NCHC Playoff Preview: UND vs. Colorado College

Mike Haviland’s second year behind the Colorado College bench produced better results than year one. Last season, the Tigers were historically bad, winning just twice (2-19-3-1) in 24 league games. This year, CC improved to 4-19-1-1 in league play but still finished in last place, four points behind Western Michigan.

The feeling among the Tiger faithful is that new blood behind the bench will eventually translate into new life on the ice, and CC fans have seen flashes of that this season. Haviland is new to Division I hockey, but he was named the AHL coach of the year in 2006-07 (Norfolk Admirals) and served as an assistant coach with the Chicago Blackhawks for four seasons (2008-12), winning a Stanley Cup in 2010. He was most recently head coach for the AHL’s Hershey Bears.

UND and Colorado College met six times last season (twice in Colorado Springs), with North Dakota winning all six games and outscoring the Tigers 25-10. Without those six victories, UND’s record last year would have looked far less impressive at 23-10-3 (.681). This season, Brad Berry’s first trip to Colorado Springs as head coach resulted in a pair of victories (5-2, 2-0), and North Dakota took five of six league points during a January series in Grand Forks (5-5 overtime tie/shootout win, 5-1).

The two teams have made a habit of meeting in the first round of the NCHC tournament, with North Dakota dispatching Colorado College each of the past two years. As I wrote about before the start of last season’s league playoffs, earning a sweep in postseason play is no easy task. As I predicted in that article, Saturday’s game went down to the wire, with UND needing a late goal by Connor Gaarder to secure a 3-2 victory. North Dakota easily handled the Tigers 5-1 in Friday’s opener.

The biggest question mark for Mike Haviland’s team is whether netminder Jacob Nehama will be cleared to play. Nehama, a freshman, has earned all six of the Tigers wins this season. If he is not able to go, the Tigers will rely on junior Derek Shatzer, who was blitzed for nine goals (four shorthanded) last Saturday against St. Cloud State.

Last Friday night, UND goaltender Cam Johnson helped the Fighting Hawks win the Penrose Cup with another outstanding performance (stopping 31 of 32 shots). In a reversal of fortune, Johnson was lifted from Saturday’s rematch after allowing three goals on the first four shots he faced. The sophomore from Flint, Michigan is currently second in the nation in both goals-against average (1.62) and save percentage (.937) with 18 wins (9th in the country) and five shutouts (6th).

A big reason for UND’s success this season has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. During the 2015-16 campaign, Brad Berry’s squad is unbeaten (21-0-2) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past eight years, North Dakota is converting almost 90 percent of second intermission leads into victories and has just seven losses in the last 178 such situations (159-7-12).

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference as a whole has a solid record against other leagues once again this season, particularly against the Big Ten. North Dakota’s split against Wisconsin is currently the only league loss against the six teams in the conference that destroyed college hockey as we knew it.

NCHC overall record vs. other conferences: 48-26-10 (.631, best in the country)

NCHC record vs. Atlantic Hockey: 4-2-0 (.667)
NCHC record vs. Big Ten: 14-1-1 (.906)
NCHC record vs. ECAC: 2-7-0 (.286)
NCHC record vs. Hockey East: 5-12-7 (.354)
NCHC record vs. WCHA: 19-4-2 (.800)

The six teams in the Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin) are a combined 39-39-11 (.500) in non-league play, the third-worst winning percentage in college hockey. Not including a 12-3-1 mark against Atlantic Hockey and a 2-0-0 record against D-I independents, the Big Ten sports a dismal 25-36-10 (.423) record against the other four major hockey conferences.

North Dakota’s Brock Boeser collected three goals and three assists last weekend in a home sweep of Western Michigan. Boeser, a first-round draft pick of the Vancouver Canucks, is one of the best rookies in the country. Here are the top five freshman point-getters in the nation:

1. Kyle Connor (Michigan): 26-31-57 in 32 games (1.78 points/game)
2. Brock Boeser (North Dakota): 25-18-43 in 34 games (1.26 points/game)
3. Dylan Gambrell (Denver): 15-27-42 in 34 games (1.24 points/game)
4. Max Letunov (Connecticut): 16-24-40 in 36 games (1.11 points/game)
5. Colin White (Boston College): 17-22-39 in 30 games (1.30 points/game)

Since 1983-84, the only UND freshman to score more goals than Boeser’s 25 was Zach Parise, who had 26 in 2002-03. In their first years at North Dakota, T.J. Oshie scored 24 and Jonathan Toews scored 22. The only other freshmen in Fighting Sioux men’s hockey history to score 25 or more goals in a season are Troy Murray (33 in 1980-81), Kevin Maxwell (31, 1978-79), Perry Berezan (31, 1983-84), and Cary Eades (27, 1978-79). In fact, of the first twelve rookies to reach the twenty-goal plateau, ten went on to play in the NHL (Eades and Ian Kallay were the exception).

Amazingly, UND is 8th of 60 teams nationally in scoring offense and 3rd in scoring defense, notching 127 goals and allowing only 67 in 36 games this season. Nationally, only St. Cloud State (156 goals for/77 goals against in 36 games), Boston College (134 goals for/64 goals against in 34 games), and Quinnipiac (129 goals for/65 goals against in 34 games) boast a better scoring margin than North Dakota.

North Dakota is now a stone-cold lock to make its 14th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, the longest active streak in men’s Division 1 ice hockey. One reason for that outlook is that UND went 9-1-2 in non-conference games this season, with a home split against Wisconsin accounting for the only loss in twelve games. The Fighting Hawks are currently 1st in the Pairwise rankings, one of five NCHC teams (along with St. Cloud State, Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, and Omaha) who would make the NCAAs if the season ended today. To be fair, Duluth (13th), Omaha (15th), and Miami (t-22nd) should all be considered squarely on the playoff bubble, with Western Michigan and Colorado College outside the top 30.

In terms of scoring depth, Colorado College has just three players averaging a point per weekend, while North Dakota has eight. The Tigers have allowed 64 more goals than they have scored (69-133), while the Fighting Hawks are currently a plus-60 in scoring differential (127-67).

If Mike Haviland’s squad has any hope of stealing a game against North Dakota, they will have to rely on forwards Hunter Fejes, Sam Rothstein, and Luc Gerdes to carry the load. The three upperclassmen (Fejes is a senior; the other two are juniors) have combined for 26 goals and 29 assists this season, nearly forty percent of the team’s offensive output.

Colorado College Team Profile

Head Coach: Mike Haviland (2nd season at CC, 12-53-4, .203)

Pairwise Ranking: t-53rd of 60 teams
National Rankings: NR/NR
This Season: 6-27-1 overall, 4-19-1-0 NCHC (8th)
Last Season: 6-26-3 overall, 2-19-3-1 NCHC (8th)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 2.03 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.91 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 15.6% (21 of 135)
Penalty Kill: 79.7% (106 of 133)

Key players: Senior F Hunter Fejes (13-9-22), Junior F Luc Gerdes (7-11-18), Junior F Sam Rothstein (6-9-15), Senior F Cody Bradley (7-8-15), Sophomore D Teemu Kivihalme (3-12-15), Freshman D Andrew Farny (3-9-12), Freshman G Jacob Nehama (6-17-0, 3.62 GAA, .902 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (1st season at UND, 28-5-3, .819)

Pairwise Ranking: 1st of 60 teams
National Rankings: #2/#2
This Season: 28-5-3 overall, 19-4-1-1 NCHC (1st)
Last Season: 29-10-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.53 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.86 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 17.7% (25 of 141)
Penalty Kill: 86.8% (118 of 136)

Key Players: Freshman F Brock Boeser (25-18-43), Senior F Drake Caggiula (18-21-39), Sophomore F Nick Schmaltz (5-29-34), Senior F Bryn Chyzyk (11-9-20), Junior D Troy Stecher (7-18-25), Sophomore F Tucker Poolman (4-17-21), Junior D Paul LaDue (4-10-14), Sophomore G Cam Johnson (18-3-1, 1.63 GAA, .937 SV%, 5 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: January 23, 2016 (Grand Forks, ND). North Dakota peppered Tyler Marble with 32 shots on goal, scoring five times en route to a 5-1 home victory. The two teams went to a shootout in Friday’s opener, as UND let a 4-1 first period lead slip away but scored an extra-attacker goal with 32 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime knotted at five goals apiece.

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, 152-80-11 (.648), including a blistering 98-21-7 (.806) mark in Grand Forks. The teams first met in 1948.

Last Ten: North Dakota has nine wins and a tie in the last ten meetings between the teams, outscoring CC 42-18 over that span. The last Tigers victory over UND was a 3-2 overtime win in the 2014 NCHC quarterfinals. 19 of the last 23 games have been decided by two goals or less.

Game News and Notes

In first periods this season, North Dakota has outscored opponents 37-21 while Colorado College has been outscored 35-13. UND’s Drake Caggiula has 16 game-winning goals in his career, two short of Mark Taylor’s school record (18 from 1976-80). North Dakota’s Penrose Cup championship marks the 17th time that a UND hockey team has claimed a regular season conference title. No Division 1 men’s hockey program has won more conference championships than UND. These two coaching staffs coached against each other at the AHL and NHL levels prior to the NCHC.

Media Coverage

All games this weekend will be televised on Midco Sports Network (Sunday’s game, if necessary, will be played at 7:07 p.m. Central Time). A high definition webcast of the games is also available to NCHC.tv subscribers. 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.

The Prediction

As I mentioned earlier, it is very difficult to sweep a team out of the conference playoffs, particularly when that team’s season is on the line. Historically, Saturday games have been tighter for that very reason, and that’s what I’m going with here. UND 5-1, 3-2.

Weekend Preview: UND vs. Western Michigan

Western Michigan has one victory in 2016 (1-11-2), with a home split versus Miami two weeks ago the only bright spot in a dismal second half.

North Dakota has only three losses during the same time frame (10-3-1) and finds itself alone in first place in the NCHC, needing only one point this weekend (by virtue of a single victory or tie) to win the Penrose Cup and league championship outright.

Freshmen are leading the way for the Western Michigan Broncos, as 22 of the team’s 70 goals (31 percent) have been scored by first-year players. First-year forward Griffen Molino (10-11-21) has slowed down considerably (in his last ten, a hat trick on February 20th vs. Miami but no points in the other nine contests) while two classmates, forward Colt Conrad (5-8-13) and blueliner Oliwer Kaski (4-8-12), have performed above expectations. Among other accolades, Molino was named the NCHC Rookie of the Month for December.

The boys from Kalamazoo, Michigan like to play a tight, physical brand of hockey, but that has meant quite a bit of time in the penalty box. WMU has been in 140 shorthanded situations already this season (compared to 113 power play opportunities). The Broncos’ power play has scored 20 goals this year (converting at 17.7%), but their penalty killers have allowed 41 goals to the opposition. By comparison, North Dakota has scored 23 power play goals and allowed sixteen in an equal number of man-advantage and shorthanded situations (129 each).

UND has the nation’s best penalty kill since December 1st, allowing just three power play goals in 67 penalty kill situations (95.5 percent). The Fighting Hawks have killed twelve straight power plays and have held their opponent without a man advantage goal in eight of the past nine games.

WMU’s Lukas Hafner, a senior goaltender who played his junior hockey with the Cornwall Colts (CCHL), has the worst numbers of his four-year career (3.59 goals-against average and a save percentage of .897), but that has as much to do with the team in front of him as it does his own play. Hafner has the ability to steal games and was a force two seasons ago, posting a 2.06 GAA and a save percentage of .925. The Toledo, Ohio native also has six assists in his career.

