Weekend Preview: UND at Omaha

#4 North Dakota (21-11-1, 16-5-1 NCHC) will head to Nebraska this weekend to face #20 Omaha (20-14-0, 10-12-0 NCHC) at Baxter Arena exactly one month after the two teams tangled in Grand Forks. With one victory in the series (or one Denver loss to Colorado College), UND would claim the program’s third-consecutive Penrose Cup as NCHC regular-season champions.

Before we dig into this weekend’s matchup, let’s take a quick look back at the past few games between the two teams…

On Friday, February 4th, UND broke a 1-1 tie with three goals in the second period, including a 5-on-3 tally by Ethan Frisch with seven seconds remaining. In Saturday’s rematch, North Dakota built a 2-0 lead through two periods but could not hold off the Mavs, allowing two third-period goals less than three minutes apart and surrendering a 3-on-3 goal midway through the five-minute overtime session.

Saturday’s rematch marked the first time in 19 games between the teams that the team scoring first did not prevail.

Last season, the two teams tangled six times over the course of 36 days in the second half of the season, and familiarity bred contempt. To that point, a line brawl erupted in the final minute of the fourth meeting between the squads, a 7-1 North Dakota home victory which secured the Fighting Hawks’ second consecutive league championship and saw Brad Berry’s squad hoist the #PenneRosa for the fourth time in the eight-year history of the NCHC.

The Saturday melee in Grand Forks started with Omaha sophomore forward Joey Abate slashing UND’s Louis Jamernik on the wrist instead of attempting to win the faceoff. Jamernik responded with a cross-check, and the royal rumble was on. Not surprisingly, Abate did the same thing late in Friday’s game with North Dakota leading 4-1 and less than two minutes on the clock. Fittingly, Abate led the NCAA in penalty minutes last season (63) after compiling 117 penalty minutes in his lone season in the NAHL and 246 in his final two seasons in the USHL.

This season, it’s Abate’s teammate – senior forward Kevin Conley – who leads the team in sin bin time (71 minutes; 8th-most in the country). UND’s Tyler Kleven is 7th in the nation with 72 minutes in penalties.

Despite the aforementioned Maverick ruffians, Omaha was the biggest surprise in the NCHC last season. Of course, I expected them to have good results playing at home in the pod (and they did, posting a record of 6-3-1), but I also expected them to regress in the second half. On the contrary, the Mavs went a combined 7-3 against Colorado College (4-0), Denver (2-2), and North Dakota (1-1) over the first ten games of the “normal travel” portion of the schedule, finished with an overall record of 14-11-1, and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time since their Frozen Four appearance in 2015. UNO ended its season with two consecutive losses; a 5-4 defeat at the hands of Denver in the opening round of the NCHC Frozen Faceoff and a 7-2 drubbing by #2 Minnesota in the NCAA West Regional (Loveland, CO). The Gophers would be blanked 4-0 in the regional final by #5 Minnesota State.

Omaha’s 2020-2021 campaign was buoyed by excellent results in close games, including four overtime victories, four wins by one goal in regulation, and a ninth in a shootout. The Mavericks’ two victories over UND last season were a 5-4 win on January 30th and a 3-2 overtime victory on March 5th. North Dakota defeated UNO by scores of 6-2, 4-1, 7-1, and 4-2 for a combined scoring margin of 27-14 over the six-game season series.

Omaha is 6-4 in one-goal games this season; the Fighting Hawks are 8-3.

Turning back the clock a bit more: After a trip to the Frozen Four in 2015, Dean Blais could only manage a mark of 35-34-6 over his final two seasons behind the Omaha bench. He was replaced by Mike Gabinet (Omaha ’04), and Gabinet finished up his rookie campaign with an eerily similar record of 17-17-2.

Maverick fans were certainly hopeful that improvement was coming three seasons ago, but Omaha struggled out of the gate with a record of 0-6-1. Things leveled off a bit after that, with a record of 6-4-1 to close out 2018. Once the calendar year turned, however, Gabinet was only able to lead his team to three more wins (the last coming on February 8th) and a season record of 9-24-3. UNO fans had to have been a bit more pleased the following year, as the 2019-20 version of the Mavs collected fourteen victories (14-17-5).

And after a 14-11-1 campaign and an NCAA tourney berth last season, Gabinet’s squad has already collected twenty victories this season. Despite the winning record, Omaha finds itself in 21st place in the all-important Pairwise rankings. The Mavericks fared well out-of-conference (10-2-0) but only have ten wins in conference play (10-12-0). In particular, three losses to Miami and two losses to Colorado College – along with non-conference splits with Lake Superior and St. Lawrence – have UNO currently on the outside of the NCAA tournament field.

When North Dakota traveled to Kalamazoo to face Western Michigan in late January, the Fighting Hawks hadn’t won a game since December 11th, 2021.

UND dropped both games against the Broncos by final scores of 4-1 and 2-0, falling to 13th in the Pairwise Rankings.

Despite the two road defeats, there were signs that Brad Berry’s squad had righted the ship…

On Friday night, North Dakota outshot the Broncos 35-23 but were undone by three WMU power play goals and an 0-for-3 performance with the man advantage.

On Saturday night, shots were nearly even, with the decisive goal coming on a shorthanded breakaway in the final minute of the first period (Western Michigan would add a late empty-net goal).

Since those defeats at the hands of the Broncos, UND has faced St. Cloud State, Omaha, Colorado College, Minnesota Duluth, and Western Michigan, winning each weekend series and effectively going 9-1 over that stretch (27 of 30 league points) to leapfrog Denver for 1st place in the league standings.

Four weeks ago, I mentioned that it would be an uphill climb for UND to catch Denver in this year’s race for the league title despite being only three points behind with ten games to play.

With two NCHC games remaining, UND now leads Denver by four points in the race for the Penrose Cup. The Pioneers have a home-and-home series with the Colorado College Tigers this weekend (at CC Friday, at DU Saturday).

With sweeps over the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs (road) and the Western Michigan Broncos (home), UND has moved up to #5 in the all-important Pairwise Rankings, secured home ice for the first round of the NCHC playoffs, guaranteed no worse than a second-place finish in the conference standings, and locked up an NCAA tournament appearance.

UND has put together an impressive tournament resume by playing a tough slate of games all season long; the Fighting Hawks have played the country’s sixth-toughest schedule according to KRACH; Omaha’s slate of games currently ranks as the 18th-toughest in all of college hockey.

North Dakota’s sweep vs. Western Michigan moved them to 21-11-1 on the season and secured yet another 20-win campaign. Beginning in 1996-97, UND has collected twenty victories or more in 23 of 26 seasons, including last year, when the squad earned 22 wins in just 29 games.

Turning our attention to this weekend’s matchup, junior netminder Isaiah Saville (15-12-0, 2.47 GAA, .908 SV%, 4 SO) has been spectacular in net for the Mavs. Fellow third-year netminder Austin Roden has appeared in nine games (5-2-0. 2.21 GAA, .927 SV%). Roden made a third-period relief appearance on Friday, November 12th at St. Cloud State, started the following night, and made 43 of 45 saves in a 3-2 overtime victory over the Huskies. In the first half o the season, Roden only squared off against one other NCHC opponent, stopping 28 of 31 in a home loss to Colorado College on December 4th.

In February, however, Roden appeared in three league games, relieving Saville in Friday’s opener at North Dakota and splitting starts against St. Cloud State (win) and Denver (loss). Saville was not at his best through the first five weeks of the 2022 league schedule (33 goals in ten games), but he put together solid performances in victories against SCSU (28 of 29 saves) and DU (31 of 32 saves).

Before UND’s December series at Colorado College, fifth-year senior Zach Driscoll had played nearly every meaningful minute between the pipes for North Dakota, going 11-6-0 with a goals-against average of 2.62, a save percentage of .889, and one shutout. Both Driscoll and freshman Jakob Hellsten got a start in Colorado Springs, and each performed admirably (Driscoll made 28 of 30 saves on Friday night, while Hellsten stopped 23 of 24 in the rematch). Each of the netminders also got one start in early January against Cornell, with Driscoll struggling on Friday night (13 saves on 17 shots) before giving way to Hellsten on Saturday (17 saves on 20 shots).

After a bit of a back-and-forth between the two, Zach Driscoll has regained his status as UND’s #1 goaltender. Since taking over for Jacob Hellsten on January 29th against St. Cloud State, Driscoll has gone 7-1-1 with a goals-against average of 1.59, a save percentage of .946 (244 saves, 14 goals allowed), and one shutout. In February, the fifth-year netminder from Apple Valley, Minnesota was awarded three consecutive NCHC Goaltender Of The Week Awards and was named the NCHC Goaltender of the Month.

A half-point per game or better is my benchmark for solid offensive production, and Mike Gabinet’s squad has nine active players who meet that threshold, including two first-year forwards: Cameron Berg (7-13-20) and Ty Mueller (8-4-12 in 20 games). Others chipping in offensively include senior forward Taylor Ward (17-18-35), senior forward Brandon McManus (9-19-28), senior forward Taylor Weiss (8-21-29), senior forward Chase Primeau (7-12-19), senior forward Kevin Conley (8-10-18), junior forward Jack Randl (7-10-17), and junior defenseman Brandon Scanlin (6-25-31).

By that same measure, North Dakota also has nine players at a half point or better, although at least two of those – sophomore defenseman Jake Sanderson (7-17-24 in 21 games) and senior forward Gavin Hain (6-3-9 in 18 games) – will not be in the lineup this weekend due to injury. Two others- sophomore forward Riese Gaber (14-21-35) and junior defenseman Ethan Frisch (9-6-15) are dealing with an injuries and will be game-time decisions.

UND got forward Mark Senden (5-11-16) back in the lineup last weekend after the senior captain had missed two consecutive series.

Brad Berry can also count on the offensive production of senior forward Connor Ford (4-20-24), senior forward Ashton Calder (11-8-19), freshman forward Matteo Costantini (7-12-19), freshman forward Jake Schmaltz (6-13-19), and sophomore forward Louis Jamernik (9-10-19).

With Sanderson out of the lineup, Brad Berry will rely on a trio of blueliners – junior Ethan Frisch (9-16-15, 107 total shot attempts), graduate student Chris Jandric (1-12-13, 87), and sophomore Tyler Kleven (5-3-8, 145) – to shoulder the offensive load. Frisch has come on after being added to the top power play unit; the third-year d-man from Moorhead, Minnesota has scored a goal in six of his past nine games and has already surpassed his goal-scoring total from his first two seasons at North Dakota (four goals in 55 games).

Last year, North Dakota definitely benefitted from having a number of players stick around for a title run rather than turn pro. And UND’s roster is now feeling the effects of all of those departures happening at once, with fourteen new faces in Green and White this season. Despite bringing in five experienced transfers (forwards Ashton Calder and Connor Ford, defensemen Chris Jandric and Brady Ferner, and goaltender Zach Driscoll), the Fighting Hawks lost their top five scorers (and seven of their top eight) from a season ago: Jordan Kawaguchi, Collin Adams, Shane Pinto, Jasper Weatherby, Matt Kiersted, Grant Mismash, and Jacob Bernard-Docker combined for over 60% of UND’s offense last season (69 of 114 goals and 185 of 308 total points).

In addition to those seven skaters, Brad Berry also lost forwards Jackson Keane and Harrison Blaisdell, defensemen Gabe Bast and Josh Rieger, and goaltenders Adam Scheel and Peter Thome.

Despite losing all of that firepower and scoring depth, North Dakota is still managing 3.21 goals per game; last year, UND scored 3.93 goals/game. A more glaring difference can be found on the defensive side of the puck: after allowing less than two goals per game last year (1.97), the Fighting Hawks are giving up an average of 2.58 per game this season.

UND is scoring on 11.8 percent of its shots on goal, a mark good for 5th in the country. Omaha clocks in close behind at 11.2 percent (12th).

North Dakota made a living with the puck last season (7th and 5th in two key puck possession statistics), and it started in the faceoff circle. In particular, Shane Pinto, Collin Adams, and Jasper Weatherby had UND at #1 in the nation in faceoff percentage (56.2%); this year, the Green and White struggled early but now land at 55.2%, good for 3rd in the nation. Omaha sits at 51.1 percent (19th).

For UND, Connor Ford (61.8% of faceoffs won) takes nearly every important draw, while Jake Schmaltz (52.1%) has improved over the course of his first college season. Louis Jamernik (54.4%) has been a steady third option for Brad Berry.

For the Mavericks, it’s junior Nolan Sullivan (59.3%) and senior Chayse Primeau (49.0%) leading the way, with freshman Cameron Berg (54.3%) chipping in as well.

With both squads faring extremely well on draws, it is no surprise that the teams find themselves neck-and-neck nationally in two key puck possession statistics:

Corsi: UND 51.2% (24th), Omaha 50.8% (25th)
Fenwick: UND 51.9% (21st), Omaha 50.9% (27th)

Corsi measures the percentage of shots taken vs. opponents; Fenwick measures the percentage of unblocked shots taken vs. opponents.

North Dakota’s penalty disparity is becoming problematic, as UND averages nearly a full minor penalty more per game (11.82 – 10.59) in conference play. The Fighting Hawks have had 119 man-advantage situations this season but have been shorthanded 133 times. With 29 power play goals scored, 28 power play goals allowed, four shorthanded goals scored, and three allowed, UND’s specialty teams net is a +2.

Omaha is in better shape in the penalty department, averaging just 14.00 penalty minutes per conference game while seeing their opponents whistled for 14.35. This has led to 170 man-advantage situations on the season against 166 shorthanded situations for the Mavericks. With 43 power play goals, 29 power play goals against, and a 3-2 advantage in shorthanded goals, UNO sits at +15.

To this point in the season, here is the complete specialty teams ledger:

Omaha power play: 43 of 170, 25.3 percent (7th)
Omaha penalty kill: 137 of 166, 84.1 percent (28th)

North Dakota power play: 29 of 119, 24.4 percent (11th)
North Dakota penalty kill: 105 of 133, 78.9 percent (43rd)

This weekend will close out the NCHC regular season, with first-round matchups in the league playoffs yet to be determined. North Dakota will finish in first or second place in the standings; while Omaha could finish in fifth or sixth place. UND will face either Miami or Colorado College in a best-of-three series next weekend in Grand Forks; the games will be played on March 11th, March 12th, and March 13th (if necessary).

Omaha Mavericks

Head Coach: Mike Gabinet (5th season at UNO, 74-83-11, .473)

National Rankings: #20
Pairwise Ranking: 21st
KRACH Rating: 175.1 (16th)

This Season: 20-14-0 overall, 10-12-0 NCHC (6th)
Last Season: 14-11-1 overall (NCAA West Regional semifinalist), 10-9-5 NCHC (4th)

Team Offense: 3.21 goals scored/game – 19th of 59 teams
Team Defense: 2.56 goals allowed/game – 20th of 59 teams

Power Play: 25.3% (43 of 170) – 7th of 59 teams
Penalty Kill: 84.1% (137 of 166) – 28th of 59 teams

Key Players: Senior F Taylor Ward (17-18-35), Senior F Brandon McManus (9-19-28), Senior F Taylor Weiss (8-21-29), Senior F Chase Primeau (7-12-19), Freshman F Cameron Berg (7-13-20), Freshman F Ty Mueller (8-4-12 in 20 games), Senior F Kevin Conley (8-10-18), Junior F Jack Randl (7-10-17), Junior D Brandon Scanlin (6-25-31), Junior G Isaiah Saville (15-12-0, 2.47 GAA, .908 SV%, 4 SO)

North Dakota Fighting Hawks

Head Coach: Brad Berry (7th season at UND, 159-74-25, .665)

National Rankings: #4
Pairwise Ranking: 5th
KRACH Rating: 448.0 (5th)

This Season: 21-11-1 overall, 16-5-1 NCHC (1st)
Last Season: 22-6-1 overall (NCHC Midwest Regional Finalist), 18-5-1 NCHC (1st)

2021-2022 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.21goals scored/game – 19th of 59 teams
Team Defense: 2.58 goals allowed/game – 21st of 59 teams

Power Play: 24.4% (29 of 119) – 11th of 59 teams
Penalty Kill: 78.9% (105 of 133) – 43rd of 59 teams

Key players: Sophomore F Riese Gaber (14-21-35), Senior F Connor Ford (4-20-24), Senior F Ashton Calder (11-8-19), Freshman F Jake Schmaltz (6-13-19), Junior F Judd Caulfield (9-7-16), Freshman F Matteo Costantini (7-12-19), Sophomore F Louis Jamernik (9-10-19), Junior D Ethan Frisch (9-6-15), Senior Chris Jandric (1-12-13), Sophomore D Tyler Kleven (5-3-8), Senior G Zach Driscoll (19-9-1, 2.37 GAA, .907 SV%, 2 SO)

By The Numbers:

Last meeting: February 5, 2022 (Grand Forks, ND). North Dakota built a two-goal lead through the first forty minutes of action but couldn’t make it hold up, surrendering two third-period goals less than three minutes apart to send the game to overtime. Omaha’s Brannon McManus ended the contest halfway through the five-minute 3-on-3 session. One night earlier, the teams were tied after one period, but UND erupted for three goals in the middle frame, including a 5-on-3 tally with just seven seconds remaining. The Mavericks outshot the Fighting Hawks 9-4 in the third period but could not put a second goal past Zach Driscoll, who finished with 26 saves.

Last meeting in Omaha: February 26, 2021. The two teams met in Omaha just six days after UND’s 7-1 drubbing in Grand Forks, and the Fighting Hawks picked up right where they left off, dispatching the homestanding Mavericks 4-2. North Dakota led 2-1 with three minutes remaining before UNO’s Jack Randl evened the score. Jasper Weatherby scored on the power play with less than eighty seconds left to give the visitors the lead, and a shorthanded empty-netter from Judd Caulfield iced the game. North Dakota was assessed just ten minutes in penalties, while Omaha was whistled for twenty, including fourteen minutes in the third period alone. The Fighting Hawks scored three power play goals and held the Mavs scoreless on four man-advantage opportunities.

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

Last ten: North Dakota has won six of the last ten contests between the schools, outscoring the Mavericks 39-22 over that stretch. Two of the last ten games have gone to overtime, and both went the way of Omaha by identical 3-2 scores.

All-time: UND leads the all-time series 29-16-1 (.641), including a 14-7-0 (.667) record in games played in Grand Forks. North Dakota owns a record of 24-13-1 (.645) against the Mavericks since both teams joined the NCHC. The teams first met on November 19, 2010.

Game News and Notes

In 2015, both North Dakota and Omaha advanced to the Frozen Four but neither team made the championship game. UND fell to Boston University 5-3, while the Mavericks were upended 4-1 by eventual national champion Providence. Since joining the WCHA in 2011 (and later the NCHC), the Mavs have never reached the Twin Cities for the second weekend of the conference tournament despite having home ice in three of those eight years. North Dakota’s Brad Berry is 20-10-0 (.667) in his head coaching career against Omaha. In 18 of the past 19 contests in this series, the winning team is the one which scores the first goal.

The Prediction

North Dakota is on a mission to claim the program’s third-consecutive Penrose Cup, and I don’t see anything standing in their way. UND has battled through illness, injuries, and depleted lineups and has emerged on the other side unfazed and battle-tested. If anything can derail the Fighting Hawks, it would be a specialty teams battle, as Brad Berry would prefer to see his squad play the majority of the contest at even strength. Omaha’s Isaiah Saville is definitely capable of stealing a game between the pipes, but I don’t see that happening until Saturday night – after North Dakota hoists the #PennaRosa on Friday. UND 4-1, UNO 4-2.

Broadcast Information

Both games this weekend will be available via webcast at NCHC.tv. All UND men’s hockey games can be heard on stations across the UND Sports Home of Economy Radio Network as well as through the iHeart Radio app.

Social Media

Keep up with the action live during all UND hockey games by following @UNDmhockey and @UNDInsider on Twitter. Fans can also read the action via Brad Schlossman’s live chat on the Grand Forks Herald website.

As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Follow me on Twitter (@DBergerHockey) for more information and insight. Here’s to hockey!

Weekend Preview: UND vs. Western Michigan

When North Dakota traveled to Kalamazoo to face Western Michigan in late January, the Fighting Hawks hadn’t won a game since December 11th, 2021.

UND dropped both games against the Broncos by final scores of 4-1 and 2-0, falling to 13th in the Pairwise Rankings.

Despite the two road defeats, there were signs that Brad Berry’s squad had righted the ship…

On Friday night, North Dakota outshot the Broncos 35-23 but were undone by three WMU power play goals and an 0-for-3 performance with the man advantage.

On Saturday night, shots were nearly even, with the decisive goal coming on a shorthanded breakaway in the final minute of the first period (Western Michigan would add a late empty-net goal).

