Weekend Preview: UND at Colorado College

#2 North Dakota (20-6-2, 10-0-1-5 NCHC) travels to face #15 Colorado College (16-9-1, 5-4-5-2 NCHC) this weekend in a rematch of a pivotal league series played back in early December at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

CC earned two overtime victories in Grand Forks that weekend (3-2, 3-2) and has followed that up by going 7-3-0 against Minnesota (road), Minnesota Duluth (road), Miami (home), Western Michigan (road), and St. Cloud State (home). Eight of the Tigers’ last fourteen games have gone to overtime, and the Tigers hold a 5-2-1 record in those extra sessions

Coming into this weekend, UND is on top of the league standings despite playing two fewer games than its closest competition:

North Dakota: 10-0-1-5 (37 league points) in 16 games
St. Cloud State: 9-3-3-3 (36 league points) in 18 games
Western Michigan: 8-5-0-5 (29 league points) in 18 games

Colorado College has earned 27 league points (5-4-5-2) in 16 games played.

UND finds near the top of the national rankings (#2 in both polls) and in the all-important Pairwise rankings (2nd) thanks in large part to its impressive non-conference victories…

North Dakota blanked #4 Wisconsin 2-0 at Ralph Engelstad Arena back on October 14th.

UND was also able to avenge its only two non-conference losses of the season (vs. #8 Minnesota, at #3 Boston University) with wins the following night.

The Fighting Hawks have also taken care of business in NCHC action, earning points in every league game this season. UND has earned the majority of points against every team in the conference not named Colorado College:

vs. Denver: 7-5 win, 2-3 OT loss, 5-2 win, 4-2 win (10 of 12 league points)
vs. Miami: 6-4 win, 5-1 win, 5-4 OT win, 4-1 win (11 of 12 league points)
vs. Minnesota Duluth: 4-2 win, 2-0 win (6 of 6 league points)
vs. Omaha: 4-5 OT loss, 3-1 win (4 of 6 league points)
vs. St. Cloud State: 5-3 win, 3-3 tie/shootout loss (4 of 6 league points)

The Fighting Hawks have not yet played Western Michigan; those two teams will tangle at the Ralph on March 1st and 2nd, the second-to-last weekend of the regular season.

According to KRACH, North Dakota has faced the nation’s sixth-toughest schedule to this point of the season, while the Tigers’ schedule weighs in as the 14th-most difficult. Despite its tough slate of games, the Green and White have the second-best winning percentage in the country (.762), trailing only Boston College (.772).

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

Back in December, unranked Colorado College shocked the college hockey world by not only taking then-#1 North Dakota to overtime in back-to-back games but also finishing the job each night during the five-minute 3-on-3 session.

On Friday night, UND outshot the Tigers 34-23 but were undone by sloppy specialty teams play. The Fighting Hawks went 0-for-1 on the power play and gave up a late second-period power play goal that tied the game at two goals apiece. North Dakota led 2-0 midway through the middle frame but could not extend or hold that lead.

Saturday night was a more even affair, with the teams trading chances and putting an identical 24 shots on goal apiece. CC shined in the faceoff circle, however, winning 42 of 64 draws (65.6%).

Last season, the teams only played two games, and, in a strange February series in the Springs, North Dakota earned a 2-1 overtime victory on Friday before the two teams skated to a 0-0 tie in the rematch, just the third scoreless game in UND hockey history.

North Dakota went 6-0 against CC two seasons ago, 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 last 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.

Prior to the last series in Grand Forks, North Dakota had only trailed for a total of eleven minutes and fifty seconds over the previous eight games.

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.

Ten 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 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 nine seasons. The eight teams in the league have gone 475-240-82 (.647) 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 eight-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 seven national titles.

And turning our attention to this season…

#2-ranked North Dakota has gone 20-6-2 against Army (one game), #4 Wisconsin (one game), #8 Minnesota, Minnesota State, #3 Boston University, Minnesota Duluth, Miami (four games), Bemidji State, #5 Denver (four games), #15 Colorado College, Alaska, #18 Omaha, and #16 St. Cloud State, with a record of 13-4-1 at home and 7-2-1 on the road. UND has not lost in regulation since November 3rd and has not lost a conference game in regulation all season.

How has North Dakota made such a dramatic turnaround in just one season?

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)

Update: freshman forward Michael Emerson left the UND program at semester break; Emerson appeared in six games during the first half of the season.

These thirteen newcomers join eleven returning forwards and second-year netminder Kaleb Johnson to form UND’s 25-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 Perron (24 with the Chicago Steel of the USHL), North Dakota should easily surpass the 102 goals scored all of last season by its forward group.

