Friday Game React: UND vs. Wisconsin

Well, it was one of those nights. Again.

For the second game in a row, UND struggled offensively.  Let me put it another way: UND generated chances, scoring opportunities, and odd-man rushes, but did nothing more than chip some paint off the posts and crossbar.

The final shots on goal were UND 43, UW 24, including 25 Sioux shots in the third period alone. UND must have attempted 70 shots or more, with many blocked by Wisconsin or sent off target.

As Coach Hakstol mentioned in his post-game interview, the prevailing feeling was that if North Dakota could get one past Connelly, the floodgates would open. But it was not to be. The junior netminder stopped all 43 shots sent his way for his fifth career shutout in 22 games.

Even down 2-0 with 14 minutes to play, the ice seemed to be tilted in North Dakota’s favor. UND was winning the majority of the draws and getting to most of the loose pucks. The back-breaker goal happened after one of very few defensive zone face-offs for UND, a draw they lost, and the puck was in the back of the net for a 3-0 Wisconsin lead with 5:22 to go.

Bright spots for UND:
-North Dakota had exactly the start they needed. They controlled the opening period and took the crowd out of the game. Many in the press box remarked that the score could have been 3-0 UND after one.
-The Frattin-Zajac-Malone line clicked from the get-go. They added a physical presence, created offense, and drew penalties. Expect more from this line going forward.
-Freshman defenseman Derrick LaPoint and Jake Marto were paired together on the blue line for the second consecutive game, and handled their responsibilities very well.

It appeared as if North Dakota backed off the physical play after the first two penalties to Zach Jones. UND will need to crash the net and take the body tomorrow night if they expect a different result.

UND finished 0 for 5 with the man advantage, while Wisconsin scored once on three power play opportunities.

Wisconsin improves to 4-2-0 (2-1-0 WCHA), while North Dakota falls to 4-3-1 (2-3-0 WCHA). The same two teams battle tomorrow night at the Kohl Center. Incidentally, UND now has a 4-11-0 record at the Kohl Center.

For a comparison and complete preview of the weekend series, click here. I thank you for reading, and welcome your comments and suggestions.

Game Preview: UND vs. Wisconsin

Sioux versus Badgers in Madtown. High-powered offense meets the nation’s top defense. Sound familiar?

Not exactly.

This time around, the nation’s best defense belongs to North Dakota, allowing just 1.29 goals per game, while Wisconsin boasts the country’s second highest scoring offense, tallying 4.67 goals per contest. And though Wisconsin has had the better of the netminding in recent memory (think Elliot, Bruckler, and Melanson), UND brings in Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, whose eye-popping .958 save percentage, 1.06 goals-against average, and four shutouts lead the nation. Top scorers? No Sioux player ranks in the top 20 nationally, while Wisconsin freshman phenom Kyle Turris leads the nation in points (13) and assists (8), despite playing in only 6 games thus far.

So what to make of this apparent role reversal? Is this some sort of early-season anamoly, where statistics do all sorts of crazy things? Maybe. A look inside the schedule reveals that while the teams sport almost identical records (UND 4-2-1, UW 4-2-0), the teams have taken different early-season paths. Both squads have split with Michigan Tech; beyond that, the Fighting Sioux have faced a much tougher schedule.

UND has played 4 games against top-10 teams (vs. Michigan State, at Boston College, 2 vs. Colorado College), while Wisconsin has played #12 Notre Dame and three games against teams in the “others receiving votes” category (vs. Ohio State, 2 vs. Robert Morris). The 15 goals Wisconsin scored in their home series against Robert Morris, and specifically the 8 power play goals on 17 opportunities, have catapulted them to the top of most offensive categories. Kyle Turris, for example, collected 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists) on Robert Morris weekend.

