Weekend Preview: UND vs. Colorado College

#12 North Dakota (15-11-1) hosts unranked Colorado College (7-16-3) for a pair of games this weekend at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks. When the teams squared off at brand-new Robson Arena for a mid-December series in Colorado Springs, the Fighting Hawks secured the road sweep with 5-2 and 4-1 victories. Those games dropped the Tigers to 3-10-3 on the season.

UND held the advantage in all phases, outshooting the Tigers 62-54 and winning 72 of 119 faceoffs (60.5%). North Dakota scored three power play goals on nine attempts and held Colorado College to just a single power play goal in ten man-advantage opportunities.

One bright spot for CC is that since that weekend, the Tigers have gone 4-6-0 against Arizona State, Miami, Denver, Omaha, and Western Michigan, much more respectable results for first-year head coach Kris Mayotte. 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.

A second bright spot for Colorado College is that Louis Jamernik, Gavin Hain, and Mark Senden are not expected to be in the North Dakota lineup this weekend due to injury; the three linemates combined for five goals and eight points in Colorado Springs back in December.

In their absence, the line of Nick Portz, Carson Albrecht, and Griffin Ness will be called upon to provide tenacity and get things squared away after UND returns to even strength following power play and penalty kill situations.

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 struggled out of the gate, the squad has played better recently, and the Tigers have been competitive in most games. A winning record would be within reach for CC, but a 1-8 record in one-goal games has them near the bottom of the league standings (7th of 8 teams) and the Pairwise rankings (39th). Kris Mayotte has his team playing well in third periods, outshooting opponents 262-227 while winning the scoreboard battle 27-22.

As I mentioned last week, it will be an uphill climb for UND to catch Denver in this year’s race for the league title despite being only five points behind with eight games to play.

After losing four straight games to open 2022, North Dakota rose to the occasion against St. Cloud State (5 of 6 points) and Omaha (4 of 6 points) over the last two weekends. Those results solidified the Fighting Hawks at #13 in the Pairwise rankings. And yes, some may ask why UND didn’t “move up” in the Pairwise after those results. It’s important to remember that these games don’t exist in a vacuum; every result across the college hockey landscape affects the comparisons, and the only comparisons that truly matter are the ones that take place once the final games are played on Saturday, March 19th. Trust me when I tell you that good results each weekend will help the team’s resume in the long run.

North Dakota’s four January losses (two vs. PWR 25 Cornell, two at PWR 4 Western Michigan) continue to loom large on the national scene. For the moment, UND is being held up by early-season victories over Quinnipiac (5th) Denver (3rd, twice), Minnesota Duluth (8th), Minnesota (9th), and St. Cloud State (10th). In the first half of the season, UND split its series with Quinnipiac, Duluth, Minnesota, and St. Cloud State and lost to Bemidji State (26th) and Penn State (23rd).

Turning our attention to the matchup this weekend, it’s been a jumble in net for the Tigers. Sophomore Dominic Basse (6-11-2, 2.99 GAA, .895 SV%, 1 SO) has played more than two-thirds of the minutes between the pipes, but he’s been outplayed recently by junior Matt Vernon (1-5-1, .264 GAA, .918 SV%, 1 SO). Vernon only started four games during the first half of the season, but he came on in relief both nights of a January home-and-home series against Denver (stopping 36 of 38), and he’s earned three of the last four starts for the Tigers.

Before UND’s December series at Colorado College, fifth-year senior Zach Driscoll had played nearly every meaningful minute between the pipes for North Dakota, going 11-6-0 with a goals-against average of 2.62, a save percentage of .889, and one shutout. Both Driscoll and freshman Jakob Hellsten got a start in Colorado Springs, and each performed admirably (Driscoll made 28 of 30 saves on Friday night, while Hellsten stopped 23 of 24 in the rematch). Each of the netminders also got one start in early January against Cornell, with Driscoll struggling on Friday night (13 saves on 17 shots) before giving way to Hellsten on Saturday (17 saves on 20 shots).

Three weekends ago, Driscoll again got the Friday start at Western Michigan, allowing four goals on 23 shots. Hellsten looked better in the rematch, allowing only a late first-period shorthanded goal while making 24 saves. That allowed Brad Berry to start Hellsten against St. Cloud State, and the freshman played brilliantly on Friday night, allowing just one goal on twenty shots. Saturday was a different story, however, and he was pulled after allowing three goals in the first period. It should be noted, however, that one was a power-play tally and the other two were breakaways – one shorthanded and one just as a penalty expired.

Driscoll righted the ship in that Saturday contest, making 20 of 20 saves as North Dakota clawed back and forced overtime. After a scoreless three-on-three session, Driscoll stopped all four attempts in the shootout as the Fighting Hawks secured the extra league point.

Driscoll was again the goaltender of record in both games last weekend, stopping 26 of 27 in Friday’s 4-1 win and 27 of 30 in Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss.

