Ice Breaker Preview: UND vs. Wisconsin

One night after facing Army for just the second time in school history (a 7-2 victory for the Green and White), UND turns its attention to a much more familiar foe.

North Dakota and Wisconsin will square off at Ralph Engelstad Arena on Saturday night in the 171st meeting between the two storied programs.

Five seasons ago, UND hosted the Badgers for a pair of games at the Ralph and earned a sweep (5-0, 3-2 OT). The teams have not played since that weekend, and the rivalry has a slightly different feel since the demise of the old WCHA.

Things look different in Madison these days as well…

Since Jeff Sauer left the Badger bench following the 2001-02 season, Wisconsin men’s hockey has been just like the Olympic Games: good once every four years.

Former Badger coach Mike Eaves was widely criticized for recruiting in a cycle, bringing in huge freshman classes every four years in the hopes that a dominant senior class would bring a title to Madison down the road.

And it worked. Once. In 2006, the Badgers won a national championship on the backs of three seniors (forwards Adam Burish and Ryan MacMurchy and defenseman Tom Gilbert) plus forwards Joe Pavelski and Robbie Earl, underclassmen who left the program after that season. Mike Eaves came close four years later, but Wisconsin fell to Boston College 5-0 in the title game. North Dakota derailed UW’s title hopes at the end of the 2014 season, and Bucky fell way short last year, missing the NCAA tournament.

Mike Eaves left Wisconsin after the 2015-2016 season, and UW named Tony Granato as his replacement.

Granato’s time in Madtown can only be described as a disappointment.

In Granato’s seven seasons, the Badgers only made the NCAA tournament once (2021). That year marked only his second (and final) winning record with the team. In his 250 games behind the Bucky bench, Granato posted an overall head coaching record of 105-129-16 (.452).

The last two seasons were even worse for the Badgers: records of 10-24-3 (.311) in 2021-2022 and 13-23-0 (.361) in 2023-2024 saw UW move on from Granato and bring in former Minnesota State head coach Mike Hastings, who has the Badgers at 3-0 on the young season.

In his eleven seasons with the Mavericks, Hastings brought his squad to the NCAA tournament nine times, with two Frozen Four appearances (2021, 2022) and a runner-up finish in 2022. Minnesota State also won six regular season WCHA titles and two regular season CCHA titles under his watch, and won the conference playoff title five times.

Times have changed in Grand Forks as well. After missing the national tournament last year, head coach Brad Berry and his staff brought in fourteen fresh faces, tied for the second-most in team history. More strikingly, all eight defensemen are new to the UND men’s hockey program, including four freshmen.

Coincidentally, the breakdown of first-year players and transfers into the North Dakota system is identical:


Four defensemen (Nate Benoit, Tanner Komzak, Jake Livanavage, Abram Wiebe)

Two forwards (Michael Emerson, Jayden Perron)

One goaltender (Hobie Hedquist)


Four defensemen (Logan Britt, Keaton Pehrson, Garrett Pyke, Bennett Zmolek)

Two forwards (Cameron Berg, Hunter Johannes)

One goaltender (Ludvig Perrson)

These fourteen newcomers join eleven returning forwards and second-year netminder Kaleb Johnson to form UND’s 26-player roster. The Fighting Hawks return 70 goals up front, led by senior Riese Gaber (20 goals last season) and sophomore Jackson Blake (16). With the addition of Berg (10 goals last season at Omaha), Johannes (13 at Lindenwood), and Chicago Steel (USHL) teammates Emerson (30) and Perron (24), North Dakota should easily surpass the 102 goals scored all of last season by its forward group.

Last weekend, North Dakota throttled Manitoba in a 10-0 exhibition win, and last night, UND dispatched the Army West Point Golden Nights 7-2 behind a dominant second period. Over those two contests, the Green and White showcased team speed, offensive skill, and a commitment to retrieving loose pucks.

One area of concern for the home team tonight is the penalty kill. Dane Jackson‘s normally stalwart unit gave up two power play goals on four opportunities against Army and will need to be more efficient tonight against UW. On the plus side, North Dakota tallied a shorthanded goal and went 1-3 with the man advantage.

This weekend marks the fifth time that UND has participated in the annual Ice Breaker tournament, tied for the second-most appearances in men’s Division I college hockey. In Portland, Maine in 2015, the Green and White won the tournament with a 5-2 victory over Lake Superior State and a 1-1 tie (shootout victory) against Maine. North Dakota hosted the event in 2011 and also appeared in the event in 2000 (Ann Arbor, MI) and 2008 (Boston, MA).

The other Ice Breaker Tournament matchup on Friday featured #21/#22 Wisconsin downing host 4-3 Bemidji State in overtime. Badger sophomore forward Cruz Lucius potted the game-winner 4:11 into the 3-on-3 overtime session. Lucius also scored in the second period. All of Wisconsin’s goals last night were scored in specialty teams situations (two 4-on-4 goals, a power play goal, and the overtime winner).

After tonight, UND will play four more non-conference games at home (two games each against #2/#1 Minnesota and #28/#26 Minnesota State) before traveling to face #1/#2 Boston University on November 3rd and 4th.