Since those defeats at the hands of the Broncos, UND has faced St. Cloud State, Omaha, Colorado College, and Minnesota Duluth, winning each weekend series and effectively going 7-1 over that stretch (21 of 24 league points) to leapfrog Denver for 1st place in the league standings.

Three weeks ago, I mentioned that it would be an uphill climb for UND to catch Denver in this year’s race for the league title despite being only three points behind with ten games to play.

With four NCHC games remaining, UND now leads Denver by one point in the race for the Penrose Cup. It’s probably still Denver’s title to lose, with the following schedules over the past two weekends:

North Dakota: vs. Western Michigan, at Omaha

Denver: at Omaha, at/vs. Colorado College (home and home series)

With last weekend’s road sweep over the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs, UND also moved up to #6 in the all-important Pairwise Rankings, secured home ice for the first round of the NCHC playoffs, and guaranteed no worse than a third-place finish in the conference standings. North Dakota is currently eight points clear of Western Michigan, so a split this weekend would lock up a top-two finish for the Fighting Hawks.

Both Western Michigan and UND have put together impressive tournament resumes by playing a tough slate of games all season long; WMU has played the country’s fourth-toughest schedule according to KRACH; North Dakota’s slate of games currently ranks as the sixth-toughest in all of college hockey.

This weekend, it’ll be #7 North Dakota (19-11-1, 14-5-1 NCHC) hosting #6 Western Michigan (20-8-1, 12-7-1 NCHC) at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks.

First-year head coach Pat Ferschweiler (WMU ’93) has his team playing at an extremely high level, with the Broncos exhibiting plenty of offense, outstanding specialty teams, and excellent goaltending. Ferschweiler, who had previously been the WMU associate head coach under Andy Murray, also spent four seasons as an assistant coach for the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings.

At 4th in the Pairwise and with a non-conference record of 8-1-0, Western Michigan is in line to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2017 and just the fourth time since 1996. WMU’s eight losses on the season have come against Michigan (1st), Denver (3rd, three times), Minnesota Duluth (8th, twice), St. Cloud State (10th), and Omaha (23rd).

In the Division I era (since 1975), the Broncos have had fifteen twenty-win seasons, most recently in 2018-19 (21-15-1).

North Dakota’s sweep at Minnesota Duluth moved them to 19-11-1 on the season and within one victory of another 20-win campaign. Beginning in 1996-97, UND has collected twenty victories or more in 22 of 25 seasons, including last year, when the squad earned 22 wins in just 29 games.

Turning our attention to this weekend’s action, junior netminder Brandon Bussi has played extremely well for the Broncos this season, notching twenty wins against just eight defeats. After enduring a three-game losing streak from November 6th-13th (vs. UMD, at Denver x 2), Bussi went 8-1 with a goals-against average of 1.70 and a save percentage of .940 leading into the home weekend against North Dakota. During that stretch, his only defeat was a 1-0 home loss to Omaha in which he made 25 of 26 saves. And against the Fighting Hawks, Bussi was at his best, allowing just a single goal on the weekend while making 58 saves. He has come back down to earth over the past four weeks, however, allowing at least two goals in each game and surrendering a total of 29 goals.

The 6’5”, 210-pounder from Sound Beach, New York only appeared in four games last season, suffering a severe injury just eight minutes into the team’s first game of the season in the Omaha pod. Bussi, who went 18-12-4 with a goals-against average of 2.65 and a save percentage of .910. as a freshman in 2019-2020, managed to appear in the final three games of last season.

Before UND’s last series at Colorado College, fifth-year senior Zach Driscoll had played nearly every meaningful minute between the pipes for North Dakota, going 11-6-0 with a goals-against average of 2.62, a save percentage of .889, and one shutout. Both Driscoll and freshman Jakob Hellsten got a start in Colorado Springs, and each performed admirably (Driscoll made 28 of 30 saves on Friday night, while Hellsten stopped 23 of 24 in the rematch). Each of the netminders also got one start in early January against Cornell, with Driscoll struggling on Friday night (13 saves on 17 shots) before giving way to Hellsten on Saturday (17 saves on 20 shots).

After a bit of a back-and-forth between the two, Zach Driscoll has regained his status as UND’s #1 goaltender. Since taking over for Jacob Hellsten on January 29th against St. Cloud State, Driscoll has gone 5-1-1 with a goals-against average of 1.62, a save percentage of .945 (189 saves, 11 goals allowed), and three consecutive NCHC Goaltender Of The Week Awards.

A half-point per game or better is my benchmark for solid offensive production, and Pat Ferschweiler’s squad has ten players who meet that threshold: senior forward Drew Worrad (6-32-38), senior forward Ethen Frank (23-10-33), senior forward Cole Gallant (8-15-23), junior forward Jason Polin (7-16-23), senior forward Paul Washe (8-5-13), sophomore forward Ty Glover (6-10-16), senior forward Josh Passolt (7-16-23), freshman forward Max Sasson (7-10-17), senior defenseman Michael Joyaux (7-21-28), and junior defenseman Ronnie Attard (11-19-30).

Josh Passolt had a three-point effort on Friday night against North Dakota but was held scoreless in the rematch. Since that series, the senior from Hayward, Wisconsin has scored four goals and added six assists in the past eight games.

By that same measure, North Dakota has nine players at a half point or better, although at least two of those – sophomore defenseman Jake Sanderson (7-17-24 in 21 games) and senior forward Gavin Hain (6-3-9 in 18 games) – will not be in the lineup this weekend due to injury. Two others- sophomore forward Riese Gaber (14-21-35) and senior forward Mark Senden (injury, 5-10-15) – are also dealing with injury and will be game-time decisions.

On the plus side, Brad Berry can count on the offensive production of senior forward Connor Ford (4-18-22), senior forward Ashton Calder (10-8-18), freshman forward Matteo Costantini (6-11-17), freshman forward Jake Schmaltz (6-12-18), and sophomore forward Louis Jamernik (8-9-17).

With Sanderson out of the lineup, Brad Berry will rely on a trio of blueliners – junior Ethan Frisch (9-16-15, 106 total shot attempts), graduate student Chris Jandric (1-11-12, 80), and sophomore Tyler Kleven (5-3-8, 136) – to shoulder the offensive load. Frisch has come on after being added to the top power play unit; the third-year d-man from Moorhead, Minnesota has scored a goal in six of his past eight games and has already surpassed his goal-scoring total from his first two seasons at North Dakota (four goals in 55 games).

Last year, North Dakota definitely benefitted from having a number of players stick around for a title run rather than turn pro. And UND’s roster is now feeling the effects of all of those departures happening at once, with fourteen new faces in Green and White this season. Despite bringing in five experienced transfers (forwards Ashton Calder and Connor Ford, defensemen Chris Jandric and Brady Ferner, and goaltender Zach Driscoll), the Fighting Hawks lost their top five scorers (and seven of their top eight) from a season ago: Jordan Kawaguchi, Collin Adams, Shane Pinto, Jasper Weatherby, Matt Kiersted, Grant Mismash, and Jacob Bernard-Docker combined for over 60% of UND’s offense last season (69 of 114 goals and 185 of 308 total points).

In addition to those seven skaters, Brad Berry also lost forwards Jackson Keane and Harrison Blaisdell, defensemen Gabe Bast and Josh Rieger, and goaltenders Adam Scheel and Peter Thome.

Despite losing all of that firepower and scoring depth, North Dakota is still managing 3.19 goals per game; last year, UND scored 3.93 goals/game. A more glaring difference can be found on the defensive side of the puck: after allowing less than two goals per game last year (1.97), the Fighting Hawks are giving up an average of 2.65 per game this season.

UND is scoring on 11.6 percent of its shots on goal, a mark good for 9th in the country. Western Michigan clocks in at a remarkable 12.2 percent (3rd).

North Dakota made a living with the puck last season (7th and 5th in two key puck possession statistics), and it started in the faceoff circle. In particular, Shane Pinto, Collin Adams, and Jasper Weatherby had UND at #1 in the nation in faceoff percentage (56.2%); this year, the Green and White struggled early but now land at 55.0%, good for 4th in the nation. Western Michigan sits at 51.0 percent (16th).

For UND, Connor Ford (61.7% of faceoffs won) takes nearly every important draw, while Jake Schmaltz (51.8%) has improved over the course of his first college season. Louis Jamernik (54.4%) has been a steady third option for Brad Berry.

For the Broncos, it’s senior Drew Worrad (55.5%) and fifth-year senior Paul Washe (55.0%) leading the way, with underclassmen Max Sasson (41.9%), Tim Washe (50.5%), and Luke Grainger (48.1%) chipping in as well.

With both squads faring extremely well on draws, it is no surprise that each team finds itself in the upper third nationally in two key puck possession statistics:

Corsi: UND 51.6% (21st), Western Michigan 53.3% (13th)
Fenwick: UND 52.2% (18th), Western Michigan 53.2% (14th)

Corsi measures the percentage of shots taken vs. opponents; Fenwick measures the percentage of unblocked shots taken vs. opponents.

North Dakota’s penalty disparity is becoming problematic, as UND averages a full minor penalty more per game (12.20 – 10.20) in conference play. The Fighting Hawks have had 111 man-advantage situations this season but have been shorthanded 125 times. With 27 power play goals scored, 27 power play goals allowed, and three shorthanded goals scored, and three allowed, UND’s specialty teams net is exactly even.

Western Michigan is in better shape in the penalty department, averaging just 10.50 penalty minutes per game while seeing their opponents whistled for 12.20. This has led to 130 man-advantage situations and just 126 shorthanded situations for the Broncos. With 37 power play goals, 20 power play goals against, and a 5-3 advantage in shorthanded goals, WMU sits at +19.

To this point in the season, here is the complete specialty teams ledger:

Western Michigan power play: 37 of 130, 26.8 percent (4th)
Western Michigan penalty kill: 106 of 126, 84.1 percent (18th)

North Dakota power play: 27 of 111, 24.3 percent (10th)
North Dakota penalty kill: 98 of 125, 78.4 percent (44th)

After this weekend, the Broncos will host the Miami RedHawks to close out the NCHC regular season, while North Dakota will travel to Omaha to face the Mavericks.

Western Michigan Broncos

Head Coach: Pat Ferschweiler (1st season at WMU, 20-8-1, .707)

National Rankings: #6/#6
Pairwise Ranking: 4th
KRACH Ranking: 4th

This Season: 20-8-1 overall, 12-7-1 NCHC (3rd)
Last Season: 10-12-3 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 9-11-2-2 NCHC (6th)

2021-2022 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.86 goals scored/game – 4th of 59 teams
Team Defense: 2.62 goals allowed/game – 24th of 59 teams

Power Play: 26.8% (37 of 130) – 4th of 59 teams
Penalty Kill: 84.1% (106 of 126) – 18th of 59 teams

Key Players: Senior F Drew Worrad (6-32-3), Senior F Ethen Frank (23-10-33), Senior F Cole Gallant (8-15-23), Junior F Jason Polin (13-9-22), Senior F Paul Washe (8-5-13), Senior D Michael Joyaux (7-21-28), Junior D Ronnie Attard (11-19-30), Junior G Brandon Bussi (20-8-1, 2.60 GAA, .913 SV%, 3 SO)

North Dakota Fighting Hawks

Head Coach: Brad Berry (7th season at UND, 157-74-25, .662)

National Rankings: #7/#7
Pairwise Ranking: 6th
KRACH Ranking: 6th

This Season: 19-11-1 overall, 14-5-1 NCHC (1st)
Last Season: 22-6-1 overall (NCHC Midwest Regional Finalist), 18-5-1 NCHC (1st)

2021-2022 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.19 goals scored/game – 18th of 59 teams
Team Defense: 2.65goals allowed/game – 25th of 59 teams

Power Play: 24.3% (27 of 111) – 10th of 59 teams
Penalty Kill: 78.4% (98 of 125) – 44th of 59 teams

Key players: Sophomore F Riese Gaber (14-21-35), Senior F Connor Ford (4-18-22), Senior F Ashton Calder (10-8-18), Freshman F Jake Schmaltz (6-12-18), Junior F Judd Caulfield (7-6-13), Freshman F Matteo Costantini (6-11-17), Sophomore F Louis Jamernik (8-9-17), Junior D Ethan Frisch (9-6-15), Senior Chris Jandric (1-11-12), Sophomore D Tyler Kleven (5-3-8), Senior G Zach Driscoll (17-9-1, 2.44 GAA, .903 SV%, 2 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: January 22, 2022 (Kalamazoo, MI). WMU’s Max Sasson scored on a shorthanded breakway at the 19:14 mark of the first period, and the Broncos would make that hold up for a 2-0 (EN) victory. One night earlier, North Dakota outshot Western Michigan 35-23 but were undone by three power play goals and an ineffective power play of their own (0-for-3).

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: February 29, 2020. One first-period goal for each side would be all of the scoring until the overtime session, at which point UND’s Shane Pinto took over and made the final score 2-1. In Friday’s opener, North Dakota scored twice in the middle frame (Judd Caulfield and Matt Kiersted) and traded third-period goals with the Broncos for a 3-1 victory.

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 six NCAA tournament appearances.

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 twelfth consecutive season.

All-Time Series: In the short history between the schools, UND has won 25 of the 34 games (25-9-0, .735), including 10 of the 14 games played in Grand Forks. Before the 2016-17 season in which Western Michigan won three of the four meetings, WMU’s lone victory over North Dakota was a 2-1 road win on March 8th, 2014. The teams first met in 1997.

Last Ten: North Dakota has won seven of the last ten meetings between the two teams, outscoring the Broncos 36-21 over that stretch of games. Before the Broncos’ home sweep of North Dakota last month, UND had swept the previous six with a scoring margin of 28-10.

Game News and Notes

Western Michigan moved up to the Division I ranks beginning with the 1975-76 season and has advanced to the NCAA tournament six times. The Broncos have made the NCAA tourney once (2017) in their first eight seasons in the NCHC after advancing to the national tournament twice (2011, 2012) in the last three seasons in the now-defunct CCHA. The Broncos are 14-0-0 when leading after two periods of play but just 6-8-1 when trailing or tied. Western Michigan has outscored opponents 42-20 in third periods this season.

The Prediction

So many things have changed since these two teams tangled last month. North Dakota finally has a #1 goaltender and are finding contributions up and down the lineup. With last line change, head coach Brad Berry will be able to dictate matchups and deploy the lines of Carson Albrecht – Griffin Ness – Nick Portz and Jackson Kunz – Louis Jamernik – Dane Montgomery against WMU’s top two lines. A sweep is too much to ask this weekend, but I definitely think that North Dakota will take the opener and make things difficult in the rematch. UND 4-2, WMU 3-2.

Broadcast Information

Friday’s opener will be available exclusively on CBS Sports Network, with Saturday’s rematch broadcast live on Midco Sports Network and NCHC.tv. All UND men’s hockey games can be heard on stations across the UND Sports Home of Economy Radio Network as well as through the iHeart Radio app.

Social Media

Keep up with the action live during all UND hockey games by following @UNDmhockey and @UNDInsider on Twitter. Fans can also read the action via Brad Schlossman’s live chat on the Grand Forks Herald website.

As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Follow me on Twitter (@DBergerHockey) for more information and insight. Here’s to hockey!

Weekend Preview: UND at Minnesota Duluth

#9 North Dakota (17-11-1) travels to AMSOIL Arena this weekend to take on #7 Minnesota Duluth (15-11-3) for a pair of NCHC contests. When the teams squared off in Grand Forks back on November 19th and 20th, the Bulldogs won Friday’s opener 4-1 but were unable to complete the sweep, as UND broke a 1-1 tie five minutes into the third period and held on for a 2-1 victory. The Fighting Hawks held the advantage in the faceoff circle all weekend, winning 68 of 115 faceoffs (59.1%). In game one, UMD went 1-for-6 with the man advantage and held UND scoreless on six power plays. In the rematch, it was North Dakota scoring on the power play and holding the Bulldogs without a power play goal.

And turning back the clock to March 27th, 2021, North Dakota was down 2-0 to Minnesota Duluth with just 101 seconds remaining in the third period of the 2021 NCAA Midwest Regional final at Scheels Arena in Fargo, North Dakota. The Bulldogs had built their lead with two goals just 80 seconds apart early in the final frame on a pair of fluky plays. A partially blocked shot off the stick of Jackson Cates fluttered past Fighting Hawks’ netminder Adam Scheel, and a broken stick at the blue line sent Cole Koepke in alone on a breakaway.

Through the first 25 games of the season, UND had only won one game after allowing the first goal (1-5-1). But after coming back against both Denver and St. Cloud State to claim the program’s first NCHC Frozen Faceoff postseason title, Brad Berry’s squad had to feel like another comeback was possible.

And it was indeed possible. Collin Adams and Jordan Kawaguchi scored extra-attacker goals 44 seconds apart to send the partisan crowd into a frenzy and send the game to overtime. And overtime. And overtime. And overtime.

UMD’s Luke Mylymok scored the game-winner just over two minutes into the FIFTH overtime session; his second goal of the season ended the longest NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey tournament game in history.

One could argue that after over 140 minutes of game action, Duluth had a built-in advantage: the Bulldogs (14-10-2) were scheduled to face Michigan in the regional semifinal, but after the Wolverines withdrew due to a positive COVID-19 test in their hockey program, UMD advanced in a “no contest” and therefore had fresher legs than top overall seed North Dakota (22-5-1).

Adams and Kawaguchi were two of six North Dakota players to finish the season with double digit goal totals. Of those six, only Riese Gaber remains at North Dakota.

Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State both advanced to the 2021 NCAA Frozen Four in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which meant that the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) was represented on college hockey’s biggest stage for the seventh consecutive tourney (every season that the league has existed).

Here are the NCHC teams to appear in the Frozen Four since the NCHC began play in 2013-2014:

2014: North Dakota
2015: North Dakota, Omaha
2016: North Dakota (champion), Denver
2017: Denver (champion), Minnesota Duluth
2018: Minnesota Duluth (champion)
2019: Minnesota Duluth (champion), Denver
2020: No NCAA tournament (COVID-19)
2021: Minnesota Duluth, St. Cloud State

The Bulldogs played ten games at the Division I level in the early 1930s but didn’t really get started until after World War II. Its first 19 seasons after the war were played as an independent before joining the WCHA in 1965. It would take 18 seasons – and a head coach named Mike Sertich – before UMD would make the NCAA tournament, and Sertich would take them there in three consecutive seasons:

1982-1983: National Quarterfinalist
1983-1984: 2nd Place (National Runner-Up)
1984-1985: 3rd Place (Consolation Champion)

In 1984, Duluth was tantalizingly close to winning its first title. The Bulldogs defeated North Dakota 2-1 in overtime (behind a goal by Bill Watson) to advance to the championship game, where they would face Bowling Green in the longest NCAA final in Division I men’s hockey history. Gino Cavallini scored for the Falcons in the fourth overtime session, ending a game that took over 97 minutes of game action to complete.

And, perhaps, fittingly, UMD would find themselves locked in overtime contests in 1985 as well. The Bulldogs took RPI to three overtimes in the national semis before falling 6-5. Back in those days, there was still a third-place game, and so Duluth faced Boston College (which had also played three overtimes in its semifinal) for no reason at all. Of course, that game also went to overtime, with UMD defeating the Eagles 7-6.

After that three-year splash on the national scene, Mike Sertich would manage just one more tournament appearance (1993) over the final fifteen years of his head coaching career before giving way to Scott Sandelin, who has guided the Bulldogs to the NCAAs ten times in his 21 seasons behind the Bulldog bench.

Even though UMD has been a more frequent participant over the past two decades than at any other point in team history, Duluth and North Dakota have only met twice in the national tournament (1984 and 2021). UND had a chance to meet the Bulldogs in the 2011 title game but fell to the Wolverines in the semifinals 2-0 (with an empty-net goal) despite outshooting Michigan 40-20.

Before the Wolverines were forced to withdraw, UMD and Michigan were set to square off in the national tournament for the first time since that overtime thriller in St. Paul.

With three national titles in a nine-year stretch, the Bulldogs could certainly be considered the best team of the 2010s; North Dakota’s eight national titles have been spread out across the decades: 1959, 1963, 1980, 1982, 1987, 1997, 2000, and 2016.

The Wolverines have won nine NCAA titles but only two since 1964, those coming in 1996 and 1998. For that reason, I consider North Dakota (eight titles) and Denver (eight titles) the two best programs in NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey history.

Turning the page to this season, Duluth has 12 seniors and grad students on their roster; North Dakota? Only six. And that’s all thanks to the transfer portal, which allowed Brad Berry to bring in senior forwards Ashton Calder and Connor Ford, a graduate transfer on defense (Chris Jandric), and senior netminder Zach Driscoll. Forwards Gavin Hain and Mark Senden are the only two current UND seniors who were on last year’s roster, and they are both dealing with injuries. Hain will not play this weekend in Duluth, while Senden is considered probable to make his way into the lineup.

