Weekend Preview: North Dakota vs. Western Michigan

North Dakota and Western Michigan have faced off sixteen times since 1997, with UND claiming victory in fifteen of those contests and outscoring WMU 68-28 in the process.

The Fighting Hawks will be fortunate to win two of the four regular-season games against the Broncos this year.

How can both of these statements be true?

Through recruiting and player development, WMU head coach Andy Murray has finally been able to put his mark on the team. Freshmen and sophomores are leading the way for the Broncos, and the combination of speed, size, and skill is one that will be barely recognizable to North Dakota fans.

For the first time since joining the NCHC, the Broncos are looking to finish in the top half of the league standings. WMU had been trending downward (eleven conference victories in 2013-14, six in 2014-15, and just five in 2015-16) but is currently in 3rd place with a mark of 3-4-1-1. North Dakota, on the other hand, sits in 6th place with a mark of 2-3-1-1. UND has not been scoring enough goals in league play, notching twelve in six games for an average of just two per contest. Western Michigan, on the other hand, has scored 23 goals in eight league games (2.88 goals/game).

If UND hopes to end 2016 on a high note, it will need to get more offensive production from junior Austin Poganski and sophomores Rhett Gardner, Joel Janatuinen and Chris Wilkie. The quartet has just eleven goals in 59 combined games this season after potting thirty goals in 152 games last year.

This weekend will mark the seventh weekend out of eight that North Dakota will face off against a ranked opponent; UND went 14-5-1 (.725) against top-twenty teams a year ago but is just 5-4-2 (.545) in those situations so far this season. Here’s a closer look at the grind that the Fighting Hawks have had to endure in the first half of the 2016-17 season:

vs. #18 Bemidji State (W 3-2, W 5-4)
at #2 Minnesota Duluth (L 2-5, L 0-3)
at #13 Minnesota (T 5-5, L 0-2)
vs. #2 Denver (T 1-1, L 2-3)
at #12 St. Cloud State (W 4-0, W 3-0)
vs. #3 Boston College (W 4-3)

Other ranked teams remaining on the second-half schedule include home series vs. #1 Minnesota-Duluth, #17 St. Cloud State, and #20 Omaha and a trip to Kalamazoo in February to face these same Broncos yet again. UND will also play a single game at #15 Union College on New Year’s Eve.

According to KRACH, North Dakota has played the second-toughest schedule in the country to date; Western Michigan’s ranks as the eighth toughest.

Another huge story line for both clubs has been the emergence of a pair of super sophomores. Second-year Bronco Matheson Iacopelli leads the NCHC with 13 goals in 14 games after scoring just once as a freshman. North Dakota sophomore Shane Gersich struggled with illness last year but is tied for the lead in the league scoring race with 22 points. Gersich had 11 points in 37 games as a freshman.

Both teams are also missing key components in their lineups. UND sophomore Brock Boeser (7-9-16 in 13 games this year; 27-33-60 last season) battled through a wrist injury for much of the first half of the season but has missed the last three games. His return to the lineup this weekend is still in question. Western Michigan has been without 6-foot-4-inch, 212 pound junior forward Aidan Muir since November 12th. Muir, a draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers, has appeared in 80 career games for the Broncos, collecting 30 points.

Western Michigan and North Dakota boast six of the top ten faceoff men in the league. For the Broncos, Colt Conrad (2nd, 58.8%) and Michael Rebry (t-4th, 54.9%) lead the way, while all four of UND’s centermen have been outstanding:

1st. Tyson Jost (63.2%)
t-4th. Ludvig Hoff (54.9%)
6th. Rhett Gardner (53.9%)
10th. Johnny Simonson (52.4%)

No other NCHC school can claim more than one of the league’s top ten in the “fastest draw” category.

A big reason for UND’s success for the better part of the past decade has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. During the 2016-17 campaign, Brad Berry’s squad is unbeaten (7-0-0) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past nine years, North Dakota is converting almost 90 percent of second intermission leads into victories and has just seven losses in the last 192 such situations (172-7-13).

Western Michigan Team Profile

Head Coach: Andy Murray (6th season at WMU, 88-88-30, .500)

Pairwise Ranking: 11th of 60 teams
National Rankings: #18/#17
This Season: 7-4-3 overall, 3-4-1-1 NCHC (3rd)
Last Season: 8-25-3 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 5-18-1-1 NCHC (7th)

Team Offense: 3.64 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.93 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 22.1% (21 of 95)
Penalty Kill: 81.0% (68 of 84)

Key Players: Sophomore F Mattheson Iacopelli (13-4-17), Sophomore F Griffen Molino (4-7-11), Freshman F Wade Allison (7-3-10), Senior F Sheldon Dries (4-6-10), Senior D Taylor Fleming (0-13-13), Junior D Scott Moldenhauer (3-6-9), Sophomore G Trevor Gorsuch (4-3-2, 3.07 GAA, .894 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (2nd season at UND, 42-11-7, .758)

Pairwise Ranking: t-8th of 60 teams
National Rankings: #8/#9
This Season: 8-5-3 overall, 2-3-1-1 NCHC (6th)
Last Season: 34-6-4 overall (NCAA Champions), 19-4-1-1 NCHC (1st of 8 teams)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.06 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.31 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 18.1% (13 of 72)
Penalty Kill: 79.7% (59 of 74)

Key Players: Sophomore F Brock Boeser (7-9-16 in 13 games), Sophomore F Shane Gersich (11-11-22), Freshman F Tyson Jost (7-10-17), Junior F Austin Poganski (3-7-10), Junior D Tucker Poolman (4-10-14), Sophomore D Christian Wolanin (0-6-6), Junior G Cam Johnson (8-5-3, 2.24 GAA, .907 SV%, 3 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: March 5, 2016 (Grand Forks, ND). One night after a dominating 8-1 performance that clinched the Penrose Cup outright, North Dakota held on for a 5-4 victory in the regular season finale. The Broncos skated to a 3-1 lead after the first period (chasing netminder Cam Johnson in the process), but UND flipped the script in the middle frame to knot the game at four goals apiece. Drake Caggiula, the ninth different goal-scorer in the contest, potted the game-winner early in the third period. North Dakota won the special teams battle, scoring on the power play, while shorthanded, and during four-on-four action.

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.

Lone Broncos Highlight: March 18, 2014 (Grand Forks, ND). 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 sixteen games against UND, who won Friday’s opener 2-0. The loss cost North Dakota a chance to win the first-ever Penrose Cup as NCHC champions.

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 fifteen of the sixteen games, outscoring the Broncos 68-28. 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 sophomore forward Brock Boeser collected ten points in the four meetings between the teams as a freshman, including six of his 27 goals on the season. With one victory this weekend, Western Michigan (7-4-3) will equal their win total from all of last year (8-25-3). WMU head coach Andy Murray’s son Brady played two seasons at North Dakota (2003-05) and finished with a scoring line of 27-39-66 in 63 career games. Brady Murray spent most of his professional hockey career in the Swiss-A league (Rapperswil-Jona and Lugano, among other teams) but did appear in four NHL games with the Los Angeles Kings in 2007-08, scoring one goal.

Media Coverage

Both games this weekend will be carried live by Midco Sports Network, with Saturday’s rematch also available on FOX College Sports Central. This weekend’s series will also be streamed live via NCHC.tv. 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

For the second weekend in a row, UND has an edge between the pipes, and that might make all the difference. On a normal Friday night in Grand Forks, it takes the visitors some time to adjust to the atmosphere and the speed of play. I expect tonight’s opener to be just the opposite, with the Broncos showcasing a new brand of hockey from the opening faceoff. If North Dakota can survive the first period relatively unscathed, there will be time to adjust in the locker room. Look for two entertaining games this weekend, with at least one contest headed to overtime. 3-3 tie, UND 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!

College Hockey Showdown Preview: North Dakota vs. Boston College

The College Hockey Showdown was announced over 14 months ago and instantly became a must-see event for fans of these two programs and college hockey fans in general. The National Collegiate Hockey Conference and the University of North Dakota are co-hosts for this event, and the NCHC chose the two participants for a few very important reasons. Certainly, the league could count on a large following from both sides of what has become a fierce rivalry. Furthermore, over the past decade, North Dakota and Boston College are the top two winningest programs in the country (UND 276 wins, BC 275).

Here’s the full resume for Boston College and North Dakota:

13 National Championships (UND 8, BC 5)
47 Frozen Four Appearances (BC 26, UND 21)
5 Hobey Baker Winners (BC 3, UND 2)

North Dakota: 14 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances
Boston College: 8 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances

In the past 21 seasons…

Boston College has made the tourney 18 times, with eight league titles, nine playoff titles, twelve Frozen Four appearances, and four national titles (2001, 2008, 2010, 2012).

North Dakota has made the tourney 19 times, with nine league titles, six playoff titles, eleven Frozen Four appearances, and three national titles (1997, 2000, 2016).

In his 23rd season behind the BC bench, Jerry York is responsible for four of the Eagles’ five national titles (2001, 2008, 2010, 2012). Last season (his first as North Dakota’s bench boss), Brad Berry helped UND win the program’s eighth championship (and first since 2000).

Since 1957, North Dakota has just one stretch of “lean years”, otherwise known in Grand Forks as the Rube Bjorkman era. Bjorkman coached the Fighting Sioux from 1968-1978, and his teams collected exactly zero trophies. Otherwise, UND has been relevant and competitive throughout the history of the program, with multiple Frozen Four appearances in every decade.

Their opponent tonight can boast no such thing. The Jerry York era has been astounding at Boston College, but the flip side of that equation is that in the 47 seasons that BC competed for an NCAA title before York’s arrival in Chestnut Hill, the Eagles only played in the national title game three times and won exactly one championship (1949). So the question is this: are we talking about the storied history of Boston College, or the storied history of Jerry York?

Before we look forward to tonight’s matchup, let’s look back at some memorable moments in what has become an intense rivalry….

March 28, 1999. Madison, Wisconsin. BC defeats UND 3-1 (en) in the NCAA quarterfinals. The Sioux, who received a first-round bye in the NCAA tournament, lose for only the sixth time all season, and finish the year at 32-6-2, one game short of the Frozen Four.

April 8, 2000. Providence, Rhode Island. UND defeats BC 4-2 (en) in the NCAA title game to claim its seventh national championship. The Sioux rally from a 2-1 deficit after two periods.

April 7, 2001. Albany, New York. BC defeats UND 3-2 (OT) to win its first NCAA crown since 1949. Krys Kolanos nets the game-winner at 4:43 of overtime after UND scores twice in the final four minutes of regulation to even the score.

March 26, 2005. Worcester, Massachusetts. UND defeats BC 6-3 in the NCAA East Regional Final to advance to the first of four consecutive Frozen Fours. Colorado College, Denver, and Minnesota also advance, setting up an all-WCHA Frozen Four.

April 6, 2006. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. BC defeats UND 6-5 in the Frozen Four semifinal. North Dakota scores twice in the final five minutes to make it close, but it’s too little, too late.

