Friday Game React: UND vs. Minnesota

Lamoureux was the difference in the 4-2 Sioux victory. He kept the game scoreless through two periods, turning aside all 26 shots he faced through the first forty minutes.

Minnesota held a 26-12 advantage in shots on goal through two periods, and finished with a 39-30 edge.

North Dakota has now won 5 of the last 6 meetings between the teams, and has narrowed the gap in the all-time series. Minnesota now sports a record of 129-121-11 (.515) in Sioux/Gopher games, while UND leads the series in Grand Forks, 64-52-7 (.549).

The Fighting Sioux continued their exceptional 4 on 4 play. UND’s second goal (Rylan Kaip from Chris VandeVelde and Robbie Bina) came with each team a man short. North Dakota has the puck-moving defenseman necessary to create chances in this situation.

Rylan Kaip continues his solid two-way play. The senior forward has five goals this season after tallying eight in his first three seasons combined.

I’m not a fan of the Holy Cross references. I understand why fans continue to bring this up, but it shouldn’t come from the PA announcer at the arena. For the record, an announcement was made in the third period that “Holy Cross is off this weekend”.

Minnesota falls to 4-7-0 in WCHA play, equaling the number of conference losses from all of last season, when they finished 18-7-3 to claim the McNaughton Cup. UND is now 6-5-0 in the conference, and hope to pick up points Saturday night after splitting all five conference series to date.

The Gophers fall to 8-8-1 overall, while the Fighting Sioux improve to 8-5-1. The same two teams square off Saturday night at 7:07.

Thank you for reading. I welcome your comments and suggestions. For more on the matchup between the teams, click here. For background on this great college hockey rivalry, click here. Click here for analysis, commentary, and reaction to Saturday’s game.

Game Preview: UND vs. Minnesota

I wrote in my WCHA Season Preview that the four games between North Dakota and Minnesota might very well decide the race for the McNaughton Cup.

As it looks right now, these games might determine whether one of these squads goes on the road for the first round of the conference playoffs.

UND (7-5-1, 5-5-0 WCHA) is currently in fifth place in the WCHA, while Minnesota (8-7-1, 4-6-0 WCHA) is tied for sixth with Wisconsin. Those standings are a bit misleading, however, as three of the four teams ahead of North Dakota and Minnesota in the league race (Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, and Michigan Tech) have played twelve conference games while the Sioux and the Gophers have each played ten.

That being said, these games are critical for league points, momentum, and the all-important Sioux-Gopher rivalry.

Last season, North Dakota took three of four games from Minnesota, including a regular season sweep at Mariucci Arena and an overtime victory in the NCAA West Regional Final which propelled the Sioux to their third consecutive Frozen Four. Minnesota defeated North Dakota 3-2 in overtime to claim the WCHA Final Five Championship in St. Paul.

Minnesota Team Profile
National Rankings: #15/#17
Head Coach: Don Lucia (9th season at Minnesota, 228-103-30, .673)
This Season: 8-7-1 Overall, 4-6-0 WCHA
Special Teams: Power Play 11.5% (9 of 78), Penalty Kill 83.8% (57-68)
Last Season: 31-10-3 Overall, 18-7-3 WCHA (1st)
Key Players: Sophomore F Jay Barriball (2-8-10), Senior F Ben Gordon (4-9-13), Sophomore F Kyle Okposo (6-4-10), Junior F Blake Wheeler (6-6-12), Freshman D Cade Fairchild (2-8-10), Junior G Jeff Frazee (6-5-0, 2.72 GAA, .896 SV, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile
National Rankings: #7/#8
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (4th season at UND, 85-50-12, .619)
This Season: 7-5-1 Overall, 5-5-0 WCHA
Specialty Teams: Power Play 16.9% (10 of 59), Penalty Kill 90.9% (60 of 66)
Last Season: 24-14-5 (Frozen Four Semifinalist), 13-10-5 WCHA (3rd)
Key Players: Junior F Ryan Duncan (5-9-14), Junior F T.J. Oshie (7-6-13), Sophomore F Chris VandeVelde (5-4-9), Senior D Robbie Bina (0-11-11), Junior D Taylor Chorney (0-9-9), Senior G Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (7-5-1, 1.52 GAA, .940 SV, 4 SO)

