Weekend Preview: North Dakota at Colorado College

Colorado College has just eight league victories in the past three seasons (8-48-6-2), but head coach Mike Haviland has already equaled the win total from each of his first two seasons:

2016-17: 6-16-2 (.292)
2015-16: 6-29-1 (.181)
2014-15: 6-26-3 (.214)

The feeling among the Tiger faithful is that new blood behind the bench will eventually translate into new life on the ice, and CC fans have seen flashes of that over his first three seasons. Haviland is new to Division I hockey, but he was named the AHL coach of the year in 2006-07 (Norfolk Admirals) and served as an assistant coach with the Chicago Blackhawks for four seasons (2008-12), winning a Stanley Cup in 2010. He was most recently head coach for the AHL’s Hershey Bears.

UND and Colorado College have met six times in each of the past two seasons, with North Dakota going 11-0-1 in those meetings (and winning the shootout after the tie to earn an extra league point), outscoring the Tigers 54-20 in the process.

The two teams have made a habit of meeting in the first round of the NCHC tournament, with North Dakota dispatching Colorado College each of the past three years. That scenario looks less likely this season, with UND hovering in the middle of the pack in the league standings (currently fifth) and the Tigers once again dwelling in the basement. If the season ended today, Colorado College would head to Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota would travel to Omaha for its first road playoff series since 2002.

Interestingly, the Fighting Hawks have played better on the road (5-3-1) than at home (7-6-2) this season, including wins in six straight road games (sweeps at St. Cloud State and Omaha and road victories against Boston College and Union). North Dakota has won just two of its past ten games (2-6-2) at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

As I have suspected for some time, UND senior defenseman Gage Ausmus (2-6-8) has been dealing with some sort of injury. Ausmus, who left last Saturday’s contest against Duluth and did not return, has not been the same player he was last season and is not expected to play this weekend in Colorado Springs. North Dakota will also be without the services of freshman forward Tyson Jost (11-13-24), and thus will need to rely on a more balanced scoring attack to defeat the Tigers. I expect contributions from junior forward Austin Poganski (2-7-9 in eleven career games against CC) and sophomore forward Chris Wilkie (2-1-3 in four games against CC).

Colorado College Team Profile

Head Coach: Mike Haviland (3rd season at CC, 18-71-6, .221)

Pairwise Ranking: 34th of 60 teams
National Rankings: NR/NR
This Season: 6-16-2 overall, 2-10-2-0 NCHC (8th)
Last Season: 6-29-1 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 4-19-1-0 NCHC (8th)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 2.13 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.42 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 10.8% (14 of 130)
Penalty Kill: 79.3% (96 of 121)

Key players: Sophomore F Mason Bergh (12-5-17), Senior F Luc Gerdes (4-9-13), Freshman F Nick Halloran (5-4-9), Senior F Sam Rothstein (5-3-8), Junior D Teemu Kivihalme (2-6-8), Sophomore D Cole McCaskill (1-4-5), Freshman G Alex Laclerc (4-13-2, 3.28 GAA, .891 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (2nd season at UND, 47-15-7, .732)

Pairwise Ranking: 11th of 60 teams
National Rankings: #12/#12
This Season: 13-9-3 overall, 6-7-1-1 NCHC (5th)
Last Season: 34-6-4 overall (NCAA champions), 19-4-1-1 NCHC (1st)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.32 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.48 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.4% (23 of 113)
Penalty Kill: 82.5% (94 of 114)

Key Players: Sophomore F Shane Gersich (17-14-31), Sophomore F Brock Boeser (11-11-22), Junior F Austin Poganski (8-11-19), Sophomore F Joel Janatuinen (6-8-14), Junior D Tucker Poolman (4-15-19), Sophomore D Christian Wolanin (3-11-14), Junior G Cam Johnson (13-8-3, 2.31 GAA, .907 SV%, 3 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: March 12, 2016 (Grand Forks, ND). Mike Haviland chose to start a clearly-injured Jacob Nehama in net, and it did not go well for the Tigers. Nehama allowed four goals on fourteen shots in the first period before giving way to Derek Shatzer. Nick Schmaltz had three goals and three assists in the weekend sweep for UND, which won the first playoff game by a final score of 7-1. The Fighting Hawks went 5-0-1 against Colorado College during their most recent national championship season, outscoring the Tigers 29-10 in the six meetings.

Last Meeting in Colorado Springs: October 31, 2015. Matt Hrynkiw earned a shutout with a 29 save performance, and North Dakota received goals from Christian Wolanin and Shane Gersich in a 2-0 road victory. Tyler Marble made 40 saves in a losing effort. UND won Friday’s opener 5-2 behind two goals by Chris Wilkie.

Most Important Meeting: March 27, 1997. UND defeated Colorado College, 6-2, in the Frozen Four Semifinals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Two nights later, North Dakota downed Boston University, 6-4, to claim its sixth NCAA Championship. North Dakota and Colorado College also met in the 2001 East Regional (Worcester, Mass.), with UND prevailing, 4-1.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 154-80-11 (.651), although Colorado College holds a 57-52-4 (.522) advantage in Colorado Springs. North Dakota has 100 victories over the Tigers in Grand Forks (100-21-7, .809). The teams first met in 1948.

Last Ten: North Dakota has nine wins and a tie in the last ten meetings between the teams, outscoring CC 44-17 over that span. The last Tigers victory over UND was a 3-2 overtime win in the 2014 NCHC quarterfinals. 19 of the last 25 games have been decided by two goals or less.

Game News and Notes

In second periods this season, North Dakota has outscored opponents 30-13 while Colorado College has been outscored 31-13. UND is 9-0-1 when leading after twenty minutes of play but a dismal 4-9-2 when trailing or tied. These two coaching staffs coached against each other at the AHL and NHL levels prior to the NCHC. The Tigers have appeared in the NCAA tournament twice in the past ten seasons (2008, 2011).

Media Coverage

Saturday’s game will be telecast live on American Sports Network and carried by several ASN affiliates across the country, including WDAY’Z Xtra in Grand Forks. A high definition webcast of the games is also 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.

The Prediction

If North Dakota hopes to secure home ice for the playoffs and a 15th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, victories this weekend are critical. There is enough leadership and talent in the UND locker room for a sweep; it’s just a matter of getting it done on the ice. It won’t be easy, but mark the road warriors down for another sweep away from the Ralph. UND 4-1, 4-2.