Let the good times roll.
North Dakota rolled into Cambridge, Massachusetts and dominated every aspect of their opener against the Harvard Crimson, cruising to a 10-1 victory.
Where to begin?
The seven Sioux seniors in the lineup combined for seven goals and eleven assists. The all-senior line of Matt Watkins, Darcy Zajac, and Ryan Martens tallied four goals and six assists. And senior defenseman Zach Jones scored his first career goal in his 144th game at North Dakota.
Not to be outdone, Sioux freshman David Toews scored his first career goal and fellow frosh Corey Feinhage picked up his first career assist.
There are a couple of things that I would like to point out that often get overlooked in a game that appears as lopsided as this one does:
First off, Sioux goaltender Brad Eidsness stopped 39 of 40 shots he faced, including 20 of 21 in the second period alone. Coaches often say that a goalie has to be your best penalty killer, and Eidsness was that for North Dakota tonight. The freshman from Chestermere, Alberta turned aside all 13 of Harvard’s power play shots, including eight during a full two-minute 5 on 3 in the middle frame. Two minutes after the Sioux were back at full strength, Toews scored to make it 5-1 and the rout was on. For the game, North Dakota killed all five Harvard power plays.
With the impressive victory, Eidsness saw his season goals-against average drop to 2.65 and his save percentage rise to .910. Since taking over for Aaron Walski midway through the November 14th game versus Alaska-Anchorage, the freshman netminder has posted a record of 3-2-1 with a goals-against average of 1.85 and a save percentage of .936.
A second area that deserves a closer look is the faceoff circle. North Dakota owned the draws tonight, winning 45 out of 68 (66.2%). The top two centerman for UND, Darcy Zajac (18 of 22) and Chris VandeVelde (13 of 16) were particularly lethal. Winning faceoffs is critical, particularly in the offensive and defensive zones, and was a key to victory tonight.
In my weekend preview, I mentioned an area of emphasis for North Dakota:
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).
Check and check. North Dakota scored six of its first seven goals at even strength and then followed that up with three late power play tallies. For the game, the Fighting Sioux scored its six even strength goals on 22 shots and went 4 for 9 on the power play (15 shots).
And I ended with this nugget of truth:
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.
I would say so. Chasing one goaltender is an accomplishment; chasing two (without an injury situation) is almost unheard of.
So where does that leave us for tomorrow night? If tonight’s third period is any indication, the Harvard Crimson did not take too kindly to being embarrassed on home ice. Expect a tighter, more physical contest in Saturday’s finale. The first period will once again be key. If North Dakota jumps out to the early lead again, it could reignite tempers and the parade to the penalty box. UND would love to get into a special teams battle again.
Thank you for reading. I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Check back after Saturday’s game for more reaction and commentary.