WCHA First Round Playoff Preview: UND vs. Michigan Tech

The future looks brighter for Michigan Tech. The freshmen and sophomore classes continue to lead the Huskies, and all seven point producers last weekend in Houghton were first- and second-year players.

Jamie Russell will graduate only three players after this season, and there’s reason to believe that MTU will avoid the WCHA basement in 2011-2012.

For North Dakota, the time is now. The Fighting Sioux boast two legitimate scoring lines (Frattin-Malone-Trupp and Gregoire-Knight-Hextall) and the league’s best defense and goaltending. Dave Hakstol’s squad is unbeaten in their last nine games (8-0-1), and destroyed Michigan Tech last weekend by a combined score of 17-3.

Despite the mismatch, history tells us that at least one of these games will be closer than last weekend’s scores. In March 2009, UND defeated Michigan Tech 5-1, 4-3 in the first round, and in March 2008, the Huskies took North Dakota to a third game, with the Fighting Sioux prevailing in the series 4-0, 2-3 (OT), 2-1.

One area of concern for North Dakota is whether the games will get out of hand if and when the scoreboard gets out of hand. In Saturday’s 11-2 drubbing of the Huskies, Michigan Tech was whistled for 49 minutes in penalties, including a 5 minute major for checking from behind and three 10 minute misconducts. UND would like to get out of this series in two games and in one piece.

Michigan Tech Team Profile

Head Coach: (Jamie Russell, 8th season at MTU, 70-195-37, .293)

This Season: 4-28-4, 2-24-2 WCHA (12th)
Last Season: 5-30-1 overall, 4-24-0 WCHA (10th)
Pairwise Ranking: NR
National Rankings: NR/NR

Team Offense: 2.06 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 4.39 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 16.0% (24 of 150)
Penalty Kill: 74.8% (107 of 143)

Key Players: Sophomore F Milos Gordic (15-6-21), Freshman F Ryan Furne (11-9-20), Freshman F Jacob Johnstone (4-14-18), Senior D Deron Cousens (2-18-20), Sophomore D Steven Seigo (4-13-17), Sophomore G Kevin Genoe (3-16-2, 3.86 GAA, .888 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (7th season at UND, 181-92-27, .648)

This Season: 26-8-3, 21-6-1 WCHA (1st)
Last Season: 25-13-5 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 15-10-3 WCHA (t-4th)
Pairwise Ranking: 3rd
National Rankings: #1/#1

Team Offense: 4.00 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.30 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 23.4% (46 of 197)
Penalty Kill: 84.9% (146 of 172)

Key Players: Senior F Matt Frattin (29-20-49), Junior F Jason Gregoire (21-16-37), Sophomore F Corban Knight (13-27-40), Senior F Evan Trupp (16-18-34), Senior F/D Jake Marto (6-11-17), Freshman D Derek Forbort (0-15-15), Sophomore G Aaron Dell (24-6-2, 1.95 GAA, .919 SV%, 4 SO)

By The Numbers

Last meeting: March 5, 2011 (Houghton, MI). North Dakota scored early (four goals in the first five minutes) and often (11 goals total) in completing a weekend sweep of the Huskies, 11-2. Jason Gregoire netted a hat trick, and Brett Hextall and Mario Lamoureux both collected four points. Huskies starting goaltender Josh Robinson lasted only 4 minutes and 39 seconds, allowing four goals on six shots.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: March 6, 2010 (Grand Forks, ND). North Dakota rallied from a two goal deficit to defeat the visiting Huskies 3-2 and secure a weekend sweep. UND forward Jason Gregoire potted two goals and Mario Lamoureux added the game winner midway through the third period.

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, 142-90-9 (.608), including a 79-33-4 (.698) record in games played in Grand Forks. The teams first met in 1948.

Last Ten: UND has posted a 9-0-1 (.950) record in the last ten games between the teams. The only blemish on that mark came in January 2009 when the teams skated to a 3-3 tie in Houghton. North Dakota avenged the tie with a 5-0 drubbing the following night. The Fighting Sioux have outscored the Huskies 50-16 in the last ten games.

Game News and Notes

This weekend’s playoff series will mark the third time in four seasons that UND hosts the Huskies in the first round of the WCHA playoffs. Michigan Tech has not played in the NCAA tournament since 1981, but advanced to the WCHA Final Five in 2007. Sioux forwards Matt Frattin, Jason Gregoire, and Evan Trupp have all joined UND’s Century Club (100 career points) in the past two weekends. North Dakota is now averaging four goals per game, and the team is 20-1-1 when scoring at least four goals.

The Prediction

North Dakota will roll on Friday night, but have a tougher time on Saturday. The Huskies go down, but not without a fight. UND 6-1, 4-2.

Bonus Predictions

#11 MSU-Mankato at #2 Denver: Denver in 3

#10 Bemidji State at #3 Nebraska-Omaha: Nebraska-Omaha in 2

#9 St. Cloud State at #4 Minnesota-Duluth: St. Cloud State in 3

#8 Alaska-Anchorage at #5 Minnesota: Minnesota in 3

#7 Wisconsin at #6 Colorado College: Colorado College in 3

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

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