By The Numbers
Last Meeting: March 25, 2007 (NCAA West Regional Final, Denver, CO). Chris Porter scores the game-winner at 9:43 of overtime as UND prevails, 3-2, to advance to its third consecutive Frozen Four
Last Meeting in Grand Forks: December 10, 2005. Minnesota defeats UND 4-3 to sweep the weekend series. The Golden Gophers won the series opener by the same score. For the weekend, the Fighting Sioux never had a lead.
Most Important Meeting: March 24, 1979. North Dakota and Minnesota meet to decide the national championship, and the Gophers prevail, 4-3.
All-time Series: Minnesota leads the all-time series, 129-120-11 (.517). UND leads the series in Grand Forks, 63-52-7 (.545).

Game News and Notes
UND goaltender Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (who was recently named the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week) has now started 38 consecutive games betwen the pipes, two shy of the school record of 40 held by Al Finkelstein (1951-53). Minnesota holds a three game winning streak over North Dakota at Ralhp Engelstad Arena, and is 6-3-1 in the last ten meetings between the teams in Grand Forks.

The Prediction
UND appears to have an edge in goaltending, defensive depth, and special teams. In honor of the three Sioux victories in four opportunities last season, I’m picking three points this weekend for North Dakota. UND 5-2, 2-2 tie.

Thank you for reading. As always, I welcome your questions and comments. Click here for reaction to Friday’s game.  Click here for the Saturday Game React

Sioux/Gopher Week: Hockey Rivalries

Which team do you consider North Dakota’s biggest rival?

I have Minnesota at the top of my list, along with Boston College, Denver, Michigan and Wisconsin.

And what makes some rivalries so intense? For some of the above-mentioned schools, it’s conference affiliation. Minnesota, Denver, and Wisconsin are among the top teams battling it out with North Dakota for the WCHA title year after year. Familiarity breeds contempt, they say.

But why else? Why are Boston College and Michigan on my list? And why has Denver become such a bitter feud while Wisconsin, until this year, has cooled a bit? It all boils down to tournament time.

Since 1997, UND has met 12 different teams in NCAA action, and of those twelve, only four (Michigan, Boston College, Ferris State, and Denver) have ended North Dakota’s season. The Fighting Sioux avenged a loss to Michigan in 1998 with playoff wins in 2006 and 2007, while Denver has had UND’s number, defeating the Sioux in 2004 and 2005. Ferris State bounced North Dakota from the 2003 tournament, and the six tournament games between Boston College and UND (1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, and 2007) are well-documented.

The teams UND has defeated in NCAA play in that same span include Cornell (1997), Colorado College (1997, 2001), Boston University (1997, 2005), Niagara (2000), Maine (2000), Michigan State (2001), and Holy Cross (2004, 2006). These rivalries are not as intense as the schools listed above, and it is my opinion that it is because these schools have not ended UND’s season on the biggest stage that they are not regarded as such.

Wisconsin and North Dakota have not met in the national tournament since the 1982 title game.

And that leaves us with Minnesota. The 1979 title game between North Dakota and Minnesota, which Minnesota won 4-3, would set off a 25 year span (1980-2004) during which the two schools would not meet in the NCAA tournament. That’s astounding. During that time, Minnesota advanced to the national tournament 20 times (winning titles in 2002 and 2003), and North Dakota advanced to the national tournament 12 times (winning titles in 1980, 1982, 1987, 1997, and 2000), and yet they never played each other.

North Dakota has somewhat atoned for the 1979 title game loss with NCAA victories over Minnesota in 2005 and 2007.

Why, for those 25 years, did the two fan bases continue to circle Sioux/Gopher weekend on their calendars? What was it (or more to the point, what is it) about these two programs that causes every regular season matchup to feel like a playoff game and every WCHA Final Five tilt to feel like the Super Bowl? And that’s saying nothing about my heart rate during overtime of the 2007 West Regional Final or the 2005 Frozen Four Semifinal.

What do you think? I’d like to hear your thoughts. Your stories. Your memories of the Sioux/Gopher rivalry. Please leave comments about your favorite games and ones you’d like to forget. It’s your turn. It’s your time. It’s Sioux/Gopher week.

 For a preview of the weekend series between North Dakota and Minnesota, click here.

Saturday Game React: UND vs. Denver

UND’s special teams were special tonight, as the Sioux downed the Pioneers 3-1 at Magness Arena in Denver.

North Dakota used a smothering penalty kill, two power play goals, and a back-breaking shorthanded tally to gain a split of the weekend series.

Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (7-5-1, 1.52 GAA, .940 SV, 4 SO) allowed just one goal on 36 shots and was at his best in the third period, turning aside all 24 shots he faced and helping UND kill all three Denver power plays. Denver outshot North Dakota 24-7 in the third period and 35-26 for the game. Lamoureux, who allowed just two goals and stopped 63 of 65 Pioneer shots in the weekend series, should be in line for the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week award.

Lamoureux, who has played every minute in net for the Fighting Sioux this season, has now started 38 consecutive games and is two shy of the school record of 40, held by Al Finkelstein (1951-53).

Ryan Duncan played his best game of the season, tallying two goals and adding one assist. Chris VandeVelde (1 goal, 1 assist) and T.J. Oshie (2 assists) also played well. Ryan Duncan and T.J. Oshie have now scored 12 goals and 15 assists in seven Sioux victories, and have been held scoreless in five Sioux losses and a scoreless tie.

UND fared much better in the face-off circle tonight, particularily in the first and second periods, when they won 30 of 40 draws (75%). Darcy Zajac was inserted into the lineup tonight, and he, along with VandeVelde and Kaip, were very effective.

The turning point in the game came at the 11:14 mark of the second period. Denver had just scored (Tyler Bozak from Brock Trotter, 10:04), had drawn a penalty (Oshie, hooking, 10:26), and owned all the momentum. Playing shorthanded, Sioux defenseman Joe Finley sent Chris VandeVelde and Ryan Duncan in alone on Peter Mannino, and Duncan made no mistake on the feed from VandeVelde and made the score 3-1 just 70 seconds after Bozak’s goal.

“Joe (Finley) made a great play; he kind of chipped it up the boards,” said Sioux junior Ryan Duncan. “He had great vision and saw Vandy in the clear and we were able to get a step and get a two-on-0. It doesn’t happen very often, especially against a great team like that.”

“I thought the biggest goal of the game was the shorthanded goal,” added UND head coach Dave Hakstol. “There was a momentum swing there where Denver scored a few minutes before and the crowd was getting into it, and that goal was a critical one.”

That score would hold up the rest of the way despite three Pioneer power plays in the third period. UND was solid every time Denver had the man advantage, killing all seven penalties for the game to raise their season penalty kill percentage to 90.9% (60 of 66). In the last four meetings between the two schools, UND has killed 22 of 23 Pioneer power plays (95.7%).

North Dakota scored twice on the power play (VandeVelde, Duncan) in seven chances, and are now converting 16.9% of power plays (10 of 59) on the season. UND also scored its first shorthanded goal of the year (Duncan).

UND now holds an 11-4-1 record (.719) at Magness Arena since 97-98.

I knew I would be impressed with Denver sophomore forwards Brock Trotter, Tyler Ruegsegger, and Rhett Rakhshani, but I was more impressed with the play of freshman forward Tyler Bozak (8 goals, 4 assists in 14 games). Not only did he score both Pioneer goals on the weekend, he had seven shots on net, won the majority of his draws, and played well all over the ice.

North Dakota has now split five consecutive conference series (@Michigan Tech, Colorado College, @Wisconsin, Minnesota-Duluth, @Denver) after opening the season with impressive wins over Michigan State and Northeastern and a 0-0, two period tie with Boston College.

Denver falls to 10-4-0 (7-3-0 WCHA) on the season, while North Dakota improves to 7-5-1 (5-5-0 WCHA). The Sioux host the Gophers for a pair next weekend; the Pioneers head to St. Cloud to battle the Huskies.

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

Friday Game React: UND vs. Denver

Faceoffs. Often overlooked, but critically important.

Tonight, a face-off win at the beginning of a DU power play in the second period set up the only goal of the contest, as Pioneer freshman forward Tyler Bozak won the draw back to Chris Butler and tipped Butler’s shot from the point past Lamoureux for the game-winner. Bozak and the rest of the Pioneers were strong in the face-off circle all night, winning 33 of 55 (60%). Aside from the power-play goal, the most critical face-off win came in the Pioneers end with under 30 seconds remaining and Lamoureux pulled for the extra attacker.

North Dakota put one past Mannino with under a minute remaining in the hockey game, but the puck did not completely cross the goal line. It was ruled no goal on the ice, and that ruling held up to video review.

This game featured two of the best goaltenders in the conference, as Lamoureux and Mannino seemed to match each other with one brilliant save after another. Both defenses chipped in, blocking 15 shots each, and the pipes came in handy for both sides. Mannino, who improved to 10-3-0 while notching his third shutout of the season, saw his goals-against average drop to 1.55 to go with a sparkling save percentage of .940. Lamoureux, who fell to 6-5-1, has almost identical marks of 1.56 and .936.

When T.J. Oshie and Ryan Duncan are held scoreless, UND is 0-5-1. In six Sioux victories, Oshie and Duncan have combined for 10 goals and 12 assists.

UND killed four of five Pioneer power plays, and was held scoreless on two opportunities with the man advantage. The Sioux have scored on 15.4% of power play chances and killed penalties at a 89.8% clip on the season. Denver’s season numbers are very similar, standing at 13.4% and 89.7%, respectively.

UND surely missed Darcy Zajac in the face-off department. Look for him to be back in the lineup tomorrow night.

Brad Malone continues to be North Dakota’s most consistently physical forward.

T.J. Oshie and Andrew Kozek both appeared to be injured during the game. It remains to be seen whether either one will miss any time. Kyle Radke would likely step in tomorrow night if Oshie or Kozek can’t go.

If North Dakota gains a split tomorrow night, it will mark the fifth consecutive series split to open the WCHA season. UND previously split weekend series with Michigan Tech, Colorado College, Wisconsin, and Minnesota-Duluth.

Thank you for reading. I welcome your comments and suggestions. For an in-depth look at the match-up between the teams, click here. Check back after Saturday’s contest for more reaction, analysis, and commentary.

Game Preview: UND vs. Denver

There’s no question that these two teams have history: bad blood, controversy, and postseason clashes. But rather than looking at the past, both schools are treating this weekend’s action as an important series that will affect the conference race and the national picture.

After narrowly missing out on last year’s NCAA tournament (and the West Regional held at Pepsi Center in Denver), the Pioneers seem poised for a run toward this year’s Frozen Four, also held at Pepsi Center.

Denver has a number of impressive wins on the young season, including 5-1 and 4-1 wins over Minnesota at Mariucci Arena and home sweeps of Maine and Minnesota State-Mankato. They are led offensively by their trio of super sophs (Brock Trotter, Tyler Ruegsegger, and Rhett Rakhshani), who have tallied 16 goals and 21 assists through 12 games.

North Dakota has four consecutive conference splits (@Michigan Tech, Colorado College, @Wisconsin, Minnesota-Duluth) after opening the season with impressive wins over Michigan State and Northeastern and a 0-0, two period tie with Boston College.

UND has fared well recently in Denver, posting a 10-3-1 record (.875) at Magness Arena since 97-98.

Denver Team Profile
National Rankings: #3/#3
Head Coach: George Gwozdecky (14th season at DU, 306-194-40, .604)
This Season: 9-3-0 Overall, 6-2-0 WCHA
Special Teams: Power Play 12.9% (8 of 62), Penalty Kill 89.3% (50 of 56)
Last Season: 21-15-4, 13-11-4 WCHA (4th)
Key Players: Sophomore F Brock Trotter (6-8-14), Sophomore F Tyler Ruegsegger (7-6-13), Freshman F Tyler Bozak (6-4-10), Sophomore F Rhett Rakhshani (3-7-10), Junior D Chris Butler (0-5-5), Senior G Peter Mannino (9-3-0, 1.68 GAA, .935 SV, 2 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile
National Rankings: #8/#8
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (4th season at UND, 84-49-12, .621)
This Season: 6-4-1 Overall, 4-4-0 WCHA
Specialty Teams: Power Play 16% (8 of 50), Penalty Kill 90.7% (49 of 54)
Last Season: 24-14-5 (Frozen Four semifinalist), 13-10-5 WCHA (3rd)
Key Players: Junior F Ryan Duncan (3-8-11), Junior F T.J. Oshie (7-4-11), Sophomore F Chris VandeVelde (4-3-7), Senior D Robbie Bina (0-11-11), Junior D Taylor Chorney (0-9-9), Senior G Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (6-4-1, 1.61 GAA, .933 SV, 4 SO)