Two weeks ago, I mentioned that it would be an uphill climb for UND to catch Denver in this year’s race for the league title despite being only three points behind with ten games to play.

North Dakota has tightened the race over the past three weekends, collecting fifteen of eighteen possible league points against St. Cloud State (7-1 win, 3-3 tie with a shootout victory), Omaha (4-1 win, 2-3 overtime loss), and Colorado College (3-2 win, 4-0 win). With six NCHC games remaining, UND now trails Denver by just two points in the race for the Penrose Cup. The Fighting Hawks are currently five points clear of Western Michigan and ten points better than Duluth in the fight for second place (it is worth noting, however, that Duluth has one extra game remaining on its schedule due to COVID-19 rescheduling). North Dakota will host WMU next weekend before traveling to Omaha to close out the regular season.

By effectively going 5-1 over their past six games, the Fighting Hawks have moved to #11 in the all-important Pairwise rankings. As I have been saying since January, good results each weekend may not move the Pairwise needle much in the moment, but they will help the team’s resume in the long run.

North Dakota’s four January losses (two vs. PWR 25 Cornell, two at PWR 4 Western Michigan) continue to loom large on the national scene. For the moment, UND is being held up by early-season victories over Quinnipiac (6th) Denver (3rd, twice), Minnesota Duluth (7th), Minnesota (5th), and St. Cloud State (8th). In the first half of the season, UND split its series with Quinnipiac, Duluth, Minnesota, and St. Cloud State and lost to Bemidji State (26th) and Penn State (24th).

Duluth has put together its impressive tournament resume by playing the country’s toughest schedule according to KRACH; North Dakota’s slate of games currently ranks as the sixth-toughest in all of college hockey.

Junior netminder Ryan Fanti has played nearly 85 percent of the minutes in goal for the Bulldogs, going 13-8-3 with a goals-against average of 1.91, a save percentage of .922, and four shutouts. Sophomore Zach Stejskal appeared in two games back in October before receiving a cancer diagnosis; he returned to the crease last Friday night at Denver, appearing in relief after Fanti was unable to return to the ice for the start of the second period due to illness. Stejskal turned away 20 of 22 shots to earn the road victory over the Pioneers.

Before UND’s December series at Colorado College, fifth-year senior Zach Driscoll had played nearly every meaningful minute between the pipes for North Dakota, going 11-6-0 with a goals-against average of 2.62, a save percentage of .889, and one shutout. Both Driscoll and freshman Jakob Hellsten got a start in Colorado Springs, and each performed admirably (Driscoll made 28 of 30 saves on Friday night, while Hellsten stopped 23 of 24 in the rematch). Each of the netminders also got one start in early January against Cornell, with Driscoll struggling on Friday night (13 saves on 17 shots) before giving way to Hellsten on Saturday (17 saves on 20 shots).

Nearly a month ago, Driscoll again got the Friday start at Western Michigan, allowing four goals on 23 shots. Hellsten looked better in the rematch, allowing only a late first-period shorthanded goal while making 24 saves. That allowed Brad Berry to start Hellsten against St. Cloud State, and the freshman played brilliantly on Friday night, allowing just one goal on twenty shots. Saturday was a different story, however, and he was pulled after allowing three goals in the first period. It should be noted, however, that one was a power-play tally and the other two were breakaways – one shorthanded and one just as a penalty expired.

Driscoll righted the ship in that Saturday contest, making 20 of 20 saves as North Dakota clawed back and forced overtime. After a scoreless three-on-three session, Driscoll stopped all four attempts in the shootout as the Fighting Hawks secured the extra league point.

Since then, it’s been Driscoll’s crease, and he’s responded. Over the past five games, he’s gone 3-1-1 with a goals-against average of 1.25, a save percentage of .952, and one shutout.

A half-point per game or better is my benchmark for solid offensive production, and Scott Sandelin’s squad has six regulars in the lineup who meet that threshold: sophomore forward Blake Biondi (12-10-22), senior forward Noah Cates (8-11-19), junior forward Quinn Olson (6-15-21), senior forward Casey Gilling (7-12-19), graduate forward Kobe Roth (9-10-19), and senior forward Koby Bender (4-11-15). Freshman forward Dominic James (3-9-12), freshman defenseman Owen Gallatin (2-12-14), and sophomore defenseman Wyatt Kaiser (1-10-11) nearly meet that same offensive threshold.

Noah Cates is doubtful to make an appearance this weekend after finishing up with the U.S. Olympic Team in Beijing, China. Head coach Scott Sandelin will get Dominic James back this weekend; James missed last weekend’s games at Denver with an injury.

By that same measure, North Dakota has nine players at a half point or better, although at least two of those – sophomore defenseman Jake Sanderson (Olympics, 7-17-24 in 21 games) and senior forward Gavin Hain (injury, 6-3-9 in 18 games) – will not be in the lineup this weekend, while a third – senior forward Mark Senden (injury, 5-10-15) – will be a game-time decision. Brad Berry will have the services of sophomore forward Riese Gaber (14-20-34), senior forward Connor Ford (4-18-22), senior forward Ashton Calder (10-8-18), freshman forward Matteo Costantini (6-10-16) and freshman forward Jake Schmaltz (6-10-16). Sophomore forward Louis Jamernik (7-8-15) will also return to the lineup after missing last weekend’s games against Colorado College.

With Sanderson out of the lineup, Brad Berry will rely on a trio of blueliners – junior Ethan Frisch (8-6-14, 96 total shot attempts), graduate student Chris Jandric (1-10-11, 75), and sophomore Tyler Kleven (4-3-7, 126) – to shoulder the offensive load. Frisch has come on after being added to the top power play unit; the third-year d-man from Moorhead, Minnesota has scored a goal in five of his past six games and has already surpassed his goal-scoring total from his first two seasons at North Dakota (four goals in 55 games).

After sputtering to records of 17-13-10 (.550) and 18-17-2 (.514) and missing the NCAA tournament in consecutive seasons, UND head coach Brad Berry got his team on the right track over the past two seasons, winning the program’s third and fourth Penrose Cup as NCHC champions and collecting an overall record of 48-11-5 (.789) during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 seasons.

Last year, North Dakota definitely benefitted from having a number of players stick around for a title run rather than turn pro. And UND’s roster is now feeling the effects of all of those departures happening at once, with fourteen new faces in Green and White this season. Despite bringing in five experienced transfers (forwards Ashton Calder and Connor Ford, defensemen Chris Jandric and Brady Ferner, and goaltender Zach Driscoll), the Fighting Hawks lost their top five scorers (and seven of their top eight) from a season ago: Jordan Kawaguchi, Collin Adams, Shane Pinto, Jasper Weatherby, Matt Kiersted, Grant Mismash, and Jacob Bernard-Docker combined for over 60% of UND’s offense last season (69 of 114 goals and 185 of 308 total points).

In addition to those seven skaters, Brad Berry also lost forwards Jackson Keane and Harrison Blaisdell, defensemen Gabe Bast and Josh Rieger, and goaltenders Adam Scheel and Peter Thome.

Despite losing all of that firepower and scoring depth, North Dakota is still managing 3.17 goals per game; last year, UND scored 3.93 goals/game. A more glaring difference can be found on the defensive side of the puck: after allowing less than two goals per game last year (1.97), the Fighting Hawks are giving up an average of 2.66 per game this season.

UND is scoring on 11.5 percent of its shots on goal, a mark good for 10th in the country. Minnesota Duluth clocks in at 9.3 percent (38th).

North Dakota made a living with the puck last season (7th and 5th in two key puck possession statistics), and it started in the faceoff circle. In particular, Shane Pinto, Collin Adams, and Jasper Weatherby had UND at #1 in the nation in faceoff percentage (56.2%); this year, the Green and White struggled early but now land at 54.9%, good for 4th in the nation. Minnesota Duluth sits at 44.9 percent, the second-worst mark in the country.

For UND, Connor Ford (61.9% of faceoffs won) takes nearly every important draw, while Jake Schmaltz (52.2%) has improved over the course of his first college season. Louis Jamernik (53.6%) has been a steady third option for Brad Berry.

For Duluth, senior Casey Gilling (47.6%) has spent the most time in the faceoff circle and has had the most success, although freshman Dominic James (47.3%) and senior Jesse Jacques (47.6%) are not far behind. Remarkably, freshman Carter Loney has taken 333 draws this season despite clocking in at under forty percent (38.2%).

A disparity in faceoff success often leads to a similar imbalance in puck possession statistics as well, and that’s the case here:

Corsi: UND 52.0% (18th), Duluth 49.2% (33rd)
Fenwick: UND 52.7% (16th), Duluth 50.5% (28th)

Corsi measures the percentage of shots taken vs. opponents; Fenwick measures the percentage of unblocked shots taken vs. opponents.

North Dakota’s penalty disparity is becoming problematic, as UND averages more than a full minor penalty more per game (12.78– 10.44) in conference play than its opponents. The Fighting Hawks have had 104 man-advantage situations this season but have been shorthanded 120 times. With 24 power play goals scored, 26 power play goals allowed, two shorthanded goals scored, and two shorthanded goals allowed, UND’s specialty teams net is at minus-2.

UMD is in better shape in the penalty department, averaging 11.12 penalty minutes per conference game while seeing their opponents whistled for 11.29. Overall, however, the Bulldogs have enjoyed just 102 man-advantage situations on the season against 112 shorthanded situations. With 17 power play goals, 18 power play goals against, two shorthanded goals scored, and FIVE shorthanded goals allowed, Minnesota-Duluth sits at minus-4.

To this point in the season, here is the complete specialty teams ledger:

Minnesota Duluth power play: 17 of 102, 16.7 percent (41st)
Minnesota Duluth penalty kill: 94 of 112, 83.9 percent (21st)

North Dakota power play: 24 of 104, 23.1 percent (13th)
North Dakota penalty kill: 94 of 120, 78.3 percent (46th)

After this weekend, the Bulldogs will head to St. Cloud State for a rare Tuesday tilt before traveling to Miami for a pair of games. UMD will close out the season at home against SCSU on March 4th and 5th.

Over the two weekends of the regular season, the Fighting Hawks will host the Western Michigan Broncos and travel to Omaha to face the Mavericks.

Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs

Head Coach: Scott Sandelin (21st season at UMD, 421-343-94, .545)

National Rankings: #7/#7
Pairwise Ranking: 7th
KRACH Ranking: 8th

This Season: 15-11-3 overall, 8-6-3 NCHC (4th)
Last Season: 15-11-2 overall (NCAA National Semifinalist), 13-9-2-0 NCHC (3rd)

2021-2022 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 2.72 goals scored/game – 34th of 59 teams
Team Defense: 2.38 goals allowed/game – 14th of 59 teams

Power Play: 16.7% (17 of 102) – 41st of 59 teams
Penalty Kill: 83.9% (94 of 112) – 21st of 59 teams

Key players: Sophomore FBlake Biondi (12-10-22), Senior F Noah Cates (8-11-19), Junior F Quinn Olson (6-15-21), Senior F Casey Gilling (7-12-19), Graduate F Kobe Roth (9-10-19), Senior F Koby Bender (4-11-15), Sophomore D Wyatt Kaiser (1-10-11), Freshman D Owen Gallatin (2-12-14), Junior G Ryan Fanti (13-8-3, 1.91 GAA, .922 SV%, 4 SO)

North Dakota Fighting Hawks

Head Coach: Brad Berry (7th season at UND, 155-74-25, .659)

National Rankings: #9/#10
Pairwise Ranking: 11th
KRACH Ranking: 9th

This Season: 17-11-1 overall, 12-5-1 NCHC (2nd)
Last Season: 22-6-1 overall (NCHC Midwest Regional Finalist), 18-5-1 NCHC (1st)

2021-2022 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.17 goals scored/game – 21st of 59 teams
Team Defense: 2.66 goals allowed/game – 25th of 59 teams

Power Play: 23.1% (24 of 104) – 13th of 59 teams
Penalty Kill: 78.3% (94 of 120) – 46th of 59 teams

Key players: Sophomore F Riese Gaber (14-20-34), Senior F Connor Ford (4-18-22), Senior F Ashton Calder (10-8-18), Freshman F Jake Schmaltz (6-10-16), Junior F Judd Caulfield (7-5-12), Freshman F Matteo Costantini (6-10-16), Sophomore F Louis Jamernik (7-8-15), Junior D Ethan Frisch (8-6-14), Senior Chris Jandric (1-10-11), Sophomore D Tyler Kleven (4-3-7), Senior G Zach Driscoll (15-9-1, 2.44 GAA, .899 SV%, 2 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: November 20, 2021 (Grand Forks, ND). North Dakota’s Brendan Budy broke a 1-1 tie at the 5:05 mark of the third period and UND hung on for the 2-1 victory. The Fighting Hawks scored a power play goal in the first period (Ethan Frisch) and held the Bulldogs scoreless with the man-advantage. Duluth won Friday’s opener 4-1 behind two goals from Casey Gilling and an empty-net goal with just under two minutes remaining in the game.

Last Meeting in Duluth: January 25, 2020. One night after Duluth thumped UND 7-4 by scoring five unanswered goals in the second and third periods, the Fighting Hawks responded with two third-period goals (Matt Kiersted, Jonny Tychonick) just 94 seconds apart to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 road victory. UMD’s Jarod Hilderman made Duluth’s comeback attempt more difficult by committing a tripping penalty with under five minutes remaining in the hockey game.

Most Important Meeting: March 27, 2021 (Fargo, ND). Minnesota Duluth outlasted North Dakota 3-2 in five overtimes to advance to the NCAA Frozen Four. UND scored two extra-attacker goals in the final two minutes of regulation to send the game long into the night. The three goaltenders involved in the contest combined to make 114 saves.

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

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 150-88-11 (.624). The teams first met in 1954, with North Dakota winning the first ten games between the schools by a combined score of 72-16. UMD’s first win over the Fighting Sioux (a 3-2 road victory on December 18th, 1959) did not sit well with the defending national champions. UND defeated Duluth 13-2 the following night.

Last Ten: North Dakota is 5-4-1 (.550) in the last ten games between the teams, although the Bulldogs have outscored the Hawks 25-24 over that stretch thanks to a 7-4 home victory and a 4-1 road win in the past calendar year. Only three of the past ten UND-UMD games were played in Duluth.

Game News and Notes

Duluth went 10-3-1 in October and November but has gone just 5-8-2 since that time. No UND player expected to be in the lineup this weekend has more than one career goal against the Bulldogs. Friday’s series opener will be the 250th all-time meeting between the two storied programs. 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, whose wife Kathleen (“Tootsie”) died unexpectedly on Wednesday of this week. Tootsie was inducted into the Grand Forks Public School Teachers’ Hall Of Fame in 2016.

The Prediction

Both teams will be without several players this weekend, with the status of injured players and Olympic returnees still up in the air. There is also a non-COVID illness going through the UMD locker room, which may affect head coach Scott Sandelin’s ability to field a full and healthy lineup. I expect the teams to play it a bit closer to the vest, particularly early on Friday. With both goaltenders playing well, specialty teams will be key. The Fighting Hawks should have the puck the majority of the time, and that may lead to an extra power play or two. If North Dakota can find success with the man advantage, a better result than a split is possible. As it is, though, that’s what I’ve got. UND 3-2, UMD 4-3.

Broadcast Information

Friday’s opener will be available exclusively on CBS Sports Network, with Saturday’s rematch broadcast live by My9Sports out of Duluth and carried on Midco Sports Network and NCHC.tv. All UND men’s hockey games can be heard on stations across the UND Sports Home of Economy Radio Network as well as through the iHeart Radio app.

Social Media

Keep up with the action live during all UND hockey games by following @UNDmhockey and @UNDInsider on Twitter. Fans can also read the action via Brad Schlossman’s live chat on the Grand Forks Herald website.

As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Follow me on Twitter (@DBergerHockey) for more information and insight. Here’s to hockey!

Weekend Preview: UND vs. Colorado College

#12 North Dakota (15-11-1) hosts unranked Colorado College (7-16-3) for a pair of games this weekend at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks. When the teams squared off at brand-new Robson Arena for a mid-December series in Colorado Springs, the Fighting Hawks secured the road sweep with 5-2 and 4-1 victories. Those games dropped the Tigers to 3-10-3 on the season.

UND held the advantage in all phases, outshooting the Tigers 62-54 and winning 72 of 119 faceoffs (60.5%). North Dakota scored three power play goals on nine attempts and held Colorado College to just a single power play goal in ten man-advantage opportunities.

One bright spot for CC is that since that weekend, the Tigers have gone 4-6-0 against Arizona State, Miami, Denver, Omaha, and Western Michigan, much more respectable results for first-year head coach Kris Mayotte. Mayotte replaces Mike Haviland, who went just 74-177-28 (.315) in his seven seasons behind the Tiger bench, with no regular season or postseason titles and zero NCAA tournament appearances. Haviland had something brewing from 2017-2019, with his teams going 32-37-9 (.468). Things fell off over the past two seasons, however (15-37-5, .307), and it was time for a change.

A second bright spot for Colorado College is that Louis Jamernik, Gavin Hain, and Mark Senden are not expected to be in the North Dakota lineup this weekend due to injury; the three linemates combined for five goals and eight points in Colorado Springs back in December.

In their absence, the line of Nick Portz, Carson Albrecht, and Griffin Ness will be called upon to provide tenacity and get things squared away after UND returns to even strength following power play and penalty kill situations.

Colorado College last made the NCAA tournament in 2011 under then-head coach Scott Owens. Owens (1999-2014) and Don Lucia (1993-1999) combined to lead CC to six regular-season titles, twelve NCAA tournament appearances, three Frozen Fours, and one national championship game appearance (1996).

With a new rink and a new coach, there is reason for optimism at Robson Arena. Although Colorado College struggled out of the gate, the squad has played better recently, and the Tigers have been competitive in most games. A winning record would be within reach for CC, but a 1-8 record in one-goal games has them near the bottom of the league standings (7th of 8 teams) and the Pairwise rankings (39th). Kris Mayotte has his team playing well in third periods, outshooting opponents 262-227 while winning the scoreboard battle 27-22.

As I mentioned last week, it will be an uphill climb for UND to catch Denver in this year’s race for the league title despite being only five points behind with eight games to play.

After losing four straight games to open 2022, North Dakota rose to the occasion against St. Cloud State (5 of 6 points) and Omaha (4 of 6 points) over the last two weekends. Those results solidified the Fighting Hawks at #13 in the Pairwise rankings. And yes, some may ask why UND didn’t “move up” in the Pairwise after those results. It’s important to remember that these games don’t exist in a vacuum; every result across the college hockey landscape affects the comparisons, and the only comparisons that truly matter are the ones that take place once the final games are played on Saturday, March 19th. Trust me when I tell you that good results each weekend will help the team’s resume in the long run.

North Dakota’s four January losses (two vs. PWR 25 Cornell, two at PWR 4 Western Michigan) continue to loom large on the national scene. For the moment, UND is being held up by early-season victories over Quinnipiac (5th) Denver (3rd, twice), Minnesota Duluth (8th), Minnesota (9th), and St. Cloud State (10th). In the first half of the season, UND split its series with Quinnipiac, Duluth, Minnesota, and St. Cloud State and lost to Bemidji State (26th) and Penn State (23rd).

Turning our attention to the matchup this weekend, it’s been a jumble in net for the Tigers. Sophomore Dominic Basse (6-11-2, 2.99 GAA, .895 SV%, 1 SO) has played more than two-thirds of the minutes between the pipes, but he’s been outplayed recently by junior Matt Vernon (1-5-1, .264 GAA, .918 SV%, 1 SO). Vernon only started four games during the first half of the season, but he came on in relief both nights of a January home-and-home series against Denver (stopping 36 of 38), and he’s earned three of the last four starts for the Tigers.

Before UND’s December series at Colorado College, fifth-year senior Zach Driscoll had played nearly every meaningful minute between the pipes for North Dakota, going 11-6-0 with a goals-against average of 2.62, a save percentage of .889, and one shutout. Both Driscoll and freshman Jakob Hellsten got a start in Colorado Springs, and each performed admirably (Driscoll made 28 of 30 saves on Friday night, while Hellsten stopped 23 of 24 in the rematch). Each of the netminders also got one start in early January against Cornell, with Driscoll struggling on Friday night (13 saves on 17 shots) before giving way to Hellsten on Saturday (17 saves on 20 shots).

Three weekends ago, Driscoll again got the Friday start at Western Michigan, allowing four goals on 23 shots. Hellsten looked better in the rematch, allowing only a late first-period shorthanded goal while making 24 saves. That allowed Brad Berry to start Hellsten against St. Cloud State, and the freshman played brilliantly on Friday night, allowing just one goal on twenty shots. Saturday was a different story, however, and he was pulled after allowing three goals in the first period. It should be noted, however, that one was a power-play tally and the other two were breakaways – one shorthanded and one just as a penalty expired.