April 5, 2007. St. Louis, Missouri. The NCAA Frozen Four semifinal. Yet another in a seemingly endless string of bouts between two heavyweights. Arguably the two hottest teams in the tournament: Boston College, winners of 12 straight games, versus North Dakota, winners of 19 of their last 21 contests. A furious final seven minutes turns a 2-2 tie into a 6-4 Eagles victory.

On Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, there will be a tremendous amount of talent on the ice. Unfortunately, though, Boston College will be without the services of Ryan Fitzgerald (5-11-16 in 16 games) who is out 4-6 weeks after suffering a high ankle sprain against Minnesota last weekend.

North Dakota’s Brock Boeser (upper body injury; 7-9-16 in 13 games) did not take the ice last weekend in UND’s home series against Michigan State, and although he made the trip to Manhattan, his status for tonight’s tilt is still in question.

If UND has an edge in this game, it’s the experience that netminder Cam Johnson brings to his locker room, bench, and crease. Johnson backstopped North Dakota to a national title last season, facing the nation’s hottest team (Northeastern), best line (Michigan’s CCM line), a bitter conference rival (Denver), and the country’s best team (Quinnipiac). On the other side, Boston College goaltender Joe Woll (9-4-1) has played well this season but, as a freshman, has never been on such a large stage.

This weekend will mark the sixth weekend out of seven that North Dakota will face off against a ranked opponent; UND went 14-5-1 (.725) against top-twenty teams a year ago but is just 4-4-2 (.500) in those situations so far this season. Here’s a closer look at the five-week grind that the Fighting Hawks had to endure before Thanksgiving:

vs. #18 Bemidji State (W 3-2, W 5-4)
at #2 Minnesota Duluth (L 2-5, L 0-3)
at #13 Minnesota (T 5-5, L 0-2)
vs. #2 Denver (T 1-1, L 2-3)
at #12 St. Cloud State (W 4-0, W 3-0)

UND carries a 5-2-2 non-conference record into this weekend. After Saturday’s clash with the Eagles, North Dakota’s out-of-conference schedule will conclude with a single game at #17 Union on New Year’s Eve. Brad Berry is hoping to lead the team to a fifteenth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance (longest active streak in the nation), and a large part of that winning tradition is due to success outside of the league. UND has lost just three times in its last 31 non-conference games (23-3-5), and victories this weekend will help secure North Dakota’s postseason aspirations.

Boston College Team Profile

Head Coach: Jerry York (23rd season at BC, 557-268-77, .660)

Pairwise Ranking: t-5th of 60 teams
National Ranking: #3/#4
This Season: 12-4-1 overall, 7-0-1 Hockey East (1st)
Last Season: 28-8-5 (NCAA Frozen Four semifinalist), 15-2-5 Hockey East (t-1st)

Team Offense: 3.71 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.29 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 16.7% (14 of 84)
Penalty Kill: 82.2% (88 of 107)

Key Players: Senior F Matthew Gaudreau (5-13-18), Sophomore F Colin White (9-5-14), Senior F Austin Cangelosi (8-6-14), Sophomore F Christopher Brown (5-9-14), Sophomore D Casey Fitzgerald (5-8-13), Sophomore F Michael Kim (1-10-11), Freshman G Joe Woll (9-4-1, 2.32 GAA, .922 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (2nd season at UND, 41-11-7, .754)

Pairwise Ranking: 13th of 60 teams
National Rankings: #9/#10
This Season: 7-5-3 overall, 2-3-1-1 NCHC (5th)
Last Season: 34-6-4 overall (NCAA Champions), 19-4-1-1 NCHC (1st of 8 teams)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.00 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.27 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 18.2% (12 of 66)
Penalty Kill: 80.6% (58 of 72)

Key Players: Sophomore F Brock Boeser (7-9-16), Sophomore F Shane Gersich (11-10-21), Freshman F Tyson Jost (5-10-15), Junior F Austin Poganski (3-6-9), Junior D Tucker Poolman (4-10-14), Senior D Gage Ausmus (0-4-4), Junior G Cam Johnson (7-5-3, 2.19 GAA, .908 SV%, 3 SO)

By The Numbers

Last meeting: October 8, 2011 (Grand Forks, ND). In the championship game of the Icebreaker, UND led 2-1 early in the second period but saw the Eagles score four goals in a span of ten minutes to chase North Dakota netminder Aaron Dell (five goals allowed, ten saves) and take a 5-2 lead into the second intermission. Relief goaltender Brad Eidsness (one goal allowed, seven saves) gave the Sioux a fighting chance, but UND could not put any more pucks past Parker Milner, who finished with 22 saves for the Eagles. Aside from a fog-shortened 0-0 tie on Chestnut Hill, this game marked the fourth consecutive time that BC had scored six goals against North Dakota.

Most important meetings: The Sioux and Eagles have met twice to decide the National Championship, with UND taking the title in 2000 and BC winning it all in 2001.

All-time: The all-time series between the two schools is dead even at 11-11-1 (.500). The teams first met on December 29, 1959, with the Sioux winning 5-3. In addition to the more recent playoff meetings listed above, UND and BC also played in national semifinal games in 1963 and 1965, splitting the two contests. When the newly-formed Hockey East began play in 1984-1985, it created a five-year interlocking schedule with the WCHA. During that time, Boston College and North Dakota met 7 times, with John “Gino” Gasparini’s Fighting Sioux squad going 5-2-0 against Len Ceglarski’s Eagles.

Game News and Notes

Opponents have outshot Boston College 176-147 and outscored the Eagles 22-21 in third periods this season. BC has a huge edge (402-304 in shots; 42-17 in goals) over the first forty minutes of play. Boston College leads the nation with twelve victories this season. UND alum Brock Nelson and BC alum Brian Leetch (a Hobey Baker finalist in 1987) will drop the ceremonial first puck.

Pregame Festivities

There are pregame events scheduled at Heartland Brewery (350 5th Avenue, inside the Empire State Building) and Beer Authority (300 West 40th Street). All UND fans are welcome to attend.

Media Coverage

This Saturday’s game will be televised on CBS Sports Network; there will not be a webcast available. 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 this game were decided by a “fans in Manhattan” contest, North Dakota would have already won in a landslide, as the UND contingent in New York City is quite impressive. As it stands, however, whichever side better handles the pressure of the big stage will have the early advantage. Brad Berry may need to urge his squad on to a furious comeback in the late stages of the game. I see this one going down to the wire (and possibly to overtime), with the Green and White faithful cheering their team to victory over 1500 miles from home. UND 4-3

Thank you for reading. As always, I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Here’s to hockey!

Weekend Preview: North Dakota vs. Michigan State

Michigan State and North Dakota competed in the MCHL from 1951 to 1959 and in the WCHA from 1959 until 1981, when then-head coach Ron Mason took the Spartans to the newly-formed CCHA. In their 22 seasons in the WCHA, MSU won exactly zero league titles and made only two NCAA tournament appearances. Ron Mason made the most of those chances, however, with a national championship in 1966.

Ron Mason’s clubs fared far better after leaving the WCHA. In 21 CCHA seasons under Mason, the Spartans collected eight regular season championships, ten playoff titles, and 19 NCAA appearances, including five trips to the Frozen Four. Mason collected the progam’s second NCAA title in 1986 and finished runner-up to Gino Gasparini’s Hrkac Circus in 1987.

This is only the second ranked opponent for the Spartans this season. MSU hosted #6 Denver, with the Pioneers sweeping by scores of 2-1 and 3-1.

Last weekend marked the fifth consecutive weekend against a ranked opponent for North Dakota; UND went 14-5-1 (.725) against top-twenty teams a year ago but is just 4-4-2 (.500) in those situations so far this season. Here’s a closer look at the five-week grind that the Fighting Hawks had to endure:

vs. #18 Bemidji State (W 3-2, W 5-4)
at #2 Minnesota Duluth (L 2-5, L 0-3)
at #13 Minnesota (T 5-5, L 0-2)
vs. #2 Denver (T 1-1, L 2-3)
at #12 St. Cloud State (W 4-0, W 3-0)

The Spartans will open up Big Ten play in early December by hosting #11 Minnesota, while North Dakota has already played six conference games, going 2-3-1 (with a shootout win) to find themselves in 5th place in the NCHC, one league point back of Omaha and Western Michigan (both 3-3-0). Michigan State has finished 5th, 2nd, and 5th over the first three seasons of the Big Ten, the league that destroyed the WCHA as we knew it.

UND is 5-1-1 at home this season with an identical 5-1-1 non-conference record. North Dakota’s out-of-conference schedule will conclude with single games against #4 Boston College at Madison Square Garden next Saturday night and at #17 Union on New Year’s Eve. Brad Berry is hoping to lead the team to a fifteenth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance (longest active streak in the nation), and a large part of that winning tradition is due to success outside of the league. UND has lost just twice in its last 29 non-conference games (23-2-4), and victories this weekend will help secure North Dakota’s postseason aspirations.

Michigan State Team Profile

Head Coach: Tom Anastos (6th season at MSU, 74-104-20, .424)

Pairwise Ranking: 50th of 60 teams
National Rankings: NR/NR
This Season: 3-6-0 overall, 0-0-0-0 Big Ten
Last Season: 10-23-4 overall, 7-12-2-0 Big Ten (5th of 6 teams)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 2.33 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.78 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 13.2% (7 of 53)
Penalty Kill: 73.3% (33 of 45)

Key Players: Sophomore F Mason Appleton (5-6-11), Senior F Villiam Haag (3-4-7), Freshman F Taro Hirose (2-5-7), Sophomore D Zach Osburn (2-4-6), Junior D Carson Gatt (1-0-1), Junior G Ed Minney (3-3-0, 3.16 GAA, .879 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (2nd season at UND, 41-10-6, .772)

Pairwise Ranking: t-3rd of 60 teams
National Rankings: #5/#5
This Season: 7-4-2 overall, 2-3-1-1 NCHC (5th)
Last Season: 34-6-4 overall (NCAA Champions), 19-4-1-1 NCHC (1st of 8 teams)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.08 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.15 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 16.9% (10 of 59)
Penalty Kill: 81.0% (51 of 63)

Key Players: Sophomore F Brock Boeser (7-9-16), Sophomore F Shane Gersich (10-8-18), Freshman F Tyson Jost (3-10-13), Junior F Austin Poganski (3-4-7), Junior D Tucker Poolman (3-9-12), Senior D Gage Ausmus (0-3-3), Junior G Cam Johnson (7-4-2, 2.07 GAA, .915 SV%, 3 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: November 29, 2015 (East Lansing, Michigan). In a rare Friday-Sunday series, North Dakota used four goals by Drake Caggiula and superb goaltending from Cam Johnson (57 saves) to sweep the homestanding Spartans 3-1 and 4-1. The Fighting Hawks held Michigan State to just one power play goal on nine opportunities.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: October 13, 2007 (Grand Forks, ND). North Dakota blitzed the defending national champions 6-0 in the US Hockey Hall of Fame Game. Twelve Fighting Sioux players made the scoresheet, and the names read like a who’s who of UND hockey in the 21st century: Robbie Bina, Taylor Chorney, Ryan Duncan, Matt Frattin, Chay Genoway, Rylan Kaip, Andrew Kozek, Brad Malone, T.J. Oshie, Evan Trupp, Chris VandeVelde, and Darcy Zajac. Jean-Phillippe Lamoureux made 23 saves for the shutout.