By The Numbers
Last Meeting: February 24, 2007. UND wins 3-0 in Denver to salvage a split in the only series between the two schools last season. Denver won the first game, 4-3 in overtime.
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.
All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 125-108-7 (.535). DU leads the series in Denver, 63-48-3 (.566).

Game News and Notes
UND goaltender Jean-Philippe Lamoureux has now started 36 consecutive games betwen the pipes, four shy of the school record of 40 held by Al Finkelstein (1951-53). Denver netminder Peter Mannino has been named WCHA Defensive Player of the Week three times this season. North Dakota forward Chris VandeVelde has been the team’s best face-off man, winning over 55% of his draws this season. During their two-game series last February, UND held Denver scoreless on 11 power play opportunities. Denver sophomore sensations Trotter, Ruegsegger, and Rakhshani combined for 41 goals and 69 assists in 40 games last season, and are ahead of that scoring pace through 12 games this season.

The Prediction
Both schools bring a great deal of talent to the ice. If UND has an edge, it’s on the blue line, both in terms of experience and offensive punch. These games will be tightly contested, and a split is all but inevitable. UND 4-3, DU 4-2.

Thank you for reading. As always, I welcome your questions and comments. Click here for reaction to Friday’s game action. Please check back after Saturday’s contest for more analysis, and commentary.

Saturday Game React: UND vs. Minnesota-Duluth

Yet another split in the conference, with two tough series (at Denver, versus Minnesota) coming up. Hopefully the Sioux can gain points each of the next two weekends to set themselves up for the patented second-half surge (more on that later).

For me, the frustrating part of the game wasn’t the center ice goal to make it 3-2 with 8 minutes remaining. It was that UND played a poor second period (generating only four shots on goal) and put themselves at the mercy of a bounce of the puck.

Up until Drew Akins’ 80 footer (his second goal of the game), North Dakota had played with enough effort and intensity to win or tie the hockey game.

I thought UND carried the play during the two 4 on 4 situations. This is due mostly to the puck-moving defenseman we have across all three defensive pairings.

UND finished 0 for 3 on the power play for the second consecutive night, although there was more rhythm and purpose tonight than last night. The Sioux have now converted only 16% (8 of 50) of man-advantage opportunities on the season. North Dakota killed all three Duluth power plays (and 8 of 9 on the weekend), and now are killing penalties at a 90.7% clip (49 of 54).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Rylan Kaip will equal his career totals (8 goals, 16 assists) this season. He has tallied 4 goals and 1 assist so far.

There are quite a few fans out there who have written off Ryan Duncan, saying that he is not the same player without Jonathan Toews. I am not willing to go that far. He is still scoring a point per contest (3 goals and 8 assists through 11 games), and, along with T.J. Oshie (7-4-11) and Robbie Bina (0-11-11), holds the team scoring lead. Last year he scored 1.33 points per game; as a freshman, he tallied 0.78 points per contest.

UND falls to 6-4-1 (4-4-0 WCHA). Duluth improves to 6-4-2 (5-4-1 WCHA). North Dakota travels to take on the University of Denver next weekend; Duluth heads to Minnesota State University-Mankato for a pair.

And now back to the second-half surge. This is beginning to feel like each of the last three seasons all over again. Or is it?

Part of the October/November frustration is due to the fact that UND hasn’t played very many games (relative to other seasons and to other conference opponents this season). So sitting at 4-4-0 (eight points, 5th place) in the conference feels like a letdown, but three of the four teams above North Dakota have played ten conference games compared to UND’s eight.

In an effort to compare how this team stacks up with years past, let’s take a closer look at the past three seasons, all of which ended with Frozen Four appearances:

2004-2005 October/November record: 9-5-2 (7-4-1 WCHA)
2005-2006 October/November record: 8-5-1 (4-4-0 WCHA)
2006-2007 October/November record: 7-6-1 (5-4-1 WCHA)

And this season in October and November: 6-4-1 (4-4-0 WCHA)

Think of that what you will; I’m merely suggesting that we’ve played tough teams, we’ve competed well in almost every game (Saturday vs. CC being the only exception), and we can clearly get better in every phase. And that’s reason for optimism, not pessimism, in my book.

Thanks for checking out the Saturday Game React. For commentary and analysis of Friday’s game action, click here. I welcome your questions and comments.

Friday Game React: UND vs. Minnesota-Duluth

First of all, this did not play like an 8-3 hockey game. It was tight through two periods, and Duluth carried much of the play, particularily in the second frame. Trupp’s goal to make it 4-3 midway through the second was huge, as the Bulldogs had tied the game with two goals less than three minutes apart and were playing with poise and momentum.

The third period, obviously, was all UND. In addition to the four goals, the Sioux skated better than they had earlier and played to win, as opposed to stretches earlier in the contest during which they played tentatively.

The most important statistics from tonight’s game are that eight different players scored and eight players registered two points. Matt Watkins, Brad Miller, Chris VandeVelde, Matt Frattin, and T.J. Oshie each notched a goal and an assist, and Taylor Chorney, Ryan Duncan, and Robbie Bina tallied two assists each.

Duncan, Oshie, and Bina remain tied for the most points (11) among Sioux players.

Brad Malone did not show up on the scoresheet, but he turned in the most physical game I’ve seen him play since his injury.

Evan Trupp (one goal) continues to impress, and worked his way onto the #1 power play unit tonight. The Sioux power play, unfortunately, finished 0 for 3. Duluth was 1 for 6 with the man advantage, that goal being scored with three seconds remaining in the first period to make the score 3-1 in favor of UND.

Chay Genoway left the game early in the second period with an injury and did not return. For much of the game, Brad Malone was double-shifting, playing on the left wing with Darcy Zajac and Matt Frattin and alongside Rylan Kaip and Matt Watkins. Dave Hakstol mentioned in the post-game interview that they had an initial evaluation but do not know how serious it is yet. Genoway is considered doubtful for tomorrow. I would expect Ryan Martens to play tomorrow night.

Robbie Bina continues to play rock solid defensively and contribute on the offensive end. His 11 assists lead the team, and he may well eclipse the staggering numbers from his junior campaign (10-22-32 last season after scoring 1 goal and 16 assists through his first two seasons).

UND was three seconds away from blanking yet another opponent in the first period, and now have given up just two first period goals through ten games.

UMD goaltender Alex Stalock allowed 6 goals on 25 shots and saw his goals-against average jump from 1.97 to 2.37. His save percentage fell from .929 to .915, and he suffered his fourth loss of the season. Backup goaltender (and former Fighting Sioux) Nate Ziegelmann allowed two goals on the three shots he faced in relief.

UND improves to 6-3-1 overall (4-3-0 WCHA). UMD drops to 5-4-2 overall (4-4-1 WCHA). The same two teams play tomorrow night at 7:07 p.m.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your questions and comments. For more information about the matchup between the teams, click here. For reaction and commentary from Saturday’s game action, click here.

Game Preview: UND vs. Minnesota-Duluth

Coming into the 2007-2008 season, both the Sioux and the Bulldogs were hoping to avoid the early-departure bug that has bitten so many conference teams in recent history.

It has been well-documented that North Dakota avoided a mass exodus of underclassmen, as Taylor Chorney (8-23-31 last season), Joe Finley (1-6-7), T.J. Oshie (17-35-52), and Hobey Baker winner Ryan Duncan (31-26-57) all passed up professional contracts to return to UND. Only Jonathan Toews (18-28-46) and Brian Lee (2-24-26) gave up eligibility to turn pro, leaving the Fighting Sioux with enough depth and talent to compete for an upper-division finish.