Driscoll righted the ship in that Saturday contest, making 20 of 20 saves as North Dakota clawed back and forced overtime. After a scoreless three-on-three session, Driscoll stopped all four attempts in the shootout as the Fighting Hawks secured the extra league point.

Driscoll was again the goaltender of record in both games last weekend, stopping 26 of 27 in Friday’s 4-1 win and 27 of 30 in Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss.

A half-point per game or better is my benchmark for solid offensive production, and Kris Mayotte’s squad has just four players who meet that threshold: sophomore forward Logan Will (5-10-15), sophomore forward Matthew Gleason (5-8-13), sophomore forward Hunter McKown (10-5-15), and freshman forward Stanley Cooley (2-11-13).

McKown, who played on the U.S. National Under-17 and Under-18 Teams before coming to Colorado Springs, has come on strong since being held scoreless against North Dakota; the 19-year-old from San Jose, California has seven goals and three assists for ten points in his last ten games. He scored a total of three goals in 43 games with the USNTDP.

By that same offensive metric, Brad Berry will have five players in the lineup this weekend averaging a half point or better per game: sophomore forward Riese Gaber (13-18-31), senior forward Ashton Calder (10-7-17 in 22 games), senior forward Connor Ford (4-17-21), freshman forward Jake Schmaltz (6-9-15), and freshman forward Matteo Costantini (5-10-15 in 23 games).

As mentioned above, senior forward Mark Senden (5-10-15), sophomore forward Louis Jamernik (7-8-15), and senior forward Gavin Hain (6-3-9 in 18 games) are all battling injuries and are not expected to compete this weekend.

Sophomore defenseman Jake Sanderson (7-17-24 in 21 games) would also appear on this list, but he is currently representing the United States as a member of the men’s Olympic ice hockey team.

With Sanderson out of the lineup, Brad Berry will rely on a trio of blueliners – junior Ethan Frisch (6-5-11), graduate student Chris Jandric (1-8-9), and sophomore Tyler Kleven (4-2-6) – to shoulder the offensive load. Frisch has come on after being added to the top power play unit; the third-year d-man from Moorhead, Minnesota has scored a goal in three of his past four games and has already surpassed his goal-scoring total from his first two seasons at North Dakota (four goals in 55 games).

Without Sanderson (Olympics) or Ferner (injury) on the ice this weekend, the Colorado College Tigers boast the more formidable blue line in terms of offensive production, with sophomore Nicklas Andrews (3-8-11) and senior Bryan Yoon (1-9-10) leading the way. As a unit, Kris Mayotte’s defensemen are averaging 0.30 points per game (9-33-42 in 138 games), while Brad Berry’s crew comes into the weekend at 0.24 points per game (11-21-32 in 133 games).

Last year, North Dakota definitely benefitted from having a number of players stick around for a title run rather than turn pro. And UND’s roster is now feeling the effects of all of those departures happening at once, with fourteen new faces in Green and White this season. Despite bringing in five experienced transfers (forwards Ashton Calder and Connor Ford, defensemen Chris Jandric and Brady Ferner, and goaltender Zach Driscoll), the Fighting Hawks lost their top five scorers (and seven of their top eight) from a season ago: Jordan Kawaguchi, Collin Adams, Shane Pinto, Jasper Weatherby, Matt Kiersted, Grant Mismash, and Jacob Bernard-Docker combined for over 60% of UND’s offense last season (69 of 114 goals and 185 of 308 total points).

In addition to those seven skaters, Brad Berry also lost forwards Jackson Keane and Harrison Blaisdell, defensemen Gabe Bast and Josh Rieger, and goaltenders Adam Scheel and Peter Thome.

Despite losing all of that firepower and scoring depth, North Dakota is still managing 3.15 goals per game; last year, UND scored 3.93 goals/game. A more glaring difference can be found on the defensive side of the puck: after allowing less than two goals per game last year (1.97), the Fighting Hawks are giving up an average of 2.78 per game this season.

Two players in particular are driving the offense for North Dakota: forward Riese Gaber and defenseman Jake Sanderson. The two have combined for 281 shot attempts in 46 games played, more than six each per game. Tyler Kleven is third on the team in shot attempts with 113; no one else on the squad has more than 94.

UND is scoring on 11.3 percent of its shots on goal, a mark good for 12th in the country. Colorado College clocks in at 8.9 percent (43rd).

North Dakota made a living with the puck last season (7th and 5th in two key puck possession statistics), and it started in the faceoff circle. In particular, Shane Pinto, Collin Adams, and Jasper Weatherby had UND at #1 in the nation in faceoff percentage (56.2%); this year, the Green and White struggled early but now land at 54.7%, good for 4th in the nation. Colorado College sits in 51st nationally at 46.3%.

For UND, Connor Ford (61.4% of faceoffs won) takes nearly every important draw, while Jake Schmaltz (51.8%) has improved over the course of his first college season. Louis Jamernik (53.6%) had been a steady third option for Brad Berry; I would expect senior Griffin Ness (41.2%) to handle the load with Jamernik and Senden watching from the stands.

For Colorado College, sophomore Logan Will (51.2%) has spent the most time in the faceoff circle and has had the most success, although freshman Stanley Cooley (45.3%) is not far behind. Junior Noah Prokop (46.3%) and sophomore Jackson Jutting (46.6%) contribute as well.

A disparity in faceoff success often leads to a similar imbalance in puck possession statistics as well, and that’s the case here:

Corsi: UND 52.3% (16th), CC 46.8% (43rd)
Fenwick: UND 52.8% (15th), CC 47.5% (41st)

Corsi measures the percentage of shots taken vs. opponents; Fenwick measures the percentage of unblocked shots taken vs. opponents.

North Dakota’s penalty disparity is becoming problematic, as UND averages nearly a full minor penalty more per game (12.81 – 10.88) in conference play than its opponents. The Fighting Hawks have had 97 man-advantage situations this season but have been shorthanded 114 times. With 22 power play goals scored, 24 power play goals allowed, one shorthanded goal scored, and costly shorthanded goals allowed over the past three weekends, UND’s specialty teams net is at minus-3.

CC is in even worse shape in the penalty department, averaging 13.50 penalty minutes per conference game while seeing their opponents whistled for just 10.44. Overall, however, the Tigers have enjoyed 107 man-advantage situations on the season against 98 shorthanded situations. With 18 power play goals, 25 power play goals against, and three shorthanded goals allowed, Colorado College sits at minus-10.

To this point in the season, here is the complete specialty teams ledger:

Colorado College power play: 18 of 107, 16.8 percent (40th)
Colorado College penalty kill: 73 of 98, 74.5 percent (52nd)

North Dakota power play: 22 of 97, 22.7 percent (14th)
North Dakota penalty kill: 90 of 114, 78.9 percent (37th)

The two teams were initially scheduled to play this series last weekend; the series was rescheduled so that North Dakota could make up its games with Omaha that were postponed due to COVID-19 protocols within the UND hockey team.

According to KRACH, North Dakota has played the 4th-most difficult schedule in all of Division I men’s college hockey to this point in the season; CC’s schedule weighs in at 35th.

After this weekend, the Tigers will host Miami before traveling to St. Cloud State at the end of February. Colorado College and Denver will close out the regular season by playing a home-and-home series on March 4th and 5th.

Over the last three weekends of the regular season, the Fighting Hawks will travel to face the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs, host the Western Michigan Broncos, and travel to Omaha to face the Mavericks.

Colorado College Tigers

Head Coach: Kris Mayotte (1st season at CC, 7-16-3, .327)

National Rankings: NR/NR
Pairwise Ranking: 39th

This Season: 7-16-3 overall, 4-11-1 NCHC (7th)
Last Season: 4-17-2 overall, 4-16-2 NCHC (t-7th)

2021-2022 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 2.42 goals scored/game – 44th of 59 teams
Team Defense: 3.08 goals allowed/game – 37th of 59 teams

Power Play: 16.8% (18 of 107) – 40th of 59 teams
Penalty Kill: 74.5% (73 of 98) – 52nd of 59 teams

Key players: Sophomore F Logan Will (5-10-15), Sophomore F Hunter McKown (10-5-15), Sophomore F Matthew Gleason (5-8-13), Sophomore F Jordan Biro (5-5-10), Freshman F Stanley Cooley (2-11-13), Sophomore F Danny Weight (1-11-12), Sophomore D Nicklas Andrews (3-8-11), Senior D Bryan Yoon (1-9-10), Junior G Matt Vernon (1-5-1, 2.64 GAA, .918 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Fighting Hawks

Head Coach: Brad Berry (7th season at UND, 153-74-25, .657)

National Rankings: #12/#12
Pairwise Ranking: 13th

This Season: 15-11-1 overall, 10-5-1 NCHC (2nd)
Last Season: 22-6-1 overall (NCHC Midwest Regional Finalist), 18-5-1 NCHC (1st)

2021-2022 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.15 goals scored/game – 20th of 59 teams
Team Defense: 2.78 goals allowed/game – 28th of 59 teams

Power Play: 22.7% (22 of 97) – 14th of 59 teams
Penalty Kill: 78.9% (90 of 114) – 37th of 59 teams

Key players: Sophomore F Riese Gaber (13-18-31), Senior F Connor Ford (4-17-21), Senior F Ashton Calder (10-7-17), Freshman F Jake Schmaltz (6-9-15), Junior F Judd Caulfield (6-5-11), Freshman F Matteo Costantini (5-10-15), Junior D Ethan Frisch (3-4-7), Senior Chris Jandric (1-8-9), sophomore D Tyler Kleven (4-2-6), Senior G Zach Driscoll (13-9-1, 2.57 GAA, .894 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: December 11, 2021 (Colorado Springs, CO). North Dakota’s first visit to the new Robson Arena ended up being a fruitful one, as the Fighting Hawks followed up a 5-2 victory on Friday night with a 4-1 triumph one night later. UND held the advantage in all phases, outshooting the Tigers 62-54 and winning 72 of 119 faceoffs (60.5%). North Dakota scored three power play goals on nine attempts and held Colorado College to just a single power play goal in ten man-advantage opportunities.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: January 24, 2021. UND’s Shane Pinto scored twice and Adam Scheel pitched a fifteen-save shutout as the Fighting Hawks dispatched Colorado College 5-0. At the 13:44 mark of the third period, North Dakota’s Tyler Kleven and CC’s Hugo Blixt were ejected in a scrum that resulted in 36 minutes of penalties. One night earlier, UND outshot the visitors 40-19 and won the game by a final score of 4-1. The series wrapped up a stretch of four games in 15 days between the teams; UND won all four contests while outshooting the Tigers 119-85, scoring fourteen goals, and allowing just two.

Most Important Meeting: March 27, 1997. UND defeated Colorado College, 6-2, in the Frozen Four Semifinals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Two nights later, North Dakota downed Boston University, 6-4, to claim its sixth NCAA Championship. North Dakota and Colorado College also met in the 2001 East Regional (Worcester, Mass.), with UND prevailing, 4-1.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 168-84-11 (.660), including a massive advantage of 107-22-7 (.813) in games played in Grand Forks. The teams first met in 1948; North Dakota’s 168 wins over the Tigers are the most against any single opponent in program history.

Last Ten: North Dakota has nine wins in the last ten meetings between the teams, outscoring CC 35-10 over that span. UND has won nine straight against the Tigers, with CC scoring a combined seven goals in those nine games. The Fighting Hawks’ last loss to Colorado College was at CC on March 1, 2019 (1-3).

Game News and Notes

North Dakota head coach Brad Berry is 19-4-1 (.813) in his head coaching career against Colorado College. CC has won two national titles (1950, 1957). Since 1957, the Tigers have appeared in the NCAA tournament thirteen times (most recently in 2011) and advanced to three Frozen Fours (1996, 1997, 2005). Seven UND players expected to be in the lineup this weekend have scored goals in their careers against Colorado College, and netminder Zach Driscoll is 3-0-0 with a goals against average of 2.00 and a save percentage of .920 in his three career starts against CC. The Tigers are 6-6-2 when leading or tied after one period of play but 1-10-1 when trailing.

The Prediction

Despite its depleted lineup, UND needs to follow up solid home weekends against St. Cloud State and Omaha (9 of 12 possible points) with a sweep over Colorado College. I would be more worried about missing the entire forward line of Gavin Hain, Mark Senden, and Louis Jamernik were it not for the emergence of Nick Portz, Carson Albrecht, and Griffin Ness. If first-year defensemen Brent Johnson (twelve career games) and Luke Bast (14) can hold their own in the absence of Jake Sanderson and Brady Ferner, the Fighting Hawks will be just fine. UND 3-2, 5-1.

Broadcast Information

Both games will be broadcast live on Midco Sports Network and also streamed live in high definition at NCHC.tv. All UND men’s hockey games can be heard on stations across the UND Sports Home of Economy Radio Network as well as through the iHeart Radio app.

Social Media

Keep up with the action live during all UND hockey games by following @UNDmhockey and @UNDInsider on Twitter. Fans can also read the action via Brad Schlossman’s live chat on the Grand Forks Herald website.

As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Follow me on Twitter (@DBergerHockey) for more information and insight. Here’s to hockey!

Weekend Preview: UND vs. Omaha

#12 North Dakota (14-10-1) and #18 Omaha (16-10-0) will face off for the first time this season with a weekend series set to begin on Friday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks.

Last season, the two teams tangled six times over the course of 36 days in the second half of the season, and familiarity bred contempt. To that point, a line brawl erupted in the final minute of the fourth meeting between the squads, a 7-1 North Dakota home victory which secured the Fighting Hawks’ second consecutive league championship and saw Brad Berry’s squad hoist the #PenneRosa for the fourth time in the eight-year history of the NCHC.

The Saturday melee in Grand Forks started with Omaha sophomore forward Joey Abate slashing UND’s Louis Jamernik on the wrist instead of attempting to win the faceoff. Jamernik responded with a cross-check, and the royal rumble was on. Not surprisingly, Abate did the same thing late in Friday’s game with North Dakota leading 4-1 and less than two minutes on the clock. Fittingly, Abate led the NCAA in penalty minutes last season (63) after compiling 117 penalty minutes in his lone season in the NAHL and 246 in his final two seasons in the USHL.

This season, it’s Abate’s teammate – senior forward Kevin Conley – who leads the nation in sin bin time with 69 minutes.

As I mentioned earlier this week, it will be an uphill climb for UND to catch Denver in this year’s race for the league title despite being only three points (one game) behind with ten games to play.

Despite the aforementioned Maverick ruffians, Omaha was the biggest surprise in the NCHC last season. Of course, I expected them to have good results playing at home in the pod (and they did, posting a record of 6-3-1), but I also expected them to regress in the second half. On the contrary, the Mavs went a combined 7-3 against Colorado College (4-0), Denver (2-2), and North Dakota (1-1) over the first ten games of the “normal travel” portion of the schedule, finished with an overall record of 14-11-1, and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time since their Frozen Four appearance in 2015. UNO ended its season with two consecutive losses; a 5-4 defeat at the hands of Denver in the opening round of the NCHC Frozen Faceoff and a 7-2 drubbing by #2 Minnesota in the NCAA West Regional (Loveland, CO). The Gophers would be blanked 4-0 in the regional final by #5 Minnesota State.

Omaha’s 2020-2021 campaign was buoyed by excellent results in close games, including four overtime victories, four wins by one goal in regulation, and a ninth in a shootout. The Mavericks’ two victories over UND last season were a 5-4 win on January 30th and a 3-2 overtime victory on March 5th. North Dakota defeated UNO by scores of 6-2, 4-1, 7-1, and 4-2 for a combined scoring margin of 27-14 over the six-game season series.

Omaha is 5-3 in one-goal games this season; the Fighting Hawks are 4-2.

Turning back the clock a bit more: After a trip to the Frozen Four in 2015, Dean Blais could only manage a mark of 35-34-6 over his final two seasons behind the Omaha bench. He was replaced by Mike Gabinet (Omaha ’04), and Gabinet finished up his rookie campaign with an eerily similar record of 17-17-2.

Maverick fans were certainly hopeful that improvement was coming three seasons ago, but Omaha struggled out of the gate with a record of 0-6-1. Things leveled off a bit after that, with a record of 6-4-1 to close out 2018. Once the calendar year turned, however, Gabinet was only able to lead his team to three more wins (the last coming on February 8th) and a season record of 9-24-3. UNO fans had to have been a bit more pleased the following year, as the 2019-20 version of the Mavs collected fourteen victories (14-17-5).

And after a 14-11-1 campaign and an NCAA tourney berth last season, Gabinet’s squad has already collected 16 victories this season. Despite the winning record, Omaha finds itself in 19th place in the all-important Pairwise rankings. The Mavericks fared well out-of-conference (10-2-0) but only have six wins in conference play (6-8-0). In particular, a November loss to Miami and two losses to Colorado College – along with non-conference splits with Lake Superior and St. Lawrene – have UNO currently on the outside of the NCAA tournament field.

After losing four straight games to open 2022, North Dakota rose to the occasion against St. Cloud State last weekend, securing five of six possible league points and solidifying itself at #13 in the Pairwise rankings. And yes, some may ask why UND didn’t “move up” in the Pairwise after last weekend. It’s important to remember that these games don’t exist in a vacuum; every result across the college hockey landscape affects the comparisons, and the only comparisons that truly matter are the ones that take place once the final games are played on Saturday, March 19th. Trust me when I tell you that last weekend’s 7-1 victory and shootout win over the Huskies will help the team’s resume in the long run.

North Dakota’s four January losses (two vs. PWR 22 Cornell, two at PWR 4 Western Michigan) continue to loom large on the national scene. For the moment, UND is being held up by early-season victories over Quinnipiac (6th) Denver (3rd, twice), Minnesota Duluth (9th), Minnesota (11th), and St. Cloud State (5th). In the first half of the season, UND split its series with Quinnipiac, Duluth, Minnesota, and St. Cloud State and lost to Bemidji State (27th) and Penn State (23rd).

Turning our attention to this weekend’s matchup, junior netminder Isaiah Saville (12-9-0, 2.37 GAA, .908 SV%, 4 SO) has been spectacular in net for the Mavs. Fellow third-year netminder Austin Roden has appeared in six games (4-1-0. 2.05 GAA, .933 SV%). Roden made a third-period relief appearance on Friday, November 12th at St. Cloud State, started the following night, and made 43 of 45 saves in a 3-2 overtime victory over the Huskies. Since that time, however, Roden has only squared off against one other NCHC opponent, stopping 28 of 31 in a home loss to Colorado College on December 4th. It appears to be Saville’s net for the foreseeable future.

Before UND’s December series at Colorado College, fifth-year senior Zach Driscoll had played nearly every meaningful minute between the pipes for North Dakota, going 11-6-0 with a goals-against average of 2.62, a save percentage of .889, and one shutout. Both Driscoll and freshman Jakob Hellsten got a start in Colorado Springs, and each performed admirably (Driscoll made 28 of 30 saves on Friday night, while Hellsten stopped 23 of 24 in the rematch). Each of the netminders also got one start in early January against Cornell, with Driscoll struggling on Friday night (13 saves on 17 shots) before giving way to Hellsten on Saturday (17 saves on 20 shots).

Two weekends ago, Driscoll again got the Friday start at Western Michigan, allowing four goals on 23 shots. Hellsten looked better in the rematch, allowing only a late first-period shorthanded goal while making 24 saves.

I correctly predicted before the St. Cloud State series that despite the recent trend of Driscoll on Friday nights and Hellsten on Saturday nights, Brad Berry would go with the freshman in net against the Huskies. Hellsten made 19 of 20 stops in the 7-1 boatrace of SCSU and earned the start the following night. In North Dakota’s worst period of the weekend, Hellsten allowed three goals on ten shots, including a power play goal, a breakaway straight out of the penalty box, and a shorthanded breakaway.

Driscoll came on at the start of the second period in a game which North Dakota had to have, and he responded, making all twenty saves and allowing his team to come back from a 3-1 deficit. After a scoreless overtime session, Driscoll made all four shootout saves to secure the extra league point for the Fighting Hawks.

This time around, I would guess that Driscoll will get the Friday night start, but last weekend showed that there is some healthy competition for the crease.

A half-point per game or better is my benchmark for solid offensive production, and Mike Gabinet’s squad has seven active players who meet that threshold, including two first-year forwards: Cameron Berg (7-7-14) and Ty Mueller (4-3-7 in 14 games). Others chipping in offensively include senior forward Taylor Ward (15-12-27), senior forward Brandon McManus (7-14-21), senior forward Taylor Weiss (7-15-22), senior forward Chase Primeau (7-9-16), and junior defenseman Brandon Scanlin (2-20-22).

