NCAA Tournament Preview: UND vs. Niagara

If history is any indication, a regional matchup against Niagara in Grand Rapids bodes well for North Dakota.

The only time UND has appeared in an NCAA tournament game in Grand Rapids was in 1996-97, when the Fighting Sioux defeated the Big Red of Cornell 6-2 in the national quarterfinal. The win propelled UND to the Frozen Four in Milwaukee, WI, where North Dakota claimed its sixth national title.

And the only time the Green and White faced the Purple Eagles in the national tournament, UND won 4-1 to earn a berth in the Frozen Four, where North Dakota went on to win its seventh NCAA championship.

This game features three of the ten Hobey Baker finalists: Niagara’s junior goaltender Carsen Chubak, who leads the nation with six shutouts, and North Dakota’s pair of senior forwards, linemates Danny Kristo and Corban Knight. Kristo and Knight have combined for 305 career points, the top scoring duo in the country.

UND leads the country with eleven consecutive NCAA appearances and is appearing in the national tournament for the 28th time in program history. By comparison, Niagara is making its fourth tourney bid in its 17th season at the Division I level. The Purple Eagles first competed at the highest level of college hockey in 1996-97, a championship season for North Dakota.

Niagara Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Burkholder (12th season at NU, 214-174-50, .546)
Pairwise Ranking: t-9th
National Ranking: #14
This Season: 23-9-5 overall, 20-5-2 Atlantic Hockey (1st)
Last Season: 17-11-9 overall, 14-6-7 Atlantic Hockey (2nd)
Team Offense: 3.11 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.51 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 15.3% (22 of 144)
Penalty Kill: 83.9% (141 of 168)

Key Players: Junior F Ryan Murphy (15-21-36), Senior F Giancarlo Iuorio (21-13-34), Senior F Marc Zanette (10-18-28), Junior D Kevin Ryan (1-23-24), Senior D C.J. Chartrain (2-11-13), Junior G Carsen Chubak (23-6-5, 1.91 GAA, .938 SV%, 6 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (9th season at UND, 234-118-37, .654)
Pairwise Ranking: 8th
National Ranking: #7
This Season: 21-12-7 overall, 14-7-7 WCHA (3rd)
Last Season: 26-13-3 overall (NCAA West Regional Finalist), 16-11-1 WCHA (4th)

Team Offense: 3.30 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.45 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.5% (32 of 156)
Penalty Kill: 83.6% (122 of 146)

Key Players: Senior F Corban Knight (15-33-48), Senior F Danny Kristo (25-26-51), Sophomore F Mark MacMillan (13-12-25), Freshman F Rocco Grimaldi (13-22-35), Junior D Derek Forbort (4-11-15), Junior D Dillon Simpson (5-19-24), Junior G Clarke Saunders (13-8-4, 2.26 GAA, .916 SV%, 2 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: January 2, 2010 (Hoffman Estates, IL). In the opening game of Notre Dame’s Shillelagh Tournament, Evan Trupp scored a pivotal third period goal for UND after Niagara got within one with nine minutes remaining. Trupp also assisted on Brett Hextall’s first period goal.

Last Meeting in the NCAA tournament: March 25, 2000 (Minneapolis, MN). Jeff Panzer tallied three assists to lead North Dakota to a 4-1 victory over the Purple Eagles at Mariucci Arena. UND forward Lee Goren scored early in the third period after NU cut the lead to 2-1 in the middle frame. Andy Kollar made 26 saves for the Fighting Sioux, who outshot Niagara 43-27.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series 4-0 and has outscored the Purple Eagles 18-9.

Game News and Notes

Niagara is 0-3 all-time in the NCAA tournament and has been outscored 14-4. North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol is 11-3 in NCAA regional games. The Purple Eagles went 15-0-2 at home this season, but only 8-9-3 on the road or on neutral ice.

The Prediction

The first ten minutes will be key for both teams. Niagara will hope to survive the opening flurry, while UND will look to play its style from the drop of the puck. Goaltending and officiating will be key, but North Dakota should win this one and advance to the regional final. UND 3, Niagara 1.

Bonus Prediction

In the other regional semifinal, Yale will draw first blood in the second period after a scoreless opening frame. The Gophers will pull away late, setting up a rematch of last season. Minnesota 4, Yale 2.

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