Eight 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 former 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.
And now, the WCHA is no more, and Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, and Minnesota State find themselves as three of eight programs in the latest version of the CCHA along with Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Northern Michigan, and (newly Division I) St. Thomas.
It is abundantly clear that the NCHC has been the premier hockey conference since its inception, and particularly over the past seven seasons. The eight teams in the league have gone 385-199-80 (.640) in non-conference action since the start of the 2014-15 season and sent eleven teams to the Frozen Four (UND and Omaha in 2015, UND and Denver in 2016, Denver and Duluth in 2017, Duluth in 2018, Denver and Duluth in 2019, Duluth and St. Cloud State in 2021) over that stretch (there was no national tournament in 2020). Conference members North Dakota (2016), Denver (2017), and Minnesota Duluth (2018, 2019) have won four of the last five national titles.
Bemidji State had a very successful 2020-2021 season, going 16-5-3 overall, making the NCAA tourney, and shocking #4-overall Wisconsin 6-3 before being blanked 4-0 by eventual national champion Massachusetts. UMass also shut out St. Cloud State 5-0 in the title game and outscored their opponents 17-3 in their four tournament games.
The Beavers went 22-10-5 in 2020 and would have made the NCAA tournament. Tom Serratore’s head coaching mark of 38-20-8 (.636) over the past two seasons is by far the best for BSU since they made the jump from the CHA in 2010.
Last weekend, North Dakota hosted Niagara for a pair at Ralph Engelstad Arena, dispatching the Purple Eagles by final scores of 6-2 and 4-0. Bemidji State played a home-and-home series with Minnesota Duluth, losing 4-2 at home before falling 2-1 on Saturday night in Duluth.
After this weekend’s home-and home series against Bemidji State, UND’s other non-conference opponents during the 2021-2022 campaign will be Quinnipiac (road), Penn State (Hall Of Fame Game, “neutral”), Minnesota (home), and Cornell (home).
UND is still finding its identity, with fourteen new faces on the roster. One key area so far has been contributions from the blue line, with defensemen Jake Sanderson (2-2-4) and Tyler Kleven (1-1-2) leading the way and Cooper Moore, Brent Johnson, Chris Jandric, and Ethan Frisch chipping in one point apiece. Through two games, the Fighting Hawks’ d-corps has potted 40% of the team’s goals and produced 36% of North Dakota’s total point production. This trend will need to continue if UND aspires to make the NCAA tournament this season. Incidentally, last season’s total of 83 points (20 goals) from the blue line was second only to national champion Massachusetts (26-63-89).
One of the fresh faces on Brad Berry’s bench is senior transfer Zach Driscoll, who played three seasons in goal for Bemidji State, appearing in 88 games and posting a sparkling record of 46-29-11 with a goals-against average of 2.05, a save percentage of .924, and nine shutouts.
Driscoll made 18 saves each night against Niagara, allowing two goals on the same shorthanded sequence in Friday’s opener before posting a shutout in Saturday’s rematch.
With Driscoll’s departure, Tom Serratore is left with two returning netminders – sophomore Gavin Enright and junior Michael Carr – who had a combined 75 minutes of game experience coming into this season. With the addition of freshman Mattias Sholl, Serratore has still not figured out his goaltending rotation. All three played in Bemidji State’s 2-1 exhibition loss to North Dakota two weeks ago, and Carr and Enright each played one night of the Duluth series last weekend.
Bemidji State Team Profile
Head Coach: Tom Serratore (21st season at BSU, 335-309-92, .518)
National Ranking: 20/RV
This Season: 0-2-0 overall, 0-0-0 CCHA
Last Season: 13-8-3 overall, 5-3-3-3 WCHA (4th of 8 teams)
Team Offense: 1.50 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.00 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 0.0% (0 of 6)
Penalty Kill: 75.0% (6 of 8)
Key Players: Senior F Owen Sillinger (0-1-1), Senior F Ethan Somoza (0-1-1), Sophomore F Lukas Sillinger (0-1-1), Sophomore F Eric Martin (1-0-1), Senior F Alex Ierullo (1-0-1), Junior D Will Zmolek (1-0-1), Junior D Kyle Looft (0-1-1), Junior D Elias Rosen (0-0-0)
North Dakota Team Profile
Head Coach: Brad Berry (7th season at UND ; 140-63-24, .670)
National Ranking: #7/#6
This Season: 2-0-0 overall, 0-0-0 NCHC
Last Season: 22-6-1 overall (NCAA Regional Finalist), 18-5-1 NCHC (1st)
Team Offense: 5.00 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.00 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 42.9% (3 of 7)
Penalty Kill: 87.5% (7 of 8)
Key Players: Sophomore F Riese Gaber (1-3-4), Senior F Ashton Calder (2-2-4), Freshman F Jake Schmaltz (3-1-4), Junior F Judd Caulfield (0-2-2), Senior F Connor Ford (0-2-2), Sophomore D Jake Sanderson (2-2-4), Sophomore D Tyler Kleven (1-1-2), Senior G Zach Driscoll (2-0-0, 1.00 GAA, .947 SV%, 1 SO)
By The Numbers
Last Meeting: October 26, 2019. One night after a Westin Michaud overtime winner made the final score 2-1 in favor of the Fighting Hawks, UND completed the home sweep with a dominating 4-1 performance. Brad Berry’s squad opened up a 3-0 lead (and a shots on goal advantage of 25-8) through two periods behind goals from Grant Mismash, Mark Senden, and Jonny Tychonick. Bemidji State finally made a push in the final frame, outshooting their hosts 12-4 and breaking through at the 18:43 mark. UND’s Colton Poolman iced the game with an empty-netter just 18 seconds later, and the traditional circle of sticks ensued.
Last Meeting in Bemidji: October 12, 2018. The Beavers took the front end of a home-and-home series with a 2-1 victory behind goals from Adam Brady and Owen Sillinger and 28 saves from Henry Johnson. It was Bemidji’s first win over North Dakota since 2014; the Beavers have gone 0-2-1 since that point.
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 6-1-3 (.750) in the last ten meetings between the teams, outscoring the Beavers 33-21 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, 33-4-6 (.839), including a 10-2-2 (.786) record in Bemidji and a record of 23-2-4 (.862) in games played in Grand Forks. Three of BSU’s four wins over North Dakota have come in the past ten 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 6-1-3 (.750) 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 five times (2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, and 2021), with a Frozen Four appearance in 2009. North Dakota men’s hockey teams are a combined 271-95-44 (.715) at Ralph Engelstad Arena since the building opened in 2001. UND is unbeaten (5-0-2) in its last seven home matchups with the Beavers.
Friday’s opener will be available via webcast at CCHA.TV, while Saturday’s rematch will be telecast 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.
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.
Information about tickets can be found at the UND Box Office inside Ralph Engelstad Arena or online at FightingHawks.com/tickets.
Bemidji State always seems to bring their best effort against UND, and this weekend will be no exception. The easy pick would be a close win or a tie on Friday night in Bemidji, with a bit more breathing room at home on Saturday. In the last five series against the Beavers, North Dakota has only truly been held in check over one weekend (two total goals scored in October 2018). In the other four series, the Fighting Hawks have managed 10, 8, 7, and 6 total goals. Since BSU has only scored eight total goals in the last six games against North Dakota, I’m going with the sweep. UND 3-1, 4-2.
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!