Weekend Preview: UND at Miami

North Dakota (10-11-4) travels to face Miami (7-15-2) for a pair of NCHC games this weekend in a matchup of the bottom two teams in the league standings. It is worth noting that, despite being unranked, UND currently sits in 25th place in the all-important Pairwise Rankings, mostly due to the fact that eight of its eleven losses are to teams in the top nine in the country (Minnesota, St. Cloud State twice, Quinnipiac, Denver twice, and Western Michigan twice). Miami is 46th in the Pairwise coming into this weekend.

According to KRACH, North Dakota has faced the nation’s ninth-toughest schedule to this point of the season, while the RedHawks’ schedule weighs in as the fourteenth-most difficult.

In addition to the eight losses mentioned above, the three defeats that are looming large in UND’s Pairwise predicament are:

Arizona State 3, North Dakota 2 (October 29th)

Miami 4, North Dakota 3 (November 19th)

Minnesota Duluth 2, North Dakota 1 (January 21st)

All three of those games were tied in the third period.

Back in November, the Fighting Hawks won Friday’s home opener vs. Miami in runaway fashion, boatracing the RedHawks by building a 5-0 lead over the first 31 minutes of the hockey game. In Saturdays’ rematch, UND spotted the visitors a 3-0 lead before making a late push, outshooting MU 27-6 over the final two periods.

These two teams have not met four times in the regular season in quite some time. The Miami RedHawks have only faced North Dakota five times over the past two seasons, but that has been more than enough for Chris Bergeron’s squad.

The Fighting Hawks traveled to Oxford, Ohio in November 2021 and earned a road sweep with 4-1 and 5-4 victories. UND outshot Miami 68-31 in the two-game series.

Almost one year earlier (December 2nd, 2020), the two teams met in Omaha in the first pod game for either side. North Dakota blanked Miami 2-0 and put 39 shots on goal.

And in the rematch on December 20th – the final game of the Omaha pod – the RedHawks managed to score twice but allowed six North Dakota goals on 39 shots.

Miami put a total of 42 shots on frame over the course of those six periods of hockey.

After those two December tilts, the teams were not scheduled to face each other in the second half of the 2021-2022 season. As fate would have it, however, top-seeded UND (18-5-1) drew last-place Miami (5-17-2) in the first round of the modified NCHC Frozen Faceoff. There was little drama in the contest, as the Fighting Hawks scored three goals in the first six minutes of the hockey game and cruised to a 6-2 victory, outshooting MU 46-28.

In the past seven games, North Dakota has outscored Miami 33-19 while holding a 263-136 advantage in shots on goal.

Over the past two seasons, the RedHawks had to rely on junior goaltender Ludvig Persson to keep games close, as Miami only averaged 2.33 goals per game. Unfortunately, MU allowed 3.97 goals per game over those two campaigns and only won twelve total games (12-45-4, .230).

After a promising start for Chris Bergeron and company (25 goals scored and 34 allowed while going 4-6-2), Miami has gone just 3-9-0 while scoring 26 goals and allowing 54.

Nine 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 Central Collegiate Hockey Association (Miami and Western Michigan) 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 the CCHA reformed beginning with the 2021-2022 campaign.

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 434-223-72 (.645) 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, and 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.

Over the first nine seasons of the NCHC, Miami has averaged slightly better than a seventh-place finish among the eight conference teams (8th, 2nd, 5th, 7th, 8th, 8th, 7th, 8th, and 8th), with a combined league record of 59-133-24 (.329).

By comparison, North Dakota has finished 2nd, 1st, 1st, 4th, 4th, 5th, 1st, 1st, and 1st for an average finish just under second place and a combined league record of 133-67-16 (.653). No other league member has collected as many conference wins as UND.

When the National Collegiate Hockey Conference was formed, Miami appeared positioned to be a dominant program. Prior to the 2013-14 season (their inaugural campaign in the NCHC), the RedHawks had made eight consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, with consecutive Frozen Four bids in 2009 (2nd) and 2010 (3rd). Since joining the NCHC, Miami has just one NCAA tournament appearance (2015), and that ended quickly with a first-round loss to eventual national champion Providence.

Long-tenured head coach Enrico Blasi was fired after posting a fourth consecutive losing season in 2018-2019. Over that stretch of time, the RedHawks were 47-81-19 (.384). There is reason for optimism in Oxford, however, with new bench boss Chris Bergeron taking over the program after leading Bowling Green to six consecutive winning seasons, five consecutive years with twenty or more victories, and an NCAA tournament appearance in 2018-2019.

Turning our attention to this weekend’s matchup, a half-point per game or better is my benchmark for solid offensive production, and Chris Bergeron’s squad has just THREE players who meet that threshold: junior forward Matthew Barbolini (9-11-20), freshman forward John Waldron (8-5-13), and sophomore forward Red Savage (4-6-10).

