NCAA Northeast Regional Preview: North Dakota vs. Yale

Last season, the high-flying Yale Bulldogs cruised to the ECAC regular season and playoff championships and were averaging 4.67 goals per game heading into the NCAA tournament. Their first round opponent was Vermont, and the Catamounts stifled and stymied the host Bulldogs, 4-1.

If KRACH is an indication of the strength of teams in each conference, then (aside from #13 Cornell), Yale played a season against squads comparable to Alaska-Anchorage (#32 KRACH) and Michigan Tech (#48). In a full season against the likes of #28 Union , #33 St. Lawrence, #34 Quinnipiac, #35 Rensselaer, #36 Colgate, #40 Princeton, #44 Brown, #46 Dartmouth, #47 Harvard, and #50 Clarkson, the Bulldogs put up impressive offensive numbers: 4.09 goals/game and a power play that converted at a 23.5% clip. But against those same opponents, Yale also allowed almost three goals per game.

Or put more simply, here is the comparison between North Dakota and Yale:

Yale (Strength of Schedule #37): 4.09 goals scored/game, 2.94 goals allowed/game
UND (Strength of Schedule #2): 3.29 goals scored/game, 2.10 goals allowed/game

The question is this: which team will be able to play its style and take away time and space from their opponent?

In the first three months after Chay Genoway’s injury, the Fighting Sioux struggled to a 6-10-4 mark. Since that time, North Dakota has been on a mission, winning 12 of its last 13 games and outscoring opponents 55-22 during that stretch. UND has seen improvement in all areas, but most notably goaltending and team defense.

The Green and White are deep, talented, and rugged up front, and penalty trouble seems to be the only thing that can derail North Dakota’s momentum.

Yale suffered its own blow on the injury front, losing senior forward Sean Backman (21 goals and 14 assists in 29 games) for the season to a non-hockey related foot injury. Backman was voted to the all-ECAC first team and was named Ivy League Player of the Year.

Yale Team Profile

Head Coach: Keith Allain (4th season at Yale, 71-48-12, .588)
NCAA Tournament Appearances: 4, most recently 2009
National Titles: None
This Season:  20-9-3, 15-5-2 ECAC (1st)
National Rankings: #8/#8
PairWise Ranking: 9th
Team Offense: 4.09 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.94 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 23.5% (44 of 187)
Penalty Kill: 81.8% (126 of 154)
Last Season: 24-8-2 overall (NCAA East Regional semifinalist), 15-5-2 ECAC (1st)
Key Players: Junior F Broc Little (26-14-40), Sophomore F Brian O’Neill (14-25-39), Junior F Denny Kearney (9-25-34), Senior D Thomas Dignard (6-20-26), Junior D Jimmy Martin (2-15-17), Senior G Billy Blasé (7-2-0, 2.37 GAA, .901 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (6th season at UND, 155-83-24, .637)
NCAA tournament appearances: 25, most recently 2009
National Titles: 7, most recently 2000
National Ranking: #4/#4
PairWise Ranking: 5th
This Season: 22-12-5, 15-10-3 WCHA (4th)
Last Season: 24-15-4 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 17-7-4 WCHA (1st)
Team Offense: 3.29 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.10 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.2% (42 of 208)
Penalty Kill: 86.3% (170 of 197)
Key Players: Senior F Chris VandeVelde (16-25-41), Sophomore F Jason Gregoire (20-17-37), Freshman F Danny Kristo (15-21-36), Junior F Evan Trupp (8-26-34), Junior D Derrick LaPoint (2-20-22), Junior D Jake Marto (5-13-18), Sophomore G Brad Eidsness (24-9-4, 2.09 GAA, .915 SV%, 3 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: November 1, 2003 (Grand Forks, ND). The Fighting Sioux crushed the visiting Bulldogs 10-0 to complete the two game sweep. Brady Murray scored the game winner 13 seconds into the first period, and Zach Parise led the way with a hat trick and an assist. UND won Friday’s opener, 8-4, behind two goals each from Brandon Bochenski and Quinn Fylling. Eight future NHL players were in uniform for North Dakota in that series.

Most Important Meeting: January 1, 1960 (Troy, NY). In the only tournament game these two teams have ever played, North Dakota trounced Yale 15-0 in the RPI holiday tourney,

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 5-0-0.

Game News and Notes

North Dakota senior forward Chris VandeVelde (117 career points) needs two points to crack the top 50 on UND’s all-time scoring list. Yale has the nation’s second best power play (23.5%). The Fighting Sioux have scored five shorthanded goals over the past thirteen games. UND is 3-0 all-time in NCAA tournament games played in Worcester, MA. Yale head coach Keith Allain was born and raised in Worcester.

The Prediction

Yale hasn’t seen a team like North Dakota all season, and the Fighting Sioux are on a roll. If it’s a parade to the penalty box, things could get interesting, but UND is too deep and too focused for the Bulldogs. North Dakota 4, Yale 2.

Bonus Predictions

In the other regional semifinal, Alaska is a better team than most fans give them credit for, but a date with Boston College seems like destiny (and could be payback) for North Dakota. Boston College 3, Alaska 2.

In the other regionals, I have:

Wisconsin over St. Cloud State in the West Regional final
Denver over New Hampshire in the East Regional final
Miami over Michigan in the Midwest Regional final

Thank you for reading. Check back on Sunday for a preview of the Northeast Regional final.

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