North Dakota (13-13-5, 6-10-2-2 NCHC) travels to Colorado Springs to face the Colorado College Tigers (10-18-2, 6-11-2-1 NCHC) in a battle between two teams likely to be on the road for the first round of the league playoffs in two weeks’ time. It is worth noting that, despite being unranked, UND currently sits in 21st place in the all-important Pairwise Rankings, mostly due to the fact that ten of its thirteen losses are to teams in the top six in the country (Minnesota, Quinnipiac, Denver four times, St. Cloud State twice, and Western Michigan twice). Colorado College is 39th 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 Tigers’ schedule weighs in as the fifteenth-most difficult.
In addition to the ten losses mentioned above, the three defeats that are looming large in UND’s current 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.
With ten conference losses against just six victories, the Fighting Hawks are currently in sixth place in the league standings (one point ahead of 7th place CC) with just four NCHC games remaining. As I wrote earlier this week, it is nearly a mathematical certainty that UND will go on the road for the first round of the NCHC playoffs, with its most likely opponents Omaha, Western Michigan, or St. Cloud State.
This will be the first and only scheduled meeting between the two teams this season; North Dakota went 6-0 against CC last year, outscoring the Tigers 20-7. The two first-round playoff games in Grand Forks were tight affairs, with UND advancing to St. Paul by virtue of a pair of 2-1 victories. In that series, all six goals were scored in the second period.
When the teams squared off at brand-new Robson Arena for a December 2021 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.
After that weekend, the Tigers went 4-4-0 against Arizona State, Miami, Denver, and Omaha to close out January, much more respectable results for first-year head coach Kris Mayotte. Mayotte replaced 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 his lasy two seasons, however (15-37-5, .307), and it was time for a change.
February and March of 2022 were not kind to Mayotte’s squad, however, as the Tigers won just twice in their last twelve games. Both of those victories came in overtime against Miami (4-3, 3-2). In the other eight, CC was outscored 30-11.
Two of those losses came on February 11th and 12th at UND. Colorado College put up a good showing in Friday night’s 3-2 defeat, nearly overcoming a 3-0 first-period deficit and outshooting North Dakota 26-21 for the game. The Fighting Hawks turned the tables in Saturday’s 4-0 triumph, sweeping the regular season series between the two teams by a combined score of 16-5.
In the six games against CC last season, North Dakota only trailed for a total of eleven minutes and fifty seconds.
Colorado College also traveled to Grand Forks to face UND in the first round of the playoffs in 2014, 2015, and 2016. As I’ve written about before, it is difficult to end a team’s season, and tight Saturday night elimination games are to be expected, even after relatively comfortable Friday night victories. In fact, UND’s 2016 sweep (7-1, 5-1) is one of only two playoff series in recent memory that did not feature at least one close contest.
Here are the results from the past four first-round playoff series between North Dakota and Colorado College:
2014: UND 4-2, CC 3-2 (OT), UND 4-3
2015: UND 5-1, UND 3-2
2016: UND 7-1, UND 5-1
2022: UND 2-1, UND 2-1
CC was also scheduled to face the Fighting Hawks in 2020 before the college hockey season was canceled due to COVID-19. And two seasons ago, the Tigers dressed just eleven forwards, five defensemen, and one goalie for their opening-round game against St. Cloud State at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Despite losing a blueliner to a major penalty in the second period, Colorado College took SCSU to the wire, surrendering the game-winning goal with less than four minutes remaining in the contest.
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.
In the NCHC, Colorado College has finished 7th, 8th, 8th, 8th, 7th, 6th, 8th, 7th, and 7th for the worst average finish (7.33) among all eight league teams. North Dakota leads the conference with an average finish of 2.33 (2nd, 1st, 1st, 4th, 4th, 5th, 1st, 1st, and 2nd).
Turning our attention to this weekend’s action, a half-point per game or better is my benchmark for solid offensive production, and Kris Mayotte’s squad has just three active players who meet that threshold: junior forward Hunter McKown (17-5-22), freshman forward Noah Laba (10-8-18), and sophomore forward Stanley Cooley (6-11-17).
Freshman forward Gleb Veremyev posted a line of 2-5-7 in 14 games before suffering a seaason-ending injury.
McKown, who played on the U.S. National Under-17 and Under-18 Teams before coming to Colorado Springs, has already eclipsed his point total from all of last season (13-8-21). UND did an excellent job defending McKown last season, allowing the sophomore just a single secondary assist in six North Dakota victories. McKown, who has already notched 32 NCAA goals, scored a total of three in 43 games with the USNTDP.
