Weekend Preview: UND vs. Miami

Over the first four seasons of the NCHC, Miami has averaged a fifth-place finish (8th, 2nd, 5th, 7th), with a combined league record of 34-53-9-7 (.410).

When the National Collegiate Hockey Conference was formed, Miami appeared positioned to be a dominant program. Prior to the 2013-14 season (their inaugural campaign in the NCHC), the RedHawks had made eight consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, with consecutive Frozen Four bids in 2009 and 2010. Since joining the NCHC, Miami has just one NCAA tournament appearance (2015), and that ended quickly with a first-round loss to eventual national champion Providence.

For comparison, North Dakota has finished 2nd, 1st, 1st, and 4th in the first four seasons of the new league.

Back in March, UND traveled to Ohio to face the RedHawks while also keeping an eye on the out-of-town scoreboard. North Dakota was battling Miami on the ice but also competing with Omaha and St. Cloud State for the last home-ice playoff spot. The Fighting Hawks earned a road sweep and clinched home ice in the first round of the league playoffs for the fifteenth consecutive season.

On the injury front, North Dakota senior netminder Cam Johnson (49-19-6, 2.04 goals-against average, .917 save percentage, and ten shutouts in his UND career) remains out of the lineup with an undisclosed injury he suffered during the morning skate last weekend in Madison, Wisconsin. In his absence, freshman goaltender Peter Thome made 58 saves against the Badgers in a win and a tie (allowing two goals each night), earning NCHC Goaltender of the Week honors for his efforts. Thome is expected to start both games this weekend against Miami, with junior Ryan “Bob” Anderson backing him up.

UND will also be without senior forward Trevor Olson (9-16-25 in 100 career games played), while sophomore forward Ludvig Hoff (5-14-19 in 44 gp) is questionable for this weekend. Both Olson and Hoff sustained upper-body injuries at Colorado College two weekends ago. On the plus side, junior forward Joel Janatuinen (12-23-33 in 81 gp) will play after leaving the Kohl Center ice last Saturday with an upper-body injury he sustained as a result of a high hit from Wisconsin defenseman Tyler Inamoto late in the first period. Inamoto was assessed a major penalty for contact to the head and was ejected from the game.

Both teams are clicking on the power play this season, with Miami at 27.9 percent (12 of 43) and North Dakota at 22.9 percent (11 of 48). UND has a decided advantage on the penalty kill, having killed 39 of 41 opponent power plays through the first ten games (95.1 percent, third-best in the country). The RedHawks, on the other hand, have already allowed eight power play goals (35 of 43, 81.4 percent).

Miami Team Profile

Head Coach: Enrico Blasi (19th season at Miami, 379-272-67, .575)

National Rankings: NR/NR
This Season: 4-4-0 overall, 1-1-0-0 NCHC (t-4th)
Last Season: 9-20-7 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 5-14-5-3 NCHC (7th)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.38 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.75 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 27.9% (12 of 43)
Penalty Kill: 81.4% (35 of 43)

Key Players: Sophomore F Gordie Green (4-9-13), Junior F Josh Melnick (2-6-8), Junior F Kiefer Sherwood (2-2-4), Sophomore F Carson Meyer (1-2-3), Senior D Louie Belpedio (4-3-7), Junior D Grant Hutton (5-3-8), Sophomore G Ryan Larkin (4-4-0, 2.71 GAA, .884 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (3rd season at UND, 61-24-9, .697)

National Rankings: #2/#4
This Season: 6-2-2 overall, 1-1-0-0 NCHC (t-4th)
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: 2.90 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.70 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 22.9% (11 of 48)
Penalty Kill: 95.1% (39 of 41)

Key Players: Junior F Shane Gersich (3-3-6), Junior F Rhett Gardner (2-4-6), Freshman F Grant Mismash (3-5-8), Junior F Joel Janatuinen (0-5-5), Junior F Nick Jones (3-4-7), Junior D Christian Wolanin (3-6-9), Sophomore D Colton Poolman (1-3-4), Freshman G Peter Thome (1-0-1, 1.63 GAA, .925 SV%)

By The Numbers:

Last Meeting: March 4, 2017 (Oxford, OH). After a scoreless first period, North Dakota’s Tucker Poolman led the way in the final forty minutes with two goals and two assists as UND downed Miami 5-2. The Fighting Hawks outshot the RedHawks 27-11 on the night (and 68-27 on the weekend). In Friday’s opener, North Dakota got a rare unassisted shorthanded tally from Trevor Olson with 100 seconds remaining to win 3-2.

Last meeting in Grand Forks: January 14, 2017. UND outshot Miami 34-15 and got points from seven different players (including a second-period shorthanded goal from Rhett Gardner) to defeat the RedHawks 3-1 and salvage a split of the weekend series. In Friday’s opener, MU used five third-period goals from five different goal scorers to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 6-3 victory, chasing Fighting Hawks netminder Cam Johnson in the process. Incidentally, Miami’s comeback was the first time North Dakota had lost when leading after two periods of play since November 1st, 2013.

Last Ten: UND has picked up seven wins in the past ten contests, outscoring Miami 35-27 over that stretch of games. The RedHawks have only hosted four of the past ten meetings between the schools.

All-time Series: North Dakota leads the all-time series 12-5-1 (.694), including a 6-2-1 (.722) record in games played in Grand Forks. The teams first played in 1999 (Badger Showdown, Milwaukee, WI).

Game News and Notes

Both UND (on the road) and Miami (at home) have earned splits with Colorado College this season. North Dakota’s Grant Mismash (3-5-8 in nine games) is the top-scoring freshman in the NCHC. Miami’s Phil Knies (2-3-5) is tied with UND’s Collin Adams (4-1-5) for sixth among first-year players, one point ahead of North Dakota’s Gabe Bast (1-3-4). UND has received 21 points from its freshman class (Mismash, Adams, Bast, Jordan Kawaguchi, Matt Kiersted, and Josh Rieger), the seventh-most productive rookie class in men’s college hockey. The Fighting Hawks lead the nation in average attendance (11,643 per home game), while the RedHawks are 36th (2,509 per home game).

Media Coverage

This weekend’s games will be broadcast live on Midco Sports Network. A high definition webcast of both games will be 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

Miami has not seen a team like North Dakota this season, while UND has already been tested in non-conference action. I see the Fighting Hawks jumping all over the RedHawks (particularly in Friday’s opener) and allowing freshman netminder Peter Thome time to get accustomed to playing in front of the home fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Saturday’s contest will be a bit tighter, but North Dakota has too much depth to let conference points slip away at home. UND 4-2, 3-2.

On A Personal Note

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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!