His counterpart in the UND net, sophomore Cam Johnson, rebounded from two rough losses in Denver (eight goals allowed on 54 shots; .889 save percentage) to post a home sweep of Duluth and a road sweep of Omaha over the past two weekends. Johnson made 105 of 110 saves in the four wins and is currently second in the nation in both goals-against average (1.54) and save percentage (.940) with 17 wins (9th in the country) and five shutouts (5th).

A big reason for UND’s success this season has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. During the 2015-16 campaign, Brad Berry’s squad is unbeaten (17-0-1) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past eight years, North Dakota is converting almost 90 percent of second intermission leads into victories and has just seven losses in the last 163 such situations (145-7-11).

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference as a whole has a solid record against other leagues once again this season, particularly against the Big Ten. North Dakota’s split against Wisconsin is currently the only league loss against the six teams in the conference that destroyed college hockey as we knew it.

NCHC overall record vs. other conferences: 48-26-10 (.631, best in the country)

NCHC record vs. Atlantic Hockey: 4-2-0 (.667)
NCHC record vs. Big Ten: 14-1-1 (.906)
NCHC record vs. ECAC: 2-7-0 (.286)
NCHC record vs. Hockey East: 5-12-7 (.354)
NCHC record vs. WCHA: 19-4-2 (.800)

The six teams in the Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin) are a combined 39-39-11 (.500) in non-league play, the third-worst winning percentage in college hockey. Not including a 12-3-1 mark against Atlantic Hockey and a 2-0-0 record against D-I independents, the Big Ten sports a dismal 25-36-10 (.423) record against the other four major hockey conferences.

North Dakota’s Brock Boeser is one of the best rookies in the country. Here are the top five freshman point-getters in the nation:

1. Kyle Connor (Michigan): 26-28-54 in 30 games (1.80 points/game)
2. Colin White (Boston College): 17-22-39 in 30 games (1.30 points/game)
3. Dylan Gambrell (Denver): 13-26-39 in 32 games (1.22 points/game)
4. Max Letunov (Connecticut): 16-23-39 in 34 games (1.15 points/game)
5. Brock Boeser (North Dakota): 22-15-37 in 32 games (1.16 points/game)

Since 1999-2000, the only UND freshmen to score more goals than Boeser’s 22 are Zach Parise (26) and T.J. Oshie (24). Jonathan Toews also had 22 goals in his first year at North Dakota. Other Fighting Sioux freshman to score 22 or more goals in a season include Troy Murray (33 in 1980-81), Kevin Maxwell (31, 1978-79), Perry Berezan (31, 1983-84), Cary Eades (27, 1978-79), Ian Kallay (23, 1995-96), Garry Valk (23, 1987-88), Doug Smail (22, 1977-78), and Mark Taylor (22, 1976-77). In fact, of the first twelve rookies to reach the twenty-goal plateau, ten went on to play in the NHL (Eades and Kallay were the exception).

Amazingly, UND is 10th of 60 teams nationally in scoring offense and 2nd in scoring defense, notching 114 goals and allowing only 62 in 32 games this season. Nationally, only St. Cloud State (142 goals for/72 goals against in 34 games), Boston College (134 goals for/64 goals against in 34 games), Quinnipiac (129 goals for/65 goals against in 34 games), and Michigan (142 goals for/88 goals against in 30 games) boast a better scoring margin than North Dakota.

It is looking like North Dakota is a lock to make its 14th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. One reason for that outlook is that UND went 9-1-2 in non-conference games this season, with a home split against Wisconsin accounting for the only loss in twelve games. The Fighting Hawks are currently 2nd in the Pairwise rankings, one of four NCHC teams (along with St. Cloud State, Denver, and Omaha) who would make the NCAAs if the season ended today. Minnesora-Duluth (t-14th) and Miami (18th) sit squarely on the playoff bubble, with Western Michigan and Colorado College outside the top 30.

In terms of scoring depth, Western Michigan has just three players averaging a point per weekend, while North Dakota has eight. The Broncos have allowed 51 more goals than they have scored (70-121), while the Fighting Hawks are currently a plus-52 in scoring differential (114-62).

Western Michigan Team Profile

Head Coach: Andy Murray (5th season at WMU, 81-80-27, .503)

Pairwise Ranking: t-37th of 60 teams
National Rankings: NR/NR
This Season: 8-21-3 overall, 5-16-1-1 NCHC (7th)
Last Season: 14-18-5 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 6-13-5-4 NCHC (7th)

Team Offense: 2.19 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.78 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 17.7% (20 of 113)
Penalty Kill: 70.7% (99 of 140)

Key Players: Freshman F Griffen Molino (10-11-21), Junior F Sheldon Dries (10-7-17), Freshman F Colt Conrad (5-8-13), Senior F Nolan LaPorte (7-7-14), Freshman D Oliwer Kaski (4-8-12), Junior D Chris Dienes (2-10-12), Senior G Lukas Hafner (5-16-3, 3.59 GAA, .897 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (1st season at UND, 26-5-3, .809)

Pairwise Ranking: 2nd of 60 teams
National Rankings: #2/#2
This Season: 26-5-3 overall, 17-4-1-1 NCHC (1st)
Last Season: 29-10-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.35 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.82 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 17.8% (23 of 129)
Penalty Kill: 87.6% (113 of 129)

Key Players: Senior F Drake Caggiula (17-19-36), Sophomore F Nick Schmaltz (4-26-30), Freshman F Brock Boeser (22-15-37), Senior F Bryn Chyzyk (10-9-19), Junior D Troy Stecher (6-16-22), Sophomore F Tucker Poolman (4-15-19), Junior D Paul LaDue (3-9-12), Sophomore G Cam Johnson (17-3-1, 1.54 GAA, .940 SV%, 5 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: January 30, 2016 (Kalamazoo, MI). Brock Boeser scored the game-winning goal with less than three minutes remaining in a wild second period that saw all three goals scored (UND won 2-1) and a combined 33 shots on goal (North Dakota outshot WMU 19-14 for the period and 37-29 for the game). The Fighting Hawks won Friday’s opener 2-0 (both goals by Boeser) despite being outshot 31-30.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: March 18, 2014. Western Michigan’s Colton Hargrove scored a shorthanded goal (his second of the game) eight minutes into the third period to break a 1-1 tie, and the Broncos held on to defeat homestanding North Dakota 2-1 in front of almost 12,000 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena. WMU’s victory was its first and only win in fourteen games against UND, who won Friday’s opener 2-0.

Most Important Meeting: March 24, 2012 (St. Paul, MN). North Dakota upended Western Michigan 3-1 in the NCAA West Regional semifinal. Brock Nelson had two points, including an empty net goal with 25 seconds remaining that sent UND to the regional finals against Minnesota. Aaron Dell made 24 saves for the Green and White. The Broncos, who have played at the Division I level since 1975-76, have five NCAA tournament appearances but have not been in the national tournament since 2012.

A Trip Down Memory Lane: Saturday, March 22, 2014 (Minneapolis, MN). North Dakota faced a must-win situation in the 3rd place game at the inaugural NCHC Frozen Faceoff, and did not disappoint the partisan crowd. The Green and White rolled to a 5-0 victory behind two first period goals from Conner Gaarder. UND netminder Zane Gothberg made 25 saves for the shutout, and Dave Hakstol’s crew played the waiting game for several more hours before discovering that they had indeed made the NCAA tournament for the 12th consecutive season.

All-time Series: In the short history between the schools, UND has won thirteen of the fourteen games, outscoring the Broncos 55-23. WMU’s lone victory over North Dakota was the aforementioned 2-1 road win on March 8th, 2014. The teams first met in 1997.

Game News and Notes

UND forward Luke Johnson has collected three goals and four assists in nine career games against Western Michigan but is scoreless in his last four against the Broncos. WMU is a dismal 1-13-2 on the road this season. North Dakota’s Penrose Cup championship marks the 17th time that a UND hockey team has claimed a regular season conference title. No Division 1 men’s hockey program has won more conference championships than North Dakota. The Fighting Hawks will honor four seniors – forwards Drake Caggiula, Bryn Chyzyk, Coltyn Sanderson, and Coltyn St. Clair – before Saturday’s regular season finale.

Media Coverage

Friday’s opener, starting at 8:07 Central Time, will be televised on CBS Sports Network, while Saturday’s rematch will be shown on Midco Sports Network 2 and FOX College Sports Atlantic. A high definition webcast of Saturday’s game will also be available to NCHC.tv subscribers. 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.

The Prediction

North Dakota will dominate on Friday to secure the Penrose Cup outright. With less motivation on Saturday, it will be a struggle. UND 5-1, 3-2.

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!

Weekend Preview: UND at Nebraska-Omaha

Nebraska-Omaha is just 4-8 since the calendar turned to 2016 and has been outscored 45-31 in those twelve games. More devastating for Dean Blais’ squad is that the Mavs went 3-1 at Colorado College and versus Western Michigan (scoring 15 goals and allowing 10) but 1-7 against Denver, North Dakota, Miami, and St. Cloud State, tallying only 16 goals and giving up 35 in those eight contests.

During that same stretch (January and February), North Dakota is 8-3-2, outscoring opponents 36-25. Outside of a tough series at Denver (the Pioneers swept the Hawks 6-4 and 4-1), UND has been on a roll in 2016, posting two shutouts and allowing only a single goal on six other occasions.

Aside from the two losses at altitude, Brad Berry’s only other defeat during this calendar year came at the hands of UNO. The visiting Mavericks scored halfway through the five minute overtime session to shock the home crowd. North Dakota rebounded the following night, dispatching Dean Blais’ squad by a 5-1 margin.

During that NCHC series in Grand Forks, Blais was without the services of netminder Evan Weninger (sprained ankle). Since returning from injury on January 29th, the freshman from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan has not been the same. Here are the splits:

Pre-injury (10/10/15 through 1/8/16): 10-2-0, 1.99 GAA, .942 SV%, 1 shutout
Post-injury (1/29/16 to present): 3-3-0, 2.88 GAA, .887 SV%, 0 shutouts

Weninger struggled in two losses last weekend vs. St. Cloud State, allowing eight goals on 47 shots, and his three victories came against Colorado College and a sweep of Western Michigan.

His counterpart in the UND net, sophomore Cam Johnson, rebounded from two rough losses in Denver (eight goals allowed on 54 shots; .889 save percentage) to post a home sweep of Duluth last weekend. Johnson made 59 of 61 saves in the two wins and is currently second in the nation in both goals-against average (1.54) and save percentage (.940) with 15 wins (10th in the country) and five shutouts (5th).

North Dakota’s sweep of the Bulldogs allowed them to keep pace with St. Cloud State (the two teams are tied for first in the NCHC) but came at a price. The league suspended junior defenseman Troy Stecher (6-15-21) one game for his illegal hit at the final buzzer. Stecher is UND’s top point-getting blueliner and notched two goals and two assists when the Fighting Hawks and Mavericks faced off last month. Stecher will serve his suspension during Friday’s opener and will be eligible to return in the series finale on Saturday, February 27th.

In his absence, expect both freshman defensemen (Hayden Shaw and Christian Wolanin) in the lineup. It will be interesting to see which blueliner will be paired up with Gage Ausmus (as the Grand Forks Herald’s Brad Schlossman reported, he and Stecher have played 48 consecutive games together and are 35-9-4 as partners) and called upon to defend against UNO’s most potent forward pair, Jake Guentzel (16-24-40) and Austin Ortega (19-12-31). In my opinion, Shaw and Wolanin should be split up on the second and third pairings rather than be counted on to defend together. That leaves a likely defensive corps of Ausmus with Tucker Poolman, Wolanin with Paul LaDue, and Shaw with Keaton Thompson.