A half-point per game or better is my benchmark for solid offensive production, and Kris Mayotte’s squad has just four players who meet that threshold: sophomore forward Logan Will (5-10-15), sophomore forward Matthew Gleason (5-8-13), sophomore forward Hunter McKown (10-5-15), and freshman forward Stanley Cooley (2-11-13).

McKown, who played on the U.S. National Under-17 and Under-18 Teams before coming to Colorado Springs, has come on strong since being held scoreless against North Dakota; the 19-year-old from San Jose, California has seven goals and three assists for ten points in his last ten games. He scored a total of three goals in 43 games with the USNTDP.

By that same offensive metric, Brad Berry will have five players in the lineup this weekend averaging a half point or better per game: sophomore forward Riese Gaber (13-18-31), senior forward Ashton Calder (10-7-17 in 22 games), senior forward Connor Ford (4-17-21), freshman forward Jake Schmaltz (6-9-15), and freshman forward Matteo Costantini (5-10-15 in 23 games).

As mentioned above, senior forward Mark Senden (5-10-15), sophomore forward Louis Jamernik (7-8-15), and senior forward Gavin Hain (6-3-9 in 18 games) are all battling injuries and are not expected to compete this weekend.

Sophomore defenseman Jake Sanderson (7-17-24 in 21 games) would also appear on this list, but he is currently representing the United States as a member of the men’s Olympic ice hockey team.

With Sanderson out of the lineup, Brad Berry will rely on a trio of blueliners – junior Ethan Frisch (6-5-11), graduate student Chris Jandric (1-8-9), and sophomore Tyler Kleven (4-2-6) – to shoulder the offensive load. Frisch has come on after being added to the top power play unit; the third-year d-man from Moorhead, Minnesota has scored a goal in three of his past four games and has already surpassed his goal-scoring total from his first two seasons at North Dakota (four goals in 55 games).

Without Sanderson (Olympics) or Ferner (injury) on the ice this weekend, the Colorado College Tigers boast the more formidable blue line in terms of offensive production, with sophomore Nicklas Andrews (3-8-11) and senior Bryan Yoon (1-9-10) leading the way. As a unit, Kris Mayotte’s defensemen are averaging 0.30 points per game (9-33-42 in 138 games), while Brad Berry’s crew comes into the weekend at 0.24 points per game (11-21-32 in 133 games).

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 3.15 goals per game; 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 2.78 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 281 shot attempts in 46 games played, more than six each per game. Tyler Kleven is third on the team in shot attempts with 113; no one else on the squad has more than 94.

UND is scoring on 11.3 percent of its shots on goal, a mark good for 12th in the country. Colorado College clocks in at 8.9 percent (43rd).

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 land at 54.7%, good for 4th in the nation. Colorado College sits in 51st nationally at 46.3%.

For UND, Connor Ford (61.4% of faceoffs won) takes nearly every important draw, while Jake Schmaltz (51.8%) has improved over the course of his first college season. Louis Jamernik (53.6%) had been a steady third option for Brad Berry; I would expect senior Griffin Ness (41.2%) to handle the load with Jamernik and Senden watching from the stands.

For Colorado College, sophomore Logan Will (51.2%) has spent the most time in the faceoff circle and has had the most success, although freshman Stanley Cooley (45.3%) is not far behind. Junior Noah Prokop (46.3%) and sophomore Jackson Jutting (46.6%) contribute as well.

A disparity in faceoff success often leads to a similar imbalance in puck possession statistics as well, and that’s the case here:

Corsi: UND 52.3% (16th), CC 46.8% (43rd)
Fenwick: UND 52.8% (15th), CC 47.5% (41st)

Corsi measures the percentage of shots taken vs. opponents; Fenwick measures the percentage of unblocked shots taken vs. opponents.

North Dakota’s penalty disparity is becoming problematic, as UND averages nearly a full minor penalty more per game (12.81 – 10.88) in conference play than its opponents. The Fighting Hawks have had 97 man-advantage situations this season but have been shorthanded 114 times. With 22 power play goals scored, 24 power play goals allowed, one shorthanded goal scored, and costly shorthanded goals allowed over the past three weekends, UND’s specialty teams net is at minus-3.

CC is in even worse shape in the penalty department, averaging 13.50 penalty minutes per conference game while seeing their opponents whistled for just 10.44. Overall, however, the Tigers have enjoyed 107 man-advantage situations on the season against 98 shorthanded situations. With 18 power play goals, 25 power play goals against, and three shorthanded goals allowed, Colorado College sits at minus-10.

To this point in the season, here is the complete specialty teams ledger:

Colorado College power play: 18 of 107, 16.8 percent (40th)
Colorado College penalty kill: 73 of 98, 74.5 percent (52nd)

North Dakota power play: 22 of 97, 22.7 percent (14th)
North Dakota penalty kill: 90 of 114, 78.9 percent (37th)

The two teams were initially scheduled to play this series last weekend; the series was rescheduled so that North Dakota could make up its games with Omaha that were postponed due to COVID-19 protocols within the UND hockey team.