Wisconsin Team Profile
National Rankings: #10/#10
Head Coach: Mike Eaves (6th season at UW, 111-80-23, .572)
This Season: 4-2-0 Overall, 1-1-0 WCHA
Special Teams: Power Play 34.4% (11 of 32), Penalty Kill 84.6% (33 of 39)
Last Season: 19-18-4, 12-13-3 WCHA (6th)
Key Returning Players: Junior F Ben Street (3-7-10), Sophomore F Michael Davies (2-2-4), Freshman F Kyle Turris (5-8-13), Senior D Kyle Klubertanz (4-4-8), Junior G Shane Connelly (3-2-0, 2.60, .897)

North Dakota Team Profile
National Rankings: #3/#4
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (4th season at UND, 82-47-12, .624)
This Season: 4-2-1 Overall, 2-2-0 WCHA
Specialty Teams: Power Play 20.0% (7 of 35), Penalty Kill 94.1% (32 of 34)
Last Season: 24-14-5 (Frozen Four semifinalist), 13-10-5 WCHA (3rd)
Key Returning Players: Junior F Ryan Duncan (3-5-8), Junior F T.J. Oshie (5-2-7), Junior D Taylor Chorney (0-7-7), Senior D Robbie Bina (0-7-7), Senior G Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (4-2-1, 1.06 GAA, .958 SV, 4 SO)

By The Numbers
Last Meeting: December 9, 2006. Wisconsin defeats North Dakota 4-2 in Grand Forks to complete a two-game sweep of the Fighting Sioux. The Badgers won the first game, 4-3.
Last Meeting in Madison: October 14, 2006. Wisconsin defeats North Dakota 1-0 at the Kohl Center to earn a split of the weekend series. UND won the first game, 3-2 (OT).
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, 79-56-10 (.579), including a 42-21-3 mark (.659) in Madison and a 10-4 record (.714) at the Kohl Center.

Game News and Notes
Badger defensemen have scored 10 goals through 6 games, a number that equals their total from all of last season. North Dakota has only allowed one first period goal in seven games. Wisconsin failed to make the NCAA tournament last year after winning the national championship in 2006. After this weekend’s action, the Badgers head to Colorado Springs for a two-game set with #9 Colorado College. The following weekend, Wisconsin will compete against #2 Michigan and #4/#3 Michigan State in the College Hockey Showcase. UND is idle next weekend and hosts Minnesota-Duluth on November 23rd and 24th. Jean-Philippe Lamoureux has started 32 consecutive games, and needs one start to move alone into second place on UND’s all-time list. Al Finklelstein holds the Sioux start streak record with 40. WCHA teams have a combined 22-5-4 mark (.774) in non-conference action this season.

The Prediction
On neutral ice, I would lean toward three points for the Sioux, but at the Kohl Center, a split is the norm. The Badger offense comes back down to earth, but both sides earn two points. North Dakota 4-2 Friday, Wisconsin 3-2 Saturday.

For reaction to Friday’s game action, click here. Check back after Saturday’s contest for more analysis and commentary. Thank you for reading and, as always, I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.

UND vs. Colorado College Saturday Game React

Well, it was one of those nights. The Sioux outshot CC 18-4 in the first period, but trailed 1-0 after giving up a shorthanded goal.

Despite the shots on goal, there were a number of things I saw in the first period that did not bode well for the rest of the game. Players weren’t finishing checks and there were multiple odd-man rushes. I would venture a guess that UND allowed more outnumbered situations in this game than they had the entire season up until this point.

I am not sold on Marto and LaPoint as a defensive pair. I think there are different ways to get them both in the lineup.

Once again, CC looked faster than any team we’ve seen so far.

It would be tempting to talk about all of the things that could have gone differently, but I’d rather focus on the things CC was able to do to play their game. They were very effective on the forecheck, tipped passes and got in the way of shots, and cleared rebounds away from the net. In short, they played the game they needed to play to get a win on the road.

Check back later for a full Rewind from this weekend’s action. Thanks for reading. Please leave your comments, questions, or suggestions.

UND vs. Colorado College Friday Game React

First of all, Colorado College in person looked faster than Boston College did on TV. It seemed to take a few shifts for UND to adjust to the tempo.

T.J. Oshie put a statement hit on Colorado College defenseman Nate Prosser in the first period, a check that will be replayed on highlight reels all season long. The 6’2″, 203 lb. Tiger blueliner left the game and did not return. His status for Saturday’s contest is questionable.

Ryan Duncan became the second Sioux player in as many games to reach the 100 career point mark. His goal and assist put his career totals at 49 goals and 51 assists in 95 games. T.J. Oshie joined the Century Club with a hat trick last Saturday night against Michigan Tech.

