Weekend Preview: North Dakota at Minnesota-Duluth

Two seasons ago, North Dakota won all four of the regular season meetings between the two teams, outscoring the Bulldogs 10-2 in the process.

UMD turned the tables at the 2016 NCHC Frozen Faceoff, defeating the Fighting Hawks 4-2 in the semifinals before falling to St. Cloud State in the championship game.

That Duluth victory was the first of six consecutive wins over UND for Scott Sandelin’s crew. That losing streak for North Dakota is the longest against one team since Wisconsin won nine in a row from 1987-89.

In 2016-17, the Bulldogs outscored North Dakota 17-5 in a four-game regular season sweep before running over UND 4-3 in the title contest at the 2017 Frozen Faceoff. Duluth rode that momentum all the way to the national title game, falling 3-2 to conference foe Denver.

Coming into last season, goaltending was a question mark for the Bulldogs. Kasimir Kaskisuo (19-15-5, 1.92 goals-against average, .923 save percentage, and five shutouts in 39 appearances during the 2015-16 campaign) gave up his final two seasons of eligibility to sign with the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs. Kaskisuo won 37 games for UMD in his brief college career. Freshman Hunter Miska was everything Scott Sandelin could have asked for and then some during the Bulldogs’ run to the 2017 NCAA title game, taking control of the crease in his 39 games played (27-5-5, 2.20 GAA, .920 SV%, 5 SO).

And then Miska left campus to sign with the Arizona Coyotes.

Left to patrol the goal crease is sophomore Hunter Shepard, who has taken the reins for the Bulldogs after appearing in two games last year (0-2-0, 2.58 GAA, .922 vs. Notre Dame and at Western Michigan)

Junior netminder Nick Deery is also on the roster, having appeared in three games last season (1-0-2, 1.54 GAA, .934 SV%).

The Bulldogs have also had to do without five defensemen who were a part of last year’s Frozen Four run. Brenden Kotyk, Dan Molenaar, Willie Raskob, and Carson Soucy graduated, and Neal Pionk gave up his final two seasons of eligibility to turn pro early. In the first half, those losses showed up more on the penalty kill (77.3 percent, 52nd of 60 teams) than in other situations (Duluth has allowed only 2.61 goals/game, good for 16th-best in the country).

Scott Sandelin brought in five first-year defensemen as a part of a ten-player freshman class. Three of those blueliners – Mikey Anderson, Scott Perunovich, and Dylan Samberg – played for the United States at the World Junior Championships. That trio joined teammates Joey Anderson and Riley Tufte, both sophomore forwards.

UMD’s roster also contains six sophomores, four juniors, and six seniors.

UND’s roster consists of seven freshman, seven sophomores, seven juniors, and four seniors

According to KRACH, Minnesota-Duluth has played the seventh-toughest schedule in the country this season; North Dakota’s slate of games ranks 13th.

The Fighting Hawks lead the country in faceoff percentage at 56.2 percent. Minnesota-Duluth clocks in at 50.8 percent (22nd). During last season’s NCHC championship game, the teams squared off in the faceoff circle eighty times, with UND winning fifty draws.

North Dakota enters this weekend’s series needing just two more wins to reach the 1,500-win plateau all-time as a program. UND has more wins over the past eleven seasons (302) than any other program in the country (Boston College and Denver are tied for second place with 294 victories over that stretch).

UND’s senior class of Cam Johnson, Trevor Olson, Austin Poganski, and Johnny Simonson (96-38-16, .693) needs four more victories to become the fifteenth consecutive recruiting class to win at least 100 games.

On the injury front, Trevor Olson (Duluth, Minnesota) is expected to return to the lineup along with teammate Andrew Peski after both missed last Satuday night’s game against Bemidji State. This weekend will be Olson’s last time on his hometown ice as a collegiate player. The former Duluth East star was North Dakota’s best player down the stretch last year, scoring twelve points in March and scoring the game-tying 5×3 goal against UMD with under three minutes to play in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff Championship (Duluth’s Joey Anderson won the game with a 5×3 goal of his own with 51 ticks on the clock).

Junior Rhett Gardner, the Hawks’ #1 centerman, is expected to miss this weekend’s series against the Bulldogs. Freshman goaltender Peter Thome is unavailable due to an undisclosed injury, so junior netminder Ryan “Bob” Anderson will dress and back up senior Cam Johnson.

Due to the unbalanced schedule in the NCHC, the two teams will not meet again during the 2017-18 regular season.

