Weekend Preview: UND at Wisconsin

Over the past sixteen years, Wisconsin men’s hockey has been just like the Olympic Games: good once every four years.

Former Badger coach Mike Eaves was widely criticized for recruiting in a cycle, bringing in huge freshman classes every four years in the hopes that a dominant senior class would bring a title to Madison down the road.

And it worked. Once. In 2006, the Badgers won a national championship on the backs of three seniors (forwards Adam Burish and Ryan MacMurchy and defenseman Tom Gilbert) plus forwards Joe Pavelski and Robbie Earl, underclassmen who left the program after that season. Mike Eaves came close four years later, but Wisconsin fell to Boston College 5-0 in the title game. North Dakota derailed UW’s title hopes at the end of the 2014 season, and now Bucky is looking to be back on top once again.

It remains to be seen whether current Badger bench boss Tony Granato (now in his second season) and his assistants (Mark Strobel, Mark Osiecki, and Jeff Sanger) will be able to break the cycle and have the Badgers more competitive every year.

Here’s a look at the overall records and NCAA tournament results under former head coach Mike Eaves (NCAA tournament record for each year in parenthesis).

2002-03: 13-23-4 (.375) – missed NCAA tournament
2003-04: 22-13-8 (.605) – made NCAA tournament (1-1; regional finalist)
2004-05: 23-14-4 (.610) – made NCAA tournament (0-1; regional semifinalist)
2005-06: 30-10-3 (.733) – made NCAA tournament (4-0; National Champions)
2006-07: 19-18-4 (.512) – missed NCAA tournament
2007-08: 16-17-7 (.487) – made NCAA tournament (1-1; regional finalist)
2008-09: 20-16-4 (.550) – missed NCAA tournament
2009-10: 28-11-4 (.698) – made NCAA tournament (3-1; National Runner-Up)
2010-11: 21-16-4 (.561) – missed NCAA tournament
2011-12: 17-18-2 (.486) – missed NCAA tournament
2012-13: 22-13-7 (.607) – made NCAA tournament (0-1; regional semifinalist)
2013-14: 24-11-2 (.676) – made NCAA tournament (0-1; regional semifinalist)
2014-15: 4-26-5 (.186) – missed NCAA tournament
2015-16: 8-19-8 (.343) – missed NCAA tournament

In the three strongest seasons under Mike Eaves (2006, 2010, 2014), the Badgers went 82-32-9 for a winning percentage of .703. But in the other eleven seasons, Wisconsin went just 185-193-57 (.491). That’s an average record of 17-18-5.

The season that really stings for Wisconsin is the 2013-14 campaign, when a 24-10-2 Badger squad fell to UND by a score of 5-2 in the opening round of the NCAA tourney. North Dakota’s Mark MacMillan potted the game-winner with just over 100 seconds remaining in the third period and Rocco Grimaldi added two empty-net goals to give himself a hat trick and put the game out of reach.

The 2014-15 season (4-26-5, .186) was historically bad for UW hockey. Before that, the last time Bucky won fewer than ten games was in 1963-64, when the Badgers went 8-5-3 in the first season of the modern era of UW hockey (Wisconsin also played as an independent from 1921 to 1935). That’s a stretch of 50 years without a season as bad as that year was for Mike Eaves.

Eaves was given one more season to turn things around, but an eight-win season (8-19-8) was not enough for Eaves to keep his job, and he was let go after fourteen years.

Granato went 20-15-1 in his first season in Madtown, and fans are hopeful for an NCAA tournament bid this year.

Wisconsin goaltender Kyle Hayton is off to a great start with the Badgers after three seasons with the St. Lawrence Saints (ECAC Rookie of the Year in 2015; Mike Richter Award finalist in 2015; ECAC Goalie of the Year in 2017; Second Team All-American in 2017). Hayton, who recorded thirteen shutouts for the Saints and boasts a career save percentage of .933, accelerated his studies to graduate early and pursue post-graduate work at UW. How did it go when Hayton told St. Lawrence coach Mark Morris he wasn’t returning to the team? Todd Milewski (@ToddMilewski on Twitter) tells us more here.

The Badgers are coming off of a non-conference split with St. Lawrence at the Kohl Center last weekend, winning 4-2 on Friday before dropping a 6-3 decision in Saturday’s series finale. UND swept St. Lawrence in Grand Forks three weeks ago (2-1, 6-1).

That series was emblematic of North Dakota’s season so far. UND has fared far better on the second night of their first four weekend series. Here’s the breakdown:

Friday nights: 1-2-1 record (five goals scored, six goals allowed)
Saturday nights: 4-0-0 record (nineteen goals scored, seven goals allowed)

In short, North Dakota has been able to make adjustments and wear down opponents over the course of two games, benefiting from their physical play and forward depth to create time and space in the offensive zone.

So far this year, North Dakota has been led up front by freshman Grant Mismash (3-4-7), junior Rhett Gardner (2-4-6), and junior Shane Gersich (2-3-5), who had a three-point weekend against the Tigers in Colorado Springs last weekend. On the blueline, junior Christian Wolanin (3-5-8) and sophomore Colton Poolman (1-3-4) lead the way offensively.

These out-of-conference games are critical for North Dakota’s postseason aspirations. Last season, Brad Berry’s squad went 7-2-2 in regular season non-conference action (after going 9-1-2 in 2015-16) and made its fifteenth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance (the longest active streak in the country). UND is 4-1-1 this season in games against opponents outside the NCHC and will also face Union and Bemidji State during the 2017-18. Teams who travel to Alaska (as North Dakota did last month) receive an exemption for those games, and therefore can play two extra non-conference games during the season.

