Weekend Preview: North Dakota at Canisius

North Dakota and Canisius have faced off just seven times in history, with UND claiming decisive wins in all seven contests. The Golden Griffins have competed at the Division I level since the 1998-99 season but were known as the Ice Griffs from 1980 to 2001. Former head coach Dave Smith was at the helm from 2005 through 2017 (twelve seasons) and brought the team to its only NCAA tournament appearance following the 2012-13 season. The Golden Griffins gave #1 seed Quinnipiac a battle in the East Regional, leading 3-1 early in the third period before losing to the Bobcats by a final of 4-3. Incidentally, that game was the first NCAA tournament victory for QU, who rode that momentum all the way to the championship game before falling to Yale.

Current Canisius head coach Trevor Large is now in his second season behind the bench for the Golden Griffins. Last year, he led his squad to a 19-17-2 overall record and a 2nd-place finish in Atlantic Hockey. Large played his collegiate hockey at Ferris State (2000-2004) and was a member of the 2002-03 squad that won the CCHA title and earned that program’s first NCAA tourney appearance.

After a home sweep of Alaska Anchorage back in November, UND moved its non-conference record to 6-2-1 (.722) on the season. After going 9-1-2 (.833) in non-conference play in 2015-16 and 7-2-2 (.727) out-of-conference in 2016-17, Brad Berry’s squad went just 6-2-4 (.667) last season and snapped its streak of fifteen consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. This weekend’s road series will mark the final non-conference games of the 2018-19 season for the Fighting Hawks.

As a whole, the NCHC has fared extremely well in non-conference action, collecting a combined record of 45-17-7 (.703) and sporting a winning record against all five of the other leagues across the college hockey landscape. Here are the inter-conference records, from best to worst:

NCHC: 45-17-7 (.703)
Big Ten: 34-19-5 (.629)
Hockey East: 42-38-5 (.524)
ECAC: 34-39-3 (.467)
WCHA: 22-38-5 (.377)
Atlantic Hockey: 10-36-5 (.245)

Not only could the NCHC as a whole field four or even five teams in the NCAA tournament, but North Dakota’s record against Minnesota (1-0-0) and Wisconsin (2-0-0) will also help them specifically in Pairwise comparisons against all of the Big Ten teams.

According to KRACH, Canisius has played the 56th toughest (read: fifth weakest) schedule in the country this season; North Dakota’s slate of games ranks as the eighth-most difficult out of sixty men’s Division I hockey programs.

The Canisius Golden Griffins have made the national tournament once (2013) in their twenty-year history at the Divison I level. Canisius (then known as the Ice Griffs) moved up to the top ranks of NCAA hockey from Division III following the 1997-98 season.

Last year’s senior class at North Dakota (Cam Johnson, Trevor Olson, Austin Poganski, and Johnny Simonson) went 101-45-20 (.669) and became the fifteenth consecutive recruiting class to win at least 100 games. This year’s group (Ryan Anderson, Rhett Gardner, Joel Janatuinen, and Hayden Shaw) currently sits at 81-42-18 (.638) and would need 19 more victories in the final 27 games remaining on the schedule (at most) to continue that impressive streak.

Canisius boasts the second-oldest roster in all of college hockey, with an average age of 22.8 years (Alaska-Anchorage comes in first at 22.9). North Dakota’s crop of players is more than a full year younger (21.7), which puts them in the bottom third in the country (42nd) in that category.

