Weekend Preview: North Dakota at Omaha

#10/#11 North Dakota (3-3-1) will head to Nebraska this weekend to face Omaha (4-3-1) at Baxter Arena exactly eight months after securing the program’s third-consecutive Penrose Cup with a 5-4 overtime victory on that very same ice.

Before we dig into this weekend’s matchup, let’s take a quick look back at the past few games between the two teams…

On March 4th, 2022, North Dakota built a 4-2 advantage over the first two periods but gave up the lead in the third period, allowing a power play goal at 8:49 and an extra-attacker goal at 19:04. Less than 90 seconds into overtime, UND’s Tyler Kleven scored a 3-on-3 goal to secure yet another league championship for the Fighting Hawks. There was certainly a letdown the following night, as Omaha dispatched the visitors by a final score of 4-1.

One month earlier (Friday, February 4th), UND broke a 1-1 tie with three goals in the second period, including a 5-on-3 tally by Ethan Frisch with seven seconds remaining. In Saturday’s rematch, North Dakota built a 2-0 lead through two periods but could not hold off the Mavs, allowing two third-period goals less than three minutes apart and surrendering a 3-on-3 goal midway through the five-minute overtime session.

Saturday’s rematch marked the first time in 19 games between the teams that the team scoring first did not prevail.

And two seasons ago, the two teams tangled six times over the course of 36 days in the second half of the season, and familiarity bred contempt. To that point, a line brawl erupted in the final minute of the fourth meeting between the squads, a 7-1 North Dakota home victory which secured the Fighting Hawks’ second consecutive league championship and saw Brad Berry’s squad hoist the #PenneRosa for the fourth time in the eight-year history of the NCHC.

The Saturday melee in Grand Forks started with Omaha sophomore forward Joey Abate slashing UND’s Louis Jamernik on the wrist instead of attempting to win the faceoff. Jamernik responded with a cross-check, and the royal rumble was on. Not surprisingly, Abate did the same thing late in Friday’s game with North Dakota leading 4-1 and less than two minutes on the clock.

Despite the aforementioned Maverick ruffians, Omaha was the biggest surprise in the NCHC two seasons ago. Of course, I expected them to have good results playing at home in the pod (and they did, posting a record of 6-3-1), but I also expected them to regress in the second half. On the contrary, the Mavs went a combined 7-3 against Colorado College (4-0), Denver (2-2), and North Dakota (1-1) over the first ten games of the “normal travel” portion of the schedule, finished with an overall record of 14-11-1, and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time since their Frozen Four appearance in 2015. UNO ended its season with two consecutive losses; a 5-4 defeat at the hands of Denver in the opening round of the NCHC Frozen Faceoff and a 7-2 drubbing by #2 Minnesota in the NCAA West Regional (Loveland, CO). The Gophers would be blanked 4-0 in the regional final by #5 Minnesota State.

Omaha’s 2020-2021 campaign was buoyed by excellent results in close games, including four overtime victories, four wins by one goal in regulation, and a ninth in a shootout. The Mavericks’ two victories over UND last season were a 5-4 win on January 30th and a 3-2 overtime victory on March 5th. North Dakota defeated UNO by scores of 6-2, 4-1, 7-1, and 4-2 for a combined scoring margin of 27-14 over the six-game season series.

Omaha did not make the national tournament last season, finishing with a record of 21-17-0.

A half-point per game or better is my benchmark for solid offensive production, and Mike Gabinet’s 2022-2023 squad has eleven active players who meet that threshold, including eight forwards: senior Jack Randl (10-3-13), graduate student Tyler Weiss (2-7-9), sophomore Ty Mueller (2-5-7), graduate student Jake Pivonka (2-4-6), freshman Jacob Guevin (0-5-5), sophomore Cameron Berg (2-3-5), junior Matt Miller (1-3-4), and freshman Tyler Rollwagen (1-2-3 in six games). On defense, the Mavericks are led by sophomore Davis Pennington (0-5-5), freshman Joaquim Lemay (1-3-4), and graduate student Jonny Tychonick (1-3-4).

By that same measure, North Dakota has twelve players at a half point or better, although at least one of those – senior forward Gavin Hain (5-1-6 in 7 games) – will not be in the lineup this weekend due to injury. Leading the way for UND are forwards Riese Gaber (5-3-8), Jackson Blake (4-4-8), Jake Schmaltz (3-2-5), Louis Jamernik V (0-5-5), and Mark Senden (3-2-5) and defensemen Chris Jandric (1-10-11), Ethan Frisch (1-3-4), and Cooper Moore (1-3-4).

UND is tops in the nation in shooting percentage at an astounding 15.1% (26 goals on 172 shots). By comparison, Omaha is 21st in the country at 10.9% (27 goals on 247 shots). The Mavericks average more than six additional shots on goal per game than the FIghting Hawks (30.9 – 24.6) and lead UND in both puck possession statistics (Corsi and Fenwick).

One key area to watch this weekend is the face-off circle. The Fighting Hawks are the nation’s eighth-best team on draws (55.2%), while Omaha clocks in at 52.7% (16th).

For UND, sophomore Jake Schmaltz has been making a living on draws, winning 91 of 153 (59.5%). Junior Louis Jamernik V has been nearly even (66 of 130, 50.8%), while freshman Owen McLaughlin has shown improvement (48 of 89, 53.9%). Sophomore Matteo Costantini has chippied in with 12 wins in 16 opportunities (75.0%).

For Omaha, graduate student Jake Pivonka has taken the majority of important draws, going 69 of 128 (53.9%). Senior captain Nolan Sullivan has had the most success (58 of 104, 55.8%), while sophomore Ty Mueller (59 of 111, 53.2%) has been a steady third option.

