Weekend Preview: UND vs. Michigan Tech

Everything appears to be rolling for North Dakota right now. The Fighting Sioux dominated the visiting Gophers last weekend (winning 6-3 and 6-1), have won eight of their last ten games, and seem to be in the middle of another second-half surge.

In the last ten games, UND has outscored opponents 32-20 and swept Harvard, St. Cloud State, Bemidji State, and Minnesota. The only two losses in that span were by identical 2-1 scores at the Great Lakes Invitational in Detroit. The opponents? Michigan State (6-13-3 overall) and Michigan Tech (5-17-2).

Michigan Tech has struggled this year after posting two reasonably successful seasons in a row. The Huskies have only one conference win and find themselves squarely in last place in the WCHA.

With a sweep this weekend, North Dakota would improve to 10-5-1 in league play and host Denver (11-4-1 WCHA) next weekend in a pivotal series. The Pioneers are idle this weekend. If UND drops a game to MTU, they will find themselves right back in the middle of a muddled race for home ice.

On the Sioux injury front, senior defenseman Joe Finley is regaining his form after missing most of the first half. There was no word this week on the status of forward Evan Trupp, who was speared in Saturday’s contest against Minnesota but did return to the ice. Senior Andrew Kozek suffered an injury this week and did not make the trip to Houghton, Michigan with the team.

Michigan Tech Team Profile

Head Coach: Jamie Russell (6th season at MTU, 60-129-27, .340)
This Season: 5-17-2 Overall, 1-13-2 WCHA (10th)
National Rankings: NR/NR
PairWise Ranking: NR
Team Offense: 1.38 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.04 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 8.5% (12 of 142)
Penalty Kill: 79.7% (102 of 128)
Last Season: 14-20-5 Overall, 9-15-4 WCHA (9th)
Key Players: Sophomore F Jordan Baker (9-5-14), Freshman F Brett Olson (4-8-12), Junior D Drew Dobson (0-11-11), Senior D Geoff Kinrade (3-3-6)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (5th season at UND, 119-66-16, .632)
This Season: 13-10-1 Overall, 8-5-1 WCHA (4th)
National Rankings: #17/NR
PairWise Ranking: 18th
Team Offense: 3.42 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.88 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.4% (32 of 165)
Penalty Kill: 84.1% (106 of 126)
Last Season: 28-11-4 Overall (NCAA Frozen Four semifinalist), 18-7-3 WCHA (2nd)
Key Players: Senior F Ryan Duncan (10-8-18), Junior F Chris VandeVelde (8-10-18), Senior F/D Brad Miller (4-18-22), Senior F Ryan Martens (9-7-16), Junior D Chay Genoway (2-21-23), Freshman G Brad Eidsness (13-7-1, 2.62 GAA, .908 SV)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: December 28, 2008 (Detroit, MI). Huskies sophomore forward Jordan Baker scored the game-winner with under six minutes remaining as Michigan Tech defeated North Dakota 2-1 in the consolation game of the Great Lakes Invitational. MTU goaltender Rob Nolan stopped 29 of 30 UND shots in the victory.

Last Meeting in Houghton: October 27, 2007. UND winger T.J. Oshie netted a hat trick and joined the Fighting Sioux century club (100 career points) as North Dakota blanked the homestanding Huskies, 6-0. MTU won Friday’s series opener, 3-1.

Most Important Meeting: The Sioux and Huskies have never met in the NCAA tournament, so I will go with the most important meeting that never was: in 1965, the Sioux lost to Boston College, 4-3, one game short of the national championship game, where they would have faced the Michigan Tech Huskies, who won the second of their three titles by defeating the Eagles. UND settled for third place that season, downing Brown University, 9-5. North Dakota went 13-3-0 in the regular season in 1964-65, with two of those three losses coming at the hands of Michigan Tech.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 133-90-8 (.593), but North Dakota holds only a slight edge (56-55-4) on Michigan Tech‘s home ice. The teams first met in 1948.

Game News and Notes

Michigan Tech has been outscored 25-6 in the first period this season. Four of the Huskies five wins this season have been by one goal. UND freshman goaltender Brad Eidsness has appeared in 21 consecutive games (including twnety 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 21st on the UND career scoring list. Duncan has notched 151 points in his Sioux career and would move into the top 20 all-time with three more points this season. North Dakota won five of the seven meetings between the teams last year, including two of three in a WCHA First Round playoff series in Grand Forks.

The Prediction

If North Dakota scores early, the Fighting Sioux should score often. Michigan Tech needs to protect a lead to be successful. Look for UND freshman goaltender Brad Eidsness to pick up his first career shutout this weekend. UND 2-1, 2-0.

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