As I mentioned in my article about the Challenge Cup, the rivalry between these two schools has picked up since the WCHA made North Dakota and St. Cloud State schedule partners six seasons ago.
Both teams come into this series looking to make a move in the conference standings before the Christmas break. The Huskies (10-6-0, 5-5-0 WCHA) are currently tied for 7th place in the league race, while the Fighting Sioux (7-8-1, 4-5-1 WCHA) have been playing better of late but find themselves in 9th place. The conference standings are a bit misleading, as league leader Wisconsin (7-5-2 in the WCHA) has played four more conference games.
There are a number of players performing at an incredibly high level for each team. Sioux freshman goaltender Brad Eidsness (7-5-1, 2.68 GAA, .911 SV) has been rock-solid since replacing senior Aaron Walski midway through a November 14th game against Alaska-Anchorage. In the past eight games, Eidsness is 4-2-1 with a goals-against average of 2.01 and a save percentage of .933. North Dakota sophomore forward Matt Frattin has scored seven goals in his past seven games and freshman forward David Toews netted his first two career goals last weekend in a sweep at Harvard.
For the Huskies, it’s Roe, Roe, Roe. The sophomore forward has scored 9 goals and added 16 assists this season in only 16 games and is second in the nation in scoring. Senior forward John Swanson has tallied eight goals already this season, and St. Cloud is getting more than adequate goaltending from junior Jase Weslosky (8-5-0, 2.32 GAA, .926 SV).
By comparison, the top UND scorer is defenseman Chay Genoway. His 2 goals and 14 assists (in 15 games) are good for 34th place nationally. North Dakota’s top scoring forward is Brad Miller (4-11-15 in 14 games).
Just like much of last season, St. Cloud has struggled in close games, going 1-3-0 games decided by one goal this year.
This weekend, the two teams will be earning points for the UND/SCSU Challenge Cup, a traveling fan trophy awarded to the team which wins the four-game season series. The teams will square off in St. Cloud on January 30-31 in the final regular season meetings between the schools.
St. Cloud State Team Profile
Head Coach: Bob Motzko (4th season at SCSU, 73-49-16, .587)
This Season: 10-6-0 Overall, 5-5-0 WCHA (t-7th)
National Rankings: #17/#19
Team Offense: 3.69 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.38 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 18.7% (20 of 107)
Penalty Kill: 80.7% (71 of 88)
Last Season: 19-16-5 Overall (NCAA East Regional Semifinalist), 12-12-4 WCHA (4th)
Key Players: Sophomore F Garrett Roe (9-16-25), Senior F John Swanson (8-7-15), Junior F Ryan Lasch (2-13-15), Junior D Garrett Raboin (5-9-14), Junior G Jase Weslosky (8-5-0, 2.32 GAA, .926 SV, 1 SO)
North Dakota Team Profile
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (5th season at UND, 113-64-16, .627)
This Season: 7-8-1 Overall, 4-5-1 WCHA (9th)
National Ranking: NR
Team Offense: 3.12 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.06 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.5% (24 of 123)
Penalty Kill: 81.7% (76 of 93)
Last Season: 28-11-4 Overall (NCAA Frozen Four semifinalist), 18-7-3 WCHA (2nd)
Key Players: Senior F Ryan Duncan (6-8-14), Junior F Chris VandeVelde (3-7-10), Senior F/D Brad Miller (4-11-15), Sophomore F Matt Frattin (7-3-10), Junior D Chay Genoway (2-14-16), Freshman G Brad Eidsness (7-5-1, 2.68 GAA, .911 SV)
By The Numbers
Last Meeting: March 8, 2008 (Grand Forks, ND). Husky forward Ryan Lasch scored a late power-play goal to salvage a 2-2 tie in the final regular season meeting between the two teams. UND and St. Cloud tied 1-1 in Friday’s opener.
Most Important Meeting: March 17, 2001 (St. Paul, MN). St. Cloud State defeated North Dakota 6-5 to claim the 2001 WCHA Final Five Championship. Derek Eastman scored the game-winner in overtime after UND scored three goals in the final ten minutes of regulation to force the extra session.
All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 47-26-10 (.627), and holds a record of 24-11-5 (.663) in games played in Grand Forks.
Game News and Notes
UND freshman goaltender Brad Eidsness has appeared in thirteen consecutive games (including twelve 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. Eidsness was named the WCHA Rookie of the Week for his two victories last weekend at Harvard. North Dakota senior forward Ryan Duncan is currently 25th on the UND career scoring list. Duncan has notched 147 points in his Sioux career and would move into the top 20 all-time with seven more points this season.
This will be a special teams battle all the way. Both teams score on the power play and give up power play goals at an alarming rate. North Dakota will need to strike a balance between playing a physical brand of hockey and staying out of the penalty box. UND 4-3, 3-3 tie.
On a Personal Note
I look forward to this series every year because of the unique relationship we have with the Center Ice Club, the official hockey booster organization for the St. Cloud State University Huskies. On behalf of SiouxSports.com, I would like to invite you to the UND/SCSU pre-game social on Saturday afternoon from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Southgate Grill and Bar. This event is free and open to all fans 21 and older.
As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions. Check back after the games for reaction, news, and commentary.