For Your Consideration: The Emeralds

Introducing The University of North Dakota Emeralds. The Emeralds. The UND Emeralds.

Let me be clear about something. I believe discussions and conversations about the Fighting Sioux nickname should continue between UND and leaders of the namesake tribes, but I also feel that it is wise to explore other possibilities, in the interest of generating public support for one or more new nickname ideas.

It is in that context that I offer for your consideration The Emeralds.

Any new name must pass muster in a number of different areas to make a final list. The guidelines which follow come directly from the task force charged with finding a new nickname at Arkansas State University. I’m not suggesting that the University of North Dakota will work under the same exact framework, but at this stage guidelines such as these will inform and direct our discussion.

The name selected must not conflict with the school colors.
This name fares very strongly here. The Emerald name would enhance the strong connection between UND and the color green.

The name selected must be suitable for use with both men’s and women’s teams (non-gender specific).

The name selected should not be one that invites derision, humor or double meaning.
Aside from the fact that emeralds are considered brittle, I couldn’t think of anything else to include here.

The name selected should be one that will stand the test of time.
As the 55th anniversary theme, I think it’s safe to say that emeralds are a symbol of longevity.

The name selected should be one that suggests pride, courage and a strong competitive spirit and one that inspires the creation of effective imagery and logos for use in promotion and marketing efforts.
I’m not sure about pride, courage, and competitive spirit. An emerald is typically something one would be proud to own or wear. Admittedly, the name Emeralds does not fare well on this particular issue.

In terms of effective imagery and logos, I feel it passes the test. The emerald can be effectively combined with the existing crossed “ND” logo or on its own as a primary or secondary logo . The marketing possibilities are nearly endless. The club sections can be the Emerald Isle, we could call Grand Forks (unofficially) the Emerald City, and fans 55 and older could belong to the Emerald Club.

The name selected will be distinctive and, if possible, unique to our conference, region and nation.
Distinctive, yes. It immediately evokes the color green, which many would argue must remain in any new nickname and logo design. It doesn’t make one think of North Dakota, but it is unique to our conference and region. There is an Emerald Bowl in the BCS (formerly 1-A),  but I found no collegiate or professional team with the “Emerald” nickname.

I recognize that no one name will resonate with all interested parties, and I expect that this idea will be no different. Please feel free to comment, dissect, offer alternatives, or avoid the discussion altogether. It’s up to you.

Friday Game React: UND vs. Denver

Faceoffs. Often overlooked, but critically important.

Tonight, a face-off win at the beginning of a DU power play in the second period set up the only goal of the contest, as Pioneer freshman forward Tyler Bozak won the draw back to Chris Butler and tipped Butler’s shot from the point past Lamoureux for the game-winner. Bozak and the rest of the Pioneers were strong in the face-off circle all night, winning 33 of 55 (60%). Aside from the power-play goal, the most critical face-off win came in the Pioneers end with under 30 seconds remaining and Lamoureux pulled for the extra attacker.

North Dakota put one past Mannino with under a minute remaining in the hockey game, but the puck did not completely cross the goal line. It was ruled no goal on the ice, and that ruling held up to video review.

This game featured two of the best goaltenders in the conference, as Lamoureux and Mannino seemed to match each other with one brilliant save after another. Both defenses chipped in, blocking 15 shots each, and the pipes came in handy for both sides. Mannino, who improved to 10-3-0 while notching his third shutout of the season, saw his goals-against average drop to 1.55 to go with a sparkling save percentage of .940. Lamoureux, who fell to 6-5-1, has almost identical marks of 1.56 and .936.

When T.J. Oshie and Ryan Duncan are held scoreless, UND is 0-5-1. In six Sioux victories, Oshie and Duncan have combined for 10 goals and 12 assists.

UND killed four of five Pioneer power plays, and was held scoreless on two opportunities with the man advantage. The Sioux have scored on 15.4% of power play chances and killed penalties at a 89.8% clip on the season. Denver’s season numbers are very similar, standing at 13.4% and 89.7%, respectively.

