Weekend Preview: UND vs. Robert Morris

If Robert Morris steals a game at Ralph Engelstad Arena this weekend, it will be a monumental upset. To date, the Colonials have played the softest schedule in men’s hockey. A weaker schedule than Bentley, American International, Sacred Heart, and all the rest.

By contrast, North Dakota has played the nation’s toughest slate of games and are unbeaten in their last seven (6-0-1). The Fighting Sioux boast the nation’s winningest goaltender (Aaron Dell, 13 victories) and goal scoring leader (Matt Frattin, 18 goals). UND is perched atop the WCHA and poised for a second half run to the MacNaughton Cup.

Robert Morris is a new member of Atlantic Hockey this season and is currently in second place. A sparkling 5-0 record in non-conference play has the Colonials looking for their first winning season in program history. It is worth noting that the five wins came against Ohio State, Colgate (2), and Alabama-Huntsville (2).

UND needs two victories to improve on a 3-2-2 non-conference record. Two losses at Maine and ties against Alaska-Anchorage and Notre Dame are blemishes that may prove costly when seeds are announced for the NCAA tournament.

On the injury front, there has been no update on Sioux forward Jason Gregoire. Fellow forward Brett Hextall is expected to play this weekend after missing the past five games. Freshmen Derek Forbort and Brock Nelson are back in Grand Forks and should be ready to go after earning bronze medals at the World Junior Championships.

After this weekend’s series, UND plays host to Minnesota and Nebraska-Omaha on back-to-back weekends before heading to Colorado College at the end of January.

Robert Morris Team Profile

Head Coach: Derek Schooley (7th season at RMU, 81-118-28, .419)
This Season: 12-5-2, 7-5-2 Atlantic Hockey (2nd)
Last Season: 10-19-6, 6-9-3 CHA (2nd)
PairWise Ranking: NR
National Rankings: NR/NR
Team Offense: 3.32 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.32 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.4% (18 of 93)
Penalty Kill: 85.2% (69 of 81)
Key Players: Senior F Nathan Longpre (9-18-27), Senior F Chris Kushner (6-12-18), Junior F Adam Brace (5-9-14), Senior D Denny Urban (7-18-25), Junior D James Lyle (2-4-6), Junior G Brooks Ostergard (10-4-1, 2.32 GAA, .921 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (7th season at UND, 169-89-26, .641)
This Season: 14-5-2, 11-3-0 WCHA (1st)
Last Season: 25-13-5 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 15-10-3 WCHA (t-4th)
PairWise Ranking: #2
National Rankings: #2/#2
Team Offense: 3.52 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.52 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 18.9% (20 of 106)
Penalty Kill: 85.6% (83 of 97)
Key Players: Senior F Matt Frattin (18-8-26), Senior F Brad Malone (7-11-18), Sophomore F Corban Knight (9-11-20), Senior F Evan Trupp (7-10-17), Senior D Chay Genoway (4-14-18), Freshman D Derek Forbort (0-9-9), Sophomore G Aaron Dell (13-4-1, 2.09 GAA, .912 SV%, 2 SO)

By The Numbers

Robert Morris and North Dakota have never met, so this section is noticeably shorter than normal. 2010-2011 is the Colonials’ seventh at the Division I level.

Game News and Notes

North Dakota has not won an overtime game this season (0-1-2). The Fighting Sioux have allowed the first goal in 14 games this season, and have compiled a sparkling 10-3-1 record in those games. Robert Morris has never finished a hockey season with a winning record. UND has not lost when leading after two periods this season (10-0-0). Sioux forward Matt Frattin leads the NCAA with 18 goals.

The Prediction

I feel like RMU will make one game close, and my instinct tells me it will be a battle on Saturday night after a Friday rout. UND 6-1, 3-2.

Terry Casey Tribute

Prior to Friday night’s series opener, Terry Casey’s #12 jersey will be hung in the rafters at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Casey finished his North Dakota hockey career with 118 points in 88 games and was named a first-team All-American after his senior year. Casey was selected to the 1968 U.S. Olympic hockey team, but died in a car accident in July 1967. His jersey has been retired since 1968.

Weekend Preview: North Dakota at MSU-Mankato

It’s been a different sort of first half for North Dakota. In head coach Dave Hakstol‘s first six seasons, UND has gone into the Christmas break with an average of 6.2 WCHA losses. Heading into Mankato this weekend (their last conference action until January), the Fighting Sioux sport a 9-3-0 league record.

It’s also worth noting that two of those three conference losses were an overtime loss against Duluth and a last-second heartbreaking defeat in Omaha.

In non-conference action, the Green and White hit a two-game skid at Maine but performed well otherwise and have an even 2-2-2 mark against Alaska-Anchorage, Alaska, Maine, and Notre Dame. The “non-conference” game at Duluth to open the Bulldogs’ new arena and a home series against Robert Morris will be important second-half contests if UND has designs on a high seed in the NCAA tournament.

Minnesota-State Mankato has come on lately, winning its last four games (@UMass-Lowell, vs. Minnesota). The Mavs have been road warriors, playing eight consecutive games away from Alltel Center. Before last weekend’s series against the Gophers, the Landcows’ last home game was October 23rd.

It’s been feast or famine in the goal scoring department for Jutting’s squad. In six victories, MSU-M has averaged 4.0 goals per game. In six defeats, the Mavericks have scored an average of 1.3 goals.