Canisius Team Profile

Head Coach: Trevor Large (2nd season at Canisius, 25-26-4, .491)

National Ranking: NR/NR

This Season: 6-9-2 (.412) overall, 5-7-1 Atlantic Hockey (t-7th of 11 teams)
Last Season: 19-17-2 (.526) overall (missed NCAA tournament), 17-11-0 (2nd of 11 teams)

2018-19 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.12 goals scored/game – 17th of 60 teams
Team Defense: 3.94 goals allowed/game – 58th of 60 teams
Power Play: 19.0% (15 of 79) – 26th of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 80.0% (60 of 75) – 36th of 60 teams

Key Players: Senior F Dylan McLaughlin (11-11-22), Junior F Nick Hutchison (9-7-16), Sophomore F Austin Alger (8-6-14), Sophomore F Grant Meyer (2-11-13), Senior D Jimmy Mazza (3-11-14), Cameron Heath (2-9-11), Junior G Blake Weyrick (3-5-2, 3.17 GAA, .901 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (4th season at UND, 81-42-18, .638)

National Rankings: #13/#18

This Season: 9-7-1 (.559) overall, 3-5-0-0 NCHC (6th)
Last Season: 17-13-10 (.550) overall (missed NCAA tournament), 8-10-6-1 NCHC (4th of 8 teams)

2018-19 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 2.59 goals scored/game – 40th of 60 teams
Team Defense: 2.47 goals allowed/game – 19th of 60 teams
Power Play: 16.4% (12 of 73) – 40th of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 78.7% (48 of 61) – 45th of 60 teams

Key Players: Senior F Rhett Gardner (8-1-9), Sophomore F Jordan Kawaguchi (3-8-11), Sophomore F Grant Mismash (5-4-9), Senior F Nick Jones (1-6-7 in ten games), Junior F Cole Smith (2-5-7), Junior D Colton Poolman (4-4-8), Freshman D Jacob Bernard-Docker (4-6-10), D Gabe Bast (2-5-7), Sophomore D Matt Kiersted (4-6-10) Freshman G Adam Scheel (8-4-1, 1.89 GAA, .913 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last meeting: October 8, 2016 (Grand Forks, ND). Ludvig Hoff and Tucker Poolman each netted second-period power play goals to erase a 1-0 deficit, and North Dakota poured it on in the final frame with two goals (Shane Gersich, Austin Poganski) less than four minutes apart for a final score of 4-1. UND won Friday’s opener 6-0 behind four second-period goals (Poganski, Tyson Jost, Dixon Bowen, Brock Boeser) and a 17-save shutout from Cam Johnson. For the weekend, the Green and White outshot the Golden Griffins 80-28.

Last meeting in Buffalo, NY: Tonight’s series opener will be the first-ever home contest for the Griffins against North Dakota.

All-time: North Dakota has won all seven of the previous meetings between the teams by a combined score of 41-5. Six of those seven games were played at Ralph Engelstad Arena (Grand Forks, ND), while the seventh, a neutral-site contest in October 2002 (the first-ever meeting between the teams), was the collegiate debut (and first hat trick) for Zach Parise.

Game News and Notes

The Golden Griffins play their home games at the recently-built HarborCenter, which is the practice facility for the Buffalo Sabres. HarborCenter, built on top of a parking garage, features an NHL sheet of ice and seating for 1800 fans. After this weekend, UND will play four consecutive weekends against NCHC opponents (vs. Colorado College, at Omaha, vs. St. Cloud State, at Denver) before a weekend off on February 8th and 9th. The most famous alumnus of the Canisius hockey program is Cory Conacher, currently playing for the Syracuse Crunch in the American Hockey League while under contract with the Tampa Bay Lighting of the National Hockey League (NHL). Conacher, a left-handed centerman, has appeared in 189 NHL games, with 28 goals and 74 points to his credit.

The Prediction

UND has an advantage all over the ice and will prove too much for the Griffins to handle. More to the point, if North Dakota can’t sweep this weekend, they would be more than a longshot to make the national tournament. The Fighting Hawks should be rested and motivated to end their non-conference schedule on a good note. Saturday’s contest will be the more difficult one, with goaltending proving the difference. UND 5-1, 4-2.

Media Coverage

All UND men’s hockey games, home and away, can be heard on 96.1 FM (The Fox) and on stations across the UND Sports Home of Economy Radio Network, as well as through the iHeart Radio app. A webcast of this weekend’s action can also be purchased at https://portal.stretchinternet.com/atlantichockey ($10.99/day).

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!

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