After a three-game losing skid at the hands of North Dakota and Minnesota, the St. Cloud State Huskies have found their stride, going 7-2-1 in their last ten games. During that stretch, SCSU grabbed three points against Duluth in a weekend series and swept Wisconsin on the road before securing a home playoff sweep of Nebraska–Omaha to advance to the WCHA Final Five.
North Dakota has been on fire for almost four months. After suffering a 1-0 defeat at the hands of homestanding Bemidji State, UND has gone 18-5-2 to propel itself back into the national playoff picture. Dave Hakstol’s squad has done all this despite being decimated by injuries. The Green and White have regularly skated only eleven forwards, with half of that group consisting of walk-on players and converted defensemen.
These two teams skated to two splits in the WCHA regular season, with each claiming a share of the UND/SCSU Challenge Cup. Playoff results do not count in the race for the Challenge Cup, but bragging rights and a date with Minnesota in the WCHA semifinals are both on the line Thursday night.
When the 16-team NCAA tournament field is announced on Sunday, expect North Dakota’s name to be called regardless of the results this weekend. St. Cloud State, on the other hand, would need to win the Final Five Championship in order to secure a bid to the national tournament.
UND has won the past two WCHA Final Five championships, defeating St. Cloud State in 2010 and downing Denver in 2011. SCSU’s lone WCHA playoff title came in 2001, when the Huskies defeated North Dakota in overtime.
St. Cloud State Team Profile
Head Coach: (Bob Motzko, 7th season at SCSU, 137-108-34, .552)
Pairwise Ranking: 19th
National Rankings: NR/NR
This Season: 17-16-5 overall, 12-12-4 WCHA (6th)
Last Season: 15-18-5 overall, 11-13 4 WCHA (9th)
Team Offense: 3.13 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.63 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 22.5% (31 of 138)
Penalty Kill: 77.9% (106 of 136)
Key Players: Senior F Jared Festler (15-19-34), Junior F Ben Hanowski (22-20-42), Senior F Travis Novak (12-13-25), Freshman D Andrew Prochno (5-23-28), Sophomore D Nick Jensen (6-26-32), Junior G Mike Lee (8-5-2, 2.24 GAA, .930 SV%, 1 SO)
North Dakota Team Profile
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (8th season at UND, 209-105-30, .651)
Pairwise Ranking: t-11th
National Rankings: #12/#12
This Season: 22-12-3 overall, 16-11-1 WCHA (4th)
Last Season: 32-9-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four semifinalist), 21-6-1 WCHA (1st)
Team Offense: 3.14 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.65 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 21.4% (36 of 168)
Penalty Kill: 81.5% (123 of 151)
Key Players: Junior F Danny Kristo (17-23-40) Junior F Corban Knight (13-22-35), Sophomore F Brock Nelson (23-17-40), Freshman D Nick Mattson (6-12-18), Senior D Ben Blood (3-15-18), Senior G Brad Eidsness (8-3-1, 2.17 GAA, .920 SV%, 1 SO)
By The Numbers
Last Meeting: January 21, 2012 (St. Cloud, MN). One night after the Huskies secured a 3-1 home victory over North Dakota, the Fighting Sioux won a tight 3-2 contest to claim a road split and a share of the UND/SCSU Challenge Cup. UND survived a review of a Ben Hanowski non-goal with under 35 seconds remaining to hold on for the win.
Last Meeting at the WCHA Final Five: March 20, 2010 (St. Paul, MN), UND spotted St. Cloud State a 2-0 lead less than a minute into the hockey game but outscored the Huskies 5-1 the rest of the way en route to a 5-3 victory and the Broadmoor Trophy. North Dakota won three games in three nights to secure the title, becoming just the second team to ever accomplish the feat (Duluth, 2009).
Most Important Meeting: March 17, 2001 (St. Paul, MN). In the game that started the rivalry, 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, 58-31-11 (.635), with a 9-2 (.818) edge in postseason play.
Last Ten: North Dakota is 7-2-1 in the last ten meetings between the schools.
Game News and Notes
North Dakota forward Corban Knight has 14 points in 13 career games against St. Cloud State. UND is appearing in their tenth consecutive WCHA Final Five and are attempting to become the first team in league history to win three consecutive playoff championships. St. Cloud State goaltender Mike Lee stopped 59 of 60 shots he faced last weekend against UNO.Patrick McGovern’s Pub will host all UND pre-game events, beginning two hours prior to any game that UND is playing this weekend.
The Fighting Sioux will be attempting to end another team’s season for the second consecutive weekend. St. Cloud State and UND have had some epic battles in the Final Five, and this one will be no different. The two teams will be tied late, but North Dakota’s top-end talent will make the difference. UND 4, SCSU 3.
In the earlier Thursday semifinal, Michigan Tech will have the crowd behind them and will jump to an early lead before falling late to the Pioneers of Denver. The four Denver fans in attendance will be quite pleased. DU 4, MTU 2.