Most Important Meeting: March 28. 1987 (Detroit, MI). The Hrkac Circus invaded Joe Louis Arena and took home North Dakota’s fifth national championship with a 5-3 victory over the Spartans. More recently, the Fighting Sioux scored twice on “unscoreonable” Hobey Baker winner Ryan Miller and advanced to the 2001 national championship game with a 2-0 Frozen Four semifinal victory over MSU.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 64-36-2 (.637), including a 34-11-1 (.750) record in games played in Grand Forks. The teams first met as members of the Midwest Collegiate Hockey League (MCHL) during the 1951-52 season.

Last Ten: North Dakota has won eight of the previous ten meetings between the schools, outscoring the Spartans 40-21 in that stretch. Three of the last ten MSU-UND games have come in the national tournament, with North Dakota winning all three, most importantly the 1987 championship game and a 2001 semifinal contest. The Fighting Sioux also defeated Sparty 6-5 in overtime to win the 1984 third-place game (Lake Placid, NY),

Game News and Notes

Michigan State has not made the NCAA tournament since 2012 and has just two tourney appearances since their national championship in 2007. Two of North Dakota’s eight national titles have come against the Spartans (1959 and 1987). UND is 19-6-3 (.732) all-time in the Subway Holiday Classic. Shane Gersich is the first UND player since Matt Frattin to score ten goals before Thanksgiving. Tyson Jost is really good at faceoffs (63.2%).

Media Coverage

This weekend’s games will be televised on the Midco Sports Network, and a high definition webcast is available at NCHC.tv. 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 finally clicking in all three zones and has the advantage over the Spartans in every facet of the game. I see Saturday’s contest being the closer of the two, with Cam Johnson proving to be the difference yet again. UND 4-1, 3-2.

Thank you for reading. As always, I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Here’s to hockey!

Weekend Preview: North Dakota at St. Cloud State

A season ago, North Dakota traveled to face St. Cloud State in November with quite a bit on the line…

It was a battle of two top-ten teams. A matchup between the first two winners of the Penrose Cup (NCHC regular season champions). A rematch of the 2015 NCAA West Regional final in Fargo, North Dakota. Two teams who battled six times in 2014-15, with North Dakota winning four. At the time, UND and SCSU were the only two undefeated teams in conference play, combining to score 84 goals in their first 22 games.

And in that November series (the only two games the squads would play against each other during the 2015-16 season), they managed a split (UND 4-3, SCSU 6-1).

The end of last season could not have gone any differently for the two conference rivals. St. Cloud State, the top seed in the NCAA West Regional (Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, MN), rallied to tie #18 Ferris State in the third period, but the Bulldogs scored just 18 seconds into the extra session to knock off the Huskies (who were ranked #2 in the country heading into the NCAAs) by a final of 5-4.

The newly-minted Fighting Hawks from the University of North Dakota fared much better in the postseason, defeating Northeastern (the nation’s hottest team), Michigan (featuring the nation’s best line), Denver (a bitter conference rival), and Quinnipiac (the nation’s best team) to hoist the program’s eighth national title. In the four games of the NCAA tournament, UND downed their opponents by a combined score of 18-7.

Things look a bit different this time around…

The two teams have just two victories between them in conference play (SCSU 2-2-0-0, UND 0-3-1-1), and both squads have a vastly different identity (or are still searching for same) than they had a season ago.

Gone from the North Dakota roster are nine players from the 2015-16 championship squad. Last season’s senior class (forwards Drake Caggiula, Bryn Chyzyk, Coltyn Sanderson, and Colten St. Clair) would have been enough of a loss, as the quartet accounted for 44 goals and 41 assists in 116 combined games.

But the worst was yet to come as the early departure bug hit the program particularly hard. Five players gave up college eligibility to sign pro contracts, including forward Nick Schmaltz (11-35-46), who left after his sophomore season. The other four skaters would have been seniors this year:

Forward Luke Johnson (11-10-21)
Defenseman Troy Stecher (8-21-29)
Defenseman Paul LaDue (5-14-19)
Defenseman Keaton Thompson (2-15-17)

All told, the nine players accounted for exactly half of North Dakota’s goal scoring last season (81 of 162). Stecher, LaDue, and Thompson helped anchor a defensive unit that allowed only 1.84 goals/game and gave up zero or one goal 24 times in 2015-16.

The picture at St. Cloud State is very similar. The Huskies are learning to live without a quartet of senior forwards who contributed all over the ice last season: Kalle Kossila (14-40-54 in 2015-16), Joey Benik (23-25-48), Jimmy Murray (13-26-39), and David Morley (14-23-37). To further complicate matters, sophomore Patrick Russell (20-21-41) gave up his final two seasons of eligibility to sign with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers.

On the defensive side of things, SCSU lost only one defenseman from last season’s roster: senior captain Ethan Prow, who tallied 8-30-38 a year ago and finished his career one point shy of the century mark (19-80-99). The biggest loss in their own end occurred when netminder Charlie Lindgren (30-9-1, 2.13 GAA, .925 SV%, 5 SO) gave up his senior season to join the Montreal Canadiens organization. That decision left the Huskies without any experience in net, and the job is left to freshmen Zach Driscoll, Jeff Smith, and David Zevnik. So far, it’s been Driscoll (5-2-0, 2.92 GAA, .884 SV%) in the driver’s seat with Smith (1-2-0, 3.61 GAA, .867 SV%) backing him up on most nights.

The top returning scorer for the Huskies is sophomore Mikey Eyssimont, who tallied 14 goals and 19 assists for 33 points as a freshman last season.

His counterpart at UND, sophomore Brock Boeser, led the Fighting Hawks with sixty points (27 goals, 33 assists) during his rookie campaign.

Despite all of the changes, this weekend will feel strangely familiar:

Two teams in the mix for yet another NCAA tournament appearance. A lethal St. Cloud State power play on the wide sheet of ice that gives North Dakota fits every single year. An arena that will feel like Christmas in November, with nearly half of the fans in green to combat the hometown red.

In 2004, the Center Ice Club created a commemorative trophy to mark the rivalry, and the two teams have been battling it out each season to claim the UND/SCSU Challenge Cup.

UND had the better of the play in the first eight years of the Challenge Cup era, claiming the Cup four times and sharing the trophy three times while St. Cloud State only won the trophy once (2005-06). However, the Huskies have earned the trophy two of the last four seasons and shared the Cup last season. The 2016-17 version of the Challenge Cup will be decided in February when the teams take the ice at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks.

One St. Cloud State supporter is quite familiar with this rivalry, both home and away. By his own admission, Bill Prout (@CenterIceClub, centericeview.com) has attended more SCSU hockey games than anyone else on the planet. I connected with Bill to fill us in on what to expect this weekend (and beyond) from the Huskies:

Dave Berger, SiouxSports.com: What should UND fans expect to see from SCSU this weekend?

Bill Prout, CenterIceView.com: Much like UND a team that is very youthful and looking for consistency in play. SCSU lost 220 points of offense from 2015-16. Against Minnesota they rallied both nights for wins. Against the Bulldogs they coughed up 3-2 leads each night to lose. They are going through a “growth” process.

DB: Who are the players to watch?

BP: Upper class leadership on offense comes from juniors Judd Peterson (7 goals) and Blake Winiecki who has a six game scoring streak. Sophomores Jimmy Schuldt (captain) and Will Borgen are providing leadership on defense. 2015-16 USHL Defenseman of the Year Jack Ahcan has been outstanding and near the top of the team scoring chart. Dennis Cholowski, a first round draft choice of Detroit, is another outstanding young defenseman. Ryan Poehling is a 17 year old who decided to forgo his senior year of high school to join twin brothers Jack and Nick. Ryan will be a first round draft choice in the 2017 NHL entry draft. Patrick Newell and Mikey Eyssimont are skilled and exciting sophomore forwards.

DB: Are the Huskies dealing with injuries right now?

BP: Only one…senior forward Ryan Papa.

DB: What will SCSU need to do to have success in this important conference series?

BP: They need to limit the mental mistakes and turnovers that have haunted them at times this season. The goaltending has been a challenge with two first-year netminders. The goaltenders need to elevate their play from 87% to over 90% save percentage. They’ll need to capitalize on UND’s struggling penalty kill when given the opportunity. Consistent play down the middle of the ice will be important.

DB: How would you describe their style of play? What do they do well?

BP: Great transistion from their defensive zone and the ability to motor up the ice. SCSU is not a physically imposing team and relies on their skill and speed to get their opponent off balance. They absolutely dominated major segments of the Minnesota and Duluth series. They can score in bunches.

DB: What are the players and coaches saying about this matchup? Is this a weekend that’s been circled on the calendar for a while? Or is it just another pair of games?

BP: Both the coaching staff and players look forward to this series. They respect the tradition and winning tradition UND has. The players particularly look forward to playing in front of the large crowds and the noise and excitement that this series brings. These teams have a history of exciting games and the players are aware of that.

DB: What is the ceiling for this team? Are supporters thinking that a Frozen Four berth is a possibility for this club?

BP: There is a whole lot of talent on this squad. However, they are very young and inexperienced. It’s always a challenge when a team has so few upperclassmen and when your starting goaltender left a year early. They will certainly be a much better team the second half of the season but it’s unlikely they’ll have the offense of the 2015-16 squad. Goaltending is a concern and may be the biggest detriment to making a strong run at the end of this season. This team may be a year off from another strong post-season run.

My thanks to Bill Prout (@CenterIceClub on Twitter) for his time and his contributions to this preview. If you’re interested, you can find his game preview for centericeview.com here.