Wisconsin Team Profile

Head Coach: Tony Granato (2nd season at UW, 26-18-1, .589)
National Rankings: #7/#7
This Season: 6-3-0 overall, 1-1-0-0 Big Ten (t-2nd of six teams)
Last Season: 20-15-1 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 12-8-0-0 Big Ten (2nd of six teams)

Team Offense: 3.56 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.56 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 25.0% (9 of 36)
Penalty Kill: 83.8% (31 of 37)

Key Players: Sophomore F Trent Frederic (5-5-10), Junior F Will Johnson (3-7-10), Senior F Ryan Wagner (5-4-9), Junior F Seamus Malone (4-3-7), Senior F Cameron Hughes (3-3-6), Junior D Peter Tischke (0-6-6), Freshman D Wyatt Kalynuk (0-5-5), Senior D Tim Davison (1-3-4), Senior G Kyle Hayton (5-2-0, 2.46 GAA, .901 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (3rd season at UND, 59-23-8, .700)

National Rankings: #4/#5
This Season: 5-2-1 overall, 1-1-0-0 NCHC (t-1st)
Last Season: 21-16-3 overall (NCAA West Regional semifinalist), 11-12-1-1 NCHC (4th of 8 teams)

2017-18 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.00 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.62 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 22.7% (10 of 44)
Penalty Kill: 94.7% (36 of 38)

Key Players: Junior F Shane Gersich (2-3-5), Junior F Rhett Gardner (2-4-6), Freshman F Grant Mismash (3-4-7), Junior F Joel Janatuinen (0-4-4), Sophomore F Ludvig Hoff (1-2-3), Junior D Christian Wolanin (3-5-8), Sophomore D Colton Poolman (1-3-4), Senior G Cam Johnson (5-2-1, 1.63 GAA, .925 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: November 7, 2015 (Grand Forks, ND). One night after the Badgers claimed a 3-1 victory, North Dakota turned the tables by the identical score. UND outshot Wisconsin 38-17 and used two third-period goals (Shane Gersich, Drake Caggiula) to pull away. In Friday’s opener, UND outshot the visitors 30-23 but could only put one past netminder Matt Jurusik, who made 64 saves in the weekend split.

Last Meeting in Madison: November 8, 2014. #2 North Dakota scored three third period goals in a six minute stretch to turn a 2-1 contest into a 5-1 victory and a road sweep. 11 different players figured into the scoring for UND, while junior netminder Zane McIntyre stopped 23 of 24 shots, allowing only a second period tally to Grant Besse. North Dakota won Friday’s opener 4-3 behind two goals from Michael Parks, who scored the shorthanded game winner with under eight minutes remaining in the game. Wisconsin’s Grant Besse figured into three of the four Badger goals on the weekend.

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, 87-69-12 (.554), including a 46-29-3 (.609) record in Madison. The teams first met in December 1968.

Last Ten: The Green and White have had Bucky’s number lately, going 7-2-1 (.750) in the last ten tilts and outscoring the Badgers 36-22.

Game News and Notes

With one victory this weekend, North Dakota’s Cam Johnson would become just the eighth goaltender in program history to earn 50 wins. Wisconsin is 6-2-1 when leading or tied after one period of play and 0-2-0 when trailing. All 22 of UND’s rostered skaters have registered a point this season, the most of any team in the country. “Badgers” cannot be spelled without “B-A-D”.

Media Coverage

Both games this weekend will be televised by FOX Sports Wisconsin and by FOX College Sports (Atlantic on Friday; Pacific on Saturday). A webcast of the games is also available at FOX Sports GO and BTN2Go. All UND men’s hockey games (home and away) can be heard on stations across the UND Sports Network (as well as through the iHeart Radio app. The flagship station for the network is 96.1 FM (The Fox). Follow @UNDMHockey for real-time Twitter updates, or follow the action via live chat at UNDsports.com.

Pre-Game Events in Madison

From undsports.com:

UND fans in Madison are invited to two events surrounding this weekend’s series. First, UND head coach Brad Berry will speak at the Wisconsin Hockey Backers fan luncheon on Friday afternoon. It begins at noon at The Coliseum Bar located at 232 E. Olin Ave. in Madison. Cost is $15 per person and attendees are encouraged to pre-register at http://www.wisconsinhockeybackers.com/luncheon-sign-up.

Fighting Hawks fans are also invited to a UND Alumni Association & Foundation event before Saturday night’s game. Join DeAnna Carlson Zink, CEO of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation, and alum Mike Hamerlik, ’88, for a pre-game party on Saturday night. Bring a guest to enjoy some refreshments and swap stories. Please RSVP to Roberta Beauchamp at RobertaB@undfoundation.org, or by phone at 701-777-2196. The event takes place from 5-6:30 p.m. at the Blue Moon Bar & Grill located at 2535 University Ave. in Madison.

The Prediction

It’s tough to earn more than a split against the Badgers in Madison, and North Dakota has not shown enough on Friday nights to do more than that this weekend. I expect a couple of close contests, with an empty-netter or two skewing the final scores. UW 3-1, UND 4-1.

As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Follow me on Twitter (@DBergerHockey) for more information and insight. Here’s to hockey!