Weekend Preview: UND vs. Wisconsin

A quick rewind to March 2014:

Plenty was written about the roller coaster ride of emotions that North Dakota faced after defeating Western Michigan 5-0 in the 3rd place game of the NCHC tournament (Target Center, Minneapolis, MN). The team had done its part, but needed some help to make the NCAAs.

That help came in the form of the Wisconsin Badgers, former WCHA foe and long-time rival. On Saturday night, across the river at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Bucky was facing Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament championship. Down 4-2 with seven minutes remaining, UW scored twice in twenty seconds and rang a shot off the post in overtime before Mark Zengerle notched the game-winner at 7:48 of the first extra session.

To be fair, North Dakota’s 23-13-3 record and second-place finish in the NCHC would have been good enough for an at-large bid in most seasons. But the new league did not fare well out of conference (37-31-16, .536), including an abysmal 9-17-8 (.382) mark against Hockey East and the ECAC.

Thanks to Wisconsin, UND had new life and nothing to lose. #4 North Dakota managed to defeat the top-seeded Badgers (UW had gone 20-5-1 since November 30th, 2013) and outlasted #2 seed Ferris State for a trip to the Frozen Four (Philadelphia, PA).

Since that regional semifinal eight months ago, the Badgers have become virtually unrecognizable. Head coach Mike Eaves graduated ten seniors (including forwards Mark Zengerle, Michael Mersch, Tyler Barnes, and Jefferson Dahl along with blueliners Frankie Simonelli and Joe Faust) and watched two underclassmen (forward Nic Kerdiles, 26-45-71 in 60 games played, and defenseman Jake McCabe, 14-44-58 in 100 gp) leave early. Overall, those twelve players scored 90 of Wisconsin’s 120 goals. In other words, the Badgers only return 30 total goals from last season (by comparison, UND’s returning players notched 97 goals a year ago).

So it’s no surprise that Wisconsin is winless, scoring less than one goal per hockey game. The Badgers are also scoreless on 18 power play opportunities this season and are giving up almost three goals per contest.

If there’s any reason for optimism in Madison, it’s that things can only get better for Bucky. This weekend’s non-conference series against North Dakota will mark the first home games of the year for UW, and the Badgers have yet to open their conference schedule, so there’s no league hole out of which to climb. Two of Wisconsin’s four losses came at the hands of unbeaten Northern Michigan, while UW also went winless at the Kendall Hockey Classic in Anchorage, Alaska.

North Dakota fans were able to experience some late-game heroics last Saturday night against Air Force. Junior forward Drake Caggiula tied the game with under 30 seconds remaining in regulation, and fellow junior Bryn Chyzyk netted the game-winner with seven ticks left on the overtime clock. Chyzyk notched his overtime tally off a brilliant play and feed from Michael Parks, who created the shorthanded two-on-one situation with a strong individual effort in the neutral zone.

Prior to that, the last time UND tied a game with an extra attacker goal in the final minute of regulation and completed the comeback with an overtime victory was on March 16, 2003. That date happened to be Game 3 of the WCHA playoffs against Denver. On that night, Mike Prpich tied the game at 19:19, and Nick Fuher won it with 64 seconds remaining in the first overtime session. That Sunday victory also started North Dakota’s streak of twelve consecutive league playoff (WCHA Final Five, NCHC Frozen Faceoff) appearances.

On the injury front, UND senior forward Mark MacMillan (five goals and two assists in five games) is expected to be out until after Christmas after suffering a wrist injury against Providence. North Dakota will miss his scoring touch over the next two months, as the Green and White face tough league opponents Miami, St. Cloud State, Nebraska-Omaha, and Denver (along with non-conference foe Lake Superior) over the next five weeks.

After leading the nation in scoring by defensemen last year, UND is second in the country on the young season. Through seven games, North Dakota blueliners have scored seven goals and added fifteen assists for 22 points, or 3.14 points per game. Only Massachusetts-Lowell has scored at a higher rate (6-19-25 in seven games, 3.57/game).

Another key to North Dakota’s early success has been special teams play. With an equal number of power play and shorthanded situations (40 each), UND has scored nine power play goals while only allowing five. Furthermore, Dave Hakstol’s crew has scored five shorthanded goals in the first seven games of the season, tied for most in the country (Minnesota-Duluth).