This weekend marks the fifth consecutive weekend against a ranked opponent for North Dakota; UND went 14-5-1 (.725) against top-twenty teams a year ago but is just 2-4-2 (.375) in those situations this season. Here’s a closer look at the five-week grind that the Fighting Hawks have had to endure:

vs. #18 Bemidji State (W 3-2, W 5-4)
at #2 Minnesota Duluth (L 2-5, L 0-3)
at #13 Minnesota (T 5-5, L 0-2)
vs. #2 Denver (T 1-1, L 2-3)
at #12 St. Cloud State

St. Cloud State Team Profile

Head Coach: Bob Motzko (12th season at SCSU, 241-168-42, .581)

Pairwise Ranking: t-11th of 60 teams
National Rankings: #12/#12
This Season: 6-4-0 overall, 2-2-0-0 NCHC (5th)
Last Season: 31-9-1 overall (NCAA West Regional semifinalist), 17-6-1-1 NCHC (t-2nd)

Team Offense: 4.10 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.40 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.6% (9 of 46)
Penalty Kill: 83.3% (30 of 36)

Key Players: Junior F Judd Peterson (7-3-10), Sophomore F Patrick Newell (2-8-10), Sophomore F Mikey Eyssimont (6-3-9), Junior F Blake Winiecki (6-3-9), Freshman D Jack Ahcan (2-8-10), Sophomore D Jimmy Schuldt (2-6-8), Sophomore D Will Borgen (0-7-7), Freshman G Zach Driscoll (5-2-0, 2.92 GAA, .884 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (2nd season at UND, 39-10-6, .764)

Pairwise Ranking: t-8th of 60 teams
National Rankings: #8/#8
This Season: 5-4-2 overall, 0-3-1-1 NCHC (7th)
Last Season: 34-6-4 overall (NCAA Champions), 19-4-1-1 NCHC (1st of 8 teams)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.00 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.55 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 13.7% (7 of 51)
Penalty Kill: 78.2% (43 of 55)

Key Players: Sophomore F Brock Boeser (7-6-13), Sophomore F Shane Gersich (6-8-14), Freshman F Tyson Jost (3-8-11), Junior F Austin Poganski (3-3-6), Junior D Tucker Poolman (2-7-9), Senior D Gage Ausmus (0-2-2), Junior G Cam Johnson (5-4-2, 2.45 GAA, .895 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: November 21, 2015 (St. Cloud, MN). One night after senior Drake Caggiula’s hat trick gave UND a 4-3 road victory, it was all Huskies in a 6-1 shellacking of the Fighting Hawks. No amount of bird noise from the North Dakota road trippers could prevent six different Huskies from scoring on a total of only 21 shots on goal. St. Cloud State went 2-for-5 with the man advantage and held UND scoreless on three power play chances.

Most Important Meeting: NCAA West Regional Final in Fargo, ND (March 28, 2015). North Dakota scored three unassisted goals over the final two periods of the hockey game to defeat St. Cloud State 4-1 in the West Regional Final and advance to the NCAA Frozen Four. Jimmy Murray got the Huskies on the board less than 90 seconds in to the hockey game, but that did nothing to quiet the partisan crowd of 5,307 at SCHEELS Arena. Four different players scored for UND, while Zane McIntyre made 19 stops to earn his 29th and final victory of the season.

All-time Series: North Dakota leads the all-time series, 66-39-12 (.615), including a 27-21-6 (.556) record in St. Cloud. Aside from their 2015 NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinal victory, the Huskies also defeated North Dakota in the 2001 WCHA Final Five championship game. UND is 10-3-0 (.769) against St. Cloud State in the conference playoffs, with their most recent triumph coming in the 2012 WCHA Final Five quarterfinals. The teams have only met once in the NCAA tournament (2015).

Last Ten: UND holds a 6-4-0 (.600) edge in the last ten meetings between the teams, but each squad has scored 26 goals over that stretch of games.

Game News and Notes

North Dakota junior forward Austin Poganski (St. Cloud, MN) has four points in eight career games against his hometown team. No team has swept this series in the past 15 years. UND sophomore forward Brock Boeser has been held off of the score sheet in three straight games and five of the past six. He was only scoreless in 10 of 42 contests (and only 4 of the last 32) a year ago. When these two teams met a year ago, SCSU was allowing 1.50 goals/game. This year, St. Cloud State is allowing 3.40 goals/game. The last time UND swept the Huskies in St. Cloud was in November of 1998.

Media Coverage

Both games this weekend will be televised. Friday’s opener can be seen on FOX Sports North PLUS, and Saturday’s finale will be produced by the SCSU Sports Network and also carried by Midco Sports Network. A high definition stream of both games is 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.

Pregame Event

The annual gathering of SCSU and North Dakota fans will take place on Saturday, November 19th from 4:00-6:00 p.m. on the second level of Brothers Bar and Grill (119 5th Avenue South) in St. Cloud. Complimentary appetizers will be served, and the Challenge Cup will be on hand. All St. Cloud State and UND fans are encouraged to attend.

The Prediction

I don’t see any possibility of either one of these teams getting out of this weekend with two victories. Each side is filled with talent and question marks, with the Huskies getting a slight advantage on home ice. I see this series playing out in a very similar fashion to last year, although the rematch will be closer this time around. UND 3-2, SCSU 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: North Dakota vs. Denver

In the NCHC, it is clear that Denver/North Dakota is at the top of the league rivalries. The teams have played thirteen times 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 nine 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 five of the past seven playoff games between the schools, including three consecutive victories in the WCHA Final Five (2010-2012), the 2011 NCAA Midwest Regional final which sent the Fighting Sioux to the Frozen Four, and last season’s thrilling Frozen Four semifinal (a 4-2 UND victory) in Tampa, Florida.

Two nights after dispatching their league rival, North Dakota defeated Quinnipiac in the championship game and moved ahead of DU on the list of teams with the most NCAA titles in program history (8-7). It is worth noting that Denver collected five national championships by 1969. In the past 47 seasons, the Pioneers have won two. During that same span (1970-2016), the Fighting Sioux/Hawks won six titles and are the defending national champions.

Both rosters have changed quite a bit since that April meeting in the Sunshine State…

Denver lost three forwards (Grant Arnold, Gabe Levin, and Quentin Shore) and defenseman Nolan Zajac to graduation after last season. Those four scored 26 goals and added 50 assists for 76 points in 158 games played in 2015-16.

The Pios could have kept the Pacific Rim line intact, as Dylan Gambrell, Danton Heinen, and Trevor Moore all had college eligibility remaining. The trio went an incredible 48-91-139 for Denver last season. Unfortunately for the DU faithful, Heinen (a sophomore) and Moore (a junior) left for the pros, leaving Gambrell (17-30-47 as a freshman) searching for new linemates.

All told, Denver lost 57 of 133 goals scored from last year (43 percent of goal production).

UND lost nine players from the 2015-16 championship squad. Last season’s senior class (forwards Drake Caggiula, Bryn Chyzyk, Coltyn Sanderson, and Colten St. Clair) would have been enough of a loss, as the quartet accounted for 44 goals and 41 assists in 116 combined games.

But the worst was yet to come as the early departure bug hit the program particularly hard. Five players gave up college eligibility to sign pro contracts, including forward Nick Schmaltz (11-35-46), who left after his sophomore season. The other four skaters would have been seniors this year:

Forward Luke Johnson (11-10-21)
Defenseman Troy Stecher (8-21-29)
Defenseman Paul LaDue (5-14-19)
Defenseman Keaton Thompson (2-15-17)

All told, the nine players accounted for exactly half of North Dakota’s goal scoring last season (81 of 162). Stecher, LaDue, and Thompson helped anchor a defensive unit that allowed only 1.84 goals/game and gave up zero or one goal 24 times in 2015-16.

Much like Denver’s Pacific Rim line, North Dakota’s CBS line (Drake Caggiula, Brock Boeser, Nick Schmaltz) was everything for UND last season, as the three scored 63 goals and added 94 assists for 157 points in 118 games. Only Boeser (27-33-60 as a freshman last year) remains on the Fighting Hawks roster.

This weekend marks the fourth of five consecutive weekends against ranked opponents for North Dakota; UND went 14-5-1 (.725) against top-twenty teams a year ago. Here’s a closer look at the five-week grind for the Fighting Hawks until Thanksgiving:

vs. #18 Bemidji State (W 3-2, W 5-4)
at #2 Minnesota Duluth (L 2-5, L 0-3)
at #13 Minnesota (T 5-5, L 0-2)
vs. #2 Denver
at #13 St. Cloud State

North Dakota has struggled on special teams over the past two weekends against the Bulldogs and Gophers, scoring only two power play goals in 21 man-advantage situations (9.5%), allowing seven power play goals in 21 chances (66.7%), and giving up two shorthanded goals in a single period that led directly to UMD’s 3-0 Saturday victory. UND will certainly need to shore up those situations if they hope to contend in the NCHC this season.

Denver Team Profile

Head Coach: Jim Montgomery (4th season at DU, 75-42-14, .626)

Pairwise Ranking: 5th of 60 teams
National Rankings: #2/#2
This Season: 6-2-0 overall, 2-0-0 NCHC (2nd)
Last Season: 25-10-6 overall (NCAA Frozen Four semifinalist), 17-6-1-1 NCHC (t-2nd)

Team Offense: 2.75 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.88 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 15.6% (7 of 45)
Penalty Kill: 84.6% (33 of 39)

Key Players: Freshman F Henrik Borgstrom (4-5-9), Sophomore F Troy Terry (3-3-6), Sophomore F Jarid Lukosevicius (3-3-6), Sophomore F Dylan Gambrell (2-2-4), Senior D Will Butcher (2-5-7), Junior D Adam Plant (0-1-1), Junior G Tanner Jaillet (6-1-0, 1.73 GAA, .931 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (2nd season at UND, 39-9-5, .783)

Pairwise Ranking: t-11th of 60 teams
National Rankings: #6/#6
This Season: 5-3-1 overall, 0-2-0-0 NCHC
Last Season: 34-6-4 overall (NCAA Champions), 19-4-1-1 NCHC (1st of 8 teams)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.33 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.67 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 13.3% (6 of 45)
Penalty Kill: 78.7% (37 of 47)

Key Players: Sophomore F Brock Boeser (7-6-13), Sophomore F Shane Gersich (4-8-12), Freshman F Tyson Jost (3-7-10), Sophomore F Joel Janatuinen (3-3-6), Junior D Tucker Poolman (2-5-7), Senior D Gage Ausmus (0-2-2), Junior G Cam Johnson (5-3-1, 2.56 GAA, .889 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: April 7, 2016 (Tampa, Florida). In the semifinals of the NCAA Frozen Four, the two league rivals squared off in a tightly-contested contest. Senior forward Drake Caggiula scored twice early in the middle frame to stake UND to a 2-0 lead, but the Pioneers battled back with a pair of third period goals. The CBS line came through when it mattered most, with Nick Schmaltz scoring the game winner off of a faceoff win with 57 seconds remaining in the hockey game. North Dakota blocked 27 Denver shot attempts and goaltender Cam Johnson made 21 saves for the Fighting Hawks, who won the program’s eighth national title on the same sheet of ice two nights later.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: December 5, 2015. 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.

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: UND has a 5-3-2 (.600) advantage in the last ten games between the schools and has outscored Denver 30-25 over that stretch of games. Six of those ten games occurred a season ago, with both teams sweeping on home ice before tying 1-1 in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff third-place game. North Dakota broke the tie in the season series with a dramatic 4-2 victory in the NCAA Frozen Four.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 143-122-11 (.538). The teams first met in 1950, with North Dakota prevailing 18-3 in Denver.

Game News and Notes

UND sophomore forward Brock Boeser has eight points (four goals, four assists) in six career games against the Pioneers. Denver (15) and North Dakota (14) have more consecutive seasons with twenty or more victories than any other Division I men’s hockey team in the country. Boston College is third with seven straight twenty-win seasons; Quinnipiac has accomplished the feat five consecutive times. North Dakota is unbeaten in its past fifteen games on home ice (14-0-1).