Over the first 28 games of the 2023-2024 season, UND forwards have scored 98 goals and are on pace for 126 goals in the regular season alone. It is also encouraging that eleven North Dakota forwards already have multiple goals this season, led by Blake (17), Berg (15), Gaber (14), McLaughlin (9), Johannes (9), and Perron (8). Those six forwards have combined for 28 goals over the past five weekends of game action.

Hunter Johannes has been out of the lineup for the past five games (lower-body injury) and will also miss this weekend’s action; it is possible that Johannes will be in the lineup next weekend against Duluth.

Prior to UND’s last series against Miami, Fighting Hawks defensemen had only scored seven goals all season.

And then, Logan Britt happened. The grad transfer from Sacred Heart scored three goals on the weekend and was named the NCHC Defenseman of the Week. Freshman Jake Livanavage added his third goal of the season to bring the d-corps total to eleven. Livanavage was recently named the NCHC Defenseman of the Week (January 29th), the NCHC Rookie of the Month (January), and a candidate for the Tim Taylor Award (National Rookie of the Year).

The six regular blueliners for North Dakota (Pyke, Livanavage, Britt, Wiebe, Zmolek, and Pehrson) have now collected a total of 63 points (11 goals and 52 assists) in 159 games played (0.40 points/game). As mentioned above, the offensive output from the blue line has been increasing lately, with Livanavage in particular chipping in more regularly (two goals and thirteen assists in his last sixteen games).

By comparison, the six Tiger defensemen expected in the lineup this weekend have scored eleven goals and added 40 assists in 151 games played (0.34 points/game).

A half-point per game or better is my benchmark for solid offensive production, and Kris Mayotte’s squad has just four players who meet that threshold: sophomore forward Noah Laba (15-9-24), sophomore forward Gleb Veremyev (9-9-18), senior forward Logan Will (6-11-17), and sophomore forward Ryan Beck (3-12-15).

By that same measure, North Dakota has eight players at a half point or better, including three – sophomore forward Jackson Blake (17-22-39), sophomore forward Owen McLaughlin (9-20-29), and Cameron Berg (15-14-29) – averaging a point per game or better. Other offensive contributors include senior forward Riese Gaber (14-12-26), graduate forward Hunter Johannes (9-6-15 in 23 games), senior forward Louis Jamernik V (6-9-15), senior defenseman Garrett Pyke (3-19-22), and freshman defenseman Jake Livanavage (3-15-18).

On the injury front, North Dakota graduate forward Hunter Johannes will miss this weekend’s series.

The Colorado College and North Dakota team rosters feature a family connection. Drew Montgomery (3-3-6 in 25 games) is a freshman forward for the Tigers, and he has played a number of different roles for CC this season. His brother Dane Montgomery is a junior forward for UND, and he has slowly worked his way into the lineup, appearing in nine of the past fourteen games while scoring a goal and adding an assist.

Offensively, UND far outpaces Colorado College. To this point of the season, North Dakota has scored 109 goals (3.89 goals per game, 7th in the country), while CC has managed just 78 (3.00, 28th).

The Fighting Hawks are 4th in the nation in shooting percentage at 12.6%. Colorado College clocks in at 10.1%, good for 31st in the country.

Even though both teams are scoring on a high percentage of their shots on goal, why is UND so much better offensively? Because North Dakota puts the puck on net. To this point in the season, the Green and White have 867 shots on goal. Colorado College? 776.

This averages out to nearly 31 shots on goal per game for UND (17th) and 29.8 shots on goal per game for CC (30th).

On the defensive side, UND has only allowed 715 shots on goal this season in 28 games (25.5/game, 9th), while Colorado College has allowed 770 in 26 games (29.6, 31st).

These two teams are both in the top half of all teams in the nation in two key puck possession statistics:

North Dakota: 15th in Corsi (53.5%) and 9th in Fenwick (54.9%)
Colorado College: 23rd in Corsi (51.4%); 26th in Fenwick (51.0%)

Corsi measures the share of shot attempts for each team at even strength, while Fenwick measure the share of unblocked shot attempts for each team at even strength.

As always, a key area to watch this weekend is the face-off circle. The Fighting Hawks are the nation’s 16th-best team on draws (52.4%), while the Tigers clock in at #1 (55.2%).

For UND, junior Cameron Berg has been making a living on draws, winning 281 of 483 (58.2%). Senior Louis Jamernik V (177 of 307, 57.7%) has more than held his own, while sophomore Owen McLaughlin (153 of 321, 47.7%) has struggled of late.