By that same measure, North Dakota has five players at a half point or better (with another five at 0.48): junior forward Riese Gaber (13-10-23), freshman forward Jackson Blake (10-16-26), senior forward Gavin Hain (9-3-12), graduate defensemen Chris Jandric (3-21-24), and senior defenseman Ethan Frisch (3-8-11).

UND is fourth in the nation in shooting percentage at an astounding 11.6% (84 goals on 723 shots). By comparison, Miami is 48th in the country at 8.3% (51 goals on 615 shots). North Dakota creates 28.9 shots on goal per game (36th), while Miami manages 25.6 (53rd). UND only allows 24.9 shots on goal per game (7th), while the RedHawks surrender an average of 32.9 (50th). The Fighting Hawks (18th in Corsi, 21st in Fenwick) also lead MU (48th, 50th) in both puck possession statistics.

One key area to watch this weekend is the face-off circle. The Fighting Hawks are the nation’s 15th-best team on draws (53.0%), while MU clocks in at 44.9% (58th).

For UND, sophomore Jake Schmaltz has been making a living on draws, winning 264 of 469 (56.3%). Junior Louis Jamernik V has more than held his own (243 of 464, 52.4), while freshman Owen McLaughlin has shown improvement (134 of 262, 51.1%). Junior Griffin Ness has fallen off lately, with 49 wins in 118 opportunities (41.5%). Despite the absence of Jake Schmaltz (upper body injury) last weekend, North Dakota won 71 of 125 total draws (56.8%), led by Jamernik V (21 wins), Mark Senden (19), and Ben Strinden (12). Riese Gaber won 9 of 13 draws on the weekend, primarily on the power play.

Schmaltz is expected to return to the North Dakota lineup this weekend.

For Miami, sophomore Red Savage has taken the majority of important draws, going 199 of 435 (44.7%). Senior Joe Cassetti has had the most success (190 of 404, 47.0%), while two freshmen – William Hallen (81 of 188, 43.1%) and Blake Mesenburg (72 of 153, 47.1%) – have been steady but not spectacular.

To this point in the season, North Dakota has had far the better of the specialty teams play. UND has been a combined plus-15, with 31 power play goals scored (31 of 103, 30.1%, 2nd in the country) and only fifteen power play goals allowed (74 of 89, 83.1%, 16th), with one shorthanded goal scored and two allowed.

Miami has posted a minus-9, with 17 power play goals scored (17 of 92, 18.5%, 35th), 26 power play goals allowed (85 of 111, 76.6%, 53rd), three shorthanded goals scored, and three shorthanded goals allowed.

It is also worth noting that UND has earned fourteen more power plays than penalty kill situations (103-89), while Miami has earned nineteen more penalty kill situations than power plays (111-92).

When the two teams split in Grand Forks back in November, UND won the special teams battle each night. On Friday, North Dakota held the visitors scoreless on three man advantage opportunities, scored twice on five power plays, and added a shorthanded goal. On Saturday, Miami went 1-for-6 on the power play while the Fighting Hawks went 1-for-5. The home team would, however, score a four-on-four goal for the special teams edge.

North Dakota is 13th in the country in scoring offense (3.36 goals scored/game) but just 45th in the country in scoring defense (3.20 goals allowed/game). Miami is 55th in the country in scoring offense (2.13 goals scored/game) and a dreadful 58th in scoring defense (3.67 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.

The six blueliners regularly in the lineup for the Green and White have scored 15 goals and added 54 assists for 69 points in 137 combined games this season (0.50 points/game). By comparison, the six regular defensemen for Miami have posted a line of 4-21-25 in 127 games (0.20).

Coming into last weekend, goaltending and team defense were the two weakest links for this year’s North Dakota squad. Graduate transfer Drew DeRidder turned in two strong performances against the Bulldogs, allowing just two goals each night and stopping 47 of 51 (a save percentage of .922). Over the last ten games of the regular season and into the playoffs, the Fighting Hawks will need consistently excellent play between the pipes and in their own end if they hope to make a push for home ice. Thankfully for fans of the Green and White, DeRidder now has five straight starts allowing three goals or fewer.

After these two tilts at Goggin Ice Center in Oxford, Ohio, the Fighting Hawks will travel to Denver (February 10-11), host St. Cloud State (February 17-18), travel to Colorado College (February 24-25), and host Omaha (March 3-4) to close out the regular season.

Miami has only won two league games this season, the aforementioned 4-3 victory at North Dakota and a 5-0 home drubbing of St. Cloud State. After shutting out the Huskies on December 10th, MU netminder Ludvig Persson has allowed 24 goals in his last five games, with a record of 1-40, a goals-against average of 5.39, and a save percentage of .844.

