Alaska-Anchorage is looking at their best conference finish in program history. Before the season started, I predicted that the Seawolves would finish 11th out of 12 teams, and I wrote this:
11. Alaska-Anchorage: Ten freshmen and 40 minutes of returning experience in net means the Seawolves will be lucky to win five WCHA games.
So far this year, the six freshman forwards have appeared in a total of 101 games, scoring 18 goals and adding 30 assists. The two freshman blue liners have combined for 40 games, contributing 2 goals and 3 assists. That has taken some of the scoring load off of seniors Tommy Grant and Craig Parkinson and allowed freshmen goaltenders Rob Gunderson and Chris Kamal to grow accustomed to league play.
And I was dead wrong about the win total: UAA has already notched nine wins in the WCHA and is currently tied for 6th place in the league standings (with Colorado College).
Of the top five teams in the league, North Dakota has the easiest schedule remaining. After UAA, the Fighting Sioux will travel to St. Cloud and Michigan Tech and host Bemidji State over the final three weekends of the regular season. Denver has tough tests on the road (Minnesota and Nebraska-Omaha), and Duluth closes out the year with a road trip to Colorado College and a home series against UNO. As you can see, it will be almost impossible for Dean Blais’ squad to gain ground, as they also have Wisconsin at home and a road series at Anchorage. Wisconsin also faces Minnesota and Colorado College over the final month.
Alaska-Anchorage Team Profile
Head Coach: (Dave Shyiak, 6th season at UAA, 61-122-24, .353)
This Season: 10-13-3, 9-11-2 WCHA (t-6th)
Last Season: 11-23-2 overall, 9-17-2 WCHA (t-8th)
Pairwise Ranking: t-25th
National Rankings: NR
Team Offense: 2.38 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.96 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 15.9% (18 of 113)
Penalty Kill: 81.0% (94 of 116)
Key Players: Senior F Tommy Grant (10-13-23), Freshman F Matt Bailey (8-9-17), Freshman F Jordan Kwas (4-13-17), Junior D Curtis Leinweber (4-6-10), Senior D Luka Vidmar (1-8-9), Freshman G Rob Gunderson (6-10-2, 2.72 GAA, .896 SV%)
North Dakota Team Profile
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (7th season at UND, 173-91-26, .641)
This Season: 19-8-2, 14-6-0 WCHA (3rd)
Last Season: 25-13-5 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 15-10-3 WCHA (t-4th)
Pairwise Ranking: t-5th
National Rankings: #5/#5
Team Offense: 3.66 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.48 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.3% (31 of 153)
Penalty Kill: 84.2% (117 of 139)
Key Players: Senior F Matt Frattin (21-10-31), Senior F Brad Malone (9-16-25), Sophomore F Corban Knight (12-16-28), Senior F Evan Trupp (11-14-25), Senior F/D Jake Marto (4-6-10), Junior D Ben Blood (1-5-6), Sophomore G Aaron Dell (18-6-1, 2.07 GAA, .918 SV%, 4 SO)
By The Numbers
Last meeting: October 8, 2010 (Anchorage, AK). Midway through the 2nd period at the Kendall Hockey Classic, North Dakota led 5-1. Eight minutes later, the Seawolves were within one. Anchorage got the equalizer early in the 3rd and the game ended 5-5.
Last meeting in Grand Forks: November 15, 2008. UND used two power play goals and a shorthanded marker to defeat the visiting Seawolves, 3-1. UAA won Friday’s opener, 3-2, collecting just their third ever victory in Grand Forks,
Most Important Meeting: March 19, 2004 (St. Paul, MN). The Fighting Sioux and Seawolves met in the semifinal round of the WCHA Final Five, and UND cruised to the championship game with a 4-2 victory.
All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 40-17-4 (.689) including a 24-3-3 (.850) record in games played in Grand Forks. The Fighting Sioux have only lost twice in the last eleven meetings between the teams (7-2-2), with three of those games going to overtime.
Game News and Notes
The Seawolves are one victory away from matching their win total from all of last season. Sioux junior forward Jason Gregoire has eight points (six goals, two assists) in six games since returning from injury on January 14th. UND’s Chay Genoway (lower-body injury) and Danny Kristo (frostbite) will miss this weekend’s action. Sioux forward Taylor Dickin will see his first action of the season.
This feels like a Friday breakout for North Dakota. In Saturday’s rematch, the Seawolves will limit penalties and scoring opportunities but will fall just short of a victory. UND 6-2, 2-1.