By that same measure, North Dakota boasts eight skaters at a half point per game or better: junior forward Riese Gaber (19-12-31), freshman forward Jackson Blake (13-23-36), graduate forward Mark Senden (7-9-16), senior forward Judd Caulfield (9-7-16), senior forward Gavin Hain (9-5-14), graduate defensemen Chris Jandric (3-27-30), senior defenseman Ethan Frisch (4-11-15), and junior defenseman Tyler Kleven (6-9-15).
UND is fourth in the nation in shooting percentage at an astounding 12.0% (107 goals on 895 shots). By comparison, Colorado College is 52nd in the country at 8.1% (68 goals on 841 shots). The two teams are nearly identical in shots on goal per game (UND 28.9, CC 28.0), although North Dakota is vastly superior in shots on goal allowed per game (UND 24.9, CC 30.6). This disparity also leads to a puck possession advantage for the Fighting Hawks (UND is 17th in Corsi and 21st in Fenwick; CC is 40th and 43rd, respectively).
One key area to watch this weekend is the face-off circle. The Fighting Hawks are the nation’s 19th-best team on draws (52.4%), while Colorado College clocks in at 49.8% (30th).
UND had been one of the country’s best faceoff teams before Jake Schmaltz suffered an upper-body injury against Miami. In the three games without Schmaltz in the lineup, North Dakota won just 45.4 percent of faceoffs (95 of 209). The sophomore from McFarland, Wisconsin, who has won 302 of his 533 draws this season (56.7%), came back last weekend against SCSU and went 30-19 in the dot (61.2%).
Among other UND centermen, junior Louis Jamernik V has been solid (298 of 568, 52.5%), while freshman Owen McLaughlin has shown improvement (170 of 336, 50.6%). Freshman Ben Strinden has chipped in with 53 wins in 111 opportunities (47.7%).
CC will counter with freshman Noah Laba (232 of 420, 55.2%), junior Logan Will (155 of 305, 50.8%), sophomore Stanley Cooley (159 of 348, 45.7%), and senior Noah Prokop (191 of 397, 48.1%).
To this point in the season, North Dakota has had far the better of the specialty teams play. UND has been a combined plus-18, with 41 power play goals scored (41 of 133, 30.8%, best in the country) and only 23 power play goals allowed (95 of 118, 80.5%, 30th), with two shorthanded goals scored and two allowed.
Colorado College has posted a plus-5, with 26 power play goals scored (26 of 120, 21.7%, 29th), 19 power play goals allowed (79 of 98, 80.6%, 29th), two shorthanded goals scored, and four allowed.
North Dakota has earned far more man advantage opportunities than shorthanded situations this season (133-118), while Colorado College has fared even better (120-98).
North Dakota is 10th in the country in scoring offense (3.45 goals scored/game) but just 41st in the country in scoring defense (3.10 goals allowed/game). Colorado College is 53rd in the country in scoring offense (2.27 goals scored/game) and 28th in scoring defense (2.83 goals allowed/game).
North Dakota is strong offensively 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 junior Cooper Moore to form a puck-moving defensive corps not unlike the one that took UND all the way to the national title seven years ago.
The six blueliners expected in the lineup for the Green and White this weekend have scored 18 goals and added 67 assists for 83 points in 151 combined games this season (0.55 points/game). Back in 2015-16, Troy Stecher, Tucker Poolman, Paul LaDue, Keaton Thompson, Christian Wolanin, and Gage Ausmus combined for 24-91-115 in 241 games played (0.48 points/game).
By comparison, the six available defensemen for Colorado College have posted a line of 6-44-50 in 172 games (0.29).
For CC, freshman netminder Kaidan Mbereko (6-14-2, 2.46 goals-against average, .922 save percentage) has been a bright spot. Since entering conference play, the first-year goalie from West Bloomfield, Michigan has posted three shutouts and allowed a total of 43 goals in 20 games. Mbereko is winless in his last nine starts despite giving up more than three goals just once in that span.
