After sputtering to a 5-8-1 record through the first two months of the season, North Dakota flew into Cambridge, swept the Harvard Crimson, evened its non-conference record at 3-3-0, and served notice that the Fighting Sioux may have turned the corner.
This weekend saw UND sweep an opponent for the first time all season. Last year’s 2007-08 team earned its first sweep on January 11th and 12th against Michigan Tech. That home sweep ignited an 18-game unbeaten streak for the Fighting Sioux (15-0-3) and a trip to the Frozen Four.
Tonight’s game was the close contest that many of us anticipated. Harvard led 3-2 early in the third period before freshman forward David Toews tied the game with 14:00 to play and sophomore forward Matt Frattin gave UND the lead for good just 90 seconds later. Frattin has scored seven goals in his last seven games.
Because the final score read North Dakota 4, Harvard 3, it may seem like a completely different game from UND’s 10-1 blitzing a day earlier. But North Dakota used the same formula to complete the sweep: solid special teams play and spectacular goaltending.
The Fighting Sioux scored three power play goals in five opportunities and held Harvard to two tallies on eight chances. UND freshman netminder Brad Eidsness was at his best when North Dakota needed him the most, turning aside all six Crimson shots while killing off Chris VandeVelde’s major penalty in the first period.
Since replacing Aaron Walski midway through the November 14th game against Alaska-Anchorage, Brad Eidsness is 4-2-1 with a 2.01 goal-against average and a .933 save percentage.
For the weekend, UND went 7 for 14 with the man advantage (raising their season power-play percentage to 19.5) and killed 11 of 13 Harvard power plays.
An encouraging sign for North Dakota is the balanced score sheet. Seven Sioux players are scoring a half-point per game or more, led by defensemen Chay Genoway (2 goals and 14 assists) and Brad Miller (4 goals and 11 assists). Sioux forwards Ryan Duncan, Andrew Kozek, and Chris VandeVelde were expected to carry the scoring load up front, but Ryan Martens (5 goals, 6 assists) and Matt Frattin (7 goals, 3 assists) have been pleasant surprises.
Another key to UND’s success lately has been contributions from the freshman class. Highly touted recruits Brett Hextall, Jason Gregoire, and David Toews have totaled 11 goals and 10 assists in 43 games played this season. That’s a big step forward from last season’s top three freshmen forwards (Matt Frattin, Evan Trupp, and Brad Malone), who tallied 13 goals and 18 assists all season (109 games played).
Thank you for reading. As always, I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions.