Weekend Preview: North Dakota vs. Bemidji State

Six full seasons have come and gone since the college hockey landscape changed forever. With Minnesota and Wisconsin departing the Western Collegiate Hockey Association for the Big Ten after the 2012-13 season, several other conference schools and two members of the now-defunct Central Collegiate Hockey Association created the National Collegiate Hockey Conference and left Alaska Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, and Minnesota State behind in a watered-down WCHA.

It is abundantly clear that the NCHC has been the premier hockey conference since its inception, and particularly over the past five seasons. The eight teams in the league have gone 267-132-48 (.651) in non-conference action since the start of the 2014-15 season and sent nine teams to the Frozen Four (UND and Omaha in 2015, UND and Denver in 2016, Denver and Duluth in 2017, Duluth in 2018, and Denver and Duluth in 2019) over that five-year stretch. Conference members North Dakota (2016), Denver (2017), and Minnesota Duluth (2018, 2019) have won the last four national titles.

After winning the WCHA in 2016-17 with a stellar 20-6-2 conference record, Bemidji State has taken a step back over the past two seasons (31-31-14 overall, 26-20-10 in the WCHA), finishing in fourth place in 2017-18 and in fifth place a year ago.

Last season’s losses at Canisius College in early January were certainly instrumental in keeping North Dakota out of the national tournament, but the road loss and home tie against Bemidji State to open the year didn’t help, either. UND went just 6-4-1 in out-of-conference games in 2018-19 and missed the NCAAs for the second consecutive season after appearing in fifteen consecutive tourneys (2003-2017).

Here’s a look at the non-conference records under fifth-year head coach Brad Berry:

2015-2016: 9-1-2 (.833) ~ National Champions
2016-2017: 7-2-2 (.727) ~ NCAA West Regional Semifinalist
2017-2018: 6-2-4 (.677) ~ missed NCAA tournament
2018-2019: 6-4-1 (.591) ~ missed NCAA tournament
2019-2020: 2-1-1 (.625)

After this weekend’s home games against Bemidji State, UND’s other non-conference opponents during the 2019-20 campaign will be Michigan Tech (Hall Of Fame Game, home), Minnesota (away), and Alabama Huntsville (home).

Last weekend, North Dakota traveled to Mankato to face former WCHA foe Minnesota State, earning a 4-4 tie on Friday night before falling 2-1 in Saturday’s rematch. Bemidji State hosted #7 St. Cloud State for a pair of non-conference games two weeks ago, battling to two ties on the weekend (4-4, 2-2).

For UND, the goal is simple: return to national prominence after a two-year absence from the national tournament. There is reason for optimism in Grand Forks, with an experienced d-corps, plenty of returning grit and skill, and a crop of freshmen with a tremendous amount of upside.

It is abundantly clear that North Dakota will have the puck a lot this season, and the numbers bear that out. Through four games, the Fighting Hawks lead the nation in shots on goal allowed/game (17.3) and trail only Massachusetts in two key puck possession statistics:

Corsi (% of shots taken vs. opponent): 64.3%
Fenwick (% of unblocked shots taken vs. opponent): 65.6%

Last season, UND trailed only national champion Duluth in both puck possession categories across all Division I teams but could not finish enough of their chances. This year, fans of the Green and White should already be noticing that more shots are going in the net. North Dakota is scoring on 12.9 percent of their shots on goal, good for ninth-best in the country. Last season, UND lit the lamp on only 7.8 percent of their shots on goal (52nd in the nation).

One key area to watch this weekend is the face-off circle. The Fighting Hawks struggled mightily on draws in Mankato and are now sitting at 46.9 percent on the young season (42nd) after leading the nation at 57.1 percent a year ago. Against SCSU, Tom Serratore’s squad won 57.5 percent of the faceoffs and won the puck possession battle as well (Corsi 55.0%, Fenwick 55.2%).

Bemidji State Team Profile

Head Coach: Tom Serratore (19th season at BSU, 297-287-88, .507)
National Ranking: NR/NR
This Season: 0-0-2
Last Season: 15-17-6 overall, 13-11-4-2 WCHA (5th of 10 teams)

Team Offense: 3.00 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 23.00 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 0.0% (0 of 4)
Penalty Kill: 80.0% (4 of 5)

Key Players: Junior F Aaron Miller (0-3-3), Senior F Adam Brady (2-0-2), Senior F Alex Ierullo (0-2-2), Junior F Charlie Combs (0-0-0), Sophomore F Owen Sillinger (1-0-1), Junior F Brendan Harris (0-1-1), Freshman D Nick Leitner (1-0-1), Senior D Tommy Muck (0-1-1), Sophomore D Tyler Jubenvill (0-1-1), Junior G Henry Johnson (0-0-1, 1.85 GAA, .938 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (5th season at UND ; 92-53-20, .618)
National Ranking: #16/#19
This Season: 2-1-1 overall
Last Season: 18-17-2 overall, 12-11-1-0 NCHC (5th)

Team Offense: 4.50 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.75 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 13.3% (2 of 15)
Penalty Kill: 100.0% (13 of 13)

Key Players: Junior F Jordan Kawaguchi (0-3-3), Sophomore F Mark Senden (1-2-3), Senior F Dixon Bowen (3-1-4), Senior F Westin Michaud (2-1-3), Freshman F Harrison Blaisdell (2-2-4), Freshman F Shane Pinto (2-2-4), Sophomore D Jacob Bernard Docker (0-5-5), Senior D Colton Poolman (0-3-3), Junior D Gabe Bast (2-1-3), Sophomore G Adam Scheel (2-1-1, 1.73 GAA, .899 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: October 13, 2018 (Grand Forks, ND). North Dakota got an early goal from Grant Mismash but couldn’t make it hold up, as BSU’s Charlie Combs scored the game-tying marker with under five minutes to play. UND outshot Bemidji State 27-16. One night earlier in Bemidji, the Beavers won 2-1 behind goals from Adam Brady and Owen Sillinger and 28 saves from Henry Johnson.

Most Important Meeting: October 15, 2010 (Bemidji, MN). In the first game played at the BREC, North Dakota spotted BSU the opening goal less than two minutes into the contest and then steamrolled the Beavers 5-2. The Fighting Sioux outshot their fellow Green-and-Whiters 38-14.

Last Ten: North Dakota is 5-2-3 (.650) in the last ten meetings between the teams, outscoring the Beavers 29-24 over that stretch of games. Seven of the last ten tilts have been decided by a goal or less, with Bemidji State going 1-3-3 in those games.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 31-4-6 (.829), including a 21-2-4 (.852) record in games played in Grand Forks. Three of BSU’s four wins over North Dakota have come in the past seven seasons (November 2011, October 2014, and October 2018). Bemidji’s other victory over UND came in 1970.

Game News and Notes

UND head coach Brad Berry is 4-1-3 (.688) in his career against Bemidji State. BSU has competed at the Division I level since the 1999-00 season and has made the NCAA tournament four times (2005, 2006, 2009, and 2010), with a Frozen Four appearance in 2009. The Beavers have never made the NCAAs as a member of the WCHA (nine seasons and counting). North Dakota men’s hockey teams are a combined 242-93-44 (.697) at Ralph Engelstad Arena since the building opened in 2001.

Broadcast Information

This weekend’s games will be televised live on Midco Sports Network and also available online at NCHC.tv. All UND men’s hockey games, home and away, can be heard on stations across the UND Sports Home of Economy Radio Network as well as through the iHeart Radio app.

Social Media

Keep up with the action live during all UND hockey games by following @UNDmhockey and @UNDInsider on Twitter. Fans can also read the action via Brad Schlossman’s live chat on the Grand Forks Herald website.

Ticket Information

Information about tickets can be found at the UND Box Office inside Ralph Engelstad Arena or online at FightingHawks.com/tickets.

The Prediction

Bemidji State always seems to bring their best effort against UND, and this weekend will be no exception. North Dakota played well last weekend in Mankato with little to show for it, while the Beavers more or less had the weekend off (aside from a scrimmage with Division III Augsburg University). The Fighting Hawks seem to have found their game and are playing with more pace and crispness in the early going than recent North Dakota squads have offered, so I’m going with the home squad to earn a sweep, pulling away in the third period of both contests. UND 5-2, 4-1.

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!

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