A big reason for UND’s success this season has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. During the 2015-16 campaign, Brad Berry’s squad is unbeaten (7-0-1) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past eight years, North Dakota is converting almost 90 percent of second intermission leads into victories and has just seven losses in the last 163 such situations (145-7-11).

Omaha chose to open the brand-new Baxter Arena against Air Force (rather than North Dakota), and that set off a string of eight consecutive home victories (sweeps of the Falcons, Minnesota-Duluth, Ohio State, and Arizona State). Since that time, however, the Mavericks are just 2-6-0 in their new digs, having been swept on home ice by Denver (January 8-9), Miami (January 22-23), and St. Cloud State (February 19-20). UNO’s only home wins since December 20th came against Western Michigan.

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference as a whole has a solid record against other leagues once again this season, particularly against the Big Ten. North Dakota’s split against Wisconsin is currently the only league loss against the six teams in the conference that destroyed college hockey as we knew it.

NCHC overall record vs. other conferences: 48-26-10 (.631, best in the country)

NCHC record vs. Atlantic Hockey: 4-2-0 (.667)
NCHC record vs. Big Ten: 14-1-1 (.906)
NCHC record vs. ECAC: 2-7-0 (.286)
NCHC record vs. Hockey East: 5-12-7 (.354)
NCHC record vs. WCHA: 19-4-2 (.800)

The six teams in the Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin) are a combined 39-39-11 (.500) in non-league play, the third-worst winning percentage in college hockey. Not including a 12-3-1 mark against Atlantic Hockey and a 2-0-0 record against D-I independents, the Big Ten sports a dismal 25-36-10 (.423) record against the other four major hockey conferences.

North Dakota’s Brock Boeser is tied with Denver’s Dylan Gambrell for the most points among first-year players in the NCHC, and both are among the best in the country. Here are the top five freshman point-getters in the nation:

1. Kyle Connor (Michigan): 24-27-51 in 28 games (1.82 points/game)
2. Colin White (Boston College): 17-22-39 in 30 games (1.30 points/game)
3. Max Letunov (Connecticut): 15-21-36 in 32 games (1.12 points/game)
4. Brock Boeser (North Dakota): 20-15-35 in 30 games (1.17 points/game)
4. Dylan Gambrell (Denver): 11-24-35 in 30 games (1.17 points/game)

Since 1999-2000, the only UND freshmen to score more goals than Boeser’s 20 are Zach Parise (26), T.J. Oshie (24), and Jonathan Toews (22). Travis Zajac also had 20 goals in his first year at North Dakota. Other Fighting Sioux freshman to score 20 or more goals in a season include Troy Murray (33 in 1980-81), Kevin Maxwell (31, 1978-79), Perry Berezan (31, 1983-84), Cary Eades (27, 1978-79), Ian Kallay (23, 1995-96), Garry Valk (23, 1987-88), Doug Smail (22, 1977-78), and Mark Taylor (22, 1976-77). Of the first twelve rookies to reach the twenty-goal plateau, ten went on to play in the NHL (Eades and Kallay were the exception).

During the 2015-16 campaign, Brad Berry’s squad is unbeaten (18-0-2) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, North Dakota has gone 66 straight games without a loss when leading after the first two periods. Amazingly, UND is 11th of 60 teams nationally in scoring offense and 2nd in scoring defense, notching 106 goals and allowing only 59 in 32 games this season. Nationally, only St. Cloud State (140 goals for/66 goals against in 32 games), Boston College (130 goals for/60 goals against in 32 games), Quinnipiac (121 goals for/63 goals against in 32 games), and Michigan (134 goals for/83 goals against in 28 games) boast a better scoring margin than North Dakota.

My article, the race for the Penrose Cup is down to North Dakota and St. Cloud State, may have been a bit premature, although it is looking likely that Denver (13-5-2-0, 41 points) will finish in third place behind the Huskies and Fighting Hawks, both of whom have a conference record of 15-4-1-1 (47 points). In the simplest terms, the Pioneers are two games back of the league leaders with four games remaining:

UND: at Omaha, vs. Western Michigan
SCSU: vs. Duluth, at Colorado College
DU: at Western Michigan, vs. Omaha

St. Cloud State and North Dakota were winners of the first two NCHC regular season league titles. Denver’s last league title came in 2010 (WCHA).

According to Jim Dahl of collegehockeyranked.com, Brad Berry’s team is a virtual lock to make their 14th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. In that same article, Dahl mentions that Omaha is unlikely to drop below 14th in the Pairwise rankings after this weekend’s action, regardless of the results. UND went 9-1-2 in non-conference games this season, with a home split with Wisconsin accounting for the only loss in twelve games. The Fighting Hawks are currently 4th in the Pairwise rankings, one of four NCHC teams (along with St. Cloud State, Denver, and Omaha) who would make the NCAAs if the season ended today. Miami (t-16th) and Minnesota-Duluth (25th) are within striking distance, with Western Michigan and Colorado College outside the top 30.

Last season, both North Dakota and Omaha advanced to the Frozen Four but neither team made the championship game. UND fell to Boston University 5-3, while the Mavericks were upended 4-1 by eventual national champion Providence.

The Hawks-Mavericks rivalry isn’t quite there yet, but as Tom Shatel (Omaha World Herald) writes, “UNO is ripe for rivalry with North Dakota green.”

Nebraska-Omaha Team Profile

Head Coach: Dean Blais (7th season at UNO, 129-110-25, .536)

Pairwise Ranking: 11th of 60 teams
National Rankings: #13/#13
This Season: 18-11-1 overall, 8-11-1-0 NCHC (t-4th)
Last Season: 20-13-6 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 12-8-4-3 NCHC (3rd)

Team Offense: 3.13 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.83 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 16.3% (21 of 129)
Penalty Kill: 82.5% (99 of 120)

Key Players: Junior forward Jake Guentzel (16-24-40), Junior F Austin Ortega (19-12-31), Junior F Justin Parizek (8-19-27), Sophomore F Jake Randolph (9-12-21), Sophomore D Luc Snuggerud (3-13-16), Junior D Ian Brady (3-10-13), Freshman G Evan Weninger (13-5-0, 2.31 GAA, .926 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (1st season at UND, 24-5-3, .797)

Pairwise Ranking: 4th of 60 teams
National Rankings: #4/#4
This Season: 24-5-3 overall, 15-4-1-1 NCHC (t-1st)
Last Season: 29-10-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.31 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.84 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 17.6% (22 of 125)
Penalty Kill: 87.0% (107 of 123)

Key Players: Senior F Drake Caggiula (15-18-33), Sophomore F Nick Schmaltz (4-25-29), Freshman F Brock Boeser (20-15-35), Senior F Bryn Chyzyk (9-8-17), Junior D Troy Stecher (6-15-21), Sophomore F Tucker Poolman (3-13-16), Junior D Paul LaDue (3-9-12), Sophomore G Cam Johnson (15-3-1, 1.54 GAA, .940 SV%, 5 SO)

By The Numbers:

Last meeting: January 16, 2016 (Grand Forks, ND). North Dakota spotted UNO the a 1-0 lead in the first period, but it wouldn’t last long. Drake Caggiula potted a power play goal with seven seconds remaining in the opening frame and UND added two goals in each of the next two periods to defeat the visiting Mavericks 5-1. Omaha won Friday’s opener 4-3 in overtime, helped along by Jake Randolph’s tally with one tick left on the second period clock.

Last meeting in Omaha: January 31, 2015. UND flipped the script from Friday’s opener as Brendan O’Donnell potted the game-winner two minutes into overtime to give North Dakota a 4-3 victory. One night earlier, Omaha forward Austin Ortega’s goal with 33 ticks remaining in the extra frame spoiled UND’s third period comeback. Five of the twelve goals in the series were scored on the power play.

Most memorable meeting: The game that UND fans will long remember is the outdoor game played at TD Ameritrade Park (Omaha, Nebraska) on February 9th, 2013. One day after winning a tight 2-1 contest indoors, North Dakota throttled UNO 5-2 on a sunny, melty afternoon. Mavericks netminder John Faulkner was pulled after allowing three goals on five shots in just ten minutes of game action. In my opinion, this hockey weekend solidified the notion that for UND hockey, it’s always a home game.

All-time: UND leads the all-time series 10-7-1 (.583), including a 5-3-0 (.625) record in games played in Omaha. North Dakota has picked up five wins and a tie in the last ten games between the schools, outscoring the Mavs 31-29 over that stretch. Four of the last six games have gone to overtime.

Game News and Notes

The Mavericks are 2-6-0 against teams in the top 15 of the Pairwise rankings (St. Cloud State, North Dakota, Denver) and 16-5-1 against other opponents. North Dakota is 8-4-0 against nationally-ranked teams this season. The Fighting Hawks have already clinched home ice for the first round of the NCHC playoffs and will host the first round for the 14th consecutive season, the longest active streak in men’s college hockey. Dean Blais, who was the head coach at UND from 1994-2004, collected 262 victories at North Dakota and led the school to national titles in 1997 and 2000. Omaha has scored eight shorthand goals this season (4th in the country); while UND has netted seven (7th). The Mavericks have only three seniors on their roster — defenseman Brian Cooper (captain) and forwards Tanner Lane and Aaron Pearce. The classmates will be honored during Saturday’s senior night.

Media Coverage

Friday’s game will not be televised, but Saturday’s rematch will be available on American Sports Network, Midco Sports Network, and WDAY’Z Extra. A high definition webcast of both games will be available to NCHC.tv subscribers. 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.

The Prediction

UND needs more than a split this weekend to keep pace with St. Cloud State, but positive results will be hard to come by, particularly on Friday night. At least one of these tilts will go to overtime, and North Dakota’s goaltending edge will be the difference. UND 3-2 (OT), 4-3.

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!

Weekend Preview: UND vs. Minnesota-Duluth

Heading into their December home series with UND, the Bulldogs had just gone through a four-game stretch during which they dismantled Colorado College and Western Michigan by a combined score of 24-2. Duluth went 9-for-21 (nearly 43 percent) with the man advantage over those two weekends and was converting at a 21.7% rate for the season. Furthermore, UMD had scored 48 goals over its first 15 contests (3.2 goals/game).

North Dakota blanked UMD on the weekend (3-0 each night) and killed all nine Bulldog power plays. Duluth has gone just 2 for 48 (4.2%) with the man advantage since December 11th and has just 26 goals in the past 13 games. Aside from a 5-2 victory at Miami on January 9th, the Bulldogs only impressive offensive output in the second half of the season came in consecutive home victories over Colorado College (5-3, 3-2) two weekends ago.

In short, Duluth is still controlling the puck and getting shots to the net; they just aren’t scoring. And to make matters worse for Scott Sandelin’s crew, North Dakota has the nation’s best penalty kill (52 of 54, 96.3%) since December 1st. On the season, UND’s penalty kill is at 87.1 percent, good for fifth in the nation.

