Weekend Preview: North Dakota vs. Quinnipiac

In 23 years at the Division I level, Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold has only had ONE losing season (16-18-4 in 2017-2018). The Bobcats have made the last three national tournaments and seven of the past nine, appearing in the championship game in 2013 (losing 4-0 to Yale) and again against UND in 2016. That 5-1 title game loss against North Dakota was just the fourth loss of the season for QU (32-4-7).

Last year, Quinnipiac went 32-7-3 and defeated St. Cloud State 5-4 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. The Bobcats would fall one game short of the Frozen Four, dropping a 7-4 decision to the Michigan Wolverines.

In the 2021 NCAA West Regional in Loveland, Colorado, QU held a 3-1 lead over Minnesota State with just over five minutes remaining in regulation before the Mavericks brought the game to within one. An extra-attacker goal with 62 seconds remaining sent the game to an extra frame, and Ryan Sandelin won the game for the Mavs just over halfway through the first overtime session.

UND and QU met one other time in the national tournament (at the 2015 West Regional in Fargo, ND). North Dakota downed the Bobcats 4-1 in that tilt, the only time that Quinnipiac has played in the Central Time Zone in the past decade.

Aside from their two tournament clashes, North Dakota and Quinnipiac have faced each other on two other occasions:

An October 2021 series at People’s United Center (Hamden, Connecticut) went down as a split (QU 5-2, UND 3-1) despite the Bobcats outshooting the Fighting Hawks 64-35 on the weekend.

And fifteen years earlier, an October 2006 series in Grand Forks went in the books as a UND sweep. Sioux forwards Ryan Duncan, T.J. Oshie and Jonathan Toews figured heavily in those results.

Before this recent stretch of tournament appearances, the only Quinnipiac showing on the national scene came in 2001-02, when the team (competing in the MAAC and known for the last time as the ‘Braves’) suffered a 6-1 loss to Cornell in the regional semifinal.

It is fairly difficult to compare teams from different conferences, but there are some measurables. The NCHC has been the premier hockey conference since its inception, and particularly over the past eight seasons. The eight teams in the league have gone 401-197-68 (.653) in non-conference action since the start of the 2014-15 season and sent twelve 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, Denver in 2022) over that seven-year stretch (there was no national tournament in 2020). Conference members North Dakota (2016), Denver (2017, 2022), and Minnesota Duluth (2018, 2019) have won five of the last six national titles.

Despite all of those accomplishments, the NCHC has not dominated the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference in recent history. Since the 2016 title game, UND and its seven league mates are just 30-19-10 (.593) against the likes of Quinnipiac, Clarkson, St. Lawrence, Union, Colgate, Rensselaer, and the six Ivy League colleges (Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale).

Last weekend, #3/#3 North Dakota (2-0-0) hosted Holy Cross for a pair at Ralph Engelstad Arena, dispatching the Crusaders by final scores of 6-0 and 4-1.

After this weekend’s home series against Quinnipiac, UND’s other non-conference opponents during the 2022-2023 campaign will be Minnesota (road), Arizona State (Hall Of Fame Game in Las Vegas, “neutral”), Bemidji State (home and home), and Lindenwood (home).

On its opening weekend, #8/#7 Quinnipiac (1-0-1) shut out Boston College in a 4-0 road victory before stumbling to a 2-2 tie against Long Island on home ice.

QU’s out-of-conference games also include Maine, Dartmouth, UMass-Lowell, Connecticut, and a rematch with Long Island.

Through two games, UND has showcased speed, skill in the faceoff circle (66.9%, best in the nation), a solid set of blueliners, and an ability to put the puck in the net, scoring on 18.2% of shots on goal. North Dakota has also won the special teams battle (4 of 15 on the power play and a perfect 8-for-8 on the penalty kill) and received excellent goaltending from grad transfer Drew DeRidder (stopped all 27 shots) and sophomore Jakob Hellsten (stopped 19 of 20 shots) for a team save percentage of .979.

By comparison, Quinnipiac has won 51.0% of faceoffs, scored on just 8.8% of shots on goal, and posted a team save percentage of .944. To their credit, QU has scored on both power play opportunities and killed both shorthanded situations to this point of the season.

The Bobcats lost a ton of scoring from last year’s squad, notably forwards Ty Smilanic (13-10-23), Wyatt Bongiovanni (16-18-34), Oliver Chau (13-20-33), and Guus van Nes (6-11-17) and defensemen Brendan Less 4-16-20 and Griffin Mendel (5-10-15).

Left to shoulder the scoring load up front are graduate student Michael Lombardi (1-0-1), senior Skyler Brind’Amour (0-1-1), and graduate student Ethan de Jong (1-2-3). Graduate students TJ Friedmann (0-1-1) and Zach Metsa (1-1-2) have three of the four points from the Bobcats’ back end this season.

Brind’Amour, the son of Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour, was taken by the Oilers in the sixth round (177th pick) in the 2017 NHL draft. Before his head coaching career began in 2011, father Rod played 1484 NHL games, amassing 452 goals and adding 732 assists to go along with 1100 penalty minutes. Rod Brind’Amour’s crowning achievement as a player was captaining the Hurricanes to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup championship in 2006 (former UND defenseman Mike Commodore was also a member of that title team).