UND surely missed Darcy Zajac in the face-off department. Look for him to be back in the lineup tomorrow night.

Brad Malone continues to be North Dakota’s most consistently physical forward.

T.J. Oshie and Andrew Kozek both appeared to be injured during the game. It remains to be seen whether either one will miss any time. Kyle Radke would likely step in tomorrow night if Oshie or Kozek can’t go.

If North Dakota gains a split tomorrow night, it will mark the fifth consecutive series split to open the WCHA season. UND previously split weekend series with Michigan Tech, Colorado College, Wisconsin, and Minnesota-Duluth.

Thank you for reading. I welcome your comments and suggestions. For an in-depth look at the match-up between the teams, click here. Check back after Saturday’s contest for more reaction, analysis, and commentary.

Game Preview: UND vs. Denver

There’s no question that these two teams have history: bad blood, controversy, and postseason clashes. But rather than looking at the past, both schools are treating this weekend’s action as an important series that will affect the conference race and the national picture.

After narrowly missing out on last year’s NCAA tournament (and the West Regional held at Pepsi Center in Denver), the Pioneers seem poised for a run toward this year’s Frozen Four, also held at Pepsi Center.

Denver has a number of impressive wins on the young season, including 5-1 and 4-1 wins over Minnesota at Mariucci Arena and home sweeps of Maine and Minnesota State-Mankato. They are led offensively by their trio of super sophs (Brock Trotter, Tyler Ruegsegger, and Rhett Rakhshani), who have tallied 16 goals and 21 assists through 12 games.

North Dakota has four consecutive conference splits (@Michigan Tech, Colorado College, @Wisconsin, Minnesota-Duluth) after opening the season with impressive wins over Michigan State and Northeastern and a 0-0, two period tie with Boston College.

UND has fared well recently in Denver, posting a 10-3-1 record (.875) at Magness Arena since 97-98.

Denver Team Profile
National Rankings: #3/#3
Head Coach: George Gwozdecky (14th season at DU, 306-194-40, .604)
This Season: 9-3-0 Overall, 6-2-0 WCHA
Special Teams: Power Play 12.9% (8 of 62), Penalty Kill 89.3% (50 of 56)
Last Season: 21-15-4, 13-11-4 WCHA (4th)
Key Players: Sophomore F Brock Trotter (6-8-14), Sophomore F Tyler Ruegsegger (7-6-13), Freshman F Tyler Bozak (6-4-10), Sophomore F Rhett Rakhshani (3-7-10), Junior D Chris Butler (0-5-5), Senior G Peter Mannino (9-3-0, 1.68 GAA, .935 SV, 2 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile
National Rankings: #8/#8
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (4th season at UND, 84-49-12, .621)
This Season: 6-4-1 Overall, 4-4-0 WCHA
Specialty Teams: Power Play 16% (8 of 50), Penalty Kill 90.7% (49 of 54)
Last Season: 24-14-5 (Frozen Four semifinalist), 13-10-5 WCHA (3rd)
Key Players: Junior F Ryan Duncan (3-8-11), Junior F T.J. Oshie (7-4-11), Sophomore F Chris VandeVelde (4-3-7), Senior D Robbie Bina (0-11-11), Junior D Taylor Chorney (0-9-9), Senior G Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (6-4-1, 1.61 GAA, .933 SV, 4 SO)

By The Numbers
Last Meeting: February 24, 2007. UND wins 3-0 in Denver to salvage a split in the only series between the two schools last season. Denver won the first game, 4-3 in overtime.
Most Important Meeting: It’s hard to pick just one game, as the two teams have played four times for the national title. Denver defeated UND for the national championship in 1958, 1968, and 2005, while the Sioux downed the Pioneers in 1963.
All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 125-108-7 (.535). DU leads the series in Denver, 63-48-3 (.566).