Media Coverage

Both games this weekend can be seen on Midco Sports Network. The series will also be streamed live in high definition via NCHC.tv. 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

Saturday’s tilt against Minnesota was the best North Dakota had played in four games, and they still couldn’t score. Goaltending, special teams, defensive play, and secondary scoring are all question marks right now, but a rivalry series at home could be just what the Fighting Hawks need to get back in the win column. The Pioneers have done it with defense, allowing only nine goals total during their current six-game winning streak. If DU can contain North Dakota’s top line, it could be a long weekend in Grand Forks. I see a split here in a pair of tight contests. Denver 3-2, UND 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: North Dakota vs. Minnesota

It’s a tale of two programs as we enter the 2016-17 season…

North Dakota is fresh off of its eighth national championship and a string of fourteen consecutive tournament appearances, the longest active streak in college hockey.

Minnesota has only advanced to the NCAAs four times in the last eight seasons and is stuck on five national titles, the most recent being in 2002 and 2003.

UND bench boss Brad Berry has never lost to Minnesota in his head coaching career; Minnesota’s Don Lucia has already suffered 26 losses to the Green and White. Of course, Lucia has been coaching the Gophers since the 1999-2000 campaign, but that may be part of the problem.

Despite only nine tournament victories since Minnesota’s last title in 2003 (UND has 22 in that same span), the Gophers’ head coach was given a two-year extension last month that will keep him behind the bench through the 2018-19 campaign. Perhaps the worst part is that he’ll have to play North Dakota at least five more times before he moves on.

Even though Lucia attempted to diffuse the rivalry by not scheduling North Dakota once the Big Ten (and Minnesota) ruined college hockey as we knew it, the two teams met in the Frozen Four at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season. Defenseman Gage Ausmus and goaltender Matt Hyrnkiw were freshmen on the North Dakota roster that year but did not play. The Gophers upended UND 2-1 and advanced to the championship game, falling to Shayne Gostisbehere and the Union Dutchmen by a final score of 7-4.

Thankfully for fans of college hockey’s greatest matchup, this weekend’s games mark the first of seven consecutive seasons that the teams are guaranteed to meet:

2016-17: Ralph Engelstad Arena (Grand Forks, North Dakota)
October 27, 2018: Orleans Arena (Las Vegas, Nevada) *Hall Of Fame Game*
2019-20: Mariucci Arena (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
2020-21: Ralph Engelstad Arena (Grand Forks, North Dakota)
2011-22: Mariucci Arena (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
2022-23: Ralph Engelstad Arena (Grand Forks, North Dakota)

The two times have met 284 times and were members of the same conference for over sixty years. Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald has an excellent article here about some key moments in the series.

With five consecutive non-conference victories to open the season, UND is now 23-1-3 (.907) in its last 27 games outside the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. As a whole, the NCHC has fared well in contests against teams from other leagues, going a combined 27-13-6 (.652) to open the year. That record is helped by a 12-3-1 (.781) mark in games against the WCHA.

This weekend marks the third of five consecutive weekends against ranked opponents for North Dakota; UND went 14-5-1 (.725) against top-twenty teams a year ago. Here’s a closer look at the five-week grind for the Fighting Hawks until Thanksgiving:

vs. #18 Bemidji State (W 3-2, W 5-4)
at #2 Minnesota Duluth (L 2-5, L 0-3)
at #13 Minnesota
vs. #2 Denver
at #8 St. Cloud State

North Dakota struggled on special teams last weekend against the Bulldogs, scoring only one power play goal in thirteen man-advantage situations, allowing Duluth three power play goals in ten chances, and giving up two shorthanded goals during the second period on Saturday that proved to be the difference in a 3-0 UMD victory. UND will certainly need to shore up those situations if they hope to contend with the Gophers this weekend.

Minnesota Team Profile

Head Coach: Don Lucia (18th season at Minnesota, 418-221-69, .639)

National Rankings: #13/#13
This Season: 3-2-1 overall, 0-0-0 Big Ten
Last Season: 20-17-0 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 14-6-0-0 Big Ten (1st)

Team Offense: 4.17 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.83 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.8% (5 of 24)
Penalty Kill: 80.6% (25 of 31)

Key Players: Sophomore F Tyler Sheehy (3-5-8), Junior F Leon Bristedt (3-4-7), Senior F Justin Kloos (2-3-5), Senior F Vinni Lettieri (2-3-5), Senior D Jake Bischoff (2-4-6), Junior D Steve Johnson (0-2-2), Sophomore G Eric Schierhorn (3-2-1, 2.78 GAA, .890 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (2nd season at UND, 39-8-4, .804)
National Rankings: #3/#3
This Season: 5-2-0 overall, 0-2-0-0 NCHC
Last Season: 34-6-4 overall (NCAA Champions), 19-4-1-1 NCHC (1st of 8 teams)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.57 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.43 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 13.5% (5 of 37)
Penalty Kill: 83.3% (30 of 36)

Key Players: Sophomore F Brock Boeser (6-6-12), Sophomore F Shane Gersich (4-6-10), Sophomore F Joel Janatuinen (1-5-6), Freshman F Tyson Jost (2-5-7), Junior D Tucker Poolman (1-5-6), Senior D Gage Ausmus (0-2-2), Junior G Cam Johnson (5-2-0, 2.31 GAA, .894 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last meeting: April 10, 2014 (Philadelphia, PA). In what can only be described as the most shocking finish ever for UND at the Frozen Four, Minnesota’s Justin Holl scored a shorthanded tally with 0.6 seconds remaining on the clock to defeat North Dakota 2-1 and advance to the national championship game.

Last meeting in Minneapolis: January 19, 2013. North Dakota twice saw two-goal leads vanish at Mariucci Arena in the last meeting between the two teams as WCHA foes, a 4-4 tie. Nick Bjugstad and Nate Condon scored third period goals for the Gophers to send the game to overtime, and the teams combined for just one shot on net in the extra frame. Zane Gothberg made 31 saves for UND, while Adam Wilcox turned aside 22 shots.

Most important meeting: March 24, 1979 (Detroit, MI). North Dakota and Minnesota met to decide the national championship, and the Gophers prevailed, 4-3. Neal Broten scored the game-winning goal for the U of M, and Steve Janaszak was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.

All-time: Minnesota leads the all-time series by a slim margin, 139-130-15 (.516), including a 74-51-7 (.587) advantage in games played in Minneapolis. The teams first met in 1948.

Last ten: The Gophers have gone 6-3-1 in the last ten meetings between the schools, outscoring UND 32-24 in those games.

Game News and Notes

Gophers’ head coach Don Lucia (Notre Dame ’81) is the only member of his coaching staff without a degree from the University of Minnesota. Associate head coach Mike Guentzel, assistant coach Grant Potulny, and goaltending coach Justin Johnson all attended the U of M. The number eight is greater than the number five. In an effort to alleviate parking concerns, Minnesota fans are asked to park in Duluth and walk to Mariucci Arena.

Media Coverage

Both games this weekend can be seen on FOX Sports North and Fox College Sports. Friday’s game begins at 7:00 p.m. Central Time; Saturday’s opening faceoff will occur at 8:00 p.m. CT. The games will also be streamed live in high definition via BTN2GO.com. 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

Only one UND team has swept at Mariucci since 1980, and I don’t think this year’s squad can replicate that feat. The Fighting Hawks are still searching for an identity after last season’s title run, and they will take some lumps along the way. Expect North Dakota to come out firing on Friday night after being embarrassed by Duluth, with the Gophers’ power play taking over Game 2. UND 4-2, Minnesota 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: North Dakota vs. Minnesota-Duluth

AmsOil Arena has not been kind to the Bulldogs when North Dakota comes to town.

Minnesota-Duluth has not scored a goal at home against UND since February 2014. That’s a span of over 166 minutes (104 consecutive saves). All-time, North Dakota is 6-1 at AmsOil, outscoring the Bulldogs 27-8 (including four shutouts).

UMD hasn’t won a series against the boys in green and white since November 2008. Incidentally, 2008 is the last time that the #1 and #2 teams in college hockey met for a two-game series. North Dakota and Minnesota-Duluth are ranked #1/#2 in both national polls heading into this weekend.

It might be surprising to hear that North Dakota (5-0-0) is off to its best start since opening the 2002-03 campaign with six straight victories. With those five non-conference wins, UND is now 23-1-3 (.907) in its last 27 games outside the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

As a whole, the NCHC has fared well in non-conference action this season, going a combined 23-11-6 (.650) to open the year. That record is helped by a 9-2-1 (.792) mark in games against the WCHA.

This weekend marks the second of five consecutive weekends against ranked opponents for North Dakota; UND went 14-5-1 (.725) against top-twenty teams a year ago. Here’s a closer look at the five-week grind for the Fighting Hawks until Thanksgiving:

vs. #18 Bemidji State (W 3-2, W 5-4)
at #2 Minnesota Duluth
at #12 Minnesota
vs. #3 Denver
at #10 St. Cloud State

Two seasons ago, 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.

Scott Sandelin has brought his team within one game of the Frozen Four in each of the last two seasons but has yet to regain the national championship form his squad experienced in 2011. North Dakota has made the NCAA tournament in each of the past 14 seasons (the longest active streak in men’s Division I college hockey) and finally made it to the mountaintop in Tampa, claiming the program’s eighth national title.

It may be a bit more difficult for the Bulldogs to find postseason success this year as their goaltending situation is as yet unproven. Kasimir Kaskisuo (19-15-5, 1.92 goals-against average, .923 save percentage, and five shutouts in 39 appearances last season) gave up his final two seasons of eligibility to sign with the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs. Kaskisuo won 37 games for UMD in his brief college career.

Sophomore netminder Nick Deery and a pair of freshman Hunters (Miska and Shepard) are tasked with backstopping the Bulldogs. So far, the crease belongs to Derry, who is unbeaten (1-0-2) in three starts with a goals-against average of 1.54 and a save percentage of .934. It will be interesting to see how that play holds up during the grind of the NCHC schedule.

It may take a while for North Dakota fans to get to know this year’s roster, as UND lost nine players from the 2015-16 championship squad. Last season’s senior class (forwards Drake Caggiula, Bryn Chyzyk, Coltyn Sanderson, and Colten St. Clair) would have been enough of a loss, as the quartet accounted for 44 goals and 41 assists in 116 combined games.

But the worst was yet to come as the early departure bug hit the program particularly hard. Five players gave up college eligibility to sign pro contracts, including forward Nick Schmaltz (11-35-46), who left after his sophomore season. The other four skaters would have been seniors this year:

Forward Luke Johnson (11-10-21)
Defenseman Troy Stecher (8-21-29)
Defenseman Paul LaDue (5-14-19)
Defenseman Keaton Thompson (2-15-17)

All told, the nine players accounted for exactly half of North Dakota’s goal scoring last season (81 of 162). Stecher, LaDue, and Thompson helped anchor a defensive unit that allowed only 1.84 goals/game and gave up zero or one goal 24 times in 2015-16.