To this point in the season, North Dakota has had far the better of the specialty teams play. UND has been a combined +8, with twelve power play goals scored (12 for 35, 34.3%, 2nd in the country) and only four power play goals allowed (19 of 23, 82.6%, 24th). Omaha has posted a +1, with ten power play goals scored (10 of 33, 30.3%, 5th), eight power play goals allowed (28 of 36, 77.8%, 37th), one shorthanded goal scored, and two shorthanded goals allowed.

North Dakota is 11th in the country in scoring offense (3.71 goals scored/game) but just 41st in the country in scoring defense (3.14 goals allowed/game). Omaha is 17th in the country in scoring offense (3.38 goals scored/game) but a more respectable 21st in scoring defense (2.50 goals allowed/game).

North Dakota is strong on the back end this season, with junior Tyler Kleven and senior Ethan Frisch leading the way. A trio of graduate students (Chris Jandric, Ty Farmer, and Ryan Sidorski) match up well with sophomore Brent Johnson and junior Cooper Moore to form a defensive corps not unlike the one that took UND all the way to the national title seven years ago.

Omaha Team Profile

Head Coach: Mike Gabinet (6th season at UNO, 79-89-12, .472)
National Rankings: NR/NR

This Season: 4-3-1 overall
Last Season: 21-17-0 overall, 9-12-2-1 NCHC (6th)

Team Offense: 3.38 goals scored/game – 17th of 62 teams
Team Defense: 2.50 goals allowed/game – 21st of 62 teams

Power Play: 30.3% (10 of 33) – 5th of 62 teams
Penalty Kill: 77.8% (28 of 36) – 37th of 62 teams

Key Players: Senior F Jack Randl (10-3-13), Graduate Student F Tyler Weiss (2-7-9), Sophomore F Ty Mueller (2-5-7), Graduate Student Jake Pivonka (2-4-6), Sophomore F Cameron Berg (2-3-5), Sophomore D Davis Pennington (0-5-5), Freshman D Joaquim Lemay (1-3-4), Graduate Student D Jonny Tychonick (1-3-4), Junior G Jake Kucharski (2-2-1, 1.85 GAA, .913 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (8th season at UND, 165-80-26, .657)
National Rankings: #10/#11

This Season: 3-3-1 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: 3.71 goals scored/game – 11th of 62 teams
Team Defense: 3.14 goals allowed/game – 41st of 62 teams

Power Play: 34.3% (12 of 35) – 2nd of 62 teams
Penalty Kill: 82.6% (19 of 23) – 24th of 62 teams

Key Players: Junior F Riese Gaber (5-3-8), Sophomore F Jake Schmaltz (3-2-5), Junior F Louie Jamernik V (0-5-5), Graduate Student Mark Senden (3-2-5), Freshman F Jackson Blake (4-4-8), Graduate Student D Chris Jandric (1-10-11), Senior D Ethan Frisch (1-3-4), Junior D Cooper Moore (1-3-4), Graduate Student G Drew DeRidder (2-2-0, 3.00 GAA, .903 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers:

Last meeting: March 5, 2022 (Omaha, NE). The Mavericks’ Chase Primeau scored twice and added an assist as the homestanding Mavs upended the Fighting Hawks 4-1. One night earlier, North Dakota built a 4-2 lead over the first two periods but gave up the lead in the third period, allowing a power play goal at 8:49 and an extra-attacker goal at 19:04. Less than 90 seconds into overtime, UND’s Tyler Kleven scored a 3-on-3 goal to secure yet another league championship for the Fighting Hawks. There was certainly a letdown the following night, as Omaha dispatched the visitors by a final score of 4-1.

Most memorable meeting: The game that UND fans will long remember is the outdoor game played at TD Ameritrade Park (Omaha, Nebraska) on February 9th, 2013. One day after winning a tight 2-1 contest indoors, North Dakota throttled UNO 5-2 on a sunny, melty afternoon. Mavericks netminder John Faulkner was pulled after allowing three goals on five shots in just ten minutes of game action. In my opinion, this hockey weekend solidified the notion that for UND hockey, it’s always a home game.

Last ten: North Dakota has won six of the last ten contests between the schools, outscoring the Mavericks 39-26 over that stretch. Three of the last five games have gone to overtime, with two of those going the way of Omaha by identical 3-2 scores.

All-time: UND leads the all-time series 30-17-1 (.635), including a 15-8-0 (.652) record in games played in Omaha. North Dakota owns a record of 25-14-1 (.638) against the Mavericks since both teams joined the NCHC. The teams first met on November 19, 2010.

Game News and Notes

Omaha’s Jack Randl and Denver’s Carter Mazur are tied for the most goals in the nation with ten goals each through eight games. In 2015, both North Dakota and Omaha advanced to the Frozen Four but neither team made the championship game. UND fell to Boston University 5-3, while the Mavericks were upended 4-1 by eventual national champion Providence. Since joining the WCHA in 2011 (and later the NCHC), the Mavs have never reached the Twin Cities for the second weekend of the conference tournament despite having home ice in three of those eight years. North Dakota’s Brad Berry is 21-11-0 (.656) in his head coaching career against Omaha. In 20 of the past 21 contests in this series, the winning team is the one which scores the first goal.

The Prediction

While North Dakota has been battling Quinnipiac, Minnesota, and Arizona State, Omaha has matched up against Niagara, Lake Superior, Alaska, and Long Island. In the conference opener for both schools, expect tensions to be high. I expect both games to be high scoring, with each side having success on the power play. This feels like a split, although I wouldn’t be surprised if the Fighting Hawks do better than that. UND 4-3, UNO 4-3.

Broadcast Information

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