Game News and Notes
UND goaltender Jean-Philippe Lamoureux has now started 36 consecutive games betwen the pipes, four shy of the school record of 40 held by Al Finkelstein (1951-53). Denver netminder Peter Mannino has been named WCHA Defensive Player of the Week three times this season. North Dakota forward Chris VandeVelde has been the team’s best face-off man, winning over 55% of his draws this season. During their two-game series last February, UND held Denver scoreless on 11 power play opportunities. Denver sophomore sensations Trotter, Ruegsegger, and Rakhshani combined for 41 goals and 69 assists in 40 games last season, and are ahead of that scoring pace through 12 games this season.

The Prediction
Both schools bring a great deal of talent to the ice. If UND has an edge, it’s on the blue line, both in terms of experience and offensive punch. These games will be tightly contested, and a split is all but inevitable. UND 4-3, DU 4-2.

Thank you for reading. As always, I welcome your questions and comments. Click here for reaction to Friday’s game action. Please check back after Saturday’s contest for more analysis, and commentary.

Saturday Game React: UND vs. Minnesota-Duluth

Yet another split in the conference, with two tough series (at Denver, versus Minnesota) coming up. Hopefully the Sioux can gain points each of the next two weekends to set themselves up for the patented second-half surge (more on that later).

For me, the frustrating part of the game wasn’t the center ice goal to make it 3-2 with 8 minutes remaining. It was that UND played a poor second period (generating only four shots on goal) and put themselves at the mercy of a bounce of the puck.

Up until Drew Akins’ 80 footer (his second goal of the game), North Dakota had played with enough effort and intensity to win or tie the hockey game.

I thought UND carried the play during the two 4 on 4 situations. This is due mostly to the puck-moving defenseman we have across all three defensive pairings.

UND finished 0 for 3 on the power play for the second consecutive night, although there was more rhythm and purpose tonight than last night. The Sioux have now converted only 16% (8 of 50) of man-advantage opportunities on the season. North Dakota killed all three Duluth power plays (and 8 of 9 on the weekend), and now are killing penalties at a 90.7% clip (49 of 54).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Rylan Kaip will equal his career totals (8 goals, 16 assists) this season. He has tallied 4 goals and 1 assist so far.

There are quite a few fans out there who have written off Ryan Duncan, saying that he is not the same player without Jonathan Toews. I am not willing to go that far. He is still scoring a point per contest (3 goals and 8 assists through 11 games), and, along with T.J. Oshie (7-4-11) and Robbie Bina (0-11-11), holds the team scoring lead. Last year he scored 1.33 points per game; as a freshman, he tallied 0.78 points per contest.

UND falls to 6-4-1 (4-4-0 WCHA). Duluth improves to 6-4-2 (5-4-1 WCHA). North Dakota travels to take on the University of Denver next weekend; Duluth heads to Minnesota State University-Mankato for a pair.

And now back to the second-half surge. This is beginning to feel like each of the last three seasons all over again. Or is it?

Part of the October/November frustration is due to the fact that UND hasn’t played very many games (relative to other seasons and to other conference opponents this season). So sitting at 4-4-0 (eight points, 5th place) in the conference feels like a letdown, but three of the four teams above North Dakota have played ten conference games compared to UND’s eight.

In an effort to compare how this team stacks up with years past, let’s take a closer look at the past three seasons, all of which ended with Frozen Four appearances:

2004-2005 October/November record: 9-5-2 (7-4-1 WCHA)
2005-2006 October/November record: 8-5-1 (4-4-0 WCHA)
2006-2007 October/November record: 7-6-1 (5-4-1 WCHA)

And this season in October and November: 6-4-1 (4-4-0 WCHA)

Think of that what you will; I’m merely suggesting that we’ve played tough teams, we’ve competed well in almost every game (Saturday vs. CC being the only exception), and we can clearly get better in every phase. And that’s reason for optimism, not pessimism, in my book.

Thanks for checking out the Saturday Game React. For commentary and analysis of Friday’s game action, click here. I welcome your questions and comments.

