At the beginning of the season, Colorado College was the only team in the WCHA without any question marks. The Tigers were unanimously picked to repeat as league champions.
With two weeks remaining in the regular season, there are several question marks surrounding this year’s Tiger team:
Did a sweep of the Gophers right the ship in Colorado Springs?
Can Colorado College make enough of a push to challenge North Dakota and Denver for the league title?
Will the Tigers make the NCAA tournament?
It’s been an up-and-down year for Scott Owen’s Tigers. Last weekend’s home sweep of Minnesota marked only the second time since October 18th that CC won two games in a row.
After this weekend, UND will travel to Madison for a pair of games with the Badgers while Colorado College will travel to Denver for a single game on Saturday. The Tigers sit four points behind the Sioux and Pioneers heading into this weekend’s action.
In the national playoff picture, Colorado College is 16th in the PairWise rankings and still has some ground to make up if they want to extend their season. A solid February (3-0-2) has them headed in the right direction, but they desperately need more wins.
North Dakota is on yet another second-half surge. After opening the season 5-8-1, the Fighting Sioux have gone 15-3-2 to climb back into the WCHA race and the national playoff picture. UND currently sits 11th in the PairWise rankings and could crack the top ten with another solid weekend.
Colorado College Team Profile
Head Coach: Scott Owens (10th season at CC, 239-130-33, .636)
This Season: 16-9-8 Overall, 12-8-5 WCHA (3rd)
National Rankings: #13/#13
PairWise Ranking: 16th
Team Offense: 2.82 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.64 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 15.9% (33 of 207)
Penalty Kill: 86.6% (168 of 194)
Last Season: 28-12-1 Overall (NCAA West Regional semifinalist), 21-6-1 WCHA (1st)
Key Players: Senior F Chad Rau (14-18-32), Senior F Eric Walski (11-21-32), Junior F Bill Sweatt (11-9-20), Junior D Brian Connelly (3-21-24), Junior D Nate Prosser (5-7-12), Sophomore G Richard Bachman (14-8-8, 2.55 GAA, .916 SV, 3 SO)
North Dakota Team Profile
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (5th season at UND, 126-67-18, .640)
This Season: 20-11-3 Overall, 15-6-3 WCHA (1st)
National Rankings: #8/#7
PairWise Ranking: 11th
Team Offense: 3.53 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.62 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.2% (43 of 224)
Penalty Kill: 85.4% (152 of 178)
Last Season: 28-11-4 Overall (NCAA Frozen Four semifinalist), 18-7-3 WCHA (2nd)
Key Players: Senior F Ryan Duncan (14-15-29), Junior F Chris VandeVelde (13-14-27), Senior F/D Brad Miller (6-22-28), Sophomore F Matt Frattin (12-8-20), Junior D Chay Genoway (3-26-29), Freshman G Brad Eidsness (20-8-3, 2.41 GAA, .911 SV, 1 SO)
By The Numbers
Last Meeting: November 8, 2008 (Colorado Springs, CO). Eric Walsky scored four goals as the Tigers upended the Sioux 7-4 to salvage a split of the weekend series. UND won Friday’s opener, 3-1.
Last Meeting in Grand Forks: November 3, 2007. Colorado College survived the first period, taking a 1-0 lead on a shorthanded goal despite being outshot 18-4. The Tigers went on to win 4-1 to gain a split of the weekend series. North Dakota won the first game, 6-2.
Most Important Meeting: March 27, 1997. UND defeated Colorado College, 6-2, in the Frozen Four Semifinals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Two nights later, North Dakota downed Boston University, 6-4, to claim its sixth NCAA Championship. North Dakota and Colorado College also met in the 2001 East Regional (Worcester, Mass.), with UND prevailing, 4-1.
All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 129-75-9 (.627), including an astonishing 78-19-5 (.789) record in games played in Grand Forks. The teams first met in 1948.
Game News and Notes
Colorado College has played in 11 of the last 14 NCAA national tournaments, but has not won a national championship since 1957. North Dakota has not lost this season when leading after one period of play (12-0-1). The Tigers are 8-1-0 in one goal games this year. UND freshman goaltender Brad Eidsness has appeared in 31 consecutive games (including 30 starts). The only 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 17th on the Fighting Sioux career scoring list, two points behind current UND assistant coach Cary Eades (1978-82). If Duncan plays both games this weekend, he will move into second place all-time on the career games played list at UND. Duncan has played in 166 games in his Fighting Sioux career; Chris Porter holds the school and NCAA record of 175 consecutive games played.
Both teams appear to be peaking as the calendar turns to March. It will be interesting to see how the afternoon start times affect both teams. North Dakota holds a record of 11-3-1 at Ralph Engelstad Arena this year, and the crowd will be a definite factor. UND is also deeper and clicking offensively right now. 3-3 tie, UND 4-2.
Thank you for reading. I welcome your comments and suggestions.