Injuries, inconsistent scoring at even strength, and a below average record in non-conference games.
Northern Michigan has scored only 1.25 even strength goals per game (52nd nationally), is just 2-3-1 in non-conference games (against Wisconsin, Nebraska-Omaha, and Western Michigan), and recently sustained the loss of senior defenseman C.J. Ludwig (son of former UND star Craig). Ludwig, who is expected to miss the remainder of the season, had already scored five goals and added seven assists in thirteen games this year.
A bright spot for the Wildcats has been the play of goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom. Listed by various sources as a freshman, a sophomore, and a redshirt freshman, the Swedish netminder already has three shutouts on the young season.
North Dakota is finally getting healthy, reestablishing its scoring lines, and has evened its non-conference record at 2-2-2 with two criticial out-of-conference series remaining. After this weekend, UND only has a January home-and-home series with Bemidji State to solidify its position in the Pairwise rankings. If the season ended today, St. Cloud State is the only NCHC team that would make the tournament.
Northern Michigan Team Profile
Head Coach: (Walt Kyle, 12th season at NMU, 214-194-51, .522)
National Ranking: NR
This Season: 6-8-2 overall, 4-5-1 WCHA (8th)
Last Season: 15-19-4 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 9-15-4-1 CCHA (10th)
Team Offense: 2.31 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.44 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 21.5% (17 of 79)
Penalty Kill: 80.5% (66 of 82)
Key Players: Senior F Stephan Vigier (10-5-15), Junior F Ryan Daugherty (2-7-9), Senior F Reed Seckel (5-2-7),Junior D Mitch Jones (0-9-9), Junior D Luke Eibler (1-6-7), Freshman G Mathias Dahlstrom (5-6-2, 2.13 GAA, .929 SV%, 3 SO)
North Dakota Team Profile
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (10th season at UND, 242-126-39, .643)
National Ranking: NR
This Season: 7-7-2 overall, 5-5-0 NCHC (3rd)
Last Season: 22-13-7 overall (NCAA West Regional finalist), 14-7-7 WCHA (3rd)
Team Offense: 2.69 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.12 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.5% (15 of 77)
Penalty Kill: 83.5% (71 of 85)
Key Players: Sophomore F Rocco Grimaldi (6-8-14), Sophomore F Drake Caggiula (4-6-10), Sophomore F Michael Parks (3-6-9), Senior D Dillon Simpson (2-7-9), Sophomore D Jordan Schmaltz (2-5-7), Sophomore G Zane Gothberg (5-5-2, 2.61 GAA, .914 SV%)
By The Numbers
Last Meeting: February 15, 1997 (Marquette, MI). One night after the homestanding Wildcats gave their fans a Valentine’s treat by topping UND 2-1, the visiting Fighting Sioux won the second game 5-3 to claim a split of the WCHA series. North Dakota would go on to claim its sixth national championship less than six weeks later, outscoring its three tournament opponents 18-8 and scoring six goals in each contest.
Last Meeting in Grand Forks: November 2, 1996. UND blanked NMU 5-0 one night after winning a 3-2 nailbiter to claim a sweep of the WCHA series. Almost one year earlier, North Dakota dismantled the visiting Wildcats 11-4 in the most lopsided contest in the history of the rivalry.
All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series 27-23-3 (.538), including a stellar 19-8-1 (.696) mark in games played in Grand Forks.
Last Ten: North Dakota has won eight of the last ten games against the Wildcats, outscoring NMU 46-24 over that stretch.
Game News and Notes
Western Michigan finished tenth in the final season of the CCHA, while North Dakota finished third in the last season of the WCHA as we knew it. Wildcat senior forward Stephane Vigier has scored six of his ten goals on the power play. After this weekend, UND will not play an official NCAA game for four weeks. The Green and White will have two weekends off for the holiday break and face British Columbia and Simon Fraser in exhibition action before hosting Colorado College in league play. Northern Michigan has one NCAA title in program history, a 38-5-4 season in 1990-91 while the Wildcats were a member of the WCHA.
Although the games will be tight, North Dakota will carry the play for much of the weekend. At least one of these contests will turn in to a penalty fest, with special teams on both sides carrying the day. I give UND the edge at home, but it won’t be easy. UND 3-2, 2-1.