UND has been the nation’s winningest team over the last decade (274 victories since 2006-07), and a large part of that success has been North Dakota’s ability to win when leading after two periods. The Fighting Hawks have not lost when leading after 40 minutes of play in nearly three years (75-0-5 since November 1st, 2013) and boast a mark of 169-7-13 (.929) in those situations since 2008-09.

Minnesota-Duluth Team Profile

Head Coach: Scott Sandelin (17th season at UMD, 290-278-77, .509)
National Rankings: #2/#2
This Season: 3-1-2 overall, 0-0-0-0 NCHC
Last Season: 19-16-5 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional finalist), 11-10-3-1 NCHC (4th)

Team Offense: 3.33 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.33 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.5% (8 of 39)
Penalty Kill: 76.7% (23 of 30)

Key Players: Sophomore F Adam Johnson (4-3-7), Freshman F Joey Anderson (0-6-6), Senior F Kyle Osterberg (3-2-5), Senior F Alex Iafallo (2-2-4), Sophomore D Neal Pionk (3-4-7), Senior D Willie Raskob (2-1-3), Sophomore G Nick Deery (1-0-2, 1,54 GAA, .934 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (2nd season at UND, 39-6-4, .837)
National Rankings: #1/#1
This Season: 5-0-0 overall, 0-0-0-0 NCHC
Last Season: 34-6-4 overall (NCAA Champions), 19-4-1-1 NCHC (1st of 8 teams)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 4.60 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.80 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 16.7% (4 of 24)
Penalty Kill: 88.5% (23 of 26)

Key Players: Sophomore F Brock Boeser (6-6-12), Sophomore F Shane Gersich (3-5-8), Sophomore F Joel Janatuinen (3-2-5), Freshman F Tyson Jost (2-5-7), Junior D Tucker Poolman (1-5-6), Senior D Gage Ausmus (0-2-2), Junior G Cam Johnson (5-0-0, 1.81 GAA, .899 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: March 18, 2016 (Minneapolis, MN). For the third consecutive season, North Dakota lost in the Frozen Faceoff semifinals. Duluth overcame an early deficit (UND forward Nick Schmaltz scored just 49 seconds into the contest) with three 2nd period goals and defeated the Fighting Hawks 4-2. The Bulldogs lost the NCHC playoff championship to St. Cloud State by a score of 3-1.

Last Meeting in Duluth: December 12, 2015. UND used three different goal scorers and a 38-save performance by Cam Johnson to defeat Duluth 3-0 for the second consecutive night. The Bulldogs outshot North Dakota 78-42 on the weekend but could not solve Johnson, who was in the middle of a stretch of over 298 minutes without allowing a goal.

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.

The Meeting That Never Was: Both teams advanced to the 2011 NCAA Frozen Four at Xcel Energy Center (St. Paul, Minnesota). UND could not get past Michigan, falling 2-0 despite outshooting the Wolverines 40-20. In the other national semifinal, Minnesota-Duluth defeated Notre Dame 4-3 and rode that momentum to the title game. The Bulldogs took the Wolverines to overtime before senior forward Kyle Schmidt scored the game winner and earned UMD their first and only national championship. North Dakota won two of the three games against Duluth that season, outscoring Scott Sandelin’s team 11-5.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 144-78-9 (.643), including a 59-39-5 (.597) 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 7-3-0 (.700) in the last ten games between the teams, outscoring the Bulldogs 30-20 over that stretch.

Game News and Notes

North Dakota is 29-4-2 (.857) in its last 35 games. UND sophomore forward Brock Boeser has three goals and three assists in five career games against the Bulldogs. UMD has been outscored 7-6 in first periods this season but has outscored opponents 14-7 the rest of the way. 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 opener will be shown live on FOX Sports North and FOX College Sports Pacific, with Saturday’s rematch available on Midco Sports Network. The games will also be streamed live in high definition via NCHC.tv. 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

This is the first road test of the season for North Dakota and their eight freshmen. I expect some hiccups along the way, and Scott Sandelin will use the last line change to his advantage. The Fighting Hawks went 4-1 against the Bulldogs last season, but this weekend will end in a split. UND 4-1, UMD 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. Bemidji State

It’s a brand new view for Tom Serratore’s Bemidji State Beavers, who sit atop the WCHA league standings after sweeping conference foes Bowling Green and Northern Michigan to start the season.

In the first three years of the new-look Western Collegiate Hockey Association, BSU has never finished higher than 5th place out of the ten teams in the league.

Bemidji State in the WCHA:

Season Record Finish
2015-16 11-12-5 6th
2014-15 12-11-5 5th
2013-14 10-14-4 8th

A jump in the standings is not a complete surprise to the Bemidji State faithful. The Beavers only lost six regular players from last year’s team and return almost 60 percent of goal scoring from a year ago. BSU will definitely miss the presence of last season’s senior forwards (Markus Gerbrandt, Phillip Marinaccio, John Parker, and Cory Ward), who scored 30 goals and added 39 assists in 151 combined games a year ago. Head coach Tom Serratore also lost defenseman Graeme McCormack (6-16-22) to graduation and fellow blueliner Ruslan Pedan (3-6-9) to HC Sochi of the KHL.

On the bright side for Bemidji is that the Fitzgerald brothers (Gerry, Leo, and Myles) are now sophomores and have experienced a full season of NCAA hockey together. Led by Gerry’s 14 goals, the trio amassed a stat line of 23-21-44 a year ago.

It might be surprising to hear that North Dakota (3-0-0) is off to its best start since opening the 2002-03 campaign with six straight victories. This series marks the end of a five game home stretch for the Fighting Hawks. After this weekend, UND will only host consecutive series once this season (January 13/14 vs. Miami and January 20/21 vs. Minnesota-Duluth).

It may take a while for North Dakota fans to get to know this year’s roster, as UND lost nine players from the 2015-16 championship squad. Last season’s senior class (forwards Drake Caggiula, Bryn Chyzyk, Coltyn Sanderson, and Colten St. Clair) would have been enough of a loss, as the quartet accounted for 44 goals and 41 assists in 116 combined games.

But the worst was yet to come as the early departure bug hit the program particularly hard. Five players gave up college eligibility to sign pro contracts, including forward Nick Schmaltz (11-35-46), who left after his sophomore season. The other four skaters would have been seniors this year:

Forward Luke Johnson (11-10-21)
Defenseman Troy Stecher (8-21-29)
Defenseman Paul LaDue (5-14-19)
Defenseman Keaton Thompson (2-15-17)

All told, the nine players accounted for exactly half of North Dakota’s goal scoring last season (81 of 162). Stecher, LaDue, and Thompson helped anchor a defensive unit that allowed only 1.84 goals/game and gave up zero or one goal 24 times in 2015-16.

North Dakota and Bemidji State boast two of the top netminders in the country. Junior Michael Bitzer (66 career games, 1.98 goals-against average, .920 save percentage, twelve shutouts) has carried the load for the Beavers since his arrival on campus in the fall of 2014. Cam Johnson‘s next appearance will be his 40th for UND and will qualify him for the program’s record books. Johnson currently boasts a 1.68 goals-against average and a save percentage of .931, both better than the school records (2.10 GAA and .926 SV%) that Zane McIntyre posted from 2012-15. Johnson played behind McIntyre during his first season at UND has earned six shutouts in his first 39 appearances and backstopped the Green and White to a national championship last year.

This weekend marks the beginning of five consecutive weekends against ranked opponents for North Dakota; UND went 14-5-1 (.725) against top-twenty teams a year ago.

vs. #18 Bemidji State
at #2 Minnesota Duluth
at #7 Minnesota
vs. #6 Denver
at #14 St. Cloud State

These games are critical for North Dakota’s postseason aspirations. Last season, Brad Berry’s squad went 9-1-2 in regular season non-conference action and made its fourteenth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance (the longest active streak in the country). UND’s other non-conference opponents this season will be Minnesota, Michigan State, Boston College, and Union. North Dakota will play only a single game each against Boston College (College Hockey Showdown) and Union.

UND has been the nation’s winningest team over the last decade (272 victories since 2006-07), and a large part of that success has been North Dakota’s ability to win when leading after two periods. The Fighting Hawks have not lost when leading after 40 minutes of play in nearly three years (74-0-5 since November 1st, 2013) and boast a mark of 168-7-13 (.928) in those situations since 2008-09.

Bemidji State Team Profile

Head Coach: Tom Serratore (16th season at BSU, 248-240-67 .507)
National Ranking: #18/#18
This Season: 4-0-0 overall, 4-0-0 WCHA (1st)
Last Season: 17-16-6 overall, 11-12-5 WCHA (6th)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 2.50 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 0.50 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 14.3% (3 of 21)
Penalty Kill: 100.0% (22 of 22)

Key Players: Junior F Myles Fitzgerald (1-4-5), Senior F Phillip Marinaccio (0-3-3), Sophomore F Jay Dickman (2-0-2), Junior F Brett Beauvais (1-3-4), Sophomore D Dan Billett (0-3-3), Junior G Michael Bitzer (4-0-0, 0.50 GAA, .977 SV%, 2 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (2nd season at UND, 37-6-4, .851)
National Ranking: #1/#1
This Season: 3-0-0 overall, 0-0-0-0 NCHC
Last Season: 34-6-4 overall (NCAA Champions), 19-4-1-1 NCHC (1st of 8 teams)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 5.00 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.00 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 12.5% (2 of 16)
Penalty Kill: 93.3% (14 of 15)

Key Players: Sophomore F Brock Boeser (1-6-7), Junior F Austin Poganski (2-1-3), Sophomore F Joel Janatuinen (3-2-5), Freshman F Tyson Jost (2-2-4), Junior D Tucker Poolman (1-2-3), Senior D Gage Ausmus (0-2-2), Junior G Cam Johnson (3-0-0, 1.00 GAA, .929 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: October 17, 2015 (Grand Forks, ND). North Dakota freshman forward Brock Boeser netted his first career hat trick as UND downed Bemidji State 5-2 at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Gerry Fitzgerald scored both BSU goals. In Friday’s opener in Bemidji, the Beavers put two goals past Matt Hrynkiw in the third period (after Cam Johnson left with an injury) to earn a 4-4 tie.

Most Important Meeting: October 15, 2010 (Bemidji, MN). In the first game played at the BREC, North Dakota spotted BSU the opening goal less than two minutes into the contest and then steamrolled the Beavers 5-2. The Fighting Sioux outshot their fellow Green-and-Whiters 38-14.

Last Ten: North Dakota is 6-1-3 (.750) in the last ten meetings between the teams, outscoring the Beavers 31-23 over that stretch of games.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 28-3-4 (.857), including a 19-2-2 (.870) record in games played in Grand Forks. Two of BSU’s three wins over North Dakota have come in the past five seasons (November 2011 and October 2014). Bemidji’s other victory over UND came in 1970.

Game News and Notes

Bemidji State has outscored opponents 6-0 in first periods this season and 10-2 overall; North Dakota has only scored three goals in the opening twenty minutes of play (while allowing two) but has done its best work in the second and third periods, outscoring teams 12-1 over the final two frames.