This season, the VandeVelde-Oshie-Duncan line will grab most of the headlines, but the Sioux are getting contributions up and down the lineup. Other players are making plays, finishing checks, and drawing penalties, and a more balanced attack will help UND down the road.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Kaip will equal his career totals (8g-16a-24pts) this season (he has 2 goals and 1 assist through six games). I don’t think you could pick a better captain for this team.

It looked to me that Zajac was a bit upset at the hit on Kozek towards the end of the game; maybe more upset because the hit happened along the center ice boards with under 20 seconds to play.

It’s amusing that Lamoureux can give up 2 goals and see his goals-against average take a huge hit. His season line (6 games) now reads: 4-1-1 record, 0.71 goals-against average, .972 save percentage, 4 shutouts. Eye-popping numbers so far.

Kozek’s wrist shot seems quicker and more on target this season, and his four goals are second on the team to Oshie’s five.

At times, Forney was effective, and at other times, he appeared sluggish and overmatched along the boards. Hopefully, he can increase his speed and stamina as he plays more and more.

Much was made of the four players (Chorney, Duncan, Finley, Oshie) who decided to turn down pro offers and return for their junior seasons, and rightly so. Through 6 games, Ryan Duncan (3g-5a-8pts), T.J. Oshie (5-2-7), and Taylor Chorney (0-7-7) lead the team in scoring, and Finley has chipped in with one goal and one assist. The four players have scored 40% of the team’s goals and have collected 37% of the total points on the season.

The first power play unit of Duncan-Oshie-VandeVelde-Chorney-Bina moved the puck well tonight. They were patient and deliberate while getting into scoring areas. UND finished 2 of 6 with the man advantage, and held the Tigers scoreless on four power play opportunities.

UND moves to 4-1-1 (2-1-0 WCHA), while Colorado College loses its third consecutive game and now has a record of 2-3-0 (2-1-0 WCHA). The two teams meet again Saturday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Watch for another edition of the Rewind, where I take a closer look at goals, replays, and decisions within Friday night’s contest. I will also post reaction to Saturday night’s action at the conclusion of the game. Thanks for reading, and, as always, I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.

Game Preview: UND vs. Colorado College

Two seasons ago, the NCAA West Regional was held at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and the Fighting Sioux were in real danger of missing the national tournament. UND had gone 17-12-1 (10-10-0 WCHA) through its first thirty games, and found itself squarely on the bubble for the 16-team field.

An early-February series with Colorado College kick-started a 12-4 finish, including the WCHA Final Five Championship and a trip to the NCAA Frozen Four.

This season, the Colorado College Tigers know they have an opportunity to make some waves in the postseason, an opportunity they did not cash in on the last time Colorado Springs was home to the West Regional.

“We’re very excited and anxious for the season to get started,” said head coach Scott Owens. “Losing last year at home in the playoffs for the second year in a row left a bad taste in our mouths and knowing that we have an opportunity hosting the West Regional in ’07-’08 I think has really excited our team.”

In case you forgot, the last time Colorado College hosted the West Regional (2004), the Tigers failed to make the tournament. Denver defeated North Dakota, 1-0, in that West Regional final to advance to the Frozen Four.

Both teams know how important non-conference games are in determining the 16-team field for the NCAA tournament. UND sports a 2-0-1 mark in non-conference play; CC is 0-2 after a sweep at the hands of #4 New Hampshire last weekend. WCHA schools own a 20-5-4 (.759) record in non-conference play this season, a mark that bodes well for the conference come tournament time.

Colorado College Team Profile
National Rankings: #9/#10
Head Coach: Scott Owens (9th season at CC, 197-111-24, .630)
This Season: 2-2-0 Overall, 2-0-0 WCHA
Special Teams: Power Play 23.8% (5 of 21), Penalty Kill 86.4% (19 of 22)
Last Season: 18-17-4, 13-12-3 WCHA (5th)
Key Returning Players: Senior F Jimmy Kilpatrick (1-0-1), Senior F Scott McCulloch (1-1-2), Junior F Chad Rau (2-2-4), Sophomore F Bill Sweatt (2-2-4), Senior D Jack Hillen (1-4-5)