For the Tigers, senior Logan Will has been the best option (279 of 470, 59.4%). Kris Mayotte has also called on sophomore Noah Laba (244 of 422, 57.4%) and junior Stanley Cooley (214 of 413, 51.8%).

To this point in the season, North Dakota has had far the better of the specialty teams play. UND has been a combined plus-14, with 25 power play goals scored (25 of 97, 25.8%, 7th in the country) and thirteen power play goals allowed (63 of 76, 82.9%, 20th), with three shorthanded goals scored and one allowed.

The Tigers have posted a minus-9, with just twelve power play goals scored (12 of 104, 11.5%, 62nd), nineteen power play goals allowed (76 of 95, 80.0%, 38th), two shorthanded goals scored, and four allowed.

It is also worth noting that UND has earned 21 more power plays than penalty kill situations (97-76), while CC has had the advantage nine more times (104-95).

North Dakota is 7th in the country in scoring offense (3.89 goals scored/game) and an equally impressive 8th in the country in scoring defense (2.43 goals allowed/game).

Colorado College is 28th in the country in scoring offense (3.00 goals scored/game) but much better on the defensive side, allowing only 2.62 goals per game (15th).

A huge key to UND’s defensive turnaround this season has been the play of senior netminder Ludvig Persson. The transfer from Miami has played all but three games between the pipes for the Fighting Hawks, posting a record of 17-6-2 with a goals-against average of 2.38, a save percentage of .907, and three shutouts.

Persson was ill two months ago, and freshman Hobie Hedquist stepped in for him, winning both games while posting a goals-against average of 3.01 and a save percentage of .870).

Persson returned to practice on a Wednesday and got the start on Friday, but he struggled, allowing five goals on 24 shots. Hedquist stepped in on Saturday, making 22 of 23 saves and earning his third victory of the season. Persson started both games in St. Cloud last month and he shined, stopping 66 of 72 shots which came his way for a combined save percentage of .917. Persson wasn’t tested much in UND’s home sweep of Denver; he allowed two goals each night while making 17 saves on Friday night and 22 saves in the rematch. In a road sweep at Miami, Persson stopped 60 of 65 shots (.923).

Last year, UND’s team save percentage was .886, the fifth-worst mark among 62 teams. To put the difference in perspective, North Dakota allowed 110 goals on 962 shots last season. If we apply Persson’s save percentage from this year to that shot total, the Fighting Hawks would have allowed a total of only 89 goals, a difference of 21 goals over the 39-game season.

And what difference does one goal make? UND found itself in a Pairwise predicament last season due to three tough losses:

Arizona State 3, North Dakota 2 (October 29th, 2022)

Miami 4, North Dakota 3 (November 19th, 2022)

Minnesota Duluth 2, North Dakota 1 (January 21st, 2023)

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

If Persson has solidified things on the back end for UND, Kaiden Mbereko has certainly done that for the Tigers. The sophomore netminder from West Bloomfield, Michigan has played 26 games for CC this season, posting a record of 16-9-1 with a goals-against average of 2.51 and a save percentage of .914. Mbereko is the lone Mike Richter Award finalist (the nation’s best men’s Division I goaltender) in the NCHC.

North Dakota currently finds itself in second place in the all-important Pairwise rankings, with victories over Boston University (PWR 3), Wisconsin (PWR 4), Denver (PWR 7), and Minnesota (PWR 8) certainly helping the cause. With eight games remaining in the regular season, UND is already a lock for the national tournament.

At 17th in the Pairwise, Colorado College has some work to do to earn the program’s first NCAA tournament berth since 2011.

In the NCHC, Colorado College has finished 7th, 8th, 8th, 8th, 7th, 6th, 8th, 7th, 7th, and 7th for the worst average finish (7.3) among all eight league teams. North Dakota leads the conference with an average finish of 2.6 (2nd, 1st, 1st, 4th, 4th, 5th, 1st, 1st, 2nd, and 5th).

