Weekend Preview: UND vs. Niagara

The last game between these two teams featured three of that season’s ten Hobey Baker finalists: Niagara junior goaltender Carsen Chubak (who led the nation with six shutouts) and North Dakota senior forwards Danny Kristo and Corban Knight faced off in the 2013 NCAA Midwest Regional. UND prevailed 2-1 behind a pair of third period goals, but would fall 4-1 to eventual national champion Yale in the regional final.

This season’s version of the Purple Eagles does not appear to be headed back to the NCAAs. Niagara is currently dead last in the Pairwise Rankings, and will need to win the Atlantic Hockey postseason tournament to make the program’s fifth appearance in the national tournament. NU has competed at the Division I level since the 1996-97 campaign.

Niagara opened up this season with nine consecutive losses but managed to string together three straight victories from November 8th to November 22nd (their only three wins of the season). Since that time, Dave Burkholder’s squad has gone 0-6-2 for a combined season mark of 3-15-2.

The problem for the boys from Niagara Falls has been, well, everything. NU has given up four or more goals THIRTEEN times this season. The Purple Eagles have scored three or more goals only six times, and four or more goals only once. The Niagara power play is abysmal (7 goals on 94 chances, 7.4%), and they’ve given up 25 power play goals to opponents (killing less than 75% of penalties). NU’s power play and penalty kill numbers rank 57th and 56th respectively among all 59 NCAA men’s hockey teams.

And NU’s three wins came by way of an overtime victory over Bentley (10-9-2, 40th in the Pairwise) and a sweep of Army (5-14-2, 57th). According to KRACH, Niagara has played the easiest schedule in all of college hockey, and they’ve still managed only three victories. To put that in perspective, North Dakota picked up their third win on October 18th. By my calendar, that’s three months ago. And KRACH lists UND as having the 7th toughest schedule in the country to this point in the season.

Through their first twenty games, Niagara has only one skater with ten or more points. By comparison, North Dakota’s roster features eight skaters with double digit point totals, led by junior forward Drake Caggiula (9-14-23) and senior forward Michael Parks (6-14-20). UND has scored eighteen power play goals while allowing just twelve and have also scored eight shorthanded goals (tops in the country) while allowing only two.

Dave Hakstol’s squad has already posted a 7-1-1 (.833) record in non-conference games this season, his best mark in eleven years as head coach. The only blemishes on that mark are a home loss to Bemidji State and a tie against Providence. UND won the other game in both of those series, and also swept on the road at Wisconsin and at home against Lake Superior State. North Dakota picked up a single win against Air Force in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game, coming back from a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 in overtime on Bryn Chyzyk’s shorthanded tally with six seconds remaining. That victory could prove huge in the final Pairwise rankings at the end of the season.

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference as a whole has a stellar record against other leagues so far this season, a far cry from last year’s troubles. Currently, four conference schools appear in the top seven in the Pairwise rankings: #2 Minnesota-Duluth, #4 Nebraska-Omaha, #6 North Dakota, and #7 Miami. Denver is currently #17 in the Pairwise, with St Cloud State at #21 and Western Michigan tied for #25. With only a handful of non-conference games remaining, the NCHC could easily place four or even five teams in the NCAA tournament after sending just three (and barely that) a year ago.

NCHC overall record vs. other conferences: 48-24-4 (.658, best in the country)

NCHC record vs. Atlantic Hockey: 3-2-0 (.600)
NCHC record vs. Big Ten: 13-2-0 (.867)
NCHC record vs. ECAC: 13-6-2 (.667)
NCHC record vs. Hockey East: 7-7-1 (.500)
NCHC record vs. WCHA: 12-7-1 (.625)

The six teams in the Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin) are a combined 35-40-6 (.469) in non-league play, the second-worst winning percentage in college hockey (Atlantic Hockey, 12-48-4, .219). Not including a 9-1-2 mark against Atlantic Hockey, the Big Ten sports a dismal 26-39-4 (.406) record against the other four major hockey conferences.

