Weekend Preview: UND at Colorado College

This weekend will mark the first appearance at the brand-new Robson Arena for the University of North Dakota men’s hockey team; the 3,400 seat on-campus facility opened on October 2nd, 2021. Colorado College used to play on the wider Olympic ice surface; the new Robson features an NHL sheet of ice (85 x 200). It has taken some time for the Tigers to get adjusted to their new digs; CC is just 1-3-1 at home to this point in the season.

And that’s not the only thing new in Colorado Springs, as Kris Mayotte takes over the head coaching duties. Mayotte replaces Mike Haviland, who went just 74-177-28 (.315) in his seven seasons behind the Tiger bench, with no regular season or postseason titles and zero NCAA tournament appearances. Haviland had something brewing from 2017-2019, with his teams going 32-37-9 (.468). Things fell off over the past two seasons, however (15-37-5, .307), and it was time for a change.

Colorado College last made the NCAA tournament in 2011 under then-head coach Scott Owens. Owens (1999-2014) and Don Lucia (1993-1999) combined to lead CC to six regular-season titles, twelve NCAA tournament appearances, three Frozen Fours, and one national championship game appearance (1996).

With a new rink and a new coach, there is reason for optimism at Robson Arena. Although Colorado College (3-8-3 overall) struggled out of the gate, the squad has played better recently, skating to a scoreless tie at Minnesota Duluth before earning a hard-fought split at Omaha (3-4, 4-0). Five of the Tigers’ fourteen games have gone to overtime (0-2-3), with another four decided by a single goal in regulation time (all CC losses). Kris Mayotte has his team playing well in third periods, outshooting opponents 155-101 while winning the scoreboard battle 15-7.

It’s been a tale of two UND squads to this point in the season, and I’m not just referring to the Friday/Saturday splits over the last three weekends:

Fridays: 0-3, with 3 goals scored and 17 goals allowed

Saturdays: 3-0, with 10 goals scored and 6 goals allowed

Granted, those six games were against #5 Minnesota Duluth, #10 Minnesota, and #6 St. Cloud, but it is still alarming that in all three series, it took a Friday night “wake up call” to remind the players how they needed to play to be successful. And how does North Dakota need to play to be successful? For me, it boils down to three things:

1. Early leads. North Dakota has scored first in nine games (7-2-0) and allowed the first goal in the other eight (4-4-0). When leading or tied after one period of play, the Fighting Hawks are 10-1-0; when trailing after twenty minutes, the team is just 1-5-0.

UND has also been good at extending leads, particularly in the second period. In middle frames this season, Brad Berry’s group has scored 20 goals while allowing just 13.

2. Tight checking. Against most opponents, UND is not talented enough to win on talent alone. When Brad Berry’s squad is at their best, they are taking away time and space in all three zones, using their speed, and creating turnovers with a relentless forecheck.

At their worst, they are allowing opponents to dictate the play, chasing pucks, and committing penalties. North Dakota is allowing just 22.9 shots on goal in winning efforts but 26.5 in its six losses.

3. Goaltending. North Dakota netminder Zach Driscoll has been more than capable between the pipes in his eleven wins and nearly dreadful in his six losses. Here are the splits:

Wins: 1.73 goals-against average (19 goals allowed in 658 minutes) and a save percentage of .925.

Losses: 4.54 goals-against average (23 goals allowed in 304 minutes) and a save percentage of .820.

To be fair, the team’s performances in losing efforts haven’t been up to par either, causing Driscoll to handle shots from more dangerous areas and face additional shorthanded situations.

Here’s a closer look at UND’s specialty teams:

In eleven wins, North Dakota has scored ten power play goals in 37 man advantage situations (27.0%), killed 33 of 38 shorthanded situations (86.8%), and scored a key shorthanded goal against St. Cloud for a net of +6. In those victories, UND averaged 3.45 shorthanded situations per game.

In six losses, North Dakota has scored four power play goals in 25 man advantage situations (16.0%) and killed 25 of 35 shorthanded situations (71.4%) for a net of -6. In those losses, UND averaged 5.83 shorthanded situations per game.

A half-point per game or better is my benchmark for solid offensive production, and Kris Mayotte’s squad has six players who meet that threshold: sophomore forward Logan Will (4-6-10), sophomore forward Matthew Gleason (4-7-11), sophomore forward Jordan Biro (5-3-8), freshman forward Stanley Cooley (1-7-8), freshman forward Brett Chorske (2-2-4 in 7 games), and sophomore defenseman Chase Foley (1-3-4 in 8 games).