Minnesota-Duluth was tabbed to win the NCHC this season after finishing fifth a year ago. The Bulldogs returned goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo (18-14-3, 2.30 goals-against average, .917 save percentage, one shutout) and 94 of their 115 goals (81.7%) from last season. Here’s what I wrote about UMD in my NCHC Season Preview and Predictions:

Duluth is a legitimate title contender this year, with almost all of the key pieces returning. The Bulldogs tightened up defensively last season and could be even better this time around. If UMD stays healthy, they will have their most successful season since 2011, when Scott Sandelin hung a national championship banner inside the DECC.

With those lofty expectations, Duluth’s season has to be seen as a disappointment. While it is true that UMD is still in the mix for home ice in the NCHC playoffs, the Bulldogs are currently tied for 22nd in the Pairwise rankings and will need to string some victories together (or win the NCHC Frozen Faceoff) to make the national tournament.

Junior forwards Dominic Toninato and Alex Iafallo have not been a huge factor for the Bulldogs this season after torching opponents last year. The pair combined for 51 points in 68 combined games last season but are stuck on 28 combined points (14 each) through the team’s first 28 contests this year. Toninato had a nice October, with two game-winning goals (vs. Minnesota in the second game of a home-and-home and at Massachusetts-Lowell), and his third period goal at Minnesota in the series opener effectively iced the game just 32 seconds after the Gophers cut the lead to one. Unfortunately, Toninato, who scored 16 goals in 2014-15, has lit the lamp just four times in the past 14 games dating back December 5th.

A big reason for UND’s success this season has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. During the 2015-16 campaign, Brad Berry’s squad is unbeaten (7-0-1) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past eight years, North Dakota is converting almost 90 percent of second intermission leads into victories and has just seven losses in the last 163 such situations (145-7-11).

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference as a whole has a solid record against other leagues once again this season, particularly against the Big Ten. North Dakota’s split against Wisconsin is currently the only league loss against the six teams in the conference that destroyed college hockey as we knew it.

NCHC overall record vs. other conferences: 48-26-10 (.631, best in the country)

NCHC record vs. Atlantic Hockey: 4-2-0 (.667)
NCHC record vs. Big Ten: 14-1-1 (.906)
NCHC record vs. ECAC: 2-7-0 (.286)
NCHC record vs. Hockey East: 5-12-7 (.354)
NCHC record vs. WCHA: 19-4-2 (.800)

The six teams in the Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin) are a combined 38-39-11 (.494) in non-league play, the third-worst winning percentage in college hockey. Not including a 12-3-1 mark against Atlantic Hockey and a 2-0-0 record against D-I independents, the Big Ten sports a dismal 24-36-10 (.414) record against the other four major hockey conferences.

North Dakota’s Brock Boeser is tied with Denver’s Dylan Gambrell for the most points among first-year players in the NCHC, and both are among the best in the country. Here are the top five freshman point-getters in the nation:

1. Kyle Connor (Michigan): 22-26-48 in 27 games (1.78 points/game)
2. Colin White (Boston College): 17-19-36 in 28 games (1.29 points/game)
3. Brock Boeser (North Dakota): 19-14-33 in 28 games (1.18 points/game)
4. Dylan Gambrell (Denver): 10-23-33 in 29 games (1.14 points/game)
5. Max Letunov (Connecticut): 15-18-33 in 30 games (1.10 points/game)

Since 1999-2000, the only UND freshmen to score more goals than Boeser’s 19 are Zach Parise (26), T.J. Oshie (24), Jonathan Toews (22), and Travis Zajac (20). Brady Murray also had 19 goals in his first year at North Dakota. Other Fighting Sioux freshman to score 20 or more goals in a season include Troy Murray (33 in 1980-81), Kevin Maxwell (31, 1978-79), Perry Berezan (31, 1983-84), Cary Eades (27, 1978-79), Ian Kallay (23, 1995-96), Garry Valk (23, 1987-88), Doug Smail (22, 1977-78), and Mark Taylor (22, 1976-77). Of the first twelve rookies to reach the twenty-goal plateau, ten went on to play in the NHL (Eades and Kallay were the exception).

Duluth’s top two freshman, forward Adam Johnson and defenseman Neal Pionk, have 12 points each.

UND netminder Cam Johnson racked up 120 of his nearly 300 consecutive minutes without allowing a goal (a UND record and the second-longest in the history of NCAA Division I men’s hockey) at Duluth, two of his four consecutive shutouts. The Hockey Commissioners’ Association and NCHC Player of the Month for the month of December had two rough outings last weekend at altitude, allowing eight goals on 54 shots (.889) in consecutive road losses to Denver. Johnson is currently second in the nation in both goals-against average (1.61) and save percentage (.937).

During the 2015-16 campaign, Brad Berry’s squad is unbeaten (18-0-2) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, North Dakota has gone 66 straight games without a loss when leading after the first two periods. Amazingly, UND is 8th nationally in scoring offense and 4th in scoring defense, notching 102 goals and allowing only 57 in 30 games this season. Nationally, only St. Cloud State (130 goals for/62 goals against in 30 games), Boston College (123 goals for/58 goals against in 30 games), Quinnipiac (113 goals for/56 goals against in 30 games), and Michigan (129 goals for/81 goals against in 27 games) boast a better scoring margin than North Dakota.

My article, the race for the Penrose Cup is down to North Dakota and St. Cloud State, may have been a bit premature. Denver’s home sweep of North Dakota has them just three points back of the league leaders, although the Pioneers (12-5-2-0, 38 points) have only five conference games remaining. The Huskies (13-4-1-1, 41 points) and the Fighting Hawks (13-2-1-1, 41 points) each have six:

UND: vs. Duluth, at Omaha, vs. Western Michigan
SCSU: at Omaha, vs. Duluth, at Colorado College
DU: vs. Colorado College (one game), at Western Michigan, vs. Omaha

St. Cloud State and North Dakota were winners of the first two NCHC regular season league titles. Denver’s last league title came in 2010 (WCHA).

Berry has his team in very good position for a 14th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. UND went 9-1-2 in non-conference games this season, with a home split with Wisconsin accounting for the only loss in twelve games. The Fighting Hawks are currently 3rd in the Pairwise rankings, one of four NCHC teams (along with St. Cloud State, Denver, and Omaha) who would make the NCAAs if the season ended today. Miami (20th) and Minnesota-Duluth (t-22nd) are within striking distance, with Western Michigan and Colorado College outside the top 25.

Last season, Boston University defeated both Minnesota-Duluth (3-2) and North Dakota (5-3) in the NCAA tournament on their way to the championship game. The Terriers fell 4-3 to the Providence Friars, one win short of a national title.

Minnesota-Duluth Team Profile

Head Coach: Scott Sandelin (15th season at UMD, 279-273-75, .505)

Pairwise Ranking: t-22nd of 60 teams
National Rankings: NR/NR
This Season: 11-12-5 overall, 7-8-3-1 NCHC (t-4th)
Last Season: 21-16-3 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional finalist, 12-9-3-0 NCHC (5th)

Team Offense: 2.64 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.18 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 14.5% (17 of 117) 2 of last 48 (used to be 15 of 69, 21.7%
Penalty Kill: 84.8% (89 of 105)

Key Players: Senior F Austin Farley (13-13-26), Senior F Tony Cameranesi (9-18-27), Junior F Alex Iafallo (6-8-14), Junior F Dominic Toninato (10-4-14), Senior D Andy Welinski (4-13-17), Freshman D Neal Pionk (2-10-12), Sophomore G Kasimir Kaskisuo (11-11-5, 2.01 GAA, .918 SV%, 4 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (1st season at UND, 22-5-3, .783)

Pairwise Ranking: 3rd of 60 teams
National Rankings: #4/#4
This Season: 22-5-3 overall, 13-4-1-1 NCHC (t-1st)
Last Season: 29-10-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.40 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.90 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 18.6% (22 of 118)
Penalty Kill: 87.1% (101 of 116)

Key Players: Senior F Drake Caggiula (15-17-32), Sophomore F Nick Schmaltz (4-25-29), Freshman F Brock Boeser (19-14-33), Senior F Bryn Chyzyk (9-8-17), Junior D Troy Stecher (6-15-21), Sophomore F Tucker Poolman (3-13-16), Junior D Paul LaDue (2-9-11), Sophomore G Cam Johnson (13-3-1, 1.61 GAA, .937 SV%, 5 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: December 12, 2015 (Duluth, MN). It was déjà vu all over again for the Bulldogs, as North Dakota continually frustrated the home squad. UND scored two second period power play goals just 31 seconds apart and Luke Johnson added a shorthanded empty netter late in the third as the Fighting Hawks blanked UMD 3-0 for the second consecutive night. Duluth outshot North Dakota 38-20 for the game (and 78-42 for the weekend) but could not score with the man advantage, going 0-for-4 one night after an 0-for-5 performance.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: January 10, 2015. #1 North Dakota rallied from a 4-1 defeat to earn a home split with a 5-2 win over the visiting Bulldogs. Senior Brendan O’Donnell led the way for the Green and White with a hat trick, while teammate Zane McIntyre made 41 of 43 saves and picked up an assist on Mark McMillan’s second period goal. UND would not lose again in regulation until March 7th at #5 Miami.

Most Important Meeting: March 22, 1984 (Lake Placid, NY) Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota met in the national semifinal game, with the Bulldogs defeating the Fighting Sioux 2-1 in overtime to advance to the championship. UND went on to defeat Michigan State 6-5 (OT) for third place, while Duluth fell to Bowling Green 5-4 in four overtimes, the longest championship game ever played.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 142-77-9 (.643), including a 78-33-3 (.697) record in games played in Grand Forks. The teams first met in 1954, with North Dakota winning the first ten games against “Duluth Branch” 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 7-2-1 (.750) in the last ten games between the teams, outscoring Duluth 36-23 over that stretch. UND has won three straight and five of the last six.

Game News and Notes

The Bulldogs are 1-9-4 against teams in the top 15 of the Pairwise rankings and 10-3-1 against other opponents. North Dakota is 8-4-0 against nationally-ranked teams this season. The Fighting Hawks can clinch home ice for the first round of the NCHC playoffs by capturing one or more points (via a win or a tie) this weekend. UND has hosted the first round for 13 consecutive seasons, the longest active streak in men’s college hockey. 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.

Media Coverage

Friday’s game will be shown live on CBS Sports Network, with the game also available on DirecTV 221 and DISH 158. Saturday’s rematch will be available on Midco Sports Network, FOX College Sports Central, DirecTV 608, and DISH 444. A high definition webcast of Saturday’s game will be available to NCHC.tv subscribers (Friday’s opener will not be streamed). 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.

The Prediction

North Dakota needs to rebound after two poor performances last weekend, and they will. The Fighting Hawks will blow the doors off of Duluth in the opener, with Saturday’s game going down to the wire. UND 4-1, 3-2 (OT).

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!

Weekend Preview: UND at Denver

In the NCHC, it is clear that Denver/North Dakota is at the top of the league rivalries. This weekend’s games will be the tenth and eleventh games played between the teams over the past three seasons, but the feud goes all the way back to Geoff Paukovitch’ illegal check on Sioux forward Robbie Bina during the 2005 WCHA Final Five.

Since that 2005 Final Five contest (a Denver victory), the two teams have met seven times in tournament play. Denver won the 2005 NCAA title with a victory over North Dakota and claimed a 2008 WCHA Final Five win as well. UND has won the four of the past five playoff games between the schools, including three consecutive victories in the WCHA Final Five (2010-2012) and the 2011 NCAA Midwest Regional final which sent the Fighting Sioux to the Frozen Four. The Pioneers throttled North Dakota 5-1 back last March when the two teams met in the third-place game at the 2015 NCHC Frozen Faceoff.