Mankato has only one player with more than four goals on the season (Justin Jokinen, 6) while North Dakota’s top lamp-lighters are Matt Frattin (15) and Corban Knight (9).

In injury news, Sioux forwards Brett Hextall and Jason Gregoire will be out of the lineup once again. Look for senior forward Brett Davidson to play up front this weekend after a strong Saturday night against St. Cloud State.

MSU-Mankato Team Profile

Head Coach: Troy Jutting (11th season at MSUM, 164-188-51, .470)
This Season: 6-6-4, 4-6-2 WCHA (t-6th)
Last Season: 16-20-3, 9-17-2 WCHA (t-8th)

PairWise Ranking: NR
National Rankings: NR/NR

Team Offense: 2.81 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.25 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 14.1% (11 of 78)
Penalty Kill: 81.2% (69 of 85)

Key Players: Freshman F Chase Grant (4-6-10), Junior F Michael Dorr (4-6-10), Senior F Andrew Sackrison (3-5-8), Senior D Kurt Davis (4-9-13), Senior F Ben Youds (2-2-4), Sophomore G Phil Cook (5-6-2, 3.03 GAA, .913 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (7th season at UND, 166-89-26, .637)
This Season: 11-5-2, 9-3-0 WCHA (2nd)
Last Season: 25-13-5 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 15-10-3 WCHA (t-4th)

PairWise Ranking: #4
National Rankings: #5/#5

Team Offense: 3.39 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.67 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 18.3% (17 of 93)
Penalty Kill: 85.9% (67 of 78)

Key Players: Senior F Matt Frattin (15-7-22), Junior F Jason Gregoire (6-7-13), Sophomore F Corban Knight (9-8-17), Senior F Evan Trupp (5-8-13), Senior D Chay Genoway (3-12-15), Freshman D Derek Forbort (0-8-8), Sophomore G Aaron Dell (10-4-1, 2.18 GAA, .902 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: January 9, 2010 (Grand Forks, ND). North Dakota got two goals from Jason Gregoire for the second consecutive game and completed the sweep of the visiting Mavs, 3-2. The Fighting Sioux won Friday’s opener, 4-1.

Last Meeting in Mankato: October 18, 2008. North Dakota turned the special teams tables on Mankato by scoring three power play goals and adding a late shorthander for a 4-3 victory. MSU-M won Friday’s opener 5-1 on the strength of three shorthanded tallies.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 33-10-7 (.730), including a 12-4-4 (.700) record in games played in Mankato.

Last ten: North Dakota has a sparkling 9-1-0 (.900) record in the last ten contests, and has lost just once in the last 16 meetings (14-1-1).

Game News and Notes

North Dakota has allowed the first goal in 12 of 18 contests this year and has a record of 8-3-1 in those games. The Mavericks have killed off the last 13 opponent power play opportunities, while North Dakota was held without a power play marker in 11 chances last weekend against St. Cloud State. UND has not lost when leading after two periods this season (8-0-0). Sioux forward Matt Frattin is tied for the NCAA goal-scoring lead with 15.

The Prediction

If North Dakota were healthy, I would pick a sweep. If North Dakota were at home, I would pick a sweep. The Fighting Sioux are banged up and on the road, and I’m picking a sweep. These are the road games good teams need to win to become great teams. UND 4-3, 4-2.

Weekend Preview: UND vs. St. Cloud State

North Dakota has played by far the toughest schedule in the country to this point, battling five teams (two games each) in the top 13 in the pairwise rankings. Nebraska-Omaha, Minnesota-Duluth, Notre Dame, Denver, and Maine would all make the tournament (along with North Dakota) if the season ended today.

St. Cloud State has faced three opponents in the same category (Miami [OH], Minnesota, and Nebraska-Omaha), for a total of six games.

UND went 4-5-1 against top-tier opponents, losing one game in overtime and another in the final second of regulation. St. Cloud has a record of 1-3-2 against its toughest opponents.

Why, then, is North Dakota a top-ten team in the polls and in the pairwise, while St. Cloud is looking at a second-division WCHA finish?

The answer is in the rest of the schedule. The Fighting Sioux are 5-0-1 against Alaska, Alaska-Anchorage, Wisconsin, and Bemidji State, while the Huskies are a pedestrian 4-4-0 against RIT, Clarkson, Quinnipiac, and Alaska-Anchorage.

SCSU is currently in 7th place in the WCHA, but that’s a bit misleading since they’ve only played eight league games while more than half of the teams in the conference (and six of the seven teams tied or above in the standings) have played ten.

After this weekend, the two teams play one more WCHA series (UND at MSU-Mankato, SCSU vs. Colorado College) before the Christmas break, and both squads would like to pick up conference points this weekend to set themselves up for a second half run.

On the injury front, UND forward Brett Hextall will miss this weekend’s games with an undisclosed injury, while two other (unnamed) Sioux players are questionable for the series.

St. Cloud State Team Profile

Head Coach: Bob Motzko (6th season at SCSU, 110-81-26, .567)
This Season: 5-7-2, 3-4-1 WCHA (t-7th)
Last Season: 24-14-5 (NCAA West Regional finalist), 15-9-4 WCHA (3rd)

PairWise Ranking: NR
National Rankings: NR/NR

Team Offense: 2.86 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.07 goal sallowed/game
Power Play: 17.0% (16 of 94)
Penalty Kill: 81.7% (49 of 60)

Key Players: Senior F Garrett Roe (2-8-10), Junior F Drew LeBlanc (5-12-17), Junior F Jared Festler (6-3-9), Freshman D Nick Jensen (2-7-9), Senior D Chris Hepp (1-2-3), Sophomore G Mike Lee (3-4-1, 3.27 GAA, .887 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (7th season at UND, 164-89-26, .634)
This Season: 9-5-2, 7-3-0 WCHA (3rd)
Last Season: 25-13-5 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 15-10-3 WCHA (t-4th)

PairWise Ranking: # 7
National Rankings: # 7/# 7

Team Offense: 3.14 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.86 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.7% (17 of 82)
Penalty Kill: 84.7% (61 of 72)

Key Players: Senior F Matt Frattin (13-4-17), Junior F Jason Gregoire (6-7-13), Sophomore F Corban Knight (8-8-16), Senior F Evan Trupp (4-7-11), Senior D Chay Genoway (3-10-13), Freshman D Derek Forbort (0-8-8), Sophomore G Aaron Dell (8-4-1, 2.29 GAA, .899 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: March 20, 2010 (St. Paul, MN). In the Final Five title game, SCSU won the opening minute 2-0 and the Fighting Sioux won the remaining 59 minutes by a score of 5-1. It was North Dakota’s third victory in three nights at the tournament.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: November 14, 2009. One night after St. Cloud junior forward Aaron Marvin met North Dakota senior defenseman Chay Genoway with a high elbow, the visiting Huskies posted a 3-2 victory over North Dakota. SCSU goaltender Dan Dunn made 46 saves and withstood a furious Sioux comeback after St. Cloud took an early 3-0 lead.

Most Important Meeting: There are two classic Final Five championship games between the schools:

2001: St. Cloud State defeated North Dakota 6-5 to claim the 2001 WCHA Final Five Championship. Derek Eastman scored the game-winner in overtime after UND scored three goals in the final ten minutes of regulation to force the extra session.

2010: SCSU took a 2-0 lead less than a minute into the Final Five title game but couldn’t make it last, falling to North Dakota 5-3. UND became the second team in as many seasons to notch three victories at the WCHA postseason tournament.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 53-29-10 (.630), including a 27-12-5 (.670) mark on home ice and a record of 8-3-3 (.679) in games played in the new Ralph Engelstad Arena since it opened in 2001.

Last Ten: North Dakota holds a 6-3-1 (.650) edge in the last ten meetings between the two teams. UND and SCSU play four regular season games every year under the WCHA’s schedule partner arrangement.

Challenge Cup: The two schools shared the Challenge Cup last season, splitting both regular season series.

Game News and Notes

UND is 8-0-0 all-time when Mario Lamoureux scores a goal (so here’s hoping he doesn’t shadow box anybody). The junior forward has scored three goals in five career games against the Huskies. SCSU netminder Mike Lee is expected to start Friday’s opener despite being lit up in three games against North Dakota last season (0-3, 6.70 GAA, .835 SV%). Fighting Sioux head coach Dave Hakstol has 99 career WCHA victories to his credit.

The Prediction

This one hinges on the health in North Dakota’s locker room. If one of the (unnamed) players unable to go this weekend is who I believe he is, then we could be looking at a split. I was spot on with my three point prediction last weekend against the Fighting Irish, so we’ll try it again. The Fighting Sioux will have better success against goaltender Mike Lee on Friday than they will against his counterpart (Dan Dunn) on Saturday, so we’ll go with UND 5-2, 3-3 tie.

On a Personal Note

I look forward to this series every year because of the unique relationship we have with the Center Ice Club, the official hockey booster organization for the St. Cloud State University Huskies. On behalf of SiouxSports.com, I would like to invite you to the UND/SCSU pre-game social on Saturday afternoon from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Southgate Grill and Bar (a smoke-free venue). This is a great opportunity to meet fans on both sides of the rivalry, view the Challenge Cup, and win fabulous door prizes. This event is free and open to all fans 21 and older.

Weekend Preview: UND vs. Notre Dame

Last weekend, North Dakota played Nebraska-Omaha, a team in its first WCHA season after 13 years in the CCHA. This weekend, a former WCHA team rolls into town in first place in the CCHA.

Notre Dame was a member of the WCHA from 1971-1981, posting three winning seasons in ten campaigns. The Fighting Irish have had more success lately, winning the CCHA league title twice in the past four seasons.

The two teams figure to make the NCAA field of 16, and this weekend’s games are critically important for pairwise comparisons and seeding in the tournament.

North Dakota has an edge in experience over the visiting Golden Domers, boasting thirteen upperclassmen to Notre Dame’s eight. It will be interesting to see how the Fighting Irish respond if North Dakota takes an early lead in either game.

Notre Dame Team Profile

Head Coach: Jeff Jackson (6th season at Notre Dame, 125-68-23, .632)
This Season: 9-3-1, 7-2-1-1 CCHA (1st)
Last Season: 13-17-8, 9-12-7-2 CCHA (9th)

Pairwise Ranking: #4
National Rankings: #11/#11

Team Offense: 3.77 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.54 goal sallowed/game
Power Play: 14.3% (10 of 70)
Penalty Kill:89.8 % (53 of 59)

Key Players: Freshman F T.J. Tynan (7-9-16), Senior F Ben Ryan (2-14-16), Senior F Ryan Genteel (1-15-16), Senior D Joe Lavin (3-4-7), Junior D Sean Lorenz (2-3-5), Sophomore G Mike Johnson (7-2-1, 2.30 GAA, .915 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (7th season at UND, 163-89-25, .634)
This Season: 8-5-1, 7-3-0 WCHA (3rd)
Last Season: 25-13-5 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 15-10-3 WCHA (t-4th)

Pairwise Ranking: #9
National Rankings: #9/#10

Team Offense: 3.14 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.86 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 22.1% (15 of 68)
Penalty Kill: 84.4% (54 of 64)

Key Players: Senior F Matt Frattin (12-3-15), Junior F Jason Gregoire (4-6-10), Sophomore F Corban Knight (7-7-14), Senior F Evan Trupp (3-7-10), Senior D Chay Genoway (2-9-11), Sophomore G Aaron Dell (7-4-0, 2.26 GAA, .895 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: January 3, 2010 (Hoffman Estates, IL). The Fighting Sioux and Fighting Irish battled to a 3-3 tie at Notre Dame’s Shillelagh Tournament. The homestanding Irish won a shootout to determine the winner of the tournament.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: January 3, 1999. Notre Dame captured the second game 4-3 after UND won the opener 8-1. The series was played at the old Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Last Ten: North Dakota has a 7-1-2 (.800) record over the past ten games.

Most Important Meeting: March 15, 1980. In WCHA playoff action, the Fighting Sioux dispatched with Notre Dame with a 7-4 victory after winning the opener 10-4. UND would go on to win its third national championship two weeks later.

All-time Series: Notre Dame leads the all-time series 16-15-2 (.515). The Fighting Irish won 15 of the first 20 meetings between the two teams, but UND has almost evened the ledger with a 10-1-2 mark over the past thirteen games.

Game News and Notes

UND sophomore net minder Aaron Dell leads all WCHA goaltenders with a 1.91 goals-against average in league play. Notre Dame has never played a game at the new Ralph Engelstad Arena. 16 players on the current Sioux roster played against Notre Dame last year. The Fighting Irish appeared in the national championship game in 2008, falling 4-1 to Boston College. North Dakota senior forward Matt Frattin has scored 22 goals in his last 26 games.

The Prediction

This series feels like a split, but the last-second loss at Omaha last weekend is not sitting well with Hakstol’s crew, and the Fighting Irish will be happy to take a point. North Dakota 5-2, 2-2 tie.

Weekend Preview: UND at Nebraska-Omaha

A new rivalry against a familiar head coach. A new league member with designs on the MacNaughton Cup.

UNO is new to the WCHA, but the Mavs have been running over teams so far, outscoring league opponents Minnesota, Mankato, and St. Cloud 26-13 and posting a near-flawless 5-0-1 record in conference play. It is also worth noting that only the Mavs vs. Mavs series against MSU-Mankato was a home series for Dean Blais’ squad.

Nebraska-Omaha is leading the conference in almost everything: scoring offense, scoring defense, power play, penalty kill, and penalty minutes. It will be interesting to see (check that; hear, since the games aren’t televised anywhere) which style of game and rivalry develops between these first-time opponents.

Against most teams, North Dakota would like to play five-on-five, roll four lines, and use depth as an advantage. UNO may be the one team in the league who can survive and thrive in that type of game.

Dave Hakstol needs two wins this weekend to reach 100 WCHA victories for his career, but his counterpart on the other bench rarely loses at home, dropping just three contests at Qwest Center in two seasons as head coach of the Mavericks.

Nebraska-Omaha Team Profile

Head Coach: Dean Blais (2nd season at UNO, 28-17-7, .606)
This Season: 8-1-1, 5-0-1 WCHA (t-3rd)
National Rankings: #4/#4
Last Season: 20-16-6, 13-12-3 CCHA (6th)

Team Offense: 4.40 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.40 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 24.5% (12 of 49)
Penalty Kill: 88.5% (46 of 52)

Key Players: Senior F Rich Purslow (4-10-14), Senior F Matt Ambroz (7-4-11), Freshman F Matt White (6-5-11), Senior D Eric Olimb (0-8-8), Sophomore D Bryce Aneloski (1-4-5), Junior G John Faulkner (8-1-1, 2.22 GAA, .924 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (7th season at UND, 162-88-25, .635)
This Season: 7-4-1, 6-2-0 WCHA (2nd)
National Rankings: #8/#7
Last Season: 25-13-5 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 15-10-3 WCHA (t-4th)

Team Offense: 3.17 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.83 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 24.1% (14 of 58)
Penalty Kill: 82.8% (48 of 58)

Key Players: Junior F Jason Gregoire (4-6-10), Sophomore F Corban Knight (7-6-13), Senior F Evan Trupp (3-6-9), Senior F Matt Frattin (10-2-12), Senior D Chay Genoway (1-8-9), Sophomore G Aaron Dell (6-3-0, 2.38 GAA, .888 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

This is the first-ever meeting between the two teams, so tonight’s opener qualifies as the most important meeting between the two teams.

Game News and Notes

Nebraska-Omaha is the only unbeaten team in WCHA action. Sioux senior forward Matt Frattin has 20 goals in his last 24 games. Under Dean Blais, the Mavs have only lost three times in 25 home contests (20-3-2). UND senior defenseman Chay Genoway needs one point to join the Century Club for his career. Only eight other Sioux blue liners have ever eclipsed 100 career points. (Can you name them?)

The Prediction

I have a feeling that tonight’s opener will be wide open and the teams will tighten up in Saturday’s rematch. The first game feels like a “4-3 either way” type of contest, and I’ll give the nod to the homestanding Mavericks, with North Dakota taking the rematch. UNO 4-3. UND 2-1.

Thank you for reading. I welcome your comments and suggestions. If you’d like, post your guesses for the eight Sioux defensemen with 100 career points.

Weekend Preview: UND at Wisconsin

Four minutes at Ford Field. That’s how long it took for Wisconsin’s championship dream to end last season. Boston College held a tenuous 1-0 after two periods in the NCAA title game, and the teams seemed poised to play a classic final twenty minutes.

The Eagles put all that to rest with two goals early in period three and added two more, scoring four times on eight shots in the final frame to rout UW 5-0.

For Mike Eaves and the Badgers, it was another off-season filled with early departures (forward Derek Stepan and defensemen Ryan McDonagh, Brendan Smith, and Cody Goloubef). Stepan scored over 50 points last season (12-42-54), while the three blue liners potted 22 goals and added 62 helpers. In addition, Wisconsin graduated seven forwards after last season’s championship run.

In short, Bucky returns only one double digit goal scorer (Jordy Murray) from last year’s squad; by comparison, North Dakota brought back five (Jason Gregoire, Danny Kristo, Brett Hextall, Brad Malone, and Matt Frattin).

For Wisconsin, two young forwards have added some unexpected scoring. Freshman Mark Zengerle has 16 points this season (3 goals, 13 assists), while sophomore Craig Smith has already notched five goals and assisted on eight others. In the early going, the Badgers have also had excellent goaltending from Scott Gudmandson and find themselves tied for second in the WCHA.

On the North Dakota side, Dave Hakstol avoided the early departure bug but has three players sidelined for this weekend’s action. Two key defensemen, Derek Forbort and Andrew MacWilliam, are still battling illness, while forward Carter Rowney has not played since taking a high elbow against Denver. The Fighting Sioux will roll out the same lineup for the second consecutive weekend, with Joe Gleason and Dillon Simpson manning the blue line for the Green and White.

Wisconsin Team Profile

Head Coach: Mike Eaves (9th season at UW, 177-124-40, .578)
This Season: 6-2-2 Overall, 3-1-2 WCHA (t-2nd)
National Rankings: #13/#14
Last Season: 28-11-4 overall (NCAA national runner-up), 17-8-3 WCHA (2nd)

Team Offense: 4.30 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.80 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 30.9% (17 of 55)
Penalty Kill: 82.7% (43 of 52)

Key Players: Freshman F Mark Zengerle (3-13-16), Sophomore F Craig Smith (5-8-13), Junior F Jordy Murray (8-2-10), Junior D Jake Gardiner (2-7-9), Sophomore D Justin Schultz (4-8-12), Senior G Scott Gudmandson (3-2-1, 1.98 GAA, .929 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (7th season at UND, 160-88-25, .632)
This Season: 5-4-1, 4-2-0 WCHA (t-2nd)
National Rankings: #10/#10
Last Season: 25-13-5 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 15-10-3 WCHA (t-4th)

Team Offense: 3.30 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.20 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 25.0% (12 of 48)
Penalty Kill: 82.0% (41 of 50)

Key Players: Junior F Jason Gregoire (3-5-8), Sophomore F Corban Knight (5-6-11), Senior F Evan Trupp (3-5-8), Senior F Matt Frattin (8-2-10), Senior D Chay Genoway (1-5-6), Sophomore G Aaron Dell (4-3-0, 2.78 GAA, .877 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: December 12, 2009 (Grand Forks, ND). Wisconsin scored three power play goals and Scott Gudmandson stopped 31 shots as the visiting Badgers outlasted North Dakota 4-3. The two teams skated to a 3-3- tie in Friday’s opener.

Last Meeting in Madison: March 7, 2009. One night after clinching the MacNaughton Cup with a victory over Bucky, the Fighting Sioux allowed Derek Stepan to score two shorthanded goals on the same power play. Wisconsin took the series finale, 4-1.

Last Ten: The Badgers have had slightly the better of it in recent history, going 5-4-1 (.550) over the last ten tilts.

Most Important Meeting: March 27, 1982. A 2-2 tie after two periods turns into a 5-2 Sioux victory, as Phil Sykes nets a hat trick and leads UND to its fourth National Championship.

All-time Series: Wisconsin leads the all-time series, 84-60-11 (.574), and holds a 44-25-3 (.632) edge in games played in Madison.

Game News and Notes

North Dakota has not beaten Wisconsin since March 6, 2009. Wisconsin freshman forward Mark Zengerle is coming off a six-point weekend against Minnesota. The Sioux and Badgers are not scheduled to play again this season but could meet in the playoffs. Friday’s opener can be seen live on Fox College Sports Central and FSN Wisconsin.

The Prediction

North Dakota will take a victory away from this weekend’s series, but no more than that. The Fighting Sioux have been winning on Friday nights, but I have a feeling that UND won’t really settle in until Saturday. UW 4-2, UND 3-1.

Weekend Preview: UND vs. Minnesota-Duluth

This weekend, we will find out if Duluth’s unbeaten record (6-0-2) is a product of weaker competition, a strong returning class, or a sign that the Bulldogs are making a run at the top of the WCHA.

The Bulldogs have racked up their impressive early season record against Lake Superior, Northern Michigan, Providence, Alaska-Anchorage, and Bemidji State. During that time, UMD is outscoring their opponents 34-17. By contrast, North Dakota has scored 27 goals and allowed 27 so far this season.

North Dakota is battling injuries (forward Carter Rowney), sickness (blueliners Andrew MacWilliam and Derek Forbort), and a suspension (forward Brad Malone). Joe Gleason and Dillon Simpson will fill on on defense, while Brett Bruneteau and Mike Cichy will see time up front. Defenseman Ryan Hill will be the only healthy scratch on Friday night.

Special teams will be in focus this weekend, as Duluth comes into this weekend clipping along at almost 30% on the power play.

Minnesota-Duluth Team Profile

Head Coach: Scott Sandelin (11th season at UMD, 172-190-48, .478)
This Season:  6-0-2 overall, 4-0-0 WCHA (1st)
National Rankings: #2/#2
Last Season: 22-17-1 overall, 16-11-1 WCHA (t-4th)

Team Offense: 4.25 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.12 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 29.3% (12 of 41)
Penalty Kill: 83.8% (31 of 37)

Key Players: Junior F Jack Connolly (3-9-12), Senior F Justin Fontaine (4-8-12), Junior F Mike Connolly (6-7-13), Sophomore D Dylan Olsen (1-5-6), Senior G Kenny Reiter (3-0-2, 2.71 GAA, .890 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (7th season at UND, 159-87-25, .633)
This Season: 4-3-1, 3-1-0 WCHA (t-2nd)
National Rankings: #9/#9
Last Season: 25-13-5 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 15-10-3 WCHA (t-4th)

Team Offense: 3.38 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.38 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 23.7% (9 of 38)
Penalty Kill: 80.0% (32 of 40)

Key Players: Junior F Jason Gregoire (3-4-7), Sophomore F Corban Knight (4-6-10), Senior F Evan Trupp (1-4-5), Senior F Matt Frattin (7-2-9), Senior D Chay Genoway (1-2-3), Freshman D Derek Forbort (0-5-5), Sophomore G Aaron Dell (3-2-0, 2.91 GAA, .874 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: March 18, 2010 (St. Paul, MN). North Dakota blanked the Bulldogs 2-0 to advance to Friday’s semifinals in the WCHA Final Five. Duluth had a goal waived off (high stick), and the Fighting Sioux scored shorthanded minutes later to take a 1-0 lead in the third period. North Dakota went on to win the Final Five, becoming just the second team to win three games at the weekend event (Duluth was the first).

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: February 20, 2010. Mario Lamoureux scored two goals for the homestanding Green and White after serving a one-game suspension for (sort of) fighting St. Cloud’s Aaron Marvin the previous weekend. North Dakota won 5-1 to complete the weekend sweep after downing UMD 5-2 in Friday’s opener.

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, 129-70-8 (.643), including a 74-30-2 (.708) record in games played in Grand Forks

Last Ten: North Dakota is 5-2-3 (.650) in the last ten games between the teams. Only two of the past ten contests have been held in Grand Forks (six games in Duluth and two games in St. Paul).

Game News and Notes

UND is 11-1-1 in its last 13 home meetings against the Bulldogs. Duluth will host North Dakota to open the brand new AMSOIL Arena on Thursday, December 30th. The Hall of Fame Game will count as a non-conference game even though UND and UMD are both members of the WCHA. Jason Gregoire leads all active North Dakota players with eight points (six goals, two assists) in eight career games against the Bulldogs. The two Connollys (Mike and Jack) and Justin Fontaine form Duluth’s top line and are the top three scorers in the WCHA.

The Prediction

I really feel like this weekend has split written all over it, but if North Dakota can’t score consistently 5 on 5, Duluth could have the better of it. With all of the lineup changes on the Sioux bench, I’m leaning toward the Bulldogs tonight and a close UND victory tomorrow. Minnesota-Duluth 4-1, North Dakota 3-2.

Weekend Preview: Denver at North Dakota

Denver was decimated by early departures during the off-season, losing junior goaltender Marc Cheverie (48-18-8, 2.21 GAA, .926 SV%, 13 shutouts), sophomore forward Joe Colborne (32 goals and 40 assists in 79 games), and sophomore defenseman Patrick Wiercioch (18 goals and 44 assists in 75 games). Additionally, Rhett Rhakshani (60-91-151 in 156 games) and Tyler Ruegsegger (56-67-123 in 147 games) graduated, leaving George Gwozdecky standing virtually alone on the dasher, scratching his head and wondering what type of team he has and if the officials are to blame.

The Pioneers return some scoring, notably the “M.O.M.” connection of Maiani, Ostrow, and Martin. The three forwards make up the bulk of the returning scoring for Gwozdecky’s squad and will be relied upon early and often.

The other question mark for Denver is between the pipes. The Pios will look to freshman goaltender Sam Brittain this weekend, as Adam Murray is questionable for this series with a groin injury.

For North Dakota, goaltending is the only issue. The Fighting Sioux are fast, deep, talented, and experienced up front and on the blue line, and should be able to play with anyone in the country. Aaron Dell and Brad Eidsness need to make all of the easy saves and keep the game simple, and the Green and White will compete all season long.

Denver Team Profile

Head Coach: George Gwozdecky (17th season at DU, 375-229-52 .611)
National Rankings: #12/#12
This Season: 2-2-2 Overall, 1-0-1 WCHA (t-4th)
Last Season: 27-10-4 Overall (NCAA East Regional Semifinalist), 19-5-4 WCHA (1st)

Team Offense: 2.33 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.83 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 6.2% (2 of 32)
Penalty Kill: 90.0% (27 of 30)

Key Players: Senior F Kyle Ostrow (2-3-5), Senior F Drew Shore (4-1-5), Junior F Luke Salazar (3-1-4), Senior F Anthony Maiani (0-3-3), Sophomore F Matt Donovan (2-0-2), Freshman D David Makowski (0-3-3), Freshman G Sam Brittain (1-1-2, 1.70 GAA, .940 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (7th season at UND, 158-86-25, .634)
National Ranking: #8/#8
This Season: 3-2-1, 2-0-0 WCHA (t-1st)
Last Season: 25-13-5 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 15-10-3 WCHA (t-4th)

Team Offense: 3.83 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.50 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 25.8% (8 of 31)
Penalty Kill: 78.4% (29 of 37)

Key Players: Junior F Jason Gregoire (3-2-5), Sophomore F Corban Knight (2-5-7), Senior F Evan Trupp (1-4-5), Senior F Matt Frattin (7-2-9), Senior D Chay Genoway (1-2-3), Freshman D Derek Forbort (0-5-5), Sophomore G Aaron Dell (2-2-0, 2.88 GAA, .883 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: March 19, 2010 (St. Paul, MN). North Dakota advanced to the WCHA Final Five title game with a 4-3 semifinal victory over the #1-seeded Pioneers at Xcel Energy Center. Sioux forward Evan Trupp notched two goals and one assist and was named MVP of the tournament one night later.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: January 30, 2010. Denver rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat the homestanding Sioux 4-2, completing a season sweep of the four WCHA games between the teams. The Pioneers outscored North Dakota 10-4 during the 2009-10 regular season.

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.

Last Ten Games: Denver has had slight edge lately, going 5-4-1 (.550) in the last ten meetings between the schools.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 130-114-8 (.532), including a 71-41-5 mark (.628) in games played in Grand Forks.

Game News and Notes

Friday night will be Ed Belfour Night at Ralph Engelstad Arena, as the Fighting Sioux faithful will recognize and celebrate the man who backstopped the team to the 1987 national championship. Denver is the last team to visit Grand Forks and win during the regular season. Sioux senior forward Evan Trupp has nine career points against the Pioneers (four goals and five assists in eleven games).

The Prediction

North Dakota will be looking to atone for a dreadful series at Maine, and will come out with an edge. A game that rolls four lines favors North Dakota, while a parade to the penalty box is a toss-up. I think Denver manages to take a close one this weekend, and the Fighting Sioux take them to the woodshed in the rematch.
Denver 3-2, North Dakota 5-2.

Weekend Preview: UND at Maine

It’s hard to find a Sioux fan who doesn’t have admiration and respect for the Maine Black Bears. There’s a certain affinity for other great hockey teams that survive and thrive in smaller markets and are the flagship programs for their state.

More specifically, the connection between North Dakota and Maine is well-documented. Former UND head coach Dean Blais is fondly remembered for his tribute to Shawn Walsh during Walsh’s cancer battle. I remember vividly the game played in Orono, Maine on Friday, October 13th, 2000, when the defending national champion Fighting Sioux took to the ice in matching “Walsh” jerseys and donated the game-worn uniforms to defray coach Walsh’s medical costs.

It was only fitting that when the late Shawn Walsh’s shamrock was retired and hoisted to the rafters at Alfond Arena in October 2004, North Dakota was once again on hand as the visiting team.

Turning the page to this weekend’s action, both squads are hungry to pick up key wins that will prove beneficial in the Pairwise Rankings. The two victories Maine picked up in Grand Forks in October 2006 helped propel them to the Frozen Four, and the Fighting Sioux will look to return the favor this weekend.

Maine Team Profile

Head Coach: Tim Whitehead (10th season at Maine, 200-127-38 .600)
National Ranking: #11/#12
This Season: 1-1-2 Overall, 1-0-0 Hockey East
Last Season: 19-17-3 Overall, 13-12-2 Hockey East (t-3rd)
Power Play: 22.2% (6 of 27)
Penalty Kill: 80.8% (21 of 26)
Key Players: Junior F Spencer Abbott (4-3-7), Sophomore F Joey Diamond (3-2-5), Senior F Robby Dee (3-2-5), Senior F Josh Van Dyk (0-4-4), Sophomore D Mike Cornell (1-2-3), Sophomore G Shawn Sirman (1-0-1, 2.60 GAA, .912 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (7th season at UND, 158-84-25, .639)
National Ranking: #2/#2
This Season: 3-0-1, 2-0-0 WCHA
Last Season: 25-13-5 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 15-10-3 WCHA (t-4th)
Power Play: 33.3% (7 of 21)
Penalty Kill: 83.3% (15 of 18)
Key Players: Junior F Jason Gregoire (3-2-5), Sophomore F Corban Knight (2-4-6), Senior F Evan Trupp (1-3-4), Senior F Matt Frattin (5-1-6) Senior D Chay Genoway (1-2-3), Freshman D Derek Forbort (0-5-5), Sophomore G Aaron Dell (2-0-0, 1.50 GAA, .919 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: October 21, 2006 (Grand Forks, ND). Maine sophomore goaltender Ben Bishop held UND scoreless for almost 58 minutes and the Black Bears weathered a barrage of North Dakota 5-on-3 power plays as the visiting squad won 3-1 to complete the weekend sweep. Bishop made 48 of 50 saves on the weekend.