Friday Game React: UND vs. Minnesota-Duluth

First of all, this did not play like an 8-3 hockey game. It was tight through two periods, and Duluth carried much of the play, particularily in the second frame. Trupp’s goal to make it 4-3 midway through the second was huge, as the Bulldogs had tied the game with two goals less than three minutes apart and were playing with poise and momentum.

The third period, obviously, was all UND. In addition to the four goals, the Sioux skated better than they had earlier and played to win, as opposed to stretches earlier in the contest during which they played tentatively.

The most important statistics from tonight’s game are that eight different players scored and eight players registered two points. Matt Watkins, Brad Miller, Chris VandeVelde, Matt Frattin, and T.J. Oshie each notched a goal and an assist, and Taylor Chorney, Ryan Duncan, and Robbie Bina tallied two assists each.

Duncan, Oshie, and Bina remain tied for the most points (11) among Sioux players.

Brad Malone did not show up on the scoresheet, but he turned in the most physical game I’ve seen him play since his injury.

Evan Trupp (one goal) continues to impress, and worked his way onto the #1 power play unit tonight. The Sioux power play, unfortunately, finished 0 for 3. Duluth was 1 for 6 with the man advantage, that goal being scored with three seconds remaining in the first period to make the score 3-1 in favor of UND.

Chay Genoway left the game early in the second period with an injury and did not return. For much of the game, Brad Malone was double-shifting, playing on the left wing with Darcy Zajac and Matt Frattin and alongside Rylan Kaip and Matt Watkins. Dave Hakstol mentioned in the post-game interview that they had an initial evaluation but do not know how serious it is yet. Genoway is considered doubtful for tomorrow. I would expect Ryan Martens to play tomorrow night.

Robbie Bina continues to play rock solid defensively and contribute on the offensive end. His 11 assists lead the team, and he may well eclipse the staggering numbers from his junior campaign (10-22-32 last season after scoring 1 goal and 16 assists through his first two seasons).

UND was three seconds away from blanking yet another opponent in the first period, and now have given up just two first period goals through ten games.

UMD goaltender Alex Stalock allowed 6 goals on 25 shots and saw his goals-against average jump from 1.97 to 2.37. His save percentage fell from .929 to .915, and he suffered his fourth loss of the season. Backup goaltender (and former Fighting Sioux) Nate Ziegelmann allowed two goals on the three shots he faced in relief.

UND improves to 6-3-1 overall (4-3-0 WCHA). UMD drops to 5-4-2 overall (4-4-1 WCHA). The same two teams play tomorrow night at 7:07 p.m.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your questions and comments. For more information about the matchup between the teams, click here. For reaction and commentary from Saturday’s game action, click here.

Game Preview: UND vs. Minnesota-Duluth

Coming into the 2007-2008 season, both the Sioux and the Bulldogs were hoping to avoid the early-departure bug that has bitten so many conference teams in recent history.

It has been well-documented that North Dakota avoided a mass exodus of underclassmen, as Taylor Chorney (8-23-31 last season), Joe Finley (1-6-7), T.J. Oshie (17-35-52), and Hobey Baker winner Ryan Duncan (31-26-57) all passed up professional contracts to return to UND. Only Jonathan Toews (18-28-46) and Brian Lee (2-24-26) gave up eligibility to turn pro, leaving the Fighting Sioux with enough depth and talent to compete for an upper-division finish.

The Bulldogs, on the other hand, unexpectedly lost two key underclassmen in forward Mason Raymond (14-32-46) and defenseman Matt Niskanen (9-22-31), who gave up their final two seasons of eligibility to join the professional ranks. These two losses, along with the graduation loss of Bryan McGregor (16-12-28), leave Minnesota-Duluth with only two 20-point scorers [F MacGregor Sharp (11-16-27) and D Josh Meyers (11-13-24)] from a year ago. UND, by contrast, returns five twenty-point players [F Ryan Duncan, F T.J. Oshie, D Robbie Bina (10-22-32), D Taylor Chorney, and F Brad Miller (10-14-24)].