Colorado College Tigers

Head Coach: Kris Mayotte (3rd season at CC, 38-55-6, .414)

National Rankings: #15/#16
Pairwise Ranking: 17th
KRACH Rating: 254.2 (#16)

This Season: 16-9-1 overall, 5-4-5-2 NCHC (3rd)
Last Season: 13-22-3 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 6-13-2-3 NCHC (7th)

2023-2024 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.00 goals scored/game – 28th of 64 teams
Team Defense: 2.62 goals allowed/game – 15th of 64 teams

Power Play: 11.5% (12 of 104) – 62nd of 64 teams
Penalty Kill: 80.0% (76 of 95) – 38th of 64 teams

Key players: Sophomore F Gleb Veremyev (9-9-18), Sophomore F Noah Laba (15-9-24), Senior F Logan Will (6-11-17), Sophomore F Ryan Beck (3-12-15), Junior F Stanley Cooley (4-8-12), Senior D Jack Millar (3-7-10), Freshman D Max Burkholder (4-7-11), Senior D Nicklas Andrews (3-9-12), Sophomore G Kaidan Mbereko (16-9-1, 2.51 GAA, .914 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (9th season at UND, 200-98-33, .654)

National Rankings: #2/#2
Pairwise Ranking: 2nd
KRACH Rating: 669.0 (2nd)

This Season: 20-6-2 overall, 10-0-1-5 NCHC (1st)
Last Season: 18-15-5 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 7-10-5-2 NCHC (t-5th of 8 teams)

2023-2024 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.89 goals scored/game – 7th of 64 teams
Team Defense: 2.43 goals allowed/game – 8th of 64 teams

Power Play: 25.8% (25 of 97) – 7th of 64 teams
Penalty Kill: 82.9% (63 of 76) – 20th of 64 teams

Key Players: Sophomore F Jackson Blake (17-22-39), Senior F Riese Gaber (14-12-26), Sophomore F Owen McLaughlin (9-20-29), Junior F Cameron Berg (15-14-29), Senior F Louis Jamernik V (6-9-15), Senior D Garrett Pyke (3-19-22), Freshman D Jake Livanavage (3-15-18), Senior G Ludvig Persson (17-6-2, 2.38 GAA, .907 SV%, 3 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: December 9, 2023 (Grand Forks, ND). For the second night in a row, the teams skated to a 2-2 regulation tie. And for the second night in a row, it was the Tigers scoring in the 3-on-3 session for the extra league point. On Friday night, UND outshot the Tigers 34-23 but were undone by sloppy specialty teams play. The Fighting Hawks went 0-for-1 on the power play and gave up a late second-period power play goal that tied the game at two goals apiece. North Dakota led 2-0 midway through the middle frame but could not extend or hold that lead. Saturday night was a more even affair, with the teams trading chances and putting an identical 24 shots on goal apiece. CC shined in the faceoff circle, however, winning 42 of 64 draws (65.6%).

Last Meeting in Colorado Springs: February 25, 2023. The two league rivals skated to a 0-0 tie, just the third scoreless game in UND hockey history. One night earlier, North Dakota freshman Jackson Blake netted both goals – including the overtime winner 29 seconds into the extra session – in a 2-1 Fighting Hawks victory. UND outshot CC 34-18 in Friday’s opener; Riese Gaber had two assists.

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, 173-86-12 (.661), although the teams have played to an absolute draw in games played in the Springs (59-59-5). The teams first met in 1948; North Dakota’s 173 wins over the Tigers are the most against any single opponent in program history.

Last Ten: North Dakota has seven victories and a scoreless tie in the last ten meetings between the teams, outscoring CC 26-14 over that span. In those ten tilts, the Tigers have been shut out twice, scored a single goal four times, and managed two goals twice. Colorado College is 2-0-1 in the last three games, scoring three goals in each of the last two.

Game News and Notes

North Dakota head coach Brad Berry is 24-6-2 (.781) 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). As a team, North Dakota has blocked 367 shots this season (13.1 blocks/game), led by Bennett Zmolek (61), Garrett Pyke (42), and Abram Wiebe (40). Only seven UND players expected to be in the lineup this weekend have scored goals in their careers against Colorado College. North Dakota netminder Ludvig Perrson has never beaten the Tigers (0-4-2 with Miami and 0-2-0 with UND). Colorado College is 7-3-1 when leading or tied after one period of play but 0-3-0 when trailing. The Tigers have scored a total of three goals in their last four games combined (0-3-1). UND’s 173 wins over CC are the most over a single opponent in the history of the program.

The Prediction

Everything points to two close, low-scoring games, although I have a feeling that UND could break one open with some power play success. CC netminder Kaidan Mbereko has given up more than two goals just once in his last seven starts, but North Dakota has scored three or more goals in all ten games in 2024, averaging 4.5 goals per game in the new year. I’ve got the Fighting Hawks in the opener, with an overtime tilt on Saturday night. UND 4-2, CC 2-1 (OT).

Broadcast Information

Game times are set for 8:07 p.m. Central Time on Friday and 7:07 p.m. Central Time on Saturday.

Friday’s opener will be broadcast live on Midco Sports Network. Both games will 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.

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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