Back in 2015, UND cruised through the NCAA West Regional at Scheels Arena (Fargo, North Dakota) with a pair of 4-1 victories (vs. Quinnipiac and St. Cloud State). The reward for that accomplishment? A Frozen Four semifinal matchup against Boston University at TD Garden (Boston, Massachusetts). Dave Hakstol, coaching his last college game, saw his team fall behind 2-0 and 4-1 before mounting a late third-period comeback that fell just short (BU’s Jack Eichel potted an empty-net goal with just under twenty seconds remaining to make the final score 5-3).
It was that unfinished business, coupled with a heartbreaking last-second loss to Minnesota in the 2014 national semifinals, that fueled North Dakota’s 2016 title run, the eighth in team history.
In the 2017 tournament, UND welcomed the Terriers to Fargo. Two early third-period goals by BU broke a 1-1 tie, and things were looking grim for the home team. Enter Ludvig Hoff and Christian Wolanin, who potted goals 200 seconds apart late in the final frame to send the game to overtime. The rally came after a nearly 15-minute delay to replace a pane of broken glass caused by a check from UND forward Mike Gornall, who crushed Kiefer Bellows into the second row.
North Dakota had an apparent winning goal by freshman Dixon Bowen disallowed at 3:48 of the first overtime. After a lengthy review, it was determined that the play was offside, even though the video evidence used to make that determination was shot through a potato.
The Terriers advanced to the regional final on a Charlie McAvoy tally 11:38 into the second overtime. The Fighting Hawks outshot Boston University 59-29 in the losing effort. UND went 0-for-6 with the man advantage. Jake Oettinger (now with the Dallas Stars) made 56 saves. North Dakota saw 51 shots blocked by the Terrier defense and hit two posts along the way.
Boston University has changed head coaches twice since the two teams last battled on the ice. David Quinn was replaced following the 2017-18 season, and Albie O’Connell lasted just four seasons, going 58-49-16 (.537) and making just one NCAA tournament appearnace (2021).
Jay Pandolfo took over last season, and found immediate success, leading the Terriers to a 29-11-0 (.725) record, Hockey East regular season and playoff titles, and a Frozen Four appearance. BU fell to Minnesota 6-2 in the semifinals, with two late empty-net goals making the game appear more lopsided than it was.
And turning our attention to this season…
#3/#4 North Dakota went 4-1-1 last month against Army, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Minnesota State, outscoring opponents 19-11 while playing all six games at home.
#9/#8 Boston University went 3-2-1 in October 2023, outscoring opponents 24-19. BU lost two straight road games (4-6 at New Hampshire and 1-4 at Notre Dame) before rattling off two regulation wins and a shootout win over the past three.
One key area to watch this weekend is the face-off circle. The Fighting Hawks are the nation’s 11th-best team on draws (54.3%), while Boston University clocks in at just 51.2% (24th).
For UND, junior Cameron Berg has been making a living on draws, winning 70 of 110 (63.6%). Sophomore Owen McLaughlin is not far behind, having won 42 of 72 (58.3%). Senior Louis Jamernik V has been steady at 53.4% (39 of 73).
For the Terriers, sophomore Ryan Greene has taken the most draws, winning 55 of 106 (51.9%), while freshman Macklin Celebrini has had the most success (53 of 99, 53.5%). Graduate student Sam Stevens (37 of 70, 52.9%) has been a strong third option.
Boston University features nine rookies in its lineup this year. Four first-year defensemen are joined by five forwards, including freshman phenom Macklin Celebrini, who has already scored eight goals and three assists through his first six collegiate games. The six-foot, 190-pound center from Vancouver, British Columbia is one of four players (along with Cole Eiserman, Ivan Demidov, and Aron Kiviharju) in the mix to be selected first overall in the 2024 NHL Entry Draft.
Celebrini is currently the top goal-scorer in men’s Division I college hockey.
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.
Over the first six games of the 2023-2024 season, UND forwards have scored 17 goals and are on pace for 102 goals in the regular season alone.
To this point in the season, North Dakota has had the better of the specialty teams play. The FIghting Hawks have been a combined +4, with four power play goals scored (4 for 27, 14.8%, 39th in the country), two power play goals allowed (18 of 20, 90.0%, 15th), two shorthanded goals scored, and zero shorthanded goals allowed. Boston University has posted a -2, with five power play goals scored (5 of 25, 20.0%, 20th), SIX power play goals allowed (18 of 24, 75.0%, 49th), and one shorthanded goal allowed (none scored).
After this weekend’s road action, home series against #33 Bemidji State (November 24th and 25th) and #31 Alaska (January 5th and 6th) will round out the non-conference schedule. North Dakota’s results in their twelve games outside the NCHC (4-1-1 so far) will play a large role in the final PairWise rankings and seeding for the NCAA tournament, and, to that end, a split or better this weekend would pay huge dividends.
According to KRACH, North Dakota has played the 16th-toughest schedule in the country, while Boston University’s slate of games ranks as the 23rd-most difficult.