According to Minnesota-Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin, the lack of top-end talent may be a mixed blessing for his club.

“We might not have that one big line or that one dynamic player,” Sandelin said, adding that the team will have to hope for production from everyone as well as look for a few players to break out offensively.

North Dakota has had the better of the results between the two teams recently, going unbeaten (7-0-1) in their last eight meetings. The two teams will also play a weekend series in Duluth on March 1-2, 2008.

Minnesota-Duluth Team Profile
National Rankings: #15/#12
Head Coach: Scott Sandelin (8th season at UMD, 114-146-33, .445)
This Season: 5-3-2 Overall, 4-3-1 WCHA
Special Teams: Power Play 9.3% (4 of 43), Penalty Kill 88.7% (47 of 53)
Last Season: 13-21-5, 8-16-4 WCHA (9th)
Key Returning Players: Junior F Michael Gergen (2-3-5), Junior D Josh Meyers (4-4-8), Junior F MacGregor Sharp (2-5-7), Sophomore G Alex Stalock (5-3-2, 1.97 GAA, .929 SV, 2 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile
National Rankings: #6/#5
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (4th season at UND, 83-48-12, .622)
This Season: 5-3-1 Overall, 3-3-0 WCHA
Specialty Teams: Power Play 18.2% (8 of 44), Penalty Kill 91.1% (41 of 45)
Last Season: 24-14-5 (Frozen Four semifinalist), 13-10-5 WCHA (3rd)
Key Returning Players: Junior F Ryan Duncan (3-6-9), Junior F T.J. Oshie (6-3-9), Junior D Taylor Chorney (0-7-7), Senior D Robbie Bina (0-9-9), Senior G Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (5-3-1, 1.29 GAA, .948 SV, 4 SO)

By The Numbers
Last Meeting: February 17, 2007 (Grand Forks, ND). UND’s Ryan Duncan scores the only goal of the contest at 3:14 of the opening period, and North Dakota prevails 1-0 to take three of four points from the weekend series. Duncan also scored the game-tying goal in Friday’s contest, a 2-2 deadlock.
Most Important Meeting: March 22, 1984. Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota meet in a National Semifinal game in Lake Placid, New York. The Bulldogs defeat the Fighting Sioux 2-1 in overtime to advance to the title game. UND goes on to defeat Michigan State 6-5 (OT) for third place, while Duluth falls to Bowling Green 5-4 in four overtimes, the longest championship game ever played.
All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 125-69-8 (.639), including a 72-30-2 (.702) mark in Grand Forks and a 8-1-2 (.818) record at the new Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Game News and Notes
North Dakota holds a 13-1-1 record against Duluth over the past four seasons. UMD sophomore goaltender Alex Stalock, who had four assists last season, has never faced the Fighting Sioux. UND is 11-2-1 in games on Thanksgiving weekend in the past ten seasons. The Sioux have allowed just one 1st period goal all season.

The Prediction
North Dakota has the top-end talent and an edge in special teams situations that should translate into two victories. If they can maintain their intensity after a week off and keep the crowd involved through their physical play, it will be a long weekend for the Bulldogs. UND 3-2, 4-1.

Thank you for reading. I welcome your questions and comments. For reaction to Friday’s contest, click here. For reaction to Saturday’s game, click here.

Saturday Game React: UND vs. Wisconsin

It seems only fitting that the Wisconsin hockey broadcast featured the “water bottle incident” during the first intermission, as these two teams combined for 172 penalty minutes, most coming within the final four minutes of the hockey game.

Sioux captain Rylan Kaip’s charge behind the Badger net ignited the largest round of fisticuffs, as all five skaters on each side were given game misconducts and shown the exit doors.

Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves seemed particularly miffed at the physical play, as his post-game handshake with the North Dakota coaching staff turned heated. A video of this altercation can be seen here. My guess is he was upset at Kaip charging a player with his head down, and also with Matt Watkins’ take-down of freshman phenom Kyle Turris. What he didn’t see from the bench, however, was that Turris had slashed Watkins across the wrist as the two were skating away from the boards.

