Weekend Preview: UND at St. Cloud State

There are two trends at odds this weekend when North Dakota travels to St. Cloud to face the Huskies:

Trend #1: In the past eleven games this season, North Dakota is 8-2-1, while St. Cloud State is just 3-6-2.

Trend #2: Since 1998, UND is winless on Friday nights at SCSU (0-7-4) but has come back strong on Saturday nights (9-1-1).

Another issue at play in this critical WCHA series is that both teams are playing shorthanded.

For St. Cloud, sophomore forwards Cam Reid and Mitch MacMillan have left the team for better opportunities, while senior forward Drew LeBlanc (2-10-12 in 10 games) and junior goaltender Mike Lee (2-2-1, 3.34 GAA, .896 SV%) suffered injuries. Mike Lee is close to returning and could see action this weekend.

On the North Dakota side, it’s even worse. Before the season started, the predicted 2nd and 3rd line forwards were J.T.Miller, Colten St. Clair, Rocco Grimaldi, Derek Rodwell, Michael Parks, and Brendan O’Donnell. None of those six forwards will play in these games.

Miller backed out of his commitment to UND, and St. Clair has not yet cleared the NCAA Eligibility Center. Grimaldi and Rodwell are in line for season-ending surgeries, while Parks and O’Donnell are nursing injuries and unable to suit up this weekend.

Put another way: UND is competing this weekend with a top line of Danny Kristo/Corban Knight/Brock Nelson and a whole slew of fourth line forwards. UND is so thin up front that it is possible (though unlikely) that third-string goaltender Tate Maris could suit up and see action as a forward on the fourth line.

On the blue line, North Dakota’s Derek Forbort sustained a lower body injury while playing for the United States at the World Junior tournament and has yet to return to the lineup.

The teams split an October series in Grand Forks, so the UND/SCSU Challenge Cup is on the line this weekend in St. Cloud.

St. Cloud State Team Profile

Head Coach: (Bob Motzko, 7th season at SCSU, 129-103-33, .549)
Pairwise Ranking: 30th (tie)
National Rankings: NR/NR
This Season: 9-11-4 overall, 6-7-3 WCHA (8th)
Last Season: 15-18-5 overall, 11-13 4 WCHA (9th)

Team Offense: 3.12 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.04 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.7% (19 of 92)
Penalty Kill: 75.8% (72 of 95))

Key Players: Senior F Jared Festler (10-8-18), Junior F Ben Hanowski (12-13-25), Senior F Travis Novak (7-10-17), Freshman D Jarrod Rabey (2-5-7), Sophomore D Nick Jensen (5-14-19), Freshman G Ryan Faragher (7-9-3, 2.82 GAA, .909 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (8th season at UND, 199-102-29, .647)
Pairwise Ranking: 18th (tie)
National Rankings: #17/#16
This Season: 12-9-2 overall, 8-8-0 WCHA (7th)
Last Season: 32-9-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four semifinalist), 21-6-1 WCHA (1st)

Team Offense: 3.00 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.83 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 21.2% (24 of 113)
Penalty Kill: 82.5% (80 of 97)

Key Players: Junior F Danny Kristo (12-13-25) Junior F Corban Knight (6-15-21), Sophomore F Brock Nelson (16-9-25), Freshman D Nick Mattson (5-8-13), Senior D Ben Blood (2-9-11), Senior G Brad Eidsness (3-1-0, 2.48 GAA, .915 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: October 29, 2011 (Grand Forks, ND). The Huskies blanked North Dakota 4-0 in Friday’s opener, but UND exacted revenge on Saturday. North Dakota forwards Corban Knight and Brock Nelson potted second period goals just 89 seconds apart to lead the Green and White to a 3-1 home victory.

Last Meeting in St. Cloud: February 19, 2011. 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.

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, 57-30-11 (.638), with a slight edge of 22-16-6 (.568) in games played at the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud. North Dakota is 6-3-1 (.750) in the last ten contests between the schools. This weekend will mark the 99th and 100th meetings between the two programs.

Game News and Notes

North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol is 19-8-6 (.667) in his career against St. Cloud State. Hakstol could join UND’s 200 Victory Club with a win this weekend, joining two others (John “Gino” Gasparini and Dean Blais) as the only coaches to reach that milestone. SCSU freshman goalie Ryan Faragher has made 18 consecutive starts for the Huskies, a run that started with his 4-0 shutout victory in Grand Forks on October 28th. St. Cloud assistant coach Steve Johnson was a four year letterwinner at UND, collecting 191 points in 153 games. He was a finalist for the Hobey Baker award and a first-team All-American as a senior.

The Prediction

The Friday/Saturday trend will continue, with North Dakota falling just short on Friday night before pulling away in Saturday’s rematch. SCSU 4-3, UND 4-2.

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 and the Center Ice Club, I would like to invite you to the UND/SCSU pre-game social on Saturday afternoon from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Legends Bar inside the Holiday Inn in St. Cloud. 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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