Boston University Team Profile
Head Coach: Jay Pandolfo (2nd season at BU, 32-13-1, .707)
National Rankings: #9/#8
This Season: 3-2-1 overall, 1-1-1-0 Hockey East (2nd)
Last Season: 29-11-0 overall (NCAA Frozen Four semifinalist), 16-4-2-2 Hockey East (1st)
2023-2024 Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 4.00 goals scored/game – 9th of 63 teams
Team Defense: 3.17 goals allowed/game – 43rd of 63 teams
Power Play: 20.0% (5 of 25) – 20th of 63 teams
Penalty Kill: 75.0% (18 of 24) – 49th of 63 teams
Key Players: Freshman F Macklin Celebrini (8-3-11), Sophomore F Jeremy Wilmer (0-8-8), Senior F Luke Tuch (3-4-7), Sophomore F Ryan Greene (2-3-5), Sophomore D Lane Hutson (2-3-5), Freshman D Aiden Celebrini (1-3-4), Senior G Mathieu Caron (3-2-1, 3.15 GAA, .891 SV%)
North Dakota Team Profile
Head Coach: Brad Berry (9th season at UND, 184-93-32, .647)
National Rankings: #3/#4
This Season: 4-1-1 overall, 0-0-0-0 NCHC
Last Season: 18-15-5 overall, 7-10-5-2 NCHC (t-5th of 8 teams)
2023-2024 Season Statistics
Team Offense: 3.17 goals scored/game – 22nd of 63 teams
Team Defense: 1.83 goals allowed/game – 5th of 63 teams
Power Play: 14.8% (4 of 27) – 39th of 63 teams
Penalty Kill: 90.0% (18 of 20) – 15th of 63 teams
Key Players: Sophomore F Jackson Blake (4-2-6), Senior F Riese Gaber (3-2-5), Graduate F Hunter Johannes (5-0-5), Freshman F Jayden Perron (3-0-3), Junior F Senior F Louis Jamernik V (0-2-2), Junior F Cameron Berg (1-4-5), Senior D Garrett Pyke (0-7-7), Freshman D Jake Livanavage (1-1-2), Graduate D Logan Britt (1-1-2), Senior G Ludvig Persson (4-1-1, 1.65 GAA, .933 SV%, 1 SO)
By The Numbers
Last Meeting: March 24, 2017 (Fargo, ND). In the first round of the NCAA tournament, UND welcomed the Terriers into a hostile environment at Scheels Arena. Two early third-period goals by BU broke a 1-1 tie, and things were looking grim for the “home” team. Enter Ludvig Hoff and Christian Wolanin, who potted goals 200 seconds apart late in the final frame to send the game to overtime. North Dakota had an apparent winning goal by freshman Dixon Bowen disallowed at 3:48 of the first overtime. After a lengthy review, it was determined that the play was offside, even though the video evidence used to make that determination was shot through a potato. The Terriers advanced to the regional final on a Charlie McAvoy tally 11:38 into the second overtime. The Fighting Hawks outshot Boston University 59-29 in the losing effort. UND went 0-for-6 with the man advantage. Jake Oettinger (now with the Dallas Stars) made 56 saves. North Dakota saw 51 shots blocked by the Terrier defense and hit two posts along the way.
Last Meeting in Boston: April 9, 2015. In a battle of heavyweights, UND outshot the Terriers 39-28 but trailed for 55 minutes of the Frozen Four semifinal. North Dakota made it interesting with two late third-period goals but came up just short. Jack Eichel notched three points for BU, including an empty-net goal with under twenty seconds remaining that made the final score 5-3.
Most Important Meeting: March 29, 1997 (Milwaukee, WI). North Dakota scored five goals in the second period and went on to defeat Boston University 6-4 for the 1997 NCAA championship (the program’s 6th). David Hoogsteen scored two goals for the Fighting Sioux, including a back-breaking tally with six seconds remaining in the middle frame.
All-time record: North Dakota leads the all-time series, 12-11-2 (.520), although the Terriers hold a 7-4-1 advantage in games played in Boston and have gone 4-0-1 in the last five. When the newly-formed Hockey East began play in 1984-1985, it created a five-year interlocking schedule with the WCHA. During that time, Boston University and North Dakota met 7 times, with John “Gino” Gasparini’s Fighting Sioux squad going 6-1-0 against Jack Parker’s Terriers. The teams first met in 1981.
Last Ten: Boston University has had the better of it lately, going 6-3-1 (.650) over the last ten games between the teams and outscoring UND 34-30 over that stretch.
Game News and Notes
The Terriers play on a hybrid sheet of ice at Agannis Arena; the playing surface is 90 feet wide, five feet wider than NHL rinks but not as wide as the Olympic ice sheets (100 feet wide). North Dakota has outshot and outscored opponents in each period this season, whiie Boston University has been outscored in third periods. Last Saturday night, Fighting Hawks captain Riese Gaber became the 83rd member of UND’s Century Club (100 career points). Gaber has 49 goals and 51 assists in 108 career games.
Both games will be availab le via webcast at ESPN+, with puck drop each night scheduled for 6:00 p.m. Central Time. 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). Follow @UNDMHockey for real-time Twitter updates, or follow the action via live chat at UNDsports.com.
Boston University will give UND fits with its overall team speed and talent, and North Dakota netminder Ludvig Persson will need to be up to the challenge, as I expect the Terriers to generate several odd-man rushes in this game. Specialty teams will be in a factor, with the winning team each night likely finding itself on the plus side of that ledger. This one feels like a split, and that’s what I’ve got. BU 4-2. UND 5-3.
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!