Weekend Preview: UND vs. St. Cloud State

St. Cloud State would like to forget all about last season. Entering the year, the Huskies had high expectations for a top-tier finish in the WCHA and a deep tournament run.

Instead, SCSU sputtered to a 9th place finish in league play and bowed out in the first round of the WCHA playoffs at Duluth. Perhaps most disappointing was the Huskies’ record on home ice, finishing with a 6-8-4 record at the National Hockey Center.

North Dakota had a dream season end in heartbreak at the hands of the Michigan Wolverines, one game short of the NCAA championship game. UND is a much different team this season after losing nine players from last year’s squad (forwards Matt Frattin, Evan Trupp, Brad Malone, Brent Davidson, Brett Hextall and Jason Gregoire; and defensemen Chay Genoway, Jake Marto, and Derrick LaPoint).

In my WCHA season predictions, I have North Dakota finishing 3rd and St. Cloud State ending up in 9th place once again.

This weekend, the teams will be earning points for the UND/SCSU Challenge Cup, a traveling fan trophy awarded to the team which wins the four-game season series. The trophy will be awarded in St. Cloud on January 21, 2012. North Dakota has won at least a share of the Challenge Cup each of the past five seasons.

St. Cloud State Team Profile

Head Coach: (Bob Motzko, 7th season at SCSU, 122-95-30, .555)
National Ranking: NR/NR
This Season: 2-3-1 overall, 0-0-0 WCHA (8th)
Last Season: 15-18-5 overall, 11-13 4 WCHA (9th)

Team Offense: 3.50 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.50 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 27.3% (6 of 22)
Penalty Kill: 72.7% (16 of 22)

Key Players: Senior F Drew LaBlanc (2-8-10), Senior F Jared Festler (4-3-7), Junior F Ben Hanowski (2-5-7), Freshman D Jarrod Rabey (2-2-4), Sophomore D Nick Jensen (1-3-4), Junior G Mike Lee (2-2-1, 3.34 GAA, .896 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (8th season at UND, 189-96-28, .649)
National Rankings: #12/#13
This Season: 2-3-1 overall, 0-2-0 WCHA (10th)
Last Season: 32-9-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four semifinalist), 21-6-1 WCHA (1st)

Team Offense: 3.17 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.83 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 21.4% (6 of 28)
Penalty Kill: 74.1% (20 of 27)

Key Players: Junior F Danny Kristo (4-7-11) Junior F Corban Knight (3-5-8), Sophomore F Brock Nelson (3-4-7), Sophomore D Derek Forbort (1-1-2), Senior D Ben Blood (1-1-2), Senior G Brad Eidsness (1-1-0, 3.31 GAA, .895 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: February 19, 2011 (St. Cloud, MN). One night after Matt Frattin’s late goal salvaged a tie and earned North Dakota the Challenge Cup, UND’s Brett Hextall broke a 2-2 tie early in the third and the Fighting Sioux held on to defeat the homestanding Huskies, 3-2. The victory was the first of eleven wins in a row for North Dakota.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: December 4, 2010. UND took out the black jerseys at home (a rare occurrence) and steamrolled SCSU for five goals in the first period alone. The Sioux received a standing ovation from their fans as they left the ice after the opening twenty minutes. The final score was 6-2, and North Dakota earned the home sweep.

Most Important Meeting: March 17, 2001 (St. Paul, MN). St. Cloud State defeated North Dakota 6-5 to claim the 2001 WCHA Final Five Championship. Derek Eastman scored the game-winner in overtime after UND scored three goals in the final ten minutes of regulation to force the extra session.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 56-29-11 (.641), and holds a record of 29-12-5 (.685) in games played in Grand Forks. North Dakota is 7-2-1 (.750) in the last ten contests, with both losses coming by a single goal. The combined score of the past ten games is UND 47 – SCSU 23.

Game News and Notes

Danny Kristo is tied for third in the country with 11 points, and has collected 34 points (11 goals, 23 assists) in his last 23 games. North Dakota has not started 0-3-0 in the WCHA since 1989-90. Under the new 12-team WCHA schedule rotation, the Fighting Sioux and Huskies continue to play four regular season games each year. With eight goals this weekend, UND would reach the 10,000 goal milestone in program history.

The Prediction

North Dakota will be looking to avenge two close losses at Wisconsin last weekend, but the Huskies will not make it easy. UND will not break through until Saturday night. 3-3 tie, UND 5-1.

On a Personal Note

I look forward to this series every year because of the unique relationship we have with the Center Ice Club, the official hockey booster organization for the St. Cloud State University Huskies. On behalf of SiouxSports.com, I would like to invite you to the UND/SCSU pre-game social on Saturday afternoon from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Muddy Rivers ballroom (inside the GuestHouse) in downtown Grand Forks. This is a great opportunity to meet fans on both sides of the rivalry, win fabulous door prizes, and view the Challenge Cup. This event is free and open to all fans 21 and older.

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