North Dakota (9-10-4, 3-7-2 NCHC) hosts Minnesota Duluth (9-12-1, 4-8-0 NCHC) at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks this weekend. It is worth noting that, despite being unranked, UND currently sits in 23rd place in the all-important Pairwise Rankings, mostly due to the fact that eight of its ten losses are to teams in the top ten in the country (Minnesota, Quinnipiac, Denver twice, St. Cloud State twice, and Western Michigan twice). Duluth is 37th in the Pairwise coming into this weekend.
According to KRACH, North Dakota has faced the nation’s sixth-toughest schedule to this point of the season, while the Bulldogs schedule weighs in as the twelfth-most difficult.
Last season, the two teams split a November series in Grand Forks, with the Bulldogs winning by a 4-1 margin on Friday night. UND came from behind in Saturday’s rematch, knotting the score at 1-1 with five seconds remaining in the second period before scoring the game-winner five minutes into the third. When the two teams tangled in Duluth in February 2022, the visitors managed a pair of one-goal victories (4-3, 3-2).
And turning back the clock to March 27th, 2021, North Dakota was down 2-0 to Minnesota Duluth with just 101 seconds remaining in the third period of the 2021 NCAA Midwest Regional final at Scheels Arena in Fargo, North Dakota. The Bulldogs had built their lead with two goals just 80 seconds apart early in the final frame on a pair of fluky plays. A partially blocked shot off the stick of Jackson Cates fluttered past Fighting Hawks’ netminder Adam Scheel, and a broken stick at the blue line sent Cole Koepke in alone on a breakaway.
Through the first 25 games of the season, UND had only won one game after allowing the first goal (1-5-1). But after coming back against both Denver and St. Cloud State to claim the program’s first NCHC Frozen Faceoff postseason title, Brad Berry’s squad had to feel like another comeback was possible.
And it was indeed possible. Collin Adams and Jordan Kawaguchi scored extra-attacker goals 44 seconds apart to send the partisan crowd into a frenzy and send the game to overtime. And overtime. And overtime. And overtime.
UMD’s Luke Mylymok scored the game-winner just over two minutes into the FIFTH overtime session; his second goal of the season ended the longest NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey tournament game in history.
One could argue that after over 140 minutes of game action, Duluth had a built-in advantage: the Bulldogs (14-10-2) were scheduled to face Michigan in the regional semifinal, but after the Wolverines withdrew due to a positive COVID-19 test in their hockey program, UMD advanced in a “no contest” and therefore had fresher legs than top overall seed North Dakota (22-5-1).
Adams and Kawaguchi were two of six North Dakota players to finish the season with double digit goal totals. Of those six, only Riese Gaber remains at North Dakota.
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.
The Bulldogs played ten games at the Division I level in the early 1930s but didn’t really get started until after World War II. Its first 19 seasons after the war were played as an independent before joining the WCHA in 1965. It would take 18 seasons – and a head coach named Mike Sertich – before UMD would make the NCAA tournament, and Sertich would take them there in three consecutive seasons:
1982-1983: National Quarterfinalist
1983-1984: 2nd Place (National Runner-Up)
1984-1985: 3rd Place (Consolation Champion)
In 1984, Duluth was tantalizingly close to winning its first title. The Bulldogs defeated North Dakota 2-1 in overtime (behind a goal by Bill Watson) to advance to the championship game, where they would face Bowling Green in the longest NCAA final in Division I men’s hockey history. Gino Cavallini scored for the Falcons in the fourth overtime session, ending a game that took over 97 minutes of game action to complete.
And, perhaps, fittingly, UMD would find themselves locked in overtime contests in 1985 as well. The Bulldogs took RPI to three overtimes in the national semis before falling 6-5. Back in those days, there was still a third-place game, and so Duluth faced Boston College (which had also played three overtimes in its semifinal) for no reason at all. Of course, that game also went to overtime, with UMD defeating the Eagles 7-6.
After that three-year splash on the national scene, Mike Sertich would manage just one more tournament appearance (1993) over the final fifteen years of his head coaching career before giving way to Scott Sandelin, who has guided the Bulldogs to the NCAAs eleven times in his 22 seasons behind the Bulldog bench.
Even though UMD has been a more frequent participant over the past two decades than at any other point in team history, Duluth and North Dakota have only met twice in the national tournament (1984 and 2021). UND had a chance to meet the Bulldogs in the 2011 title game but fell to the Wolverines in the semifinals 2-0 (with an empty-net goal) despite outshooting Michigan 40-20.
Before the Wolverines were forced to withdraw from the 2021 tournament, UMD and Michigan were set to square off in the national tournament for the first time since that overtime thriller in St. Paul.
With three national titles in a nine-year stretch, the Bulldogs could certainly be considered the best team of the 2010s; North Dakota’s eight national titles have been spread out across the decades: 1959, 1963, 1980, 1982, 1987, 1997, 2000, and 2016.