North Dakota Team Profile
National Rankings: #2/#3
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (4th season at UND, 82-46-12, .629)
This Season: 3-1-1 Overall, 1-1-0 WCHA
Specialty Teams: Power Play 20.0% (5 of 25), Penalty Kill 96% (24 of 25)
Last Season: 24-14-5 (Frozen Four semifinalist), 13-10-5 WCHA (3rd)
Key Returning Players: Junior F Ryan Duncan (1-4-5), Junior F T.J. Oshie (4-0-4), Junior D Taylor Chorney (0-6-6), Senior D Robbie Bina (0-4-4), Senior G Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (3-1-1, 0.43 GAA, .983 SV, 4 SO)

By The Numbers
Last Meeting: January 6, 2007. UND defenseman Joe Finley scores with under 5 seconds remaining in the second period to break a 1-1 tie, and the Fighting Sioux hold on for a 2-1 victory in Colorado Springs to gain a split of the weekend series.
Last Meeting in Grand Forks: November 25, 2006. North Dakota turns in what head coach Dave Hakstol calls “our best 60 minutes of the season” and defeats the Tigers, 5-2.
Most Important Meeting: March 27, 1997. UND defeats Colorado College, 6-2, in the Frozen Four Semifinals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Two nights later, North Dakota downs 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, 127-73-9, and holds a 77-18-5 mark against the Tigers in Grand Forks. The teams first met in 1948.

Game News and Notes
The Sioux will celebrate 60 years (1947-2007) of collegiate hockey over the weekend. The Sioux and Tigers have split their last three series in Grand Forks. Colorado College has played in 10 of the last 13 NCAA national tournaments, but has not won a national championship since 1957. Ryan Duncan needs two points to reach the 100 point plateau for his career; the junior forward has collected 48 goals and 50 assists through his first 94 games. T.J. Oshie was named the WCHA Offensive Player of the Week last week after he notched a hat trick in Saturday’s victory over Michigan Tech.

The Prediction
This weekend marks the only regular season meeting between the two schools, but I predict they will face each other again at the WCHA Final Five and on the national stage. UND and CC have split the last three series in Grand Forks, and that trend will continue. CC 4-2 Friday, UND 5-1 Saturday.

UND vs. Michigan Tech Saturday Game React

Maybe you remember Ben Cherski, Bill Reichart, and Jim Cahoon. Or you started watching Sioux hockey when Mark Taylor, Doug Smail, Phil Sykes, and Troy Murray were on the ice. Who can forget Bob Joyce, Steve Johnson, and Tony Hrkac? Perhaps your hockey heroes are Greg Johnson, Dixon Ward, and Lee Davidson? Jason Blake? Ryan Bayda? Brandon Bochenski? Zach Parise?

All of these hockey greats have one thing in common: they belong to UND’s most exclusive club. Not only are they members of the Fighting Sioux Century Club (100 career points), but they all scored more than one point per game during their time at UND.

And it’s time to make room for one more: T.J. Oshie.

T.J. Oshie became the 47th player to join the Century Club while averaging more than one point per contest (and the 76th Century Club member overall) by notching his third career hat trick in leading North Dakota past Michigan Tech, 6-0. Oshie now boasts career totals of 45 goals and 56 assists in his first 92 games.

And Ryan Duncan isn’t far behind. Duncan notched three assists on the night, and his 48 goals and 50 assists in 94 games leave him 2 points shy of joining Oshie in that exclusive company.

And this after the two junior forwards had notched just three points combined during their first four games of the season.

Oh, and by the way, in his first five games, senior goaltender Jean-Philippe Lamoureux has posted four shutouts to go along with a .983 save percentage and a goals-against average of 0.43. Lamoureux had four career shutouts in his first three seasons at UND.

The biggest difference in this game, to me, was the way this game was officiated. And, yes, it was officiated differently than Friday night’s contest. Interference, hooking, and holding were called as they should be called. And it worked both ways. But that allowed the skill players from both teams to create offense or draw penalties in the process.

UND went 3 for 8 on the power play tonight, while MTU went 0 for 7.

Chris VandeVelde (1 goal, 1 assist), Taylor Chorney (2 assists), and Robbie Bina (2 assists) also had multiple point nights for the Fighting Sioux.

