Weekend Preview: UND at 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, despite Lucia’s recent contract extension.

Since Hakstol has been the head coach at UND (beginning in 2004-05), he boasts a 10-7-3 (.575) 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 2010 WCHA playoff series in Grand Forks. Hakstol’s teams have ended Minnesota’s season three times in his seven 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 seven seasons, Hakstol has made the NCAA tournament seven times (Minnesota: four, missing the last three), has won the MacNaughton Cup twice and the Broadmoor Trophy three times, and has brought his team to the Frozen Four five 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, sophomore forward Erik Haula leads the nation in scoring, freshman forward Kyle Rau leads all first-year players in scoring, and senior goaltender Kent Patterson has all-world numbers (1.74 goals-against average, a save percentage of almost 94%, and four shutouts on the season). Minnesota is scoring every which way but loose, converting over 35% of power play opportunities and boasting a plus-9 differential in special teams situations.

North Dakota figured to have two great goaltenders in the rotation this season, and so far they haven’t had one. Neither Aaron Dell nor Brad Eidsness has stolen a game for the Green and White this year, and they’ll have to be better if UND hopes to steal a point or two this weekend.

For five Sioux players, it’s a homecoming of sorts. On the blueline, senior Ben Blood (Plymouth), junior Joe Gleason (Edina), and freshman Nick Mattson (Chanhassen) all hail from the Twin Cities area, and they are joined by junior forward Danny Kristo (Eden Prairie) and freshman forward Connor Gaarder (Edina).

Minnesota Team Profile

Head Coach: Don Lucia (13th season at Minnesota, 297-160-53, .634)
National Rankings: #5/#5
This Season: 7-1-0 overall, 4-0-0 WCHA (1st)
Last Season: 16-14-6 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 13-10-5 WCHA (5th)

Team Offense: 5.38 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.75 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 35.9% (14 of 39)
Penalty Kill: 87.5% (35 of 40)

Key Players: Sophomore F Erik Haula (7-10-17), Freshman F Kyle Rau (7-6-13), Sophomore F Nick Bjugstad (6-6-12), Sophomore D Nate Schmidt (1-10-11), Sophomore D Mark Alt (1-4-5), Senior G Kent Patterson (7-1-0, 1.74 GAA, .939 SV%, 4 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (8th season at UND, 190-97-28, .648)
National Rankings: #15/#15
This Season: 3-4-1 overall, 1-3-0 WCHA (t-9th)
Last Season: 32-9-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four semifinalist), 21-6-1 WCHA (1st)

Team Offense: 2.75 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.50 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.5% (8 of 39)
Penalty Kill: 78.1% (25 of 32)

Key Players: Junior F Danny Kristo (4-8-12) Junior F Corban Knight (4-6-10), Sophomore F Brock Nelson (4-4-8), Sophomore D Derek Forbort (1-2-3), Senior D Ben Blood (1-2-3), Freshman D Nick Mattson (2-3-5), Senior G Brad Eidsness (1-1-0, 3.31 GAA, .895 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last meeting: January 15, 2011 (Grand Forks, ND). North Dakota rattled off four unanswered goals to build a commanding 4-1 lead and withstood 80 seconds of 5 on 3 at the end of the game to earn the victory and a split of the weekend series. Minnesota took the opener, 3-2.

Last meeting in Minneapolis: (January 16, 2010). Despite controlling play for much of the game, North Dakota fell victim to four goals in a six minute stretch of the second period and couldn’t recover, falling 5-1 to the homestanding Gophers. The teams skated to a 3-3 tie one night earlier.

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 by a slim margin, 133-128-14 (.509).

Recent history: North Dakota is 7-3-3 (.654) in the last thirteen games between the schools.

Game News and Notes

North Dakota has been outscored in every period this season. Minnesota has outscored opponents 13-2 in the opening twenty minutes of games this year. North Dakota is five goals away from notching 10,000 goals in program history, dating back to 1946-47. UND head coach Dave Hakstol is 4-2-2 (.625) in his head coaching career at Mariucci Arena.

The Prediction

North Dakota will need to play two complete hockey games to compete for points this weekend. Both nights will be close, and UND could earn a split this weekend, but I feel like Minnesota will tie up Saturday’s game late. MN 5-2, 3-3 tie.

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

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