The Prediction

This weekend will not be an easy one for North Dakota. Watch for the Beavers to jump out to an early lead on Friday, with UND needing to mount a late comeback to take the contest to overtime. The Fighting Hawks will showcase their depth and talent in Saturday’s rematch. 2-2 tie, UND 4-1.

Media Coverage

All UND men’s hockey games, home and away, can be heard on 96.1 FM (The Fox) and on stations across the UND Sports Home of Economy Radio Network, as well as through the iHeart Radio app. This weekend’s series will be telecast live on Midco Sports Network, and the games will also be streamed live in high definition via NCHC.tv.

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!</em

Weekend Preview: North Dakota vs. Canisius College

At this time last year, goaltending was the great unknown for North Dakota. Sophomore netminder Cam Johnson had played just 43 minutes in his collegiate career, posting a ridiculously awful 5.54 goals-against average and an equally bad .765 save percentage.

Twelve months later? Johnson is a national champion. The junior from Troy, Michigan was the NCHC goaltender of the week six times last season and the league’s player of the month in December. At one point, he notched four consecutive shutouts (and a shutout streak of over 298 minutes) and was named one of five finalists for the Mike Richter Award (given to the nation’s best netminder).

Cam’s line last season reads as follows: a 24-4-2 record (including five shutouts), a goals-against average of 1.66 and a save percentage of .935.

UND’s run to the program’s eighth national title featured four impressive victories:

6-2 win over #9 Northeastern (the nation’s hottest team: 20-1-2 in their last 23 games coming in to the tournament)

5-2 win over #5 Michigan (the nation’s best line: Kyle Connor, JT Compher, and Tyler Motte combined for 83-107-190 last season)

4-2 win over #7 Denver (a conference rival which had swept UND in Denver two months earlier)

5-1 win over #1 Quinnipiac (the nation’s best second-best team: 32-4-7 on the year)

It may take a while for North Dakota fans to get to know this year’s roster, as UND lost nine players from the 2015-16 championship squad. Last season’s senior class (forwards Drake Caggiula, Bryn Chyzyk, Coltyn Sanderson, and Colten St. Clair) would have been enough of a loss, as the quartet accounted for 44 goals and 41 assists in 116 combined games.

But the worst was yet to come as the early departure bug hit the program particularly hard. Five players gave up college eligibility to sign pro contracts, including forward Nick Schmaltz (11-35-46), who left after his sophomore season. The other four skaters would have been seniors this year:

Forward Luke Johnson (11-10-21)
Defenseman Troy Stecher (8-21-29)
Defenseman Paul LaDue (5-14-19)
Defenseman Keaton Thompson (2-15-17)

All told, the nine players accounted for exactly half of North Dakota’s goal scoring last season (81 of 162). Stecher, LaDue, and Thompson helped anchor a defensive unit that allowed only 1.84 goals/game and gave up zero or one goal 24 times in 2015-16.

North Dakota returns three accomplished goal scorers from a year ago, as junior Austin Poganski and sophomores Brock Boeser and Rhett Gardner combined for 48 goals last season. Boeser is considered a favorite for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award.

Left to anchor the blueline are four defensemen who saw action during UND’s championship run: senior Gage Ausmus, junior Tucker Poolman, and sophomores Christian Wolanin and Hayden Shaw. North Dakota will need contributions from sophomore Danys Chartrand and incoming freshmen Dixon Bowen, Casey Johnson, Andrew Peski, and Colton Poolman if they hope to defend their NCAA title.

North Dakota and Canisius have faced off just five times in history, with UND claiming wins in all five contests. The Golden Griffins have competed at the Division I level since the 1998-99 season but were known as the Ice Griffs from 1980 to 2001. Current head coach Dave Smith has been at the helm since 2005 and brought the team to its only NCAA tournament appearance following the 2012-13 season. The Golden Griffins gave #1 seed Quinnipiac a battle in the East Regional, leading 3-1 early in the third period before losing to the Bobcats by a final of 4-3. Incidentally, that game was the first NCAA tournament victory for QU, who rode that momentum all the way to the championship game before falling to Yale.

These games are critical for North Dakota’s postseason aspirations. Last season, Brad Berry’s squad went 9-1-2 in regular season non-conference action and made its fourteenth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance (the longest active streak in the country). UND’s other non-conference opponents this season will be RPI, Bemidji State, Minnesota, Michigan State, Boston College, and Union. North Dakota will play only a single game each against RPI (U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game), Boston College (College Hockey Showdown), and Union.

The Fighting Hawks open with five straight games at Ralph Engelstad Arena. After that stretch, UND will only host consecutive series once this season (January 13/14 vs. Miami and January 20/21 vs. Minnesota-Duluth).

Canisius Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Smith (12th season at Canisius, 151-212-52, .427)
National Ranking: NR/NR
This Season: 0-0-0 overall, 0-0-0 Atlantic Hockey
Last Season: 12-22-5 overall, 10-13-5 (t-6th of 11 teams)

2015-16 Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 2.36 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.10 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 13.7% (20 of 146)
Penalty Kill: 77.7% (115 of 148)

Key Returning Players (2015-16 statistics): Junior F Ryan Schmelzer (10-22-32), Sophomore F Dylan McLaughlin (8-18-26), Sophomore F Felix Chamberland (6-8-14), Sophomore D Cameron Heath (7-9-16), Sophomore D Jimmy Mazza (3-10-13), Sophomore G Simon Hofley (8-12-5, 2.71 GAA, .920 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (2nd season at UND, 34-6-4, .818)
National Ranking: #1/#1
This Season: 0-0-0 overall, 0-0-0-0 NCHC
Last Season: 34-6-4 overall (NCAA Champions), 19-4-1-1 NCHC (1st of 8 teams)

2015-16 Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.68 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.84 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.1% (31 of 162)
Penalty Kill: 86.4% (140 of 162)

Key Returning Players (2015-16 statistics): Sophomore F Brock Boeser (27-33-60), Junior F Austin Poganski (10-15-25), Sophomore F Rhett Gardner (11-7-18), Junior F Johnny Simonson (3-14-17), Junior D Tucker Poolman (5-19-24), Senior D Gage Ausmus (0-11-11), Junior G Cam Johnson (24-4-2, 1.66 GAA, .935 SV%, 5 SO)

By The Numbers

Last meeting: December 18, 2004 (Grand Forks, ND). North Dakota outshot the Griffs 46-17 but needed special teams scoring to put the game away. Chris Porter potted two power play tallies, Travis Zajac had a power play goal, and Colby Genoway scored shorthanded to lead UND to a 4-1 victory. The Fighting Sioux defeated Canisius 5-1 in the series opener and went 6-for-11 with the man advantage on the weekend.

All-time: North Dakota has won all five of the meetings between the teams by a combined score of 31-4.

Game News and Notes

The Golden Griffins play their home games at the newly built HarborCenter, which features an NHL sheet of ice and seating for 1800 fans. Canisius and UND each have 19 underclassmen (eight freshmen and 11 sophomores apiece) on their current roster, tied for fourth in the nation. Last season, the Golden Griffins went just 1-15-1 when trailing after one period of play. This weekend marks the 15th anniversary of the current Ralph Engelstad Arena, which hosted its first game on October 5th, 2001 (my son’s first birthday) against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. North Dakota is 207-74-35 (.710) in its current home.

The Prediction

North Dakota has an advantage all over the ice and will prove too much for the Griffins to handle. Saturday’s contest will be the more difficult one, with goaltending proving the difference. UND 4-1, 3-2.

Media Coverage

All UND men’s hockey games, home and away, can be heard on 96.1 FM (The Fox) and on stations across the UND Sports Home of Economy Radio Network, as well as through the iHeart Radio app. This weekend’s series will be telecast live on Midco Sports Network, and the games will also be streamed live in high definition via NCHC.tv.

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!

NCAA Frozen Four Preview: UND vs. Quinnipiac

In 17 years at the Division I level, Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold has never had a losing season. Pecknold has led the Bobcats to their fourth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance (and fifth overall), and QU faces a fairly unfamiliar opponent (North Dakota) in the national championship game. The two teams are tied for the most wins (109) over the past four seasons and are one-two this season in wins, winning percentage, and number of weeks at #1. Since Christmas, UND and Quinnipiac have been the only two schools at the top of the USCHO poll.

Despite Quinnipiac’s recent success and the Bobcats’ deep run in 2013 (national runner-up, losing 4-0 to Yale in the final), UND and QU have only met once in the national tournament (last year’s West Regional in Fargo, ND). North Dakota downed the Bobcats 4-1 in that tilt, and the two teams have only faced each other on one other occasion: an October 2006 series in Grand Forks that went in the books as a UND sweep. Sioux forwards Ryan Duncan, T.J. Oshie, and Jonathan Toews figured heavily in those results (note: current Quinnipiac defenseman Devon Toews is no relation to Jonathan).

Before this recent stretch of four straight NCAA tourney bids, the only Quinnipiac appearance on the national scene came in 2001-02, when the team (competing in the MAAC and known for the last time as the ‘Braves’) suffered a 6-1 loss to Cornell in the regional semifinal.

It is fairly difficult to compare teams from different conferences, but there are some measurables. The three common opponents for the two programs this season were Maine, Northeastern, and St. Cloud State. Quinnipiac defeated Maine 4-0 in October and swept SCSU (5-2, 4-1) at home the following weekend. In the first game of the new year, the Bobcats skated to a 3-3 tie at Northeastern and got the same result at Maine later in January. North Dakota tied Maine 1-1 at the IceBreaker in October, split at St. Cloud State (4-3, 1-6) in November, and took down Northeastern 6-2 in the NCAA Midwest Regional, handing the Huskies their first loss since February 1st and just their second since December 6th.

Incidentally, St. Cloud State was the team Quinnipiac defeated by a score of 4-1 at the 2013 NCAA Frozen Four, the Bobcats’ first and only other appearance in the last weekend of the college hockey season. Quinnipiac is seeking the program’s first NCAA title, and four of the past five national championships have gone to first-time winners: Duluth (2011), Yale (2013), Union (2014), and Providence (2015). Before that stretch, the last team to hoist the trophy for the first time was Maine in 1993. Three other teams won their first titles in the 80s; Bowling Green in 1984, Lake Superior State in 1988, and Harvard in 1989.

North Dakota is seeking the program’s eighth national title and first since 2000. Other men’s ice hockey championships for the school came in 1959, 1963, 1980, 1982, 1987, and 1997. Michigan has nine titles (six between 1948 and 1956 and another in 1964), while Denver also has seven (five between 1958 and 1969). With a win tonight and the eighth banner that would come with it, UND would unquestionably be at the top of the men’ Division I college hockey heap as the best program of all time.

There is some intrigue regarding the availability of QU junior forward Sam Anas, who has been limited by a shoulder injury and has been used most extensively in situations where Quinnipiac needs to generate offense. It seems that Rand Pecknold has not called upon Anas in situations where the junior forward (132 career points) would have to defend and protect a lead. It is worth noting that the Bobcats’ leading point-getter (24 goals, 26 assists) has only scored three goals since February 12th, a stretch of thirteen games. In that same span, however, he has continued to set up his linemates (nine assists).