By that same offensive metric, Brad Berry will also have seven players in the lineup this weekend averaging a half point or better per game: sophomore forward Riese Gaber (11-15-26), senior forward Ashton Calder (10-7-17 in 20 games), senior forward Connor Ford (4-15-19), freshman forward Jake Schmaltz (6-9-15), freshman forward Matteo Costantini (5-10-15 in 20 games), senior forward Mark Senden (4-9-13), and sophomore forward Louis Jamernik (7-7-14).

Sophomore defenseman Jake Sanderson (7-17-24 in 21 games) would also appear on this list, but he is currently awaiting travel to Beijing, China to represent the United States as a member of the men’s Olympic ice hockey team.

With Sanderson out of the lineup, Brad Berry will rely on a trio of blueliners – junior Ethan Frisch (5-5-10), graduate student Chris Jandric (1-7-8), and sophomore Tyler Kleven (4-2-6) – to shoulder the offensive load. Frisch has come on after being added to the top power play unit; the third-year d-man from Moorhead, Minnesota scored a goal each night last weekend and has now surpassed his goal-scoring total from his first two seasons at North Dakota (four goals in 55 games).

Senior forward Gavin Hain (6-3-9 in 18 games) also meets that threshold but will be out of the lineup for the next couple of weeks after suffering a lower-body injury against Cornell.

Last year, North Dakota definitely benefitted from having a number of players stick around for a title run rather than turn pro. And UND’s roster is now feeling the effects of all of those departures happening at once, with fourteen new faces in Green and White this season. Despite bringing in five experienced transfers (forwards Ashton Calder and Connor Ford, defensemen Chris Jandric and Brady Ferner, and goaltender Zach Driscoll), the Fighting Hawks lost their top five scorers (and seven of their top eight) from a season ago: Jordan Kawaguchi, Collin Adams, Shane Pinto, Jasper Weatherby, Matt Kiersted, Grant Mismash, and Jacob Bernard-Docker combined for over 60% of UND’s offense last season (69 of 114 goals and 185 of 308 total points).

In addition to those seven skaters, Brad Berry also lost forwards Jackson Keane and Harrison Blaisdell, defensemen Gabe Bast and Josh Rieger, and goaltenders Adam Scheel and Peter Thome.

Despite losing all of that firepower and scoring depth, North Dakota is still managing three goals per game; last year, UND scored 3.16 goals/game. A more glaring difference can be found on the defensive side of the puck: after allowing less than two goals per game last year (1.97), the Fighting Hawks are giving up an average of 2.84 per game this season.

Two players in particular are driving the offense for North Dakota: forward Riese Gaber and defenseman Jake Sanderson. The two have combined for 266 shot attempts in 44 games played, more than six each per game. Tyler Kleven is third on the team in shot attempts with 103; no one else on the squad has more than 88.

UND is scoring on 11.3 percent of its shots on goal, a mark good for 11th in the country. Omaha clocks in at 11.0 percent (15th).

North Dakota made a living with the puck last season (7th and 5th in two key puck possession statistics), and it started in the faceoff circle. In particular, Shane Pinto, Collin Adams, and Jasper Weatherby had UND at #1 in the nation in faceoff percentage (56.2%); this year, the Green and White struggled early but now land at 54.4%, good for 6th in the nation. Omaha sits in 12th nationally at 52.1%.

For UND, Connor Ford (60.6% of faceoffs won) takes nearly every important draw, while Jake Schmaltz (52.8%) has improved over the course of his first college season. Louis Jamernik (52.1%) has been a steady third option for Brad Berry.

For the Mavericks, it’s junior Nolan Sullivan (60.5%) and senior Chayse Primeau (49.3%) leading the way, with freshman Cameron Berg (54.9%) chipping in as well.

With both squads faring extremely well on draws, it is no surprise that each team finds itself in the upper third nationally in two key puck possession statistics:

Corsi: UND 52.6% (16th), Omaha 51.3% (22nd)
Fenwick: UND 53.3% (15th), Omaha 51.7% (22nd)

Corsi measures the percentage of shots taken vs. opponents; Fenwick measures the percentage of unblocked shots taken vs. opponents.

North Dakota’s penalty disparity is becoming problematic, as UND averages more than a full minor penalty more per game (13.36 – 11.57) in conference play than its opponents. The Fighting Hawks have had 91 man-advantage situations this season but have been shorthanded 105 times. With 20 power play goals scored, 22 power play goals allowed, one shorthanded goal scored, and costly shorthanded goals allowed each of the last two weekends, UND’s specialty teams net is at minus-3.

Omaha is in better shape in the penalty department, averaging just 14.08 penalty minutes per conference game while seeing their opponents whistled for 15.35. This has led to 135 man-advantage situations on the season against 133 shorthanded situations for the Mavericks. With 31 power play goals, twenty power play goals against, and an 3-2 advantage in shorthanded goals, UNO sits at +12.

To this point in the season, here is the complete specialty teams ledger:

Omaha power play: 31 of 135, 23.0 percent (14th)
Omaha penalty kill: 113 of 133, 85.0 percent (21st)

North Dakota power play: 20 of 91, 22.0 percent (15th)
North Dakota penalty kill: 83 of 105, 79.0 percent (44th)

The two teams were initially scheduled to play this series on January 14th and 15th; the series was rescheduled due to COVID-19 protocols within the UND hockey team.

According to KRACH, North Dakota has played the 4th-most difficult schedule in all of Division I men’s college hockey to this point in the season; Omaha’s schedule weighs in at 25th.

After this weekend, Omaha will travel to face the Miami RedHawks before ending the regular season with three straight home series: vs. St. Cloud State, vs. Denver, and vs. North Dakota.

UND will host Colorado College next weekend before traveling to face the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs. Before the rematch series at Omaha on March 4th and 5th, the Fighting Hawks will host the Western Michigan Broncos in a series that may well determine which team claims the Penrose Cup.

Omaha Mavericks

Head Coach: Mike Gabinet (5th season at UNO, 70-79-11, .472)

National Rankings: #18
Pairwise Ranking: 18th

This Season: 16-10-0 overall, 5-8-1 NCHC (6th)
Last Season: 14-11-1 overall (NCAA West Regional semifinalist), 10-9-5 NCHC (4th)

Team Offense: 2.93 goals scored/game – 28th of 59 teams
Team Defense: 2.19 goals allowed/game – 10th of 59 teams

Power Play: 23.0% (31 of 135) – 14th of 59 teams
Penalty Kill: 85.0% (113 of 133) – 21st of 59 teams

Key Players: Senior F Taylor Ward (15-12-27), Senior F Brandon McManus (7-14-21), Senior F Taylor Weiss (7-15-22), Senior F Chase Primeau (7-9-16), Freshman F Cameron Berg (7-7-14), Freshman F Ty Mueller (4-3-7 in 14 games), Junior D Brandon Scanlin (2-20-22), Junior G Isaiah Saville (12-9-0, 2.37 GAA, .908 SV%, 4 SO)

North Dakota Fighting Hawks

Head Coach: Brad Berry (7th season at UND, 152-73-25, .658)

National Rankings: #12/#11
Pairwise Ranking: 13th

This Season: 14-10-1 overall, 9-4-1 NCHC (2nd)
Last Season: 22-6-1 overall (NCAA Midwest Regional Finalist), 18-5-1 NCHC (1st)

2021-2022 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.16 goals scored/game – 18th of 59 teams
Team Defense: 2.84 goals allowed/game – 29th of 59 teams

Power Play: 22.0% (20 of 91) – 15th of 59 teams
Penalty Kill: 79.0% (83 of 105) – 44th of 59 teams

Key Players: Sophomore F Riese Gaber (11-15-26), Senior F Connor Ford (4-15-19), Senior F Ashton Calder (10-7-17 in 20 games), Freshman F Jake Schmaltz (6-9-15), Junior F Judd Caulfield (4-5-9), Freshman F Matteo Costantini (5-10-15 in 20 games), Sophomore F Louis Jamernik (7-7-14), Senior F Mark Senden (4-9-13), Sophomore D Jake Sanderson (7-17-24 in 21 games), Junior D Ethan Frisch (5-5-10), Senior G Zach Driscoll (12-8-1, 2.63 GAA, .889 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers:

Last meeting: March 5, 2021 (Grand Forks, ND). Omaha scored two power play goals on three chances – including the game-winner in overtime – and held UND scoreless on five man-advantage opportunities in securing a 3-2 road victory over #1 North Dakota. The Fighting Hawk’s Jordan Kawaguchi knotted the game at two just fifteen second into the third period. UND outshot the Mavericks 28-20.

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

Last ten: North Dakota has won six of the last ten contests between the schools, outscoring the Mavericks 40-25 over that stretch.

All-time: UND leads the all-time series 28-15-1 (.648), including a 14-8-1 (.630) record in games played in Grand Forks. North Dakota owns a record of 23-12-1 (.653) against the Mavericks since both teams joined the NCHC. The teams first met on November 19, 2010.

Game News and Notes

In 2015, both North Dakota and Omaha advanced to the Frozen Four but neither team made the championship game. UND fell to Boston University 5-3, while the Mavericks were upended 4-1 by eventual national champion Providence. Since joining the WCHA in 2011 (and later the NCHC), the Mavs have never reached the Twin Cities for the second weekend of the conference tournament despite having home ice in three of those eight years. North Dakota’s Brad Berry is 19-9-0 (.679) in his head coaching career against Omaha. In the last 17 contests in this series, the winning team is the one which scores the first goal.

The Prediction

Omaha has had particular struggles with series openers in the NCHC; the Mavericks have just one win on night one (1-6) and much better results after regrouping and looking at the film (5-2 in league rematches). If North Dakota can adjust to the absence of Jake Sanderson and win the specialty teams battle, good results will follow. I’ve got a feeling that UND is hitting its stride at just the right time, but the Mavericks won’t go down without a fight. UND 3-2, 3-3 (OT).

Broadcast Information

Both games will be broadcast live on Midco Sports Network and also available via livestream at NCHC.tv. All UND men’s hockey games can be heard on stations across the UND Sports Home of Economy Radio Network as well as through the iHeart Radio app.

Social Media

Keep up with the action live during all UND hockey games by following @UNDmhockey and @UNDInsider on Twitter. Fans can also read the action via Brad Schlossman’s live chat on the Grand Forks Herald website.

As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Follow me on Twitter (@DBergerHockey) for more information and insight. Here’s to hockey!

Weekend Preview: UND vs. St. Cloud State

#13 North Dakota (13-10-0, 8-4-0 NCHC) has not won a game – exhibition or otherwise – since the calendar turned to 2022, and the task doesn’t get any easier with a two-game series against #6 St. Cloud State (14-6-0, 6-4-0 NCHC) at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks this weekend.

On Friday, December 3rd in St. Cloud, the homestanding Huskies embarrassed the Fighting Hawks by a final score of 8-1. SCSU went 3-for-7 on the power play and held UND scoreless on two man-advantage opportunities. In Saturday’s rematch, North Dakota turned the specialty teams tables, going 1-for-7 on the power play and killing all four Husky power plays en route to a 5-3 road victory and a split of the weekend series.

These days, Brad Berry’s squad would love to score four goals in a weekend series. Since scoring nine goals in a road sweep at Colorado College, UND has experienced a power outage, notching a combined five goals over the course of four games (vs. Cornell, at Western Michigan). If one counts the uncountable 2-0 home exhibition loss to the US Under-18 team on New Year’s Day, the Fighting Hawks are averaging one goal per game over the past five.

For offensively-challenged North Dakota, the following information is quite troubling: including its home series against the Fighting Hawks, SCSU has scored 39 goals over the past six games, an average of 6.5 goals per game, which, as you can plainly see, is way more than one.

At 5th in the Pairwise and with a non-conference record of 8-2-0, St. Cloud State is in line to make the NCAA tourney for the fourth consecutive season. (It is worth noting that in 2019-2020 – when there was no national tournament – SCSU went just 13-15-6.) The Huskies’ six losses this season have come against Minnesota State (2nd in the Pairwise), Minnesota (11th), Omaha (20th), Western Michigan (4th, twice), and North Dakota (13th).

On the other side of the ledger, North Dakota’s four January losses (two vs. PWR 18 Cornell, two at PWR 4 Western Michigan) dropped the squad from 4th to 13th in the Pairwise rankings. At the moment, UND is being held up by early-season victories over Quinnipiac (6th) Denver (3rd, twice), Minnesota Duluth (8th), Minnesota (11th), and St. Cloud State (5th). UND ended up splitting its series with Quinnipiac, Duluth, Minnesota, and St. Cloud State; the Fighting Hawks also lost to Bemidji State (27th) and Penn State (24th) in the first half of the season

With twelve games played, Denver leads the NCHC with 27 points. Western Michigan and UND have 24 points each, with Duluth one game behind them (21 points). St. Cloud State has 18 points in 10 games played.

North Dakota (2015, 2016, 2020, and 2021) and St. Cloud State (2014, 2018, and 2019) have combined to win the regular season title in seven of the eight seasons of the NCHC. The Huskies also won the last WCHA conference title in 2013.

Given that these two squads have been at the top of the league standings since its inception, it was only fitting that they would meet in the 2021 NCHC Frozen Faceoff championship game, played in Grand Forks last March. Top-seeded North Dakota (20-5-1) squared off against #2 seed St. Cloud State (17-9-0). UND trailed 2-1 after two periods, but strung together three goals just 122 seconds apart to take a lead they would never relinquish. The victory secured North Dakota’s first NCHC postseason title in the eight-year history of the league and its first conference playoff championship since the 2012 WCHA Final Five. In a nod to the Miracle On Ice, fans may well remember the 6-3 victory over Minnesota in the “Timeout Game” that year but forget that there was another game to play in the tournament. One night later, the green and white was out in full force on St. Patrick’s Day, and the Green and White dispatched Denver 4-0 to hoist the Broadmoor Trophy for the third consecutive season.

Both UND and St. Cloud State won their opening round games in the 2021 NCAA tournament; SCSU followed up their 6-2 victory over Boston University with a 4-1 triumph over Boston College. The Huskies’ scoring ways continued with a 5-4 thriller over Minnesota State; Nolan Walker’s game-winner was scored with 54 seconds remaining in the contest.

But that was all of the lamplighting for Brett Larson’s crew, as they were blanked 5-0 by UMass in the NCAA title game.

Last season’s NCHC Frozen Faceoff championship was St. Cloud State’s fifth appearance in the final game of the league playoffs; the Huskies won the playoff title in 2016 and were runners-up in 2015, 2018, and 2019. SCSU’s 2016 championship (over Minnesota Duluth) was its first league playoff win since 2001, when they defeated North Dakota 6-5 in overtime after the Fighting Sioux mounted a furious third period comeback to send the game to an extra frame.

SCSU’s roster is loaded with experience (twenty juniors and seniors) and top-end talent, very similar to the lineups that North Dakota was able to field over the past two seasons. Coming into the last series against North Dakota, St. Cloud State had outscored opponents 47-28, although those numbers were buoyed by a sweep of first-year program St. Thomas (12-2, 2-0). SCSU had played its other twelve games at a more realistic goals for-goals against pace of 33-26. As mentioned above, there has been no slowing of the scoring pace, and a blistering power play (32 of 84, 38.1 percent) has the Huskies outscoring opponents 86-38 on the season (4.3 – 1.9 per game).

Last season, a big reason for the gap between #1 UND (54 conference points) and #2 SCSU (45) is that the Huskies went just 2-4-0 against Western Michigan and dropped a game at Miami in mid-February, whereas North Dakota took care of business against Miami (2-0-0), Colorado College (4-0-0), and Western Michigan (2-0-0). Given that the final margin in the race for the Penrose Cup equated to three wins in league play, St. Cloud State could have used a few more victories (and/or a North Dakota loss or two) against the bottom three teams in the NCHC.

UND and SCSU only met twice during the 2020-2021 regular season, and both of those games took place in the Omaha pod back in December. North Dakota did not come out with enough effort in its first pod matchup with St. Cloud State, took too long to establish a forecheck, gave up two power play goals, and fell 5-3 to the Huskies. In the rematch four days later, Jordan Kawaguchi scored just eight seconds into the 3-on-3 overtime session to knot the season series at one win apiece. SCSU outshot the Fighting Hawks 27-21 in game two but were held scoreless on three man advantage opportunities while allowing a power play goal to North Dakota, and that proved to be the difference in the game.

By the way, here’s what I predicted would happen in the pod rematch:

The Prediction

It will take a stronger start for North Dakota to come out on top in this one. Both teams should be rested and ready, with a slight depth edge to St. Cloud State unless Ethan Frisch can return to the lineup for the Fighting Hawks. Five of the last ten tilts between these two squads have gone to overtime, and I feel like we’re in for another one tonight. I don’t like shootouts, but I think that the Green and White will end it before we get there. UND 4, SCSU 3 (OT).

The final score on Wednesday, December 16th? UND 4, SCSU 3 (OT).

Sophomore forward Veeti Miettinen was the brightest spot for SCSU last season, tallying eleven goals and adding thirteen assists to lead the team in points. In his seven playoff games, however, the 5-foot-9 right winger only managed one point, a goal against Boston University in St. Cloud State’s NCAA tournament opener. Miettinen has seven goals and nine assists through the first twenty games of this season and is a threat to score from anywhere on the ice with an effortless wrist shot. The 19-year-old from Espoo, Finland was a 6th-round pick (168th overall) of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2020 NHL entry draft.

North Dakota also has a sophomore forward who has splashed in his first college season. Riese Gaber (11-10-21 in 29 games last season) is an undrafted right winger from Gilbert Plains, Manitoba (a six-hour drive from Grand Forks, ND) who spent his past two seasons in the USHL, scoring 56 goals and adding 49 assists in 108 games with the Dubuque Fighting Saints. Gaber boasts a line of 9-13-22 in 23 games this season.

Miettinen and Gaber were named to the NCHC All-Rookie Team along with Denver forward Carter Savoie, North Dakota defenseman Jake Sanderson, Minnesota Duluth defenseman Wyatt Kaiser, and Miami goaltender Ludvig Persson.

With twenty juniors and seniors on the SCSU roster, Miettinen is the fifth-highest scoring forward on his team. On the contrary, Gaber leads the North Dakota forward group in scoring by five points.

A half-point per game or better is my benchmark for solid offensive production, and Brett Larson’s squad has THIRTEEN active players who meet that threshold: senior forward Kevin Fitzgerald (11-14-25), senior forward Sam Hentges (6-7-13 in nine games), junior forward Jami Krannila (9-8-17), senior forward Easton Brodzinski (11-9-20), senior forward Nolan Walker (7-8-15), sophomore forward Veeti Miettinen (7-9-16), junior forward Zach Okabe (8-9-17), junior forward Kyle Kupka (3-10-13), senior forward Micah Miller (7-4-11), senior defenseman Nick Perbix (2-18-20), freshman defenseman Jack Peart (2-12-14), senior defenseman Spencer Meier (2-9-11), senior defenseman Seamus Donahue (0-11-11)

By that same offensive metric, Brad Berry will have eight players in the lineup this weekend averaging a half point or better per game: sophomore forward Riese Gaber (9-13-22), senior forward Ashton Calder (8-7-15 in 18 games), senior forward Connor Ford (3-14-17), freshman forward Jake Schmaltz (6-8-14), freshman forward Matteo Costantini (5-6-11 in 18 games), senior forward Mark Senden (4-8-12), sophomore forward Louis Jamernik (7-6-13), and sophomore defenseman Jake Sanderson (6-16-22 in 19 games).

Senior forward Gavin Hain (6-3-9 in 18 games) also meets that threshold but will be out of the lineup for the next few weeks after suffering a lower-body injury against Cornell.

SCSU forward Sam Hentges and UND forward Ashton Calder did not appear in the December series in St. Cloud. North Dakota’s Jake Sanderson will skate on the United States Men’s Olympic Ice Hockey team along with Hentges and Huskies defenseman Nick Perbix. St. Cloud State head coach Brett Larson will serve as an assistant coach for the U.S. men.

Last year, North Dakota definitely benefitted from having a number of players stick around for a title run rather than turn pro. And UND’s roster is now feeling the effects of all of those departures happening at once, with fourteen new faces in Green and White this season. Despite bringing in five experienced transfers (forwards Ashton Calder and Connor Ford, defensemen Chris Jandric and Brady Ferner, and goaltender Zach Driscoll), the Fighting Hawks lost their top five scorers (and seven of their top eight) from a season ago: Jordan Kawaguchi, Collin Adams, Shane Pinto, Jasper Weatherby, Matt Kiersted, Grant Mismash, and Jacob Bernard-Docker combined for over 60% of UND’s offense last season (69 of 114 goals and 185 of 308 total points).

In addition to those seven skaters, Brad Berry also lost forwards Jackson Keane and Harrison Blaisdell, defensemen Gabe Bast and Josh Rieger, and goaltenders Adam Scheel and Peter Thome.