Colorado College Tigers
Head Coach: Kris Mayotte (2nd season at CC, 19-42-4, .323)
National Rankings: NR/NR
Pairwise Ranking: 39th
KRACH Rating: 83.4 (36th)
This Season: 10-18-2 overall, 6-11-2-1 NCHC (7th)
Last Season: 9-24-3 overall, 4-16-2-2 NCHC (t-7th)
2022-2023 Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 2.27 goals scored/game – 53rd of 62 teams
Team Defense: 2.83 goals allowed/game – 28th of 62 teams
Power Play: 21.7% (26 of 120) – 21st of 62 teams
Penalty Kill: 80.6% (79 of 98) – 29th of 62 teams
Key players: Junior F Hunter McKown (17-5-22), Freshman F Noah Laba (10-8-18), Sophomore F Stanley Cooley (6-11-17), Freshman F Ryan Beck, Junior F Logan Will (4-4-8), Graduate D Bryan Yoon (1-13-14), Junior D Nicklas Andrews (2-9-11), Junior D Jack Millar (1-6-7), Freshman G Kaidan Mbereko (6-14-2, 2.46 GAA, .922 SV%, 3 SO)
North Dakota Team Profile
Head Coach: Brad Berry (8th season at UND, 175-90-30, .644)
National Rankings: NR/NR
Pairwise Ranking: 21st
KRACH Rating: 171.1 (16th)
This Season: 13-13-5 overall, 6-10-2-2 NCHC (6th)
Last Season: 24-14-1 overall (NCAA Regional Semifinalist), 17-6-1 NCHC (t-1st)
2022-2023 Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.45 goals scored/game – 10th of 62 teams
Team Defense: 3.10 goals allowed/game – 41st of 62 teams
Power Play: 30.8% (41 of 133) – 1st of 62 teams
Penalty Kill: 80.5% (95 of 118) – 30th of 62 teams
Key Players: Junior F Riese Gaber (19-12-31), Freshman F Jackson Blake (13-23-36), Freshman F Owen McLaughlin (2-12-14), Graduate F Mark Senden (7-9-16), Senior F Gavin Hain (9-5-14), Senior F Judd Caulfield (9-7-16), Graduate D Chris Jandric (3-27-30), Junior D Tyler Kleven (6-9-15), Senior D Ethan Frisch (4-11-15), Junior D Cooper Moore (3-9-12), Graduate G Drew DeRidder (8-7-3, 2.88 GAA, .889 SV%, 3 SO)
By The Numbers
Last Meeting: March 12, 2022 (Grand Forks, ND). In a carbon copy of the previous night’s league playoff opener, North Dakota sandwiched two second-period goals around a CC marker to survive a tight 2-1 contest. The Tigers outshot UND 30-22 for the game; each team scored once on the power play. In Friday’s opener, the Fighting Hawks outshot CC 23-16.
Last Meeting in Colorado Springs: December 11, 2021. The Tigers opened the scoring eight minutes into the opening frame, but UND would only trail for 47 seconds before Louis Jamernik V potted the equalizer. A second-period power play goal and two empty-netters 29 seconds apart accounted for the misleading final score of 4-1. One night earlier, the home team got on the board three minutes into the contest, and Jamernik waited eleven minutes before tying the game. Three straight North Dakota tallies put the game out of reach, and the final scoreboard read 5-2 for the visitors. The Fighting Hawks put 62 total shots on net in the weekend series and allowed 54.
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, 172-84-11 (.665), although Colorado College holds the slightest of edges (59-58-4, .504) in games played in Colorado Springs. The teams first met in 1948; North Dakota’s 172 wins over the Tigers are the most against any single opponent in program history.
Last Ten: North Dakota has swept the last ten meetings between the teams, outscoring CC 34-9 over that span. In those ten tilts, the Tigers have been shut out three times, scored a single goal five times, and managed two goals twice. 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 23-4-1 (.839) 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). Head coaches Scott 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). Twelve UND players expected to be in the lineup this weekend have scored goals in their careers against Colorado College. Since scoring seven goals in a win over Princeton on December 30th, CC has scored a total of fourteen goals over the past eleven contests (1.27 goals scored per game), going 1-9-1 with the lone victory back on January 13th against St. Cloud State. The Tigers are 6-1-0 when leading after one period of play but 1-12-0 when trailing. Both UND and CC had twenty players named to the NCHC’s academic all-conference team, tied for most in the league.
North Dakota is playing its best hockey of the season and is building toward making some noise in the league playoffs. It’s looking increasingly likely that UND will need to win the NCHC Frozen Faceoff in St. Paul to advance to the national tournament, but there is a puncher’s chance that the Green and White could sneak into the top 15 in the Pairwise. To that end, a sweep this weekend is paramount. Colorado College seems to have the advantage between the pipes, but Mbereko is just a freshman and has struggled in his ten games against the other top offensive teams in the league, going 0-9-0 against Western Michigan, Denver, and St. Cloud State while allowing a total of 26 goals. Brad Berry’s squad should be able to get at least three goals each night, and that’s plenty against the Tigers. UND 4-2, 3-1.
Friday’s opener will be broadcast on AT&T Sportsnet out of Colorado and picked up locally on Midco Sports. Both games will also be 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.
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!