December 28, 2008.
Perhaps this date will go down as the low point for the 2008-2009 Fighting Sioux. UND found itself in the third place game of the Great Lakes Invitational (Detroit, Michigan) after dropping a 2-1 decision to the Michigan State Spartans in the tournament opener.
The Michigan Tech Huskies dropped North Dakota by that same 2-1 score to send the Green and White back home with a record of 9-10-1 in the first half of the year. At the time, UND was sitting in ninth place in the WCHA standings.
Since the Great Lakes Invitational, North Dakota has gone 13-2-3 and claimed the MacNaughton Cup as regular season champions in the WCHA. This latest version of the second half surge also has the Fighting Sioux in excellent position for a berth in the NCAA tournament.
Michigan Tech picked up just its second conference victory of the season last Friday, winning a crazy 6-5 overtime game despite being outshot by visiting Minnesota, 49-27.
In addition to the non-conference game at the GLI, North Dakota and Michigan Tech met in Houghton for a pair of WCHA games in mid-January. The two teams tied on Friday night and the Fighting Sioux rolled on Saturday, 5-0.
North Dakota has had some trouble recently in home playoff series, with six of their last nine first-round matchups going to three games and five of the last twelve home playoff games going to overtime. Despite these close calls, UND has found a way to advance to the Final Five the past eleven times they have hosted the opening round of the WCHA playoffs.
The Huskies have made it to the Final Five just once in the past 12 seasons (2007), while the Fighting Sioux have participated in the Final Five eleven of the past twelve years (missing only in 2002).
Michigan Tech Team Profile
Head Coach: Jamie Russell (6th season at MTU, 61-135-32, .338)
This Season: 6-23-7 Overall, 2-19-7 WCHA (10th)
National Rankings: NR/NR
PairWise Ranking: NR
Team Offense: 1.61 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.14 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 11.7% (23 of 196)
Penalty Kill: 78.5% (150 of 191)
Last Season: 14-20-5 Overall, 9-15-4 WCHA (9th)
Key Players: Sophomore F Jordan Baker (15-10-25), Freshman F Brett Olson (10-13-23), Junior D Drew Dobson (4-13-17), Senior D Geoff Kinrade (3-12-15)
North Dakota Team Profile
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (5th season at UND, 128-68-19, .640)
This Season: 22-12-4 Overall, 17-7-4 WCHA (1st)
National Rankings: #6/#6
PairWise Ranking: 7th (tie)
Team Offense: 3.45 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.66 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 18.3% (45 of 246)
Penalty Kill: 85.1% (166 of 195)
Last Season: 28-11-4 Overall (NCAA Frozen Four semifinalist), 18-7-3 WCHA (2nd)
Key Players: Senior F Ryan Duncan (15-18-33), Junior F Chris VandeVelde (14-15-29), Freshman F Jason Gregoire (11-14-25), Freshman F Brett Hextall (12-11-23), Senior D Brad Miller (6-24-30), Junior D Chay Genoway (3-28-31), Freshman G Brad Eidsness (22-9-4, 2.47 GAA, .909 SV, 1 SO)
By The Numbers
Last Meeting: January 7, 2009 (Houghton, Michigan). UND freshman net minder Brad Eidsness picked up his first career shutout (14 saves) as North Dakota rolled 5-0 to gain three points out of the weekend series with the homestanding Huskies.
Last Meeting in Grand Forks: March 16, 2008. North Dakota advanced to the WCHA Final Five by winning the third and decisive game of the first round series by a 2-1 score. Michigan Tech won Saturday night in overtime, 3-2, to force Sunday’s tiebreaker. In the first game of the series, UND controlled play from the outset and won 4-0.
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, 134-90-9 (.594), including a 75-33-4 (.713) record in Grand Forks. The teams first met in 1948.
Game News and Notes
North Dakota has not lost this season when leading after one period (13-0-2). Michigan Tech has been outscored 38-12 in the first period this season. UND freshman goaltender Brad Eidsness has now appeared in 35 consecutive games (including 34 starts), eclipsing the mark set by freshman Peter Waselovich during North Dakota’s 1973-74 campaign. North Dakota senior forward Ryan Duncan is currently 16th on the Fighting Sioux career scoring list, one point behind Tony Hrkac (1984-85, 1986-87). Duncan is now in second place on UND’s all-time games played list with 170, and is moving closer to Chris Porter’s school (and NCAA) record of 175 consecutive games played. Five of the Huskies six wins this season have been by one goal. 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.
UND is unbeaten in its last eleven games (9-0-2) at Ralph Engelstad Arena. I have a feeling that the Huskies will give North Dakota a tough game on Friday night. If the Sioux can win a close one on Friday, they will roll on Saturday. UND 2-1, 4-1.
Thank you for reading. I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Check back after the games for reaction and commentary.