Weekend Preview: UND vs. Bemidji State

Strange things were afoot at Amsoil Arena (Duluth, Minnesota) last Friday night. With Bemidji State in town for the first half of a home-and-home series with the Bulldogs, a power outage caused poor ice conditions, and #2 Minnesota-Duluth’s home opener was postponed. That game was rescheduled for Tuesday, February 9th, 2016.

The following night, the Beavers kept the lights on and shocked UMD with a 3-2 victory. BSU junior forward Charlie O’Connor broke a 2-2 tie and netted the game winner with just 22 seconds remaining on the clock. The teams had earlier traded third-period goals 28 seconds apart. The visiting Bulldogs outshot the hosts 12-5 in the opening frame but headed to the locker room in a scoreless tie. Bemidji State turned the tables during the first intermission, outshooting their former WCHA foe 28-18 over the final 40 minutes of the game.

Turning our attention to this weekend’s action, North Dakota and Bemidji State will play a home and home series, with UND traveling to Bemidji for Friday’s opener before returning home to host BSU on Saturday night. The Beavers will open up conference play by hosting #14 Minnesota State next weekend, while Brad Berry’s club will travel to Burlington, Vermont to face the 20th ranked Vermont Catamounts.

These early season games are critical for North Dakota’s postseason aspirations. Last season, Dave Hakstol’s squad went 9-1-1 in regular season non-conference action and advanced to the NCAA Frozen Four, while the Beavers sported a pedestrian 4-4-0 record in non-league games and missed the national tournament. UND’s other non-conference opponents this season will be Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Alabama-Huntsville (all currently unranked).

Seven of North Dakota’s eight October games will be played on the road, with only Saturday’s home opener versus Bemidji State to satisfy the fans in Grand Forks. Beginning with a November visit from the Wisconsin Badgers, however, UND will have eight home series and only six weekends away from Ralph Engelstad Arena.

The Beavers return almost all of their scoring from a year ago, graduating only two forwards. While Phil Brewer (6-7-13) and Mitch Cain (2-3-5) were the only losses up front, BSU will miss the veteran leadership of Matt Prapavessis (9-15-24), Sam Rendle (2-8-10), and Sam Windle (1-6-7) on the blue line, but with 81 of 101 goals returning, Bemidji State should be able to keep games competitive all season long.

On the other hand, North Dakota lost eight seniors (six forwards and two defensemen) who combined for 65 of UND’s 138 goals last season. Furthermore, the Green and White lost two key underclassmen on the back end. Stalwart blueliner Jordan Schmaltz (4-24-28 in 42 games) and Mike Richter award winner Zane McIntyre (29-10-3, 2.05 GAA, .929 SV%) gave up their final year of college eligibility to sign professional contracts. Schmaltz is now with the St. Louis organization and McIntyre signed with the Boston Bruins.

UND’s underclassmen will be expected to contribute early and often. Many of North Dakota’s first-year forwards (Brock Boeser, Rhett Gardner, Shane Gersich, Joel Janatuinen, and Chris Wilkie) have already made an impact, while sophomore forwards Trevor Olson, Austin Poganski, Nick Schmaltz, and Johnny Simonson will need to take on larger roles. With so much returning skill and experience on the back end (sophomore Tucker Poolman and juniors Gage Ausmus, Paul LaDue, Troy Stecher, and Keaton Thompson), Brad Berry can ease his rookie blueliners into the system. Expect a rotation among freshman defensemen Danys Chartrand, Hayden Shaw, and Christian Wolanin to start the year (Shaw and Wolanin each played a game last weekend).

Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore, now in his 15th year behind the Beaver bench, appears to have his club headed in the right direction. After finishing in a tie for 8th place in the first season of the new-look WCHA, BSU opened the 2014-15 campaign with a disastrous 3-10-0 record. Over the final four months of the season, however, Serratore posted a mark of 13-7-5, moved up to 5th place in the conference standings, and took Ferris State to triple overtime in the WCHA playoffs before falling 3-2. The Beavers were picked to finish fourth in the ten-team conference this year.