“From the bench, the whole thing bothered me how it unfolded and carried on,” Eaves said. “I was just disappointed and I expressed it to him. How often do you see that in college hockey?”

North Dakota outshot Wisconsin 34-22 in this one, including 13-6 in the first period, as UND staked a 2-0 lead on a beautiful power-play goal by Chris VandeVelde and a late tally by T.J. Oshie. VandeVelde’s goal, a top-shelf backhander at 10:21, came just six seconds into a Sioux power play. Oshie’s goal, the eventual game-winner, came with under three seconds remaining in the opening period. T.J Oshie now has 14 career game-winning goals, third on UND’s all-time list behind only Mark Taylor (18) and Brandon Bochenski (15).

“We didn’t have a lot of spark coming out of the locker room,” Wisconsin senior captain Davis Drewiske said. “It’s disappointing that we could not match them from the start.”

“We were able to make some plays,” said UND senior Robbie Bina, who tallied assists on goals by VandeVelde and Andrew Kozek. “They weren’t tic-tac-toe or anything like that. It was nice to get out there, get a goal first and go from there. We were able to raise our level a little bit more tonight.”

At 14:21 of the second period, Brad Miller came close to making the score 3-0, but the referee ruled that the puck had not crossed the line before Wisconsin goalie Shane Connelly swatted it out of midair with his stick. The overhead video appeared to show a bit of white between the flipping puck and the goal line, but it was very close. The play was reviewed, and ruled no goal.

Andrew Kozek showed a nifty toe-drag move and rifled a wrist shot off the pipe and crossbar to make the score 3-0 later in the second period. Robbie Bina made a nice play to get the puck up the ice to Kozek streaking down the left wing.

“It was a tale of two different nights for me,” Connelly said. “They had some pretty good looks and took advantage of it. I made all those saves (43) last night and don’t get the bounces tonight. I had chances, but they buried their opportunities.”

The Badgers, scoreless on their first seven power plays, finally cashed in on the man advantage with just over two minutes remaining, spoiling Jean-Philippe Lamoureux’s chance at a fifth shutout in nine games. North Dakota’s penalty kill was particularly impressive in the second period, killing three consecutive penalties. UND finished 1 for 4 on the power play.

UND is now killing penalties at a rate of 91.1% (41 of 45), and scoring on 18.2% of power plays (8 of 44). Wisconsin’s power play percentage falls to 30.2% (13 of 43) after going 2 for 11 on the weekend, while their penalty kill has an 85.4% success rate (41 of 48).

The Sioux have given up only one first period goal this season after blanking the Badgers in both opening frames this weekend.

As UND head coach Dave Hakstol said in the post-game interview, this weekend was the best 120 minutes of hockey North Dakota has played to this point. He deemed the 5-3-1 overall record “acceptable”, given the quality of competition. He is pleased that the team is making progress in all areas.

The Ryan Duncan-VandeVelde-Oshie line registered 2 goals and 2 assists, Robbie Bina notched two assists and now has nine through nine games, and Andrew Kozek (1 goal) now has five goals this year and continues to display the quicker, more accurate wrist shot that was missing from his game last season. Evan Trupp had his best weekend, and the Matt Frattin-Darcy Zajac-Brad Malone line may be together for a while, as they created opportunities all weekend long.

UND moves to 5-3-1 (3-3-0 WCHA) on the year, while Wisconsin falls to 5-3-0 (2-2-0 WCHA). North Dakota is off next weekend, and returns to game action November 23-24 when they host the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs for a pair at Ralph Engelstad Arena. The Badgers head to Colorado Springs to face the Tigers in WCHA action.

Thank you for reading this edition of the Game React. I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Friday Game React: UND vs. Wisconsin

Well, it was one of those nights. Again.