VandeVelde with Oshie and Duncan seems to be working. When Oshie plays along the wall, and has fewer defensive responsibilities, it frees him up to create more up the ice. Look for this line to continue playing together.

Andrew Kozek notched his fourth goal of the season, and is showing signs of breaking out this year.

In his first game in a long time, Michael Forney showed poise and made a good first step toward cracking this lineup.

My three stars tonight would be Oshie, Duncan, and Lamoureux, but it would be a nice night to have 6 or 7 stars to give, as UND played well up and down the lineup.

UND moves to 3-1-1 (1-1-0 WCHA) on the season. Michigan Tech falls to 4-2-0 (3-1-0 WCHA). UND hosts Colorado College next weekend in WCHA action.

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

UND vs. Michigan Tech Friday Game React

Well, as I said here, a split in this series was likely, although I ended up predicting a win and a tie for UND due largely to the play of Jean-Philippe Lamoureux.

As it turns out, Michigan Tech has a shot at a sweep due to the play of its goaltender, Michael-Lee Teslak.

Clearly the player of the game, Teslak stopped all 14 shots that came his way in the third period, and made 26 out of 27 saves on the evening, as Michigan Tech downed UND 3-1 (empty net).

The Sioux peppered Michigan Tech in the last five minutes of the contest, but couldn’t solve the junior netminder, who moves to 2-1-0 on the season, with marks of 1.33 GAA and .942 SV.

The Huskies have won the last three meetings between the teams.

Andrew Kozek scored the lone goal for UND, his third of the season. He was assisted by defensemen Taylor Chorney and Chay Genoway.

In the post-game show, UND head coach Dave Hakstol made mention of the fact that in games like this, the team needs someone to step up and make a play.

Ryan Duncan and T.J. Oshie have 2 goals and 1 assist combined through the first four games of the season.

UND junior defenseman Taylor Chorney was named the number-two star of the game. UND senior defenseman Robbie Bina was named the number-three star.

Michigan Tech moves to 4-1-0 on the season, and is 3-0-0 in the WCHA. UND falls to 2-1-1 (0-1-0 WCHA). The two teams battle again tomorrow night. For more on the matchup between the two teams, click here.

Thank you for reading. Check back tomorrow night for post-game reaction and a recap of scores and happenings from around the league. As always, I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.

UND vs. Boston College Game React

These are some things that jumped out at me about the UND/BC game and the CSTV coverage:

Dave Starman knows his college hockey.

BC’s skated five forwards on its first power play unit.

It’s a little early for Boston College fans to be chanting “Myoooooooose” every time Eagles’ freshman goaltender John Muse touches the puck.

Derrick LaPoint looks right at home on the power play, and his slap shot from the point is on target more times than not.

The CSTV announcers stated that Robbie Bina will be a pro next year. I’m not certain of that.

Using “NoDak” as a term to describe North Dakota has to go. UND is fine. ND is ok, but a bit confusing (Notre Dame). NoDak is right out.

I don’t know why it’s surprising that UND recruits in Canada, but the announcers made mention of it yet again on Friday night. It was said that half of the Eagles’ roster was made up of players from Boston, while half of North Dakota’s was made up of Canadian players. Let’s see, where should we recruit? Montana? South Dakota? Minnesota? Yes, there are five Minnesota players on UND’s roster, but with 5 Division I teams in the state of Minnesota, we’ve got to look north of the border, too. Oh, and by the way, there are four North Dakota natives on the Fighting Sioux roster. With our population, that’s not too bad.

The team benches were on opposite sides of the rink from each other. I’m not sure how often I’ve seen that.

After one period, shots were 11-11. It was a tale of two halves, as UND really didn’t get going until the midway point. BC was winning the majority of the draws (16-10), a trend that would continue in the second period. Oshie, Kaip, VandeVelde, and Zajac normally don’t lose the face-off battle.

Ah, yes, the second power outage. With just over a minute gone in the second period, the lights go off. For 22 minutes. The weather outside created what officials described as a “perfect storm”. 71 degrees, 100% humidity, and rain, combined with a packed building which does not have air conditioning, created fog on the ice. At times in the second, from the ice level cameras, the viewer could not see the bottom half of the players.

Lamoureux was compared to Mike Richter during this telecast. I’m not sure about that, either.