This weekend’s action will feature the top two rookies in the NCHC. North Dakota’s Brock Boeser currently leads the conference with 31 points, while Denver’s Dylan Gambrell is second with 26 points. Boeser is currently 22nd nationally in points among all scorers, while Gambrell is 50th. Here are the top five freshman point-getters in the nation:

1. Kyle Connor (Michigan): 20-24-44 in 25 games (1.76 points/game)
2. Colin White (Boston College): 16-19-35 in 26 games (1.35 points/game)
3. Brock Boeser (North Dakota): 18-13-31 in 26 games (1.19 points/game)
4. Max Letunov (Connecticut): 15-16-31 in 28 games (1.11 points/game)
5. Miles Wood (Boston College): 8-18-26 in 25 games (1.04 points/game)

Since 1999-2000, the only UND freshmen to score more goals than Boeser’s 18 are Zach Parise (26), T.J. Oshie (24), Jonathan Toews (22), Travis Zajac (20), and Brady Murray (19).

Denver goaltenders Tanner Jaillet (18 games played, 7-3-5, 2.52 GAA, .916 SV%, 2 SO) and Evan Cowley (12 games played, 6-5-0, 2.44 GAA, .917 SV%, 1 SO) have split time for the Pioneers this season, with Jaillet played just over sixty percent of the minutes in net. Both goalies started a game at Ralph Engelstad Arena back in December, and I expect each to play one game at Magness Arena this weekend.

Their counterpart in the UND net, sophomore Cam Johnson, began his stretch of nearly 300 consecutive minutes without allowing a goal (a UND record and the second-longest in the history of NCAA Division I men’s hockey) at home against Denver. The Hockey Commissioners’ Association and NCHC Player of the Month for the month of December had a couple of rough January outings, allowing four goals on 23 shots against Omaha and three goals on 11 shots against Colorado College in two consecutive Friday home starts. Johnson has bounced back with three outstanding games in a row (3-0-0, 0.67 goals against average, .975 save percentage, one shutout) and is currently first in the nation in both goals-against average (1.31) and save percentage (.948). Since returning November 27th after missing ten games due to injury, the Troy, Michigan native has collected a record of 12-1-0 with a GAA of 1.03, a SV% of .960, and five shutouts in fourteen starts.

During the 2015-16 campaign, Brad Berry’s squad is unbeaten (18-0-2) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, North Dakota has gone 66 straight games without a loss when leading after the first two periods. Amazingly, UND is 9th nationally in scoring offense and 2nd in scoring defense, notching 97 goals and allowing only 47 in 28 games this season. Nationally, only St. Cloud State (130 goals for/62 goals against in 30 games), Boston College (112 goals for/50 goals against in 28 games), and Quinnipiac (107 goals for/50 goals against in 28 games) boast a better scoring margin than North Dakota.

This season, the race for the Penrose Cup is down to North Dakota and St. Cloud State, the two teams tied at the top of the league standings. The Huskies (13-4-1-1, 41 points) are idle this weekend and have six league games remaining, while the Fighting Hawks (13-2-1-1, 41 points) have eight. SCSU and UND, winners of the first two NCHC regular season league titles, will not meet again in the regular season.

Berry has his team in very good position for a 14th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. UND went 9-1-2 in non-conference games this season, with a home split with Wisconsin accounting for the only loss in twelve games. The Fighting Hawks are currently 3rd in the Pairwise rankings, one of four NCHC teams (along with St. Cloud State, Omaha, and Denver) who would make the NCAAs if the season ended today. Miami (24th) and Minnesota-Duluth (t-25th) are within striking distance, with Western Michigan and Colorado College outside the top 25.

North Dakota has all 27 players on the roster available for the first time this season (13 players have missed a total of 62 games with injuries). UND’s potent top line of Drake Caggiula, Brock Boeser, and Nick Schmaltz has only been together for one game over the past two months but will appear on the ice at Magness this weekend. The only players not on the trip to Denver (due to travel restrictions) are four freshman: goalies Ryan Anderson and Matej Tomek, defenseman Danys Chartrand, and forward Mike Gornall. There will be tough lineup decisions for head coach Brad Berry, but that’s a luxury he hasn’t had much this year. There will be a defenseman (most likely Hayden Shaw) and two forwards (my guesses would be Joel Janatuinen and Trevor Olson) sitting and watching Friday’s opener and waiting for a chance to play, and the players on the ice will be well aware that any drop in performance will have them trading in their jersey for a business suit and a seat in the stands.

UND has a road record of 11-1-1 this season, with their only loss coming at St. Cloud State in November. North Dakota has already collected road sweeps against Colorado College, Michigan State, Minnesota-Duluth, and Western Michigan. After this weekend, the Fighting Hawks’ only remaining road series is against Omaha on February 26th and 27th.

Denver Team Profile

Head Coach: Jim Montgomery (3rd season at DU, 57-38-13, .588)

Pairwise Ranking: 12th of 60 teams
National Ranking: #13/#13
This Season: 13-8-5 overall, 9-5-2-0 NCHC (3rd)
Last Season: 24-14-2 overall (NCAA East Regional finalist), 13-10-1-1 NCHC (4th)
Last Ten Games: 6-1-3 overall, 6-1-1-0 NCHC (19 of 24 possible league points)

Team Offense: 2.88 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.58 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 16.7% (16 of 96)
Penalty Kill: 83.5% (66 of 79)

Key Players: Sophomore F Danton Heinen (10-10-20), Freshman F Dylan Gambrell (7-19-26), Junior F Trevor Moore (4-20-24), Senior F Gabe Levin (5-5-10), Senior F Quentin Shore (8-6-14), Junior D Will Butcher (5-14-19), Senior D Nolan Zajac (2-12-14), Sophomore G Tanner Jaillet (7-3-5, 2.52 GAA, .916 SV%, 2 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (1st season at UND, 22-3-3, .839)

Pairwise Ranking: 3rd of 60 teams
National Rankings: #2/#2
This Season: 22-3-3 overall, 13-2-1-1 NCHC (t-1st)
Last Season: 29-10-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.46 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.68 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.1% (21 of 110)
Penalty Kill: 86.4% (95 of 110)

Key Players: Senior F Drake Caggiula (15-15-30), Sophomore F Nick Schmaltz (3-24-27), Freshman F Brock Boeser (18-13-31), Senior F Bryn Chyzyk (9-8-17), Junior D Troy Stecher (5-14-19), Sophomore F Tucker Poolman (3-12-15), Junior D Paul LaDue (2-9-11), Sophomore G Cam Johnson (13-1-1, 1.31 GAA, .948 SV%, 5 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: December 5, 2015 (Grand Forks, ND). North Dakota forward Austin Poganski scored a shorthanded goal with one second remaining in the opening period and added a power play goal midway through the hockey game as UND blanked the visiting Pios 4-0. Cam Johnson stopped all 18 shots he faced and earned the first of four consecutive shutouts. UND also continually frustrated Denver in Friday’s opener and outscored the Pioneers 9-1 on the weekend to earn the home sweep.

Last Meeting in Denver: December 13, 2014. UND used goals by Nick Mattson, Nick Schmaltz, and Drake Caggiula and 32 saves from Zane McIntyre to down the homestanding Pioneers 3-1. Nolan Zajac scored the lone goal for DU at the nine minute mark of the third period to bring the Pios within two. Both teams went 0-3 with the man advantage. Denver won Friday’s opener 4-1 (with an empty netter scored at the 19:59 mark of period three).

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. But the game that stands out in recent memory as “the one that got away” was DU’s 1-0 victory over the Fighting Sioux in the 2004 NCAA West Regional final (Colorado Springs, CO). That North Dakota team went 30-8-4 on the season (Dean Blais’ last behind the UND bench) and featured one of the deepest rosters in the past twenty years: Brandon Bochenski, Zach Parise, Brady Murray, Colby Genoway, Drew Stafford and David Lundbohm up front; Nick Fuher, Matt Jones, Matt Greene, and Ryan Hale on defense; and a couple of goaltending stalwarts in Jordan Parise and Jake Brandt.

Last Ten Games: North Dakota has had the better of it lately, going 6-3-1 (.650) in the last ten meetings between the schools and outscoring Denver 31-22 over that span.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 142-120-9 (.540), although Denver owns a 70-53-3 (.567 advantage in games played at altitude. The teams first met in 1950.

Game News and Notes

The teams were dead even in five contests last season, with each team winning two games and the fifth ending in a tie. Denver sophomore forward Danton Heinen, last year’s NCHC Rookie of the Year and the reigning league overall scoring champion (16-29-45 in 40 games), is expected to sign with the NHL’s Boston Bruins after this season. DU has gone 0-4 against UND and St. Cloud State this season and 9-1-2 against the rest of the league. Brock Boeser (18-13-31 in 26 games) and Dylan Gambrell (7-19-26 in 26 games) are the top two rookie scorers in the NCHC.

Media Coverage

Friday’s game will be carried live on CBS Sports Network, while Saturday’s rematch will appear live on ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain. This series will not be available to NCHC.tv subscribers. 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.

The Prediction

UND hasn’t swept in Denver since 2003 and hasn’t been swept at Magness Arena since a pair of one-goal losses in 2009. That trend continues this weekend, with the homestanding Pios ready to exact some revenge for December’s shellacking. North Dakota will rebound on Saturday, with the recently reunited CBS line leading the way. DU 3-2, UND 5-1.

UND and SCSU: The race for the Penrose Cup

North Dakota’s road sweep at Western Michigan put them three points clear of St. Cloud State in the race for the Penrose Cup. Here are the upcoming opponents for each team with eight regular season games remaining:

North Dakota (13-2-1-1, 41 points)

BYE WEEK
at Denver
vs. Minnesota-Duluth
at Nebraska-Omaha
vs. Western Michigan

St. Cloud State (12-3-1-1, 38 points)

at Miami
BYE WEEK
at Nebraska-Omaha
vs. Minnesota-Duluth
at Colorado College

It is interesting to note that UND has two home series remaining while the Huskies have just one. The top two teams in the NCHC also share a pair of common opponents this month, with Duluth making a road trip through Grand Forks and St. Cloud on consecutive weekends and Omaha hosting both schools during that same time frame. With each league win worth three points, I would expect the Hawks and Huskies to pick up nine points each over those four games, leaving just four other conference games to decide the league title:

UND at Denver/vs. Western Michigan
SCSU at Miami/at Colorado College

North Dakota’s other two remaining opponents are definitely tougher than St. Cloud’s, despite the fact that the Huskies will play all four of their games on the road. I would expect SCSU to gain some ground in the league race (perhaps a point/weekend), but it won’t be quite enough to erase UND’s lead. If I had to guess, these would be my final standings:

1. North Dakota (59 league points)
2. St. Cloud State (58)
3. Denver (43)
4. Miami (31)
5. Nebraska-Omaha (30)
6. Minnesota-Duluth (28)
7. Western Michigan (21)
8. Colorado College (18)

In 2013-14, St. Cloud State won the league title with 48 points (15-6-3), while UND finished three points back at 15-9-0. Last season, North Dakota took the Penrose Cup with a record of 16-6-2 (50 points), six better than second place Miami. It is quite impressive that both of these teams will shatter those marks in year three of the NCHC.

If this is how the final standings look heading into the league tournament, which first-round matchup is most intriguing? Duluth at Denver? Omaha at Miami? And do you agree or disagree with my order of finish? Feel free to comment below, and thanks for reading!

