Weekend Preview: North Dakota at Colorado College

After winning just twenty total games over his first three seasons behind the CC bench, head coach Mike Haviland won fifteen games (15-17-5) during the 2017-18 campaign and took Denver to three games in the first round of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference playoffs (2-0 W, 2-3 L, 1-6 L).

The feeling among the Tiger faithful has always been that new blood behind the bench would eventually translate into new life on the ice, and CC fans are finally being rewarded for their patience. Colorado College (12-16-4) is averaging well over three goals per game since the beginning of last season after averaging just a shade over two goals per contest (215 goals in 107 games) in Haviland’s first three campaigns.

As Brad Schlossman pointed out, Colorado College is third in the NCHC in scoring offense this year after finishing last in that category in each of the past five seasons.

Many familiar names have been popping up on the scoresheet for the Tigers, with twelve forwards reaching double-digit point totals: senior Trey Bradley (12-15-27), senior Westin Michaud (10-13-23), senior Trevor Gooch (10-10-20), Senior Mason Bergh (5-15-20), junior Chris Wilkie (6-13-19 in 20 games), freshman Ben Copeland (9-9-18), freshman Grant Cruikshank (9-7-16), junior Alex Berardinelli (8-8-16), sophomore Christiano Versich (4-9-13), junior Nick Halloran (4-9-13 in 20 games), sophomore Troy Conzo (6-6-12), and freshman Erik Middendorf (6-4-10).

Ben Copeland scored five of his nine goals last weekend against Western Michigan. Sadly, it was announced back in January that Nick Halloran is out for the season with a lower-body injury, so the prolific Halloran-Bergh-Bradley line that was together all of last year is no more.

By comparison, only five UND forwards have collected ten or more points so far this season: sophomore Jordan Kawaguchi (8-15-23), senior Nick Jones (5-10-15), senior Rhett Gardner (8-6-14), freshman Mark Senden (6-7-13), and junior Cole Smith (3-10-13).

Nick Jones did not play in last weekend’s home series against Duluth but has made the trip to Colorado Springs; his availability is still in question. Grant Mismash collected five goals and four assists in his first 21 games of this season before suffering a season-ending knee injury against St. Cloud State.

North Dakota fans should have noticed another familiar name in the Colorado College lineup: junior Chris Wilkie (6-13-19) has recovered from an injury and appeared in twenty games for the Tigers this season after transferring from UND (where he spent two years and won a national title) and sitting out last season (per NCAA rules).

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 87-49-19 (.623) and will be unable to continue that impressive streak, as only twelve possible victories remain on the schedule.

Currently, UND leads the nation in faceoff efficiency (57.2 percent); CC is 57th at 45.0 percent. North Dakota outpaces Colorado College in both Corsi (58.2 to 48.9 percent) and Fenwick (58.1 to 48.7 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 (10th) would make the national tourney, with North Dakota (18th) on the outside looking in and Colorado College (28th), Miami (34th), and Omaha (43rd) even further back.

According to KRACH, Colorado College has played the 13th-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 third of four consecutive conference opponents to finish out the regular season, and the schedule has lightened up considerably. Here are the remaining series for the Fighting Hawks:

March 1-2: at Colorado College (#28 in the Pairwise)
March 8-9: vs. Nebraska-Omaha (#43 in the Pairwise)

UND (#18 in the Pairwise) is currently in fifth place in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, six points behind fourth-place Denver. At 9-10-1-0 (28 points) in league play, North Dakota will likely need to win its final four conference games and get some help 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 #16 in the Pairwise with a sweep over Colorado College and at #18 with a split. A Tigers sweep would most likely drop North Dakota to #21.

With sweeps over both Colorado College and Omaha, the Fighting Hawks would most likely end the regular season at #14 in the Pairwise with a chance of climbing as high as #11. Three wins over the final two weekends of the regular season would most likely land UND at #17; two wins in that span would most likely place North Dakota at #19.

On the injury front, North Dakota sophomore goaltender Peter Thome (upper body injury) returned to the lineup last weekend and played well in place of freshman netminder Adam Scheel, who suffered a lower body injury two weeks ago 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 (undisclosed) traveled with the team but is officially questionable for this weekend.

Colorado College Team Profile

Head Coach: Mike Haviland (5th season at CC, 47-112-17, .315)

Pairwise Ranking: 28th of 60 teams
National Rankings: NR/NR

This Season: 12-16-4 overall (.438), 6-11-3-0 NCHC (6th)
Last Season: 15-17-5 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 8-12-4-3 NCHC (t-5th of 8 teams)

2018-19 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.12 goals scored/game – 15th of 60 teams
Team Defense: 2.84 goals allowed/game – 34th of 60 teams
Power Play: 18.4% (25 of 136) – 30th of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 79.4% (77 of 97) – 35th of 60 teams

Key players: Senior F Trey Bradley (12-15-27), Senior F Westin Michaud (10-13-23), Senior F Trevor Gooch (10-10-20), Senior F Mason Bergh (5-15-20), Junior F Chris Wilkie (6-13-19 in 20 games), Freshman D Bryan Yoon (1-17-18), Junior D Kristian Blumenschein (2-6-8), Senior D Andrew Farny (0-7-7), Junior G Alex Leclerc (12-15-4, 2.74 GAA, .912 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (4th season at UND, 87-49-19, .623)

Pairwise Ranking: 18th of 60 teams
National Rankings: #20/NR

This Season: 15-14-2 (.516) overall, 9-10-1-0 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: 2.61 goals scored/game – 39th of 60 teams
Team Defense: 2.42 goals allowed/game – 20th of 60 teams
Power Play: 15.6% (19 of 122) – 46th of 60 teams
Penalty Kill: 81.0% (98 of 121) – 33rd of 60 teams

Key Players: Sophomore F Jordan Kawaguchi (8-15-23), Senior F Nick Jones (5-10-15), Senior F Rhett Gardner (8-6-14), Junior F Cole Smith (3-10-13), Freshman F Mark Senden (6-7-13), Freshman D Jacob Bernard-Docker (5-11-16), Sophomore D Matt Kiersted (6-9-15), Junior D Colton Poolman (5-9-14), Sophomore G Peter Thome (2-4-0, 3.21 GAA, .855 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: January 12, 2019 (Grand Forks, ND). North Dakota squandered a two-goal lead before sophomore forward Jordan Kawaguchi netted the game-winner in the opening minute of overtime for a 3-2 victory and a sweep of the weekend series. UND also needed overtime on Friday night, with Ludvig Hoff scoring late in the extra session for a 4-3 win.

Last Meeting in Colorado Springs: October 28, 2017. North Dakota freshman forward Grant Mismash netted two goals and paced UND to a 6-4 victory over the Tigers. Colorado College won Friday’s opener 2-1 behind 26 saves from Alex Leclerc and one goal apiece from Mason Bergh and Nick Halloran.

Most Important Meeting: March 27, 1997. UND defeated Colorado College, 6-2, in the Frozen Four Semifinals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Two nights later, North Dakota downed Boston University, 6-4, to claim its sixth NCAA Championship. North Dakota and Colorado College also met in the 2001 East Regional (Worcester, Mass.), with UND prevailing, 4-1.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 159-83-11 (.650), although the Tigers hold a slight edge (59-54-4, .521) in games played in Colorado Springs. The teams first met in 1948.

Last Ten: North Dakota has seven wins in the last ten meetings between the teams, outscoring CC 38-23 over that span. UND had gone unbeaten in 14 straight (13-0-1) against the Tigers until three of the last four series between the schools ended in splits.

Game News and Notes

Colorado College is just 7-5-1 (.577) when leading after two periods of play and have been outscored 37-28 in third periods and overtime sessions this season. By comparison, UND is 4-2-1 (.643) in those situations and have outscored opponents 28-26 over the final frames. These two coaching staffs coached against each other at the AHL and NHL levels prior to the NCHC. North Dakota forwards Rhett Gardner and Joel Janatuinen each have five career goals against Colorado College. CC has won two national titles (1950, 1957). Since 1957, the Tigers have appeared in the NCAA tournament thirteen times (most recently in 2011) and advanced to three Frozen Fours (1996, 1997, 2005).

Media Coverage

Friday’s game will be broadcast by CBS Sports Network, with Saturday’s rematch only available via high-definition webcast at NCHC.tv. 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.

The Prediction

In almost every UND/CC matchup that I can remember, North Dakota has had an advantage in scoring depth. That is not the case this season, and the harsh reality is that the Fighting Hawks cannot be counted on to score more than two goals on consecutive nights. Colorado College also has the goaltending advantage and much more experience on the wider sheet of ice. Since the Fighting Hawks needed overtime in both home games against the Tigers, I’ve got to call a split in this one. UND 3-2, CC 3-2.

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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