Home series against Bemidji State (November 24th and 25th) and #29/NR Alaska (January 5th and 6th) will round out the non-conference schedule. North Dakota’s results in their twelve games outside the NCHC will play a large role in the final PairWise rankings and seeding for the NCAA tournament.

Wisconsin Team Profile

Head Coach: Mike Hastings (1st season at UW, 3-0-0, 1.000)
National Rankings: #21/#22
This Season: 3-0-0 overall, 0-0-0-0 Big Ten
Last Season: 13-23-0 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 6-18-0-0 Big Ten (7th of seven teams)

Last Season’s Statistics:

Team Offense: 2.61 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.50 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 21.2% (31 of 146)
Penalty Kill: 78.9% (116 of 147)

Key Players (last season’s statistics): Sophomore F Cruz Lucius (11-23-34), Senior F Mathieu De St. Phalle (13-17-30), Senior F Carson Bantle (9-7-16), Sophomore F Charlie Stramel (5-7-12), Sophomore D Tyson Jugnauth (5-10-15), Sophomore D Ben Dexheimer (0-11-11), Junior G Kyle McClellan (3-6-0, 3.57 GAA, .883 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (9th season at UND, 181-92-31, .646)
National Rankings: #7/#7
This Season: 1-0-0 overall, 0-0-0-0 NCHC
Last Season: 18-15-5 overall, 7-10-5-2 NCHC (t-5th of 8 teams)

Last Season’s Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.26 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.82 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 27.3% (45 of 165)
Penalty Kill: 83.7% (128 of 153)

Key Players (last season’s statistics): Sophomore F Jackson Blake (16-26-42), Senior F Riese Gaber (20-17-37), Junior F Jake Schmaltz (5-7-12), Senior F Louis Jamernik V (3-11-14), Sophomore F Owen McLaughlin (2-13-15), Junior F Cameron Berg (10-14-24 at Omaha), Graduate F Hunter Johannes (13-16-29 at Lindenwood), Senior D Garrett Pyke (4-15-19 at Alaska), Graduate D Keaton Pehrson (0-11-11 at Michigan), Graduate D Logan Britt (2-10-12 at Sacred Heart), Senior G Ludvig Persson (8-19-4, 3.67 GAA, .891 SV%, 2 SO at Miami)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: November 3, 2018 (Grand Forks, ND). One night after blanking the Badgers 5-0, the Green and White needed overtime heroics to complete the sweep. Enter Jacob Bernard-Docker. UND’s JBD scored just 21 seconds into the extra frame while North Dakota was enjoying a 5-on-3 advantage. The two extra skaters for the home team came courtesy of UW’s Josh Ess, who was assessed a minor penalty for cross-checking at 18:21 of the third period, and Tyler Inamoto, who earned a seat next to his teammate for contact to the head (elbowing) just sixteen seconds later. The overtime game-winner came just as Ess was leaving the penalty box. For the weekend, North Dakota outshot the Badgers 58-47 and held Bucky scoreless on six power plays.

Most Important Meeting: March 27, 1982 (Providence, RI). A 2-2 tie after two periods turned into a 5-2 Sioux victory, as Phil Sykes netted a hat trick and led UND to its fourth National Championship. Glen White scored the first goal of the game for North Dakota and assisted on two of Sykes’ goals. Darren Jensen backstopped the Green and White and was named to the all-tournament team along with Sykes, defenseman James Patrick, and forward Cary Eades. This title would be the second of three North Dakota titles won at the Providence Civic Center (1980, 2000).

All-time Series: Wisconsin leads the all-time series, 87-72-13 (.544), with a slight edge (37-36-9, .506) in games played in Grand Forks. The teams first met in December 1968.

Last Ten: The Green and White have had Bucky’s number lately, going 8-1-1 (.850) in the last ten tilts and outscoring the Badgers 35-17.

Game News and Notes

UND sophomore forward Jackson Blake was named to the 2023-2024 Preseason All-CHN First Team, the only NCHC player to make the first team. Four other league players were named to the Second Team. In the Big Ten Hockey Preseason Coaches Poll, Wisconsin was picked to finish fifth in the seven-team league, without a single player on the All-Big Ten Preseason First Team, Second Team, or Honorable Mention Team. “Badgers” cannot be spelled without “B-A-D”.

The Prediction

Wisconsin wasn’t tested last weekend in a home sweep of Augustana (4-0, 3-0) and, despite needing overtime, outshot Bemidji State 61-19 last night. On the North Dakota side, seventeen goals through one exhibition and last night’s tilt against Army has fans buzzing. I expect a wild one tonight, with plays, goals, and penalties aplenty. The depth of talent on the home side – as well as a fiercely partisan crowd – should prove the difference for the Green and White.
UND 4-3.

Media Coverage

Tonight’s game will be broadcast live on Midco Sports Network and will also be streamed live in high definition via All UND men’s hockey games (home and away) can be heard on 96.1 FM and on stations across the UND Sports 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 X/Twitter. Fans can also read the action via Brad Schlossman’s live chat on the Grand Forks Herald website.

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