When the Sioux and Gophers met in the second half of last season, Minnesota found themselves in sixth place in the WCHA, and North Dakota was riding high in second place. The Sioux were ranked third nationally, while the Gophers were squarely on the bubble for the NCAA tournament. UND took three of four points from the weekend series at Mariucci Arena and rode that momentum all the way to the Frozen Four.
This season, the roles are reversed. Minnesota (10-3-5) comes to town ranked #3 and sitting in second place in the conference. North Dakota (11-10-1) struggled in 2008 and desperately needs wins in the second half to make another tournament run.
All of the statistics point to Gopher domination. Minnesota has lost three games all season, while North Dakota has already posted double-digit losses. The Gophers boast the WCHA’s best goaltender, power play, and penalty kill.
But there are signs that the teams are closer than they may appear. On November 22nd, Minnesota suffered its first loss of the season. Since that game, the Gophers are 3-3-1. In that same span, North Dakota is 7-4-0. In the league standings, a Sioux sweep would put them in a tie with Minnesota.
All that being said, this weekend’s games are critical for league points, momentum, and the all-important Sioux-Gopher rivalry.
Minnesota Team Profile
Head Coach: Don Lucia (10th season at UMN, 249-116-43, .663)
This Season: 10-3-5 Overall, 7-2-3 WCHA (2nd)
National Rankings: #3/#3
PairWise Ranking: 8th
Team Offense: 3.28 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.28 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 21.9% (23 of 105)
Penalty Kill: 93.2% (96 of 103)
Last Season: 19-17-9 Overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 9-12-7 WCHA (7th)
Key Players: Junior F Ryan Stoa (11-12-23), Freshman F Jordan Schroeder (7-14-21), Junior F Jay Barriball (6-10-16), Sophomore D Cade Fairchild (3-11-14), Sophomore G Alex Kangas (10-3-5, 2.19 GAA, 921 SV%, 1 SO)
North Dakota Team Profile
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (5th season at UND, 117-66-16, .628)
This Season: 11-10-1 Overall, 6-5-1 WCHA (6th)
National Rankings: NR/NR
PairWise Ranking: 22nd
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 (7-9-16), Senior F/D Brad Miller (4-17-21), Senior F Ryan Martens (8-7-15), Junior D Chay Genoway (2-19-21), Freshman G Brad Eidsness (11-7-1, 2.68 GAA, .907 SV)
By The Numbers
Last Meeting: February 2, 2008 (Minneapolis, MN). The teams skated to a 1-1 tie after freshman Evan Trupp ended Friday’s opener with a spectacular overtime goal. Emotions ran high in both games, as the teams combined for 192 penalty minutes in the weekend series.
Last Meeting in Grand Forks: December 8, 2007. Minnesota held off a furious North Dakota comeback attempt for a thrilling 4-3 victory. The Fighting Sioux scored twice in the final four minutes to get within one, but Ben Gordon’s goal with two seconds remaining in the second period stood as the game-winner. In Friday’s opener, all six goals were scored in the third period and North Dakota came out on top, 4-2.
Most Important Meeting: March 24, 1979 (Detroit, MI). North Dakota and Minnesota met to decide the national championship, and the Gophers prevailed, 4-3.
All-time Series: Minnesota leads the all-time series, 130-122-12 (.515), but North Dakota holds a 64-53-7 (.544) advantage in games played in Grand Forks.
Game News and Notes
North Dakota’s players and coaches are asking all fans to wear white for this weekend’s games against Minnesota. In an effort to minimize traffic and congestion at the arena, Gopher fans are asked to arrive at 10:37 p.m. UND freshman goaltender Brad Eidsness has appeared in nineteen consecutive games (including eighteen starts). The last freshman netminder to appear in a longer stretch of games was Peter Waselovich, who played in a school-record 32 straight games during UND’s 1973-74 season. North Dakota senior forward Ryan Duncan is currently 23rd on the UND career scoring list. Minnesota forwards Jordan Schroeder and Mike Hoeffel as well as defenseman Cade Fairchild will return to the Gopher lineup this weekend after representing the United States at the World Junior Championships. Duncan has notched 148 points in his Sioux career and would move into the top 20 all-time with six more points this season. North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol will be behind the bench for his 200th game on Friday night. Minnesota head coach Don Lucia will miss this weekend’s games due to an undisclosed illness.
I expect the Gophers to roll in one game and for North Dakota to keep one game close. Special teams play will determine whether the Sioux can win the close game or settle for a tie. Minnesota 5-1, UND 3-2.