Weekend Preview: UND vs. Bemidji State

Last season, North Dakota finished out the WCHA regular season with two victories over Minnesota State-Mankato before dispatching Bemidji State at home in the first round of the league playoffs.

Fast forward one year, and it’s much the same. UND hasn’t played the Beavers in 2012-13, but will host Tom Serratore’s squad for a pair before traveling to Mankato to end the regular season. North Dakota looks to be in line to host the first round of the WCHA playoffs, and may likely host Bemidji at the Ralph in two weeks time.

There is a distinct difference between the top nine teams in the league and the bottom three, and wins this weekend and next would almost guarantee that UND would host Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, or Alaska-Anchorage with a trip to the WCHA Final Five on the line.

Bemidji State is in a freefall, winning only one game since December 15th (1-9-4) and being outscored 44-23 in that span. By contrast, North Dakota is 11-4-4 since December 1st, outscoring opponents 67-45.

For the most part, Dave Hakstol has his line combinations set heading into the playoffs. The question mark will be between the pipes, and these next two weekends will determine whether junior Clarke Saunders or freshman Zane Gothberg will take the reins for a run to the Frozen Four.

Bemidji State Team Profile

Head Coach: Tom Serratore (12th season at BSU, 201-181-48 .523)
Pairwise Ranking: NR
National Rankings: NR/NR
This Season: 6-17-7 overal, 5-13-6 WCHA (t-10th)
Last Season: 17-18-3 overall, 11-14-3 WCHA (9th)

Team Offense: 2.07 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.97 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 18.9% (17 of 90)
Penalty Kill: 81.6% (93 of 114)

Key Players: Senior F Jordan George (8-9-17), Senior F Brance Orban (8-12-20), Senior F Aaron McLeod (11-5-16), Sophomore D Matt Prapavessis (0-9-9), Senior D Brady Wacker (3-5-8), Sophomore G Andrew Walsh (5-10-5, 2.60 GAA, .917 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (9th season at UND, 230-115-36, .651)
Pairwise Ranking: t-5th
National Ranking: #6
This Season: 17-9-6 overall, 12-6-6 WCHA (t-3rd)
Last Season: 26-13-3 overall (NCAA West Regional Finalist), 16-11-1 WCHA (4th)

Team Offense: 3.31 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.50 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 22.0% (29 of 132)
Penalty Kill: 82.9% (102 of 123)

Key Players: Senior F Corban Knight (14-29-43), Senior F Danny Kristo (20-23-43), Sophomore F Mark MacMillan (10-11-21), Freshman F Rocco Grimaldi (12-15-27), Junior D Derek Forbort (4-9-13), Sophomore D Dillon Simpson (3-17-20), Junior G Clarke Saunders (11-6-4, 2.31 GAA, .916 SV%, 2 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: March 10, 2012 (Grand Forks, ND). Proving the old adage that it’s never easy to end an opponent’s season, North Dakota had to withstand a late Bemidji State rally to prevail 4-3 and sweep the WCHA first round playoff series from the Beavers. BSU senior Jamie McQueen scored two late goals, but it wasn’t quite enough to match UND’s Mark MacMillan-Carter Rowney-Michael Parks line, who followed up a seven-point performance in Friday’s 4-1 victory with a six-point night in the rematch.

Most Important Meeting: October 15, 2010 (Bemidji, MN). In the first game played at the BREC, North Dakota spotted BSU the opening goal less than two minutes into the contest and then steamrolled the Beavers 5-2. The Fighting Sioux outshot their fellow Green-and-Whiters 38-14.

Last Ten: North Dakota has won nine of the last ten meetings between the teams, outscoring BSU 41-20 during that stretch. One of those UND victories was a 4-3 overtime decision in Grand Forks, while Bemidji State’s lone bright spot was a 1-0 home win last season.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 24-2-1 (.907), including a 16-1-1 (.917) record in games played in Grand Forks. Bemidji State’s lone victory in Grand Forks came on February 7, 1970.

Game News and Notes:

UND senior forward Danny Kristo has not scored a single point in six career games against the Beavers. BSU has been outshot in 22 of 27 games this season. North Dakota junior netminder Clarke Saunders faced Bemidji State three times in his career at Alabama-Huntsville, winning one game and losing two others. In overtime games this season, UND has not lost (2-0-6) while BSU has not won (0-3-7).

The Prediction

Everything points to North Dakota domination, but it’s not that simple. Bemidji State has historically played UND tough, and I expect another gritty weekend from the Beavers this time around. Look for a close contest Friday, with North Dakota pulling away on Saturday. UND 3-2, 5-1.

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