According to KRACH, North Dakota has played the 4th-most difficult schedule in all of Division I men’s college hockey to this point in the season; CC’s schedule weighs in at 35th.

After this weekend, the Tigers will host Miami before traveling to St. Cloud State at the end of February. Colorado College and Denver will close out the regular season by playing a home-and-home series on March 4th and 5th.

Over the last three weekends of the regular season, the Fighting Hawks will travel to face the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs, host the Western Michigan Broncos, and travel to Omaha to face the Mavericks.

Colorado College Tigers

Head Coach: Kris Mayotte (1st season at CC, 7-16-3, .327)

National Rankings: NR/NR
Pairwise Ranking: 39th

This Season: 7-16-3 overall, 4-11-1 NCHC (7th)
Last Season: 4-17-2 overall, 4-16-2 NCHC (t-7th)

2021-2022 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 2.42 goals scored/game – 44th of 59 teams
Team Defense: 3.08 goals allowed/game – 37th of 59 teams

Power Play: 16.8% (18 of 107) – 40th of 59 teams
Penalty Kill: 74.5% (73 of 98) – 52nd of 59 teams

Key players: Sophomore F Logan Will (5-10-15), Sophomore F Hunter McKown (10-5-15), Sophomore F Matthew Gleason (5-8-13), Sophomore F Jordan Biro (5-5-10), Freshman F Stanley Cooley (2-11-13), Sophomore F Danny Weight (1-11-12), Sophomore D Nicklas Andrews (3-8-11), Senior D Bryan Yoon (1-9-10), Junior G Matt Vernon (1-5-1, 2.64 GAA, .918 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Fighting Hawks

Head Coach: Brad Berry (7th season at UND, 153-74-25, .657)

National Rankings: #12/#12
Pairwise Ranking: 13th

This Season: 15-11-1 overall, 10-5-1 NCHC (2nd)
Last Season: 22-6-1 overall (NCHC Midwest Regional Finalist), 18-5-1 NCHC (1st)

2021-2022 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.15 goals scored/game – 20th of 59 teams
Team Defense: 2.78 goals allowed/game – 28th of 59 teams

Power Play: 22.7% (22 of 97) – 14th of 59 teams
Penalty Kill: 78.9% (90 of 114) – 37th of 59 teams

Key players: Sophomore F Riese Gaber (13-18-31), Senior F Connor Ford (4-17-21), Senior F Ashton Calder (10-7-17), Freshman F Jake Schmaltz (6-9-15), Junior F Judd Caulfield (6-5-11), Freshman F Matteo Costantini (5-10-15), Junior D Ethan Frisch (3-4-7), Senior Chris Jandric (1-8-9), sophomore D Tyler Kleven (4-2-6), Senior G Zach Driscoll (13-9-1, 2.57 GAA, .894 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: December 11, 2021 (Colorado Springs, CO). North Dakota’s first visit to the new Robson Arena ended up being a fruitful one, as the Fighting Hawks followed up a 5-2 victory on Friday night with a 4-1 triumph one night later. UND held the advantage in all phases, outshooting the Tigers 62-54 and winning 72 of 119 faceoffs (60.5%). North Dakota scored three power play goals on nine attempts and held Colorado College to just a single power play goal in ten man-advantage opportunities.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: January 24, 2021. 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.

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, 168-84-11 (.660), including a massive advantage of 107-22-7 (.813) in games played in Grand Forks. The teams first met in 1948; North Dakota’s 168 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 35-10 over that span. UND has won nine straight against the Tigers, with CC scoring a combined seven goals in those nine 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 19-4-1 (.813) 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). Seven UND players expected to be in the lineup this weekend have scored goals in their careers against Colorado College, and netminder Zach Driscoll is 3-0-0 with a goals against average of 2.00 and a save percentage of .920 in his three career starts against CC. The Tigers are 6-6-2 when leading or tied after one period of play but 1-10-1 when trailing.

The Prediction

Despite its depleted lineup, UND needs to follow up solid home weekends against St. Cloud State and Omaha (9 of 12 possible points) with a sweep over Colorado College. I would be more worried about missing the entire forward line of Gavin Hain, Mark Senden, and Louis Jamernik were it not for the emergence of Nick Portz, Carson Albrecht, and Griffin Ness. If first-year defensemen Brent Johnson (twelve career games) and Luke Bast (14) can hold their own in the absence of Jake Sanderson and Brady Ferner, the Fighting Hawks will be just fine. UND 3-2, 5-1.

Broadcast Information

Both games will be broadcast live on Midco Sports Network and also streamed live in high definition at NCHC.tv. 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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