Last Meeting in Orono: October 9, 2004. In a battle of top-five teams, the Fighting Sioux took down Maine for the second consecutive night, winning 3-1 after taking a 4-3 overtime victory in the opener. Rastislav Spirko had one goal and four assists in the series.

Most Important Meeting: April 6, 2000 (Providence, RI). The Fighting Sioux scored twice in the second period and Karl Goehring stopped all 30 shots he faces as UND advanced to the national title game with a 2-0 victory over Maine. Two nights later, the Green and White would claim their seventh national championship.

Last Ten: UND is 5-4-1 (.550) in the last ten meetings between the teams.

All-time Series: North Dakota leads the all-time series 11-6-1 (.667), including a slight 4-3-1 (.563) edge in games played in Orono.

Game News and Notes:

After UND completes their six-game road trip to open the series, they will host Denver and Minnesota-Duluth on back-to-back weekends. Maine forward Gustav Nyquist was a Hobey Baker award finalist last season. Fifth-year senior Chay Genoway is the only current Sioux player to have played against the Black Bears, appearing in a pair of losses to Maine in October 2006. Friday’s game will be broadcast live on CBS College Sports.

The Prediction

It’s hard to see anything but a split out of this series, but North Dakota pulled off a sweep in its last visit to Alfond Arena. The Fighting Sioux are deep, talented, and determined to take points each night on the ice. 3-3 tie, UND 4-2.

Thank you for reading. I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Weekend Preview: North Dakota at Bemidji State

It’s a debut in more ways than one this weekend as North Dakota travels to Bemidji to take on the Beavers in the conference opener for both squads. Friday’s tilt will also open the lid on the brand new Bemidji Regional Event Center, the new home for BSU hockey. And this season marks Bemidji State’s first as a member of the WCHA.

For the homestanding Beavers, the top line of seniors Matt Read and Ian Lowe and sophomore phenom Jordan George will need to spark the offense. The three combined for 53 goals last season, 40 percent of the team’s lamplighters.

North Dakota brings high hopes into this season. Although the team said farewell to a couple of outstanding centermen in Chris Vandevelde and Darcy Zajac, the rest of the team returns, and four freshmen join the fold. Two of the incoming freshmen (forward Brock Nelson and defenseman Derek Forbort) were first-round picks in the 2010 NHL draft.

Although UND has had the better of the all-time series, eight of the last eleven games have gone to North Dakota by a single goal.

Bemidji State Team Profile

Head Coach: Tom Serratore (10th season at BSU, 163-128-33 .554)
National Ranking: NR/NR
This Season: 0-0-0, 0-0-0 WCHA
Last Season: 23-10-4 (NCAA Midwest Regional semifinalist), 14-3-1 CHA (1st)
Key Player (last season’s statistics): Senior F Matt Read (19-22-41), Senior F Ian Lowe (21-10-31), Sophomore F Jordan George (13-21-34), Junior D Brad Hunt (7-26-33), Senior D Ryan Adams (1-6-7), Junior G Ryan Bakala (19-8-3, 2.33 GAA, .917 SV%, 3 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (7th season at UND, 156-84-25, .636)
National Ranking: #2/#2
This Season: 1-0-1, 0-0-0 WCHA
Last Season: 25-13-5 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 15-10-3 WCHA (t-4th)
Key Players (last season’s statistics): Junior F Jason Gregoire (20-17-37), Sophomore F Danny Kristo (15-21-36), Senior F Evan Trupp (8-26-34), Senior F Matt Frattin (11-8-19 in 24 games played)), Senior D Chay Genoway (4-6-10 in 9 games played), Senior D Derrick LaPoint (2-20-22), Junior G Brad Eidsness (24-10-4, 2.11 GAA, .914 SV%, 3 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: January 3, 2009 (Grand Forks, ND). The Fighting Sioux scored a power play goal thirty seconds into overtime to upend the visiting Beavers 4-3. BSU had tallied its own man-advantage marker midway through the third period to tie the score. North Dakota doubled BSU in the shot department, 40-20.

Last Meeting in Bemidji: January 2, 2009. One night earlier, the teams erupted for five goals in the opening frame, with BSU nursing a 3-2 lead. UND took the lead in the middle period with two goals, and although Bemidji outshot North Dakota 10-1 in the last twenty minutes, they could not find the equalizer and the Fighting Sioux prevailed 4-3.

Most Important Meeting: Friday night’s opener is the most important meeting between the two teams. Bemidji State wants to open its arena and first WCHA season with a victory.

Last Ten: Over the past ten games between the schools, UND has won nine and tied once.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 17-1-1 (.921), including a 4-1-0 (.800) record in games played in Bemidji. BSU’s lone victory over North Dakota came on February 7, 1990.

Game News and Notes:

Trupp leads North Dakota with three points (1 goal, 2 assists) in four career games against BSU. The Beavers have gone 8-19 against WCHA teams over the past three seasons. The Fighting Sioux return five players who notched ten or more goals last season: Jason Gregoire, Danny Kristo, Brett Hextall, Matt Frattin, and Brad Malone. Bemidji State is 41-12-2 in home openers dating back to 1947.

The Prediction

There will be more than a capacity crowd at the BREC this weekend, and the place will be rocking. The first five minutes of each game will be fast and furious. If North Dakota can weather the early storm, they could take three points or more, but I’m going with a split. BSU 3-2, UND 4-2.

Thank you for reading. I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions.