It’s been a tale of two seasons for both of these teams.
Bemidji State began the season as road warriors and stumbled to a 1-6-0 record while allowing 4.5 goals per game. Since then, the Beavers have won seven of nine games and have tightened up defensively, only allowing 1.66 goals/game in that span.
North Dakota’s success has coincided with the elevated play of Brad Eidsness. The freshman netminder is 6-4-1 with a 2.19 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in his last 12 games, although the Fighting Sioux are still stinging from a pair of 2-1 losses (to Michigan State and Michigan Tech) at last weekend’s Great Lakes Invitational.
UND’s 3-5-0 mark in non-conference play has many wondering how much of a second-half surge it will take for North Dakota to make their seventh straight NCAA tournament appearance. It is entirely possible that the Fighting Sioux will have to win the WCHA Final Five to advance to the national tournament.
Special teams will be key in this weekend’s home and home series. Both teams boast potent power plays (BSU 15.9%, UND 18.9%) and mediocre penalty killing units (BSU 84.0%, UND 83.2%). The difference has been the number of opportunities each team has earned this season. The Beavers have a minus-12 disparity in special teams situations (88 power plays, 100 penalty kills), while the Fighting Sioux have been plus-30 (143 power plays, 113 penalty kills). Whichever team comes out ahead in the special teams battle has a decided edge this weekend.
Bemidji State Team Profile
Head Coach: Tom Serratore (8th season at BSU, 128-110-28, .534)
This Season: 8-8-0 Overall, 4-2-0 CHA (1st)
National Rankings: NR/NR
Team Offense: 2.44 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.94 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 15.9% (14 of 88)
Penalty Kill: 84.0% (84 of 100)
Last Season: 17-16-3 Overall, 13-4-3 CHA (1st)
Key Players: Sophomore F Matt Read (5-8-13), Senior F Brandon Marino (3-8-11), Senior F Tyler Scofield (6-4-10), Freshman F Brad Hunt (3-8-11), Senior F Cody Bostock (3-6-9), Sophomore G Matt Dalton (8-5-0, .906 SV%, 2.47 GAA)
North Dakota Team Profile
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (5th season at UND, 115-66-16, .624)
This Season: 9-10-1 Overall, 6-5-1 WCHA (9th)
National Ranking: #18/NR
Team Offense: 3.10 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.95 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 18.9% (27 of 143)
Penalty Kill: 83.2% (94 of 113)
Last Season: 28-11-4 Overall (NCAA Frozen Four semifinalist), 18-7-3 WCHA (2nd)
Key Players: Senior F Ryan Duncan (7-8-15), Junior F Chris VandeVelde (4-8-12), Senior F/D Brad Miller (4-15-19), Senior F Ryan Martens (7-7-14), Junior D Chay Genoway (2-17-19), Freshman G Brad Eidsness (9-7-1, 2.64 GAA, .910 SV)
By The Numbers
Last Meeting: February 24th, 2008 (Grand Forks, ND). UND backup goalie Aaron Walski earned a shutout (13 saves) in his first career start and T.J. Oshie made a brilliant play behind the net to feed Andrew Kozek’s game-winner with under five minutes to play as North Dakota prevailed 1-0 to complete the weekend sweep of the visiting Beavers. Bemidji State backup goaltender Orlando Alamano made 31 saves in a losing effort.
Last Meeting in Bemidji: January 19, 2007. North Dakota saw its two-goal lead evaporate early in the third period, but Erik Fabian notched the game-winner with under four minutes to play as the Fighting Sioux downed the homestanding Beavers 3-2.
Most Important Meeting: I’ll give the nod to February 7, 1970 (Grand Forks, ND). Bemidji outgunned North Dakota 7-5 to claim its only victory in the all-time series. The Sioux and Beavers have never met in post-season action of any kind.
All-time Series: The Fighting Sioux have dominated the all-time series, going 13-1-1 (.900) against the Beavers. UND has won every game played in Bemidji (4-0-0) and has not lost a game to Bemidji State since the Beavers moved up to Division I (12-0-1).
Game News and Notes
UND freshman goaltender Brad Eidsness has appeared in seventeen consecutive games (including sixteen 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. Sophomore goaltender Matt Dalton (8-5-0) is expected to start tonight’s opener for Bemidji State, with senior goaltender Orlando Alamano (0-3-0) getting the nod on Saturday. North Dakota senior forward Ryan Duncan is currently 23rd on the UND career scoring list. Duncan has notched 148 points in his Sioux career and would move into the top 20 all-time with six more points this season. Bemidji State senior captain Travis Winter (76 career points in 106 games) will return to the lineup this weekend after being sidelined for much of the first half with a groin injury. Only six current Sioux players (Ryan Duncan, Andrew Kozek, Derrick LaPoint, Brad Miller, Chris VandeVelde, and Matt Watkins) have notched points against Bemidji State.
Despite UND’s dominance in the series, recent games between the Sioux and Beavers have been tightly contested and evenly matched. If Bemidji gets up by a couple of goals at home, it could be lights out for North Dakota’s sputtering offense. Look for UND to take three points this weekend. 2-2 Tie, UND 3-2.
Thank you for reading. As always, I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions.