Weekend Preview: UND at Nebraska-Omaha

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

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

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

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

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

Nebraska-Omaha Team Profile

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

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

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

North Dakota Team Profile

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

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

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

By The Numbers

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

Game News and Notes

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

The Prediction

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

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

Weekend Preview: UND at Wisconsin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wisconsin Team Profile

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

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

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

North Dakota Team Profile

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

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

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

By The Numbers

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

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

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

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

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

Game News and Notes

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

The Prediction

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

Weekend Preview: UND vs. Minnesota-Duluth

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

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

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

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

Minnesota-Duluth Team Profile

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

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

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

North Dakota Team Profile

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

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

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

By The Numbers

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

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

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

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 129-70-8 (.643), including a 74-30-2 (.708) record in games played in Grand Forks

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

Game News and Notes

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

The Prediction

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

Weekend Preview: Denver at North Dakota

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

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

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

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

Denver Team Profile

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

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

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

North Dakota Team Profile

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

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

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

By The Numbers

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

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

Most Important Meeting: It’s hard to pick just one game, as the two teams have played four times for the national title. Denver defeated UND for the national championship in 1958, 1968, and 2005, while the Sioux downed the Pioneers in 1963.

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

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

Game News and Notes

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

The Prediction

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

Weekend Preview: UND at Maine

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

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

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

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

Maine Team Profile

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

North Dakota Team Profile

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

By The Numbers

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

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

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

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

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

Game News and Notes:

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

The Prediction

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

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

Weekend Preview: North Dakota at Bemidji State

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

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

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

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

Bemidji State Team Profile

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

North Dakota Team Profile

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

By The Numbers

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

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

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

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

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

Game News and Notes:

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

The Prediction

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

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

NCAA Northeast Regional Preview: North Dakota vs. Yale

Last season, the high-flying Yale Bulldogs cruised to the ECAC regular season and playoff championships and were averaging 4.67 goals per game heading into the NCAA tournament. Their first round opponent was Vermont, and the Catamounts stifled and stymied the host Bulldogs, 4-1.

If KRACH is an indication of the strength of teams in each conference, then (aside from #13 Cornell), Yale played a season against squads comparable to Alaska-Anchorage (#32 KRACH) and Michigan Tech (#48). In a full season against the likes of #28 Union , #33 St. Lawrence, #34 Quinnipiac, #35 Rensselaer, #36 Colgate, #40 Princeton, #44 Brown, #46 Dartmouth, #47 Harvard, and #50 Clarkson, the Bulldogs put up impressive offensive numbers: 4.09 goals/game and a power play that converted at a 23.5% clip. But against those same opponents, Yale also allowed almost three goals per game.

Or put more simply, here is the comparison between North Dakota and Yale:

Yale (Strength of Schedule #37): 4.09 goals scored/game, 2.94 goals allowed/game
UND (Strength of Schedule #2): 3.29 goals scored/game, 2.10 goals allowed/game

The question is this: which team will be able to play its style and take away time and space from their opponent?

In the first three months after Chay Genoway’s injury, the Fighting Sioux struggled to a 6-10-4 mark. Since that time, North Dakota has been on a mission, winning 12 of its last 13 games and outscoring opponents 55-22 during that stretch. UND has seen improvement in all areas, but most notably goaltending and team defense.

The Green and White are deep, talented, and rugged up front, and penalty trouble seems to be the only thing that can derail North Dakota’s momentum.

Yale suffered its own blow on the injury front, losing senior forward Sean Backman (21 goals and 14 assists in 29 games) for the season to a non-hockey related foot injury. Backman was voted to the all-ECAC first team and was named Ivy League Player of the Year.

Yale Team Profile

Head Coach: Keith Allain (4th season at Yale, 71-48-12, .588)
NCAA Tournament Appearances: 4, most recently 2009
National Titles: None
This Season:  20-9-3, 15-5-2 ECAC (1st)
National Rankings: #8/#8
PairWise Ranking: 9th
Team Offense: 4.09 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.94 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 23.5% (44 of 187)
Penalty Kill: 81.8% (126 of 154)
Last Season: 24-8-2 overall (NCAA East Regional semifinalist), 15-5-2 ECAC (1st)
Key Players: Junior F Broc Little (26-14-40), Sophomore F Brian O’Neill (14-25-39), Junior F Denny Kearney (9-25-34), Senior D Thomas Dignard (6-20-26), Junior D Jimmy Martin (2-15-17), Senior G Billy Blasé (7-2-0, 2.37 GAA, .901 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (6th season at UND, 155-83-24, .637)
NCAA tournament appearances: 25, most recently 2009
National Titles: 7, most recently 2000
National Ranking: #4/#4
PairWise Ranking: 5th
This Season: 22-12-5, 15-10-3 WCHA (4th)
Last Season: 24-15-4 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 17-7-4 WCHA (1st)
Team Offense: 3.29 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.10 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.2% (42 of 208)
Penalty Kill: 86.3% (170 of 197)
Key Players: Senior F Chris VandeVelde (16-25-41), Sophomore F Jason Gregoire (20-17-37), Freshman F Danny Kristo (15-21-36), Junior F Evan Trupp (8-26-34), Junior D Derrick LaPoint (2-20-22), Junior D Jake Marto (5-13-18), Sophomore G Brad Eidsness (24-9-4, 2.09 GAA, .915 SV%, 3 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: November 1, 2003 (Grand Forks, ND). The Fighting Sioux crushed the visiting Bulldogs 10-0 to complete the two game sweep. Brady Murray scored the game winner 13 seconds into the first period, and Zach Parise led the way with a hat trick and an assist. UND won Friday’s opener, 8-4, behind two goals each from Brandon Bochenski and Quinn Fylling. Eight future NHL players were in uniform for North Dakota in that series.

Most Important Meeting: January 1, 1960 (Troy, NY). In the only tournament game these two teams have ever played, North Dakota trounced Yale 15-0 in the RPI holiday tourney,

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 5-0-0.

Game News and Notes

North Dakota senior forward Chris VandeVelde (117 career points) needs two points to crack the top 50 on UND’s all-time scoring list. Yale has the nation’s second best power play (23.5%). The Fighting Sioux have scored five shorthanded goals over the past thirteen games. UND is 3-0 all-time in NCAA tournament games played in Worcester, MA. Yale head coach Keith Allain was born and raised in Worcester.

The Prediction

Yale hasn’t seen a team like North Dakota all season, and the Fighting Sioux are on a roll. If it’s a parade to the penalty box, things could get interesting, but UND is too deep and too focused for the Bulldogs. North Dakota 4, Yale 2.

Bonus Predictions

In the other regional semifinal, Alaska is a better team than most fans give them credit for, but a date with Boston College seems like destiny (and could be payback) for North Dakota. Boston College 3, Alaska 2.

In the other regionals, I have:

Wisconsin over St. Cloud State in the West Regional final
Denver over New Hampshire in the East Regional final
Miami over Michigan in the Midwest Regional final

Thank you for reading. Check back on Sunday for a preview of the Northeast Regional final.

WCHA Final Five Preview: UND vs. Minnesota-Duluth

When these two teams met in Grand Forks in February, Duluth was ranked #6 and was in the top ten in the Pairwise rankings, while North Dakota was ranked #11 and, at 13th in the Pairwise, was squarely on the bubble for the national tournament.

In February and March, North Dakota has gone 9-2-0, while Minnesota-Duluth staggered to the finish line with a 5-6-0 mark over the same time span. Two of North Dakota’s victories came during a home sweep of UMD during which the Fighting Sioux outscored the Bulldogs, 10-3. North Dakota and Minnesota-Duluth have switched positions in the race for the NCAAs.

Coming into the weekend, North Dakota can finish no lower than 6th in the Pairwise and is a lock for the NCAA tournament. Duluth can finish as high as 5th or as low as 19th. The Bulldogs could make it easy by winning the Broadmoor for the second consecutive year; otherwise, it might be a restless Saturday night for Scott Sandelin’s squad.

North Dakota junior forward Matt Frattin collected four goals last weekend against Minnesota. He also collected a five minute major penalty for charging and a one game suspension from the league office. The Fighting Sioux will also be without the services of freshman defenseman Joe Gleason (undisclosed injury). Expect to see Carter Rowney in for Frattin and Corey Fienhage supplanting Gleason when the Green and White hit the ice in St. Paul on Thursday night.

Minnesota-Duluth Team Profile

Head Coach: Scott Sandelin (10th season at UMD, 166-189-46, .471)
This Season:  22-16-1 Overall, 16-11-1 WCHA (t-5th)
National Rankings: #11/#11
PairWise Ranking: t-11th
Team Offense: 3.23 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.74 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 23.5% (55 of 234)
Penalty Kill: 82.3% (167 of 203)
Last Season: 22-13-8 Overall (NCAA West Regional Finalist), 10-11-7 WCHA
Key Players: Sophomore F Jack Connolly (18-31-49), Junior F Justin Fontaine (21-25-46), Junior F Rob Bordson (12-28-40), Sophomore F Mike Connolly (14-26-40), Sophomore D Brady Lamb (11-13-24), Junior G Kenny Reiter (13-9-0, 2.38 GAA, .910 SV%, 3 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (6th season at UND, 152-83-24, .633)
National Ranking: #5/#5
PairWise Ranking: t-4th
This Season: 22-12-5, 15-10-3 WCHA (4th)
Last Season: 24-15-4 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 17-7-4 WCHA (1st)
Team Offense: 3.26 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.10 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.2% (42 of 208)
Penalty Kill: 86.3% (170 of 197)
Key Players: Sophomore F Jason Gregoire (19-16-35), Senior F Chris VandeVelde (14-22-36), Freshman F Danny Kristo (14-19-33), Junior F Evan Trupp (5-23-28), Junior D Jake Marto (5-11-16), Sophomore G Brad Eidsness (21-9-4, 2.09 GAA, .914 SV%, 2 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: February 20, 2010 (Grand Forks). Mario Lamoureux came back from a one game suspension and single-handedly downed the visiting Bulldogs with his two goals. North Dakota won the series finale 5-1 after downing UMD in the opener, 5-2.

Last Meeting at the WCHA Final Five: March 20, 2009 (St. Paul). North Dakota was the second of three victims of the Alex Stalock Express, falling 3-0 to the eventual tournament champions. Duluth became the only team in Final Five history to capture the Broadmoor trophy after participating in the Thursday play-in game.

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

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 128-70-8 (.641), although Duluth holds a 2-1-1 (.625) edge in games on neutral ice.

Last Ten: North Dakota is 5-4-1 (.550) in the last ten games between the teams.

Game News and Notes

North Dakota senior forward Chris VandeVelde needs four points to move into a tie with Zach Parise on UND’s career scoring list. Minnesota-Duluth has gone 82 games without being shut out, and has blanked nine opponents in that span. If North Dakota advances to Friday’s semifinal, expect to see Aaron Dell between the pipes. Coming into this year, Bulldog winger Rob Bordson had played in 42 games and notched one goal and six assists. This season, he’s put up 12 goals and 28 assists in 39 games.

The Prediction

Having Frattin (suspension), Gleason (undisclosed injury), and Genoway (concussion) out of the lineup will test UND’s depth. As with so many playoff games, this one will come down to special teams and goaltending. The crowd will definitely be a factor, and I can’t see North Dakota’s run coming to an end just yet. UND 3-2.

Bonus Final Five Predictions:

Friday afternoon: Wisconsin 4, St. Cloud State 2
Friday evening: Denver 4, North Dakota 3
Saturday afternoon: North Dakota 2, St. Cloud State 2
Saturday evening: Wisconsin 3, Denver 2

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

WCHA First Round Playoff Preview: UND vs. Minnesota

Minnesota’s playoff history in Grand Forks is dreadful. Not only have the Gophers never beaten the Fighting Sioux at North Dakota in the playoffs (0-6), but Minnesota has also lost playoff games in Grand Forks to Harvard and Princeton, along with some other team in the 2006 West Regional.

The recent playoff history away from Grand Forks isn’t much better for the Maroon and Gold, although they did claim WCHA Final Five championships with victories over North Dakota in 2004 and 2007. The Fighting Sioux have had the better of the results on the bigger stages, however, defeating Minnesota to advance to the national championship game in 2005 and to the Frozen Four in 2007.

North Dakota is riding a NCAA-best seven game winning streak. Brad Eidsness has been spectacular during the streak, posting a .940 save percentage and a 1.57 goals-against average while allowing two goals or less in all seven games.

The special teams battle is one to watch this weekend. Minnesota is a -3 this season (27 power play goals scored, 30 allowed), while North Dakota is a +16 (40 scored, 24 allowed). UND has been clipping along at 25 percent (11 for 44) since Brett Hextall returned from injury on February 12th, while Minnesota went five for eight with the man advantage last Sunday against Wisconsin.

Minnesota Team Profile

Head Coach: Don Lucia (11th season at Minnesota, 273-143-47, .640)
National Ranking: #26/NR
PairWise Ranking: t-23rd
This Season: 17-17-2 overall, 12-14-2 WCHA (7th)
Last Season: 17-13-7 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 12-11-5 WCHA (5th)
Team Offense: 2.81 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.72 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 17.8% (27 of 152)
Penalty Kill: 82.0% (137 of 167)
Key Players: Junior F Mike Hoeffel (12-10-22), Sophomore F Jordan Schroeder (8-19-27), Senior F Tony Lucia (11-15-26), Junior D Cade Fairchild (4-16-20), Junior G Alex Kangas (15-13-1, 2.54 GAA, .911 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (6th season at UND, 150-82-24, .633)
National Ranking: #5/#5
PairWise Ranking: t-5th
This Season: 20-11-5, 15-10-3 WCHA (4th)
Last Season: 24-15-4 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 17-7-4 WCHA (1st)
Team Offense: 3.19 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.14 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.3% (40 of 197)
Penalty Kill: 87.0% (161 of 185)
Key Players: Sophomore F Jason Gregoire (18-13-31), Senior F Chris VandeVelde (13-20-33), Freshman F Danny Kristo (13-17-30), Junior F Evan Trupp (5-23-28), Junior D Jake Marto (5-8-13), Sophomore G Brad Eidsness (19-8-4, 2.16 GAA, .911 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last meeting: January 16, 2010 (Minneapolis, MN). The Golden Gophers scored three goals in under four minutes in the second period and cruised to a 5-1 victory over the visiting Sioux. Five different players scored for Minneota. The two teams tied 3-3 in the series opener on Friday night.

Last meeting in Grand Forks: October 17, 2009. Fighting Sioux defenseman Jake Marto tied the score late in the third period and blocked a shot with under two minutes to play as North Dakota salvaged a tie with the visiting Gophers. UND dominated Minnesota 4-0 in Friday’s opener.

Most important meeting: March 24, 1979 (Detroit, MI). North Dakota and Minnesota met to decide the national championship, and the Gophers prevailed, 4-3.

All-time: Minnesota leads the all-time series, 131-125-14 (.511), but North Dakota holds a 67-53-8 (.555) advantage in games played in Grand Forks.

Last Ten: North Dakota is 5-2-3 in the last ten meetings between the teams. Four of the last ten games have gone to overtime.

Game News and Notes

Minnesota has won only one game this season when trailing after the first period (1-9-1). Three is the magic number of goals for North Dakota; the Gophers have only won twice this season (2-16-2) when opponents have scored three or more goals. With one more victory, Brad Eidsness would join Karl Goehring as the only Sioux goaltenders to win twenty games in each of their first two seasons. This weekend is a White Out Weekend at Ralph Engelstad Arena, with Fighting Sioux fans encouraged to wear white to all games. In an effort to minimize traffic and congestion at the arena, Gopher fans are asked to arrive at 10:37 p.m.

The Prediction

Three will be the magic number this weekend. If North Dakota can score three goals in each game this weekend, it will be season over for Minnesota. I have a feeling that this series will go three games, with both Saturday and Sunday going right down to the wire and possibly into overtime. North Dakota 4-2, Minnesota 3-2 (OT), North Dakota 3-2.

Bonus Predictions

In the other first-round matchups, here’s how I see them playing out:

Denver over Michigan Tech in 2 games
Wisconsin over Alaska-Anchorage in 2 games
St. Cloud State over MSU-Mankato in 3 games
Duluth over Colorado College in 3 games

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