Despite losing all of that firepower and scoring depth, North Dakota is still managing three goals per game; last year, UND scored 3.93 goals/game. A more glaring difference can be found on the defensive side of the puck: after allowing less than two goals per game last year (1.97), the Fighting Hawks are giving up an average of 2.91 per game this season.

Two players in particular are driving the offense for North Dakota: forward Riese Gaber and defenseman Jake Sanderson. The two have combined for 239 shot attempts in 40 games played, almost six each per game. No one else on the team has more than 93 attempts.

UND is scoring on 10.9 percent of its shots on goal, a mark good for 15th in the country. St. Cloud State clocks in at 12.8 percent (3rd).

North Dakota made a living with the puck last season (7th and 5th in two key puck possession statistics), and it started in the faceoff circle. In particular, Shane Pinto, Collin Adams, and Jasper Weatherby had UND at #1 in the nation in faceoff percentage (56.2%); this year, the Green and White struggled early but now land at 54.1%, good for 6th in the nation. St. Cloud State sits in 11th nationally at 52.8%.

For UND, Connor Ford (60.6% of faceoffs won) takes nearly every important draw, while Jake Schmaltz (51.6%) has improved over the course of his first college season. Louis Jamernik (51.0%) has been a steady third option for Brad Berry.

For the Huskies, it’s seniors Kevin Fitzgerland (52.4%) and Nolan Walker (54.8%) leading the way, with junior Jami Krannila (46.3%) chipping in as well.

With both squads faring extremely well on draws, it is no surprise that each team finds itself in the upper third nationally in two key puck possession statistics:

Corsi: UND 52.6% (17th), St. Cloud State 57.3% (4th)
Fenwick: UND 53.1% (14th), St. Cloud State 57.3% (4th)

Corsi measures the percentage of shots taken vs. opponents; Fenwick measures the percentage of unblocked shots taken vs. opponents.

North Dakota’s penalty disparity is becoming problematic, as UND averages more than a full minor penalty more per game (14.08 – 11.67) in conference play than its opponents. The Fighting Hawks have had 83 man-advantage situations this season but have been shorthanded 98 times. With 19 power play goals scored, 20 power play goals allowed, one shorthanded goal scored, and a costly shorthanded goal allowed last weekend at Western Michigan, UND’s specialty teams net is at minus-1.

St. Cloud State is in better shape in the penalty department, averaging just 12.6 penalty minutes per conference game while seeing their opponents whistled for 13.8. This has led to 84 man-advantage situations on the season and just 73 shorthanded situations for the Huskies. With 32 power play goals, nine power play goals against, and an 8-4 advantage in shorthanded goals, SCSU sits at +27.

SCSU senior netminder David Hrenak has put together by far his best season in college hockey, going 12-5-0 with a goals-against average of 1.76, a save percentage of .928, and two shutouts. Hrenak started both December games against the Fighting Hawks, making 51 of 57 saves in the weekend split. Since that series, Hrenak has started three games, going 3-0 while allowing a total of two goals

Before UND’s December series at Colorado College, fifth-year senior Zach Driscoll had played nearly every meaningful minute between the pipes for North Dakota, going 11-6-0 with a goals-against average of 2.62, a save percentage of .889, and one shutout. Both Driscoll and freshman Jakob Hellsten got a start in Colorado Springs, and each performed admirably (Driscoll made 28 of 30 saves on Friday night, while Hellsten stopped 23 of 24 in the rematch). Each of the netminders also got one start in early January against Cornell, with Driscoll struggling on Friday night (13 saves on 17 shots) before giving way to Hellsten on Saturday (17 saves on 20 shots).

Fans may remember that before spending three seasons at Bemidji State, Driscoll went 6-6-1 in 14 games played for the 2016-17 edition of the St. Cloud State Huskies.

Last weekend, Driscoll again got the Friday start at Western Michigan, allowing four goals on 23 shots. Hellsten looked better in the rematch, allowing only a late first-period shorthanded goal while making 24 saves.

Despite the recent trend of Driscoll on Friday nights and Hellsten on Saturday nights, I have a sneaking suspicion that Brad Berry may mix things up this weekend by starting the freshman in tonight’s opener.

St. Cloud State Huskies

Head Coach: Brett Larson (4th season at SCSU, 77-38-9, .657)

National Rankings: #6/#6
Pairwise Ranking: 5th

This Season: 14-6-0 overall, 5-3-11 NCHC (4th)
Last Season: 20-11-0 overall (NCAA National Runner-Up), 12-6-3-3 NCHC (2nd)

2021-2022 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 4.30 goals scored/game – 1st of 59 teams
Team Defense: 1.90 goals allowed/game – 5th of 59 teams

Power Play: 38.1% (32 of 84) – 1st of 59 teams
Penalty Kill: 87.7% (64 of 73) – 8th of 59 teams

Key players: Senior F Kevin Fitzgerald (11-14-25), Junior F Jami Krannila (9-8-17), Senior F Easton Brodzinski (11-9-20), Senior F Nolan Walker (7-8-15), Sophomore F Veeti Miettinen (7-9-16), Junior F Zach Okabe (8-9-17), Senior F Sam Hentges (6-7-13 in 9 games), Senior F Nick Perbix (2-18-20), Freshman D Jack Peart (2-12-14), Senior D Seamus Donahue (0-11-11), Senior D Spencer Meier (2-9-11), Senior G David Hrenak (12-5-0, 1.76 GAA, .928 SV%, 2 SO)

North Dakota Fighting Hawks

Head Coach: Brad Berry (7th season at UND, 151-73-24, .657)

National Rankings: #13/#13
Pairwise Ranking: 13th

This Season: 13-10-0 overall, 8-4-0 NCHC (t-2nd)
Last Season: 22-6-1 overall (NCAA Midwest Regional Finalist), 18-5-1 NCHC (1st)

2021-2022 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.00 goals scored/game – 25th of 59 teams
Team Defense: 2.91 goals allowed/game – 31st of 59 teams

Power Play: 22.9% (19 of 83) – 11th of 59 teams
Penalty Kill: 79.6% (78 of 98) – 34th of 59 teams

Key Players: Sophomore F Riese Gaber (9-13-22), Senior F Connor Ford (3-14-17), Senior F Ashton Calder (8-7-15 in 18 games), Freshman F Jake Schmaltz (6-8-14), Junior F Judd Caulfield (4-5-9), Freshman F Matteo Costantini (5-6-11 in 18 games), Sophomore F Louis Jamernik (7-6-13), Senior F Mark Senden (4-8-12), Sophomore D Jake Sanderson (6-16-22 in 19 games), Junior D Ethan Frisch (3-5-8), Senior G Zach Driscoll (12-8-0, 2.74 GAA, .884 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: December 4, 2021 (St. Cloud, MN). North Dakota rebounded from an 8-1 shellacking at the hands of the homestanding Huskies by scoring two goals in the middle frame to break a 2-2 tie. Each team scored once in the third period to bring the final score to 5-3 in favor of the Fighting Hawks. St. Cloud State outshot UND 33-29 for the game and 65-57 over the course of the weekend series.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: March 16, 2021. One night before St. Patrick’s Day, North Dakota enjoyed playing for the NCHC playoff title in front of a whole bunch of green. St. Cloud State led 2-1 after two periods, but the Fighting Hawks stormed back with four third-period goals – including three in the span of 122 seconds early in the final frame and an empty-netter to seal the 5-3 victory and the program’s first Frozen Faceoff championship. UND senior Jordan Kawaguchi and freshman Riese Gaber each had two goals and an assist.

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, 78-46-15 (.615), including a record of 39-19-7 (.654) in games played in Grand Forks. Aside from their 2015 and 2018 NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinal victories, the Huskies also defeated North Dakota in the 2001 WCHA Final Five championship game. The teams have been squaring off regularly since the 1989-90 season but have only met once in the NCAA tournament (2015).

Last Ten: UND holds a slight lead of 5-4-1 (.550) in the last ten tilts between the teams, although both teams have scored a total of 34 goals over that stretch of games. Two of the last ten meetings have gone to overtime, with North Dakota’s Jordan Kawaguchi scoring the game winner in both contests.

Game News and Notes

UND’s Mark Senden and Riese Gaber each have six career points against the Huskies. North Dakota netminder Zach Driscoll spent the 2016-2017 season at St. Cloud State before transferring to Bemidji State; Driscoll appeared in 14 contests at SCSU, amassing a record of 6-6-1. SCSU has outscored opponents 30-5 in first periods this season.

The Prediction

It probably goes without saying that whichever team produces better results this weekend is more likely to challenge Denver, Western Michigan, and Duluth for the 2022 NCHC regular season title. UND will need to challenge St. Cloud State in the neutral zone, taking away time and space while avoiding unnecessary penalties. A good start will be key for Brad Berry’s squad, as the North Dakota faithful will be anxious after losing four straight games. There is no doubt that the Huskies are the better team with a deeper, more talented roster, but I expect Hellsten to start in Friday’s opener and steal a game for the homestanding Hawks. UND 3-2, SCSU 6-1.

Broadcast Information

Both games will be broadcast live on Midco Sports Network and also available via livestream at NCHC.tv. All UND men’s hockey games can be heard on stations across the UND Sports Home of Economy Radio Network as well as through the iHeart Radio app.

Social Media

Keep up with the action live during all UND hockey games by following @UNDmhockey and @UNDInsider on Twitter. Fans can also read the action via Brad Schlossman’s live chat on the Grand Forks Herald website.

As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Follow me on Twitter (@DBergerHockey) for more information and insight. Here’s to hockey!

Weekend Preview: UND at Western Michigan

#9 North Dakota (13-8-0, 8-2-0 NCHC) has not won a game – exhibition or otherwise – since the calendar turned to 2022, and the task doesn’t get any easier with a weekend series against #4 Western Michigan (14-5-0, 6-4-0 NCHC) at Lawson Ice Arena in Kalamazoo.

First-year head coach Pat Ferschweiler (WMU ’93) has his team playing at an extremely high level, with the Broncos exhibiting plenty of offense, outstanding specialty teams, and excellent goaltending. Ferschweiler, who had previously been the WMU associate head coach under Andy Murray, also spent four seasons as an assistant coach for the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings.

At 6th in the Pairwise and with a non-conference record of 8-1-0, Western Michigan is in line to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2017 and just the fourth time since 1996. WMU has just five losses on the season, coming against Michigan (2nd), Minnesota Duluth (7th), Denver (3rd, twice), and Omaha (17th).

On the other side of the ledger, two home losses to Cornell (13th) in early January dropped North Dakota to 10th in the Pairwise. At the moment, UND is being held up by early-season victories over Quinnipiac (5th) Denver (3rd, twice), Minnesota Duluth (7th), Minnesota (12th), and St. Cloud State (4th). UND ended up splitting its series with Quinnipiac, Duluth, Minnesota, and St. Cloud State; the Fighting Hawks also lost to Bemidji State (19th) and Penn State (28th) in the first half of the season

A half-point per game or better is my benchmark for solid offensive production, and Pat Ferschweiler’s squad has ten players who meet that threshold: senior forward Drew Worrad (5-22-27), senior forward Ethen Frank (17-7-24), senior forward Cole Gallant (7-9-16), junior forward Jason Polin (6-8-14), senior forward Paul Washe (8-5-13), sophomore forward Chad Hillebrand (2-4-6 in nine games), sophomore forward Ty Glover (4-8-12), senior forward Josh Passolt (2-8-10), senior defenseman Michael Joyaux (4-15-19), and junior defenseman Ronnie Attard (5-13-18).

By that same offensive metric, Brad Berry will have eight players in the lineup this weekend averaging a half point or better per game, with TWO of those are averaging a point per game or better: sophomore forward Riese Gaber (9-13-22) and sophomore defenseman Jake Sanderson (6-16-22 in 17 games); both Gaber and Sanderson are nominees for the 2022 Hobey Baker Memorial Award. Other offensive contributors include senior forward Ashton Calder (8-7-15 in 16 games), senior forward Connor Ford (3-13-16), freshman forward Jake Schmaltz (6-8-14), freshman forward Matteo Costantini (5-5-10 in 16 games), senior forward Mark Senden (4-8-12), and sophomore forward Louis Jamernik (7-6-12). Senior forward Gavin Hain (6-3-9 in 18 games) also meets that threshold but will be out of the lineup for the next few weeks after suffer a lower-body injury against Cornell.

Last year, North Dakota definitely benefitted from having a number of players stick around for a title run rather than turn pro. And UND’s roster is now feeling the effects of all of those departures happening at once, with fourteen new faces in Green and White this season. Despite bringing in five experienced transfers (forwards Ashton Calder and Connor Ford, defensemen Chris Jandric and Brady Ferner, and goaltender Zach Driscoll), the Fighting Hawks lost their top five scorers (and seven of their top eight) from a season ago: Jordan Kawaguchi, Collin Adams, Shane Pinto, Jasper Weatherby, Matt Kiersted, Grant Mismash, and Jacob Bernard-Docker combined for over 60% of UND’s offense last season (69 of 114 goals and 185 of 308 total points).

In addition to those seven skaters, Brad Berry also lost forwards Jackson Keane and Harrison Blaisdell, defensemen Gabe Bast and Josh Rieger, and goaltenders Adam Scheel and Peter Thome.

Despite losing all of that firepower and scoring depth, North Dakota is still managing well over three goals per game (3.24); last year, UND scored 3.93 goals/game. A more glaring difference can be found on the defensive side of the puck: after allowing less than two goals per game last year (1.97), the Fighting Hawks are giving up an average of 2.90 per game this season.

Two players in particular are driving the offense for North Dakota: forward Riese Gaber and defenseman Jake Sanderson. The two have combined for 217 shot attempts in 38 games played, almost six each per game. No one else on the team has more than 85 attempts.

UND is scoring on 11.8 percent of its shots on goal, a mark good for 6th in the country. Western Michigan is just behind the Fighting Hawks at 11.6 percent (8th).

North Dakota made a living with the puck last season (7th and 5th in two key puck possession statistics), and it started in the faceoff circle. In particular, Shane Pinto, Collin Adams, and Jasper Weatherby had UND at #1 in the nation in faceoff percentage (56.2%); this year, the Green and White struggled early but now clock in at 54.5%, good for 4th in the nation. Western Michigan sits in 13th nationally at 52.0%.

For UND, Connor Ford (61.4% of faceoffs won) takes nearly every important draw, while Jake Schmaltz (50.6%) has improved over the course of his first college season. Louis Jamernik (50.4%) has been a steady third option for Brad Berry.

For the Broncos, it’s senior Drew Worrad (56.2%) and fifth-year senior Paul Washe (55.0%) leading the way, with underclassmen Max Sasson (40.0%), Tim Washe (48.7%), and Luke Grainger (54.8%) chipping in as well.

With both squads faring extremely well on draws, it is no surprise that each team finds itself in the upper third nationally in two key puck possession statistics:

Corsi: UND 53.0% (18th), Western Michigan 55.2% (11th)
Fenwick: UND 53.3% (17th), Western Michigan 56.0% (8th)

Corsi measures the percentage of shots taken vs. opponents; Fenwick measures the percentage of unblocked shots taken vs. opponents.

North Dakota’s penalty disparity is becoming problematic, as UND averages almost a full minor penalty more per game (13.38 – 11.95) than opponents. The Fighting Hawks have had 77 man-advantage situations this season but have been shorthanded 89 times. With 19 power play goals scored, 17 power play goals allowed, and one shorthanded goal scored, UND’s specialty teams net is only +3.

Western Michigan is in better shape in the penalty department, averaging just 10.79 penalty minutes per game while seeing their opponents whistled for 12.05. This has led to 90 man-advantage situations and just 83 shorthanded situations for the Broncos. With 21 power play goals, twelve power play goals against, and a 2-1 advantage in shorthanded goals, WMU sits at +10.

Junior netminder Brandon Bussi has played extremely well for the Broncos this season, notching fourteen wins against just five defeats. After enduring a three-game losing streak from November 6th-13th (vs. UMD, at Denver x 2), Bussi has gone 8-1 with a goals-against average of 1.70 and a save percentage of .940. During that stretch, his only defeat was a 1-0 home loss to Omaha in which he made 25 of 26 saves. The 6’5”, 210-pounder from Sound Beach, New York only appeared in four games last season, suffering a severe injury just eight minutes into the team’s first game of the season in the Omaha pod. Bussi, who went 18-12-4 with a goals-against average of 2.65 and a save percentage of .910. as a freshman in 2019-2020, managed to appear in the final three games of last season.

Before UND’s last series at Colorado College, fifth-year senior Zach Driscoll had played nearly every meaningful minute between the pipes for North Dakota, going 11-6-0 with a goals-against average of 2.62, a save percentage of .889, and one shutout. Both Driscoll and freshman Jakob Hellsten got a start in Colorado Springs, and each performed admirably (Driscoll made 28 of 30 saves on Friday night, while Hellsten stopped 23 of 24 in the rematch). Each of the netminders also got one start in early January against Cornell, with Driscoll struggling on Friday night (13 saves on 17 shots) before giving way to Hellsten on Saturday (17 saves on 20 shots).

Zach Driscoll has faced the Broncos twice in his collegiate career, going 1-0-1 with a goals-against average of 2.40 and a save percentage of .917.

Western Michigan Broncos

Head Coach: Pat Ferschweiler (1st season at WMU, 14-5-0, .737)

National Rankings: #4/#3
Pairwise Ranking: 6th

This Season: 14-5-0 overall, 6-4-0 NCHC (t-3rd)
Last Season: 10-12-3 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 9-11-2-2 NCHC (6th)

2021-2022 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.84 goals scored/game – 4th of 59 teams
Team Defense: 2.37 goals allowed/game – 17th of 59 teams

Power Play: 23.3% (21 of 90) – 11th of 59 teams
Penalty Kill: 85.5% (71 of 83) – 15th of 59 teams

Key Players: Senior F Drew Worrad (5-22-27), Senior F Ethen Frank (17-7-24), Senior F Cole Gallant (7-9-16), Junior F Jason Polin (6-8-14), Senior F Paul Washe (8-5-13), Senior D Michael Joyaux (4-15-19), Junior D Ronnie Attard (5-13-18), Junior G Brandon Bussi (14-5-0, 2.39 GAA, .916 SV%, 2 SO)

North Dakota Fighting Hawks

Head Coach: Brad Berry (7th season at UND, 151-71-24, .663)

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

This Season: 13-8-0 overall, 8-2-0 NCHC (1st)
Last Season: 22-6-1 overall (NCAA Midwest Regional Finalist), 18-5-1 NCHC (1st)

2021-2022 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.24 goals scored/game – 18th of 59 teams
Team Defense: 2.90 goals allowed/game – 31st of 59 teams

Power Play: 24.7% (19 of 77) – 8th of 59 teams
Penalty Kill: 80.9% (72 of 89) – 32nd of 59 teams

Key Players: Sophomore F Riese Gaber (9-13-22), Senior F Connor Ford (3-13-16), Senior F Ashton Calder (8-7-15 in 16 games), Freshman F Jake Schmaltz (6-8-14), Junior F Judd Caulfield (3-5-8), Freshman F Matteo Costantini (5-5-10 in 16 games), Sophomore F Louis Jamernik (7-6-13), Senior F Mark Senden (4-8-12), Sophomore D Jake Sanderson (6-16-22 in 17 games), Junior D Ethan Frisch (3-5-8), Senior G Zach Driscoll (12-7-0, 2.66 GAA, .888 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: December 13, 2020 (Omaha, NE). In the second of two meetings in the Omaha pod, North Dakota defeated the Broncos 6-3 behind two goals from freshman Riese Gaber. UND netminder Adam Scheel made 20 of 23 saves to improve the Fighting Hawks’ record in the pod to 4-2-1. One week earlier, North Dakota’s Grant Mismash and Shane Pinto scored two goals apiece and four other Fighting Hawks lit the lamp in an 8-2 shellacking of Western Michigan. UND erupted for four goals in the first period and outshot the Broncos 18-2 in the opening frame, chasing netminder Austin Cain after twenty minutes of play. On the other side of the ice, senior Peter Thome made 16 saves for the Green and White.

Last Meeting in Kalamazoo: December 7, 2019. One night after Gavin Hain’s overtime winner was the ONLY goal of the contest, the Green and White erupted for the first four goals of the contest in an 8-2 victory over the homestanding Broncos. WMU’s Mattias Samuelsson was assessed a major penalty at the 13:22 mark of the third period in a 5-2 game, and North Dakota scored three consecutive goals in a span of under three minutes to put the game out of reach. The 2019-2020 version of the Fighting Hawks would play from October 25th until January 10th without a loss.

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 six NCAA tournament appearances.

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 twelfth consecutive season.

All-Time Series: In the short history between the schools, UND has won 25 of the 32 games (25-7-0, .781), including a record of 11-3-0 (.786) in games played in Kalamazoo. Before the 2016-17 season in which Western Michigan won three of the four meetings, WMU’s lone victory over North Dakota was a 2-1 road win on March 8th, 2014. The teams first met in 1997.

