Weekend Preview: North Dakota vs. Minnesota Duluth

March 17th, 2018. Xcel Energy Center. St. Paul, Minnesota. North Dakota and Minnesota Duluth square off in the third-place game of the NCHC Frozen Faceoff with NCAA tournament hopes hanging in the balance. UND defeats the Bulldogs 4-1, and both teams are left to play the waiting game.

According to twincities.com:

After losing to the Fighting Hawks, UMD needed a win by either Clarkson or Providence to clinch an NCAA tournament berth. Both teams lost, leaving just one obscure scenario remaining for Duluth to continue playing.

Notre Dame’s overtime goal against Ohio State just before 10:00 p.m. (on St. Patrick’s Day) was the exclamation point on that scenario, forcing a tie between the Bulldogs and Minnesota for 12th in the Pairwise rankings — the formula used to select at-large teams and seed the 16-team field.

Notre Dame’s win gave the Bulldogs the tiebreaker for 12th in the Pairwise as UMD’s Ratings Percentage Index — a part of the Pairwise formula — was one ten-thousandth of a point (.0001) higher than the Gophers.

Typically, finishing 13th or 14th in the Pairwise gets a team into the tournament, but not (last) season, as No. 13 Minnesota and No. 14 North Dakota learned. Because four teams — Air Force (Atlantic Hockey), Michigan Tech (WCHA), Boston University (Hockey East) and Princeton (ECAC) — instead of the usual one or two from outside the bubble won their conference tournament for an automatic bid, that meant No. 12 was the cutoff for at-large teams.

With that unfortunate news, North Dakota saw its streak of fifteen consecutive NCAA tournament appearances come to an end, while Duluth took advantage of its program-record fourth straight tourney bid, winning four consecutive one-goal games to claim the program’s second national title:

Minnesota Duluth 3, Minnesota State 2 (OT)
Minnesota Duluth 2, Air Force 1
Minnesota Duluth 2, Ohio State 1
Minnesota Duluth 2, Notre Dame 1

Before UND’s victory at the 2018 NCHC Frozen Faceoff, Scott Sandelin’s crew had won eight consecutive games against the Green and White. That losing streak for North Dakota was the longest against one team since Wisconsin won nine in a row from 1987-89.

Last season, 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. Most impressively, the Bulldogs only gave up 2.09 goals/game over the course of the 2017-18 season with a relatively young d-corps.

Joey Anderson gave up his final two seasons of eligibility to sign a three-year entry level contract with the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. Anderson, who collected 23 goals and 64 points in 75 career college games, underwent surgery back in November to repair a broken ankle; he has returned to the Devils’ lineup and appeared in seven games this month, with one goal (shorthanded) on ten shots and an even plus-minus rating while averaging almost fourteen minutes of ice time per game.

Duluth’s Scott Perunovich (3-21-24 in 28 games this season) is in the top 20 nationally in scoring by a defenseman. Perunovich, who led the Bulldogs in scoring a season ago with a scoring line of 11-25-36 in 42 games played, was drafted in the second round (#45 overall) by the St. Louis Blues in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. The sophomore blueliner from Hibbing, Minnesota will face some pressure to sign with the Blues at the conclusion of this season.

North Dakota was not immune to the early departure bug during the 2018 offseason, as defenseman Christian Wolanin (12-23-35 in 2017-18, 22-50-72 in 109 career games at North Dakota) and forward Shane Gersich (13-16-29 in 2017-18, 43-34-77 in 117 career games at North Dakota) each gave up his senior season to sign a pro contract (Wolanin with Ottawa, Gersich with Washington).

And the previous three summers haven’t been any easier for fans of the Green and White, as multiple players have left eligibility on the table to join the professional ranks (years of eligibility remaining at the time of signing):

2017: Forward Brock Boeser (2), Forward Tyson Jost (3), Defenseman Tucker Poolman (1)

2016: Forward Luke Johnson (1), Forward Nick Schmaltz (2), Defenseman Paul LaDue (1), Defenseman Troy Stecher (1), Defenseman Keaton Thompson (1)

2015: Defenseman Jordan Schmaltz (1), Goaltender Zane McIntyre (1)

In 2014, forward Rocco Grimaldi left after his sophomore campaign to sign with the Florida Panthers (NHL). In 2013, defenseman Derek Forbort signed with the Los Angeles Kings after his junior year. North Dakota also lost two players (Brock Nelson and Aaron Dell) to early departures in 2012 and two others (Jason Gregoire and Brett Hextall) in 2011.

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 86-48-19 (.624) and would need fourteen more victories in the final fifteen games remaining on the schedule (at most) to continue that impressive streak.

Currently, UND leads the nation in faceoff efficiency (57.4 percent); Duluth is 10th at 53.6 percent. Duluth barely outpaces North Dakota in both Corsi (60.5 to 58.7 percent) and Fenwick (60.8 to 58.4 percent). Corsi measures the percentage of shot attempts by a team compared to that of its opponents; Fenwick measures the percentage of unblocked shot attempts by a team compared to that of its opponents.

After getting swept at Canisius last month, UND saw its non-conference record drop to 6-4-1 (.591) 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.

As a whole, the NCHC fared extremely well in non-conference action, collecting a combined record of 50-21-8 (.684) and sporting a winning record against four of the other five leagues across the college hockey landscape (losing the head-to-head with the ECAC, 2-3-1). Here are the inter-conference records, from best to worst:

NCHC: 50-21-8 (.684)
Big Ten: 34-22-5 (.598)
Hockey East: 52-44-8 (.538)
ECAC: 43-46-6 (.484)
WCHA: 22-38-5 (.377)
Atlantic Hockey: 14-44-6 (.266)

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. If the season ended today, St. Cloud State (1st in the Pairwise rankings), Duluth (3rd), Denver (4th), and Western Michigan (8th) would make the national tourney, with North Dakota (21st) on the outside looking in and Colorado College (26th), Miami (38th), and Omaha (40th) even further back.

According to KRACH, Duluth has played the toughest schedule in the country this season; North Dakota’s slate of games ranks as the fourth-most difficult out of sixty men’s Division I hockey programs.

This weekend marks the second of four consecutive conference opponents to finish out the regular season, and the schedule lightens up after this weekend’s action. Here are the remaining series for the Fighting Hawks:

February 22-23: vs. #3 Minnesota Duluth
March 1-2: at Colorado College
March 8-9: vs. Nebraska-Omaha

UND is currently in fifth place in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, three points behind fourth-place Denver. However, the Pioneers have a game in hand due to a contest at Colorado College that was rescheduled for Tuesday, February 26th due to the weather. At 8-9-1-0 (25 points) in league play, North Dakota will likely need four or five more victories over its final six conference games to secure home ice for the first round of the NCHC playoffs. Over the first five seasons of the league, the fourth-place finisher (final home ice spot) has averaged roughly 36 points (11-11-2-1).

According to Jim Dahl of collegehockeyranked.com, UND is most likely to end up at #15 in the Pairwise with a sweep over Duluth and at #20 with a split. A Bulldogs sweep would most likely keep North Dakota at #21.

On the injury front, North Dakota sophomore goaltender Peter Thome (upper body injury) will return to the lineup in place of freshman netminder Adam Scheel, who suffered a lower body injury in Saturday night’s contest at Western Michigan. The timeline for Scheel’s return is officially listed as week to week. Forwards Joel Janatuinen and Grant Mismash are also out this weekend. Senior center Nick Jones practiced earlier this week but sat out Thursday’s session (undisclosed) and is officially questionable for this weekend.

Minnesota-Duluth Team Profile

Head Coach: Scott Sandelin (19th season at UMD, 358-308-87, .533)

Pairwise Ranking: 3rd of 60 teams
National Rankings: #3/#3

This Season: 18-8-2 (.679) overall, 11-6-1-0 NCHC (2nd)
Last Season: 25-16-3 (.602) overall (NCAA national champions), 13-11-0-0 NCHC (3rd)

2018-19 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.13 goals scored/game – 13th of 60 teams
Team Defense: 1.82 goals allowed/game – 3rd of 60 teams
Power Play: 23.0% (23 of 100) – 11th of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 91.8% (90 of 98 ) – 1st of 60 teams

Key Players: Sophomore F Justin Richards (10-17-27), Senior F Parker Mackay (11-11-22), Sophomore F Nick Swaney (12-8-20), Senior F Peter Krieger (4-13-17), Junior F Riley Tufte (5-8-13), Sophomore D Scott Perunovich (3-21-24), Sophomore D Mikey Anderson (4-9-13), Junior D Nick Wolff (3-10-13), Junior G Hunter Shepard (18-8-2, 1.73 GAA, .924 SV%, 5 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (4th season at UND, 86-48-19, .624)

Pairwise Ranking: 21st of 60 teams
National Rankings: #22/NR

This Season: 14-13-2 (.517) overall, 8-9-1-0 NCHC (5th)
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 – 41st of 60 teams
Team Defense: 2.45 goals allowed/game – 20th of 60 teams
Power Play: 15.8% (18 of 114) – 46th of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 81.2% (91 of 112) – 30th of 60 teams

Key Players: Sophomore F Jordan Kawaguchi (8-13-21), Senior F Nick Jones (5-10-15), Senior F Rhett Gardner (8-4-12), Junior F Cole Smith (2-9-11), Freshman D Jacob Bernard-Docker (5-10-15), Sophomore D Matt Kiersted (6-9-15), Junior D Colton Poolman (4-9-13), Sophomore G Peter Thome (1-3-0, 3.75 GAA, .838 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: December 1, 2018 (Duluth, Minnesota). North Dakota sophomore forward Jordan Kawaguchi (goal, assist) figured in on both UND goals in a 2-1 road victory over the Bulldogs. Tanner Laderoute potted the lone goal for Duluth. All three goals were scored in the first period. UMD dominated Friday’s opener 5-0 behind two power play goals from Kobe Roth, two points each from Mikey Anderson, Parker Mackay, and Justin Richards, and a 22-save performance from Hunter Shepard.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: February 20, 2016. Brock Boeser (game-winning goal, assist) and Drake Caggiula (primary assist on the GWG) were the heroes for North Dakota in a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over Duluth. The Bulldogs, who got on the board late in the middle frame on a Cal Decowski goal, outshot the Green and White 16-8 in the third period but could not put a second goal past UND netminder Cam Johnson, who finished with 27 saves. One night earlier, Austin Poganski scored on a penalty shot in overtime to break a 1-1 tie and send the home fans happy.

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, 146-84-10 (.629), although the Bulldogs have won nine of the last eleven contests. North Dakota holds a record of 81-36-3 (.688) in games played in Grand Forks. 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 8-2-0 (.800) in the last ten games between the teams, outscoring the Hawks 38-19 over that stretch. Eight of the past ten contests have taken place in the state of Minnesota, with the Bulldogs winning six times. North Dakota’s last victory over Duluth at Ralph Engelstad Arena was on February 20th, 2016.

Game News and Notes

The Bulldogs are 12-2-0 when scoring first and 6-6-2 when allowing the first goal. North Dakota is 9-5-1 at home this season; Duluth is 8-4-1 on the road. Duluth junior forward Jade Miller (Minto, ND) is the only North Dakotan on the Bulldog roster (17 from Minnesota, two each from Alberta and Ontario, and one each from California, Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Saskatchewan). Senior 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 televised on CBS Sports Network and available via webcast at CBS Sports.com. Saturday’s game will be available on Midco Sports Network and 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

All signs point to a Bulldog sweep in this one, but I see North Dakota rebounding for at least a tie (and maybe more) in Saturday’s rematch. The home team will need to play five-on-five and get above-average goaltending to have any sort of success this weekend. I’ll give the Fighting Hawks the extra point in a shootout victory in Game Two. UMD 4-2, 2-2 tie (UND wins the shootout).

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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