Wisconsin Team Profile

Head Coach: Mike Eaves (13th season at UW, 255-184-53, .572)

National Ranking: NR
This Season: 0-4-0 overall, 0-0-0 Big Ten
Last Season: 24-11-2 overall (NCAA Midwest Regional semifinalist), 15-6-1 Big Ten (2nd)

Team Offense: 0.75 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.75 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 0.0% (0 of 18)
Penalty Kill: 72.7% (8 of 11)

Key Players: Freshman F Ryan Wagner (0-2-2), Senior F Brad Navin (1-0-1), Senior F Joseph LaBate (0-0-0), Junior D Kevin Schulze (0-0-0), Senior D Chase Drake (0-1-1), Senior G Joel Rumpel (0-3-0, 2.72 GAA, .884 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (11th season at UND, 265-134-41, .649)
National Ranking: #2/#2
This Season: 5-1-1 overall, 2-0-0-0 NCHC (t-1st)
Last Season: 25-14-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)

Team Offense: 3.43 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.00 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 22.5% (9 of 40)
Penalty Kill: 87.5% (35 of 40)

Key Players: Senior F Michael Parks (1-6-7), Junior F Drake Caggiula (2-6-8), Freshman F Nick Schmaltz (1-6-7), Junior F Bryn Chyzyk (2-2-4), Junior D Jordan Schmaltz (1-3-4), Sophomore D Paul LaDue (3-4-7), Junior G Zane McIntyre (5-1-1, 1.92 GAA, .931 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: March 28, 2014 (Cincinnati, OH). UND junior forward Mark MacMillan broke a 2-2 tie with under two minutes remaining in the game as North Dakota advanced to the Midwest Regional final with a 5-2 victory. After a lengthy review to determine whether there was goaltender interference or if MacMillan had played the puck with a high stick, the goal stood. Rocco Grimaldi added two empty-net goals for the Green and White, which gave him a hat trick in the contest (the first of his collegiate career). Joel Rumpel made thirty saves for the Badgers, who lost for just the sixth time since November 30th.

Last Meeting in Madison: October 22, 2011. UND forward Danny Kristo potted two goals to bring North Dakota back from a 3-1 deficit, but it wasn’t enough, as the home squad answered with two third period tallies to put the game out of reach. Brock Nelson added an extra-attacker goal with 40 seconds to play, but UW prevailed 5-4, completing the home sweep. The Green and White outshot Bucky 42-15, but Joel Rumpel made 38 saves to Aaron Dell’s 10, and that told the story. The Badgers won Friday’s opener 5-3. It was the first time that North Dakota lost their opening two WCHA games since 1994-95.

Most Important Meeting: March 27, 1982 (Providence, RI). A 2-2 tie after two periods turned into a 5-2 Sioux victory, as Phil Sykes netted a hat trick and led UND to its fourth National Championship. Glen White scored the first goal of the game for North Dakota and assisted on two of Sykes’ goals. Darren Jensen backstopped the Green and White and was named to the all-tournament team along with Sykes, defenseman James Patrick, and forward Cary Eades. This title would be the second of three North Dakota titles won at the Providence Civic Center (1980, 2000).

All-time Series: Wisconsin leads the all-time series, 86-66-12 (.561), including a 46-27-3 (.625) record in Madison.

Last Ten: The Green and White have had Bucky’s number lately, going 6-3-1 (.650) in the last ten tilts. UND is unbeaten in the last five (4-0-1), outscoring UW 19-9.

Game News and Notes

Despite coaching for two fewer seasons than his counterpart on the UW bench, North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol has collected ten more victories than Mike Eaves. Hakstol recently passed coaching legend Dean Blais (262-115-33) for second-most wins all time at North Dakota. After this weekend against UND, Wisconsin will face Colorado College and Denver on November 21st and 22nd. The Badgers don’t open up Big Ten league play until December 5th against Penn State and won’t play their second conference series until January 16th at Minnesota. North Dakota senior forward Michael Parks has scored five goals in seven career games against UW.

The Prediction

If these games were played in Grand Forks, I’d say that North Dakota would win a couple of 3-1, 4-1 games. But they’re not, and there’s something about the Kohl Center crowd. Yes, the Badgers are winless on the young season, but they’re playing in front of the Kohl Center crowd for the first time this year. That counts for something, and sweeps are hard to come by in Mad-town. I’m going with Rumpel returning to last season’s form and stealing one for Bucky. UND 4-1, UW 2-1.

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