Tonight’s tournament action will feature one of the top rookies in the country. North Dakota’s Brock Boeser (26-30-56) is fourth nationally among all scorers but was not named one of ten finalists for the 2016 Hobey Baker Memorial Award. Among freshmen, Boeser trails only Kyle Connor (35-36-71), whose Michigan team lost to UND in the Midwest Regional final. Connor was edged out by Harvard senior Jimmy Vesey for the Hobey yesterday.

Since 1983-84, the only UND freshman to score as many goals as Boeser’s 26 was Zach Parise, who also 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 more than 25 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). Boeser assisted on all three UND goals at the NCHC Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis, added five points in three NCAA tournament games, and joined Zach Parise (25-35-61) as the only North Dakota freshmen in the past 35 years to notch at least 50 points.

North Dakota’s ‘CBS’ line of Boeser paired with Drake Caggiula (23-26-49) and Nick Schmaltz (11-34-45) has scored 31 of UND’s 91 goals (34.1 percent) since January 1st. It will be interesting to see which Bobcat forward line jumps over the boards when 9, 8, and 16 are on the ice.

On the other side of the ledger, UND lost junior forward Luke Johnson (11-10-21) after he went knee-to-knee with teammate Brock Boeser in the second period of Thursday’s national semifinal against Denver. Johnson, a Grand Forks native, had appeared in every game for the Green and White this season and was a key cog in the team’s ‘Heavy Line’, also featuring sophomore Austin Poganski (9-15-24) and freshman Rhett Gardner (11-6-17). In Johnson’s absence, expect Gardner to move to center with one of two seniors on his wing: Coltyn Sanderson (7-5-12) or Colten St. Clair, an alternate captain who has been limited to nine games this year due to an upper body injury.

North Dakota has been strong all season long, losing back-to-back games only once in six situations (4-1-1). UND’s offense receives most of the accolades, but there may not be a better defensive group in the nation than Gage Ausmus, Paul LaDue, Tucker Poolman, Hayden Shaw, Troy Stecher, Keaton Thompson, and Christian Wolanin. One of the freshmen (Shaw or Wolanin) will sit for today’s Frozen Four final (Wolanin has been in the stands for all three NCAA tournament games), but all seven have shown the ability to take over games in all three zones.

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 (26-0-3) 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 184 such situations (164-7-13).

North Dakota has enjoyed twenty consecutive seasons of unprecedented success, advancing to the NCAA tournament 19 times with eleven Frozen Four appearances and two national titles. Brad Berry is in his first year behind the North Dakota bench and set the program record for most wins by a rookie head coach (33). With their fourteenth consecutive NCAA tourney bid, North Dakota boasts the longest active streak in men’s Division I college hockey (and the second-longest of all time). Since 2004-05, UND has gone 18-4 (.818) in NCAA regional games and has qualified for the Frozen four in eight of those twelve seasons (no team has advanced to more national semifinal games in that time).

Amazingly, UND is 7th of 60 teams nationally in scoring offense and 2nd in scoring defense, notching 157 goals and allowing only 80 in 43 games this season (Quinnipiac has marks of 4th and 3rd, respectively, and has outscored opponents 162-80 in 42 games). Aside from the Bobcats, only St. Cloud State (175 goals for/90 goals against in 41 games) boasts a better scoring margin than North Dakota.

Here are a few more interesting comparisons:

North Dakota’s record when leading/tied after one period of play: 29-5-4
North Dakota’s record when trailing after one period of play: 4-1-0
Quinnpiac’s record when leading/tied after one period of play: 26-3-5
Qunnipiac’s record when trailing after one period of play: 6-0-2

North Dakota’s record against the NCAA tournament field: 10-4-1
Qunnipiac’s record against the NCAA tournament field: 10-1-1

North Dakota’s record in one-goal games: 7-1-0
Quinnipiac’s record in one-goal games: 8-2-0

North Dakota’s road/neutral site record: 17-4-3
Qunnipiacs’s road/neutral site record: 17-1-3

The Bobcats prefer to play with a lead and let their neutral zone trap (a 1-1-3 or a 1-3-1, depending on who is answering the question) create turnovers. Quinnipiac has trailed for less than 360 minutes in their 42 games combined this season, and that statistic is the main reason that Rand Pecknold’s crew has suffered only three defeats.

Here are the storylines worth watching in tonight’s battle of college hockey heavyweights:

Goaltending: The netminders tonight (Michael Garteig and Cam Johnson) will be called upon early and often (UND averages 32.5 shots on goal/game; QU, 34.7), as these two teams possess skill with and creativity without the puck. Whichever goaltender makes more game-changing saves and showcases the ability to find loose pucks in traffic will lead his team to victory.

‘CBS’ Line: Without last change, will the dynamic trio be able to handle the best of what the Bobcats have to offer defensively, and will they be able to use their speed and creativity through the neutral zone to carry the puck across the blueline?

Playing From Behind: Neither team wants to get down by two goals in this contest, as both squads have shown the ability to lock down a lead. The leader on the scoreboard going into the third period is likely to hold up the trophy at the final buzzer.

Sam Anas: Will he play? Will he be able to finish the game? Will Rand Pecknold need to shorten his bench to ten forwards in order to roll only three lines and protect Anas somewhat?

Specialty Teams: Quinnipiac has been lethal on the power play this year (27.5%, 4th in the nation) and effective on the penalty kill (89.0%, 3rd). North Dakota’s numbers with the man advantage (19.4%, 21st) are solid but not quite as spectacular, while their penalty kill (86.7%, 5th) has been a bright spot. UND would prefer not to trade power plays with the Bobcats, but rather play as much 5-on-5 hockey as possible.

Quinnipiac Team Profile

Head Coach: Rand Pecknold (22nd season at QU, 446-263-83, .616)
National Ranking: #1/#1
This Season: 32-3-7 overall, 16-1-5 ECAC (1st)
Last Ten Games: 9-1-0 (lost 5-4 to Cornell)
Last Season: 23-12-4 overall (NCAA West Regional semifinalist), 16-3-3 ECAC (1st)

Team Offense: 3.86 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.90 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 27.5% (46 of 167)
Penalty Kill: 89.0% (137 of 154)

Key Players: Junior F Sam Anas (24-26-50), Senior F Travis St. Denis (22-26-48), Junior F Tim Clifton (18-24-42), Sophomore F Landon Smith (12-25-37), Junior D Devon Toews (7-23-30), Junior D Connor Clifton (7-20-27), Senior G Michael Garteig (32-3-7, 1.83 GAA, .926 SV%, 8 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (1st season at UND, 33-6-4, .814)
Pairwise Ranking: 2nd of 60 teams
National Rankings: #3/#2
This Season: 33-6-4 overall, 19-4-1-1 NCHC (1st)
Last Season: 29-10-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)
Last Ten Games: 8-1-1 (lost 4-2 to Duluth; tied Denver 1-1)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.65 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.86 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.4% (31 of 160)
Penalty Kill: 86.7% (137 of 158)

Key Players: Freshman F Brock Boeser (26-30-56), Senior F Drake Caggiula (23-26-49), Sophomore F Nick Schmaltz (11-34-45), Sophomore F Austin Poganski (9-15-24), Senior F Bryn Chyzyk (12-10-22), Junior D Troy Stecher (8-21-29), Sophomore F Tucker Poolman (5-19-24), Junior D Paul LaDue (5-13-18), Sophomore G Cam Johnson (23-4-2, 1.68 GAA, .933 SV%, 5 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: March 27, 2015 (Fargo, ND). North Dakota blocked 28 shots in front of a partisan crowd at Scheels Arena and downed the Bobcats 4-1 to advance to the NCAA West Regional Final, where they would play St. Cloud State. Tucker Poolman, Bryn Chyzyk, Drake Caggiula, and Luke Johnson all scored for UND, who received 29 saves from 2015 Mike Richter Award winner Zane McIntyre. Quinnipiac went 1-for-8 with the man advantage, scoring only an extra-attacker power play goal with less than two minutes remaining.

Almost Ten Years Ago: October 7, 2006 (Grand Forks, ND). A late Quinnipiac power play goal got the Bobcats within a goal, but the damage had been done by then. T.J. Oshie assisted on all three Jonathan Toews goals (remarkably, the only hat trick of his Fighting Sioux career) and Ryan Duncan had a three point night (1 g, 2 a) in a 4-2 North Dakota victory. UND blew out the Bobcats 6-1 in Friday’s opener despite only one goal from the Oshie-Toews-Duncan (D.O.T.) line.

Most Important Meeting: Saturday night’s national championship game is the most important meeting between the two programs.

All-time Series: The two teams have only played three games (the aforementioned October 2006 series in Grand Forks and last season’s West Regional semifinal), with UND sweeping the Bobcats by a combined score of 14-4. All three contests were played in the state of North Dakota.

Game News and Notes
North Dakota’s all-time winning percentage of .671 (51-25) in the NCAA tourney is the best in the country, and UND’s 51 tournament victories are good for 2nd all-time (Minnesota has 55 but might not win another one this decade). Quinnipiac has competed at the Division I level since the 1999-2000 season; that was the year UND won its seventh national championship. Only one player on the Bobcats’ roster, Travis St. Denis, was on the ice during the 2013 Frozen Four. The other five seniors watched from the stands. Quinnipiac will wear their yellow alternate jerseys tonight; expect UND to counter with their black “business suits” for the last game of the season.

Media Coverage
UND and Quinnipiac will face off at 7:00 p.m. CT, with the game shown live on ESPN2 as well as TSN2 in Canada. There will also be a webcast available via the ESPN3/WatchESPN app. 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.

Pre-Game Events and Watch Parties
UND fans attending the NCAA Frozen Four in Tampa, Florida are invited to gather for pregame festivities prior to today’s national championship game. The pregame event will be held at Ferg’s Live, across the street from Amelie Arena. All UND alumni, family, and friends are invited to this free event with cash bars, a full menu, and more! There are also watch parties organized in Atlanta, Bismarck, Bloomington, Boise, Boston, Cavalier, Denver, Dickinson, Fargo, Flagstaff, Grand Forks, Grapevine, Hatton, Houston, Indianapolis, Kirkland, Las Vegas, Littleton, Long Island, Meridian, Minneapolis, Mountain Iron, Omaha, Prescott, Rapid City, Robins, Saint Paul, San Diego, Scottsdale, Sioux Falls, Virginia (MN), Waite Park, Washington (D.C.), and West Fargo. For more information or to see if additional events have been planned, please visit ndchampionsclub.com.

The Prediction
Quinnipiac will give UND fits with its overall team speed, and Cam Johnson will need to be up to the challenge as the Bobcats generate several odd-man rushes per game. The partisan green and white crowd at Amelie Arena and the weight of all the years of near-misses should give North Dakota the push it needs to earn an eighth national championship. UND 3, QU 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!