Minnesota-Duluth Team Profile

Head Coach: Scott Sandelin (18th season at UMD, 326-293-85, .523)

Pairwise Ranking: t-14th of 60 teams
National Rankings: #14/#13

This Season: 11-9-3 (.543) overall, 5-7-0-0 NCHC (t-5th)
Last Season: 28-7-7 (.750) overall (NCAA runner-up), 15-5-4-3 NCHC (2nd)

2017-18 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.00 goals scored/game – 22nd of 60 teams
Team Defense: 2.61 goals allowed/game – 16th of 60 teams
Power Play: 22.2% (20 of 90) – 13th of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 77.3% (75 of 97) – 52nd of 60 teams

Key Players: Junior F Peter Krieger (7-12-19), Sophomore F Riley Tufte (10-5-15), Senior F Jared Thomas (5-9-14), Junior F Parker Mackay (5-7-12), Freshman D Scott Perunovich (4-15-19), Freshman D Mikey Anderson (3-9-12), Sophomore G Hunter Shepard (11-7-1, 2.42 GAA, .909 SV%, 3 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (3rd season at UND, 67-28-13, .681)

Pairwise Ranking: 10th of 60 teams
National Rankings: #7/#7

This Season: 11-6-5 (.614) overall, 6-4-2-2 NCHC (t-1st)
Last Season: 21-16-3 (.562) overall (NCAA West Regional semifinalist), 11-12-1-1 NCHC (4th)

2017-18 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 2.96 goals scored/game – 28th of 60 teams
Team Defense: 2.12 goals allowed/game – 4th of 60 teams
Power Play: 20.4% (20 of 98) – 21st of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 85.4% (82 of 96) – 9th of 60 teams

Key Players: Junior F Nick Jones (9-10-19), Junior F Shane Gersich (6-10-16), Freshman F Grant Mismash (5-9-14), Senior F Austin Poganski (8-4-12), Junior D Christian Wolanin (7-12-19), Sophomore D Colton Poolman (5-9-14), Senior G Cam Johnson (8-4-3, 1.92 GAA, .914 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: March 18, 2017 (Minneapolis, MN). In a wild NCHC title match, the two teams combined for 57 penalty minutes and five power play goals (including three during 5×3 situations). UND netminder Cam Johnson allowed four goals on 23 shots, while Duluth’s Hunter Miska allowed three goals on 35 shots. The Bulldogs scored three second-period goals in a span of 58 seconds.

Last Meeting in Duluth: October 29, 2016 (Duluth, MN). The Bulldogs scored three times in the second period – once on the power play and twice while shorthanded – and got a thirty save shutout from Hunter Miska in a 3-0 victory over #1 North Dakota. Duluth, which defeated the Fighting Hawks 5-2 in the opener, secured the home sweep by killing all seven UND power plays.

Most Important Meeting: March 22, 1984 (Lake Placid, NY) Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota met in the national semifinal game, with the Bulldogs defeating the Fighting Sioux 2-1 in overtime to advance to the championship. UND went on to defeat Michigan State 6-5 (OT) for third place, while Duluth fell to Bowling Green 5-4 in four overtimes, the longest championship game ever played.

The Meeting That Never Was: Both teams advanced to the 2011 NCAA Frozen Four at Xcel Energy Center (St. Paul, Minnesota). UND could not get past Michigan, falling 2-0 despite outshooting the Wolverines 40-20. In the other national semifinal, Minnesota-Duluth defeated Notre Dame 4-3 and rode that momentum to the title game. The Bulldogs took the Wolverines to overtime before senior forward Kyle Schmidt scored the game winner and earned UMD their first and only national championship. North Dakota won two of the three games against Duluth that season, outscoring Scott Sandelin’s team 11-5.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 144-83-9 (.629), including an 59-41-5 (.586) mark in games played in Duluth. The teams first met in 1954, with North Dakota winning the first ten games between the schools by a combined score of 72-16. UMD’s first win over the Fighting Sioux (a 3-2 road victory on December 18th, 1959) did not sit well with the defending national champions. UND defeated Duluth 13-2 the following night.

Last Ten: Duluth is 6-4-0 (.600) in the last ten games between the teams, outscoring the Hawks 27-20 over that stretch. North Dakota’s Cam Johnson was the goalie of record in each of those ten games. Duluth has won the last six meetings between these two storied programs.

Game News and Notes

Duluth sophomore forward Jade Miller (Minto, ND) is the only North Dakotan on the Bulldog roster (17 from Minnesota, two each from Alberta, Ontario, and Saskatchewan, and one each from Ohio and Wisconsin). Junior forward Peter Krieger (Oakdale, Minnesota) is a transfer from Alaska Fairbanks. Both head coaches this weekend are alumni of the University of North Dakota; Brad Berry (1983-86) and Scott Sandelin (1982-86) both played for UND under John “Gino” Gasparini. In 2015, Boston University defeated both Minnesota-Duluth (3-2) and North Dakota (5-3) in the NCAA tournament on their way to the championship game. The Terriers fell 4-3 to the Providence Friars, one win short of a national title.

Media Coverage
Friday’s opener will be shown live on CBS Sports Network, with Saturday’s rematch available on My9. Saturday’s game will also be streamed live in high definition via NCHC.tv. 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
Both of these rosters are barely recognizable from the teams that have squared off over the past two seasons. There are quite a few new faces who will have to produce in key spots this weekend. I give the Fighting Hawks the slight experience edge over the Bulldogs, but it won’t be enough to earn more than a split on the road. North Dakota will snap its losing skid on Friday night, with Duluth coming back strong in Saturday’s rematch. UND 3-2, UMD 3-1.

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!