The First Round Playoff Series: Why Is It So Difficult To Sweep?

This is the 12th consecutive season that North Dakota has hosted a first round playoff series, and UND has fared extremely well on home ice, advancing to the second weekend of the conference tournament in each instance.

Dave Hakstol is 22-5 over that stretch, putting the home fans at ease by winning Friday’s opener seven straight times. Saturday’s games have been more difficult, as seen by the following breakdown:

Average goals scored/goals allowed in first round home playoff games:

Friday: 4.50 goals scored/1.50 goals allowed
Saturday: 2.92 goals scored/2.08 goals allowed
Sunday: 3.60 goals scored/0.80 goals allowed

The way this has played out in the past is that North Dakota has typically hosted a team from the bottom third of the league (Michigan Tech five times, MSU-Mankato twice, and once each for Minnesota, Denver, and Minnesota-Duluth). Friday’s openers have been blowouts, with UND winning nine of its last eleven openers by an average score of 5.67 – 1.22.

So why is it that five of the past eleven home series have gone to a third and decisive game?

The main reason that the Green and White have played much closer games on Saturday night (seven one-goal games) is that in every case, North Dakota was playing to extend its own season and/or end another team’s season. Elimination games bring out the best in both teams, and the results are tightly contested matches. Remarkably, UND played host to five overtime playoff contests from 2003-2008 but have none since that time.

And not coincidentally, the last time North Dakota was on the road for the first round (2002), they demonstrated similar results. Playing at eventual national champion Minnesota in the opening round of the WCHA playoffs, UND took the Gophers to overtime on Saturday night (losing 4-3) after getting destroyed 7-2 in Friday’s opener.

Dave Hakstol’s crew has only given up four total goals in five Sunday home playoff games, with the last two Game Threes going into the books as blowouts (4-1 vs. Minnesota, 6-0 vs. Michigan Tech).

The only playoff series in the current stretch that did not feature at least one close game was in 2005. North Dakota destroyed Minnesota-Duluth 8-2 and 6-1, with Rory McMahon (2 goals, 5 assists) and Rastislav Spirko (3 goals, 3 assists) leading the way for the Fighting Sioux. Colby Genoway added three goals and two assists, and netminder Jordan Parise turned away 34 of 37 Bulldog shots to earn two victories and the series sweep.

Here are the complete results for the last 27 home conference playoff games:

2013 vs. Michigan Tech: 5-3, 1-2, 6-0
2012 vs. Bemidji State: 4-1, 4-3
2011 vs. Michigan Tech: 8-0, 3-1
2010 vs. Minnesota: 6-0, 2-4, 4-1
2009 vs. Michigan Tech: 5-1, 4-3
2008 vs. Michigan Tech: 4-0, 2-3 (OT), 2-1
2007 vs. MSU-Mankato: 5-2, 2-1
2006 vs. MSU-Mankato: 2-3 (OT), 4-1, 3-0
2005 vs. Minnesota-Duluth: 8-2, 6-1
2004 vs. Michigan Tech: 6-2, 4-3 (OT)
2003 vs. Denver: 1-4, 3-2 (OT), 3-2 (OT)

So what will this weekend’s result be? Will the series go to a third game? Check back later today for a full preview and prediction.

One thought on “The First Round Playoff Series: Why Is It So Difficult To Sweep?”

Leave a Reply