For the second game in a row, UND struggled offensively.  Let me put it another way: UND generated chances, scoring opportunities, and odd-man rushes, but did nothing more than chip some paint off the posts and crossbar.

The final shots on goal were UND 43, UW 24, including 25 Sioux shots in the third period alone. UND must have attempted 70 shots or more, with many blocked by Wisconsin or sent off target.

As Coach Hakstol mentioned in his post-game interview, the prevailing feeling was that if North Dakota could get one past Connelly, the floodgates would open. But it was not to be. The junior netminder stopped all 43 shots sent his way for his fifth career shutout in 22 games.

Even down 2-0 with 14 minutes to play, the ice seemed to be tilted in North Dakota’s favor. UND was winning the majority of the draws and getting to most of the loose pucks. The back-breaker goal happened after one of very few defensive zone face-offs for UND, a draw they lost, and the puck was in the back of the net for a 3-0 Wisconsin lead with 5:22 to go.

Bright spots for UND:
-North Dakota had exactly the start they needed. They controlled the opening period and took the crowd out of the game. Many in the press box remarked that the score could have been 3-0 UND after one.
-The Frattin-Zajac-Malone line clicked from the get-go. They added a physical presence, created offense, and drew penalties. Expect more from this line going forward.
-Freshman defenseman Derrick LaPoint and Jake Marto were paired together on the blue line for the second consecutive game, and handled their responsibilities very well.

It appeared as if North Dakota backed off the physical play after the first two penalties to Zach Jones. UND will need to crash the net and take the body tomorrow night if they expect a different result.

UND finished 0 for 5 with the man advantage, while Wisconsin scored once on three power play opportunities.

Wisconsin improves to 4-2-0 (2-1-0 WCHA), while North Dakota falls to 4-3-1 (2-3-0 WCHA). The same two teams battle tomorrow night at the Kohl Center. Incidentally, UND now has a 4-11-0 record at the Kohl Center.

For a comparison and complete preview of the weekend series, click here. I thank you for reading, and welcome your comments and suggestions.

Game Preview: UND vs. Wisconsin

Sioux versus Badgers in Madtown. High-powered offense meets the nation’s top defense. Sound familiar?

Not exactly.

This time around, the nation’s best defense belongs to North Dakota, allowing just 1.29 goals per game, while Wisconsin boasts the country’s second highest scoring offense, tallying 4.67 goals per contest. And though Wisconsin has had the better of the netminding in recent memory (think Elliot, Bruckler, and Melanson), UND brings in Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, whose eye-popping .958 save percentage, 1.06 goals-against average, and four shutouts lead the nation. Top scorers? No Sioux player ranks in the top 20 nationally, while Wisconsin freshman phenom Kyle Turris leads the nation in points (13) and assists (8), despite playing in only 6 games thus far.

So what to make of this apparent role reversal? Is this some sort of early-season anamoly, where statistics do all sorts of crazy things? Maybe. A look inside the schedule reveals that while the teams sport almost identical records (UND 4-2-1, UW 4-2-0), the teams have taken different early-season paths. Both squads have split with Michigan Tech; beyond that, the Fighting Sioux have faced a much tougher schedule.

UND has played 4 games against top-10 teams (vs. Michigan State, at Boston College, 2 vs. Colorado College), while Wisconsin has played #12 Notre Dame and three games against teams in the “others receiving votes” category (vs. Ohio State, 2 vs. Robert Morris). The 15 goals Wisconsin scored in their home series against Robert Morris, and specifically the 8 power play goals on 17 opportunities, have catapulted them to the top of most offensive categories. Kyle Turris, for example, collected 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists) on Robert Morris weekend.