By that same offensive metric, Brad Berry has eight players at a half point or better per game, with THREE of those are averaging a point per game or better: sophomore forward Riese Gaber (8-9-17), sophomore defenseman Jake Sanderson (6-13-19), and senior forward Ashton Calder (7-7-14 in 14 games played), Other offensive contributors include senior forward Connor Ford (3-11-14), freshman forward Jake Schmaltz (4-7-11), freshman forward Matteo Costantini (4-5-9 in 13 games), senior forward Mark Senden (3-6-9), and sophomore forward Louis Jamernik (4-5-9). Calder will not make the trip to Colorado this weekend.

Last year, North Dakota definitely benefitted from having a number of players stick around for a title run rather than turn pro. And UND’s roster is now feeling the effects of all of those departures happening at once, with fourteen new faces in Green and White this season. Despite bringing in five experienced transfers (forwards Ashton Calder and Connor Ford, defensemen Chris Jandric and Brady Ferner, and goaltender Zach Driscoll), the Fighting Hawks lost their top five scorers (and seven of their top eight) from a season ago: Jordan Kawaguchi, Collin Adams, Shane Pinto, Jasper Weatherby, Matt Kiersted, Grant Mismash, and Jacob Bernard-Docker combined for over 60% of UND’s offense last season (69 of 114 goals and 185 of 308 total points).

In addition to those seven skaters, Brad Berry also lost forwards Jackson Keane and Harrison Blaisdell, defensemen Gabe Bast and Josh Rieger, and goaltenders Adam Scheel and Peter Thome.

Despite losing all of that firepower and scoring depth, North Dakota is still managing well over three goals per game (3.24); last year, UND scored 3.93 goals/game. A more glaring difference can be found on the defensive side of the puck: after allowing less than two goals per game last year (1.97), the Fighting Hawks are giving up an average of exactly three goals per game this season.

Two players in particular are driving the offense for North Dakota: forward Riese Gaber and defenseman Jake Sanderson. The two have combined for 189 shot attempts in 32 games played, almost six each per game. No one else on the team has more than 65 attempts.

UND is scoring on 12.1 percent of its shots on goal, a mark good for 11th in the country. By contrast, Colorado College lights the lamp on just 8.1 percent of its shots on goal (46th).

North Dakota made a living with the puck last season (7th and 5th in two key puck possession statistics), and it started in the faceoff circle. In particular, Shane Pinto, Collin Adams, and Jasper Weatherby had UND at #1 in the nation in faceoff percentage (56.2%); this year, the Green and White struggled early but now clock in at 53.7%, good for 7th in the nation. Colorado College sits in 46th nationally at 47.3%.

For UND, Connor Ford (61.6% of faceoffs won) takes nearly every important draw, while Jake Schmaltz (48.6%) has improved over the course of his first college season. Louis Jamernik (47.8%) has been a steady third option for Brad Berry.

For Colorado College, freshman Stanley Cooley (46.7%) has spent the most time in the faceoff circle, although sophomore Logan Will (52.7%) has been the strongest performer. Junior Noah Prokop (47.3%) and sophomore Jackson Jutting (47.4%) contribute as well.

North Dakota’s penalty disparity is becoming problematic, as UND averages almost a full minor penalty more per game (14.24 – 12.35) than opponents. The Fighting Hawks have had 62 man-advantage situations this season but have been shorthanded 73 times.

The Tigers are on the other end of that penalty disparity, averaging just 8.71 penalty minutes per game while their opponents have been whistled for 13.93. That has led to 63 man advantage situations and just 49 shorthanded situations for Colorado College. And while last year was a specialty teams disaster for CC (five power play goals scored, 23 power play goals allowed), the Tigers seem to have righted the ship this season by scoring 13 and allowing just 11.

North Dakota is 5-1-0 in NCHC play; Colorado College sits at 1-4-1. After this weekend’s series, UND is off until a home exhibition tilt against the US Under-18 team on New Year’s Day. The Green and White will host Cornell for two games on January 7th and 8th and start up the second half of the NCHC season with a home series against Omaha the following weekend.

CC will host Arizona State for a pair of nonconference games on December 17th and 18th before returning to NCHC action at Miami on January 7th and 8th.

The Fighting Hawks and Tigers will square off on February 4th and 5th in Grand Forks.