The Bulldogs, on the other hand, unexpectedly lost two key underclassmen in forward Mason Raymond (14-32-46) and defenseman Matt Niskanen (9-22-31), who gave up their final two seasons of eligibility to join the professional ranks. These two losses, along with the graduation loss of Bryan McGregor (16-12-28), leave Minnesota-Duluth with only two 20-point scorers [F MacGregor Sharp (11-16-27) and D Josh Meyers (11-13-24)] from a year ago. UND, by contrast, returns five twenty-point players [F Ryan Duncan, F T.J. Oshie, D Robbie Bina (10-22-32), D Taylor Chorney, and F Brad Miller (10-14-24)].

According to Minnesota-Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin, the lack of top-end talent may be a mixed blessing for his club.

“We might not have that one big line or that one dynamic player,” Sandelin said, adding that the team will have to hope for production from everyone as well as look for a few players to break out offensively.

North Dakota has had the better of the results between the two teams recently, going unbeaten (7-0-1) in their last eight meetings. The two teams will also play a weekend series in Duluth on March 1-2, 2008.

Minnesota-Duluth Team Profile
National Rankings: #15/#12
Head Coach: Scott Sandelin (8th season at UMD, 114-146-33, .445)
This Season: 5-3-2 Overall, 4-3-1 WCHA
Special Teams: Power Play 9.3% (4 of 43), Penalty Kill 88.7% (47 of 53)
Last Season: 13-21-5, 8-16-4 WCHA (9th)
Key Returning Players: Junior F Michael Gergen (2-3-5), Junior D Josh Meyers (4-4-8), Junior F MacGregor Sharp (2-5-7), Sophomore G Alex Stalock (5-3-2, 1.97 GAA, .929 SV, 2 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile
National Rankings: #6/#5
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (4th season at UND, 83-48-12, .622)
This Season: 5-3-1 Overall, 3-3-0 WCHA
Specialty Teams: Power Play 18.2% (8 of 44), Penalty Kill 91.1% (41 of 45)
Last Season: 24-14-5 (Frozen Four semifinalist), 13-10-5 WCHA (3rd)
Key Returning Players: Junior F Ryan Duncan (3-6-9), Junior F T.J. Oshie (6-3-9), Junior D Taylor Chorney (0-7-7), Senior D Robbie Bina (0-9-9), Senior G Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (5-3-1, 1.29 GAA, .948 SV, 4 SO)

By The Numbers
Last Meeting: February 17, 2007 (Grand Forks, ND). UND’s Ryan Duncan scores the only goal of the contest at 3:14 of the opening period, and North Dakota prevails 1-0 to take three of four points from the weekend series. Duncan also scored the game-tying goal in Friday’s contest, a 2-2 deadlock.
Most Important Meeting: March 22, 1984. Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota meet in a National Semifinal game in Lake Placid, New York. The Bulldogs defeat the Fighting Sioux 2-1 in overtime to advance to the title game. UND goes on to defeat Michigan State 6-5 (OT) for third place, while Duluth falls to Bowling Green 5-4 in four overtimes, the longest championship game ever played.
All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 125-69-8 (.639), including a 72-30-2 (.702) mark in Grand Forks and a 8-1-2 (.818) record at the new Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Game News and Notes
North Dakota holds a 13-1-1 record against Duluth over the past four seasons. UMD sophomore goaltender Alex Stalock, who had four assists last season, has never faced the Fighting Sioux. UND is 11-2-1 in games on Thanksgiving weekend in the past ten seasons. The Sioux have allowed just one 1st period goal all season.

The Prediction
North Dakota has the top-end talent and an edge in special teams situations that should translate into two victories. If they can maintain their intensity after a week off and keep the crowd involved through their physical play, it will be a long weekend for the Bulldogs. UND 3-2, 4-1.

Thank you for reading. I welcome your questions and comments. For reaction to Friday’s contest, click here. For reaction to Saturday’s game, click here.

Saturday Game React: UND vs. Wisconsin

It seems only fitting that the Wisconsin hockey broadcast featured the “water bottle incident” during the first intermission, as these two teams combined for 172 penalty minutes, most coming within the final four minutes of the hockey game.