Bemidji State Team Profile

Head Coach: Tom Serratore (15th season at BSU, 228-224-61 .504)
National Ranking: NR
This Season: 1-0-0 overall, 0-0-0 WCHA
Last Season: 16-17-5 overall, 12-11-5 WCHA (5th)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.00 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.00 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 25.0% (1 of 4)
Penalty Kill: 100.0% (4 of 4)

Key Players: Senior F Markus Gerbrandt (0-0-0), Senior F John Parker (1-0-1), Senior F Phillip Marinaccio (0-1-1), Senior F Cory Ward (0-0-0), Senior D Graeme McCormack (0-1-1), Junior D Ruslan Pedan (0-0-0), Sophomore G Michael Bitzer (1-0-0, 2.00 GAA, .933 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (1st season at UND, 1-0-1, .750)
National Ranking: #1/#1
This Season: 1-0-1 overall, 0-0-0-0 NCHC
Last Season: 29-10-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.00 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.55 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 28.6% (2 of 7)
Penalty Kill: 71.4% (5 of 7)

Key Players: Senior F Drake Caggiula (0-2-2), Sophomore F Nick Schmaltz (0-1-1), Junior F Luke Johnson (0-1-1), Junior D Paul LaDue (0-1-1), Junior D Troy Stecher (0-2-2), Sophomore G Cam Johnson (1-0-1, 1.44 GAA, .935 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: October 11, 2014 (Bemidji, MN). UND recovered from Friday’s blowout loss, putting together just enough to edge BSU 2-1. North Dakota went scoreless on the power play (0 for 6), but senior captain Stephane Pattyn scored the game winner late in period two while UND was shorthanded . Junior goaltender Zane McIntyre made 28 of 29 saves for the Green and White and earned the first win of his Mike Richter Award-winning season.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: October 10, 2014. Bemidji State scored four unanswered goals to chase goaltender Zane McIntyre from UND’s home opener. The Beavers added insult to injury by scoring on freshman netminder Cam Johnson just 15 seconds into his collegiate career. #2 North Dakota’s Nick Schmaltz scored the only goal for the Green and White, who fell to BSU 5-1. Freshman Michael Bitzer made 25 saves for Bemidji State.

Most Important Meeting: October 15, 2010 (Bemidji, MN). In the first game played at the BREC, North Dakota spotted BSU the opening goal less than two minutes into the contest and then steamrolled the Beavers 5-2. The Fighting Sioux outshot their fellow Green-and-Whiters 38-14.

Last Ten: North Dakota is 6-2-2 (.700) in the last ten meetings between the teams, outscoring the Beavers 27-20 over that stretch of games.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 27-3-3 (.864), including a 9-1-1 (.864) record in games played in Bemidji. Two of BSU’s three wins over North Dakota came in the past four seasons (November 2011 and October 2014). Bemidji’s other victory over UND came in 1970.

Game News and Notes

North Dakota senior forward Drake Caggiula comes into the weekend leading all men’s hockey players in career games played (125). Caggiula, who led UND with 18 goals and 36 points last season, collected an assist in each of UND’s two games at the Ice Breaker Tournament last weekend and was named to the all-tournament team along with forward Nick Schmaltz and defensemen Troy Stecher and Paul LaDue. After Bemidji State’s win over #2 Minnesota-Duluth, the Beavers almost cracked the USCHO top 20 this week. BSU currently sits in 22nd place in the voting. Nick Schmaltz is the only current North Dakota player with a goal against the Beavers (1-0-1 in two games played).

Media Coverage

Both games are televised this weekend. Friday’s opener is available on Lakeland Public Televison (which can be seen in Grand Forks), while the rematch will be telecast on Midco Sports Network. Friday’s game will be streamed live via WCHA.tv and Saturday’s game via NCHC.tv (subscription required). All UND men’s hockey games (home and away) can be heard on 96.1 FM and on stations across the UND Sports Network (as well as through the iHeart Radio app). Follow @UNDMHockey for real-time Twitter updates, or follow the action via live chat at UNDsports.com.

The Prediction

UND will come out flying against the Beavers, showcasing the skill and depth that has them at the top of the national rankings. Saturday’s rematch in Grand Forks will be closer, with North Dakota winning the special teams battle to complete the sweep. UND 5-2, 3-2.

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