Weekend Preview: UND vs. Western Michigan

Freshmen are leading the way for the Western Michigan Broncos, as 18 of the team’s first 58 goals (31 percent) have been scored by first-year players. Forward Griffen Molino is tied for third in the league scoring race with 18 points (7g, 11a), while classmate Colt Conrad (5-8-13) is tied for ninth. First-year blueliner Oliver Kaski has also chipped in with 11 points. Among other accolades, Molino was named the NCHC Rookie of the Month for December.

The Broncos are coming off of a home shellacking at the hands of SCSU, losing 8-2 and 7-3 to the first-place Huskies. St. Cloud State scored on six of ten power play opportunities, dropping WMU’s penalty kill rate to under 70 percent, easily the worst unit in the country.

The boys from Kalamazoo, Michigan like to play a tight, physical brand of hockey, but that has meant quite a bit of time in the penalty box. WMU has been in 109 shorthanded situations already this season (compared to 79 power play opportunities). The Broncos’ power play has scored 16 goals this year (converting at 20.3%), but their penalty killers have allowed 34 goals to the opposition. By comparison, North Dakota has scored twenty power play goals and allowed fifteen in an equal number of man-advantage and shorthanded situations (101 each).

This season, the race for the Penrose is down to North Dakota and St. Cloud State. The Huskies (12-3-1-1, 38 points) are idle this weekend and have eight league games remaining, while the Fighting Hawks (11-2-1-1, 35 points) have ten. SCSU and UND, winners of the first two NCHC regular season league titles, will not meet again in the regular season.

If North Dakota is to put two more victories in the books and pass the Huskies, they will need to do it with secondary scoring. Two Hobey Baker candidates, senior forward Drake Caggiula (15-15-30) and sophomore forward Nick Schmaltz (3-24-27), are expected to miss a second consecutive weekend of action. In their absence last weekend against Colorado College, the top five forwards in the lineup for North Dakota (Brock Boeser, Bryn Chyzyk, Rhett Gardner, Luke Johnson, and Austin Poganski) accounted for eight goals and eight assists. Boeser also scored the only goal in Friday’s shootout victory over the Tigers, UND’s first shootout win in the history of the NCHC.

WMU’s Lukas Hafner, a senior goaltender who played his junior hockey with the Cornwall Colts (CCHL), has the worst numbers of his four-year career (3.49 goals-against average and a save percentage of .901), but that has as much to do with the team in front of him as it does his own play. Hafner has the ability to steal games and was a force two seasons ago, posting a 2.06 GAA and a save percentage of .925. The Toledo, Ohio native also has six assists in his career.

His counterpart in the UND net, sophomore Cam Johnson, has had two rough outings in his last four starts after going nearly 300 consecutive minutes without allowing a goal (a UND record and the second-longest in the history of NCAA Division I men’s hockey) . The Hockey Commissioners’ Association and NCHC Player of the Month for the month of December allowed four goals on 23 shots against Omaha and three goals on 11 shots against Colorado College in two consecutive Friday home starts this month. Johnson was able to bounce back from both of those outings (making 46 of 48 stops in the two Saturday rematches) and is currently first in the nation in goals-against average (1.42) and tied for second in save percentage (.942).

During the 2015-16 campaign, Brad Berry’s squad is unbeaten (17-0-2) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, North Dakota has gone 65 straight games without a loss when leading after the first two periods. Amazingly, UND is 8th nationally in scoring offense and 3rd in scoring defense, notching 93 goals and allowing only 46 in 26 games this season. Nationally, only St. Cloud State (113 goals for/52 goals against in 26 games), Boston College (100 goals for/45 goals against in 24 games), and Quinnipiac (92 goals for/40 goals against in 25 games) boast a better scoring margin than North Dakota.

Berry has his team in very good position for a 14th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. UND went 9-1-2 in non-conference games this season, with a home split with Wisconsin accounting for the only loss in twelve games. The Fighting Hawks are currently 3rd in the Pairwise rankings, one of four NCHC teams (along with St. Cloud State, Omaha, and Denver) who would make the NCAAs if the season ended today. Minnesota-Duluth (19th) and Miami (t-20th) are close, with Western Michigan and Colorado College outside the top 25.

Western Michigan Team Profile

Head Coach: Andy Murray (5th season at WMU, 80-73-27, .519)

Pairwise Ranking: t-30th of 60 teams
National Rankings: NR/NR
This Season: 7-14-3 overall, 4-9-1-1 NCHC (7th)
Last Season: 14-18-5 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 6-13-5-4 NCHC (7th)

Team Offense: 2.42 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.96 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.3% (16 of 79)
Penalty Kill: 68.8% (75 of 109)

Key Players: Freshman F Griffen Molino (7-11-18), Junior F Sheldon Dries (10-4-14), Freshman F Colt Conrad (5-8-13), Senior F Nolan LaPorte (5-6-11), Freshman D Oliver Kaski (4-7-11), Junior D Chris Dienes (2-8-10), Senior G Lukas Hafner (5-9-3, 3.49 GAA, .901 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (1st season at UND, 20-3-3, .827)

Pairwise Ranking: 3rd of 60 teams
National Rankings: #2/#2
This Season: 20-3-3 overall, 11-2-1-1 NCHC (2nd)
Last Season: 29-10-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.58 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.77 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.8% (20 of 101)
Penalty Kill: 85.1% (86 of 101)

Key Players: Freshman F Brock Boeser (15-12-27), Senior F Bryn Chyzyk (9-7-16), Junior forward Luke Johnson (7-7-14), Sophomore F Austin Poganski (6-9-15), Sophomore D Tucker Poolman (3-11-14), Junior D Troy Stecher (5-14-19), Junior D Paul LaDue (2-8-10), Sophomore G Cam Johnson (11-1-1, 1.42 GAA, .942 SV%, 4 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: February 21, 2015 (Kalamazoo, MI). Western Michigan scored two extra-attacker goals in the last four minutes of the third period to knot the game at two, but Drake Caggiula sent the home fans home unhappy with a goal at 3:31 of overtime. Zane McIntyre made 34 of 36 saves for the Green and White, who also won Friday’s contest by a score of 3-1. The Broncos’ lone goal in the opener came with 33 seconds remaining in the game, also with the goalie pulled. Yes, that’s right, all three of WMU’s goals on the weekend came with an extra attacker on the ice.

Most Important Meeting: March 24, 2012 (St. Paul, MN). North Dakota upended Western Michigan 3-1 in the NCAA West Regional semifinal. Brock Nelson had two points, including an empty net goal with 25 seconds remaining that sent UND to the regional finals against Minnesota. Aaron Dell made 24 saves for the Green and White. The Broncos, who have played at the Division I level since 1975-76, have five NCAA tournament appearances but have not been in the national tournament since 2012.

A Trip Down Memory Lane: Saturday, March 22nd (Minneapolis, MN). North Dakota faced a must-win situation in the 3rd place game at the inaugural NCHC Frozen Faceoff, and did not disappoint the partisan crowd. The Green and White rolled to a 5-0 victory behind two first period goals from Conner Gaarder. UND netminder Zane Gothberg made 25 saves for the shutout, and Dave Hakstol’s crew played the waiting game for several more hours before discovering that they had indeed made the NCAA tournament for the 13th consecutive season.

All-time Series: In the short history between the schools, UND has won eleven of the twelve games, outscoring the Broncos 51-22. WMU’s lone victory over North Dakota was a 2-1 road win on March 8th, 2014. The teams first met in 1997.

Game News and Notes

UND forward Luke Johnson has collected three goals and four assists in seven career games against Western Michigan but was held off the scoresheet in last February’s road sweep. North Dakota is 9-1-1 on the road this season, while the Broncos are 6-2-1 at Lawson Ice Arena, suffering their first two home defeats of the year at the hands of St. Cloud State last weekend. UND has never lost in Kalamazoo (6-0-0). The Fighting Hawks and Broncos will also meet at Ralph Engelstad Arena on March 4th and 5th, the last two games of the regular season.

Media Coverage

Friday’s opener will not be televised, but Saturday’s contest will be shown live on American Sports Network, MidcoSN2, TSN2 (Canada), and WDAY’Z Extra. A high definition webcast of the games is also available to NCHC.tv subscribers. 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.

The Prediction

North Dakota can take a huge step forward in the league race with two NCHC victories this weekend. It won’t be easy, but UND showed last weekend that they can score without Caggiula and Schmaltz in the lineup. UND 4-1, 3-2.

Weekend Preview: UND vs. Colorado College

Mike Haviland’s second year behind the Colorado College bench has already produced better results than year one. Last season, the Tigers were historically bad, winning just twice (2-19-3-1) in 24 league games. This year, CC already has three conference victories (a December home sweep against Miami and a road split at St. Cloud State two weekends ago), and Haviland’s squad has posted a 5-4-0 overall record in the past nine games after opening the season with thirteen consecutive losses.

The feeling among the Tiger faithful is that new blood behind the bench will eventually translate into new life on the ice, and that has certainly been true since the end of November. Haviland is new to Division I hockey, but he was named the AHL coach of the year in 2006-07 (Norfolk Admirals) and served as an assistant coach with the Chicago Blackhawks for four seasons (2008-12), winning a Stanley Cup in 2010. He was most recently head coach for the AHL’s Hershey Bears.

UND and Colorado College met six times last season (twice in Colorado Springs), with North Dakota winning all six games and outscoring the Tigers 25-10. Without those six victories, UND’s record last year would have looked far less impressive at 23-10-3 (.681). This season, Brad Berry’s first trip to Colorado Springs as head coach resulted in a pair of victories (5-2, 2-0).

This weekend’s games are critical for UND’s Penrose Cup hopes. Last year, North Dakota went 10-2-0 against the bottom four teams in the league (Colorado College, Western Michigan, St. Cloud State, and Minnesota-Duluth) en route to a 16-6-2 conference mark and the NCHC regular season title. A second reward for the Green and White was a first-round playoff series against Colorado College, the 13th time in a row that UND hosted the opening round of the conference tournament. The Green and White dispatched the Tigers in two games (5-1, 3-2) and advanced to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff.

This season, the race for the Penrose is down to North Dakota and St. Cloud State. The Huskies (10-3-1-1) have ten league games remaining, while the Fighting Hawks (10-2-0-0) have twelve. SCSU and UND, winners of the first two NCHC regular season league titles, will not meet again in the regular season.

If North Dakota is to put victories in the books and keep pace with the Huskies, they will need to do it with secondary scoring. Two Hobey Baker candidates, senior forward Drake Caggiula (15-15-30) and sophomore forward Nick Schmaltz (3-24-27), are expected to miss this weekend’s action. Freshman Brock Boeser (15-10-25) will be paired with new linemates but will need to finish his chances, as will senior forward Bryn Chyzyk (8-5-13). Other likely contributors among the forward group include junior Luke Johnson, sophomore Austin Poganski, and freshmen Shane Gersich and Rhett Gardner, all of whom have already netted five goals.

Colorado College has seen a resurgence in their offensive numbers since assembling a forward line of Hunter Fejes, Sam Rothstein, and Luc Gerdes eight games ago. The three upperclassmen (Fejes is a senior; the other two are juniors) have combined for 11 goals and 15 assists over the past four weekends, and the Tigers have averaged 2.88 goals per game over that same stretch, a far cry from the 1.57 goals/game over the first 14 games of the season.

Another storyline for the boys from Colorado Springs has been the play of freshman netminder Jacob Nehama. The Allen, Texas native has all five of the Tigers’ victories this season (junior Tyler Marble is 0-7-0), and those five wins have all come in his last eight starts.

