Weekend Preview: UND vs. Miami

Miami’s first year in the newly-formed National Collegiate Hockey Conference was a disaster. The RedHawks, picked to finish at the top of the league, went just 6-17-1-1 (.271) in conference play and finished dead last – yes, behind even Colorado College.

In that season (2013-14), Enrico Blasi’s crew allowed 80 goals in 24 conference games and lost ten one-goal contests overall. Miami came back with a vengeance last year, pushing UND to the final weekend of the regular season before a split between the two teams had North Dakota hoisting the Penrose Cup.

In the 2015-16 NCHC preseason poll, North Dakota was picked to finish third and Miami was tabbed to finish fifth, although both schools received first-place votes. In league play this season, Miami swept Western Michigan but suffered a sweep at the hands of St. Cloud State. North Dakota has played only one conference series this year, earning two victories at Colorado College.

#3 North Dakota (7-1-2) is currently ranked considerably higher than #17 Miami (5-4-1), although the RedHawks have played the 3rd toughest schedule in the country (according to KRACH), while UND has played the 60th toughest (otherwise known as the easiest). Miami has already faced #7 Providence, #14 St. Cloud State, and #17 St. Lawrence (rankings are for the week in which the games were played), and will host #6 Omaha next weekend. Brad Berry’s club has not faced a ranked opponent this season, but will travel to #9 St. Cloud State next weekend to face the Huskies.

Miami has killed an incredible 34 of 35 penalties (97.1%) this season. North Dakota went 0-for-9 with the man advantage last weekend against Wisconsin but killed all six Badger power plays in the home split over their former WCHA rival.

Both teams are relying heavily on their freshman classes to carry the scoring load. Miami’s Jack Roslovic (6-3-9) and UND’s Brock Boeser (5-2-7) are leading the pack and rank 1-2 in the league’s freshman goal-scoring race. Overall, Enrico Blasi’s first-year players have scored 11 of Miami’s 20 goals this season (and 21 of 56 points), while Brad Berry’s new recruits have potted 16 of North Dakota’s 33 tallies (21 of 87 points).

Miami Team Profile

Head Coach: Enrico Blasi (17th season at Miami, 356-234-58, .594)
National Ranking: #17/#18
This Season: 5-4-1 overall, 2-2-0-0 NCHC (t-1st)
Last Season: 25-14-1 overall (NCAA East Regional Semifinalist), 14-9-1-1 NCHC (2nd)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 2.00 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.50 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 18.4% (7 of 38)
Penalty Kill: 97.1% (34 of 35)

Key players: Freshman F Jack Roslovic (6-3-9), Freshman F Josh Melnick (3-3-6), Junior F Anthony Louis (1-5-6), Senior F Sean Kuraly (0-3-3), Sophomore D Louis Belpedio (1-4-5), Senior D Matthew Caito (1-3-4), Senior G Ryan McKay (5-2-1, 1.70 GAA, .937 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (1st season at UND, 7-1-2, .800)
National Ranking: #3/#4
This Season: 7-1-2 overall, 2-0-0-0 NCHC (t-1st)
Last Season: 29-10-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.30 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.70 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 14.3% (6 of 42)
Penalty Kill: 83.3% (30 of 36)

Key Players: Senior F Drake Caggiula (3-8-11), Sophomore F Nick Schmaltz (0-7-7), Senior F Bryn Chyzyk (5-3-8), Freshman F Brock Boeser (5-2-7), Junior D Paul LaDue (0-2-2), Junior D Troy Stecher (2-5-7), Junior G Matt Hyrnkiw (6-1-1, 1.63 GAA, .933 SV%, 2 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: November 15, 2014. After surrendering the first goal early in the second period, North Dakota came roaring back with three of their own in the middle frame and cruised to a 4-1 win in front of 11,802 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Junior forward Drake Caggiula potted two goals (including a highlight reel dangle through Ben Paulides’ skates) and assisted on another, while seniors Mark MacMillan and Michael Parks collected two points each. Zane McIntyre made 28 of 29 saves in the victory, while UND hung the loss on Ryan McKay (23 of 27 saves). Miami won the series opener by a final of 3-2, with both teams scoring a shorthanded goal.

Most Important Meeting: March 6, 2015 (Oxford, OH). North Dakota went on the road and took care of business, securing a hard-fought 2-1 victory over the RedHawks and earning the Penrose Cup, UND’s 16th regular season conference title. UND scored early in each of the first two periods (Keaton Thompson at 2:43 of the first; Connor Gaarder at 1:56 of the second) and survived a furious Miami rally. Zane McIntyre made 43 of 44 saves, including 38 stops in the final two periods.

All-time Series: North Dakota leads the all-time series 7-4-1 (.688), including a 3-1-1 (.700) mark in games played in Grand Forks. Five of the twelve all-time meetings between the schools came during the 2013-14 season, with UND picking up wins in three of those five games. The teams first played in 1999 (Badger Showdown, Milwaukee, WI).

Game News and Notes

UND is not scheduled to play in Oxford this season but could meet Miami in the NCHC and/or NCAA playoffs. That matchup could feature the Fighting Hawks versus the RedHawks, unless voters choose to be known as the University of North Dakota Roughriders instead. UND and Miami are two of six teams tied atop the NCHC standings with six points (two victories), although only three schools (Denver, North Dakota, and St. Cloud State) are 2-0-0. UND senior forward Drake Caggiula has collected five goals and four assists in nine career games against the RedHawks.

Media Coverage

This weekend’s series against Miami is televised on MidcoSports Network, and a high definition stream of both games is available to NCHC.tv subscribers. 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.

On A Personal Note

I am almost halfway through my Movember campaign, and I could use your help. My goal is $2018, with the 18 in honor of my favorite UND player, David Hoogsteen. Please visit mobro.co/daveberger, donate, and help me change the face of men’s health. Thank you!

The Prediction

I can’t see any way either one of these teams sweeps the series. I’ve got Miami going ahead both nights, with North Dakota rallying in Saturday’s rematch to earn the split. Miami 3-2, UND 4-1.