend for Harvard. If UND struggles to solve Crimson net minder Matt Hoyle, Harvard could win a couple of close games. UND 4-1, 2-2 tie.
Thank you for reading. As always, I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions.