NCAA Tournament Preview: UND vs. Denver

Sioux senior forward Matt Frattin has now scored a goal in nine straight games, and his 36 goals this season place him in the top ten among North Dakota’s all-time single season goal scorers. Frattin would need four more goals to break into the top five, a list that includes Bob Joyce (52 goals in 1986-87), Tony Hrkac (46 in 1986-87), Doug Smail (43 in 1979-80), Russ Romaniuk (40 in 1990-91), and Ben Cherski (40 in 1953-54).

During UND’s current 14 game unbeaten streak (13-0-1), Frattin has notched 16 goals and added 13 assists for 29 points (2.07 points per game).

In Denver’s last twelve contests, the Pioneers are 7-5-0. Three of DU’s last four games have gone to overtime, including last night’s double overtime victory over Western Michigan.

The Pioneers had an interesting cycle broken at the 2011 WCHA Final Five. Had the Pioneers defeated North Dakota in the title game, they would have continued their string of WCHA playoff championships every three years (1999, 2002, 2005, 2008).

After winning back-to-back national championships in 2004 and 2005, the Pios missed the NCAA tournament for two seasons before making a return in 2008. DU has played in the NCAAs the past four seasons, while North Dakota is making their ninth straight appearance.

Denver’s George Gwozdecky has been behind the bench for 17 seasons, leading the Pioneers to three WCHA regular season titles, four WCHA Final Five championships, and two national championships. UND’s Dave Hakstol has led North Dakota for seven seasons, capturing two WCHA regular season titles, three WCHA Final Five championships, and four Frozen Four appearances.

The winner of this game will advance to the 2011 Frozen Four (St. Paul, MN) and face Michigan in the semifinals. The Michigan Wolverines have nine national titles to their credit, while the Denver Pioneers and North Dakota Fighting Sioux each claim seven.

The other half of the Frozen Four bracket claims much less hardware. Minnesota-Duluth will face either Notre Dame or New Hampshire in the other semifinal in St. Paul. All three of those teams are looking for their first national championship.

There has been no official word on Sioux center Brock Nelson’s injury, although the team does not expect him back in the lineup against Denver.

Denver Team Profile

Head Coach: George Gwozdecky (17th season at DU, 398-238-55 .616)

This Season: 25-11-5 overall, 17-8-3 WCHA (2nd)
Last Season: 27-10-4 Overall (NCAA East Regional Semifinalist), 19-5-4 WCHA (1st)

Pairwise Ranking: 7th
National Rankings: #5/#5

Team Offense: 3.29 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.61 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.0% (35 of 184)
Penalty Kill: 86.3% (164 of 190)

Key Players: Freshman F Jason Zucker (22-22-44), Senior F Kyle Ostrow (15-13-28), Senior F Drew Shore (23-23-46), Senior F Anthony Maiani (8-28-36), Freshman D David Makowski (6-23-29), Sophomore D Matt Donovan (9-23-32), Freshman G Sam Brittain (19-8-5, 2.20 GAA, .924 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (7th season at UND, 186-92-27, .653)
This Season: 31-8-3 overall, 21-6-1 WCHA (1st)
Last Season: 25-13-5 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 15-10-3 WCHA (t-4th)
Pairwise Ranking: 2nd
National Rankings: #1/#1

Team Offense: 4.05 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.22 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 23.0% (48 of 209)
Penalty Kill: 85.1% (160 of 188)

Key Players: Senior F Matt Frattin (36-23-59), Junior F Jason Gregoire (25-17-42), Sophomore F Corban Knight (14-30-44), Senior F Evan Trupp (16-24-40), Senior F/D Jake Marto (7-11-18), Freshman D Derek Forbort (0-15-15), Sophomore G Aaron Dell (29-6-2, 1.83 GAA, .923 SV%, 6 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: March 19, 2011 (St. Paul, MN). North Dakota and Denver needed two overtimes to decide the WCHA Final Five championship, and Matt Frattin provided the knockout punch. Frattin also netted the game-winner against Colorado College one night earlier and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. Exactly one year earlier, North Dakota knocked off the #1-seeded Pioneers to advance to the Final Five title game.

Last Meeting in the NCAA tournament: April 9, 2005 (St. Louis, MO). Denver’s Paul Stastny (two goals and one assist) and Peter Mannino (44 saves) led the Pioneers to a 4-1 victory in the 2005 national championship game. Travis Zajac scored the only goal for North Dakota, who put 23 shots on net in the third period alone but came up empty.

Most Important Meeting: It’s hard to pick just one game, as the two teams have played four times for the national title. Denver defeated UND for the national championship in 1958, 1968, and 2005, while the Sioux downed the Pioneers in 1963.

Last Ten Games: Denver has had a slight edge lately, going 5-4-1 (.550) in the last ten meetings between the schools.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 132-115-8 (.533).

Game News and Notes

Denver freshman forward Jason Zucker scored three goals in a weekend series at North Dakota in October but was held off the scoresheet against UND at the WCHA Final Five. North Dakota is the only #1 seed remaining in the NCAA tournament (Boston College, Miami, and Yale lost this weekend). Hobey Baker hopeful Matt Frattin has 47 goals in his last 55 games. In this year’s playoffs (five games) the Pioneers have outscored opponents 13-1 in the third period. UND sophomore netminder Aaron Dell notched his 29th victory of the season against RPI, tying Ed Belfour’s single season record at North Dakota.

The Prediction

Denver has talent, grit, and resiliency, and they are never out of a game until the final whistle. That being said, UND is on a mission this season, and they have their sights set on the Frozen Four. This game will be an instant classic and could go either way. The Pioneers had to settle for second place in the WCHA regular season and at the Final Five, and they’ll end up in the same spot again. North Dakota 4-3.

2 thoughts on “NCAA Tournament Preview: UND vs. Denver”

  1. Very nice work, Dave!
    I agree that this will be a game for the history books. Go Sioux.

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