Weekend Preview: UND at Maine

It’s hard to find a Sioux fan who doesn’t have admiration and respect for the Maine Black Bears. There’s a certain affinity for other great hockey teams that survive and thrive in smaller markets and are the flagship programs for their state.

More specifically, the connection between North Dakota and Maine is well-documented. Former UND head coach Dean Blais is fondly remembered for his tribute to Shawn Walsh during Walsh’s cancer battle. I remember vividly the game played in Orono, Maine on Friday, October 13th, 2000, when the defending national champion Fighting Sioux took to the ice in matching “Walsh” jerseys and donated the game-worn uniforms to defray coach Walsh’s medical costs.

It was only fitting that when the late Shawn Walsh’s shamrock was retired and hoisted to the rafters at Alfond Arena in October 2004, North Dakota was once again on hand as the visiting team.

Turning the page to this weekend’s action, both squads are hungry to pick up key wins that will prove beneficial in the Pairwise Rankings. The two victories Maine picked up in Grand Forks in October 2006 helped propel them to the Frozen Four, and the Fighting Sioux will look to return the favor this weekend.

Maine Team Profile

Head Coach: Tim Whitehead (10th season at Maine, 200-127-38 .600)
National Ranking: #11/#12
This Season: 1-1-2 Overall, 1-0-0 Hockey East
Last Season: 19-17-3 Overall, 13-12-2 Hockey East (t-3rd)
Power Play: 22.2% (6 of 27)
Penalty Kill: 80.8% (21 of 26)
Key Players: Junior F Spencer Abbott (4-3-7), Sophomore F Joey Diamond (3-2-5), Senior F Robby Dee (3-2-5), Senior F Josh Van Dyk (0-4-4), Sophomore D Mike Cornell (1-2-3), Sophomore G Shawn Sirman (1-0-1, 2.60 GAA, .912 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (7th season at UND, 158-84-25, .639)
National Ranking: #2/#2
This Season: 3-0-1, 2-0-0 WCHA
Last Season: 25-13-5 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 15-10-3 WCHA (t-4th)
Power Play: 33.3% (7 of 21)
Penalty Kill: 83.3% (15 of 18)
Key Players: Junior F Jason Gregoire (3-2-5), Sophomore F Corban Knight (2-4-6), Senior F Evan Trupp (1-3-4), Senior F Matt Frattin (5-1-6) Senior D Chay Genoway (1-2-3), Freshman D Derek Forbort (0-5-5), Sophomore G Aaron Dell (2-0-0, 1.50 GAA, .919 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: October 21, 2006 (Grand Forks, ND). Maine sophomore goaltender Ben Bishop held UND scoreless for almost 58 minutes and the Black Bears weathered a barrage of North Dakota 5-on-3 power plays as the visiting squad won 3-1 to complete the weekend sweep. Bishop made 48 of 50 saves on the weekend.

Last Meeting in Orono: October 9, 2004. In a battle of top-five teams, the Fighting Sioux took down Maine for the second consecutive night, winning 3-1 after taking a 4-3 overtime victory in the opener. Rastislav Spirko had one goal and four assists in the series.

Most Important Meeting: April 6, 2000 (Providence, RI). The Fighting Sioux scored twice in the second period and Karl Goehring stopped all 30 shots he faces as UND advanced to the national title game with a 2-0 victory over Maine. Two nights later, the Green and White would claim their seventh national championship.

Last Ten: UND is 5-4-1 (.550) in the last ten meetings between the teams.

All-time Series: North Dakota leads the all-time series 11-6-1 (.667), including a slight 4-3-1 (.563) edge in games played in Orono.

Game News and Notes:

After UND completes their six-game road trip to open the series, they will host Denver and Minnesota-Duluth on back-to-back weekends. Maine forward Gustav Nyquist was a Hobey Baker award finalist last season. Fifth-year senior Chay Genoway is the only current Sioux player to have played against the Black Bears, appearing in a pair of losses to Maine in October 2006. Friday’s game will be broadcast live on CBS College Sports.

The Prediction

It’s hard to see anything but a split out of this series, but North Dakota pulled off a sweep in its last visit to Alfond Arena. The Fighting Sioux are deep, talented, and determined to take points each night on the ice. 3-3 tie, UND 4-2.

Thank you for reading. I welcome your comments and suggestions.

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