His counterpart in the UND net, sophomore Cam Johnson, has been absolutely incredible since returning from injury in late November. Johnson leads the nation in both goals-against average (1.28) and save percentage (.949). The Flint, Michigan native went nearly 300 consecutive minutes without allowing a goal (a UND record and the second-longest in the history of NCAA Division I men’s hockey) and was named both the Hockey Commissioners’ Association and NCHC Player of the Month for the month of December.

Johnson’s play, equal parts steady and spectacular, has meant that North Dakota has been able to hold leads. During the 2015-16 campaign, Brad Berry’s squad is unbeaten (16-0-1) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, North Dakota has gone 63 straight games without a loss when leading after the first two periods. Amazingly, UND is 11th nationally in scoring offense and 3rd in scoring defense, notching 83 goals and allowing only 40 in 24 games this season. Nationally, only Quinnipiac (92 goals for/40 goals against in 25 games) boasts a better scoring margin than North Dakota.

Berry has his team in very good position for a 14th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. UND went 9-1-2 in non-conference games this season, with a home split with Wisconsin accounting for the only loss in twelve games. The Fighting Hawks are currently 3rd in the Pairwise rankings, one of four NCHC teams (along with St. Cloud State, Omaha, and Denver) who would make the NCAAs if the season ended today. Minnesota-Duluth sits squarely on the bubble (tied with Minnesota at 17), with Western Michigan, Miami, and Colorado College outside the top 25.

Colorado College Team Profile

Head Coach: Mike Haviland (2nd season at CC, 11-43-3, .219)

Pairwise Ranking: t-52nd of 60 teams
National Rankings: NR/NR
This Season: 5-17-0 overall, 3-9-0-0 NCHC (8th)
Last Season: 6-26-3 overall, 2-19-3-1 NCHC (8th)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 2.05 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.59 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 15.4% (14 of 91)
Penalty Kill: 81.1% (73 of 90)

Key players: Senior F Hunter Fejes (9-5-14), Junior F Luc Gerdes (4-9-13), Junior F Sam Rothstein (5-7-12), Senior F Cody Bradley (5-4-9), Sophomore D Teemu Kivihalme (3-9-12), Freshman D Andrew Farny (2-7-9), Freshman G Jacob Nehama (5-10-0, 3.37 GAA, .905 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (1st season at UND, 19-3-2, .833)

Pairwise Ranking: 3rd of 60 teams
National Rankings: #2/#2
This Season: 19-3-2 overall, 10-2-0-0 NCHC (2nd)
Last Season: 29-10-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.46 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.67 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.7% (19 of 92)
Penalty Kill: 85.1% (80 of 94)

Key Players: Freshman F Brock Boeser (15-10-25), Senior F Bryn Chyzyk (8-5-13), Junior forward Luke Johnson (5-6-11), Sophomore F Austin Poganski (5-6-11), Sophomore D Tucker Poolman (3-11-14), Junior D Troy Stecher (5-14-19), Junior D Paul LaDue (2-6-8), Sophomore G Cam Johnson (10-1-1, 1.28 GAA, .949 SV%, 4 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: October 31, 2015 (Colorado Springs, CO). The Tigers could not solve UND’s Matt Krynkiw, as the junior netminder stopped all 29 shots he faced (earning his second shutout) and propelled North Dakota to a 2-0 victory (goals by Christian Wolanin and Shane Gersich). On the weekend, the Green and White put 79 shots on goal and scored seven times (UND won 5-2 in Friday’s opener).

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: March 14, 2015. Senior forward Connor Gaarder potted the game-winner with under 90 seconds remaining in the hockey game to propel UND to a 3-2 victory over the visiting Tigers. Colorado College forward Luc Gerdes scored a wraparound goal at 6:10 of the third period to knot the game at 2. CC outshot the Green and White 33-31, but Zane McIntyre was up to the challenge, making 31 saves in the victory. North Dakota won Friday’s opener by a much more comfortable 5-1 margin.

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, 151-80-10 (.647), including a blistering 97-21-6 (.806) mark in Grand Forks. The teams first met in 1948.

Last Ten: North Dakota has won nine of the last ten meetings between the teams, outscoring CC 38-18 over that span. The only Tigers victory was an overtime win in the 2014 NCHC quarterfinals.18 of the last 21 games have been decided by two goals or less.

Game News and Notes

In first periods this season, North Dakota has outscored opponents 27¬-13 while Colorado College has been outscored 22-8. These two coaching staffs coached against each other at the AHL and NHL levels prior to the NCHC. Only six teams in UND men’s hockey history have won 20 games before the calendar turned to February. With four January games remaining on the schedule, Brad Berry currently has his team’s record at 19-3-2.

Media Coverage

Both games this weekend will be televised on Midco Sports Network. Saturday’s contest will also be featured on FOX College Sports Central. A high definition webcast of the games is also available to NCHC.tv subscribers. 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.

The Prediction

If UND was healthy, I would have the home team winning by three goals each night, but that’s obviously not the case. Question marks abound: How will Brad Berry shuffle the lines to get the most out of his forwards? Will North Dakota’s top four defensemen be able to handle the Rothstein line? How will freshman goaltender Jacob Nahama respond in his first Ralph Engelstad Arena appearance? I’m giving the Fighting Hawks the edge in both contests, but these games will be much closer than most people expect. UND 3-2, 3-1.

Weekend Preview: UND vs. Omaha

Nebraska-Omaha has finally figured out who will replace Ryan Massa in net (the four-year starter logged over 4000 career minutes between the pipes for the Mavs and was a key component in their Frozen Four run a year ago). In twelve starts, freshman netminder Evan Weninger ranks second in the league in save percentage (.942) and third in goals-against average, allowing less than two goals per game.

Fortunately for North Dakota, Weninger will not be in uniform this weekend due to an injury. Surprisingly, Mavericks’ head coach Dean Blais has elected to give freshman Alex Blankenburg his first career start in Friday’s opener rather than tab junior Kirk Thompson, who has performed capably in eight starts this season. Thompson has amassed a record of 4-3-1 with a 2.75 goals-against average and an .889 save percentage. Blankenburg has no official NCAA statistics (of course) and is listed at 5-8 and 162 pounds.

His counterpart in the UND net, sophomore Cam Johnson, has been absolutely incredible since returning from injury in late November. Johnson has won eight consecutive games (four by shutout) and allowed a total of four goals over that stretch (one each in the other four victories). The Flint, Michigan native went nearly 300 consecutive minutes without allowing a goal (a UND record and the second-longest in the history of NCAA Division I men’s hockey) and was named both the Hockey Commissioners’ Association and NCHC Player of the Month for the month of December.

Johnson’s play, equal parts steady and spectacular, has meant that North Dakota has been able to hold leads. During the 2015-16 campaign, Brad Berry’s squad is unbeaten (11-0-1) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, North Dakota has gone 62 straight games without a loss when leading after the first two periods. Amazingly, UND is 11th nationally in scoring offense 2nd in scoring defense, notching 75 goals and allowing only 35 in 22 games this season. By comparison, UNO has outscored opponents 66-47 over their first 20 games. Nationally, only Quinnipiac (87 goals for/35 goals against in 23 games) boasts a better scoring margin than North Dakota.

Omaha was swept by visiting Denver last weekend, the second sweep the Mavericks have suffered this season (UNO also lost a pair of games at Western Michigan in late October). Omaha’s first period on Friday night will set the tone for the entire weekend, as head coach Dean Blais will have his squad prepared to rebound from their first two home losses of the season.

Berry has his team in very good position for a 14th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. UND went 9-1-2 in non-conference games this season, with a home split with Wisconsin accounting for the only loss in twelve games. The Fighting Hawks are currently 2nd in the Pairwise rankings, one of four NCHC teams (along with Omaha, St. Cloud State, and Denver) who would make the NCAA’s if the season ended today. Minnesota-Duluth sits squarely on the bubble at 16, with Western Michigan, Miami, and Colorado College outside the top 25.

Omaha will host North Dakota in late February for UND’s first games in the newly-opened Baxter Arena (capacity 7,898). With hockey back on the UNO campus, North Dakota can expect a raucous, rowdy atmosphere next month. Brad Berry has his squad playing well on the road, going 10-1-2 in the first half of the season. No team in the country has more road wins than North Dakota.

UND’s next home victory will mark 200 home wins since the current Ralph Engelstad Arena opened prior to the 2001-2002 season. North Dakota is 199-73-34 (.706) all-time at the Palace on the Prairie, including an 8-1-1 record this season. The team will be wearing green jerseys at home for the first time in the Ralph, and a Green Out is planned for Friday’s opener. Fans are encouraged to wear green to match and support the home squad. NCHC teams will wear dark jerseys at home and white jerseys on the road for the second half of the season (conference games only).

Nebraska-Omaha Team Profile

Head Coach: Dean Blais (7th season at UNO, 125-104-25, .541)

Pairwise Ranking: 7th of 60 teams
National Rankings: #9/#9
This Season: 14-5-1 overall, 4-5-1-0 NCHC (5th)
Last Season: 20-13-6 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 12-8-4-3 NCHC (3rd)

Team Offense: 3.30 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.35 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 17.9% (14 of 78)
Penalty Kill: 87.5% (70 of 80)

Key Players: Junior forward Jake Guentzel (10-17-27), Junior F Austin Ortega (16-8-24), Junior F Justin Parizek (6-15-21), Sophomore F Jake Randolph (8-9-17), Sophomore D Luc Snuggerud (2-6-8), Junior D Ian Brady (1-5-6), Freshman G Evan Weninger (10-2-0, 1.99 GAA, .942 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (1st season at UND, 18-2-2, .864)

Pairwise Ranking: 2nd of 60 teams
National Rankings: #1/#2
This Season: 18-2-2 overall, 9-1-0-0 NCHC (t-1st)
Last Season: 29-10-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.41 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.59 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 17.9% (15 of 84)
Penalty Kill: 84.7% (72 of 85)

Key Players: Senior F Drake Caggiula (14-15-29), Sophomore F Nick Schmaltz (3-23-26), Freshman F Brock Boeser (13-8-21), Senior F Bryn Chyzyk (8-3-11), Sophomore D Tucker Poolman (3-11-14), Junior D Troy Stecher (3-12-15), Freshman D Christian Wolanin (3-6-9), Sophomore G Cam Johnson (9-0-1, 1.07 GAA, .957 SV%, 4 SO)

By The Numbers:

Last meeting: January 31, 2015 (Omaha, NE). UND flipped the script from Friday’s opener as Brendan O’Donnell potted the game-winner two minutes into overtime to give North Dakota a 4-3 victory. One night earlier, Omaha forward Austin Ortega’s goal with 33 ticks remaining in the extra frame spoiled UND’s third period comeback. Five of the twelve goals in the series were scored on the power play.

Last meeting in Grand Forks: November 29, 2014. Zane McIntyre made 32 saves as the Green and White built a 3-1 lead and held on for a 3-2 home victory. North Dakota senior forward Mark McMillan scored a second period goal that withstood a lengthy review, and senior captain Stephane Pattyn potted a shorthanded tally late in the middle frame for the game winning goal. UND and UNO skated to a 2-2 tie in Friday’s opener, but Nebraska-Omaha won the shootout for the extra league point.