With 7 minutes to play, we almost had another “Bina goal”. While playing short-handed, a BC player cleared the puck from his own circle and Lamoureux never saw it through the fog. Luckily, it skipped and went wide of the net.

Shots ended up 28-24 in UND’s favor, although face-offs favored BC, 31-22.

With those ice and weather conditions, I’m happy the game ended in a tie. In other words, for as evenly matched as the two teams were, this was the best possible outcome. It would have been a shame for a fluky goal through the fog to decide this contest.

Last question mark of the night: why did the Eagles circle up at center ice and give a stick salute to their fans after a two-period, 0-0 draw?

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

Game Preview: UND vs. Michigan Tech

December 15th and 16th, 2006. The last home hockey series before the Christmas break. The Fighting Sioux held a 5-6-1 record in conference play, and hoped to improve on that mark against the Michigan Tech Huskies.

Jamie Russell’s Huskies had other plans.

Michigan Tech swept UND, 3-1 and 3-2, at Ralph Engelstad Arena to send the Sioux home for Christmas to do some soul-searching.

“What we did tonight was not enough,” said UND head coach Dave Hakstol after Saturday night’s contest, “but there’s a lot of fight left in this dog.”

A lot of fight, indeed. After the break, UND posted a 17-4-4 record the rest of the way in advancing to its third consecutive Frozen Four.

This season, both teams are off to good starts. Michigan Tech (3-1-0), hoping to build on last season’s successes, swept Minnesota-State Mankato last weekend in the WCHA opener for both schools. The Huskies outscored the Mavericks 9-1 on the weekend. UND (2-0-1) has faced both national championship teams from last season (Boston College and Michigan State), and in three games, the Sioux have yet to give up a goal.

Michigan Tech Team Profile
National Rankings: #14/#15
Head Coach: Jamie Russell (5th season at MTU, 44-93-20, .344)
This Season: 3-1-0, 2-0-0 WCHA
Last Season: 18-17-5, 11-12-5 WCHA (6th)
Key Returning Players: Senior F Peter Rouleau (1-3-4), Senior F Tyler Shelast (3-0-3), Junior D Geoff Kinrade (0-4-4), Junior G Michael-Lee Teslak (1-1-0, 1.50 GAA, .929 SV)

North Dakota Team Profile
National Rankings: #1/#1
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (4th season at UND, 81-45-12, .630)
This Season: 2-0-1, 0-0-0 WCHA
Last Season: 24-14-5 (Frozen Four semifinalist), 13-10-5 WCHA (3rd)
Key Returning Players: Junior F Ryan Duncan (1-1-2), Junior F T.J. Oshie (1-0-1), Junior D Taylor Chorney (0-3-3), Senior D Robbie Bina (0-2-2), Senior G Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (2-0-1, 0.00 GAA, 1.000 SV)

By The Numbers
Last Meeting: December 15-16, 2006. Michigan Tech sweeps the series in Grand Forks, 3-1 and 3-2, for its first sweep over North Dakota in 14 years.
Last Meeting in Houghton: December 2-3, 2005. UND sweeps the series, 6-1 and 8-2.
All-time: UND leads the all-time series, 128-87-8 (.592). The teams first met in 1948.

Game News and Notes
In its last 22 games in Houghton, the Fighting Sioux have collected 20 wins against 1 loss and 1 tie. Last Friday’s game against Boston College was just the second 0-0 tie in Fighting Sioux hockey history. UND and Michigan Tech played to a 0-0 (no OT) tie in the first game of a two-game, total goals series in the 1968 WCHA playoffs. This weekend’s series will mark the first time in 20 years that the Fighting Sioux have opened up their WCHA schedule at Michigan Tech. UND Junior F T.J. Oshie needs two points to reach the century mark for his career.

The Prediction
I have a feeling that the Huskies will be ready for this weekend’s series. A split is likely, although I will go with three points for UND based on the play of Lamoureux. UND 2-1 Friday, 1-1 tie Saturday.

Click here for Friday post-game reaction. Click here for reaction and commentary from Saturday’s game action. Thanks for reading, and, as always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Game Preview: UND vs. Northeastern University

The Boston College Eagles seem to be getting all of the attention this week, for their matchup with North Dakota and for their “roster updates”. And Northeastern is used to playing second fiddle (or third, or fourth) in Beantown, with Boston College, Boston University, and Harvard stealing most of the hockey headlines.

But Northeastern is making strides. The 2005-06 Huskies posted just 3 wins in head coach Greg Cronin’s first season, and improved to 13 wins last year. Cronin is cautiously optimistic about his team’s chances against the powerhouses in Boston and beyond.

“People are getting excited about Northeastern because we had some success last year; there were some really stunning victories at Michigan, at Maine, against BC, against BU, but I’m guarded because I’m in the trenches here working through it,” Cronin said. “We only have one senior. We’re still in that phase where we’re asking our freshmen to play significant roles.”

For the Sioux, there are a few question marks surrounding this contest with Northeastern: After two high-profile games against Frozen Four participants from last season (Michigan State and Boston College), will the Sioux suffer any sort of let-down? Will Anthony Greico start on Saturday night, giving senior goaltender Jean-Philippe Lamoureux his first game off after starting 27 games in a row? Will any of this matter with a team that seems loaded, prepared, and driven to return to the Frozen Four for the fourth consecutive season?

Northeastern Team Profile

Head Coach: Greg Cronin (3rd season at NU, 16-42-12, .314)
This Season: 0-0-0, 0-0-0 Hockey East
Last Season: 13-18-5, 9-13-5 Hockey East (7th)
Key Returning Players: Sophomore F Chad Costello (11-11-22), Sophomore F Kyle Kraemer (7-12-19), Junior F Joe Vitale (7-9-16), Junior F Ryan Ginand (6-8-14), Sophomore G Brad Thiessen (11-17-5, 2.48 GAA, .921 save percentage, 4 shutouts)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (4th season at UND, 80-45-11, .629)
This Season: 1-0-0, 0-0-0 WCHA
Last Season: 24-14-5 (Frozen Four semifinalist), 13-10-5 WCHA (3rd)
Key Returning Players: Junior F Ryan Duncan (31-26-57 last season; 2007 Hobey Baker Award winner), Junior F T.J. Oshie (17-35-52), Junior D Taylor Chorney (8-23-31), Senior D Robbie Bina (10-22-32), Senior G Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (21-12-4, 2.42 GAA, .913 SV)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: October 14-15, 2005 (Grand Forks, North Dakota). UND sweeps the non-conference series, 6-0 and 2-1, as freshman forwards Ryan Duncan (2 goals, 1 assist) and T.J. Oshie (4 assists) have breakout weekends. NU head coach Greg Cronin blasts the officiating crew (headed by referee Bill Mason) after Saturday’s defeat. “Honest to God, I’ve coached in the National Hockey League, the American Hockey League, the OHL, international, WCHA, Hockey East, and that was the worst officiating I’ve ever seen in my life,” Cronin said. “All three of them — Moe, Larry and Curly — were sniffing glue. It was embarrassing. If I was the league, I’d be embarrassed by that.”
Last Meeting in Boston: October 30, 2004. The teams skate to a 3-3 tie in non-conference play. Northeastern Junior F Brian Swiniarski pots two third-period goals to force overtime.
Most important meeting: March 25, 1982 (Providence, Rhode Island). UND defeats Northeastern 6-2 in the NCAA semifinals, and goes on to claim its 4th national championship with a 5-2 victory over Wisconsin.
All-time: UND leads the all-time series with 8 wins against 5 losses and 3 ties (.594). The series record on Huskies’ home ice is 2-2-3.

Game News and Notes

In 2005-06 (Greg Cronin’s first season as head coach), the Huskies posted a 3-24-7 (.191) overall record. Last year, they improved to 13-18-5 (.431), and hope to make a similar improvement this season. Hockey East coaches picked Northeastern to finish 7th this season. Sophomore G Brad Thieseen played over 90% of his team’s goaltending minutes last season. UND opens its conference schedule with a two-game series at Michigan Tech (Houghton, MI) on October 26-27.

The Prediction

Matthews Arena will be buzzing, Coach Cronin will have his Huskies ready to play, and it won’t matter. The Sioux are too deep and too talented to drop this game. Sioux 4-1.

Check back after Saturday’s game for news, commentary, and analysis. Thanks for reading, and, as always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.