Wisconsin Team Profile
National Rankings: #10/#10
Head Coach: Mike Eaves (6th season at UW, 111-80-23, .572)
This Season: 4-2-0 Overall, 1-1-0 WCHA
Special Teams: Power Play 34.4% (11 of 32), Penalty Kill 84.6% (33 of 39)
Last Season: 19-18-4, 12-13-3 WCHA (6th)
Key Returning Players: Junior F Ben Street (3-7-10), Sophomore F Michael Davies (2-2-4), Freshman F Kyle Turris (5-8-13), Senior D Kyle Klubertanz (4-4-8), Junior G Shane Connelly (3-2-0, 2.60, .897)

North Dakota Team Profile
National Rankings: #3/#4
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (4th season at UND, 82-47-12, .624)
This Season: 4-2-1 Overall, 2-2-0 WCHA
Specialty Teams: Power Play 20.0% (7 of 35), Penalty Kill 94.1% (32 of 34)
Last Season: 24-14-5 (Frozen Four semifinalist), 13-10-5 WCHA (3rd)
Key Returning Players: Junior F Ryan Duncan (3-5-8), Junior F T.J. Oshie (5-2-7), Junior D Taylor Chorney (0-7-7), Senior D Robbie Bina (0-7-7), Senior G Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (4-2-1, 1.06 GAA, .958 SV, 4 SO)

By The Numbers
Last Meeting: December 9, 2006. Wisconsin defeats North Dakota 4-2 in Grand Forks to complete a two-game sweep of the Fighting Sioux. The Badgers won the first game, 4-3.
Last Meeting in Madison: October 14, 2006. Wisconsin defeats North Dakota 1-0 at the Kohl Center to earn a split of the weekend series. UND won the first game, 3-2 (OT).
Most Important Meeting: March 27, 1982. A 2-2 tie after two periods turns into a 5-2 Sioux victory, as Phil Sykes nets a hat trick and leads UND to its fourth National Championship.
All-time Series: Wisconsin leads the all-time series, 79-56-10 (.579), including a 42-21-3 mark (.659) in Madison and a 10-4 record (.714) at the Kohl Center.

Game News and Notes
Badger defensemen have scored 10 goals through 6 games, a number that equals their total from all of last season. North Dakota has only allowed one first period goal in seven games. Wisconsin failed to make the NCAA tournament last year after winning the national championship in 2006. After this weekend’s action, the Badgers head to Colorado Springs for a two-game set with #9 Colorado College. The following weekend, Wisconsin will compete against #2 Michigan and #4/#3 Michigan State in the College Hockey Showcase. UND is idle next weekend and hosts Minnesota-Duluth on November 23rd and 24th. Jean-Philippe Lamoureux has started 32 consecutive games, and needs one start to move alone into second place on UND’s all-time list. Al Finklelstein holds the Sioux start streak record with 40. WCHA teams have a combined 22-5-4 mark (.774) in non-conference action this season.

The Prediction
On neutral ice, I would lean toward three points for the Sioux, but at the Kohl Center, a split is the norm. The Badger offense comes back down to earth, but both sides earn two points. North Dakota 4-2 Friday, Wisconsin 3-2 Saturday.

For reaction to Friday’s game action, click here. Check back after Saturday’s contest for more analysis and commentary. Thank you for reading and, as always, I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.

UND vs. Colorado College Saturday Game React

Well, it was one of those nights. The Sioux outshot CC 18-4 in the first period, but trailed 1-0 after giving up a shorthanded goal.

Despite the shots on goal, there were a number of things I saw in the first period that did not bode well for the rest of the game. Players weren’t finishing checks and there were multiple odd-man rushes. I would venture a guess that UND allowed more outnumbered situations in this game than they had the entire season up until this point.

I am not sold on Marto and LaPoint as a defensive pair. I think there are different ways to get them both in the lineup.

Once again, CC looked faster than any team we’ve seen so far.

It would be tempting to talk about all of the things that could have gone differently, but I’d rather focus on the things CC was able to do to play their game. They were very effective on the forecheck, tipped passes and got in the way of shots, and cleared rebounds away from the net. In short, they played the game they needed to play to get a win on the road.

Check back later for a full Rewind from this weekend’s action. Thanks for reading. Please leave your comments, questions, or suggestions.