Last Ten: North Dakota has won seven of the last ten meetings between the two teams, outscoring the Broncos 37-22 over that stretch of games. UND has had a clean sweep in the past six, with a scoring margin of 28-10.

Game News and Notes

Western Michigan moved up to the Division I ranks beginning with the 1975-76 season and has advanced to the NCAA tournament six times. The Broncos have made the NCAA tourney once (2017) in their first eight seasons in the NCHC after advancing to the national tournament twice (2011, 2012) in the last three seasons in the now-defunct CCHA. The Broncos are 9-0-0 when leading after two periods of play but just 5-5-0 when trailing or tied. Western Michigan has outscored opponents 28-9 in third periods this season. The two teams will tangle again in Grand Forks on February 25th and 26th.

The Prediction

I’ve got a bad feeling about this. UND slept through much of its exhibition contest against the US Under-18 team on New Year’s Day, coughed up three third-period goals in a span of under five minutes against Cornell in Friday’s opener, and followed that up by scoring just once (at the 2:00 mark of the first period) in Saturday’s rematch. And to make matters worse, the goaltending situation is muddled, and Brad Berry will have to juggle lines after losing senior forward Gavin Hain, one member of the most defensively-sound trio that North Dakota has. Western Michigan is playing with confidence and will have the last line change to go along with the Lawson Lunatics this weekend. I expect the Fighting Hawks to keep one game close, and it’s more likely to be on Saturday night. Western Michigan 4-2, 2-2 tie.

Broadcast Information

Both games this weekend will be available via webcast at NCHC.tv. All UND men’s hockey games can be heard on stations across the UND Sports Home of Economy Radio Network as well as through the iHeart Radio app.

Social Media

Keep up with the action live during all UND hockey games by following @UNDmhockey and @UNDInsider on Twitter. Fans can also read the action via Brad Schlossman’s live chat on the Grand Forks Herald website.

As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Follow me on Twitter (@DBergerHockey) for more information and insight. Here’s to hockey!

Weekend Preview: UND vs. Cornell

#14 Cornell (9-3-1) was ranked as high as 9th in the USCHO poll back in December, but a pair of losses at Arizona State last weekend (2-5, 2-3) dropped them to 26th in the Pairwise. A closer look at the strength of schedule for the Big Red reveals that it may be tough task to climb in the rankings in the second half of the season.

According to KRACH, Cornell has played the 44th toughest schedule in the country to this point of the season (for comparison, #5 North Dakota has played the 4th-toughest schedule, behind only Duluth, Minnesota, and St. Cloud State). Aside from two games against Quinnipiac (7th in PWR) and this weekend’s series at UND (4th), Cornell will play the following schedule in the second half of the season:

Clarkson (21st)
Harvard (24th)
Rensselaer (37th)
2 games against Colgate (40th)
St. Lawrence (43rd)
Union (48th)
2 games against Princeton (50th)
Dartmouth (51st)
Brown (56th)
Yale (59th)

Needless to say, a split or better against the Fighting Hawks this weekend and good results against the QU Bobcats may be the only chances that Cornell has of moving up far enough in the Pairwise rankings to secure an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament.

Incidentally, the twelve teams in the ECAC have combined to win seven NCAA titles, with only two of those (Yale in 2013 and Union in 2014) coming in the last 30 years. Before the league’s two recent national championships, the last conference member to claim college hockey’s biggest prize was Harvard in 1989. Cornell lays claim to two of those seven crowns, with title game victories in 1967 and 1970. The 1967 championship came after a 1-0 triumph over North Dakota in the semifinals.

The Big Red did not play any games last season due to COVID-19. In fact, only four league members competed (Quinnipiac, Clarkson, St. Lawrence, and Colgate). Cornell joined the other five Ivy League teams (Brown, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale) as well as Rensselaer and Union in sitting out the season.

UND has played Cornell just eight times in school history, with three of those meetings in the NCAA tournament. The two teams last squared off in January 2010 in the first two UND games ever played in Ithaca, New York. Cornell won the opener 1-0 before North Dakota evened the series with a 3-1 victory.

Without much history between the two programs, let’s dive into the stats to see how the teams measure up…

A half-point per game or better is my benchmark for solid offensive production, and Mike Schafer’s squad has eight players who meet that threshold: junior forward Matt Stienburg (8-11-19), senior forward Max Andreev (7-10-17), senior forward Brenden Locke (4-8-12), junior forward Ben Berard (6-4-10), freshman forward Ondrej Psenicka (6-1-7), junior defenseman Sam Malinski (3-7-10), junior defenseman Travis Mitchell (2-6-8), and sophomore defenseman Tim Rego (2-6-8).

By that same offensive metric, Brad Berry has nine players at a half point or better per game, with THREE of those are averaging a point per game or better: sophomore forward Riese Gaber (8-12-20), sophomore defenseman Jake Sanderson (6-13-19 in 15 games), and senior forward Ashton Calder (7-7-14 in 14 games), Other offensive contributors include senior forward Connor Ford (3-13-16), freshman forward Jake Schmaltz (5-7-12), freshman forward Matteo Costantini (5-5-10 in 14 games), senior forward Mark Senden (3-8-11), sophomore forward Louis Jamernik (7-5-12), and senior forward Gavin Hain (6-3-9).

Last year, North Dakota definitely benefitted from having a number of players stick around for a title run rather than turn pro. And UND’s roster is now feeling the effects of all of those departures happening at once, with fourteen new faces in Green and White this season. Despite bringing in five experienced transfers (forwards Ashton Calder and Connor Ford, defensemen Chris Jandric and Brady Ferner, and goaltender Zach Driscoll), the Fighting Hawks lost their top five scorers (and seven of their top eight) from a season ago: Jordan Kawaguchi, Collin Adams, Shane Pinto, Jasper Weatherby, Matt Kiersted, Grant Mismash, and Jacob Bernard-Docker combined for over 60% of UND’s offense last season (69 of 114 goals and 185 of 308 total points).

In addition to those seven skaters, Brad Berry also lost forwards Jackson Keane and Harrison Blaisdell, defensemen Gabe Bast and Josh Rieger, and goaltenders Adam Scheel and Peter Thome.

Despite losing all of that firepower and scoring depth, North Dakota is still managing well over three goals per game (3.37); last year, UND scored 3.93 goals/game. A more glaring difference can be found on the defensive side of the puck: after allowing less than two goals per game last year (1.97), the Fighting Hawks are giving up an average of 2.84 per game this season.

Two players in particular are driving the offense for North Dakota: forward Riese Gaber and defenseman Jake Sanderson. The two have combined for 198 shot attempts in 34 games played, almost six each per game. No one else on the team has more than 75 attempts.

UND is scoring on 12.4 percent of its shots on goal, a mark good for 6th in the country. Cornell is just ahead of the Fighting Hawks at 13.0 percent (3rd).

North Dakota made a living with the puck last season (7th and 5th in two key puck possession statistics), and it started in the faceoff circle. In particular, Shane Pinto, Collin Adams, and Jasper Weatherby had UND at #1 in the nation in faceoff percentage (56.2%); this year, the Green and White struggled early but now clock in at 54.4%, good for 5th in the nation. Cornell sits in 7th nationally at 53.8%.

For UND, Connor Ford (60.5% of faceoffs won) takes nearly every important draw, while Jake Schmaltz (50.8%) has improved over the course of his first college season. Louis Jamernik (50.7%) has been a steady third option for Brad Berry.

For Cornell, a trio of seniors lead the way in the faceoff circle. Max Andreev (60.1%) has been stellar, with Kyle Betts (56.3%) and Brenden Locke (53.3%) producing fantastic results as well.

With both teams faring extremely well on draws, it is no surprise that each team finds itself in the upper third nationally in two key puck possession statistics:

Corsi: UND 52.1% (20th), Cornell 55.4% (11th)
Fenwick: UND 52.5% (19th) Cornell 55.3% (12th)

Corsi measures the percentage of shots taken vs. opponents; Fenwick measures the percentage of unblocked shots taken vs. opponents.

North Dakota’s penalty disparity is becoming problematic, as UND averages almost a full minor penalty more per game (13.79 – 12.00) than opponents. The Fighting Hawks have had 71 man-advantage situations this season but have been shorthanded 83 times. With 17 power play goals scored, 16 power play goals allowed, and one shorthanded goal scored, UND’s specialty teams net is only +2.

Cornell is roughly even in the penalty department, averaging just 10.77 penalty minutes per game while seeing their opponents whistled for 10.46. That has led to 47 man advantage situations and just 41 shorthanded situations for the Big Red. With eight power play goals and five power play goals allowed, CU sits at +3.

Cornell head coach Mike Schafer has split the goaltending duties between freshman Joe Howe and senior Nate McDonald, with no discernable pattern. Howe played both games on November 12th and 13th, with McDonald taking the reigns on two separate weekends (November 19th/20th and December 3rd/4th). On three other occasions, the two have split games, but even that has been a roll of the dice, with Howe getting the Friday start twice and McDonald once.

Despite being a senior, McDonald had not appeared in a game before this season. As a freshman and a sophomore, he was third on the depth chart behind Matthew Galajda and Austin McGrath. And, as mentioned above, the Big Red did not compete last year during his junior campaign.

Before UND’s last series at Colorado College, fifth-year senior Zach Driscoll had played nearly every meaningful minute between the pipes for North Dakota, going 11-6-0 with a goals-against average of 2.62, a save percentage of .889, and one shutout. Both Driscoll and freshman Jakob Hellsten got a start in Colorado Springs, and each performed admirably (Driscoll made 28 of 30 saves on Friday night, while Hellsten stopped 23 of 24 in the rematch).

After this weekend’s final nonconference games of the season, North Dakota is scheduled to start up the second half of league play with a home series against league foe Omaha next weekend.

Cornell Team Profile

Head Coach: Mike Schafer (26th season at Cornell, 490-264-100, .632)

National Rankings: #14/#14
Pairwise Ranking: 26th

This Season: 9-3-1 overall, 6-1-1 ECAC (2nd)
Last Season: Did not participate

2021-2022 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.85 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.46 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 17.0% (8 of 4)
Penalty Kill: 87.8% (36 of 41)

Key Players: Junior F Matt Stienburg (8-11-19), Senior F Max Andreev (7-10-17), Senior F Brenden Locke (4-8-12), Junior F Ben Berard (6-4-10), Freshman F Ondrej Psenicka (6-1-7), Junior D Sam Malinski (3-7-10), Junior D Travis Mitchell (2-6-8), Sophomore D Tim Rego (2-6-8), Freshman G Joe Howe (4-2-0, 2.35 GAA, .905 S%, 1 SO), Senior G Nate McDonald (5-1-1, 2.50 GAA, .896 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Fighting Hawks

Head Coach: Brad Berry (7th season at UND, 151-69-24, .668)

National Rankings: #5/#5
Pairwise Ranking: 4th

This Season: 13-6-0 overall, 6-2-0 NCHC (1st)
Last Season: 22-6-1 overall, 18-5-1 NCHC (1st)

2021-2022 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.37 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.84 goals allowed/game

Power Play: 23.9% (17 of 71)
Penalty Kill: 80.7% (67 of 83)

Key players: Sophomore F Riese Gaber (8-12-20), Senior F Connor Ford (3-13-16), Senior F Ashton Calder (7-7-14 in 14 games),
Freshman F Jake Schmaltz (5-7-12), Junior F Judd Caulfield (3-5-8), Freshman F Matteo Costantini (5-5-10 in 14 games), Sophomore F Louis Jamernik (7-5-12), Senior F Mark Senden (3-8-11), Sophomore D Jake Sanderson (6-13-19 in 15 games), Junior D Ethan Frisch (3-4-7), Senior G Zach Driscoll (12-6-0, 2.58 GAA, .893 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: January 23, 2010 (Ithaca, New York). One night after dropping a 1-0 decision despite outshooting Cornell 28-15, North Dakota scored early (Brad Malone at 1:33 of the first period) late (Chris VandeVelde at 11:18 of the third period), and later (Jason Gregoire at 19:58 of the third period) to counteract an extra attacker goal by Cornell with ten seconds remaining. For the weekend, UND outshot the host team 54-31.

Last meeting in Grand Forks: November 29, 2008. One night after the Fighting Sioux drubbed Cornell 7-3, the teams played a tighter contest on Saturday, with the Big Red scoring the game winner with under four minutes to play. UND had a power play goal disallowed earlier in the contest.

Most Important Meeting: The teams have met twice in the NCAA semifinals, with Cornell coming out on top 1-0 in 1967 and North Dakota returning the favor the following season, 3-1.

All-Time: North Dakota leads the all-time series 5-3-0 (.625). The teams have only played twice in Grand Forks.

Game News and Notes

With ten more victories, Cornell bench boss Mike Schafer (Cornell ’86) will reach 500 coaching wins in his illustrious career. Schafer has lead the Big Red to six regular season titles, five league playoff titles, thirteen NCAA tournament appearances, and one Frozen Four (2003). His teams have only had losing records four times, and those teams were barely under .500 (15-16 in 1997-98, 12-15 in 1998-99, 15-16 in 2012-13, and 11-14 in 2014-15). The Big Red have outscored opponents in every period this season but appear to be most vulnerable in the final frame, outscoring opponents 18-15 while being outshot 115-111. Some of this could be a function of Cornell simply locking down leads over the final twenty minutes of games. CU’s record is also buoyed by a 3-0 record in 3-on-3 overtime sessions. UND has been prone to slow starts but has really turned things on in second periods, outscoring opponents 22-13 while holding a shots-on-goal advantage of 182-137.

The Prediction

Cornell has something to prove after being swept at Arizona State last weekend, while North Dakota came out flat in its exhibition contest against the US-Under 18 squad on New Year’s Day and would like to get back on track before re-entering league play one week from tonight. I expect a methodical first period, with both teams adjusting to the speed, skill, and game plan of the other. Keep an eye on which team works its way more crisply through the neutral zone; that will be a good early indicator of success. The biggest question mark for me is how quickly Brad Berry can get his squad playing at the level and in the style that brought them so many victories in the first half. I think things will get squared away in game two, with tonight’s opener proving more of a challenge. UND 3-2, 5-3.

Broadcast Information

Both games this weekend will be broadcast live on Midco Sports Network and will also be available via high-definition webcast at NCHC.tv. All UND men’s hockey games can be heard on stations across the UND Sports Home of Economy Radio Network as well as through the iHeart Radio app.

Social Media

Keep up with the action live during all UND hockey games by following @UNDmhockey and @UNDInsider on Twitter. Fans can also read the action via Brad Schlossman’s live chat on the Grand Forks Herald website.

As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Follow me on Twitter (@DBergerHockey) for more information and insight. Here’s to hockey!

Weekend Preview: UND at Colorado College

This weekend will mark the first appearance at the brand-new Robson Arena for the University of North Dakota men’s hockey team; the 3,400 seat on-campus facility opened on October 2nd, 2021. Colorado College used to play on the wider Olympic ice surface; the new Robson features an NHL sheet of ice (85 x 200). It has taken some time for the Tigers to get adjusted to their new digs; CC is just 1-3-1 at home to this point in the season.

And that’s not the only thing new in Colorado Springs, as Kris Mayotte takes over the head coaching duties. Mayotte replaces Mike Haviland, who went just 74-177-28 (.315) in his seven seasons behind the Tiger bench, with no regular season or postseason titles and zero NCAA tournament appearances. Haviland had something brewing from 2017-2019, with his teams going 32-37-9 (.468). Things fell off over the past two seasons, however (15-37-5, .307), and it was time for a change.

Colorado College last made the NCAA tournament in 2011 under then-head coach Scott Owens. Owens (1999-2014) and Don Lucia (1993-1999) combined to lead CC to six regular-season titles, twelve NCAA tournament appearances, three Frozen Fours, and one national championship game appearance (1996).

With a new rink and a new coach, there is reason for optimism at Robson Arena. Although Colorado College (3-8-3 overall) struggled out of the gate, the squad has played better recently, skating to a scoreless tie at Minnesota Duluth before earning a hard-fought split at Omaha (3-4, 4-0). Five of the Tigers’ fourteen games have gone to overtime (0-2-3), with another four decided by a single goal in regulation time (all CC losses). Kris Mayotte has his team playing well in third periods, outshooting opponents 155-101 while winning the scoreboard battle 15-7.

It’s been a tale of two UND squads to this point in the season, and I’m not just referring to the Friday/Saturday splits over the last three weekends:

Fridays: 0-3, with 3 goals scored and 17 goals allowed

Saturdays: 3-0, with 10 goals scored and 6 goals allowed

Granted, those six games were against #5 Minnesota Duluth, #10 Minnesota, and #6 St. Cloud, but it is still alarming that in all three series, it took a Friday night “wake up call” to remind the players how they needed to play to be successful. And how does North Dakota need to play to be successful? For me, it boils down to three things:

1. Early leads. North Dakota has scored first in nine games (7-2-0) and allowed the first goal in the other eight (4-4-0). When leading or tied after one period of play, the Fighting Hawks are 10-1-0; when trailing after twenty minutes, the team is just 1-5-0.

UND has also been good at extending leads, particularly in the second period. In middle frames this season, Brad Berry’s group has scored 20 goals while allowing just 13.

2. Tight checking. Against most opponents, UND is not talented enough to win on talent alone. When Brad Berry’s squad is at their best, they are taking away time and space in all three zones, using their speed, and creating turnovers with a relentless forecheck.

At their worst, they are allowing opponents to dictate the play, chasing pucks, and committing penalties. North Dakota is allowing just 22.9 shots on goal in winning efforts but 26.5 in its six losses.

3. Goaltending. North Dakota netminder Zach Driscoll has been more than capable between the pipes in his eleven wins and nearly dreadful in his six losses. Here are the splits:

Wins: 1.73 goals-against average (19 goals allowed in 658 minutes) and a save percentage of .925.

Losses: 4.54 goals-against average (23 goals allowed in 304 minutes) and a save percentage of .820.

To be fair, the team’s performances in losing efforts haven’t been up to par either, causing Driscoll to handle shots from more dangerous areas and face additional shorthanded situations.

Here’s a closer look at UND’s specialty teams:

In eleven wins, North Dakota has scored ten power play goals in 37 man advantage situations (27.0%), killed 33 of 38 shorthanded situations (86.8%), and scored a key shorthanded goal against St. Cloud for a net of +6. In those victories, UND averaged 3.45 shorthanded situations per game.

In six losses, North Dakota has scored four power play goals in 25 man advantage situations (16.0%) and killed 25 of 35 shorthanded situations (71.4%) for a net of -6. In those losses, UND averaged 5.83 shorthanded situations per game.

A half-point per game or better is my benchmark for solid offensive production, and Kris Mayotte’s squad has six players who meet that threshold: sophomore forward Logan Will (4-6-10), sophomore forward Matthew Gleason (4-7-11), sophomore forward Jordan Biro (5-3-8), freshman forward Stanley Cooley (1-7-8), freshman forward Brett Chorske (2-2-4 in 7 games), and sophomore defenseman Chase Foley (1-3-4 in 8 games).

By that same offensive metric, Brad Berry has eight players at a half point or better per game, with THREE of those are averaging a point per game or better: sophomore forward Riese Gaber (8-9-17), sophomore defenseman Jake Sanderson (6-13-19), and senior forward Ashton Calder (7-7-14 in 14 games played), Other offensive contributors include senior forward Connor Ford (3-11-14), freshman forward Jake Schmaltz (4-7-11), freshman forward Matteo Costantini (4-5-9 in 13 games), senior forward Mark Senden (3-6-9), and sophomore forward Louis Jamernik (4-5-9). Calder will not make the trip to Colorado this weekend.

Last year, North Dakota definitely benefitted from having a number of players stick around for a title run rather than turn pro. And UND’s roster is now feeling the effects of all of those departures happening at once, with fourteen new faces in Green and White this season. Despite bringing in five experienced transfers (forwards Ashton Calder and Connor Ford, defensemen Chris Jandric and Brady Ferner, and goaltender Zach Driscoll), the Fighting Hawks lost their top five scorers (and seven of their top eight) from a season ago: Jordan Kawaguchi, Collin Adams, Shane Pinto, Jasper Weatherby, Matt Kiersted, Grant Mismash, and Jacob Bernard-Docker combined for over 60% of UND’s offense last season (69 of 114 goals and 185 of 308 total points).

In addition to those seven skaters, Brad Berry also lost forwards Jackson Keane and Harrison Blaisdell, defensemen Gabe Bast and Josh Rieger, and goaltenders Adam Scheel and Peter Thome.

Despite losing all of that firepower and scoring depth, North Dakota is still managing well over three goals per game (3.24); last year, UND scored 3.93 goals/game. A more glaring difference can be found on the defensive side of the puck: after allowing less than two goals per game last year (1.97), the Fighting Hawks are giving up an average of exactly three goals per game this season.

