Weekend Preview: UND vs. Minnesota

During the Dave Hakstol era at North Dakota, the Fighting Sioux have done everything but win a national title. For Minnesota head coach Don Lucia, it’s a case of “what have you done for me lately?” The Golden Gophers’ titles in 2002 and 2003 seem like so long ago, with many fans calling for a change. (Dean Blais, anyone?)

Since Hakstol has been the head coach at UND (beginning in 2004-05), he boasts a 9-6-3 (.583) record against Minnesota in the regular season. More impressively, his playoff mark against the Gophers stands at 5-2-0 (.714). The two losses came on Blake Wheeler’s overtime winner at the 2007 Final Five and in the middle game of a three game WCHA playoff series last year in Grand Forks. Hakstol’s teams have ended Minnesota’s season three times in his six seasons as a head coach: 2004-05 Frozen Four semifinal, 2006-07 West Regional final, and the 2009-10 WCHA first round playoff series.

Over those six seasons, Hakstol has made the NCAA tournament six times (Minnesota: four, missing the last two), has won the MacNaughton Cup once and the Broadmoor Trophy twice, and has brought his team to the Frozen Four four times. Lucia, by contrast, has claimed one Frozen Four visit, two MacNaughton Cup titles, and one Broadmoor Trophy since 2004-05.

It’s true that the games this weekend are about the players, not the coaches. For Minnesota, senior goaltender Alex Kangas will have season-ending surgery, but in the interest of full disclosure, junior Kent Patterson has been the better netminder this season. The issue here is that there is no one behind Patterson with even a minute of college experience. Junior Jake Kremer will be the backup this weekend for the Gophers.

Sioux junior forward Jason Gregoire has not been ruled out for this weekend’s action, and his return could give North Dakota a huge lift. Fellow junior Brett Hextall returned last weekend against Robert Morris after missing the previous five games.

UND senior forward Matt Frattin continues his torrid goal-scoring pace. His Hobey-worthy point totals now stand at 20 goals and 8 assists in 23 games. His assist numbers could be a bit higher, but it’s tough to collect helpers when the coaches ask you to shoot all the time and all of your shots go in, leaving no rebounds for your teammates.

Special teams will be critical this weekend, just as they were in last season’s WCHA first round playoff series. North Dakota won games one and three, holding the Gophers scoreless on eight power play opportunities. In Minnesota’s game two victory, they converted three of four chances with the man advantage. For the season, UND is a +9 in combined special teams play, while Lucia’s squad is a -5. The Fighting Sioux have also scored five shorthanded goals this season, while the Gophers have notched two.

Minnesota Team Profile

Head Coach: Don Lucia (12th season at Minnesota, 283-153-50, .634)

This Season: 9-8-3 overall, 6-6-2 WCHA (t-6th)
Last Season: 18-19-2 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 12-14-2 WCHA (7th)
PairWise Ranking: 24th
National Rankings: NR/NR

Team Offense: 3.15 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.05 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 21.8% (17 of 78)
Penalty Kill: 74.4% (64 of 86)

Key Players: Senior F Jay Barriball (11-10-21), Senior F Jacob Cepis (7-11-18), Senior F Mike Hoeffel (8-8-16), Senior D Cade Fairchild (3-8-11), Senior D Kevin Wehrs (1-7-8), Junior G Kent Patterson (7-3-3, 2.50 GAA, .918 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (7th season at UND, 171-89-26, .643)

This Season: 16-5-2, 11-3-0 WCHA (1st)
Last Season: 25-13-5 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 15-10-3 WCHA (t-4th)
PairWise Ranking: t-2nd
National Rankings: #2/#2

Team Offense: 3.65 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.35 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.0% (23 of 115)
Penalty Kill: 86.8 (92 of 106)

Key Players: Senior F Matt Frattin (20-8-28), Senior F Brad Malone (7-13-20), Sophomore F Corban Knight (11-13-24), Senior F Evan Trupp (8-11-19), Senior D Chay Genoway (4-17-21), Freshman D Derek Forbort (0-9-9), Sophomore G Aaron Dell (15-4-1, 1.92 GAA, .922 SV%, 3 SO)

By The Numbers

Last meeting: March 14, 2010 (Grand Forks, ND). In game three of the first round WCHA playoff series, North Dakota prevailed 4-1 to end Minnesota’s season and advance to the WCHA Final Five. UND would claim the Broadmoor Trophy six days later after dispatching Minnesota-Duluth, Denver, and St. Cloud State. The Sioux and Gophers split the first two playoff games, with North Dakota winning 6-0 on Friday night and Minnesota rebounding with a 4-2 victory on Saturday.

Most important meeting: March 24, 1979 (Detroit, MI). North Dakota and Minnesota met to decide the national championship, and the Gophers prevailed, 4-3.

All-time: Minnesota leads the all-time series, 132-127-14 (.509), but North Dakota holds a 69-54-8 (.557) advantage in games played in Grand Forks.

Last Ten: North Dakota is 5-4-1 in the last ten meetings between the teams. Three of the last ten games have gone to overtime.

Game News and Notes

Minnesota has played to overtime in its last three games, losing to Union and tying Minnesota-Duluth and Ferris State. North Dakota’s Evan Trupp, Jason Gregoire, and Chay Genoway each have nine career points against the Maroon and Gold. The Gophers have not won a game this season when trailing after one period of play (0-6-0). This weekend is a White Out Weekend at Ralph Engelstad Arena, with Fighting Sioux fans encouraged to wear white to both games. In an effort to minimize traffic and congestion at the arena, Gopher fans are asked to arrive at 10:37 p.m.

The Prediction

The teams are not evenly matched, but the intensity will be there on both sides. Officiating and special teams will be key, and I have a feeling Minnesota will take the opener before North Dakota’s talent shines in the rematch. UMN 3-2, UND 4-1.

Thank you for reading. As always, I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions.

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