Colorado College Tigers

Head Coach: Kris Mayotte (1st season at CC, 3-8-3, .321)
National Rankings: NR/NR

This Season: 3-8-3 overall, 1-4-1 NCHC (7th)

Last Season: 4-17-2 overall, 4-16-2 NCHC (t-7th)

2021-2022 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 2.36 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.43 goals allowed/game

Power Play: 20.6% (13 of 63)
Penalty Kill: 77.6% (38 of 49)

Key players: Sophomore F Logan Will (4-6-10), Sophomore Forward Matthew Gleason (4-7-11), Sophomore F Jordan Biro (5-3-8), Freshman F Stanley Cooley (1-7-8), Freshman F Brett Chorske (2-2-4 in 7 games), Sophomore D Chase Foley (1-3-4 in 8 games), Senior D Bryan Yoon (0-4-4), Sophomore G Dominic Basse (3-7-2, 2.50 GAA, .904 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Fighting Hawks

Head Coach: Brad Berry (7th season at UND, 149-69-24, .665)
National Rankings: #7/#7

This Season: 11-6-0 overall, 6-2-0 NCHC (1st)
Last Season: 22-6-1 overall, 18-5-1 NCHC (1st)

2021-2022 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.24 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.00 goals allowed/game

Power Play: 22.6% (14 of 62)
Penalty Kill: 79.5% (58 of 73)

Key players: Sophomore F Riese Gaber (8-9-17), Senior F Connor Ford (3-11-14), Freshman F Jake Schmaltz (4-7-11), Junior F Judd Caulfield (3-5-8), Freshman F Matteo Costantini (4-5-9 in 13 games), Sophomore F Louis Jamernik (4-5-9), Senior F Mark Mark Senden (3-6-9), Sophomore D Jake Sanderson (6-13-19), Junior D Ethan Frisch (3-4-7), Senior G Zach Driscoll (11-6-0, 2.62 GAA, .889 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: January 24, 2021 (Grand Forks, ND). UND’s Shane Pinto scored twice and Adam Scheel pitched a fifteen-save shutout as the Fighting Hawks dispatched Colorado College 5-0. At the 13:44 mark of the third period, North Dakota’s Tyler Kleven and CC’s Hugo Blixt were ejected in a scrum that resulted in 36 minutes of penalties. One night earlier, UND outshot the visitors 40-19 and won the game by a final score of 4-1. The series wrapped up a stretch of four games in 15 days between the teams; UND won all four contests while outshooting the Tigers 119-85, scoring fourteen goals, and allowing just two.

Last Meeting in Colorado Springs: January 11, 2021. After the two teams traded power play goals in the middle frame (Riese Gaber for UND, Ben Copeland for CC), it was Grant Mismash who unknotted the score in favor of the visitors early in the third period. North Dakota locked it down after that, allowing the Tigers only three shots on goal in the final twenty minutes of play. One night earlier, the Fighting Hawks blanked CC 3-0 despite being outshot 27-18.

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, 166-84-11 (.657), although Colorado College holds a slim 59-56-4 (.513) edge in games played in Colorado Springs. The teams first met in 1948; North Dakota’s 166 wins over the Tigers are the most against any single opponent in program history.

Last Ten: North Dakota has nine wins in the last ten meetings between the teams, outscoring CC 33-12 over that span. UND has won seven straight against the Tigers, with CC scoring a combined four goals in those seven games. The Fighting Hawks’ last loss to Colorado College was at CC on March 1, 2019 (1-3).

Game News and Notes

North Dakota head coach Brad Berry is 17-4-1 (.795) in his head coaching career 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). Six current UND players have scored goals in their careers against Colorado College, and netminder Zach Driscoll is 2-0-0 with a goals against average of 2.00 and a save percentage of .917 in his two career starts against CC. The Tigers are 3-3-2 when leading or tied after one period of play but 0-5-1 when trailing.

The Prediction

UND fans will know within the first ten minutes of Friday’s opener how the hockey game will go. An early indication will be how well North Dakota competes for the puck and finishes checks. Brad Berry would like to see his team avoid a parade to the penalty box, so it’s a fine line, but if the Green and White can keep the specialty teams battle even, they’ve got a good shot at sweeping on the road. These conference points are just as important as those against Duluth and St. Cloud, and I expect the Fighting Hawks to rise to the challenge and head into the break with two victories. UND 4-2, 3-1.

Broadcast Information

Both games will be streamed live at NCHC.tv, with Friday’s opener also available on Midco Sports Network. All UND men’s hockey games 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.

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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