Two players in particular are driving the offense for North Dakota: forward Riese Gaber and defenseman Jake Sanderson. The two have combined for 189 shot attempts in 32 games played, almost six each per game. No one else on the team has more than 65 attempts.

UND is scoring on 12.1 percent of its shots on goal, a mark good for 11th in the country. By contrast, Colorado College lights the lamp on just 8.1 percent of its shots on goal (46th).

North Dakota made a living with the puck last season (7th and 5th in two key puck possession statistics), and it started in the faceoff circle. In particular, Shane Pinto, Collin Adams, and Jasper Weatherby had UND at #1 in the nation in faceoff percentage (56.2%); this year, the Green and White struggled early but now clock in at 53.7%, good for 7th in the nation. Colorado College sits in 46th nationally at 47.3%.

For UND, Connor Ford (61.6% of faceoffs won) takes nearly every important draw, while Jake Schmaltz (48.6%) has improved over the course of his first college season. Louis Jamernik (47.8%) has been a steady third option for Brad Berry.

For Colorado College, freshman Stanley Cooley (46.7%) has spent the most time in the faceoff circle, although sophomore Logan Will (52.7%) has been the strongest performer. Junior Noah Prokop (47.3%) and sophomore Jackson Jutting (47.4%) contribute as well.

North Dakota’s penalty disparity is becoming problematic, as UND averages almost a full minor penalty more per game (14.24 – 12.35) than opponents. The Fighting Hawks have had 62 man-advantage situations this season but have been shorthanded 73 times.

The Tigers are on the other end of that penalty disparity, averaging just 8.71 penalty minutes per game while their opponents have been whistled for 13.93. That has led to 63 man advantage situations and just 49 shorthanded situations for Colorado College. And while last year was a specialty teams disaster for CC (five power play goals scored, 23 power play goals allowed), the Tigers seem to have righted the ship this season by scoring 13 and allowing just 11.

North Dakota is 5-1-0 in NCHC play; Colorado College sits at 1-4-1. After this weekend’s series, UND is off until a home exhibition tilt against the US Under-18 team on New Year’s Day. The Green and White will host Cornell for two games on January 7th and 8th and start up the second half of the NCHC season with a home series against Omaha the following weekend.

CC will host Arizona State for a pair of nonconference games on December 17th and 18th before returning to NCHC action at Miami on January 7th and 8th.

The Fighting Hawks and Tigers will square off on February 4th and 5th in Grand Forks.

Colorado College Tigers

Head Coach: Kris Mayotte (1st season at CC, 3-8-3, .321)
National Rankings: NR/NR

This Season: 3-8-3 overall, 1-4-1 NCHC (7th)

Last Season: 4-17-2 overall, 4-16-2 NCHC (t-7th)

2021-2022 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 2.36 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.43 goals allowed/game

Power Play: 20.6% (13 of 63)
Penalty Kill: 77.6% (38 of 49)

Key players: Sophomore F Logan Will (4-6-10), Sophomore Forward Matthew Gleason (4-7-11), Sophomore F Jordan Biro (5-3-8), Freshman F Stanley Cooley (1-7-8), Freshman F Brett Chorske (2-2-4 in 7 games), Sophomore D Chase Foley (1-3-4 in 8 games), Senior D Bryan Yoon (0-4-4), Sophomore G Dominic Basse (3-7-2, 2.50 GAA, .904 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Fighting Hawks

Head Coach: Brad Berry (7th season at UND, 149-69-24, .665)
National Rankings: #7/#7

This Season: 11-6-0 overall, 6-2-0 NCHC (1st)
Last Season: 22-6-1 overall, 18-5-1 NCHC (1st)

2021-2022 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.24 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.00 goals allowed/game

Power Play: 22.6% (14 of 62)
Penalty Kill: 79.5% (58 of 73)

Key players: Sophomore F Riese Gaber (8-9-17), Senior F Connor Ford (3-11-14), Freshman F Jake Schmaltz (4-7-11), Junior F Judd Caulfield (3-5-8), Freshman F Matteo Costantini (4-5-9 in 13 games), Sophomore F Louis Jamernik (4-5-9), Senior F Mark Mark Senden (3-6-9), Sophomore D Jake Sanderson (6-13-19), Junior D Ethan Frisch (3-4-7), Senior G Zach Driscoll (11-6-0, 2.62 GAA, .889 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: January 24, 2021 (Grand Forks, ND). UND’s Shane Pinto scored twice and Adam Scheel pitched a fifteen-save shutout as the Fighting Hawks dispatched Colorado College 5-0. At the 13:44 mark of the third period, North Dakota’s Tyler Kleven and CC’s Hugo Blixt were ejected in a scrum that resulted in 36 minutes of penalties. One night earlier, UND outshot the visitors 40-19 and won the game by a final score of 4-1. The series wrapped up a stretch of four games in 15 days between the teams; UND won all four contests while outshooting the Tigers 119-85, scoring fourteen goals, and allowing just two.

Last Meeting in Colorado Springs: January 11, 2021. After the two teams traded power play goals in the middle frame (Riese Gaber for UND, Ben Copeland for CC), it was Grant Mismash who unknotted the score in favor of the visitors early in the third period. North Dakota locked it down after that, allowing the Tigers only three shots on goal in the final twenty minutes of play. One night earlier, the Fighting Hawks blanked CC 3-0 despite being outshot 27-18.

Most Important Meeting: March 27, 1997. UND defeated Colorado College, 6-2, in the Frozen Four Semifinals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Two nights later, North Dakota downed Boston University, 6-4, to claim its sixth NCAA Championship. North Dakota and Colorado College also met in the 2001 East Regional (Worcester, Mass.), with UND prevailing, 4-1.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 166-84-11 (.657), although Colorado College holds a slim 59-56-4 (.513) edge in games played in Colorado Springs. The teams first met in 1948; North Dakota’s 166 wins over the Tigers are the most against any single opponent in program history.

Last Ten: North Dakota has nine wins in the last ten meetings between the teams, outscoring CC 33-12 over that span. UND has won seven straight against the Tigers, with CC scoring a combined four goals in those seven games. The Fighting Hawks’ last loss to Colorado College was at CC on March 1, 2019 (1-3).

Game News and Notes

North Dakota head coach Brad Berry is 17-4-1 (.795) in his head coaching career against Colorado College. CC has won two national titles (1950, 1957). Since 1957, the Tigers have appeared in the NCAA tournament thirteen times (most recently in 2011) and advanced to three Frozen Fours (1996, 1997, 2005). Six current UND players have scored goals in their careers against Colorado College, and netminder Zach Driscoll is 2-0-0 with a goals against average of 2.00 and a save percentage of .917 in his two career starts against CC. The Tigers are 3-3-2 when leading or tied after one period of play but 0-5-1 when trailing.

The Prediction

UND fans will know within the first ten minutes of Friday’s opener how the hockey game will go. An early indication will be how well North Dakota competes for the puck and finishes checks. Brad Berry would like to see his team avoid a parade to the penalty box, so it’s a fine line, but if the Green and White can keep the specialty teams battle even, they’ve got a good shot at sweeping on the road. These conference points are just as important as those against Duluth and St. Cloud, and I expect the Fighting Hawks to rise to the challenge and head into the break with two victories. UND 4-2, 3-1.

Broadcast Information

Both games will be streamed live at NCHC.tv, with Friday’s opener also available on Midco Sports Network. All UND men’s hockey games can be heard on stations across the UND Sports Home of Economy Radio Network as well as through the iHeart Radio app.

Social Media

Keep up with the action live during all UND hockey games by following @UNDmhockey and @UNDInsider on Twitter. Fans can also read the action via Brad Schlossman’s live chat on the Grand Forks Herald website.

As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Follow me on Twitter (@DBergerHockey) for more information and insight. Here’s to hockey!

Weekend Preview: UND at St. Cloud State

In the 2021 NCHC Frozen Faceoff championship game, top-seeded North Dakota (20-5-1) squared off against #2 seed St. Cloud State (17-9-0). UND trailed 2-1 after two periods, but strung together three goals just 122 seconds apart to take a lead they would never relinquish. The victory secured North Dakota’s first NCHC postseason title in the eight-year history of the league and its first conference playoff championship since the 2012 WCHA Final Five. In a nod to the Miracle On Ice, fans may well remember the 6-3 victory over Minnesota in the “Timeout Game” that year but forget that there was another game to play in the tournament. One night later, the green and white was out in full force on St. Patrick’s Day, and the Green and White dispatched Denver 4-0 to hoist the Broadmoor Trophy for the third consecutive season.

Both UND and St. Cloud State won their opening round games in the 2021 NCAA tournament; SCSU followed up their 6-2 victory over Boston University with a 4-1 triumph over Boston College. The Huskies’ scoring ways continued with a 5-4 thriller over Minnesota State; Nolan Walker’s game-winner was scored with 54 seconds remaining in the contest.

But that was all of the lamplighting for Brett Larson’s crew, as they were blanked 5-0 by UMass in the NCAA title game.

Last season’s NCHC Frozen Faceoff championship was St. Cloud State’s fifth appearance in the final game of the league playoffs; the Huskies won the playoff title in 2016 and were runners-up in 2015, 2018, and 2019. SCSU’s 2016 championship (over Minnesota Duluth) was its first league playoff win since 2001, when they defeated North Dakota 6-5 in overtime after the Fighting Sioux mounted a furious third period comeback to send the game to an extra frame.

SCSU’s roster is loaded with experience (twenty juniors and seniors) and top-end talent, very similar to the lineups that North Dakota was able to field over the past two seasons. But while it may look on paper that St. Cloud State is dominating teams by scoring 47 goals and allowing just 28 to this point of the season, it is worth mentioning that SCSU swept first-year program St. Thomas by a combined score of 14-2; aside from those two games, the Huskies’ scoring margin is a more realistic 33-26.

St. Cloud State has five losses already this season; UND’s sixth loss of the season was in the West Regional final against Minnesota Duluth, a five-overtime thriller.

Perhaps even more concerning for Brett Larson’s squad is that they have dropped three straight games in league play:

Vs. Omaha: 2-3 (OT)
At Western Michigan: 2-6
At Western Michigan: 0-4

Those early league losses have St. Cloud State two games back of UND in the race for the conference title after just six league games.

Last season, a big reason for the gap between #1 UND (54 conference points) and #2 SCSU (45) is that the Huskies went just 2-4-0 against Western Michigan and dropped a game at Miami in mid-February, whereas North Dakota took care of business against Miami (2-0-0), Colorado College (4-0-0), and Western Michigan (2-0-0). Given that the final margin in the race for the Penrose Cup equated to three wins in league play, St. Cloud State could have used a few more victories (and/or a North Dakota loss or two) against the bottom three teams in the NCHC.

UND and SCSU only met twice during the 2020-2021 regular season, and both of those games took place in the Omaha pod back in December. North Dakota did not come out with enough effort in its first pod matchup with St. Cloud State, took too long to establish a forecheck, gave up two power play goals, and fell 5-3 to the Huskies. In the rematch four days later, Jordan Kawaguchi scored just eight seconds into the 3-on-3 overtime session to knot the season series at one win apiece. SCSU outshot the Fighting Hawks 27-21 in game two but were held scoreless on three man advantage opportunities while allowing a power play goal to North Dakota, and that proved to be the difference in the game.

By the way, here’s what I predicted would happen in the pod rematch:

The Prediction

It will take a stronger start for North Dakota to come out on top in this one. Both teams should be rested and ready, with a slight depth edge to St. Cloud State unless Ethan Frisch can return to the lineup for the Fighting Hawks. Five of the last ten tilts between these two squads have gone to overtime, and I feel like we’re in for another one tonight. I don’t like shootouts, but I think that the Green and White will end it before we get there. UND 4, SCSU 3 (OT).

The final score on Wednesday, December 16th? UND 4, SCSU 3 (OT).

Sophomore forward Veeti Miettinen was the brightest spot for SCSU last season, tallying eleven goals and adding thirteen assists to lead the team in points. In his seven playoff games, however, the 5-foot-9 right winger only managed one point, a goal against Boston University in St. Cloud State’s NCAA tournament opener. Miettinen has three goals and five assists through the first fourteen games of this season and is a threat to score from anywhere on the ice with an effortless wrist shot. The 19-year-old from Espoo, Finland was a 6th-round pick (168th overall) of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2020 NHL entry draft.

North Dakota also has a sophomore forward who has splashed in his first college season. Riese Gaber (11-10-21 in 29 games last season) is an undrafted right winger from Gilbert Plains, Manitoba (a six-hour drive from Grand Forks, ND) who spent his past two seasons in the USHL, scoring 56 goals and adding 49 assists in 108 games with the Dubuque Fighting Saints. Gaber boasts a line of 7-8-15 in 15 games this season.

Miettinen and Gaber were named to the NCHC All-Rookie Team along with Denver forward Carter Savoie, North Dakota defenseman Jake Sanderson, Minnesota Duluth defenseman Wyatt Kaiser, and Miami goaltender Ludvig Persson.

A half-point per game or better is my benchmark for solid offensive production, and Brett Larson’s squad has eleven active players who meet that threshold: senior forward Kevin Fitzgerald (6-10-16), senior forward Sam Hentges (1-4-5 in five games), junior forward Jami Krannila (6-5-11), senior forward Easton Brodzinski (6-3-9), senior forward Nolan Walker (5-3-8), sophomore forward Veeti Miettinen (3-5-8), junior forward Zach Okabe (4-4-8), senior forward Micah Miller (5-2-7), freshman defenseman Jack Peart (2-4-6), senior defenseman Seamus Donahue (0-8-8), and freshman defenseman Josh Luedtke (1-4-5).

Hentges has been out with an injury since late October and will be unavailable this weekend.

By that same offensive metric, Brad Berry has just eight players at a half point or better per game, although THREE of those are averaging a point per game or better: sophomore forward Riese Gaber (7-8-15), sophomore defenseman Jake Sanderson (6-10-16), and senior forward Ashton Calder (7-7-14), Other offensive contributors include senior forward Connor Ford (1-11-12), freshman forward Jake Schmaltz (4-7-11), junior forward Judd Caulfield (3-5-8), freshman forward Matteo Costantini (4-5-9 in 11 games), and sophomore forward Louis Jamernik (3-5-8). Calder will not make the trip to St. Cloud State this weekend, although Costantini is expected to make his return to the lineup after missing the last four games (illness).

Last year, North Dakota definitely benefitted from having a number of players stick around for a title run rather than turn pro. And UND’s roster is now feeling the effects of all of those departures happening at once, with fourteen new faces in Green and White this season. Despite bringing in five experienced transfers (forwards Ashton Calder and Connor Ford, defensemen Chris Jandric and Brady Ferner, and goaltender Zach Driscoll), the Fighting Hawks lost their top five scorers (and seven of their top eight) from a season ago: Jordan Kawaguchi, Collin Adams, Shane Pinto, Jasper Weatherby, Matt Kiersted, Grant Mismash, and Jacob Bernard-Docker combined for over 60% of UND’s offense last season (69 of 114 goals and 185 of 308 total points).

In addition to those seven skaters, Brad Berry also lost forwards Jackson Keane and Harrison Blaisdell, defensemen Gabe Bast and Josh Rieger, and goaltenders Adam Scheel and Peter Thome.

Despite losing all of that firepower and scoring depth, North Dakota is still managing well over three goals per game (3.27); last year, UND scored 3.93 goals/game. A more glaring difference can be found on the defensive side of the puck: after allowing less than two goals per game last year (1.97), the Fighting Hawks are giving up an average of 2.67 goals per game this season.

North Dakota made a living with the puck last season (7th and 5th in two key puck possession statistics), and it started in the faceoff circle. In particular, Shane Pinto, Collin Adams, and Jasper Weatherby had UND at #1 in the nation in faceoff percentage (56.2%); this year, the Green and White struggled early but now clock in at 54.7%, good for fifth in the nation. St. Cloud State sits in 17th nationally at 52.4%.

North Dakota is 5-1-0 in NCHC play; St. Cloud State sits at 3-3-0. The teams will also square off on January 28th and 29th in Grand Forks. Whoever takes the season series between the two programs will be more likely to contend with Minnesota Duluth for the league title.

St. Cloud State Huskies

Head Coach: Brett Larson (4th season at SCSU, 72-37-9, .648)
National Rankings: #5/#6

This Season: 9-5-0 overall, 3-3-0 NCHC (t-4th)
Last Season: 20-11-0 overall, 15-9-0 NCHC (2nd)

2021-2022 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.36 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.00 goals allowed/game

Power Play: 33.9% (20 of 59)
Penalty Kill: 84.0% (42 of 50)

Key players: Senior F Kevin Fitzgerald (6-10-16), Junior F Jami Krannila (6-5-11), Senior F Easton Brodzinski (6-3-9), Senior F Nolan Walker (5-3-8), Sophomore F Veeti Miettinen (3-5-8), Junior F Zach Okabe (4-4-8), Senior F Micah Miller (5-2-7), Freshman D Jack Peart (2-4-6), Senior D Seamus Donahue (0-8-8), Freshman D Josh Luedtke (1-4-5), Senior G David Hrenak (8-4-0, 1.83 GAA, .927 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Fighting Hawks

Head Coach: Brad Berry (7th season at UND, 148-68-24, .667)
National Rankings: #7/#7

This Season: 10-5-0 overall, 5-1-0 NCHC (1st)
Last Season: 22-6-1 overall, 18-5-1 NCHC (1st)

2021-2022 Season Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.27 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.67 goals allowed/game

Power Play: 24.5% (13 of 53)
Penalty Kill: 80.6% (50 of 62)

Key players: Sophomore F Riese Gaber (7-8-15), Senior F Connor Ford (1-11-12), Freshman F Jake Schmaltz (4-7-11), Junior F Judd Caulfield (3-5-8), Freshman F Matteo Costantini (4-5-9 in 11 games), Sophomore F Louis Jamernik (3-5-8), Sophomore D Jake Sanderson (6-10-16), Junior D Ethan Frisch (3-4-7), Senior G Zach Driscoll (10-5-0, 2.42 GAA, .895 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: March 16, 2021 (Grand Forks, ND). One night before St. Patrick’s Day, North Dakota enjoyed playing for the NCHC playoff title in front of a whole bunch of green. St. Cloud State led 2-1 after two periods, but the Fighting Hawks stormed back with four third-period goals – including three in the span of 122 seconds early in the final frame and an empty-netter to seal the 5-3 victory and the program’s first Frozen Faceoff championship. UND senior Jordan Kawaguchi and freshman Riese Gaber each had two goals and an assist.

Last Meeting In St. Cloud: February 22nd, 2020 (St. Cloud, MN). St. Cloud’s Jack Poehling broke a 1-1 tie six minutes into the third period and the Huskies made it hold up despite being outshot 13-5 in the final frame and 30-19 for the game. One night earlier, the teams skated to a 3-3 tie before St. Cloud State notched the extra league point with a shootout win.

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, 77-45-15 (.617), including a record of 29-23-0 (.558) in games played in St. Cloud. Aside from their 2015 and 2018 NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinal victories, the Huskies also defeated North Dakota in the 2001 WCHA Final Five championship game. The teams have been squaring off regularly since the 1989-90 season but have only met once in the NCAA tournament (2015).

Last Ten: St. Cloud holds a slight lead of 5-4-1 (.550) in the last ten tilts between the teams, although North Dakota has outscored St. Cloud State 30-26 over that stretch. Three of the last ten meetings have gone to overtime.

Game News and Notes

Since 2012, the teams have played to an even record (6-6-2) in games played in St. Cloud. UND’s Mark Senden, Gavin Hain, and Riese Gaber each have four career points against the Huskies. North Dakota netminder Zach Driscoll spent the 2016-2017 season at St. Cloud State before transferring to Bemidji State; Driscoll appeared in 14 contests at SCSU, amassing a record of 6-6-1.

The Prediction

Both teams will be looking to play to their identity this weekend, and on the wide sheet, that favors St. Cloud State. North Dakota will need to play a tight-checking game in all three zones to keep these games close, and I don’t see that happening on consecutive nights. SCSU has an advantage on special teams, so the Fighting Hawks will need to stay out of the penalty box and roll four lines to have a shot. The Huskies should come out of this series with four or five league points and tighten up the race for the league title. SCSU 4-3, 3-3 tie.

Broadcast Information

Both games will be broadcast live on Midco Sports Network and also available via livestream at NCHC.tv. All UND men’s hockey games can be heard on stations across the UND Sports Home of Economy Radio Network as well as through the iHeart Radio app.

Social Media

Keep up with the action live during all UND hockey games by following @UNDmhockey and @UNDInsider on Twitter. Fans can also read the action via Brad Schlossman’s live chat on the Grand Forks Herald website.

As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. Follow me on Twitter (@DBergerHockey) for more information and insight. Here’s to hockey!