Weekend Preview: UND vs. Vermont

Despite the fact that Vermont and UND have only met twice on the ice (most recently in 1999), the Catamounts roster (and particularly its blueline) has North Dakota fingerprints all over it.

Defenseman Dan Senkbeil (affectionately known as “Jim” or “Jimmer”) transferred to Vermont after playing his first two years at UND. Senkbeil will sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules.

Defenseman Nick Bruneteau is the younger brother of former UND forward Brett Bruneteau, who spent two seasons at North Dakota before finishing his career with the Catamounts.

And defenseman Yvan Pattyn is the younger brother of current UND forward Stephane Pattyn.

North Dakota has a new-look conference this season, moving to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference after 54 seasons in the WCHA. Vermont went through a similar transition 10 years ago, moving to Hockey East after 31 years in the ECAC.

Catamounts head coach Kevin Sneddon took Vermont to the Frozen Four in 2008-09 and back to the NCAA tournament the following season, but it’s been tough sledding since then. Vermont won only six games in 2011-12, but are moving in the right direction, picking up 11 victories last year.

The most glaring advantage that North Dakota has in this matchup is in special teams. Last season, Vermont allowed 38 power play goals and only scored 17, while the Green and White scored 32 goals with the man advantage and only allowed 25.

Two other roster notes: Vermont junior forward Kyle Reynolds (9-11-20) last season) suffered a knee injury during an exhibition tilt last weekend and is shut down for the season. And sophomore goaltender Brody Hoffman (11-19-6, 2.86 GAA, .904 SV%, 2 SO last season) is not making the trip, so one of two freshman netminders will start between the pipes: Mike Santaguida (5-9, 175 lbs.) or Pat Feeley (6-7, 226 lbs.)

Vermont Team Profile

Head Coach: Kevin Sneddon (11th season at Vermont, 147-174-53, .464)
National Ranking: NR/NR
This Season: 0-0-0 overall, 0-0-0 Hockey East
Last Season: 11-19-6 overall, 8-13-6 Hockey East (t-7th)

2012-13 Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 2.28 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.06 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 11.1% (17 of 153)
Penalty Kill: 79.1% (144 of 182)

Key Returning Players (2012-13 statistics): Junior F Jake Fallon (9-13-22), Senior F Matt White (6-10-16), Senior F H.T. Lenz (5-5-10), Junior D Nick Luukko (3-7-10), Junior D Michael Paliotta (1-9-10), Sophomore G Brody Hoffman (11-19-6, 2.86 GAA, .904 SV%, 2 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (10th season at UND, 235-119-37, .648)
National Ranking: #7/#7
This Season: 0-0-0, 0-0-0 NCHC
Last Season: 22-13-7 overall (NCAA West Regional finalist), 14-7-7 WCHA (3rd)

2012-2013 Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.21 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.45 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.4% (32 of 165)
Penalty Kill: 84.1% (132 of 157)

Key Returning Players (2012-13 statistics): Sophomore F Rocco Grimaldi (13-23-36), Junior F Mark MacMillan (13-12-25), Sophomore F Drake Caggiula (8-8-16), Sophomore F Michael Parks (7-1-8 in 25 games), Senior D Dillon Simpson (5-19-24), Junior D Nick Mattson (3-12-15), Senior G Clarke Saunders (13-9-4, 2.30 GAA, .917 SV%, 2 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: November 27, 1999 (Durham, NH). The Fighting Sioux blitzed the Catamounts 8-0 in the opening round of the UNH Classic. Bryan Lundbohm scored twice, Jason Ulmer picked up three points (2g, 1a), and Jeff Panzer notched three assists for North Dakota, which went 4-for-4 with the man advantage. UND would fall to host New Hampshire 6-2 in the championship game.

Most Important Meeting: Considering the two schools have only met twice on the ice (in 1981 and 1999, both North Dakota victories), I will call Friday’s opener the most important meeting, with both teams looking to set the tone for this new season.

All-time Series: North Dakota leads the all-time series 2-0-0. The teams have never played in Grand Forks.

Game News and Notes:

North Dakota has lost just three times in its last 17 season openers (11-3-3) and has won ten straight home openers. Vermont goaltenders Mike Santaguida and Pat Feeley combined for a 16-save shutout last Saturday before Santaguida got the nod on Sunday, stopping 17 of 18 shots. Both UND netminders cracked the top ten single-season save percentage leaderboard last year (Zane Gothberg posted a .920, while Clarke Saunders ended at .917). Five NCHC schools made the USCHO.com preseason top-20, led by #2 Miami and #7 North Dakota. St. Cloud State (#9), Denver (#17), and Western Michigan (#18) also made the list.

The Prediction

I’m trying to figure out a way for the Catamounts to earn a point this weekend, but I just don’t see it. Saturday’s rematch will be closer, but North Dakota is deeper and will use the home crowd to their advantage. UND 3-1, 3-2.

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