Sioux captain Rylan Kaip’s charge behind the Badger net ignited the largest round of fisticuffs, as all five skaters on each side were given game misconducts and shown the exit doors.

Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves seemed particularly miffed at the physical play, as his post-game handshake with the North Dakota coaching staff turned heated. A video of this altercation can be seen here. My guess is he was upset at Kaip charging a player with his head down, and also with Matt Watkins’ take-down of freshman phenom Kyle Turris. What he didn’t see from the bench, however, was that Turris had slashed Watkins across the wrist as the two were skating away from the boards.

“From the bench, the whole thing bothered me how it unfolded and carried on,” Eaves said. “I was just disappointed and I expressed it to him. How often do you see that in college hockey?”

North Dakota outshot Wisconsin 34-22 in this one, including 13-6 in the first period, as UND staked a 2-0 lead on a beautiful power-play goal by Chris VandeVelde and a late tally by T.J. Oshie. VandeVelde’s goal, a top-shelf backhander at 10:21, came just six seconds into a Sioux power play. Oshie’s goal, the eventual game-winner, came with under three seconds remaining in the opening period. T.J Oshie now has 14 career game-winning goals, third on UND’s all-time list behind only Mark Taylor (18) and Brandon Bochenski (15).

“We didn’t have a lot of spark coming out of the locker room,” Wisconsin senior captain Davis Drewiske said. “It’s disappointing that we could not match them from the start.”

“We were able to make some plays,” said UND senior Robbie Bina, who tallied assists on goals by VandeVelde and Andrew Kozek. “They weren’t tic-tac-toe or anything like that. It was nice to get out there, get a goal first and go from there. We were able to raise our level a little bit more tonight.”

At 14:21 of the second period, Brad Miller came close to making the score 3-0, but the referee ruled that the puck had not crossed the line before Wisconsin goalie Shane Connelly swatted it out of midair with his stick. The overhead video appeared to show a bit of white between the flipping puck and the goal line, but it was very close. The play was reviewed, and ruled no goal.

Andrew Kozek showed a nifty toe-drag move and rifled a wrist shot off the pipe and crossbar to make the score 3-0 later in the second period. Robbie Bina made a nice play to get the puck up the ice to Kozek streaking down the left wing.

“It was a tale of two different nights for me,” Connelly said. “They had some pretty good looks and took advantage of it. I made all those saves (43) last night and don’t get the bounces tonight. I had chances, but they buried their opportunities.”

The Badgers, scoreless on their first seven power plays, finally cashed in on the man advantage with just over two minutes remaining, spoiling Jean-Philippe Lamoureux’s chance at a fifth shutout in nine games. North Dakota’s penalty kill was particularly impressive in the second period, killing three consecutive penalties. UND finished 1 for 4 on the power play.

UND is now killing penalties at a rate of 91.1% (41 of 45), and scoring on 18.2% of power plays (8 of 44). Wisconsin’s power play percentage falls to 30.2% (13 of 43) after going 2 for 11 on the weekend, while their penalty kill has an 85.4% success rate (41 of 48).

The Sioux have given up only one first period goal this season after blanking the Badgers in both opening frames this weekend.

As UND head coach Dave Hakstol said in the post-game interview, this weekend was the best 120 minutes of hockey North Dakota has played to this point. He deemed the 5-3-1 overall record “acceptable”, given the quality of competition. He is pleased that the team is making progress in all areas.

The Ryan Duncan-VandeVelde-Oshie line registered 2 goals and 2 assists, Robbie Bina notched two assists and now has nine through nine games, and Andrew Kozek (1 goal) now has five goals this year and continues to display the quicker, more accurate wrist shot that was missing from his game last season. Evan Trupp had his best weekend, and the Matt Frattin-Darcy Zajac-Brad Malone line may be together for a while, as they created opportunities all weekend long.

UND moves to 5-3-1 (3-3-0 WCHA) on the year, while Wisconsin falls to 5-3-0 (2-2-0 WCHA). North Dakota is off next weekend, and returns to game action November 23-24 when they host the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs for a pair at Ralph Engelstad Arena. The Badgers head to Colorado Springs to face the Tigers in WCHA action.

Thank you for reading this edition of the Game React. I welcome your comments and suggestions.