Weekend Preview: UND vs. St. Cloud State

St. Cloud State is coming off of the most successful season in program history. The Huskies posted a 25-win season, claimed a share of the MacNaughton Cup as WCHA co-champions, and earned a berth in the NCAA Frozen Four (falling to Quinnipiac in the semifinals). As icing on the cake, senior forward Drew LeBlanc brought home the program’s first Hobey Baker Memorial Award.

Bob Motzko’s squad is unbeaten (3-0-1) on the young season, taking three of four points from former WCHA foe Bemidji State before sweeping Colgate last weekend. This weekend will mark the first National Collegiate Hockey Conference action for SCSU.

North Dakota opened the season by taking three points from Vermont in a home series before traveling to take on NCHC preseason favorite Miami. The two heavyweights split the weekend series, with the Green and White winning Friday night. UND junior forward Michael Parks wrote his name in the new league’s history books by scoring the first-ever goal in NCHC play.

As I mentioned in my UND/SCSU Challenge Cup article, North Dakota and St. Cloud State have been paired up as schedule partners and rivals since the 2002-03 season. Two years later, the Center Ice Club created a commemorative trophy to mark the rivalry, and the two teams have been battling it out four times each season to claim the Challenge Cup.

Since that time, UND has had the better of the play, both at home (9-5-4 in the Challenge Cup era) and in St. Cloud (9-6-3). North Dakota has claimed the Cup four times, the teams have shared the trophy three times, and the Huskies won the trophy outright last season and back in 2005-06.

The teams will be earning points for the Challenge Cup this weekend in Grand Forks, but the trophy won’t be awarded until the teams conclude their regular-season series with games in St. Cloud on February 28th and March 1st, 2014.

St. Cloud State Team Profile

Head Coach: (Bob Motzko, 9th season at SCSU, 165-125-36, .561)
National Ranking: #9
This Season: 3-0-1 overall, 0-0-0 NCHC
Last Season: 25-16-1 overall (NCAA Frozen Four semifinalist), 18-9-1 WCHA (t-1st)

Team Offense: 3.25 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.25 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 17.6% (3 of 17)
Penalty Kill: 84.6% (11 of 13)

Key Players: Senior F Nic Dowd (3-1-4), Sophomore F Jonny Brodzinski (1-3-4), Sophomore F Kalle Kossila (1-2-3), Junior D Andrew Prochno (0-1-1), Sophomore D Ethan Prow (0-3-3), Junior G Ryan Faragher (3-0-0, 2.33 GAA, .912 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (10th season at UND, 237-120-38, .648)
National Ranking: #5
This Season: 2-1-1, 1-1-0 NCHC
Last Season: 22-13-7 overall (NCAA West Regional finalist), 14-7-7 WCHA (3rd)

Team Offense: 3.25 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.25 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.0% (4 of 21)
Penalty Kill: 95.8% (23 of 24)

Key Players: Sophomore F Rocco Grimaldi (2-3-5), Junior F Mark MacMillan (1-1-2), Sophomore F Drake Caggiula (2-2-4), Sophomore F Michael Parks (1-3-4), Senior D Dillon Simpson (0-1-1), Junior D Nick Mattson (1-1-2), Sophomore G Zane Gothberg (2-1-1, 2.60 GAA. .917 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: January 26, 2013 (Grand Forks, ND). Ben Hanowski potted an extra-attacker goal with under two minutes remaining in the third period to pull St. Cloud even with homestanding North Dakota. After a five minute overtime session, the game ended in a 2-2 tie. UND outshot the Huskies 36-18.

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, 60-33-12 (.629), with a stellar 30-14-6 (.660) mark in games played in Grand Forks.

Last Ten: North Dakota holds a slight 5-4-1 (.550) edge in the last ten meetings between the teams despite being outscored 23-22 over that same span.

Game News and Notes

On Saturday night, fans are encouraged to arrive early and celebrate the accomplishments and legacy of John “Gino” Gasparini, the winningest coach in North Dakota hockey history. Gasparini compiled a career record of 392-249-24 (.608) and coached UND to three national championships. Two St. Cloud players were honored by the NCHC after a weekend sweep of Colgate. Sophomore blueliner Ethan Prow was named the Defenseman of the Week (three assists, +4), while forward Ryan Papa was named the league’s Rookie of the Week after scoring the first two goals of his young career. UND senior defenseman Dillon Simpson has already appeared in 12 games against SCSU, collecting two goals and one assist. North Dakota has killed 23 of 24 penalties this season.

The Prediction

This weekend has split written all over it. Normally in a split situation, I’ll pick the home team on Friday, but I’m going to reverse that this time around. St. Cloud is tuned up after a sweep last weekend, while North Dakota played only a single exhibition game. UND will rebound to take Saturday’s finale, with stellar penalty killing the difference in the rematch. SCSU 4-2, UND 4-2.

On a Personal Note

I look forward to this series every year because of the unique relationship we have with the St. Cloud State hockey fans. On behalf of SiouxSports.com, I would like to invite you to the UND/SCSU pre-game social on Saturday afternoon from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. inside the Muddy Rivers Ballroom (GuestHouse Inn and Suites, 710 First Avenue North) near downtown Grand Forks. This is a great opportunity to meet fans on both sides of the rivalry, win fabulous door prizes, enjoy a free appetizer bar, and view the Challenge Cup. This event is free and open to all fans 21 and older.

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