Niagara Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Burkholder (14th season at NU, 232-210-57, .522)

Pairwise Ranking: 59th of 59 teams
National Rankings: NR
This Season: 3-15-2 overall, 3-11-2 Atlantic Hockey (11th)
Last Season: 15-20-5 overall, 11-11-5 Atlantic Hockey (6th)

Team Offense: 1.95 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 4.00 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 7.4% (7 of 94)
Penalty Kill: 74.2% (72 of 97)

Key Players: Senior F Isaac Kohls (4-6-10), Junior F Hugo Turcotte (5-4-9), Freshman F Robert Angiolella (5-3-8), Junior F Dan Kolenda (4-5-9), Senior D Keegan Harper (2-4-6), Senior D Nick Cecere (2-3-5), Junior D Matt Dineen (0-3-3, 52 PIM), Sophomore G Jackson Teichroeb (3-9-2, 3.11 GAA, .903 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (11th season at UND, 274-138-42, .650)

Pairwise Ranking: 6th of 59 teams
National Rankings: #3/#2
This Season: 14-5-2 overall, 7-4-1-0 NCHC (3rd)
Last Season: 25-14-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)

Team Offense: 3.24 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.24 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.5% (18 of 88)
Penalty Kill: 87.0% (80 of 92)

Key Players: Junior F Drake Caggiula (9-14-23), Senior F Michael Parks (6-14-20), Senior F Mark MacMillan (9-7-16), Freshman F Nick Schmaltz (3-13-16), Junior D Jordan Schmaltz (3-13-16), Sophomore D Paul LaDue (3-7-10), Junior G Zane McIntyre (14-5-2, 2.01 GAA, .930 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: March 29, 2013 (Grand Rapids, MI). In the semifinals of the NCAA Midwest Regional, Niagara scored first but couldn’t make it hold up. UND outshot the Purple Eagles 20-7 in the third period, making two of them count and escaping with a 2-1 victory. Ten current North Dakota skaters appeared in that playoff game, but none registered a point. Zane McIntyre was the goaltender of record, stopping 28 of 29 shots and earning his first NCAA tournament victory.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: October 26, 2002. UND scored three goals in the first four minutes of the second period and downed the Purple Eagles 5-3 in the second game of a non-conference series. North Dakota goaltender Jake Brandt was pulled after allowing three goals on twelve Niagara shots. Hat tricks by Brandon Bochenski (in Friday’s 6-4 victory) and Zach Parise (Saturday) helped propel the Fighting Sioux to the series sweep.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series 5-0 and has outscored the Purple Eagles 20-10. The teams first met on March 25, 2000 (NCAA West Regional). Jeff Panzer tallied three assists to lead North Dakota to a 4-1 victory over the Purple Eagles at Mariucci Arena. UND forward Lee Goren scored early in the third period after NU cut the lead to 2-1 in the middle frame. Andy Kollar made 26 saves for the Fighting Sioux, who outshot Niagara 43-27.

Game News and Notes

Niagara is 1-8-1 away from home and has not won a non-conference game all season. The Purple Eagles play their home games at Dwyer Arena (capacity 2100). NU has been dreadful in 2nd and 3rd periods this season, scoring only 24 goals and allowing 59 over their first twenty games. UND is 4-5-1 on Friday nights and 10-0-1 on Saturdays. Friday’s opener will be Niagara head coach Dave Burkholder’s 500th game behind the bench. North Dakota fans are encouraged to “Green Out” the Ralph this weekend; official glow-in-the-dark shirts will be available for purchase at the Sioux Shop and other merchandise outlets.

The Prediction

In the battle of the coaching Daves, Hakstol’s crew can’t afford a hiccup this weekend against college hockey’s worst team. I expect one game to be close, and I’ll go with Friday’s opener since UND has been virtually unstoppable on Saturdays. Don’t be surprised if North Dakota freshman netminder Cam Johnson sees the ice in this series. UND 4-2, 6-1.

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