The Wolverines have won nine NCAA titles but only two since 1964, those coming in 1996 and 1998. For that reason, I consider North Dakota (eight titles) and Denver (nine titles) the two best programs in NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey history.
Turning our attention to this weekend’s matchup, a half-point per game or better is my benchmark for solid offensive production, and Scott Sandelin’s squad has just six players who meet that threshold: freshman forward Ben Steeves (12-3-15), sophomore forward Dominic James (7-6-13), senior forward Quinn Olson (2-10-12), senior forward Luke Loheit (3-7-10), sophomore defenseman Owen Gallatin (3-9-12), and senior defenseman Derek Daschke (2-10-12).
By that same measure, North Dakota has ten players at a half point or better: junior forward Riese Gaber (12-10-22), freshman forward Jackson Blake (9-15-24), freshman forward Dylan James (3-7-10), freshman forward Owen McLaughlin (0-11-11), senior forward Gavin Hain (8-3-11), freshman forward Ben Strinden (2-5-7), freshman forward Dylan James (3-7-10), graduate defensemen Chris Jandric (3-20-23), junior defenseman Tyler Kleven (5-6-11), and senior defenseman Ethan Frisch (3-7-10).
UND is sixth in the nation in shooting percentage at 11.6% (79 goals on 680 shots); by comparison, Minnesota Duluth sits in 57th place at 7.4% (51 goals on 688 shots). UMD puts an average of 31.3 shots/game on frame, while North Dakota manages 29.6. The two teams are nearly identical in shots allowed (Bulldogs 28.6, Fighting Hawks 24.9). UND (16th in Corsi, 18th in Fenwick) also leads Duluth (21st, 20th) in both puck possession statistics.
One key area to watch this weekend is the face-off circle. The Fighting Hawks are the nation’s fifteenth-best team on draws (52.6%), while the Bulldogs clock in at 48.5% (43rd).
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 (222 of 425, 52.2), while freshman Owen McLaughlin has shown improvement (133 of 260, 51.2%). Junior Griffin Ness has fallen off lately, with 49 wins in 111 opportunities (44.1%).
For Minnesota Duluth, sophomore Dominic James has been the only bright spot in the circle, going 205 of 354 (57.9%). Graduate student Jesse Jacques (149 of 311, 47.9%) and sophomore Carter Loney (153 of 347, 44.1%) have struggled, while freshman Cole Spicer (63 of 140, 45.0%) may turn into a solid option down the road.
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 30 power play goals scored (30 of 97, 30.9%, 2nd in the country) and only fifteen power play goals allowed (70 of 85, 82.4%, 19th), with one shorthanded goal scored and two allowed.
Minnesota Duluth has posted a minus-4, with 17 power play goals scored (17 of 73, 23.3%, 18th), 19 power play goals allowed (70 of 89, 78.7%, 44th), one shorthanded goal scored, and three allowed.
It is also worth noting that UND has earned fourteen more power plays than penalty kill situations (97-85), while UMD has been shorthanded far more often (73-89).
North Dakota is 12th in the country in scoring offense (3.43 goals scored/game) but just 47th in the country in scoring defense (3.30 goals allowed/game). Minnesota Duluth is 50th in the country in scoring offense (2.32 goals scored/game) but slightly better on the defensive side, allowing 2.95 goals/game (38th).
When healthy, 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 sophomores Brent Johnson and Luke Bast 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.
Despite the Fighting Hawks’ defensive depth and experience, UND’s goaltending troubles continue. North Dakota has the worst combined save percentage in the country at .867; in other words, opponents are scoring on 13.3 percent of shots on goal this season. Only one team in the country (Western Michigan, 13.4 percent) lights the lamp at a higher percentage than that.
This weekend’s games are the only two scheduled meetings between UND and Duluth this season.
Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs
Head Coach: Scott Sandelin (22nd season at UMD, 437-360-95, .543)
National Rankings: NR/NR
Pairwise Ranking: 37th
KRACH Ranking: 27th
This Season: 9-12-1 overall, 3-6-1-2 NCHC (6th)
Last Season: 22-16-3 overall (NCAA West Regional Finalist), 9-9-3-3 NCHC (4th)
2022-2023 Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 2.32 goals scored/game – 50th of 62 teams
Team Defense: 2.95 goals allowed/game – 38th of 62 teams
Power Play: 23.3% (17 of 73) – 18th of 62 teams
Penalty Kill: 78.7% (70 of 89) – 44th of 62 teams
Key players: Freshman F Ben Steeves (12-3-15), Sophomore F Dominic James (7-6-13), Senior F Quinn Olson (2-10-12), Senior F Luke Loheit (3-7-10), Sophomore D Owen Gallatin (3-9-12), Senior D Derek Daschke (2-10-12), Senior G Matthew Thiessen (5-6-0, 2.21 GAA, .918 SV%, 1 SO)
North Dakota Team Profile
Head Coach: Brad Berry (8th season at UND, 171-87-29, .646)
National Rankings: NR/NR
Pairwise Ranking: 23rd
KRACH Ranking: 18th
This Season: 9-10-4 overall, 3-7-1-1 NCHC (7th)
Last Season: 24-14-1 overall (NCAA Regional Semifinalist), 17-6-1 NCHC (t-1st)
2022-2023 Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.43 goals scored/game – 12th of 62 teams
Team Defense: 3.30 goals allowed/game – 47th of 62 teams
Power Play: 30.9% (30 of 97) – 2nd of 62 teams
Penalty Kill: 82.4% (70 of 85) – 19th of 62 teams
Key Players: Junior F Riese Gaber (12-10-22), Sophomore F Jake Schmaltz (3-5-8), Freshman F Owen McLaughlin (0-11-11), Graduate F Mark Senden (5-5-10), Freshman F Jackson Blake (9-15-24), Senior F Gavin Hain (8-3-11), Freshman F Dylan James (3-7-10) Graduate D Chris Jandric (3-20-23), Junior D Tyler Kleven (5-6-11), Senior D Ethan Frisch (3-7-10), Junior D Cooper Moore (3-7-10), Sophomore G Jakob Hellsten (5-5-2, 2.77 GAA, .873 SV%)
By The Numbers
Last Meeting: February 19, 2022 (Duluth, Minnesota). Louis Jamernik V scored a shorthanded goal late in the second period that stood as the game-winner in a 3-2 UND victory. The Bulldogs outshot the visitors 35-29, including a 19-10 advantage in the final frame. In Friday’s opener, North Dakota went 3-for-5 on the power play and outlasted UMD 4-3 despite being outshot 39-27.
Last Meeting in Grand Forks: November 20, 2021. North Dakota’s Brendan Budy broke a 1-1 tie at the 5:05 mark of the third period and UND hung on for the 2-1 victory. The Fighting Hawks scored a power play goal late in the second period (Ethan Frisch) and held the Bulldogs scoreless with the man-advantage. Duluth won Friday’s opener 4-1 behind two goals from Casey Gilling and an empty-net goal with just under two minutes remaining in the game. The Fighting Hawks held the advantage in the faceoff circle all weekend, winning 68 of 115 faceoffs (59.1%). In game one, UMD went 1-for-6 with the man advantage and held UND scoreless on six power plays. In the rematch, it was North Dakota scoring on the power play and holding the Bulldogs without a power play goal.
Most Important Meeting: March 27, 2021 (Fargo, ND). Minnesota Duluth outlasted North Dakota 3-2 in five overtimes to advance to the NCAA Frozen Four. UND scored two extra-attacker goals in the final two minutes of regulation to send the game long into the night. The three goaltenders involved in the contest combined to make 114 saves.
The Meeting That Never Was: Both teams advanced to the 2011 NCAA Frozen Four at Xcel Energy Center (St. Paul, Minnesota). UND could not get past Michigan, falling 2-0 despite outshooting the Wolverines 40-20. In the other national semifinal, Minnesota-Duluth defeated Notre Dame 4-3 and rode that momentum to the title game. The Bulldogs took the Wolverines to overtime before senior forward Kyle Schmidt scored the game winner and earned UMD their first national championship. North Dakota won two of the three games against Duluth that season, outscoring Scott Sandelin’s team 11-5.
All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 152-88-11 (.627), including a 83-38-3 (.681) advantage in games played in Grand Forks. The teams first met in 1954, with North Dakota winning the first ten games between the schools by a combined score of 72-16. UMD’s first win over the Fighting Sioux (a 3-2 road victory on December 18th, 1959) did not sit well with the defending national champions. UND defeated Duluth 13-2 the following night.
Last Ten: North Dakota is 5-4-1 (.550) in the last ten games between the teams, although the Bulldogs have outscored the Hawks 28-25 over that stretch thanks to a 7-4 home victory in January 2020 and a 4-1 road win in November 2021. Only four of the past ten UND-UMD games were played in Duluth.
Game News and Notes
UND has outscored opponents 59-47 through two periods of play this season but has been outscored 28-19 in the final frame. The Bulldogs have been outscored 25-15 in third periods and overtime. No North Dakota player expected to be in the lineup this weekend has more than two career goals against UMD. Freshman forward Cole Spicer decommitted from UND to join the Bulldogs this season; the Grand Forks native has appeared in twenty games thus far, scoring two goals and adding two assists. Both head coaches this weekend are alumni of the University of North Dakota; Brad Berry (1983-86) and Scott Sandelin (1982-86) both played for UND under John “Gino” Gasparini.
The Fighting Hawks should have the puck the majority of the time, and that may lead to an extra power play or two. If North Dakota can find success with the man advantage, a sweep is possible. Despite all of the question marks surrounding the Green and White this year, this is the weekend where things will start to come together. UND 4-2, 4-3.
Both games will be broadcast on Midco Sports Network and also 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!