Miami Team Profile

Head Coach: Chris Bergeron (4th season at Miami, 27-81-11, .273)

National Rankings: NR/NR
Pairwise Ranking: 46th
KRACH Ranking: 41st

This Season: 7-15-2 overall, 2-11-0-1 NCHC (8th)
Last Season: 7-27-2 overall, 4-16-1-3 NCHC (8th)

2022-2023 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 2.13 goals scored/game – 55th of 62 teams
Team Defense: 3.67 goals allowed/game – 58th of 62 teams

Power Play: 18.5% (17 of 92) – 35th of 62 teams
Penalty Kill: 76.6% (85 of 111) – 53rd of 62 teams

Key players: Junior F Matthew Barbolini (9-11-20), Senior F Joe Cassetti (7-3-10), Sophomore F Red Savage (4-6-10), Freshman F Max Dukovac (1-8-9), Freshman F John Waldron (8-5-13), Junior F PJ Fletcher (2-9-11), Junior D Hampus Rydqvist (1-9-10), Senior D Jack Clement (1-2-3), Junior G Ludvig Persson (7-13-2, 3.60 GAA, .890 SV%, 2 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (8th season at UND, 172-88-29, .645)

National Rankings: NR/NR
Pairwise Ranking: 25th
KRACH Ranking: 19th

This Season: 10-11-4 overall, 4-8-1-1 NCHC (7th)
Last Season: 24-14-1 overall (NCAA Regional Semifinalist), 17-6-1 NCHC (t-1st)

2022-2023 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.36 goals scored/game – 13th of 62 teams
Team Defense: 3.20 goals allowed/game – 45th of 62 teams

Power Play: 30.1% (31 of 103) – 2nd of 62 teams
Penalty Kill: 83.1% (74 of 89) – 16th of 62 teams

Key Players: Junior F Riese Gaber (13-10-23), Freshman F Jackson Blake (10-16-26), Freshman F Owen McLaughlin (0-11-11), Graduate F Mark Senden (6-6-12), Senior F Gavin Hain (9-3-12), Freshman F Dylan James (3-7-10) Graduate D Chris Jandric (3-21-24), Junior D Tyler Kleven (5-6-11), Senior D Ethan Frisch (3-8-11), Junior D Cooper Moore (3-7-10), Graduate G Drew DeRidder (5-5-2, 2.94 GAA, .888 SV%, 2 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: November 19, 2022 (Grand Forks, ND). North Dakota spotted the visitors a 3-0 lead before making a late push, outshooting MU 27-6 over the final two periods. UND’s furious rally would come up just a bit short, with Miami’s Jack Clement breaking the third-period tie with just 5:26 remaining in the hockey game. The Fighting Hawks won Friday’s home opener vs. Miami in runaway fashion, boatracing the RedHawks by building a 5-0 lead over the first 31 minutes of the hockey game.

Last Meeting in Oxford: November 13, 2021. After a furious opening frame that ended with North Dakota holding a 3-2 advantage on the scoreboard, the two teams traded goals in each of the next two periods, leaving the homestanding RedHawks one goal short. That 5-4 UND win, coupled with Friday night’s 4-1 victory, earned the Green and White a rare road sweep in the NCHC. The Fighting Hawks outshot their flying foes 68-31 in the series.

Most Important Meeting: March 6, 2015 (Oxford, OH). North Dakota claimed the Penrose Cup with a 2-1 road victory over Miami. UND fell flat the following night, losing 6-3 in the final game of the regular season.

Last Ten: UND has picked up eight wins and a tie (8-1-1, .850) in the past ten contests between the teams, outscoring Miami 47-25 over that stretch of games. Before MU’s November victory at the Ralph, the RedHawks had not beaten North Dakota since November 10, 2018, a 3-2 home victory.

All-time Series: North Dakota leads the all-time series 23-8-4 (.714), including a sparkling 8-4-2 (.643) record in games played in Oxford. The teams first played in 1999 (Badger Showdown, Milwaukee, WI).

Game News and Notes

In five career games against Miami, junior forward Riese Gaber has scored seven goals and added four assists. North Dakota has scored 31 power play goals this season, tied with Denver for the most in the country. Twelve different Fighting Hawks have lit the lamp on the man advantage, the nation’s best number in that category. MU has not made the national tournament since 2015, their second season in the NCHC. Green Hawks are preferable to RedHawks.

The Prediction

If ever there was a “get right” series for North Dakota hockey, this is it. UND is deeper, more talented, and has dug itself a hole in the league standings, and that last point might be the most important of them all. The Fighting Hawks will be a motivated group from the drop of the puck on Friday night, and that will make for a long weekend for the homestanding RedHawks. UND 4-2, 5-2.

Broadcast Information

Friday’s opener will be broadcast exclusively on CBS Sports Network, while Saturday’s rematch will be available online at NCHC.tv. Puck drop is set for 6:30 p.m. Central Time on Friday and 6:05 p.m. Central Time on Saturday. 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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