Quinnipiac Team Profile

Head Coach: Rand Pecknold (29th season at QU, 582-333-101, .623)
National Rankings: #8/#7

This Season: 1-0-1 overall, 0-0-0 ECAC
Last Season: 32-7-3 overall (NCAA Regional Finalist), 17-3-1-1 ECAC (1st of 12 teams)

2022-2023 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.00 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.00 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 100.0% (2 of 2)
Penalty Kill: 100.0% (2 of 2)

Key Players: Graduate Student F Michael Lombardi (1-0-1), Senior F Skyler Brind’Amour (0-1-1), Graduate Student F Ethan de Jong (1-2-3), Sophomore F Jacob Quillan (0-2-2), Graduate Student D TJ Friedmann (0-1-1), Graduate Student D Zach Metsa (1-1-2), Sophomore G Yaniv Perets (1-0-1, 0.96 GAA, .944 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (8th season at UND, 164-77-25, .664)
National Rankings: #3/#3

This Season: 2-0-0 overall, 0-0-0 NCHC
Last Season: 24-14-1 overall (NCAA Regional Semifinalist), 17-6-1 NCHC (t-1st)

2022-23 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 5.00 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 0.50 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 26.7% (4 of 15)
Penalty Kill: 100.0% (8 of 8)

Key Players: Junior F Riese Gaber (1-0-0), Sophomore F Jake Schmaltz (1-0-1), Junior F Louie Jamernik V (0-3-3), Senior F Gavin Hain (3-0-0), Graduate Student Mark Senden (1-2-3), Freshman F Jackson Blake (1-1-2), Senior D Ethan Frisch (1-1-2), Sophomore D Brent Johnson (0-2-2), Graduate Student D Chris Jandric (0-4-4), Graduate Student Drew DeRidder (1-0-0, 0.00 GAA, 1.000 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: October 23, 2021 (Hamden, CT). The Fighting Hawks scored once in each period to erase an early 1-0 deficit and defeat the homestanding Bobcats 3-1. UND scored a power play goal and a 4-on-4 goal and killed all five QU man advantage opportunities to earn a series split. Quinnipiac outshot North Dakota 36-19 in the rematch and 64-35 on the weekend, taking Game One by a margin of 5-2.

Most Important Meeting: April 9, 2016 (Tampa, FL). Two nights after UND’s late-game heroics against Denver, the Fighting Hawks outlasted the Bobcats 5-1 to claim the program’s eighth national championship. Shane Gersich and Brock Boeser scored first-period goals for North Dakota before Quinnipiac got on the board with a 5-on-3 tally late in the opening frame. After a tight, scoreless second period, Drake Caggiula scored twice in the first four minutes of the third to open up the contest. Autin Poganski potted his tenth of the year midway through the final frame, and the last nine minutes felt like one long, slow coronation for the Green and White.

Six Years Ago: March 27, 2015 (Fargo, ND). North Dakota blocked 28 shots in front of a partisan crowd at Scheels Arena and downed the Bobcats 4-1 to advance to the NCAA West Regional Final, where they would play St. Cloud State. Tucker Poolman, Bryn Chyzyk, Drake Caggiula, and Luke Johnson all scored for UND, who received 29 saves from 2015 Mike Richter Award winner Zane McIntyre. Quinnipiac went 1-for-8 with the man advantage, scoring only an extra-attacker power play goal with less than two minutes remaining.

Fifteen Years Ago: October 7, 2006 (Grand Forks, ND). A late Quinnipiac power play goal got the Bobcats within a goal, but the damage had been done by then. T.J. Oshie assisted on all three Jonathan Toews goals (remarkably, the only hat trick of his Fighting Sioux career) and Ryan Duncan had a three point night (1 g, 2 a) in a 4-2 North Dakota victory. UND blew out the Bobcats 6-1 in Friday’s opener despite only one goal from the Oshie-Toews-Duncan (D.O.T.) line.

All-time Series: The two teams have only squared off six times, with UND going 5-1 in those games while outscoring the Bobcats 24-11.

Game News and Notes

Quinnipiac has competed at the Division I level since the 1999-2000 season; that was the year UND won its seventh national championship. QU grad student Ethan de Jong is the nation’s leading career scorer with 107 points (in 145 career games), and teammate Taniv Perets is the NCAA active career leader with twelve shutouts (in 33 career games). The Bobcats play their home games at People’s United Center (capacity 3,286).

Media Coverage

Both games this weekend will be broadcast live on Midco Sports Network and also available via webcast 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.

The Prediction

UND coaches, players, and fans should savor this early-season measuring stick opportunity against a team which should be in the mix at the end of the year. North Dakota will need to win the special teams battle and the goaltending battle if they hope to achieve good results this weekend. Since I can’t see that happening in back-to-back games this early in the season against a quality opponent, I’ve got to go with a split. QU 3-2, UND 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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