Most memorable meeting: The game that UND fans will long remember is the outdoor game played at TD Ameritrade Park (Omaha, Nebraska) on February 9th, 2013. One day after winning a tight 2-1 contest indoors, North Dakota throttled UNO 5-2 on a sunny, melty afternoon. Mavericks netminder John Faulkner was pulled after allowing three goals on five shots in just ten minutes of game action.

All-time: UND leads the all-time series 9-6-1 (.594), including a 4-3-1 (.563) record in games played in Grand Forks. North Dakota has picked up six wins and a tie in the last ten games between the schools, outscoring the Mavs 30-27 over that stretch. Three of the last four games have gone to overtime.

Game News and Notes

Dean Blais, who was the head coach at UND from 1994-2004, collected 262 victories at North Dakota and led the school to national titles in 1997 and 2000. Senior forward Drake Caggiula has appeared in 144 games in his North Dakota career, tied with Minnesota State’s Bryce Gervais for the most among all active NCAA Division I men’s hockey players. Prior to last weekend’s sweep at the hands of Denver, UNO had gone 8-1-1 in its previous ten games. Both UND and Omaha are tied for second in the nation with six shorthanded goals, one behind first-place Penn State. North Dakota has not lost since November 21st, a string of eight consecutive victories.

Media Coverage

Both games this weekend will be televised on Midco Sports Network. Saturday’s contest will also be featured on FOX College Sports Central. A high definition webcast of the games is also available to NCHC.tv subscribers. 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.

The Prediction

Here are the key questions for this series: Which defensive pairing will Brad Berry match up against Jake Guentzel’s line (with RW Austin Ortega and whoever plays left wing), and will those blueliners be effective? How will the CBS line (Caggiula, Brock Boesser, and Nick Schmaltz) fare against a rookie netminder making his first start in a hostile environment? And how will the officials call a game that is certain to be hard-nosed, gritty, and physical? The fans are in for a treat this weekend, and both teams will leave with points. 2-2 tie (North Dakota wins the shootout), UND 4-1.

Weekend Preview: UND vs. Minnesota-Duluth

Minnesota-Duluth just might be the biggest fan of 3-on-3 overtime in the entire league.

The Bulldogs took the extra point at home against #8 Denver on November 14th to break a four-game losing streak. During those four losses, UMD was outscored 17-7. Since that night, the first instance of 3-on-3 in the NCHC, Scott Sandelin’s club has won four straight, outscoring Colorado College and Western Michigan by a combined margin of 24-2.

North Dakota has also put together an impressive stretch of hockey over the past two weekends. UND has back-to-back sweeps of Michigan State and Denver, scoring 16 goals and allowing three in those four games combined.

UND’s situation between the pipes has solidified after a rocky beginning. In 2015-16, head coach Brad Berry expected his goaltenders to be sophomore Cam Johnson and freshman Matej Tomek, but both of them went down with injuries. The job was left to junior walk-on (and practice goalie) Matt Hrnkiw, and he responded by keeping North Dakota in games and racking up wins until UND could get healthy again. Johnson has since reclaimed the crease and played very well over the past two weekends against Michigan State and Denver, stopping 97 of 100 shots and allowing only a single goal in three straight games before posting his first career shutout last Saturday night against the Pioneers. For his efforts, Johnson was named NCHC Goaltender of the Week for the second consecutive week and for the third time this season.

Minnesota-Duluth was tabbed to win the NCHC this season after finishing fifth a year ago. The Bulldogs returned goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo (18-14-3, 2.30 goals-against average, .917 save percentage, one shutout) and 94 of their 115 goals (81.7%) from last season. Here’s what I wrote about UMD in my NCHC Season Preview and Predictions:

Duluth is a legitimate title contender this year, with almost all of the key pieces returning. The Bulldogs tightened up defensively last season and could be even better this time around. If UMD stays healthy, they will have their most successful season since 2011, when Scott Sandelin hung a national championship banner inside the DECC.

With those lofty expectations, Duluth’s start has to be seen as a disappointment. While it is true that UMD picked up four big league wins over the past two weekends, those victories were against Western Michigan and Colorado College. The Bulldogs were swept at Omaha and managed to pick up just two of six conference points at home while hosting Denver. If Scott Sandelin’s club expects to make a push for the NCHC title, they’ll need to do better on home ice, and it starts this weekend against North Dakota.

Junior forwards Dominic Toninato and Alex Iafallo have not been a huge factor for the Bulldogs lately but could heat up in the second half. The pair combined for 51 points in 68 combined games last season but are stuck on 15 combined points through the team’s first fifteen contests this year. Toninato had a nice October, with two game-winning goals (vs. Minnesota in the second game of a home-and-home and at Massachusetts-Lowell), and his third period goal at Minnesota in the series opener effectively iced the game just 32 seconds after the Gophers cut the lead to one. Unfortunately, Toninato, who scored 16 goals in 2014-15, has lit the lamp just three times in the past nine games dating back to Halloween night.

Toninato’s line (he has been skating with Iafallo and freshman Adam Johnson) did put together a nice weekend against Western Michigan, posting four goals and an assist. All three scored in Friday’s 7-0 win, and Johnson added a goal on Saturday for the first two goals of his NCAA career.

North Dakota forwards Drake Caggiula, Brock Boeser, and Nick Schmaltz have been everything for the Green and White over the past eight games, notching 43 points (19 goals, 24 assists) and posting a combined plus-48 rating. During that stretch, the ‘CBS’ line has accounted for over 60 percent of UND’s goals. Sophomore forward Austin Poganski (5-4-9) did score three goals last weekend against Denver, but Duluth is deeper at forward than UND right now. Secondary scoring will need to come from senior Bryn Chyzyk (6-3-9), junior Luke Johnson (3-4-7), and sophomore Johnny Simonson (2-6-8) if North Dakota is to stay on top of the league race.

Another big reason for UND’s success this season has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. During the 2015-16 campaign, Brad Berry’s squad is unbeaten (7-0-1) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past eight years, North Dakota is converting almost 90 percent of second intermission leads into victories and has just seven losses in the last 163 such situations (145-7-11).

North Dakota head coach Brad Berry has his team in very good position for a 14th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. UND’s record outside the NCHC now sits at 7-1-2, with only a January home series against Alabama-Huntsville (3-9-2, 2-8-2 WCHA) remaining on the non-conference schedule. The Fighting Hawks are currently 5th in the Pairwise rankings, one of four NCHC teams (along with Omaha, St. Cloud State, and Denver) who would make the NCAA’s if the season ended today. Brad Berry’s .833 winning percentage (14-2-2) is tied with Bob Peters (15-3-0) for the best 18-game start in program history.

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference as a whole has a solid record against other leagues once again this season, particularly against the Big Ten. North Dakota’s split against Wisconsin is currently the only league loss against the six teams in the conference that destroyed college hockey as we knew it.

NCHC overall record vs. other conferences: 34-21-7 (.605, second best in the country)

NCHC record vs. Atlantic Hockey: 4-2-0 (.667)
NCHC record vs. Big Ten: 14-1-1 (.906)
NCHC record vs. ECAC: 1-6-0 (.143)
NCHC record vs. Hockey East: 5-11-4 (.350)
NCHC record vs. WCHA: 10-1-2 (.846)

The six teams in the Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin) are a combined 29-32-11 (.479) in non-league play, the second-worst winning percentage in college hockey (Atlantic Hockey, 10-40-3, .217). Not including a 12-2-1 mark against Atlantic Hockey and a 2-0-0 record against D-I independents, the Big Ten sports a dismal 15-30-10 (.364) record against the other four major hockey conferences.

Last season, Boston University defeated both Minnesota-Duluth (3-2) and North Dakota (5-3) in the NCAA tournament on their way to the championship game. The Terriers fell 4-3 to the Providence Friars, one win short of a national title.

Minnesota-Duluth Team Profile

Head Coach: Scott Sandelin (15th season at UMD, 275-266-73, .507)
National Rankings: #17/NR
This Season: 7-5-3 overall, 4-3-1-1 NCHC (3rd)
Last Season: 21-16-3 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional finalist, 12-9-3-0 NCHC (5th)

Team Offense: 3.20 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.07 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 21.7% (15 of 69)
Penalty Kill: 85.5% (47 of 55)

Key Players: Senior F Austin Farley (10-9-19), Senior F Tony Cameranesi (5-12-17), Junior F Alex Iafallo (2-6-8), Junior F Dominic Toninato (6-1-7), Senior D Andy Welinski (2-8-10), Freshman D Neal Pionk (1-7-8), Sophomore G Kasimir Kaskisuo (7-5-3, 1.82 GAA, .928 SV%, 4 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (1st season at UND, 14-2-2, .833)
National Rankings: #4/#4
This Season: 14-2-2 overall, 7-1-0-0 NCHC (1st)
Last Season: 29-10-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.56 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.89 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 17.9% (12 of 67)
Penalty Kill: 81.9% (59 of 72)

Key Players: Senior F Drake Caggiula (13-12-25), Sophomore F Nick Schmaltz (3-21-24), Freshman F Brock Boeser (11-8-19), Senior F Bryn Chyzyk (6-3-9), Sophomore D Tucker Poolman (1-10-11), Junior D Troy Stecher (3-10-13), Freshman D Christian Wolanin (3-5-8), Sophomore G Cam Johnson (5-0-1, 1.53 GAA, .934 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: January 10, 2015 (Grand Forks, ND). #1 North Dakota rallied from a 4-1 defeat to earn a home split with a 5-2 win over the visiting Bulldogs. Senior Brendan O’Donnell led the way for the Green and White with a hat trick, while teammate Zane McIntyre made 41 of 43 saves and picked up an assist on Mark McMillan’s second period goal. UND would not lose again in regulation until March 7th at #5 Miami.

Last Meeting in Duluth: February 22, 2014. North Dakota blitzed the Bulldogs 6-2 to complete the road sweep (UND won 3-0 in Friday’s opener). Freshman defenseman Paul LaDue scored two power play goals while Rocco Grimaldi, Mitch MacMillan, Dillon Simpson, and Jordan Schmaltz all registered two-point nights. The Green and White went 3-for-4 with the man advantage and held Duluth scoreless on five power play opportunities.

Most Important Meeting: March 22, 1984 (Lake Placid, NY) Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota met in the national semifinal game, with the Bulldogs defeating the Fighting Sioux 2-1 in overtime to advance to the championship. UND went on to defeat Michigan State 6-5 (OT) for third place, while Duluth fell to Bowling Green 5-4 in four overtimes, the longest championship game ever played.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 140-77-9 (.639), including a 57-39-5 (.589) record in games played in Duluth. 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 6-3-1 (.650) in the last ten games between the teams, outscoring Duluth 37-29 over that stretch.

Game News and Notes

The Bulldogs are 1-4-1 against teams in the top 15 of the Pairwise rankings. The two schools did not play in Duluth last season. Senior forward Drake Caggiula became the 85th member of UND’s Century Club (100 or more career points) last weekend. Caggiula has appeared in 140 games in his North Dakota career, tied with Minnesota State’s Bryce Gervais for the most among all active NCAA Division I men’s hockey players. 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.

Media Coverage

Both games this weekend will be televised on Midco Sports Network (channel 322 in Grand Forks). A high definition webcast of the games is also available to NCHC.tv subscribers. 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.

The Prediction

North Dakota is playing better hockey than anyone else in the country right now and could very well sweep this weekend at the DECC. However, the Bulldogs have an edge in combined specialty teams and a proven netminder in sophomore Kasimir Kaskisuo (25 career victories). I’ve got a feeling UMD will rally on Saturday night to earn a hard-fought split. UND 4-1, UMD 3-2.